Ubuntu Media Server

The story of converting an old Sparc Classic server into a mini-ITX ATOM processor NAS.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Well it worked, kinda.

In the end I got a QNAP TS209 and used the 1Tb discs mirrored - the Twonky Server is really good for serving media, and I recommend the Popcorn Hour Media player.



Monday, 20 October 2008

Progress so far.

A long bout of headscratching. The Samsung disks were giving Kernel errors, I first thought duff disk/leads etc, but it turns out there are some low-level SATA disk issues with the Ubuntu 8.4.1 (and earlier) builds. (A lot of Google ...)

Happy to report that this seems to have been fixed with the imminent 8.10 release (the Beta version is working fine at the moment).

Mediatomp & Samba left to install & configure and she'll be ready for service.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Had a few assembly hitches, but all fixed now.

1. Not realising that the motherboard needed a momentary PSU switch (or shorting the header pins with a screwdriver !). Using a jumper connector gets you 2-3 seconds of power then everything conks out.

2. The USB riser is the "wrong way round" - offering the ports to the side of the case rather than than over the motherboard - for now I'm using one of the external USB ports.

3. I should have got right-angled SATA cables - it's a really tight squeeze, and has involved hacking the disc chassis about 2-3 times and a lot of tin-snip & Dremmel grinder action.

4. One good thing - I noticed I had a spare "silent" fan which has silenced the nosiy chipset cooler that comes with the Atom motherboard - in the UK Maplins sell these for a couple of quid. Made by Evercool, a 40mm "PC brushless DC fan".

Ubuntu is 8.04.1 is installed, but I haven't started the apt-get update installs yet. SATA discs are installed & wired up, but not yet mirrored.

Just waiting for a proper switch and LEDs to install, the ceremonial closing of the case and some more photos.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Minor change of plan. Housing 2 x 3.5" SATA discs and a 3.5" IDE one is going to be tight. Opted instead for installing a USB riser on the motherboard header, and using a 16Gb flash drive instead. Once booted it should rarely be used so ought to be ok.

I'm using this guide for a PenDrive install (from bootable CD, which I'll disconnect after installation).

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Take your Sparc Classic ...

(With apologies to Mrs Beeton)

Here we are at the start, one Sparc Classic awaiting gutting.

Open it up like a briefcase.

There was this great lever thing that I could wouk out what it did - I assumed it was a support pillar for the lid with the PSU & Disc Drives. It's the thing that gets the motherboard off the edge connectors.

You have to ease the motherboard out by tilting it to one side.

The rest of the innards falls out after you undo a few screws - typical of the superb production engineering of Sun Microsystems !

I decided to chop up the PSU housing to avoid having to mount the new PSU on the case. This involved a hammer to flatten protruding screw mounts and a pair of Tin Ships to get rid of unnecessary bits of metal - it's tough stuff. The only issue so far is the position of the IEC block on the new PSU. I could make a new hole in the side of the case and offer it up flush - but I'm not going to - just going to plug a lead in situ (for now anyway).

Here's the top half, the PSU and disc chasis reassembled ready for discs. The half that use to house the floppy drive will need drilling for Hard Drive mounts.

I'm going to see if I can mount everything keeping the metal shielding, seems like a good idea, but mainly once I've snapped off the moulded plastic rivets it's never going back on again.

Next case chopping to house the new mobo.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The idea

The plan is to create a Home Media Server / NAS, based on Ubuntu and MediaTomb.

I was planning to use the new Intel Atom 230 mobo, but as fate would have it they released a Dual Core version (330) last week - so that's what I'm going with.

As it's a NAS as well as server I'm going with a pair of Samsung 1Tb low noise discs to be (soft) mirrored - these are a couple of mS slower than Seagate Barracudas, but I preferred the low noise option. (remains to be seen what racket the chipset fan will produce, but I'll blow that bridge up when I get to it - I've silenced Northbridge chips before).

I am going to do a bit of Case Modding and use as a donor an old Sun SparcClassic I have had lying around for yonks that was saved from a skip, and an old 80Gb IDE system disc. I loaded NetBSD on it originally, but once that worked I never turned it on again and I suspect the battery is long since dead.

There's a nice example of an VIA mini-ITX case mod using an old SparcIPX (essentially the same box) here.

I've managed to source a 1U 250w (overkill) PSU which looks like it's going to sit exactly where the old SUN PSU did inside the case - which has saved about £40 on external PSU, internal DC-DC psu & internal wiring looms. I thought about salvaging the SUN PSU, but the connectors are different, and it's a £30 problem, so barely worth the effort (plus I couldn't find a spec for the old PSU). The new PSU is a Seasonic 250W 1U compact, and the very nice people at LinITX recommended it (so thanks)

Next job (with photos planned) - gut the old Sparc boards & PSU.