Tag Archive for homelab

NanoLab – Part 5 – Intel NUC BIOS Update Issues FwUpdateFullBuffer

Having taken delivery of a new Intel NUC D34010WYKH this week, I followed the usual (and Intel recommended process) of upgrading the firmware / BIOS to the latest version. As it happens, this was version 0030 (WY0030.BIO). This was installed using the standard USB with a .BIO file, and press F7 method as there was obviously no OS installed.

Unfortunately having installed this version, building and booting the ESXi host, I was getting some very strange network issues. Specifically no DHCP address being picked by the host, but a manual IP would ping intermittently (around 10-15% of the time). Not good. In addition there were some very odd behaviours observed in the BIOS such as not booting from USB consistently, hanging when I hit ctrl-alt-del and others.

My guess was that this was a firmware related issue, so I decided to roll it back to an earlier version. I started with 0026 by installing the firmware using the same F7 method above. This is when I got an error message which stated FwUpdateFullBuffer followed by several numbers (no screenshot I’m afraid). At this point, the firmware update bombed out. Really not good!

Repeating the activity only achieved the same result, even with different firmware versions and install methods (such as a bootable USB drive with FreeDOS and iFlash2.exe).

After a bit of searching I found the following BIOS recovery mode instructions for situations when you have a screwed up BIOS:

  1. Copy the recovery file (*.bio) to a bootable USB device.
  2. Plug the USB device into a USB port of the target Intel NUC.
  3. Shut down the computer and unplug AC power.
    jumper
  4. Open the chassis and remove the yellow BIOS Configuration Jumper. See the Technical Product Specification for the location of this jumper.
  5. Power the system on.
  6. Wait 2-5 minutes for the update to complete.

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

  7. The computer will either turn off when the recovery process is completed or it will prompt you to turn off the computer.
  8. Remove the USB device from the USB port.
  9. Replace the BIOS Configuration Jumper.
  10. Restart the computer.

Following the above, I have updated my Intel NUC D34010WYKH to version 0025 and have found it to be reasonably stable so far, and definitely works with ESXi.

Obviously follow any of the above suggestions at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible if your NUC becomes a BRICK, but hopefully this will save people some time and frustration, as this was several hours of messing around in my case!

The Self Study Era

I was prompted to write this article after the release of the new VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam.

One of the most interesting and and best things about the VCP programme is the barrier to entry. Unfortunately in this age of brain dumps, it is all to easy to be a “paper MCSE”, having simply memorised all the answers to a load of exams and passed them without actually knowing the subject matter. Individuals like this usually become unstuck pretty quickly, and it makes a bit of a mockery of the whole process.

In this age of austerity, doom and gloom, employers won’t or don’t want to pay for professional training, which means this barrier can be pretty high! Gone are the days where companies may have the budget to send people on multiple training courses per year. I was extremely lucky at the start of my career to get the opportunity to attend all the courses for my MCSE (about 8 IIRC!) in the space of a couple of years! At many companies today, employees are lucky if they are sent on a single one in that time.

Fortunately it’s not as bad as it sounds, because gone are the days where there used to be only the official course books or in-person training available. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, today we have many many more resources available to us, including:

  • Many free online community-generated resources. It never fails to impress me how people are willing to give up their free time to generate this content and help complete strangers improve their knowledge and skills.
  • Inexpensive virtualisation at home using VMware Workstation, GNS3, etc allowing you to virtualise and create an entire lab for whatever it is you’re studying. For most technology you can get away with as little as 8-16GB RAM in an old PC, as long as it has a CPU with VT-X extensions you’re golden! This for me is the best way to learn any product – lab it, lab it, lab it!
  • Free online labs from many vendors such as VMware’s http://www.projectnee.com/HOL and Microsoft’s http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/ so even if you cant afford to have a home lab yourself, you can still get your hands on the tech.
  • If you work for a vendor partner you can often get access to their “Partner University” content for free.
  • Free practice exams from many of the vendors on their learning pages.

If your employer has minimal budgets for training, there is no point moping about it. Invest in yourself (be it financially or in time) and meet them half way.  Embrace the fact that you have joined one of the fastest moving industries in the world, show some initiative and study in your own time!

VMware Certified AssociateSo how does this relate specifically to the VCA I hear you ask? Well if I were starting my career again from scratch, the first thing I would be doing is passing the VMware Certified Associate exam of my choice, based on the free VCA training from VMware, and all of the free resources above. If you pull your finger out, you can even get 50% off the VCA exam for a limited time.

Once you have this one in the bag, then is the time to approach your employer and ask for them to fund your VCP course. They will know you’re serious as you have invested your own time, effort and money (for the exam), and they should already be starting to see the benefits in your additional skills.

At that point, considering the time and effort you have put into your development, if your employer isn’t willing or able to match that investment by paying for either exams or further training / materials, then maybe they’re not the right employer for you. Take your newly learned skills and put them to good use! 🙂

Yet MORE Intel NUC Models on the way for your Nanolab!

For those of you who are regular followers of my blog, you will know I am a great proponent of the Intel NUC range for their low noise, low power, low(ish) cost, high performance and most importantly high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) features!

Unbelievably having only just announced their second generation triumvirate of models just 2 months ago (and due out in a couple of weeks), they’re at it again, announcing a third generation already! The new models include a pair of Haswell-based “Wilson Canyon” Core i3 / Core i5 processor options, featuring up to 4 USB 3.0 ports and a full size SATA connector and are expected to land some time around Q3 this year.

I have updated the CPU table with the currently available info on the new models, and will add CPU benchmarks once available on www.cpubenchmark.net (for consistency). This also includes the recently leaked specs for the new Gen 8 HP Microservers based on Intel Pentium / Celeron processors.

GenModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / Turbo (GHz)CacheMax TDP (Watts)CPU BenchFeatures
1Intel Celeron 8472/1/21.1 / None2 MB17986None
1Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 / None3 MB172272None
2Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 / 2.803 MB173611vPro & VT-d
2Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 / 3.104 MB173766VT-d
3Intel Core i3-4010U2 / 2 / 41.70 / None3 MB152253VT-d
3Intel Core i5-4250U2 / 2 / 41.30 / 2.63 MB153572VT-d
1 (G7)AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 / None2 MB12751None
2 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 / None2 MB15946None
3 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 / None2 MB251314None
4 (G8)Intel Celeron G530T2 / 2 / 42.00 / None2 MB351604iLO
4 (G8)Intel Pentium G630T2 / 1 / 22.30 / None3 MB352154iLO

IMHO you cant beat the NUC for its price / performance / noise features mentioned above. In an ideal world I would be happy to give up 2-3cm of extra board size to get some extra RAM slots and a second gig port on the VMware HCL in there, but as a tidy home lab solution they’re hard to beat!

As regards this latest batch of models, I personally still think the sweet spot is with the Intel Core i5-3427U DC53427HYE 2nd Gen model, which includes vPro for remote access, and will turbo to a handsome 2.8GHz for as little as ~£235 when I last checked. More than enough for most home lab requirements!

NanoLab – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Intel NUC Models Out Soon!

This story actually broke about a week ago, but its been quite a busy one for me so I didn’t get around to posting (other than on Twitter for those who follow me). I thought for people who may have missed it, it would be worth a short post.

In essence, for people who have held out from buying either an Intel NUC or even an HP Microserver for your home lab due to the lack of CPU grunt, good news is on the way! The specs were leaked last week for the new range of Intel NUC boxes due out in Q2, featuring Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The specs were published by Computer Base and are as follows:

D53427RK - Rend Lake

D53427RK – Rend Lake

D53427HYE - Horse Canyon

D53427HYE – Horse Canyon

D73537KK - Skull Canyon

D73537KK – Skull Canyon

Looking at the new models the best (and most feature rich) for me is the i5-3427U D53427HYE (Horse Canyon – includes enclosure). This model includes vPro / AMT support, a superbly useful feature if you plan to run these machines headless, as I currently do. It seems strange not to include this feature with the i7 version (Skull Canyon – DC73537SY). The i5 is likely to be a little easier on the pocket than the i7 whilst still allowing turbo to 2.8GHz, and with a basic clock speed of 1.8GHz it will hopefully run a little cooler than the i7 (even the i3 chassis can get very warm indeed!). Both models come with USB 3.0 which is unfortunately of limited use, unless you plan to mount a USB drive into your VMs via VT-d which is now also included with both new CPU models.

Comparing the CPUs via their CPU Benchmark scores, we can see that the i5 gives a great performance leap from the older i3 line (DC3217IYE), but not such a great jump to the i7, which also doesn’t include vPro. I have included the scores for the HP Microserver line for comparison:

ModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / TurboCacheMax TDPCPU Benchmark
Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / None3 MB17 Watts2272
Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / 2.80 GHz3 MB17 Watts3611
Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 GHz / 3.10 GHz4 MB17 Watts3766
AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 GHz / None2 MB12 Watts751
AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 GHz / None2 MB15 Watts946
AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 GHz / None2 MB25 Watts1314

My guess is that two things will probably happen when it comes to pricing. The current line of NUCs will drop their prices a bit, and the new line will probably come in at a higher price bracket. This means a premium for people wanting the extra grunt, but better prices for everyone else! Personally I have not found any issues with the grunt I get from the 1.8GHz i3, especially when running off SSDs (where your bottleneck usually lies in a lab or production!) so I will probably stick with my i3 pair for now… at least until the i5 range become so cheap I feel compelled to buy a couple!

If I hadn’t already invested, I would be sorely tempted to start my Intel NUC lab with the i5 range, but if a key decision driver is cost, the i3 won’t let you down! 🙂

Other NanoLab articles may be found here:
NanoLab Articles

%d bloggers like this: