I finally got my shipment of Raspberry Pis today and I am stoked! I didn't pay the crazy prices on eBay and so I now have a $36 computer. I've allocated both of my PIs as XBMC boxes to power my basement and living room TVs. I had been running a BoxeeBox and while I initially loved it, I've grown to HATE it. They should rename it "FlakeyBox"; a $200 box of crap.
Anyhow, I spent about 30 minutes working on it and I have my first Pi up and running and streaming 1080 video to my TV without issue. If you are in the market for a Pi allow me to suggest Adafruit. If you want information on how you too can use a Raspberry Pi as a media center, check this site out. There are several different firmwares available for XBMC but I've settled on Raspbmc for now, it's fast enough for daily use and seems very stable.
Make sure you use a powered USB hub and pick up one of these power supplies for your PI, otherwise it'll be very unstable. I learned this the hard way. These power supplies from AdaFruit supply 5.25V to the PI which helps with it's rather shoddy power design which will allow the board to become under powered and reset.
I recently remodeled my office as I'll be working from home full-time starting in March, it's amazing what you can do with $1k dollars at Ikea! Anyhow, love my office setup, especially my desk but I had one nagging issue, I couldn't see the keys of my keyboard easily when the office was dark. My wife subltly suggested I get some sort of light to put underneath my desk to illuminate the keyboard. Ah, how I love my wife and her fantastic ideas...
Obviously, I wouldn't settle for some store bought device, I'm a self-declared "Maker" after all! After several days of tossing around ideas in my head, I decided it'd be super neato to have an RGB LED board under my desk and have it connected and powered by my computer. I'd then have some software sit in my system tray so I could control the board (colors and etc). Yeah, that's exactly what I needed!
So, yesterday I decided I'd set out to build it with only the parts I had on hand, I'm having a baby and thusly on a very restricted hobby budget!
Since I'd be etching the board myself, I knew I'd use through hole components to make life easier and I centered the project around an ATMega328 since I wanted to use serial communication with my PC and the quickest path was to use Arduino programming language (using a FTDI cable). I also wanted to utilize some 5mm common annode RGB leds I had on hand from a previous project but I wanted at least 5 to make sure I had good illumination on the keyboard and I wanted to use PWM to allow color mixing...well, a few 2907A transistors and a dozen or more resistors later I had a schematic I could be proud of.
The layout of the board was easy, I had a 3"x4" single sided copper photoetch board, so I laid all my components out to fit the whole board (I didn't want to cut it). I also learned the hard way that small traces are a pain in the butt when etching your own boards so I set my traces to 24mil, genrously large enough to not create issues during the etch. I didn't get any pictures of the board before it was mounted, sorry. You can always refer to the board image in the zip file attached to this post.
Once I had soldered all my components on the board, I threw in an ATMega328 micro that already had the Arduino bootloaded burned. Hooked up my FTDI cable and my test sketch worked flawlessly. Whew, nothing like going from concept to finished board with no testing to get the nerves going!
With the board testing out good, I set about coding up a C# app to control it. I had previously worked with serial comunications using C# and an Arduino which I talked about in this post so the C# code was really more about figuring out how to get a sys-tray app working as I wanted than worrying with the serial communications. I think it took me about 2 hours from start to finish to get things to a point I was happy with (nice and quick not nice and neat). I'm a developer by trade so I knew all along this would be the easiest part for me.
Well, a very quick project for me, one I'm quite proud of actually. As always I've attached high resolution pictures, eagle schematics, Arduino sketch and this time the Visual Studio solution in the zip below.
Drop me a note if you have any questions about this project, I think it's a fun and easy project for folks to test out thier etching and coding skillz!
Check out the videos below to see the software and board in action!
So after a few months of using FreeNAS I've decided I can't live with the insanely slow transfer speeds. Unfortunately FreeNAS is built on FreeBSD and has a terrible port of SAMBA service. It's so slow it's painful!
I'm not bashing on the developers, they've done a fantastic job with the tools provided to them under FreeBSD, I just think the call to use FreeBSD was a bad one, especially when the software is supposed to be a NAS and has a known poor implementation of SAMBA.
At any rate, it's my opinion that anyone who is technical stay away from FreeNAS and just utilize Ubuntu server or the like. For those who are not technical, I'd suggest Microsoft's Home Server, it's performance on file transfers smokes FreeNAS and it's fairly moron-proof.
As for me, I'm installing Ubuntu Server 10.4 and never looking back. My goal was to evaluate FreeNAS and it's core purpose was file storage which means lots of file transfers and that's the one thing it sucks the most at...sorry FreeNAS, I've found another and I'll never look back.....
So if you've been following my FreeNAS posts, you know I gave FreeNAS a fair shot, if you haven't been following along, let me save you some time by saying don't waste your time with FreeNAS. If you are just in love with the idea of FreeNAS wait for OMV (Open Media Vault)....
With the recent addtion of my FreeNAS box and my obsession with being able to listen to my music at work or anywhere for that matter, I decided to purchase a CSCO PIX 501 for my home network. The idea is that it would help dust off my IOS CLI skillz and allow me to VPN into my home network from anywere with an acceptable level of security. I got my PIX off eBay and decided to drop the bucks to get a 50 user license version. Compared to what these sold for new, they are a steal now! I quickly got the unit up and running and was able to establish VPN connectivity from work. Unfortunatley the iPhone IPSEC won't work with my PIX, stupid freaking Apple and CISCO must be in coherts to get everyone on the newest and best hardware...bummer.
Anyhow, as I write this post, I have FireClient up and am streaming music from my FreeNAS box at home! WOOT!
Ok, so I started sourcing the parts for my new build and realized I had a few more decisions to make before I pulled the trigger on this build. I had already roughly calculated how much space I wanted/needed. I needed to decide on some of the more technical aspects of the build, like what type of boot drive/system was I going to use, how big should it be? Do I need a gigabit network adapter and if so what kind should I get, will it support jumbo frames and do I need to invest in a server class NIC for ultimate reliability? Luckily for me some of these decisions were made for me when I opted to buy the somewhat gutted Dell XPS 400 from my co-worker. It already came with a gigabit network card onboard, 1GB RAM and SATA ports. It also only had room for (4) internal hard-drives.
I decided I'd just hit up my favorite online retailer and see if I could source all the parts I needed new from them and get what I couldn't there, on eBay. Here's what I ended up with as the foundation of my FreeNAS build:
- Dell XPS 400 Tower with built-in Gigabit NIC, 1GB RAM, 3.2GHz P4 Processor. $50 US.
- Cheap-o PCI-X video card I had laying around (the mobo didn't support AGP). FREE
- Adaptec 2610SA SATA RAID card from eBay, I paid $41 US for it.
- Lexar 2GB 80X CF card from eBay, got this gem for $15 US.
- (4) Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500GB hard drives from Newegg.com (59.99/each) $223.96 US for all drives.
- SYBA SD-ADA40001 SATA II To Compact Flash Adapter from Newegg.com. $15 US.
So my total for this build was a cool $344.96 US. Given the amount of space I'm getting and the quality of the hardware, I don't think I could have found anything prebuilt/off the shelf that would come close to this build. Not to mention the satisfaction of sourcing all the parts and building it myself.
In my next post, I'll go over the actual build and configuration of the FreeNAS software as well as my first impressions of the finalized solution.
I've decided it was time to get back to the roots of my geek and setup my own FreeNAS system for the house. I've been using Mozy at home and it backs up my primary PC just fine but it's seriously lacking in features that could make my life easier, not to mention it's $$ each month I could be saving! Some of the shortcommings of my current solution (Mozy) is it doesn't back up any of my laptops, it doesn't download torrents in the background and it doesn't sync my iTunes library. These and more features are built in with FreeNAS.
I picked up a nice XPS 400 case/MB/CPU/RAM from a co-worker and started the search for all the other goodies I would need to build my new NAS. After much reading, I decided I'd go the route of installing the FreeNAS software on a compact flash drive hooked up via SATA. It's super fast, more reliable than CD and seemed like one of the more common methods of installation.
As for the data storage, I opted for an Adaptec 2610SA SATA RAID Controller with (4) Western Digital 500GB SATA drives. I'll be running these in a RAID 5 configuration which should yield just over 1TB of disk space. 1TB of disk space should be plenty for my needs for the next few years, I would suggest you take a serious look at your data storage needs before building your own, plan for the future as upgrading is possible but why bother, plan ahead!
To date, I haven't gotten all the parts in yet, once I do I'll post my build with pictures of the build process for everyone.