Mounting NAS shares without slow startup

Mounting NAS shares without slow startup

I have a NAS, a QNAP TS-419P II. It’s about a decade old and it has always served me well. Due to various reasons I have never used it in an efficient way, it was always like a huge external drive, not really integrated in the rest of my filesystems.

The NAS has a couple of CIFS shares with very obvious names:

  • backup
  • Download
  • Multimedia, with directories Music, Photos and Videos

(There are a few more shares, but they aren’t relevant now.)

In Ubuntu, a user home directory has these default directories:

  • Downloads
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Videos

I want to store the files in these directories on my NAS.

Mounting shares, the obvious way

First I moved all existing files from ~/Downloads, ~/Music, ~/Pictures, ~/Videos to the corresponding directories on the NAS, to get empty directories. Then I made a few changes to the directories:

$ mkdir backup
$ mkdir Multimedia
$ rmdir Music
$ ln -s Multimedia/Music Music
$ rmdir Pictures
$ ln -s Multimedia/Photos Pictures
$ rmdir Videos
$ ln -s Multimedia/Videos Videos

The symbolic links now point to directories that don’t (yet) exist, so they appear broken – for now.

The next step is to mount the network shares to their corresponding directories.

The hostname of my NAS is minerva, after the Roman goddess of wisdom. To avoid using IP addresses, I added it’s IP address to /etc/hosts:

127.0.0.1	localhost
192.168.1.1     modem
192.168.1.63	minerva

The shares are password protected, and I don’t want to type the password each time I use the shares. So the login goes into a file /home/amedee/.smb:

username=amedee
password=NOT_GOING_TO_TELL_YOU_:-p

Even though I am the only user of this computer, it’s best practice to protect that file so I do

$ chmod 400 /home/amedee/.smb

Then I added these entries to /etc/fstab:

//minerva/download	/home/amedee/Downloads	cifs	uid=1000,gid=1000,credentials=/home/amedee/.smb,iocharset=utf8 0 0
//minerva/backup	/home/amedee/backup	cifs	uid=0,gid=1000,credentials=/home/amedee/.smb,iocharset=utf8 0 0
//minerva/multimedia	/home/amedee/Multimedia	cifs	uid=0,gid=1000,credentials=/home/amedee/.smb,iocharset=utf8 0 0
  • CIFS shares don’t have a concept of user per file, so the entire share is shown as owned by the same user. uid=1000 and gid=1000 are the user ID and group ID of the user amedee, so that all files appear to be owned by me when I do ls -l.
  • The credentials option points to the file with the username and password.
  • The default character encoding for mounts is iso8859-1, for legacy reasons. I may have files with funky characters, so iocharset=utf8 takes care of that.

Then I did sudo mount -a and yay, the files on the NAS appear as if they were on the local hard disk!

Fixing a slow startup

This all worked very well, until I did a reboot. It took a really, really long time to get to the login screen. I did lots of troubleshooting, which was really boring, so I’ll skip to the conclusion: the network mounts were slowing things down, and if I manually mount them after login, then there’s no problem.

It turns out that systemd provides a way to automount filesystems on demand. So they are only mounted when the operating system tries to access them. That sounds exactly like what I need.

To achieve this, I only needed to add noauto,x-systemd.automount to the mount options. I also added x-systemd.device-timeout=10, which means that systemd waits for 10 seconds, and then gives up if it’s unable to mount the share.

From now on I’ll never not use noauto,x-systemd.automount for network shares!

While researching this, I found some documentation that claims you don’t need noauto if you have x-systemd.automount in your mount options. Yours truly has tried it with and without noauto, and I can confirm, from first hand experience, that you definitely need noauto. Without it, there is still the long waiting time at login.

3 comments on “Mounting NAS shares without slow startup”

  1. You may need quotes around the password!

    username=amedee
    password=’NOT GOING TO TELL YOU :-p’

    πŸ™‚

    1. That may be true for older versions of smbfs or cifs, but not for cifs of at least version 4.5 or higher.
      For a mount command with username and password on the shell: yes you need to put them in quotes, or escape special characters like spaces.
      But in a credentials file, you don’t need quotes or escapes. Please refer to the mount.cifs(8) manual page. πŸ™‚

  2. I was under the (possibly incorrect) impression that CIFS has Unix extensions, where you *can* have UID/GIDs stored on the filesystem. This may only work when the server runs Samba, though.

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