Dell T105 Server Build

For the first time in what seems like a couple years, I’m building a new server. “Building” is in quotes. This is a Dell T105 obtained from the Dell Factory Outlet for around $250 and shipping. It appears to be the basic server offered on the standard Dell web site. Specs: AMD processor, 1 gig of RAM, 1 Western Digital SATA hard drive. (160GB).

I’m intending to install Windows XP and simply share the drive…but before that I’m installing Ubuntu… just to see how it works.

dum dee dum dee dum dee dum (15 minutes later)…. booted up fine and was trying to download all the updates, but I cancelled it. Now if I was really going to be sporty, I should set up a VirtualBox VM for Windows within Ubuntu and run that as outlined in the latest Linux Journal. But I’ve only got 1 gig of memory…so I think I’ll go native.

The unit seems quiet enough for a classroom environment.

40 minutes and counting from the Windows XP boot.

Windows is up. But there are no network drivers (!) ARRGH. Now let’s see if we can find them from Dell.

Found them. But the installer insists that the underlying OS has to be Windows 2003 or 2008 server.

So, now I’m going back to boot Ubuntu, to see if I can get an actual readout of the network chip. Ubuntu has a “live CD” version from the installation disk which allows it to run without actually installing on the chip. Once I get this up, I run the “System Test”, which identifies the hardware. It is a Broadcom NetXtreme BCM 5722.

Quick search on the internet to the Broadcom website, and I find the Windows XP drivers. Once these are installed, we appear to be in business.

So far, installation-wise, its Ubuntu 15 minutes vs. XP at 2 hours.

My recent impression is that Dell is all over the map. There used to be a fairly transparent set of product lines, maybe six or so, Two each desktops, Optiplex and Dimension, and a couple laptop lines, the Inspiron and the Latitude. Then they added a couple server lines, and the Dell Workstation, now they are off and running. I’ve probably bought or specified more than a million dollars of Dell gear over the years. Most has worked fine, with a one notable exception of an Optiplex tower that I had speced with a faster chip, and upgraded memory and graphics for almost $3,000 a couple years ago.

I was planning on using this machine to edit videos. The thing was jinxed from the get-go… fan always roaring away at high speed. I let my wife use it for a year; she complained that it was hanging up, so I gave her a little desktop Optiplex that also suffered from terminal cheapness and overheating. Piece of junk. The tower has sat on the office floor for a year, and I was going to try to see if I could coax it into being a server. I stripped out the graphics card, and went back to the onboard video controller. Turns out the whoosh was not from the fan on the graphics card, but from the auxiliary fan mounted on the processor chip. The whole thing still just ran hot. After several attempts to get Ubuntu installed, where it would just randomly hang, I gave up.

For $300, however, it looks like the T105 will be just the ticket if it proves to be robust. I think I’d like to get one for home.

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