Jacinth (CompuLab fit-PC3 LP) was purchased on 2014-02-25, 4 years ago. The machine is starting to get quirky; for example Claude (its VM) several times went catatonic with high CPU utilization, which doesn't happen on other VM hosts. Moving Claude to another host fixed that problem, but Jacinth is mission critical, and we need to plan our response when it goes belly up (like Diamond did). I want to buy the replacement now, replace in an orderly fashion, and relegate the fit-PC3 LP to a hot spare role.
A lot of machines are getting old and showing their age. I need to plan what to do with them overall, not just responding to dead machines in a rush.
We currently (2018-01-06) have these physical machines:
The home server. Wild side router, wireless access point, VPNs, home automation, private webserver, music and photo hosting, mail, directory master (DNS, LDAP, Kerberos), and many other services. CompuLab fit-PC3 LP from 2014-02-04 (4 years old).
Alice's desktop machine, directory slave, backups, distro storage (online updates). Intel NUC 7i5BNH from 2017-12-24; its previous incarnation recently died. Hosts VM Baobei (not for long).
Windows, for tax preparation and accounting. It's currently a virtual machine on Diamond. But a recent update to qemu caused reliability problems.
Home theater, video and audio playback, VM hosting. Intel NUC 5i5RYH from 2016-01-27 (2 years old). Hosts these VMs: Claude (wild side webserver), Oso (development).
Jim's laptop. Directory slave, so it can operate when isolated from the local network. Acer Aspire E5-573H-52G3 from 2016-02-15 (2 years old). Hosts VM Petra for development.
Audio playback. Zotac Zbox AD03BR from 2012-03-16 (6 years old).
Jim's desktop (rarely used), hot spare. CompuLab Fit-PC3 Pro from 2014-07-17 (3.5 years old).
Additional active machines not covered by the upgrade plans:
Requirements for the various machines:
Jacinth has a lot of services, but does not need a lot of CPU power. At one time it ran on a Koolu (AMD Geode @300MHz). It runs 24/7 and needs low electrical power more than high CPU power.
Diamond is brand new, i.e. it's already been upgraded.
Baobei runs Microsoft Windows-10, for tax and
accounting software that is not available on Linux. It is currently a
virtual machine on Diamond. But a recent update to qemu caused reliability
problems. Formerly (2017-09-xx) it would not boot; now it boots fine but
will not shut down, and it causes qemu to hang in a system call in such a
way that a normal shutdown of the host (Diamond) is also impossible. Since
it is mission critical, we're going to move it to bare metal. It needs
moderate resources, i.e. it doesn't have to be a compute server, but
bottom of the line (in CPU and electrical power) isn't going to fly either.
Iris has way more than enough CPU power for the home theater role. But there's a nasty quirk: the firmware in both video capture devices can't deal with a sleeping machine, so Iris has to run 24/7. And it's not exactly lightweight on power. If this could be improved that would be great.
No plans for hardware upgrades here. Actually if I could upgrade to something with an IPS display, that would be a very nice luxury, but Xena is usable if I stay away from graphic arts.
Kermit is the oldest machine in the house and one of the higher power consumers despite its meager CPU power. For audio playback it needs to be adjacent to the speakers, i.e. a virtual machine won't do. I'm planning on replacing it with a modern low power machine.
Aurora is doing fine in its role of sleeping 24/7 as a hot spare. It was used successfully to replace temporarily the old Diamond when it died. I'm going to keep Aurora as-is.
It looks like the long term strategy should be to replace Jacinth, Kermit and maybe Iris with a machine with these requirements. Many are directed at a possible Iris replacement.
Low electrical power: confirmed 5W or less when idle. [Actually achieved 8W.]
Moderate CPU power: when performing MPEG-4 video at 1080p (presumably with the GPU doing much of the work), it should have CPU utilization of 25% to 50%. Higher is too heavily loaded for quality video performance; lower means a different CPU could have handled the job using less electrical power. [Actual: 10.3%]
Virtual hosting capability. That lets out Intel Atom products.
8Gb RAM is plenty for Jacinth and Kermit, and is about the lowest you can get. But if we're still using the new Iris for virtual machine hosting, more RAM is a good idea: 16Gb.
For discs I plan to do as for Diamond: either move the old disc into the new chassis, or buy a new disc of the same size and copy the old content unchanged. Jacinth needs a new 500Gb disc. Kermit has 250Gb of which most is unused; the disc is probably in good shape, but given the age it's probably prudent to replace it. Iris has 1Tb (for recording video) and the disc is new enough that it doesn't need to be replaced. As it happens, Xena came with a 1Tb disc which I replaced with a 250Gb SSD, so if I wanted to I could expand one of the machines.
Am I tempted to put a SSD in any of the 3 machines? None of them do workloads involving a lot of disc action, and big SSDs are still too expensive. All will get rotating discs.
Video: All three machines have monitors of varying quality appropriate to their roles. All the old machines already have HDMI output, so the old monitors are ready to be plugged into the replacements. See below about a new monitor for Aurora.
What about replacing Kermit with a Raspberry Pi? Pros:
I do want to get a Raspberry Pi in here, but in the future, not in this campaign.
Order of upgrades:
I will buy and install one machine at a time. In case of problems detected on the first machine, I have the opportunity to pick a different kind next time.
For new machines being set up, I have reserved the name of Orion. For each of the three targeted machines I plan to copy the existing content onto it, check it out under the Orion name, then atomically swap the new machine with the old one.
Iris will go first, freeing up the NUC 5i5RYH chassis to become Baobei. Also we have some TV recording to do soon and we don't want Iris to have to wait until that's over.
Let's do Kermit next. This swap should be simple and trouble-free. Famous last words.
The final machine to be done will be Jacinth. Verifying all the software will be the biggest challenge. With luck, hardware gotcha's will have been taken care of on Iris and Kermit. Change of plans: Jacinth has started rebooting, always at 1 minute after the hour when one or two non-threatening cron jobs run, but at random hours. So we're doing Jacinth before Kermit.
The 8th generation Celerons and Pentia are due out in 2018 first quarter and promise substantial performance gains over 7th and 6th generations. But this doesn't mean that NUC motherboards will be available in 2018 1Q, and also, new chipsets have quirks which the kernel needs to take into account, which won't happen until the actual hardware is available. We can't wait for the gen8 chips; we need to get what's available today.
The new Jacinth is going to be on 24/7, and the same for Iris unless I figure out something miraculous, and Kermit needs very little CPU power. I've found that the current Intel Core i3-5-7 processors and motherboards give a lot higher CPU performance, at the cost of higher electrical power. So I'm targeting the Celeron design. I want virtual hosting capability, and that lets out all the Atom processors.
We have a policy of preferring machines sold by and shipped from Amazon, because of a payment method that satisfies our paranoia; competent shipping; and a fair and relatively hassle-free return policy. Other vendors may be slightly cheaper, but with Amazon we're paying extra for the listed features.
Searching on Amazon for
Intel NUC with these restrictions:
Prime eligible, brand Intel (excludes more than half the hits), seller Amazon,
leaving us with 18 hits. I could include only Celerons and Pentiums, but
I don't see the words for the processor type in the descriptions, so I'm
excluding the Core i3-5-7 by hand. Here's a brief listing of the survivors.
Most of the hits are rejected: NUC5CPYH is the predecessor of the NUC6CAYH and is substantially less capable. I'm not familiar with the Compute Sticks and they look like they don't offer me the features I'm looking for; further research confirms this.
Investigating the BOXNUC6CAYH on Amazon. It has a Celeron J3455 and Intel HD Graphics 500. No memory, disc or OS. (A version prestuffed with all of these is available.) Quad core CPU @2.3GHz. (From other source: @1.5GHz with turbo boost up to 2.3GHz.) 4K graphics, HDMI-2.0. 4x USB-3.0 ports. Visible ports, front: 2x USB-3.0 (1 charging), 4-wire 3.5mm audio jack, power button, dual mic. Rear: 2x USB-3.0, separate audio, HDMI, VGA, RJ45, power. Side: full size SD card slot, Kensington lock slot.
Fly in ointment: The NUC6CAYH was a best seller on Amazon. On 2018-01-16 I ordered another one, but it was DOA, hiss, boo! Returned, successfully. I tried to order another one on 2018-01-25, it was no longer available on Amazon. Now what? Speculation: the 8th generation Celerons are due out in 1st quarter 2018, and they're clearing the decks for this product line. Update: on 2018-01-29 it's back on Amazon, back ordered, expected to ship 2 days future.
Intel's product page for the Celeron J3455:
No: vPro, Hyperthread
Intel's product page for the NUC6CAYH:
No: vPro, TPM (Trusted Platform Module)
Memory: Per Intel's
compatibility guide for the NUC6CAYH, it supports 1 or 2 sticks, up to 8Gb
total, 1.35V DDR3L, 1600 or 1866MHz, no ECC, single or double sided. Here are
some of the
Intel Validated items: I'm hoping for 1866MHz, but the
approved memory is not available on Amazon.
Amazon review by Linuxtuxguy: He loves his (5 stars) in a media center role. At 1080p and Windows, and 2Gb RAM, it performs meda fine. But at 4K it needs more RAM; max appears to be 2x 4Gb (total 8Gb). This is very new on the market (as of 2017-01-xx).
Amazon review by Andrew H. Mcdonald: He put memory in it: Kingston
Technology HyperX Impact 8GB Kit 1600MHz DDR3L CL9 SODIMM 1.35V Laptop Memory
(PC3 12800) HX316LS9IBK2/8 Black. He installed Kodi 17.6
working fine. It does include CIR (infrared) and he's using a Logitech Harmony
650 remote control with it.
Amazon review by Jesse: He likes his (4 stars). He mentions that it has builtin Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Apollo Lake NUC Review in The NUC Blog by Olli, 2017-01-15.
Lake (Apollo) identifies the chipset;
Canyon (Arches) identifies
the product family.
Turbomeans for short bursts limited by CPU temperature.
charging), 2 more in rear, 2x USB-2.0 internally.
Olli gives the usual benchmark results, which I can't compare with my existing machines. It's generally about half as fast as a 6i3SYH (and about half the price). Comparing with its peers from the previous generation it is 1.3x to 2x faster.
Gotchas when Olli installed Ubuntu 16.04 and Kodi:
Broxton; Ubuntu tried to give it 1.06. The older firmware caused
distortionsin the video, fixed with 1.07, SuSE's kernel-firmware-20180104 has ./i915/bxt_dmc_ver1_07.bin .
Making NAAs out of Intel NUCs by scan80269, 2017-07-02.
NAA is a Network Audio Adapter. As far as I can tell, it receives
an audio stream via Ethernet (more properly, via TCP/IP), uses its sound
card or equivalent to produce analog audio, and sends that to an amp and
speakers. This is what Iris and Kermit do, needing microscopic CPU power.
Bingo, he posts power consumption figures. Running Windows-10 with numerous
extraneous processes suppressed. The NUC6CAYS at idle uses 2.8W; when
performing audio it uses 3.3W. (He also reports for an older NUC5PPYH.)
Jimc says: This is exactly the information I need, and is just the range of
power consumption I was hoping for. [However jimc was not able to achieve
this low power.]
Replacement of Raspberry Pi 3, OP tnemrap, 2017-05-xx. He asks for a recommendation to upgrade a Pi-3 running OpenHAB home automation. peter_juenger replies, recommending a NUC6CAYH. He did the same upgrade. Running Ubuntu Server 16.04 on the NUC. It uses about 6W.
How will the USB configurations have to change on the new machines?
Kermit now has only a keyboard and mouse. The NUC has 4 USB ports which is plenty. A possible upgrade path is to get speakers that have an integrated sound card communicating by USB, rather than using the NUC's own sound card, but I'm certainly not going to do that today.
Iris is currently a NUC, and the USB geometry can be carried forward with no changes. There is only one USB bus for all the external ports. Its layout goes like this:
Jacinth is the most complicated. There is a plethora of buses that need to be kept straight due to capacity limitations; USB-3.0 may or may not help here. This is the physical geometry; looks like it can be transferred to the NUC pretty much unchanged.
Aurora's monitor is 15 years old (2002-11-xx), 1280x1024px. It draws 36W when running and 4W with the power switch off or DPMS off. It's outta here! Its dimensions: 17in diagonal, 19in wide and high. DVI and VGA connectors. No USB hub.
I'm targeting an inexpensive monitor similar to the one on Diamond, which
is 20in diagonal, 19in wide, 1920x1200px, IPS LCD or maybe LEDs. LED edge
illumination is preferred but not required. Amazon search with filter terms:
Prime eligible, 20in, 1920x1080px, SBSF Amazon. 34 hits. There are a lot from
vendors I've never heard of. ViewSonic has vanished from the scene. Scanning
over them, I think the best is the first one listed: HP Pavilion 21.5in IPS
HDMI VGA, $90,
Details for the HP Pavilion 21.5in IPS HDMI VGA, $90.
8M:1dynamic contrast ratio, 1000:1 static.
Amazon reviews for the HP monitor:
4 stars. Not a stunning, perfect display for HD movies or games, but perfect for a low cost secondary display, and/or for web browsing and text work.
4 stars. Great monitor, definitely will satisfy anyone who wants to watch movies or play games. He's had it a month with no problems.
The majority of reviewers give it 5 stars. Typical comment: amazing for the price.
I lost my icons! No HDMI cable included! Doesn't have builtin speakers! Etc. etc.
Nobody reports any power measurements.
Chassis for Iris.
Intel NUC6CAYH, $129.96, SBSF Amazon
Memory for Iris: 2x4Gb, DDR3L 1.35V SODIMM 1866MHz.
Only one credible vendor (Transcend) is qualified for 1866MHz memory,
and the memory is only available from Amazon affiliates. Falling back
Kingston KVR16LS11/4 (4Gb 1600MHz), 2 x $39.99, SBSF Amazon
Disc, rotating, 500Mb for Baobei.
Seagate 500GB BarraCuda SATA 6Gb/s 128MB Cache 2.5-Inch 7mm Internal Hard Drive (ST500LM030) (same as I got for Diamond!), $46.04 SBSF Amazon
Monitor for Baobei and Aurora.
HP Pavilion 21.5-Inch IPS LED HDMI VGA Monitor, $89.99, SBSF Amazon (best seller)
KVM switch, HDMI, 2 ports, for Baobei and Aurora.
IOGear 2-Port HDMI Cable KVM Switch with Cables and Audio, GCS62HU, $59.99, SBSF Amazon (best seller)
Order placed 2018-01-10. Item total $406, tax $38, shipping free.
Same chassis, memory and disc. Item total $255.96, tax 23.94. Order placed 2018-01-16; chassis and disc received 2018-01-18 but the memory was back ordered and is coming on 2018-01-24. Gaak, the machine was dead on arrival, would not power up! Returned successfully.
Not ordered yet.