CategoryHTPC

iSCSI Booting Win2012 Server WITHOUT an HBA (Intel I350-T2 / 82571 / 82574 etc)

Thankfully Intel cards have iSCSI initiators in their firmware, so I setup a ZFS volume to make my HTPC diskless to attempt to stress the file server a bit more and generally just play with things as I tend to do.

So I added some settings to my ISC DHCP daemon under my shared network stanza to pass IQN/server settings to the Intel I350 card (82574 etc would work equally well here):

shared-network "VLAN-451" {
 default-lease-time 720000;
 option domain-name "p2.iscsi.frankd.lab";
 option domain-name-servers ns.frankd.lab;
  subnet 172.17.2.128 netmask 255.255.255.128 {
  range 172.17.2.144 172.17.2.239;
 }
 host intel-htpc1 {
  hardware ethernet a0:36:9f:03:99:7c;
  filename "";
  option root-path "iscsi:172.17.2.130::::iqn.2014-12.lab.frankd:htpc1";
 }
}

Voila, the card came up, grabbed DHCP settings and immediately initiated a connection! Awesome, the first thing to go right so far!  I admit I briefly spent some time trying to get iPXE to work with the Realtek card, but I ran into issues and just decided to use something I had laying around to get up and running quicker. The onboard Realtek is now for regular network data only, I might get a single port Intel card since I don’t need MPIO to this machine.

I imaged Win2012 Server to a USB stick using Rufus and plugged it in, it saw the drive and installed to it. I can’t believe things are going so easy/well for once! Then the system reboots. And it mounts the volume. And the Windows logo comes up. Then an error message comes up saying it couldn’t boot. Right away I knew it wasn’t getting past the BIOS calls to the disk (which were taken care of by the Intel NIC), and some Googling came up with horrible answers until I found an IBM document saying a new Intel driver fixes the issue — in a very indirect way. They don’t specify what, but it apparently has something to do with the iBFT tables that are created for the handoff. So I downloaded the newest drivers, put them on the USB stick and I installed Windows 2012 Server AGAIN. This time I loaded the newest version of the network drivers off the USB stick before even partitioning the disk, though.

The machine rebooted..

 

And..

 

IT WORKED! I was up and running. I installed the User Experience stuff so I could get Netflix/Hulu up easy, downloaded nVidia drivers and am now getting my Steam games downloaded to the machine — although I could stream off my workstation/gaming PC. It can’t hurt to have more than one machine with them installed in case either one of them dies and I need to go blow some pixels up to relieve some stress though, right?

 

New HTPC

Ok, so my Bobcat machine was a little underwhelming even for use as an HTPC. I’ve never liked waiting on computers.. so I was forced to buy a Pentium G3258 on sale with the cheapest motherboard they had on the shelf. Going Intel feels a little sacrilege since I’ve been predominantly an AMD guy for a very long time. The performance/$ on this thing is great, especially with a mild overclock. I don’t have to use an external GPU any more (likewise I’d be fine with an AMD APU).. although I will admit I threw a GTX 670 in from my 3-way SLI setup to see how it would do. Turns out a fairly respectable ~5200 in 3DMark Firestrike! I think if I was going to do any gaming with it I’d stick with a GTX 750 Ti, though. The power envelope fits the whole idea better (38.5w TDP GPU + 53w TDP CPU) with good performance in most games at 1080p (as if I have anything 1080p anymore..) I guess I’ll have to take a look into the performance and power of GM206/GTX 860 when it comes out.

Windows 8 has been what I can only describe as “annoying,” and has what I’d call a messsy pathetic UI that MS is trying to futilely push on me. Beyond that I’m annoyed at both Win7 and Win8 not being able to do iSCSI MPIO, which would’ve actually given me good performance to my temporary fileserver (sitting on the VM machine). I’m going to try to pull Win Server 2012 iSCSI utilities and drivers into Win7 for MPIO, but I don’t have all that much faith in it working properly.. so I may just be stuck with getting 10GigE cards for the workstations and a multi-10GigE card for the server. Switches are too damn expensive.

The goal is to get the disks out of all the workstations so I can more easily have snapshots and high performance disk IO across everything I use. The HTPC now boots via iSCSI over one link on an 82571EB card while the other link is for regular network traffic. I’d really like to be using both of the links and leave regular network traffic to the onboard viagra aus frankreich.

I’ve always been a bit of a hardware junkie, but I didn’t think I was too elitist to use an E350 as an HTPC. Apparently I was wrong. I guess it’d still be good for a small NAS box (GigE, not enough PCI-E connectivity to support a fast array and 10GigE adapters) — or a Linux media player. I might do the latter just for watching multicast video over the network if I ever get REALLY bored.

HTPC Duty

Netflix annoyingly will only stream up to 3000kbit/s video through the Silverlight plugin. The only way to get higher quality video is either to have a high-end smart TV or to use a Windows 8 metro app. Since I have a couple 4k monitors and a 1440p monitor mounted to the wall as a psuedo-TV I decided to try Win8 in a virtual machine. That went right down hill as after I got it installed Netflix instantly complained that it wouldn’t play video in a VM (This may not have been an issue with GPU pass-thru — a test for another day, I guess). So I pulled out the E350 and slapped it in another case with 4GB of RAM. The PSU made a loud whining noise and smelled acidic, I thought I popped a capacitor. It’s actually fairly common for older power supplies to blow up when certain rails are very lightly loaded (and this is a 550w Rosewill from nearly 10 years ago with an 18w APU and a 2.5″ 5400RPM hard drive) so I wasn’t too surprised. Hoping that I didn’t also fry the motherboard I pulled the PSU out and apart to clean it from all the heavy dust that had caked up in it over the years. Surprisingly everything looked in good shape, there were no caps with bulging heads — so I put it back in the machine and everything seems to be fine.

After getting Windows 8 installed, I noticed that I was only getting a maximum supported resolution of 1920×1080 to my 27″ 2560×1440 monitor. Some quick Googling showed that every E350 board I searched for only supported up to 1080p resolution. That’s somewhat annoying as there’s no such limitation on the HDMI version used, or as far as I know the silicon HD6310 is based off of. So I tried the GT430 nVidia card which is GF108 based with GDDR3 and can impressively draw up to 49w of power.. which is almost triple what the E350 CPU/GPU combo draws by itself. For some unknown reason that ALSO only supported 1920×1080 over HDMI. Just my luck.

Fortunately I had a pair of GTX 660 SCs laying around — which are far, far overkill but happily output 1440p at 60Hz. I quickly replace the GT430, and just as quickly I’m annoyed to find out that Win8 will not automatically use the driver I had already installed for the GT430 (same driver — and Win7 has no such qualms with similar swaps). So I install the driver again, which is painfully slow on this poor dual-core 1.6GHz Bobcat, load up Netflix and all is well! I can finally get 5800kbit/s 1080p video from Netflix — and even 4k when it’s available! Of course now I’m now wasting a perfectly good GPU just to get decent output. Eventually I’ll have to take a look at new APU or CPU/GPU options (maybe an i3 or i3+Maxwell GM208 if that’s ever released as a low profile passive card) but for now it works.

Synopsis of issues:
Netflix + Silverlight = 3000kbit/s max video
Win8 in a VM = Netflix App won’t work!
ATX PSU + low load = Whining + boom?
AMD E350 (Asus E35M1-M Pro)  = 1920×1080 max resolution over HDMI 🙁
GT430 = 1920×1080 max resolution over HDMI 🙁
GTX660 + E350 = TOO MUCH POWAH!

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