[OK, this page is olde! But the network page is still kept up to date.]
I've been planning to build my Music Computer for a few years now, and so in that time have been reluctant to waste money on a lame PC for everyday tasks. So I've been gradually collecting people's old computers to use, starting with my Mama's old 486, with which I started this website in 2002. This machine was a 486DX4 running at 100MHz with 128KB cache and 64MB EDO RAM on a PC Chips M918 using ALi 1489 chipset, with a 518MB Seagate ST3660A 3800rpm (very slow!) hard disk and 14" monitor at 800x600 16 colours (not ideal for viewing photos!). Some colleagues at work gave me some more ancient 486s, upon which I installed Debian. One will be a simple terminal (without X-Windows) for sysadmin duties and backups, and the last one a development machine for trying out new kernels and Debian Testing.
Then by chance at work, I came across a rackmount cabinet in a redundant office that was being cleared, and so being a kind-hearted soul, I saved it from the skip, borrowed a friend's van and brought it home, along with a 10MBaseT Ethernet hub. I spent an evening taking everything off the chassis and cleaning it, also removing a huge spaghetti of an ethernet patchbay (cabling nightmare!) that was breeding in the bottom, making much more space. This cabinet would cost hundreds when new, and is built like a tank, and adds a quaint industrial feel to my home decor (but not quite as funky as this Fifties locker-room retro though ;-) As well as rackmounting brackets for up to 20U, there are four movable shelves, and both (lockable) doors and side panels are easily removable. There are ten power sockets at the bottom with plenty of cable management facilities, and even six 120mm fans in the roof which thankfully are reasonably quiet when switched on.
Once I get all the machines fitted with network cards and suitable drivers, they will all connect to this 10MBaseT hub for internet access. It certainly won't break any records for computing power but will provide me with lots of practice at configuring a network and quietening the machines.
Next a friend gave me his old Pentium II 350MHz machine with 128MB RAM on an AOpen AX6BC motherboard. Thankfully this was also a desktop style case (made by Research Machines) so fits in nicely. This machine became my primary workstation for a while, at last having enough power to run X-Windows comfortably. (I'm amazed how long I put up with the 486 and eye-strain monitor in 16 colour mode!) I installed a large, slow, quiet Zalman FB123 92mm fan above the Slot processor to replace the horrendously noisy 40mm fan; maybe I'll take this further with some ducting goodness.
Then I got a couple more Pentium III 450MHz systems which were being retired from University, on which I've installed Debian 'Sarge' to use as my main internet workstation, and (eventually) DeMuDi for music production. The Pentium II will become a backup/file-server. [These machines were later retired (apart from the best one) and replaced by two Pentium IV machines which Barry kindly donated :]
Mama's 486 has been turned into a firewall, using the excellent floppy-disk based router Freesco, with a modem providing one secure connection to the outside world for all of the other machines using IP Masquerade. Since it runs entirely from one floppy disk, I've removed the noisy old hard disk and the (non-bootable) CDROM, so the power supply fan is now the only source of noise, possibly also to be removed or slowed down soon.
Eventually the goal is to have one machine tracking the
Debian's servers using
apt-proxy, and then
the rest of my network from it, to save unnecessary repeated downloads.
I am so glad I resisted temptations (and common sense!) to declutter and sell this rack cabinet, as it has now found an excellent new use: to house my collection of vintage signal generators, most of which perfectly match the vintage beige colour! Pictures will follow...
© copyleft Malcolm Smith 2003-06-19 - last updated 2018-08-13 - links verified 2006-06-24