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!

Round LCDs Put To Work In Rack Mount Gauge Cluster

Like many of you, we’re intrigued by the possibilities offered by the availability of affordable round LCD panels. But beyond the smartwatches they were designed for, it’s not always easy to come up with an appropriate application for such non-traditional displays. Digital “steam gauges” are one of the first ideas that come to mind, so it’s perhaps no surprise that’s the direction [Tom Dowad] took his project. But rather than just one or two gauges, he decided to go all out and put eight of them in a 1U rack mountable unit.

What do you need eight faux-analog gauges for? Beats us, but that’s not our department. Now [Tom] has a whole row of indicators that can be used to show whatever it is he likes to keep an eye on. The fact that the device is actually controlled via MIDI may provide us a clue that there’s a musical component at play (no pun intended), but then, it wouldn’t be the first time we’d seen MIDI used simply as a convenient and well supported way of synchronizing gadgets. Continue reading “Round LCDs Put To Work In Rack Mount Gauge Cluster”

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!

Custom Lego Server Case Looks As Though It Came Straight From A Data Center

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.

Front view of the portable HAM station

Building A Portable Ham Radio Station

Nowadays, you can get into ham radio on the cheap. A handheld radio can be had for less than $30, and licensing is cheap or free depending on where you live. However, like most hobbies, you tend to invest in better kit over time.

[Günther] just finished up building this portable ham station to meet his own requirements. It runs off 230 VAC, or a backup 12 V car battery for emergency purposes. The Yaesu FT897d transceiver can communicate on HF + 6m, 2m, and 70 cm bands.

This transceiver can be controlled using a Microham USB-3 interface, which provides both CAT control and a soundcard. This pre-built solution is a bit simpler than the DIY option. With the interface in place, the whole rig can be controlled by a laptop running Ubuntu and open-source HAM software.

With the parts chosen, [Günther] picked up a standard 5 U 19″ rack, which is typically used for audio gear. This case has the advantage of being durable, portable, and makes it easy to add shelves and drawers. With an automotive fuse block for power distribution and some power supplies, the portable rig is a fully self-contained HAM station.

PBX Blade For Multiple Extension Home Telephony


It looks like a consumer good, but this PBX server blade was built by [Benoit Frigon] over the last couple of years. It brings multiple telephone extensions to his home service.

The device runs Asterisk open source PBX software. Because it will be on all the time he wanted something that doesn’t draw a lot of power. The 500 Mhz system seen on the left has just a half a gig of ram. It’s enough to do the job and at 10 Watts it’s not going to break the bank when it comes to paying the electric bills. The board in the middle is used to interface the analog handsets with the land line. From the look of it he’s got it rigged for two extensions.

That’s all somewhat par for the course with PBX rigs, but the enclosure is where he really shines. [Benoit] used 22 gauge aluminum sheet to fabricate the enclosure which is designed to blend in with the rest of his home’s rack mount hardware. To provide control at the rack he added his own LCD and touch-sensitive button interface to the front of the case based on a PIC 18F2520. The system can also be accessed via the web thanks to a custom interface he coded.

3D Printer Used To Make Custom Blade Server Type Mounting System


We usually have no problem hacking together electronics into something useful. But finding an enclosure that makes sense for the build can be a real drag. In this case [Vincent Sanders] already had a working ARM build farm that leveraged the power of multiple ARM boards. But it was lying in a heap in the corner of the room and if it ever needed service or expansion it was going to be about as fun as having a cavity drilled. But no longer. He took inspiration from how a blade server rack works and 3D printed his own modular rail system for the hardware.

Each group of boards is now held securely in its own slot. The collection seen above mounts in a server rack which has its own power supply. This image is part way through the retrofit which explains why there’s a bunch of random pieces lying around yet. Instead of printing continuous rail [Vincent] uses a threaded rod to span the larger frame, securing small chunks of rail where needed by tightening nuts on either side of them. The white and red trays are prints he ordered from Shapeways designed to secure the eurocard form factor parts.

[Thanks Thomas]