Wow, it’s been a while, but I wanted to start a few posts on a little project I have.

I’ve wanted a storage server for a while, but the cost hasn’t been at the “sweet spot” for me. Of course, by “sweet spot”, I mean cheap – the laptops around the house are sub-$500 models, which meet our needs very well, and I don’t worry too much about lugging them around.

The problem with multiple machines, and laptops in particular, is the lack of storage space and the ever-changing file version landscape. Enter my desire for a storage server….

Complicating matters, not only do I want this machine to do storage, but I would like for it to be a MythTV box as well. Bonus would be a dual-boot system able to do some gaming.

When CompUSA was going out of business, I grabbed a nice mid-tower case and power supply. Yes, that’s been stashed waiting on me to do something with it.

I added to this case an Asus M3N78-EM motherboard, a 2x2GB kit of G.Skill DDR2 1066 RAM, and an AMD Phenom 9950 Quad-Core. The nice thing about the motherboard is an integrated Nvidia GeForce 8300, and is DX10 and SLI-capable. This motherboard also has 2x PCI, handy for legacy tuner cards.

This leaves storage. There is a ton of talk on the net about the Seagate 1.5TB drives – both good and bad. The worst seems to be a firmware problem causing disks in an array to drop out. The issues are fixed in a later release of firmware, and the reports are generally good from the updated drives. The price/capacity point on these is outstanding, so I decided to take the risk with a couple of them. (Of course, as I write this, I see where Western Digital has announced a 2TB ‘green’ drive. Doh!) My intention is to add more drives as I use up the space moving my DVD collection to MythTV.

I got lucky on the drives, they arrived with the CC1H updated firmware.

So, components assembled, I lay down a partition scheme like this:
Disk 1: 225 GB Vista, 2 GB Linux Swap, 1175 GB partition for RAID
Disk 2: 10 GB /boot, 215 GB /, 2 GB Linux Swap, 1175 GB Partition for RAID
Disk 3: 225 GB Vista mirror, 2 GB Linux Swap, 1175 GB partition for RAID
Disk 4: 10 GB /boot mirror, 215 GB / mirror, 2 GB Linux Swap, 1175 GB Partition for RAID
Disk 5: 225 GB TBD, 2 GB Linux Swap, 1175 GB partition for RAID

Drop in the Vista64 DVD, and install away. Once Vista is up and running, update the video drivers with the motherboard CD, and the system gets a 4.4 Vista score – video is the weak link, the other scores are all 5.9.

Initially, I attempted to do a Debian install, but it didn’t like the drive controller, and kept telling me there were no drives! So, I tried my first-ever Ubuntu install. Color me impressed. The Ubuntu CD is both an install disk and a LiveCD, found the hardware, and installed without a hitch. Granted, this put more packages on the system than I really wanted, but I’ll live with that for now.

A couple of issues remain at this point – Sound and Video through HDMI. Part of the reason I chose this motherboard is the integrated HDMI port. Something’s not quite right, since I can’t get any signal out of HDMI in Windows or Linux – another round of chipset driver updates tonight, and I’m hoping the Windows side will be clear.

Since I wanted to start moving our digital photos over to the RAID, I needed to get that going. Having those on a single external USB drive has been bothering me.

Under Ubuntu, the two partitions are /dev/sda3 and /dev/sdb4. First, I needed mdadm, the array management utility.
sudo apt-get install mdadm
sudo mdadm --create /dev/md0 --level=raid5 --raid-devices=2 /dev/sda3 /dev/sdb4

Yes, that looks a little funny – raid5 with two drives. In retrospect, I should have done a “degraded”, using a missing keyword. This completed, took about 4 hours, and resulted in a clean array.

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