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Poofyhairguy's HTPC Recommendation Thread - Printable Version

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Tips / feedback / etc. appreciated - animeguru - 2011-04-25 19:16

First off, I just wanted to say that this is an excellent forum and I've read a lot of good information over the past few weeks.

So, after filing my tax return this year I'm coming in to a bit of money (Hiyooo!) and the wife is onboard with me setting up a server for all of our DVDs and such.

My goal is to house all my media on NAS and stream wirelessly (G now, dedicated N later) to a nettop attached to the TV. Of course, the whole thing needs to meet the WAF and it wouldn't hurt if I didn't break the bank.

My plan is to build out an unRaid box (4TB to start with plans for another 4TB later) to house all my movies, TV shows, and iTunes library and pick up a Zotac ZBOXHD-ND22-U paired with 2GBs or RAM and a 16GB SSD for XBMC. Both my wife and I have an iTouch so XBMC Commander seems like an obvious choice for remote in an effort to help keep initial costs down. Plus, it looks like a fantastic little app.

So, it seems that this will be more than enough to meet our needs and the overall cost shouldn't be prohibitive. My only concern is that I've seen a fair number of posts on people stating that their nettop isn't terribly responsive when the movie library starts getting large. I've got around 300 DVDs that will eventually get put into this setup plus whatever I acquire down the line.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated. I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row on this because I have a bit of a habit of not finishing projects and if I don't get this right off the bat, I fear for my future purchasing abilities. Eek


unraid - flymods - 2011-05-08 23:08

So I thought I would give unraid a try since so many of you seem to love it. I should have demo'd it more before buying the plus license because its terrible! The web interface is a joke, its as basic as basic gets and its network performance is crap! On my freenas server I am able to copy content to and from my main shares at 110-120 MB/s, unraid with the exact same hardware and disk drives barely hits 60 BM/s. Furthermore I could build a linux live box with the same share features unraid has for free. If anyone wants to buy a pre licensed 4gb usb stick with unraid plus on it shoot me a PM, I'll sell it for cheap and cover shipping.


- maxinc - 2011-05-09 07:10

flymods Wrote:I am able to copy content to and from my main shares at 110-120 MB/s, unraid with the exact same hardware and disk drives barely hits 60 BM/s.

Unless you are running dual gigabit NIC's with load balancing on both machines and using SSD's in your NAS, I would say that is impossible with normal HDDs over copper Gbit.

If you are after extra features, have you tried the unMenu addon?


Unraid Plus License - maddog808 - 2011-05-09 07:21

PM Sent. BTW, I'm in USA 85212


- IAmNotAUser - 2011-05-09 12:45

flymods Wrote:So I thought I would give unraid a try since so many of you seem to love it. I should have demo'd it more before buying the plus license because its terrible! The web interface is a joke, its as basic as basic gets and its network performance is crap! On my freenas server I am able to copy content to and from my main shares at 110-120 MB/s, unraid with the exact same hardware and disk drives barely hits 60 BM/s. Furthermore I could build a linux live box with the same share features unraid has for free. If anyone wants to buy a pre licensed 4gb usb stick with unraid plus on it shoot me a PM, I'll sell it for cheap and cover shipping.

The interface in the current Unraid beta is much improved over the previous versions, they have made huge ground in that department. As previously mentioned the transfer speed for your FreeNAS box does seem ridiculously high without other parts of the story and your FreeNAS box may be able to do the same basic storage, but if you ever want to upgrade the size you would have to rebuy all your drives at the same time to include them in a RAID setup, Unraid caters from home users in that you only need to buy a single drive if that's all you can afford.

Use you could build your own linux live box, but you would not have Unraid-style cache disk functionality without either resorting back to a FreeNAS style homogenic RAID, or significant time and coding input. I'd rather pay the small premium.

Plus, once you've got the box set up you hardly need to look at the web interface again so does it really matter how basic it is as long as it gets the job done?


- flymods - 2011-05-09 15:19

IAmNotAUser Wrote:The interface in the current Unraid beta is much improved over the previous versions, they have made huge ground in that department. As previously mentioned the transfer speed for your FreeNAS box does seem ridiculously high without other parts of the story and your FreeNAS box may be able to do the same basic storage, but if you ever want to upgrade the size you would have to rebuy all your drives at the same time to include them in a RAID setup, Unraid caters from home users in that you only need to buy a single drive if that's all you can afford.

Use you could build your own linux live box, but you would not have Unraid-style cache disk functionality without either resorting back to a FreeNAS style homogenic RAID, or significant time and coding input. I'd rather pay the small premium.

Plus, once you've got the box set up you hardly need to look at the web interface again so does it really matter how basic it is as long as it gets the job done?

In regards to the speed differences its really quite simple, freenas is a raid solution so its going to have better I/O then unraid since its more or a JBOD solution with a parity disk. 100+ MB/s is normal for any NAS solution on the market including drobo and other "jack in the box" soultions.

As for the disk's and raid info you mentioned you were half right, you do have to rebuild an array anytime you add or remove disks however you can raid disks that don't match with JBOD or you can individually mount separate disks and still access the data, either way you never have to rebuy disks. One thing I like about unraid is that it emoloys a parity disk which is great for basic users that don't backup their data. Have you or anyone else in this tred recovered from a bad drive in unraid? was all your data recovered? how hard was it to change out the failed drive? Personally I never trust parity in raid or any other solution and I back my data up separately, yes it costs double the money to have twice as many drives but at least you know your date is in 2 places.

I agree with you that the web interface isn't that important as long as the soution is doing its job however that being said as an IT professional when I pay for software I like to see that some time and coding went in to the "fit and finish" of the product, seems like unraid was thrown together by some linux coders that made the web gui last minute. Overallits not a bad product and I can see why people use it for a basic share that don't mind its lacking performance.


- IAmNotAUser - 2011-05-09 15:38

flymods Wrote:In regards to the speed differences its really quite simple, freenas is a raid solution so its going to have better I/O then unraid since its more or a JBOD solution with a parity disk. 100+ MB/s is normal for any NAS solution on the market including drobo and other "jack in the box" soultions.

I definately agree that pure NAS solutions might have a speed increase but it still feels high to be hitting the top of the gigabit Ethernet specifications with Samba consistently. But as someone who's only halfway through moving to gigabit on my home network, I can't personally say whether your benchmarks for FreeNAS are high, nor your Unraid low, just that they feel high to me. I also have my download box auto transfer completed files onto my Unraid box, so I don't ever see a transfers progress, let alone get to rate how fast it's moving.

I do have to ask though, were your tests conducted with a cache drive or not? That increased the transfer speed even on my 1/2 and 1/2 network.

flymods Wrote:or you can individually mount separate disks and still access the data, either way you never have to rebuy disks.

Which entirely removes RAID from the equation, in both any speed increase, or any redundancy.

flymods Wrote:One thing I like about unraid is that it emoloys a parity disk which is great for basic users that don't backup their data. Have you or anyone else in this tred recovered from a bad drive in unraid? was all your data recovered? how hard was it to change out the failed drive? Personally I never trust parity in raid or any other solution and I back my data up separately, yes it costs double the money to have twice as many drives but at least you know your date is in 2 places.

I back up all my important personal data with DR too, but for space-expensive things like media which technically are replaceable, having a parity disk is a suitable level for me. To me, the worst case scenario with Unraid is that I will lose the data on 2 of my disks (2nd failing before I realise the first has gone), not the whole array like a RAID solution, which I can them reacquire over time. Best case scenario is a complete rebuild from the parity disk after I catch a failed drive. But no, thankfully, I haven't yet had to rebuild my array from the parity disk.

flymods Wrote:I agree with you that the web interface isn't that important as long as the soution is doing its job however that being said as an IT professional when I pay for software I like to see that some time and coding went in to the "fit and finish" of the product, seems like unraid was thrown together by some linux coders that made the web gui last minute. Overallits not a bad product and I can see why people use it for a basic share that don't mind its lacking performance.

I'll take some screenshots of the latest beta for you tonight so you can see the improvements I'm talking about in case you haven't already. Not for any reason than that I totally agreed with you on the first impressions but after discovering the stable didn't have kernel support for USB3 (which my IcyBox caddy uses) I was forced to go beta. It feels much more like a paid-for product now, rather than a childish attempt or an afterthought.

Apologies to everyone for the massive off-topic, and I would like to note I have no ties to Unraid beyond being a recent user (6 months or so).


- olympia - 2011-05-09 15:56

When you are upgrading a disk in unRAID to a larger disk, it is doing exactly the same rebuild from parity process what it is doing in case of replacing a broken disk.

...and yes, I am upgrading multiple disks in a year and rebulding were always completed without any issue (knock-knock).


- flymods - 2011-05-09 16:14

IAmNotAUser Wrote:I definately agree that pure NAS solutions might have a speed increase but it still feels high to be hitting the top of the gigabit Ethernet specifications with Samba consistently. But as someone who's only halfway through moving to gigabit on my home network, I can't personally say whether your benchmarks for FreeNAS are high, nor your Unraid low, just that they feel high to me. I also have my download box auto transfer completed files onto my Unraid box, so I don't ever see a transfers progress, let alone get to rate how fast it's moving.

I do have to ask though, were your tests conducted with a cache drive or not? That increased the transfer speed even on my 1/2 and 1/2 network.



Which entirely removes RAID from the equation, in both any speed increase, or any redundancy.



I back up all my important personal data with DR too, but for space-expensive things like media which technically are replaceable, having a parity disk is a suitable level for me. To me, the worst case scenario with Unraid is that I will lose the data on 2 of my disks (2nd failing before I realise the first has gone), not the whole array like a RAID solution, which I can them reacquire over time. Best case scenario is a complete rebuild from the parity disk after I catch a failed drive. But no, thankfully, I haven't yet had to rebuild my array from the parity disk.



I'll take some screenshots of the latest beta for you tonight so you can see the improvements I'm talking about in case you haven't already. Not for any reason than that I totally agreed with you on the first impressions but after discovering the stable didn't have kernel support for USB3 (which my IcyBox caddy uses) I was forced to go beta. It feels much more like a paid-for product now, rather than a childish attempt or an afterthought.

Apologies to everyone for the massive off-topic, and I would like to note I have no ties to Unraid beyond being a recent user (6 months or so).

I will check out the beta no need to send screen shots but thanks for offering Smile

I don't really know what else to say about the network speeds to make you believe that what I'm acheiving is normal for most NAS solutions. The I/O of several disks together is always going to be higher than individual disks and after that point its just presenting the data over tcp/ip at whatever speed your network will support (in my case gig). I use my server for more than just media and ive benchmarked it from windows, linux, and mac and its consistantly over 100 MB/s but I built my main share with 3 GB/s 1TB hard drives for better performance and I/O, my backup raid group is redudant and backs up my main share twice a month in the middle of the night using rsync which is ideal since it only captures the differences since the last sync.

I would really love to hear from someone thats had drive failure with unraid. I want to know how long it took to rebuild and be back up to 100% including replacing the bad drive. The reason I say this is because most software type raid solutions are crap and recovering is usually not easy. This is why most companies use a hardware dedicated raid card for redudancy not software (obviously not an option for most home users).


- flymods - 2011-05-09 16:15

olympia Wrote:When you are upgrading a disk in unRAID to a larger disk, it is doing exactly the same rebuild from parity process what it is doing in case of replacing a broken disk.

...and yes, I am upgrading multiple disks in a year and rebulding were always completed without any issue (knock-knock).

How long was the rebuild process and what size drives were you replacing? Just curious Smile


- IAmNotAUser - 2011-05-09 16:27

flymods Wrote:I don't really know what else to say about the network speeds to make you believe that what I'm acheiving is normal for most NAS solutions. The I/O of several disks together is always going to be higher than individual disks and after that point its just presenting the data over tcp/ip at whatever speed your network will support (in my case gig).
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not calling you a liar and I believe they are the speeds you are getting, it just surprised me that you are always pushing at the limit of the gigabit spec, if you include file protocol overhead. I would expect to see it at times, yes, but I personally wouldn't have considered it a standard occurrence.

With a decent I/O cache drive present in Unraid, your network should be the limiting factor, just like any other NAS solution. Without a cache drive though, yes - performance may well be lower as the bottleneck is at the parity calculation stage, not the disk I/O stage.


- flymods - 2011-05-09 16:54

IAmNotAUser Wrote:Please don't get me wrong, I'm not calling you a liar and I believe they are the speeds you are getting, it just surprised me that you are always pushing at the limit of the gigabit spec, if you include file protocol overhead. I would expect to see it at times, yes, but I personally wouldn't have considered it a standard occurrence.

With a decent I/O cache drive present in Unraid, your network should be the limiting factor, just like any other NAS solution. Without a cache drive though, yes - performance may well be lower as the bottleneck is at the parity calculation stage, not the disk I/O stage.

What are the spec requirements of the cache drive? Does it need to be the same size as your biggest diskor can you use a smaller disk? I only had one 1tb 3GB/s sata drive connected when testing unraid and no cache disk but would you really need a cache disk for a one drive direct share? there should be no bottleneck to one disk. maybe ZFS is just faster...


- Superorb - 2011-05-09 17:01

flymods Wrote:What are the spec requirements of the cache drive? Does it need to be the same size as your biggest diskor can you use a smaller disk? I only had one 1tb 3GB/s sata drive connected when testing unraid and no cache disk but would you really need a cache disk for a one drive direct share? there should be no bottleneck to one disk. maybe ZFS is just faster...
The cache disk is used to speed up transfers to the server. You copy the files you want onto the server, and it will put them on the cache drive and bypass parity check for now. At a later time, a script will copy the files on the cache disk to the array at a slower rate since parity is calculated at that later time. Writes are just as slow when it does copy to the protected array, but it does so at 3am in the morning so you don't notice those slower writes.

When I first built my array I moved files to the server before assigning a parity drive, so all writes were not calculating parity. I was getting 90MB/s sustained. The parity calc is what slows down the writes.

With that said, I only get reads of 50MB/s when theoretically it should be the drive and gigE max since parity calcs are not done on reads. I don't know why reads are also slow. But, I never need to read that fast as even the beefiest BD rips are only 40mbps which 50MB/s is more than capable of sustaining.


- IAmNotAUser - 2011-05-09 17:09

To add to Superob's post, a cache drive is recommend to be the larger than the amount of data you would aim to transfer for a 24 hour period but it doesn't have to be any particular size in comparison to your other drives. My Unraid build currently has a 2TB parity drive, 2x 2TB data drives, 2x 1TB data drives, 1x 500GB data drive and a 500GB cache drive, with the automated mover script occurring twice daily (as any data that is somehow lost whilst on the cache drive isn't protected).

EDIT: That said, it seems in your test you didn't have a parity drive either, which renders this whole discussion about parity calc being the bottleneck moot. If you had a parity drive and a data drive only for your tests, then that's the cause of your slower speed. If not, then I don't know.


- flymods - 2011-05-10 02:27

IAmNotAUser Wrote:To add to Superob's post, a cache drive is recommend to be the larger than the amount of data you would aim to transfer for a 24 hour period but it doesn't have to be any particular size in comparison to your other drives. My Unraid build currently has a 2TB parity drive, 2x 2TB data drives, 2x 1TB data drives, 1x 500GB data drive and a 500GB cache drive, with the automated mover script occurring twice daily (as any data that is somehow lost whilst on the cache drive isn't protected).

EDIT: That said, it seems in your test you didn't have a parity drive either, which renders this whole discussion about parity calc being the bottleneck moot. If you had a parity drive and a data drive only for your tests, then that's the cause of your slower speed. If not, then I don't know.

I was thinking more about the reasoning behind why the transfer speeds may bet a little slower with unraid. Once big thing that comes into play that I hadn't thought about is the actual read and write speed of a hard drive. A single 7200 rpm hard drive has a write speed of about 50-60 MB/s which is definitely where the bottleneck was on my test unraid system. Furthermore adding a cache disk wouldn't speed up transfers in my test setup but I could certainly see how it would speed up an environment that employs parity (mosts users here). I think one solution that may benefit anyone experiencing slower transfer speeds would be to make your cache drive a smaller (say 250gb) 10k raptor drive that has a faster r/w time which would allow you to utilize the speed increase of lan (125 MB/s MAX). I don't think anyone here transfers more than 250gb in a 24 hour period. I may have a raptor drive laying around, if I do I will clock it and let you all know how it tests.