Sep. 8th, 2015

fingertrouble: (Me Djing 2)
Still here, still checking in from time to time...machines allowing.

I have a new Mac Book Pro - the 5 year old was slowly dying with broken keyboard so the power button was duff, dodgy USB ports and general slowness. I still will keep Frederick - couldn't sell it in the current condition anyway - but All Hail Luiggi (only a few of you might know why I called it that...usually it was fantasy names but now it's based on a real person - maybe not a real name - who I fancy a lot ;-)

It's very fast, but there are a few niggles. I miss my 17" screen, even with Retina this screen isn't as big as that one, even for a 5 year old Mac. It has HDMI so I could run my Sony monitor I picked up for almost nothing for the Pi as a second monitor if needed.

This is the second replacement machine, after a week and a half I took the old one back and started again. I've had problems with Thunderbolt disconnecting if you as much as breathed on it or moved the cable slightly (annoyingly the new laptops don't have Ethernet, and only two USB 3 ports, and no Firewire so you have use adaptors for those). This seems to have hopefully been fixed, but not the weird sleep problem while you are using the machine, which I suspect is connected either to the tilt switch for the screen (it goes away if you tilt the machine!) or graphics card. Grr...I hoped the GFX card issues had been fixed, I dreaded programs switching to the graphics card on Frederick (you can't stop apps from doing that) since there was a bug that made the computer sluggish and a bit unstable. Apparently not.

I have a Genius appointment booked...maybe they'll fix it. Maybe not. Apple seems a bit flaky nowadays.

Seems like in the last month or so I've been always fixing machines, harddrives, installing things, going wrong...seems like finally at the end of that cycle.

I resurrected the Raspberry Pi2 from the place I had left it in disgust earlier in the year (it corrupted itself and was obvious I couldn't run a NAS through it, it kept losing NFS and SMB shares, files temporarily disappeared which was worrying, very glitchy...) to work as a sort of media centre - Shairplay (Airplay on Linux), DLNA as my cheap chinese Airplay/DLNA device was just too flaky, and to run get_iplayer to download BBC Radio and TV programs so I don't need to be connected to a UK IP or VPN (I was almost missing shows since if the machine was on a foreign VPN it couldn't download).

But then the Pi decided to go wrong during a backup script and delete my whole media drive...partly my fault, partly Linux which has an arcane mounting system using directories...I didn't know if I deleted the directory and the unmount failed it might delete the contents of the drive! Oops.

So I spent a week or two recovering that, still have lots of unknown files fileXXXXX...grr. I had a backup of some of the files...well did. More of that later.

I then tried many other systems on the Pi - I was originally on Raspbian - to fix a strange AAC glitch that crashed iPods. The Alpha Geeks on the forums, you know the type that's usually the resident moderator or accepted troll were no use, in fact the opposite...telling me the answer or 'I'd done it wrong' AFTER I've fixed it. I of course growled back. I hate those people, they might develop or fix the software but it comes with such a fucking ego that it renders any help they might give as moot.

So in an attempt to fix that I tried Ubuntu MATE on the Pi - pretty good after the terrible install issues (see later) but I couldn't get the audio to work. I then tried plain 14.04 Ubuntu and 15.04. Ditto. I gave up and went back to Raspbian as fortunately I'd created a backup.

Tim's Good tips for the Pi is:

1) Use Dropbox (there's a great script called DropboxBackup and yes if it's sensitive you can encrypt with OpenSSL, I use this for my VPSes)...and don't try and backup images, it takes WAY too long. The Windows program for backing up images seems legit, but the OSX ones are mostly crap. And the Terminal method takes hours or days. Easiest to backup just the files you use into a tar/tar.gz using --one-file-system then extract it over a fresh OS.

2) Always take backups, I'm using a USB stick and these things can corrupt easily, if the power goes or just randomly. I backup to the SD card and then upload to Dropbox.

3) Most of the information online is wrong or slanted...you might need to fiddle with it. Amazed these things are foisted on children, it's like handing them the cogs and asking them to build a difference engine. The Raspi is *quirky* and a lot of the software even in repositories is unfinished. I mean the idiots that made the Ubuntu MATE image didn't bother to include a default user AND THEY ARE COMP-SCI GRADS (from a decent school too). And seemingly have abandoned the project. Of course, the installer fails, leaving you with no easy way to get IN to the OS or fix it since it's not setup your user yet, can't sudo, there isn't a root account. *facepalm* And these people are the future of computing? o.O
Like many Raspi things, much of the software or projects get developed for a few months after launch of a new machine then abandoned. So maybe stick to Raspbian...and fix the quirks!

4) These things break a lot, so keep spare SD cards and/or USB sticks OF THE SAME BRAND/TYPE/SIZE, so you can easily install/restore

5) If using images you'll find they won't fit even from reinstalling to the same card/type due to differences. Best way is to solve this by not using all the card when you resize2fs or resize the partition (fdisk etc) and then truncate / gtruncate the image file making sure it's blocks + 1 * 512 or whatever your sectors is...fdisk should help with that. This means it won't corrupt the partition when restored. Corrupt partitions will not mount, or will go very wonky fast with corrupted text everywhere, then die.

6) Get a good power supply, especially if using a lot of USB devices.

It's working now...but really should have bought another USB stick early on of the same size. Would have saved a lot of pain trying to fix my old computer's triple Win/OSX/Linux boot (corrupted EFS, nice), then giving up, buying a new machine to fix it, then realising I may as well run Virtual Machines of Linux on that (and Win7, works like a dream in fact, I own Ultra) - installing those only to find my Linux images were unmountable, and some were suspect/compressed or possibly unfinished. Boo.

Having a Linux install or VM is handy for Pi, since if there is a serious problem you might need to fschk or edit the files directly and depending on install you might be able to see the second partition.

As an aside: I have no idea why OSX and Windows has never supported more than one partition on a USB stick. It's odd. I mean, USB sticks can be massive nowadays, but those systems will usually only mount one partition, usually the boot partition, nothing else.

Same with the recovery, should have bought the 2Tb little drive I have now, but no, I went and got one of my removable (old) RAID 3TB drives thinking I could backup the recovery to that. It then had a complete unrecoverable error, losing that data. Fuck. So recovered to another drive, forgetting that Time Machine was on. You can guess what happened - the recovery files overwrote the few backed up files from the rest of that drive. AAARGH. I now have a little Seagate Expansion Drive, with those files on just in case.

So talking of NAS drives, I now have a QNAP TS431 burbling in the corner as it's migrating from RAID 1 to 5. It's called Archibald although I had to make it Archduke Archibald since the name was taken.

I'm not new to RAID - my second PC had built in RAID and I have a G-Tech G-SAFE removable 3TB which is full of photographs and stuff with one of the drives at John's...but certainly new to NAS drives. Almost had a fit after being told by another Alpha Geek that It Was Not Possible to do the very thing I'm doing now...migrating from a single disk to RAID 1 (31 hours!!) to RAID 5 without losing data. Obviously you can...just takes a long time. So much for the 'experts'. I ripped out the Touro 4TB from it's enclosure I was using - the aforementioned Drive That Was Deleted - after copying the files to the mini HD first.

I'd bought 2x4TB Toshiba drives, I wanted Seagate but they aren't cheap, and the Toshiba drives get good rep. Funny that the Toshiba drives are similar technology to HGST - there was some kind of 50/50 technology split when Dell I think it was bought one of them - which is what I've stuck to religiously until now - including the drive that failed, and the possible 'bad blocks' on the Touro one after 8 months use. During the migration I tried to use my 1TB Touro (yes HGST/Hitachi again) and THAT failed and pretty much started to smoke, and I abandoned that...so I've had 1 drive fail outright and 2 new or newish HGST drives give bad block or corruption errors in as many weeks.

So HGST is a Big No in this house...as is Western Digital after a really bad MyBook that needed to be hit to get it to boot. Yup. Shit.

Thing is in a RAID 5 config, one drive can go down, so if the HGST Touro drive pulls a fit, I can just plug in another and rebuild. So less stressed about using it in that scenario...whereas I was worrying as an external drive all the files would disappear again!

Idea is to not use or rip out the iTunes drive (yeah HGST again, although an older one that seems actually very solid, a 2TB G-Tech) - Gerald and put my library on the NAS with all the media/video files in one place. This would make the get_iplayer stuff easy, as currently I use bash scripts to check for downloaded shows then move the files over to my machine but they have to check if the external Gerald drive is connected, etc. I quite often have that drive shut down since it's really noisy...not sure why G-Tech (owned by HGST basically) can't make quiet or silent drives, given they aren't cheap...my G-SAFE is like an airplane going off...the Touro (Branded Hitachi/HGST) was pretty quiet, Seagate is silent as is the little Touro 1TB Wilfred (one that started to fail during migration) and my new NAS when it's not rebuilding.

I have to currently use USB 3 since Apple's Thunderbolt as mentioned was so flaky I just returned the Firewire adaptor for a refund. USB 3 is pretty fast anyway, although I found my cheap Chinese USB3 hubs were causing corruption/random disconnections, so got a new EasyAcc one. Works fine now.

But it all seems to be working now...I thought during the HD wipe then many failure(s) and then the Raspi dying/corrupting several times that the place was jinxed or wondered where the big magnet was. But it seems OK now...fingers crossed...

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