Recover.IT – HP EX490 MediaSmart Server

Yesterday, I noticed that the Windows Home Server icon in my taskbar was red.  I opened it up and saw some file conflicts – that is strange.  I could access the files in the server, so what is going on – then the penny dropped, it says that a disk drive is missing. I went out to the computer area and could see only one disk was lit up, the second one is not lit – meaning that it is offline. I went back to the console and shut down the server – which eventually it did, albeit slowly because it had stopped responding for a long time before I could hit the Shutdown button.


Some of you may have heard about Windows Home Server, many probably haven’t. WHS was a great product for its time – a semi-redundant network storage device that could be packaged like a NAS. I bought this HP EX490 MediaSmart Server back when it was available in 2009. That is the box on the right in the photo above, ok – a little dusty even though it sets on a shelf 2m above the floor.  It came with a single Seagate 1TB disk drive, and over the next few years went to 4x1TB drives, then eventually to 2x2TB drives. The files can be stored in folders that are shared out – and each folder/share can be configured to be redundant or not.

Ok – back to the problem at hand, one of the two drives – the Seagate 2TB had apparently stopped working.  After it had shutdown, I pulled out the second drive and connected it to my test/recovery machine. This second drive was able to spin up, and I ran a few commands on it, to determine what the issue with the drive was and then shut down. I didn’t want to keep the drive running until I had a way to copy its contents – having temporarily run out of disk storage space recently.

One of the commands that I run is “smartctl -a /dev/sdb” which on Linux will check the display the SMART data from the disk drive which is physically connected as /dev/sdb. The interesting things I am looking for are the Reallocated Sector Count and if any of the SMART attributes show that the drive has failed. None of them did and the Reallocated Sector Count was 14760 which is a little high – but this can be normal for the drive. The Power On Hours was 34,235 which equates to nearly 4 years – the drive itself is 5 years old. If I hadn’t used the drive straight away – this might be ok.

Of course, there were other values to be considered. Attribute 187 – Reported Uncorrectable was 0, 188 Command Timeout was 1, 197 Current Pending Sector Count was 216 and 198 Offline Uncorrectable Sector Count was also 216. Now – these last two are concerning – generally a non-zero number on these can indicate that the drive is having issues, and we should plan to replace it.

Smartctl also reports SMART errors that the drive has recorded – the main one occurred at 34,227 hours – like 8 hours before I noticed the problem and shut it down. This was error 8170 – WP at LBA = 0x00611d8f = 6364559 – this probably means that it couldn’t access this particular sector – which is a concern. What I need to do now, is to obtain or get a spare disk of at least 2TB and make a disk to disk copy of it – in order to ensure that my data is copied. I have a few 3TB disks lying around – maybe I can free one up for a little while. I think I will do that during the week.

Remember that I mentioned that we can specify some folders or shares to be redundant – meaning that the contents of those folders have copies that reside on the other disk? Well – not all folders were marked to be redundant, so if any of those folders reside on this particular disk might well be inaccessible. Fortunately, Windows Home Server creates a NTFS file system on each drive, so these drives can be connected to any Windows machine and be accessible – unlike some versions of RAID which can mean that the data is striped across each disk.

The other thing I want to think about is – what I would replace this WHS with. I currently run a virtual Freenas on ESXi server – but I was thinking about building a new standalone network storage appliance. Freenas is great if we can get the right hardware – such as ECC memory, a CPU and motherboard that supports ECC memory – and run ZFS but then I was reading about issues on ZFS – which caused me to look at what other people are using.

I could stay with Linux and run something like MergerFS and SnapRaid or I could go the Windows way – with Storage Spaces which is looking very tempting, except I don’t have a spare Windows 10 machine to play with – since the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1 was over a couple of days ago. Decisions, decisions…


Review.IT – HP 110 Desktop PC with no display

During the week, a friend dropped off a PC for me to look at. As I was now working full-time, I really didn’t have much of a chance to look at it until this evening. He had explained on the phone that it belonged to a customer that I had previously done some work with a year or two ago. The HP 110 Desktop PC is one of those that comes with a power adapter similar to those on laptops. The symptoms were that there was no display either on the VGA port or the DVI port. I suggested that maybe he could try a separate video card – however, unfortunately – this PC does not have a PCI or PCIe slot, none at all.


Anyway, I had a look – it had a bit of dust inside, not really enough to cause a problem – and sure enough, no PCI or PCIe slots. However, I did spy a wireless board plugged into a mini-PCIe slot. My diagnostic card comes with an adapter that can plug into these mini-PCIe slots. I unscrewed the single screw that was holding the wireless board, then plugged in my diagnostic card.


Since I had a power pack plugged in, the diagnostics card came to life immediately – showing me that the Reset line is active, and the 3.3V line is working. I pressed the power button, and the fans starting spinning – but the diagnostic card did not change at all. The Reset was still active – and until the Reset turns off, the PC cannot boot at all.

This is looking like a difficult repair, such that might not be worthwhile to proceed. Why? The reset line being low – could be a failure of the reset circuitry. It may also have to do with the onboard power regulators not providing the right voltages. It can also be a failure of the Northbridge chip – and can also be a processor fault. To diagnose this further, I will need to remove the motherboard out of the case, then search the internet for schematic diagrams that describe this motherboard – or a similar motherboard.

A new PC equivalent to this one together with a 20″ monitor can be bought for $429 from OfficeWorks – in fact this PC was bought from OfficeWorks a couple of years ago. Anyway, I will let my friend know and he can decide whether or not I spend any more time on this PC.

[Update]  I went back to look at this again.  It turns out that when the motherboard is off, it should only be the 3.3V Standby power that is on, however in this case – it is the 3.3V power and the Reset line shouldn’t be showing up at all until power is applied. Now, this is the first time I have diagnosed one of these motherboards – but even then, it should still behave like a normal motherboard. This seems to suggest that the fault is in the power circuitry – which is going to be difficult since we usually measure the voltages on the PCI slots, and now I would have to dig around on the motherboard.  Anway, just wanted to update this post.

Review.IT – When apples ain’t apples!

Further to my reprogramming of the BIOS for my HP EliteBook 2530p, I did some further research since I generally research things before I order bits from eBay.

The Atmel AT26DF321-SU chip used for the BIOS in the HP EliteBook 2530p is in fact a SOIC-8 package – however, it is based on the EIAJ standard which was 5.2mm across the body when I measured it with my digital caliper. The other standard is JEDEC which measures 3.9mm across the body when I measured some other SOIC-8 chips. In actual fact SOIC and SOP are often taken to be the same package.

Now, here is when it gets a bit confusing. SOIC packaging refers to pin spacing of 1.27mm however SOP is supposed to be for less than 1.27mm pin spacing – understand? If you were to design printed circuit boards, you will often need to actually obtain the components in order to do so, or have to go through tons of datasheets to verify package sizes – correct? Actually, not so – most people would use software that would pick up these details when you choose the part number of the item you are placing on the circuit board, so a SOIC-8 package should be the right one, or is it?

My research has shown that the standard JEDEC SOIC-8 package would be about 3.9mm across the body. The EIAJ SOIC-8 package would be about 5.4mm across the body. For higher pin counts, like SOIC-16, there is actually a package that is 7.5mm across the body. The good thing is that the pin spacing is the same – at 1.27mm for SOIC.

I found also that there is a mini-SOIC or sometimes called a micro-SOIC that has pin spacing of 0.5mm, so be careful of what you are actually seeing – don’t just pick up on the SOIC and assume 1.27mm pin spacing.

Interestingly enough, the datasheet for the Atmel AT26DF321-SU also refers to the chip as being a plastic small outline package, or PSOP.

Anyway, the chip adapter socket that I bought is actually for SOIC-8 and SOP-8 when referring to the JEDEC package and for 1.27mm pin spacing. I just couldn’t use it for my chip because I needed a EIAJ socket – oh well, at least I can use it for other SOIC-8 chips. This means that I didn’t actually buy the wrong adapter socket, just didn’t read the Atmel datasheet fine print sufficiently.

Review.IT – Eagnas Plus 8000 Electronic Tension Head

Just a couple of weeks ago, after the repaired Eagnas Plus 8000 Electronic Tension Head had gone back to the client, another came in – this time it had been opened, with case screws removed and no gripper head. I took the case off and found this.


Broken load cell

Obviously, one of the problems of having an inline load cell – that is, a load cell that is connected in line with the pulling force, in this case the chain – requires that the fasteners that connect the load cell should not come apart. In the previous tension head, the bolt that connected the chain to the load cell had come off – however, in this case, the bolt that connected the load cell to the carriage failed, which meant that the wires to the load cell, the yellow one – had been pulled off.

Usually, this means getting a new load cell as it might be difficult or near impossible to repair. Another thing is that getting an equivalent load cell could be difficult if the manufacturer is unwilling to provide spare parts – which is the case in this situation.

On the bright side, I realized that one of my digital luggage scales that I use to check the tension heads might use a similar load cell – and it seems to be the case.


Digital luggage scale – cover removed

I opened my luggage scale and sure enough, the load cell is the same size – but is it similar enough? The wiring color is different, green, white, red & black instead of yellow, white, red & black. The notation on the circuit board indicates that green is +excitation, and black is -excitation, hence white is +signal, and finally red is -signal.

I found a site that showed some load cell wiring colors – Load Cell Wire Colors which shows that this is a common wiring arrangement, so that is good to confirm.

Now the broken load cell has yellow – probably instead of green. The load cell strain gauges are covered in a soft silicone sealant for protection, and I could scrape it off and have a look at the strain gauge and see if I could perhaps reconnect the yellow wire.


Load cell

It looks like I can reconnect the yellow wire as it had broken off on the solder pad.  If I reconnect the yellow wire, I then need to work out where the other wires should go to – three wires to connect to three other wires – what could go wrong? Ok – the yellow wire is still connected to a yellow wire, so the other wires on the connector are red, black and green – so presumably, red to red, black to black and green to white would be an obvious first try.

Anyway, I don’t have to rush on this repair because the client came back to me saying that the other one I had repaired had started smoking and his customer no longer wants them both, so now I can wait until the other tension head comes back eventually and check the wiring colors. In the meantime, I might order a similar load cell from aliexpress.

[P.S. When the smoke leaves a machine, it generally stops working, until we can repair it to put the smoke back in.]



Review.IT – Microsoft Garage Mouse without Borders, fantastic!

How many of you use a couple of computers on your desk? How many of you have often started typing, and realized you were typing on the wrong computer?

In the past, with multiple computers, we used to use a manual switch box, that would connect the keyboard, mouse and vga screen to different computers. This used to be a bit of a hit or miss experience because, in the old days, the computer would look for the PS/2 mouse and keyboard during bootup, and if it didn’t find it, then keyboard and mouse wouldn’t work even if you plugged one in.

So that is when the automatic kvm switches came in, they would automatically present the keyboard, mouse and monitor to each computer that was powered up, so this worked better. Press a button to switch to another computer, or use a special hot-key. Now, we were working, and this was fine for some time.

Then along came usb keyboards and mice, specifically wireless combinations. Some computers now didn’t have PS/2 keyboard or mouse ports, such as most laptops. That is when the usb KVM switches came our, and the most useful of those also allowed audio to be switched automatically.

I used one for some time, but the problem was that if we wanted a third computer, we needed a three port KVM switch, and then the cables started getting messy. The KVM switch generally needed to be within arm reach if we want to use the manual button (sometimes the hot-key doesn’t work). Then the cables either were too short, or much too long. I had an Aten 4-port KVM switch, the CS64US – which had two 0.9m and two 1.2m kvm cables – this worked well too.

Then I upgraded my keyboard to a Logitech G110 Gaming keyboard, with customizable keyboard lights, but this didn’t work through the KVM switch. Anyway, eventually I went back to using one computer, then having another work area when I needed other computers running.

Now, my desktop needs upgrading as it was running Vista Home Basic 32-bit – so I used one of my cryptomining computers, and built up a Windows 8.1 Professional machine with faster video for Steam gaming. I was looking around for a software KVM, and actually what came up is interesting, the Microsoft Garage Mouse without Borders, which allows keyboard and mouse sharing across connected computers. Ok, so monitor sharing isn’t included, but at least, I can run my original desktop on the left monitor and the new desktop on the right monitor. Eventually when everything is migrated across to the new computer, I can then end up with a dual screen computer – that’s more like it!

The software is easy to download – just go to and download the msi file. Then install it on the slave computer – just answer No if it has already been installed, it will show up a security key and computer name. Then install it on the master computer, the one you want to use most of the time, but this time answer Yes, and then enter the security key and computer name of the first computer. You can then set the monitor configuration appropriately, click Apply and now you can seamlessly share the keyboard and mouse across the computers, by just moving the mouse from one monitor to the other, and the keyboard will follow. Fantastic. Also the other mouse and keyboard will work too, but I plan to remove them.

This is just for Windows though, and is going to be good since Windows 10 is imminently about to be released and I might hold off migrating my applications until that is running well without problems.

Another thing, you can also share the clipboard, so copying text from one computer, you can paste to the other computer. Also drag and drop files too – what more do you want?

P.S. There is just enough room on top of my desktop which is to the right of both monitors to fit a small laptop – that could be my third computer. Mouse without Borders will handle up to four computers.

[Edit] It doesn’t work well if you want to play some Steam games, since some games try to access the direct keyboard and mouse and will throw up errors if there isn’t one plugged in. For non-gaming, I see that it is great and gives me back some desk space.

Review.IT – Asus Nexus 7 tablet slow charging problem – confirmed fixed.

Here is an update on the Asus Nexus 7 with the slow and intermittent charging problem. Previously I had replaced the USB Charging Connector Flex Cable. Yesterday, while I was out and about, I used the tablet and let it discharge until last night it got to 10%.

I put it on charge and then this morning, I checked the Battery Monitor Widget.

Nexus 7

This is what I saw on the display. The battery level last night was 10%, and during charge it rose steadily – this is what it should be doing. The previous charge was from 80%, but with this latest charge from 10% to full charge working so well, I can now confidently say that the problem is confirmed to be fixed.

Charging started at about 11:35 PM and was completed by 2:20 AM – under 3 hours. The charging problem used to be that it could take days to charge if it did charge, and other times plugging in the charger would indicate that it was charging but was actually draining the battery. This fix cost just over $7 in parts and is relatively easy to do. I will sometime in the future take a closer look at the flex cable that I had removed to determine what might be wrong with it.

Review.IT, Remake.IT – BMW Z3 Battery Clamp Stud Bolt

Last night while I was in bed about to go to sleep, I had a thought.  The bolt I used to fix the battery clamp – I could machine the original bolt in the same manner.  In this way, instead of buying a replacement stud bolt, I can end up with a bolt that does the same thing, slightly shorter than the original.  I had fished out the end of the bolt that had broken off in the hole.


Here is the original bolt, with the broken piece at the end, and an identical bolt that I had used.  By the way, those bolts came from a barbecue that was dismantled.  I can turn down the original bolt and extend the thread so that I can put a nut on it to press down on the clamp.  Ok – put the original stud bolt into my lathe, turn it down to 6mm diameter.  Some of the corrosion came off – which appears to be battery acid corrosion.  Then I put my hand crank onto the lathe spindle to manually turn the bolt, while I use a M6 die to cut the thread.


Here it is with the clamp assembled.  Prior to installing it, I sprayed some white lithium grease onto the thread to protect it from corrosion and rust.  We just have to check that it is tight – from time to time.  This is my “review.IT” and “remake.IT” of the battery clamp stud bolt.

[NOTE] When working on the lathe, and on cars, it is quite remarkable that no matter how hard you try, you get grease on your hands.  I use a “Tuff Stuff” hand cleaner that is fantastic at removing grease and grime, and keeps my hands soft and smooth – as it is non-abrasive.  It has fine granulated polymer beads and has a fresh lime fragrance.

Review.IT – To AMD Crossfire Radeon 7850’s or not

As mentioned previously, I had dabbled in cryptocurrency mining. I played around to the extent of building a few dedicated machines with 3x Radeon 7950’s, and 3x Radeon 7850’s plus the odd Radeon 7870. Since the bitcoin price went down the gurgler – although it has since recovered a little, I had decided to stop mining for a while. What I have left with is…


What to do with all of these graphics cards – they are in almost new condition, have been used for about six months, then cleaned and packed up. My younger son has put dibs on one of the MSI HD 7850’s for his new computer, with the option of taking another one (for Crossfire). I had plans to use one of the MSI Twin Frozr 7950’s for my new desktop and gaming machine. The questions in my mind were:

Q1: Can I sell the MSI HD 7850 cards perhaps, and recoup some cash?

Q2: If the MSI HD 7850’s aren’t worth selling, because the return is very low – should I keep them and sell the MSI R7950’s instead?

Q3: Should I use the MSI HD 7850’s instead by running two of them in crossfire?

With these questions in mind, I searched on the internet for reviews of any sort that would compare 7850 crossfire versus a single 7950. Most of the sites that I went to – arbitrarily said single card is better than two, etc – with little justification. Then I came across this old review from Tweaktown – which I found very interesting.

HIS Radeon HD 7850 IceQ X TurboX 2GB in CrossFire Video Card Review

A couple of differences, I don’t have that HIS card, but mine are equivalent in specifications. It doesn’t compare against the Radeon 7950 but does show performance relative to the Radeon 7970 which is slightly better than the Radeon 7950. It doesn’t test with Borderlands 2 since this review was before the release. I don’t plan to be running at a very high resolution, so this seems to say that it is a good thing to do. There is of course talk about how crossfire can be problematic, but surely it has matured by now.

So, let’s ““.

Q1 answer – the 7850’s have a low resale value, for some reason – Gumtree has them for $75 each – I bought them at $169 – potentially 44% return.

Q2 answer – The cheapest 7950 on sale is at $150 – I bought mine for $289 – potentially 52% return.

Q3 answer – Possibly, it certainly looks interesting. Power consumption should be slightly less than a single MSI R7950.  I will need to investigate this further – as it would not hurt to actually try it out and compare the performance myself.

Asking questions also raise additional questions – apparently if we were really smart enough, we could ask the right question, but then we would already know the answer, isn’t that strange!

[Note]  AMD Crossfire technology allows you to harness the power of multiple AMD graphics cards.  For my case, the MSI HD 7850 only has one crossfire connector hence can have two cards in AMD Crossfire, but the MSI R7950 has two crossfire connectors allowing a three card configuration.  Having two cards is not the same as double the performance – however there is a significant increase in performance.  People choose to do this if they already have one card and just want to improve performance by getting another similar card.  The downside is that usually buying two cards is slightly more expensive than buying one better card especially now since the price of AMD Radeon cards have fallen.  My question is that I already have these cards so price is not really relevant unless I wish to get some return on my initial investment.