John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

UnRAID

I friend of mine, Lance, has been telling me all about UnRAID so I thought I’d have a look … So what is UnRAID? Well … Lime Tech has put a GUI interface in front of a number of major functions. These are 1) software based RAID 2) VMs 3) containers. In this blog post I’m going to focus on the containers section of UnRAID. At this point I’ve played with containers running on Linux (Ubuntu/Redhat) and Windows. I personally found Windows containers to be very limited in appeal (to me). The major barrier to getting up to speed quickly with containers is the difficulty of the command line interface for docker. Well this is one area, I played with UnRAID with and came away thoroughly impressed, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So UnRAID is a stand alone, Linux based, PAID operating system. It is not free. You can NOT virtualize UnRAID itself to get yourself up and running. UnRAID needs it’s own dedicated box. UnRAID runs ONLY from a USB key, and then you add drives into UnRAID and your off to the races. I found UnRAID to be a little picky as to what USB flash drives it would run off but found one to get going. The speed of the USB key seems to be irrelevant. The Web interface is really pretty easy to get going with. You first have to request a trial key. To do this, there is only one way … this dedicated box has to have internet access straight off.

UnRAID includes the ability to add a plugin called Community Applications. Why this isn’t installed by default is beyond me. This plug in is outstanding. It provides a nice, easy to manage way to find pre-canned containers you can run. Clicking on them downloads them and gets you started pretty quickly without having to learn text based docker commands. There are links to the containers support, github etc.

By default Community applications only searches UnRaid containers, but you can change this and have it also search the docker community hub. But be aware, some docker hub containers variables are not properly parsed leading to even errors on start let alone configuring them,

Although, you now run into challenges with how well the containers are documented (generally poorly from what I’ve encountered) and how well their error handling was written. I had to resort back to the command line docker interface to be able to debug container start up issues.

From within UnRAID you can easily see the lots of super useful stuff, all well organized. Things that without unraid require a LOT of time learning docker commands. Probably the best, easiest container interface I’ve seen so far.

From this interface you can easily see;
1)list of containers you’ve built
2)edit the parameters of those containers
3)see what ports each container is using
4)set autostart mode
5)start/stop containers
6) open a console to a container
This really is ground breaking work. Not a command line in sight. I’m really quite shocked, and amazed how well done this is. And it even shows you the docker commands it uses to achieve the tasks. This makes getting started with docker so much easier.

One of the areas I quickly discovered with the container solutions is that they do not do a good job of managing the storage used by containers. By default deleting a container does not delete the data/space it consumed. This can grow and become unwieldy. UnRaid (out of the box) does not handle cleaning up orphaned space. From a command line you can see the space consumed using:
docker volumes ls
You can manually clean up using
docker volume prune (but be careful)
And alas, there is a community application called Cleanup Appdata that makes this painless. Again why this isn’t there by default is beyond me …

Overall I like Unraid, not enough to dedicate a machine to it, and not enough to pay for it, but if your looking to get started quickly with containers, this is a great place to start. And with a 30 day free trial, you can dip your toe in and give it a whirl!

August 31, 2018 - Posted by | Container stuff

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