Category Archives: Hardware

Upgrading Netgear Stora without data loss

Despite my expectations, I’ve managed to upgrade our NAS’s storage quickly, easily, and without losing a byte of data.

We have a Netgear Stora as our home NAS. We’ve been butting heads against the storage limit of the box, but I’ve always been careful not to populate the second drive bay; the last upgrade replaced the single 1Tb drive with a single 2TB drive – 2TB was the cost/storage sweetspot. However, a couple of years on and it’s still the sweetspot, the largest drive capacity is only 3TB (I suspect due to the Thailand floods of 2011 – we’ve been stalled at this capacity for a while… which is a little misleading, but I’m not paying $550 for a 4TB drive when I can have 3TB for $150) and it seemed like it was time to exploit the second drive bay.

Researching online shows that the default configuration for a Stora is RAID 1, which is… not the default I’d have chosen. What we want is a JBOD array. I didn’t recall changing the configuration the last time we did an upgrade, so it’s a safe bet that we were still a RAID 1 setup. The documentation is clear that converting from RAID 1 to JBOD or vice versa requires a format of the media, so step 1 was to ensure our backup of the backup was up-to-date; that took overnight to complete, even with the 2TB USB3 drive that we picked up for only $99 from Officeworks (how are they able to sell a drive and enclosure for the same price as a cut-price parts supplier sells the naked drive?)

If anyone can explain why I was getting over 70MB/s to my external USB3 hard drive when I started, and a few hours later when I went to bed I was getting under 30MB/s, I’d love to hear it. It was a steady decline in I/O rate and I’m at a loss to explain it.

Anyway, with the backup completed, and verified, it was time to bite the bullet. For step 2 I powered down the NAS, extracted the existing drive from the NAS and put it aside, took our lying-around-spare 2TB drive and shoved that in its place and then restored power. I fired up the (Windows-based) Stora management software and connected to the Stora and it announced that there was some weird drive mounted, and what storage configuration did I want? Having picked JBOD, it then proceeded to format the drive.

Once the formatting was done, I proceeded to step 3. I powered the Stora down, inserted the original drive in to the previously unused bay (the vertical orientation flipped relative to the other bay, which was surprising) and restored power. I fired up the (Windows-based) Stora management software and connected to the Stora and it announced that there was (again) some weird drive mounted, and what storage configuration did I want? Annoyed that it didn’t remember that I’d already picked JBOD, it then proceeded to format the drive, both as expected (per advice on the Internet) and as it had last time. There was a slow moving progress bar and everything.

Once that was all done, I got ready for step 4: restore the backup. I browsed to the mount, and discovered all the data was already there. Every last byte. The lying bastard of a thing had formatted nothing. The carefully prepared backup was not needed; I spent several long moments stunned, absolutely stunned.  I even ran a few checks to make sure I wasn’t being lied to, that the OS had cunningly cached the directory structure. But it was true; I could play media, read configuration files, the works. Free space was now reported as 2.2TB. I’d suspected there was a chance that this would work (JBOD shouldn’t require any special formatting, unlike RAID 0 and perhaps RAID 1), but still couldn’t believe it.

A technology upgrade worked, and contrary to advertised capabilities. Has this ever happened before?

VirtualBox could not open the medium: you’re not the old you

I recently had reason to restart an old virtual machine on VirtualBox running on my Ubuntu machine, and was presented with the error:

Failed to start the virtual machine XP Install 2.

Medium ‘/home/net2/.VirtualBox/Machines/XP Install 2/Snapshots/{70eab271-a63d-4bff-aa7b-8ac8b713e3b6}.vdi’ is not accessible. Could not open the medium ‘/home/net2/.VirtualBox/Machines/XP Install 2/Snapshots/{70eab271-a63d-4bff-aa7b-8ac8b713e3b6}.vdi’.
VD: error VERR_FILE_NOT_FOUND opening image file ‘/home/net2/.VirtualBox/Machines/XP Install 2/Snapshots/{70eab271-a63d-4bff-aa7b-8ac8b713e3b6}.vdi’ (VERR_FILE_NOT_FOUND).

I figured that somehow the backup had been hosed, as it had been through a couple of restores and system migrations. A ls of the above failed with

ls: cannot access /home/net2/.VirtualBox/Machines/XP: No such file or directory
ls: cannot access Install: No such file or directory
ls: cannot access 2/Snapshots/{70eab271-a63d-4bff-aa7b-8ac8b713e3b6}.vdi: No such file or directory

And then it occured to me that I was running under a different username now. As such:

cd /home
sudo ln -s josh net2

solved the problem with the computer is completely fooled into believing that net2 is still a user on this machine. Well, for the purposes of VirtualBox anyway.

Android: Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades

Computerworld has a list (that they are continuing to update) of which devices are getting Google Android 4 (Ice cream sandwich).

Alas, there’s no news of some phones, including my HTC Desire S. (The Desire non-S is looking very iffy, apparently.) There is a hacky way of getting it onto a Desire S… if you’re willing to forego being able to use the camera. No thanks. No doubt some other devices have this option available too, for the hardcore.

The bigger picture on this is that with a myriad of phone manufacturers, Android updates are a lot more hit and miss than Apple’s, where Apple’s absolute control clearly benefits customers by making operating system updates available quickly on all recent models of phone.

Gateway computer, circa 2000

Was clearing out some papers on the weekend and found this: an order form for a Gateway computer from June 2000. I can hardly believe I used to spend that much dosh on buying computers.

Order form for a Gateway computer, June 2000

I seemed quite impressed with the spec when I ordered it.

That computer worked until 2005, when its (custom) PSU died.

Comparison of costs: 1995 vs 2000 vs 2005.

To this day, the speakers that came with it (from “Cambridge Soundworks”) are still going strong, even though their beige colour doesn’t match all the black stuff.

Why is it so hard to figure out what’s wrong with an appliance?

Yesterday morning the house suddenly went black – except for the oven clock, which made it clear that the RCD had been tripped.  I went out and reset it, and then the fuse for one of the electrical circuits tripped.  After resetting that and having it not trip again, I checked a few suspects out and discovered that my washing machine was dead.  With a full load of water.  I powered it off at the wall and went about the rest of my morning, later siphoning it empty.  Checking again showed it still dead.

The next day I pulled the user interface off the front to diagnose which module had blown (fearing it was the notorious front panel), and in powering it up to check with a multimeter it came good.  Ish.  It mostly worked, but ended up lighting up the display in a way that was clearly an error code, and various combinations of functionality checking seemed to me that the agitator motor wasn’t working.

I suspected that the error code could tell me what exactly was the cause of the motor not working, but finding a Fisher & Paykel MW058U service manual is no easy task.  Finding the model number is surprisingly easy – wiggle the machine forward and on the back, helpfully slapped on upside-down is the full details of the machine (why it couldn’t be printed on the front panel art is beyond me).

Reading the manual made it clear that something bad had happened (one of motor wiring bad, motor bad, motor controller bad), and phoning a helpful call-out tech I discovered I could expect something around $300 to repair.  This is half the price of a new machine… so I guess we’ll go with repair.   As an aside: if I can provide a broad diagnosis, or at least model and error codes, why can’t some firms even provide a guesstimate on cost?

iTunes not up to date

Downloaded the latest iTunes 9.2.1.

Installed using the less-bloat method (for people like me who just want to use it to manage an iPod):

Extract the components from the iTunes setup EXE…

AppleApplicationSupport.msi /passive
Quicktime.msi /passive
iTunes.msi /passive

All good! All up to date!

I decided to fire up Quicktime and make sure none of its stupid tray icons were configured to run all the time, wasting my memory and CPU. What do I find?

Quicktime out of date

Quicktime is out of date — it tells me. It’s only 7.6.6, and you should be running 7.6.7.

Oh, bravo Apple — can’t even keep their own software up to date.

Who’s eating all the old computers?

It’s hard rubbish here at the moment, and having just had a power supply fail on me leaving me with no spares, I thought I’d go scavenging. PC components are mostly interchangeable, I’ll just grab a handful of computers and pull the bits I need, and toss the rest out with the hard rubbish.

But someone’s taken them all.

Not only they, they’re cutting the cords off any CRTs lying around. I suspect scrap-metal hounds (copper in the power and video leads), but I can’t be certain because there seems to be a lot of steel things that weren’t snaffled.

Who’s taking the old computers, and why? Also: how do I lay my hands on a power supply – don’t tell me I’ve actually got to buy one!

Your Emergency Hardware is designated as such for a reason

All geeks have Emergency Hardware lying around, for when Something Bad happens.  I’ve always got a power supply ready to go, spare keyboards are stacked up, there’s sticks of memory stashed away, hard drives in boxes, serial cables, weird lengths of Ethernet cable; the list goes on and on.  Emergencies happen surprisingly often, but only sometimes to they demand a trip to the local computer store.

When an emergency happens, I’m reminded why my Emergency Hardware is no longer my day-to-day hardware.  Recently, the monitor for the HTPC made a funny popping sound, then a crackling sound, went dark and started smelling like… the magic had escaped.  The old standby, turning it off and on again, didn’t work.  It was time to store that monitor until the next trip to the council transfer station.  Out comes the Emergency Hardware, a 17″ ViewMaster CRT I happily paid $800 for fifteen years ago.  I’d forgotten that the red gun’s gone (it might be just a loose wire, but there’s no way I’m opening up the back of a CRT to go poking around with a soldering iron).  Some of the UI elements on the bits of software we use on that box are in red – or black, nowadays.  Also, it seems that if the monitor is off when the PC boots, it won’t sync to the video signal when you turn it on after the PC has booted – it just goes straight to power-saving mode (I’ve not seen that behaviour before).  Press the power button on the PC, wait for it to cycle down, power it back up – this time with the monitor on.  Sigh.  Perhaps it’s time to retire that monitor.  Soon.

And, as part of the ADSL2 upgrade, I managed to brick our modem, meaning I needed to obtain another (in the meantime, out came the Emergency Hardware: an external 56K modem for dial-up – I never did get that working for the Linux boxes); a generous friend gifted me one he had lying around in his Emergency Hardware collection.  It drops out periodically (my friend’s explanation: “there’s a reason I don’t use that modem”). We got a free new modem as part of the ADSL2 signup; it doesn’t do routing. Sigh.  Looks like the VoIP adapter will need to include a router.

I wonder what would happen if we had communal Emergency Hardware.  Plenty of perfectly functional but not-quite-good-enough stuff gets tossed each year; I wonder how you’d store and manage a collection like that.

Advice please: CPUs

I’m definitely more of a software person than a hardware person. I can wade knee-deep through Registry settings, but throw me into a PC box and if it’s anything more complicated than installing a hard drive or swapping over RAM, I’m a bit lost.

So I’m trying to figure out if the older of my computers (“Tintin”) can have a cheap CPU upgrade using the current motherboard. (It’s already had a hard drive and RAM upgrade.)

The specs say it’s a Gigabyte GA-M61SME-S2, currently with an Athlon 64 3500 (2.2 GHz) CPU, and I believe from looking at msinfo32 that the BIOS is version F2. (Which I suppose I could upgrade if I’m brave enough.)

The CPU support list from Gigabyte suggests the existing CPU is using an AM2 socket.

From the looks of it the fastest CPU supported using the same socket and the F1 BIOS is the Athlon 64 X2 6000+ 3GHz, indicative cost A$128. I note that it burns 125W compared to the 62W of the old one. Does that mean it would run hotter? Possible cooling implications for the overall PC?

There’s also the Athlon 64 X2 5600+ 3GHz, almost as fast, at 89W, indicative cost A$119.

If I update to BIOS version F10A, I can go the Athlon X2 7750+ at 2.7GHz at 95W, $114.

(Costs from a providers listed on StaticIce; I’ve never used them, so just trying to get a rough idea of costs.)

So is it just as simple as going and buying one of these, pulling the old one out and plugging the new one in?

And what pitfalls should I be aware of?