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Linux to the rescue

I suffered a bit of a disaster over the weekend when the fan in my Synology DS106e network attached server stopped working. For 18 months it had worked well (I had bought it used from eBay), then at some point last week the fan died. This wasn’t immediately apparent, and only became an issue when the server started a scheduled backup to an external USB drive. Lots of drive activity and reduced cooling quickly resulted in an overheated hard drive and email warnings of read errors. Not the sort of message you want to receive when you are 20 miles away at work.

When I arrived home the server was very warm and the drive was too hot to hold. A few minutes of forced air cooling with a desk fan got the temperature down, but the Synology box was still flaky when I tried reading files from it. Transfer speed across the network was way down and frequently hung. The hard drive appeared to be corrupted,  but that wasn’t a major problem as I had the USB backup drive.

Connecting the backup drive to my hackintosh didn’t do much, as the Synology NAS runs linux and the disk was formatted with the EXT3 filesystem. Surely there is a reliable EXT3 driver for Mac OS? I couldn’t find anything up to date online, so if anyone knows of a suitable Leopard compatible EXT3 driver I would appreciate a message in the comments.

So the Mac couldn’t read the drive, next stop was a linux. I had a Xubuntu live CD that worked great in my Macbook, so the external drive was connected and Xubuntu started. There’s a share files app in Xubuntu that has to be the easiest to setup I have ever tried. SMB and NFS packages were installed on first run, then I selected the external drive and shared it with everyone using SMB (windows networking). On the Mac I could then connect to the shares and copy files to another USB drive.

The really impressive thing about this was that it just worked. I’ve been less than impressed with linux in the past, mainly with the difficulty configuring display resolution and multi button mice. Having to edit text files to configure the xserver to get simple things working when Windows and Mac can just install a driver is ridiculous in 2009. It was a pleasant surprise to find shares this easy to setup. Looks like it’s time to try another native linux install.

I’ve been in contact with Synology who have offered to send me a replacement fan for the cost of postage which is a nice bit of customer support. I’m still wondering if the fan is at fault, as testing the server circuit board with the fan disconnected showed no voltage on the fan pins. Could be a component on the board that has failed, so a new fan would not work either. Since Synology appear to have stopped updating the DS106e with new firmware it may be time to take another look at my fileserver requirements. Maybe an Intel Atom powered mini hackintosh? I feel a new project coming…….

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