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Old 14th April 2010, 9:46 AM   #1
Azrael Thread Starter
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Default DealExtreme mini-NAS/Torrent/Linux box mini-Review

Over in the OC&HW forum someone a while ago asked about a super-low-powered torrent box, and someone suggested one of the DealExtreme "Standalone BitTorrent" clients. As per here: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.26320

After doing some reading and considering my options (about 5mins worth) i dived in and ordered one of the DX units. Once it finally got to me (some shipping problems outside DX control, and public holidays), i sized it up as an actual device for the first time.

Ill upload my own images a bit later, but for now have a few DX stock pictures:

Unboxing: All unboxed it looks like that, and isnt much bigger than a pack of playing cards. The device is powered by a 5V 2A wallwart, although i dare say that it wont draw 2A unless you plug a 2.5" HDD into both of the ports. It also comes with a little USB-A to USB-B cable and a short ethernet cable. All quite standard hardware wise, and looks to be quite robustly built. I havnt pulled it apart yet (shocking i know) but inside i can guess that it will be a single multi-layered PCB with the little ARM processor on it and a few other chips, power rectifiers etc.

Hardware: The DX NAS (hereafter, the device) runs a simple little ARM processor at 250mhz, with a cool 30444KB of usable RAM.

Setup: Physical setup of the device is really quite simple, plug in wallwart (with US>AUS adaptor), plug ethernet cable into the switch and away you go. Ive chosen to add a Kingston 1gb USB flash drive, which i had lying around, to the device for storage to test it out. After it had all powered up i browsed to the URL listed on the back of the device (sticker underneath) and entered in the U/P for the webmin interface.... and was greeted by a whole host of Chinese.
Now i cant really comment on the usability of the Chinese webmin interface, because i dont know Chinese. However, with some handy screenshots from elsewhere i was able to navigate to the firmware upgrade.
Here comes the first big choice: whether to simply flash on the English firmware, or to flash on another "hacked" firmware. Given that we are on an overclocking forum you can probably guess which one i went for.

SnakeOS: The firmware which has been ported over to the device is called SnakeOS, a port of the Busybox interface, with a few cool customisations. v1.0 of the firmware runs kernel 2.6.16, with a host of other binaries compiled into the firmware itself (sshd, ftp, samba, dyndns, etc). Much more info on SnakeOS is available here: http://groups.google.com/group/deale...ke-os---v1-0-0
The OS is really quite capable for its small size, and being based upon the Busybox interface means it is quite customisable, especially if you are happy to get your hands dirty in the console over SSH.
Here are a few screenshots of the OS:



Features: Given that the device runs a Linux port, and has a whole host of little packages to get you running its a fairly good question as to what you would do with the device. Personally i bought the device to serve HDDs so that i can turn off my power hungry HTPC/Home Server when im not doing HTPC stuff and instead serve the household data off a small low-powered device. In addition to serving data i needed it to be able to execute regular rsync backups to my cloud storage in the US, and have the capability to download stuff as well. All of this the device is quite capable of. The last feature which was more of a wish than a need is to run irssi so i can keep trolling idling in the the #overclockers irc chan.

Assessment
Pros:All of these items the device is reasonable capable of doing. The device runs Samba as its filesharing, and the web interface makes it easy to use and configure:

In addition one of the Busybox packages that it comes with by default is rsync, which means that i can easily sync up my documents with the cloud in the US.
Plus the device comes with Transmission, which im led to believe is a very good full featured Bittorrent client. As a bonus it comes with that other host of file serving and downloading programs such as httpd, ftpd, etc. All of which it does quite capably.
In addition i was able to compile irssi for ARM and wget it to the device for some irc fun.
The device ticks all the right boxes for me.

Cons: Now here comes the bummer. While the 250mhz ARM processor is perfectly capable of doing any of the above tasks, it really gets in the way of doing more than one of the tasks at the same time. For example, normal file transfers to/from the device are around 70mbps, which seems relatively reasonable for a 100mbps network with TCP overheads. However, if you are SSHed into the device and running irssi at the same time the file transfers drop to around 30mbps and irssi is basically unusable.
The other kicker is that rsync over SSH is excruciatingly slow. Rsyncing up our critical files backup, with no file changes, on the HTPC running a Linux VM takes a mere 17s (timed using linux time command, averaged over 10 cycles). Using the device the same rsync takes almost 15minutes (hand timed). Now its not a massive filesize, but it is a lot of smaller files (receipts etc). Again while this is happening irssi and filesharing is reduced to a crawl.
The onboard monitoring tells me in both of those instances that the CPU is maxed out, and the RAM is used, but its not touching swap.
Some of these issues can be controlled by simply using cron to schedule in backups at times that no-one shoudl be using the device for anything else.

Conclusion: The Dealextreme NAS shows a lot of promise, and for its size it punches a long way above its weight, and it packs a lot of features into such a small diminutive device. However, the real crippling factor for the device is the CPU. While the 250mhz ARM is probably perfectly capable of running the intended tasks, it is just not able to cope with the higher loads placed upon it by a more intensive user. Truly a pity, as i was hoping to be able to replace my current always-on system with this.

Rating
Overall i give it 4 out of 5 thumbs, its really quite a good device, despite it not being able to do what i want it to do. As above most of the issues shouldn't trouble most users, and those that do can normally be sorted out by simply running cron jobs to schedule things in at non-essential times.
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Old 14th April 2010, 2:25 PM   #2
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I've been looking forward to this review!

Looks like it does what I expected. Is there scheduling within rTorrent is it possible to log directly into rTorrent much like uTorrents WEBGUI? What were your speeds in an example well seeded torrent. Computer vs DX job?

One other thing, if you were streaming something say a movie from this device and also torrenting, is there any performance issues?

Thanks again!
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Old 14th April 2010, 2:31 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goonit View Post
One other thing, if you were streaming something say a movie from this device and also torrenting, is there any performance issues?
It wouldn't be able to keep up doing both of those, only having a 250MHz processor.
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Old 14th April 2010, 4:49 PM   #4
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Couple of points, but ill be brief as i have to go for dinner:
  • uTorrent (pc) speeds roughly the same as Transmission (device) for the same file
  • File transfer + Transmission == ok. Seems that it does those things quite well. Either screws up irssi though.
  • Web admin for Transmission, similar to uTorrent in functionality.

Havnt tested scheduling, but i assume its in there somewhere. Transmission seems fairly full featured.
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Old 14th April 2010, 5:11 PM   #5
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Wow this looks like just what I need, I've been looking at building something so that I don't have to leave my main system on 24/7 running torrents but it would cost to much. One of these looks like the go, thanks for the info
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Old 14th April 2010, 5:44 PM   #6
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Anyway to get a newsreader on there?
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Old 14th April 2010, 7:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azrael View Post
Couple of points, but ill be brief as i have to go for dinner:
  • uTorrent (pc) speeds roughly the same as Transmission (device) for the same file
  • File transfer + Transmission == ok. Seems that it does those things quite well. Either screws up irssi though.
  • Web admin for Transmission, similar to uTorrent in functionality.

Havnt tested scheduling, but i assume its in there somewhere. Transmission seems fairly full featured.
All positive points there for me! As I wouldn't want to use it for irc at all.

I think I'll get one, any ideas on exact wattage full at %100 cpu usage? I imagine it's not much but I'm still interested to know.
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Old 14th April 2010, 8:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goonit View Post
All positive points there for me! As I wouldn't want to use it for irc at all.

I think I'll get one, any ideas on exact wattage full at %100 cpu usage? I imagine it's not much but I'm still interested to know.
Don't quote me on this, but I think it's about 10 watts.
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Old 14th April 2010, 8:28 PM   #9
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With 5volt DC and 2 amps, the power pack will only supply a MAX of 10 watts. Though, there will be some overhead in the powerpack. I'd say 15 watts MAX. And that's a lot of overhead. I mean 50%. Pshhht.
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Old 14th April 2010, 8:59 PM   #10
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Thanks for the review! I saw the original thread and was waiting for you post back. Im pretty keen on grabbing one of these myself, I have an similar unit from addonics but the firmware is crap and it doesn't have enough of a following to get customised.

Im a complete linux newb, how hard would this be to set up with snakeOS? Im happy to get my hands dirty and learn, but im time poor and really only need this as a low power torrent box. If i have to hack the mainframe via a kernel protein injection with a wireless gigaweb DDOS attack, its probably not the unit for me.

Which brings me to the second question, does anyone know if transmission can schedule? The other down fall of the terrible firmware for the addonics unit was that it didn't schedule torrents. So it was slow and feature poor, this on the other hand looks great but potentially out of my league.

Any issues with me running this with only a 16gig flash drive? The addonics didn't love it at all.


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Old 14th April 2010, 9:32 PM   #11
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For those who want scheduling, this is one of the bits on offer:


Fairly basic scheduling of a Normal vs Alternate type. Basically the same as what i use on uTorrent.

As for running it off flash drives, i have a 1gb in there, which was there in the review, and a 16gb as well. Both which work perfectly. It was suggested to me before that maybe the 1gb drive wasnt coping well with the overhead and causing it to all slow down, so im trying the 16gb as well.

Full CPU load with 2 USB drives is 8W. I assume this would go up if i put a pair of 2.5" drives on there.

As for software, its all fairly easy to get and put on. Just need to compile for ARM. To get the firmware on the device its just as simple as using this style upgrade window:

Browse to the firmware and click update.

If there are any other questions just ask. This one might be FS soon as well.
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Old 14th April 2010, 9:49 PM   #12
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Can you install any other operating systems on this? Say, Debian or NetBSD?
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Old 14th April 2010, 10:20 PM   #13
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Good review Azreal, I sure your original post in the other thread as well. I was thinking of going with the PogoPlug myself ( even though is is pink ).
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Old 14th April 2010, 11:07 PM   #14
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Why not OC it? If 250mhz isnt enough-
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Old 14th April 2010, 11:46 PM   #15
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so you can ftp into it, sounds like a winrar!

thanks for the review.
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