Soekris net6501 - full install on SLC mSATA?



  • The topic covers most of it…  is the SLC SSD that Soekris sells able to handle a full install?  Do I really gain much from a full install on this platform?  I've been running on a 4G USB stick for ages, and on prior hardware was using embedded on CF, so I'm not really sure what is "special" about the full install.

    I'm mostly just looking for something that is quicker to write on upgrades/etc.  a 4GB USB stick takes forever to DD for new install, and upgrades take a really long time to re-load the packages (even though I don't have a lot in the way of packages).

    I could also try an embedded install on the mSATA but I'm not sure how to get it on there unless I pick up some sort of adapter to DD with a PC.  Other than the net6501 itself I don't have any mSATA systems.

    I'm not using Squid or Snort or any deeper traffic inspection - just basic FW/NAT work, an IPSec VPN, uPNP, and traffic statistics are my reasons for pfSense.  :)



  • Conversing with myself…

    I ended up going with NanoBSD anyway, just because I wasn't exactly sure which kernel to pick with the installer (Atom with hyperthreading = SMP, but my choices were "SMP" or "serial console" and I wanted both).

    Unfortunately the 4GB image doesn't fit on the Transcend SLC 4GB mSATA that Soekris sells.  Had to go to the 2GB.  :/

    Reloaded my XML backup, and it's trying to reload packages...  and it seems to be in a loop?  I've seen the packages seemingly be installed and removed 5-10 times each now??

    Behavior is exactly as described in this post.  Has anyone seen this or know a work-around?  Ctrl+C just restarts the entire init script which begins the looping packages again…

    [edit]

    Was able to get to the shell via console and copy in an older config that didn't have the packages.  Then I could get the normal console menu to load, at which point I was able to restore factory default config… but then the web config wouldn't load, and from the log messages it was because some package obliterated a vital file that the system uses.  >_<

    I was thankfully able to use the other slice to boot from, first had to fight with the loader.conf.local stuff again (why can't this be shared between the slices?)

    Restored a tweaked config with the packages cut out of it and I will just re-install them manually.  This is kind of a problem though, if I hadn't had serial console access to this unit I would've been totally hosed.  Package reinstall process on a clean box needs to be bugfixed.


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    Full install would be OK, but would wear out the flash sooner. Might not really be an issue on those mSATA drives but I haven't seen any "real world" stats on their longevity.

    All current kernels have SMP in them, so embedded is OK, though you must have been installing an older version of pfSense because it's currently labeled "Standard Kernel" and "Embedded Kernel" and not called "Symmetric Multiprocesser" kernel anymore.

    loader.conf.local is copied from one slice to another on upgrade. It can't be shared because there is no way to share that file directly between the OS slices. It must be in /boot/ and each OS slice must have a unique /boot/ it can't be a symlink or on another slice.


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    And the package installs were probably find if you let them go. That is mostly a quirk of the output over serial. On a VGA console it goes fast so it isn't noticeable, but on serial it's slow. It "re-draws" quite a lot of info as things download and it prints percentages of progress. It's not a loop in the sense that things are actually happening multiple times, it is just printing text repeatedly as it updates a percentage counter.

    That whole part of the code could use some work, I'm not sure anyone is looking at it currently though.



  • I appreciate the reply Jim.

    Wasn't using an older version, but I was booting from the USB-serial console build 2.0.3. Apparently it still has the old lingo in it or is doing something different from the normal installer. If I'm understanding correctly, either kernel would've had serial support in it?  Or if I had picked SMP it would've been the standard VGA kernel without serial boot info?


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    The way the serial memstick runs, it would probably be OK either way, but the embedded kernel is preferred.

    The serial memstick enables the serial console in its default config so it should end up working approximately the same as if you had VGA installed but had the serial console enabled in the settings.

    The embedded kernel has no VGA support in it at all, which is safer in some cases with hardware such as ALIX and older Soekris boards.



  • I'm reading with interest about the combination of a Soekris net6501 and pfSense. I like this board - besides pfSense :) - and would like you to share your experiences with it.

    Are you still trying to get a full install to mSATA using the serial memstick version? Or are you still using a nanoBSD version? How did you flash the mSATA - is there a kind of reader for it? Which exact image did you try? So far you gave 2GiB, 2.0.3. I suppose you are using i386, aren't you?

    I've recently read about the Soekris net6501 getting rather warm. Unfortunately, I cannot find the reference anymore. Maybe it is at least depending on the specific version: net6501-30,  net6501-50 or net6501-70. The order gives increasing CPU frequency. Which model do you use?

    Peter


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    I've run a full install on my net6501 with a SATA drive. I've got NanoBSD on an mSATA now but I don't have it in production at the moment.

    It does get a bit warm without a fan but not so much it's been a problem for me, that was with a SATA drive in the case. Plenty of similar notes on the soekris-tech mailing list. I haven't run it with the mSATA much so I can't say how hot it gets now.

    For NanoBSD on mSATA, I booted the serial memstick and imaged it on-the-fly (fetch -o - http://somewhere/whatever-2g.img.gz | gzip -dc | dd of=/dev/adX, obviously not exactly that, but essentially)

    You can get USB to mSATA adapters and image that way, but I didn't want to spend anything more on it.

    Big Scary NOTE: If you want to run NanoBSD on the mSATA, you must use these settings: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    I also put an atheros mini-pci-e wifi card in mine, drilled a couple antenna holes in the PCI expansion slot cover, and stuck on some Antennas. I should really experiment more with that one of these days, I haven't really put it through its paces.



  • It runs warm, but it's designed for it.  There are no moving parts in the system so I don't worry too much about it.  I have my cable modem and a switch/router (it's a broadband speed testing unit from SamKnows in bridge mode) standing vertically on top of the case for the 6501 and I'm not concerned.

    I do try to keep stuff away from the system-side of the case (half of the 6501 case is empty to provide room for a PCIe card) but it's not burn-your-hand hot or anything.

    I do have the -70 model at 1.6Ghz for what that's worth.

    @jimp:

    And the package installs were probably find if you let them go. That is mostly a quirk of the output over serial. On a VGA console it goes fast so it isn't noticeable, but on serial it's slow. It "re-draws" quite a lot of info as things download and it prints percentages of progress. It's not a loop in the sense that things are actually happening multiple times, it is just printing text repeatedly as it updates a percentage counter.

    That whole part of the code could use some work, I'm not sure anyone is looking at it currently though.

    Ah yeah, on the serial console it would be nice if that could output less info (first time I can remember ever asking for less from a system ;) ).  It looks like it is looping through and "installing" then "removing" each package many times over as it "redraws" on a device that doesn't draw like VGA.  :p

    I ended up doing the in situ mSATA NanoBSD image-write per jimp's instructions above – fetch -o ... etc.  Tried the first time with the 4G image and got a notice that there was a "partial write" or something along those lines, which told me that it was too big for the drive.  Went to the 2G at that point.  Would've rather run the 4G image for more space but it is sized just a bit too large for the Transcend "4GB" SLC mSATA at least.

    jimp: big scary note ADDENDUM - with the SLC flash sold by Soekris, I could not boot when I enabled ATAPI DMA.  I had to enable ATA DMA, and I enabled write caching, but when I had ATAPI DMA enabled it didn't boot correctly (I unfortunately didn't log the errors / remember what it said).

    This makes sense in a way, as there are no ATAPI devices involved…  ATAPI is generally an optical drive.



  • Thanks for all your feedback. I'm planing to buy a net6501 in Q3/Q4 2013 for running pfSense as soon as I've saved the money for it. However, there are only very few shops selling Soekris in Germany. Maybe, I will have to buy at Soekris Europe.

    It's good to hear that heat is not a problem even with the -70 model. I'm currently having three options in mind for running pfSense: 1.) Transcend SLC mSATA, 2.) 2,5'' 5400 rpm SATA harddsik (probalbly Western Digital) 3.) Transcend 4 GiB CF (150x) with SATA2CF converter. Options 2.) and 3.) are being used with different hardware at this time.

    @jimp:

    For NanoBSD on mSATA, I booted the serial memstick and imaged it on-the-fly (fetch -o - http://somewhere/whatever-2g.img.gz | gzip -dc | dd of=/dev/adX, obviously not exactly that, but essentially)

    You can get USB to mSATA adapters and image that way, but I didn't want to spend anything more on it.

    Big Scary NOTE: If you want to run NanoBSD on the mSATA, you must use these settings: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    Useful information in Q3/Q4 2013 for me when - hopefully - having my own Soekris box. However, I've not yet found any USB to mSATA adapter.

    @jimp:

    I also put an atheros mini-pci-e wifi card in mine, drilled a couple antenna holes in the PCI expansion slot cover, and stuck on some Antennas. I should really experiment more with that one of these days, I haven't really put it through its paces.

    I have an unused Ubiquiti SR71-E (AR9220) miniPCIe. Is it expected to run with 802.11g speed? Besides this I've recently read, the D-Link DWA-556 Wireless N PCIe Desktop Adapter works with pfSense 2.0.3 and Soekris net5601:
    http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Soekris_6501_USB_Flash_installation
    It will become hard for me to drill the holes into the expansion slot cover, because I have nor a workbench neither an electric drill machine :)

    Peter



  • Ah yeah, on the serial console it would be nice if that could output less info (first time I can remember ever asking for less from a system Wink ).  It looks like it is looping through and "installing" then "removing" each package many times over as it "redraws" on a device that doesn't draw like VGA.

    I did some work on this in 2.1 a while ago - neatened up the output that appears on the Alix 2D13 console. Made it only report every 10% progress, the output %age is updated by doing backspaces and then rewriting nnn%. It would be interesting to know if the serial output stream of a package install on 2.1 looks OK on the Soekris also. (I should look again at a console during an upgrade, haven't felt the need to do that for a while)



  • Serial is serial, so I suspect that your work will be helpful on Soekris.  :)

    In the past I have run RC releases at home, but that was when there was a feature in the RC that I needed…  what is new in 2.1?  Now that I have an mSATA I can "fall back  to" in the case, I could load up RC on a USB drive.



  • @pvoigt:

    Thanks for all your feedback. I'm planing to buy a net6501 in Q3/Q4 2013 for running pfSense as soon as I've saved the money for it. However, there are only very few shops selling Soekris in Germany. Maybe, I will have to buy at Soekris Europe.

    I don't know of anyone other than Soekris.com that sells Soekris boards in the US.  Looks like the Europe store is your best bet.

    @pvoigt:

    It's good to hear that heat is not a problem even with the -70 model. I'm currently having three options in mind for running pfSense: 1.) Transcend SLC mSATA, 2.) 2,5'' 5400 rpm SATA harddsik (probalbly Western Digital) 3.) Transcend 4 GiB CF (150x) with SATA2CF converter. Options 2.) and 3.) are being used with different hardware at this time.

    @jimp:

    For NanoBSD on mSATA, I booted the serial memstick and imaged it on-the-fly (fetch -o - http://somewhere/whatever-2g.img.gz | gzip -dc | dd of=/dev/adX, obviously not exactly that, but essentially)

    You can get USB to mSATA adapters and image that way, but I didn't want to spend anything more on it.

    Big Scary NOTE: If you want to run NanoBSD on the mSATA, you must use these settings: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    Useful information in Q3/Q4 2013 for me when - hopefully - having my own Soekris box. However, I've not yet found any USB to mSATA adapter.

    I would strongly recommend AGAINST a spinning drive inside a Soekris, at least not for the main media.  Maybe as a secondary location to run a Squid cache (which you can disable if the drive fails), but the heat wouldn't be the best thing for it.  If you did insist on using a rotational disk, look for drives rated for industrial or automotive use - they are able to handle higher temperatures.

    I don't know if USB to mSATA exists. You can get mSATA to standard SATA converter boards though, and then you can use a typical "drive rescue" connector that has standard SATA connectors on it.

    I don't see the point of your option #3 (CF + CF to SATA converter), unless you have SLC CF cards and you are running a full install from there instead of embedded.  The serial-console platforms really run well with the NanoBSD embedded installs, which are already tuned to generate ZERO writes to the media other than config changes and RRD & DHCPD databases (if you enable periodic saving of these).

    My net6501 was running NanoBSD from a tiny 4GB USB drive without any problems.  The net6501 even has an internal USB port, so if you get a small enough drive (Sandisk Cruzer Fit for example) it can be installed inside the case.  I was using mine outside just so I could remove it if necessary to reflash, but I never really had to touch it.

    I only replaced it with mSATA because I didn't like how long it took to duplicate slices on the slow USB stick.  mSATA is quite a bit faster.



  • @bradenmcg:

    I don't know of anyone other than Soekris.com that sells Soekris boards in the US.  Looks like the Europe store is your best bet.

    Thanks for your advice. It's interesting to hear that even in the US there are rare but none Soekris sellers. Today I've googled around and even found one German shop not too far from home:  bytemine Shop.

    @bradenmcg:

    I would strongly recommend AGAINST a spinning drive inside a Soekris, at least not for the main media.  Maybe as a secondary location to run a Squid cache (which you can disable if the drive fails), but the heat wouldn't be the best thing for it.  If you did insist on using a rotational disk, look for drives rated for industrial or automotive use - they are able to handle higher temperatures.

    I don't see the point of your option #3 (CF + CF to SATA converter), unless you have SLC CF cards and you are running a full install from there instead of embedded.  The serial-console platforms really run well with the NanoBSD embedded installs, which are already tuned to generate ZERO writes to the media other than config changes and RRD & DHCPD databases (if you enable periodic saving of these).

    My net6501 was running NanoBSD from a tiny 4GB USB drive without any problems.  The net6501 even has an internal USB port, so if you get a small enough drive (Sandisk Cruzer Fit for example) it can be installed inside the case.  I was using mine outside just so I could remove it if necessary to reflash, but I never really had to touch it.

    I only replaced it with mSATA because I didn't like how long it took to duplicate slices on the slow USB stick.  mSATA is quite a bit faster.

    You're probably right when advising not to use spining parts. My option #3 is intended for a NanoBSD and not a full install. I've been making good experiences with it in combination with a Jetway board. To be honest, my favorite is the SLC mSATA with a NanoBSD image. When studying the Soekris website today afternoon I've seen the internal USB option. It's much cheaper than the mSATA solution. Good to know that its reliable.

    Did you try any wireless card with the net6501? Will Ubiquiti SR71-E work under pfSense 2.0.3 with net6501 at 802.11g speed? Interesting is that the datasheet specifies an AR9220 while it is mostly described as based on an AR9280.

    Do you recommend the Soekris standard desktop case or the Soekris 19" rack case? I suppose the rack case offers more space, e.g. PCIe card plus harddisk and has power supply included.

    Peter



  • My Soekris installations are on small shelves / etc so the smaller case works for me.  It is not in an area where I would want wifi - I use an Apple Airport in bridge mode as an AP in the main portion of my house, and then I have an older DLink A/B/G AP (dual-band) that I use to cover my garage.

    If you have a standard 19" rack then the rackmount case is nice.  Also the rackmount case includes PSU.  The smaller cases use an external power brick - it isn't very large, but it's one more thing to keep track of.



  • @bradenmcg:

    My Soekris installations are on small shelves / etc so the smaller case works for me.  It is not in an area where I would want wifi - I use an Apple Airport in bridge mode as an AP in the main portion of my house, and then I have an older DLink A/B/G AP (dual-band) that I use to cover my garage.

    If you have a standard 19" rack then the rackmount case is nice.  Also the rackmount case includes PSU.  The smaller cases use an external power brick - it isn't very large, but it's one more thing to keep track of.

    Currently I tend to buying the 19" rack: More space and included PSU. I do not have a professional 19" rack but a wide wooden shelve originally ment beeing used as furniture. It's width is ~19" and it is currently only carrying one real 19" device. So I could live with both options. But I still have one unused Transcend 8 GiB 2,5" SLC SATA flash device that I would like to test with the Soekris machine (NanoBSD installation). I do not want to consume the space which might be needed by a later PCIe x 1 card. That's why I tend to the 19" rack.

    Peter



  • @jimp:

    I also put an atheros mini-pci-e wifi card in mine, drilled a couple antenna holes in the PCI expansion slot cover, and stuck on some Antennas. I should really experiment more with that one of these days, I haven't really put it through its paces.

    Could you please tell me the model of the miniPCIe wifi card or at least the chipset. Might it be AR9220 or AR9280? Is it working correctly an g speed?

    Peter


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    @pvoigt:

    @jimp:

    I also put an atheros mini-pci-e wifi card in mine, drilled a couple antenna holes in the PCI expansion slot cover, and stuck on some Antennas. I should really experiment more with that one of these days, I haven't really put it through its paces.

    Could you please tell me the model of the miniPCIe wifi card or at least the chipset. Might it be AR9220 or AR9280? Is it working correctly an g speed?

    It was an AR5xxx card, a pull from an Acer Aspire One netbook. I don't have it in the Soekris (I had to hastily put it to use with an hdd so the wifi bits had to come out, the way I wired it up the antennas were in the way)

    I have a mini-pci AR9280 in my ALIX right now on 2.1 and it works fine though in 802.11g. I suspect the pci-e equivalent would be OK, but can't say for certain.



  • @jimp:

    It was an AR5xxx card, a pull from an Acer Aspire One netbook. I don't have it in the Soekris (I had to hastily put it to use with an hdd so the wifi bits had to come out, the way I wired it up the antennas were in the way)

    I have a mini-pci AR9280 in my ALIX right now on 2.1 and it works fine though in 802.11g. I suspect the pci-e equivalent would be OK, but can't say for certain.

    Ah, thanks, sounds good. I will give my unused Ubiquiti SR71-E (miniPCIe) a try before buying anything else.

    Peter



  • Sorry for bringing back an old thread but i've ordered a 6501-70 with slc msata ssd. Are the changes required for booting from msata listed here: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    persistent across updates? This is going to be installed remotely and i'd like to limit any possible complications. If an update is capable of stopping the device from booting I think I will go with a USB drive install over msata (will be nanobsd regardless). Thanks!


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    @diablo266:

    Sorry for bringing back an old thread but i've ordered a 6501-70 with slc msata ssd. Are the changes required for booting from msata listed here: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    persistent across updates? This is going to be installed remotely and i'd like to limit any possible complications. If an update is capable of stopping the device from booting I think I will go with a USB drive install over msata (will be nanobsd regardless). Thanks!

    Yes, changes to loader.conf.local are preserved across updates.



  • @jimp:

    @diablo266:

    Sorry for bringing back an old thread but i've ordered a 6501-70 with slc msata ssd. Are the changes required for booting from msata listed here: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Boot_Troubleshooting#NanoBSD_on_Newer_Hardware

    persistent across updates? This is going to be installed remotely and i'd like to limit any possible complications. If an update is capable of stopping the device from booting I think I will go with a USB drive install over msata (will be nanobsd regardless). Thanks!

    Yes, changes to loader.conf.local are preserved across updates.

    Excellent, thank for clearing that up jimp!


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