Acer Aspire H340 Ubuntu Server

…that’s what I googled, and that’s what led me to great resources.

But first, the background.

I have a Drobo. It’s sexy. It came packaged like an ‘evil Apple’ product — slick lines, black fabricpaper, etc. I really, really like it. But it’s kind of slow when I’m streaming HD video off of it and writing to it at the same time. But I’m a whore for storage. That’s where my problem begins.

I keep buying larger drives for the Drobo, and I take the old ones out. About a week ago, I looked at my little pile of ‘old’ 1TB SATA drives and thought to myself, ‘self … we should do something with those. It’s really a travesty to have terabyte drives sitting around on top of the IKEA bookshelves for no reason other than that they’re not two-terabyte drives.’

And so I bought an Acer Aspire H340 on amazon.com (no tax) even though I originally found it on newegg.com (yes tax). No cost for shipping in either place. I love the internet.

Anywho-

It comes with something called Windows Home Server, which sounds just completely terrible. I decided, since I’ve been playing with Ubuntu Server at work, that I would run Ubuntu Server 9.10 on it instead. To maximize flexibility of storage (RAID-5) I decided to boot the OS from a 2GB USB stick I had.

The Install: Ubuntu Server 9.10, installed via .iso from VMWare to the unsuspecting little USB stick. It left me with about 800M of free space, which I promptly decided to chip away at with Netatalk, Avahi (install howto courtesy of this nice site), ebox (google it, it’s four letters), and the packages lvm2 and mdadm (to enable Logical Volume Management, to expand the volume dynamically; and software RAID, to enable both data protection and the ability to add new drives, bring them into the RAID, and thus increase my storage). The very first article I found about installing Ubuntu on this thing was of great help, especially the comment by ‘druhboruch’ regarding the file¬†/etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules … clever fellow. Perhaps … too clever? I digress.

The Device: Cubey. I called mine ‘cube’ because I’m super-creative when it comes to naming things. My TV Mini is called ‘TV Mini’. You get the idea. I pulled the hard drive out, imaged it for good measure, and wiped it clean. Plugged the USB thing in, plugged it into power and the ethernets, and … not so much. Restarted, popped the included hard drive out quickly, and … much! It seems to default to booting from a SATA device if it’s installed. In poking around, this seems to be a BIOS setting (as one might expect) and so I bought an unbelievably cheap video card instead of the VGA header custom cable thing to see about being able to change that BIOS setting. We’ll see if I get a brick or something in the mail. I digress again. I installed two more of the 1TB drives in the thing (3 total, if you’re keeping score at home) and followed the above links to: Partition, RAID, and LVM-ify them. Apparently an empty RAID has to rebuild as soon as it’s born, and it’s doing that now. I can access the RAID volume (2TB from 3x1TB drives, going to add 1x1TB later) via AFP and SMB (thanks to netatalk and smbd). Had to chmod 777 the volume to allow my non-root user access to it. Yeah, it’s unsecure, but I don’t care.

The Hope: This little thing has USB ports galore and an eSATA port. The idea is to plug Drobo and another random terabyte drive into it so it becomes my file server. It was amusing to me to see people post negative comments about the thing because it wasn’t powerful enough to ‘server’ for their needs. These are the kind of people with technical knowledge you should avoid. It has an Atom processor — It’s supposed to make files available on your network, nothing more. I’m a big fan of ‘lowest-power-for-the-job’, but an Atom processor should never be a business server. That’s just silly. I have two Atom machines and I love them for what they do.