Rockstor on ASUS VivoPC

I recently purchased the ASUS VivoPC. I really was intrigued by this device because of it’s small size. This little device is 7.48 x 2.21 x 7.48 inches which fits perfectly in my entertainment center, where my router is located. It has 4 USB 3.0 slots as well, so I can attach external drives without having to worry about slow read/write speeds. The plan is to attach a few external USB drives and let Rockstor handle the rest.

Specs

  • 1.4 GHz Celeron 2957U
  • 4 GB SDRAM DDR3
  • 500 GB Serial ATA
  • 802.11 ac Wifi
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • 4x USB 4.0
  • 4-in-1 card reader, HDMI and DP

Use Case

To give some background about myself, I’m a pure windows user, and a novice one at that. I am an embedded developer who uses very low powered microcontrollers, so megabytes are unimaginatively big in my world. But I do have storage problems like the regular smartphone users out there and I’ve recently used 98% of my Google Drive account.  I don’t see why I should pay to store all my files when I can have a setup of my own, so I’ve decided to give Rockstor a try.

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Bootable USB Drive

Install was fairly easy once I knew what to do. For windows users, it’s best to download Rawrite32 and use that make a bootable flash drive. The other options from the Quick Start Guide is DD for Windows and it didn’t work for me. I also tried PenDriveLinux but no luck. So just stick with rawrite32 and you’ll be fine.

UEFI BIOS Settings

To install Rockstor on the VivoPC, you need to do the following:

  1. Press F2 or Delete during start-up to enter the UEFI utility.
  2. Go to the “Boot” tab.
  3. Fast Boot = Disabled.
  4. Go to “Secure Boot”. Change OS Type to Other OS.
  5. Go to CMS (Compatibility Support Module).
  6. Boot Device Control = Legacy OPROM only.
  7. Boot from Network Devices = Legacy OPROM only (maybe not needed).
  8. Boot Option #1 = Select your flash drive.

Save your changes and exit. Now you should be able to boot from your USB drive. Once you do that, everything is a breeze, just go through the installer and remove your USB drive on reboot. In the installer make sure you erase all the windows partitions. Once you reboot, you should go to the UEFI utility just to make sure your boot option is back on your hard drive.

Once the VivoPC has booted up, it displays the IP address on your local network. Just point your browser to the IP address and go through the setup wizard. I’m using a wired connection for maximum throughput, but the VivoPC can be setup for a wireless connection as well. After going through the setup wizard, your all set!

To get started I attached a 1TB USB 3.0 external drive to test out:

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The UI is very intuitive, but it’s also useful to go through the documentation as needed. I created a Share and exported it via Samba. It was visible on my windows file browser as expected. To access the share, just point windows explorer to the IP address. Once you do that you’ll see the share available.  I was able to transfer files and access them very easily.

SMB_share

It is important to note, you will need to login using your Rockstor credentials. In my case I used the admin user. More than just accessing my files over Samba, I want to make this device as a small personal home cloud for my family to use. Now that I have Rockstor installed, I wanted to try out new Rock-ons. Especially OwnCloud and Plex.

In my next post, I’ll write about how you can use Samba and OwnCloud together and use this little box both as a NAS device and a personal cloud storage server.

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Rockstor on the Intel NUC

Here at Rockstor, we’re always looking for new devices to test our storage product. This round, we settled on putting the compact, powerful Intel NUC to the test. It seems like a great choice for running a Rockstor based personal cloud. Intel offers a wide variety of products in the NUC lineup ranging from the NUC with an Atom processor, which is a small business storage solution, to the NUC with an Intel Core i7 processor, boasted as a home theater PC as well as an immersive gaming solution. We decided to test out a lower end model (found here) which is described as a home media cloud storage solution which is exactly the use case for my needs.

Visually, it’s a pleasant looking, sleek piece of hardware. Measuring 4.95″ x 4.41″ x 2.03″ (or 12.57 cm x 11.2 cm x 5.15 cm) with 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, as well as a 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN jack, this device has plenty of connectivity as far as home media is concerned.

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The front of the device.
The rear of the device
The rear of the device
Banana for scale
Banana for scale

It should be noted that you’ll need to pick up your own hard drive as well as memory as the device doesn’t come with them. Have no fear, Intel has made putting these components into the device incredibly easy. For our box, we chose the Crucial SSD 250G hard drive and a 4 GB card of RAM for the memory. To install the hardware, opening the box required just a simple screwdriver.

The bottom of the box taken off, exposing where the SSD will be inserted.
The bottom of the box taken off, exposing where the SSD will be inserted.

You quickly notice that Intel made the box with hardware customization in mind as the connectors are neatly wrapped to the side and safely soldered. To put our memory card in, we simply lift up one side of the metal shelf that separates the SSD from the rest of the components as you see below.

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The NUC comes with pictures describing this entire process. For the memory card, you push the card in at an angle and then just push down and the card latches into place. I struggled with this for a few minutes until I realized how much engineering went into easing my pain.

 

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The SSD is then inserted as seen directly above. At this point, I need to transfer the Rockstor iso to a USB drive. The directions for this are available in the Rockstor quick start. I’m on a Macbook so I had to find my disk namespace by using diskutil list. After this task was completed, I plugged the USB stick into any one of the USB ports on the NUC and started up the box.  The installation steps for Rockstor can also be found in the Rockstor quick start. It’s a straightforward process which ultimately results in a simple command line prompt with the IP of your device to navigate to from your favorite browser in your local network. Pictures of the installation process are found below.

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Rockstor splash screen
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The view after after the splash screen showing the operating system installing
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Configuration dashboard for Rockstor
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Part of the required Rockstor setup – choosing your time zone
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What success looks like. You can see the IP address for my home network followed by a command line

And we’re off to the races! Start to finish the whole process takes about an hour. Just insanely easy to put together. Since I had a spare 1 TB drive lying around I figured I would attach it, create a pool within Rockstor to partition into shares for me and my roommate to use as time machine backups.

The finished product
The finished product

To accomplish this, I plugged the SSD into the NUC, navigated to the Storage tab, clicked on Disks on the left hand side, pressed the blue Rescan button and the drive appeared under the NUC drive. Pictures of this process are found below.

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There’s our disk!

After this, I navigated to the Pools tab on the left, clicked the Create pool button, and filled out the appropriate setup boxes for my pool (choosing only the new disk as it was my only disk to select).

creating-pool
Now let’s create that pool.

 

Success!
Success!

Overall, the NUC was a surprisingly painless experience. There is no OS that comes with the device (since there isn’t a hard drive), so the assumption is that people that purchase the hardware have some idea about what they’re doing when it comes to jumpstarting a home cloud network but have the desire to customize the pieces of the puzzle. This device really is excellent for a Rockstor box for this reason.

My plans with this box, as I mentioned previously, is to create shares that will be converted into Time Machines for our Macbooks for both me and my roommate (details on how to set up a Rockstor box as a Time Machine). Ultimately, this will be my personal cloud server set up for access from anywhere our newest feature, Rock-ons. If you are a prosumer, please read the overview of Rockstor as a Open source Personal Cloud and NAS server.

In my next posts, I’ll demonstrate personal cloud features of Rockstor using BTSync, Plex, and Syncthing, connecting to your personal cloud using the OpenVPN Rock-on, streaming movies from your Rockstor box, and much more. Stay tuned.

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