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 Post subject: Low Quality Longevity
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 7:49 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2006 10:12 am
Posts: 545
Location: UK
Some time ago an old K6-II 500 system came into my possession. It has the most horribly low-quality motherboard (made by PC Chips), and is slow enough that you need to take up a hobby to fill the time spent waiting for it to do stuff, but nonetheless it has served many people well over the years and I wanted it to continue to do so. Therefore I have turned it into a file server, a purpose for which its low power consumption is ideal and its low performance not a hindrance.

The CPU heatsink was tiny and the fan worn out. As a replacement, a relatively enormous socket-A heatsink just about fits, complemented by one of a pair of green LED fans that I had to buy because they were only £1 each. With the fan at 5V it is inaudible when the case side is on. The other fan went into the PSU, also undervolted to 5V.

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Two 120GB hard drives provide minimal storage space for the moment. Larger drives will be fitted as available. They are suspended by bicycle inner tubes which do an admirable job of absorbing hum, and with AAM turned right up the drives are barely audible even from very close by. There is provision for a third drive under the current two. The optical drive is disconnected to save power.

There's very little else inside the case because what little hardware is needed for a file server is all integrated into the motherboard: Graphics (not really needed since everything can be managed remotely, but one must be present for things to work), network and USB.

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In the top two drive bays you can see das blinkenlights that allow useful information like network utilization to be read at a glance. The green LED fans cast a pleasing glow through the holes in the panels. There's a 3.5" drive bay blanking plate missing because there used to be a floppy drive in there and spare blanking plates are strangely impossible to purchase.

The system draws 30W from the mains when idle, going up to about 50W under load, plus a few more watts for each hard drive that's active. That's with the CPU at 500MHz and undervolted to 2.0V (the lowest setting the BIOS allows) and the ancient PSU which is likely to be of low efficiency. It's just about audible from close by during quiet periods, but totally undetectable if there's any ambient noise like cars or birds. The CPU temperature is unfortunately not readable by any software I can find, but the heatsink remains cold to the touch. The hard drives reach about 35C in a room of 22C.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 8:01 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 2:31 am
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Location: Hell
definitely not impressed ;)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 8:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:54 am
Posts: 187
How are you getting hard drives of such high capacity to work on such an old system?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:25 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 10:59 pm
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Location: Tampere, Finland
BIONIC_EARS wrote:
How are you getting hard drives of such high capacity to work on such an old system?


It's *nix, baby! It doesn't rely on what the BIOS reports. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 9:34 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2006 10:12 am
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Location: UK
jaldridge6 wrote:
definitely not impressed ;)

Sorry, I'll try harder next time. Maybe if my budget was bigger than £2... :p


BIONIC_EARS wrote:
How are you getting hard drives of such high capacity to work on such an old system?

I hadn't thought of that actually; it just worked. The BIOS does support LBA which means it should work up to 137GB. I hope I don't have trouble in the future when I add larger drives. New drives would most likely be SATA with a PCI controller - would that still be limited by the BIOS?


borc wrote:
It's *nix, baby! It doesn't rely on what the BIOS reports. :)

I was going to run some flavour of Linux on there, but I needed it to be able to run eMule (aMule won't do I'm afraid), so it runs a greatly slimmed down XP.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:38 pm 
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Posts: 1162
Location: UK
Mr Evil wrote:
I hadn't thought of that actually; it just worked. The BIOS does support LBA which means it should work up to 137GB. I hope I don't have trouble in the future when I add larger drives. New drives would most likely be SATA with a PCI controller - would that still be limited by the BIOS?

Nope, no BIOS problems with 48-bit LBA there, the controller card will take care of it.

I love resurrecting old hardware into useful life, although PC Chips motherboards bring me out in a rash...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 3:02 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:54 am
Posts: 187
Wow, those old PC Chips boards support LBA? And they can pass electric current without catching fire? I'm impressed!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:43 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2006 10:12 am
Posts: 545
Location: UK
BIONIC_EARS wrote:
...And they can pass electric current without catching fire?..

It nearly did catch fire. The northbridge heatsink was held on with a mere bit of thermal tape which must have become detached when I first started playing around with the system, but I didn't notice for a while. The heatsink becomes hot enough as it is, I can only imagine the burning temperatures the tortured northbridge must have experienced without it.

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