March 2007
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My Network Attached Storage Solution – Part 2

I sure wasn’t wrong about there being issues when setting up some new computer system. It’s part of what makes working with computers so challenging and fun but it can also be quite frustrating. I did get my case, motherboard and power supply the day after my hard drives arrived and everything was assembled for me which is a plus. They even installed the two extra PATA to SATA power converter plugs that I requested. Disappointing thing was that my hard drives didn’t come with any SATA data cables so I had to purchase those at a local store the next day. I also thought I had forgotten my DVD drive at my grandma’s house until I looked in one of my suitcases which still has some of my things in it. I got that in and was able to boot from the install CD then install the FreeNAS to my 128MB USB jump drive. It booted fine once I found the BIOS settings which were a little cryptic but then it wouldn’t find my Gigabit NIC on the motherboard. I did some searching and found that the particular onboard NIC is not supported by FreeBSD which is what is running under FreeNAS. Very annoying.

I found a friend online who I knew had some old computers sitting around and asked if he had any NICs. He looked around and found a 3C905B which is very popular and I remember from years ago using it in college. I was sure it would be supported so I went over and picked it up. It worked perfectly and I was able to set up the FreeNAS from the webGUI from then on. I installed one of my SATA 500GB drives since I had one data cable from the motherboard box and also installed an old 160GB PATA drive which has some data that I might or might not have transferred to my external USB backup drive. I was able to share both drives but until I configured my firewall on my laptop I couldn’t access the shares. This was no fault of FreeNAS. One odd thing was that my old drive with data was formatted NTFS and I added it as such but when it showed up while browsing it all the folders were seen as files of an unknown type. When double-clicking the folder/file, Windows would ask what program to use to open it. When I chose Windows Explorer, it would actually open the folder but I had to do this for each folder. Once I got to a movie on the drive and tried to open or copy it I would get an error that the path to the file doesn’t exist. This was annoying because I was looking right at the file and it even showed the information like size and movie length but would not play or copy. The other drive was formatted using the default UFS which I don’t know much about but chose to use it because it was default. I copied over some folders with several GB of information to see how quickly it was accomplished on this one disk. I was a bit disappointed that I rarely got over 30MB/s transfer rate. I would like to plug my laptop directly into the router to see if not using the wireless makes any difference at some point.

So since I finally got the data cables I installed the other 3 500GB hard drives and created the array in the RAID setup. I chose RAID 5 and it was created, wiping the data I had put on the first drive just to test. I then started up the server and opened the webgui to find that the only drives listed are the USB drive which the OS is running from and the PATA drive I have with information already on it. My guess is that the RAID controller on the motherboard is also not supported by FreeBSD and so FreeNAS is not seeing the disk. I wish I would have had a better idea of what hardware to get before purchasing but I really wasn’t sure what layers everything was working on so I didn’t know what had to be compatible with what. I had assumed that the onboard NIC would just use a generic driver to work and also that the RAID controller would not matter because it would be presenting the RAID array to the OS as a single physical disk. Apparently I was wrong.

So what to do now other than buy a new motherboard? I am thinking of something that I had considered before. If I can find a nice thin linux distro that could even run on the jump drive I have and then run VMware, I could run FreeNAS as a virtual PC and then possibly have other functions on the server such as a firewall or internal web server for testing. I plan to research some lightweight linux distros which support my hardware and see how this would work. If the performance of the FreeNAS isn’t affected by running in a virtual PC too much I would be happy with this setup.

2 comments to My Network Attached Storage Solution – Part 2

  • Please consider posting your problem to questions@FreeBSD.org with specs of your hardware.

  • Thanks for the suggestion Andrew. I will consider this however if there is a workaround or modules that need to be loaded I’m not sure how I would edit my configuration of FreeNAS.

    I will post my list of hardware here soon but in searching for the hardware and FreeBSD I found others with the same hardware not able to get it working and found no solution.

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