This is my first update of the year, and it is a month late! December was a busy month in the patshead.com household. Things were getting back on track during January, and I actually feel like I managed to get a lot done since then!

You’ll have to let me know if that’s true.

We interviewed Winston Moy on The Creativity Podcast

When Jeremy hired me to be his lovely assistant on The Creativity Podcast, he told me that one of the best parts about hosting a podcast is having the opportunity to chat with cool people that you’re interested in talking to. I don’t want to say we haven’t talked to anyone cool or interesting since I signed up for the job, but I was particularly excited about talking to Winston Moy of Carbide 3D.

Winston wasn’t the reason I chose to buy a Shapeoko XXL. I pretty much made my decision when I saw the photo that shows that the X-Carve’s spindly rails nearly fit inside the Shapeoko’s aluminum extrusions. Winston’s impressive collection of amazing CNC related YouTube may not have directly influenced my choice of CNC machine, his videos were extremely helpful. I binge watched just about every one of his videos between the day I ordered my Shapeoko and the day it arrived.

We chatted with Winston about why one might choose a smaller, more accurate machine like the Nomad 3 over the bigger, less costly Shapeoko. We also talked about the new Nomad 3 and the new Shapeoko Pro–I’m more than a little envious of the Shapeoko Pro.

I don’t know if it is possible to have as much fun listening to this episode as I had while we were recording it, but I do think you’ll enjoy it. You can check out the show notes with links over at creativitycast.com, or you can listen to this episode of The Creativity Podcast on SoundCloud.

I ordered 56-gigabit Infiniband cards

And boy did I goof up! I’m not sure what was going through my head. I looked at so many rebranded Mellanox cards in the ConnectX-3 family that night. I wound up ordering HP FlexibleLOM cards instead of PCIe cards!

I can see why I might have made this mistake. The FlexibleLOM card edges are nearly identical to PCIe. The pins are just moved around to make them incompatible.

Here’s what I learned while reordering cards I can use:

  • FlexibleLOM 56/40-gigabit cards are $13 each
  • PCIe 8x 3.0 56/40-gigabit cards are $75 each
  • PCIe 8x 3.0 40-gigabit cards are $30 each
  • These are all Mellanox ConnectX-3 cards
  • 56-gigabit cards support 40-gigabit Ethernet
  • 40-gigabit cards DO NOT support 40-gigabit Ethernet

I am not surprised, but it is a bummer that proper PCIe 56-gigabit Infiniband cards are an order of magnitude more expensive than their otherwise identical FlexibleLOM counterparts.

None of these cards will reach 40 gigabits per second in my machines. They’re going to be limited by the PCIe slots. That’s why I opted to order slower replacement cards.

I upgraded to 40-gigabit Infiniband cards

This went very well, even if it would up costing me more than $40. The old 20-gigabit cards were operating at PCIe 1.1 equivalent speeds, and they were installed in 4x PCIe slots.

The new cards can run at full PCIe 3.0 speeds, but the only slots I have available are PCIe 2.0, and those slots only have 4 lanes. That’s OK, because that is still twice as fast as the old cards!

And they really are roughly twice as fast. My iperf tests are showing 12.5 gigabits per second now, while the old cards topped out at around 7. If everything is well cached, I can now move data to and from my NFS server at 1.2 gigabytes per second while the best I could manage previously was around 700 megabytes per second.

It was a good upgrade, even though I’m still limited to around 300 megabytes per second due to the speed of my hard disks and solid-state drives. If you’re still on gigabit Ethernet, it could be a fantastic upgrade for you as well!

Brian gave me Raspberry Pi KVM for Christmas!

This is just about the coolest thing ever. I’ve been keeping my eye on the amazing Pi-KVM project for quite a while now. I haven’t had a pressing need for an IP KVM. The Pi-KVM project is working on a new hat for the Raspberry Pi with a better HDMI interface and improved keyboard and mouse hardware. It turns out Brian has been needing a networked KVM, and he didn’t want to wait for the new hat.

I upgraded my virtual machine host from Ubuntu 16.04 for a couple of years. I upgraded shortly before 14.04 stopped receiving updates. Ubuntu 16.04 will be unsupported soon, so as soon as I opened my new Pi-KVM, I plugged it right into my virtual machine server and started the upgrade.

I didn’t use the KVM to do the update. I ran do-release-upgrade over SSH like I always do. The update from 16.04 to 18.04 went smoothly, and the update from 18.04 to 22.04 seemed to go smoothly as well.

I had trouble getting my IPoIB Infiniband link to come back up under 20.04. I noticed that an old Xanmod kernel from the 16.04 days was still being used. I installed a newer kernel from the Ubuntu repositories, but I forgot to install the corresponding linux-image-extra package, so I didn’t wind up even having drivers for the gigabit Ethernet card when I rebooted!

It was my own mistake, and I’m glad I had the Pi-KVM plugged in to troubleshoot it!

I’m pretty sure the Infiniband on my VM host is still misconfigured, and it won’t start up correctly when I reboot the machine. I figured I’d leave it alone until the faster Infiniband cards get here.

I upped my Tailscale game a bit

I got access to a beta Tailscale feature. I’m able to share individual machines on my Tailscale network with other Tailscale users. I’m sharing my Octoprint VM with one friend, and I’m sharing my Butter, What?! Jekyll virtual machine with Brian Moses.

Tailscale machine sharing

It is a fantastic feature. The folks at Tailscale think it is a little rough around the edges, but I’m quite pleased with it. It’d be nice if you could check a box that says, “Only allow the SSH port on this shared machine,” but you could do that manually anyway.

As of some time in January, Tailscale’s machine sharing feature is available to everyone!

Combining Tailscale, a Raspberry Pi, Seafile, and a big honking USB hard drive

This is probably the most interesting project I’ve worked on in a while. A few things started coming together at the same time. My friend Brian gave me a complete Pi-KVM setup for Christmas. The first thing I did after testing it out was drop Tailscale on it. If I have an IP accessible KVM, it surely should be accessible from any of my machines from anywhere in the world, right?!

I started wondering what other sort of tiny Raspberry Pi server might need to join my Tailscale network. I remembered that I was getting close to the 400 GB limit of my Seafile hosting at Prometeus.net. I used to run my own Seafile server, I need more space, and I even have at least 2 TB of other data that I wouldn’t mind syncing to Seafile. I was definitely smelling an opportunity.

I was excited about outsourcing my Seafile hosting because I was sick of having to constantly update my Seafile server. Like my current Seafile hosting, my own Seafile server was sitting out there exposed to the Internet. If a security hole was fixed, I needed to update things yesterday.

I built a little Raspberry Pi Seafile server with a 14 TB USB hard drive, and that server lives on my Tailscale network. The only thing the firewall lets through on the Ethernet port is Tailscale. The only way I can access Seafile is via the encrypted Tailscale connection. Best of all, the plan is to take the server over to Brian’s house, so I will still have an off-site backup of all my data!

This neatly sidesteps my security concerns. Sure, Seafile and the operating system still need to be kept up to date. I just don’t need to have the same sense of urgency as I used to, and this is fantastic. I wouldn’t have done this without Tailscale.

I put a few more miles on my Gotway Tesla electric unicycle (EUC)

Weather and free time have been conspiring against me lately. Until about a week ago, I hadn’t ridden [my electric unicycle][rt] since mid November! It seems to always be some combination of cold and rainy, and it has just been getting dark so early.

After getting back on the wheel, I quickly realized that my riding abilities leveled up quite a bit at some point. The last time I took a six week hiatus from riding, I was feeling quite nervous when I started back up. I was going slow. I was wobbly. It took two or three rides before I felt confident again.

Not this time. I got right on, took off, and I was constantly hitting my 20 mph warning alarm and sometimes accidentally blasting right past it. I’m excited about this. I might need to look into acquiring enough safety gear so I can reach the Tesla’s supposed 30 mph top speed.

What’s next?

This next month out to be interesting even if it isn’t exciting. The Pi Seafile box will probably be in its permanent home outside my house by then. I’ve been playing with an inexpensive, compact laser engraver. It is neater than I thought! I have a new Sweepy 2.0 dust boot for the DeWalt router on my Shapeoko CNC. That’s going to be fun to test out!

We also have a podcast coming out soon with Rex Krueger. He’s an interesting guy, and I bet you’ll have fun watching the episode.

I’m sure other things will be going on over the next three or four weeks, but those are the things I’m currently aware of. What do you think? Am I off to a good start for 2021? Did I miss anything important? Do you have questions or opinions about what I’ve been working on? Let me know in the comments or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!