UnRaid – Unexplained random XBMC/J River Freeze

I have been using unRaid for more than 18 months and while the experience is largely positive (I like the parity feature, have not experienced any data loss to date and also enjoyed the simplicity of the user interface and operation), there is one teething issue that I am unable to troubleshoot/overcome and this relates to the way XBMC and J River Media Centre freezes during movie playback. Just to make things clear here: I am using a registered version of unRaid, the NAS is setup with a fixed IP, there are no issues with pinging the NAS from any of the client PCs on the network and there are zero missing packets during any of the ping sessions.

But for whatever reasons every now and then, XBMC and J River will both freeze while we are enjoying our movies. XBMC will freeze in a more spectacular manner and the only way I can get on with this is to force XBMC to exit (via the taskmanager), restart XBMC and load the movie again. XBMC will then resume at the previously left spot. J River seems to be more tolerant. I do not have to exit J River but I do have to exit from the movie and then replay the movie again and it will resume from that point onwards. Just to set the record straight, the freeze is not due to a disk spinning up since the disk containing the movies is already spinning during movie playback in the first place.

Not a pleasing experience and the whole thing is extremely random. Sometimes I don’t get a freeze for days and sometimes I get a few freezes in a day. I cannot reproduce the issue at will and the log files show nothing….at least nothing comes up that catches my untrained eyes. I am pretty sure the issue is with the unRaid NAS somehow as I do not get any freeze if I play from an attached USB drive connected to the HTPC. I have posted in the unRaid forums and interestingly it looks like many others have also experienced unexplained freezes. The thread is here for anyone who is interested. http://lime-technology.com/forum/index.php?topic=34031.0

Many people have suggested possible mitigation measures but one of the more promising replies indicates that there is probably something not quite done right for the SMB implementation of unRaid and the best possible fix would be to steer clear of SMB and use NFS. This is not possible for me as Microsoft in their infinite wisdom decided to only allow NFS support in the Enterprise version of Windows 8. So even though I am using Windows 8 Professional, I don’t have NFS. That is such a bummer that it is unbelievable. I am not impressed.

So I have been exploring other operating system for the NAS and I must say it is extremely difficult to replace unRaid. There are obviously many options one can go for, such as Openfiler, Amahi, FreeNAS, XPEnology, SnapRaid and if one desires to stick with Windows, then FlexRaid, DrivePool come to mind. Each OS has their own strength and supporters. In the end I have decided to give Stablebit DrivePool a try and I am now using the trial version of their software.

I will update the blog when I decided to purchase DrivePool but so far the experience is pleasant. It is unfortunate I have to leave unRaid, at least for now.