What's going on

Maxtor Shared Storage II bites the big one,

Or, how I recovered my data from a so called Raid 1 array device failure.

Note: this is not a very technical article, just a guy fumbling around trying to save some pictures and mp3s.

When this thing first came out I thought it looked great and had to have it for our media storage and file backups. It was easy enough to set up but I didn’t look into the limitations of the unit. It acts as a UPnP media server so I could hook up the Roku over the network and serve the music to our computers running Yahoo Music. It also offered the Raid 1 array (mirroring). Now, a Raid 1 device is suppose to be pretty good (especially by home user standard) for insuring you don’t loose you data from a single hard drive failure. Normally with the Raid 1, if one drive fails (they both are exact copies of each other) you just replace it and the device rebuilds the mirror and you didn’t loose any data.

Maxtor decided to treat it a little differently. With the MSS II you have the choice of Raid 0 (striping, is faster by storing some info on each drive) or Raid 1 (mirroring, two duplicate copies). With this device however, you aren’t protected in either mode. There is no way to remove one drive should it fail while still using the other drive. For one, that voids the warranty but the device is not capable of rebuilding the array and the mirror even if you replaced the bad drive. I know, you should make copies of the backups but I thought I had with the mirrored disks.

My MSS wasn’t out of warranty but they do not cover data loss under the warranty. From what I have read, they will be more than happy to try and recover your data for a hundreds or thousand dollars. Any of the Data recovery business (while doing a great job I am sure) are about the same price for Raid recovery. I searched with as may different phrases as I could think of but didn’t come up with any one good solution (especially with in my limited technical ability).

After several days of trying many different recovery programs I decided to attack it a slightly different way. The MSS uses a Linux operating system and the drives are partitioned as such. I didn’t suspect drive failure so if I had a Linux system I should be able to look at the drives. I downloaded the latest stable release of Kubuntu (Ubuntu build with the KDE interface). I’m not a programmer or Linux expert, but I have played around with it off and on over the years. With the help of the many articles on hacking the MSS and other various Raid recovery articles I was able to access the drive and recover my data.

I loaded Kubuntu on a spare drive I had in our PC. You can run it from a LiveCD as well but I wanted to transfer all the data if I found it and I couldn’t figure out how to mount the Windows drives when I ran the LiveCD. After loading Kubuntu, I mounted the raid partition (one of the drives from the MSS was placed into USB SATA enclosure). After entering the shell program I created a folder to mount the raid partition to using “Sudo mkdir /usr/rdmnt“. I used the “sudo fdisk -l” command to list all attached drive and their partitions so I knew what to mount to my directory (/dev/sda6 in my case was listed as the linux raid file system). I then typed “sudo mount /dev/sda6 /usr/rdmnt“. This mounted the raid partition to the directory “rdmnt”. The “sudo” command makes it so you can use commands as if you are the root or admin user. After I had the drive mounted I was able to access the file system from the user interface within Kubuntu. I copied the contents of the Raid drive to my user folder in Kubuntu.

Now, since I still wanted the functionality I original sought, I searched around for a better alternative to the MSS II. I found the D-link DNS-323. It is very similar to the MSS device in almost every way, except one. It has the ability to keep functioning should one drive fail. That drive can be easily replaced by simply powering down, removing the front cover and pushing down on the eject lever. Remove old drive and replace with the same size or larger drive. The device will rebuild the mirror on its own and you are back up and running with your data protected. It also has the ability act as an FTP server so you can access your data (or as much of it as you want to put in the FTP share) from any place on the internet.

I have learned my lesson though. Even with the extra protection of the mirrored drives, I will be archiving my pictures and music to DVD as well as USB mass storage devices.

Tech What's going on

Plumbing the Shop for Air

After being in my shop for 5 years (but only using a decent compressor for 3) I have finally plumbed the shop for air a organized all those loose hoses I kept tripping over. After much reading I decided to go with Type L copper pipe. From what I could tell it is the second best pipe for running air in the shop. If you have the time and extra tools, consider using galvanized iron pipe. I chose copper over iron pipe because of the ease of assembly. I didn’t want to have to thread all the ends I cut to make it fit in my shop. But the advantages of iron pipe are quietness and cools the air (better heat sink) to condense the most moisture out. One other option I read about is PVC pipe. Some sites reported the ability of PVC to explode if damaged, sending sharp fragments flying through the air. I also heard of it’s ability to build up a static charge (especially if you dry your air).

The only difficulty with the copper is learning to sweat it properly, although this is much easier than it sounds. I looked around the internet and youtube and found many good demonstrations on sweating (or soldering) copper pipe.
For the bulk of the project (120 feet in my application) I used 3/4″ pipe with 10 of 1/2″ pipe used in the drain valves and quick disconnects. I decided it would be easiest on my project if I pre-assembled as many of the parts as I could. I started where the air takes off from the main line. I made some large U shaped pieces that go up from a T then turn around down for the drop to the quick connects. I continued with the quick connects for the hoses. Each one is at the end of a drop from the over head line and has a drain valve at the bottom of a receiver for the moisture. For the quick connects, I used a 45 deg elbow turned up from the pipe (last attempt to remove moisture). I finished by tieing all the pieces together with the main line and the drops. I put a 3/4″ ball valve where it connects to the compressor as a service disconnect.

A few more of the parts:

What's going on

Sledding at Ahtanum Meadows

We headed over to Yakima again this weekend hoping to make it up to Treephones and some deep snow play. I guess we were just lucky last year when the road to the cabin was open all winter. Normally it is closed at the bottom, open only to snowmobiles. That was the case this year. We parked just below the closure and hiked around for a while trying out our new snow shoes. There was a good 12″ of powder and another 12-18″ of more compact snow beneath it. After a while we headed down to the snowmobile parking area for lunch and digging in the snow banks. When down there we found a great sled hill. Here is a little video.

Vehicles What's going on

300,000 miles

Well, it has happened. At 8:44 pm PDT January 3, 2008 my 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser turned 300,000 miles. While this isn’t the highest mileage vehicle out there, it is my first one to reach such a distance.

As irony would have it. It tripped the mark crossing the same bridge that we were on about 5 months ago when a heater hose split stranding us on our late night trip to Yakima. That was the second time in the trucks history with us that we had to have it towed. After an hour of trying to fix it, replacing the hose and refilling the coolant, the engine would not restart and I was forced to calla wrecker.

View Larger Map
We crossed the Mayfield Lake bridge on Hwy 12 and stopped on the other side for a few pictures (just to show that I’m a real cruiser geek). Thankfully my wife tolerates this madness.

This is the closest intersection. The odometer was at 300,000.6.

My wife and son tolerating me as I stand in the middle of Hwy 12.

Tech What's going on

Giving the shop a lift

I have been wanting a lift ever since we built the shop. Now that I am getting a little more busy and doing a wide variety of repairs (and feeling old as my body creeks getting back up off the floor) I figured it was time to make the investment. I did a lot of searching and some research into the different brands and models of lifts. The 2 basic types common today are the 2 post and 4 post. There are slight variations within these categories like the Over Head Post and Base Plate 2 post lifts.

The 4 post lift is the easiest to install and doesn’t need to be anchored (but I would) to the concrete. This lift is often used by car collectors to get a little more space out of a small garage. They are stable and easy to operate. The done side for service work is the tires stay on the lift so a “jacking bridge” is needed to lift the car/wheels off the lift. Then you still have the lift in the way.

truck on the lift The 2 post base plate lift has the hydraulic lines and equalization cables running under a “base plate” that runs between the posts. The advantage to this lift is clearance above the lifting area. You don’t have to worry about a large vehicle hitting the top support.

I chose the 10,000# over head 2 post lift from CEM lifts in Monroe, WA.  Chris was very helpful in choosing a lift and provided good technical support when I had questions with the installation. This lift has a bar that crosses between the top of both posts to carry the equalizer cables, hydraulics and what ever else needs to go between the posts. I chose a tall one since I work on a lot of trucks and a van every once in a while.

The directions say it should take two people about 5 hours to erect the lift. I did it by my self in two half days. The first step was to lay out the placement and check the concrete thickness. The lift requires 4-6″ thick concrete for proper tightening of the bolts. I purchased a rotary hammer from Harbor Freight tools. They had one that would do the job for a little less than a 1 day rental would be. I used this to drill a test hole at the center of each post mounting point to verify the thickness of the slab. The rotary hammer was also used to drill the holes for the mounting bolts.

Land Cruiser on the liftWhen I had the shop wired the contractor put in the power for the lift since I knew I would have one some day. The hydraulic pump runs on 230v 1 phase power with a 20 amp breaker. I used a generator type twist lock plug for a quick disconnect within reach of the controls (in case of emergency).

Running the hydraulics, filling the pump and adjusting the equalizer cables were the last steps in getting the lift operation. After a few cycles of the lift to get all the air out, I put our F250 Diesel truck on the lift to give it a test. No problem, I even cleared the bay door. Next I put my FJ60 Land Cruiser on the lift to check height. With the roof rack I was able to raise the lift to the top locking position with out hitting the safety stop on top and cleared the bay door in the back.

clears the door

The last thing I had to to was rearrange my storage and bench locations to make working around the lift safer and easier. I’m sure this will be an evolution process as I find out what works and what doesn’t.

A few of the other items I need to make working on the lift easierare an oil drain, transmission jack and safety stand. The vehicle is essential when changing the weight of the vehicle once on the lift or doing work that takes a lot of movement. While the lift is very stable with the vehicle raised, it doesn’t take kindly to sudden shifts in weight.

 I did the first oil change on my wife’s car and my truck with the lift and I think I am going to really like having this, even for the little jobs.