Hardware refresh, March 2015

I don’t know if anyone else gets anything out of these posts, but I find myself referring back to them surprisingly frequently when I try to remember what the hell I have in my boxes, so you’re getting another one. 🙂

I’ve been doing some hardware overhauling here at HA Towers again. The last major refresh I did was almost exactly two years ago; last year I moved stuff around quite a bit, but that didn’t really involve much in the way of hardware changes (except buying a dedicated MythTV box).

The first thing I did was upgrade the MythTV box with a Core i7-4790, max its RAM out to 16GB, get rid of its big hard disks and give it an SSD instead, and take out the Firewire card.

If all those things sound odd for a MythTV box, congratulations for paying attention; it’s not one any more. It was fun playing with MythTV, but it turned out to (as last time I played with it) still be just a bit too buggy to rely on (playback/recording has a habit of suddenly dying, often at the top of the hour or on switchoff from one program to the next), and we really don’t record that much TV anyway.

So now it’s my openQA box instead! It can run four workers simultaneously pretty well, which is good enough for me.

I also pretty much entirely replaced the ‘virtual machine host’ box which runs various server VMs – this site, my mail server, my IRC proxy, and my FreeIPA domain controller. The old one was still working fine, but I kinda wanted to add a few more machines and split up the web server into one for public stuff and one for private, and it was maxed out at 16GB of RAM which was getting tight for that many VMs.

So I put together another i7-4790-based box, with an Asus H97M-E/CSM motherboard (wanted a good mATX board which could support 32GB of RAM). I also bumped up the storage space (was running a bit low on that too): the old box had 128GB (2x Samsung 840 Pro in RAID-1), the new box has 240GB (2x Intel 730 in RAID-1).

The old virt host box is now my dedicated bare metal test box – yes, after a mere six years or so in QA, I finally have one.

After all the shuffling was done I wound up with enough disks lying around that I could migrate my desktop from a single 128GB SSD to three of them as a RAID-5 set, so my desktop now has twice the storage too.

I also replaced our HTPC box; the old one was a Zotac AD02 Plus, which still worked just fine, but hi10p is becoming more and more common, and that system can’t play 1080p hi10p smoothly (nothing does hardware decoding of hi10p yet, so it’s reliant on CPU power, and CPU power was never that box’s strong suit).

The new one is an Intel NUC5i3RYK – one of their lil’ NUC boxes. I managed to get my hands on one of the fairly-brand-new ones with an i3-5010U CPU. I stole half the RAM from the old-vmhost-now-test-box, and just got a 32GB USB-3 stick for storage. Just like the old box, it runs OpenELEC, which is still a fantastic project. A small box running OpenELEC is pretty unbeatable as an HTPC, for my needs anyhow.

The only slight fly in the ointment is that the handy onboard infrared is broken in Linux, apparently due to Intel messing up the firmware; that should get resolved sooner or later, for now I’m still using the USB IR receiver I had for the old one. It also uses the slightly unusual mini HDMI port, so make sure you get the right cable, if you buy one…

Finally, I’ve also replaced my phone recently, and today I got a new tablet. I’m still playing with Fedlet when I can, but it’s not really usable and likely won’t be soon. I don’t really use a tablet that much, but I do like to have one when I go travelling, it’s a lot nicer to carry around and use a small travel bag with a tablet than a big bag with a laptop.

My new phone is an LG G3, and the tablet is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. I bought both of them for two specific reasons: i) they’re good light thin hardware with sufficient RAM and nice screens, and ii) they both have decent official Cyanogenmod 12 builds. I got pretty sick of the firmware on my Xperia ZL after a while; the phone wasn’t bad, but it was stuffed with Sony and Google apps I didn’t need and couldn’t get rid of, and it wouldn’t shut up about updates for the Sony ones. CM12 with modular GApps is a hell of a lot nicer.

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