Server version 2 (2011)

The new server runs Fedora 14 on a JETWAY NC9C-550-LF mainboard with an Intel Atom N550 hyperthreaded Dual-Core at 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM, two 1000Mb/s Ethernet interfaces, two 2TB SATA disks and a "Be-Quiet Pure Power L7 300W" power supply. See this LinuxTECH.NET article for more information on the performance/power consumption ratio of Intel Atom based hardware. The selected mainboard has a mini PCIe slot so I decided to buy a Wifi card to turn it into a Wifi access point too. First I tried an Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 card but unfortunately linux does not support this card in Access Point mode (see Linux Wireless Drivers). My Acer Aspire 7741 laptop (running Fedora 14 too) had a mini PCIe Atheros 9287 Wifi card with excellent Access Point support so I decided to swap both cards: Problem solved.

Contrary to off-the-shelf Wifi routers this server has much more powerful hardware and runs a complete distribution instead of a crippled shell such as a busybox (if you are lucky). Both mainboard and PSU have been "pimped" with a blue LED. Two LEDs have been connected to the DTR and RTS lines of the RS-232 header for /dev/ttyS1 to indicate if there is E-mail using a small python script.

Server version 1 (2004)

Initial hardware consisted of a VIA EPIA CL6000 with a VIA C3 CPU running at 600MHz, 512MB RAM, two 100Mb/s Ethernet interfaces, two 80GB PATA disks, a power adapter and a small DC to ATX power conversion board. I installed FC1 (Fedora Core 1), modified it to suit my needs including a couple of security enhancements. It ran kernels 2.4.23 up to (I try to keep up to date and use kernels directly from for a couple of reasons).

Except for the modem, all parts are mounted on a piece of black coated wood which was originally part of some furniture. The disks are mounted a bit loosely using some rubber rings to avoid a sounding board effect. The disks themselves have liquid bearings which only produce a very low noise whispering like the wind and no whistle tone at all. There's room for two more of them.

And now, let's hang it on the wall in my living room (should increase my geekcode ;-).

The blue LED inside the (fanless) CPU cooler has been added for fun. LEDs at the bottom right of the pictures are: a blue power indicator, a red LED to indicate disk activity and a yellow LED to indicate S1 Power On Suspend state (unused because power management has been switched off). The LAN link state and activity LEDs are visible as well (had to bend the mounting barbs a bit). The red and green LEDs in the middle will blink when there is incoming mail from important people. At the bottom left there are three wires which connect another serial port to some reset logic for resetting the ADSL modem (not visible).

Power adapter troubles.

Those universal power adapters do not last very long as it appears: three years and two adapters later I decided to "pimp" my server with a Coolermaster Realpower 450 PSU, hoping that it would be silent and last longer. All the redundant wires from the PSU have been cut. To get rid of a (low) mechanical hum the fan screws have been removed and the fan is now kept on its place by some tiny rubber feet between fan and surroundings (everything is rather tight inside the PSU). The vibration itself is probably caused by the coils which should be driven by sinusoidal current instead of a square wave I suspect because it correlates with power, not with rpm. A spring inside the fan bearing needed some grease too and the LEDs were far too bright. By cutting the yellow wire marked "ZP" on the fan and inserting a 1k8 resistor it was fixed. Of course I removed all the sticker crap. Electronics isn't science only, it's also art!

This is how it finally looks in the living room. The server uses approximately 50W, much less than the PSU can deliver.

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