GregLedet.net That dude writing stuff about that thing.

19Jan/160

Upgrading the gaming rig, for what feels like the 4173rd time.

I've been working on a plan to upgrade my gaming rig lately, especially since I had a 4790K come available with the upgrade of the FreeNAS box. For Christmas, I got a pair of Gigabyte R9-390X's to upgrade my dual HD7970's. I've been running 32GB of RAM in my 4770K box for quite a while now, so there was nowhere to go from there. The plan was to replace the Gigabyte Z87X-OC and i7-4770K with the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 and i7-4790K from the FreeNAS box. The Z97 board has a PCI 3.0 x4 M.2 slot on it, so I wanted to get the speed increase from using it in addition to everything else. But, here's the problem...

The LGA1150 processors, which means ALL the Haswell processors not considered "Enthusiast / High End"; so the Core i3, i5, and i7s with a 4XXX model number or a G3XXX model number; only have 16 PCIe lanes. The Core i7-5820K (6 core) has 28 lanes and the 5930K (6 core) and 5960X (8 core) both have 40 lanes. Now, let's do some math on what I wanted to go into that computer:

  • Two R9-390x's - 32 Lanes
  • M.2 4x - 4 Lanes
  • Thunderbolt 2 AIC - 4 lanes

Well, I'm no mathematician, but I know 40 lanes when I see them. That only left me one option if I wanted to stick with Haswell, and that's to go with the 5930K. The 5960X is still a $1000 processor and I just wasn't going to drop that kind of coin on a CPU. So, today I went ahead and placed the order and here's the new specs for the new gaming rig:

  • Intel Core i7-5930K CPU
  • Corsair H110i GTX Liquid CPU Cooler
  • ASRock X99 Extreme6/3.1 Motherboard
  • 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4-2666 (4 x 8GB)
  • 2x Gigabyte R9-390X 8GB
  • ASRock Thunderbolt 2 AIC
  • Samsung 950 PRO 512 GB M.2 4x SSD
  • Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SATA6 SSD
  • Corsair Obsidian 750D Full Tower Chassis
  • Corsair AX1200i PSU
  • Corsair Professional Blue Individually Sleeved PSU cables
  • 5x Corsair SP140 Blue LED Case Fans (2 front, 2 on the radiator, 1 rear)
  • Corsair Link Commander Mini
  • 2x Corsair RGB Light kit

No spinning platters in this baby! We're going ALL SSD. Spinning platters are for the NAS. The motherboard has dual gigabit NICs, and my network devices all support link aggregation, so I'll be able to get 2 gigabit network access to the NAS, and that should be more than enough for pulling documents or anything else I need off of it. All this will be displayed on my current triple AOC i2769Vm 27" monitors, which give me nearly 6 linear feet of monitor space. Yes, they are only 1080, but I'm not quite ready to dump out the money for three 27" 4K monitors and they don't make ultra-wide curved monitors big enough for me yet.

Today's order was for the CPU, motherboard, and RAM. Everything else is already here. I'm hoping that everything will be here by the end of the week and I'll be able to finish the build this weekend, so I can finish working on the FreeNAS / Plex Automation series.

Here's a sneak peek of what it'll look like. I was mounting the lights and fans in the case last night, and since the X99 Extreme6 and the Z97 Extreme6 look nearly identical, it'll give you an idea of what we'll be dealing with when it's all said and done.

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Filed under: Computers No Comments
15Jan/1610

FreeNAS, Plex, and Plex Automation – Part 3 – The Build

Now the fun starts! All the parts arrived and it was time to put them on the test bench to burn things in. This is my first ever dual processor build, so it was definitely a learning experience. Nothing is really different, it's just twice as much. When the motherboard arrived, it was absolutely beautiful.

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I couldn't wait to get everything put together and get it on the bench. The RAM had arrived a few days earlier and I knew the processors were supposed to be arriving via USPS later that day. I was antsy with anticipation! Then the letter carrier arrived and my CPUs were ready to go into the board.

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Now that I've got the processors and RAM installed, lets put on the coolers, get it mounted to the bench, and get it wired up.

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Thank God I sprung for the EATX version of this test bench. For those of you that are curious, this is the Highspeed PC Half-Deck Tech Station XL-ATX and it's a great little test bench. There's no metal parts to come in contact with the motherboard, so no worries about shorting things out.

Now that everything was together, it was time for the smoke test. In case you didn't know, computers actually run on smoke. If the smoke escapes, it stops working, and the first POST of a new computer, especially one with an open-box motherboard and CPUs from eBay, is the time when that smoke is most likely to escape. Luckily, this one passed the smoke test.

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I slapped the 6x 6TB drives into a carrier and put the LSI 9211-8i HBA in to start burning everything in. I added a USB fan to keep the HBA cool since there wasn't any airflow on that side of the board. The HDD rack has it's own fan. Getting the HBA flashed to the IT firmware was quite the pain, but I'll save that for it's own post.

First up was to run memtest86 and check the 128GB of ECC DDR3. I ran this for a few days to really beat up the memory, as memtest86 runs over and over and over again until you stop it. After the first pass, I knew I was going to be good because there were no errors found, but I let it run for a while just to be safe. I love this picture because it shows 32 CPUs found and 16 started (It's 16 physical cores with hyper-threading for a total of 32)!

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After burning in the machine for a while, it was time to transplant it into its permanent home, the Rosewill rackmount chassis. Problem was, there was already a computer in there.

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So, I pulled out the old motherboard (which will actually end up being my new gaming rig) to have a fresh case to start with.

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After moving some standoffs around, the motherboard fit in perfectly.

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My original plan was to use the onboard SAS ports for the six 3TB drives and use the LSI HBA for the six 6TB drives, then use the onboard SATA3 ports for the two SSDs. I ended up using all 8 onboard SAS ports instead. FreeNAS doesn't care what controller the drives are plugged into. I'm not sure if that was a good idea or not, and I plan on looking into it more. If it turns out it is a bad idea, I'll just move all the 6TB drives to the same controller.

Once everything was put together, it was time to boot it up in the chassis for the first time. I hit the power button and... nothing. The fans spun up for a second, then the whole thing shut down. I had no idea what was going on. The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I couldn't find the second CPU power cable for the EVGA power supply, so I "borrowed" one from a Corsair PSU I had. I went ahead and unplugged all the drives to see if maybe something there was shorted and it wasn't. I grabbed the Corsair PSU and plugged it into the second CPU and the computer booted. Ok, maybe it was the cable...

I pulled the EVGA PSU out, put the Corsair PSU in, kinda redid all the cable management, and hit the power button...

IMG_5275

Nothing. WTF??? This thing was working fine on the test bench! I did a little more troubleshooting and figured that if it was working fine on the test bench, I'd just go grab that PSU and use it. Out with the Corsair PSU, in with a Rosewill 1000W that I use for the test bench. I hit the power button and... IT'S ALIVE!

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The drives are all recognized, FreeNAS boots up without a problem, and we're good to go. My wife actually did the cable management in the chassis because I was fed up with dealing with it. I was originally going to start with a fresh install of FreeNAS, but since it booted up with no issues, I decided to just stick with the current install, though I found out pretty quick that I needed to delete all the tunables created by autotune as they didn't update to the new hardware. My ARC was still limited to 12GB.

The box has been up and running damn good for over a week now, minus a few reboots with me doing stuff.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 10.24.11 AM

I built the new volume with the six 6TB drives and started moving some stuff to that new pool.

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So, that's the hardware build of my new FreeNAS server. Next, we'll get into the software part of the whole thing. Even though I already have FreeNAS installed and running on this machine, I'll run through the install procedure using another box and we'll get into the meat and potatoes of getting FreeNAS, Plex, and all the Plex Automation setup.

6Jan/164

FreeNAS, Plex, and Plex Automation – Part 2 – The Hardware

WARNING: The hardware specs you are about to read are NOT needed and are complete overkill for a normal FreeNAS build. It is simply me living by the adage of "anything worth doing is worth overdoing."  You can find the FreeNAS hardware recommendations in this thread on the FreeNAS forums. I suggest you spend some time doing your own research into what will be best for you and your situation. I've also gotten a lot of heat from folks on the forum for some of my choices. I'll admit that some choices aren't ideal, but I'm also trying to reuse the hardware I already own as much as possible to lower the cost.

This will be the 3rd (actually the 4th) hardware iteration of my FreeNAS server and it's taken me quite some time to decide on what I wanted to be in this build. When I first decided to build a NAS for my home, I wanted to use some of the hardware still laying around from my bitcoin/litecoin/altcoin mining days. I had sold off many of the GPUs, but still had a few different CPU/Motherboard combos that were collecting dust. This video gives you a very small idea of what things were like back then. After taking a quick inventory of what was available, I decided to go with this:

  • Intel G3220 CPU
  • ASUS Z87-A Motherboard
  • 8GB DDR3-1600
  • Thermaltake Commander G42 mid-tower case
  • 6x WD Red 3TB HDD in RAIDZ2 (~12TB useable storage space)
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 1000G2 80+ Gold PSU

The only thing I needed to buy were four of the hard drives since I already had everything else. Two of the WD Reds were sitting in my ESXi host, unused. After I put everything together and got it running, I realized I needed more RAM due to ZFS's use of RAM for ARC. 32 gigs went in. I then realized that the G3220 wasn't powerful enough to handle multiple Plex streams, so I wanted to upgrade it. When I was swapping it for a Core i7-4790K, I bent some pins on the motherboard, so while waiting for a new motherboard to arrive, I put in an AMD FX-4130 CPU and Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3 mobo in order to keep things running. That was technically iteration #2, but it was only that way for about 10 days. At the same time I ordered the new motherboard, I also ordered a rackmount chassis for it.

Iteration #3 is what is running currently. Here's those specs:

  • Intel Core i7-4790K CPU
  • ASRock Z97 Extreme6 Motherboard (bought because it had 10 SATA ports)
  • 32GB DDR3-1600
  • Rosewill RSV-L4412 Rackmount Chassis
  • 2x A-Data Premier Pro SP900 64GB 2.5" SSD
  • 6x WD Red 3TB HDD in RAIDZ2 (~12TB useable storage space)
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 1000G2 80+ Gold PSU

I moved to SSDs for the boot device because I was having issues with the USB drives constantly getting errors. I had two 64GB SSDs that were purchased for a previous project and ended up not being used, so I threw those in there and I haven't had any errors on my boot devices since. You DO NOT need SSDs for your boot devices. A couple high quality USB drives will be fine. Even though I have those drives in the computer and mirrored, I can't use that space for anything other than the FreeNAS operating system, so it's wasted. As you can see, I'm currently only using 1GB of space.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 11.23.11 AM

I have multiple reasons for creating iteration #4 and for picking the parts I ultimately chose.

  • I want to be able to consolidate my ESXi host and my FreeNAS server into one unit
    • The ESXi host is also running an i7-4790K maxed out with 32GB of RAM.
    • Haswell can't handle more than 32GB of RAM and I need more than that to run the VMs currently installed.
    • FreeNAS can act as a VirtualBox host. I don't know how well it works, but we'll soon find out.
  • I want to be able to handle anything I can throw at Plex.
  • I want to be able to use this server for a long time.
    • I should build something that has enough horsepower that I don't need to build another one in 3 months. That stuff is starting to get old pretty quick.
    • Making it last means making sure I can add more CPU and RAM in the future. The i7-4790K's are the most powerful processors I can use with the Z87/Z97 chipset and 32GB is the most Haswell can handle. I can't upgrade further without changing out motherboards and RAM.
  • I don't want to have to worry about running out of storage space anytime soon.

With all these things in mind, I spent some time looking into what would not only fit my need, but also be able to use as much of the gear I already have as possible. I knew I was going to have to buy something that can handle ECC RAM and I wanted dual CPUs for the 4K transcoding. So, without further ado, here's the hardware that will be going into Greg's FreeNAS v 4.0:

  • Dual Intel Xeon E5-2660 CPUs (used hardware)
  • Dual Supermicro 4U Active CPU Heatsink Cooling for X9 UP/DP Systems SNK-P0050AP4
  • SuperMicro X9DR3-F Motherboard (open box)
  • 128GB (2x 64GB kits of 4x16GB) Kingston KVR16R11D4K4/64 DDR3-1600 Registered ECC RAM
  • 2x A-Data Premier Pro SP900 64GB 2.5" SSD*
  • 6x WD Red 3TB HDD*
  • 6x WD Red 6TB HDD**
  • LSI SAS9921-8i HBA**
  • 24 port expansion card for the 9921-8i (don't eBay while drinking, kids)**
  • Rosewill RSV-L4412 4u chassis*
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 1000G2 PSU

*Reused Hardware
** Purchased before I decided on the CPU/Mobo upgrade

Yes, I'm going with dual Xeons and 128GB of RAM. Complete overkill and I love it. The only "new" hardware is the CPU, motherboard, RAM, and coolers. Everything else was already purchased with the idea to upgrade the old server. The parts have already started arriving and should finish getting here next week, which means I'll probably build it out on a test bench on the weekend of January 16th. The plan is to build the new box with the six 6TB and a spare PSU on the test bench, do some testing and burn-in, then move everything into the rackmount chassis. I'll use my current FreeNAS config on the new server, add a new zpool with the 6TB drives and go from there.

The guys on the FreeNAS forums are giving me a hard time about two things, the chassis and the power supply. They really think I should have redundant power supplies in the server, and while I'll probably look into it, I doubt I'll do it. First off, I have redundant power going to that PSU in the form of dual APC SMX1500RM2UNC UPS systems and a Tripp-Lite PDUMH15ATNET Auto Transfer Switch. Secondly, a redundant 600w power supply isn't cheap. Even if you have dual PSUs, you only have 1 motherboard and 1 set of wires from the PSU chassis, not to mention the backplane of that chassis. You still have multiple single points of failure. As far as the chassis is concerned, they think it's garbage. Here's a couple quotes from the forums:

"I do have to say that building out that much of a server and not going with a better case and redundant power seems like dropping the ball."

"Considering the amount of money you're sinking into this, why not just return or resell the Rosewill clunker and find a nice Supermicro 846 or 847 chassis on eBay? It would be a shame to build a Ferrari powertrain and drop it in a Pinto chassis."

Well, they're not paying for all this hardware, and adding redundant power and one of those Supermicro chassis would add another $1,000 to the cost. If I need to add more hard drives in the future, there are ways of doing that. I could use an HP SAS expander and put another chassis with nothing but hard drives in it, or I can get one of those Supermicro cases at that point and transfer all this hardware into it. I just don't foresee needing more than 12 bays. Also, I'm starting to think that Supermicro must secretly pay the people on the FreeNAS forums. Those guys absolutely LOVE Supermicro hardware. It's the only thing they ever want to talk about. The reason I picked the Supermicro X9 motherboard was because I realized it wouldn't be hard to get support for it from the forums. That's something you might want to keep in mind too. If something doesn't work in your build, you'll wish that you had picked hardware common on the forums, otherwise you'll spend a ton of time trying to figure out the problem.

Well, that's where we stand as of today. I'm thinking about documenting the build on YouTube as well as here, so keep your eyes peeled for links, should I decide to do that. In the meantime, head over to the FreeNAS forums and start reading so you can be informed enough to pick out your own hardware. The decisions you make on hardware will be the most important decisions you make with the whole thing. It can be the difference between a relatively quick and painless setup or an absolute nightmare. Whatever you decide, make damn sure it'll support ECC RAM!!!

Filed under: FreeNAS 4 Comments
1Jan/162

FreeNAS, Plex, and Plex Automation – Part 1 – Getting ready

With the start of a new year, I've decided to start a series on setting up a FreeNAS server at home along with setting up Plex as a media server and various other applications to help automate Plex. By the time I'm done with this series, you'll be able to setup all the following:

  • Install FreeNAS on a bare metal server
  • Install the following programs to manage your media
    • Plex Media Server
    • Transmission - A Bittorrent Client
    • Sonarr - Automatically downloads TV Shows
    • Couchpotato - Automatically downloads Movies
    • PlexPy - Provides in depth monitoring and reporting for Plex
    • PlexEmail - Send newsletters to your Plex users
  • Setup your own domain using dynamic dns from Dyn.org
  • Install and configure nginx to work as a reverse proxy and act as a traffic cop for incoming requests

I've been working on this setup for a few months now, and I've done quite a bit of customization to all these different items to make them work. As this series goes on, I'm going to try to recreate what I've done in a VM so I can have screenshots to show you exactly what you should be doing. In the meantime, I'd suggest you start thinking about what hardware you'd like to use for your build.

Filed under: FreeNAS 2 Comments
22Dec/150

Home NAS Refresh

I think that, in this day and age, everyone should have a NAS at their house. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, NAS stands for 'Network Attached Storage'. A NAS is handy for storing all sorts of things, primarily backups of your computers and your media. In my case, I have a lot of movies and TV shows for my various media players. I also have a ton of photos and videos from over the years, as well as from my drones. Having a large NAS means that I don't have delete anything. My NAS also acts as a server for various other things that I'll get into in another post.

For your NAS to be effective, it needs to have lots of space and have enough room to expand. You also need to have an effective operating system running the NAS. For this build, I'm going to use FreeNAS. I had been planning to build this thing for a while, but didn't get around to finally getting everything setup and running until July 31, 2015. Since then it's been running pretty stable, but I used an Intel G3220 and 8GB of RAM when I first put it together and I've outgrown that processor and RAM, so it's time for an upgrade. Here's the hardware list of everything that's going into the machine:

  • Intel Core i7-4790K CPU
  • ASRock Z97 EXTREME6 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
  • G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
  • 6x WD Red 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM HDD
  • Rosewill R​SV-L4412 -​ 4U Rackmo​unt Server​ C​hassis, 12​ SATA / SA​S Hot-swap​ Drives
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 1000G2 1000W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply

The only thing that's carrying over from the previous build are the 6 WD Red 3TB hard drives and the actual FreeNAS install. I was going to just upgrade the CPU and the RAM, but some pins got bent on the ASUS Z87-A motherboard I had, so it needed to get upgraded too. I also figured that while I was at it, I'd put it in a nice rackmount chassis too.

The build went rather smooth. I pulled the hardware out of the old mid-tower case and moved it into the rackmount chassis. I had originally planned on using some M.2 SSDs for boot drives, but ran into some issues. First, the drives I bought weren't compatible with the Ultra M.2 slot on the motherboard. Secondly, the other M.2 slot ate two of my SATA ports on the motherboard. Because I didn't bother to read the manual, it took me quite a while to figure out why those two drives weren't being seen by the BIOS. Ultimately, I got everything put together and all 6 drives were being recognized. FreeNAS booted right up without any issues. I'll probably pick up an Ultra M.2 SSD in the future to use as L2ARC since it's so freaking FAST.

More info will be posted soon on how I'm going to automate my media collection and sharing.

2Dec/151

An addendum to the addendum of “The Rules of Professional Speeding”

Yesterday on The Drive, Alex Roy published an article entitled "The Rules of Professional Speeding". Shortly thereafter, Ed Bolian published his own list, building upon what Alex already wrote. Having known both of these gentlemen for a number of years now, as well as being a charter member of the "Fraternity of Lunatics™", I felt it my civic duty to build upon both already excellent lists.

Before reading any further, I suggest you take the time to go read both articles. When you come back, you'll have a much better idea of what I'm talking about.


The Backstory:

On the morning of October 29, 2013 I received a phone call from the aforementioned Mr. Roy. He had himself received a call earlier that morning from Matt Hardigree, editor-in-chief at Jalopnik.com. Matt was doing due diligence for an article that Doug Demuro was writing about a guy who claimed to have driven from New York to LA in something like 28 hours. It was funny, because I had just finished the same drive in 31 hours 17 minutes on October 13th. Alex thought that this Bolian guy had supposedly ran the same weekend as me, and he wanted to put me in touch with Matt so Matt could ask some questions. When Matt called, he told me something along the lines of "this guy from Atlanta claims that he made the drive in 28 hours 50 minutes" to which I immediately responded "bullshit." I had just texted Alex a message of "31:17. Long Live the King" a few days prior because I didn't think his record could be beat, and now this used car salesman from Georgia is claiming to have not only beaten, but destroyed it by over 2 hours? I called bullshit loudly and proudly.

I spoke with Ed on the phone that afternoon. We spoke for about an hour and I started to believe his story. It wasn't until 1 year later, when I went to Atlanta to meet with Ed, Dave, Dan, and the rest of the team, that I was fully convinced.

The Present:

Since that day towards the end of October 2013 when I found out that there were other people out there in this world that share my penchant for disobeying traffic laws, the number of people in our little Fraternity has grown. Not a month goes by that I don't meet someone new via social media that tells me about their dreams of beating Ed's record. Some have dreamed it since it was Alex's record... some even before that. Just like in any group of people that share something in common, there's different levels of seriousness amongst the members, from the guys that love the idea of the whole thing and are only casual in their speeding, all the way up to folks that have spent thousands on countermeasures and countless hours of study on how to not get caught.

Most people think that driving 20 over PSL (that's 'posted speed limit' for the uninitiated) is "real" speeding. After all, many jurisdictions tier their speeding tickets in such a way that 20 over is a pretty serious fine and a mandatory court appearance. In Virginia, if you get popped doing 20 over PSL, or simply 80+ MPH ANYWHERE, you don't just get a speeding ticket, you can be charged with the crime of Reckless Driving, which is the same level offense as DUI. Surely speeding at a rate where it goes from being a traffic violation to an actual misdemeanor is "serious", right? Let's put it this way... if you drove 80 MPH the entire way from New York to LA, without ever stopping for gas or bathroom breaks, you would make it there in about 35 hours, or over 6 hours slower than Bolian and Black. If you drove 75 MPH on I-285 outside of Atlanta, where there's a 55 MPH speed limit, you'd actually be passed like you were sitting still by people on their morning commute.

The Addendum: 

As mentioned by Alex in his article, it makes no sense to speed less than 100 MPH. You gain so little time at 10 or 15 over that it's not really worth it. Both Alex and Ed make some very valid points in their articles and I will simply build upon what they have already said.

Pay attention!!!: This is the A#1, most important thing you need to do when speeding at the levels we're talking about. 90% of the time, you won't be saved from a ticket by your radar detector or your laser jammers. You'll be saved by your eyes. You'll notice the brake lights on the vehicles in front of you. The traffic pattern will change. Waze is good and all, but it's not flawless. This is why Alex tells you to pull the radio our of your car and disable text notifications. If you are too busy singing "Hello" by Adele or checking to see what your girlfriend just texted you, you can't pay attention to the road. When traveling at 100 MPH, you cover a football field every 2 seconds.

Practice makes perfect: Malcolm Gladwell tells us in his book "Outliers" that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Even people that are experts in their field still need to practice their craft. Lewis Hamilton doesn't show up on a race weekend, go out on track, and set a time that would put him on pole on his first lap. There's 3 practice sessions to every F1 race weekend so the drivers can re-learn the track and how the car handles on the track. Don't expect to get in the car and be fast, because you won't. It takes years of practice to do what we do.

Don't underestimate: To make a 1,000 mile trip with an average speed of just 85 mph is exceedingly difficult. Just because you have a car that can do 205, that doesn't mean you'll be able to do 205. There's a lot of traffic out there and a lot of people that don't like to abide by the "slower traffic keep right" laws. To make a 1,000 mile drive at 85 while going solo is exponentially harder.

When I drive home to Louisiana, it's right at 1,000 miles, especially if I'm going to Houma. My best time from near the New Orleans Airport in Kenner to my house in Powell, OH is 10 hours 25 minutes. That was probably the hardest 10 and a half hours I've ever driven because I did it solo. Look at the bar graph in this image and see how much time I spent over 100 MPH. It looks like the vast majority of the run was well over 100, but my average was only 90. This is what I mean by "don't underestimate". For you to keep a 90 MPH average over 1,000 miles, you can't drive 90. You have to drive 110+ to make up for all the time you're going to be stopped filling up or slowed down behind traffic.

Have an escape route: This is probably the #1 reason why I was so much slower than Bolian and Black. I NEVER make a pass unless I have a way out should something bad happen. Always assume that the person driving the car you are about to pass is a teenager too busy texting to pay attention to what's going on around him. Eventually, you will make a "bad" pass of someone, and when you do, something like this is bound to happen. Before you go into the pass, make sure you have enough room to avoid an accident without endangering someone else, or that you have enough brakes in the car to bring it down from speed safely. Want to know why cars like BMW and Mercedes dominate these records? They have great brakes.

Have more than you need: Have more of EVERYTHING than you need. More information, more fuel, more catheters, more everything. You don't want to find yourself in the middle of a drive and not have something you need.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Face it, when you're moving at triple digit speeds, you are committing bug genocide with the front of your vehicle, and the largest surface area on the front of your car is the windshield. If you can't see out the windshield properly, you can't drive properly. Every time the car stops for fuel, the windshield gets cleaned. No excuses. Bring your own tools to do this because most gas stations don't bother with it.

Stealthiness is greater than Godliness: The whole point of being a "professional speeder" is the fact that we don't getting caught. To maximize your ability to not get caught, it's best to not be seen, and definitely not remembered. If you pass someone at a speed where, had someone passed you at that speed, you'd consider calling the cops on that "maniac", you might want to rethink that pass. The biggest fear of the professional speeder isn't the cop and his lidar gun hiding just on the other side of the hill; we're not stupid enough to crest a hill at full speed. It's the soccer mom calling Johnny Law to tell him that a black BMW with antennas on the back just "ran her off the road" and is "driving like a maniac". The kids in the back of her minivan are terrified now because of this psycho on the roadways. They won't roll one unit to find you, they'll roll 5, and heaven forbid they actually clock you doing 115 in a 70 after they got that phone call. When that happens, you do not pass go, you do not collect $200.

Amazing things happen at 125: Your muscles tense, colors become more vivid, background noise deadens, you feel every crack and bump in the road; you become hyper-focused. We all have speeds at which we're "comfortable" driving. Speed limits are supposed to be set at the 85th percentile speed. That's the speed at which most drivers are reasonable and prudent, don't want to have a crash, and desire to reach their destination in the shortest possible time. When many of the maximum speed limits in this country were set, cars were horrible compared to today. If you were guaranteed to have an accident doing 100, would you rather be in a 1981 Corvette or a 2015 model? Knowing that you're in a safe car can actually make you a worse driver. You don't focus on what you're doing because you've got GPS telling you when to turn, lane departure warnings telling you that you're drifting, blind spot warnings, brake assist, and even autopilot. You know in your heart of hearts that if you were to wreck at 70 MPH in your modern car, you'll likely be shaken up a bit, but you'll probably escape with minor injuries. That changes as you go faster.

Remember the days before GPS, when you'd actually have to look for a house number to know where you were going? What's the first thing you did when you turned into the neighborhood? You turned down the radio. Then you leaned forward towards the steering wheel to get a better look. No one taught you this, it's instinct. You want as few distractions as possible so you can focus on the task at hand. Well, as the speed climbs, you subconsciously know that the level of danger rises. You'll turn down the radio. You'll stop paying attention to everything else in your life. You won't think about the argument you had with your girlfriend that morning or the important meeting with the big boss next week. Everything else disappears and the only thing in life for that moment is the drive. It really is cathartic. It's also very addictive.

Rest... a lot: One thing you'll underestimate is how draining driving at high speeds can be, especially when driving solo. Your brain has to take in all the information from the car, the road, Waze, the countermeasures, the trip computer, and everything else. It has to process information at a much higher rate than normal. You can liken it to having a very mild seizure, but for a very extended period of time. Your neurons are firing at an abnormal and excessive rate and that is physically and mentally draining. Whereas you might be fine to drive 16 hours straight at the normal speed limit, driving 16 hours at 150% of the speed limit is going to have a major effect on your performance. You will instinctively slow down. Your reaction times will increase. Your focus will diminish. It'll have the same effect on your driving as a couple beers. If you think you're going to wake up at 8am, prep the car, get some stuff done, then get on the road at 2pm for a 12 hour drive, you're going to have a bad time. Have everything ready to go the night before you plan to leave for a long drive. You should wake up and be on the road within an hour or two to maximize your wakefulness on the roads ahead.

Don't be cheap: Being a professional speeder is not cheap. If you want to drive at triple digit speeds and be "safe" doing it, be prepared to open your wallet. The cost to fully prepare a vehicle and make an attempt at a transcontinental record currently stands at roughly $25,000, and that's not including the cost of the vehicle itself. Here's a spreadsheet I put together to track the costs involved when preparing for run. You'll see there's over $2,000 just in the AL Priority and radar detectors. Wheels and tires are another $2,400. Fuel cell design and install is over $3,000. When Ed Bolian brought the record holding CL55 AMG to Mercedes to have them do the maintenance, the bill for that was over $12,000. There's no telling how much Alex spent on his runs...

If you try to save money, you're going to increase the likelihood of both and accident and failure. The minute you decide "oh, I'll just put the laser jammers on the front of the car and leave the back off", a cop is going to hit you from the rear. If you think that you'll save money by getting H rated tires rather than W/Y/Z rated ones, you're increasing the chance that the tire will blow out at speed. Skip out replacing all the fuel filters on your car and you'll find yourself on the side of the Will Rogers Turnpike with a stalled car and a bill for towing and shipping that's going to be much more than if you had just replaced them to begin with. Buy only the best, because when your life and the lives of others are on the line, second best just doesn't cut it.  Keep in mind that quite often, the best money you'll ever spend will be on the thing you'll hopefully never use.

Prepare to make frenemies: If there's one thing about the community of really fast drivers, it's that there's more than enough ego to go around. After all, it takes a certain level of narcissism to do this sort of thing. People are going to talk shit about you. They'll call you a liar. They'll question your sanity. They want insane levels of proof of your deeds. And they'll never do any of this to your face. You will inevitably make some close friends if you chose this path. The number of people that speed at this level is low, so when you find someone you have this in common with, there will be an instant bond.

Prepare to be hated: If you should ever make a record-setting drive and the story makes its way to the press, you will be hated. The vast majority of the public has the mindset that speed equates danger, so people that drive fast are a menace to society. After Alex and I perpetrated the 26:28 April Fools Day Hoax, I read dozens of comments comparing us to Hitler, the Columbine shooters, al-Qaeda, and any other horrible thing you can think of. People were calling for us to be jailed with rapists, and in one case, for us to be crucified. All that for simply driving fast. People will talk about the busload of nuns on their way to the orphanage that you could have killed.

Be safe: If "Pay attention!!!" is the A#1 rule, then this is rule #0. Everything that Alex, Ed, and I have said all comes down to this one thing. You need to understand that what you are doing is inherently unsafe and you need to do everything in your power to mitigate risk. I'm a firm believer that if we made speed limits high enough to be outside of the majority of people's comfort zone, we'd have much safer roads. When you are driving a vehicle at a rate of speed where you fear dying, you're going to be a much better driver. You won't be texting or fiddling with the radio because you'll be too busy trying to not die. That's why I feel like I'm a safer driver at 115 than I am at 70. When I'm tooling along with the flow of traffic, I'm complacent. I trust everyone around me, I trust the road, I trust the car, and I trust that I'm not going to die in a giant ball of flame. But, when I'm moving at an excessive rate of speed, I trust no one and nothing other than my own abilities and vehicle preparation to make sure I'm not delivered home in a ziplock bag.

The Conclusion:

I am not here to tell you that you should go out and break the law by driving exceedingly fast. I don't think Alex or Ed were telling you to do that either. What we are saying is that no matter what the speed limit is, there will be people out there that will want to go faster, and if you're one of those people then there are ways to go about doing it that will lowering the risks involved. Alex and Ed did an excellent job of covering nearly all the "rules", so I just wanted to touch on a few things I thought they missed or didn't give enough attention to. But then again, why should you listen to me? I've never set any records you've ever heard of...

5Nov/153

The Death of the Eisenhower Republican

(This post was from my old blog and written in 2011. I've decided to repost it here today for others to read since the old blog is no longer active.)

There was a time, barely remembered today, when the idea of bipartisanship really seemed reasonable. There was once a kind of Republican, now driven to the verge of extinction, called the “Eisenhower Republican.” Today, the equivalent beast would be called a “Moderate Democrat.” The Republican Party itself has largely purged itself of Eisenhower Republicans like myself in its radical shift to the right.

I have always been a Republican. But even the earliest President I remember, Ronald Regan, though a crazy old actor with a penchant for placating the religious, wasn’t as bad as some of the Republicans of today.  It was Nixon though, probably unintentionally, that began the decline of the Eisenhower Republican. Some of those he brought into government are the very same “barking crazy rightwingers” who have systematically started destroying our nation under Bush. That, combined with Nixon’s spectacular and televised downfall, discredited the reasonable, moderate Republican. The Democrats, then more liberal than now, were ready to take advantage of Nixon’s downfall, and the far right wing Republicans, then marginalized but poised to strike, were ready to begin their plans to take over the nation through lying, stealing and cheating.

One man had a small chance of saving the Eisenhower Republican: President Gerald Ford.

Gerald Ford had been a well-respected Congressman, someone who could work with both parties to get things done. As criminal charges consumed Nixon and his administration, Gerald Ford was the last chance Republicans had of restoring respectability. Centrist, traditionalist and all around nice guy, Ford might have been the only person who could have saved the Republican Party from being taken over by extremists or lapsing into obscurity.

Pardoning Nixon and the stagflation Ford inherited from Nixon pretty much made it impossible for Ford to succeed. In the end, a moderate Democrat (Jimmy Carter) defeated Ford for President, and the right wing fringe of the Republican Party swept in to destroy the Eisenhower Republicans and take over. Those right wing nutcases have not only gone to great lengths to destroy our Constitution and to run up the biggest budget deficits in hitsory, but have also by now alienated moderate Republicans. The death of the Eisenhower branch of the Republican Party was one reason why Democrats won the last presidential election.

Just because the Republican Party is now nearly completely dominated by anti-democracy, right wing fools, and the Democrats are winning by appealing to American moderates, don’t think that the Democrats are doing fine.  As you can tell from the last mid-term elections, Obama has done a good job of alienating many of those moderates because of his extremely left policies.

America has always been and should remain a two-party system. Why? Because we, as a culture, divide pretty solidly into Federalist and State’s Rights camps…strict interpretation vs. loose interpretation of the Constitution… These are very real ambiguities within our system, left ambiguous by those who formed our government, and it is the give and take between these two views of government that has made our nation strong. The big danger now is that one party, the Republicans, have been taken over by a group that believes in neither of these philosophies of government except as a way of fooling voters. Instead, the barking crazy rightwingers have, in essence, thrown the whole Constitutional dichotomy out the window and have tried instituting a one-party, Soviet system of crony capitalism, corruption and war profiteering.

I have always been a Republican and almost certainly will remain a Republican for life. Why? Because I like the fact that the Republican Party represents America’s diversity in almost every way and, by and large, is more representative of the average American than the more leftist, pro-socialist Democrat Party. I’m not talking about Sarah Palin’s America either.

I want a healthy, moderate Republican Party, the Eisenhower Republicans, to balance the two-party American system. That is why Ford’s failure to hold the line against the right wing extremists within the Republican Party is a shame and why I was saddened by Ford’s death the day after Christmas in 2006.

Since Ford’s presidency, the entire track of the Republican Party has been towards more and more extremism, more and more lies, more and more greed, and more and more corruption. Almost every traditional, Eisenhower Republican ideal has been thrown out by the barking crazy right-wingers, as the three largest deficits in our history came from Reagan, the elected Bush and the little Bush and as the idea of “small government” has been thrown out the window in a greedy rush to publicly fund the corrupt military-industrial-religious extremist complex.

I can only hope that the Republican Party can rediscover its Gerald Ford/Dwight Eisenhower side and reject the extremists who currently control our Party.

Filed under: Personal 3 Comments
29Oct/1514

Drone pilots will have to register their aircraft this holiday season

Change is coming to the world of unmanned aeronautics. On Oct. 19, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the formation of a taskforce to come up with a plan to create a national registry for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, also known as drones. Today, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the members of that taskforce. It’s made up of over two dozen people from all aspects of the drone world; manufacturers, retailers, airline pilots, law enforcement, lobbyists, and even a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

The taskforce has until Nov. 20 to determine the parameters for drone registration. According to the FAA and DOT, drone registration is needed due to the ever-increasing number of drone sightings by airline pilots, the grounding of helicopters fighting wildfires in California, and drone crashes at sporting events. They feel that making private individuals register their drones, they will be able to trace that drone back to its owner. Of course, this will only work if the drone crashes and if the owner put the registration information on the drone.

This holiday season retailers are expecting to sell an estimated 1 million new drones. That means 1 million new drone pilots. Prior to the advent of quadcopters with flight controllers that stabilized them in flight, remote controlled aircraft was an expensive hobby that required a lot of skill to enter. Maintaining the throttle, collective, tail rotor, and cyclic of an RC helicopter took years of practice and thousands of dollars in spare parts from crashing on a regular basis. As far as RC airplanes go, you need a field to use as a runway to takeoff and land. With quadcopters, they basically fly themselves. Some even allow you to enter GPS coordinates, create a flight plan, and the drone will take off, fly the route, then land itself, all without any input from the operator.

The simplicity of drones and the low cost of entry means that RC aircraft have gone from an expensive hobby to a cheap toy that anyone can buy and fly. Yes, there’s a few bad apples out there that make the rest of the drone flying community look bad, but that’s the case in anything. The official national body for model aviation in the US, the AMA, is urging its members to head over to the Federal Register notice on UAS registration and tell the FAA to exempt “sUAS that lack the capability to fly beyond line of site by using either first-person view, or those sUAS that lack onboard navigational systems that allow the aircraft to fly missions beyond visual line of site”, which would remove traditional RC planes an helicopters form the requirements. They cite their “impeccable 80-year track record of operating safely” as the reason they should be exempt. This is akin to the government requiring all cars capable of 200+ mph to be registered and the Ferrari Club of America saying that Ferraris and Maseratis should be exempt because Ferrari drivers are safer than those dirty Lamborghini plebs.

If the federal government wants us to register our toys because they have the ability to do stupid stuff, what’s to stop them from wanting to know the name of every owner of a fast car? The best part of this whole situation is that the FAA doesn’t require that the pilots of ultralights, which are much larger and more dangerous than drones, to register their aircraft or even be licensed to fly them. It’s pretty obvious that the government is scared of a new technology that they don’t know how to control, and due to a few high profile incidents involving drones, they are knee-jerking their way into something that’s going to be a nightmare to implement and manage and gives no incentive to the drone owners to participate in.

Regardless of how you feel about drone registration, head over to regulations.gov and read up on what they are saying and the 10 questions they are asking. You can leave a public comment with your feelings on the matter, and all comments are read.

Filed under: Drones 14 Comments
20Feb/130

Windows IP conflict when there is no conflict

Just had an interesting problem with a customer that seems a bit obscure, so I figured I would write it down to help someone else. All of the other solutions to this issue focus solely on there being a problem on the Windows side, which may not necessarily be the case.

Situation: customer is setting up a Windows 2008 R2 server in a VMware cluster, on a VLAN that is sitting behind a firewall. The firewall is is the gateway for the VLAN (say 192.168.34.1). When configuring the network interface on the server, picking ANY IP address in the 192.168.34.0/24 network results in the error message “Windows had detected an IP address conflict”. This happens even if there are no other devices on the VLAN aside from the firewall.

The issue? There was a static (identity) NAT entry in the Cisco ASA firewall for 192.168.34.0/24. By default, Cisco firewalls will proxy ARP for NAT entries.

  • (8.3(1), 8.3(2), and 8.4(1)) The default behavior for identity NAT has proxy ARP disabled. You cannot configure this setting.
  • (8.4(2) and later) The default behavior for identity NAT has proxy ARP enabled, matching other static NAT rules. You can disable proxy ARP if desired.

This is desirable behavior for a firewall on the edge of the network because the upstream router needs to know where to send traffic for NAT’ed hosts. For internal firewalls this can cause issues, especially with 8.4 code where you need to setup identity NAT to exempt devices from NAT.

The solution? Add “no-proxy-arp” to the end of your identity NAT statements:

nat (inside,outside) source static obj_Internal obj_Internal no-proxy-arp route-lookup

The other (less desirable) solution is to disable the ARP-checking functionality in Windows, but this means it won’t be able to detect a legitimate IP conflict. You can do this through a quick registry hack: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters, create a DWORD named “ArpRetryCount” with a value of “0?.

25Jun/120

Configuring a port analyzer (port mirror) on the Juniper EX switch

Yes, it's been a while since my last update, so I'm going to make this one short and sweet. Lately I started messing around with Plex Media Center/Server and sharing my server with a couple of my friends. While I do have a good bit of bandwidth here at the house, my friends sure know how to suck that bandwidth dry. So, it's time to implement some traffic shaping here at the house.

In order to implement the traffic shaping, I need to know what the traffic looks like. For me to shape it, I need to know what it looks like, so I'm going to setup an analyzer. I have a specific media server that is separate from my lab rack. It's plugged into a little Cisco gigabit switch that has an LACP Lag bundle going back to my core EX3200-48T. To setup an analyzer is very simple...in fact, it's only 3 commands.

set ethernet-switching options analyzer plex–monitor input ingress interface ae0.0 set ethernet-switching options analyzer plex–monitor input egress interface ae0.0 set ethernet-switching options analyzer plex–monitor output interface xe-0/0/45.0

That's it. Now, let me explain what I did there.

To configure an analyzer called "plex-monitor" and specify the input (source) interfaces and the output interface, I need to configure the interface connected to my media server as input interfaces for the port-mirror analyzer. I want to see both ingress and egress traffic, so I tell it to do both.

[edit ethernet-switching-options]
user@switch# set analyzer plex-monitor input ingress interface ae0.0
user@switch# set analyzer plex-monitor input egress interface ae0.0

Now, I configure the output analyzer interface for the analyzer. This will be the destination interface for the mirrored packets:

[edit ethernet-switching-options] user@switch# set analyzer plex-monitor output interface ge-0/0/45.0

That's it. Now, all the traffic going to that lag bundle (the server is the only thing plugged into that switch) will be mirrored to port ge-0/0/45. I can plug my Wireshark box into that port, get a good capture of the traffic, and set my traffic shaping accordingly. Can you guess what my next post is going to be about? ;)