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May 23
Pentium 4 Xeons

As a side-effect of some travel over the past month, I've found myself with my first rack-mounted computing equipment. My friend Josh was done with two of his older Hewlett Packard DL380 (Gen 4) servers, one of which had a bunch of disks in it, and the other of which had a bunch of memory and faster CPUs.

I've combined them and I have something that's… ultimately not very useful in modern contexts. The CPUs are just on the wrong side of the line needed to run Windows Server 2012R2 or Windows 8.1U1 and Windows 10, otherwise I would stuff it upstairs and run something like that on it. With all of the disks, I can get about 680 gigabytes of usable disk space, and the system I built has 7 gigabytes of RAM. There are two 3.4GHz GHz Xeons with 2M of caches in one of them and in the unit I'm going to set aside, dual 3.2GHz Xeons with 1M cache apiece.

They're honestly impressive for their age. With Windows 7 or 8 installed they can be responsive, and I bet they could run most of my desktop tasks, if not perhaps just a little slower than my normal laptop does.

The biggest problem with these machines is that they're 2u rack servers with big hot Pentium 4s in them, and as such, they're loud. They put out a pretty reasonable amount of heat, but the sound permeates my entire home when they're running, at least where I first tried them on my kitchen table. I eventually need to bring one or more of them upstairs and see if I can get them running up there.

I don't yet know what I'll do. I've looked at re-physicalizing TECT into one of them. I could upgrade the disks and the memory to build a system with about 1.5TB of disk space and 12GB of RAM, which would be sufficient. Another thought has been to use one as a Linux or BSD shell box, as well as to host files for my old Macs, using Netatalk. There has also been talk of using Windows Server 2003 or 2003R2 on one, but I don't feel as though it would be justified to do that.

I'll probably play around with them a little bit. There are a few upgrades, at least one of which is a CPU that will run newer versions of Windows, although I don't know how much it's worth spending on them in time and effort, with the limited RAM ceiling and the use of old, small disks.

The other challenge might be the noise. There are noise dampening racks available, but I hadn't planned on spending a bunch to do that kind of thing. I don't know what impact putting them in a closet or upstairs will have, but I can definitely try that.

They're fun to play around with, but it's unlikely they'll really end up in any production use, especially if it turns out that a netatalk works fine in virtualization on the main TECT hardware.


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