Feb 8 2019

Project updates!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated anything here and that’s a darn shame. Here are a bunch of cool projects that I’ve been working on recently and are still ongoing!

Virtual Reality:

I picked up a Samsung Odyssey Plus to replace my Oculus Rift due to the Odyssey Plus having a significantly higher resolution. So far, for sit-down games like Elite Dangerous (I also recently picked up a used Saitek x52 pro HOTAS which is fantastic), and racing games like Assetto Corsa and Project Cars (I also just picked up a used Logitech G25 Racing wheel which is pretty nice), the Odyssey Plus is FANTASTIC. However, I’ve had some difficulties with standing and room-scale experiences because it uses inside-out tracking and when the touch controllers move out of range of the cameras (such as when I have them behind my back or when i’m trying to look forward while swinging backward or trying to reload a virtual pistol by holstering it while shooting with the other one and looking where i’m shooting… I really wish I could use the Rift Touch controllers (which are FANTASTICALLY ergonomic and track really well with just the set of IR “webcams” that Oculus uses as tracking sensors.) separately from the rift, but sadly the wireless receiver for the touch controllers is built into the rift headset and furthermore, the wireless receiver turns itself off when the headset goes to sleep so there really is no way to use the rift touch controllers outside of with the rift headset 🙁 The resolution of the Odyssey plus is really great though, i just wish there were better controllers that track better for it. I think I might end up reselling my rift and Odyssey plus, coupling that with a bit of additional investment and picking up a Pimax 5k+ but i’m not totally sure yet.

Storage Server:

I currently have a Thecus N7700 Pro NAS that I have retrofitted with a VGA port and have removed the Disk-On-Module on in order to replace the crappy out-of-date, no-longer-updatable system software with modern Ubuntu server 18.04. It’s basically just a simple core2duo machine with 4gb of ram and a 7 bay SATA backplane (that’s non-bootable). I installed /boot to a usb stick, made / the raid5 array of 6 3tb disks and a 128gb ssd as a read-cache (14tb usable) but it’s now almost totally full (there’s about 40gb free). I use it to store my workstation backups, photos and videos I’ve taken, rips of Blu-ray and DVD media that I own (it runs Plex to stream my media to all the devices in my house), and a whole bunch of other archived stuff I’d like to hang on to. I’ve used this system in production for about 4 years now and clearly I’m reaching the limits of it’s storage, compute and memory resources, and also raid5 is not terribly reliable by today’s standards so I have used a few decommissioned parts from my previous workstation build and recommissioned them for use in a server enclosure for use as a future file server. the parts I’ve been able to scrounge so far are an i7-2600k, 24gb of ddr3 1600mhz ram, Asus p8z77 pro motherboard, and for the testing phase, I’ve got 6 old 2tb hard drives in there. At the moment I’m trying out the latest and greatest version of FreeNAS which I rather like, it’s designed specifically to be a storage appliance operating system with a really nice graphical interface that’s really easy to set up built on FreeBSD, however, in terms of servers, my general background has always been with various flavors of linux, and as a storage appliance type setup under FreeBSD, FreeNAS is kind of restrictive when it comes to things like package management (APT for life!), virtual machine management (KVM is VASTLY better than bhyve in terms of configuration and documentation), and of course linux has native docker support should I wish to experiment with that (which I kind of do, if only for the learning experience). Thus, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be wiping this new test server and try my hand at figuring out how to do ZFS on Ubuntu effectively with better reporting, regular snapshotting (so my backups can be insulated from “accidentally deleted/moved/changed a thing”, and hopefully find a graphical dashboard for things like real-time system status (especially zfs metrics, transfer speeds, fragmentation, and all that kind of good stuff). It’s my goal that once I’ve locked down a reproducible way to set things up that I like, that I can somehow magically find the funding to replace those 6x2tb drives i’m using for testing with 8x 10tb drives for implementation. Quite a few base elements are in flux however such as “do I need ECC ram with a storage server this big?” “how much would that cost”, which would basically force me to abandon the hardware platform that i’ve piece-mailed together and invest in either a new ryzen based system (ecc support) with a bunch of ECC ram, OR some used enterprise gear with decent SAS backplanes in which case, I’d want a 16 or 24 bay system in order to have room for future expansion 8 disks at a time (because in zfs you can add vdevs to a pool, but you can’t add disks to a vdev after the vdev is created, and the redundancy happens in the vdev, the pool is just a concatenation of vdevs, just a bunch of blocks that can be used to store stuff. Of course either way, I’d be setting this up as a raiz2 to enhance my data protection via both checksum and double data parity. the 8x10tb drive configuration I have in mind would get me about 55gb usable which should keep me going for a little while at least. Stay tuned for more (I’ll try to keep the cursing at a minimum, heh).

3D Printing:

Unfortunately, I haven’t been up to a whole lot of 3d printing over the past few months. Every time I go to print something I have to struggle with getting the bed leveled *juuuuuust* right in order to get an appropriate first layer bead. This also seems to change every time i change the precision at which i’m printing. I can USUALLY get it to print at .2 (draft in cura) but when i lower it to 1.5 and try to print, the print nozzle is ALWAYS too close or too far from the bed which results in squirting plastic strings all over the place or it being too squashed down and the next layer squirting plastic strings all over the place…. This is exacerbated by my Tevo Tornado’s bed… I’m fairly certain it’s not level, which means that I need to try to rip the whole thing apart, reassemble it making sure everything is square and trying again, and if that doesn’t work, buying a new bed for it, which sucks. i can sometimes get it printing at .2 but it’s frustratingly rare and never lasts long.

Youtube Production:

I am INCREDIBLY LAZY when it comes to sitting down and pushing out content. I either honestly don’t have the time, or when I do I choose to use it watching tv or playing video games or talking to folks on twitter (please feel free to follow me, I’d be happy to talk!) or friends on facebook… Sure, I lack the equipment to shoot live-to-tape (my dslr doesn’t have clean output and I don’t have a decent capture card) but I have lights, a camera, an audio recorder, and a mic, and several good ideas which are all that is needed to be successful other than motivation… I watch my friend Starr pump out video after video and do live streams every so often with a netbook and a cell phone for a camera on her YouTube channel LeadingBlind – and my friend Eric who is ALWAYS busy working his daytime gig or maintaining his place, writing, doing community theater, doing his own audio podcast, and guest on other friends’ podcasts from time to time, pump out a ton of quality content all the time on his channel News For The Caffeinated (NFTC) and current side-project Crypto For The Caffeinated (I have no clue how he does it, or how he manages to stay so awesome all the time…) and I can’t help but think that if these awesome people can do it, so can I, and there’s no technical reason for it, I just really need to crack down and get to work on stuff. *sigh*

Crypto Mining:

My Innosilicon A9 Zmaster is still going strong, but it’s not really all that profitable. in current numbers, the current idea is that it pays for itself, heats my house, and makes an additional $1-2 a day. It’s nowhere near my expectations when I bought the thing, and when the spring weather finally hit consistently, I’m very likely going to be selling it off fairly quickly thereafter because there’s no way that i’m going to pay to get rid of the heat that it generates making very little money. I’ve gotten a little fed up with crypto at the moment… Right now I’ve got almost-but-not-quite 1btc in terms of my position and I feel like I shouldn’t sell at any less than about 8k considering where crypto was when i bought it, so I’ll just hodl for a while and see where btc goes… I’ve heard a few people calling this the bottom and that we may see some improvement soon, but there really is no good way to tell until that needle starts moving up again. I guess time will tell. Meanwhile, I need a new proper side-hussle to combat the fairly large debt that the investment into this miner has left in my ledger.

I know that I have a ton more open projects, but I think that’ll do for a quick project report for now – it’s the most interesting stuff I’ve been up to for me anyway. Please don’t hesitate to hit me up on twitter, discord, or any of the other places on that pretty new social media bar at the top right and bottom of this page, and I’m hoping that it won’t take me so many months to post another update. Until next time!

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