Choosing a Server Motherboard

For my new server I purchased an ASRock N68C-GS4 FX motherboard. Because of my dead office desktop Asus M2NPV-VM motherboard, I moved my HTPC Asus M3N78-EM HTPC motherboard to the office. I moved the ASRock into the dedicated server. I replaced the HTPC with a small footprint Biostar NM70I-1037U. The server would host all media files and recordings. The new media player would only stream.

From my dead M2NPV-VM motherboard I wanted to keep using the AMD BE-2400 CPU that remained functional. That kind of CPU is more than good enough for a server. Dual core, low wattage, and idles at a low 1 GHz frequency. A great CPU. I have a faster AM2 CPU for the same socket. Spare parts, a good thing when motherboards die.

In all the ASRock board is fine. A few days into my great migration project I wanted to test my backup scripts against the changes and new file paths. I use removable drive bays to hot swap SATA backup drives. Several attempts failed to get the system to recognize the drives without rebooting. With a sinking feeling I learned the BIOS does not support AHCI. For about an hour I thought I was doomed and would need to return the board or buy new.

The ASRock motherboard uses an Nvidia MCP61 controller. My dead Asus M2NPV-VM board had an MCP51 controller. The Linux kernel wiki clumps the two controller chips together: nForce MCP51, MCP55, MCP61, using the sata_nv driver. Since the Asus board used an older controller, I was puzzled why the ASRock board did not work.

Then I stumbled across an online reference that reminded me I might still succeed. Long ago with my older computers I began using the popular rescan-scsi-bus script to help with hot swapping SATA drives. I no longer remember why I started using rescan-scsi-bus in my backup script because the M2NPV-VM recognized hot swapped drives. Regardless, as I have been using the same backup script for many years, I long had forgotten that my script already used rescan-scsi-bus. Thus, while the ASRock does not automatically recognize hot swapped drives, the backup script forces recognition by using rescan-scsi-bus. Lo and behold the script worked fine to recognize my drives in my removable bay.

Thus the problem is not the MCP61 controller but a poorly crafted BIOS.

Still inconvenient is that, outside of scripts, I now have to manually run rescan-scsi-bus any time I hot swap a SATA drive in the server. I did not have to do that with the M2NPV-VM.

In this day and age motherboard manufacturers miss something as simple as this? SATA hot plugging has been standard fare for many years.

Another hard drive issue was the 3 TB WD Greens I bought for backups. I knew when I bought them they used some funky IntelliPower feature. I did not think that would be a problem for me as the drives would be running only when I performed my weekly backups and would be spinning that entire time. Yet reports around the web indicates the drives spin down too often because of this feature. While the Western Digital folks provide a Windows utility to disable this behavior, as usual no such equivalent is available from those people for Linux users. Why? Why do vendors continually snub Linux users?

Does not really matter. An equivalent utility is available called idle3ctl. With that utility a single one-liner disables the spin-down feature.

The usual WTF moments with computers. This time I was fortunate.

I now had a new dedicated server.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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