Category Archives: Hardware

ReadyNAS and SMART Errors

As some of you may be aware, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the “SMART” feature of hard drives.

Rarely have I had the SMART capabilities of a hard drive actually tell me that the drive was going to fail.

Recently I had an encounter with SMART errors in a totally different way.

Basically, my ReadyNAS NV+ storage server was telling me that “Disk 1” was having problems and might fail soon … but all my tests indicated that the drives were fine.

After a lot of hassle, and going back and forth with Netgear support, I finally figured out the problem.

It started a few weeks ago with an email the ReadyNAS sent

Reallocated sector count has increased in the last day.

Disk  1: Previous count: 671 Current count: 677

Growing SMART errors indicate a disk that may fail soon.  If the
errors continue to increase, you should be prepared to replace the
disk.

The odd thing was, the SMART information on the drives, that was available via the ReadyNAS web interface, did not indicate any of the 4 drives currently installed had any reallocated sectors.

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Dell PowerEdge T310

(Read this entire post, as there is a very weird problem described later)

It’s been quite a while since I upgraded the hardware that runs this (and others) web site.

The warranty on the systems either will be expiring soon or has already expired.

So I bit the bullet and ordered a new Dell PowerEdge T310 server. The pertinent specs are:

  • Quad core Xeon 2.66ghz processor
  • 12gb RAM
  • RAID controller
  • 4 x 500gb hot swap drives (configured as 2 x 500gb RAID 1 sets)

The system arrived last week and I got it set up immediately.

I actually ordered the system with only one 250gb hard drive and 4gb of RAM … and upgraded it myself.

A few things annoyed me out of the gate …
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SSD and D630

A few weeks ago I saw a a good deal on a 80gb Solid State Disk (SSD) from Dane Elec at NewEgg (officially “DANE-ELEC DA-SDM25-80G-N-T-MK 1.8″ with 2.5″ adapter SSD Migration Kit”).

The unit is actually an Intel X18-M SSD in a 1.8″ to 2.5″ SATA adapter.

It only cost $149, so I got one.

I had high hopes for improved disk performance and faster startup & shutdown.

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Activate AHCI in Win 7

Last week I decided to start playing around with Windows 7 on my laptop … just to see how it’s going to work.

Luckily I have a spare SATA hard drive, so there was no risk that I would damage anything permanently.   If the Windows 7 install went bad, I could simply switch back to XP on the original hard drive.

Well, it’s been a little more than a week with Windows 7 and I’m quite impressed.

One thing I noticed is that the hard drive controller wasn’t for the AHCI I thought was configured.   Then I remembered, when I had the motherboard replaced due to the video problems, the default hard drive controller settings would be in place … and the default is to use ATA instead of AHCI.

Theoretically, AHCI should give me better performance than standard ATA.

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Wake On LAN

There is apparently going to be a bit more getting used to this new laptop.

The other day, before I went to bed, I put my new Dell Latitude E6400 into standby mode … I’m 99% sure I did this.

The next morning, however, when I went down stairs I found my laptop powered on.

That evening, before I went to bed I hibernated the laptop.

Once again, the next morning, I found the laptop powered on.

Obviously this is pretty odd.

So last night I tried an experiment … I put the laptop into standby mode and, within seconds, it resumed from standby.   I then put the laptop into hibernate mode … and 30 minutes later, it powered itself back up.

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S.M.A.R.T. (or not so smart)

I really get frustrated when it comes to hard drive diagnostics.   Specifically: S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology).

The theory behind S.M.A.R.T. technology is that the hard drive is supposed to provide predictive failure information for hard drives.

The problem is, I’ve never had a S.M.A.R.T. technology accurately report a failure.

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Bad Video Card

My poor little Laptop … something’s gone wrong with it’s video card.

A few days ago I was watching a video on the laptop and something went horribly wrong … the video got completely corrupted.   Even rebooting the system didn’t help.   My initial thought was that my external monitor had gone casters up, so I undocked the system and booted it up.   Video on the laptops display was corrupted too.

Got on another PC and started a chat with Dell hardware support … I was quite surprised that the tech I chatted with quickly picked up on the fact that I was technically competent and didn’t waste my time with each individual mouse click and key press.   He simply said “OK, let’s delete the video adapter from the device manager”.

After we deleted the video adapter and reinstalled the video drivers, the problem seemed to go away.   The tech had me run a few video intensive programs to see if the failure came back.   It didn’t.

Yesterday, however, the problem came back.

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Hard Drive Failures

I’ve noticed something … in recent memory, I have not suffered one single hard drive failure.

I’ve only suffered multiple hard drive failures … all my drive failures seem to happen in batches.

Last weekend the refurbished Seagate hard drive in my laptop (Rohan) started generating errors. About the same time, the main drive in Gondor started to flake out.

My laptop had been recently backed up with ghost, so getting it restored , to a spare 100gb hard drive I had, wasn’t a problem. I did struggle a bit because there was a Linux partition on the replacement drive … that Ghost didn’t know how to delete.

The drive in Gondor was a bit more problematical … although Linux was reporting problems with the drive, the Dell hard drive diagnostics reported problems with the drive, when I ran Spinrite over it, no problems were reported.

I decided to let the drive sit and see if the problems came back.

Obviously they did … this time, however, when I ran Spinrite on the drive it found a bad cluster. Luckily it was able to recover the cluster. After Spinrite was done, I copied the old drive to a new 300gb drive. Now I just have to get Dell to send me a new drive. Not sure what I’m going to do with a spare 80gb SATA drive.

Of course, all these hard drive problems got me to thinking … why the heck don’t operating systems raise serious alerts when a drive failure is detected?

On Windows XP, the drive problem was silently being logged to the “System Event Log”. I think it should have popped up a warning message telling me that something was wrong.

On Linux, the drive problems were also being logged to syslog … but if you aren’t actively monitoring the systems logs, it’s easy to miss something like that. I’m going to investigate some system monitoring software (something like Nagios) to keep an eye on problems of this nature.

Noisy

The new tape drive arrived today … I was a bit worried that it would ever show up, as the vendor I purchased from seemed to be pretty disorganized.

It seems to be ok. It’s even new. I was half expecting the unit to be refurbished, which I would be OK with, because the price I paid was $200 less then the next higher vendor.

The only problem with the tape drive is that it’s noisy as hell … louder than both of the servers put together.

One oddity I found … the old tape drive would erase tapes in under a minute … but the new tape drive wants to write over the entire length of the tape. When I issue the mt erase command, it spins for a very long time.

Anyone want a marginally working SCSI DDS3 tape drive? 😉

[tags]linux, backup, tape, dds3, usb, scsi[/tags]