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I realize there are one or two related posts, but none that quite get at what I'm asking.

I'm using an old computer as a NAS using FreeNAS, and after some tweaking everything is dandy. The NAS is just being used by myself and my roommate, so I'd like to be able to use WOL (in conjunction with a basic shutdown script) so I can have the freedom to power up/down the NAS whenever to save power. Based on several forum posts, lack of inclusion as a feature in my motherboard manual, and a lack of WOL settings in the BIOS, it looks like my motherboard does not support WOL (Asus p5ld2); however, my NIC does (Marvell 88E8053). Just to be sure, I tried WOL anyway; the NIC received the WOL magic packets (light blinked), but the computer never powered on.

Sufficiently convinced that WOL is not a viable option, I naturally started considering alternatives such as...

  • A Rube Goldberg device (Joking..... mostly)
  • Mod a remote car starter to remotely turn it on (I've done this in the past, and I happen to have some the parts laying around)
  • Use a microcontroller to turn on the computer after receiving a certain magic packet (probably WOL for simplicity).

Of those, I think the microcontroller is the best (money aside) since it hooks up directly to my network and isn't restricted by range like the remote car starter or mechanical failure.


So, my questions for you good people are the following:

  • What alternatives am I missing
  • What are some pitfalls/considerations I need to think about
  • What are some general suggestions you would give
  • If the microcontroller is the best option, what microcontroller would you suggest?
    • I'm a software developer with experience in Java/C/C++/Python/Lisp/Haskell/Scala and not opposed to learning a new language and whatnot.
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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, the simplest hardware solution would be to wire-up your on switch to get switched on by a relay of some sort. Considering the 'complexity' of the problem (which is to say you need to emulate pressing a simple, wimpy power button), pretty much any microcontroller would do, and all you need to do is tap into the power switch lead (which is easy to replace in you mess up, and bridge it as needed.

I'd ask though, do you want to turn it on after switching it off (cause the system is not in use) or in case of power failure? Many systems, even geriatric PIIIs can be set to simply reboot after power failure

I'd also point out there's the mechanical approach, though i suppose having a computer running to switch on another computer is less practical than the above.

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I'd like the ability to turn the system off and on at will to save power. So I originally intended to use WOL along with a simple shutdown script. I updated the original question to include this information as well. –  Bface Aug 29 '11 at 2:54
    
in which case, a microcontroller controlled relay would do the trick. You'd probably want to look at the arudino (since it has a Ethernet shield) and splice into the on/off switch to do what's needed. The sepecifics of that would probably be better off/topical in the EE stackexchange site –  Journeyman Geek Aug 29 '11 at 3:17
    
I've modded a remote car starter to turn on my computer before; past the microcontroller all the wiring is nothing new. :) –  Bface Aug 30 '11 at 0:38

You could always install a network card with WOL that is supported by the OS. Provided you can wake on PCI then you should be OK.

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According to the manual on asus.com the board has "wakeup on PCI" and "wakeup on PCIE". Enable these for WOL.

You may also need to enable WOL in your OS. It might be disabled by default, but I don't know FreeNAS (nor FreeBSD) good enough to tell you how to.

Update: The networking chip is connected to PCI or PCIe Bus, and can thus wake up the system through its bus wakeup line. There are two prerequisite conditions:

  1. The PCI/PCIe wakeup system is active (powered and enabled).
  2. The network chip has WOL enabled - through its driver settings, usually.
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1  
WakeOnLan (last edited 2008-08-16) -- Seems to be outdated, don't you think? –  Turbo J Aug 29 '11 at 15:59
    
I downloaded the manual for my board from asus.com and couldn't find what you were talking about. Did you get the manual for the p5ld2-VM or SE? Additionally, my network card is integrated, so I'm a little confused as to how enable wakeup on PCI would help the integrated card. –  Bface Aug 30 '11 at 0:49
    
I did find the following which just confused me more: "The Gigabit LAN controller does not support S5 Wake-On_LAN function under DOS mode or Windows ME" –  Bface Aug 30 '11 at 0:59
    
This means that the DOS drivers do not support enabling WOL, and BIOS does neither. You need to enable WOL through OS. And next time please use the full Model name of your board. I used the manual for p5ld2 without any additions. –  Turbo J Aug 30 '11 at 6:35

Wireless is always a nifty idea, but there are drawbacks, such as accidental power on and off. An accidental power on probably isnt a big deal. However, an accidental power off might be. You could grab the keyfob and mistakenly hit the wrong button, causing a shutdown. Worse yet, albeit unlikely, that someone nearby is using a similar signal that matches your receiver; e.g. someones garage door opener.

I say this from experience, as I found out my old neighbor of mine and I were using the same X10 frequencies. We were battling each other over lights and it took us quite a while to figure it out...

Why not just replace the motherboard?

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