I've only got twenty-three rooms here at the treehouse; it's too bad that I don't have at least
a few more, because I keep getting everything tidied up and put away...and then soon enough
I end up messing up one or more rooms all over again by building computers in them.
I guess there are worse habits one could have. Give me a bit, and I'm sure I can come up with
an example or two.
This particular batch started with whipping up a machine designed mainly for playing back
high-definition video in the theater, but then I had one of those nights that just wasn't meant
for sleeping, so I got started on a few other computer projects.
I've got a whole stack of
dual-Xeon boards with the CPUs and registered ECC memory to go with them. Based on the
Serverworks GC-LE chipset, they have four independent 133MHz/64-bit PCI-X busses, but no AGP
or PCIe slot, so they're really a lot better suited for servers and other back-end applications than
for workstation use.
I ended up tossing together the parts to set one up for a back-end rendering system and then
started putting together a few more to use for servers. I'd like to get Nyx's mailserver swapped
out with something more reliable than the current one before summer and then I've got a few
webservers that have been running continuously since the late 90's. They're working fine, but
it might be a good idea to have replacements ready for them *before* they start developing
problems rather than afterwards.
And, well, face it, ten-year-old servers just aren't cool any more.
One disadvantage, though, is that the standard Intel Xeon heatsink and fan combination is loud
enough to make nearby airports complain about the noise. I like to test these things for a good
long time before putting them into service, so maybe I'll get that issue resolved in the meantime.
I've got some fan adapters on order that'll let me use larger and quieter fans, or at least I hope
they'll make that possible. Intel likes to go that extra mile when it comes to making their Xeon
systems physically incompatible with any standard CPU coolers, so I may find the adapters more
challenging to use than I'm currently expecting.
With those machines set up enough to begin testing, I did figure out another way to make the
sound level produced by the stock Xeon cooling system less annoying: I had this Cisco BTS
10200 Softswitch lying around that I hadn't done anything with because it's designed to work
in a dedicated telco rack system with an integrated backplane providing high-current DC
power and full connectivity for all the ethernet and SCSI channels.
I'm sure that's very convenient if you happen to have a specialized rack system with just
such a backplane, but I don't. So I got the urge to convert it to standalone use, add a
more conventional keyboard and video interface, and bump it up to gigabit (like the
aforementioned P4DL6 systems). In its heart, it's really just a Sun AxMP system with
four 450MHz UltraSPARC CPUs and 4 gigs of memory. Might as well do something with
After a little quality time, I combined the Cisco with a largeish UPS unit to make a general-purpose
server that would run off AC power. It does do the job, but for better or worse, its fan noise is high
enough to make the Xeon cooling fans seem far more reasonable.
Hmmmm...I guess there's not a lot of "better" in there; sound-wise, that's just "worse."
But all those gigabit interfaces don't do much good if all you've got is a 10/100 switch to
hook them up to. I think one of the 3Com 3300 units I'm currently using felt so bad about
this that its power supply blew up. I've got it rigged to run off an external DC power source
for the moment, but I'm not sure that's the ideal plan for the long-term.
But, then, computer equipment gets obsolete so fast these days that there's no such thing
as "long term" any more.
So the next step in hardware excitement is this fine
Enterasys c2g124-48 gigabit switch:
48 ports of managed layer-3 gigabit goodness with an extra helping of four SFP gigabit
GBIC slots, which is a good thing since I only have gigabit fiber for the Sun servers
rather than 1000TX like I have for the x86 boxes.
Got the basic configuration in and started running some tests and those two little blower
fans on the bottom left of the picture above are so loud they make the BTS 10200 seem
So that's another reason why I really just need some more rooms here at the treehouse.
Maybe something a little more soundproof than what I've got now. Or I'll convert an old
refrigerator into a standard 19-inch rack system. That'd be cool.