I recently invested in a standing desk for my home office. On the recommendation of a friend, I purchased the Jarvis Laminate Standing Desk from fully.com.
I’ve been working predominantly from home for around 1.5 years now (at least 4 days a week), and since going fully remote at 5 days a week after COVID-19 I decided to invest more in the home office.
After having noticed myself slouching at my desk on more than one occasion, I got curious about standing desks. After reading about the apparent benefits of standing more (as opposed to sitting at a desk all day), and on the recommendation of a friend I pulled the trigger on this fully motorised setup.
Here are the specifications and complete configuration I went for:
Jarvis Laminate Standing Desk (160 x 80 cm, black finish)
Jarvis Lifting Column, Mid Range
Jarvis Frame EU, Wide, Long Foot Programmable
WireTamer Cable Trays (2x)
Topo Mini Anti-fatigue mat
The total for the desk parts and standing mat came up to around £600 excluding VAT, which I think is a great price considering the health benefits it should bring about over the longer term.
I got stuck in one evening after work, and thought it might be 2 hour job. I was very wrong. Here is photo I took of the chaos I unleashed in the office after taking down my old desk and beginning assembly of the Jarvis.
Soon I was making progress though.
I’ve got two computers that needed setting up. One is my PC, the other is an Apple Mac Mini (the main work machine). So next on the list was a decent adjustable multi-monitor stand. I ended up getting:
FLEXIMOUNTS F6D Dual monitor mount LCD arm
This was the strongest arm I could find. I could not (at the time) find anything that would fit my 34″ Acer Predator ultra wide LCD. (It’s pretty heavy).
Although this mount is only compatible up to 30″ LCDs, it seems to cope with my Acer Predator on one side, and my LG 5K Retina 27″ LCD display on the other.
Around midnight that evening I finally had everything configured and in order. I booted up both machines and raised the desk to try it out.
Adjusting to, and actually working at the desk
I’m not fully committed to standing all day (at least not yet). I tend to spend around 3 hours standing each day, and the remainder sitting. I’m slowly increasing the standing time as I go on.
The Top Mini anti-fatigue mat definitely helps. I also noticed wearing my light, minimalist running shoes feels good while standing and working too.
There is something magical about building your own infrastructure from scratch. And when I say scratch, I mean using bare metal. This is a run through of my multipurpose FreeNAS server build process.
After scratching the itch recently with my Raspberry Pi Kubernetes Cluster, I got a hankering to do it again, and this build was soon in the works.
Part of my motivation came from my desire to reduce our reliance on cloud technology at home. Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate for using the cloud where it makes sense. My day job revolves around designing and managing various clients’ cloud infrastructure.
At home, this was more about taking control of our own data.
I’ll skip to the juicy specifications part if you would like to know what hardware I used right away.
These are the final specifications I decided on. Scroll down to see the details about each area.
I also made an initial mistake here in my build buying a Gigabyte B450M DS3H motherboard. The product specs seem to indicate that it supports ECC, and so did a review I found on Anandtech. In reality the Gigabyte board does not support the ECC feature. Rather it ‘supports’ ECC memory by allowing the system to boot with ECC RAM installed, but you don’t get the actual error checking and correction!
I figured this out after booting it up with Fedora Rawhide as well as a couple of uBuntu Server distributions and running the edac-utils package. In all cases edac-utils failed to find ECC support / or any memory controller.
The Asus board I settled on supports ECC and edac-utils confirmed this.
The motherboard also has an excellent EFI BIOS. I found it easy to get to the ECC and Virtualization settings.
I used 4 x Western Digital 3TB Red hard drives for the RAIDZ1 main storage pool.
The SSD storage pool consists of 2 x Crucial MX500 250GB SSD SATA drives in a mirror configuration. This configuration is for running Virtual Machines and the NFS storage for my Kubernetes cluster.
The crossing out of APUs also meant I would need a discrete graphic card for console / direct access, and to install the OS initially. I settled on a cheap PCI Express Graphics card off Ebay for this.
Having chosen a beefy six core Ryzen 2600 CPU, I decided I didn’t need to get a fancy graphics card for live media encoding. (Plex does much better with this). If media encoding speed and efficiency is important to you, then consider something like an nVIDIA or AMD card.
For me, the six core CPU does a fine job at encoding media for home and remote streaming over Plex.
I wanted to use this system to server file storage for my home PCs and equipment. Besides this, I also wanted to export and share storage to my Raspberry Pi Kubernetes cluster, which runs on it’s own, dedicated network.
The simple solution for me here was multihoming the server onto the two networks. So I would need two network interface cards, with at least 1Gbit/s capability.
The motherboard already has an Intel NIC onboard, so I added two more ports with an Intel Pro Dual Port Gigabit PCI Express x4 card.
I’ll detail the highlights of my configuration for each service the multipurpose FreeNAS Server build hosts.
Main System Setup
The boot device is the 120GB M.2 nVME SSD. I installed FreeNAS 11.3 using a bootable USB drive.
I created two Storage Pools. Both are encrypted. Besides the obvious protection encryption provides, this also makes it easier to recycle drives later on if I need to.
Storage Pool 1
4 x Western Digital Red 3TB drives, configured with RAIDZ1. (1 disk’s worth of storage is effectively lost for parity, giving roughly 8-9 TB of usable space).
Deduplication turned off
Storage Pool 2
2 x Crucial MX500 250GB SSD drives, configured in a Mirror (1 disk mirrors the other, providing a backup if one fails).
Deduplication turned off
The network is set to use the onboard NIC to connect to my main home LAN. One of the ports on the Intel dual port NIC connects to my Raspberry Pi Kubernetes Cluster network and assigned a static IP address on that network.
My home network’s storage shares are simple Windows SMB Shares.
I created a dedicated user in FreeNAS which I configured in the SMB share configuration ACLs to give access.
Windows machines then simply mount the network location / path as mapped drives.
I also enabled Shadow Copies. FreeNAS supports this to enable Windows to use Shadow Copies.
I setup a dedicated uBuntu Server 18.04 LTS Virtual Machine using FreeNAS’ built-in VM support (bhyve). Before doing this, I enabled virtualization support in the motherboard BIOS settings. (SVM Mode = Enabled).
I used the standard installation method for Pi-Hole. I made sure the VM was using a static IP address and was bridged to my home network. Then I reconfigured my home DHCP server to dish out the Pi-hole’s IP address as the primary DNS server to all clients.
For the DNS upstream servers that Pi-hole uses, I chose to use the Quad9 (filtered, DNSSEC) ones, and enabled DNSSEC.
NextCloud has a readily available plugin for FreeNAS. However, out of the box you get no SSL. You’ll need to setup your networking at home to allow remote access. Additionally, you’ll need to get an SSL certificate. I used Let’s Encrypt.
Plex was a simple setup. Simply install the Plex FreeNAS plugin from the main Plugins page and follow the wizard. It will install and configure a jail to run Plex.
To mount your media, you need to stop the Plex jail and edit it to add your media location on your storage. Here is an example of my mount point. It basically mounts the media directory I use to keep all my media into the Plex Jail’s filesystem.
NFS Storage for Kubernetes
Lastly, I setup an NFS share / export for my Raspberry Pi Kubernetes Cluster to use for Persistent Volumes to attach to pods.
The key points here were that I allowed the two network ranges I wanted to have access to this storage from. (10.0.0.0/8 is my Kubernetes cluster network). I also configured a Mapall user of ‘root’, which allows the storage to be writeable when mounted by pods/containers in Kubernetes. (Or any other clients that mount this storage).
I was happy with this level of access for this particular NFS storage share from these two networks.
I modified the deployment manifest to point it to my FreeNAS machine’s IP address and NFS share path.
With that done, pods can now request persistent storage with a Persistent Volume Claim (PVC). The NFS client provisioner will create a directory for the pod (named after the pod itself) on the NFS mount and mount that to your pod.
So far the multipurpose FreeNAS server build has been very stable. It has been happily serving our home media streaming, storage, and shared storage needs.
It’s also providing persistent storage for my Kubernetes lab environment which is great, as I prefer not to use the not-so-durable microSD cards on the Raspberry Pi’s themselves for storage.
The disk configuration size seems fine for our needs. At the moment we’re only using ~20% of the total storage, so there is plenty of room to grow.
I’m also happy with the ability to run custom VMs or Jails for additional services, though I might need to add another 16GB of ECC RAM in the future to support more as ZFS does well with plenty of memory.
I was on a vSphere upgrade review engagement recently, and part of this involved checking hardware and existing vSphere VI was compatible with the targeted upgrade.
To help myself along, I created a few PowerCLI scripts to help with information gathering to CSV for the VI parts – such as Host Versions, build numbers, VMware tools and hardware versions, etc… These scripts were built to run once-off, simply either by copy/pasting them into your PowerCLI console, or by running them from the PowerCLI console directly.
They can easily be adapted to collect other information relating to VMs or hosts. To run, just launch PowerCLI, connect to the VC in question (using Connect-VIServer) and then copy/paste these into the console. The output will be saved to CSV in the directory you were in. Just make sure you unblock the zip file once downloaded if you execute them directly from PowerCLI, otherwise the copy/paste option mentioned above will work fine too.
There are three scripts bundled in the zip file:
Gather all hosts under the connected vCenter server and output Host name, Model and Bios version results to PowerCLI window and CSV
Gather all hosts under the connected vCenter server and output Host name, Version and Build version results to PowerCLI window and CSV
Gather all hosts under the specified DC and output VM name and hardware version results to PowerCLI window and CSV
Short and simple scripts, but hopefully they will come in handy to some. As mentioned above, these can easily be extended to fetch other information about items in your environment. Just take a look at the way existing info is fetched, and adapt from there. Also remember that using | gm (get-member) on objects in PowerShell is your friend – you can discover all the properties and methods on PowerShell objects by using this, and use those to enhance your reports/outputs in your scripts.
I have always enjoyed running my own home lab for testing and playing around with the latest software and operating systems / hypervisors. Up until recently, it was all hosted on VMware Workstation 8.0 on my home gaming PC, which has an AMD Phenom II x6 (hex core) CPU and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. This has been great, and I still use it, but there are some bits and pieces I still want to be able to play with that are traditionally difficult to do on a single physical machine, such as working with VLANs and taking advantage of hardware feature sets.
To that end, I have been slowly building up a physical home lab environment. Here is what I currently have:
2 x HP Proliant N40L Microservers (AMD Turion Dual Core processors @ 1.5GHz)
250GB local SATA HDD (just used to host the ESXi installations.
As mentioned above, I am using HP NC360T PCI-Express NICs to give me a total of 3 x vmnics per ESXi host.
Dell PowerConnect 5324 switch (24 port Gbit managed switch)
1Gbit Powerline Ethernet home plugs to uplink the Dell PowerConnect switch to the home broadband connection. This allows me to keep the lab in a remote location in the house, which keeps the noise away from the living area.
This is a work in progress at the moment, (currently finding the low end 2 x bay home NAS devices are not sufficient for performance, and the more expensive models are too expensive to justify).
As this is temporary, each drive provides 1 x Datastore to the ESXi hosts. I therefore have one large datastore for general VMs, and one fast SSD based datastore for high priority VMs, or VM disks. I am limited by the fact that the Micro-ATX board only has 2 x onboard SATA ports, so I may consider purchasing an addon card to expand these.
Storage is presented as NFS. I am currently testing ZFS vs UFS and the use of the SSD drive as a ZFS and zil log / and or cache drive. To make this more reliable, I will need the above mentioned addon card to build redundancy into the system, as I would not like to lose a drive at this time!
Platform / ghetto rack
IKEA Lack rack (black) – cheap and expandable : )
Currently, one host only has 4GB RAM, I have an 8GB kit waiting to be added to bring both up to 8GB. I also need to add the HP NC360T dual port NIC to this host too as it is a recent addition to the home lab.
On the storage side of things, I just managed to take delivery of 2 x OCZ Vertex 2 128GB SSD drives which I got at bargain prices the other day (£45 each). Once I have expanded SATA connectivity in my Micro-ATX FreeNAS box I will look into adding these drives for some super fast SSD storage expansion.
Lastly, the Dell PowerConnect 5324 switch I am using still has the original firmware loaded (from 2005). This needs to be updated to the latest version so that I can enable Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP) – which is newly supported with the VMware vSphere 5.0 release on Distributed Virtual Switches. This can help with the configuration and management of network components in an infrastructure, and will mainly serve to allow me to play with this feature in my home lab. I seem to have lost my USB-to-Serial adapter though, so this firmware upgrade will need to wait until I can source a new one off ebay.