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Home automation Personal Computing

HomeBridge

A number of manufacturers of interesting kit have chosen to stay out of the smart home universe among them Ubiquity. Others like Nest play only in their own proprietary environment. HomeBridge is an open source software project that creates an environment in which Apple HomeKit bridges may be built. Smart home enthusiasts have developed over 2000 product plugins supporting popular devices.

Here at Dismal Manor we have two bridges, a Starling for Nest gadgets and Home Bridge on a RaspberryPi 4b that brings in the UniFi Protect camera RTSP streams.

The Starling is a commercialization of the Nest HomeBridge plugins. This product makes sense with the Thermostat and the cameras. It is less useful with just Protects.

In this article, I’ll describe my experiences setting up a UniFi Protect gateway and making the Ubiquity UniFi Protect cameras visible in HomeKit. UniFi Protect is one of the few camera systems having a Verified HomeBridge plugin.

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Personal Computing Technology

UniFiOS, The Missing Manual

Recently, IT System Integrator forums and YouTube channels have been all a-twitter because it appeared that a UniFi user ID and network connection were required to use any of the UniFiOS hosted controllers introduced with along with UniFiOS. After hearing Tom Lawrence and Willie Howe rant about the issue, I decided to experiment a little to see if their complaint was true of my deployment.

I wrote the previous post reporting my experience trying to log in to my controller host while divorced from the Internet. As expected, it smoked so I opened a ticket.

The various Internet communities can be helpful when I’ve overlooked something or misinterpreted something that is common product knowledge. When something appears to be a design issue, only the designers can help. So I ticketed my experience.

Ubiquity Support has responded with what appears to be the solution to my concern raised in the ticket, that local service should be possible during an Internet fade. Read on for the fix.

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Personal Computing Technology

UniFi OS Login Issue

The good folks at Ubiquity have revised the architecture of the UniFi software system to provide a uniform user management and login environment for Network, Protect, Access, and the coming Talk.

A roles based access rights scheme greatly simplifies user administration and has greatly reduced the number of UniFi related passwords in 1Password. So, life is good in paradise? Not really. Read on to learn of the unanticipated consequences.

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Audio Personal Computing

Roon Core Saga

Our Roon Core was last installed in 2018 using Ubuntu Cosmic Cuttlefish. This was a fall version with only 2 years of support available. Given that it had dropped out of support, I decided to reinstall the VM’s Guest OS. This post shares what I learned.

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Audio Personal Computing

Roon Core on a NAS???

Roon Nucleus image courtesy of Roon Labs

After commenting on several posts regarding running Roon Core in a TrueNAS BHYVE VM in the Roon Community Forums, I get the occasional request for help troubleshooting a colicky Roon Core installation. Please stick to Roon recommended configurations unless you are a computer systems professional. Installation of Roon on Linux hardware or in a storage server virtual machine requires familiarity with the host operating system, host OS package manager, host OS virtual machine manager, creation of guest environments, and installation of Linux and applications in the guest environment. This is a lot to learn for non-professionals.

For DIY Readers

Most DIY-minded readers would be happiest running Roon Core on a Mac Mini backed up by a TrueNAS SOHO file server configuration. The Mac Mini can perform media management. The Mac Mini can back up your external media to TrueNAS using Time Machine. iX Systems ensures that TrueNAS is easily configured as a Time Machine storage server supporting encryption at rest and encryption in transit.

For My Other Readers

Those not members of the DIY gang would be happiest using Roon Nucleus as their Roon Core. Roon Labs has designed Nucleus to be a no fuss appliance that keeps OS and Roon Controller up to date software wise. Roon Nucleus is audibly and electrically quiet as a result of its fanless design and custom power supply that replaces the laptop switching power supply used with similar systems.

After the break, we’ll look at the alternatives in more detail.

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Personal Computing

TrueNAS Encryption

TrueNAS 12 based on FreeBSD 12 now offers ZFS native filesystem encryption. A pool or any part of a pool may be encrypted. This is particularly useful when an application requires encryption of data at rest. One common use case is the encryption of Apple Time Machine backups at rest. In this article, I will explain how to configure an encrypted filesystem for use by Time Machine.

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Personal Computing

TrueNAS 12 Replication

TrueNAS is built on FreeBSD and the ZFS copy on write filesystem originally developed at Sun Microsystems for use in petabyte scale systems, possibly with cluster filesystem support layered on top. Today among hobbyists and system integrators, TrueNAS finds use in small scale file servers in home and office environments.

Purchased storage systems from iX Systems (are you a Dune fan?) make ZFS and TrueNAS FreeBSD accessible to small organizations needing reliable shared file storage. It is ideal for small medical offices and graphic and creative arts professionals needing working and archival storage. The TrueNAS SOHO systems are price competitive with home brew from new systems as a result of volume purchase of components. TrueNAS carefully tailors the FreeBSD component selection and system configuration for the storage appliance mission. In most installations, TrueNAS functions solely in the storage role. In home and small office installations, it may also provide some application support. Here at Dismal Manor, our TrueNAS system also runs our Roon Audio service instance in a VM.

Categories
Audio Personal Computing

Roon with TrueNAS

Roon and TrueNAS 12 coexist nicely. Here at Dismal Manor, I have a TrueNAS 12.0 server that has two jobs, to serve music and to provide Time Machine storage for MacOS Big Sur. In this episode, I will describe the TrueNAS configuration used here at Dismal Manor. This arrangement is not particularly elegant as I was learning to manage TrueNAS as it was evolving from FreeNAS 9 to the current TrueNAS 12 core.

References

All references were retrieved on Ground Hog day. Well across the date line.

  1. https://www.truenas.com/docs/hub/intro/glossary/
  2. https://www.truenas.com/docs/hub/initial-setup/install/firsttimeinstall/
  3. https://www.truenas.com/docs/hub/sharing/smb/
  4. https://www.truenas.com/docs/hub/tasks/advanced/virtual-machines/
  5. https://help.roonlabs.com/portal/en/kb/articles/linux-install

Pools, Volumes, and FileSystems

TrueNAS functions in terms of pools, volumes, and filesystems. As I understand it, a pool is a TrueNAS container that combines multiple physical disks in a manner that lets TrueNAS use them as a virtual block device. Within the container, TrueNAS can create a volume which behaves like a block device. The volume can contain one or more file systems. The pool can also contain filesystems. File systems can contain file systems. File systems may be exported as network shared file systems.

Dismal’s primary storage pool

Use a volume when you want to limit the size of the dataset. When you create a volume, you set a maximum size for it. ZFS uses lazy provisioning. It will add blocks to the volume as needed until the size limit is reached.

Most of the time you will create a filesystem or dataset because the object is expected to grow and you want it to have file system sharing semantics.

Sharing in Apple Land

ZFS exports are always at the filesystem node level as identified by a filesystem path. This is in keeping with the original NFS model for which ZFS was designed to provide storage support. TrueNAS, to my knowledge, does not export block devices as a network service.

Dismal Manor is thoroughly modern so our Mac runs Big Sur. Dismal (our server) serves music, photos, and a couple of Time Machine spool volumes. Everything is in the primary ZFS Pool. Within the pool, individual datasets hold media, photos, and Roon Backups. One volume in the pool serves as the block device used by the virtual machine in which Roon runs.

The media dataset is further subdivided by iTunes (ALAC), HD Audio (ALAC and FLAC) purchased music from CD, HD Tracks (ALAC and FLAC) purchased music from HDtracks.com , and Qobuz (mostly FLAC but some ALAC) purchased music. It is only recently that iTunes and iThings tolerated FLAC and I’m not completely convinced that iThings like FLAC. So ALAC is kept separate for transfer to iThings.

The FLAC is kept separate by where it came from. HD Audio is FLAC from records. HD Tracks is media purchased from HD Tracks. Qobuz is media purchased from Qobuz, my current favorite source. The HD Audio is mostly direct purchases from artist websites, usually as media. The commercial services track purchases and allow transfer of media to a revived host in the event of media loss.

The figure below shows our shares. As you can see, the Time Machine spool is now SMB. There is a share for virtual machine installation media, one for Roon backups, and one for iTunes and other media, and one for photos.

Dismal’s configured exports

Photo storage for MacOS

The photos share is somewhat confounded by MacOS design. MacOS replication services expect the Photos AppLibrary to always be accessible (ie mounted at boot or is it login? Its Apple). So iCloud and the iThings do their thing to the thing-owner’s directory structure.

The Sony “real camera” is transferred twice, once into Photos App and a second time into ZFS photos file system. I’m slowly abandoning this practice as it is much easier to find an image in Photos, select it for editing, and pass it off to Luminar AI for editing.

Photos passes the raw file to Luminar. Luminar returns a TIFF with the edits back to Photos. As Firesign Theater was fond of saying, “When you are two places at once, you are no place at all.” It just became too hard to find stuff. Luminar has OK image management but for a hobby photographer, Big Sur Photos is champ.

The Roon Virtual Machine

Dismal runs a Roon virtual machine. In 2017-2018 I’d tried to run Roon on a Mac Mini running MacOS and that same Mac Mini running Ubuntu. Each time Dominion glitched us, I’d have to intervene on the Mac to get Roon up. Roon on the Mini was restarting before the shares came up so the mounts would fail.

Virtual Rocky Roon VM

So, I installed Roon in a VM on Dismal. This works nicely as TrueNAS starts the virtual machines after the file services are ready to go. The TrueNAS design enforces this sequence as hosting storage for zillions of virtual machines running Windows is a major TrueNAS use case. The data-less client rules in cubical land today.

This explains the ISOS dataset shared with Trey, this iMac. We fetch the appropriate installation media, copy it to ISOS, and specify it as the VM installation media. Once the OS is installed (Debian server is a good choice but also Ubuntu), download the Roon installation script and follow the Roon procedures.

Create the VM following the reference. Boot Linux from the ISO image and run the installer in the normal way following the TrueNAS VM creation instructions. Once the VM is ready, open a shell in the VM’s web interface and add the required packages to the distribution. The Roon installation procedure clearly explains the packages needed and lists them in an order that satisfies dependencies.

Once all of the dependencies are aboard, fetch the Roon installation script and run it as described in the Roon instructions. It will set up Roon as a service on the VM.

Roon Storage Organization at Camp Dismal

Then follow the Roon setup instructions to add media, create a place for configuration backups, etc. Once installed, your 2 week trial starts. The figure below shows how we configured our storage

Rocky’s storage configuration

Our music storage is partitioned into separate trees for iTunes media (mostly ALAC, but stuff that may be transferred to an iThing), HD Audio (mostly FLAC), and Q0buz purchases (mostly FLAC). I keep these last two separate so I know what came from where should something need replaced down the road.

Note that Roon Focus will let you select items by format and also by where they came from. Click Focus On to bring up the Focus view. Toward the left, there are buttons to refine the focus. Bring up this view, then slide left to bring up the format inspector. This will let you identify Tidal tracks, Qobuz tracks, etc. You can also view by location in the local library.

Roon Focus dialog showing the Format inspector

Roon can also run things down by location using the Inspector.

Inspector lets you search by storage location

Once you have your search criteria set, you can export as a list for record keeping purposes. This is a useful thing to do occasionally should your library go missing. But ZFS is robust and you are satisfied with your backup. Aren’t you?

Backups

TrueNAS replication is a wonderful thing. Together, Snapshots and Replication let you deal with most file system misfortunes. If you accidentally delete something, it can be retrieved from a prior snapshot. If the local media becomes corrupt, the replication media should have a sound copy.

The purpose of snapshots and replication is two fold.

  • Provide protection against disk failures
  • Provide protection against user mistakes
  • Replication is a convenient way to fill a newly commissioned server

Keep in mind that snapshots and replication may not protect you from the local processor slowly going batty. This is extremely rare. Disk problems are most common, memory problems less common, and processor problems least common. I’ve yet to see one in integrated processors.

Back in the old days, our trusty work CDC 7600 started misplacing files. OS required files would go missing. The divide unit was miss-calculating hashes so the filer was retrieving random data when a disk directory record was expected. The OS (CDC Scope 2) would trap. The techs living inside the 10×10 paneled office quickly tracked down the divide unit as the problem. A fix took a bit longer as the divide unit was several racks of cigarette pack size modules and cabling to troubleshoot.

Here at Dismal Manor we have the following backups in place.

  • Time Machine to a ZFS share.
  • ZFS pool replication to a second ZFS pool inside the server. No fancy raid here but ZFS checksums and checksum verification.
  • BackBlaze backup of the Mac disk to an off-site facility

Note that we don’t treat iCloud storage of photos or data as a backup.

Copy on Write?

Both APFS, the new Apple File System, and ZFS are copy on write file systems. That means that when a file is updated, only the changed blocks are written to disk. The unaltered blocks remain as the were. So both ZFS and APFS permit retrieval of earlier versions of a file as recorded by snapshots. APFS is snap shotting for Time Machine. Time Machine, like ZFS replication, transfers the most recent snapshot to the backup device by writing just the changed blocks. Pretty slick? Yes actually. So Time Machine is writing to the ZFS SMB_TM dataset which is in turn backed up by ZFS replication to a second pool in our server. And just the changes are transferred!

Categories
Personal Computing Technology Video

Got Mandolin Shred?

This Sunday, I watched a Punch Brother’s live show. Yes watched Punch Brothers live streaming an hour-twenty or so of non-stop live music. Just five guys and a Neumann U-87 performing Oprey style like they always do on stage. Lots of tuning as keys changed. But tight and moved.

Punch Brothers engaged Mandolin.com a start up streaming production company to produce the show. Mandolin handled the lighting, video production, stream production, and content distribution and ticketing. The band prepared and practiced like they would for any live gig. Mandolin boffins and roadies handled all the tech for the show.

Publicity for the show. A Punch Brothers tweet, a Chris Thile retweet. Don’t know how big the crowd was. Dismal Manor was a sudden sailor for $25. Calvin needs shoes, what can I say?

Categories
Home automation Personal Computing

It’s a New Dawn?

Thanks to Apple for use of its Apple Silicon banner image. It’s a new dawn in Apple Land.

MacOS 11 Big Sur arrived at Dismal Manor. Its arrival was mostly uneventful after troubles with installation media download were resolved. Reference 1 gives an excellent guided tour (geeky) of Big Sur. Here, I’ll hit some first impressions.