In the Beginning...

A project log for Custom Budget NAS Build

An Inexpensive 6-drive 64-bit Liquid-cooled NAS build relying on open-source equipment and software as much as possible.

sdwhwksdwhwk 02/04/2016 at 07:260 Comments

The first entry for the project. So let me explain my mind set. I love building things and am quite the do-it-yourselfer and I'm around computers so much and been so all my life I swear electricity is in my veins and I think binary. But that is an expensive hobby; things change constantly, new technology gets developed while old technology gets dumped and it can happen fast. Plus needs change over time. Buying outright from stores is not cost effective nor fits 100% of your needs and building your own systems may get you there, but adds more to the expense. Then came the open source community. Now you can design some of your own components or program your own programs to perfectly fit your needs and learn how things work in the process.

Well, my need is a headless server for storing my files. I went digital a few years back and love it. Streaming movies, televisions shows, music, turning my 65" tv into a temporary work station, life can't get any better! (Then something better comes out.) I take my blu-rays, rip them to the quality I like and prefer with the options that fit me (why do I need Russian subs and audio when I'm Texan?) and stream them to every tv and device in my house. TV shows I record on to the computer, edit out the commercials and watch them whenever I dang well please anywhere I dang well please. I get my CDs, rip them to FLAC, and I have full access anywhere. Problem is, that takes up space. A LOT of space. My "server" is custom and hand built, so it can handle a lot, but HDDs are only so big and the bigger they are, the costlier they are. Anyone who owns a computer knows you store a lot of crap on there. So add the above, plus programs, plus games, plus all the junk you've downloaded and forgot, but keep "just in case", plus photos and videos both the wife AND mother take on their phones of the kids, plus documents and god knows what else, and you have a storage nightmare. A "jack of all trades" system can't handle it. 6Tb is still too little. And backing that up? Good luck. With ISPs data capping you, do you know how long it takes to back up 6Tb in the cloud? Your drive will fail before it backs up completely and your ISP may shut you down for the month or charge you an arm and a leg for overage. Plus I had 2 hard drives die in the past year and one of them I didn't have a place to back it up or the time to move the essentials to the cloud, so all my music was lost. I had every CD since the invention of ripping I owned on there and some of them I can't replace because CDs are not indestructable, the moving trolls just happen to like your style of music and play them at the "they're gone for good!!!" party with the underwear gnomes and those gremlins that breaks stuff, and those "friends" forget to return them or disappear on ya.

So I discovered NAS. Great idea! A server that stores your files and is accessible from the network and its primary purpose is just storage. Now the cheapest I've found was $85 dollars and was only 4-bays. Not upgradable or expandable. And it only goes up from there. I could build my own, but I might as well just build another computer, just as expensive. Then came the microcontrollers like Rasberry Pi. Pretty powerful, considering, and cheap. It is cheaper than a CPU, motherboard, fans, and video card, but while they can be used as servers, they weren't build primarily for that use. There are limitations and to overcome them, it is hard and expensive, not invented yet, or just plain impossible with the technology used.

Well, that is what I hope this project addresses; overcoming those limitations. For the brains, I funded the Pine64 Kickstarter. It is a cheap and powerful microcontroller and will be open source. So I could add things needed and remove things that aren't to make it cheaper or to fit the needs of this project. I will also be designing USB 3.1 hubs, a 6-12 port internal one for hard drive use that will be switchable to extend drive life and a 4 port for external devices, which will make this "future proof" (why does that phrase exist? In electronics, NOTHING is future proof.), USB 3.1 to SATAIII adapters for the HDD interface, the enclosure that will have a small footprint in mind and easy accessibility, and a liquid-cooling system to keep the drives (and possibly the brains) cool because air circulation may be an issue with a small footprint for this use and it will keep it fairly quiet (and possibly cool looking). The water blocks themselves will be hand built from copper and will try to cut down on block footprint. Also I will be designing a power supply to power everything from one plug because a billion cords just looks crappy and could burn the house down from all the extension cords. I may or may not add a small touch display. I would have to see if that is warranted. Cheap is the goal, so some things may be added if not too costly or some things may be removed. Case will be made from acrylic sheets and drives will be hot swappable. Actual hard drives will not be considered, only their architecture. Drive will vary and depends on the user's needs.

Now my situation: I am disabled. I have limited function of my left side and I'm a lefty. So building, testing, and programming will take time if I do this myself. Plus, since I'm married with children (start the theme song) my funding is limited also. So I have to save and buy outside the U.S. a lot. Anyone who has dealt with China knows shipping takes forevwah!!! I would only recommend doing so if you have time and are planning to buy as is. Shipping back is not worth the cost. I do prefer the U.S. because shipping is faster, obviously, and returns and replacements are easier, cheaper, and friendlier. Mouser Electronics is who I'll be using for the electrical parts when I can because their prices are reasonable and let's face it; they're Texan. Can't get any faster shipping to my house. I could drive there to pick it up myself if I could drive that far. I am not an electrical engineer. I do know about electronics and basic components and how they come together, but designing and making it work like it is supposed to will be a learning experience. Plus I know programming, but I haven't done it in 20 years, so I'm just a tad bit rusty. Another learning experience. But what I learn, you learn. Building cases and liquid-cooling design I know pretty well. I'll teach what I know.

I am very open to input and education. I am also open to help. I'm not stopping this project until I'm done (and things change, so there may be many revisions) but extra help in guidance, programming, and research would be very appreciated. The programming especially. But I will make due with what I have and do it happily. All it takes is a spark to start a forest fire. If someone learns something from this, that's enough for me. I will soon post a few things I'm reverse engineering to see how it ticks so I can apply the workings to this project. Plus, once I get my laptop back from the shop I'll start shooting ideas on case design and other designing stuff. (yes, I know it is ironic a computer tech sending his computer to a shop, but I bought the extended warranty for the length of finance just in case a major part had to be replaced that I couldn't easily get. It is still under manufacture's warranty and the hard drive went out, which is nothing for me to replace, but the place I bought it from wouldn't let me handle the warranty. So I had to send it to them so they could send it to the manufacture, so they can replace a hard drive and send it back to them, then call me to pick it up. I could have just called ASUS and have them send me a new drive and have it working faster.)

Yes, I write books instead of posts. At least you can't say you are not informed and it is not detailed enough.