Friday, September 17, 2010

Building a low-power FreeNAS Server: Part 3

My FreeNAS Server has been up for a week.

I assembled everything in my parts list and I'm glad to report that all components worked as predicted. I did not have any surprise.

Assembling a homebrew computer is a nice activity for kids. My 7-year old helped me plug all the headers and assemble the case. Counting all the explanations I had to give to him, we were over in a little over 30 minutes.

I then used m0n0wall's physdiskwrite to write an embedded amd64 image of FreeNAS directly on a leftover 1GB flash card I had from an HP tradeshow. Then I plugged it on my USB-header-to-USB-plug thingy directly inside the case. The two hard disks are not used to boot FreeNAS at all; their purpose is only to hold data.

I happen to no longer have any computer screens; I only have laptops at home. So I hooked up the PC to my flat screen TV to configure the BIOS and do the initial FreeNAS configuration.

There are a two things about using a mini-itx desktop board I don't like:
  • The Intel Desktop BIOS does not support console redirection (at least I didn't see any mention of this anywhere) so you need to configure it the old way with a screen and a keyboard;
  • The built-in video card, needed by the BIOS, cannot be deactivated. Its video memory is, naturally, shared with the system memory and the lowest memory footprint is 128Mb. That ended up taking 10% of the 1Gb of RAM in my server. Not a problem since I'll never need that gig, but a hassle anyway.
But for the price I paid that board, these were things I was ready to live with.

Now I've got a bootable system, and it works well. My next task is to ensure that it consumes the less power possible. I already configured hard disk spindowns but I'll try to see if I can do something with wake-on-lan. More to come later!

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