Dan’s Data – PC hardware and gadget reviews!

Dan’s Data – PC hardware and gadget reviews!

A fun down-under take on the build-it-yourself hardware scene.  Kind of like Don Lancaster with more humor, (and frankly a little less mumbo-jumbo) or Jerry Pournelle but not as serious. His note from April 28th, is about home-built or off-brand rack mount servers.  And indeed, as soon as you start thinking about these, the hardware people get $$$ -signs in their eyes. Not entirely without reason, as the cooling in  rack mount is a huge problem, when compared to the same motherboard and components in a generously-sized tower case.  A little excerpt:

There’s nothing magic about this kind of server hardware; if you’re talking four or more CPUs and/or non-x86 architecture then there’s a considerable real baseline price increase, but any old PC can do many server tasks. And a PC built with better-than-average components – good PSU, motherboard that you didn’t buy at an open air market, maybe a 10,000RPM drive – should be just as durable as a purpose-built x86 server.

Once you start talking rackmount, though, you also start talking excitingly pumped-up prices. Maybe you’re paying for a serious support contract, but disturbingly often, you’re not (or the contract you do pay for turns out not to be worth what you pay…).

Server makers also have an annoying tendency to assume you want a “server class” CPU. Now, if you want multiple processors in an x86 server, then you definitely do want a Xeon or Opteron box. But a lot of people buying up-to-two-processor Xeon and Opteron machines with only one chip in them will never add another processor – or will, by the time they do need more speed, be able to buy another single-chip box that’s faster than upgrading their current machine.

My own home server, for the past six months, has been a repurposed Dell Dimension 100TX (if memory serves) workstation, that had one or two motherboard upgrades. It currently has a 450Mhz Pentium III or IV processor, and 256Kb of RAM.  Its running Windows 2003 Enterprise (!)  Since the on-off switch broke, I removed the cover, and it is sitting there, in all its utilitarian glory in my wire shelf…which almost looks like a rack mount. As Don Lancaster says in his classic book The Incredible Secret Money Machine II “Think cheap. Think skungy”.

And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget the O’Reilly publication Make which according to its home page, says, “we’ll also show you how to make a video camera stabilizer, a do-it-yourself alternative to an expensive Steadicam.” Don’t miss their round-up of sonic clothing…wearable clothing which generates sounds.

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