server

Building a fast all-SSD NAS (on a budget)

All SSD Edit NAS build - completed

I edit videos non-stop nowadays. In a former life, I had a 2 TB backup volume and that stored my entire digital life—all my photos, family video clips, and every bit of code and text I'd ever written.

Video is a different beast, entirely.

Every minute of 4K ProRes LT footage (which is a very lightweight format, compared to RAW) is 3 GB of space. A typical video I produce has between 30-60 minutes of raw footage (which brings the total project size up to around 100-200 GB).

Making Noctua fans work (quietly) with a Supermicro motherboard

I've been building a Mini ITX 'quiet-ish' server using a Supermicro motherboard and some Noctua fans.

I noticed sometimes the system would start 'revving' the fans up to max power. Then after a few seconds they would get quiet again. The CPU temps and other temps on the system were stable and not worrying, but popping off the server's cover, I noticed LED8 on the motherboard would blink red every time the fans would ramp up:

Supermicro LED8 Fan failure blinking LED

That LED indicates a 'fan failure' when blinking.

ASUSTOR Lockerstor 4RS Review - 1U 4-drive NAS

Over on the Geerling Engineering YouTube channel, my Dad and I just posted a video where we installed the ASUSTOR Lockerstor 4RS - AS6504RS at his radio station, to increase their raw network storage capacity from 4 to 16 TB:

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In the video, we focused on the installation, though I highlighted the unit's top-line features at the beginning.

In this blog post, I'll quickly recap the main features, then give more impressions of the unit from our experience setting it up, and my Dad's use of it at the station since we recorded the video.

SSH and HTTP to a Raspberry Pi behind CG-NAT

For a project I'm working on, I'll have a Raspberry Pi sitting behind a 4G LTE modem:

Raspberry Pi 4 with 4G LTE modem and antenna on desk

This modem is on AT&T's network, but regardless of the provider, unless you're willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for a SIM with a public IP address, the Internet connection will be running behind CG-NAT.

What this means is there's no publicly routable address for the Pi—you can't access it from the public Internet, since it's only visible inside the cell network's private network.

There are a few different ways people have traditionally dealt with accessing devices running through CG-NAT connections:

  1. Using a VPN
  2. Using a one-off tool like ngrok
  3. Using reverse tunnels, often via SSH

And after weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go with option 3, since—for my needs—I want to have two ports open back to the Raspberry Pi:

Reboot and wait for reboot to complete in Ansible playbook

September 2018 Update: Ansible 2.7 (to be released around October 2018) will include a new reboot module, which makes reboots a heck of a lot simpler (whether managing Windows, Mac, or Linux!):

- name: Reboot the server and wait for it to come back up.
  reboot:

That's it! Much easier than the older technique I used in Ansible < 2.7!

One pattern I often need to implement in my Ansible playbooks is "configure-reboot-configure", where you change some setting that requires a reboot to take effect, and you have to wait for the reboot to take place before continuing on with the rest of the playbook run.

For example, on my Raspberry Pi Dramble project, before installing Docker and Kubernetes, I need to make sure the Raspberry Pi's /boot/cmdline.txt file contains a couple cgroup features so Kubernetes runs correctly. But after adding these options, I also have to reboot the Pi.

Setting up a Pi Hole for whole-home ad/tracker blocking

Pi Hole - Admin DNS query request dashboard page in Safari

Pi Hole is a nifty open source project that allows you to offload the task of blocking advertisements and annoying (and often malicious) trackers to a Raspberry Pi. The installation is deceptively simple (a curl | bash affair), but I wanted to document how I set up mine headless (just plugging the Pi into power and the network).

Set up Raspbian Lite

I bought a Raspberry Pi model 2 B along with the official Raspberry Pi foundation Case. Then I bought a Samsung Evo+ 32GB microSD card (which comes with a full-size SD card adapter), and did the following steps on my MacBook Pro to set up the Pi's OS:

Great video on Altar Servers

Through Facebook, I discovered this great video on one young man's experience as an altar server:

I definitely agree that the altar server can distract from the liturgy if he is not focused on his duty, and that priests should encourage the use of cassocks and surplices instead of albs. A large reason for my joining the Seminary was my experience as an altar server, assisting some very humble priests who were great representatives of the Church and very close to Jesus—and this was reinforced by how reverent and dedicated they were to the celebration of Holy Mass.

Server Check.in - Website and Server uptime monitoring

Server Check.in is a simple and inexpensive server and website uptime monitoring service I've recently launched.

Server Check.in logo

If you have a website or online service you need to make sure is running, Server Check.in is a great way to get notified when there's a problem. Unlike most other monitoring solutions, Server Check.in offers free SMS (text) messages and email notifications, and it only costs $15/year (just $1.25/month!).

The Motivation

There are probably thousands of other uptime monitoring services on the web, and it's typically a good idea to use existing tools rather than build your own—if they're practical for your needs!

I had three main requirements for any service I wanted to use:

Announcing Server Check.in - A simple, inexpensive website monitoring service

Server Check.in Logo

Midwestern Mac is proud to announce Server Check.in—a website and server monitoring service that is inexpensive and easy to use.

Server Check.in was built because, while there are some really powerful and flexible monitoring solutions out there, like Pingdom (we love Pingdom!), there aren't any really simple and inexpensive services that are better for individuals and small businesses who don't have a budget for more expensive and involved solutions, but still need to know when their servers or sites go down.

Server Check.in offers many features like free, unlimited SMS messages for outage notices, email notifications, and server latency monitoring. It will check on up to five servers or websites every fifteen minutes, and notify you when the servers and sites go down.

Sign up here for only $15/year—that's just $1.25 per month!

Checklist for Setting up a CentOS 6 LAMP Server

I have to set up a new LAMP server for different clients here and there, but not with enough frequency to warrant using a particular scripted solution or 'stack' from a particular hosting company. Plus, I like to have a portable solution that is flexible to the needs (and constraints) of a client's website.

Note on hosting providers: For hosting, I've used a very wide variety of hosts. I typically use and recommend Hot Drupal VPSes or Linode VPSes [affiliate link] running CentOS for a good LAMP server. Shared servers are only good for nonessential or low-traffic sites, but they are a bit cheaper and easier to use for simpler needs!

So, here's a typical step-by-step process for how I set up a CentOS 6 (similar process for CentOS 5) server for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), often for low-to-moderate Drupal sites (one or many):