Hardware

Homelab: Network 2020

As a younger person in my career I got a few Cisco certs, the study material was available to me, and I thought it would be an interesting thing to learn. At this point, I have had a CCNP for almost 10 years and I still enjoy messing with networking even if it is not my day to day job. While I historically have used Cisco a lot, there are many other brands out there these days that have good gear, some even low power enough that I can run at home and not worry about the power bill. Below is my current home setup, it has changed a lot over time, and this is more of a snapshot than a proper design document. That is what homelabs are for right? Messing around with things.

Firewall

The firewall I am running is one I have mentioned on here before. The system itself is an OLD Dell Optiplex 990, released in early 2011 and soon to have its 10th birthday! Idling at ~30 watts, it works well for what I need it to with a gen 2 i7, and 8gb of ram. I added a 4 port Intel gigabit ethernet card to it, which allows for more ports and hardware offloading of a lot of IP tasks.

I looked around at different firewall OS options. Pfsense is the obvious one, but I found its interface lacking. (I use Palo Alto Networks firewalls at work and that interface/flow is more what I am used to) Opnsense is a bit better, but still leaves something to be desired on the UI side. Then I tried a Home License of Sophos XG. It is free as long as you stay at 4 cores or less, with 6 or less GB of ram used; you are given an “evaluation license” until 2099-12-31, if it runs out I will ask for an extension. For more than a year I have been enjoying it, the interface is slick, and you get the enterprise auto patching built in. In the time I have run it, I have had 1 zero-day attack on the product and it was immediately patched without me having to login. I use it as my home firewall between vlans, a DHCP server, and I also have IPSec and SSL VPNs for when I am away from home. The system does DNS for the house (on the less secure vlans, AD does those) and allows for block lists to be used. This is like a pihole but built into the product.

There are a few things it does a little odd, but I enjoy not having to go and write weird config files on the backend of some Linux/BSD to have my firewall work. I have it hooked into AD for auth, and that way I can login with a domain admin, and allow users who have domain accounts to VPN into home. It has been VERY stable, and usually only reboots when I tell it to do an update, or that one time the ~10 year old PC blew a power supply.

Cross Room Link

At the start of the year, I was running a Ubiquiti Wi-Fi mesh at home, it got decent speeds, and allowed me to not run wires over the apartment. The access points used were these models, link. They were only 2×2 802.11AC Wave 1; got decent speeds (around 400mbps), but being in a New York City apartment, I would get interference sometimes, even on 5ghz. The interferences would cause issues when playing games or transferring files. The bigger issue was my desk with a bunch of computers, and the firewall were on different sides of this link, meaning any data that was on a different vlan had to go over and back on this Wi-Fi link. On top of that, I will mention I basically HAVE to use 5ghz, I did a site survey with one of the APs and the LOWEST used 2.4ghz band near me was 79% utilized…

Anyway I started looking around for what I would replace it with, I always thought fiber could be a way to go since its small and if I could get white jackets on it, then it would blend in with the wall. I spend a few weeks emailing and calling different vendors trying to find someone who would do a single cable run of white jacketed fiber. Keep in mind this is early 2020 with Covid starting up. Lots of places could not do orders of 1, or their website would say they could and later they would say they couldn’t and refund me. Finally I found blackbox.com, I have no affiliation with them they just did the job quickly and I appreciate that. I got a 50 meter or so run, and was able to install that with the switches below.

Switches

Now that I had the fiber I needed some small switches I could run at home. After looking at what others have on reddit and www.servethehome.com I found the Ruckus ICX 7150-C12P. A 14 1gb/s ethernet, switch with 2 1/10gb SFP+ ports. The switch is compact, fan-less, and has 150 watts of POE! I can run access points, and cameras off of it without other power supplies. I have learned to look for before buying this sort of gear off eBay to try to get the newest firmware. With Cisco and HPe they love to put it behind a wall that requires an active support contract. Not only does Ruckus NOT do that, they have firmware available for their APs that allows it to run without a controller, more on that later.

I ended up buying 1 of the Ruckus switches “used” but it came sealed in box. Then getting another one broken, after seeing some people online mention they sometimes over heat if it was somewhere without proper ventilation and that can kill their power supply. The unit is fan-less, but the tradeoff there is nothing can sit on top of it, because it needs to vent. I was able to get one for around $40, then a new power supply for $30, all in I spend $70 for a layer 3 switch with 10gb ports! Now I have these 2 units on opposite sides of the room, in a switch stack. This way they act as one and I only need to manage “one switch”.

With the Ubiquiti gear no longer acting as a Wi-Fi link, which I have written about before, I only had one of the APs running. As mentioned before the access point was only 2×2 antennas and 802.11AC Wave 1. I was pondering getting a new Wi-Fi 6 access point, while looking around someone on reddit, again, suggested looking at Ruckus access points. Their antenna design is very good, and with their “Unleashed” firmware you get similar features to running a Ubiquiti controller. After looking at the prices I had to decide if I wanted to go Ubiquiti with Wi-Fi 6, and wait for their access points to come out, or get something equally priced but more enterprise level like a 802.11AC Wave 2 access point (like a Ruckus R510 or R610 off eBay).

I recently had a bad experience with some Ubiquiti firmware, then all of a sudden they killed Ubiquiti Video with very little warning, and some the more advanced functions I would want to do are either minimally or not documented with Ubiquiti. One could argue that I am used to enterprise gear, and Ubiquiti is more “pro-sumer” than enterprise; thus, I should not be upset at the lack of enterprise features. That made me decide to try something new. I ended up getting a Ruckus R610 off eBay and loading the “Unleashed” firmware on it. I can say the speeds and coverage is much better than the older access point. It is 3×3 802.11AC Wave 2, and with most of my devices still being 802.11AC I figured that was a good call.

One feature of the Unleashed firmware is it can manage all your Ruckus hardware. The web management portal has a place to attach your switches as well, and do some management of them there. I have been scared to do this, and coming from a traditional CLI switch management background have yet to do so.

Unleashed Home Screen

I was able to POE boot the AP just like I did with Ubiquiti, converting the firmware was easy, and there are many guides on Youtube for it. The UI does not have the same polish that Ubiquiti does, but the controller is in the AP itself which is very nice. There is a mobile app, but it is fairly simplistic. The web interface allows for auto updating, and can natively connect to Active Directory making it very easy to manage authentication.

There are 3 wireless networks in the home, 1 is the main one for guests, with their 6 year old unpatched android phones, that has a legacy name and meh password, that way I don’t have to reset some smart light switches Wi-Fi settings. This is where all the IoT junk lives. There is one with a better password that connects to the same vlan I am slowly moving things in the house over to, at least the key is more secure. Then there is the X wireless network, this one is not broadcast and has 802.1X on it. When a user authenticates with their domain creds, depending on the user and device I send them to a different vlan. This is mostly used for trusted devices like our laptops, and iPad when I want to do management things. This network for my domain account allows me on the management network.

10gb/s Upgrade!

The latest upgrade I have embarked on was 10gb/s. I moved my active VM storage off of the NAS to Storage Spaces Direct for perf. While the NAS has worked well for years, the 7 – 3 TB disks do not give fantastic IOPS when different VMs are doing a lot of transactions. After lots of thought and trials I went with Storage Spaces Direct and will write about it later. The main concern was that it allows all the hypervisors to have shared storage and keep it in sync, and to do that they need good interconnects. This setup is the definition of, lab-do-not-do-in-prod, with 3 nodes each with 3 SSDs over USB 3. I knew with USB 3 my theoretical bottle neck was 5gb/s, which is much better than the 1gb/s I had, that also had to be shared with all server and other traffic.

First I had to decide how I would layout the 10gb/s network, while the ICX 7150 has 2 – 10gb/s ports, 1 is in use to go between the switches. After looking around and comparing my needs/wants/power/loudness-the-significant-other-would-put-up-with I got a MikroTik CRS309-1G-8S+IN. I wasn’t super excited to use them, since their security history is not fantastic, but I didn’t want to pay a ton or have a loud switch. I run the switch with the layer 2 firmware, and then put its management interface on a cut off vlan, that way it is very limited on what it can do.

After that I got a HP 10gb/s server cards, and tried a Solarflare S7120. Each had their ups and downs, the HPs are long and would not fit into some of the slim desktops I had. But when the would work, like in the Dells, they would work right away without issues. The Solarflare are shorter cards which is nice, but most of them ship with a firmware that will not work on some motherboards or newer operating systems. For these you need to find a system they work in, boot to Windows (perhaps an older version) then flash them with a tool off their website. After that they work great. I upgraded the 3 main hypervisors, and the NAS. I have seen the hypervisors hit 6.1gb/s when syncing Storage Spaces. With memory caching I can get over the rated disk speed.

That is the general layout of the network at this point. I am using direct attached cables for most of the systems. I did order some “genuine” Cisco 10gb/s SFP+ off Amazon for ~$20, I didn’t believe they would be real, but I had someone I know who works at Cisco look them up and they are real. Old stock shipped to Microsoft in 2012 or so, but genuine parts. The Ruckus switches and these NICs do not care which brand the SFPs are, so I figured I would get one I knew. The newer Intel NICs will not work with non Intel SFPs so look out.

To summarize, the everything comes in from my ISP to the Sophos XG box, then that connects to a port on one of the Ruckus switches. Those two Ruckus switches have a fiber link between them. Then one of the SFP+ ports on the Ruckus switch goes to a SFP+ port in the MikroTik switch. All the hypervisors hang off that MikroTik switch with SFP+ DACs. Desktops, video game consoles, and APs all attach to 1gb/s ethernet ports on the Ruckus switches. I have tried my best to label all the ports as best I can to make managing everything easier. I’m sure this will evolve more with time, but for my apartment now 10gb/s networking with a Ruckus R610 AP has been working very well.

ESXi Migration & Lenovo ThinkCentre M710s

I have started a transition from Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct to VMWare vSphere and vSAN. I apologize that these blog posts order is all over the place. Part of the transition is upgrading the hardware on some of the hosts I have, including getting 250GB NVME drives for vSAN cache. I started the migration with one of the desktops that run in the cluster, a Lenovo ThinkCentre M710s. After finding the small slot the NVME drive goes in, I realized there is a manufacture piece of plastic you are supposed to get to install a NVME drive. Since I do not have that, and do not want to pay for it, I spent a good bit more than a hour the first day of the migration creating this bracket and 3D printing it. Then while that was printing, I realized one of the feet on the system had gone missing, so I made a small one of those.

This post is just a quick update and a preview of more to come.

NVME Drive Holder: Lenovo ThinkCentre M710s NVME Bracket by danberk – Thingiverse

Foot: Lenovo ThinkCentre M710s Foot by danberk – Thingiverse

Homelab: Overview

I am starting a series about my homelab and how it is all laid out. I have written this article a few times, with months in between. Each time the setup changes, but we seem to be at a stable-ish point where I will start this series. Since I wrote this whole article and now a while later am editing it, I will mark with italics and underline when present me is filling in. I think it will give a neat split of growth in the last year or so I have been working on this. Or it will make it illegible, we will see. My home setup gives me a good chance to test out different operating systems and configs in a domain environment before using that tech elsewhere like at work.

Hypervisor

Starting off with virtualization technology, I settled a while ago on Microsoft Hyper-V instead of ESXi, the main reason behind it is I already had Windows Server, and Hyper-V allows for Dynamic memory, and allocating a range of memory for a VM. When something like an AD controller is idling, it doesn’t need much memory; when it starts it may, Dynamic memory allows me to take that into account. I will say one place that has bit me later is file storage, but that will be a later post.

The setup is technically “router on a stick”, where the Sophos XG firewall functions as the router, and the rest of the devices hang off of that. The Sophos XG machine is a old Dell Optiplex 990 (almost 10 years old!) with an Intel quad NIC in it. That way it can do hardware offloading for most of the traffic. I intend to do posts for networking, hypervisors, file storage, domain, and more; thus I will not get too in the weeds right now on the particulars.

The file storage is a FreeNAS box recently updated to 7, 3TB HDDS. I have had this box for about over 6 years (I just looked it up in November 2020, one of the drives has 55257 hours or 6.3 years of run time on it); it is older but has worked well for me so far.

The network backbone is a new switch I really like that I was able to get 2 of off eBay; they were broken but I was able to repair them, more on that later as well. They are Brocade, now Ruckus, ICX7150-12P; 12 1GB/s POE ports, 2 additional 1GB/s uplink port, and 2, 1/10GB/s SFP/SFP+ ports. These switches can run at layer 3, but I have the layer 2 firmware on them currently. They have a fiber connection between them, before that I was using 2 Unifi APs in a bridge, that didn’t work fantastic however because A. I am in NY, B. they were only 2×2 802.11AC Wave 1, and C. I am in NY. I custom ordered (so the significant other would not get mad) a white 50m fiber cable to go around the wall of the apartment.

With SSDs in the hypervisor boxes (I call them HV# for short) and iSCSI storage for VMs as well, which VMs are on which host doesn’t particularly matter. Flash forward 6 months or so, since that first sentence was written, I now still use the NAS for backups, but the hypervisors are running Storage Spaces Directed and doing shared storage now. This allows the hypervisors to move move VMs around during patching or pause during a system update if they are less critical. The Intel NUC and small Dell Inspiron are much under powered compared to the mid tower hypervisors, so they run usually only 1 or 2 things. The NUC runs the primary older domain controller, and that is it. It is an older NUC that I got about 7 years ago, so its not that fast. The “servers” in the hypervisor failover cluster are a Lenovo and 2 Dell Optiplex 5050s. I like these Dells because they go for about $200 on eBay, while having a Intel 7600 i5, can support 64GB of ram, and have expansion slots for things like 10gb SFP+ cards. These machines also idle at about 30 watts, which makes the power bill more reasonable.

Some of the services I run include:

  • 2 Domain Controllers (Server 2016, and 2019)
    • Including Routing and Access service for RADIUS and 802.1x on wifi on wired
  • Windows Admin Center Server (Windows Server 2019)
  • Windows Bastion (This box does Windows Management) (Server 2019)
  • Veeam Server (Server 2019)
  • Unifi Controller/Unifi Video for security camera (Ubuntu)
  • 3 Elastic Search boxes for ELK (CentOS 8)
  • Linux Bastion (CentOS 8)
  • Foreman Server (CentOS 8)
  • LibreNMS (This I grew to really like) (CentOS 8)
  • Nessus Server (CentOS 8)
  • Jira Server (CentOS 8)

That is the general overview, I will spend the next while diving into each bit and discussing how it is configured and what I learned in doing that.

Finished Front

IMSAI 8080 Replica Kit

I emailed the creator of the IMSAI 8080 kit over at https://thehighnibble.com/imsai8080/#overview when I saw the kit he had, but didn’t know if any were available; then one day out of the blue get an email saying a kit is ready for order! They come out in batches, this makes it take a bit to get them sometimes. To start off I can say this is one of the more well put together kits I have gotten. I was a little worried when I looked at the instructions and it mentioned a lot of part numbers and no photos of the setup; then I realized I had missed a link to a video that walks through the whole process, making it much easier.

The Kit

The kit is one of the more professionally put together kits I have done. From the metal case the system sits in, to the cut out cardboard all the parts come in. The creator, Dave, put a lot of attention to detail into everything. This kit includes everything from serial console lines on the back, to the micro controller having a WiFi antenna, which you can access over WiFi. The shipping box is also the correct size for the unit, you can use it as storage after you are done with the project. This kit comes with what you need ready to go and be put on the board (except solder and flux); some of the kits I have had in the past have required painting. You do pay a bit of a premium for it, but I think it is worth it. The kit also allows RS-232 connectivity or USB directly into the ESP32 controller.

Assembly

I will start off saying the hardest part of putting the kit together is at the beginning. There is a tiny chip for memory and that needs to be surface mounted to the board. This involves getting a small amount of solder onto the pads and then heating them with the chip on it. I accidentally bridged 2 pads and spent a chunk of time getting the tiny amount of solder off. After that part is over, you move onto the micro SD card reader, this is a similar surface mount; yet either I got better after doing the first one or got lucky, that was put down relatively quickly.

There is a diagnostic program you can run at that point to check if what you have soldered so far is working (which is fantastic), after that it is time for you to press on to soldering all the LEDs and their corresponding pieces. This part of the process is much like other kits of this type you may have done. It takes a while, but is a straight forward process.

In the end you sandwich the board together, and get it screwed into the case. There are a few parts where its gets a little tricky if you don’t want to have to pull the whole thing apart, but the video guide easily walks you through it.

Software

The software for the unit is great; the projects website, thehighnibble.com has instructions on how to use it. Similar to other projects there are certain switches you can flip to send the system different commands. But then, my favorite part is you can connect to the device over WiFi (either adhoc or with a AP) and then see the terminal. This allows you to leave the system on a shelf or a desk, and play with it at the same time. This interface also allows you to edit which “disks” are inserted into the system, to easily change images.

Overall it was a very enjoyable kit, other than the first little bit with the surface mounts. I think any beginner could do it once it is past that point. The resistor and LED soldering is straight forward. The metal case, and back clear acrylic make it stand out and look great. The WiFi and web interface put it over the top, as a it you can play with and connect to easily.

Powering up! It’s very shiny

3D Printing and Thingiverse Login Fix

I recently got a new 3D printer (Ender 3 Pro), and thought I would put up some of the small things I have recently printed. In trying to print things from Thingiverse, I couldn’t login even after making an account. I would get a spinning “Logging in” and it would never end. After looking at the network log, I saw it trying to reach out to https://accounts.thingiverse.com/unverified?username=danberk If you run into this issue, go to that URL with your username and it will send you an email to verify your account. Then the site will allow you to login.

Ruckus ICX 7150 sideways shelf mount

I have been using Ruckus ICX 7150-12P switches at home recently, I wanted to have it more out of the way; so I designed and printed a mount that would mount the switch to the side. It came out well and looks good! I also printed a network cable comb to hold all the cables nicely together.

SD card and USB holder!

This is a nice little SD card, micro SD, and USB holder. I 3M stuck it to the shelf I have, next to the printer.

Mac SE with battery mount

I have already posted about the Mac SE Battery mount I made. I put the design up if anyone is interested.

Transferring Files To The Macintosh SE over Serial/Kermit

The Mac journey continues with me searching for a way to transfer files from my modern PC/Mac onto the old Macintosh SE I recently was restoring; a way without constantly removing the SD card from the SCSI2SD adapter and mounting it in an emulator. After reading a lot of different pages, and hitting different dead ends, or methods that involved a lot of hardware, time, or monetary investment I found an old reliable way to transfer files.

One of the methods I looked at was an ethernet LAN adapter for the Mac SE; the issue I saw was some of them were expensive and a lot of them required more RAM than the 1MB my SE had. I then turned to the serial ports available in the back of the machine. The Mac does not come with a lot of software to help in this endeavor, which made me use the SCSI2SD adapter to load the initial setup on, then I could use the software to transfer after that.

I ended up using the Kermit protocol, the same protocol used to transfer software to the Compaq Portable II. The project was run by Colombia University for many years. While they have since transferred it to be an open source project, the original project files are still on their FTP server, and this offers everything from DOS to Mac to C64 binaries. ftp://columbia.edu/kermit hosts all the files, for archival purposes I also uploaded a clone of that folder to archive.org; https://archive.org/details/kermit_202008 . Kermit is not fast, being serial and the Mac can’t support anything over 57600 baud; but it offers compatibility with almost every OS at this point. Get ready to experience what dialup was like all over again.

Required Hardware:

  • Serial Adapter for the modern computer if your system doesnt have one on it
  • RS-232 to mini DIN 8 cable (I used this one)

To start the connection, I will be using a modern Mac as the server (a modern Mac being a 2012 Macbook Air), and a USB Serial cable to connect to the Mac SE as client. Using homebrew on the Mac, you can install “c-kermit”. Once that is installed search for your serial device under /dev/, mine is /dev/tty.usbserial1420. Please note wherever you start kermit, will be the home folder for file transfers, I suggest making a folder somewhere that you will drop files to transfer.

Server

$ kermit

> set port /dev/tty.usbserial1420

> set carrier-watch off   # Assume there is no carrier signal

> set speed 57600          # Or whatever the speed has to be

> connect

Get ftp://columbia.edu/kermit/mac/mackermit.hqx and get it onto your Mac SE, through some means. I transferred the whole “mac” folder from Colombia’s FTP server onto my Mac SE. I would suggest a SCSI2SD adapter for this initial transfer. You may be able to use a floppy, but you may hit issues depending on your model of SE. Mine has a 800kb floppy drive, so results of writing floppies from a modern PC usually end with it not reading them. Modern floppy drives are cheap working at 1.44mb, and the tracks wont align. Once you have the Kermit app on the Mac open it up.

Select “Settings”, at the top, then “Communications”. Here you can set the speed to the max speed supported of 57600 over the default 9600 baud. Both of these are terribly slow… but there is nothing we can do about that. Make sure to select the Phone or Serial port based on which you are using; I used the Phone port.

Sorry for the odd quality, capturing a CRT isn’t the easiest

Afterwards, click the “File-Transfer” menu at the top, then “Set Directory” to set where the files transferred should end up. Then open the same “File-Transfer” menu again and “Get file from server”; here you can type in a filename that exists in the folder you opened Kermit on the Server.

Taking photos of CRTs is not the easiest…

Now be prepared to wait for a while… Eventually the files will be in the folder you selected and you are good to go!

A few things to look out for, if you have a older Mac SE like the one here and it only has 1MB of RAM, that means you can only run Mac OS 6. (https://www.lowendmac.com/oldmac/compact3.html) I may upgrade this system in the future to its max which I believe is 4MB, but for now I am stuck with 6. This also means I can only use DiskCopy 4.2, and some good amount of classic apps will not work on Mac OS 6. The biggest issue is there are a lot of archives that are in DiskCopy 6 format, which I can’t load on the system.

The first thing I thought I would do is extract the archive on an old Mac VM on my modern computer, then transfer the files onto the Mac Se. Here I ran into a lot of issues with the file types that exist. If you want to go down a weird rabbit hole, the classic Macs used an odd 4 letter system for the file type, and 4 letter for which program created it, http://livecode.byu.edu/helps/file-creatorcodes.php . The Mac mostly ignores file extensions. There are programs such as ResEdit (that comes on the provided SCSI2SD disk image I used in restoration) where you can edit these attributes, but it usually leads to weird outcomes. Kermit tends to bring files over as “text”. StuffIt seems to do a decent job of just looking at the file extension and allowing you to expand it, then those files are the correct type. This whole issue is something to look out for, doubly so on a System 6 machine and can not run DiskCopy 6.

Otherwise stick to websites that say they backup with DiskCopy 4, or get more RAM… Then have fun with the system! Write that novel you have always wanted to write without distraction.

Mac SE Restoration

Years ago someone gave me a Macintosh SE, 20MB SCSI HDD, with 1MB of RAM. I had it sitting in storage and decided it could use some new life; this involved what I found out to be repairing, upgrading, and getting parts for the little machine. Then I was able to come up with a modern way to transfer files to it, so I can get software off the web, then get it onto the system without too much hassle, but that is getting ahead of myself.

Cleaning/Repairs

Last time I used the machine I remember it working, but then when I went to turn it on the system gave a sad mac with an error. In looking it up, http://www.midiguy.com/MGuy/MacQs/SadMac.html#anchorSE&II, I was told it was a RAM error. Power cycling the machine would periodically change the error, and once in a while get the machine to power up.

Getting the case off needs a special long screw driver, which I happen to have. The back only has 4 screws and then lifts off. Any repairs to these systems have to be done with a lot of care since there is a high voltage CRT. Very carefully I removed the cables from the motherboard, and then removed the motherboard itself.

After I removed the case and looked at the RAM, it was fairly oxidized. I happened to have a can of deoxite, I removed and cleaned all the ram and then the DIMMs. After, what I will say was jankily setting up the motherboard, it booted the first time. I did notice one of the legs on the the little slots didnt look at good as the rest, but it seems to work fine now.

Luckily for me the 20MB, 3.5″ SCSI drive still works fine. I ran diagnostics on it and them came back clean. I wanted to be able to download files from a more modern system by I will do a different post about that.

There were 2 more upgrades I wanted for this machine; first the original 1987 PRAM battery was still on the board. Fortunately it had not leaked at all, but I still want to remove it. I purchased a new 1/2AA, 3.6V battery holder and thought I could use the expansion slot in the back to hold it. I am not using the slot, and that way when the system goes into storage I can pop the battery out easily. I had recently gotten a new 3D printer (Ender v3 Pro), and made a mounting bracket. It needed to be mounted on the inside of the bracket because of the high of the battery holder, but it works well!

The last upgrade I wanted was some sort of mass storage. (Mass storage being anything over a floppy with a few MB) I do have a second Macintosh, I think its a Classic but I need to go get it. Someone gave me a Zip 100MB external SCSI drive, but to get that working you need at least Mac OS 6, with the driver installed. The Mac also only has a 800KB floppy drive, making it hard to transfer files to. I have a USB floppy drive, but these newer USB drives are fairly locked to 1.44MB floppies, as well as I couldnt easily read the file format for it.

Enter the SCSI2SD (v5.5 Pocket Edition)! I got it on ebay from https://www.ebay.com/itm/SCSI2SD-V5-5-Pocket-Edition/193496539667, I don’t know the seller, but the item is great. It allows you to write a disk image you make with Mini vMac or Basilisk II onto a micro SD card, then boot the Macintosh from it! Boom solid state drive for your Macintosh. This also allows you to kickstart the process of getting an OS and software you need to hook the Macintosh up to something more modern. There are different models of these SCSI2SD adapters and different versions. Apparently v6 is faster for some systems version of SCSI. My main feature I wanted was a DB-25 connector directly on it, since a lot of these adapters come with an internal header, and I wanted this to be able to go between Macs.

In researching I found this blog, https://www.savagetaylor.com/2018/01/05/setting-up-your-vintage-classic-68k-macintosh-using-a-scsi2sd-adapter/ it has a great guide on how to setup the device and even images to get you going! (I backed up a lot of the files related to the adapter on archive.org if years later anyone needs them) I’ll skip over that since that blog covers it so well. The device allows multiple SCSI device emulation. Note, if you have a Macintosh like mine that has an internal HDD, that is SCSI ID 0, so make your device 1 or later. When booting the Macintosh you can hold Command-Option-Shift-Delete-# to boot to that device. With this setup I was able to transfer an OS install onto the ZIP disk (at 100MB plenty of space), and update the internal system.

I installed Mac OS 6.0.8, later editions need more than 1MB of RAM. For anyone with a similar system I would suggest running in Finder mode, and not Multifinder. Multifinder kept running low on RAM when trying to run applications. At this point the system is up and running, reliably, and I was able to put some games on it. I will have another article about using our old reliable Kermit to transfer files to the Mac!

Altair 8800 Kit

This post will be a bit more brief than some of the others, I was relaxing around Thanksgiving and put this together. Only afterwards did I realized that I was having such a good time, that hadn’t taken too many photos.

The kit comes from Chris over at https://www.adwaterandstir.com/altair/. The version I have is The Altair-Duino v1.4, which came in a bamboo box. There are now other versions, some with acrylic cases! This post will be about version 1.4.

The Kit

The kit comes with all the parts you need inside the box. The main controller is an Arduino, hence the name The Altair-Duino. There is an SD card that you bend the prongs on (more on that later) which holds the disk images. This is a fun straight forward kit, that comes with everything you need minus solder. The Arduino came with the firmware it needed, and the SD card came with disk images preloaded onto it.

Assembly

The kit comes with a spiral notebook of instructions on how to put it together. These are great, color photos of step by step what to do. You can see them here, https://www.adwaterandstir.com/instructions-14/ , keep in mind this is for my specific version. Like many of the other kits, the longest part of this kit is soldering all the LEDs and resistors onto the board. There are a few ribbon cables that go into place, and you are set. Be slightly careful when putting the switches in, they can be a tighter fit into the holes which is great for stability, but they are at the center of the board and it can flex. Once you get it all in the case and screwed down, clearance is a bit low, so make sure the board is ready to go in, when you put it in.

The one part of the setup that is a bit scary, the system comes with a SD card reader that sits flush with the board; if you want it to be accessible from the back of the case you need to bend the 4 legs on it. I used my trusty Radioshack wire stripper/pliers for that!

Software

I connected over USB, the kit also supports Bluetooth on Windows, to get the serial line out and console in. The system supports loading a bunch of programs that are included. The creators website, https://www.adwaterandstir.com/operation/ includes a bunch of guides on things to do. I loaded up CP/M and for fun, of course Zork!

A easy kit to put together, and a fun little project. I now am amassing a wall of these projects, and will have to get a new shelf for this one. Then I will just wonder where Chris found 256mb micro SD cards!

Homelab: Ubiquiti Mesh Link

In my apartment I needed to get wired networking with VLANs across the apartment. I didn’t want to run a wire since I thought my roommate would not appreciate that. I wanted to have a switch near my desk, that allowed different devices I have like file server, desktop, and a few other things to have a wired link; then, connect to the modem/firewall and rest of the networking gear across the apartment.

Long story short, I ended up using a trick I didn’t know would work till I tried it. I have 2 x UAP-AC-M, they work decently well, topping out at 867Mbps and 2×2 MIMO; as well as being able to get them on sale in a 2 pack for a decent price made them a great deal. I have run 1 of them for 4 years as my main access point. Then when I wanted to get this wire connection in a new room configuration I tried to do a wireless uplink to the second one. This makes it mesh with the first access point. Now the important item I don’t seem written anywhere but works well (caveats below):

Ubiquiti access points in wireless uplink/mesh will bridge that network to the wired port on the device

This means if you have a trunk port going into your original/base mesh AP, you will have the same trunk port coming out the other end. This also means anyone who is running mesh points, and hasn’t secured the wired port may want to think about doing so. I am will skip over HOW to set this up, Ubiquiti has a good guide https://help.ui.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002262328 to walk you through it, and most APs can do wireless uplink at this point; this is more about saying it can be done, and works well from my experience to anyone thinking about implementing this or wants a solution for their home/apartment that is not powerline networking. The APs I have are 2×2 802.11AC, I’m sure with a 4×4 AP like the AC-Pro as your base you may see better performance on higher trafficked lines.

This setup has worked well for me for over 6 months now, I can easily hit the 300Mbps I get from my internet connection on a desktop plugged into this meshed AP’s port; I also get 6ms pings to servers while playing games. You get the benefit of real commercial grade antennas and radios in the APs you are using instead of a tiny wifi chip in a laptop, desktop, or device. This also lowers the number of wireless devices (since all the wired devices would have been wireless instead). I also disabled the secondary AP from hosting any of the SSIDs I have in the apartment, so it just works as a wireless uplink. My apartment is not big enough for 2 AP’s for devices.

Caveats

I am looking to move away from this setup for a few reasons. It has worked well and if you are in a pinch I would recommend this setup much more than powerline networking which I have also tried and used several times. I am hoping to move to 10gb/s networking at home with my growing homelab setup; thus, no more wireless link. The other limitation that 99% of people probably would not care about is that you can not do jumbo packets over wireless, so that means it can not be done from all I have read over a wireless link of this type.

Network Topology

The first caveat is that this configuration slightly confuses the access point when it first starts up. The first 60 seconds or so when the access point is online it will think the wired connection is its uplink and attempt to ping out over it. After that it realizes it cant hit anything and will go to wireless uplinking. Sometimes everything just works then, sometimes I have had my switch be confused about where traffic should go and had to power cycle it; in this case it was just a Netgear Prosafe switch with VLANs, not especially smart, but not the dumbest switch. This is similar to a enterprise networks re-converge time when a link is downed. Overall it is rarely a problem and these APs are solid and can go months between restarts, but this is something to lookout for.

Remember that if a Ubiquiti AP cant get an IP, then it doesn’t broadcast SSIDs; this is important since if the base AP boots (like after a power outage) and doesn’t get a DHCP address quick enough, it wont broadcast, then the mesh side will never find an uplink to connect to.

Management

With the earlier mentioned topology issues you can run into, that can make management difficult. You need to make sure the base side of the network is stable. You can get into a position where you did a bad config push or a setting is wrong on the secondary/mesh side and the only way to fix the config is bringing that AP back to the original wired network and pushing a config to it, before the secondary AP can go back into wireless uplink mode.

Dell Inspiron 3050 Ram Upgrade

This is a short post about a Dell Inspiron 3050 I upgraded a little bit ago. This is a tiny pc, similar to an Intel NUC. Its a Intel Celeron, and came with a 32GB SSD. I got it for around $150, with an Office 365 subscription; thus it was worth it to me. It came with 2GB of ram, and a 32GB SSD, these days those are not expensive to swap; I wanted to swap the components for 8GB of ram and a 512GB SSD. Below is a short guide with some photos of opening this thing up.

First we needed to remove the case, this involves flipping it over, and taking the 4 screws out that are in the little feet.

Inspiron Bottom

That gives you access to the RAM DIMM. Easy to swap if you want to do just that. Now there are 4 screws at the outer corners, those come out then the board can fold out keeping the antenna and other cables connected. Flipping that over and putting on the table shows the CMOS battery, as well as the SSD.

Underside of board

After replacing the SSD its just a matter of flipping the board back onto the posts, and screwing it all back together. Fairly easy to do, but I couldn’t find a ton of photos online so I thought I would put some up. I ended up installed Hyper-V 2019 on it, the box is fairly slow with its Celeron dual core J1800 processor; but can run a Linux VM or two. Plus its a cute little computer that uses very little power.

One last note about putting it back together, there are little metal spokes that stick out from the top metal mount, those need to line up with the motherboard the system wont go back together correctly.

Little metal spokes