Another pass by Mira – IV

Last we left off, I said I was going to change out the pump and make some other modifications to the radiator box. One of the modifications includes a more stable reservoir mount:

Full disclosure: I support Singularity Computers through their Patreon.

I purchased this initially for a large distributed computing build. But since that project is going in a different direction, I thought it’d be best instead to use this mount here in the radiator box. It’ll be a hell of a lot more stable than trying to use the standard EK reservoir mount with UN Z2 brackets. And it’ll look better as well.

Plus the silicon inserts will help prevent some vibration transfer to the chassis. And the use of additional silicon washers between the mount and radiators should damp it further. In the previous iteration I mentioned vibration transfer from the pump to the reservoir.

I swapped the Koolance D5 Strong (PMP-450S) for the Koolance D5 Vario (PMP-450) in the same housing. Virtually everything else remained the same in the radiator box. For now at least. I was only concerned at this point with getting the pump swapped. I made the reservoir mount swap simply because I needed to disassemble the setup when another EK fitting decided to leak. More on that later.

I set the pump at level 3 running at 12V and turned the fans up to 7.5V. And it runs very quiet, virtually inaudible sitting not even a yard from it.

As expected there was vibration transfer from the pump to the bottom panel, but it is significantly reduced from the D5 Strong and didn’t radiate out to the edges of the panel and to the sides of the box. Overall definitely a win.

Temperature testing

Ambient temperature was 76°F (24.4°C). Coolant was distilled water with a few drops of copper sulfate.

For the GTX 1070, the power target was maxed out in EVGA Precision XOC but the clocks not modified. I again ran Furmark for 30 minutes. Temperatures touched 38°C, but held steady at 37°C. This is only a touch warmer than with the D5 Strong at 12V. Before swapping the pump, I actually spent a day the previous weekend playing Doom (2016). The graphics card never hit 40°C, and the game was running for, easily, nearly 10 hours straight when accounting for breaks (the pause menu isn’t exactly stressful).

So this gives me reason to believe I can do something like that again.

For the CPU test, I again ran a Handbrake video conversion that lasted over 20 minutes. The hottest core touched at 45°C, as did the package temperature. Like the previous test, none of the cores held at their max temperature, instead holding around 40°C or 41°C. Occasionally touching a couple degrees higher, but never for long. So the temperatures on the CPU were a few degrees higher than with the D5 Strong.

So overall, as expected, the temperatures were a little higher than with the D5 Strong. But the Vario is noticeably quieter than the Strong, especially at level 3, which is about middle on strength with the pump.


To overclock the graphics card, I set EVGA’s Precision XOC to a manual voltage/frequency curve and had it auto-detect. This allowed for a boost clock of 2126 MHz, a nice boost over the original boost clock of 1987 MHz (advertised boost clock for this card is 1784 MHz). I added 500MHz to the memory after getting driver crashes at 550MHz. I’m not interested in dialing it in any further.

Previous benchmark scores without the overclock are in blue. During benchmark testing, the core temperature never reached 40°C.

  • Unigine Heaven (1080p, everything maxed): 2612 [2428]
  • Unigine Valley (Extreme HD): 4239 [3909]
  • 3DMark Fire Strike: 16461 [15780], Graphics: 20109 [18942]
  • 3DMark Sky Diver: 38902 [38362], Graphics: 66747 [63835]
  • 3DMark Cloud Gate: 33628 [33322], Graphics: 129349 [121253]

I’ll look at overclocking the CPU later to see how far I can go and how the temperatures look. Currently it typically sits at a clock speed of 3.6GHz.

Coming soon…

About the only thing really left to do is change out the tubing and perhaps some better cable management. Along with probably figuring out a way to mount bulkhead fittings in the H440.

I’m also not too thrilled with the fitting arrangement between the radiators. In taking the radiator box apart to change out the reservoir mount and pump, another of the EK fittings sprung a leak on the rotary assembly. I had a spare on hand (I bought two the last time this happened in case I needed to replace both at that time) so I didn’t need to make an emergency trip to Micro Center.

In swapping out the fittings, I made sure this time to not make the same mistake. I left loose the sealing collar on the SLI fittings until I had the radiator panel installed. This should avoid any potential stress on the rotary fittings that led to two of them leaking.

I want a better option.

The only better option, though, is a circular tubing bend. The diagram for the radiator puts the fittings at 15mm plus the distance between the fan screws. Which on the panel that distance would be 30mm. So 45mm (~1.75 in) between the fittings on center. I have a tubing bender for copper, but that has a center-line radius of 38mm, meaning a 180 bend center-line bend diameter of ~76mm (3 in).

So like a lot of this project, my option appears to be… going custom.

And this is in part the fault of the radiators I selected. In doing some math on the AlphaCool ST30 (of which I have two triple-120mm sitting around), the center distance between the fittings would be a hair over 2″. But I have another option that could prove fruitful that I’ll look to later.


Impeachment is NOT a political tool

From the Constitution of the United States at Article II, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

So far there have been only two Presidents subjected to impeachment: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Johnson was impeached for violating the Tenure of Office Act, which was a law passed against Johnson’s veto to ensure that Republican allies stayed on the President’s Cabinet and attempted to limit his ability to remove those officers. Clinton was impeached on several counts related to his deposition during the Paula Jones lawsuit, including perjury which is a felony practically everywhere in the United States.

Yet before Trump was even sworn in, many were considering impeachment as a means of getting him out of power quickly. Not for anything he actually did, but only because Democrats didn’t want him in office. In other words, it was little more than a political hissy-fit by those who didn’t like the fact their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost.

On Facebook I left this observation a few days before Trump’s inauguration:

Impeachment is supposed to be for “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed while in office. And while the definition of that rests with the House of Representatives, it’s not a power to be thrown around just because. It doesn’t matter if Pence is favored by Republicans. They’d be risking losing their majorities if they just willy-nilly impeached Trump the moment he stepped into office.

Democrats are looking for any way to keep the will of the States from becoming reality. They tried lobbying the electors, and that didn’t work. They tried objecting to the electoral college count, and that failed. Democrats, specifically Maxine Waters, are the ones leading the calls for impeachment. It’s a last ditch effort, the Hail Mary play from the opposing goal line, the long bomb thrown out of the end zone. Impeach him before he has any chance to do anything.

Impeaching the President of the United States is a serious matter. And is to be used for serious matters. That is why the language of the Constitution says “high crimes and misdemeanors”. In other words, the President should only be impeached for demonstrated violations of the law. And impeachment being brought up with Trump before he was even inaugurated shows that, at least to Democrats, impeachment is a political tool.

But then the left has been screaming “impeachment” ever since Clinton was actually impeached. They screamed it with Bush, so no surprise they’re now screaming it with Trump.

Again, though, impeachment is not a political tool. It is a serious tool for serious matters, and should only be used for serious matters. Johnson was impeached because he was continually interfering with the Republican-led Congress, and his alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act gave them what they needed to impeach him. Johnson had he highest veto percentage and highest veto override percentage as well. And with Bush, it seemed every little thing he did or said should’ve resulted in impeachment articles according to Democrats.

And now with Trump, apparently the mere fact he won the White House is an impeachable offense.


Adjusting the recipe

Bitfenix specifications for the Spectre Pro place them at the upper-end of what would be considered silent. They’re rated 18.9 dB(A) for the 120mm, 22.8 db(A) for the 140mm. Put six (6) of the 120mm and three (3) of the 140mm in a full tower chassis with radiators, sit only a couple meters or less from it, and they are noticeably loud. A little north of 30 dB(A) if my calculations are correct, not including turbulence from the radiators.

I knew this from my previous personal build, Beta Orionis (β Ori). That system featured a water-cool assembly with copper tubing also using Bitfenix Spectre Pro fans. Though the fans were easily drowned out by my headphones.

But I wanted to quiet the system. At the time, the only reasonable option I had was undervolting them — running them at less than 12V — and I bought an inexpensive circuit board for that purpose. Hovering the fans at around 9V allowed the system to run virtually inaudible, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the temperatures.

And the pursuit of a quiet build led me to building an external radiator box. I’m very nearly there.

In a recent, now abandoned project, I discovered 120mm fans with specifications very similar to the Bitfenix Spectre Pro with two exceptions: slightly better airflow and reduced noise. The Nanoxia Deep Silence 120mm fans are the quietest 120mm fans I found that still provide 60 CFM. The 1300RPM 120mm fans are rated at 14.2 dB(A), and the 1100RPM 140mm fans are rated at 14.4 db(A). Having a not-insignificant number of these fans still won’t be whisper quiet, but they’ll be significantly quieter than the Bitfenix fans.

The two fans on the bottom radiator were not replaced as doing so would require draining and partly dismantling the plumbing. And I forgot to order one additional fan to replace the fan in the drive bays. That will come later, and the bottom fans will be replaced at the next loop maintenance.


Rack mount HDD enclosure — final and retrospective

Since the articles for this project are still getting hits, I figured it’s time to follow-up and talk about what ultimately happened with this project.

In short: nothing really happened with it. I’m not sure if it was the SATA port multiplier, or the eSATA controller or cable, but for some reason it just didn’t want to stay stable.

But I did keep to using an external eSATA hard drive as my primary drive instead of relying on something inside the case. This was in part due to the amount of water-cooling that was inside the chassis, the Corsair Obsidian 750D.

So ultimately I gave up on this project. There were too many additional complicating factors that, conspiring together, would not allow this project to function the way I hoped. The last update to this project was posted almost 2 years ago. The four WD Blue 1TB hard drives are now inside my primary system, in a chassis that properly supports a multi-HDD setup: the NZXT H440. The 60mm Noctua fans were moved to other systems, including a NAS I built into a 3U chassis.

And the custom chassis currently sits around empty while I decide what to do with it. I have a couple ideas in mind, and I might see if Protocase can cut just a new front and back for this for when I do repurpose it.

In short this project turned out to be an exercise in overthinking with heavy doses of inadequate research and consideration for other options. A heavy desire to do something custom overrode any consideration for whether that was the best course.

Back to the beginning

The path to this project started with an experiment on whether an external eSATA enclosure could be used as a boot device. I had little reason to think it wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t find an answer to the question by anyone who’d actually done it. I speculated that no one considered trying it or those who did just never wrote about it. And it worked.

Not too long thereafter, I ordered an external RAID 1 enclosure for Absinthe. That freed up a ton of space inside the case and made cable management significantly easier. Absinthe has since been upgraded a few times and uses an M.2 SSD as its primary storage, requiring no cables. The external enclosure is currently unused, but that might change soon to give my wife an alternative for storing her games library.

As I’ve said before, the only way to make cable management easier is by reducing cable bulk in the case.

It did not come without trade-offs. As I mentioned in the article I wrote on it, you are moving cable bulk from inside to outside your system. You’re still reducing it, as you need only one data and power cable, whereas inside the case you needed one data cable per drive and at least one power harness.

The enclosure I bought for my system (not Absinthe) was somewhat problematic. In the aim of moving toward a more robust solution, I purchased two additional single-drive external enclosures to set up in RAID 1 through the SIIG SATA RAID card I had. From observations, I speculated doing that with 4 drives in a RAID 10, but I didn’t want 4 individual external enclosures. I needed to consolidate it to one to keep the cable bulk on the desk to a minimum.

There are 4-drive cabinets available, including a 4-drive version of the RAID cabinet I bought for my wife, but I also decided I wanted to do something custom. Not really for any particular reason,  but kind of just for the hell of it.

Rack mounting

The main benefit of rack mounting hardware is consolidation. In one cabinet of however many rack units of height, you can have several systems all together in one vertical space, with a PDU or surge suppressor powering all of it.

Prior to the this project, my storage requirements were quite simple: RAID 1. 1TB hard drives are dirt cheap, and 1TB is more storage than most realistically need for a typical computer (I realize requirements do vary). My wife’s system has seen too many hard drives die from unusual circumstances that I wanted to take precautions such that should that occur again, I’d at least be able to recover her system without having to go through hours of reinstalling the OS, drivers and other things, along with days of her reinstalling her games and other stuff. RAID 1 was the easiest solution: two drives that are mirrored.

Again, though, the prices of HDDs didn’t escape my notice, so I decided to up the ante for my system by bumping up to RAID 10, which is two RAID 1 arrays with a RAID 0 running across those (image from Wikipedia):


This provides throughput second only to RAID 0, while adding the redundancy of RAID 1, and is recommended over RAID 5 as well due to the increased robustness of the array, among other reasons.

But then, how to house it? I didn’t want to buy or build a 4-drive cabinet for all of this, though I easily could have. I just really wanted to so something custom, so I started researching ideas. I kind of felt like Adam Savage when he talked about all of the research he did with regard to the Dodo that eventually culminated in him creating a Dodo skeleton purely from his research and notes.

The fact I was now starting to delve heavily into rack mount projects and enclosures also pushed me in that direction, mainly because there wasn’t much available for a 19″ rack that met my requirements at the time I started the project (late 2014 into 2015). While trying to figure out what I needed to go custom, I kept looking for available options, because there’s no point recreating what someone else has already done.

Since then, I’ve built a NAS, and that project illuminated a few potential options I didn’t previously consider.

The end result

So back to the original question: was it worth it? That depends on how you measure. I learned a lot going through all of this. I discovered a few things I didn’t know were available.

But the aftermath of a project is what allows you to discover whether you were overthinking things compared to your other options. And in that, I’d have to say the project actually was not worth the time and money spent.

The actual quote for just the enclosure at the time of the order was $355 according to Protocase. I got lucky in that I got an erroneous quote during a glitch in their system, so was able to get mine cut and shipped for a little under $200. One thing that might have cut down on overall expense would’ve been using essentially creating a mesh layout, but that probably would’ve increased the cost of the enclosure by more than the cost of the 60mm fans due to the extra machine time that would’ve been needed. A couple giant cutouts in which you’d install mesh of your own would likely be much better if you don’t want the fans.

So for $355, what is available off the shelf? A lot.

While designing the enclosure, I still kept a watch out for something suitable. I discovered two enclosures that would’ve been perfect but due to availability: Addonics R14ES and R1R2ES. Both were priced at under $300 and came with the interface card, fans and power supply.

One item I pointed out earlier was the 4-drive 1U rack mount enclosure by iStarUSA that is currently available through Amazon for around $300. It also comes with a power supply and fans (only 2x40mm in the rear). I’d need to add the port multiplier and SATA cables. The Addonics and iStarUSA enclosures also allow for easy hot-swap.

So in the end, I continued with the custom enclosure only due to a glitch in their system. Protocase very easily could’ve decided to not honor the price I was quoted — in which case you would’ve read about it here.

But beyond that, your better off looking for something off the shelf that can be used outright or adapted rather than going with something custom. If you don’t want to go with the iStarUSA chassis listed above or any other iStarUSA option, you can find a used rack chassis and adapt that. If you need it for desktop use instead of a rack, find a chassis with removable ears. Then just add hot-swap bays (optional), a port multiplier, and a power supply.

Basically as I’ve said in another build log, exhaust off-the-shelf options before going custom. And to be ready to abandon your custom option if a better off-the-shelf option presents itself.

Again, this project was an exercise in overthinking and inadequate research and consideration.


Another pass by Mira – III

In the previous iteration, I noted the pump got quieter with regard to vibration within the first 24 hours. I think this was merely due to the rubber needing to be loosened up before it could give its full isolation potential, as the isolation got better over time. The pump noise was never completely eliminated either.

So what else could I do about the noise and vibration? I conjectured swapping out the D5 Strong for the D5 Vario (likely at 12V, not higher). But I also could not determine if that could happen until I had the GPU block installed.

And then there was the matter of the case feet. I did a quick test to determine if better case feet would help with noise by resting the radiator box on a pair of dish towels. No difference. Even picking the radiator box up and holding it in the air didn’t make much difference to noise. But I figured the AcoustiFeet would still be a decent option and ordered them anyway as I could feel vibration being transferred to the table.

I also ordered anti-vibration silicone rubber washers. The aim was to also eliminate vibration on the fans in the radiator box. My primary concern lay with the three Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm fans pulling air across the box at the rear. They are held in with #8-32 screws without any kind of isolation. And the design of the Spectre Pro shell makes it impossible to use vibration isolating mounts. So your only option for vibration isolation is rubber washers.

I was not concerned about the bank of nine (9) Cougar CF-V12HB fans, since they have their own vibration isolation at the corners. Plus the entire bank becomes virtually inaudible below 9V unless you listen to them like a seashell on the beach. The Spectre Pro fans also become similarly inaudible at that low of a voltage, but there is still some vibration transfer to the chassis due to how it’s mounted.

Adding the GPU block

Thankfully I was able to order the block and backplate from a US supplier. Aquacomputer kryographics. Less expensive than EK while providing for about the same performance and quality.

So did this block provide so much resistance that I was forced to up the voltage on the pump for the sake of temperatures? Or was I able to swap out the D5 Strong for the D5 Vario?


Initial temperature performance left me very optimistic about swapping out the pump. First, as you can see above the pump is at 12V and the fans are at 7.1V. The card is not overclocked, but I do have its power target set to 112% in EVGA Precision XOC.

Under Unigine Heaven on maxed-out settings and letting it run for the better part of an hour, the temperature leveled out at 36°C and the GPU clock topped out at 1987 MHz. And a 30-minute Furmark test showed similar, maxing out at 36°C, but fluctuating between 35 and 36. Again the clock topped out at 1987 MHz.

The passive blackplate was also noticeably warm to the touch near the voltage regulators. Airflow to the backplate is partly obstructed by one of my hard drives, but there’s no cause for concern here. I’m considering replacing the thermal pads with the better Fujipoly pads for better cooling on the voltage regulators.

So with these results, it is safe to say that I could swap out the pump for the potentially quieter D5 Vario. Flow would still be the overriding concern here, and if I had reason to believe the Vario wasn’t going to be able to keep up the flow, then I could send it above 12V or reinstall the Strong.

There are a few other smaller changes I’ll be making to the radiator box as well. I noticed there is some vibration being transferred up the tubing to the reservoir, so vibration isolation on the reservoir mount will be beneficial. And there will be some other minor changes related to cable management. In short, likely tearing the whole thing apart again, which will be needed anyway just to replace the pump.


And now for some more benchmarks. Latest score is in black, my previous score with my pair of GTX 770s is in red.

Unigine Heaven – maxed out, 1080p: 2428 [1904]

Unigine Valley – Extreme HD, 1080p: 3909 [3743]

3DMark Firestrike: 15780 [12638], Graphics: 18942 [16091]

3DMark Sky Diver: 38362 [35005], Graphics: 63835 [54593]

3DMark Cloud Gate: 33322 [31911], Graphics: 121253 [102438]

3DMark Time Spy: 6143, Graphics: 6154

So not as striking an improvement moving from a pair of GTX 770s to the single GTX 1070. But from two graphics cards down to one and seeing a performance gain is still welcome. If this was a GTX 970, the gain would’ve likely been barely anything.

So still more to come with regard to changing out the pump and some other minor changes to the radiator box. I might even try overclocking the GPU and CPU to see what I can get out of it. The temperature performance of the loop gives me a lot of room to maneuver.


Quanta LB6M

So let’s talk about that 10GbE switch I bought on eBay.

First, loud is too soft a word to describe this. It has two 1U power supplies and three 40mm fans. The pair of PSUs is for redundancy, so you can cut some of the noise by having only one plugged in. But given how loud they already are, the second power supply isn’t going to increase the noise output much.

You can probably tell from the picture that I have this sitting on something. It’s a folded up length of fabric my wife got a while back that she never used, so I’m using it as an anti-vibration rest. It helped cut the noise a bit as well.

The 40mm fans are, specifically AVC DB04028B12U. They are 4-pin PWM fans rated at 55dB/A and a massive 21 CFM (about 36 m³/h). Three of them are equivalent to shy of 60dB/A at full speed. They are PWM controlled, but even at the slow speed they were running, it was still way too loud. And there was a very noticeable, tinnitus-inducing high pitch to the fans as well given their small size.

Are these fans really necessary, though, or could they be swapped out for much quieter fans – ones that, unfortunately, have less than half, if not less than 1/3rd the air flow – without risking overheating the switch?

From what I can find online, it appears the fans can be swapped out without much risk. Provided the switch isn’t under a substantial load. The fans are mounted to an easily-removed tray, so no major surgery to get to them. But 40mm fans tend to be poor on airflow. Certainly nowhere near the jet engines that come with this. 21 CFM is what you’d expect from 60mm or 80mm fans, not 40mm. Most 40mm fans won’t even give 10 CFM!

Since I have only four systems connected to the switch, and they will not be under anywhere near a constant 10Gb network load, I’m considering this a risk worth taking. I found a few 40mm fans rated at about 20dB/A and a little over 6 CFM from Micro Center to try first. Plus the switch arrived on a Friday, so I didn’t have many immediate options for quieting this thing down. But three 20dB/A fans at full speed are still a hell of a lot quieter than even one 55dB/A fan at low speed. Plus it doesn’t have that annoying high pitch due to its lower RPM.

For a more long-term solution, I had another idea in mind: a pair of 60mm NoiseBlocker PR-2 fans mounted to the back. How? Using 40mm/60mm fan adapters. And I considered buying 60mm to 80mm adapters as well just to see how far up I could take this. But given how little of a load this switch will endure, I’m questioning if that will be necessary.

But that still left the power supplies, which are Delta DPSN-300DB power supplies with a power main connector I’ve never seen before. And I’m not going to attempt a fan swap on those, which would require opening the shell on the units. All too easy to touch the wrong thing and die.

As expected, the switch is working better than the custom switch, though I’m not seeing better throughput. But I didn’t expect to see better throughput. Such as with file copies from the NAS to my desktop system.

So then why buy the switch if I wasn’t expecting better performance, especially since I knew it was going to be demonstrably louder than my custom solution? For one, it has 24 ports meaning I have a lot of room to maneuver in the future. Currently only 4 of those ports are being used. But that could change later on.

And then there was also the flaky discovery of our Plex DLNA server with the custom switch. At least with Kodi, it was flaky. Indeed our phones and tablets had a hard time finding it through our wireless. Windows 10’s built-in DLNA and UPnP discovery was finding it consistently, so perhaps there’s something up with Kodi and how it does UPnP.

But this switch completely eliminated that problem. Kodi on my desktop, phone, and tablet consistently discovers the DLNA server. The flakiness is gone.

In Linux there are likely some networking settings I needed to tweak so Kodi could consistently discover the Plex DLNA server. But I’m past that now. I didn’t take on this project to become a networking guru. Which means, as you can probably guess, I’m also not using any of the management options this switch provides. Since I don’t need them. I just needed a 10GbE switch.

The only thing that’s really left is seeing what I can do to quiet this thing down more. And it seems my only option is a sound-proof cabinet. Which those aren’t cheap by any stretch. I found a 12U cabinet through that runs about 1,200 USD on Amazon. And that seems to be about the lowest cost on cabinets like this.

And the cost of rack cabinets in general is largely why I’ve typically taken to building them instead. I have 12U rails from when I intended to build a 12U cabinet, back when I was considering turning my desktop system into a rack-mounted, water-cooled system. So I’m likely going to look at another DIY option. The available cabinets imply that such a venture should be relatively straightforward, and I already have a couple design points in mind.

I know, that sounds a little hypocritical coming from someone who, in the previous section, said to always lean toward off-the-shelf options. But I did also say to do so if it’s at a price point you’re willing to accept. And 1200 USD isn’t a price point I’m willing to accept for a rack cabinet. Not even 1000 USD. Not when I know I can build it for far less.


10Gb home network – Retrospective

Significant time and some not-insignificant expense went into bringing this project to fruition. Only to be surpassed by something significantly better and less complicated.

That is a risk you take with projects like this, though. And the question is how you anticipate and respond to it.

I anticipated the risk by using as much of my existing hardware as possible. Aside from the transceivers and cables, and also the network cards, only two new pieces of hardware were acquired for this project: the Noctua NH-D9L, and the SeaSonic power supply. And there was also the Silverstone GD09 chassis for the switch that ultimately didn’t get used. Everything else was hardware I already had. So the out of pocket risk was light, staying under 200 USD combined.

And then I discovered recently, courtesy of Linus Tech Tips (video below), that a lot of surplus, refurbished 10GbE SFP+ switches were recently dropped on eBay.

The switch in question is the Quanta LB6M, which is a 24-port SFP+ 10GbE switch, 1U rack height, and most of the listings on eBay (as of the time I write this) are for 250 USD or less, with varying costs for shipping. So I decided to acquire one to replace my custom switch. I don’t have it as of the time this article goes live, but it’ll basically be a drop-in replacement to the existing switch when I do receive it.

The only downside is they are built for server rooms, meaning they are loud out of the box. I will be seeing what I can do to quiet it down, so keep an eye out for a revisit on that. Whether I can will depend on the specifications for the fans and power supplies, as well as how the switch is constructed.

Brand new switches with that port count are several thousand dollars, with lower port counts typically starting at around a thousand dollars. And they’re built to connect clusters into 10GbE connections, such as for high performance computing clusters or storage-area networks using optical fiber.

So… yeah. A lot of time and effort displaced… by an eBay listing.

And I kept an eye on eBay during the course of this project. It’s why I tried to keep the out of pocket cost low. Easily the single greatest expense in this whole project were the transceivers and cables. Though the 10GbE cards run a close second in aggregate cost, given how many I acquired. Most of which will probably be sold off depending on what I decide to do with them.

Now if you were to replicate that switch, purchasing everything, the cost would be significant. Even going through eBay to buy the parts used, you’re still looking at nearly 150 USD for just the processor and mainboard. The 4U chassis I had this built into is 100 USD on its own plus shipping brand new.

And that’s why, for the most part, I stuck with hardware I already had.

Custom switches

So I basically scrapped the entire custom switch project for an off-the-shelf switch. Most of the hardware will be repurposed. I do intend to get a GPU computing cluster back up and running, and some of it will be repurposed to that.

I ventured into building a custom switch from hardware I already had due to not being able to find anything off the shelf at a price I was willing to pay. I thought ultimately that I could do this for less than what it’d cost buying something off the shelf.

It was only after I hit “Publish” on the previous iteration in this log that I became aware of the surplus listings on eBay. Despite me not finding anything when I searched just last month.

And that is one recommendation I’ll make up front: always lean toward an off the shelf solution, and only build custom if you can’t find something that will meet your requirements within a price point you find acceptable.

But along those lines, should you consider building your own custom 10GbE switch? That’s a tough case to make. And about the only way I could see that case being made is if you had multiple 10GbE media in one network segment. For example if you have SFP+ and Cat6A media in the same network segment, then building a custom switch to combine those together may be worthwhile to keep costs down.

But first ask: for the devices using Cat6A or Cat7 for 10GbE, would it be possible to switch those over to using an SFP+ card?

10GBASE-T SFP+ transceivers are starting to show up on the market, though their lower power capability (limitation of the SFP+ standard) means they are limited in length to about 30m or less. And they are not cheap. Same with 10GbE SFP+ to RJ45 media converters.

If you need to combine disparate media across Layer 3 — e.g. you’re needing to join Infiniband, Fibre Channel, and/or Ethernet on an IP network — then a custom switch is likely your only option. In which case make sure to pay attention to PCI-Express slot layouts and lane requirements with the hardware you intend to use.


So let’s talk recommendations based on what I’ve learned through this project. Well there’s really only one recommendation I can make that is still relevant: use optical fiber. Optical fiber allows you to keep the transceivers and use whatever cable length you need. And it’s easy and inexpensive to swap out for another length if you need it later.

Avoid direct-attached copper. The cables are expensive. And if you need a different length later, you’d need to order another complete cable.

And, again, don’t build a custom switch unless you’re sure you have little other choice. And be ready to abandon your custom switch if a better option presents itself.


10 gigabit (10Gb) home network – Zone 2 switch – Part 2

Last I left I mentioned that I was waiting for some hardware to arrive. The SFP+ transceivers and optical fiber cables along with a power supply from EVGA’s RMA department. I mentioned that I also considered not waiting for the power supply to ship so I could finish the switch sooner. And I went for that option.

Power supply

Courtesy of some nice incentives on NewEgg’s website, I opted to the Seasonic SSR-550RM. It’s initial list price was 60 USD, but there was an active special allowing for a 5 USD coupon code plus 15 USD mail-in rebate. It’s a 550W gold-rated power supply, which should be more than enough for this project while hopefully allowing it to always run nearly silent. And it has a 9.6 rating from Jonny Guru.

It’s not fully-modular, unlike the EVGA 650 G2 I’m waiting on RMA return, but is semi-modular. The 24-pin ATX and 8-pin CPU cables are attached. I may be able to get away with not needing anything else, but that may be unlikely.

No more wireless. For now.

I purchased the TP-Link AC1900 wireless card with the aim of creating a Wi-Fi hotspot with it. I was able to get the card working with NDISWrapper, after some finagling including blacklisting the built-in Broadcom driver. But I wasn’t able to turn it into a hotspot. Likely the driver is the concern here.

But there was something else I didn’t realize till after I tried to set it up as a hotspot: I wouldn’t be able to run it in 2.4GHz and 5GHz concurrently that I could find, basically negating the reasons to set it up as a hotspot.

So I’m going to figure out something else to do with the TP-Link card and just buy an access point to replace the WiFi built into the router.

A redo

In doing this whole project, I realized that there was a significantly better way of handling all of this, and it’s something I should’ve considered before starting the Zone 2 switch. You live, you learn, I guess.

Basically if you’ve followed this series, you’ve probably predicted this move. The Zone 1 switch has only three 10GbE ports. The Zone 2 switch has four 10GbE ports. But I have only four systems that could be upgraded to 10GbE. So the thought was simply: why not consolidate?

So I took what was the Zone 2 switch and basically made it the only 10GbE switch on the network, removing the quad-port Gigabit card. I could have just moved one of the dual-port cards into Zone 1, but I wanted to keep the PCI graphics card in the switch. And the ASRock 990FX Extreme6 board that was in Zone 1 does not have a PCI slot.

This creates for a much less complicated setup overall. The original Gigabit switch will be retained and used for the entertainment center. And two 30m optical fiber cables will run from Mira and Absinthe to the switch, while the long Cat5E cable will run to the router.

This move won’t improve throughput. It shouldn’t degrade it either given the 8-core processor. Again, it’s about consolidation. So with that, on to specifications.

Final specifications on the switch:

  • CPU: AMD FX-8350 (stock speed) with Noctua NH-D9L
  • Mainboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3 Rev 4.1
  • RAM: 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-1866
  • GPU: GeForce 2 MX400 PCI
  • Storage: Samsung Fit 32GB USB 3.0

Networking hardware:

  • Gigabit: TP-Link TG-3468
  • 10GbE: 2xMellanox ConnectX-2 (MNPH29-XTR)
  • Transceivers: Fiber Store Generic 10GBase-SR
  • Cable: OM4 LC to LC

The two blank slots at the back, to the right of the Gigabit card and to the right of the VGA card, are x4 slots, which would allow for two additional single-port cards if I so desired. All of the cards are directly cooled by a 120mm Nanoxia Deep Silence fan.

Installing Mellanox EN driver for Fedora 24 Server

Note: to make a bridge with the Mellanox chipset 10GbE cards, you MUST use the Mellanox driver. The mlnx4_core driver distributed with most Linux distros won’t work for this, at least not out of the box.

After downloading and extracting the files from their repository, run these commands:

dnf install lm_sensors 'perl(Term::ANSIColor)' redhat-rpm-config python-libxml2 rpm-build kernel-devel createrepo
./install --add-kernel-support
/etc/init.d/mlnx-en.d restart

The first makes sure you have the right packages installed — lm_sensors is a good one to have for hardware monitoring, and it will install perl and a few other required packages as part of its dependencies. Another utility to consider is nmon.

The second command builds and installs the drivers for your kernel. If you get an error about the package command not being found, just re-run the command. I’ve sometimes had to run it multiple times for some reason.

While not required, you should also reboot after installing the driver.

Fedora 25 and later: You might be able to force support of the driver for Fedora 25 by changing the scripts to look for “fc25” instead of “fc24”. I have not tried this, so I cannot speak to whether it will work.

Throughput and jumbo frames

In many discussions about 10GbE, jumbo frames comes up. Many have wondered if they need to use jumbo frames to maximize throughput or performance. And the answer largely is “that depends”.

If you are using optical fiber with 10GBase-SR transceivers, jumbo frames is completely unnecessary since optical fiber has a super low latency and is virtually immune to interference.

It largely depends on what you use to measure throughput. iPerf, I’ve found, is far from accurate. It’s great for measuring throughput between two points in a network, but not for hopping junctions.

For example, iPerf reports throughput between my NAS (Nasira) and the switch of about 9.4Gbit, probably as good as I’m going to get. And it reports about 9.3Gbit to 9.4Gbit between Mira and the switch. But between Mira and Nasira, hopping across the switch and jumping between NICs, it reported 4.4Gbit. So what gives?

Have a look at these two file transfers:

This is transferring a file from the Nasira to Mira. Jumbo frames off. The same connection for which iPerf reported 4.4Gbit throughput. The difference is the first transfer was a non-cached transfer: FreeNAS was reading the file from the ZFS array directly and serving it back to me. Pretty impressive transfer speed unto itself.

But the faster transfer speed, the one sticking to about 850MB per second, is a cached transfer, meaning FreeNAS had the file cached in RAM. Still not a full 10Gbit transfer, but I doubt jumbo frames would max it out since FreeNAS is likely the limitation here since my SSD is a Samsung 950 Pro.

So you should not need to enable jumbo frames to see maximum performance.

Next article for this project will be a retrospective in which I summarize what I’ve discovered during this and provide some tips to determine if this project is right for you.


Making decisions

Recently came across this gem from Occupy Democrats Logic on Facebook:

This is yet another of the many contradictions with regard to the left and standing laws. And also how authoritarian and anti-family they’ve become.

The main point of the “Under 13” item is this idea that kids who have not yet reached puberty are generally capable of determining if they are “transgender”, including the determination of what treatment options they need, all while not being legally able to drink, buy certain video games, have sex, or even work. So the law doesn’t extend trust to minors of such relatively minor decisions, yet many on the left think minors who haven’t reached puberty can somehow discern that they have gender dysphoria.

Except no one can determine for certain they have gender dysphoria without the aid of a psychiatrist, just as no person can determine they have depression or anxiety disorder without the aid of a psychiatrist.

Quoting the British NHS (emphasis mine):

Children with gender dysphoria may display some, or all, of these behaviours. However, in many cases, behaviours such as these are just a part of childhood and don’t necessarily mean your child has gender dysphoria.

For example, many girls behave in a way that can be described as “tomboyish”, which is often seen as part of normal female development. It’s also not uncommon for boys to roleplay as girls and to dress up in their mother’s or sister’s clothes. This is usually just a phase.

Most children who behave in these ways don’t have gender dysphoria and don’t become transsexuals. Only in rare cases does the behaviour persist into the teenage years and adulthood.

And then with regard to teenagers:

The way gender dysphoria affects teenagers and adults is different to the way it affects children. If you’re a teenager or adult with gender dysphoria, you may feel:

  • without doubt that your gender identity is at odds with your biological sex
  • comfortable only when in the gender role of your preferred gender identity
  • a strong desire to hide or be rid of the physical signs of your sex, such as breasts, body hair or muscle definition
  • a strong dislike for – and a strong desire to change or be rid of – the genitalia of your biological sex

Without appropriate help and support, some people may try to suppress their feelings and attempt to live the life of their biological sex. Ultimately, however, most people are unable to keep this up.

Having or suppressing these feelings is often very difficult to deal with and, as a result, many transsexuals and people with gender dysphoria experience depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

The psychological or psychiatric component is what is ultimately necessary to diagnose gender dysphoria. It is often not present in children. And it is extremely rare, rarer than rare, when it does genuinely present.

But this hasn’t stopped the growing trend wherein parents are being “gender fluid” or “gender non-specific” with raising their children. Things such as using “gender neutral” pronouns around their kids to avoid “gender indoctrination” or “gender assignment”. I wish I was making that up. The “trans-trender” phenomenon of social media has leached into parenting.

While transgender awareness is certainly a great thing, just as homosexual and bisexual awareness is also a great thing for society, it’s something that has now gone way too far. Beyond the point of sanity. The logic is one that escapes me: a kid who wants to play with toys of the opposite sex or otherwise act as the opposite sex is presumed to be transgender rather than interpreting it as just a phase. And adults who do not feel 100% masculine or 100% feminine 100% of the time are now called “genderqueer”.

And that trend has been lambasted by transgender activists, most notably from my experience being Blair White, who is a male-to-female transsexual:

Those who are genuinely transsexual, genuinely gender dysphoric, are a tiny minority. And within that tiny minority is an extremely tiny minority of those who are, without doubt, present as such before reaching puberty. In general, though, the psychiatric component of gender dysphoria must also present at that young age for it to actually be gender dysphoria instead of it being just a phase.

Now sure in some children it could be a strong presentation of wanting to act like the opposite sex, one that causes the child’s parents to question if it’s just a phase. And it’s a legitimate concern at that point as well. That doesn’t mean you indulge it, whole-hog, though, without openly and continually questioning it.

The rarity of such genuinely dysphoric, prepubescent individuals makes them generally newsworthy, and they’ve typically received press coverage. I can think of only three examples off the top of my head: Kim Petras, Jackie Green, and Jazz Jennings. Kim Petras and Jackie Green underwent sex reassignment surgery and the full male-to-female gender transition as minors. With medical advice and parental consent. I do not know if Jazz Jennings has started the medical transition process.

But there are numerous concepts that many falsely assert as gender dysphoria. For one, transvestism is not gender dysphoria. Your son or daughter wanting to dress as the opposite sex or play with toys typically associated with the opposite sex is not gender dysphoria and does not make your son or daughter transsexual or transgender. Without the psychiatric components, it cannot be gender dysphoria. Instead, again, it is likely just a phase, one that comes about as a child becomes more self-aware and tries to establish greater levels of independence.

As such, a minor asserting they are the opposite sex and wanting to live as the opposite sex should be evaluated by a psychiatrist, provided it is not a phase.

But proper evaluation and diagnosis can take YEARS to assess whether the person is legitimately gender dysphoric. That time is also necessary to asses the risks posed by treatment options and evaluate what treatment options would be proper and when they should occur.

And that is true for both minors and adults.

The concern with minors, however, is that hormone therapies during puberty can have risks that are significantly reduced by waiting for puberty to complete. They can also exacerbate other risks that would otherwise not present if the therapies never started, such as risks for certain cancers. This is not something to take lightly.

As such, it is not a decision that a minor can make on their own. They are likely not mature enough to fully understand the consequences of that level of decision-making. It’s not even one that adults are permitted under current medical guidelines to make on their own due to the long-term risks and consequences. Guidance from several specialists is necessary and required.

If you believe you are gender dysphoric and want to transition to the opposite gender, before actually starting any kind of transition, you need to get under the care and supervision of a psychiatrist who has a well-documented track record with regard to gender dysphoria. Same if you are a parent who, for some reason, believes your child’s desire to play with toys and dress in clothes normally associated with the opposite sex is more than just a phase.

Again this is not something minors can or should be permitted to do on their own. And it is not something that should be encouraged in minors either, especially prepubescent minors.



Another pass by Mira – II

Not long after posting the last part of this build log, I discovered that AlphaCool distributed their own decoupling fastener kit. Four fasteners, screws, washers, and nuts. Everything M4 thread. Specifically the AlphaCool SKU is 13701.

They make another one that is similar, but with male threads on both ends instead of a male and female.

Decouplers are basically two fasteners connected by a rubber cylinder, and prevent virtually all vibration from being transferred from the object to its mount, provided they’re used with objects within their specifications.

A few adjustments to the radiator box

In the original setup for this radiator box, I initially had the pump mounted to the floor, but with double-sided 3M VHB tape. There was virtually no vibration isolation. And with the second revision, the pump was mounted to a UN Z2 bracket with 00 rubber washers providing some vibration isolation, but not anywhere near the degree needed. The entire case vibrated, and you could feel it by just resting your finger on any panel.

Mounting the pump using the decouplers required drilling a few holes into the aluminum panel using a 3/16″ drill bit for the M4 fasteners. Along with the vibration decouplers, I retained several of the rubber washers for additional padding and isolation.

Performance and noise reduction

So how well did it work? Previously virtually the entire chassis was vibrating while now it no longer is. But there is still a significant amount of vibration being transferred from the pump to the bottom panel. And that vibration is also still being transferred up the sides. Initially this was causing a large amount of noise, but it settled after several hours.

Initially I had the pump running at the 16.5V that Martin’s Liquid Lab specifies provides for maximum flow. I turned it down to 12.5V and that reduced the vibration significantly and I left it overnight and the vibration noise on the pump was virtually gone. The pump itself, though, is still being loud, and there is still some vibration transfer between the pump and bottom panel that is creating noise.

I currently have Startech’s case feet on the bottom panel. These aren’t made for anti-vibration. And I wonder if the vibration I’m feeling in the case is actually feedback. Perhaps changing them out for anti-vibration feet, such as the AcoustiFeet by Acousti Products, would virtually eliminate the vibration.

By the way, having the flow down that far didn’t sacrifice temperatures in the least since it’s just the CPU being cooled currently. I ran another video conversion using Handbrake and the temperatures stayed in the upper-30s°C, occasionally touching at 40°C or 41°C, with the fans down to 6V and the CPU pegged at its 3.6GHz boost clock.

There’s been some back and forth on this, and there are competing sides wherein one says that pump speed does matter while others say it doesn’t. JayzTwoCents actually called it a “myth” that pump speed affects cooling performance: “increasing your pump speed does not increase the cooling capacity of your system”. He also tries testing pump speed and temperatures in a later video. And ends up showing that it does.

Sure it doesn’t increase your cooling capacity, since that is determined by your radiators and the overall fluid volume in your loop. I’ve seen “cooling capacity” misused time and time again when the person saying that actually means “cooling capability“. And on that, pump speed absolutely matters. To a degree.

And that degree is called resistance. Most blocks today actually have a pretty high resistance to flow. Especially CPU blocks.

If you don’t have a pump that can push through that resistance, you’ll end up with poor flow, which can translate into temperatures not as good as you could otherwise get. For example if I exchange the D5 Strong for a D5 Vario, run it at 12V, and have it at level 1, I doubt I’d get any flow. Because I doubt it’d be strong enough to push through the resistance it would face.

It’s why aquarium pumps aren’t used today for water cooling. Which it’s a minor shame since they’re submersible, eliminating the need for a separate reservoir. But most, especially the inexpensive ones, don’t have the head pressure to push through a loop with a modern CPU block. And the ones that do are likely unacceptably loud.

I have the D5 Strong  due to its higher line pressure to overcome resistance. That resistance initially being two GPU blocks in parallel and a CPU block (EK Supremacy EVO) plus three triple-120mm radiators. And let’s not forget having to push that fluid against gravity.

There was also a flaw in the original design that didn’t help things. The original radiator box design had case fans pulling air into the chassis as an intake. The fittings between the radiators were toward the rear of the chassis near the bulkhead fittings. As such there was a major source of restriction that also impacted flow greatly.

I’m not sure how well you can see it, but look in the upper-middle of the picture. That fitting configuration that is out of focus is comprised of several fittings: an extension fitting going to a Koolance 180° fitting, to another 90° rotary fitting before entering the radiator. That was a tight setup.

And all of that resistance to flow was too much for the D5 Vario at 12V, and I never tried putting a voltage up-converter on the Vario to get it higher. The CPU temperatures on my FX-8350 would climb into the upper-50s and lower-60sC under load. So I swapped it out for the D5 Strong, pushed it over 12V, and saw a drastic reduction in temperatures.

Above a certain point, though, pump speed won’t matter. But that point is determined by the components and design of your loop. More resistance requires a stronger pump to see the same flow level through your loop. And that flow level is one of the factors in your loop’s cooling performance.

I overcame that design flaw when I revisited the radiator box with Mira. I turned everything around so the radiator fittings were at the front of the chassis and the case fans acted as an exhaust at the rear. This allowed a long piece of tubing to go from the return bulkhead to the radiators, drastically reducing the flow resistance by eliminating the tight bends.

As such, this has me wondering about switching the system to a D5 Vario. Neither pump can run below 12V. And while the Strong at 12V is more powerful than the Vario at level 5 at 12V, the difference isn’t significant, but the Strong maintains better line pressure.

At least the Vario at 12V allows you to control the pump speed to as low as you need it, allowing for better control over noise and vibration.

But till I get the GPU block, I can’t know whether I can make the switch. Temperature performance on the CPU and GPU blocks will be the determining factors in whether I can keep the pump turned down low and possibly switch to the D5 Vario to have it turned down further.

If it introduces too much resistance such that I have to retain the D5 Strong, then I’ll need to look at some way of damping the pump’s sound.

Finding the right decouplers

While it appears they may not be ideal, the AlphaCool decouplers are working to isolate a lot of the vibration. You’ll never be able to completely isolate all of it, but you obviously want to minimize the vibration transfer as much as possible.

AquaComputer distributes their own set of decouplers allegedly made with a softer rubber. I’ve also seen decouplers that are made for RC applications that use clear silicone rubber. These may provide for a much lesser vibration transfer based on my research. I went with AlphaCool’s decouplers first because they were less expensive.

Karmann Rubber gives a good synopsis on shopping for decouplers: excessive under-load of the fastener will actually not provide satisfactory isolation, while overloading can cause it to fail or fail prematurely while also eliminating any potential isolation. There are several terms involved here as well, with spring rate, compression load, and shear load being the more important ones.

You want to find a decoupler with the lowest spring rate that supports the shear and compression load it’ll bear. The compression load for a D5 pump is the weight of the pump plus its housing, about 2lbs to 2.5lbs. Shear load varies with the pump RPM.

Softer materials tend to have lower spring rates, but at the trade-off of supporting lower compression and shear loads due to lower density. To a degree. So the softer rubber of Aquacomputer’s decouplers might allow for greater vibration isolation for a D5 pump and the lighter DDC pumps. Provided they are actually softer. According to one reviewer on Performance-PCs, AquaComputer’s set is identical to AlphaCool’s decouplers (item no. 13505), just a different color. So perhaps I just need to find something else.

But the problem of under-loading an isolator is also important to keep in mind. With the AcoustiFeet, for example, you don’t want to buy the kit rated for 70lbs for an HTPC build that weights just 15lbs as it probably won’t provide for any isolation. You want to buy isolators that are rated for a compression and shear load about around what is experienced to get the benefit. It’s kind of like the “Price is Right” in that matter: get as close as you can without going over.

Now we wait…

With the GTX 1070 in the system, the CPU is now the only component on the 9x120mm of radiator space. Currently I’m using distilled water with copper sulfate as the coolant, though I’ll be swapping over to PrimoChill’s coolant concentrate. The small bottle that comes with their tubing that gets mixed into a gallon of distilled water. Just simply because it’s easier. I don’t have enough Mayhem’s X1 on hand for this and am not planning to order more.

So the wait now is for figuring out the full-cover block. According to EK, this particular GTX 1070 is a reference card, and NVIDIA did the super-smart thing of building the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 using the same reference design, making all GTX 1080 reference blocks instantly compatible with any reference GTX 1070. Talk about a win.

So that means I can go with the same block I used in Absinthe: the Aquacomputer krygraphics. And that’s likely the direction I’ll be leaning on this. Hopefully without having to order it from Germany.

In the mean time I’m also going to be continuing research into vibration isolation to see if I can completely silence this D5 Strong pump. Provided I need to keep it. If having this pump down at 12V still provides for adequate flow across the entire system (temperatures will be the determining factor), then I may swap it out for a D5 Vario, which is a lot easier to keep quiet due to its lower RPM.

So it’ll be interesting to see what the next couple weeks brings.