Archive of

Maine: Day 1

Written by John Miller

I'm actually writing this on day 2 because I didn't have a great opportunity to sit down a write yesterday - or maybe I just didn't want to. Yesterday was great though - the previous day we flew into Portland and after re-exploring the city a bit, we picked up our car (an absolutely ridiculous Infinity Q60 coupe - yay points!) and drove up to the L.L. Bean store to complete the pilgrimage. While we didn't end up getting anything I did decide that I will (eventually) pick up a Hacylon Piranta knife - it's a normal looking folding pocket knife, but instead of a typical fixed blade it uses detachable/replaceable scalpel blades which are both super cheap and sharp. After that we drove back down to North Portland to meet up with some family, my grandfather's brother and his wife. We spent the rest of that evening chatting and catching up, then the following morning we went to the excellent Portland Pottery for breakfast and coffee.

A bit before noon we decided to head off, but not before one more quick stop in North Portland. Something I had been meaning to get Liz quite a while ago was a 35mm lens for her camera, a D3100. She had never shot with a fixed-focal length on a dSLR before, so I figured this would be a great first step - and not very costly either. I actually owned this lens years ago, when the DX version first came out, which I used on my sister's old D50... but I foolishly sold it. Doh. Anyway, the camera shop we ended up (the Photo Market) was fantastic - great guys there, and tons of used gear. Aside from old macs, secondhand camera gear is my favorite type of secondhand stuff.

They had Liz' lens (on sale, no less, ended up getting a new one) and after asking about a used D40 (they didn't have one, unfortunately) I ended up getting my hands on a D80. It actually started with a D70, then a D70s, then finally the D80. I can hear Cory yelling at me now, something about spending money on old gen digital cameras. (Cory, if it makes you feel any better, I'll be loading all of the pictures from it onto a MacPro3,1 running ElCap. :D ) So, yeah, maybe spending money on a 10 year old dSLR wasn't the "best" idea, but 1) it was a good deal, 2) it included a free brand new battery and SD card and a good lens (granted just a kit 18-70, but it's in great shape), 3) the body is in good shape and has a low shutter count.

On from the camera store we drove north on Rt 1 up to Camden. About an hour up, just past Bath, we stopped for lunch at what turned out to be an excellent touristy lobster place (though neither of us had lobster) with an enormous inflatable lobster on the roof - which may have been the only reason we stopped there in the first place. After that it was only about another 30 minutes to Camden, which is just south of our AirB&B. Camden is where we stayed last year, so we re-explored a lot of places we had been before (parks, shops, waterfront stuff, etc.) then drove on north to Lincolnville, just about 10 minutes away.

The place we're staying is right on the coast, and getting down to the water is just a short walk through woods down a trail. We're staying in a loft that's above a two car garage/shed - it's a single room space, about 500sqft + bathroom and definitely the best AirB&B we've stayed in so far. It's set back about half a mile from the road too, so it's super quiet back here. Hearing lots of songbirds, but haven't seen any larger animals yet.

Maine: Day 0

Written by John Miller

Now for something different from previous posts, but probably more blog worthy - Travel! For the past two years Liz (my wife) and I have been traveling to Maine for our "anniversary". I say "anniversary" because traveling to Maine in early April is ill advised, or so we have learned. We'll be in Mid Coast region for the most part, around Camden and similar small towns, but will ultimately go back up to Acadia as well. We're in the Charlotte airport at the moment and will be flying into Portland shortly, then we'll spend the night with family there and continue our travel north.

Fun Little HP Tower

Written by John Miller

While there isn't a whole lot I like about living in Charlotte, having easy access to a place called "The Grid" is really awesome. The Grid is a store run by Goodwill, and unlike your typical Goodwill, The Grid only sells tech - computers, TVs, game consoles and games, lots of accessories - if it plugs into a TV or Computer, it'll show up there. Quite a few of their donations come from local corporations and businesses, and often really interesting hardware shows up there - it's actually where I found the then bare-bones ML350 G6. Lots of machines they get still work fine, and so they get tested and have windows installed on them, and while they aren't too poorly priced, they are priced higher than I'm interested in, especially given that I don't care for a licensed OS, RAM, or storage devices. Back in the far corner there's a series of shelves for the "as-is" laptops and desktops - stuff that is either too old to bother testing (rarely older than a core2, granted) or obviously heavily damaged. I have gotten a lot of good finds out of that "as-is" pile.

Every once in a while I have noticed these little HP consumer desktops in the fray, but often they're in too bad shape to consider. Today, however, they had two almost identical units - each for $10. A very reasonable question to ask is why on earth would I be interested in some junky $10 consumer HP desktop? Well, it's because of just how junky and low end they are. This machine is a member of the HP p2 line, likely HP's lowest-end consumer desktop - I've come to understand that they could often be found new for $200-300 or less. My machine is a p2-1334, and one could almost describe it as a netbook in a MicroATX case. The motherboard is actually Mini-ITX - no PCIe slots (not even for WiFi!), absolutely no socketed processor, and no standard 20pin power. It runs off a standard 65w 19v HP laptop power supply, which I have a few of (yay hoarding?)

It's pretty good looking from the front, if a little plain.

No power supply or slots - it's a normal MicroATX case otherwise. I find it surprising that they opted for DVI over HDMI - perhaps newer models use HDMI? Normal audio jacks, four USB2.0 on the front, two at the front, headers for two more are unpopulated. Ethernet is only 10/100 - super cheap Realtek chipset. I do appreciate that the I/O shield is a knock-out variant, I may move this board into a Mini-ITX case someday.

This should give you a good idea of how empty the case is inside. There's a single exhaust fan at the rear, and just a void where the power supply and MicroATX slots would be. The optical drive is actually part of why I decided to purchase it in the first place - I'm running low on drives that can burn DVD-DLs, and believe it or not, this one can - so I figured at the most I was playing $10 for an optical drive. I added the SSD once I got it home, it's mounted just to the left of the motherboard, on the underside of the brace. There are screw holes for both 2.5" and 3.5" drives - clearly suited for whatever was cheapest that day. Both drives are powered directly from the motherboard, and I imagine it can't handle much current - no 15k drives here. There are no mounts for additional drives, but there are a few spots where one might have mounted other accessories. One version of this case held a card reader by the front panel USB ports, but it's not populated here.

While removing the board, one of the plastic brackets around the SATA power connectors decided to come off with the cable. It did slide back on easily enough, but it goes to show that these things were not meant to be disassembled. This is a total throwaway computer.

Not surprisingly, this is a very bare board. I decided to pop it out in order to clean off the bit of dust present as well as to at least do the CPU and FCH the honor of replacing their thermal paste, which was horrendously caked on. The RAM, DDR3, is the users' only option for expandability, and apparently the AMD Hudson-D1 FCH supports up to 32GB RAM. HP's docs for the board say it caps out at 8, but I have tested it with as much as 16 myself, so I am assuming it could handle 32 - though why someone would put $150+ of RAM into something like this is beyond me.

The CPU is an AMD Fusion E2, this one specifically is an 1200, though they are apparently sold with up to an E2-1800. The TDP is less than 20w, thus the passive clip-down heatsink. I haven't benchmarked it yet, but my expectations are low.

Update: For giggles I threw Windows 8 on it this morning and ran Cinebench. Performs about as you'd expect.

Right now I have Arch installed on it, because that's sort of my go-to for new x86 machines these days. Eventually I will try Windows 8 (as it shipped) on another drive, but I don't have the patience for that right now. For what I have done on it so far (which, granted, has been very little) it feels just fine, snappy even. I imagine even with Windows 8, as long as it had 8GB RAM, this machine would be perfectly suitable for basic day to day tasks.

For reasons that are beyond me, I have already developed a very peculiar attachment to this machine. Expect to hear more about it in the future...

PS - I love that the board was manufactured by "PEGATRON" - what is that?

New CPUs! (And more?)

Written by John Miller

The CPUs and heatsink actually arrived on Friday, two days ago, and I'm just now getting around to writing the post. I don't have a whole lot to say about the upgrade process, it was pretty typical. I only really ran into two snafus: 1) I slightly dropped one of them while placing it in the socket, and the corner fell right on the pins. Normally I wouldn't really be worried but these E5s are rather big and heavy, and two-three pins were definitely bent. Thankfully, with a needle and magnifying glass I was able to easily realign them and the CPU has registered just fine. Also thankfully it was the second CPU socket, so in the event that I trashed the pins, at least the first socket could still work (AFAIK it's not possible to put a CPU just in the second socket of these boards, and I'm not too keen to find out anyways). The 2)nd snafu was that I didn't realize that hyperthreading was disabled - presumably because the precious CPU was just 4c/4t - so all of my initial benchmarks are useless.

Anyway, pictures!

First was the way the heatsink seller packed the heatsink. It's in this very nice little enclosure of cardboard and styrofoam. I have actually received heatsinks in the mail that were crushed slightly and had bent fins, so seeing this is nice.

And here's all the bits laid out on top of the chassis pre-upgrade: test!

Aww yiss...

Now for the "And more?" ....

Well, apparently, my ESXi license only allows me to allocate 8 vCPUs per VM, which just wasn't going to cut it with 24 available. I should have known better than to configure this machine right away as a production environment, because OF COURSE I would want to play with it in different configurations with different OSes. So, what I did was re-configure my Enterprise GIS server (SFF ThinkCentre M91p) with Ubuntu 16.04 so it now runs caddy, observium, UNMS, (other misc. docker bits), plex, my SSH bouncer, and others I am probably forgetting. This frees up the C220 M3 to be more of a playground.

The first thing I did was pull the two 128GB SSDs and the 750GB laptop drive, leaving just the 600GB SAS and the two 480GB SSDs. I also pulled the Adaptec 2405 and switched back to using the onboard RAID controller, which can apparently be configured as either intel or LSI softRAID. Server 2012r2 didn't see the intel RAID arrays, but the LSI ones worked fine, so that's what I'm using now. I have setup the Hyper-V role but have not tested it out much yet, so that's next. I have done some remedial benchmarking and overall it comes out a bit ahead of the ML350 G6 - not significantly, but this is to be expected. The X5660s in the G6 have a 400MHz higher ceiling, but the ML350 G6 also pulls about twice as much power (both under load and at idle) than the C220M3 does.

More testing and fiddling with Hyper-V is forthcoming.

"New" Desktop

Written by John Miller

Since beginning the process of moving services to the C220 and phasing out the TS140, I have been wondering what to do with the TS140. It's still a very capable machine, but since the C220 has replaced it as a server it needs a new role. I knew the E3-1225v3 (TS140) and i5-6400 (desktop) were fairly closely matched, but I never compared them directly. They are very similar CPUs, but the 1225 does win out by about 10%, likely because of the higher base clock and turbo boost speed. Otherwise they both have 4c/4t and consume about the same amount of power, though the 6400 is a newer generation and probably better.

The main things that drew me to using the TS140 as a desktop were:

  • Nicer, smaller case
  • More, faster, RAM (32GB ECC vs 16GB)
  • My 1050ti doesn't require PCIe power, which the TS140 doesn't offer without swapping the power supply
  • The TS140 has more USB3 ports
  • Onboard Intel Soft-RAID

There were some issues in switching though:

  • The 1050ti blocks one of the SATA ports as well as the front panel USB3 connector
  • The TS140 doesn't have front-panel audio jacks (circumvented by using a USB-Audio adapter plugged into the back for headphones, speakers use the back panel connectors)
  • Fitting a 5.25" optical drive seems to be troublesome, and I would like to burn DVDs. I may have a slimline SATA DVD burner I can swap in.
  • The TS140 firmware prevents it from sleeping/hibernating

So far I have been switched for a couple of days now, and it has been great. I went ahead and opted for a fresh new Windows 10 Pro install and it's been flowing very smoothly. In Cinebench the CPU benches 50-60 points higher than the 6400 and the GPU scores about 2-3FPS better, so I'm not missing out by changing over systems. I also decided to go ahead and sell off some of the parts of the previous desktop - specifically the CPU and motherboard (RAM, SSD, PSU, etc. can be used elsewhere). I was able to sell the CPU very quickly, and that funded the CPUs and heatsink for the C220 (more on that soon!) and while I don't expect much for the motherboard (since I bought the cheapest one possible) I imagine someone can find it useful, and I could probably get $40-50 for it.

I also moved the i5-3475S from the 7010 into the 3010 and I have configured the 3010 with Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 as my secondary desktop which is synergy-linked to the TS140. The 7010 has the i3-2something from the 3010 and will be sold soon, though since I had to hack up the drive cage a bit to fit in a big GPU it may not sell quickly, but all the same I'd like to move it along.