Cobalt RaQ Retrofit Help Geek Up Your Entertainment Center


Even network engineers who toil away in hot server rooms (which aren’t actually all that hot because they’re well climate controlled) deserve nice things. That’s why Cobalt came out with these gorgeous front bezels for their rack mounted equipment… around twenty years ago. [Geekmansworld] is reviving the look, but he’s not hiding it away in a server rack. He scrapped the guts and used the front bezel and controls as part of his media server.

His first new addition to the case was a pair of hard drives which connect to an eSATA hub also stored in the enclosure. He buttoned it up and gave it a test run. Everything worked smoothly and he hopes that it will continue that way without overheating when the summer rolls around again.

Of course a dead front bezel is no fun so he cut off the portion of the original circuit board which hosts the buttons seen on the right. These buttons now connect to a U-HID board which turns the button presses into mouse or keyboard inputs using a USB connection. The original display was swapped out for a backlit character LCD. The LEDs to the left are a refit which turns the status indicators into a VU-Meter. See the entire thing at work after the break.


  1. Most data centers these days actually are ran pretty hot, modern processors don’t benefit from being chilled ice cold and gladly run at 80-90 degrees F.

    • tomas316 says:


    • Mike Lu says:

      Actually, modern CPUs still run better at colder temperatures, just not by enough to justify the added energy use. In particular, with the 32nm and smaller processes, it’s very easy to measure the change in leakage current across temperature. The strategy in a modern data center is to boost efficiency by raising temperature settings during the summer, but when cooler weather comes, take it! (Down to 65F or so depending on the datacenter.) There’s also the idea of using the servers as (part of) reheat in an office HVAC system.

      • msieneb says:

        It is a cost benefit thing, like everything else. Sure servers run better at colder temps, but is it worth the expense? Many say no.

        • Chris says:

          Unfortunately, running a data center hotter doesn’t work in the real world; at least not with standard hardware. When dell/emc, hp, and sun machines are under constant heavy load (as often in my racks), they will typically overheat if the air is warmer than 75 or so.

          • Mike Lu says:

            I have built many PCs specifically designed to withstand high ambient temperatures. The latest one is a 6 core i7-3930k with a cheap Hyper 212 Evo cooler. I have tested it up to 90F ambient and it doesn’t have any issues. CPU stays below 65C full load under that condition. I do know that “smart fans” are often designed incorrectly, but I’m surprised that servers would have that issue.

    • tomas316 says:


    • Scott D says:

      Servers may run be able to run at higher temperatures, but this DEFCON talk suggests that running at such high temps may have serious consequences.
      (TL;DW; Google runs their data centers at warmer temperatures, this researcher saw many erroneous DNS requests from said data centers attempting to resolve common Google domains with flipped bits)

  2. rj says:

    On the one hand, nice reuse of the case!
    On the other hand, I’m disappointed he cut off the buttons instead of reusing the entire front panel (It’s the same HD44780 display in both the Adafruit kit and the original board): Splicing into the ribbon cable would have been fairly elegant.

  3. Chi-Town Jerry says:

    Someone needs to have a talk with [Geekmansworld] about cable organization!

  4. Isama says:

    Cool! I’ve built my xbmc box in an old cisco 2900xl. It’s called 2900xbmc now. And I’ve always admired the look of sun and cobalt servers.

  5. Me says:

    I have a few of these. I haven’t decided if I want to gut them or just update the software.
    Sure, they are quite slow by today’s standards. But… there are still plenty of things they are fast enough for. And… unlike most of todays SBCs they are expandable. Those things have a real PCI slot in them!

    Then again… they would make nice cases for a BeagleBone or RasPi.

  6. Colin says:

    Is that a first gen Apple TV? OpenElec perhaps?

  7. I’d never do this with a Cobalt RaQ.. mostly because of the hours and hours of pain they caused me. I went office space on it when I finally replaced it.

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