December 23rd, 2011

Dear Diary,

today I was rummaging through the drawers in the office, and I happened upon an SSD there.  It was a Corsair Force 3, which is a SATA 3.0 disk!  Yay!  I can finally do some benchmarking, I thought.

I put the SSD into the server and switched it on, but it came up as a 3Gbps device.  And there were only four ports visible, even though there’s six headers on the motherboard.  Just look:

ahci 0000:00:11.0: AHCI 0001.0100 32 slots 4 ports 3 Gbps 0x3f impl SATA mode

After fiddling around in the BIOS a bit (I had to switch off IDE emulation and “combined mode”, whatever that is), all six ports appeared in Linux:

ahci 0000:00:11.0: AHCI 0001.0100 32 slots 6 ports 3 Gbps 0x3f impl SATA mode

By all that’s holy!  By Emacs!  I misread the specifications on the motherboard! It says “6x SATA2 3.0 Gbps Ports”, not “6x SATA 3.0 ports”!

Diary, it turns out that Supermicro has absolutely no SATA3 motherboards.  

Instead of turning to drink, despair and vi, as some might do, I turned to the browser and ordered a low-profice PCI Express SATA 3 card instead.  The reviews says that it’s supposed to play well with SSDs, too, and has realish hardware RAID.  I know that I earlier vowed never to use anything but soft RAID again after many dissappointing experiences with cheap-ish hardware RAID setups, but surely this time there won’t be any problems.

Fingers crossed!

(Continue reading my secret diary.)

December 22nd, 2011

Dear Diary,

the Samsungs haven’t arrived yet, but they’re supposed to arrive any day now. I’m starting to wonder whether they actually exist out there, or if they are a phantom product that’s announced, but not actually shipped.

But I just looked on Newegg, for instance, and they claim to have them in stock, so they must exist.  They must!

It’s odd that they say “limit 1 per customer”, though.  And that they are more expensive in the US than in Norway.  That never happens.  I’m pretty sure when I looked earlier that they were more expensive here than there.  As they should be.

Is Samsung rationing the SSDs?

Aren’t they thinking about what the effect is on me?  They are so self-centered.

(Continue reading my secret diary.)

December 19th, 2011

Dear diary,

Sinking Heat

today I got the heat sink and the RAM for the new server. I installed them and hit the power switch.

It’s alive!

I haven’t built a server in ever so long, so I’m happy and kinda surprised that it works.  The Samsung 830s I ordered haven’t arrived yet, but they’re supposed to ship in a few days.  The OS is going to be on a spinning disk, anyway, so I installed a normal Western Digital Enterprisey and untarred Debian onto it.

It still works!

SATA Galore

However, the disk performance isn’t all that great.  Since the disk is quite modern, and the motherbord is quite modern, I had expected sequential writes of 120MB/s, but I only get 105MB/s.  Boo.

To bad I don’t have any SATA3.0 disks to test with.  The spinning disk is just a 3Gbps SATA disk.  At least it means that les backplanes sont des connecteurs simples sans électronique ni intelligence.  For SATA2, at least.

Oh well.  The Samsungs will arrive any day now and I can start testing!

(Continue reading my secret diary.)

December 16th, 2011

Dear Diary,

There’s only one 8-pin header on the motherboard

today I got the motherboard I ordered for the new server!  I yanked the old motherboard out and put the new one in.  And it fit!  I got all the power cables, the SATA cables, and the fan cables fitted without any major problem, despite the new motherboard being a lot smaller than the old one.

But, Diary, it’s been so long since I last built a machine that I’d forgotten that there’s more parts needed than just a motherboard and a CPU.

 I’d forgotten to buy RAM and the CPU cooler. Our trusty hardware pusher ensures me that he can get a new cooler just over the weekend, so I ordered that one and some RAM for the machine.

But I so wanted to test the machine now, since I’m curious whether the old SATA1 backplane will still work with the SATA3.0 motherboard.  I think it should, but who knows?

I’ll just have to wait.

(Read the next entry from my secret diary!)

December 12th, 2011

Dear Diary,

since the beginning of time, Man has yearned to have their news spools on solid state disks instead of those pesky spinning ones.

The load on the Gmane news server frequently tips over the 16 point (which means that access is denied) purely from people and bots hammering the web and news interfaces too hard.

SSDs have been too expensive until now, and they still are, really.  But today I’ve decided to take the plunge!

I’m giddy with excitement as I order five 512GB Samsung 830s.  They’re supposed to have lots of them there IOPS-es!  Like sixty thousand of them!  I’m not quite sure what that means, but surely it has to be enough.

But what to put them in?  I rummaged through the discarded servers that somebody (i.e. me) had schlepped out from the server room.  I found this nice 2U Dual Core P4 Xeon machine with room for six SATA disks.

But OH NOES!  It only supports SATA 1.5Gbps, while the disks are 6Gbps.  That’s a lot fewer of them bps-es than I want.  So I order a new motherboard that has SATA 3.0 and a new CPU.  I can’t wait to get this going!

(Read the next excerpt from my secret diary!)

Quimby Upgrade

The old Quimby

Quimby (the machine doing everything at * has been unstable lately.  (It’s died mysteriously two times.)  So instead of investigating what’s going on, I just installed Debian Squeeze on a new machine and rsynced over all the pertinent parts.  The old Debian installation was too stale, anyway, and 32-bit, so it was probably time.

The old machine (pictured at the top) was a self-built 2U machine with a couple of disks.  The new one is a 1U machine with dual dual-core 2.4GHz Opteron CPUs.  It’s ridiculously over-powered, but what are you going to do?  It was a six year old machine ready for the scrap heap.

The new Quimby

It is bemusing that a machine that old is that over-powered these days.  However, going further back in time is usually not very rewarding.  You get into serious problems with what kind of disks they’ll accept, for instance. Even this one was problematic.  It refused to boot up if there was a SATA disk larger than 500GB installed.  So I’d either have to use an external USB2 disk (which is not a very attractive solution) or use smaller disks and RAID5 them together.  I went for the latter option, but it’s still slightly exasperating that something as stupid as that should be a problem.  The last BIOS upgrade was from 2006, and didn’t help.

Oh, well.  The travails of a free software programmer.