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QNAP TS-109 II - First Impressions

Published: 2008-12-02 20:06 UTC. Tags: linux review ipv6 turbostation

I bought a second hand Squeezebox the other day. The Squeezebox must read its files from a server running Squeezecenter, and since I don't want my workstation running all day (it's consuming energy. I'm trying to be environmentally friendly when I can), I had to find a low-power alternative.

I have been thinking about getting some kind of server running at home for a while. There are other things I want it to do as well:

  • Keep a SixXS IPv6 tunnel up, and route an IPv6 subnet for home.
  • Be able to Wake-on-LAN my main workstation.
  • Get better network throughput than from my stupid 3com NAT box.
  • Etc, etc..

After some consideration, I bought a QNAP TS-109 II. It has a 500MHz ARM processor, 256Mb of RAM and consumes 14Watts of energy when active, 6,6W when not. That's quite OK. I bought a WD Caviar Green 500Gb hard drive for it. That drive is supposed to be quiet and energy efficient.

Another killer fact about the QNAP is that the upcoming Debian Lenny will have official support for all TurboStation models from QNAP. It's even listed as a press release on QNAP's webpage. The installation link from the press release doesn't seem to work anymore, though. The Debian on QNAP TS-109 pages are very helpful, though.

The QNAP + hard drive arrived today, and I unpacked and assembled the two (very easy), plugged it in, found its IP address from the list of DHCP entries in my NAT box, and tried to connect to it via a web browser on both port 80 and port 8080.

Unfortunately, I was met by a message in several languages basically telling me that "This box is not initialized, do what the manual says". And the manual says that you need a Windows computer to initialize the TS-109.

Doh!

I don't own a Windows computer!

Fortunately, my girlfriend has an XP box which I could use to run the "QNAP Finder" to install the QNAP. Still, I find this irritating. There's support for Mac as well, but I don't have any Mac neither.

I'm sure there's some way of initializing the device without Windows, but that might require lot's of knowledge on the RPC protocol used to talk to the device. Presumably, it's some kind of RPC over HTTP, as the only ports the device has open at initial startup is 80 and 8080.

Navigating around in the menus for a while, I was not surprised to see that running Debian on the machine would be the best option for me. Specifically:

  • There's no support for NFS on the TS-109 II. You need the TS-109 II Pro for that.
  • There's no network routing support in the standard firmware, and that's not surprising - this is a NAS box afterall. But with Linux and it's VLAN support and iptables, it should work well. We'll see about that... :-)
  • The configuration can't be easily handled via Puppet when running the standard firmware. That's something I do for other servers I manage.

Anyway, I think I'll be happy with this box. I might add an external eSATA enclosure later to provide backup of the stuff I keep on the QNAP. We'll see. Backing up stuff to Amazon S3 is another option.

0 comments.

Västra Cykelaffären i Linköping - bra!

Published: 2008-10-19 08:00 UTC. Tags: in-swedish review

Pendlingscykeln (jag cyklar 13km om dagen till och från jobbet) behövde fixas lite med. Bromsarna var slut och växlarna behövde justeras.

Förr, när jag bodde hemma i träsket, där jag hade tillgång till min pappas garage, hade jag nog gjort det själv, men som lägenhetsboende med delat garage så är det inte riktigt samma grej, och definitivt inte lika praktiskt.

Jag frågade efter cykelreparatörsrekommendationer i LysKOM, och fick bland annat svaret att Västra Cykelaffären skulle vara bra, så jag provade den.

Mycket bra bemötande, gav ett kompetent intryck. Fixade justeringen till nästa dag, och tog 230:- för arbetet (materialkostnad oräknad) vilket jag tycker är fullt rimligt. Dit går jag gärna igen!

Både han och jag var överens om att min Nishiki som är nått år gammal egentligen inte alls borde vara så sliten som den är, med rostiga skruvar, rostigt sadelfäste, sliten krans och kedja och en pakethållare som tappat sin svarta färg. Man borde väl egentligen reklamera.

0 comments.

Review: Antec P182 with Seasonic S12

Published: 2008-03-16 00:20 UTC. Tags: hardware review

A while ago, I decided to buy a new computer. I had three main requirements:

  • It had to be faster than my previous computer. As the old one was more than three years old, this requirement would not be hard to fulfil :-).
  • It had to be quiet. Very important!
  • It had to be reasonably power efficient. I try to keep my energy consumption down.

I've tested various ways of getting a quiet computer over the years, the most famous one being the beautiful red box described here. This time, I did however go for a more standard solution that involved less red paint..

Hardware

After some research on quiet computer cases and power supplies, I ordered the following stuff.

Case Antec P182
Power supply
Seasonic S12-II, 380W
Motherboard
MSI K9AG Neo2 Digital
Disks
2x SAMSUNG HD321KJ in a Software RAID1 configuration
CPU
AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 45W BOXED
Memory
2x 1GB DDR2 800MHz

The Antec P182

The first thing I noticed about this case when I collected it at the post office was that it is very heavy. Another thing I noticed when taking it out of its cardboard box was that when you knock on one of the sides of it, there's much less sound than when knocking on the side of a standard case. This comes from the fact that the sides are covered in plastic instead of being just steel, and I think it contributes much to keeping the computer quiet, as vibrations are less likely to travel through the sides of the case.

Opening up the case

Antec P182 left sideOpening up the case, a rather interesting construction is revealed. In the picture to the left, I've removed the lower drive bay, which normally sits in the area marked A. The power supply is mounted in the area marked B.

What is very interesting is that Antec has chosen to divide the flow of air into two distinct flow paths. There is the lower airpath where air flows from the front, through an air filter that can be easily removed for cleaning, then through the lower drive bay, via a 12cm fan that can be individually controlled via a speed controller attached to a small cable, and then finally through the power supply.

Then there's the upper airpath where air flows from the front, through a second washable air filter, into the upper part of the box exiting through one of two 12cm individually controllable 12cm fans. The two top fans are controlled by external fan switches at the back of the case, which allows adjustments of speed without opening the case. For my configuration, I run the back fan at its lowest speed. I have not connected the top fan at all.

Separating the air that flows through the power supply from the air in the rest of the box ensures that the power supply's fan doesn't have to run at top speed to move air that is hot because the processor or graphics card is producing heat.  This is a problem seen in many other cases - even when there's a quiet 12cm fan in the case that can move the hot air out of the box, the power supply fan runs at high speed because its heat sensor feels the hot air that passes through the PSU and acts accordingly, causing unnecessary noise. With the P182's solution, this doesn't happen - the power supply's heat sensor only detects the heat generated by the harddrives and the power supply itself.

The area marked with C is a special plastic slider that ensures that as little air as possible travels between the upper and the lower air paths, while still allowing cables to be run from the power supply up to the motherboard and other parts requiring power, and also down to the lower drive bay to power the hard drives.

The right side of the case

Antec P182 right sideOn the other side of the case, we see another neat feature - cable ties to keep cables running from the power supply to the motherboard secured.

Attention to detail

Antec P182, lower drive bayThere's a lot of smart solutions in this box. Here's one example - the ring used to pull out the lower and upper drive bays have a small plastic snap that keeps it down when not used - avoiding any chance of it vibrating causing noise!

Conclusion

Overall, I'm extremely happy with this case. It's high quality, and it's very very quiet! If you're willing to pay for quality, I definitely recommend this case.

Seasonic S12-II

The Antec P182 is sold without power supply unit (PSU). That gives the owner flexibility in finding a PSU that fits with the requirements.

Seasonic S12For my new computer, I choose a 380W Seasonic S12-II based on recommendations in a local forum. There are many power supplies specifying that the fan is temperature controlled, but in reality, many PSUs have really crappy fan controllers that keep the fan at higher speed than necessary, causing noise.

Like the Antec P182, the S12 has an aura of quality. It has a nice black finish, and the outgoing cables are neatly organized.

The PSU claims that it is very power efficient, which means that a lot of the energy going into the PSU actually comes out. This is not the case with cheap PSU's, where a lot of energy is wasted in the conversion from high voltage AC to 12 and 5V DC. The energy wasted generates heat, which has to be ventilated. So, an efficient PSU not only saves your electric bill, it also makes your computer more quiet! Seasonic S12, smart connector
Here's a really nice feature - the 12V standard connectors for connecting for example old harddrives, DVD readers, etc, are of a special make that are much easier to disconnect.

Conclusion

Seasonic S12-II is a PSU I can recommend.
0 comments.

Samsung 204b + ATI Radeon 9250 SE - the saga continues

Published: 2007-11-18 19:21 UTC. Tags: hardware linux review syncmaster_204b

I've previously written about my adventures in getting my Samsung 204b, made in Slovakia, to work properly in 1600x1200 at 60Hz (short story: Can't be done due to bugs in their DVI implementation).

Yesterday, I decided to upgrade my home workstation from Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10, and of course, the flickering screen syndrome came back.

After lot's of tests with many different options in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, I got some help in a local forum, and came to the conclusion that modifying xorg.conf doesn't help. Using the xrandr command does however offer a way to solve the problem.

I how have the following list of commands in my /etc/kde3/kdm/Xsetup (I use kdm to start my X server, if you use another display manager, adjust the path to one that makes sure the commands are run right after X server startup):

xrandr --newmode "1600x1200@55" 150.0 1600 1804 1996 2160 1200 1201 1204 1250 +hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode DVI-0 1600x1200@55
xrandr --output DVI-0 --mode 1600x1200@55

Gosh. Seems like there's some kind of bug in the ATI driver in the X.org 7.2 packaged with Ubuntu Gutsy, or perhaps in X.org itself.

0 comments.

Sony Ericsson M600i - First Impressions, last?

Published: 2006-11-28 14:05 UTC. Tags: hardware review

Got a new phone at work today, a Sony Ericsson M600i. It's a 3G phone. Unfortunately, our cellular network provider (Tele2) requires you to change SIM-card to a new one when you want to use 3G instead of just GSM. The SIM-card has been ordered and will probably be in my hands tomorrow.

Eager to begin playing, erm, I mean working. with this new toy, erm, I mean "critical tool for my working environment", I tried to insert the GSM SIM-card I already had. It seemed to work well.

However, after a while, I noticed that the symbol for network coverage was going up, then down, then up, then down. Also, initiating calls only worked 1 out of 10 atttempts.

I phoned (one of the ten attempts) to the customer service, and they were quite sure the problem is that the phone simply doesn't work well with a GSM card.

Gah! How hard can it be to make a phone that works with GSM SIM-cards? I'm just asking! If the SIM-card says that it's just GSM, then use just GSM, and don't try to get 3G access. Grr!

On the same level of stupidity, it seems like you need to have a SIM-card inserted into the phone to be able to access anything else than the welcome screens (and possibly the emergency number, 112). That's very well thought out, since you also need a SIM-card to be able to transfer contacts etc. from your old phone to your new one via Bluetooth or IR. So, if you only have one SIM card, you have no simple way to transfer your contacts.

Stupid!

Apart from that, it seems to be a nice phone. I'll probably be back later with some more reviews of its functionality. Hopefully, I'll be able to synchronize it with some desktop application on Linux.


2 comments.

First Impression - Samsung ML-2571N B/W Laser Printer

Published: 2006-10-18 20:32 UTC. Tags: software hardware review

Me and my girlfriend ordered a printer a few weeks ago. Today, it finally arrived.

This is a Black&White Laser printer with network capabilities.

Network Capability

Why network capabilities? Because it's reliable! I'm running a Linux workstation at home, my girlfriend has a Windows XP box. I don't trust her machine being up, serving the printer when I need it. She doesn't trust my machine being up, serving the printer when she needs it. She's probably right :-). This poor machine is a bit experimental.

So, to avoid any computer-related trouble, we bought a printer with network connectivuty that could easily be hooked up in our little apartment-network. The printer speaks 100Mbit/s ethernet and was configured to get an IP via DHCP at start. Excellent!

Size and Weight

It's a nice little machine. It's very lightweight, so there's no trouble keeping it on a shelf above the screen. It's also quite small, so there were no trouble finding a place to put it.

Speed

Very fast! It prints in no time!

Quality

Oh.. well.. it's a black&white printer we'll use for documents, and as far as I can tell, it prints good enough for that.

Linux Drivers

This is where the, ehm, "fun" begins. I do have quite a lot of experience in printing on Linux, especially with CUPS, so I do have some opinions on how Linux printers should behave and how to install them.

When it comes to this printer and its Linux drivers, I'm both impressed and quite unimpressed.

I'm impressed, because there is official Linux support, and not only for Red Hat Linux 7.3 or some other ancient distribution, but for all kinds of distributions.

I'm not impressed, because they have missed quite a few things, and the installation procedure is far from obvious and also full of bugs.

When you insert the CD which claims to contain Linux drivers, you are at first impressed that they ship a autorun file for Linux. Then you are less than impressed by the fact that they have missed the fact that many modern Linux distributions mount CD's noexec. This of course makes the installation fail ungracefully.

Fortunately, I'm experienced enough to understand this, so after remounting with exec, I started the installation program Linux/install.sh.

This fires up a QT-based installation program that first tries to locate a locally connected printer. In my case, it didn't find any such printer since the printer is connected via the network and not via USB or parallell port. It then gives the opportunity to search for network printers. Being curious, I fired up a ethereal to see how it did that, and found out that it broadcasted for printers using, I think, SLP (Service Location Protocol). Clever use of standard protocols! It did find the print after a short while. Impressive!

But after this, I'm unimpressed again. The installation program starts installing stuff. Yeah, that's right. Stuff. It doesn't tell much about what it's installing, and the manual ain't clear on that either. Too much magic.

When the installation program ends, I have two processes running as root doing.. I don't know! The printer has not been added in CUPS. If I try to print from my web browser, I get a well-designed but malfunctioning interface featuring a picture with the printer. I don't know how it got there, and it doesn't work - it tells me the printer is not started.

Oh, my. As usual, hardware manufacturers try to make everything so seamless and smooth that the result is that nothing works.

Here's my recepy on how printer manufacturers should support printers:

  1. Provide packages for the major Linux distributions with the PPD's and any CUPS filters needed.
  2. Provide a installation program that either installs the packages, if there is a package for this distribution, or tell the user a number of specified files will now be installed at a bunch of specified locations.
  3. Let the installation program locate and install the printer in CUPS.
  4. That's all, folks.

I uninstalled the whole thing (there was, and I'm happy and impressed by this, an uninstall.sh shipped on the CD), located the PPD on the CD and copied it into CUPS' ppd directory, then restarted CUPS and added the printer via the CUPS web interface. Works as a charm.

5 comments.

Möbler som klär dig.. Illa!

Published: 2006-10-07 22:45 UTC. Tags: general in-swedish review

Idag var jag åter en gång tvungen att brottas med vår TV-möbel. Den är köpt på Mio för några år sedan, och jag tror inte de har modellen kvar. Det är bra, för den är nämligen totalpuckad;

Standardbredden för alla typer av stereo- och videopryttlar är 43 centimeter. Den här TV-möbeln har en öppning fram som är 42 centimeter bred. Suck. Naturligtvis har den bara öppning för kablar på baksidan.

Jag får naturligtvis skylla mig själv som inte mätte innan köpet, men man kan tycka att de som ritar TV-möbler borde kolla upp hur bred en stereo typiskt är, och anpassa möbeln efter det. Puckon!

Efter en smått akrobatisk övning där jag först fick ta ut mellanhyllan inklusive fästpluppar, därefter på diagonalen peta in hårddiskvideon, för att sedan trycka upp den i taket på möbeln och pressa in hyllan igen, varpå montering av hyllplupparna fick göras med hårddiskvideon ståendes på hyllan fick jag i alla fall med en halv millimeter till godo in min KiSS DP-558, så nu slipper jag ha den på golvet där den samlar damm. Puh!

0 comments.