KoolSink laptop cooler sale

Remember that really cool laptop lap-desk / cooler that neatly nests around the laptop for storage?  I’m on my second one (second laptop was larger).

I just got notice that they’re having a big sale, the biggest deal being free shipping including into the US (the fact that you had to pay shipping from Canada was a factor driving up their effective price rather high).

See their website.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if they disappeared when the inventory sold out.


Fileserver Upgrade and Thoughts

Completed, over about 3 days last week, upgrading the last of the 400GB drives in the file server.  These new ones are Toshiba 2TB drives (which I paved the way for by buying a 2TB hot spare drive last time I upgraded).

Everything went fairly smoothly, though I messed up one command that dropped the redundancy at one point.  No actual data loss, and I had two complete current backups at the time.

If I were doing this from scratch today, I’d use an AMD motherboard (because it’s much easier to find consumer-price AMD motherboards that will support ECC memory) and a 5-in-3 hot-swap cage (fits in the opening where 3 5.25″ drives are supposed to go, holds 5 3.5″ drives in hot-swap trays).  That would mean a much cheaper and smaller case, plus I wouldn’t need an additional disk controller card (most such motherboards have 6 SATA ports).

And I’d put FreeNAS software one it.  That’s FreeBSD-based rather than Solaris, but still supports ZFS.  ZFS is absolutely wonderful for this sort of use. It supports many enterprise-level features that you won’t get in any other cheap approach to building a home fileserver.

I’ll stick with mirrored pairs rather than parity, though. I can upgrade in place very easily with this setup.  Five drives is perfect for two pairs of data disks plus a hot spare.  The hot spare is useful in emergencies, but also is vital to upgrading the disks in a mirror without reducing the redundancy. I’ve upgraded the current server in 5 steps from 800GB usable space to the current 4TB. A file-server built to this outline (just 4 data drives) would support 8TB of usable space today, far more than I need.

And I’ll boot it off USB thumb drives inside the case rather than from a real disk (the current server has a mirrored pair of 2.5″ disk drives for the system disk; that’s an expense and use of controller slots that’s not really necessary).

I’ve speced out parts at various stores a couple of times; I can build an empty FreeNAS file server of this sort for $300 to $500 depending on details (largely how much memory; the current server ran fine in 2GB, runs fine in 4GB, but FreeNAS documentation suggests it’s memory-hungy; but I suspect that’s for deduplication, which I don’t need).

Expanding Comcast DVR Storage

I appear to have won.

The Comcast Scientific Atlanta cable and DVR boxes are, according to Comcast, all enabled to use external eSata storage.  They only certify compatibility with one WD 1TB drive (which is available quite cheap last I looked).  However, they’re careful to state it as roughly “that’s the one we’ve tested”.

Being the intrepid adventurer I am, and having a spare 400GB drive lying around doing nothing, I looked for external drive cases that supported eSata, and found NexStar CX from Vantecusa.com fitting my needs. Bought one for $27 at Micro Center today (about $20 from Amazon last I looked), put the drive in (easy; 6 screws, 4 to attach the drive to the sled and two to attach the sled to the rest of the case), hooked it up–and the DVR immediately popped up a dialog box asking if I wanted to format and use it for external storage.  And it’s now blinking away, and our DVR is 13% full.

The drive already spent about six years in my fileserver, so I don’t know how many revolutions are actually left in it. But the case says it’s good for up to a 3TB drive, so I can probably replace this with the next drive discard from my backup set, or something.  (There isn’t a way to stop recording on the external drive without losing what’s already on it, though, so the upgrade will involve either catching up, or else losing recorded shows.)