Friday 24 January 2014

unRAID 6.0 VM speed comparisons

unRAID 6.0 Beta 1 (64 bit) arrived this week and I managed to get it up and running in a VM on my new server under KVM in ManjaroBox.

For fun, I did some speed comparison checks when accessing this virtualised unRAID compared to my existing unRAID server running version 5.0.4 natively on a 32 bit Xeon based system with PCI-X data host controllers.

OSX tests were conducted from an iMac on the network. The Win7 tests were conduced from a Windows 7 Professional VM on the same KVM host as the virtualised unRAID instance.

Here's the results.

from current unRAID
from virtualized unRAID
OSX Desktop
14.5 MB/s
67 MB/s
Virtual Win 7
11 MB/s
104 MB/s

to current unRAID
to virtualized unRAID
OSX Desktop
14 MB/s
35 MB/s
Virtual Win 7
11 MB/s
33 MB/s

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5 Port Addresses

As part of an effort to set up multiple Virtual Machines on a system based around the Gigabyte SKT-AM3+ 990FXA-UD5 Motherboard, I have mapped many of the controller addresses to help with passing through various ports to VMs. In particular, I'm interested in USB ports but I've included a few others as well.

I obtained the device addresses by using the lspci and lsusb commands in Arch Linux Xen kernel, systematically blocking each address / address pair at boot  and checking for the presence of a usb device (a mouse) which I plugged into each port in turn, running lsusb to see if the device was listed.

My efforts have resulted in the following table where device addresses are listed across the top and ports/headers are listed down the side. A green entry indicates that the port is active with that particular address blocked. A red entry signifies that that port is inactive for the particular address.

That is to say, red blocks show ports that are available for passthrough to VMs when the controller id is blocked.

00:14.5 00:16.0
2:00.0 7:00.0 05:0e.0
Rear USB 2.0
leftmost bank
Rear USB 2.0
rightmost bank
Rear USB 3.0
Int f_USB1
Int f_USB2
Int f_USB3
Int USB 3.0
Rear Firewire
Int Firewire

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Replacement Squeezebox Radio Power Supply

One of my SqueezeBoxes recently stopped working suddenly and I diagnosed a failed power supply. I ordered this one and can confirm it works great.

Saturday 18 January 2014

VNC Access to Xen Guests

So I managed to get Xen up and running on my Arch Linux box and installed a Windows 8 guest using virt-manager forwarded to an X11 session on my Mac. I even managed to get a PCI controller passed through for some of my USB ports which allow me use mouse and keyboard in the VM.Yay!

However, using the windows desktop in this way is very clunky as I find the X11 session slow and it has mousing problems. So, I've started bypassing virt-manager altogether and launching my VM using XL create and a config file.

This leaves the problem of how to access the VM desktop. The obvious solution is a VNC client but it's not so straightforward, Here's how I managed to get it working...

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Standing on the shoulders of giants

This is a guide to setting up the Xen hypervisor on Arch Linux.

I've been having a whale of a time over the past 4-5 weeks learning as much as I can about virtualisation with the objective of configuring a unified server to run;

  • unRAID
  • mediaportal server (windows VM) with DVB-S2 tuner cards passed through
  • at least one mediaportal client (windows VM) with GPU & USB passed through

I've bought and built a new machine for this and I've been playing variously with Linux distros such as OpenSuSe, Manjarobox and now vanilla ArchLinux. With all of the above I've tried both Xen and KVM as virtualisation hosts.

I've been enjoying the discussion on unRAID forums around virtualisation and the possibility of running unRAID in a full distro but am hedging my bets and want to become very familiar with setting up a system like this where unRAID can run either on the host system or in a VM.

Thursday 9 January 2014

The Great Rebuild

So right now my whole-house media infrastructure comprises;

  • Windows 8 Quad-Core PC running MediaPortal TV server & client (lounge)
  • Windows 8 Celeron based MediaPortal client (living room)
  • Windows 7 i3 based MediaPortal client (home theatre)
  • Dual Xeon based unRAID NAS

A good deal of bedding in has taken place and I really like MediaPortal. It gives me multiple terrestrial and satellite tuners as well as access to all my media in a single UI.

I don't like running this many computers though, and the virtualization discussions over on the unRAID forums have really got me hankering for an all-in-one solution.

So, I've purchased and assembled the following hardware with a view to consolidating some of the above machines;
There's a push at the moment to get unRAID running on a modern Linux distro with full VM support (XEN and KVM). There are solutions that see it running in a VM but the idea of unRAID in dom0 appeals as there's no need to hardware passthrough of hard drive controllers.

Therefore, this new machine will run;
  • unRAID in host Linux (arch, openSuSe, whatever results from the current discussions)
  • Media Portal TV Server in Windows 7 VM
  • Media Portal client in Windows 8 VM (lounge)
  • Media Portal client in Windows 8 VM (living room)
That will free up my celeron client machine for use elsewhere and allow me donate the current MediaServer8 machine to my son for gaming.

This looks like it's going to be a complex project that requires passthrough of TV tuners, 2x graphics cards, onboard SATA and USB devices to multiple VMs (not simultaneously, obviously).

I'll be logging progress here. Wish me luck!