Freenas Experience

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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”!

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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