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Blackjack Updates

So it’s been six days since my last post, and after a busy and at times frustrating week (work-wise, nothing to do with Blackjack) I have some more updates.

First, good news.
The Plex migration worked flawlessly as I mentioned in the last post. We’ve been running it for 6 days now and have watched a bunch of stuff on it without any issue whatsoever. This is what should have happened but I’m still pleased.

As you can see, I’m also penning this on my Windows 10 VM, using dual screens. The performance is excellent – it’s faster at booting than the bare metal install on my old machine!

I’ve now shut down my old machine, physically replacing it with Blackjack and swapping the rest of the memory. We’re now running on 64GB total, with 24GB reserved for the Windows 10 machine. It was pretty happy with 8 and I’m sure would be happy with 16, but if I have a surplus why not use it?
So far the containers I have running aren’t taxing the system much at all, but I have further plans which may drive that usage higher.

There have been a few things that haven’t quite worked as well as I’d hoped though.

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Technology

Moving house with Plex & Docker

So, my data is all moved from t’old machine t’new one (for any Americans, you’ll need to read that sentence in a strong Yorkshire accent. Good luck.)

That could be that, but losing all of the ‘watched/unwatched’ and progress through series would be a bit of a pain in the arse, so I’m trying to migrate the metadata of my now-old Plex install (Razorback) to the new one (Blackjack).

On Windows, Plex stores everything in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Plex Media Server.

In Docker, that data is located at /mnt/cache/appdata/Plex-Media-Server/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/

Plex’s FAQ does include information on moving Plex data around, but it’s a far cry from what you really need to know in a scenario like this. That is fair, as there are a large number of potential scenarios and configurations that it would be unfair to expect Plex to constantly stay on top of and document adequately – after all if it doesn’t work, people would come crying to Plex and they’d have to support that or risk the wrath of Unhappy Internet People.

I’ll make this a long story short – I’m going with the basic bitch method of just copying the (several hundred thousand) files across the network from my Windows machine. I tried zipping the whole lot up and then unzipping it on the host, but with various combinations of commands I always got the same error: caution: filename not matched, which didn’t make sense then, and still doesn’t now.
I tried a number of different solutions from researching online but decided quite quickly that this is one of those annoying Linux things that I know I’ll spin my wheels on for an hour or so, and eventually just have to do it the basic way anyway.

So, I skipped ahead.

At the very least I am grateful that Plex have kept the folder structure and mechanisms broadly identical across different platforms. I’ve certainly dealt with software in my time where a Windows and a Linux version of an app were entirely incompatible and there was no hope of moving settings from one to the other, so this is a refreshing change from previous experiences.

Of course now we’ll have to see if this actually works or not. I have … middling hopes of success, but we’ll see.

A few hours later …

So the metadata is all copied over. I started the Plex Docker and immediately went into the server settings and edited my libraries; the existing libraries pointed at the old media locations, which was good. I added the new locations and let Plex scan them.

And … it worked! My On Deck still shows a half-watched episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and my watched / unwatched lists are all there.

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Technology

UnRAID: Data, Cache, and the Mover

So I’ll say up front, it’s possible that I haven’t set my storage up in the optimum way, and that choosing ‘just’ a 500GB cache drive has caused me some small issues, but I think that in daily operation, things should be fine.

My biggest challenge with the transition to the new machine was always going to be moving the data from old to new, whilst keeping the old one running and serving media.
As it transpired, we’ve had some internet issues over the last week which has meant the Plex server has been inaccessible to the outside world most of the time anyway, but I had already hatched a plan and that was what I stuck to.

I had 4x6TB (not 4x4TB as I said in my first post) in my Windows machine configured in Windows Storage Spaces. Due to the way it was configured, I could only remove one of the disks, despite having just over 1 disk-worth of data.
Therefore I’d need to move everything before I could destroy the array on my Windows machine and move the other disks.

The cache drive was a savior here, both in terms of storage and speed.

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Technology

UnRAID: Getting the hang of things

SpaceInvaderOne

As I mentioned in the last post, SpaceInvaderOne is a brilliant resource for UnRAID – and a bunch of other things besides. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a Brit based out of one of my favorite cities in the UK, Bristol.

I’ve mentioned a bit about parity in these posts and, if you’re wondering how it works, he has a brilliant explainer here.

He also talks in a subsequent video about key plugins to use with UnRAID. I was expecting a list of plugins, which is what I got, but also something even more impressive and much better than the disparate group of different plugins with different install techniques and documentation that I was expecting …

Community Applications

Community Applications is the plugin you must install with UnRAID, because it makes everything else so damn easy.
I’m not kidding – once it’s installed, this is your one-stop-shop for searching for plugins and one-click installing them. Most plugins I’ve found will also link you directly to the UnRAID Community Forum thread for that plugin should you have questions or just want to find out more.

It’s easy and brilliant and exactly what it should be. SpaceInvaderOne had some particular recommendations which I followed because after all, he’s the expert.

Plugins

The first one to install is Fix Common Problems, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It scans your system, and tells you if things are configured incorrectly, not configured at all and should be, or anything else that means your system could potentially not be running at its best.

Next up is the Dynamix series of plugins. These do everything from allowing you to schedule a cronjob to do regular SSD TRIM operations on any SSDs you have installed on the system that support them, to helpful visualization tools to show easy disk usage and system temperature information. There are a bunch more that I need to explore, but they really seem to have thought of a ton of use cases and developed for them.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

One of the things I really wanted for this machine was for it to be quiet. No shit right? Half the components I ordered are literally from a company with that name.
My biggest concern was balancing temperature and noise – it’s relatively easy to keep a machine cool if you blast air through it at high speed, but that comes with a lot of noise. Equally it’s easy to keep a machine quiet – lots of large fans run at slow speed – but that tends to let things get hot.

It probably didn’t help that we had an unseasonably warm week this week, and that I was adding a third machine to a room that already had two in it, but I’ve been seeing temperatures that are a little higher than I would really like, thanks to the Dynamix System Temperature plugin.

My existing machine runs at mid-30s at idle, and I stress tested it up to 85 degrees which is well within tolerances for the hardware – but that’s in a larger case with better ventilation at the front, and fewer cores.

I cranked my fan controller on the case from ‘Silent’ to ‘Performance’ but it honestly didn’t make much difference – however the BIOS is also set to Silent, so I may need to reboot and play around with those settings to crank the fans up a bit without making it too loud.

There’s also a reasonable chance that I screwed up the heatsink somehow, with the mounting issues I mentioned earlier.
Either way, once I have the machine fully up and running and I’m ready to move the rest of the disks over, I need to do a lot of cable management to get the machine into its final state, so I can remount the heatsink if I need to, and move some fans about.

So Plexy

The main barrier to swapping machines is replacing the Plex server running on Windows with the new Blackjack hosted data. As mentioned in my first UnRAID post, I had intended to run Plex on Ubuntu, but I changed my mind and went for a straight-up container. This meant that installing Plex was simpler than its ever been. I setup a couple of shares for the media, pointed Plex at them, and it was ready to roll.

Obviously there’s nothing in it yet, I still need to migrate all the media over (a process ongoing as I write). The last thing then is to try and migrate the database, keeping all of the ‘watched/unwatched’ tallies for me and the other users. Once that’s done and confirmed, I can delete the data from the Windows machine and relocate the disks.

No-IP

Remote access to this box is going to be important. I’ve used No-IP for years for keeping my domain name linked to the IP of wherever my machines are located. Usually this was an app installed on my machine but now I’m in the world of containers my first question is ‘Is there a container for that?’

The answer is yes, so I’ve now offloaded one more thing to the main system that I don’t have to worry about a guest OS doing.

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Technology

Getting started with UnRAID: Initial struggles

A couple of things I forgot to mention in the last post.

Firstly on the built-in fans; the two fans were identical, but held in with very different screws. The rear fan had what I would consider to be ‘regular PC case screws’, but the front fan was held in with odd small stubby screws which, when removed, had a strange sticky gasket attached to them which sort of broke away as I removed them.

Perhaps typical purchasers of these cases don’t remove the existing case fans and just add to them but … I found it an odd difference, and a disappointing lack of quality on the front screws.

Lastly, the ‘cable management’ around the back of the motherboard tray started out well, but started to become problematic. The case panel is lined with a foam insert, which is great for deadening vibrations and thus noise, but it means there’s not a lot of space in there. My goal was to keep the motherboard side of the case clean and clear, but I may need to let more cabling into the body of the case in order to not have everything so smooshed up behind it.

Anyway, it was another day before I could get the machine connected up to a monitor and to begin working on it. I booted into the BIOS/UEFI setup first to tweak things and see what I was dealing with.

The ASRock Z460 Taichi has what I’d call a ‘typical’ UEFI setup screen – graphics that (to me) hark back to 90s Japan, but it was functional and let me get to what I need. I went through all the settings, making sure to enable the virtualization features, as well as turning on the IOMMU passthrough features I’d need later.

I probably spent most time fiddling with the motherboards’ built-in LEDs. They do all sorts of things, but I just wanted a static white light. I’ve yet to see if I’ll be able to install software on my Windows VM to manage that further – possibly turning it off at night automatically – but for now it’s fine.

Next was to boot into UnRAID itself.

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Technology

UnRAID: Building Blackjack

That’s right, the God Box has a name.
My previous naming conventions followed The Expanse series of books (and now TV), but here I’ve swapped one form of plagiarism for another.

When discussing the idea of this build with one of my colleagues, he suggested a color scheme of white-on-black, which I liked the sound of and subsequently stole.
When I was a child, I remembered these sweets called Blackjacks – white and black chewy candy – and Fruit Salads. The black & white color scheme made ‘Blackjack’ a fitting choice.

I’ll probably call the Ubuntu installation Fruit Salad (that color scheme is a bit more of a stretch …) and I still need something fitting for Windows but .. whatever, we’re getting off topic.

Let’s talk hardware.

An Intel Core i9-10850k sits on an ASRock Z490 Taichi motherboard. Not pictured is the 64GB of G-Skill DDR4 2133Mhz RAM which was (at the time of picturing) installed in my existing machine.
That CPU is cooled by the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 CPU cooler (center). Flanking that in the image is five white be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 140mm case fans.
To the left in front of the fans/motherboard is both a 500GB and 1TB Samsung Evo 970 NVMe SSD, for use as a cache drive and VM file drive respectively.
To the far right is the Republican Party a Corsair RM750x power supply in white (with white braided cables) and atop of that is a Zotac Gaming GeForce 2060 RTX graphics card.
On top of that is a Unifi 16 port POE switch.
At the very bottom of the picture are white SATA cables, white SAS cables for the SAS controller card which will eventually be transplanted along with the other disks from my main machine, and an 8TB WD Red NAS disk for parity.

Finally, the whole lot is ensconced in a be quiet! Dark Base 700 ATX tower, with additional drive bays purchased alongside it.

So let’s get to it!