The specific chip used by DIYINHK is the middle-of-the-line XU216-512 which corresponds to some pretty serious horsepower: 16 logical cores for a total of 2000 MIPS, 512KB SRAM, 2MB FLASH.
So, what can we do with all this horsepower you say? It’s simple. Tons of channels of high-resolution audio. Plus I2S inputs, besides the usual outputs. Plus DSD1024. Plus use a cool OLED display as a VU meter.
The board I bought came with the default firmware, which supports:
6 channel 384kHz I2S output
4 channel 384kHz I2S input
OLED VU meter
Volume up/down control button
Here is a video of it in action:
A maximum 32 channels can be supported with the right firmware (not provided by DIYINHK).
The board (a 4-layer design, btw) comes with three high quality NDK NZ2520SD Ultra low phase noise oscillators. There is provision for powering two of the oscillators externally, by removing a ferrite bead and applying power through one of the headers.
The board is not USB powered. It needs a relatively beefy 3.3V power supply, capable of providing a maximum of 800mA (even though a typical power consumption is in the neighborhood of 570mA). Beware, a weak power supply or an inadequate connector will cause to board to not power up.
It comes with a fully featured Thesycon driver for Windows. Linux & Mac OS don’t need a driver.
An interesting detail is that the Windows 10 driver that is available only supports stereo operation and no multichannel (v2.26). If you want multichannel you’ll have to go back to Windows 7 (v1.67) (or perhaps Linux or Mac OS, it isn’t clear..).
DIYINHK’s site says that the latest available driver is v2.26, but I did not find such a driver in their downloads section, so I emailed them about it. They sent me a link for an even newer driver, v3.20.
The board has a ton of exposed I/O, split into three 0.1″ headers. These are the pinouts, according to DIYINHK:
Now, if these pinouts look somewhat cryptic to you, you are not alone. I will try to clarify things a bit.
This is the most interesting header:
I have marked in red the power supply input. It is a good idea to use all of the pins for making the connections, since ~800mA is nothing to sneeze at.
The pins in green are the I2S outputs. For 2 channel operation you will need to connect the DATA, BCK & LRCK pins. The rest of the output channels should be available at pins DO2, DO3 and DO4. I say “should” because I haven’t tested them. I should repeat that multichannel operation with the provided driver is only possible at the moment with Windows 7 (and possibly Linux & Mac OS).
The pins in yellow are the I2S DATA inputs. For 2 channel operation you will need to connect the DIO1, BCK & LRCK pins. The rest of the input channels should be pins DIO2, DIO3 and DIO4. The same multichannel restrictions I mentioned above apply to the I2S inputs.
The OLED screen is connected to one of the side headers, like this:
The left header is the XSYS connector for uploading firmware to the XMOS.
I’ve been a fan of HP’s Microserver line for many years. I bought my first one in 2011, my second one in 2013 and my third one a few days ago. All of them are running non-stop since I bought them. They have proven to be true Proliant servers, in the sense of having good reliability and build quality.
But the latest one (Gen8) is by far the most “Proliant” of them all (more on that later).
Let’s start by getting the specs out of the way. I bought the 819185-001 model, which comes with:
One Intel® Celeron® G1610T (2.3GHz/2-core/2MB/35W) Processor
4GB (1 x 4GB) PC3L-12800E DDR3 UDIMM
HPE Ethernet 1Gb 2-port 332i Adapter
HPE Dynamic Smart Array B120i Controller
150W Non-Hot Plug, Non-Redundant Power Supply
HPE iLO Management Engine
It has pretty good connectivity, since it comes with 7 x USB ports (2 of them USB 3.0), 3 x GbE Ports (one of them is the dedicated iLO port, more on that later), one PCIe x16 slot, etc.
It supports 4 internal HDDs and an internal slim DVD-RW drive. Since it is 2016 (no-one needs DVD-RW drives any more), I decided to make better use of the server’s fifth SATA port by using it to connect an SSD system drive. Getting the SATA cable from the mainboard to the top of the case was no problem, but powering the SSD was. The server has a spare power connector, but it is meant to power HP’s DVD-RW drive which (oddly enough) has an old floppy drive power connector. I did not want to cut the cable and splice in a proper SATA power connector, so I did the sensible thing. I robbed an old floppy drive of its most precious component: Its power input jack.
I made sure that it mated properly with the server’s connector.
And I soldered on an old SATA power cable I had. I used heat shrink tubing (of proper colors of course :P) to make sure that there would be no possibility of shorts.
So now I had my SSD installed and it was time to install the OS.
This is where things get interesting. Remember, this is a proper Proliant server. What this means is that it has a pretty strict operating system compatibility list, and no consumer OS are officially supported. So, Windows Server 2012R2 and 2008R2 are OK, Windows 8.1 is not. I normally run Windows Home Server 2011 (which is based on Server 2008) so I should be OK, but I decided to get started with a trial of the full fledged Windows Server 2012R2 (just for the experience..).
Installing an OS is supposed to be a simple procedure. HP’s Intelligent Provisioning takes care of drivers and server applications for you, but before you get to that there are a number of things to do.
We are dealing with an actual server here, so inexperienced users should definitely start by reading the manual or at least the quick start guide that comes with the server. If you do not do that, you should not expect to get very far. You will waste a few hours, wondering why Windows is not installing and what you are doing wrong.
One of the first things to do is to decide whether you want to make use of the server’s Dynamic Smart Array RAID controller of not. You have a choice. You may run it either in AHCI mode (a.k.a. “dumb mode”) or in RAID mode. There are merits to either mode. If you go the AHCI route, you will get to keep your drives’ existing data (which would be wiped clean if you went the other way) and that data will be visible from other machines if you decide to take the HDDs out and put them inside some other machine. So the main drawback is noise. That’s right, the server’s main fan will run a lot quieter if you set your Smart Array controller in RAID mode. In fact, this way it will run even quieter than the previous generation of Microservers. I chose to go this way. So, first order of business is to create an array. You may create a RAID0 or 1 array if you have 2 or more drives or RAID0 if you have one. I would have a number of drives in my server, but I did not want redundancy, so I started with one RAID0 array consisting of my SSD system drive.
Next up was a firmware update for the server’s subsystems. There is a bewildering array of firmwares that may need updating. Good thing that the process is automatic and is done from within the server’s BIOS, before you install the OS. The same goes for driver updates – they are downloaded automatically before the OS installation begins. Note that the firmware & driver updates come from HP’s web site (obviously..), so you should have at least one ethernet cable connected to your ethernet switch. The server will use DHCP to get on your network. Keep in mind that the firmware update when done this way is actually not very effective, meaning that chances are that there are newer versions of your firmwares available from HP’s site, but you should not worry about that just yet.
Do use HP’s Intelligent Provisioning to install your OS of choice, preferably from a USB installation medium. I know that there exist unofficial (and thus unsupported) ways to install non-supported operating systems, such as Windows 8.1, but I have not done any serious research into them. YMMV.
The server will reboot (several times actually..) and you should be patient. Each reboot takes more than 2 minutes, since the server does extensive testing of its subsystems (processor, memory, controllers, iLO, etc).
You may have noticed that I now have 8GB of RAM installed. I added a 4GB ECC DDR3 DIMM that I had bought for my first Microserver (from 2011). I no longer see the “Genuine HP Memory” message since it is (if I remember correctly) a Kingston DIMM, but I do have twice as much memory, so I can live with that. This memory stick is not officially supported, and it is a bit slow compared to the one that came preinstalled, but it works just fine and 8GBs of RAM offer much better overall performance than 4GBs.
Once you have Windows installed, you should got to HP’s site and register your server. This way you will have access to official support plus HP’s up-to-date ISO file (Service Pack for ProLiant) with all the latest drivers, firmwares, etc. You should mount that ISO image and install the relevant software. You will get useful tools for managing your Smart Array controller, making firmware and driver updates, viewing logs, etc.
You should also make use of your iLO 4 system.
It will give you remote access to your server’s console without having a monitor connected (up to the time that the OS loads) and a bucketload of diagnostic information such as fan speed, temperatures, etc.
Once I had the OS installed, I moved my 4 x 3TB WD RED drives from my old Microserver to the new one, one at a time (copying the data through the network link). Now I’m waiting to receive a PCIe e-SATA controller that is compatible with the Gen8 Microserver so that I can connect my Lian Li DAS enclosure with its port multiplier interface and its 5 extra SATA drives.
Tracklist: 1. Kilo Kish - Curious (Le Flex Remix) [Bonus Track]
2. Moon Boots feat. Janelle Kroll - Utopia (Radio Edit)
3. Duke Dumont - Ocean Drive
4. The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face (Rainer Grimm Remix)
5. Tensnake feat. Nile Rodgers & Fiora - Good Enough To Keep (Original Mix)
6. C Tod - Light To Dark (Extended Mix)
7. Milk & Sugar - Ready Or Not (Club Mix)
8. Saccao & Gorkiz Feat. Tyler Jade - Fool Me Once (Slick Beats Remix)
9. C-Block - So Strung Out (Christian Cardwell & Nigel Stately Remix)
10. Dellmon & West K - You'll Find Me (Deepjack & Mr Nu Remix)
11. Daniel Steinberg - Let Me Down (Tube & Berger Remix)
12. Lastraw JazzyFunk - Darkest Nights (Mark Lower Remix)
13. Aeroplane feat. Benjamin Diamond - Lets Get Slow
14. F U S E R - I Want U (Original Mix)
15. Katerine - Ayo Technology (Milen & Vasco C Remix)
16. Rose - No Good (Toniia & Santiago Remix)
17. Modjo - Lady (Sllash Remix)
18. KRONO feat. Linying - Run (Original Mix)
19. Jutty Ranx - I See You (Pretty Pink Remix)
Tracklist: 1. Tep No - Swear Like a Sailor
2. Marlon Roudette feat. Stewart - Everybody Feeling Something
3. Imany - Don't Be So Shy (Filatov & Karas Remix)
4. Frey - Ridin Higher (Original Mix)
5. Teenage Mutants & Purple Disco Machine - Get Lost
6. Cosmo Klein YNOT - When Doves Cry (Original Mix)
7. Four7 feat. Tiffany - J'adore (Original Mix)
8. NTEIBINT feat. Σtella - The Owner
9. Man Of Goodwill - An Abyss Of You (Mark Lower Remix)
10. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith - Omen (Claptone Remix)
11. Claptone feat. Jaw - Dear Life (Purple Disco Machine Remix)
12. Adana Twins feat. Human Life - Bleeding (Original Mix)
13. Calvin Harris & Disciples - How Deep Is Your Love (Extended Mix)
14. Deepjack & Mr Nu Inner Rebels - Got to Have Your Love (Andrey Exx & Troitski Remix)
15. Sam Feldt - Show Me Love (EDX's Indian Summer Remix)
16. Calvin Harris feat. Haim - Pray to God (Calvin Harris vs Mike Pickering Hacienda Remix)
17. Joyce Muniz faet. Bam - Back In The Days (Original Mix)
18. Blinkie feat. Alahna - Don't Give Up On Love (Club Mix)
19. Consoul Trainin & Vanilla Ace - Let Me Be Your Fantasy (Extended Mix)
20. Kaskade & Deadmau5 - I Remember (Shiba San Remix)
21. Gorgon City feat. Katy Menditta - Imagination (Astero Remix)
22. Option4 feat. Flash Lights - Love Like No Other (Original Mix)