Guruplug arrived, sounds like a jet

October 8, 2010 by
Filed under: Development, Hardware, Linux 

The first few paragraphs here are rather harsh vs the Guruplug that I received, and yes, GlobalScale deserves some really bad critique for how this has been handled, but please read the final parts to get a full picture. In all honesty, sometimes I think I should just change name to “Grumpy Fart”.

I finally received the Guruplug Server Plus last week that I ordered 3 months ago. My first reaction is a big WTF on this machine. Apparently, they’ve had big troubles with overheating in the Guruplug, so badly so that a lot of units died from it. Someone over at GlobalScale Technologies had the absolutely idiotic idea to put a fan into the machine. It’s not just any fan, it’s a 2 cm maglev fan running at 3-4000 rpm, and no powermanagement whatsoever and it is directly hooked up to the power source inside the Guruplug, hence it will not be possible to vary the rpm, ever, without a hardware hack. Also, the fan is absolutely horribly placed as is evident from several pictures on the net (and by opening the machine, voiding the warranty) — it is placed with 80-90% of the back of the fan covered by a metal plate (the two gigabit ethernet interfaces), and when the machine is closed up as delivered, it has a big plastic plate (power source cover) covering the front of the fan, with less than 2 mm clearance. All this means is that it is incredibly noisy (easily 30-40dB, way louder than my core 2 quad machine with 8 gig ram and 4 fans in it, while in bootup and before the nvidia graphics card has gone into power management), and has close to no effect at all.

I bought this machine when there was no fan, and there wasn’t even talk of a fan or any mails to acknowledge this design change, so I was heavily inclined at sending the thing back for a refund, but I realized that with my normal luck, it would take several weeks to find a new machine matching my needs, and then another few months before receiving it. Because of this, I winded up simply ripping out the fan, and voiding the warranty. So far so good, and nothing bad has happened. The plug is still running approximately at the same temperature as before, but slightly higher, and I hope there will be no ill effects.

Second WTF when I finally got the machine started up was the installation — first off it is a really nice debian install, I was prepared to start straight off with the jtag interface and installing images and reinstalling etc etc, but there was a perfectly working machine there, straight off. Nice. I thought. Then came the wtf moment, the machine booted up and set an ip address for the uap0 interface (wifi access point interface) to 192.168.1.1. My plan is to use it hooked up to a wired network via gigabit, so I went straight at it, added the eth0 interface to /etc/network/interfaces with a static ip, delete routes and ip’s for uap0 and it worked… for an hour or so, then it stopped working. Reboot, still not working, notice that uap0 is back at it’s old location 192.168.1.1 and routes are back, but nothing in the bootup scripts. Finally find out they have a /etc/init.d/rc.local file point to a /root/init_setup.sh, which in turn does a heap of stuff — including setting up network parameters etc, overriding the normal configuration parameters in a nonstandard way.

Personally, I find this type of “hacked” environments to be despicable. For a private system in your home, fine do whatever you wish, but when it is a public server at a company, or something that you sell to customers, you wind up with a product that the other admins and/or customers can not trust the setup of. Luckily, the whole system is at least included in installed .deb packages. The init_setup.sh, together with the fact that there is no way of recovering if you do a simple screw up of the network setup without the JTAG interface is a major drawback imho.

So… that is the “bad” part of my experience so far. At this point I was rather underwhelmed, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the little bugger, and except for the startup scripts, it is rather nicely installed from what I have see so far. It would be interesting to gather up a complete list of the “hacks” they have performed to get it all together. The machine is currently able to do exactly what I set out to do, in less than a 2 days of configuration/fixing/fiddling about/etc. I didn’t manage to get the “auto connect” of my usb disk to work, but mount commands work and I didn’t really look at how it’s supposed to work (might be that you need to reboot machine etc). The idea with the machine on my part, is to set it up as a 24/7 machine, replacing my other machine doing this work, but at a lower power consumption. So far, the machine is running the following services for me:

  • DHCP
  • Dynamic DNS
  • Samba and NFS filesharing
  • Ssh network login server
  • USB Disk/”NAS” function
  • Bittorrent (transmission-daemon with transmission-remote on all other machines)

Additionally I hope to use it for the following as well:

  • Printer server
  • Zeroconf/avahi
  • Firewall (possible use as a portable firewall?)
  • Temperature sensors etc via GPIO?
  • Bluetooth, still haven’t figured out what to do with this…

As you can see, the machine is very capable, and all at a very low power consumption of <5W compared to my old computer doing all this, running at 170W approximately. At current power costs, I am expecting to have made up the money I spent on the Guruplug within less than 9 months. Let’s just keep fingers crossed that the machine wont die of heat before that 🙂 .

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am really afraid to say anything but this, I can not really recommend this product, not unless you’re either ready to do some serious hacking, or you plan to run it in a garage or some such place. A wardrobe or closet is simply not enough, it sounds too much as it is. The idea and the thought behind the machine is great, I just wish the execution of it was as good.

Comments

3 Comments on Guruplug arrived, sounds like a jet

  1. Tier on Sat, 6th Nov 2010 16:08
  2. Hi,

    I own a Guruplug (plus) too with nearly the same services running (or planning).
    I use it as Squeezeserver in addition.
    But what I would like to know is something more about the GPIO-Stuff.
    I also thought about a thermal sensor (Dallas DS 18S20). It can be connected via USB and RS232 but I need all these ports for other devices.
    I have very less knowledge about GPIO so I hope you can give some hints.

    Best regards,
    Tier

  3. Oskar Andreasson on Sat, 20th Nov 2010 11:46
  4. I actually have a few of those lying around as well (DS1820’s, might be the predecessor however). I never used them so I don’t know how hard they would be to integrate. However, from what I manage to find on the net, it seems to already be done, you just need to manage to get the right software connected etc.

    A nice schematic of how to set them up in parallell for a serial bus.
    http://martybugs.net/electronics/tempsensor/multiple.cgi

    A thread discussing how to set it up for GPIO in the OpenWRT distro.
    http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.file-systems.owfs.devel/7208

    The DS1820’s might have to a have a separate power source afaik if it can’t run on parasitic mode from the GPIO. I’d be very interested to hear if you have any luck with the set up :-).

  5. Capn Scott on Tue, 15th Feb 2011 15:14
  6. I have one of the original guruplug servers without the fan. I modded the internal antenna and replaced it with a micro plug and then placed an external wifi amplified antenna on the outside. The reception is night and day different. I’m also working with using it with a slew of sensors. Though, I’m trying to use analog and digital stuff. I’ve been looking into an external board to connect them up with. So far, not much luck, unless I want to spend oodles of money. I’m researching toolstick right now, and will see if I can get it to work.

    This could be interesting, if I can get it to work. I have a couple of small projects (i.e. engine and environment sensors on a boat, and small autonomous weather sensors http://smallweatherstation.com) that would be the cat’s meow if I could serve up the sensor readings on a web page and save the data with sql…

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