HP Microserver N40 Disk Upgrades ….. more than 4 disks ?

I use a HP Microserver N40 for use at our office.   Its a great peice of kit that I have had for a number of years and is used for a variety of purposes such as NAS, Media Sharing, Print/File Server and Virtual Machine host…

I recently decided to upgrade from Windows Home Server 2011 to Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2, as well as some hardware upgrades.

H40 Front
H40 Front

Sadly i found that Essentials 2012 R2 does not have a driver availible so support for this RAID card is not possible.  One thought was to use the Server 2008 R2 X64 driver but sounds a bad idea to me.   I then decided to look at using Windows Server Storage Spaces which is a technology Microsoft have been working on for a long time.  I had 2 x 4TB WD Green and 2 x 2TB WD Green drives in the 4 way SATA bay.

Not wanting to install the OS on the 4TB drives, I decided to make use of a spare SSD.  This was then connected to the motherboard SATA port.

I then realised there is an E-SATA port on the rear of the server.   With a bit of a Heath Robinson hack I managed to get this routed internally and then into a spare hot swap 3.5″ bay I had spare that I installed into the CD Drive 5 1/4″ bay.  The mod was to bend the left edge of the flap that covers the PCI slot screws outwards with a multitool which allows the E-SATA cable to be routed internally.

H40 Rear
H40 Rear

A quick addition of a SATA power splitter and job done.   Six drives in a four drive server !

I need to make sure recovery will work storage spaced going forward but the Heath Tools in Server Essentials seem to to quite good so time will tell.

Looking good so far….

In Car Entertainment and Car PC’s

I have a fairly old car.  Its a 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 that I purchased back in 2009.  Its a base model which meant it come without any of the frills and flash in car entertainment that the high spec HSE models come with.

It has its advantages.  It means I can upgrade what I like without meaning causing issues with other features of the car.

In turn I have now replaced the head unit (for a Pioneer DAB, Bluetooth device) and then about three years ago fitted an in car PC.  Ill detail this in another post but effectively its a ruggedised PC, with a 12v vehicle PSU (handles power cycle, starting cycle and power on/off) and allows attachments such as GPS, Bluetooth, Video Capture, Touch Screen, A/D Input/Output module etc and can be used for many things.   Navigation, Media/Video, Camera recording and many other things.  You can run Linux or Windows.  I now have Windows 8.1 and run a custom front end called Centrafuse which controls everything and acts as the skin to control everything.

WP_20140716_22_05_43_Raw
D4 wheel with Centrafuse display
WP_20140812_22_13_20_Raw
The PC
The PC innards
The PC innards

I guess they are not as popular now cheap tablets can be had for as little as £100 with GPS, SD cards and Bluetooth to be had.

Its been a bit of a labour of love and very testing at times.  I have been meaning to document it for ages and this post has made me remember this. So I shall begin….

New Standards – HTTP2

A great article I came accross explaining how HTTP2 works is availible at http://daniel.haxx.se/http2/http2-v1.6.pdf

It has some intresting challenges for adoption and implications for Network Security and vendors of the associated devices used to secure them.  One of the main challenges being that the format moves from an easy to read text form, to a binary blob.  This means Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of these frames becomes a lot more intensive.

It will also be interesting how this gets adopted for the ‘average’ site.   I can see the Goog, Facebook and Microsoft adopting it but how long did it take for HTTP 1.1 to become adopted ?

One to monitor……

 

Is there such thing as a ‘crap’ PC anymore ?

Like most folks who work in the tech/IT field, people are always asking for my opinion about kit, especailly PC’s.

My reply was usually ‘how much do you want to spend ?’     Today, this got me thinking……. is there any such thing as a ‘crap’ PC any longer ?

With the advent of cheap tablets  (some are just piles of shite that will end up in landfill) the PC makers seem to be giving PC’s away that have better, and better spec.    For instance i3, 4GB RAM, 1TB hard disks on budget £350 laptops.

Whist the screen will be a crap 1366 x 768 resolution screen and the battery will probably last 3 hours (mainly due to all of the OEM junkware thats installed) you can still do far more than you ever will on a tablet computer device.  Perhaps peoples habbits are changing and if all they do is use email and FaceTwatterBook then good riddance, It means I dont have to fix the bloody thing.

However people who actually need a PC for Media, iTunes, Photo/Video editing then its still the best for the job.   They are eminantly flexible and can still be customised to do what you like.   Depite what the press may say, Windows 8.1 (with the new Update 1) makes switching between the Metro/Modern Start Screen apps and traditional desktop a breeze.  If you are still suffering the $5 spent on Start8 will soon sort you out.

Remove all of the cack the thing comes with.  Whatever you do dont buy or run McAfee or Norton AV.  Remove it and Microsoft Defender will be activated which is fine for most users.  Dont waste your cash….. seriously…

They arent the same as the crap that was pushed when the whole Netbook craze came around.  Bit like 3D TV’s really, it was just a fad.  Luckilly the Atom seems to be have relegated to small headless kit, tablets and even phones.  Its even now pretty good 🙂

So thats my opinion as of today, even thought I have just dropped the best part of £1800 on an awsome Lenovo T440S fully loaded !

Putty – Session Logs

A useful feature when you are working on multiple devices is to keep as session log for every session.  You can then easilly see what you have typed or provide evidence.

To configure this for every session:

1) Open Putty

2) Select the Default Settings and press Load

3) Navigate to Session > Logging

4) Set the Log file name in a format that makes sence to you.  You can see mine

5) Navigate back to the sessions, making sure Default Settings is still highlighted and then press Save

Test !

Windows 7– Offline files and SMB shares

Why is it so difficult for this to work out of the box ?

I’m currently using a hacked WD MyWorld NAS device that runs BusyBox, Optware and the latest release of Samba.   You would think offline files would be easy to get working.

Wrong.  See http://blog.rainiernetworks.com/2008/06/25/vista-synchronization-errors/ and http://justanothersysadmin.wordpress.com/2008/03/30/vista-offline-files-and-smb-opportunistic-locks/

Why oh why Microsoft not make the offline files function out of the box.  I guess it works fine against a Microsoft server but in the spirit of greater interoperability fix it please !

Windows 7 – How to add ‘difficult’ applications to the tray

Windows 7 rocks as they say.  Been running it for a long while now and makes Vista seem as bad a shell as XP these days.

The Beta, then RC and now the RTM code is very, very solid.  Amazingly fast and a dream to use.   Owning a Mac as well, there are some compelling reasons why I still think its the premier desktop OS.

One annoyance though is being able to ‘pin’ applications to the tray.  Depite all your efforts, some will not do it.  Instead follow this procedure how to do it.  Its a frig, but one that works !

http://www.unawave.de/windows-7-tipps/folder-to-taskbar.html?lang=EN 

ASP.Net and SharePoint

Its taken me long enough but finally had a reason to write some true ASP.Net code.  One problem I hit was that trying to run code on a server that is running SharePoint Services …. so you need this exceprt….

 You may see this error:

An error occurred during the processing of /test.aspx. Code blocks are not allowed in this file.

Reason:  SharePoint does not allow server side code to execute in aspx pages contained in the SharePoint site.

Fix:  Edit the web.config (I.E. C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\80\web.config) file:

<PageParserPaths>
        <!– To allow a single file: –>
        <PageParserPath VirtualPath=”/test.aspx” CompilationMode=”Always” AllowServerSideScript=”true” />
        <!– To allow global: –>
        <PageParserPath VirtualPath=”/*” CompilationMode=”Always” AllowServerSideScript=”true” />
        <!– To allow global within a subsite: –>
        <PageParserPath VirtualPath=”/websitefoobar/*” CompilationMode=”Always” AllowServerSideScript=”true” />
</PageParserPaths>

Windows Firewall Network Awareness….. how it works it out

Stolen from Mark Minasi’s supurb site…. at http://www.minasi.com/newsletters/nws0409.htm handy referance how Windows XP SP2+ detects between Standard and Domain settings.   In Vista this changes but its the same principle.

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There’s a personal firewall built into XP that’s always been there.  But now it’s kind of “in your face,” as it’s turned on by default and it’s much easier to configure and control from the GUI, group policies, and command-line tools.

Even better, it’s got two “profiles;” it behaves one way when you’re inside your domain and another when you’re outside, such as when you’re connected to the Internet with your laptop from home or a hotel.

You might have heard about Firewall’s two profiles, the “standard” and the “domain” profile.  (“Domain” means you’re in the domain, on site; “standard” means you’re somewhere else, out of the firewall.)  But did you ever wonder, how does it know when you’re “in the domain?”  I wondered.  Is it something as easy as IP address ranges?  Pinging the domain controller to measure the latency periods?  Arcanely measuring the Earth’s magnetic field to estimate how far you are from Headquarters?  Nope.  It’s like this:

  • Windows Firewall (call it WF) remembers the last time that you got group policies.
  • It remembers the DNS suffix of the system that you got them from.  (So, for example, if your AD domain was called bigfirm.com, then the domain controller (DC) that your system got the group policies from almost certainly had a DNS suffix of bigfirm.com.)
  • WF then looks at all of your network adapters — here’s where it gets geeky — and examines their adapter-specific DNS suffixes.  If any of them match the DNS suffix of your last GP update, then it assumes you’re in the domain.

In English, then… suppose you’re out on the road and for some reason want the firewall to think that you’re in “domain” mode rather than “standard” mode.  Just go to the Advanced properties of your NIC, click the DNS tab and punch in your domain’s name in the “DNS suffix” field, and your firewall will behave as if you’re on the corporate grounds.  

That, by the way was the simplified version; if you’d like to know more about how the network location awareness in Windows works, get this article:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/community/columns/cableguy/cg0504.mspx