The picture above appears to show two unremarkable 2U rack servers, of the kind that are probably hosting the page you’re reading right now. Nothing special there – until you look carefully and realize that the rack server case on the left is made entirely from Lego. And what’s more, the server even works.
When it comes to building Lego computers, [Mike Schropp] is the guy to call. We’ve previously featured his Lego gaming computer, a striking case wrapped around what was a quite capable machine by 2016 standards, as well as an earlier case that reminds us a little of a NeXT. His reputation for Lego-clad computers led server maker Silicon Mechanics to commission a case for a trade show, and [Mike] jumped at the challenge.
Making a home-grade machine is one thing, but supporting all the heavy drives, power supplies, and fans needed to make the machine work is something else. He used a combination of traditional Lego pieces along with a fair sampling of parts from the Lego Technics line to pull off the build, which looks nearly perfect. Sadly, the Lego unit sizes make the case slightly taller than 2U, but that’s a small quibble when everything else matches so well, even the colors. And the fact that the server works, obviously important for a trade show demo, is pretty amazing too. The power supplies are even hot-swappable!
Congratulations to [Mike] on yet another outstanding Lego creation.
A NAS is always a handy addition to a home network, but they can be a little pricey. [Blake Burkhart] decided to create his own, prioritising budget and low power considerations, with a secondary objective to produce some router and IoT functionality on the side.
A Banana Pi R2 was a good choice to meet these requirements, being a router-based development board that also sports dual SATA connectors and gigabit Ethernet. [Blake] had some retrospective regrets about the performance of this particular SBC, but it does just fine when functioning purely as a NAS.
The enclosure for the device is a three bay hot-swap HDD module, with one of the bays gutted and used for the Banana Pi. It’s a simple idea, elegantly executed, which looks great. To access the ports of the Banana Pi, a custom acrylic side panel was laser cut, which also allowed LEDs to shine through – obligatory for any DIY server/computer build. When mounting this panel to the existing enclosure, [Blake] was reluctant to take his chances tapping the brittle acrylic, instead opting to melt the threads into the plastic with a pre-torched screw. We find that tapping acrylic is usually okay if you take it slow, but heat-tapping does sound fun.
The 12 V fan that came built into the hot-swap enclosure was too loud and awkwardly came in a non-standard size with a non-standard connector. What’s more, a buzzer alarm was triggered any time the fan was disconnected and 0 RPM was detected. [Blake]’s solution was to rewire the power pin of the connector to a 5 V rail; he found that running the fan at 5 V led to much quieter performance whilst keeping the HDDs sufficiently cool.
We find that when it comes to DIY network gear and routers, there are two approaches. Either create your own bespoke solution that perfectly fits your needs, like this perfect home router, or work around your current gear and build some tech to automatically reboot it for you.
[Thice] discovered a vulnerability in encrypted portable storage a few years ago. He’s just pointing about the exploit now. He mentions that he notified manufacturers long ago and we’d guess the wait to publish is to give them a chance to patch the exploit.
He calls it the Plug-Over Attack and for those who were involved with original Xbox hacking, this technique will sound very familiar. The Xbox used hard drive keys to lock the device when not in use. When you booted up the console it checked the hardware signature to make sure it was talking to the right motherboard. But if you booted up the device, then swapped the IDE cable over to a computer without cutting the power you could access the drive without having the password.
This attack is pretty much the same thing. Plug in a drive, unlock it on the victim system the normal way, then replug into the attacking system. In the image above you can see that a USB hub will work for this, but you can also use a hacked USB cable that patches a second jack into the power rail. For some reason the encryption system isn’t able to lock itself when the USB enumerates on the new system, only when power is cycled. Some of them have a timer which watches for drive idle but that still doesn’t protect from this exploit.