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Checking if your SSD supports “TRIM” using FreeNAS 8.x

August 19th, 2012 2 comments

I have been playing with the newer versions of FreeNAS for shared storage on my home VMware vSphere lab recently (after having last used it on version 7.x). I added a spare OCZ Vertex Plus 120GB SSD to my mini-ITX based FreeNAS box and was wondering how TRIM would be handled, if at all with FreeNAS.

 

To check to see if your SSD supports TRIM under FreeNAS, open up a Shell session to your FreeNAS box – i.e. PuTTy, or via the Web GUI. Then issue the following command, specifying your SSD drive where /dev/ada0 is used as an example below. Note that we are using the CAM control program that comes with FreeBSD. Please exercise caution with this command as it has the potential to cause damage if not used correctly!

 

camcontrol identify /dev/ada0

 

If you need to check disk/device names to figure out which one is your SSD, you could use the GUI. Go to Storage -> View Disks, then check the name column for the device names of each disk. Use /dev/diskname in the command above. After running the command above, you’ll get a list of disk information back, just check the “data set management (TRIM)” row to see if TRIM support is enabled or not.

 

I have not yet worked out a way to see if TRIM is actually being actively used yet though – so if anyone has any suggestions or ideas as to how to check that it is actually in use, please let me know!

 

vSphere Home Lab / whitebox builds – 16GB RAM in a HP N40L Microserver

July 5th, 2012 7 comments

 

I recently purchased a HP N40L Microserver for my home vSphere lab, with the intention of buying a second unit to create a small vSphere cluster for lab work. This would take me away from having nested virtual ESXi hosts. You can actually currently get great deals on this hardware – with HP offering £100 cashback on the purchase cost. I ended up paying around £260.00 for my HP Microserver, getting 100 off, which means it only cost about £160.

 

Great deal - £100 cashback on the HP N40L Microserver

 

For this price, this microserver makes great hardware for a home lab cluster build, however the one thing that has always been a downer on this is the fact that all specsheets and official documentation from HP list the maximum amount of RAM supported as 8GB for the Microserver. This doesn’t leave much room for VMs to run per host.

 

Today I received an interesting e-mail in my inbox from Serversplus.com. They claim to have tested running 16GB of Crucial ECC DDR3 Unbuffered (2 x 8GB modules) in the HP N40L Microserver! This, if it is true (which I am sure it is, as they are now selling bundles with 16GB RAM), is great news for us looking to build home labs on the cheap. Sure, 8GB modules are much more expensive than 4GB at the moment, but we now know that there is no 8GB limit on the N40L Microserver – rather 16GB. As soon as I can afford the two 8GB modules for a total of 16GB, I’ll be looking at upgrading my current Microserver to 16GB. If this works, I’ll definitely be purchasing a second unit.

 

Here is a screencap of the e-mail I got from serversplus.com –

If you are UK based, you can grab the full bundle from Serversplus.com.

 

Fitting an ATI Radeon 4870 in a Silverstone SG05 miniITX chassis.

January 22nd, 2010 3 comments

I recently got hold of a Silverstone SG05 mini ITX chassis to build a small and portable gaming PC. The aim was to build a small, yet powerful machine that would be easy to haul around.

Anyway, the specifcations consist of the following:

Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi (miniITX motherboard)
Intel E5400 (2.7GHz) Pentium Dual core CPU. (Overclocked to 3.2 GHz)
2GB OCZ DDR800 RAM
Silverstone SG05 miniITX chassis with 300w PSU
Seagate 500GB 7200rpm Hard disk.

To start I left the machine running with just its onboard discrete graphics card (Geforce 9300). The motherboard has a full 16x PCI Express slot, but I am still deciding which graphics card will be best. (I am leaning towards an ATI 5770 for it’s low power consumption, good size and decent speed). However I saw quite a few people asking around as to what kind of cards will actually fit into the SG05 chassis and whether or not they would be able to run on the 300w PSU.

I have this Sapphire ATI 4870 512MB graphics card running in my main gaming PC. It is running a custom bios that I flashed to it a while ago, upping the default GPU core speed from 725MHz to 795MHz and the default memory speed of 900MHz to 1100MHz (4400MHz effective). It therefore uses slightly more juice than a stock 4870. I wanted to see if this card would fit or not and how it would handle running on the 300w PSU of the SG05. Well the answer is yes, it fits! Barely. It took quite a bit of manouvering to get it in there and a fair bit of time to wiggle the auxillary power connectors into the 6 pin power sockets on the end of the PCB. Here are some photos for those interested:

The motherboard to start:

The card resting on the chassis to size it up.

Finally in!

Here is a short video of the card running 3D Mark 2005.

Categories: Builds Tags: , , , , ,

How to: Swapping out LCD panel in Acer Laptops

January 6th, 2010 1 comment

Here is a quick photo guide I did on how I swapped out LCD panels (between two Acer Travelmate laptops – 15″ LCD from 4520 to the 4600’s chassis). The 4600 had a faulty LCD panel and the laptop worked perfectly apart from this one problem. I guess a lot of this would be relevant when dealing with most laptop LCDs. The only change being slightly different components and connectors in slightly different places. Hope this helps someone out in the future. I just ensured both panels were the same specification : i.e. both were 1024×768, XGA and were for Acer Travelmate laptops.

1. Here we have the two laptops. Donor laptop in dark grey, laptop to receive new LCD in light grey.

Start by removing your mains charger and disconnecting your laptop battery.

2. Flip the donor laptop on its edge, and unscrew the 3 screws on the back of the LCD hinges.

3. Next, fold the LCD backwards (open it as far as it will go), and pry off this plastic panel (gently as you can with your fingers). If you are gentle and patient enough, it should come off relatively easily without snapping anything.

4. Flip the laptop over and unscrew the cover that protects the wifi and RAM components. On these laptops this is in the center.

You will find that there should be two “pigtail” connectors attaching to your wifi card – these are labelled AUX and MAIN. (note down which colour wire attaches to which connector) – mine was black on AUX and White on MAIN. Disconnect these two pigtail connectors as these run through the notebook, up into the LCD to give you a better wireless signal.

5. Next we flip the laptop over again, and unscrew these two screws to remove the keyboard.

Lift the keyboard gently and notice the ribbon connector that attaches to the motherboard. Flick the black clip on this ribbon connector upwards and the ribbon connector can now be removed.

6. You can now tug carefully on the pigtail connector that runs under the keyboard and onto the wireless card (we have previously disconnected the pigtails). Pull this out until it is free from under the laptop. Be careful when it goes through the small hole on the motherboard.

7. The main black coloured cable coming out from the LCD and connecting on to the motherboard is your main LCD connection. Carefully lift this off the motherboard, using the tag on the back of the connector to pull.

8. Once both the LCD cables are free we can now unscrew the main screws holding the LCD on to the laptop chassis. On these acers there are two on each side. PS. keep all your screws in a safe place so we can put everything back later!

9. We should now have a separate laptop LCD disconnected from the main chassis.

10. Do the same procedure as above but this time for the laptop that is going to receive the working LCD. Don’t get these muddled up now!

11. Once I had the working LCD off the other laptop, I hooked the main connector up to the receiving laptop with it lying down on the table to test. This was to ensure the new LCD was compatible and working as expected. See image below:

12. This was working so I shut the laptop down, removed the battery again and proceeded to remove the LCD from the top lid’s chassis to swap out. (I could have just moved the entire lid from one to the other laptop but the colour was slightly different and I was fussy)!

Start by removing the 4 x rubber pads from each corner of the LCD and unscrewing these 4 x screws.

Once done, you can now carefully pry open the edge of the LCD lid as below:

Once this has been carefully remove (The outer black frame of the lid), we can remove the screws inside the lid that hold the actual LCD panel in.

You also need to unplug the LCD controller panel’s plugs and unscrew a grounding wire.

Do the same for the other LCD panel and remember which one is working and which doesn’t. Swap the working LCD over into the lid chassis you would like to use and screw everything back in. Make sure the cables are not getting pinched anywhere and run neatly out the bottom of the lid. Plug your two connectors back in to the LCD controller at the bottom of the lid and screw your grounding wire (black) back in (this is also next to the two cables at the bottom of the lid).

13. Re-assemble the lid and finally reconnect your LCD signal/power cable back to the laptop’s motherboard. Fasten the 4 x screws (2 x on each side) that hold the LCD Lid and panel to the laptop’s main chassis. Route the wireless pigtail wire back under the keyboard panel through the hole under the wireless card and reconnect the two pigtail connectors to the wireless card. Replace the back panel that covers the RAM and wireless card.

14. Place the keyboard ribbon connector back in and snap the black retainer clip over the ribbon to hold it in place. Screw the two screws back in to hold the keyboard down.

15. Replace the hinge panel over the LCD connector on the motherboard (you’ll need to fold the LCD all the back as far as it will go first). This panel is the same panel that has your power button on and is the same panel we removed earlier in step 3.

Replace the 3 x screws on the back hinges and ensure you haven’t missed any other screws anywhere and that everything looks good to go.

Replace your battery, lock the battery in and power up. You should hopefully now have a working LCD! Enjoy.

Hope this helps someone wanting to fix or replace their LCD panel in the future!

Categories: Builds, How-tos Tags: , , , , , ,

Developing my own small twitter “tweet” application

October 27th, 2009 No comments

The last time I did any coding in VB was probably 11 years ago when I was 13 or 14 in high school. I used to take computer science as a seventh subject (learning Turbo Pascal) and dabbled in a bit of Visual Basic in my spare time. I created a computer mouse / keyboard training application for a local pre-primary school that helped the kids (4 year olds) learn to use a PC and develop their hand-eye coordination.

So last night I decided I would take a look at the twitter API and see if I could make anything useful with Visual Studio 2008. I came up with this small twitter application, which allows you to post updates also known as “tweets” to your twitter status page. It has the following features so far:

1. Twitter username and password entry with option to save these details on the local PC.
2. An area to type your actual “tweet” with character limit counters (you can only have 140 chars per tweet).
3. The obvious Update button to send the “tweet”
4. A quick logo that I did to make the interface look a bit more interesting.

I will follow this post up soon with some detail on how I did the coding itself (as requested by c0d3r and youknow – for the purposes of ridiculing my noob vb code!). Nothing special though – I just followed a couple of tutorials that I found on the net. Also thanks to PlutoSA for refreshing my memory on doing a counter!

Here is how it looks so far…

tweet-app

Backblaze storage pods – excellent value for money storage in the datacenter

October 17th, 2009 No comments

I know this is old now, but a while back I came across this blog post by the company Backblaze. They detail how they build these custom “storage pods” that get rack mounted in their datacenter for online storage. In their post, they show how using this method they manage to save tons of money that would have been otherwise spent on Amazon S3 storage, EMC / Dell or Sun solutions. Each storage pod can be looked at as one building block of a much larger storage solution.

I think this design is great and if I had the space / resources I would defintely attempt one of these as a project for myself. To quote their site, the storage pods contain the following hardware:

“one pod contains one Intel Motherboard with four SATA cards plugged into it. The nine SATA cables run from the cards to nine port multiplier backplanes that each have five hard drives plugged directly into them (45 hard drives in total).”

Here is a youtube video showing the design of one storage pod.

Read up more at Backblaze blog