FreeBSD Linux RAID Ubuntu

A Switch for the better?

Previously I wrote about my problems with FreeBSD and one of my machines. Well the problem seemed to get worse and caused several system crashes and some data corruption. Much of the problem seemed to centre around copying large files on the single disk. This is not a good situation for a office file server. And the staff are less than impressed.

I still like FreeBSD however. It is light, its fast and relatively easy to setup and use. But it just wasn’t reliable on my hardware for some reason. Hopefully the BSD developers will figure out what the problem is and sort it out.

So, on Friday, I decided to drop BSD and go with linux. The difficult choice with linux is which distribution to go with. There are hundreds of them and dozens of server products – like SME Server – built on them. I chose to go with Ubuntu, well Xubuntu specifically, though choosing between OpenSUSE and Ubuntu is a toss up these days.

The install went very easy, getting the desktop up was easy. Next to get the 320Gig disks sorted out. I formatted on ext3 and mounted the other as a UFS2 read only partition. Copied the data over and then began to rebuild the RAID 1. There is plenty of info on software RAID in linux, but most examples deal with creating one from install. I had lost hope until I found

A bit of work with gparted, fdisk, sfdisk and viola! My RAID was back up. I don’t find the linux RAID as user friendly as the BSD one. Linux requires using the unfriendly tool mdadm and getting status and disk activity doesn’t appear to be as nice. So far my copying tests haven’t broken the I/O system and the RAID…we’ll see how it goes.

Overall Linux appears impressive. But I have had a couple of niggles. On one reboot the machine hung and dropped me into some system with a ‘(intramfs)’ prompt. Would like to know what that is. On another reboot the system hung on NFS restart. Clearly linux is not meant to be rebooted! Xubuntu also seems to use a lot more memory than BSD especially when running X. For that reason I have disabled the X login screen at boot.

Now to get the Samba/CIFS server back up and get my NFS back and working.

Then I have to get on to Windows 2008 Enterprise Server and Sharepoint 3. Wish me luck as I also intend to install SQL Server 2008 CTP on to it!

FreeBSD Linux RAID

Unhappy Fun with FreeBSD RAID

About one month ago I bought a second-hand PC from a charity with hopes to use it as a RAID server for my and my wife’s businesses. It was a older Celeron 800Mhz with 256M RAM, a 11Gig HD and a CDRW. Perfect! I thought.

I went out and bought two 320Gig SATA HD, a SATA PCI controller and 512MB DIMM. You would not believe what PC-133 memory costs these days!

Then the fun began. I started installing FreeBSD 7.0 which took a lot longer than what I had thought. The install is not as friendly as the new Linux distros I’ve used in the past. After two days I had got FreeBSD installed and then went on to setup the RAID 1.

This went pretty easy with gmirror. I was very impressed. And it worked, for a while. Then one day while I was copying a 1.8Gig zip file on to it from my Windows machine, one of the drives disconnected. So I had to restore the mirror, reboot the machine and then wait as it took 4hrs. to rebuild the mirror.

The next day I then had to use the zip file and extract it to my CentOS box to install Oracle. The same thing happened. This time I backed up all the files on the mirror and re-labelled and newfs’d the disks and made sure Soft-Updates is off. I then tested it by copying the zip file to another directory on the mirror. The drive failed again! This was getting ridiculous now.

I asked around on the forums and someone suggested the 235W PSU wasn’t big enough. I replaced it with a 380W PSU and tested again. Same result.

I’m not sure what’s going on here. I don’t know if its the drives, the way I’ve labelled them. The SATA card, it is a SiL 3512-based generic card. Or a bug in BSD, maybe my CPU isn’t powerful enough! Though I find that last thought hard to believe.

I’ve submited a problem report. In the meantime I’m not using gmirror and have to do with a single hard-drive with a cron job to copy the contents to the other hard-drive at night – as part of the periodic maintenence scripts. I’m also contemplating moving to a Debian or SUSE distro is stable with my hardware.