Saturday, January 24, 2009

A reduction of over 280 Watts!!

So I finally had enough moved off of the two old servers in the basement that I could shut them down.  Last night I bit the bullet and shut them and all the external hard drives off.

The kill-a-watt dropped to 55 watts.

That remaining 55 watts is hard to get rid of: Cable modem, wireless router, Cisco 2950 switch, old 10-base-T switch (stupid Rio Audio Receivers won't link up to the cisco, even if I force it to 10/half-duplex mode) and the Net CallerID box.  And the basement 15" LCD monitor that I just realized was probably on standby...

So I guess my two old servers and their assorted external hard drives were drawing between 325 and 345 watts total.

This morning I plugged my Home Server into the Kill-a-watt meter...

At idle:   47 watts!!
Logged into the console: 50 watts!!
Turned on Folder Duplication for a 20 gb share: 62 watts!!
10 minutes later: 47 watts again!!

I am thrilled!

Here's a little math:

My old set-up was drawing between 380 and 400 watts, so let's call it 390.  How much was it costing me to run them for a year?

Well, let's turn watts over time to kwh:

390 watts * (8,760 hours per year) / 1000 = 3416.4 kilowatt-hours (kwh)

My local cost is 10.55 cents per kwh, so:

3416.4 kwh *  $ .1055/kwh = $360.43 per year, or $30.03 per month.

So what about now?  

Let's call the total rack 110 watts (55 watts of other equipment, and a high estimate of 55 watts average for the server):

110 watts * (8,760 hours per year) / 1000 = 963.6 kwh

My local cost is 10.55 cents per kwh, so:

963.6 kwh *  $ .1055/kwh = $101.66 per year, or $8.47 per month.

That is a savings of $258.77 per year, of $21.56 per month!

I didn't use all of the parts that I bought for the server (fans mostly) so I'll write up a detailed final cost analysis later today, and see how long the ROI on this is...

I am more than happy with this purchase!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Data Migration Almost Complete!

So, it has been a week, and my data migration is almost complete!  I've consolidated 665 gb of Video, 306 gb of Audio, 190 gb of games, and 22 gb of photos from my two old servers, two desktops and the laptop onto the WHS system.  

I've got backup running perfectly, I've sorted all the kids crap into personal shares for them, and have even started disconnecting and unplugging external drives from the old servers.  I'm hoping I will have time tonight to bring everything down in the basement so that I can unhook the kill-a-watt from the stack and isolate just the new WHS to see what kind of wattage it is burning.

Now I'm starting to think about what else I'd like the server to handle, and realized that I should check into the EULA to see what it allowed.  I made a post to the Home Server group asking for other people's opinions about some eula questions I have... I'll also post the same thing here, soliciting comments about the same topic:

I'm wondering what other people's interpretation of some of the clauses in the Home Server EULA is?

The sections I refer to are as follows:

d. Functionality Limitations.

  • Active Directory - You may not use the server software as a domain controller or otherwise make use of DCPromo.exe. You also may not join the server software to any Active Directory domain.
  • Terminal Services – You may only use Terminal Services functionality to the extent required to manage the server software in Remote Administration Mode. You may not use Terminal Services for any other purpose.
  • Server Roles - You may not use server roles other than the roles that are already enabled during the server setup process.

I am particularly concerned with the second and third limitation... the first is completely understandable.

But the second one: What does Microsoft define as "extent required to manage the server software?" Does that mean that, if I install some third party software that does not have a WHS add-in onto the server, that I am prohibited by EULA from RDP'ing to the server to manage it?

Which brings me to the third restriction, about Server Roles. According to TechNet Windows 2003 has a set number of different roles that it can hold:

  • File and print server
  • Web server and Web application services (Limited use in WHS)
  • Mail server
  • Terminal server (Limited use in WHS)
  • Remote access and virtual private network (VPN) server
  • Directory services, Domain Name System (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, and Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS)
  • Streaming media server

According to my understanding, the items in bold are the roles that are (according to Microsoft) "roles that are already enabled during the server setup process."

I assume that means that I am violating the EULA if I install the Microsoft DHCP, DNS, or WINS servers. But what about DHCP4WHS, for example. This is a developer-written DHCP server, so you do not have to install any "illegal" Microsoft services, but isn't this still using the server for roles "other than the roles that are already enabled during the server setup process?" Or how about installing BIND for Windows for DNS? Again, no Microsoft software, but is it enabling roles that are prohibited?

What about something COMPLETELY undefined in the roles list: a HomeSeer home automation server? Is that changing roles?

The root of my question is two-fold; I really want to try to follow the EULA as completely as possible, since I know the kind of hard work that goes into a software package, and it is the developer's inherent right to limit the use of THEIR product as they see fit. But I also want to be careful what I blog about, and need to make sure that it is within the EULA's limit if I talk about something that I have done with my Home Server.

Thanks for any opinions that you'd like to share, especially you MVP types who might have an "in" to find out the real story.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Home Server Software Install

So, if you read the first part about the hardware installation, you are probably thinking "Gee, this is too easy!  The software must install just as easily!"

I wish it had been so...

Before I booted at all, I attached the DVD drive to SATA port 0 and the "top" hard drive in the hard drive cage to SATA port 1.

The first thing I did when I booted the new server was to go into the bios and choose "Load Optimized Defaults."  This (obviously) did exactly as its name suggests, and set up the bios with a good baseline.  I went through a few of the bios screens and changed some relatively minor options, particularly in the "PC Health Status" section, turning on overtemp and fan failure alarms.  But other than that, I left the Optimized Defaults alone...

I put the DVD in the drive, and booted up.

Before Setup even had a chance to start, I got a message telling me that the SATA bus was in "Native IDE" mode, and asking if I would like to switch it to SATA AHCI mode... I figured "If the Bios is telling me that I should switch it, then I probably should..." and told it to go ahead and change the bus to AHCI mode.

The first stage of Windows Home Server setup worked fine... I was able to see the hard drive in the list, chose a "New Installation" and continued from there.  Setup formatted the disk, copied over a few files, and then rebooted into the standard Windows 2003 Text Mode Setup... and promptly Blue Screened.

Someone had warned me that this might happen in a comment to another blog post, so I wasn't too shocked.  I figured that I must need to load a mass storage driver with F6 during the Text Mode setup.

But I didn't have a floppy drive in this system...

An hour later I had scrounged a floppy drive, made a driver floppy from the motherboard's driver DVD, and was ready to try again...

I restarted the server, and it picked right back up into the text mode setup.  I hit F6 to load a driver, and inserted the disk... No luck.  I forgot to write down the exact message, but it essentially told me "That driver floppy is no good."

A trip to the store to get some brand new floppies, and try again.  No dice... same failure.

OK, now I'm starting to think that I've done something wrong... is there some part of the system that is incompatible with Win2K3 (and hence, Windows Home Server)?

Drop back and punt... I restored the Optimized Bios defaults again, and rebooted from the Home Server DVD... this time I chose NOT to change the Sata bus from "Native IDE" to "SATA."

Sure enough, the OS loaded completely!  Success!

But I was still a little bothered by the fact that I was running in a "crippled" mode... granted, I did not have a hot swap cage, so the chance of me wanting to hot swap my SATA drives was slim, but I figured someone else might want to, and since I was publicizing this process, I'd better figure out how to fix it.

My first attempt was to load the AHCI driver after Windows was loaded, and then change the motherboard to SATA mode.  I tried that (with both the drivers from the DVD and from the gigabyte web site) and that didn't work.

Then, as I was reading different articles, I realized that there was an earlier opportunity to load the Mass Storage Driver, during the first phase of setup... maybe I need to do it during BOTH phases for it to work correctly...

So I set the sata bus to AHCI mode (exclusively) and started the install from scratch.  I was able to sucessfully load the Mass Storage Driver during the first phase, but failed miserably in the second phase, just like I had earlier.  The disk was actually recognized this time, but no matter which driver I chose (and I tried them all) the text mode process still blue-screened almost immediatedly.

I slept on it.  I now knew it was possible to run Home Server on this hardware, but was the AHCI never going to work?

Over coffee the next morning, I was flipping through the motherboard's manual and realized that I had been reading the SATA controller's settings incorrectly... it mentioned that you could run most of the ports in SATA mode, but that ports 4 & 5 could be left in IDE mode.  Well that could solve a lot of problems!

It turns out that Port 4 is the port labeled Port2_4 on the motherboard, and port 5 is the eSATA port on the backplane.

So here's what I ended up doing... it worked for me, and it should work for you:

  1. Get rid of the floppy drive that you scrounged for... we can do this without that.
  2. Plug your system drive into SATA Port 4, and the DVD drive (if SATA) into any other SATA port. 
  3. Set the "OnChip SATA Type" setting in the "Integrated Peripherals" section of the BIOS to "Native IDE."  By doing this, all of the things plugged into the SATA ports (namely the System Drive and the DVD drive) will be in IDE mode, and recognized by Home Server setup automatically.

  4. Setup Home server as normal.
  5. Once setup is complete, install the network card drivers by inserting the motherboard's DVD into the drive, and loading it from there.
  6. Navigate to and download the updated driver package.  At the time of this posting, it is located here.  Extract the archive, and call the folder that you extract it to DRIVERROOT
  7. Reboot, and change the OnChip SATA Type to AHCI, but make sure that the port 4/5 type is set to "IDE".  This will enable AHCI, but anything plugged into SATA port 4 (your system drive) or port 5 (the eSATA port) will still be recognized as an IDE device.  This means that your System drive will still be recognized, but your DVD drive will not.

  8. When Home Server loads, it will detect a new "PCI Device."  Load the driver from DRIVERROOT\XP\SBDrv\RAID7xx\x86.  The DVD drive will be unavailable, so the drivers must be loaded from the extracted web archive.
  9. Reboot again, and this time, you can change the BIOS so that SATA ports 4 and 5 are set to "As SATA Type"

It's a bit of a convoluted process, but it works, and I didn't even need to dig out that floppy drive.  I don't know why I couldn't get the F6 Floppy option to work, but this is an acceptible work around in my mind.

Once I got the server installed and all of the drivers loaded for the motherboard, I shut it down one more time, and disconnected the DVD drive.  I hooked up all four hard drives and added them to the pool.  I need to either get a SATA power splitter or, more likely, an IDE DVD drive in order to be able to plug everything in at once.

So that's it!  I know it is long, but I hope it helps someone else...

Assembling the Hardware

Saturday night turned out to be assembly night, and at about 9:30 I got started.

First I unpacked the case and checked it out.  As the reviews on NewEgg stated, the case is very well built, and the rolled edges are a nice plus so you don't slice your hands open.

The hard drive cage is a particularly nice design.  It is completely removable for easy access, and contains five trays, each with nice vibration isolation bushings to mount through.

The power supply has tons of power connections, but of course it is short one SATA power connection for what I needed... I should have gone with an IDE DVD Burner (and I still might) and avoided eating up one of the SATA power and data ports for the DVD drive.

I first mounted the CPU, Heatsink, and memory onto the motherboard, taking advantage of the room on the dining room table (rather than cramped inside the case).

The mother board went in very smoothly.  Antec has labelled the stand-off holes in the case so that it is very easy to figure out where the stand-offs need to go for the size board that you buy.  This one has so much free space left over after it is installed!

I attached all of the connectors for the front panel switches, lights and ports fairly easily... actually, I reversed the cables for the Power and HDD LED's, but those were quick fixes.

Next was the hard drives.  I installed all four into the drive cage, but only chose to have one plugged in when I started the installation, for reasons that I will explain in the next post.  The sound and vibration dampening features of this mounting system should make for a VERY quiet system!

Last but not least I installed the DVD burner and plugged in the fans.  I still haven't installed either of the after-market fans that I bought, because I want to see if the stock fans will be sufficient.

Next up is BIOS Set-up and Home Server installation.  Stay tuned!

Update: Part two, the OS install, is available here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Fourteenth Day of Christmas?

The genesis of a server... all of the rest of the pieces arrived today!  Unfortunately, duty calls... this weekend is our Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood derby, and the cars are still not done.  I'll be elbows-deep in spray paint for the next couple of evenings...

I hope that Friday night will be build night, but it might have to wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning... I'm not sure I can stand it!

Whenever it is, I'll be sure to document it and share as I go!

(Bonus points if you recognize the artwork on the wall in the background)


Monday, January 5, 2009

New Parts Ordered

So here is what I ordered from NewEgg:
Here's a little background on my choices:

Antec Case - I know that this server will be in the basement, so I wasn't concerned with the size.  This case is a good deal with lots of room (five internal and four external drive bays, plus a floppy bay) and it comes with a 430W high efficiency 80P rated power supply.  All that for $90, and it's not some cheapo case.  It comes with a 120mm fan in the back, but it is a molex connected fan with a three speed switch, so I ordered a replacement for $10 that will plug into the motherboard.

Gigabyte Motherboard - I was looking for a fairly energy efficient board with a bunch of SATA connectors and possibly eSATA if I could find it.  This gigabyte motherboard fits the bill perfectly, with five built in SATA 3 connectors, and eSata port on the backplane, and even 128mb of sideport video RAM.  Tack on gigabit ethernet and it has everything I need.

Athlon X2 45w 2.3GHz - Another power conscious component, and plenty fast enough for what I need it to do.  Dual core 2.3, and most of the forums say that it can overclock to 2.5.  not bad...

Patriot 2GB RAM - I can remember when it cost this much for 64mb of RAM, never mind 2gb.  No brainer.

Western Digital Green Power 750gb drives - I almost couldn't believe it when I saw these drives listed for only $70 each... I'm not sure if it was a pricing error, since that item number is now discontinued, and the replacement drive is listed at $120, a full $50 more than what I paid.  I'm glad I opted for four right off the bat, and I almost wish I had gone for more.  At $.093 per gb, how can you go wrong?

The rest is pretty standard stuff... server license, Arctic Silver (since I'm out), and some fans to supplement/replace the built in case fan on the antec case.  And I don't have a DVD burner at all at home, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to add that too, at a pretty cheap price.

So, tack on a little for shipping ($49.50) and I will end up with a machine that outperforms the new HP EX487 (2.3GHz vs. 2.0GHz, 3 tb vs. 1.5 tb, DVD Burner vs, no DVD burner) for almost the same price ($750.28 for my stuff including shipping, $749 for the EX487 BEFORE shipping).

I can't wait to put it all together.  The case arrived yesterday, all the other components are due tomorrow!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Out with the old...

OK, so what is in the basement rack now?  Here goes:

Server # 1:

               This machine is an old Solid Modeling workstation from Intergraph.  Real old, probably 1998 or so.

  • Dual Pentium II 333 MHz processors
  • 256 mb RAM
  • One internal 8gb SCSI system drive
  • Four internal 160 gb IDE data drives
  • Windows 2003 Server, free license from a launch event

Server #2:

               This machine is an old Gateway server machine.  It was a faithful Exchange server for years...

  • Pentium III 600 MHz Processor
  • 512 mb RAM
  • Three 9 gb and one 18 gb internal SCSI hard drives
  • Two 160 gb and three 400 gb external USB 2.0 Hard Drives
  • Windows 2003 Server, free license from a launch event

I know... pretty pathetic.  Neither one of them even has a video card that I can get full resolution out of, but who cares, they are servers!  I don't need a fancy graphics card!

At my quick count, that is 2,204 gb, or 2.14 tb.  But most of Server one is empty... server two was supposed to replace server one a while ago, but I never migrated all of the home automation programs (Caller ID tracking, mostly) off of it.

In the next post, I will detail the items that I have ordered from NewEgg for my new Windows Home Server, and maybe a little about why I bought what I bought.  I did a lot of research, and I can't wait for the stuff to arrive.

Am I really blogging?

Not sure why I decided to do this, maybe just as a journal or changelog to help me keep track, but here I am.

My name is Bushman, and soon I will no longer be a WHS virgin.

I am an IT professional of 15 years in Massachusetts, primarily a network administrator, but a part time programmer as well.  I love my job, and take pride in the things I do.  I run a large network of 350 or so windows based machines at work, and quite a few at home as well.

As every IT professional knows, when you are a "computer guy" at work, you also become many people's defacto "computer guy" in the off hours.  It's a pain, but I've gotten used to it.  One of the distinct side benefits is that people tend to give you their old computer stuff... just about everything that I have running at home is someone else's hand-me-down.  It all works, and works fairly well, and I have augmented it as much I could on the cheap to serve my needs at home.

But I bought a Kill-A-Watt meter and hooked it up to the stack and saw that I was pulling 380 watts average, and decided that I had to do something to save some money on electricity.  Some research on the web brought me to such sites as and, and I decided that I would try the WHS route.

The next post will detail what I have in the basement stack now, and what I intend to replace it with.  All the parts should arrive within the next couple of days, and I'll detail the build and install experience as I go along.