Slackware Server 2024 – Initial Build

#computers #linux #slackware #unix #bsd #servers #hardware #software #virtualmachine #slackwareserver2024

So I was sort of right in my guesstimation about which, or what, parts I had. Unfortunately, about the only thing you can swap out of a Dell are the hard drives, PCI cards, and maybe the memory sticks. I thought I could get away with cannibalizing the power supply, which would have meant that I could've gotten this Green Frankenstein up and running last night... That didn't happen.

The Build

In an effort to get this thing up and running without buying anything, I thought that I would tear apart an old Dell that has been sitting in the closet. I have no idea what model it is or what the specs are for it, it was my wife's old PC. I do see that it has some sort of an aftermarket graphics card and that it was built for Windows XP, as evidenced by the sticker with the XP serial number on it. I vaguely remember her using it when we first moved in together (two houses and an apartment ago), if I remember correctly it was old even a decade ago. So it was a long shot that the psu would even be good. She has no idea what's on the hard drives even... I'll be able to find out once I can power it on boot to it... Yes, I had planned on buying new hard drives, but I sniped the two that were in her old Dell; one was 320GB and the other is a 500GB, both Western Digital drives running at 72k.

The one component that I don't have a spare or an extra of is a power supply. Just last week the power supply on my Dad's PC went out, so I ordered one and swapped out the old one for him. I think just the act of doing that, removing and installing a power supply, combined with having the experience of a good exchange on Mastodon with a total stranger who is putting Linux on an old HP Proliant server has sort of sparked my interest in doing this project. It's been a long time since I've played around with old hardware to make something new. I have grand plans now...

I've been bitten by Dell's proprietary bullshit in the past too. Actually, back when I did field repair, we had a customer who's PC had died, not unlike the way my Father's unceremoniously did. On my way to do the job I stopped at Fry's (R.I.P.) to pick up a power supply. It wasn't on the work order that the customer had a Dell, or what model of Dell it was. So, without bothering to call ahead to get more information, I bought a standard ATX psu. Sure enough, his Dell simply wouldn't accept the power supply that I had bought. I felt like an idiot, especially since it was quite obvious that the power supply didn't fit, and there was not way to finagle it.

Interestingly enough, the power supply from that old old Dell is ALMOST the same size as a regular ATX one, just eyeballing it, I thought for sure it would fit. Turns out it's only a couple of centimeters too long. Provided it would have mounted, there are other issues as well; the 20+4 power connector has a ridiculously short cable, and even if I did want to modify the case to accept this Dell power supply, it wouldn't have mattered because that cable wouldn't reach to where I need it on the motherboard that I'm using.

So, as to not wasting the time I spent tearing apart the Dell, as mentioned above, I did swipe the hard drives from it. RAID is nice, but I might actually just use the drives independently of one another. The 320GB can hold the host OS, the 500GB drive can hold the images for the VMs I want to run, and then the last drive can be mapped and mounted as one large share file across my home network (for the VMs as well as my laptop and desktop backups).

🪛Parts to Order

Power SupplyNeeded A power supply unit (“psu” or “power supply”) is the one thing that I absolutely need to buy. I opted to just get the same one that I bought for my Dad. The “APEVIA VENUS” is the best value that I could find, under $30 for 500W. That's more than enough... In fact I'm half tempted to pull apart my main desktop and see what power supply I bought three years ago, I don't think the one I'm running in there is even rated for 500, I might consider snatching the psu out of my desktop and putting the brand new one in there rather than use it for this project. Whatever I have in my desktop would also be more than acceptable for this project.

The PSU will be here tomorrow (by the time this is posted).

Large SATA DriveOptional I'm thinking about a Western Digital Blue drive. 4TB for less than $80 is a pretty good deal. So, for just over $100 I can get the PSU and a drive that I can start using to organize all the data I want backed up. I'm waiting to buy another drive until after I get everything booted and I'm confident it's going to be stable enough.

Some of you are probably thinking, “well, what about Seagate?” Yes, they are a better deal, but I've never had a Western Digital drive die on me that wasn't abused over a long enough timeline. Whereas, I've had Seagate drives be delivered DOA. It just something that I don't want to deal with. Hitachi and Toshiba are second and third place on my list. Kingston is fourth. Seagate is below whatever the hell off-brand I can get on Ali Express.

Shorter SATA CablesOptional Three drives is manageable, but if I want to stick more drives in there, cable management is going to start to be something I'll have to worry about. I've never seen it done, but from what I understand, you can shorten your SATA cables, and there have been people who have done it. Reminds me of when people were “rounding” their IDE cables. There don't seem to be any shorter than 6 inches that I can find for sale. You can kind of see in the picture above, the light blue connectors are the SATA ports on the motherboard, and the HDDs are right there. I don't even need a 3 inch cable for that. What I might end up doing is flipping the drives around and threading the SATA data cables through the back and around.

🗿What's in a name?

I don't know what to name this machine. Traditionally I've always named my PCs after ships or mobile suits from the Gundam anime franchise. Gundam Wing is my favorite series, and a number of the mobile suits in that show were named after Zodiac signs (Leo, Aries, and Cancer), so my network is called “Zodiac”. But I draw inspiration from all the various entries in the franchise. Currently my desktop is named “Whitebase”. One of my old laptops was named “Albion”. So I'm not sure where to go with the name this time. I'm thinking about possibly calling it “Tallgeese”. That particular mobile suit had a really cool story arc all it's own. Destroyed and then rebuilt as something better, that's kind of the story behind these parts.

The motherboard and cpu that I'm using for this project came from the second PC I that ever built after moving to Vegas. The first was a Frankenstein Dell machine. The case was entirely stripped and was the result of two Dell internals being mashed together. But once I earned some money I decided to buy everything I needed to build a good PC.

What's Next?

It's a matter of slapping the psu inside the ulgy green case and installing the OS. Maybe doing a little exploring of the drives that were in my wife's computer and backing up anything on there that might be worth saving. I know she played a lot of Sims and WoW, so there's no telling what could be on those hard drives.

I'll have to look and see if I still have any spare keyboards and monitors. I think that I do, but I'm not sure... I have a bunch of old laptops scattered around that aren't good for much.

While I have no experience with refurbishing LCDs, I have seen some LCD conversion kits online. It would be awesome to be able to use the LCD from my old Asus Chromebook with the fucked up keyboard. It's also one of the first Chromebooks they ever released, so the rest of the hardware isn't of much value to anyone, especially since I spilled beer on it and can no longer log in since those keys don't work. Replacing the keyboard is definitely time and cost prohibitive, I may as well try and salvage some hardware from it.

Pipe Dreams and the Future

This is me getting ahead of myself, but also trying to anticipate any obstacles I might encounter. Everything is going to be headless/commandline, so I can't see the processor or the amount of available memory as being an issue. However, the network connection(s) it has probably will be important. A 4-port ethernet card and a relatively cheap WiFi router that can run OpenWRT might be the first upgrades I purchase if the system behaves the way I anticipate.

I'll run each of the nics to their own port on the router and have the router set up to be a bridge so that it's just an extension of my main router. That way I can have individual network interfaces for each VM, while still allowing the box itself to be wireless and away from the living room where the cable is piped in. I'm anticipating that one of the bottlenecks I'll face is a single network interface if I'm trying to do something with multiple VMs all acting as their own servers (wired or not).