Saturday, 31 March 2012

Start Up

The basic hardware for the project is an ASUS P5E-VM motherboard with an Intel Core2 Quad processor Q6600 and 6GB RAM.

The CPU is rated 2.4GHz but overclocked to 3.0GHz.

This system was the basis of a Hackintosh project for a couple of years but now repurposed to MediaServer8.

The Quad core processor should lend itself well to Hyper-V and the onboard X3500 video with HDMI output will serve for playback without the need for an  additional PCIe graphics card.

There are 6x SATA channels on board and a single IDE channel.

One downside is the single PCI slot which restricts use of some legacy expansion cards I have but a couple of PCIe x1 slots and a PCIe x16 should be enough for additional sound cards and a decent SATA controller.

This is all installed in a Zalman GS1000 case with twin 3x SATA hot swap caddies and 4x 5.25" bays where I intend adding an additional 5 in 3 cage for more SATA drives.

To kick off, I have 3x 1TB WD Green SATA drives that I intend configuring as a parity protected resilient drive pool for storage spaces. I'll be moving data there from the UnRaid system and making sure everything works well before wiping UnRaid drives and moving a few more of them into the new system.

I'll be installing my M-Audio Delta 410 sound card into the system. This provides 4x analog stereo outputs and SPDIF out over coax. Combined with the on-board multi-channel audio, this should give me up to 8 stereo outputs and a couple of digital outs. Enough to be getting on with for the whole house audio system and general media playback.


Getting Server 8 Beta installed was starightforward enough. The DVD drive on the IDE channel would not work with bios set in AHCI mode so I needed to change bios settings to set all SATA channels to IDE mode. Odd but there you go.

The installation process thereafter was painless. I have the OS installed to a 500GB IDE drive as I want to save the SATA channels for data drives.

I set about tracking down drivers for the motherboard including the X3500 video chipset, the RealTek audio chipset, Intel motherboard drivers, Delta 410 control panel etc.

This was a bit time consuming but in the end it turns out the Server 8 Beta plays nice with Windows 7 drivers for most things. In some cases, driver installers needed to be set to run in Win 7 compatibility mode but for my hardware, there were no problems installing the latest driver versions for everything.

Storage Spaces

With the OS installed, i was ready to set up storage spaces. Initially the drive pool configuration tools in Server Manager did not recognise/present my 3x WD 1TB drives for configuration. However once I reset SATA to AHCI in the bios, all was golden.

I initially found the process of setting up a drive pool, then a volume, then a share a little cumbersome but after doing it a couple of times, realised it makes sense. I've given all my shares generous access privileges (essentially full control for all users) since this is a domestic installation and flexibilty is more important than security.

Initial Storage Spaces Configuration

It took most of a day to get Storage Spaces set up and about 1.5TB of data copied across from the UnRaid system, though this included a few false starts where copy operations would fail silently after about 20 minutes. An update of Intel G35 chipset drivers solved the problem.

Copy speeds to the parity protected storage space across a 1000 BaseT network averaged about 40 MB/s   which was pretty acceptable and better than copies to UnRaid in non-cache mode. Though I would note that I observed what others are reporting; copy operations start off with a respectable 70 MB/s for about 1/3 of the process and then tail off after that.

So not I have all my movies and TV shows copied over as well as my work directories. Time to start installing some software to use the media.....

No comments: