Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Linux Software

Do it Yourself 1U Half-Width Server 134

Erasei writes "After talking about making my own rack mount case, a friend of mine sent me this link of a 1U Halfwidth rack-mount server. Complete with its own LCD display and Compact Flash slot, its one sweet little server for the price, near nothing." This is really impressive work. A box like that could be a great little inexpensive MP3 server or something. Very cool.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Do it Yourself 1U Half-Width Server

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:09AM (#376101)
    Taco has found the 1256th thing he thinks would make a good MP3 device.
  • finally, a use for my roommates ever growing pile of empty dominos boxes. now all i need is a bunch of anti RIAA stickers and ill be set.
  • ...who is on track to having a full rack in his dorm room. I'm sure his roommate would appreciate it.

    In all seriousness, this is good stuff. Smaller and cheaper is hard to beat.
  • Sweet. It'd leave more room for the fridge in my lan party box. And the speakers. And super-models wearing linux t's. Mmm... beer.

    You thought I'd say "Mmmm super models" huh? Well, I just did!
  • First post wasn't even up, and it was already slashdotted.
  • My opinion is that if their site can get /.ed so easily, I don't want to buy a server from them.
  • by Segfault 11 ( 201269 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:14AM (#376107) Homepage []

    Yeah, cry "karma whore" all you fucking want to...

  • by sabre ( 79070 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:14AM (#376108) Homepage
    A while back there was mention of using Transmeta's Crusoe processor for server applications like this... It would seem to be a very good solution, because once you start packing servers together this closely, heat and powerconsumption (California redux? :) becomes a major major issue.

    Has anyone else heard anything more about this, or has Transmeta stopped pushing this? Wouldn't it be nice to have a 4 way transmeta in a half U space? :)

    -Chris []

  • by runestar ( 71495 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:15AM (#376109) Homepage
    Damn that didn't take long. I really think as a service Slashdot should mirror webpages of the most recent articles.

    Anyway does this thing look anygood? or is it still Vaporware?

  • Thanks to google for providing a cached version of the page []. Sorry, no images, but the content is good. (Wouldn't it be great if google cached images, too?)
  • If you can't reach the server because of the /.-effect, here is one link []
  • At least nobody can criticize /.'s relationship with VA Linux after this post. I priced servers a while back and VA's 1U rack mounts are very overprices. They must have at least a 25%-50% margin on every unit sold. It's refreshing to see the /. editors post a useful link/story even though it may hurt VA's bottom line.

  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:16AM (#376113) Homepage
    It's already slashdotted. I hope the site wasn't demonstrating the awesome power of the 1u half-width server by running on one...

  • Ya, its 1.75inches high, and yes, it is only half the width of a rack. But c'mon. A 486? You can get an SBC (Single Board Computers) that are credit card sized (as previous /. articles have pointed out). Having 84 of these in a full sized rack would prolly be the equivilant of 2-3 dual PIII/800 rack servers......

    Sure, this is cheap, but only if your time is worth little. Yes, it has geek value, but Geek value is becoming harder to obtain, as most of this has already been done..............

    Damn, need more coffee.

  • I don't know about that. Maybe they're just running Windows....
  • Let me be the first to ask... Why? Why would anyone really want to build enough of these to make it worthwhile? I mean, it's a neat hack and is worth something just for that. But beyond the hack value, who's really going to spend time to make 84 of these things to fill a 42U rack?

    And I really have a problem with the phrases "reliable" and "built from salvaged parts" used in the same sentence. Okay, reliable enough for a home system, sure. I have plenty of my own Frankenstein machines. But would you really trust your business to something salvaged and hacked together like this?

    Though I suppose it would make a nifty SETI@Home frame...

  • by ebh ( 116526 ) <edhorch AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:20AM (#376117) Journal
    In a rack, hard disks shouldn't be "fragile". OTOH, flash memory wears out after some number of thousands of writes. So much for /tmp...
  • How often do things get dot slashed? :)
  • You guys are sure quick on the trigger.
    I didn't even have a chance to look at it!
  • Actually, it is, according to the Google cached page.
  • C'mon, its a freakin 486, and the site is running on it. Of course its slashdotted. Think firewall or DNS/DHCP server, possibly a static web page server for an intranet.
  • by anon757 ( 265661 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:23AM (#376122)
    I was going to build one once, but i found the most expensive part was an LCD screen (not one of those crappy 2 line lcd displays). That, and very few companies actually sell empty 1U cases.
  • "My opinion is that if their site can get /.ed so easily, I don't want to buy a server from them."

    You might be on to something there, on the other hand they may have pre-determined their bandwidth by the fact that they are hosted on a free-provider [].

    Generally prodigy engineering students are flat broke.
  • Umm... what's a karma whore?
    evil adrian
  • Are there any more modestly-sized racks for rackmount hardware? The only things I've managed to find are huge, ceiling-to-floor things that cost at least a grand. Are there no smaller ones for someone who might want at most 6Us or so?
  • They must have at least a 25%-50% margin on every unit sold. It's refreshing to see the /. editors post a useful link/story even though it may hurt VA's bottom line.

    We purchased a VA linux 2U server awhile back. Opened the thing up after we got it and wondered what all the money was for :-) Well, it was a 2U, even, and we purchased the 1U units from Penguin Computing [], because of what you found: the 1U's seemed quite expensive. The VA box has been a stable platform, I must say.

    The fact is, I wanted to by from VA and Penguin as a measure of support for Linux-aware companies. Probably could have gotten the things much cheaper elsewhere, but this was the first time I was made to worry about real technical support.

    But I digress! As far as these half-sized 1U units go, I'd love them if they had some horsepower. That's what I need more and more these days, lots of RAM, mucho I/O throughput, and major CPU horsepower. So, I'd have to say "no" if they aren't (and the site is slashdotted, but I read in another post [] that they were 486-class).

  • Ummm... I don't think VA's customers are interested in running a 486-120 with 16MB RAM and a compactflash card for a hard drive. This is simply Slashdot doing what it does best: linking to cool things on hopelessly underpowered servers.
  • I was hoping this would be about a commercially available rackmount chassis for a reasonable price. That's what the world really needs.
  • Yes, this server was running their tiny little box.
  • Whenever they're in my current working directory and not in $PATH?
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:34AM (#376131)

    Well, they made their own case. Saved a bundle of money. Rack mound cases are horridly expensive. They did use one of those 2 line lcd displays (or maybe 4 lines, not much whatever).

  • Is is really all that cheap, a Compact Flash card costs ~$30, add a PCMCIA adaptor and the spare parts. I'm not impressed
  • ...about as often as I get sloshed. ;-)

    college is chaos man.
  • Yes. Go to a music gear store, like Sam Ash or Guitar Center. You will find a number of racks in many different sizes and shapes. They're fairly common since a lot of gear happens to be rackmountable (i.e. synths, effect processors, etc). They're not that expensive either. You may even find decent prices on online stores.

  • Not sure if anybody's noticed but. . . The google cache is off a diffrent web site, its content is similar looks like a more recent version (more content).

    It is however, up at the moment, not sure if it will survive a slashdot attack but . . . here it is: []

  • It's running on a dynamic DNS service, implying a modem or low-end DSL link. Add to that that it's on a 486 with 16 MB RAM, and you can imagine it's having trouble keeping up. This is almost as bad as the time /. linked to the Atari webserver.
  • What level of hits constitute being slashdotted?
    How much does it take to make a server go down? I ask out of genuine interest, I'm scared to even mention one of my sites in a comment :-)
  • Sure. open racks are fairly cheap, and small racks exist. Look for musicians, a lot of their better equipment is rack mount and they generally don't have money when first starting out so they are likely to know the tricks.

    Alternitively, there isn't much to a rack. With a drill and some bolts you can make your own. Angle iron from the side rails and drill holes where you need them. These can be nice if you are creative enough.

  • I think those people over at must be getting pretty hot and bothered at the prospect of such a cheap date.....
  • I wouldn't call anything VA did "overpriced". Their servers are worth every penny. The fact that they have a high margin is great for me, because it gives them more money to test equiptment before they ship it to me. They even use Teflon cables for internal SCSI cabling. That's an extra $150 just to be extra sure that you don't have SCSI problems. VA machines are wonderful.
  • Could someone out there with a lot of bandwidth write a script that would crawl /. articles for links and wget them to a fast mirror? Maybe even /. itself could do this?

  • One cheap source would be a music store, like Rondo Music []. I've never dealt with them, but they have cheap portable racks that should do very well for what you're likely to use as a 'fixed' installation. Also someone like Musician's Friend [] would work. Stick to a music store or an electronics surplus place - they're the same 19" racks, and most music-oriented ones will be better built and much, much cheaper. They'll usually be black plastic or wood covered in black carpeting.

    You could also check out Mouser, Digikey, Allied, or Newark for some open racks. A bit pricey, though, and not nearly as sturdy. The closed cabinet racks are horrifically priced.

  • by CoreDump ( 1715 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:47AM (#376143) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as Erasei's boss, I think he should really be getting back to work and not spending his time submitting stories to slashdot!

    ( Just kidding, btw )
    -Erasei's Boss

    P.S. Please disregard the photos on his website. I submit to being under the influence of Redbull at the time and claim temporary insanity.

    ------------------------------------------------ ------------

  • Here's a clickable Link [] for those too lazy to cut and paste. I can imagine the pictures now, "She was feeling very damp at the prospect of a full rack of those monsters..."
  • I figured this could be done. I have a cobalt appliance (Raqx) and there is almost nothing inside. I hope they have the appropriate mounting brackets to fix two together (can't check link its /.'ed)

  • Just as many times as equal losers try to start a program in the current dir by typing
    # /.foo
  • by tedtimmons ( 97599 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @10:56AM (#376147) Homepage
    Here's my mirror, on a relatively high-availability server: / [] I don't have the additional images- deal with it. -ted
  • speaking of power consumption regulating down to 3 from five volts isn't power efficient, why do you need 5 volts?

  • Typical TTL circuits operate at 5 volts.

  • by angel ( 84938 )
    Actually it wouldn't make a good mp3 player. It is next to impossible to play mp3's on a 486 and instead of a hard drive they are using flash so you can fit like 10 songs maybe? Sounds like a fairly cool project but not worth doing the way they did. If you put in a bit of NEW hardware it might be cool. Sorry but anyone can put a 486 in a small box.
  • well it *is* a 486-100. Isn't that about the same as that webserver that was being run by a potato?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linux NetworX has a vertical rack mount server - check it out at ml It runs about 12 degrees cooler than average 2U servers. I can only imaging how much cooler it runs than a 1U half server.
  • by Hanno ( 11981 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @11:05AM (#376153) Homepage
    a friend of mine sent me this link of a 1U Halfwidth rack-mount server

    Now that the server is slashdotted, is he still your friend?

  • heh heh :)
  • <<even though it may hurt VA's bottom line. >>

    Huh? You think that someone who was considering a server from VD Linux is going to build one of these shit boxes instead? I am certain the load handling will be comparable, right?

  • They must be talking about a file in the current directory and not a hidden entry in the root.
  • I had a full rack in my dorm room, but then she went home.

    ba DUM dum
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The best is an mp3 cd player either the Rio Volt [] at $169 or the soon to be release April 1st the TDK MOJO [] at $179
    For those wanting an EASY ...did I SAY easy..any dimwit idiot could install on an old Pentium and make an mp3 streamer server check out e-smith mp3 jukebox []. You need P90 or above, 32MB, good size harddrive if your BIOS supports over 8GB go for it, and a network card. You don't need a mouse, and only need a monitor and keyboard when initially installing it. From there on it's webbased managed and to stream your mp3z it's webbased.
  • they must be slipping...
  • "Most recent 486-based motherboards will accept 4 SIMMs." Recent 486-based motherboards? Yeah, with the money I save building this machine I can go get one of those "new" Atari 2600's.....
  • Having had the wonderful opportunity to view this wonderful hack hosted on that wonderful hack, I must say that I may or may not ever actually get to see the damn thing!

  • I think it's the user (anoMymous coward) who has bad karma...

    /Mikael Jacobson

    "But surely we won't be still stuck with Linux in 25 years!?"
  • by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @11:28AM (#376163) Homepage Journal

    It is next to impossible to play mp3's on a 486 and instead of a hard drive they are using flash so you can fit like 10 songs maybe?

    I currently have a 486 laptop with 20meg of RAM running Debian 2.2r2. It plays .mp3 files with a recompiled mpg123 under X just fine.

    Now I will grant you the hard drive issue. You need some kind of large media for storing .mp3 files. However a 486 will play them just fine as long as you have very little overhead.

    The Tick - "Spoon!"

    NEO - "There is no spoon."

  • You guys do know that people who use those domains are typically (like me) people hosting their own sites over cablemodem, isdn, or even worse, dialup.

    Please think before wiping out some poor schmuck's personal web site. My own site (also using dyndns) is also responsible for mailing lists for a local group of athletes, and I'd hate to see what would happen if I were to get slashdotted (uh oh...I shouldn't have said that, should I?)

  • It would appear that Google as recieved some /.age at their cache site. []

    Now that's some seriuos /. or maybe the cache is on a different server setup. ??
  • I have tried to find and start foo I even did a
    apt-get install foo
    and it could not find the package. Where is foo and how do you get it and what does it do?

  • Supermicro [] makes some very solid 1U servers. I've used them for all types of purposes from VPN servers to Apache servers. Extremely reasonable price of $1100 for the base model. Additionaly, since most necessary components are already built into the motherboard (i.e. NIC, SCSI, Video) just throw in a harddrive, processor and memory and your rocking. Also, since they're dual processor capable and take up to 4GB of RAM, they can make very powerful application servers IMHO. Hope this helps.
  • by rxmd ( 205533 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @11:35AM (#376168) Homepage
    Is it just me or is there no real innovation in this piece of hardware?

    All it says is "Get yourself a server in whatever shape you like! Simply ummage through your old hardware, get components for one computer, build yourself a case in the desired shape, and install Linux". Of course, this is a recipe for a 100% customized server running Linux, but it's not really the innovation of the century.

    Seeing that they even left out the interesting parts, such as the software for the LC display, I'm sort of disappointed. I'm running a custom FreeBSD server in a custom case myself, now should I post it everywhere for geeks to look at?

    I didn't know about the CompactFlash IDE hacks, though. Seeing the current prices for CompactFlash cards, however, this is not an option either.

    Summary: So What?

  • Correct. So you mount / as read only on the flash disk, and put /tmp in a memory disk. AND TURN OFF SWAPPING!!


  • I've noticed recently that when someone posts a story about a neat hardware hack like this, there's a whole bunch of "Where can I buy one" posts. Comments like "If the site gets slashdotted so quick, I wouldn't want to buy from them". This isn't a product for sale. It's a step-by-step description of a hardware hack - a rather cool one at that!
  • Nope. comes up fine me.


  • Rackable systems at [] has half width 1 U machines. They can get 80 machines in a standard rack plus a 4U network switch on both sides. Very impressive. They are used by google [] and others.
    Stuart Eichert
  • You're too young, kid. Maybe in a few years.
  • How difficult would it be for Slashdot/Parent corporation to mirror a page and cache it's images before posting a story. Then they could publish the link to the original site AND provide the alternates (behind a relay on distributed servers) in the event that the slashdot effect caved the originating server.

    It would only be necessary for a day or so, assuming the original site owner didn't move the original content or take it down due to the unwanted attention.

    I'd have to believe that the server admins on the originating site would appreciate this more than the debilitating amount of traffic coming their way with little or no warning.

    I have a hard time believing that Slashdot doesn't have the resources to do this.

    Curious George

  • The site's down. probably due to too many trying to see it. The rest of youget in line, I was here first. :-) Looks like I'll try tomorrow. djve
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Crusoe-powered Netwinders: [] (rackmount) [] (desktop)

  • by Bryan Andersen ( 16514 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @11:52AM (#376177) Homepage
    Actually FLASH ram drives can be quite reliable. What you do is mount your root read only them make a ram disk to mount /tmp on. Do the same for any partition you need to do writes in. If you need more space than your flash card has you can do the trick they do on boot floppies and compress the root partition and load it into a ram disk. Sure this burns more ram, but then how much ram does a router need? 32MB should do just fine for most routers. I only have 16MB in mine. If you had 64MB or 128MB of memory in the system, you would have plenty for the OS and a sizeable ram disk.

    I've been looking at doing something along the same lines for my firewall and web server. For the web server I'd use 2 raided 80GB hard disks and not use a flash disk, but the firewall would be run off of one. The main reason I'm looking at this is power consumption. Right now I'm sucking down about 200 Watts between the firewall and web server. If figure I could lower this to less than 50watts total for both.

  • by cymen ( 8178 )
    For those of us who don't speak French - does free this "free-provider" actually give away colocation spots? Sounds kinda interesting...
  • We've been doing some very dense "how about a beocluster of those" kinds of designs lately and 2 cpu per 1U is pretty much off the shelf. 16 cpu's per 1U has been working quite well. You just have to get away from any cooling techniques based on air convection like most 1U servers use and start thinking conduction cooling to get the heat out of the small enclosure. Look for 8 Crusoe Processor per 1U servers poping up from a few vendors later on this summer. The new Intel Very Low Voltage P-III's also look good for this along with SMP chipsets.
  • The reason why is that pile of approximately 83 486s and other various parts that is sitting in a corner in my basement.
  • 5v may be all you need, though : although a PC supplies +-12, +-5, most of those supplies are used only for cards, not the motherboard.

    I've got a P55TV2 that's going to be used for an MP3 player. The motherboard will run happily with only 5V connected: I need 12V to run a video board, but that won't be in the final kit.

    Unfortunately, the sound card also wants +-12 - but I could use USB sound, or I could use a tiny DC-DC converter to provide it for both sound and RS232. A 2 1/2" disc runs from 5V only. No need for a floppy, and the low-profile PCI ethernet card seems to use 5v too.

  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Thursday March 08, 2001 @12:05PM (#376182) Homepage
    Get it here [] via Google, but without pictures.

    WebWord [] -- Industrial Strength Usabiltity
  • "AMD's latest 486-DX/4-100 ran at 3V and kept cool with a good heatsink. Avoid Pentiums and 5Volts-486s."

    It sounds like this article was written in 1995...

  • If you don't want overhead, don't run X. Even if it isn't using much cpu time, it's still using ram. While you do have 20 megs, loading and caching mp3s would probably be faster with more of that ram availiable to mpg123.

    just my .02..

    ---GEEK CODE---
    Ver: 3.12
    GCS/S d- s++: a-- C++++ UBCL+++ P+ L++
    W+++ PS+ Y+ R+ b+++ h+(++) r++ y+
  • Is that the energy drink or the malt liquor?
  • I understand that but thanks for mentioning it.

    The X note was to show that it works even with overhead.

    Hell, I had one friend tell me he was running NetBSD with mpg123 on a 486sx with 16meg of ram. I didn't believe it until I heard it play!

    The Tick - "Spoon!"

    NEO - "There is no spoon."

  • Do you know if it compiles on a 386? I've got my old 386sx-25 in a compact AT mobo, and I've thought about trying to fire it up one of these days. Might be as cool as getting netbsd to run on my dreamcast :)

    ---GEEK CODE---
    Ver: 3.12
    GCS/S d- s++: a-- C++++ UBCL+++ P+ L++
    W+++ PS+ Y+ R+ b+++ h+(++) r++ y+
  • Yes and no. I don't have the EEPROM blowing/erasing gear, most motherboards can't mount an EEPROM as a disk (IIRC). And using IDE flash is just so simple.

    So, yeah, I get done out of $40.

  • Are you Curious enough to click here? []

    Or would you prefer to pose another Frequently Asked Question to try to satisfy your insatiable hunger and unfathomable thirst for the feasts of knowledge?

    Another game you could play would be to see how many of the other things you were thinking of spouting off about have already been covered within those pages. I'm willing to bet at least six, but for you, a pesky little monkey, I'd raise it to ten.
  • It depends on your browser: my Communicator 4.73 waits for the images to load before rendering the page. Google doesn't cache the images, so nothing happens until I hit "stop," and then the page renders.

    IE 4.0 renders as it goes, so it displays the whole page but continues trying to load the images until I hit "stop."

    Also a friendly reminder, use those width= and height= tags on your images, thanks!

  • How difficult would it be for Slashdot/Parent corporation to mirror a page and cache it's images before posting a story. Then they could publish the link to the original site AND provide the alternates (behind a relay on distributed servers) in the event that the slashdot effect caved the originating server.

    It's a FAQ [].
  • Compact Flash memory is morte reliable than delicate hard disks? Granted, that's true in a laptop/handheld which expects to be jostled about...but my rack mounted servers I expect to stay put (even in quake-y CA). CF is a destructive medium -- what's it, 10,000 writes? Not what I want to use as a swap partition, thank you very much!
  • Drilled and tapped rack rails are available from Parts Express [], in Dayton, OH. Rails and all other specialized hardware required to build any manner of rack (from small road case, to floor-to-ceiling bolt-in varieties) can be found at TCH [].

    I've purchased from each, with good results. Though, for a small, portable rack, nothing beats the price of SKB []'s offerings.

    As far as tricks go, it's fairly simple: used racks from a pawn shop; used racks from the local guitar store; used racks from Ebay (in that order).

  • This might be slightly offtopic, but why put the power supply inside the box? If you're going to run a bunch of these in a rack, why not have a larger, dedicated power supply that can feed 12v/5v straight to the boxes? Does anyone do this? It'd be another way to reduce heat inside the case, too.
  • The case looks like it could still hold a small (laptop size) hard drive. Find a dead laptop and rip it out. I don't know what kind of interface laptop hard drives usually use but I'm guessing its some kind of IDE interface with power on the cable. It would add a slight bit of heat, some noise and as for the reliability, well, you probably want to backup the flash card anyways. Also, throwing a small fan on the side of the case and some small vent holes on the other (stratically placed) might just help overall. A powersupply, CPU and that display (I have one, it gets a little hot on the back) do generate some heat, cant hurt.

    Also, I know that someone (3com or intel I think) makes a PCI based ethernet card that is teeny-tiny. Even then, PCMCIA network cards are quite small and getting really cheap and linux supports them quite nicely (3com's at least).

    It might also be interesting to have the base-machine boot off a network via NFS for all its main stuff and then read the content for whatever its serving off a hard disk, making more space for the content on the disk.

    I realize that this was just a little for-fun project for them and I'm just brainstorming about the possibility of my own version! Anyone in the Cincinnati area wanna get together and make one? :)

  • Warning! we have just been Slashdoted.

    Got spell check on that thing?


  • _pr/pr_010221.html
  • Yes he was.

    But I'd be more concerned with slashdotting his ISP connection than the box itself.
  • "Actually it wouldn't make a good mp3 player. It is next to impossible to play mp3's on a 486 and instead of a hard drive they are using flash so you can fit like 10 songs maybe? Sounds like a fairly cool project but not worth doing the way they did. If you put in a bit of NEW hardware it might be cool. Sorry but anyone can put a 486 in a small box."

    It should make a fairly good MP3 player :

    It's got no fans so the room noise will be quiet,
    It has ethernet so all the songs can live on a noisey server a long way away. It's probably just about fast enough to decode in real time. It will display the tracknames quite nicely on the front panel display.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler