Are any external/USB graphics adapters supported?



  • I'm building a rack mount server, and it has no onboard graphics (Xeon/X99 platform). In lieu of a serial connection, are there any USB graphics adapters that I could just plug in for the (rare) times I want a monitor connected - pretty much just the initial setup or for perhaps troubleshooting later.

    Otherwise I'd need to connect the COM1 port out of the rack chassis (and drill out a hole for the connector), and I'm planning on using the COM1 port full-time internally for a GPS NTP clock.



  • USB graphics? I don't think so.. You may have better luck with a USB Serial adapter.



  • None of those USB Display Port units work with Free BSD?

    When you say USB to Serial adapters, do you mean something that utilizes a USB port on the machine and creates a virtual COM port, where the physical adapters would be USB and USB on both ends? What are these called or could you provide a link?

    The motherboard only has one physical serial port, and I'm planning on using it, so a USB to 10-pin COM header wouldn't do any good, I'd have to open the case and unplug the existing serial connector for that.


  • Netgate

    A better direction would probably be building a node that had a dedicated IPMI port.



  • At this point I've already purchased the components, and I'm set on an ASUS X99-M WS motherboard with a single serial port.

    However, it's going to be in a 1U rack mount that only has one external full height slot, which will be the quad port NIC.

    I could stick some random graphics card in with a ribbon cable, or with the top of the case off, just for the initial setup, and then pull it (or even grosser, leave it floating around inside the case), but it would be phenomenal if I could get the BIOS / FreeBSD to recognize something like this:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/152644525741

    I might get one just on the off chance it works.


  • Netgate

    Hmm. Sounds like you didn't get the right hardware for the job at-hand.



  • IPMI ports seem rather obscure a requirement. I want to plug in an external graphics adapter to have full graphics output on demand; IPMI is not the right hardware for the job at-hand.

    This blog post shows a commit in FreeBSD that adds support for USB DisplayLink adapters; how would I be able to map a Free BSD SVN revision to a BSD release? Is this in pfSense 2.3 / FreeBSD 10.3 already?

    https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=FreeBSD-DisplayLink-Support


  • Netgate

    An external graphics adapter is actually a pretty obscure requirement.

    IPMI in a rack system is pretty ubiquitous. Else serial console. Else an actual VGA/KVM ports.

    You screwed the pooch on this purchase. Sorry.



  • You picked a gamer board designed around the ability to install 3 gpus and want to run it without a gpu… At this point the best solution is to give up the idea of gps and use the onboard serial port as a console. (Gps over serial is pretty lousy anyway.) Or if you're still within the return window, pick a more optimal motherboard.



  • I picked one of the few motherboards that met my requirements, of which 'gamer board' was not one:

    1. Supports Registered ECC memory
    2. Has at least 4 RAM slots so I can run 4x8GB instead of 2x16GB
    3. Is Micro ATX or Mini ITX to fit in the 1U chassis I selected
    4. Takes fairly modern CPUs (2011-3, AM4, or newer, but Ryzen ECC support only theoretical at this point)
    5. Has at least one M.2 slot for an on-board SSD

    https://pcpartpicker.com/products/motherboard/#A=1&E=1,4&N=4,16&f=7&s=28

    None of these options have IPMI ports.

    Why is GPS over serial lousy? It looks fairly legit in this video, with the PPS signal provided on a separate line (DCD) generating an interrupt.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3UTcF7FQDs



  • Here's his result after adding the GPS over serial.

    ![GPS Syncronized NTP.png](/public/imported_attachments/1/GPS Syncronized NTP.png)
    ![GPS Syncronized NTP.png_thumb](/public/imported_attachments/1/GPS Syncronized NTP.png_thumb)



  • In either case, no I do not want IPMI ports, nor does that solve what I asked.

    No I do not want to abandon GPS over serial, or add another serial port, as it also does not solve what I asked.

    I want on-demand graphics to a monitor over USB, from pfSense/FreeBSD. Does anyone know of any DisplayLink adapters that are compatible, or have gotten this working? This has been fairly well supported in Linux kernels for ~6+ years.


  • Netgate

    Try it and see.



  • Indeed; how helpful.



  • @Ehryk:

    Indeed; how helpful.

    You're in territory here where nobody can give a first-hand experience "yes" or '"no" answer to your specific question.  Hence, "try it and see."

    Quick Google search brings up this:  http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=FreeBSD-DisplayLink-Support

    Looks promising.



  • Indeed; it links to an SVN Commit from 2015.03.07, which makes it unclear as to whether it is part of the Free BSD 10.3 release 2016.04.04.

    This is also promising, but it doesn't seem to be present in 10.3, only 11+

    https://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=udl&apropos=0&sektion=4&manpath=FreeBSD+11.1-stable&arch=default&format=html


  • Netgate Administrator

    Should be in pfSense 2.4 snapshots:
    https://github.com/pfsense/FreeBSD-src/blob/releng/11.0/sys/dev/usb/video/udl.c

    No idea about making that the primary console though. Some hackery required I would think if it works at all.

    Steve



  • Yeah, I plan on starting with a 2.4 snapshot. I'll try with a couple DisplayLink adapters I have already, but I will likely have to complete the initial setup via the serial port or a temporary graphics card.


  • Banned

    @Ehryk:

    I want on-demand graphics to a monitor over USB, from pfSense/FreeBSD. Does anyone know of any DisplayLink adapters that are compatible



  • If you don't care, or you don't know the answer, then your reply is not only pointless but also demonstrating that you do care in some way (at least sufficiently enough to comment).



  • @Ehryk:

    In either case, no I do not want IPMI ports, nor does that solve what I asked.

    No I do not want to abandon GPS over serial, or add another serial port, as it also does not solve what I asked.

    I want on-demand graphics to a monitor over USB, from pfSense/FreeBSD. Does anyone know of any DisplayLink adapters that are compatible, or have gotten this working? This has been fairly well supported in Linux kernels for ~6+ years.

    You chose a weird set of requirements, decided to run a dedicated firewall OS on top of it, and want to do something unusual with it. I assume this is for a home lab, so just experiment until you find something that works for you. Or just run linux. With the overkill in CPU & memory you could virtualize pfsense, still get perfectly acceptable performance, and have lots of room left over for other VMs.



  • What was 'weird' about the requirements, exactly?

    Modernish CPU, Micro ATX to fit in a small 1U chassis, ECC, 4 slots for RAM all seem fairly reasonable, and I simply prefer M.2 for a more elegant storage solution rather than a separate 2.5" drive with associated SATA and Power cables. I'm reading now that some consumer Ryzen motherboards support unbuffered ECC RAM and have integrated graphics, so perhaps that would have been easier but the ECC support is spotty at best.

    Though it seems fairly 'unusual' perhaps, I think it would be quite useful to run without a graphics card and only plug in a USB based graphics adapter for initial setup and troubleshooting.


  • Banned

    @Ehryk:

    What was 'weird' about the requirements, exactly?

    The requirement to support some whacky USB GPU? Guess how many firewalls out there have USB-based graphics chip. So, here's a suggestion: get the most shitty PCIe passively cooled GPU you can get your hands on from some dumpster, stick it into one of those completely unused PCIe slots and move on.


  • Netgate Administrator

    I think that was plan A but limited space for expansions cards in the case makes it a problem.

    You might be able to fit a PCIe serial port card in directly?

    Since you already have the display link adapters you might as well try them. It would be interesting to see the results but I would expect significant problems.  :-\

    Steve



  • Stop trying to get a GPU in there. The console over video out looks exactly the same as the serial console. Use a simple USB-Serial adapter (one end has USB, you stick that in to the firewall, the other end has RS232) and be done. If you want to do it "right", you might as well put the serial adapter in use with that GPS unit, and use the 'real' serial port for the console.



  • @Ehryk:

    What was 'weird' about the requirements, exactly?

    The sum of the parts. You started by picking a small box, then cramming everything else into it. I'd personally start from the other end, deciding what functional components I needed, then picking a box to put them in. But ok. So you've limited the selection right at the start, by a lot. Then you want ECC. You don't really need ECC, most peoples' routers don't have ECC, but ok. But it turns out that the intersection between ECC and tiny motherboard is really, really small. Many (most?) of those that exist use SO-DIMMS because fitting normal DIMMS onto an itx motherboard is hard. Then instead of a small CPU, you want a massively overspec'd CPU, restricting the choice even more. If you'd gone with a lower power CPU there'd be a lot more options, or if you'd picked a case that took a bigger board, or if you'd dropped ECC, etc. So you might not have gone looking for a gamer board, but that's the only thing you found that happens to meet all the rest of the things that you decided you wanted. The motherboard simply isn't designed to provide what one would expect on a server platform, it's designed to support a high end gaming rig, with functionality you're not going to use instead of functionality most people would look for in a server. (Like a way to manage it.) There are solutions out there, but they're going to take more digging and aren't going to be at normal retail channels. I'd have suggested supermicro X10SRM-F or X10SRM-TF (10gbase-t version). They check all your boxes, but add IPMI, a VGA out, a dedicated external serial port, and a header for a second serial port–and much nicer NICs. That's the difference between a server board and a gamer board. So it's your choice, go down the road of experimenting with a solution which is always going to be a bit of an odd fit, or eat the restocking fee for something that's a natural fit.



  • @johnkeates:

    Stop trying to get a GPU in there. The console over video out looks exactly the same as the serial console. Use a simple USB-Serial adapter (one end has USB, you stick that in to the firewall, the other end has RS232) and be done. If you want to do it "right", you might as well put the serial adapter in use with that GPS unit, and use the 'real' serial port for the console.

    NTP via GPS over USB serial is often worse than NTP via network time servers, just don't go there. And any of these USB console approaches is going to make BIOS upgrades a treat, even if you manage to get the OS console working.



  • @VAMike:

    @johnkeates:

    Stop trying to get a GPU in there. The console over video out looks exactly the same as the serial console. Use a simple USB-Serial adapter (one end has USB, you stick that in to the firewall, the other end has RS232) and be done. If you want to do it "right", you might as well put the serial adapter in use with that GPS unit, and use the 'real' serial port for the console.

    NTP via GPS over USB serial is often worse than NTP via network time servers, just don't go there. And any of these USB console approaches is going to make BIOS upgrades a treat, even if you manage to get the OS console working.

    Strange, my 1PPS rubidium source is rather dependable via USB-RS232 adapter.


  • Netgate Administrator

    @VAMike:

    NTP via GPS over USB serial is often worse than NTP via network time servers

    That has been my experience. The jitter introduced by USB when you don't have a PPS signal makes it far worse that IP based ntp sources.

    Most USB-serial adapters will not pass a PPS signal (or will delays it etc) though I have read that some can.

    You want a real serial port for GPS NTP.

    You also want a real serial port, and preferably com1, for serial console which is where the issue lies here.

    Does that board offer console redirect to com port anyway? I doubt it. In which case you're going to need a video console to access the BIOS.

    Steve



  • All roads lead to the same problem: the board is not a real server board, has no IPMI or iKVM or SoL, and doesn't have enough serial ports.

    Since USB-serial and USB-video doesn't solve BIOS access, and is not as desirable as a real connection, instead of trying to tack on problematic devices it's probably best to just leave it as-is, and when you really need a local console, just hook up to the existing ports. Might have to take it out of the rack for that. Costs nothing in terms of more hardware.



  • I'm not planning on doing NTP via GPS over USB serial, I'm planning on utilizing the single real serial port (COM1) for the GPS signal with a PPS on the DCD pin.

    @doktornotor:

    So, here's a suggestion: get the most shitty PCIe passively cooled GPU you can get your hands on from some dumpster, stick it into one of those completely unused PCIe slots and move on.

    I could do that with a PCIe extender, but I only have one external horizontal slot that will be taken by the NIC, so I'd have to just stick it somewhere in the case with a video cable already connected. It's what I'll do for initial setup most likely, and then I'll probably pull it.



  • @VAMike:

    I'd have suggested supermicro X10SRM-F or X10SRM-TF (10gbase-t version). They check all your boxes, but add IPMI, a VGA out, a dedicated external serial port, and a header for a second serial port–and much nicer NICs.

    Thanks for the explanation. That checked most of my boxes, but lacks a M.2 slot for an onboard SSD. Edit: It does have an M.2 slot! Appreciate the find!

    I'm reading about some Ryzen motherboards supporting unbuffered ECC RAM, but the support is spotty and per-motherboard so none of them came up in pcpartspicker. I may end up in the future going to a MicroATX Ryzen board with a R7 1700X and ECC UDIMMs with an M.2, and since they have onboard graphics this whole mess wouldn't be an issue. I can dedicate the serial port to the GPS, manage through graphics, and I'll still have the Intel i350 quad port for the high quality NICs.

    @johnkeates:

    Stop trying to get a GPU in there. The console over video out looks exactly the same as the serial console.

    …. except for BIOS/UEFI configuration, no? I'd probably need a temporary GPU for that, would I not?



  • If you just buy a normal server board with IPMI, SoL and/or iKVM, more than 1 serial port and the usual BIOS-config-via-Serial-Console, you'd have none of those issues. Also, why buy ryzen or go for 'gamer' builds, it really has no benefit. Old hardware works too. An M.2 slot for a firewall is also serious overkill, the bloody thing will work off of a SATA DOM if you'd happen to have one lying around. There is really no benefit there. If you take a 1U case, or an ITX case, there is always space for 2 or more 2.5" drives. They are cheaper and can be used very reliably with pfSense. You can even get 16GB SSD's in that form factor, which is more than enough unless you want to do local caching.



  • I wanted to build with newer components and make it fairly overkill for enjoyment - if I'm honest, I can just continue by with my Almond+ router just fine.

    I am planning on doing local caching, and 128GB SSD SATA DOMs are $150, compared to the Samsung 128GB M.2 SSD I bought for $55, with much higher speeds, and I could very easily upgrade to much higher capacities if I wanted, where the SATA DOMs I see cap out around 128GB.

    The benefit is essentially aesthetic and an opportunity to play with some newer hardware. Ryzen excites me because it's cutting edge and affordable with ECC support - where to do this on Intel I either need to go back a few generation Xeons, or a very low power Pentium/Atom. In this case I chose a couple of gens back Xeon, but I'm wishing I had done Ryzen (parts purchased from eBay, and would be a hassle to return), but would require another ~$650 at this point, so I might just wait a bit until ECC support is confirmed in more Micro ATX boards.

    The drive space I am leaving open for the GPS hardware I'm building up, and I simply think it's more elegant to have the storage right on the motherboard though a much faster connection. I'm well aware this is a bit beyond the 'minimum necessary'.


  • Netgate Administrator

    If you have the display port adapters then try them, it costs you nothing to do so. I'd be interested to see what happens. It won't be easy though.

    Whilst that won't help you if you need to re-install entirely or access the BIOS for some other reason it would be sufficient to recover from locking yourself out of the box with firewall rules for example.

    Steve



  • This thread needs to go in the ghetto weirdest thread hall of fame. 8)