Concept2 Holiday Challenge 2018

First time on the erg in 4 months… setting sights on the 200k target. So that’s 33 days, and if no rest days(!), that’s an average of 6061m/day.

Concept2 Model D PM5

Head over to the Rowing page for more info and updates!


Home Lab Update – Wall Mounted

Rack mounted servers take up a lot of room when flat in a traditional rack. The alternative? Wall Mount!

Looking around for wall mounted rack enclosures, there very few available commercially. For lightweight equipment, you can get wall mounts that hang equipment vertically. E.g. for example Rack Solutions make ones for up to 3U with 105lb / 48kg load bearing. This would pushing it for up to 3 x DL360 servers. I also was’t convinced on the merits of hanging servers by the ears that weight ~17Kg each. It also makes plugging in cables underneath not so easy. They are really meant for lightweight patch panels and switches.

There are also other wall mount solutions that can be mounted horizontally or vertically, e.g. again from Rack Solutions, they make 1U or 2U wall mount enclosures that would have done the job, however, you need the rails to mount the servers and I don’t have the rails, and also quite expensive – the 2U is $190!. These particular ones only go to 2U also and I wanted 3U to allow for expansion, although I am sure with a bit more searching I could have found 3U alternatives.

Wall mounting the servers horizontally seemed the way to go, so it was DIY time. A few photos below of what I ended up with. Read on below the gallery for more details of the installation.

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Save your monitor from landfill!


My Samsung SyncMaster 215TW started playing up recently, taking longer and longer to turn on and then flickering on start-up before picture stabilised and then finally the display not coming on at all. Even though this monitor is getting on a bit now, it still has a pretty good picture from its 21” screen so I was loathe to just to put it in the skip.

A bit of on-line surfing came up with likely suggestions for the issues which looked to come down to the power board as the power light still showing – just no display. The chaps at Corporate Computer have produced a 3-part YouTube video on how to 1) disassemble the monitor, 2) change 6 capacitors, and 3) re-assemble and test.

Some more surfing on eBay and it turns out there are sellers who make up a kit with the correct 6 capacitors. It had to be worth a go, especially as including delivery from the USA to the UK, it was only going to cost just over £10.

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Powerline Test TP-Link AV500 v. AV600

I needed Ethernet connectivity to my home lab in the garage and short of running in some CAT6, the wireless signal was bad so it came down to Powerline, i.e. Ethernet over the mains power. Powerline, or HomePlug, comes in many variants. HomePlug AV seems to be the most common standard at the moment and on AV500 prices have really dropped and is the one to go for at the moment. For £25 you can get an AV500 starter kit consisting of two plugs. These won’t have pass through or have more than one Ethernet port and may or may not have a Gb Ethernet port as opposed to 100Mb ‘Fast Ethernet’ port.

TP-Link is one of the most popular and gets good reviews, so I bought the TP-Link AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (TL-PA411KIT). Although its called AV500, you won’t get anywhere near this. This is starting to sound like the broadband providers advertising! The AV500 Nano only has a 100Mb port so 500 is never going to happen. These worked straight out of the box. They are extremely small and don’t block any adjacent power sockets. I like the design and seem well made. The two-tone colour is nice and the pair button is located on the front along with lights to show power, connection to a Powerline network, and Ethernet connected.

av500_studio_smallTP-Link Av500 PA411

TP-Link also does a newer model called AV600. Now this does come with a Gb Ethernet port so the 100Mb port that the AV500 comes with wont be a limiting factor. I just had to try the AV600 and do a comparison!

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New Home Lab!

So after limping along running copious VMs on my PC under VMware Workstation with overflow going on a Mk1 MicroServer, finally took the plunge to get a proper home lab. eBay can be your friend here… and enemy! Thought I had bagged a bargain on some DL360 G6 servers only to turn up for collection and find they were G4’s. Next attempt was with a Dell C6100. Now this is a proper piece of kit – 4 nodes in a 2U chassis for some serious home labbery!… except it didn’t turn out that way. It seems Dell have a Datacentre Solutions (DCS) arm that made the C6100 before it went on general release. You could go to Dell DCS and spec whatever you wanted, so the Dell C6100 I bought was a Dell DCS one and inside barely resembled the standard offering and meant I couldn’t get any drivers, firmware from the Dell web site. The hot plug nodes weren’t hot plug, the fans were badly arranged for cooling and the RAM was asymmetric between the two processors – 6 slots for proc 1 and 3 for proc 2??? Its still a good bit of kit though – if you are interested in the C6100, check out the monster thread on the ServeTheHome forums. Anyway – that went back and at 3rd attempt picked up a couple of nice DL360 G6 servers. So inventory for home lab is now as follows:

The DL360 G6 have 2 x L5520 (2.2GHz Quad Core), and I am bumping up the RAM so will end up with 36Gb in one and 24Gb in the other (due to modules I had and have picked up). 2 x 72Gb 15k 6G SAS in each and one with 512Mb BBWC and the 256Mb. Picking up a couple of extra dual-port cards so will end up with 4 ports each (plus the iLO).

So all in all a nice setup! The G6’s were spotless, and the guys I got them from (Pinnacle Data via their eBay shop) did a great refurb job – even the fan blades were spotless. Now to update all the firmware. Going Microsoft to make a change – so 2012R2 will be starting point. more blog posts as I get it up and running!

vCenter 5.5 Compatibility

Have just given the current version a basic test again vCenter 5.5 and all seems good! I used the vCenter appliance, specifically version 5.5.0, build 1398495, and fired up the existing version of sfvAlarms against it. VMware have upped the number of default alarms again, and there are now some 68 alarms. I ran a basic test of exporting the default alarms, deleting them, and importing again. All looks good. There is a new version of the SDK, so at some point I should really compile against the new SDK and then re-check against all versions and try out a few custom alarms set at different levels.

Appreciate all feedback against 5.5 or if you encounter any issues.

sfvAlarms – Updated Version Available

I have uploaded a new version (v1.1.2) – see Download page. This fixes a small issue where characters in the Alarm name were invalid when used as file names for export. Thanks to Rob for taking the time to post on this issue and send me output from his export so I could nail it. The Dell Management Plugin he is using adds a load more alarms, some using characters in the alarm name which were invalid when used as filenames.