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Wil Wheaton and free speech

I think it safe to say that many do not understand the right of free speech. Let’s add Wil Wheaton to that list:

I just watched this idiot reporter on KCAL questioning people who were protesting outside of the Republican State Convention in Northern California today.

They were, unsurprisingly, protesting Donald Trump’s rhetoric and message. They were largely younger people, and they were unhappy about his misogyny, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia.

So this stupid reporter, who either knows better and doesn’t care, or is so profoundly ignorant of what he’s reporting on he shouldn’t be there, starts asking the protesters, “Don’t you think Donald Trump has the right to free speech?”

Okay, stupid, let’s break this down for you because apparently any idiot can call himself a reporter these days and get hired by a network. The protesters aren’t government or law enforcement, or agents of the state, so they can’t abridge or prevent Trump’s speech. They aren’t using the apparatus of the state to interfere with his ability to say whatever he wants, so the question about his free speech is irrelevant.

This idiot is asking the wrong question because he’s lazy, stupid, unprepared, or being deliberately obtuse. The question is not “don’t you think Donald Trump has a right to free speech” the question is … well, just to pull three off the top of my non-professional-journalist head: “Why do you feel this way, why are you here, what do you hope to accomplish?”

This idiot did nothing to educate his viewers, and instead spread the false idea that challenging someone’s ideas has anything to do with that person’s constitutionally-protected right to free speech. This stupid reporter has conflated Free Speech with speech free of consequence, which is something I’d expect from a 12 year-old, not someone who is allegedly a professional television reporter.

The concern here is that Wheaton is limiting what he considers a valid interference of free speech rights to just the government. Unfortunately most seem to think that the right to free speech means only the government cannot interfere. No, it means no one can interfere. That’s why it’s called a right.

I left this reply:

So as long as the protesters are not interfering with those trying to get into the venue, and otherwise not interfering with Trump giving his speech, then they’re not interfering with anyone’s rights, merely exercising their own.

But to say that they “can’t abridge or prevent Trump’s speech” is not correct. They can’t *legally* do so, but that hasn’t stopped things like that from happening in the past — and oddly enough, it seems to be consistently coming from the radical left.

Bear in mind that many radical leftists have interfered with speeches and people trying to access those venues. This has especially been the case on college campuses. Chanty Binx (a.k.a. “Big Red”) comes to mind readily on that. A group of protesters at Ohio University interfered with a speech regarding due process rights on campus, labeling that speaker a rape apologist, with several rows of people standing to block his speech. And other interference with speeches has included disruptions during the speech and other attempts to drown out the speaker or otherwise prevent the speaker from giving their speech in a venue where they are authorized to speak.

And their justification for interfering with these speeches and access is by labeling the speaker a (an) [insert label of choice] and by extension saying that their speech is not protected by the First Amendment because they are [insert label here] and their speech is (without reviewing the notes or planned statements ahead of time) “hate speech”. Given you’ve just labeled Trump several things, many would feel justified (and likely have felt justified) in actively denying him his right to speak on those grounds or deny others the ability to access the venue where the speech was being given — the number of people arrested blocking roads shows this.

I’m sure you’re not unaware of all of this going on, and if you are, you need to educate yourself on this.

Again so long as the protesters do not interfere with access to his speech or him giving that speech, then no interference of rights has occurred.

While the First Amendment specifically enjoins the government, no person, whether civilian or law enforcement, has the right to interfere with someone giving a speech at their own venue or one in which they are authorized to speak, nor do they have the right to inhibit someone’s access to that speech.

 

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13 things said by someone who likely never had student loan debt

Once again I need to focus my eyes on Credit.com, and specifically at Christine DiGangi and her article “13 Thing People with No Student Loan Debt Will Never Understand“. Let’s set aside the fact that the article should’ve likely been titled people “who have never had student loan debt” and instead get into these points that make me wonder if the author has ever had student loan debt. Seriously, she’s got some doozies here.

  1. There’s that falling-off-a-cliff feeling you get when letters start rolling in after you’ve left school, telling you it’s time to pay up.

And given that you have 6 months from the day you leave college before first payment is due, and that is mentioned in every disclosure you’re given about your loans (you did read those, right?), the letters informing you of your upcoming due date and, more importantly, the payment amount should not be a surprise. If they are, then you weren’t paying attention.

In those letters will also be instructions about getting deferments or a forbearance, so make sure to read them to understand the process. And call the customer service numbers if you have questions about those processes or need to initiate them.

  1. You quickly realize your disposable income is also going to fall off a cliff.

And again, given you have six months from the day you leave college before the first payment is due, that should be enough time to anticipate this expense and all other expenses you might have so you can create a budget.

  1. Then there’s the confusion of dealing with a loan servicer whose name you don’t recognize, because you borrowed money from the Department of Education.

This is provided you need to actually call in and discuss your standing with the loan servicer. With the small loan I had through the Department of Education (the bulk of my student loans were funded by Wells Fargo via the Stafford Loan program), I never had to call in.

  1. Once you log in to set up your account, you see your loan balance and think, “Holy crap, that’s way more than I borrowed.” Interest is a soul-crushing beast.

The only reason to be thinking that is if you ignored all the statements the loan servicer was sending you during the time the loan was in deferment. If you weren’t paying attention to that, you have only yourself to blame.

  1. You stress out every month about your payment arriving on time, even though you set up automatic payments.

If you set up automatic payments, you don’t need to stress about your payment arriving on time. If you set up automatic payments, the loan servicer isn’t going to hit you with any fees or penalties simply because their system didn’t initiate payment in time for the due date. That’s their fault, not yours. And if they do hit you with a fee, call in and tell them you have automatic payments set up — something they can easily confirm — and they should remove it.

  1. But when the payment goes through, you’re pissed because you just gave away another couple hundred dollars you could have saved for a down payment on a house, or to replace your run-down car, or for that emergency fund you know you need, or to take a vacation or a million other things you don’t have the money for.

And of course we can’t fault Credit.com for mentioning the fact you could’ve used that payment on other kinds of debt. Ugh… Seriously when my debt payments were going through, I wasn’t thinking about what that money could’ve been spent on. I knew I had obligations to pay, so I had to think about paying those obligations, not where the money could’ve gone had I not had those obligations.

  1. And if the payment gets screwed up, you get to frantically make phone calls to try and fix the problem, get late fees waived and hope a late payment doesn’t end up on your credit report.

If you screwed up the payment details, you have only yourself to blame. Seriously, how difficult is it to double-check the information you entered before saving it? Their systems won’t initiate payment against a bank account number you don’t provide them. So if you gave them the wrong information, or fail to update that information if you move your account to a different bank, you have only yourself to blame.

  1. There’s the sad familiarity you have with your student loan servicer’s phone number, because you’ve probably saved it in your phone so you know who’s calling you incessantly about paying your bills.

This should only be happening if you are habitually late or not making the payments at all. If you’re unable to pay your loans, you need to seriously reevaluate your standing and discuss that standing with the servicer. At the same time, if you’ve already gotten a deferment or forbearance, they’ll want you to provide periodic updates on your standing to them, and will call to obtain those updates. After all, you owe them money, and likely a significant chunk at that, so they’re not going to just go away.

  1. And even if you’ve been making payments for years, you feel like exploding at the sight of your account balance — because that pesky interest and decades-long repayment plan seems to keep you from making any progress toward getting out of debt.

And it’s your fault for borrowing so much. If you don’t want the hassle of paying it back, don’t borrow it to begin with. But since you’ve already borrowed and spent the money, welcome to the flip-side of the coin. I took about 10 years paying off over 14,000 USD in student loan debt. Thankfully being in the Stafford program meant I had a low interest rate, so the payments were easy.

But that wasn’t always the case, as I was unemployed for a long period at one point and had to play catch-up on those loans. Wells Fargo even offered a forebearance, which I turned down since I had a plan for catching the loans up — which required making about 1500 USD in payments in two months time with debt collectors breathing down my neck.

  1. But you keep paying anyway, because it seems like there’s no way out of repaying your student loans, even if the rest of your financial life collapses around you.

You keep paying anyway because you have an obligation to do so! And if the “rest of your financial life collapses around you”, then reevaluate your financial life to get things in order.

  1. Then, after you’ve gotten used to sending your payments to one place, your loans are transferred to another company and you have to set up everything all over again.

Yes, banks and loan providers will sell off loans in order to recover as much of the principal as they can up front rather than waiting for it to come in over the course of years, perhaps decades. And they typically take on a loss doing that. My student loans originated through Wells Fargo, then were sold to ACS Education Services, a division of Xerox Education Services. Right before I made the last payment on the loan, I got a letter saying they’d be transferred to another servicer. That’s just part of the business.

But how difficult is it to set up the payment information again? It isn’t hard. The only complication is having to retrieve the routing and account numbers for your bank account to make sure you enter them properly. Aside from that, you just enter the information into the online account and be done with it.

  1. Then there’s that moment each month when you’ve forgotten about how much you hate your student loans, only to get an email about when your next payment is due, or there’s a message you have to log in to read, or some other annoying bit of communication that’s probably meant to be helpful but you’re certain it exists solely to torture you.

That e-mail reminding you of your payment is also called your statement notification. And they’ll also send you e-mails whenever there’s a privacy policy update, among other notifications they may periodically send. You can opt out of much of that if you wish, or have them send paper copies in the mail. If you have automatic payments set up and don’t want the periodic e-mail reminders, you may be able to opt out of them. Instructions will likely be in the e-mail. But even then they’ll likely still send you an e-mail telling you they’ve initiated payment.

  1. And, eventually, there’s the ridiculous joy you feel when you make your last payment and you’re finally free of student loan debt.

I wouldn’t call it “ridiculous” to feel joy at paying off an account that’d been sapping your income for years on end. I remember paying off all of my other loans — student loans, my car, a personal loan. It was great watching those payments disappear from my budget so that money could be re-allocated, after having a little celebration. But there’s nothing “ridiculous” about that joy either.

* * * * *

I’ve gotten on Credit.com’s case before with regard to the tripe they publish. It’s all marketing materials. So naturally they’re going to over-inflate and exaggerate a lot of what they say simply because they can. At the same time, the fact they’re misleading people cannot be ignored.

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing special about student loans. It’s debt. These points could still apply whether you’re talking about a car loan, personal loan, or student loan. So why she chose to make these things people without student loan debt will “never” understand is beyond me, and it’s extremely misleading.

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What the hell, Amazon?

Something must seriously be wrong at Amazon. In the past few months, I’ve had several orders screwed up, but the most recent one takes the cake. By far.

Recently I ordered the Shrek collection on Blu-Ray from Amazon. It shipped via the 2-day shipping (I have Amazon Prime), and it arrived Monday, April 4… without any wrapping around the box… and no discs in any of the BD cases. When I first lifted the box, it felt strangely light, and immediately I feared they had sent me an empty set. And when I saw it was unwrapped, I checked all of the BD cases, and, sure enough, all were empty.

shrek1

shrek2

Needless to say, I immediately made the replacement request — not refund, replacement.

I mean, the only way Amazon could’ve been worse on this is to send me an empty box — as in an empty shipping box with literally nothing in it. And hopefully by saying that I haven’t just jinxed myself.

And when they receive what they sent me, if Amazon tries to go after me with regard to the missing discs, attempting to accuse me of basically stealing the discs and manufacturing the story, I have a perfect response: that order also had the complete Hobbit Extended Edition Trilogy on Blu-Ray (though shipped separately), and it arrived in tact.

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Nasira – Part III

This phase of the project starts with bumping the storage from 8TB to 16TB raw storage space, making it 8TB effective space. Given how much space is currently being taken up on the NAS, it’s probably going to be a long while until I buy the next pair.

The second pair was a pair of Seagate 4TB NAS drives. As planned, I replaced one of the WD Red drives with a Seagate, then created the second mirrored pair from the spare WD Red and the other Seagate. The first pair resilvered at an average rate of around 100 MB/s. At the time of the resilver I had 1.5TB of data, so it took over 4 hours to rebuild.

The drive replacement was straightforward — take the drive I wanted to replace offline, remove it, mount the new drive, tell FreeNAS to replace the one that was taken offline, and let it resilver.

* * * * *

And finally we’re to building the system, or at least migrating it.

As said in the previous iteration, I opted for the IPC-G3550 from PlinkUSA, which is a 3U, 21″ long chassis with two sets of three (3) 5 1/4″ drive bays in the front. Unfortunately with the mobile racks I couldn’t get them mounted flush, so they ended up sticking out a little bit. But they serve as 120mm fan inputs as well. Both mobile racks are installed and powered, even though only one is populated. The second basically acts as a 120mm intake.

nasira

Needless to say I’m not pleased with the cable management, but for now there really wasn’t much I could do about it. I’m looking around for short SATA cables to replace the ones that came with the drive racks. For the one behind the power supply, I’m think only 9″ at most is needed. For the one nearest the processor, 15″ will likely do the trick, but 12″ may be adequate as well. Unfortunately there aren’t options at my local Micro Center, so I’ll have to check online. Along with that, I think I need to replenish my supply of 3M Commander clips.

So once I have everything in I’ll tear apart the cabling and see how I can improve the cable management. Extension cables may also be in order for the 24-pin ATX and 8-pin CPU power connectors, or I can see about tying those to the cross beam overhead. So with come better cable management yet to come (hopefully), I’m not quite ready to call this done.

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Bernie Sanders is correct

I’ll say this up front: “military weaponry” is a misnomer.

The exception to this is very, very limited, and one that many can readily recognize: fully-automatic rifles. These were clearly manufactured with a military intent in mind. But select-fire rifles are largely unavailable to anyone outside the military. Obtaining one requires going through the months-long NFA process, which includes a background check more extensive than required for my concealed carry permit, and local law enforcement (either county sheriff or local police chief) has veto authority.

And even if you obtain one, transporting the firearm even across county lines can be a hassle. There are so many restrictions on select-fire and full-automatic firearms that most won’t bother with it. I’m sure many would want similar restrictions on semi-automatic firearms. In fact, I know many want such restrictions. Just look at the number of people who keep citing Australia as a viable model with our Second Amendment.

Anyway…

Mark and Jackie Barden wrote a response letter to Bernie Sanders published in the Washington Post in which they explain their reasoning behind joining a lawsuit against firearms manufacturers. The Bardens are the parents to the late Daniel Barden, one of the 20 child victims at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.

Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democrat nomination and independent Senator from Vermont, said this during a recent debate with Hillary Clinton:

Well, this is what I say, if I understand it — and correct me if I’m wrong. If you go to a gun store and you legally purchase a gun, and then, three days later, if you go out and start killing people, is the point of this lawsuit to hold the gun shop owner or the manufacturer of that gun liable?

If that is the point, I have to tell you I disagree. I disagree because you hold people — in terms of this liability thing, where you hold manufacturers’ liability is if they understand that they’re selling guns into an area that — it’s getting into the hands of criminals, of course they should be held liable.

But if they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you’re really talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America. I don’t agree with that.

And according to the Bardens, the Senator is incorrect:

We have never suggested that Remington should be held liable simply for manufacturing the AR-15. In fact, we believe that Remington and other manufacturers’ production of the AR-15 is essential for our armed forces and law enforcement. But Remington is responsible for its calculated choice to sell that same weapon to the public, and for emphasizing the military and assaultive capacities of the weapon in its marketing to civilians.

Again, “military weapons” is largely a misnomer.

If you want to be technical, I have two “military weapons”: a Glock 19 and a Mosin Nagant. The original design purpose behind the Glock 17 pistol — from which is derived their other lines of pistols including my Glock 19 — is in response to a call by the Austrian military for a new weapon. One of the requirements established in the RFP (request for proposal) is that the firearm should meet or exceed NATO specifications for the 9×19 parabellum round.

The Russians designed the Mosin Nagant rifle in the late 1800s, and its simplicity and effectiveness made it the go-to rifle for many militaries in Asia. Today the rifle is largely a surplus relic which can be obtained for a very inexpensive price — provided you’re willing to take on the cleaning that is necessary to make the rifle serviceable.

So by the focus on “military and assaultive capacities”, I have to wonder if their aim is to remove from the civilian market any firearm that was designed to military or police specifications. That would, in effect, remove almost every firearm from the civilian market. And I’m not being facetious or fallacious on that either. No firearm exists today that is not derived from some battlefield necessity. There is no firearm on the market today that is not derived from some military need or military specification.

The very popular 1911 pistol is a hundred-plus year-old design made by Colt Arms for the United States Army. The Beretta 92 pistol is the civilian variant of the Beretta M9, which is the current standard issue firearm in the United States Armed Forces, supplanting the 1911 about thirty years ago. The military is currently looking for a new firearm to replace the M9.

Smith and Wesson (S&W) has designed several firearms with military and police focus. After the infamous 1986 Miami FBI shootout, the FBI partnered S&W to develop the .40 S&W round and pistols to support it. The round was largely adopted by Federal, State, and local police agencies all across the country, and it is also a popular round for concealed carry (the 9mm is the most popular round). Though S&W developed the round and the first firearms to support it, the Glock 22 is the pistol more likely to be deployed in police service.

And with rifles, most of what exists today is derived from military development.

The need within the military to “reach out and touch” the enemy from a long distance led to developments that are highly beneficial to civilian hunters and target enthusiasts for similar, peaceful reasons. Developments in body styles for rifles to improve platform stability, thereby increasing shooter accuracy and endurance, that provide for the “military style” bodies that give us the M4 and other military rifles developed in Europe gave us the body style we see in the AR-15. The body style became popular in part because of its association with the military, but also because the body style is effective as a shooting platform.

And it’s a body style for which you can also thank the Russians, since they developed it first, though it’s been improved upon immensely. The AR-15’s popularity is more in its modularity than its look.

But again, I have to wonder if the aim of their lawsuit is to remove from civilian circulation any firearm that has a military link. I mentioned the Glock earlier, but no one tried to sue Glock after Jared Lee Loughner employed the Glock 19 in his rampage that left six dead, including 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green, in an attempt to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords. Indeed Christina’s parents have just as much incentive to sue Glock as the Barden’s in their lawsuit against Remington and the Phillips’ in their lawsuit against Lucky Gunner.

Yet the Greens haven’t sued Glock. None of the other victims or families have sued Glock either. Or the retailer that sold Loughner the Glock. Rather curious. After all, as mentioned previously, the Glock was developed with a “military” purpose.

Indeed the idea to sue a manufacturer or seller for the illegal use of a legal product seems to be a very new development. And since it has the potential to sink firearms manufacture in the United States with fear of litigation, anti-gun liberals have taken it to heart as part of their political platforms. If they can’t ban firearms, then go after the firearms and ammunition manufacturers and sellers via fear of litigation. And as the Courts have provided one hell of a roadblock with DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, they need to find a way to sink the firearms industry without being so blatant.

So in the end, Bernie Sanders was actually correct. The aim of the lawsuit, based on the Barden’s own words, is to basically end civilian firearms manufacture in the United States by sticking on them the fear of litigation:

Remington and the other defendants’ choices allowed an elementary school to be transformed into a battlefield. Our case seeks nothing more than fair accountability for those choices.

No actually it doesn’t. The lawsuit is based entirely on emotion, not reason. The words chosen in the response letter show this.

And I’ll pose the question: Would you have sued an auto manufacturer if your son’s life had been taken via a car accident involving a high-performance vehicle?

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Nasira – Part II

Responses to my previous iteration in this build log led to me digging up some information that could prove useful to those who want to build a NAS. As I said in the previous, if your spare hardware doesn’t support ECC, then don’t really fret too much about it. There are ways to detect and avoid data corruption that I’m sure many don’t really think about, but which come in handy for backing up data that is very important. I’ll get to that later.

First, let’s talk about hardware.

Power supply. A commenter on the Linus Tech Tips thread where I’m cross-posting this build log called into question my choice of power supply:

Only real bit of input I have is a suggestion at looking at a more efficient power supply for a NAS, while not crucial, it’d be nice to get better inefficiencies [sic] wherever possible.

On several forums, the CX line of Corsair power supplies gets a bad rap. And if I didn’t already have the CX750M, I would’ve selected something else. The CX750M is bronze rated, so I’d prefer something with a better 80+ rating and better reputation. But since I already have it, and I don’t need it for anything else, I might as well use it. This project is really another step in a goal of putting spare hardware to use.

ECC vs. non-ECC and AMD v. Intel. Thankfully this wasn’t nearly as controversial. Or my previous iteration could already be getting badmouthed behind my back on the FreeNAS forums for all I care. Instead there was merely some up-in-the-air questions about what supports ECC and what does not. First, Intel has a very featured archive where you can find all of their product specifications, including desktop processors that support ECC. All Xeons support ECC, but only a handful of their desktop processors do as well. Just make sure your motherboard supports ECC as well.

For AMD, the field is a little wider, but only so much. All Bulldozer processors support ECC — this includes the AMD FX lineup. And all Opteron processors, regardless of architecture, support ECC. They’re built for servers, so obviously they will. But from what I could discern, the only other classes of AMD processors that support ECC are the Phenom II and the K10-class Athon II.

So if you want to go with hardware that supports ECC, options are available off-the-shelf without having to go with server hardware. However, if you want to go server grade without spending a ton of cash, there are companies that sell refurbished workstations where you can get Xeon systems for pretty cheap, such as refurb.io and Arrow Direct, so shop around. eBay is always an option as well.

* * * * *

Backups and data integrity

So how can you detect when non-ECC RAM has corrupted your data? It’s quite easy, really, provided you’re consistently proactive.

One concept in data integrity and data security is the message digest, also called a hash or cryptographic hash. There have been several algorithms for this over the years, including the once-popular MD5 and SHA-1 algorithms. The computer security industry has currently settled on the SHA-2 standard as defined in NIST FIPS 180-4. The standard defines four secure hash algorithms: SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, and SHA-512. Of these, SHA-256 is the most popular.

Publishing message digests with files for download has been a popular, though inconsistent practice in the open source community. Publishing the message digest provides a way to verify the file you downloaded is what the publisher intended and that the data didn’t get corrupted. Going along with that has also been the practice of PGP signing a text file containing the published message digests, further protecting that file against corruption and tampering.

It should hopefully be clear the direction I’m going with this. If you’re backing up files to a NAS, it can be worth your while to create a list of message digests for the files you are backing up for archival storage. Of the algorithms to use, I’d recommend SHA-256 simply because it is faster and widely used.

I personally use the sha256sum utility distributed with Cygwin. There are other utilities available, some of which are going to have a graphical user interface instead of being reliant on the command line. Ahead of copying the files to the NAS for archive, you’d want to create a text file in each folder and subfolder. This text file will list the SHA-256 digests for each file in that folder — let’s say it’s called sha256.sums:

sha256sum -b * > sha256.sums

Then once you have the files copied onto your FreeNAS box, you can verify the values listed in the files using the shasum utility (where [file] is the file containing the digests and filenames) that is installed with FreeNAS:

shasum -a 256 -c [file]

shasum_check

This will easily uncover whether some memory error has caused some data corruption since any message digests created on the source system will not match the message digests on the NAS. Okay that’s not 100% true, as there’s a slight, slight, slight, slight, slight, slight (highlights, copies, pastes that 100 more times…) chance that the data will be modified in such a way as to produce a hash collision, but you have a far, far, far, far, far, far (highlights, copies, pasts that 100 more times…) better chance of winning the lottery.

So regardless of whether you’re using ECC or non-ECC RAM, this is a way to verify that what you intend to archive is what FreeNAS actually writes to disk. If there’s any kind of memory or data corruption going on with your NAS, either due to fault memory or faulty hardware of some kind, this will in general uncover it, provided you do this consistently. You could then re-upload the failed file to see if the problem resolves itself, which if it’s one file that fails that should do the trick. If multiple files fail, something more serious is going on.

Speaking of backing up data…

* * * * *

Off-site “cloud” backups

If you have a NAS and you don’t have an off-site backup solution for backing it up, you really need to find one. There are a lot of options out there for backing up data “into the cloud”. I looked at quite a few. And many of the options weren’t really all that great for backing up servers. The service either didn’t support it, or didn’t support anything except Windows servers. And I’m not going to set up a Windows client just to synchronize backups with a cloud solution.

Of the options that support FreeBSD, the fee schedules can be rather confusing. Starting with Amazon Glacier.

Amazon Glacier. Not only is Glacier laden with confusing fees, they don’t provide a client for communicating with their service. Rather than provide the details, I’ll let someone else summarize it. Hashbackup is a third-party backup utility that supports, among other services, Amazon Glacier. But they’ve deprecated that support, and they’ve summarized quite well why and why you shouldn’t consider it as an option.

Google Cloud Storage. This one is a similar option to Glacier, and they provide three tiers of storage. Of what’s offered, the best storage price is their Nearline service, which charges .01 USD/GB (approximately 10 USD/TB), but they also charge .01 USD/GB for retrieval. Their other options don’t have retrieval fees, but do charge more for storage. They do have a free trial as well.

Rackspace Cloud Files. They are the most expensive of the ones I’ve considered at .10 USD/GB for the first TB, then .09 USD/GB after that till you get to 50 TB (which I’m not getting near). So that’ll be 100 USD for the first TB, and 90 USD/TB for each TB after that. And recovery is .12 USD/GB, or 120 USD/TB. Yikes! To their benefit, they do say they provide triple-redundancy, so perhaps that additional cost might be worth it. For me, for storing several TB of data, I’d rather buy another car for that monthly fee.

Dreamhost DreamObjects. They also appear similar to Google’s offering, but priced a little higher. They charge .025 USD/GB, twice that for retrieval, but they also offer pre-paid plans at a per-GB discount that’s still more expensive than Google, but still less expensive than Rackspace.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Backblaze has been in the news recently after a report they published about HDD reliability led to a class-action lawsuit against Seagate, and they are facing a class-action lawsuit for how they ship external hard drives. Which the ability to ship your data on an external drive as opposed to trying to download it all back to your NAS is certainly a nice feature.

Like Glacier, Backblaze does charge a per-transaction fee for their API calls, but it’s only .04/10,000 requests for downloads, and .04/1000 requests for everything else. Unlike Glacier, they have a very clear fee schedule, and a page on the account dashboard showing you a tally.

Ultimately I went with Backblaze for the time being since they also have a free tier providing 10GB of free storage. It’s more than enough for figuring things out. Google does provide a free trial, but it’s time limited as opposed to capacity limited. Same with Amazon Glacier — again, though, avoid that option — and Dreamhost. Rackspace doesn’t appear to offer any kind of trial.

Backblaze also provides their own Python scripts for interacting with their service. I played around with one called the B2 Python Pusher. It’s pretty straightforward in how it works. Only downside is it’s slow to upload data. 490MB worth of pictures took about 45 minutes. Their web interface with Firefox, though, took only about 15 minutes to upload the same files. I currently have about a half terabyte sitting on the NAS, so I need something that will be a bit faster.

I mentioned Hashbackup earlier. Let me just say the uploads are significantly faster, taking only about 4 1/2 minutes to upload about 490MB of data. It is a little interesting to set up, though, and you’ll need to get familiar with the command line to do so.

I’ll run a few more tests with it with regard to cron jobs and see what it can really do.

* * * * *

New chassis

So which chassis did I settle on? After a bit of thought, I opted for the IPC-G3550. I considered the longer chassis not for its 120mm fans, but out of concern for clearance with regard to the mobile rack. But after having the rack in hand and taking some measurements with it, and noting the measurements for the Sabertooth mainboard, I decided on the shorter chassis. It’s a little less expensive but still supports a full-size ATX power supply.

So let’s get to building. That’ll happen in the next iteration. For now, I’ve got a few other projects on my plate.

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Affair-proofing a marriage

I’ve written before about trust and communication in relationships, especially marriage. Yet many articles on marriage and relationships published by popular sites seem to rarely mention it. Infidelity is discussed. How to avoid it, or how to make your marriage/relationship “affair proof”.

Don’t get me wrong, the topic is worth discussing. But I feel infidelity is a sign of an existing problem with a relationship, not a problem unto itself. Infidelity flourishes in relationships where trust and communication are difficult to find. Yet when it comes to relationships and infidelity, people tend to look for easy solutions and easy ways to prevent infidelity, even if they accept that no relationship is immune to it.

Not helping matters is the fluid definition of infidelity and strict definition of fidelity. There is little to no allowance given to the couple in question to have their own definition of infidelity. No two relationships are the same. Each couple can have their own definition of infidelity that strays from the normative definitions — including allowing for what is commonly defined as adultery.

Fidelity means adhering to promises and duties. These can change over time. A partner can release someone from their promises or duties, or renegotiate them. If there is ample communication and honesty between them, there is plenty of leeway allowable while still being able to maintain a prosperous relationship.

With that said, let’s talk about “signs your guy will be faithful” or “ways to affair proof your relationship”. In general they boil down to a few simple concepts while taking away the need to think about and pay attention to your marriage and relationship. Checklists you can use to determine how “affair proof” your marriage or relationship is. Provided you’re honest with yourself about how applicable the points therein are. They also tend to make the analysis all about him without affirming that infidelity can come from either the guy or gal, husband or wife. While men may be more likely to cheat than women, women aren’t too far behind.

Let’s look at one such list as an example. This one comes from YourTango: “If your guy does these 15 things, he’ll always be faithful“. Always? Really?

1. Your partner keeps his/her word in other areas.

Again, fidelity is adherence to promises and duties. If they make a promise, do they keep it? And if not, was there a justifiable reason for it? Does he promise to replace the garbage disposal but instead spend the money elsewhere?

But this one is a given: if you cannot trust their word, can you trust them?

2. The person likes your friends but keeps a respectful distance.

The article clarifies that “Researchers found that nearly half (45 percent) of men and more than one-fourth (26 percent) of women are attracted to friends of their partners and are tempted to act on it.”

If you’re attracted to his or her friends, be honest about it.

There is nothing wrong with the attraction. Indeed there is little if anything you can do about it. You can lie about it. You can lie to yourself about it. And you can lie to your significant other about it. And I think the reason most people lie about it is out of fear their significant other will think they are attracted to the friend more.

I have female friends from college and earlier in my life with whom I keep in touch on Facebook, and sometimes I’ve said in response to photos “I’m a married man, I’m a married man” or “Dammit, why won’t this [wedding] ring come off my finger?!?” I’m just being playful. At the same time, whenever my wife has seen them, she finds it amusing. She knows I’m not serious. But she sees right away that I do find the person in question attractive. And she doesn’t care!

But at the same time, your significant other saying one of your friends or family is attractive/hot/sexy should not be intimidating. Don’t act in a way that gives the impression it intimidates you — such as by asking trapping questions like “Do you think she’s hotter than me?” Don’t assume that the attraction means he or she will stray.

3. Your partner does not keep secrets.

I am drawing a line here. We all have secrets. Little ones. Big ones. It is not necessary, nor practical to tell your partner everything. Indeed there may be some things, such as past events, that you may not even want to disclose to him or her for legitimate reasons.

But there are certain areas where you do not want to keep secrets, two of which are finances and sexual history. Disclose anything that can have a direct impact on your relationship, but not until it’s relevant. For example, if you’ve only been dating a month, it’s not necessary to mention that you have had a repossession or foreclosure. If sex is not yet a consideration, then there is no reason to mention a past treatment for an STI due to a one-night stand you had in college.

When you do mention these items in your history, though, bear in mind your partner will question you about them. Don’t be evasive. Don’t be willfully dishonest.

Quoting the article, “small secrets can blossom into big ones”. We hear all the time how secrets can destroy relationships, but I disagree. It’s not the secret or the small lie that destroys the relationship, but a pattern of secrets and lies. One secret or lie can be the seed of that pattern, but only if you let it.

4. He/she is aware of the danger zones. 

“High-way to…. the danger zooooooooone!” Sorry, just had to… If you have no idea what that’s from, you’re living a sheltered life.

This might as well have been titled, “He/she can control him/herself”. Quoting the article, “For instance, business trips are particularly troublesome: 36 percent of men and 13 percent of women said they gave in to temptation on a business trip.”

Again, though, this comes down to self control. When you can trust yourself, there is no “danger zone”. If you cannot trust yourself, or don’t feel you can trust yourself, you need to evaluate why. At the same time, I wouldn’t let this be one of those secrets you keep from your significant other, either.

5. Your partner has extinguished old flames.

Again, this comes down to self control:

Many people look back on past relationships with fond memories, and some even maintain friendships with past loves. But wise individuals guard against too much interaction with an ex. That’s because 32 percent of women and 21 percent of men who admitted to acting on sexual temptation said it was with a former boyfriend/girlfriend.

If you cannot talk with an ex without thinking about hopping in the sack, you need to curtail your communication.

6. Your love is invested in maintaining a friendship, as well as a romance, with you.

Obviously the health of a relationship requires more than just attraction and wanting to woo each other. You need to be able to live with each other, so you’d better have more going for your relationship. The initial lust and “butterflies in your stomach” will wear off, so you’d better make sure there’s more there to maintain the relationship.

But there’s nothing wrong with having a purely physical, monogamous relationship. If you want more than that, both of you need to build that. This requires a mutual understanding, which requires this little thing called “communication”. If you want more but he or she is fine just hooking up for sex and doesn’t want more than that, then you need to accept that. Sure he or she may decide they want more, but don’t force it.

7. The individual maintains proper boundaries with coworkers. 

Again, this comes down to self control. Depending on the coworker or colleague in question, ethics concerns may arise as well, along with the possibility of making for a less-friendly work environment.

8. He/she feels appreciated.

This requires communication between you and your partner. If you don’t communicate, you cannot know that there is any loss or lack of appreciation. And if you don’t know a problem exists, how can you solve it?

9. The person is not a narcissist.

The only concern I have with this item is how much gets labeled as being narcissistic that isn’t. Being “self-aborbed” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as that isn’t a primary quality. We all get self-absorbed, self-centered. We act as if the entire world doesn’t matter and that only we are important. It’s when that becomes a common trait that problems can arise.

If your partner seems to have become self-absorbed or self-centered, hopefully you’ll have developed a level of communication with each other that you can voice the concern and discuss it, figure out why it’s cropped up and what can be done about it.

10. Your partner knows the importance of a satisfying sex life. 

Again, communication.

A couple years ago, I responded to a woman who created a list (yet another freakin’ list about relationships) of things to not buy a woman for Valentine’s Day, one of which was a “sexy” costume. What caught me wrong is that her significant other gave her such a gift, and she took it as a sign that he was unhappy with their sex life.

The only way to know that you are not happy with your sex life is to talk. And you need to be open. Very open. I said this in my response: “Sex should be a topic you can discuss without feeling any kind of embarrassment, being discrete where necessary of course. Even a notion as simple as buying a bottle of personal lubricant from Wal-Mart should be easy to discuss.”

And later in the same: “If you are genuinely unhappy with your sex life, unsatisfied in what you are getting, then dialogue must be opened. After all, your significant other won’t know that you’re unhappy unless you say you are unhappy. And if you are unhappy, there are plenty of suggestions of what can help once the root of the problem is found – which can really only occur with an open dialogue.”

Knowing the importance of a satisfying sex life is quite different from having a satisfying sex life.

11. He/she doesn’t have an excessive need to be admired and liked.

How do you define “excessive need”? Everyone needs appreciation. Everyone wants to be liked. Some much more so than others. This speaks a little toward the narcissism mentioned earlier.

But if you don’t feel you have an adequate level of appreciation from your significant other, communication is your best friend on that. If you feel your significant other downplays major accomplishments, talk about that. It could be that you are inflating how important such an accomplishment might be. Or he or she may show her appreciation in ways that aren’t so overt.

For example my wife shows her appreciation for my skills in selecting parts and building her a gaming computer by, well, gaming on it and enjoying it.

12. At the appropriate time, your partner will be completely open about finances. 

This speaks to point no. 3 about keeping secrets, and contradicts it in a few ways:

Since money disputes are the number one cause of divorce, psychologists have coined the term “financial infidelity,” in which individuals deceive their partner with hidden debt, secret credit cards, and undisclosed shopping sprees.

This goes both ways: not only must your significant other be open with you, but you must be open with them.

My wife knows the current status of our finances. I disclose large purchases to her, and we plan out these things in advance where possible. Smaller purchases my wife knows she can make without much of a problem.

We plan large purchases. And when I make them, she knows beforehand. When she makes a large purchase, I know about it as well. We anticipate it, plan for it. Though I manage all the finances, which gives me a hell of a lot of leeway to be secretive, I can’t do that or we’ll end up back in the same financial hole we climbed out of about 2 years ago, a climb that took 4½ years.

13. Your lover doesn’t flirt with anyone but you. 

Quoting the article, “Flirting or checking out other people is disrespectful to you, and disrespect is a step toward unfaithfulness.”

No, no, no, no, and NO. Oh, did I say “NO”? Because I mean to say “NO!!!” See my previous point about being attracted to others, because it applies here.

Flirting is defined as acting amorously without serious intentions. This means that if there is any motivation behind the flirting, it’s not flirting. It becomes seduction at that point. And seducing another while you’re in a relationship, regardless of whether it results in sex or any kind of physical contact, is the problem. Flirting is not seducing, so stop equating it as such.

“Checking out” others is natural. He’s going to look. She’s going to look. Don’t deny it. Don’t treat it as a problem. Showing any kind of attractiveness toward another is not a sign that he or she will stray.

Flirting is harmless. I’m a natural flirt. My wife will attest to it. I flirt with other women all. the. time. Even in front of my wife, I’ve flirted with waitresses and other women. It happens. My wife doesn’t try to suppress it by chiding me for it for one simple reason: she trusts me.

Too many people equate flirting with sex. Flirting is not about sex. It shouldn’t be about physical contact of any kind. Flirting is purely about fun. It can lead to more, if both allow it, but that isn’t the motivation behind it. Most women with whom I’ve flirted I have no interest in getting into bed.

If you see him or her flirting with someone, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t intervene either because then you are getting territorial. The same if you confront him about it — “Why the hell were you flirting with her?”

For example, let’s say you and your significant other are at a bar, and you notice he is flirting with the female bartender. If you assume he is trying to get her number, you have the problem. If his flirting with another woman offends you, then you are the one with the problem. And if you confront him on it, you will demonstrate that you have the problem.

14. The person is realistic, knowing no one is immune.

Quoting the article, “One of the biggest dangers is thinking ‘it could never happen to me.’ Approximately 69 percent of people who cheated never considered it a possibility before it happened.”

And a lot of those who were cheated on likely never thought it could happen either. Absolutely no relationship is immune to infidelity, and it is naive to think such. Even relationships that could be cast as “perfect” or “happily ever after” could break from infidelity. While there are ways to lessen the likelihood he or she will stray, the likelihood will never be zero.

At the same time, you need to also be realistic. Don’t over-think things. Don’t speculate or jump to conclusions that are completely unwarranted.

15. Your partner’s strong emphasis is “we,” not “I.” 

Again, this goes both ways: “Faithful partners recognize the value of preserving the relationship’s love and intimacy—and will take measures to protect the special bond they share.”

At the same time, though, you or your partner will recognize when “taking measures” becomes “bending over backwards”. We all have only so much patience. Your partner can recognize when you are not reciprocating what he/she is giving. And I don’t mean on the short-term, which can happen for various reasons, but when it becomes a pattern.

Relationships, especially marriage, should never be adversarial. A relationship that is not adversarial will have a strong emphasis on “we”. But it will also have an emphasis on “I” because you will recognize that you are still individuals with individual desires and needs. You lose the emphasis on “we” when one person is constantly ceding their desires and needs to the other, when the relationship or marriage becomes less about compromise and more about submission:

Submission shouldn’t exist in a marriage. Instead what needs to be there is communication and compromise. Compromise may look a lot like submission when it is being exercised, but there is a huge difference. In submission, one always cedes their wills and desires to the other. In compromise, both cede their wills and desires to come to a mutually-beneficial decision.

Now which do you have in your marriage, submission or compromise?

This allows the relationship to become adversarial, two sides working for exclusive interests instead of mutual gain. And when that happens, you open the door to infidelity, and it’s likely to be the one who perceives their relationship has having adversity who will be straying.

You keep the relationship from becoming adversarial through — say it with me, all together now — communication.

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In short these traits are more likely to determine how faithful he or she will be in your relationship.

1. Honesty

Quoting an article I wrote about “standards” of commitment:

It is not necessary or practical to inform your significant other of everything, but you should not and cannot be willfully dishonest or deceitful if you are questioned about something. In general you need to be honest with each other about damn near everything, even if that honesty may provide for hurt feelings.

While absolute honesty is, as I’ve already said, impractical, what characterizes honest is not being evasive or willfully dishonest. You can certainly question the relevance of your significant other’s inquiries, which sounds like evasion, but don’t make that a habit. And don’t lie in response to the question either.

2. Communication

Back in 2013 Seth Adam Smith wrote an article called “Marriage isn’t for you“. It is, in my opinion, not viable marriage advice. If you read the article with a critical eye, instead of just falling wistfully into his poetic allegory, you’ll see the problems in his marriage resulted from a major communication breakdown.

He was also blaming himself. He said he had become selfish. He did not recognize the communication breakdown and how he ceded his desires to his wife so she could pursue her graduate studies, even moving to an different part of the country to do so. He used the word “sides” to describe his marriage, evidence that his marriage was adversarial. You can read my response here.

Communication is key. If something your significant other has planned worries you, or if something about your relationship worries you, you need to voice that concern. If there is something coming up that has you excited or worried, you need to talk about it. Don’t do anything major without your significant other knowing about it, and make sure there’s an opportunity to voice dissension since that voice could open your eyes to things you didn’t consider.

3. You’ve demonstrated he or she can be faithful to you

Too many presume that fidelity becomes automatic when you start calling yourself a “couple”. A couple is just two people. Fidelity requires commitment. We are giving up something in the hopes of gaining something more. This is where I said that a relationship should always be about mutual gain.

When a relationship stops being about mutual gain, there is no longer any reason to be faithful. Don’t presume that calling yourself a “couple” or “married” means fidelity is due and payable. It isn’t. We need reason to be faithful to you, just as you need reason to be faithful, and those reasons should not involve fear of any kind — such as the quip from Representative Dick Armey following the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Indeed infidelity, I feel, is a symptom of a greater problem in a relationship, not the problem in a relationship. It will result from a communication breakdown — wherein the perceived existence of a problem is not discussed or is downplayed — or a loss of trust, which can have several causes. Infidelity doesn’t destroy trust, in my opinion, but comes after trust is already eroded.

4. Self control

How many items in the original list come down to self control? About a third of them, I think, perhaps one or two over that.

Temptations abound. I mentioned before that I flirt. A lot. And many women (and men) would say that my flirtatiousness is setting up my marriage for infidelity and doom. Except my wife and I have been together for over 11 years as of when I write this, married a little over 4 years. And we’ve been monogamous the entire time. And that comes down to, among other things already mentioned, self control and acknowledging that I will be attracted to other women, my wife will be attracted to other men, but not acting on it.

And for my wife, it means that she has the self control to not assume that I will act on my attractions to other women. And for me, it means that I also have the self control to not assume that she will act on her attractions to other men.

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Leveraging and personal finance

Dave Ramsey definitely caters to a particular audience. That is an audience that has little control over their spending and little, if any, financial intelligence. But I’d be very surprised if Ramsey has never encountered the term “leveraging“. I’m very sure he has. It’s a term that is very common in business finance, but the term applies to personal financing just as well.

In mechanics, levers are used to amplify force against a particular object. The action of a claw hammer prying a nail or a crowbar prying open a crate are common examples of levers. It allows a lesser force to be applied to a substantial mass.

In business, the amplification effect is with regard to revenue. In the sale of goods, revenue is directly proportional to inventory. To get more revenue, and thus more profit, you need more inventory. If you don’t have the cash on hand to buy that inventory directly, your only option is to finance it. Borrowing gives you the cash to purchase the inventory. When sold, this gives you the revenue to pay back the loan. What’s left over, minus any additional costs, is profit. And the profit that is left over will be significantly larger than what you otherwise would’ve had with a smaller inventory.

A ready example of this principle is “house flipping”. A flipper will borrow money to buy a house, spend additional money (borrowed or not) to fix it up, then sell the improved home. The revenue on the sale, minus any costs along with the loan, is the profit. Without the ability to borrow money to buy a home to flip, few would be able to do this.

With personal finances, the “inventory” is your time. We finance a lot of things. Credit cards are used to make purchases, and we take on loans to buy homes and cars. Homes give us places to live. This gives us shelter from the outdoors and a place to cook meals and store food, both of which save us significant amounts of time since we don’t have to seek shelter or find food. Cars give us the ability to get where we need to go significantly faster. Not even public transportation can match the time savings of having your own vehicle. Many (myself included) are even willing to swallow a higher cost of fuel for our personal vehicles to avoid the time cost of public transportation.

We finance purchases so we can acquire them now in the hope it will save us time later. We borrow now in hopes it will make our future ability to make money easier. You can be more flexible when you have a personal vehicle, which makes it easier to keep a job and find a better one since you’re not reliant on someone else to get where you need to go.

We finance large appliances for similar reason. Sure it’s a difficult to call financing entertainment centers a time saver. But what about the dishwasher and washer/dryer? Easily we can see the time saving value of these appliances, the “set it and forget it” feature that these provide that allow us to do other things with our time. It is a very powerful capability within our economy.

So let’s get to why I’m addressing Dave Ramsey. In an article called “9 Ways to Lose With Money This Year“, either Ramsey or one of his bloggers presents a list that includes this gem:

If you want to win with money, you need to take “payment plans” out of your vocabulary. Successful people don’t finance their couches. Or their dining room tables. Or even their cars. If you have to put it on a payment plan, you can’t afford it. As the old saying goes, “Broke people ask, ‘How much per month?’ and rich people ask, ‘How much?’”

Now one thing that needs to be pointed out again is Dave’s audience. His site does not write content for those of us who are financially stable, those of us who understand the tremendous power that comes with being able to finance purchases instead of trying to pay for everything in one lump sum.

At the same time, though, that doesn’t give him license to publish demonstrably false information.

One of the main tenets of building wealth is figuring out how to put someone else’s money to work for you. Whether it’s by borrowing or taking on investment capital, leveraging is part of getting rich. A rich man will ask both “How much?” and “How much per month?” depending on the situation. Recall from above where I said that borrowing now can save time and money in the future, depending on why you’re borrowing.

And how you “profit” from your leveraging activities is highly dependent on your aims. Typically instead of getting cash profit from leveraging, most people will instead profit by utility. For example, financing a car that can get you comfortably to work is leveraging debt that has the potential to secure future earnings by giving you a means of more reliably getting to work, which results in future earnings to eventually pay off the loan.

But all of this also requires planning. And that is a characteristic that is largely absent from Ramsey’s target audience. Unwise financing and borrowing is what got them into trouble, so Ramsey takes on the logical fallacy of all debt being bad, and that people need to financially neuter themselves and cut off all luxuries to get out of debt. Sure for some it works.

This doesn’t excuse outright lying to people, though. The rich do finance purchases in order to spread out the cost of what they are acquiring over time. Everyone finances in order to do that. The question that needs to be answered, truthfully, is what you are expecting to gain by doing that.

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Accounting for Fractional Reserve Banking

Fractional reserve banking. “Creating money out of thin air”. Debasing the currency. It can certainly be a confusing concept.

Banks we are told have the ability to create money “out of thin air”, and they do this through loans, thus keeping the actual money creation linked to an actual demand for that money. How this happens has received a lot of attention in recent years, with bank failures and other financial institutions faltering and going away in the wake of the financial crisis. But it’s an involved concept and one that can be difficult to understand, especially since many articles I’ve read that attempt to explain it don’t really go far enough.

To understand how fractional reserve banking actually works, we need to get into some accounting concepts. I’ll explain them as necessary along the way, so you don’t need to worry about me dumping a ton of definitions on you up front.

But one definition I do need to foist upon you is the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity. This is the foundation for all accounting.

All accounts used in accounting fall under one of those three categories: assets, liabilities and equity. Most people are familiar with assets and liabilities, as your bank account is an asset, and so is cash in your hand. Loans and credit cards are liabilities, as is any outstanding balance you might have with a utility company or your doctor’s office. It can get a little more complicated from there, so I’ll try to keep it simple.

And in that vein, let’s start with something with which I’m sure most of us are familiar: demand deposit accounts.

Demand deposit accounts

Whenever a bank agrees to open an account in your name, the bank’s books will reflect that account as a liability – i.e. the bank basically owes you the entire amount you have deposited minus any agreed-upon fees. Demand deposit accounts, such as checking accounts, are so named because you can walk into the bank and demand any or all of the balance of your account at any time, and with ATMs and online banking, it really can be practically any time you can access your funds.

When you deposit your paycheck into the bank, the bank will take that amount and add it to their reserves (assets) and credit your account (liabilities) the same amount:

When you withdraw money from your account, there is a reduction in the bank’s reserves for the same amount you withdraw:

Pretty simple, right? And it’s something everyone can readily see and understand. When you put your money in a bank, you are trusting that money to the bank that the money will be available when you need it. With regard to the accounting equation, everything stays balanced: the bank’s assets (reserves) are equal to their liabilities.

Now normally when you deposit a check with your bank, the amount is not immediately available because there is a clearance process. Cash is the only kind of deposit that immediately credits a bank’s reserves, and thus is immediately available for withdrawal by a customer.

Loans

Here’s a question: when a bank loans out cash, from where do you think they are getting the money to loan out? If you answered they’re using their own resources, you’re partly correct. In reality, banks loan out the money their customers deposit with them.

When you take out a loan, you sign a “promissory note“, which is a promise to pay back to the bank the particular amount borrowed. That note is an asset to a bank, but not in the same way as the reserves because it is not cash. Instead it is a different kind of asset called a “receivable“. When you sign a note with the bank, the bank will make a credit to a deposit account (typically called an “escrow account”) for the same amount:

By taking the note and making a credit to a demand deposit account, the bank now has total liabilities that exceed its reserves: $1,450 in liabilities in its demand deposit accounts, but only $950 in actual reserves. This is the essence of fractional reserve banking.

Now typically what will happen is the person who takes out the loan will deposit those loan funds into a different bank, or the money will be taken away from the lending bank through withdrawals by the customer borrowing the funds. This causes the principal to be deducted from the bank’s reserves:

All money that leaves a bank does so through a deduction from the bank’s total reserves. But the bank still has total assets in line with its liabilities:

Now the total amount a bank can lend out is dependent upon what is called a reserve requirement, which for most banks in the US is 10%. On the banks books, the balance of the Notes Receivable account plus the balance of the Reserves must be no more than 10x the balance of the reserves. Few banks will get to that level, though, simply because of the risk involved. Remember our example bank still has a liability of $950, but only $450 in reserves backing it. If they loan out too much, they risk becoming insolvent.

Now what if the money is given by the borrower to a customer of the same bank? In that case, ultimately only the liabilities are changed: the $500 account liability is shifted from one account to another. Reserves are, in the end, unchanged, but the total liabilities on the bank still increase, and the bank still ends up with liabilities in excess of reserves.

Money creation

The common and popular assertion is that banks create money by writing loans. Not only is this not true, there is no way to demonstrate it to be true through any kind of legitimate accounting.

In all accounting, increasing one asset must decrease another asset – such as when moving money between accounts or withdrawing from an account to cash – or increase your liabilities or net equity. A promissory note is an asset to the bank called a “receivable”. The transaction that creates the loan account must be coupled with a transaction that decreases the bank’s assets or increases the bank’s equity or its liabilities.

Equity accounts include revenue accounts. The statement that money is created whenever a bank writes a loan cannot be true even if you say the promissory note is revenue to the bank – meaning creating the promissory note account is coupled by crediting the revenue account. This is nonsensical in numerous ways. First, there is again no money created because all disbursements of loan funds come out of a bank’s cash holdings – i.e. the reserves. Plus a promissory note is not revenue to the bank just as it is not revenue to any other organization that might issue a loan. Whether it is a bank that accepts the promissory note or another organization, the accounting is the same: the journal entry coupled with creating the promissory note account must be either to credit an escrow account or deduct (credit) another asset – again this would be the bank’s cash holdings – i.e. their reserves.

The Federal Reserve has even said in “Modern Money Mechanics” that banks exchange promissory notes for credits to a deposit account. This means the bank is trading a liability on the borrower – the promissory note – for a liability on itself – the escrow account.

Those who claim that private banks create money by writing loans are basically asserting that accepting the promissory note increases two asset accounts in the same transaction – reserves and receivables – or that withdrawing the loan funds from the escrow doesn’t change the reserves – a debit from one account without a corresponding credit to another. Nothing in any accepted accounting principles allows for this. And before you try to assert that banks don’t use the same accounting principles as everyone else, you’d better have citations at the ready.

A bank that writes a loan accepts liabilities in excess of its reserves, again the essence of fractional-reserve banking. When a borrower withdraws the loan funds from the bank that wrote the loan, the bank’s assets are necessarily decreased by that transaction, again as already demonstrated above.

As such the idea of the “money multiplier” is based on a fallacious understanding of how loans work and the accounting behind it, because money is not being multiplied through loans. Instead only liabilities on the banks are being multiplied. If you want to discover the fallacy behind this quite quickly, ask anyone who asserts that “private banks create money through loans” what happens when the borrower withdraws the loan funds.

The only entity within our banking system that has the ability to create new money “out of thin air” is the Federal Reserve. But it doesn’t just do so whenever it feels like it. All of its money creation is linked to government bonds. It creates new money by buying government bonds from the open market, and by making short-term loans to banks at the discount rate through promissory notes secured by allowable collateral specified in the Federal Reserve Act.

In other words, a significant portion of the money supply is tied directly to the borrowing authority of the United States government. This is why inflation is a constant in the money supply – the Federal Reserve has even admitted that they aim for a consistent inflation rate of 2% – along with an ever-increasing national debt that cannot be paid down without shrinking the money supply.

But one thing that must be pointed out is that the Federal government cannot sell bonds directly to the Federal Reserve. Instead those bonds must first be sold to private individuals or entities, from whom the Federal Reserve may purchase them.

So how exactly is money created?

When a person sells their government bonds to the Federal Reserve through the open market, the Federal Reserve issues a financial instrument in exchange for the securities. This action has not yet created new money because the only thing that has happened is a financial instrument has been traded for another. So in our example, let’s say the Federal Reserve purchased a $10,000 bond from someone:

When any entity buys a bond from an issuing authority, they are loaning money to that issuing authority and receiving an asset in exchange. Like promissory notes, bonds are a receivable to the bond holder. Bonds can be traded between entities, and when the Federal Reserve purchases the bond from a bond holder, they are receiving an asset as well, and the bond’s face value is credited to a receivables account. But the Federal Reserve doesn’t have any cash assets it can trade for the bond, so it issues a liability instrument of its own called a draft.

A draft is a financial instrument that most people know as a “check”, which is formally known as a “bank draft”. This draft is actually a liability to the Federal Reserve. The person holding the Federal Reserve financial instrument will take that to a bank for deposit (most likely), adding to the bank’s liabilities but not yet to its reserves because only cash can immediately credit a bank’s reserves. Instead the bank will make on its books a credit to their Federal Reserve reserve account:

As part of the normal processing of financial instruments, that instrument will make its way back to the Federal Reserve, who will then credit the value of the instrument to the bank’s reserve account at the Federal Reserve.

The reserve is now new money that can be withdrawn by the customer or loaned out by the bank that accepted the Federal Reserve financial instrument for deposit. This is what is known as “monetizing debt”. Just as banks take promissory notes (debt obligations) and turn them into credits to demand deposit accounts, the Federal Reserve takes bonds (debt obligations) and turns them into credits to demand deposit accounts – the reserve accounts for the various member banks.

And the Federal Reserve is the only organization in the United States legally able to do this kind of bookkeeping magic.

The Federal Reserve being the central bank is what allows all of that bookkeeping magic to work. When money is withdrawn from one bank and deposited in another, the Federal Reserve will deduct from one liability account and credit another. So all of the money in our monetary system basically moves from one liability account to another, whether it is by transfers between the reserve accounts of different banks or being withdrawn as bank notes.

But all of this only happens on the borrowing authority of the United States government. This means that if all debts were paid off, including the national debt, there would not be a single dollar in circulation, because the Federal Reserve would have no assets to balance its own liabilities to the member banks and the Federal Reserve Notes.

There’s also nothing inherently unconstitutional about this. But the fact that money is literally created out of thin air simply because the United States Treasury issues a bond that the Federal Reserve then “purchases” should be concerning as there is literally nothing backing the economy of the United States except the promise of the Federal government as proxy of the taxpayers to pay back the debt.

And then there’s the application of interest.

Money can only be created by the Federal Reserve when it buys a bond created by the United States government. When the government issues a bond, it is agreeing to pay back the face value of the bond plus accrued interest. But the Federal Reserve will only create enough money to cover the principle value of the bond.

So if the Federal government creates a 1-year bond for $10,000 with even a 1% interest rate, it owes $10,100 to the person who buys the bond. If the Federal Reserve purchases the bond, it will create only $10,000 in new money from that bond. So from where will the other $100 come? The Treasury will have to create another bond to borrow more money to cover its previous  bond and the interest it owes on it.

This is the classic debt cycle of borrowing to cover existing debts, as the Federal government must continue borrowing money so the Federal Reserve can keep creating money only so the Federal government has money to pay on its outstanding obligations, while continually refinancing those bonds to avoid having to repay the principal on them.

That is why the national debt is continually growing with no end in sight and likely no end possible. And that is also why inflation is a constant in our economy.

Bank insolvency and the 2008 financial crisis

In evaluating how banks operate under fractional reserve banking, it should be easy to see how this can lead to insolvency. But what keeps banks from becoming insolvent when they’re lending out deposited funds that could be withdrawn at any time? That would be the overnight lending market.

Basically the way this works is banks try to anticipate the financial demands of their customers. If they have enough reserves on hand to fulfill those demands plus maintain their reserve requirement, then all is well. If they need cash, they can borrow it from other banks through the overnight market. The Federal Reserve district banks, such as the one here in Kansas City, also help facilitate the overnight markets, especially given the vast majority of transactions now occur electronically. The overnight market is what keeps liquidity flowing through the system so banks can continue to meet their liabilities.

Along with this, banks take on investors of their own, issuing financial instruments to entice people to loan money to the bank. These include certificates of deposit, money market and other investment accounts. These build up a reserve that allow a bank to make loans to individuals or meet liabilities. Typically these financial instruments pay interest to the purchaser, which comes out of the interest the bank charges to borrowers. This is also the reason these financial instruments have penalties for early withdrawal.

But these financial instruments are still liabilities on the bank. There is just a hard contract preventing immediate redemption of the deposit.

Banks can also adjust their lending activity based on the behaviors of their depositors. If those who purchase the financial instruments are more likely to roll them over – that is, purchase a new financial instrument with a matured financial instrument – then the bank can afford to be a little looser in its lending. If the instruments are more likely to be cashed out at maturity, the bank will be quite conservative on its lending to ensure it has cash on hand to cover the matured instruments.

As discussed earlier, when a bank lends money to a borrower, it increases its liabilities while not increasing its reserves. When the funds for the loan are deposited at another bank, the originating bank’s reserves are depleted while its liabilities are untouched, allowing a bank to have, as an example, $5 million in reserves against $20 million in outstanding liabilities. If the original depositor comes in to make a withdrawal, the bank may need to borrow money on the overnight market to satisfy the withdrawal, depending on what they have on hand.

As the loan is paid back, the bank’s reserves are increased and the funds are used to shore up their liabilities for when CDs and other financial instruments mature. As an option, a bank may also sell off a loan to another party, recovering some of the principal in the process, also allowing the bank to shore up its liabilities or make new loans.

All of this is needed to accommodate the maturity of these financial instruments.

And all of this works only so long as the borrowers pay back their loans and defaults are uncommon. In a healthy economy, that is the case. When defaults occur, banks can typically recover something. In the case of mortgages, the bank gets a house, which it can then typically sell to recover a good chunk of the principal, and sometimes the entirety depending on how far into the mortgage term the borrower was before foreclosure.

So given this, it should be obvious what occurs when you combine a lot of defaults and foreclosures with a crashing housing market: banks become unable to make their own liabilities, thus risking insolvency. This will cause a bank to freeze credit and do everything they can to rein in as much of their outstanding receivables as possible, including selling off what they can.

If banks could create money out of thin air merely by writing a loan, no bank would be at risk of insolvency.

Bonds and Mortgage-backed securities

A bond is a debt security. An investor who buys a bond hands over a corresponding amount of money to the issuer equivalent to the face value of the security. The bond promises the investor periodic interest payments and a return of the bond’s face value once it has matured. This differs from a note which divides the maturity value of the note into equal-sized periodic payments. With a bond, it is the interest that is divided into equal-sized payments and the principal is returned as a lump sum at maturity.

As an example, let’s say we have a $10,000 bond with a 10-year maturity at 3% interest per year. The total interest of the bond is calculated using the simple interest equation: I = PRT, where P is the principle ($10,000), R is the annual interest rate (.03), and T is the maturity time of the bond (10). So the interest on the bond is $3,000. This means that over the course of the 10 years, the bond holder will receive total interest payments of $3,000, or $300 per year, and at maturity he can cash out the bond and get his $10,000 back, or he can use the matured bond to buy a new one.

Note: With some bonds no interest is paid to the bond holder until maturity when the bond holder is entitled to the principal and accumulated interest. In this vein, some bonds have a set maturity value, and the buyer pays a reduced amount – i.e. purchasing a $1,000 bond for $750, with the $1,000 value being the matured value of the bond at a particular date.

So how do these mortgage backed securities work, then?

Well, the idea is simple. An investor buys the bond and hands over the corresponding face value. The interest on the bond comes from the mortgage payments. Now typically the bonds are not such that it’s one bond per mortgage, but several bonds per mortgage. For example, a $100,000 mortgage could be divided into 100 bonds with a face value of $1,000 each, or 10 bonds with a face value of $10,000, or whatever configuration they want to make that falls within the expected future value of the notes.

Typically the mortgages are pooled together with the maturity value of the bonds being a slice of the total future value of the pool – it just makes managing things a little easier. The actual full details of how one of these was managed is certainly a bit more complicated than how I portrayed it here, but that’s the general abstract of how it worked.

Now the principal and interest on the bonds are secured by the payments from the borrowers on all the mortgages. But the amount coming in from the payments is going to be significantly more than the interest payments going out, meaning that in a good economy this should be a pretty safe way of operating things. Even with the periodic risk of a foreclosure, a sound and stable housing market means the note holder should be able to sell the house and recuperate a good portion of the remaining balance at the time of foreclosure. A good portion of bonds are also rolled-over, that is a matured bond is used to buy a new bond instead of being cashed out.

So again, all of this hinges on people actually paying their mortgages and a modest instead of over-saturated housing market.

But done right, a lot of people have the potential to make a lot of money. Because with the principal from bonds shoring up reserves, and the interest on the bonds being small compared to the mortgage payments, lenders have the ability to repeat the cycle. The principal on the bonds funds new loans, more bonds are sold backed by those loans… lather, rinse and repeat again.

As long obligations and promises were being kept, no one really cared how it all worked.

But again, all of that hinges on people making their payments. If foreclosures start piling up, suddenly there are a lot of houses to sell, and the oversaturation on the supply curve of the housing market means prices drop through the floor. Everything just cascades from there.

The pool becomes unable to make interest payments on their bonds. Lenders now have less reserves and risk insolvency. Some actually become insolvent and are bailed out, while others fall prey to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Things go from bad to worse very quickly, and we end up in Q4-2008.

And all this time, you probably thought it was President Bush’s fault.

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Nasira – A FreeNAS build

Ever since first reading about them, I’ve wanted to set up a NAS in my home. They are a great resource for mass storage — pictures, videos, and backups from the home computers. The trouble is that, until recently, having the capability of building a decent one was financially out of reach. Since the upgrade on Absinthe, however, having the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 board freed up with its 8-core AMD processor, the project can get started.

The goal of the project, ultimately, is 32TB of storage in mirrored pairs, resulting in 16TB total accessible storage running on FreeNAS. The Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 board can handle 8 SATA connections and 32GB of RAM. And the AMD FX processor lineup supports ECC memory out of the box.

As with every build log, I will be ranting herein to explain some of my choices and philosophies. You can either read through if you’d like — you might learn something along the way — or just scroll through if you’re just here for the pictures.

CPU: AMD FX-8320E
Memory: 2x8GB Crucial DDR3-1600 ECC
Mainboard: ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0
Chassis: PlinkUSA IPC-G3650X 3U
Power supply: Corsair CX750M
Storage: 4TB in 2-drive pairs (32TB raw, 16TB effective)

Storage will be 4TB WD Red drives in mirrored pairs. Initially I’ll start with just one pair since the drives are 150 USD each, then I’ll acquire the additional pairs down the line. One idea I recently discovered that I may take up is mixing brands. This has the benefit of spreading out the risk of drive failures since you’re guaranteed to get drives coming from different lots, though there is always the slight possibility of receiving drives from bad lots. HGST is a brand I’ve seen recommended a bit, though they are more expensive. Seagate is recommended as well, and they tend to be less expensive compared to the WD Red.

As this is a NAS and will be rack mounted, the system will be set up for hot-swap drive bays. Specifically on that, I’m going with two Rosewill hot swap mobile racks that will provide for 4 HDDs in 3 drive bays. I would consider hot swap bays to be a basic requirement of a NAS build depending on how easy it will be for you to remove the drives in question. On a rack system, don’t consider anything but hot swap bays, in my opinion.

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wdred_tray

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For cooling the CPU in previous server builds, I’ve turned to Noctua for a quiet but effective CPU cooler. And this time I’ll be doing the same with the Noctua NH-D9L. I’m planning to use a 3U chassis, and Noctua advertises this cooler as being fully compatible with a 3U setup.

noctua1

noctua2

I’ll be starting with 16GB RAM initially. The memory recommendation is 1GB RAM per 1TB of raw storage space, with 8GB being the minimum regardless of storage for FreeNAS. But if you come in under that recommendation — e.g. you have 32TB raw storage but only 16GB RAM — the difference it’ll make to performance and stability will be based entirely on how your NAS is used and the virtual device setup. Others have not adhered strictly to that guideline and been fine. In general, though, the more memory you can throw at this, the better, and I’ll be doubling this to 32GB eventually.

And as the list above shows, I’ll be using ECC RAM as well.

ECC vs non-ECC

So if I’ve opted for ECC RAM, which everyone recommends for FreeNAS, why am I about to discuss ECC vs non-ECC? Well it’s in light of a recent video on Paul’s Hardware in which he builds a NAS using FreeNAS but doesn’t use ECC RAM. In part this is because he used an ITX board with a Sandy Bridge processor. But several pointed out in the comments that he’s not using ECC. Many acted like Paul’s data was moments from destruction for not using ECC RAM.

ECC memory is heavily recommended though not absolutely required. FreeNAS won’t fail to run if you’re not using it, and your data isn’t under any significantly higher relative risk by not using it depending on your use case. Instead ECC memory is heavily recommended for ZFS simply due to what the ZFS file system does in memory. Which is pretty nearly everything. And as ECC memory can recover from some memory issues, whereas non-ECC memory has no recovery capability, ECC is the obviously better choice.

But the whole ECC vs non-ECC discussion is a bit overblown with regard to ZFS and FreeNAS, almost religious in nature. Doomsday scenarios have replaced objective discussion with many overlooking the fact that data corruption can come from many sources, of which memory is only one. And the examples of how memory corruption can propagate on a NAS are also examples of how it can propagate really anywhere.

I’ll repeat what many have said: ECC memory is better, plain and simple. If it wasn’t, or wasn’t significantly better than non-ECC memory in the systems where it is typically employed, it wouldn’t exist because no one would buy it. What’d be the point?

Matt Ahrens, one of the co-founders of the ZFS file system, is often quoted with regard to this: “I would simply say: if you love your data, use ECC RAM. Additionally, use a filesystem that checksums your data, such as ZFS.” Many have interpreted this as meaning that you must use ECC RAM with ZFS, and a basic misunderstanding of grammar and syntax would allow that misinterpretation. He’s saying to use ECC RAM. Separately he’s saying to use ZFS. He is not saying you must use ECC RAM with ZFS.

In fact, he says quite the opposite in the same post I quoted. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to use it. Absolutely it is. But will your NAS crash and burn and fry all your data, including your backups, if you don’t use it? It’s extremely unlikely you’ll get that unlucky. And if that does happen, don’t be so quick to blame your memory before determining if it might have been something else.

Despite what seems to be the prevailing belief when discussing FreeNAS, memory is not the only source of data corruption. And even if you’re using non-ECC RAM, I’d still say it’s unlikely to be the cause of data corruption. Cables can go bad. Poor-quality SATA cables could increase their susceptibility to a phenomenon called “cross talk“. In one of my systems, a 24-pin power extension cable on the power supply went bad, causing symptoms that made me think the power supply itself had gone bad. Connectors on the power supply to the drives could cause problems, including premature drive death. If power delivery to your NAS is substandard, it could wreak havoc. Linus Media Group suffered a major setback with their main storage server after one of the RAID controllers decided to have a hissy fit before they had that system completely backed up.

A NAS should be considered a mission-critical system. And to borrow my father’s phrasing, you don’t muck with your mission-critical systems. And that includes when building them, meaning don’t cut any corners. Regardless of whether you go with ECC or non-ECC memory, it needs to be quality. The power supply should be very well rated for stable power delivery and quality connections (on which Jonny Guru is considered the go-to source for reviews and evaluations). The SATA or SAS data cables should be high quality as well, shielded if possible (such as the 3M 5602 series). You don’t need premium hardware, but you can’t go with the cheapest stuff on the shelf either. Not if you care about your data.

Bottom line, many have used non-ECC memory with FreeNAS for years without a problem. Others haven’t been so lucky. But whether those losses were the result of not using ECC memory has been difficult to pin down. Again, there are many things that can cause data corruption or the appearance of data corruption that aren’t RAM related.

So again, you may not be under any higher relative risk going with non-ECC memory. Your home NAS box is unlikely to see the kind of workloads and exposures to electromagnetic and radio interference common in business and enterprise environments, and it’s those environments where ECC memory is a basic requirement regardless of what the server is doing.

If you can use ECC, go for it. Your system will be more stable in the end, and it’s not hugely expensive — I’ve seen it for under 8 USD/GB. If you can’t, don’t fret too much because you’re not. Just make sure the RAM you do use is quality memory. And whether you’re using ECC or not, test it with MemTest86 before building your system and re-test it periodically. But regardless of whether you’re using ECC RAM, make sure to maintain backups of the critical stuff.

RAID-Z or mirrored

Now why am I going with mirrored pairs instead of buying a bunch of drives and setting them up in either RAID-Z1 or RAID-Z2? Cost, for one. 4TB drives are currently around 150 USD each depending on brand and source. That’s why I opted to start with a pair of drives, and never considered anything else. As I add additional drive pairs, I can expand the pool to include each new pair until I get up to the ultimate goal of 4 pairs of drives.

Using mirrored pairs also allows you to expand your pool with mirrors of different sizes. You can start with a mirror of 1TB drives, then add a 2TB mirrored pair later, and keep adding until you want to replace the smallest pairs in the pool. The benefit here is you get the additional storage capacity immediately. With RAID-Zx, you wouldn’t see the new capacity until you replaced all drives in the pool.

This is ultimately why you should use mirrored pairs in your FreeNAS pool and not RAID-Z. If you are buying all your drives up front and don’t ever see adding more drives, only replacing existing ones, then I suppose RAID-Z2 will work well, but you should really reconsider using RAID-Z for one simple reason: disaster recovery.

A drive cannot be recovered faster than its sequential write speed will allow. The WD Red has an internal transfer speed of around 150 MB/s. That means a rebuild of a single drive will take about 2 hours per TB for writing contiguous data. You can expect about the same for reading data as well.

How long would a rebuild take? On a ZFS mirror, it’ll take only as long as is needed to re-mirror the drive based on used space. It won’t do a sector-by-sector mirror like a RAID controller. So if you have a 4TB mirrored pair but only 1TB on it is occupied, then it’ll only read and mirror that 1TB. If the writes occur parallel to the reads, then the rebuild will go a bit faster. For RAIDZ, however, it still needs to read all data from the array. The lost blocks are either re-calculated parity blocks or data blocks derived from parity. As such, rebuilding the parity and data means it must traverse everything.

So let’s say you have four drives of 4TB each in two mirrored pairs. You have 8TB total effective space. Let’s assume that 4TB is used, and since ZFS stripes data across virtual devices, we’ll presume an even distribution of 2TB to each drive. If you lost one of the drives, the ZFS drivers would only need to read and write that 2TB, meaning probably about 8 to 9 hours to rebuild.

For RAID-Z1 with those four drives, you’ll have 12TB effective space, of which only 4TB will be used. But it’ll have to read 4TB of data and parity to rebuild the lost drive. For RAID-Z2 with those four drives, you’ll have 8TB effective storage, of which 4TB will be used. How much data do you think will need to be read from the remaining three drives? It’ll actually need to read and process 6TB of data and parity since Z2 uses double the parity of Z1. That will slow things down significantly.

Now we could expect that the rebuild will read the data from the RAID-Zx at the same rate it serves that data for clients. But everything I’m finding does not appear to support this idea. One source I did find, however, actually tried to test rebuild times on RAID-Zx compared to mirrored pairs using 1TB drives. And the results were interesting. At 25% capacity, RAID-Z1 with 5 drives or less and RAID-Z2 with 4 drives were similar in rebuild time to a mirrored pair. Once the capacity got to 50%, though, the difference became more significant.

But the other thing that needs to be pointed out: the recovery times likely reflect no activity on the array during recovery. In mirrored pairs, the performance impact of continuing to use the array won’t be nearly as great. With RAID-Zx, the impact on both read performance and the rebuild is substantial due to the parity calculations.

Again, this is why you should go with mirrored pairs, and why I will be using mirrored pairs. Not only is it easier to expand, the fault tolerance is much better simply due to the faster rebuild times. Sure if you lose a mirrored pair you lose the pool, but if you actually build the array correctly (by ensuring the drives in any single pair didn’t come from a single lot), the chance of that happening is relatively low.

But then, nothing replaces a good backup plan.

Reviving an old case yet again

X-CRUISER-BL-1_500

apevia_blue

This old blue Apevia case has seen the rounds a couple times in my build logs. It’s come in handy for a few things, and this time around it’s serving as Nasira’s initial home.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, I don’t have the final 3U chassis selected. I mentioned a model number above, but I’m not entirely sure yet if I’m going to stick with that or go with a different model. The other model I’m considering is the IPC-G3550, also from PlinkUSA. Both have a double set of three 5-1/4″ drive bays, but the second option is slightly shorter — shy of 22″ deep instead of 26″ for the IPC-G3650X — and uses 80mm fans internally instead of 120mm fans to direct internal airflow.

My experience with FreeNAS is also very limited. I was able play with it in VirtualBox, which I highly recommend. But getting it working in a VM is quite different from getting it working on physical hardware, and the latter is what mattered. I wanted to make sure this would run as expected.

I’m sticking with the onboard NIC for now. I’m aware that Realtek NICs aren’t the greatest, and if I feel I need to, I’ll put in an Intel NIC later, or consider it being the start of a 10Gb Ethernet upgrade. On initial build and testing, I noticed that the Gigabit connection can be pretty well saturated on the Sabertooth’s onboard NIC — I was getting transfer speeds hovering around 100MB/s, around the maximum for a Gigabit link — so unless performance noticeably drops when my wife and I are trying to simultaneously access it, I’m likely not going to be putting in a different NIC.

Up front, my primary concern was observing baseline performance with the mainboard and processor, testing the cooling solution, and making sure everything will play nice with the hot swap bays. In other words, I wanted to eliminate as many points of concern as possible.

Initially I also left the FX-8350 in there. I have an FX-8320E, but it’s currently in another server, and I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to pull it. I’ll let the air temperatures in the chassis be the determining factor. For the GPU, I’m using a GT620 I had laying around — another frequent feature of hardware testing when I’m building systems. For the final build, I’m likely going to use something else, like see if I can diagnose and correct the fan problem on one of my Radeon x1650 cards.

With that, a few observations, and some quick reviews on some of the parts selected.

ECC memory. The mainboard was able to detect the ECC memory without a problem, and MemTest86 was also able to detect that the RAM is ECC. On the FreeNAS forums, a rather arrogant user by the moniker Cyberjock has a thread discussing FreeNAS hardware recommendations in which he says this:

AMD’s are a mess so I won’t even try to discuss how you even validate that ECC “functions”. Not that “supporting” ECC RAM is not the same as actually using the ECC feature. Do not be fooled as many have been. You don’t want to be that guy that thinks he’s got ECC and when the RAM goes bad you find out the ECC bits aren’t used.

I’m going to guess that he’s never used AMD hardware for this.

In reading through a lot of the various posts he’s made in which he tries to espouse himself as being an expert with regard to all things FreeNAS and ZFS, I’ve noticed that he seems to never consider anything beyond the memory as being a source of data corruption. Again the whole ECC vs non-ECC discussion has taken on religious overtones, and Cyberjock has propped himself up as the Pope of the Church of ECC with FreeNAS.

Whether the error correction function is being used requires experiencing correctable memory corruption. But then you end up with a version of the falling tree problem: if a correctable memory error occurs and the memory controller corrects it, did it actually happen?

Saying you can’t know whether ECC actually works on AMD platforms requires speaking out of ignorance or delusion. For one, the most powerful supercomputer in the United States relies on AMD Opteron 6274 processors and ECC RAM. And as the Opteron 6274 has the same memory controller as the FX processors, I think it’s safe to say that it works.

PassMark has also tested the ECC error detection in MemTest86 using an AMD FX processor. I’d say that’s good reason to trust that, at least with the AMD FX lineup, ECC RAM is going to work. After all, I’d think they would’ve reported back any problems.

Further, see my previous point about corruption originating from sources other than RAM. Seems few can think beyond that.

Hot-swap. To use hot-swap bays with the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 (and other ASUS boards may be the same), enable the option “SATA ESP” for the SATA connectors that will be plugged up to hot-swap bays.  Make sure it’s also set to AHCI mode. For the ASMedia (white) connectors, just make sure they are enabled. They are hot-swap by default.

On the hot swap bays themselves, the included fan is fairly quiet. That was one of my primary concerns, but I was willing to change out the fan if I felt necessary, and I’m glad to see that won’t be necessary.

The only criticism is simply the fact all of the connectors are located along the left side when looking at the back. This means you’re almost guaranteed to be working in a tight space when trying to plug this up if you’re going to be putting this in a tower. Many rack chassis also have the drive bays on the right side when looking at the front, again guaranteeing a tight work space. Rosewill could’ve made things a little easier by including a Y-splitter for the two 4-pin Molex power plugs. For the SATA cables, just make sure to plug those into this before putting it into the chassis.

Cool and silent running. The Noctua fan on the cooling tower is quiet as expected, and the cooler performs reasonably well. The UEFI reported the processor sitting shy of 60C after the system had been running MemTest86 for over 18 hours (testing the ECC memory). But the processor isn’t going to be under that kind of load running FreeNAS unless I need to rebuild one of the drives for some reason. But even then, it won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be under that kind of load for 18 hours, so I shouldn’t have to worry about much here.

And that’s it for this part. All that’s left to do now is just select and order the 3U chassis and migrate everything into it, including installing both mobile racks. I’m also going to be changing over to the shielded SATA cables I mentioned earlier, the 3M 5602 series. I’ll just need to determine the lengths.

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