The LackRack Enterprise Edition in Revspace, Netherlands

Rackmount Hardware Placement Issues? IKEA LACK To The Rescue!

[hackbyte] reminds us about a classic hack that, even though we’ve seen floating around for over a decade, has somehow never quite graced our pages before. Many of us keep small home labs and even, at times, collections of servers that we’d be comfortable be calling mini-datacenters. However, if you use the ever-abundant 19″ switches, servers and other hardware, keeping these mounted and out of the way can be a thorny experience. Which leads us to, undoubtedly, unintentional – but exceptionally handy – compatibility between IKEA LACK table series and 19″ rackmount hardware.

The half-humorous half-informative wiki page on Eth0Wiki talks about this idea in depth, providing a myriad of examples and linking to pages of other hackerspaces and entities who implemented this idea and improved upon it. These tables look nice and fit anywhere, stack neatly when not in use, and you can put a bottle of Club-Mate on top. Aka, they’re the exact opposite of cheap clunky cabinets actually designed for rackmount you can buy, and cost a fraction of the price. What’s not to love?

You can buy a whole lot of cheap hardware in 19″, and arguably, that’s where you can get the best hardware for your dollar. Many a hackerspace has used these tables for makeshift infrastructure, permanent in all but intent. So, in case some of us missed the memo, now you are aware of yet another, underappreciated solution for mounting all these servers we get for cheap when yet another company replaces its equipment – or undergoes a liquidation. If LackRack hasn’t been on your radar – what have you been using for housing your rackmount hardware collection?

Wondering what to do with an old server? Building a powerful workstation is definitely on the list. Alternatively, you could discard the internals and stuff it full of Raspberry Pi!

Run Your Own Server For Fun (and Zero Profit)

It seems there’s a service for everything, but sometimes you simply learn more by doing it yourself. If you haven’t enjoyed the somewhat anachronistic pleasures of running your own server and hosting your own darn website, well, today you’re in luck!

Yes, we’re going to take an old computer of some sort and turn it into a web server for hosting all of your projects at home. You could just as easily use a Raspberry Pi –even a Zero W would work — or really anything that’ll run Linux, but be aware that not all computing platforms are created equally as we’ll discuss shortly.

Yes, we’re going to roll our own in this article series. There are a lot of moving parts, so we’re going to have to cover a lot of material. Don’t worry- it’s not incredibly complicated. And you don’t have to do things the way we say. There’s flexibility at every turn, and you’re encouraged to forge your own path. That’s part of the fun!

Note: For the sake of space we’re going to skip over some of the most basic details such as installing Linux and focus on those that have the greatest impact on the project. This article gives a high level overview of what it takes to host your project website at home. It intentionally glosses over the deeper details and makes some necessary assumptions.

Continue reading “Run Your Own Server For Fun (and Zero Profit)”

A HP Proliant 360 g6 server with its lid taken off, showing separate green wires coming out of every fan, enabling Dave's modification

Domesticating Old Server Hardware In The Age Of Shortages

Our own [Dave Rowntree] started running into bottlenecks when doing paid work involving simulations of undisclosed kind, and resolved to get a separate computer for that. Looking for budget-friendly high-performance computers is a disappointing task nowadays, thus, it was time for a ten-year-old HP Proliant 380-g6 to come out of Dave’s storage rack. This Proliant server is a piece of impressive hardware designed to run 24/7, with a dual CPU option, eighteen RAM slots, and hardware RAID for HDDs; old enough that replacement and upgrade parts are cheap, but new enough that it’s a suitable workhorse for [Dave]’s needs!

After justifying some peculiar choices like using dual low-power GPUs, only populating twelve out of eighteen RAM slots, and picking Windows over Linux, [Dave] describes some hardware mods needed to make this server serve well. First, a proprietary hardware RAID controller backup battery had to be replaced with a regular NiMH battery pack. A bigger problem was that the server was unusually loud. Turns out, the dual GPUs confused the board management controller too much. Someone wrote a modded firmware to fix this issue, but that firmware had a brick risk [Dave] didn’t want to take. End result? [Dave] designed and modded an Arduino-powered PWM controller into the server, complete with watchdog functionality – to keep the overheating scenario risks low. Explanations and code for all of that can be found in the blog post, well worth a read for the insights alone.

If you need a piece of powerful hardware next to your desk and got graced with an used server, this write-up will teach you about the kinds of problems to look out for. We don’t often cover server hacks – the typical servers we see in hacker online spaces are full of Raspberry Pi boards, and it’s refreshing to see actual server hardware get a new lease on life. This server won’t ever need a KVM crash-cart, but if you decide to run yours headless, might as well build a crash-cart out of a dead laptop while you’re at it. And if you decide that running an old server would cost more money in electricity bills than buying new hardware, fair – but don’t forget to repurpose it’s PSUs before recycling the rest!

Sustainability Hacks: Thin Client Server

It’s not environmentally friendly, but most of us run a small home server 24 hours a day. A small server is a useful tool to have that unfortunately wastes a lot of energy. [kekszumquadrat]’s thin client home server is actually a passable LAMP box that doesn’t draw a ton of power.

[kekszumquadrat] started looking at the SheevaPlug when beginning his quest but was a little concerned about the power supply failing. Looking for alternatives, he ran across a lot of cheap thin clients on eBay. The price was right and everything runs Linux, so a few days later he had an HP t5710 thin client on his doorstep.

This little computer came a copy of an embedded version of XP on a flash drive connected to the IDE port. Ditching that “operating system”, [kekszumquadrat] connected a USB hard drive and installed Arch Linux. After a few updates and package installations, he had a useful machine connected to the Internet.

Compared to the 7 Watts the SheevaPlug draws, the 15 W thin client is an energy hog. Compared to our improvised servers, [kekszumquadrat] is doing a remarkable job. Recycling old hardware never hurt anyone, either.