The session itself was really interesting and loads of ideas and methods I had never even heard or thought of came out, exactly what I had hoped would be the outcome! Subsequently a number of people volunteered to help create a site for the rationalisation and curation of all of this awesome content and knowledge, which we have dubbed the Open Homelab Project.
We are still in pre-alpha for the site itself, but here are a couple of screenshots of some of the content in production. Once it goes live it will be a full wiki site with the ability for any registered community member to edit, contribute to and create content! Once we have reached a reasonable quantity of initial content, then the site URL will actually be released!
Managing your Homelab from an Xbox One!
Ye Trusty Intel NUC!
Right now we are keenly seeking a couple of things from community members who are interested in being involved:
Start by following our @OpenHomelab account on twitter for all the latest news and updates (as well as a few random tweets when I post using the wrong account -now I get how easy it is for corporate people to randomly tweet to the wrong pipe by accident!)
If you would like to get involved early on and help contribute to the initial release of content, please hit me up on twitter or DM the @OpenHomelab account with your email address for a Slack invitation.
If you have any design talents, we are looking for a unique but simple logo for the site. The one we have at the moment is just a placeholder! We would ideally like a few entries from different people and the community can choose their favourite! Main requirements are that the logo:
has a reasonably clean look.
has relatively few colours (in case we every want to print it on t-shirts, stickers, etc).
Looks good when shrunk to 135px by 135px (as this is the standard size of the logo in MediaWiki.
Beyond that, let your imagination run riot! All entries can be sent to me or the OpenHomelab project via Twitter DM.
So in answer to the question as to why I have haven’t been blogging for the last couple of weeks; it’s because I (along with the rest of the team) have been furiously producing content for the new site! I hope to return to normal service within a couple more weeks, but in the meantime, let me know if you want to be involved!
These are not cheap and nasty, or freebie USB drives, so I would not normally expect to see this rate of failures. The error only occurs when you reboot the host, and the startup bombs out at the start of the hypervisor launch. I have often managed to recover the stick by copying back corrupted files from another instance, but generally I needed to rebuild and restore the image. An unnecessary pain in the rear!
The Root Cause The NUC case can become quite warm during normal operation with or without the fans spinning up, and I have come to believe that the main reason for the corruptions is that the USB stick itself is getting too hot and therefore eventually failing. Having pulled a USB out from a recently shut down node, they are really quite hot to the touch. You don’t actually see the symptom / failure until a reboot because the ESXi image actually runs in memory, so is only loaded from the USB stick at boot time.
The Solution As for the solution, it’s really quite simple. I purchased a number of 12cm (5 inch) USB 2.0 extender cables on eBay for just 99p each (including delivery!).
These keep the USB stick indirectly attached to the NUC chassis, and as such the heat does not transfer into the flash drive. Since doing this I have not seen any further issues with the corruptions. Job done!
I successfully ran my VMware vSphere ESXi 5.1 Nanolab for 18 months on my pair of Intel NUC DC3217IYE hosts. Early this year I got around to upgrading to 5.5. I had experienced some issues with my vCenter Server Appliance so ended up just rebuilding the lab from scratch and reattaching my old data stores. Having written all of this up, I then promptly forgot to post it! So for the sake of continuity (before I do the same for 6.0 shortly), this article covers the process.
In addition I also purchased a 3rd node for my lab, the 4th Gen D34010WYKH model (also with a Core i3), with which I was able to test and prove the process on as it uses the same NIC chipset.
The following are updated instructions for installing vSphere 5.5 on Intel NUC (any model with the Intel® 82579V or Intel® I218V onboard NIC should work).
I recommend before you start, you upgrade the NUC to the latest firmware, to avoid any potential bugs (of which there were a few when they were first released). Copy the latest firmare image onto a USB stick, boot the NUC, hit F7 at the bios, find your firmware on the USB stick and let it do it’s thing:
Intel NUC Firmware Upgrade
vSphere 5.5 Install Requirements
A USB Stick. This should work on anything over 1-2GB but personally am using 8GB PNY Micro Sleek Attache & 16GB Kinston DataTraveler Micro drives as they’re tiny, so less likely to catch on anything as they stick out the back of the NUC box, and they cost less than £5 each.
A copy of VMware Workstation 8 / Fusion 6 or newer.
If you do choose to add this in as well to your image, simply run the customiser twice, once for the network VIB, then a second time for the SATA vin, using the interim image as your source for the final image.
Create a customised ISO with the additional Intel driver.
Install ESXi to your USB stick using VMware Workstation / VMware Fusion and the customised ISO you will create below.
Plug in your NUC, insert the USB stick, boot and go!
Part One – Create the Custom ISO
Run the ESXi-Customizer-v2.7.2.exe (latest version at time of writing).
This will extract the customer to the directory of your choosing.
Navigate to the new directory.
Run the ESXi-Customizer.cmd batch file. This will open up the GUI, where you can configure the following options:
Path to your ESXi Installer
Path to the Intel driver downloaded previously
Path where you want the new ISO to be saved
Ensure you tick the Create (U)EFI-bootable ISO checkbox.
ESXi-Customizer with 2.3.2 vib
This will output a new custom ESXi installer ISO called ESXi-5.x-Custom.iso or similar, in the path defined above.
Part Two – Install bootable ESXi to the USB stick.
I stress that this is my preferred way of doing this as an alternative is simply to burn your customised ISO to a CD/DVD and boot using a USB DVD-ROM. That would however be a whole lot slower, and waste a blank CD!
Plug your chosen USB stick into your PC.
Open VMware Workstation (8 or above), VMware Fusion, or whatever you use, ideally supporting the Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI option (allowing you to nest 64-bit VMs).
Create a new VM, you can use any spec you like really, as ESXi always checks on boot, but I created one with the similar specs as my intended host, single socket, 2vCPU cores. RAM doesn’t really matter either but I use at least 4GB normally. This does not require a virtual hard disk.
Once the VM is created, and before you boot it, edit the CPU settings and tick the Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI checkbox. This will reduce errors when installing ESXi (which checks to ensure it can virtualise 64-bit operating systems).
VMware Workstation Nesting
VMware Fusion Nesting
Set the CD/DVD (IDE) configuration to Use ISO image file, and point this to the customised ISO created earlier.
Once the above settings have been configured, power on the VM.
As soon as the VM is powered on, in the bottom right of the screen, right click on the flash disk icon, and click Connect (Disconnect from Host).
Attach USB in VMware Workstation
Attach USB in VMware Fusion
This will mount the USB stick inside the VM, and allow you to do a standard ESXi installation onto the stick.
At the end of the installation, disconnect the stick, un-mount and unplug it.
Part Three – Boot and go!
This is the easy bit, assuming you don’t have any of the HDMI issues I mentioned in the first post!
Plug your newly installed USB stick into the back of the NUC.
Don’t forget to plug in a network cable (duh!) and keyboard for the initial configuration. If you wish to modify any bios settings (optional), you will also ideally need a mouse as the NUC runs Visual BIOS.
Power on the NUC…
Any questions/comments, please feel free to hit me up on twitter as I have recently disabled comments on my blog due to the insane volumes of spam bots they were attracting!