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Hardware Hacking Data Storage Networking

Turning a PC into a Firewire-Based SAN? 50

Rachovenov asks: "So I've finally plunked down the money for one of those new, shiny Powerbooks, but they don't have much storage. My old PC is just sitting here with 2 identical 250 gig disks spinning away and an empty firewire port. There's even a hardware RAID controller in there somewhere. So why not use it as a low cost RAID 1 array for the Powerbook when I'm at home? Has anyone done this? How could I make it so that Mac OS X just sees it as a couple of Firewire drives?"
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Turning a PC into a Firewire-Based SAN?

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  • iscsi (Score:2, Informative)

    iscsi on linux []
    • That was going to be my suggestion.
      Just to clairify for the original poster, iSCSI works similar to network block device (NBD), in that it allows a machine running an iSCSI "target" daemon to serve up a chunk of it's storage as a virtual drive to a client running an iSCSI "initiator" driver. Once set up, the client's OS sees the block(s) of storage as if they were directly attached SCSI disks. The chunk of storage being served up by the target daemon can be a physical partition, a logical volume, or in so
  • Firewire (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @10:28AM (#12371486)
    Pop a gigabit ethernet card in your big machine and use a regular network connection. No need to get complicated with Firewire networking or whatever.
    • Re:Firewire (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      GbE is faster than Firewire too. Well, faster than FW400. FW800 would be a toss-up since GbE has more protocol overhead.

      You probably won't get the full benefit of FW800 or GbE without a machine with PCI-X, PCI-E or similar. In that case GbE will do as good as anything (and cheap).
    • This is my configuration. Gentoo server with 600GB of storage connected to my 802.11G home router and a $25.00 DLink GbE card was added so I can connect my PowerBook to it.

      Server (with all it's fans and all) is in the basement, PowerBook stays on the main floor. I can connect everywhere in the house with my WiFI and I can get GbE speeds wherever the 25ft Cat6 cable can go. Firewire is generally good for 6ft.

      To connect I don't use samba. Instead I use version 2 (not 1 - very important!) of Netatalk htt []
  • by Anonymous Coward
    TCP/IP over firewire.

    run it as a samba server, but connect through the firtewire. google'll work and be fast.
    • I have a mac geek on our PC network, and every time he saves a file onto a network share, it also saves a useless file next to it with the same file name, but a dot-underscore before it. Is there any way to get him to stop doing this short of beating him with his own powerbook?

      • That's for the resource fork. That file may be useless to you, but depending on what type of file it is, it may be quite important to him. Don't delete them before you understand the nature of the resource fork.
        • He has no use for them, and they don't seem to do anything special. The only things he does on our peer to peer network is move around some word files, zip files, pictures, and dwg files. He would really like to play nice on our network and not leave these files, but he has no idea how. He can't even delete them himself, because his powerbook refuses to show him these files.

          I can run a scheduled delete script on the network's PC's, but is there anything he can do, short of buy a PC? It really is obnoxi
          • Its how mac OS stores some metadata for the finder. (File labels and such) the best bet would be to use find from a crontab to go and get rid of them every so often.
          • What's so obnoxious?

            Ewww! A Thumbs.db file on my drive!!

            Ick! What's this in /home?! .gtkrc! BLAST!

            Gasp! Here in /etc, too?! Is there no shame?!

            Are they duplicate files, or little 30 byte file descriptors? GIMP used to burn me with that damned .xvpics directory, but then, it saved my ass a time or too..

            Is it that big of a deal? The script does it's job, so what't the beef?

            • "What's so obnoxious?

              Ewww! A Thumbs.db file on my drive!!

              I can turn off the creation of thumbs.db files if I'm visiting someone's non-pc SMB network with my laptop. My friend can't stop his mac from creating a fork file for every file he copies across the network. He would like to avoid the hassle of explaining them and how to get rid of them every time he connects to someone else's network. Especially if the peer to peer network is run by some clueless people. He would rather just disable his mac fr
      • If you're running samba as a file server, you can set those files to hidden or veto them relatively easily. I'm not sure how to turn them off on the Mac side, so I just set them to hidden on the server.

        If you're running windows servers (that's just weird), then I'm not sure what to tell you. Set up a scheduled task to get rid of them...
        • Well, here it's a peer to peer XP network in a small office. How would I veto those kind of files on the network layer, so they don't get transmitted? It's a temporary fix, but it would help in this office.

          Since my colleague with his powerbook does move around a lot, and connects to various networks big and small, is there any awy he can put a filter on his outgoing network traffic to block these files? He really doesn't want the hassle of having to delete them after the fact on someone else's network,
          • I'm not sure, but I'd suggest digging around in google to find a way to disable compatability resource fork generation or somethign along those lines. That's OS X's way of storing resource forks on a non-HFS filesystem, and I could have sworn that there was a mount option or something that could be set to disable that. Check out as well - theres lots of useful stuff up there along these lines.

            As far as blocking them at the network level - you'd probably need a proxy or a different file se
  • Do a minimal MINIMAL Linux or FreeBSD install. I mean just as small as you can get, but include NFS and IP-over-Firewire.

    That's about it really, set up a nice link to mount your device when you come in, plug in your firewire. Heck, I think you can configure the automounter to detect when the firewire network becomes available and mount it for you. That's really all there is to it. Should work out pretty well. On a side note, if you plug in a third drive, even if your SCSI card doesn't support it, you could use Vinum [] on FreeBSD or LVM [] on Linux to add capacity, and at least on Vinum you can do RAID5 or RAID10. It won't be as fast as hardware RAID, but hey when you're going cheap, you use what you can. Besides, I somehow suspect that you're wanting capacity over speed anyway, and if that's the case, use the best redundancy you can, right?
  • by JackAsh ( 80274 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @11:16AM (#12372157)
    I hate to point it out, but that is not the solution you are looking for (waves hand).

    You already have a PC, and the two disks built inside. Mirror or stripe the drives in the system (your choice, I'd got for a mirror) and then install Linux or BSD or whatever server-ish operating system you want on the box with the right services (Samba, NFS, whatever). Connect to it with IP over firewire, Ethernet, or gigabit ethernet if the old system supports it (the laptop does).

    This will allow the system to keep running when you are not around, will allow you to use the disk over that fancy wireless connection on your new Po-po-po-powerbook!. If you put SSH on the box I'm sure you'll figure out how to access your home disk from the road (for bonus points roll your own remote file access solution based on some creative web based interface running on port 443 that no one will ever block).

    Last but not least, you'll be able to access the disk from the PowerMac system you'll eventually buy when you realize that the Powerbook is just a touch slow, the keyboard is not so comfortable, and the trackpad is complete crap (mind you, I have a 17" PB myself and love it to death, but all of the above are true and that's the reason I use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with it when it's "docked" at home).

    -Jack Ash

  • by captnitro ( 160231 ) * on Thursday April 28, 2005 @11:19AM (#12372206)
    See a previous Slashdot story entitled Home-brewing a 1.2TB IDE to Firewire Monster []. He constructed a huge firewire "disk" out of a nice case and most importantly, a couple firewire-IDE bridges. It's not PC-based, however, it's a dumb array of drives.
  • Custom distributions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Matthias Wiesmann ( 221411 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @11:40AM (#12372524) Homepage Journal
    As people have more and more old machines lying around, having a live CD with a single purpose operating system. I think there are already distributions that transform a PC into a router, but changing an old PC into a firewire hard drive enclosure looks like an interesting idea.

    One advantage of this approach over installing a file-server is that the hard drives are seen directly by the OS, this means you can boot of them, do low level manipulations (like formatting them), directly from the client machine.

    One such distribution I would like to see (one can dream), is that changes an old PC into a advanced dock for a laptop. Typically, a thing I can connect my laptop to, and I get to use the peripherals of the PC: hard-drives, CD-drive, keyboard, mouse, heck even the floppy drive.

    The goal would be to have all those devices recognised as being devices attached to the laptop, i.e no client server protocol to share them - basically the PC would pretend to be a firewire or USB hub with a lot of devices attached.

    Maybe I would even make sense to use the sound-card of the PC. Not so long ago I would have suggested also to access the display of the PC and use its CPU as a powerful GPU, but given the graphical cards one can now find in laptops, this makes no sense.
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:18PM (#12373822) Homepage Journal
    I've done a fair number of tests comparing speeds from moving files via 10/100, gigE, firewire, and IP over FireWire. Long story short: 100bT and anything over firewire are neck-and-neck. Gigabit Ethernet blows them away. So set up the box as a server, using gig-E if possible. Not sure about the PC, but you can connect two gig-E Macs with a straight (*not* crossover) cable and they'll automagically connect properly and you get gig-E speeds--like moving a 650 MB disk image in 30 seconds instead of 90 seconds over 10/100, IP-over-FW, or to a firewire disk.

    Yeah, it'd be nice if you could just put the PC into target disk mode like a Mac, but you can't. There are some advantages and disadvantages, but I think the advantages of a server--even ignoring the whole "server setup is easy, target disk mode with Intel hardware is just about impossible" thing--would win over using it as an attached disk.

    Among other things, you can tuck it anywhere--it doesn't have to be a firewire cable's length away. And since it's networked based, it's easier to share, and can even be accessed (thought more slowly) via wireless.
  • [] How about to create a "file system exporter" in Bonjour technology, that should be great for Macs.
  • by The Iconoclast ( 24795 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:55PM (#12374276)
    I found this a while ago at []: [] - it turns a linux machine into a SBP-2 endpoint.

    • Interesting in its own right. But seems to be under documented on the site at least. And it is from 2003.

      If I had firewire I'd play with this too. Maybe it is time to pick up a couple of multi port firewire cards.

      But, so far (at first glance) the lack of documentation, and the age of the release may not make this an easy solution to impliment.
    • Mod parent up... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      it's the only post in the whole thread that actually answered the question!
      • it's the only post in the whole thread that actually answered the question!

        Very true. But some questions have tunnel vision, though, or already have the answer in mind.

        A better question would have been to ask, "How can my Powerbook make best use of the 2x 250GB drives in my PC?"
  • Drive cages (Score:4, Informative)

    by RabidMonkey ( 30447 ) <> on Thursday April 28, 2005 @02:10PM (#12374472) Homepage
    I had the same space issues with my Toshiba notebook ... Until someone pointed out USB 2.0 drive cages.

    I snared 2 ($25 a piece) and put my 2 120gig drives in. Plug em in, Windows (I know you have a Mac, but it should be similar I'd hope) detects them and I've got 240gig of space on top of the 20gig that my laptop has. easy as that.

    There are also firewire cages out there if you're hooked on that.

    Cheap and easy. The only downside I've found so far is that, be cause the drives are in cages and independantly powered, they never stop spinning until you unplug them. I don't see the need to have my drives spinning all the time, especially when my laptop isn't even there, so I put them on a power bar to make turning them off easy when it's time to take the laptop on the road.

    $0.02 CDN.
  • Does anyone have and explicit guide for something like this that works for editing of DV content in Avid or Final Cut Pro? Right now I do all my work off of individual firewire drives, but I'm tired of the clutter and worrying about one of the drives failing and not having sufficient backup for it. I have a couple of IDE drives lying around, and would love to set up something similar to a RAID 5 setup so I could sleep a little better at night. Some people have mentioned a server setup with GigE, which would
  • ISCSI (Score:3, Informative)

    by bruciferofbrm ( 717584 ) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @06:09PM (#12377140) Homepage
    I also suggest ISCSI.

    I know you want to bank on your firewire connections. Go for it.

    Iscsi would give you the ability to connect to shared block devices in your machine via TCPIP networking. If you do that over firewire, or Twisted pair 10/100, or wireless, you can leverage alot more then a direct connection. For one, you would not have to be within what ever limit is imposed by your firewire cabling situation.

    ISCSI can be implimented entirely in software. There are ISCSI target (host) software solutions that let you turn a PC (X86 is what I know and have played with) into a destination (hosting the drives). You can allocate the drives as you desire. And it is fast.

    However, I am not certain on the MAC software side of the deal. There is one company (at least) called ATTO who claim to have a software ISCSI initiator called XTEND SAN. But it seems they have been talking about it for a while, with no release. ARDIS also claims to have one, but only for OEM companies.

    I have played the software route on Windows and Linux. It is fast and cool to do it all in software. A hardware ISCSI initiator (think scsi card combine with ethernet card) costs way to much for the casual user ($500 +).

    And yes, none of this has any meaning to you if there is no software ISCSI initiator for your mac.

    (umm.. you also didn't really state what your OLD PC really is.. Is it a PC in the Windows/X86 sense? Or is a PC in the sense of another Mac? (do we all naturally assume PC means Windows?)
    • Re:ISCSI (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kalak ( 260968 )
      You'd have to do this with linux as the target and get an OS X initiator program (iSANmp is one I just found via google for OSX). Since the iSCSI device exported would have to be HFS/HFS+, you'd have to get the driver for linux if you want to read it from the "server".

      Looking at [] looks interesting, but this is new territory for me (just found out that the iSCSI drive enclosure we were looking at for work to connect to some Linux servers was way out of our

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