You may be used to seeing dishes and frying pans, when entering a normal kitchen. Well, that makes me feel the need to explain why you will see THIS, when entering my kitchen:
It all started about 6 years ago, when I upgraded my computer, basically by getting a new one. I obviously wasn’t going to give away a perfectly working piece of technology, and it immediately came into my mind: this was going to be my first server. As I was (and still am) a passionate Counter Strike player, I decided that it was going to be my very first Counter Strike server. It was also my first encounter with the Linux operating system. It seemed awkward at the beginning, but I was able to work in text-only in no time. That was also the time when I hosted my first Lineage II server. Now a lot of people tend to do a long face when you tell them you host a gaming server, like it’s some kind of child’s play. But let me tell you something, with a database of over 1 million recordings and a ton of java and PHP (PHP for the website part), that thing is a monster to administrate and debug.
Anyway, time went by like crazy (why does it always do that?), and I moved alone in my own apartment. I knew I had to have my server back, but this was different: now it was just me, nobody else to splash water on my video card (that actually happened) or to rant about the power bill. I was finally able to do exactly what I wanted and how I wanted. I obviously couldn’t do it all at once, but a little bit now, a little bit next month, and I managed to create a small “data center”, if you will, at home.
Most of the parts are bought second hand. We have a huge second hand market here, everybody sells everything, from old PCI 1MB video cards and modems, to the latest, state of the art components. They’re not all bargains, and you certainly have a chance of getting something that doesn’t work, but it’s definitely better than shop prices and with a little experience in IT and a good buying technique, like testing on the spot, you can get yourself a lot of good, cheap stuff. Plus, most of the websites have a user evaluation system, for example, if I buy something from you and it’s ok, I give you a +1. If it’s not ok, and I don’t get my money back, you get a -1. So not many people risk having, say, -10, because nobody will buy from them, knowing they’re not serious.
So, enough with the small talk, I will now make a list of everything I have there, followed by a detailed description of each item in the list:
- UPS – to keep everything alive if the power goes down
- Ventilation system – used mostly in the cold season
- Dedicated internet connection
- Gaming server
- Web server
- My PC
- External backup hard drive
- Pipes backlight
One of the things I bought second hand, I think it was around 40 dollars. Though it had a dead battery, and I had to purchase a new battery, which cost me another 20$, so the final price was around 60$.
Even though it keeps the servers and router alive when the power is down, it’s pretty much useless, because the geniuses that design our data infrastructures almost never use an UPS for their equipment. That can be a real pain in the ass even at a business level, where you pay hundreds of bucks for the internet in your company, but everything falls apart when there’s a power outage.
But hey, at least it keeps my servers from shutting down unexpectedly, even if there’s no internet during the blackout.
All the kitchens in my building have ventilation holes on the exterior wall, as they should. You can connect a cooking hood to them, but I don’t cook that much, I only make fries & steak once in a while, so I don’t really need one. So, this was yet another unused feature of my studio apartment, so here’s what I did:
I took a PVC sewage pipe, sealed it up around the vent hole with a bit of plaster, plugged a flexible aluminum hood tube into it and voila ! Fresh air from the great outdoors. The dust it brings in is almost unnoticeable and I clean the computers regularly anyway, so it’s not a big deal. Rain doesn’t get in, and I had some doubts about snow, cause the flakes are floating around, but it turns out they’re not a problem either. I guess the air currents just sweep them along the building’s surface (coanda effect), rather than throwing them inside.
There is one problem though, this only works half time of the year, in the cold season. It’s completely useless in the summer, when there are up to 40 degrees centigrade outside (104 Fahrenheit), and even more. During the summer, I just bend the flexible tube behind the stove and plug a cloth into it to prevent the hot air from getting inside.
Another problem is that I can’t hook up both servers to it. I might try to plug a second flexible tube, but I’m afraid it will get too crowded and messy.
Well I already had a pretty good internet connection (7-8 MB/s), but it turns out they only allow a static IP for a business contract. And that is out of the question, as they can get up to hundreds of dollars per month. So I took advantage of my already existing telephone line and signed up for a DSL connection. It’s only 10$/month, and even if it doesn’t offer more than 2MB/s, it’s still way more than what I need. It’s reliable, never falls (except during power outages, but as I said before, they’re very rare) and I got this for free (plus a DECT phone):
Now, this is almost too awesome to be true for something you get for free. It’s a Huawei HG655b router and it has so many features that I couldn’t believe it: 2 telephone outputs, 4 LAN connectors, WiFi with WPS, integrated firewall, and even an USB port you can use as a FTP server. It doesn’t even have an exterior WiFi antenna, yet the signal is strong even in the street, with the router placed behind the thick exterior reinforced concrete wall.
It works flawlessly, never freezed, and I even did a firmware upgrade on it. Plus, it looks really cool, with that Apple style design.
I also got this from the second hand market, except for the case and power supply. I got those from someone who wanted to make a working computer from 2 dead ones, and he gave me all the stuff that remained, including the case and a dead power supply. The PSU had nothing else but a couple of burnt varistors and a blown fuse, so I replaced those and it still runs perfectly. It probably went through a power surge or something. The whole thing cost me around 85$:
This is an usual Socket 775 computer, however I did a few minor mods to it: I added a fan for the chipset heatsink, I removed the original DVD-Writer face and used a 5 inch bay plastic cover, for a smoother look (the gray one at the bottom is actually the DVD-Writer), I sealed some holes with silicone and/or plastic sheets, for better air flow.
- Motherboard: ASRock 775i65G
- CPU: Intel Pentium 4 @ 3.00 GHz
- RAM: 2GB DDR1
- HDD 1: Seagate ST3808110AS, 80 GB, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 8MB – system disk
- HDD 2: SAMSUNG HD253GJ, 250 GB, SATA II, 7200 rpm, 16MB – backup & misc disk
- DVD-Writer: LG HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-4167B
The operating system is a CentOS 5.5, configured with minimum needed services. Gotta love Linux, it only eats up around 200MB of RAM, which is great, considering I don’t have that much memory available.
I currently run only a Counter Strike Source server on it, though I want to add more in the near future: a Counter Strike 1.6 server (believe it or not, there are still a lot of people playing this hundred year old shit), possibly a Minecraft server, a Lineage II server, depending on how much resources they need.
This one was originally a computer I got for free from someone who kept it in his basement for some years, because it wasn’t working. Nothing that I couldn’t handle with a few replaced capacitors on the motherboard. But it was pretty old and slow, so now I have one that, again, I bought second-hand, this time, for only about 25$:
Like the gaming server, it’s a 775 socket. The case is mine, I had it laying around for a few years from the previous server project. It is modded in the same way, heatsinks and coolers wherever I thought it was necessary, and the silicone sealed holes for better airflow. I left the DVD-Writer as it is on this one, for the time being.
- Motherboard: ASRock P4VM800
- CPU: Intel Celeron 2.26GHz @ 2261 MHz
- RAM: 1GB DDR1
- HDD: Maxtor 6E040L0, 40 GB, IDE, 7200 RPM, 2MB – system disk
- DVD-Writer: ASUS DRW-1814BL
Same operating system, currently only runs a web server (Apache, PHP, MySQL).
I’m not going to write much about it here. It will have it’s own article. I’m just going to write the hardware specs:
- Motherboard: Abit IP35 PRO(P35+ICH9R)
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3851 MHz (9.00×428.0)
- RAM: 4GB DDR2 @ 513 MHz, 5.0-5-5-15, 2 x 2048 MB PC8500 DDR2-SDRAM – Muskin
- PSU: Spire Rocketeer IV, 600W
- HDD1: ExcelStor Technology J8080S, 80 GB, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 8MB
- HDD2: Seagate ST380815AS, 80 GB, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 8MB
- HDD3: Western Digital WDC WD2500AAJS-00VTA0, 250 GB, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 8MB
- HDD4: Seagate ST3500320AS, 500 GB, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 32MB – system disk
- Sound: Creative Audigy SE (SB0570) Sound Card
- Video: ASUS EN9600GSO nVIDIA GeForce 9600 GSO (G92), 384 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
- DVD-Writer: LG HL-DT-STDVDRAM GSA-E40L, external unit
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (x64) Build 7601
Not especially interesting, a 17 inch LG I got from second hand for about 30$. I cut off it’s leg and improvised a wall-mount to put it on the wall, right above the computers. I also used a bit of cable canal, to mask the wires. It looks pretty cool:
A cheap Delux keyboard, imitating the classic Dell keyboards. For a price of about 5 dollars brand new, it has a pretty cool design and feels good when typing, too:
External backup drive
I got this one from one of the companies I worked for, during a cleanup. I also received a cool 24 port 3COM switch with integrated management. It seems they didn’t have an use for them anymore, so why not give them to someone who might use them ?
The drive is currently connected to my PC, as it has an e-SATA interface and the server computers don’t have such an interface. I use it for semi-automatic backup for my PC, using a backup script. I might buy an e-SATA adapter for the servers, but for the time being I’m not sure it’s worth it. I might as well use a backup script over the network, to save backup data. The drive stays powered off for 99% of the time, I only power it up when I do a backup, to prolong it’s lifetime.
The disk itself is a Seagate Barracuda ST3500641AS, 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16MB.
To add a little bit of esthetic touch to the whole setup, I used a few blue LEDs to light up the room corner. I had the LED strips from 2 Logitech illuminated keyboards lying around, and I thought, well, what the heck, why not give them a proper use. They were already designed to be powered by the 5 volts on the USB ports, so I just took an USB cable, soldered them together and plugged the USB cord into an USB hub I use on top of my PC. I glued the LED strips on the heating pipes in my kitchen, using a little bit of silicone. They add a really cool, futuristic touch to the setup, as seen below.: