The Oculus’ Price Rift.

My gaming rig is pushing 6 years now, and I can’t play any new games on it unless the graphics quality configuration is set low. Very, very low. It’s about to upgrade the hardware. Gaming these days isn’t too CPU intensive, the GPU is the component that takes the heaviest work load. So ideally I’d just buy a new graphics card, and my rig would be as good as new. Unfortunately, with a 6 year old mother board, I don’t have the necessary expansion slots to fit any of the modern graphics cards. Getting a new mother board would also mean I have to purchase a new CPU, new RAM chips, and since powerful hardware requires a lot of power, I’ll have to get a new PSU as well.

You probably see where this is going: I might as well replace the entire rig. But a new high-end gaming computer is expensive, and when I started thinking about upgrading, I wasn’t really sure if spending all that money on something I wouldn’t use that much was a good idea1). So I put the idea to sleep in the back of my mind. There was one gadget, though, that occasionally woke the idea up again and made me want to set fire to my credit card: The Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display, and after several prototypes, two development kits and 5 years in development, the Rift is scheduled to be available on March 28 this year. VR is damn fascinating, and the Rift is the first of several consumer VR devices that will hit the market this year. The development kits have mostly received rave reviews, and I’ve talked to a couple of guys who own one of the kits – they really, really like it.

The Rift, the huge potential for fun and it’s indicated price tag of around $350 finally tipped me over the edge: I was ready to get a new gaming rig and a shiny Oculus Rift. The prospect of getting tons of state-of-the-art hardware and a Rift to play with made me giggle like a little girl – until the actual price of the Oculus Rift was announced.

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How To Build a Teeny Tiny and Totally Silent Mini-ITX Server.

If you can see this, the new VBOX, VBOX4, is up and running. 8GB of RAM, four Intel Celeron cores chugging along at 2GHz and two Kingston 120GB SSD drives in a RAID1. No fans, meaning no moving parts and no sound at all. The CPU temperature is well below its limit. Let’s hope that doesn’t change when I move the server to the shelve under the TV.

All in all, I’m satisfied with the VBOX4 build, but getting everything to play together turned out to be a surprisingly painful headache. The hardware build was pretty straight forward, except for the familiar challenge of getting everything to fit in the very limited space of the tiny enclosure. The real challenges this time were installing Ubuntu and GRUB, which I grumbled on about in the previous entry and the upgrade from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to 14.04 LTS. Most of the software I used were upgraded to new major versions in 14.04 LTS, which meant that there were changes to more or less every single configuration file.

But this entry is about the hardware you need to build a teeny tiny and totally silent Mini-ITX server, so let’s talk about that instead. Here’s a list of components I used for the VBOX4 build:

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How To Configure RAID and GRUB on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

You probably know the feeling: You’ve got a box of new hardware and you can’t wait to assemble everything to build the Greatest Server EverTM. But when you sit down, you run into this seemingly unsolvable problem you just can’t seem to wrap your head around, even though it should be easy as pie.

I had that box of new hardware. An ASUS J1900I-C motherboard, two Kingston SSD drives and gigabytes upon gigabytes of RAM. I was going to build the greatest server ever. It would run Ubuntu 14.04 LTS in a sweet RAID1 configuration. With a nerdy grin on my face, I started the Ubuntu installation process. But of course I ran into a problem I just wasn’t able to solve: GRUB refused to install on my RAID1 setup. It failed with a fatal error1. Hour after hour went by as I tried to figure out why. I was desperatly searching the internet for a solution, but to no avail. Nothing worked. I had almost given up2, when suddenly… great success!

To save you a lot of trouble, here’s what I had to do get GRUB to install correctly on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS running in a RAID1 configuration on a server with an ASUS J1900I-C motherboard. It’s all about configuring the motherboard in exactly the right way. My board has the 0611 x64 BIOS version. If you don’t have this version of the BIOS installed on your own motherboard, your results may vary. Look for similar menu elements and change those.

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Redesigning VBOX Again.

The site you’re currently looking at is brought to you by VBOX, a small server sitting on a shelve under the TV in our living room. The current version of VBOX is the third iteration, the first one being built twelve years ago, back in 2003. I sold it in 2007, probably to raise cash for the second VBOX. That one I held on to, and it’s stored somewhere in the basement as a backup for the third VBOX, which was assembled in early 2010.

The VBOX is up and running pretty much all the time and the current server has been at it for over 5 years. I wouldn’t be too surprised if some of the hardware is starting to feel a little funky, especially the two Kingston SSD drives. They were budget drives bought in a time when SSD drives weren’t main stream and the technology and the hardware still had a long way to go compared to today’s SSD drives. The two drives are set up in a RAID13 configuration, so I’m relatively safe if one of them decides to go tits up.

Aging hardware and the imminent danger of a complete meltdown and inexcusable downtime on this precious site gives me a great excuse to build the fourth VBOX. Let’s call it VBOX4, as an homage to both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.

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How to install Owncloud on a NETGEAR ReadyNAS.

In the previous entry in the PRISM Break series, I looked at how to set up a NETGEAR ReadyNAS 102 as a basic replacement for your current, commercial, privacy-repellant, cloud storage needs. But to really get things running, you’ll have to tinker a little bit more with the NAS box. In this entry, I’ll cover how you connect to your ReadyNAS device over SSH with root privileges, how you install and configure Owncloud and you set up your Android device to synchronize files with your new Owncloud account. The tutorial below has been tested on a NETGEAR ReadyNAS 102 and a NETGEAR ReadyNAS 312, and it’s very likely that you can follow this guide to accomplish exactly the same on other ReadyNAS versions as well. The only prerequisite is that your ReadyNAS device has version 6 of the firmware installed.

I’m assuming that you’ve completed all the steps required to configure your ReadyNAS unit and that it’s connected to your LAN, and that you have installed the latest version of the firmware.

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