Archive for September, 2013

nVidia nForce 430 (MCP51 / RTL8201CL) and SME Server 8.0: working!

September 1, 2013 8:04 pm

Lately, my home network started showing more and more signs of aging. Accessing websites was erratic, whether via wired computers or wireless devices. WiFi clients (which for some reason have almost exploded in number over time) couldn’t reliably connect, causing shouts of “Daddy, the Internet is down!” with regular occurrence, coming from various bedrooms. Something had to be done. And what better time for that than Labor Day weekend!

The last time I had undertaken a similar venture was at the end of November 2006. Shortly thereafter I started preparing for the next time this would need to happen. Well, here we are… I had set aside a pretty neat “mini” system and found the necessary half-height network card for it (SME Server systems need two network cards to act as server/gateway on a network). I had even installed SME Server 7.5.1 in preparation for the eventual migration (the newest version at the time). Unfortunately I never found a way to make the on-board network card work, so the machine just sat on the shelf for a few years, until now.


Transferring data from the old system's drive

The trick to making the on-board NIC work was to grab the RHEL 5 driver from nVidia’s site. Extensive searches (based on the “Onboard LAN” information on the motherboard information page) led me to this thread, pointing me to an older version of the driver. From there it was just a small hop to the most up-to-date driver package. The trickiest part was getting it onto the new system’s hard drive before hooking it up to the network. I found a USB flash drive, FAT formatted it, copied the driver to it, and then got it mounted on the SME system. Quite a refresher on working with Linux command-line programs!

Once I had the driver installed (rpm –ivh nvlan-rhel5-0.62-1.25.i686.rpm) and the system restarted, I was able to run through the SME configuration with dual NICs to make the system a “dedicated server gateway”. I was a little worried that it might not pick up an IP address from my cable provider, but I just needed to restart the cable modem as well, and after one more reboot (I think), everything was back up and running. Luckily I had given the new system a non-colliding internal IP address way back when I set it up the first time. It was a snap to set the range of DHCP addresses to a non-overlapping set.

To complete setup, I had to re-create user accounts, ibays, domains served, VPN access, etc. I also needed to install the latest updates to SME Server 8.0 and the two “contribs” I consider essential to SME Server: AWStats and Sme8admin.

All that was left now was moving the data off the old system. I started out doing that over the network, but it became clear that the old system was truly on its last breath. So I decided to shut it down and hook the old drive up to the new system via the USB bridge you see in the picture above. There were about 20 GB to copy, so it took a while. Once it was done (including historical web server statistics data for AWStats), there was still some work with setting the right permissions on files and directories.

But now it’s all done, and the new machine is humming (quietly) in the spot where the old system used to live!

To round out this tale, here are the traditional “nostalgia” shots of the decommissioned hardware:

Note the power supply off to the side    A look inside the old system    Under the power supply    NICs in the back

One thing I had completely forgotten about is that I had put quite a bit of work into trying to make the old system as silent as possible. As you can see from the first picture, I had taken the power supply out of the system and put it on some pieces of vibration-dampening synthetic foam strips. In addition I had mounted the hard drive using various pieces of professional grade foam strips:

Green and yellow foam    Yellow foam and mounting pads

Luckily the new system was designed for quiet operation, so it didn’t need any extra work. It’s amazing how much quieter it is – I can hardly tell it’s on right now!