5 Apr 2011 dkg   » (Master)

Debian on Thecus N8800Pro

I recently set up debian on a Thecus N8800Pro. It seems to be a decent rackmount 2U chassis with 8 3.5" hot-swap SATA drives, dual gigabit NICs, a standard DB9 RS-232 serial port, one eSATA port, a bunch of USB 2.0 connectors, and dual power supplies. I'm happy to be able to report that Thecus appears to be attempting to fulfill their obligations under the GPL with this model (i'm fetching their latest source tarball now to have a look).

Internally, it's an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, two DIMMS of DDR RAM, and a PCIe slot for extensions if you like. It has two internally-attached 128MiB SSDs that it wants to boot off of.

The downsides as i see them:

BIOS
The BIOS only runs over VGA, which is not easy to access. I wish it ran over the serial port. It's also not clear how one would find an upgrade to the BIOS. dmidecode reports the BIOS as:
        Vendor: Phoenix Technologies, LTD
        Version: 6.00 PG
        Release Date: 02/24/2009
RAM
The mainboard has only two DIMM sockets. It came pre-populated with two 2GiB DDR DIMMs. memtest86+ reports those DIMMs clearly, but sees only 3070MiB in aggregate. The linux kernel also sees ~3GiB of RAM, despite dmidecode and lshw reporting that the two DIMM modules each are only 1GiB in size. I'm assuming this is a bios problem. Anyone know how to get access to the full 4GiB? Should i be reporting bugs on any of these packages?
SSDs
The internal SSDs are absurdly small and very slow for both reading and writing. This isn't a big deal because i'm basically only using them for the bootloader, kernel, and initramfs. But i'm surprised that they could even find 128MiB devices in these days of $10 1GiB flash units.
processor
/proc/cpuinfo reports two cores of a Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU T5500 @ 1.66GHz, each with ~3333 bogomips, and apparently without hardware virtualization support. It's not clear to me whether the lack of virtualization support is something that could be fixed with a BIOS upgrade.

I used Andy Millar's nice description of how to get access to the BIOS -- I found i didn't need a hacksaw to modify the VGA cable i had. just pliers to remove the outer metal shield on the side of the connector i plugged into the open socket.

lshw sees four SiI 3132 Serial ATA Raid II Controller PCI devices, each of which appears to support two SATA ports. I'm currently using only four of the 8 SATA bays, so i've tried to distribute the disks so that each of them is attached to an independent PCI device (instead of having two disks on one PCI device, and another PCI device idle). I don't know if this makes a difference, though, in the RAID10 configuration i'm using.

There's also a neat 2-line character-based LCD display on the front panel which apparently can be driven by talking to a serial port, though i haven't tried. Apparently there are also LEDs that might be controllable directly from the kernel via ICH7 and GPIO, but i haven't tried that yet either.

Any suggestions on how to think about or proceed with a BIOS upgrade to get access to the full 4GiB of RAM, BIOS-over-serial, and/or enable hardware virtualization?

Tags: n8800pro, thecus

Syndicated 2011-04-05 20:07:00 from Weblogs for dkg

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