It was a spur of the moment decision but I ended up installing and setting up a home NAS server using FreeNAS and one of the low-power VIA Eden systems that I had at my place. There was a hack involved in getting it to work but nothing major was broken.
The VIA Eden system has a small form factor and is not big enough to fit a desktop drive in it. Therefore, I had to fashion a frame for the hard disk from an older computer’s floppy disk holder. Then, I removed the rear cover of the VIA computer to pass through the PATA cable from the computer to the hard disk.
I removed a 125W ATX power supply from another old computer and hacked it so that it would power the hard disk externally. However, the VIA system does have a on-board power supply for hard disks. However, due to its location, I’m going to have to hack it a little. I might try it later.
The latest FreeNAS software was then installed onto a compact flash card and inserted into the VIA system. The VIA system has a built-in CF card slot, which is directly connected to the second PATA channel. Once everything was connected and wired up, I turned it on and voila – everything worked.
Okay, I fib. It wasn’t so simple and I had to fix a few problems:
- The compact flash card that I had initially used turned out to be a little flaky. So, I had to replace it with another compact flash card. Good thing that I have about half a dozen of these lying around.
- The ATX power supply had to be hacked so that it would turn on without having a power switch on it. So, it now functions like any other regular power supply and turns on when the mains power is applied.
- FreeNAS had to be reconfigured to obtain its network settings from my DD-WRT router. This involved plugging in a monitor and keyboard into the machine for some initial configuration.
- The shoe rack that I am using to house everything ran out of space. So, I had to fashion a hack for the system. I’m still not quite happy with it and I may redo everything over the weekend.
- Turned out that I was only using about 80Gb of space on my 250Gb backup hard disk. So, I moved that data into a smaller hard disk and used the 250Gb hard disk as my NAS hard disk instead. It should take me at least a year to fill it up.
In the end, it turned out to be a fairly simple NAS to set up. I have already tested it out by mounting an NFS share and it works. I could create directories, move files and what not. So, it is working!
However, I won’t be bench-marking this system as it is seriously under powered. It runs on a 533MHz VIA processor with only 256Mb of memory. So, I don’t expect it to have a stellar performance. Nonetheless, it is a working NAS system and perfectly suitable for low-power home use.
Oh, I fib again. It would be interesting to see how under-powered it really is. So, I will probably benchmark it at some point to see if it performs well enough for video streaming to my future HTPC.
PS: I love that they labeled the latest version of FreeNAS as the Kwisatz Haderach – “the one who can be many places at once”!