Posted in Gaming Setup

November 2017 Custom Gaming PC Build – Current Setup

2017 Custom Build Gaming PC PartsI’ve finally got around to making a post about my current gaming PC. I built this PC towards the end of November 2017. The whole reason for the upgrade wasn’t because my previous PC was horrible for gaming (it was really still decent for 1080p 60 fps). I just needed a lot more power for two different reasons. The first reason being I had started a VHS to DVD business. With my old system it would take a long time to render the videos after I had finished editing and improving the quality and color as well as a few other things. The 2nd reason for the upgrade was I was getting back into streaming on Twitch and using a single system for gaming and streaming isn’t ideal, it can easily be done with the right system while not giving up any quality of the game settings, or the Twitch stream. I was mostly playing Ark on the streams which is already very intensive game on its own, much less streaming from the same system at the same time. Also, having a i7-4770 I didn’t have much for options for upgrading the processor since the next generation used a different chipset. This isn’t a post going step-by-step on how to put build a PC. It’s more of what I built and few things that I did along the way. Let’s jump in!

First off here are all the parts used for this build:

Just to get it out of the way now; I did not purchase everything on that list at the time I decided to build a new PC. I pulled the two Samsung 850s and the Crucial BX300 from my old desktop. The GTX 1080ti I also pulled from the old desktop. I had purchased that in July 2017 for the old desktop upgrading from a GTX 770. Luckily I was able to get it on sale right before the video card prices went out of control. I also had the Elgato HD60 Pro on hand as well and again pulled it from the previous desktop. I had purchased that in August of 2017.

The biggest question I had to answer when I finally decided to build a new PC, which I think everyone faces when building, was what CPU to go with. I had very briefly debated going with an AMD Ryzen CPU, but I’ve almost always had an Intel CPU and wanted to stick with Intel as I’ve never had any issues with them. I should note that I had finally decided to build the PC after the Intel X-Series CPUs were released, but shortly before the Intel 8th Gen (8XXX) CPUs came out. I had actually come very close to pulling the trigger on going with the Intel i7-7820X processor. I had the motherboard and everything picked out to go with it. I would have loved to have went with one of the i9 CPUs but they were outside of my price range and I couldn’t really justify the price to myself. The reason I didn’t end up pulling the trigger was that I started reading more about the 8th Gen Intel chips. The initial few lines of processors were supposed to be releasing about 4 weeks after I decided to build new. So I decided to wait until the i7-8700k was released. My one regret about this build was that I manged to get the 8700k about 2 weeks after release I ended up paying full MSRP for it. I knew that was very likely going to happen when I decided to go with that CPU, but like I said it’s the one regret about this build. In the end it was worth it. I have yet to be disappointed in this processor for my uses.

My last desktop that I built I went with a Noctua air cooler for the CPU cooler. It works great and never had any issues with CPU temps, or fans going out, but I thought it was kind of loud. Granted it probably isn’t as loud as a cheap cooler, or something you might get with a low end pre-built, but I felt it could definitely be quieter. This time I decided to go with a Corsair AIO water cooler. I didn’t want to do a custom water cooled setup and I’m not sure I have enough faith in myself to actually build it properly with out any leaks. I finally decided on the Corsair CPU AIO cooler listed in the parts list. The main complaint people seemed to have with it was that the stock fans were pretty loud. I found in the comments several reviews that stated they replaced the stock fans that came with the AIO with the 120mm Noctua fans listed above. Going out on a limb I took their advice and replaced the stock fans. I don’t regret that decision at all! Now I can’t say how loud the stock fans actually are because I never tested them, but I’m pretty sure the suggestions to replace them were a great idea. Even under heavy loads my PC barely makes any noise. Glad I listened to the reviews.

Now I have never owned any be quiet! products before this build and had honestly not really heard much about the company. I initially had heard about them from the Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel and started looking into them for use in this build. Reviews of their products at the time were far and few between. I decided to take a leap of faith and bought the fans listed above. I don’t regret that decision. This fans are amazing! They are so much quieter then the fans I had used in my previous desktop. The downside is they are a little bit higher priced than other similar fans, but it’s worth the cost increase, to me anyways. I will definitely be using them in any future builds. I had also considered going with one of their cases for this build with the added benefit that their cases come with several of the fans, but the prices for what I was looking at getting compared to other cases I was considering were quite a bit higher. I haven’t looked into how much their cases are now, so it’s possible that they may have come down in price. I will still definitely keep them as a consideration for cases in future builds as well.

That about wraps this post up. I feel like I maybe forgetting a few things, but if I remember what they are I’ll edit the post later. Some pictures below. Wish I had taken a few more.

  • 2017 Custom Build Gaming PC Parts
    All the parts ready to go for the November Custom Gaming PC build!
Posted in Hardware Homelab Networking

What’s in my Homelab – August 2018

I figured this would be a good topic to start with as I don’t think I have ever posted any where, or really have told anyone what I am currently running in my homelab. As of this posting this is currently what is setup for my lab. My rack is currently located in my basement in an empty unfinished storage room. It’s the perfect spot as my rack does produce a decent amount of noise, but since I am never in this room unless working on stuff in my rack, or network the noise is a non-issue. With the door closed the noise can’t be heard anywhere else in the basement. This post is more focused on the hardware I am currently running and not what services, software, etc. I’ll save that for other future post topics. So let’s jump into it!

Servers

  1. 2U – Dell Poweredge R710
    1. Duel Intel Xeon X5560 Quad Core 2.8 Ghz Processors
    2. 72 Gb DDR3 Ram
    3. Perc 6/I with six 2 Tb WD Red HDDs in Raid 6 (8 Tb usable)
    4. ADATA 512 Gb SSD connected to a PCI-E adapter used for Boot OS
    5. Four 1 Gb Ethernet Ports
    6. iDrac 6 Enterprise
    7. Running Windows Server 2016 Enterprise
  2. 1U – Supermicro X9SCI-LN4F
    1. Intel Xeon E3-1220 V2 Quad Core 3.1 Ghz Processor
    2. 8 Gb DDR3 Ram
    3. Integrated 4 port 1 Gb Ethernet
    4. Intel PRO PCI-E Quad Port NIC
    5. Samsung 830 120 Gb SSD
    6. Running PfSense 2.4.3
  3. 4U – Dell Poweredge  T110 II
    1. Intel Celeron G530 Dual Core 2.4 Ghz Processor
    2. 16 Gb DDR3 Ram
    3. Four 4 Tb WD Red HDDs (12 Tb usable, 1 parity drive)
    4. Running UnRaid OS 6 on a Cruzer 32 Gb USB drive
  4. 2U – Dell Poweredge R720 (Not put into production yet)
    1. Dual Intel Xeon E5-2609 Quad Core 2.4 Ghz Processors (Will be upgrading)
    2. 8 gb DDR3 Ram (Will definitely be adding a lot more)
    3. PERC H710P (Will be swapping out for a H310 flashed to IT Mode)
    4. 8 bays Currently empty
      1. Will have 2 WD Purple Drives passed through to Blue Iris VM
      2. Six 6 Tb or bigger HDDs (will depend on prices when I purchase)
    5. Adding the Flex Bay to run 2 SSDs hopefully 1 Tb (Will depend on pricing at purchase)
    6. Still need rails
    7. Possibly add a GPU
    8. Will run Windows Server 2016 Enterprise
  5. 1U – Supermicro (don’t have the model # written down)
    1. Intel Atom D510 1.66 Ghz Dual Core Processor
    2. 2 Gb DDR3 Ram
    3. This was my old PfSense Server
    4. Not currently in operations
      1. Still trying to figure out what to use it for

The Dell R710 is by far the work horse of my homelab, as I think it probably is for most people that are in this hobby. This server has been running just about non-stop since January 2015. You really can’t beat the cost for performance of these servers. Although if the R720 servers ever get to the same price point of the R710s then I think you will see people swapping out the R710s. The downfall of the R710 is that they can tend to be noisy and depending on the components you are running can be a little power hungry as well.

As mentioned above the R710 is running Windows Server 2016 Enterprise. I was able to get the license for free with my .edu e-mail and the Microsoft Imagine program. And you were probably thinking I was using a pirated copy of Windows Server, or got my license key by shady methods, silly you! At the moment I only have 5 VMs (virtual machines) running, but tend to spin up new VMs for testing something out, or doing some tinkering and then delete them. The 5 VMs that are currently running 24/7 are a Blue Iris Server, Plex Server that is also running Tautulli (formerly PlexPy), Minecraft Skyfactory 3 Server, Unifi Controller Server, and a WordPress Server (bet you can’t figure out what site that is running). The large storage volume on it is used for computer backups, photos, home videos, and movies (that I ripped from my rather large Blu-Ray collection). I plan on doing future posts about setups and more information about some of these programs in the future.

The Supermicro X9SCI-LN4F was a much needed upgrade when I upgraded my internet from a 200/20 cable connection to a 1 gig symmetric fiber connection as my other Supermicro server couldn’t hand the speed. I am currently running PfSense 2.4.3 on it and I have to say PfSense has a little bit of what I would call steep learning curve, but it is well worth it for all the customization you can do. I also run a OpenVPN server on it as well as HaProxy as a reverse proxy. Other packages currently running include: ACME for Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates, nmap, ntopng, pfBlockernNG, snort, and Telegraf. I talk a little more about this server down under networking equipment.

The Dell Poweredge T110 II is running as a NAS on my network. As I stated above it is running UnRaid as the OS. Prior to UnRaid I had FreeNAS installed on it and I have to say I’m glad I made the change to UnRaid. FreeNAS worked great, but UnRaid is so much more user friendly, in my opinion. The vast majority of this storage is still currently unused, but I keep 2nd copies of more import files on this server and the R710. I haven’t really had a chance to play around to much with docker on it as I haven’t had the time and plus this server is vastly under powered to run more than a couple docker images. I have played around with a few apps on it and I must say there is a very large app library that comes with UnRaid and I have really only dipped my toes into playing around with a few of the apps.

Networking Equipment

I currently have two 24 port keystone jack 1U panels  at the top of my rack. The first one at the very top is currently unused as I will be using it for terminating Ethernet connections when I finally get around to running Ethernet cable around my house. The second one is currently being used for connection the various systems that are in my rack to my switch which I will talk a little bit more later on in this post. My rack is an open 4 post 42U rack that I had picked up off eBay back in the summer of 2015 right after I bought my house. I also have a couple of long Cat6 Ethernet cables that run to my upstairs office that I was able to run where some coax cable had been run by previous owners of my house. I like to used wired connections whenever possible instead of WiFi.

For internet I currently have a 1Gb symmetric fiber connection that I upgraded to around the end of April 2018. Prior to that I had a 200mb/20mb cable connection. I currently have a Calix ONT modem that terminates the fiber connection into Ethernet. There is nothing special about the modem, or any extra features and it serves its purpose just fine (not that I have any other options as this is what the internet company gave me).

From the Calix ONT the internet connection is passed to my 1U Supermicro X9SCI-LN4F server mentioned above. This server is a little bit overkill for what it does, but I’d rather have to much power than not enough so I don’t have to worry about needing to upgrade for a long time. I have PfSense installed on this and this enables that server to work as a router for the rest of my network. When I bought this server back around late March 2018 it was to upgrade my old PfSense router because later upgrades coming sometime this fall, or winter for PfSense will require a processor that supports AES-NI encryption, which the Xeon E3-1220 V2 does support. Currently I am using 4 out of the 8 Ethernet ports: one is where the internet connection comes into PfSense from the Calix ONT, one is for the LAN network, one is for my DMZ network, and the last is for my CAM network. I’ll talk more about the networks in another post.

The network connections then go from the PfSense server to my Ubiquiti Unifi 24 port POE (power over Ethernet) switch (US-24-250W). This switch also has 2 SFP ports as well. I will fully admit that I love the Ubiquiti Unifi product line and how easy it is to manage that product line with the Unifi controller software. The reason I went with the 24 port POE switch instead of the regular Unifi 24 port switch is I knew I was planning on adding POE IP cameras in the future and I wanted to have something that would be able to power them when I started adding them to my network. I’ll talk more on the setup and running the Unifi products in another post. The only problem with this switch is that I am running out of ports and kind of wished I had ordered a 48 port switch from the start. Eventually I will be adding a 48 port Unifi switch, although it probably won’t be the POE version. I would instead only use my current 24 port POE switch for only POE devices.

The Unifi 24 port switch is connected to one of the Cat6 Ethernet cables that I have run into my bedroom office upstairs and connects to a Ubiquiti Unifi 8 port (US-8-60W)  switch with 4 POE ports. This has various computers and other things connected to it. Also I have a Trend net 5 port “dumb” switch that is connected to one of the other Ethernet cables run to the bedroom office. This has another computer and few other things connected to it and the future plan is to replace this with another Unify switch. I still have a unused Unifi 8 port (US-8-150W) POE switch that I had picked up on Newegg when it was  on sale  for a decent price. I need to get this put into service, but I’m still trying to decide where the best place for it to be used will be.

For my wireless network I currently have to Ubiquiti Unifi APs (access points) running. I love that these are POE APs and that you only need to connect them with one cable assuming you have POE. The first one I had purchased in August of 2015 was the Unifi UAP-Pro. This one is set up in the server room in the basement and is connected to the rack switch. In the 3 years I have been running this AP I have never had any issues with it disconnecting, or dropping a wireless signal. In March of 2018 I added a second AP. I picked up the UAP-Pro-US while it was on sale on Newegg. I have this connected to a POE port on the 8 port Unifi switch in the office upstairs. Did I need a second AP for my house? No, not at all. But I wanted a AP upstairs too.