Monday 14 December 2020

Maybe the best gadget I've ever bought?


Fairly insidiously, Amazon has taken over my house.  I now have various iterations of FireTVs connected to each TV, and almost every room has an echo device.

I'm not complaining really, these are great pieces of technology, and voice control is a lot more useful that I would have envisaged a few years ago. 

And the FireTV is excellent - easy to use and supports everything I use on a regular basis; Netflix, Kodi, Spotify, Emby Amazon Video and more. However, there's one thing that' been bugging me -  it's lack of true bit-streaming of extended sound formats. I use Kodi quite a bit for my media library, and there are many titles in there with fancy surround formats that just don't make it out to my AV system unscathed.

This is only an issue in my Home Cinema which has a full 7.1.4 system that can make best use of such soundtracks (everywhere else is plain old stereo).

I've been reading about the nVidia Shield for a while and finally bought one to see if it could replace the FireTV in this room. Here's how I got on with it...

Sunday 13 December 2020

Marantz / Denon IP Control in Node-Red

I'm enjoying my recently acquired Marantz AV8805 processor which is now the heart of my Home Cinema. My previous trusty SR7010 receiver is still working hard as a power amp, driving surround and height channels.

One of the challenges of running in this kind of configuration is that both units respond to the same remote control signals. I have switched off remote receiving on the SR7010 as I just want it to behave as a power amp. However, as the 7010 has no trigger inputs (alas, only outputs), the problem remains of how to power up the SR7010, and power it down, in tandem with the AV8805.

Here's the end result;

Here's how this was done in Node-Red....

Saturday 5 December 2020

Set up Sky Fibre Broadband with Unifi USG

I recently moved from eir to Sky for TV, phone and broadband. My old eir modem supported bridging which allowed it play nice with my USG and the rest of the Unifi network. Unfortunately, the Sky modem does not support bridging. The usual advice online is to eliminate the Sky hardware and add a dedicated modem such as the Draytek V120. This is not an option for me as I'm also subscribing to Sky Talk, and that passes through the Sky modem.

That leaves only one option: configure the Sky modem with DMZ pointing to the USG WAN IP address. The downside is that this setup introduces double NAT which may impact some gaming setups, port forwarding etc., but it's the only way I could get interoperability...

Thursday 26 November 2020

Configure Eir F2000 modem with Unifi USG

So I don't forget (again) ....

Having implemented a Unifi network infrastructure that's solved my home WiFI problems and introduced a degree of structure and security to my network, I wanted to document how I'd configured my service provider all-in-one modem/router to act as just a modem in front o the Unifi USG that handles or hands off everything else.

The first thing to note is that, once this is set up, it won't be possible to access the ISP modem interface from inside the network. (well, actually, it might be possible, but I was too lazy to figure out the required routing rules and configuration, so I just connect up as outlined below).

My setup sees the incoming DSL line connected to the F2000 as usual. My EirTV IPTV box is directly connected to one of the F2000 LAN ports. Another patch cable runs from another F2000 LAN port to the WAN port on the USG.

When I need to configure the F2000, I connect a laptop directly to a third LAN port. It shows up in the network of Windows 10 as follows (other OS may vary);

Friday 17 July 2020

Problems passing through GPU to an unRaid VM?

One of the most common problems I see people seeking help for on unRaid forums, reddit and discord is the thorny issue of GPU pass-through. People with the same problems tend to ask the same questions over and over, and, somewhat tired of providing the same troubleshooting steps over and over, I thought I'd write up the main pitfalls, and possible solutions.

Here are some steps to check before reaching out for help.

1. Have you done your research?

As noted, there's a ton of threads on unRaid forums covering this, many successfully resolved. Do conduct a search there. For example, searching 'problem with gpu passthrough' today produces 40 pages of results. Chances are, your issue has been raised and resolved several times before.

Another oft-posted remark is something along the lines of 'I followed spaceinvaderone's video, and it still doesn't work'.

In most cases where I've seen this, the user has incorrectly followed the video - missing a key step or subtle point. This is NOT a straightforward process. There are many variables involved and SpaceInvaderOne's videos are packed with information. He does an amazing job of explaining the complex process step by step, so make sure to rewatch these videos several times to ensure you haven't missed anything.

If you haven't been following one of his videos for GPU pas-through, why not? Get very familiar with the process and follow along before posting queries;

Here are some links to his channels;

Research done? Let's look at some of the common missteps....

Tuesday 9 June 2020

X-Case X465E First Impressions

My current server lives in a ThermalTake Core X9 case. While I like it a lot, and its generous dimensions have allowed me add lots of PCIe cards,  its proving itself to be somewhat toasty, especially for drives which are often reporting high temperatures.

The system lives in an attic space that heats up over summer which does not help with thermals. The unwieldy size and din generated by multiple fans makes moving location somewhat tricky.

For the past few weeks, I've been toying with the idea of slimming down and going for a rack mount setup. In this mindset, I came across the X-Case X456E from This is touted as a 12 slot 4U rackmount server case. This piqued my interest as the extra PCI slot capacity is something that I'd modded in to my current case, and here it was, out of the box.

This trick is achieved by moving the PSU to the front of the case. The compromise here is a reduction in hard drive capacity (8x 3.5"). However, happy to live with this and use a second chassis for any additional drives, I went ahead and bought one.

There were a few obvious improvements to be made which I documented in this first impressions video;

Saturday 9 May 2020

Solving the -43 issue for GPU passthrough

I've usually built my VMs with AMD GPUs when passthrough was needed. I happened to have an old GeForce GTX770 lying around, but found it frustratingly difficult to get it working in a Windows 10 VM. nVidia drivers apparently really, really don't like running in a VM and cause the display device to show a -43 error.

For me, after a significant amount of tweaking and trying, I finally found a combination that worked;

Machine Type: Q35 4.2
Bios: OVMF

Graphic ROM Bios (techpowerup download, hexedited to remove header)

And the following edits to the </features> section of the XML. ˜The highlighted lines are added in addition to the standard unRAID config;

      <relaxed state='on'/>
      <vapic state='on'/>
      <spinlocks state='on' retries='8191'/>
      <vendor_id state='on' value='1234567890ab'/>
      <hidden state='on'/>
    <ioapic driver='kvm'/>

Friday 24 April 2020

MediaServer 8.3 - Bifurcation Edition

Some hardware updates, some minor mods and lots of cabling later, I've managed to get my unRAID server hosting eleven (13?) usable PCIe/PCI expansion cards which I'm using to manage storage devices and populate VMs with passthrough GPU, USB and Utility adapters.

All with 2x slots to spare on my 5x slot mainboard.

Here's how...

Sunday 19 April 2020

unRAID discrete USB Passthrough to multiple VMs

For a while, I've been working towards consolidation of machines into VMs on my unRAID system.  unRAID is great for this as it allows for hardware passthrough of devices such as GPUs, USB adapters and other items. Passthrough of discrete USB controllers is especially important. unRAID does allow direct device passthrough, but I've found this unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. Mainly, it's not a great solution for high-bandwidth devices such as audio cards. Also, it's not really plug'n'play, with hot swapping being somewhat patchy.

Passthrough of the full controller solves these problems, One of the challenges of this approach is however, physical capacity for discrete devices. With each VM requiring a PCIe GPU and a USB adapter, it's possible to run out of slots fairly quickly. Yes, it's possible to use on-board controllers, but that's not always a full solution and PCIe cards are often required in addition.

Another approach is to use multi-controller PCIe USB adapters. These are cards the occupy a single slot, provide multiple ports and. crucially, have multiple on-board USB controllers that would, in theory, permit each controller to be passed through to a separate VM.

One such card is the Sonnet Allegro USB3-PRO-4PM-E, sadly now discontinued. There are alternatives, but as users in this thread are finding out, broad compatibility is patchy.

As an alternative, I've been using a PCIe expansion kit to pass through discrete controllers to VMs. These devices were all the rage during the mining boom as they allowed users attach multiple GPUs to a single PCIe slot in order to leverage compute power. They work by essentially switching multiple PCIe ports through a single 1x motherboard port. Although the device sports four 16x mechanical slots, each is in itself only a 1x slot - but that's all that's needed for a USB controller.

Sunday 9 February 2020

Splashtop Latency Demo

A user over at unRaid Forums asked me about latency when using SpalshTop Personal to access an OSX VM running on unRaid. I promised a quick video to show it in action. Sorry about the delay!

Sunday 19 January 2020

Enabling HEVC on Rx570 in MacOS VM

In following the MacOS Bare Metal thread on unRaid forums, it was bugging me that I wasn't getting full performance from my VM GPU. I have a Sapphire RX570 4GB passed through to a Mojave VM, and while it was showing Metal and H.264 encoding support, HVEC remained resolutely elusive.

It should be simple, enable Lilu and WhateverGreen kexts and go. It turned out to be anything but.