State of the Server Rack – 2022 Edition

It’s finally the way that I want it … for now, anyways… πŸ˜›

(from top to bottom)

  • 2U shelf that pretty much only holds my Hue Hub and the button that controls the lights
  • UniFi Dream Machine Pro – router connected to Frontier Fiber 2 Gbps Internet
  • Brush panel for Direct Attach Copper (10-gig) links
  • UniFi Switch Pro Aggregation – 28 port 10-gig switch
  • Patch panel for gigabit ethernet
  • UniFi Switch 48 PoE – in my defense, it was a lot fuller before I moved all of the servers to 10-gig
  • Patch panel for gigabit ethernet
  • Dell PowerEdge R610 – VM server – 24 cores across 2 CPUs, 96 GB of RAM
  • Dell PowerEdge C2100 – Primary NAS (Unraid) – 18 disks total (including disk shelf) for 208 TB plus 2 parity disks, with ~133 TB in use
  • Dell PowerVault MD1000 – Disk Shelf for Primary NAS
  • Dell PowerEdge R720XD – Backup NAS (Unraid) – 5 disks total for 46 TB plus 2 parity disks, currently filling
  • Tripp Lite 1500 VA Smart UPS (x2) – 900W each, can power the whole rack for about 20 minutes, but mostly protects against power blips that happen a couple of times a month

From my best calculation, all of this uses somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6 kWh, running me about $30-40 a month in electricity costs … which probably sounds high but I figure isn’t too bad for a hobby, particularly knowing that friends and family outside of our home also take advantage of Plex, and I’ve spent many years now building my media collection, and I’m both happy and relieved to finally have redundancy and at least some backups in place to help survive issues that come along!

My latest upgrade was #1 – adding in 10-gig, which isn’t a huge gain because both NASes use Unraid, so the backup jobs that I’ve been running lately only max out at maybe 2 Gbps due to writing to multiple parity disks on the backup NAS. Admittedly a big driving factor of this was simply being able to justify upgrading my Internet connection, but that’s ok!

And of course #2 – adding a second NAS to serve as a backup, though it’s going to take some time to grow it to properly backup the full environment.

Right now of about 130 TB in use on my primary NAS, about 90 TB of that is for TV Shows on Plex, and the remaining 40 TB is everything else from movies and other media, backups, desktop storage, etc… So with the 5 disks that I initially gave the backup NAS, I’m able to backup pretty much everything except for TV and honestly, I think that’s a pretty good start considering that previous I was limited to maybe 2 TB of critical stuff I’ve been pushing to Backblaze with nothing other than parity drives protecting the rest.

And even that’s better than my setup a few years ago when I literally just had loads of external USB drives connected to a desktop – we’ve come a long ways with this power-hungry, 30+ disk, 10-gigabit, 72-core behemoth and something tells me that in a few years, I’ll be writing a new blog post that makes even this one look like child’s play in comparison!

I was amused to read this post from 7 years ago before I wrote this in which I pondered how to backup a measly 20 TB of data whereas now just my movie library exceeds that by itself. My younger self would be relieved to know that I did finally get around to backing up some of that data, though not in the odd offline storage case model that I was considering back then because, well, bit rot is a thing…

So what’s to come next?

Well, besides gradually adding more disks to grow that backup array until it finally catches up with the primary NAS, admittedly there’s not a ton left for now. I still want to add a dedicated GPU to my VM server to allow for better Plex transcoding, as it seems like almost everyone connecting remotely transcodes down to 720p despite my constant reminders to change their settings! I probably also need to eventually upgrade our wifi access point to one that supports WiFi 6, although I’m not really expecting a big boost there because despite supporting speeds above one gigabit, the ethernet jack on Ubiquiti’s AP is still only one gig, so I don’t really see a point beside slightly better radios.

On that note, one last upgrade pic – I even took the time to organize all of my extra junk that had accumulated on top of my rack and was blocking most of the ventilation. Check it out! πŸ˜€

The Road to Multi-Gigabit Internet Service…

To say I was caught off guard last month when I randomly stumbled upon a news release stating that my ISP, Frontier, was going to start offering 2 Gbps service for 2/22 Tuesday would be an understatement!

I mean, this is the company that I’ve fought for simple upgrades for years and not too long ago had a CEO who was quoted as saying, “People don’t really need gigabit…”

After finally getting to that mystical 1,000 Mbps speed a couple of years ago at a sub-$100 price, I kind of figured that was going to be as good as it got for a while – maybe until cable got the upper-hand with a symmetrical option that they’ve been lagging behind for years … but instead, I guess Christmas came early this year because, well…

Of course, it’s excessive!

In fact, right now I don’t have a single machine on my network that can take advantage of 2 Gbps Internet – the above speed test was done straight from my router! While I have 10 Gbps NICs in all of my servers, I still need to pickup a 10 Gbps switch for them to connect to, which I’m planning to do next month.

In the meantime, however, I am still seeing faster speeds because I think the local GPON node that I was connected to was overloaded, so when they moved me over to XGS-PON, I saw my gigabit links better able to actually utilize their full speed. And granted, aside from downloading movies and TV shows, I don’t really need this kind of speed … Zoom calls and YouTube streaming even across multiple devices only needs a fraction of it, but what can I say – a big part of being an early adopter of technology is bragging rights, anyways!

It’s kind of exciting, though, to think that 5 or even 10 Gbps Internet is possible down the road in the near future – I think I saw an article saying Frontier was considering 5 Gbps this year! Just looking at the last 10 years that I’ve been lucky enough to have a fiber internet connection, we’ve seen speeds increase by x80…

YearISPSpeed
2012Verizon FiOS25 Mbps
2013Verizon FiOS50 Mbps / 25 Mbps
2014Verizon FiOS50 Mbps
2015Verizon FiOS75 Mbps
2015Verizon FiOS150 Mbps
2018Frontier FiOS200 Mbps
2019Frontier FiOS500 Mbps
2019Frontier FiOS1 Gbps
2022Frontier Fiber2 Gbps

As I’m finding with my own upgrades, moving beyond 1 gigabit is a bit more complicated because most consumer gear is limited to 1-gig, so anything above means new routers and switches, new NICs, and even new wifi access points … and even then individual devices are limited by the servers they’re getting data from, so after upgrading my entire network stack it’s not like browsing Facebook or Twitter will suddenly be moving at double the speed!

But hey, we’re having fun, so that’s what’s important, right?!

Dream Journal : Grandpa’s (Very Fictional) Rum Empire

Note: This was an interesting set of dreams with some very accurate references and some very not, so I’ll try to point out when I jump from one to the other!

I was staying at my grandparents house with a bunch of other people. It wasn’t clear whether my grandparents were still alive, but it was almost like we were renting the house for something because it was a fairly large group of people.

A few of us needed to use the bathroom and rather than waiting in line with everyone else, I snuck off around to the other side of the house where I knew there was another bathroom.

(FICTION!)

But it wasn’t just any bathroom – after walking down a long hallway, it opened up into a full-size day spa hidden in my grandparents’ house! There were a smaller handful of people enjoying the facilities, but no one from the group I had been with. I think I actually ran into Jason Segel there and he commented about being excited to check out the sauna later…

This wasn’t the most of it, however, when I left the spa and followed another longer corridor into what turned out to be probably the most impressive liquor store I had ever seen!

Filled with large, colorful displays of bottles and a vibrant atmosphere unlike any liquor store I’ve actually ever been in, it was clear that the store was very successful despite being in a small town in Northern Michigan. Patrons eagerly made their selections as I wandered about, and I even ran into a couple of my uncles along the way.

What was cooler was that for some reason all of the employees seemed to recognize our family and I seemed to get a tip of the hat from everyone that I met, even as I began to poke around some of the behind the scenes areas where people were making and preparing things for sale.

This was a little confusing because the store didn’t actually make any of its own booze, but you sure would’ve thought it did from the looks of it.

Eventually I wandered outside and found that the store’s location was right across the street from probably the most famous ski hill in Northern Michigan (presumably Boyne Mountain, although in reality it’s 20 miles from where my grandparents lived).

It seemed like a prime location and I wanted to take a couple of pictures to share, but for some reason I only had an older cell phone and I couldn’t get the camera to work (this is strangely a common theme in my dreams). Also interesting was that the scene resembled more of a busy city than the small town that we were supposed to be in…

* * *

My next dream segued off of this theme – I was taking a friend around Northern Michigan because he wanted to write some kind of story about it for the paper he worked for, although I didn’t entirely trust him because I didn’t know what type of story he was looking to write.

We visited a few key locations around the town where my grandparents lived, then stopped at Taco Bell inside of a shopping mall to figure out what to do next. It wasn’t a long drive up to the Mackinac Bridge and sunset was quickly approaching, so we thought it might be cool to head up there to catch the sunset over the bridge … however walking back to his car that was parked in a less desirable part of town, we soon found that it had gotten looted and was no longer drivable.

After grabbing whatever things he could salvage from it, we went up the street to a restaurant that apparently my grandpa owned, thinking they would help, but instead a bunch of the employees laughed at us and some even hinted that they may have been in on it. Things were starting to look ugly when I called my grandpa and explained what was going on, who in turn asked for the names of everyone who was giving us trouble and he proceeded to fire them over the phone on the spot.

He then told us he to go to a nearby hotel where he would book us a room for a few nights, and we left … except that we started walking in the wrong direction – despite the hotel being this giant tower that was easily visible from everywhere – and very shortly we found ourselves on the classic “wrong side of the tracks.” We were staring at an industrial area with a fence between us, and there were lots of people running around and fires everywhere, and you just got the feeling that nothing good was taking place over there.

We tried to move along and actually heard someone on the street comment that it was the town’s hotbed for drugs and other illicit activities, after which a random stream of hoodlums just came running across the street, although they didn’t seem interested in us.

While my friend started to rethink his story around the theme of poverty and crime in the north, we backtracked – unfortunately in the same direction as the thugs were going – until we finally reached the hotel. There we were received a bit unexpectedly because as soon as I gave my name, they whisked us away up an escalator to a private lobby where only a couple of finely-dressed employees were waiting at a podium.

They seemed to take a while to authenticate who we were, during which I wandered the waiting area that was filled with all sorts of artwork made by kids. Eventually everything checked out and oddly enough, someone immediately came to take our dinner orders with a menu to create just about any kind of sandwich you could think of. My friend ordered a simple hamburger, while I asked the waitress what she would get with their pork … I think she thought I was flirting with her, but in reality I was just confused and overwhelmed.

Well, as it turned out – my grandfather also owned the hotel and we were being taken to the penthouse suite at the very top of the tower, with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and just nothing but luxury from floor to ceiling. We didn’t really have anything with us, but it didn’t matter because everything was either provided or they were quick to offer to get it for us – from clean clothes to razors to other toiletries.

The shower area was particularly impressive, almost reminiscent of the spa area that I had discovered in their house earlier, with dozens of water jets on a wall and just marble everything.

After we got cleaned up and ate, things got a little fuzzy, but I think the hoodlums from earlier attacked the tower, although I don’t recall if they made it all the way up to our floor or not.

Just to be clear – my grandparents were not wealthy rum and hotel barons in Northern Michigan, but the random cameos were fun nonetheless!

A New Start for 2022

I probably don’t even want to know how many of these posts I’ve written over the years, but I’m promising myself that I’m going to finish this new post before I go back and look at the old ones…

Last week I started a new exercise program.

It’s something that was referred to me by my best friend from childhood – apparently he’s gotten kind of hardcore into fitness over the last couple of years and it’s really transformed his life, which quite frankly is something that I could use myself at this point!

I need to lose a ton of weight.

For health reasons, for appearance reasons, for feeling good in my own skin, much less a shirt with several X’s in the size! None of the reasons have really changed, just the urgency as I continue to grow older and admittedly begin to worry a bit more about how many years I still have left. I have some challenges ahead due to genetic issues that were completely beyond my control, but being 60-80 pounds overweight certainly isn’t doing me any favors.

So I’m really trying to work on the whole me – getting better sleep, eating better food, and exercising – with the primary goal of shrinking my waistline and all of the usual ancillary goals that come along with it. I had a good start last fall when I started walking for the Heart Walk, although eventually it got cold and Christmas got busy and I tapered off. This year I want to continue that effort and also build on it with things like this new exercise program that I can do indoors regardless of the frigid Floridian cold snap that may be taking place outside!

I’ve only done a handful of workouts so far, but I really like the attitude and the approach that the coach for this program takes – it’s very kind and understanding and encouraging, not overbearing and loud like so many fitness coaches seem to be. I love how he offers different ways to do each thing based on what your body can handle so that I’m not just worried about my form throughout the entire workout.

Plus, the way he ends it – “You just paid it into your body…” – is a nice sentiment. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently focused on our finances and looking for ways to improve savings and investments and whatnot, so it’s a great analogy to think about investing in myself, too!

Aside from the workouts themselves, I’m also trying to do a lot of other little things – walking the dog a couple of times a week, getting to bed earlier, eating better foods and minimizing snacking – trying to find a good balance between working towards something better without giving myself all of these impossible tasks that I’ll never be able to live up to. I think figuring out what works for me is key because while there are a million different opinions on the Internet about anything and everything, I’m the one who has to act on them in order to see results.

Looking forward to blogging more about my progress – hopefully before 2023 rolls around…

A cute pic of my workout buddy – standing his own ground!

Reprioritizing Your Life

I saw a quote yesterday that I thought was a pretty good statement of the times that we live in today…

People are no longer doing the things that they don’t want to do anymore.

I’m pretty sure it was meant as a jab at workers along the lines of “Nobody wants to work anymore!” but I actually took it to be a little more inspiring than that, like, “Nobody wants to work for you anymore!”

As challenging as it is for some businesses and industries right now, I think it’s a good thing that employees are finally standing up for themselves and demanding better treatment. If a corporation is going to make billions off of selling burgers and fries, the people serving up that fried food deserve to be able to pay their rent – this whole notion of “unskilled work” driving some of the biggest companies towards record profits has got to come to an end.

And yeah, it’s going to mean that some businesses are going to go under if their business model that made sense at $8/hour for clerks and shelf stockers no longer works at $15/hour.

Some interesting statistics – over 627,000 small businesses are created each year in the United States, but 20% of them will fail in their first year and ten years in, that number rises to a whopping 70%! It’s hard to create a new business that can stand the test of time, but underpaying your workforce because your brain is stuck in the days when you started out at $5/hour thirty years ago isn’t going to fly anymore.

It’s great that people are putting their feet down and saying, “If I’m an essential worker, you need to treat me like it!” Work that was done in an office a few years ago can just as easily be done from home and greatly improve the quality of life for those workers, and if companies want to dig their heels in and insist that “We’re better together!” they’re going to find themselves with a dwindling talent pool to choose from as more and more workers prioritize their own wellbeing over the demands of the business that would lay them off two weeks before Christmas if the bottom line demanded it.

At the end of the day, driving people to focus on the things that they do want to do is ultimately better for our society as a whole because workers should feel valued and appreciated for the things they do, and their employers will get better work out of them for it! Sure, you can argue that there are some jobs that nobody really wants to do, but paying a living wage and helping people feel better about their jobs instead of like expendable numbers will go a long way.

2021 Holiday Advent Blog – Day 14 – Time to Shine!

Look at this happy kid!

Tonight was Christopher’s Christmas program at school that he’s been looking forward to for weeks. Seriously, we’ve been listening to Holly Jolly Christmas for I don’t even know how long … which is fine because not only is it cute because he took it so seriously, even asking me to print out lyrics for him to practice with and recording himself singing to watch back later, but apparently his singing is contagious and before too long Matthew and David were belting out their favorites, too… πŸ˜€

So getting to see all of his hard work pay off and how proud he was all dressed up and looking sharp was really awesome, despite how hot and sweaty the actual show was with a certain little brother wriggling uncomfortably on my lap the entire time!

It took me like five tries to get his tie right, but he made those Santa dogs look good. πŸ˜‰

2021 Holiday Advent Blog – Day 13 – The Purr-fect Present…

In hindsight I feel kind of dumb, but I honestly had no idea that the one and only Eartha Kitt of Catwoman fame was the original singer back in 1953 to perform the iconic holiday hit, Santa Baby!

Admittedly I roll my eyes whenever this song comes on, namely because I could never afford a girl with such expensive taste in Christmas gifts, but picturing Catwoman weaving this tale of greed and lust as she toys with a captive Bruce Wayne (or maybe even Batgirl!) makes the song a little more palatable…

Just for fun, here’s an article that totals up what this insatiable vixen’s wishlist would’ve costed, although I’ve got to think you could probably shop around to save a couple of hundred million on the yacht at least. πŸ˜‰

https://www.mcall.com/opinion/mc-opi-santa-baby-gifts-costs-20181214-story.html

2021 Holiday Advent Blog – Day 9 – Snorkeling for Santa

Kids are nuts sometimes.

Despite installing a solar heater for our pool this summer and loving it for months after that, I don’t think we’ve been swimming since the end of October because it just got too cold and the heater couldn’t get the water to a reasonable temperature during the day.

Mind you, “reasonable” this year after we got the heater became 90+ degrees, which just about feels like bathwater, so needless to say we’ve gotten pretty spoiled… πŸ˜›

That said, somehow we found ourselves swimming not once, but twice over the last couple of days! For the first night, we had gone out just to float boats in the hot tub that they’d built that afternoon and somehow one thing led to another and two of the three of them were in the water while the third played on the side and I supervised from the comforts of dry land. The next time, I noticed that the water was up to 82 degrees, so I decided to take the plunge so to speak because I honestly prefer to be in the water whenever the kids are anyways.

It was still pretty cold!

I mean, not enough to immediately send you squealing for indoors – maybe moderately relaxing at best – but I toughed it out because if we’re being honest, this summer I learned that the pool is an awesome way to tire them out which ultimately just makes the rest of my time before bed with them so much easier! Plus, they had a blast because the only swimming they’ve had for a month and a half has been 30 minutes a week for swim class!

Here’s hoping we get some warmer days during Christmas break that push those temps upwards of at least 85 degrees to give me a fighting chance… πŸ˜‰

2021 Holiday Advent Blog – Day 8 – Old Enough to Snoop…

So apparently the kids have figured out where we keep their Christmas presents.

Granted, it’s not really much of a hiding place as it is a giant stack of boxes in our bedroom closet that’s supposed to be off-limits, but I guess on more than one occasion Christopher and David snuck in there while I was taking a shower and were poking around.

Christopher allegedly even took a bunch of pictures with his iPad, though he had deleted the evidence by the time I was able to check…

It’s frustrating both because we genuinely want them to be surprised on Christmas morning and also because we want to try to preserve the allure and magic of Santa Claus for at least another year or two, but at the same time I’m not gonna lie … I totally knew where my Mom hid our presents in the back of her closet and I was probably about their age when I started poking around to try and catch a glimpse at what new Nintendo game I might be getting for Christmas that year.

As a funny aside, though, I’m pretty sure they haven’t entirely pieced it together yet because upon finding a couple of Jurassic World Lego sets (that are clearly for him), David came and asked me if I was going to share the Lego sets that are in my closet because I guess he thought they were for me instead! Which, I mean, is sort of valid because I do have various sets sitting around still boxed that are for me, but not being into Lego Jurassic World in the slightest, those ones are definitely his.

I think we need to find a better hiding place next year if we’re going to keep this little ruse up much longer, though… 😯

2021 Holiday Advent Blog – Day 5 – Colors of the World

Apparently these came out last year and Crayola has been working to be inclusive of various cultures for decades, but this was the first I’ve seen them while wandering around the store this evening and I just thought it was really cool to have a box where any child could reach in and grab something to color with that looks how they look regardless of the color of their skin.

In comparison, you’ve got maybe six shades in your standard box of 64 crayons that resemble skin tones … a couple beige, a few browns, and black … whereas these sets just do a better job at something super important like allowing kids to feel represented in their own creative works.

Doing our best to be thoughtful of other people is how we move forward as a culturally rich society and I just thought that this was such a simple, yet fantastic idea. Plus, to stumble upon them during the holidays when “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men…” is in the forefront of our minds – kudos, Crayola!