COMPUTER REVIVAL

A couple years ago my parents’ not-so-old Dell crapped out on them.  They ended up replacing it and getting it fixed up for my dad’s man cave.  Well, Dad’s resurrected desktop died again last weekend.  Fortunately, he decided to buy a new one rather than spend any more cash on the old one.  I helped him set it all up and get the basic configuration going. For my reward I kept the old one.  Jared and Logan helped me disassemble it and rob the useful parts.  Once I got it open I found the reason for failure–many popped caps on the mobo.  Who knows what else might be bad.  I was able to salvage 2GB DDR2 memory, Intel CPU and a cooler assembly with a couple fans, 250GB HDD, video card, and a power supply.  I’m not really sure what to do with the case.  It’s fairly heavy duty.

The kids don’t really use my old Gateway desktop anymore.  I turned it into a linux box years ago after the Windows rot kicked in on the Vista OS.  Mainly it just sits around.  I decided it needed a new life.  I’ve been wanting a NAS box here at home for file storage.  Something network accessible rather than just an external USB HDD.  The factory units are pretty expensive and building up a dedicated machine, though powerful, would be even more so.  Price and quality seems to be all over the place on external HDDs and NAS boxes.  I managed to stumble across a cool piece of freeware on the net called FreeNAS.  It will turn an old desktop or just about any machine into a capable server.

The program works by loading the open source FreeBSD OS onto a 4GB flash drive.  After setting the BIOS to boot from the flash drive it allows the entire capacity of all HDDs connected to the mobo to be used for storage.  Pretty clever arrangement.  It has a lot of feature on what type of file system to use, configuring sharing, global settings for access by the web, and plugins.  It will even do multi-disk RAID arrays of multiple types.

I configured one HDD to be a backup location and mapped it as a network drive.  Now my computer backs up the whole system disk to one HDD.  The other HDD is setup for storing media.  I can now save all my episodes of amateurlogic.tv and Ham Nation to it, or any other videos I like, without filling up the HDD on my desktop.  This is nice since I like to view the HD versions that are around 1GB file size.  I loaded a program called minidlna on there and it will stream the videos to my Blu-ray player so I can watch them on the TV.  It’s been a little challenging to get it all working but I’m pleased that it’s been a successful learning experience.

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