1st Home Media Server (working blog)

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1st Home Media Server (working blog)

This will be my second working blog on Missing Remote and is intended to document my progress in building a home server to complement my HTPC Client (blog post on MR) already in use.  Hopefully people will find this interesting and informative.

Objective:
Build a central, home server to support a minimum of 3 home computers.

Timeline:
In service by 09/01/2009 (Complete)

Requirements:
*  Reliability:  24/7 operation (Complete)
*  Headless server (Complete)
*  Meet current and unknown future needs over the next 5 years (minimum)
*  Automatic, nightly backups of important files (Complete)
*  Back up disk images of all home computers  (Complete)
*  Store all music, photos, videos, movies, TV recordings (Complete)
*  High-Definition support (Complete)
*  Stream all files to remote computers throughout the house (Complete)
*  Serve as host to media center software (Complete)
*  Run Windows Home Server (Complete)
*  Allow for maximum internal storage capability (>10 drives)  (13 and counting)
*  No hardware RAID solutions (Complete)
*  Everything in a single case (Complete)
*  Gigabit ethernet
(Complete)

This next section includes things that I will strive to do, but will stray from—if necessary—in order to meet any of the requirements.

Possibilities:
*  Minimize power consumption (Mostly via Green WD drives)
*  Minimize noise (So far, very good!)
*  Minimize costs

Note that the last bullet there is my idea of minimizing costs and I don’t expect it to be yours.  ;)  This isn’t being built by a high school or college student on a limited income, but I am still married (and intend to stay that way!) and have a home and family to take care of.  This won’t be a $10k server, but it won’t be a $500 one either.


UPDATES (mm/dd/yyyy):
  10/07/2008 - Primary Hardware Purchase
  12/11/2008 - Implementation Plan
  02/18/2009 - Server Case
  02/18/2009 - Motherboard & Power Supply
  02/18/2009 - CPU/Heatsink Install
  02/18/2009 - Rear HD Cage Install
  02/19/2009 - OS Install & Sound Dampening
  02/19/2009 - Case Fans
  02/19/2009 - Hot Swap Bays
  02/19/2009 - Windows Home Server Add-Ins
  07/19/2009 - REMOTE Remote Desktop
  07/19/2009 - Hot Swap Bays (Part II)
  07/19/2009 - Hot Swap Bays (Part III)
  07/19/2009 - Case Fans (Part II)
  07/19/2009 - SageTV
  07/19/2009 - SiliconDust HDHomeRun
  07/19/2009 - Hauppauge HD-PVR
  03/09/2010 - Added link to older HD-PVR drivers (at the end)
  04/08/2010 - HD-PVR heat issues

03/03/2011 - Finally started reformatting for the redesigned site, fixing links and pictures.


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After some extensive research and several discussions on MR, I’ve pretty much settled on the following hardware.  In order to come up with this list, it was absolutely necessary to “build” my entire server and it’s future needs before buying a single piece of hardware.  Here’s what I’ve chosen and my reasoning:

Motherboard:
SuperMicro dual Xeon X7DWE
Ironically, the main reason I chose this is because of what it does NOT have:  PCI ports.  It’s an old tech and I didn’t feel that it would have the bandwidth to handle a ton of hard drives.  Additionally, it has a 64-bit PCI-X slot @ 133MHz, which I do believe can handle a decent amount of drives.  It also comes with 4 PCI-e x8 slots and 1 PCI-e x4 slot.  This should allow for quite a bit of future expansion.  It also has space for 2 CPUs, which allows me to effectively double my processing power, if necessary.  It’s a standard (though, rather large) ATX mobo, so I can use just about any PSU with it.  As a server mobo, it also has onboard video, which helps facilitate the headless server.  Finally, it’s a server motherboard, so the quality should be top-notch.

CPU:
Xeon 5410 50W 2.3GHz Quad Core (x1)
This is a pretty powerful CPU, yet it’s the lowest power Xeon I could find for the mobo.

CPU Cooler:
Noctua NH-U12P
Sadly, the cooling options for Xeon processors is nowhere near the enthusiast market.  I’m hoping this will be a pretty quiet, yet effective, solution.  My one concern is that 2 of these may interfere with each other or even with the 5.25” drive bays.

RAM:
Crucial 4GB DDR2-800 ECC
Not much to say here:  I need quality RAM and due to the server nature of the mobo, it has to be ECC.  Crucial definitely fits the bill.

Add-in Cards:
The following combination of cards is intended to allow the addition of quite a bit of hard drive space without using expensive multi-lane cables and backplanes, as well as more expensive multi-lane add-in cards or even SCSI or SAS hardware.  I also did not want to use eSATA and expensive external enclosures.

8-port PCI-X SATA card
This will be the first card used to connect a multitude of drives.  This was the least expensive (thanks, Crim!) card that had 8 ports on it.  It’s port multiplier aware, so it should work with the 5x1 Addonics PM.  I asked on the Addonics forums and they believe it will work fine, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

4-port Highpoint SA II RocketRaid 2300
Basically, just like the PCI-X card, but since I only have one PCI-X slot, PCI-e is next.  Sadly, they don’t make 8-port PCI-e SATA cards for less than about $600.  Again, my hope is that this PM-aware card will work with the 5x1 Addonics PM.

5x1 Addonics SATA Port Multiplier
This will take a single, PM-aware, SATA port and add FIVE additional SATA ports to it.  This actually does not use any slot on the mobo, but just gets attached to one of the PCI brackets on the back of the case.  Hopefully nothing gets blocked.  Theoretically, I can just keep adding more of these, as long as I have a PCI bracket and a SATA port.

Drive Arrays:
Addonics 5SA 3-bay, 5 drive enclosure
This is the stuff that gets the geek in me all excited.  How many times do you see those oh-so-cool, geeky hot swap drive bays in a server and go, “Man, I wish I could do that”?  But, I digress.  This is how I’ll be able to continue adding lots of storage to my server without using eSATA and expensive external drive enclosures.  I’ll starting with only a couple of these.

SATA Y-cables:
3-in-1 Power Cable
I’ll be using a number of these for adding 3 SATA drives to a single SATA connector off the PSU.

Case:
Lian-Li PC-343B
I purchased this several months ago, shortly after I completed the client PC.  I had no less than 18 reasons for choosing this case.  That's right, the 18 (?!) 5.25” bays on the front of the case!  I could theoretically install 6 Addonics 5SAs for a total of 30 hard drives!  Woah.

PSU:
Corsair HX1000W
I did some calculations on what I could expect all this hardware to use and it only came out to about 700W, so a 1000W PSU should be plenty.  I own 2 Corsairs already and they’re extremely reliable and quiet.  I don’t expect this to be silent, but every dB helps!

It may be a while until my next update because by then I’ll have started purchasing some parts and that requires some of that green stuff!

EDIT:  Just a quick note that my links are not meant to be endorsements for any of the stores I may have linked to.  They just happened to be the random one I bookmarked for the item.

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I'm interested to see how all your storage controllers work out, especially the port multiplier, since I don't know much about 'em.

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Matt wrote:

I'm interested to see how all your storage controllers work out, especially the port multiplier, since I don't know much about 'em.

Me too. Always wanted to get one of these but I'm not sure what boards/chipsets support PM. Sad

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Crim wrote:

Matt wrote:

I'm interested to see how all your storage controllers work out, especially the port multiplier, since I don't know much about 'em.

Me too. Always wanted to get one of these but I'm not sure what boards/chipsets support PM. Sad

Me three. I'm interested in setting up a raid 5 or 6 array for my next desktop build.

Nothing is more dangerous than a person who's title exceeds their intelect.

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Quote:
Me three. I'm interested in setting up a raid 5 or 6 array for my next desktop build.

I used to think that way, too.  I always thought I'd set up a nice media server or desktop computer with a RAID setup.  However, I've spent far too many hours and way too much money on 3rd party recovery software trying to recover from a RAID 0 or RAID 1 array failure.  I wish other people would come to this conclusion as well.  As it turns out, it's usually not worth the hassle for a couple reasons:

1.  Most RAID is proprietary, meaning that if your hardware RAID controller (i.e.  onboard mobo or even an add-in card) dies, you will lose your data.  With quite a bit of work, I've been able to get previous arrays recognized on new motherboards, but it wasn't worth the time and effort.

2.  RAID is overkill and overrated for home use.  It's intended for uptime, not redundancy.  A prime example is that a company can't afford to have their network drives or applications inaccessible to their users.  It took me a VERY long time (only within the past few years, as a matter of fact) to finally realize and accept this reality. Oh, and the "performance benefit" of RAID 0 will never be recognized by a home user.

When I finally accepted the above, I was turned on to FlexRAID and realized that using it, in combination with routine backups of important data (not simply backing up everything), is what a home user really needs.  Let's face it:  If your array fails, you'll be reinstalling Windows anyway, so why did you bother backing up your Windows directory?  :Smile

The hardware I'm purchasing for this WILL support RAID 5, including the RocketRaid and the motherboard itself.  However, I won't be using those features.  Because of that, if any of my hardware dies, I'll STILL be able to recover the data using ANY other SATA card and/or ANY new motherboard!  And, if I can't, guess what?  I'll have a true backup solution in place, which will allow me to access the data while I work to get the server running again.

All that being said, port multipliers seem like a really good technology for adding more storage capability and I'm really looking forward to implementing it.

I'll see about getting Matt to host some pictures of the Lian-Li case for the time being.  It's empty, but it's very, VERY cool!  ;D

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Question:  Does WHS support AHCI mode off the bat or do you need to install the drivers for it upon installation?  I just recently learned that my server is running in IDE mode and I want to take advantage of WHS and SATA features like automatic backup and NCQ.

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subscribed!

I too just built a new media server for my home.  I was using a XP Pro machine that stores all my media files over a couple hard drive for the past few years.  'bout 2 weeks ago, I finally build a new server using WHS PP1 so I could also backup the whole house PCs with an easy upgrade path (more HDD in the future).  I use mostly of my old and low power parts to save initial cost and upkeeping cost tho.

 

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Based on this comment, it would seem that AHCI support is not built into WHS during initial installation.  I know that I ran into the same issue with the latest laptops from Dell at work, where we needed to disable AHCI before we could get BartPE to recognize the drive.  Once the disk image was installed, we just turned AHCI back on.

Also, based on these comments, it would seem that AHCI is not an integral part of taking advantage of WHS.  I wouldn't think that AHCI was required for automatic backups, though.  The 2 features I keep hearing AHCI enables is NCQ and Hot Swap.

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I haven't even bought anything yet, however, I believe I found a bit of an issue with my plans.  The Addonics 5x1 cards require a PCI bracket to hold them in place.  The Lian-Li has space for 7 brackets and the Supermicro mobo has 6 slots.  This means that if I ever max out the storage, all my PCI-e x8's will be blocked.

My only alternative will be to remove the PCI brackets from the 5x1's and mount them to the case itself.  My initial thought is that I'll attach them to the opposite side of the mobo tray in the middle of the case.  I may even be able to attach mobo standoffs by utilizing the existing standoff holes, maybe only adding one or two per card.

Anyone have suggestions on how to go about drilling a hole I could screw a standoff into?  My modding skills are severely lacking.  ;D

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Thanks for the info about WHS.  I was specifically interested in NCQ for my recording drives.  Sometimes I get errors on the recordings and I wonder if they aren't from the drives not seeking fast enough.  They could also just be from a bad digital signal.  I'm considering a move from Win XP to WHS and while I am at it want to make sure I get NCQ working on it as well.

As for drilling holes, just make sure the hole is about the same size as the narrowest part of the screw.  That means that the hole is the size of the inside of the threads.  Start smaller than you think and move up in size if the screw will not fit.  Don't over tighten or you will break the threads you just cut.  It should take some pretty good force to cut the thread though.  If it goes in really easy than your threads are not going to be deep enough to have much strength.

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Quote:
Thanks for the info about WHS.

No problem.  As far as your recording errors, I'm not so sure NCQ is going to help you out there.  You may want to take a look at this Wiki on the subject, since it seems to indicate a DECREASE in performance when using NCQ.

Quote:
As for drilling holes, just make sure the hole is about the same size as the narrowest part of the screw.

If I was working with wood, drywall, or anything else with some amount of thickness to it, that would've been my thought, too.  However, if I simply drill a hole in the very thin aluminum motherboard tray, I don't think there will be any threads for the screw to align with.  I think I'd just wind up with a hole.  :(  I'm thinking I need a hand tap to create the threads.  Anyone have experience with these things?

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If it was steel it would take it.  Aluminum probably not.

NCQ will surely help in a situation like recording TV.  With a TV recording drive you end up with a s severely fragmented drive making nearly every read or write a seek across the disk.  If you could optimize the movement of the disk head you can likely increase read and write performance.  On desktop applications it doesn't help because there are less seeks, but in a server type environment like recording TV NCQ will surely improve performance.

That is kinda why I wonder why this build here is so beefy.  The PCI bus is limited to 133MB/s yes, but typical recording doesn't ever come close to that speed.  A HD program is 20mb/s on the high end so 6 simultaneous streams would be 120mb/s or 15MB/s.  Since you are recording to a fragmented 64K drive you are much more limited by access time than read/write speed.  Sure, if you are doing backups to defragmented drives it could load up the 133MB/s bus, but those are typically done at night anyways when speed is not a major issue.

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Well... 133MB/sec is never actually achieved in the real world, PCI devices all need a time slice of bus mastering access, between this and the overhead of managaing a parallel bus with at least a few devices connected to it, the real world throughput is closer to 90MB or 100MB/sec. Further standard PCI has all sorts of fun latency issues to negotiate thanks to the shared bus topology. Remember the old VIA KT133 and SB Live issues that were fixed by a latency patch?

Thankfully, he's not using standard 32-bit 33MHz PCI. He's using the server class PCI-X slot which is a 64-bit 133MHz extension to the PCI specs, and there is only one slot using the PCI-X controller, effectively giving free reign.

And the second controller card is a PCIe card which of course is a point-to-point connection with dedicated bandwidth to each lane.

So yes it might be overkill, and I agree NCQ should be enabled and probably the most helpful over anything else, the fact that the server is engineered (arguably perhaps over engineered) to allow the serving of all sorts of data without stalling the simple process of recording is a good idea.

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I can't say I disagree with you guys regarding the excess of the design.  In fact, that's something that was intentional.  Like I said, this is intended to meet all current and future needs for at least the next 5 years.  If it turns out to last 7-10 years due to this excess, then I've succeeded in my design goal.

Regarding the bandwidth piece, you're both correct.  The normal PCI bus would only allow 133 MB/s, but the 64-bit PCI-X bus at 133MHz pushes that up to 1067 MB/s.  I wrote about my extensive research regarding STR and bandwidth in another thread, so I won't repeat everything here.

In essence, if all I was doing was recording 2 HD TV shows, I'd stick with the single PCI-X card and add drives to that alone.  But, I'm thinking I'll be around 3 or 4 HD recordings most of the time, plus up to 3 simultaneous streams for playback (at the moment, but remember we're building for potential future needs), in addition to backup duties and other server-oriented tasks.  While 2 or 3 HD streams are being recorded and/or 2 or 3 are being played back, someone else may be uploading several gigs of pictures to the server, while I've got uTorrent saving more stuff to the server.  Is this scenario likely to happen?  Actually, yes.  Might it cause a performance hit?  Quite possibly.  Hence, the robust (aka overkill) design.  ;)  Could I get away with a lesser design?  Absolutely, but I'd be playing some Russian Roulette with my requirements.  As an IT project manager, I know all too well that you don't design solely for today's needs.

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It's a good thing that the bus (theoretical) is faster than the array (in many cases; bus contention aside.)

Have you bought the mobo yet?  The only thing I don't like about that one is the limited DIMM slots.  Not that it should interfere with what you're planning Wink I just need more memory for an ESX box Laughing out loud

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No, I haven't bought the mobo yet.  As you said, 32GB of RAM is more than I'll ever be using.  Nothing I'm installing can even use more than 4GB or RAM, anyway.  If WHS ever goes 64-bit, I'll look at upping the RAM, but otherwise, the memory shouldn't cause any bottlenecks.

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I purchased just about all of the hardware, including a WD Green 1TB drive for storage and another WD Green 500GB for the OS, but I believe I'll be using the Samsung Spinpoint F1's for actual storage needs when the server goes into production, since the Samsung has significantly better performance and is nearly as quiet.  I may wind up replacing the 500GB OS drive with a Spinpoint, too, since I don't want the drive speeds to create a bottleneck.

I happened to find a Thermalright cooler for Socket 771 Xeons and picked up one of those instead of the Noctua I was originally going to get.  Supposedly, it can run fanless!!!  I'll certainly be checking the temperature difference both with and without a fan, just to be sure.

I also picked up a bunch of AcoustiPack sound proofing foam for the Lian-Li, since I want this to be as quiet as humanly possible for a server of this magnitude.  It sure seems like I'm on the right track for that objective.

To recap:

SuperMicro dual Xeon X7DWE
Xeon 5410 50W 2.3GHz Quad Core (x1)
THERMALRIGHT HR-01 X
Crucial 4GB DDR2-800 ECC
SUPERMICRO AOC-SAT2-MV8 64-bit PCI-X133MHz SATA Controller Card
HighPoint RocketRAID 2300 PCI Express SATA II Controller Card
Addonics 5x1 SATA Port Multiplier
Addonics 5SA 3-bay, 5 drive enclosure
Corsair HX1000W

Once I have the parts installed, I'll be checking for proper SATA cable lengths, as well as angles, and ordering locking SATA cables of the appropriate type.  At that point, I'll also be looking at gaskets and rubber grommets for securing and silencing as many components as possible.

I'm still trying to figure out how to mount that little Addonics 5x1 card, so I'm up for any suggestions.  I'm considering taking a piece (or several pieces) of aluminum, drilling the appropriate mounting holes and trying my hand (noob!) at soldering them to the mobo tray.  This would definitely be the most secure method... assuming I can solder!  ;D

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You could try using the standoff clips, instead of screws (like these).  You'll just have to figure out how to make square holes.

Otherwise, how about duct tape?  ;D

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I actually like the idea of using those clips rather than soldering.  I'm wondering if I can find a small enough square file to make the edges.  I could easily drill a pilot hole, but the file might be a difficult thing to find.

Another option might be a square punch.  I could probably put a block of soft wood on the opposite side to hold the motherboard tray in place and still punch through the aluminum.  I hate using force like this, though, since it tends to not be precision work and may lead to collateral damage.

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How about a dremel?  Then you could use a small file to square off and smooth the corners.

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I don't think a dremel is the right way to go, except for maybe drilling the pilot hole to stick the file through... unless that's what you were getting at.  I just have to find a small enough square file, probably no bigger than a 1/4" and an 1/8" would be ideal.  I'm not seeing tiny ones on the Sears site, so I may just "need" to pay them a visit.  ;D

Thanks for the idea of using those clips!

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After some serious thought, I decided to use the WD Green drives I bought either for use in another home computer or for WHS backup purposes.  I figure the backup process doesn't need to be "fast", just reliable.  So, I'll have a 1TB and 500GB drive to add to the WHS drive pool for that purpose.

Additionally, thanks to SPCR, I purchased a Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB drive from Newegg for $99 (free 3 day shipping) to use as the WHS system drive.  I saw that the recommended drive size was 300GB and didn't want to skimp with just a 320GB or 500GB.

If the drive arrives before the weekend, I'll start putting the server together for a test fit of the hardware and cables.  Assuming that goes well, I may start attaching some of the Acoustipak on the side panels.  I'm also wondering about putting pieces of Acoustipak on some parts the motherboard tray, since I have access to both sides.  That might go a long way towards deadening the echo inside this cavernous case.  I just need to ensure I don't block any spots I may need to utilize for port multipliers or cable routing.

While I realize I'll be installing and removing everything numerous times before I'm done, I want to try and minimize it.

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A very minor update for the server:  I picked up a PSU rubber silencer, HD grommets, some rubber fan "screws" and an HD isolation strip.  I'm not sure which things are going to produce the best results, so I'm trying a little bit of everything.  If I wind up wasting $10 in the process, so be it.

I haven't had time to put anything into the case yet, so there hasn't been much to share on the build itself.  As I took the case out of the box, I did manage to break one of the caster wheels on the bottom of the case by dropping the case about 4 inches.  MAN, that thing is heavy!  I really wish Lian-Li wouldn't have used rivets to attach the wheels, though.  Metal wheels would've been a little sturdier, too.  I need to figure out how to replace a riveted wheel now.

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Maybe you can contact Lian Li for a replacement?

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I actually have a replacement wheel already.  I've just never tried to remove and/or replace a rivet.

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You can buy rivet guns at Lowes or Home Depot for about $20, and the rivets are fairly inexpensive as well.  Use a drill (with bit slightly smaller than hole) to remove the old rivet.  Personally, I would just use small machine screws instead of rivets, just in case the wheel ever needs to be removed.  Also, screws would be a bit stronger for the next time you drop the case. Smile

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Ditto on the use of a nut and bolt replacement.

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I've been having a lot of fun with Windows Home Server lately (save for a bad hard drive).  I have a bunch of photos ready to be posted when I get a moment to write my official blog update to coincide with the pictures.

FlexRAID 1.0 is set to be released on 12/20, so I've held off implementing that for the moment.  I also needed to order more drives for the server because of the plans listed above.  I ordered a Channel Master 3016 antenna and 7777 pre-amp, which is being installed on the roof this Saturday.

I have a Dvico FustionHDTV7 Dual Express tuner being delivered this week, so I'll be testing out some tuning this weekend and attempting to install the WHS version of SageTV on the new hardware.

As expected, cable routing is turning into quite an ordeal in the Lian-Li 343B.  I ordered a plethora of accessories to secure cables, as well as a ton of SATA cables of varying lengths.  In fact, I've placed 4 different orders with two companies as I've found cables to be either too short or too long.  I hope I never need to order another SATA cable!  The effort is already paying off in the very clean routing I've managed so far.  But, I'm dreading the ongoing addition of drives and cables as the server grows.

I've actually gotten pretty far with the build process, but I'm taking it slow in order to get the whole enchilada set up and ready for the QA phase.  I also decided to add OTA capability, which was never part of my original plans.  The intent of the QA phase will be to:

1.  Validate server's reliability
2.  Check OTA reception/quality
3.  Prove the capability of Sage to schedule and record OTA
4.  Verify it can serve up all media to the client
5.  Ensure smooth playback of HD content
6.  Check share permissions and maximize security
7.  Validate FlexRAID's backup/restore capabilities
8.  Verify hot-swap functions are working
9.  Identify any desired SageTV customizations for TV recording/playback

This is all before implementing my pride-and-joy, the HD-PVR, since that requires ordering a regular DirecTV receiver which is going to cost a monthly fee and, ultimately, removing the current DirecTV DVR and it's associated monthly fee.  When that arrives, I want to already have everything setup and working.

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Server Case

The Lian-Li PC-343B is an enormous case by any measure. It’s overkill for all but the most hardcore PC builder and the premium price certainly reflects that. With space for 18 front-accessible 5.25” bays across 2 columns, you’re practically looking at two full tower cases side-by-side. It’s all aluminum, so it’s extremely light for it’s size, but not after adding 18 drives, let alone the 30 I was planning to allow for by using the Addonics 5-in-3’s (5 hard drives, lying on their side, in three 5.25” bays). Thankfully, the case comes with large caster wheels at the bottom. Unthankfully, the case was a little awkward coming out of it’s box, slid out of my hand and landed on one of the wheels, resulting in this “oh sh*t!” moment:

I received some great suggestions for fixing the wheel and drilling out the rivets and screwing a new wheel onto the bottom should work just fine. But, I’m focused on finishing the build at the moment, so that’ll have to wait. I did purchase replacement wheels, though, so I do intend to do it at some point. I picked up a few “optional” parts for the Lian-Li, which added a decent amount to the cost.

First, I added a PSU filter which attaches to the bottom of the case. I also purchased a top panel replacement which can hold dual 120mm fans, so I can exhaust mucho heat out from both halves of the case. I picked up a 3 drive, rear mounted cage, which I intend to use for the OS and WHS backups. As you can see, the cage also has a spot for an 80mm fan.

The white strips are silicon drive dampeners meant to absorb vibrations. They’re meant for the sides, but the bottom drive will touch the cage and I didn’t want that.

That’s only 2 drives, but I’ll probably just throw a 3rd in there and find a use for it. I just don’t want these to be part of the drive pool, since I can’t hot-swap them and I’d need to crack open the case to replace them. I also found I had a few unused fan mounts to cover up and needed a dual 80mm cover plate, as well as a 120mm cover plate for that purpose. Finally, I picked up a bunch of mesh fan grills for where I would be installing fans.

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skirge01 wrote:
I've actually gotten pretty far with the build process, but I'm taking it slow in order to get the whole enchilada set up and ready for the QA phase.  I also decided to add OTA capability, which was never part of my original plans.  The intent of the QA phase will be to:

1.  Validate server's reliability (Complete)
2.  Check OTA reception/quality (Complete)
3.  Prove the capability of Sage to schedule and record OTA (Complete)
4.  Verify it can serve up all media to the client (Complete)
5.  Ensure smooth playback of HD content (Complete)
6.  Check share permissions and maximize security (50% Complete)
7.  Validate FlexRAID's backup/restore capabilities (Complete)
8.  Verify hot-swap functions are working (Complete)
9.  Identify any desired SageTV customizations for TV recording/playback (Complete.. for now)

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Joined: 21 Dec 2006

Motherboard

I went with the SuperMicro X7DWE server motherboard for several reasons.  First, it’s a server motherboard, so it’s meant to run 24/7 in fairly harsh environments.  I also know that the parts will be top-notch.  Beyond that, it has 5 PCI-e slots, and a single PCI-X slot.  4 of the PCI-e’s run at x4 and one runs at x8.  The PCI-X runs at 133MHz.  With this many slots, I have quite a bit of room to grow with SATA cards or tuners.  Finally, this is a dual Xeon mobo, so I have the ability to double my CPUs should I ever need to.  Honestly, I doubt that time will come, but the other features were the primary drivers for my mobo choice.

Freshly unwrapped:

There’s a large mounting plate which attaches to the mobo tray in the case.  At first, I was attempting to attach it to the motherboard.  After so many years of building computers at home and at work, you’d think I’d be able to figure this stuff out in my sleep.

 

Power Supply

I chose a pretty beefy PSU, since this was a server and I wanted to make certain I had a decent amount of breathing room as I added hard drives.  While a DVR alone probably wouldn’t need too many hard drives, archiving high def movies on the server certainly will fill them up quickly. When I first installed the PSU, I had one of those Homer Simpson moments and went “D’oh!”

As you can see in the picture, the brace for the PSU is slightly beyond the rear of the PSU and really isn’t doing much to support it’s weight.  Sadly, this wasn’t a mistake, rather a moment of not thinking about what the bracket was for.

In keeping with the goal of building a “quiet” server, I installed the PSU with a silicon gasket.  Even though the big fan in the Corsair HX1000 is nearly silent, I wanted to ensure that no vibration was being transferred to the case itself.  With the cavernous nature of the Lian-Li PC-343B, all the minor vibrations from each of the components will surely add up and make for an overly noisy server.  As you can see, the gasket isn’t a perfect fit, but it will definitely do the job:

From the inside, you can see that the gasket wraps around the back of the PSU:

I also picked up Lian-Li’s PSU filter to try and filter out as much dust as possible.  The filter is apparently meant for “normal” PSU’s and does not entirely enclose the fan on the enormous Corsair HX1000.  The fan probably continues for another 0.5”-1” beyond where you see the filter stop.  The only change I think I may make is to seal up the rest of the mounting holes for the PSU support, which still fall outside the filter.

Here’s the initial look of the PSU from outside the case:

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CPU Heatsink

Knowing how loud stock heatsink/fan combos are, I started looking for alternatives.  Considering I was running a Xeon processor, I expected to hit a dead end.  I mean, how many data centers spend extra money to quiet their servers?  This is the stock Intel cooler:

To my surprise, it would seem that at least 1 company has taken the prospect of quieter data centers to heart and released something.  Thermalright, maker of such top-notch, gargantuan coolers like the Ultra-120 eXtreme and TRUE Copper models, came to the rescue with the HR-01 3U and 4U models.  These are very similar to the Ultra-120 models, which I happen to already be running in my primary PC.  The original Ultra-120 can just about air cool my dual core Intel CPU, so I had high hopes for the HR-01.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Intel and Thermalright:

David & Goliath

 

Processor

The ongoing theme with this build is quiet, so I went with an L (low-power) version of Intel’s Xeon line.  The 45nm Harpertown core L5410 runs at 2.33GHz.  It’s a quad core that has a TDP (as defined by Intel) of only 50W.  Compare that to the regular E5410, which runs at the same 2.33GHz, but at 80W.  Nothing too impressive to see here, but this is the CPU:

 

Motherboard Install

I was originally a little concerned with the size of the mobo, since it’s a full ATX spec board.  But, my measurements of the case seemed to indicate this mobo would fit without issue and, thankfully, I was right.  However, after installing the mobo, I quickly got concerned about the heatsink’s size and where the front, 5.25” vertical rails are.  It took some pretty lengthy tools to reach the mounting screws on the heatsink, as well, but it all worked out:

Here you can really see how close the heatsink is to the drive rails:

As soon as I looked at the final product I knew I had yet another issue to be concerned about, but I knew I wasn’t going to slide by this one.  The Addonics 5-in-3 drive cages I would be using will definitely bump into the heatsink.  This means that if I were ever to install a second CPU, nearly the entire left side of the case would be unusable for the 5-in-3 cages.  I had planned on the capability of 3 cages per side, totaling a max of 30 internal hard drives.  Given the rapid pace of hard drive expansion and the coming of age of tiny SSD’s, I don’t think this is going to cause any issues.

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Rear-Cage Install

The rear cage was something I hadn’t originally planned on, but I didn’t want to take up the front bays with the OS drive.  At any rate, I needed to figure out how to minimize vibrations and went with rubber grommets for the drives:

I seem to have lost one of the black ones, but I had a big bag of blue grommets on standby.

As I mentioned before, I also put two silicon strips on the bottom of the cage where the drives would otherwise be touching:

Here’s how the bottom hard drive lies on the isolation strips:

All 3 drives installed:

I also decided to put an 80mm fan gasket between the drive cage and the back of the case:

Once I knew how things would fit, I moved on to noise isolation.  I tried some rubber screws for the fan grill, but they didn’t fit very well:

I eventually settled on some very long, rubber screws.  I also installed a fan gasket inside the drive cage to avoid transferring vibrations from the fan to the cage:

I picked out a quiet, 80mm Nexus, 4-pin PWM fan for cooling the drive cage:

Getting those bottom mounts through the fan holes required some work with needle nose pliers.

I attempted to show the space between the grill and the drive cage, but you can’t really see it.  Trust me, though, there’s a decent amount of gaps where air can get into the case, bypassing the grill.  I’m not too happy about that, but the gasket makes for a nice seal against the case:

Here’s what it looks like from outside the case:

Just to let you know the difference made by this 80mm fan, at idle, I had been running around 114 degrees F on the 3 drives in this bay.  After installing the 80mm fan, this dropped a whopping 26.3 degrees to just 87.8 degrees F!  Additionally, the bottom, system fan is now 10 degrees below the other two at just 77 degrees F.

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Did you get that heatsink off a 77 Pontiac? It looks huge.

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Nice writeup!  That system must have cost you a pretty penny.  I'm sure it'll be worth it though.

HTPC addict

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Meester.Rip wrote:

Did you get that heatsink off a 77 Pontiac? It looks huge.

LOL!  That's precisely why I did the comparison to the stock cooler.  It IS huge.  BUT, it works very well, too.

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Lothar wrote:

Nice writeup!  That system must have cost you a pretty penny.  I'm sure it'll be worth it though.

I've got about 3 or 4 more updates to add and a couple more to finish writing.  I will be including a total writeup on the costs.  I've been keeping track of the associated costs because I was curious what this server would wind up costing.  In all honesty, I think people are going to be somewhat surprised at what it (didn't) cost.  Maybe I'm wrong, though, and completely off my rocker.  ;D

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This thread makes me think about upgrading the cooling and sound dampening in my LC-17.

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OS Install

I had no idea how well any of my hardware choices were going to work, particularly the motherboard, so I wanted to try installing the OS as soon as possible.  I jury-rigged my main DVD burner and the intended OS hard drive:

While the install was very simple and straightforward, you will become very accustomed to the following screen:

Sound Dampening

All the little things I’ve done so far to lessen vibrations and the use of low noise parts are going to be pretty much useless if I don’t attach some material to the inside of the case.  The cavern that is the Lian-Li PC-343B is all aluminum and there are no less than 5 very large, metal surface areas throughout the case.

I picked up Acoustipak to try and cover as much interior surface area as possible without raising the temperature of the case too much.  I started with the easy part by doing the two, removable side panels.  The dual layer material was quite difficult to cut with scissors and even with a razor blade, but it worked well enough to get a pretty straight line.  It’s as simple as peeling the backing from a corner, lining it up, and slowly attaching it.  Here are the results:

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Case Fans

I picked out some Nexus 120mm, 3-pin fans, model D12SL-12 (the orange ones) and installed them with the mesh grills.  While it didn’t look too bad, the orange really stuck out:

However, the death-knell was when the grills didn’t do a very good job of keeping dust out, partially due to the gaps left by the uneven grills.  Simply put, they don’t lie flat:

The orange blurs near the grill’s edge are where you can see the fan inside the case.

Considering the mobo supports 4-pin fans, I figured I’d pick up some of that variety and replace the lackluster grills in the process.  I picked out another model Nexus fan, the D12SL-12 PWM, which is a clear plastic model, so that orange won’t be “bursting” through the grills.  (It may be a server, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look good, too!)  It’s rated at 15.5 dB(A) at it’s slowest setting (500rpm).

I also decided to swap out the Lian-Li grills with the Nexus model FF-120, which is plastic and has an actual, removable filter.  Finally, I added a Nexus silicon fan gasket.  Here’s the filter installed with the rubber screw which came with the fan and the gasket:

The difference is pretty dramatic.  I was surprised how well the purple actually went with the black:

And, with both replaced:

Finally, with both filters installed and the covers on:

While I was replacing fans, I also picked up the same 120mm fan, gasket, and filter for behind the CPU:

And, I replaced the gasket, rubber screws, and grill/filter for the rear hard drive cage with a similar setup:

Here’s what the rear of the case now looks like, including the stainless steel blanks to cover up unused fan holes (two 80mm fan holes at the top-right and one 120mm above the PSU):

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Hot Swap Bays

The little workhorse that is the SuperMicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 gives me 8 additional SATA ports over the PCI-X bus.  This card will be attached to the Addonics 5SA drive cage.  Physical installation was pretty simple, but I knew routing the cables would be lots of “fun”.  I knew the first order of business was to lay the SATA cables flat against each other and secure them that way, since that would take up the least amount of space on their way from the card to the drives.

The other end was in a little more disarray, but I knew I’d work on cleaning up the cable routing later.

My biggest problem was with the Addonics drive cage, since I couldn’t seem to find a tool long enough to push each drive’s power button in!  Once that was done, a couple of reboots indicated an issue with one of the Samsung drives, since it was being recognized during the initialization of the drives (prior to Windows).  Sometimes the drive would be MIA and other times it would hang there for an extended period before continuing into Windows.  I swapped drive trays and drives and it pointed to an issue with that particular bay.  Eventually, I swapped out the SATA cable and that fixed the problem.

After I had everything powered up for a while, I heard the vibrations from all the Samsungs in the cage and it was the noisiest part of the server.  Sadly, there wasn’t enough room to get grommets in the case’s drive rails to separate the cage from the case.  My next thought was to cushion each drive in their respective tray using some felt I picked up from Ace Hardware.

I used a push-pin to work a hole through the felt, stuck it onto the tray and then struggled to get the screw to line up with the drive.

The vibration is still there, so I’m trying to determine the next steps to quiet the drive cage down.  I even tried putting some felt on the corners of the drive cage, but it’s such a tight fit in the rails, they just peeled the felt right back off.  I’m wondering if a second drive cage, along with further sound dampening foam on the bottom of the case and beneath the drive cage will help reduce the vibrations.  Overall, it’s really not that noisy, but it’s enough to be annoying at times.

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Windows Home Server Add-Ins

Installing SageTV for WHS was a snap, so I’m not going to get into that.  I found a bunch of add-ins for WHS which I thought we be either really cool or very beneficial.

WHS Disk Management
This add-in isn’t really necessary for most people, but more of a “wow” factor by showing a wireframe layout of your case and showing where each of your drives are located.  Standard WHS Server Storage screen looks like this:

[img width=500 height=265]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/WHS_Storage.jpg[/img]

The add-in’s interface has quite a bit more information and looks like this:

[img width=500 height=186]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/DiskMgmt_Main.jpg[/img]

The wireframe is also visible on the right of this screen, as is the storage capacity, similar to standard WHS.  In a big case like mine, this little add-in have proven quite useful already even with just 7 installed drives.  There’s no question as to the location and status of each drive.  I even renamed the drives, prefixing them with their position in the case.  For example, “6:4” is the right-most drive in the lower-right hot-swap drive cage (of which, I planned on possibly having 3 on each side, for a total of 6) and “7:1” is the top-most drive in the rear drive cage.

Here's the wireframe I put together in about 20 minutes.  In order to edit or create your own, simply click on "Edit Current Wireframe" from the Add-Ins main tab in WHS.

Looking at the front of my case, it would look like this:

[img width=291 height=229]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Wireframe_Front.jpg[/img]

And, from the back corner of the case, which gives me visibility of most bays:

[img width=298 height=349]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Wireframe_Angle.jpg[/img]

The author’s homepage is here.

Advanced Admin Console
One of the main strengths of WHS is that it’s meant to be run as a headless computer, meaning no keyboard, mouse, or display.  That strength causes issues when you build your own WHS box, since you’re going to be “playing” with it more than you would with something like the HP MediaSmart.  Pulling out all three of those missing devices on any frequency is quickly going to become a royal pain.

The AAC add-in allows you to access numerous functions as though you were sitting in front of it with a keyboard, mouse, and display.  You can access the Control Panel, Printers & Faxes, Administrative Tools, Start Menu, My Computer, My Network Places, Workgroup, Network Connections, Command Prompt, Task Manager, and the Registry Editor.  Just to show the possibilities, here’s me running my server’s calculator inside the WHS interface:

[img width=500 height=368]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Calculator.jpg[/img]

It’s pretty impressive what this add-in allows you to do while still keeping the headless nature of the server.

The add-in can be found here on We Got Served.

WHS Event Monitor
With such a critical piece of equipment in your home, you always need to be aware of any issues.  But, again, with a headless server, there’s generally no way of knowing unless something stops functioning…  and you notice!  Thankfully, Windows has plenty of event monitoring built into it and Windows Server 2003, which WHS is based upon, is no exception.  But, easily getting to this info in a timely fashion requires some assistance.  Enter:  WHS Event Monitor.

With this installed on your server, you can choose what notifications within the Windows Event Monitor are emailed to you and on what frequency.  Here’s how I set mine up:

[img width=495 height=350]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Event_Monitor.jpg[/img]

As you can see, I have all errors that happen on the server being emailed, as well as WHS warnings.  This should cover just about everything I need to be concerned about and has let me know about problems I wasn’t even aware I was having.

The add-in can be found here.

uTorrent
While uTorrent certainly isn’t a requirement for everyone, being able to isolate to your WHS box whatever you choose to download saves processing time on your everyday PC and preserves the privacy of your downloads.  This isn’t a simple thing to implement in WHS, but it does work quite well once it’s set up.  You can even use the scheduler function to limit your bandwidth usage.  The WHS screen is quite simple, but very familiar:

[img width=500 height=126]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/uTorrent.jpg[/img]

You can also set up remote access to uTorrent, so you don’t need to even start up WHS’ Console to make changes.  However, you do need to log onto the WHS box if you choose to make certain changes after you’re set things up.

The excellent tutorial I followed is located here.

Depending on your point of view, this is either a lot of add-ins or not very many at all.  I installed what I considered necessities for my usage and for the health of the system and nothing more.

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WOW!

Well made post! Bravo! Thank you!

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That was very informative.  Good read.  I like the level of detail you put into it.

HTPC addict

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REMOTE Remote Desktop

With a headless server, you want to be able to do just about everything without pulling out a keyboard and monitor to hook up.  That’s easy enough to solve using remote desktop.  However, I found that I couldn’t get to the WHS desktop when accessing my server from outside my network.  Instead, you get the WHS console.  In my mind, that kind of defeats the purpose of the event monitoring and email alerts I set up, since I wouldn’t be able to act on issues unless I was already at home.  This would also curtail many efforts to remotely resolve issues for the family.  Luckily, I wasn’t the only one wanting to do this and found a solution here.  It may not be as “simple” as a registry hack, but it’s not rocket science either.

After I did the above modification, I found out that Advanced Admin Console (which I previously installed and wrote about) can be used to access the desktop by using RUN -> explorer.exe and minimizing the WHS console.  So, pick your poison.

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Hot Swap Bays (Part II)

Due to the vibrations, future expansion, and to test out possible drive bandwidth issues, I decided to pick up a second Addonics 5SA.  Additionally, I decided to try another person's suggestion and went with Western Digital's EVCS line of drives.  These are Green Power drives, but are designed specifically for 24/7 usage by PVR's.  They're slightly more expensive (+$10-20) than the regular GP drives, but I figured they were worth a try.  The first thing I did was mount one of these new drives in the last slot of the existing 5SA cage, in order to stop using the 1TB internal drive.  Just how dumb was it to utilize an internal drive when I'm installing hot-swap bays?  (That was rhetorical.  No need to respond.  ;D )  I was apparently more observant this time around because as I prepared to apply the green felt dots, I immediately noticed that the front edge of the drive was “dangerously” close to the aluminum tray it was being mounted in.  Could it be?  Could this small oversight be the cause of the vibrations?  So, I put 3 additional felt dots at the front edge of the drive and mounted it in the tray:

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/feltloc.jpg[/img]

If you look very closely at the top of the hard drive in the next photo, you'll see 3 dark, rounded objects protruding.  Those are the 3 felt dots I put on:
[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/felt2.jpg[/img]

As soon as I installed the tray, the vibrations disappeared.  Now, it could very well have been that the empty tray was causing the vibrations, so we'll have to see how the second 5SA cage fares with 4 drives installed in it.  The second cage will also allow for more expansion, as well as having drives at the ready, in case of a failure.  The only thing I can't scientifically test is the potential bandwidth issue, since I bought different drives.  However, the bandwidth issue may not have even been an issue in the first place.  The only reason I even thought I might have one was due to the HD-PVR skipping, which seems to have been taken care of.

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Hot Swap Bays (Part III)

I’m sure a number of people have been very interested in my experience with the port multiplier I picked up.  If you’re unfamiliar with these devices, what they do is take a single SATA port on your motherboard or a SATA card (RAID or otherwise), plug it into another card, which in turn has multiple other SATA ports on it, giving you additional SATA ports to connect hard drives to.  Obviously, you need to be careful about saturating the available bandwidth on your SATA port, but a media server shouldn't be all that disk I/O intensive and I’m not running 10k RPM drives or SSDs and figured I would be safe.  Since it’s been a while, to recap, I picked up an Addonics 5x1 SATA Port Multiplier.  The key piece to this was ensuring that everything was PM (port multiplier) aware.  I verified with Addonics that the 5SA drive cage and the 5x1 were both compatible.  Back to the bandwidth issue, since I already had 8 SATA ports available (though, not all in use) on my PCI-X slot, I didn’t want to add a PM to that card.  Instead, I added the HighPoint RocketRAID 2300 PCI-e card, which adds 4 SATA ports.  Since I’m using the drive extender feature of WHS, I’m not going to be utilizing the RAID features of this card.  The card installed just like any other PCI-e card.

The fun part now was trying to figure out how to mount the Addonics 5x1 PM card, since it doesn’t require a slot in the mobo.  While it does have a bracket to attach to the rear I/O shield, I didn’t want to block any ports on the mobo.  Additionally, with the size of the Lian-Li case, running SATA cables from one side of the case to the other was becoming problematic, even with proper routing techniques:

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/pcix1.jpg[/img]

I decided to mount the PM card on the opposite side of the case, closer to the 5SA drive cage.  I received a bunch of ideas on how to potentially mount this tiny thing to the motherboard tray, but ultimately decided to go simple and use nylon ties and adhesive mounts:

[img width=200 height=200]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/admount.jpg[/img]

Here’s what it looked like after installation:

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5x1-1.jpg[/img]

I had purchased just about every length of SATA cable I could find in order to make all this routing as simply and direct as possible, but with this many cables, it’s still quite perplexing.  I must’ve routed these cables at least 8 times from scratch before settling on this:

[img width=410 height=519]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5x1-2.jpg[/img]

This is probably a very good time to point out that I actually took the time to write down which SATA cables were plugged into which ports on the PM card, as well as marking the other ends for which drive in the 5SA they were going to be attached to.  Without doing this, you can never be certain which drive is attached where once the case is closed and you could also have problems figuring out which drive you need to remove when one is failing.

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5x1-3.jpg[/img]

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5SA1.jpg[/img]

[img width=360 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5SA2.jpg[/img]

After hooking up the cables and the hard drives, I sealed up the case, powered everything up and wanted to marvel at my creation.  What’s this?  No drives?  No PM card?  Oh man!  Don’t tell me the card doesn’t work!  So, I pulled the case apart again and checked all my connections, even changing a few cables out.  Power it up and…  nada.  CRAP!  WTF?!  So, I take a look at the little sheet that came with the PM card.  (I think it’s called “directions” or “user guide” or something.)  It’s also online for those who may lose it during their build.  What’s that say in step #3?

Quote:
3.  Attach a 4-pin floppy power cable from the power supply
unit to the Port Multiplier power connecter.

A what?  Oh.  THAT:  The fairly large, white plug on the card.  It’s so difficult to see, isn’t it? 

[img width=281 height=254]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/5x1-4.jpg[/img]

Once I hooked up the power cable to the PM card, suddenly everything was working.  I made the necessary, simple changes in the RocketRAID BIOS so that the drives were set up as individual drives (JBOD) and was all set.  Overall, I’m very happy with the cable routing and the mounting of the PM card.
I do want to point out a serious design flaw with both the SATA cards I purchased and, from what I've read, it's a very common issue.  Most people are aware that SATA cables are not all that secure.  Already aware of this, I purchased the locking type of cables.  This works great...  when the port/card you plug them into also supports locking cables.  Sadly, neither of my cards do.  In fact, the PCI-X card from SuperMicro can't even use locking cables because the latch sticks out too far and bumps into the other ports.

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/supermicro.jpg[/img]

The Highpoint card, on the other hand, does allow locking cables to fit, however, they do not lock.

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/highpoint.jpg[/img]

This was a serious flaw I found out when going back to take the photos for this blog update.  I managed to lose all 5 drives attached to the Highpoint card, as well as one drive from the SuperMicro card.  Thankfully, WHS doesn't go ape**** like I did and took everything in stride, waiting patiently for me to get things hooked up correctly again.  After about 5 reboots and an hour or so of “colorful metaphors”, I rechecked all the cables, rebooted, and WHS came up like nothing had ever happened.  Have I mentioned just how much I love WHS?  ;D

As I suspected, when I installed the second 5SA cage, vibrations popped up again, but at a significantly lesser sound than before.  I figured it was the screws for sliding the cage onto its rails, so I decided to put some electrical tape on the bottom of the rails.  This has completely eliminated the hard drive vibrations.

[img width=360 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/tape.jpg[/img]

The noisiest part of the server is now back to the fans, but this thing is still extremely quiet for a server with 13 drives in it.

The final piece was to add all my new drives to the wireframe in the WHS Disk Management add-in.  Oooh… ahhhh:

[img width=300 height=282]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/wireframe1.jpg[/img]

[img width=304 height=303]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/wireframe2.jpg[/img]

I noticed that the drives on the PM card no longer report their temperatures to WHS.  The RocketRAID 2300 shows the temps just fine.  Sadly, I believe this is a limitation in the PM card just not passing the info along.  Oh well.  It still looks frakkin’ wild in that wireframe!  Here’s what my hard drives look like in WHS:

[img width=503 height=295]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/diskstatus1.jpg[/img]

Even with all these drives, I only have duplication turned on for a couple of folders.  However, I have had a few instances where WHS has said that a drive is failing.  Every time, this has been on a drive with duplication turned on.  After some searching on the internet, I found the fix is simply to disable duplication on the drive and then re-enable it.  Thus far, this has fixed it every time.

There are two drives at the top of this picture which are not currently being used.  One is a hot spare, ready to go whenever necessary and the other is not in a hot swap bay, so I decided to take it out of the drive pool.  I should probably just remove it completely so it's not powered up at any point.  I also saw a deal on WD drives and picked up 2 spare 1TB drives to have lying around at the house, just in case anything else begins to fail.

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Case Fans (Part II)

While I'm quite happy with the noise level of the server, I'm definitely NOT happy with the amount of dust still getting into the case.  A year or two ago, I recall reading about a little household tip for preventing dust from getting into you case:  Swiffer!  Yes, that little dust...  umm... thing.  (BTW, a little ‘Better Housekeeping’ tip:  Those Swiffer dusters and mops (both wet & dry) work AMAZING around the house.  I highly recommend them to everybody!)  Anyway, the material used for the mops can easily be cut to fit where you would normally put a regular fan filter.  I can pretty much guarantee you that almost NO DUST is getting through that thing!  Here's what mine looked like:

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Sswiffer.jpg[/img]

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Lswiffer.jpg[/img]

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/InstalledLSw.jpg[/img]

[img width=640 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/Swback.jpg[/img]

As an added bonus, I realized after replacing these Swifters™ (I’m registering that name, so P&G can’t steal it!) several times that I can use a little vacuum action to suck the dust right off the Swifter™ without even removing the fan grill.  Not only do I not need to cut a new one every time, but they’re easier to clean than the standard fan filters!  Sweet!  After a few sessions of vacuuming them, they will begin to lose their effectiveness, since the suction kind of pulls the filter apart.  If anyone decides to try this, I would strongly advise picking up a good set of scissors with teeth; something that can cut material or fabric.  Regular scissors are useless.

Additionally, I sealed up the holes on the back of the case with some electrical tape.

[img width=360 height=480]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/tape2.jpg[/img]

Dust is still getting in, primarily from the front of the case, through the 5.25” bays, but there’s really not much I can do about that.  I just vacuum the case every 2 or 3 weeks.  We’re also looking at replacing the rug in the TV room, since it’s quite old.  That should help significantly.  I'm also considering a positive airflow setup in the server, including reversing the hot swap bay fans, to reduce the dust intake via all the openings which cannot be sealed.

skirge01's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2006

SageTV

Throughout all of this quite lengthy blog, you may have noticed that the only mention of SageTV was back at the very beginning when I simply stated that I installed it without issue.  I also didn’t mention any tuners.  The reason I skipped all that is because I was fighting with my Hauppauge HD-PVR throughout most of this build.  Now that I’ve finally completed the hardware build and have a reliable server to record my media to, I can get back to the PVR software I’m using:  SageTV.  Clearly, I’ve built a server that runs Windows Home Server, so I purchased the WHS version of SageTV.  This is just a service that runs under WHS.  You choose an account to run it under, ensure this account has the proper permissions to any folder it needs access to (i.e.  media folders for music, videos, recordings, etc.), and start it up.  That’s about all you do with SageTV on WHS:  start or stop the service.

[img width=620 height=151]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/SageSS.jpg[/img]

Note that you can access this screen from the WHS box or any client PC with the WHS Connector software installed on it.  Again, WHS is intended to be headless, so you should very rarely be logged into the server itself.

skirge01's picture
Offline
Joined: 21 Dec 2006

Silicon Dust HDHomeRun

Since I had local channels via DirecTV, I hadn't planned on getting an OTA tuner.  My secondary reason was quite simple:  I didn't have an OTA antenna.  After some thought, I decided to get an antenna mounted on the roof, so that I could add a couple more tuners for regular TV, as well as see what “virgin” HD broadcasts looked like.  Considering how good I thought DirecTV's HD programming was, I wasn't expecting much.  I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  The HDHR is nearly plug and play.  Since it's a network device, it has an ethernet port and simply picks up an IP address.  From there, you install the software, allow it to discover the tuners, and move on to SageTV.  You no longer need to do any configuring of channels in the HDHR software (as of the latest round of betas from SageTV).

Taking a slight step backwards and, as you may have already expected, I went all out with the OTA setup.  I picked up a Channel Master 3016, based on Antennaweb and a number of reviews.  I also wanted to ensure I got a strong signal, so I picked up a pre-amp in the form of a Channel Master 7777.  Just in case I needed to run an extra long coax cable to a tuner in the TV room, I even picked up a Channel Master 3410 distribution amplifier.  This should cover me, right?  Not quite.  Even with professional installation, the idiot aimed the antenna toward Philadelphia, rather than NYC.  I even pointed this out to the guy, but he insisted it was fine.  Well, it turns out we were both right.  Prior to the digital transition, I had been getting pretty decent reception.  However, once that date hit, I couldn't tune in anything reliably, so I needed to realign the antenna.  Once that was done, everything was great.  If anyone has issues getting their guide set up in SageTV, try out the beta because they completely redid the channel tuning and it's much easier to understand now.

I won't bore you with pictures of an antenna on the roof, but here's the installation I did for the pre-amp, amp, splitter, and HDHR (top to bottom) and the very short cables I cut:

[img width=480 height=640]http://www.missingremote.com/images/stories/misc/blog/OTA.jpg[/img]

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