Using SATA with the PC Engines APU1



  • With the issues surrounding the use mSATA SSDs with the APU1 - and the workaround for using nanoBSD via SD card - I'm intrigued by the idea of using a standard SSD via the SATA port. The SATA data port is standard, but I'm confused by the fact that SATA power seems to be a small 2-pin 5v connector. Can anyone point to how one would use a standard SATA device with these?



  • @wildfrog:

    With the issues surrounding the use mSATA SSDs with the APU1 - and the workaround for using nanoBSD via SD card - I'm intrigued by the idea of using a standard SSD via the SATA port. The SATA data port is standard, but I'm confused by the fact that SATA power seems to be a small 2-pin 5v connector. Can anyone point to how one would use a standard SATA device with these?

    I have an APU board running off of an mSATA SSD right now. I think someone mentioned the prob was sub standard SSD's? I put an Intel 525 Series mSATA in it and it is working just fine.



  • Thanks. That's good to know. Tho I'm still curious about the capabilities of the board, and still interested in an answer to the SATA power mystery :)


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    I'm not turning up any in a search at the moment, but I swear I've seen a two-pin to SATA power cable before. If not that, it was 2-pin to 4-pin molex then one of those to SATA.




  • Netgate Administrator

    That second link is wrong way around. It's for powering a fan from a SATA power outlet.
    Can a SATA disk run from 5V only?
    Looks like it can if your drive sports the 'slimline' 6-pin power connector (or the micro connector?):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Power_connectors

    Edit: That's not to say that a drive with a 15-pin connector won't run on only 5V just that the 15-pin type usually supply 12V as well.

    Steve



  • Thanks Steve. The whole thing makes me wonder what SATA devices PC Engines had in mind when they decided to put a SATA port on the board. Perhaps they're betting on SATA DOM taking off.

    Mostly I'm looking for alternatives to SD card to avoid the mountroot workaround. Can anyone say whether 2.2 will resolve this for SD card via USB on the APU1?


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    The first cable may work, depending on the drive. The second, as was noted by stephenw10, was the wrong direction.

    If you get the APU loaded with pfSense from Netgate, their firmware is built with the proper settings to make sure it will always work.

    An eSATA port probably would have made a lot more sense on the APU than an internal SATA port. I suspect they added them because they were supported by the BIOS, but in reality, mSATA will be the way forward on those. Unless you're mounting it in a larger case with a separate PSU to drive the SATA disk/SSD

    2.2 probably will still require manually setting loader.conf.local in the stock NanoBSD image since that isn't a general requirement for NanoBSD, but there may eventually be an APU-specific image available one way or another (e.g. through Gold) that, like the Netgate image, supports the reset button and LEDs and such.



  • Thanks Jim. I ordered a DIY kit (from Netgate) so I can familiarize with the hardware. But when I order for clients, I'll likely do a pre-assembled kit.

    I figure I'll give it a go with a mSATA SSD (AData) and see what happens before tackling the mod of loader.conf.local
    Hopefully, router_wang is right that a SSD from a reputable manufacturer will be successful.



  • FWIW: while waiting for the ordered 16GB mSATA (with the TRIM problem), I bought another mSATA yesterday at a local shop (couldn't control myself ;)), the smallest disks available were 30GB: ADATA & Kingston, and the Kingston had double read/write speeds for almost the same price. Install went pretty easy, time will tell about how long it lasts… (by then I will have a spare 16GB I hope ;D)


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    I have negative confidence in Kingston SSDs. Lower than none. Keep a spare handy for when it dies.



  • @jimp:

    Lower than none.

    That is indeed not very much ???  Didn't find much negative reviews on this model… Anyway doesn't matter that much, a spare is ordered (I bought the spare 1st 8))
    Advantage here: I have 3 types of network-monitoring with pretty good alarming (wife & 2 kids)... So if it should fail, I will know instantly  ;D
    On my turn, I'll let you know. For your statistics...


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    Their mSATA devices may be OK, but after the horrors we've had reported from the field with their other SSDs, I wouldn't go near them.



  • Kingston's own manufacturing is alright and they utilize a variety of different controller chips on their SSD.
    Thus, IMO (and also from personal experience) some are totally reliable, whereas others I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

    I would generally not give too much about SSD transfer rates- and particularly not for router use.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Kingston produced an SSD that appeared perfect for running pfSense, or any small distro. The SSDNow S100 8GB was consequently bought by many people for this purpose. It had buggy firmware that could, and very often did, brick the drive in short order. Kingston, and to a lesser extent SSDs in general, caught a bad rep from that. If you read the 'pfSense kills SSDs' thread you will see that. Or read the reviews:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820139427

    (I've never owned a Kingston SSD)

    Steve



  • Also Kingston's product naming scheme seems to be deliberately confusing - if not, in some cases, downright deceptive.
    That's one reason alone not to buy from Kingston (SSDs, that is).
    Another one for me would be lack of info on controller chip (as one the linked SSDNow S100, where I couldn't quickly gather this).

    When it comes to choosing SSD, I would put the importance of the make of controller above manufacturer; and IOPS above maximum transfer rates above.
    Like this:

    1. controller
    2. manufacturer
    3. IOPS (or access times)
    4. transfer rates


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    I'd also mention the presence of a capacitor to safely flush the disk contents during a sudden power outage (Often called "Power Loss Protection") to protect against corruption. Though I'm not sure how common that is on mSATA disks.



  • @wildfrog:

    With the issues surrounding the use mSATA SSDs with the APU1 - and the workaround for using nanoBSD via SD card - I'm intrigued by the idea of using a standard SSD via the SATA port. The SATA data port is standard, but I'm confused by the fact that SATA power seems to be a small 2-pin 5v connector. Can anyone point to how one would use a standard SATA device with these?

    You can use SATA device on APU with that cable http://store.calexium.com/en/cables/370-pc-engines-apu-sata-cable.html.



  • @totoro77:

    You can use SATA device on APU with that cable http://store.calexium.com/en/cables/370-pc-engines-apu-sata-cable.html.

    That's very interesting. I also see an alternative case/enclosure for the APU - http://store.calexium.com/en/boitiers/324-pc-engines-alix-2d3-2d13-or-openvox-ipc100-110-120-case-with-hdd-wifi-black.html. At roughly $65 US, it's a very expensive option. I wonder if it dissipates heat better than the older-design Alix case currently in common use for the APU.



  • I searched for mSATA and APU1, and this is the only thread that came up.

    I had  APU1 running via the SD card and NanoBSD version of 2.1.3 running OK.
    Saved the config to local computer.

    I bought an mSata card, 30gig Intel 525. Used a SATA to mSata converter and wrote a full install CD
    to the drive.

    Pulled the SD card, installed the mSATA. Powered up, got a boot error and fixed that via set command.
    Finally got the serial console screen, configured the ports and IP to my normal internal IP address.

    Tried to restore the config saved. When it tried to reboot, all I get is non-sense characters on the serial console.
    I tried to set the speed to 19,200 rather than 9600, but no good. I can't seem to get past the screen trash.

    PS - I forgot to modify the boot loader config file for the alternate boot device AD4S1A or whatever it was supposed to be.

    Any idea where I went wrong? or next steps I can attempt?

    Thanks, PMB


  • Netgate Administrator

    @pmb1010:

    I Used a SATA to mSata converter and wrote a full install CD
    to the drive.

    You mean you installed to the drive from a CD? Or you actually wrote the CD to the drive?

    Steve



  • I used a separate HP computer, and its CD drive.
    I took out the SATA hard disk, and plugged in a mSATA to SATA
    adapter board.
    Booted the HP computer, it recongnized the 30 Gig drive.
    Used the live CD and did the "I" option to install the software to the mSATA drive.
    Once it shut itself down, I turned off the computer and moved the mSATA chip
    to the board of the APU1
    It then failed to boot, it was looking for AD0S1A, and the device list on the APU
    shows it as AD4S1A.  Did a SET command and it booted from the mSATA just fine.
    The FIRST time…
    Restoring the config from the SD based APU clobbered things pretty good.

    I did finally get the text to display from serial port. Its running now at 116,500 or some such number.
    It's not booting to the right partition like before. I get F1 boot prompt, then it goes to boot.loader prompt (I think)

    I'm having trouble getting the AD4s1A back into the device boot config, I try the set command, but
    BOOT is not recognized. I might be at the wrong prompt or something.
    I'll take a look this afternoon and report back.



  • New info..
    It appears to be trying to start from the mSata drive.
    I get to PFSense F1, and if I press F1 it goes thru all the normal processes,
    but ends at mountroot. (error trying to load from ad0s1a)

    I know the boot drive I need to load from is ad4s1a

    I used to be able to do a Ctrl C to get to the loader prompt but I can't get there now.
    If I do a space bar during the startup (after F1) I get to a boot: prompt,
    but can't seem to get out of that. No matter what I type there I cant get the system restarted.
    (Edit … ok /boot/loader and enter gets it going.

    I just need a way to get that vfs.root.mountfrom=ufs:/dev/ad4s1a  changed and it should start OK.

    EDIT-------------

    I gave up. Something was just way wrong. It was not starting PFSense in the right way...
    I just reformatted and re-did the mSATA card, and put it back in and now the serial speed is good at 9600,
    I see the PFSense menu and can press 7 to get to loader prompt. Have done so, fixing it to the right partition, and it booted to the right
    PFSense regular menu, set the LAN IP address and I can see it on the network now.

    This is where I was last time when I tried to do the restore config option... I think I'll just do this by hand this time.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Usually you would expect it to get as far as the mountroot> prompt and then stop. You can then enter the path to mount the root partition at that prompt, there is no need to CtrlC there.
    Once it's loaded edit the fstab to point at the correct location.

    Steve



  • The 2nd try was successful.
    I edited the FSTAB for correct boot partition, rebooted a few times to make sure it was all set,
    then sent the config from my old setup,
    and other than the serial port changing to 115200, all seems well.
    MY IPsec tunnels all came back up OK,  rules are good.

    So running on APU1 with mSATA will full PFSense install.



  • @pmb1010:

    The 2nd try was successful.

    Why didn't you just boot from a USB stick and install?


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