Friday, 21 June 2013

Picking up the Pieces

Here's my Final List

How frustrating is would be to receive all of the parts bar one important little element. It doesn't have to be a significant part either,.. a missing two quid connector is all it takes. So once again I make myself a list of the supporting items required for the project:
  • Mini-ITX case - Not able to re-use my old one.
  • 2.5" IDE to SATA adaptor - For my old Solid State Drive.
  • 19 volt 90 watt laptop adaptor (not sure about connector).
  • Displayport or HDMI to VGA adaptor. (My TV doesn't have any HDMI sockets).

Replacing the SSD

Re-installing the server operating system is to be avoided at all costs. It's far too much work and I know I'd end up with bits missing. Hence my original idea to try and move all the disks over to the new server and hope it still works OK. It's Linux not Windows so I might get away with this.

I'd planned to get a disk drive adaptor for my old IDE system disk on eBay, but things are never that simple. IDE to SATA adaptors tend to go the other way, letting you use a modern SATA drive on an older motherboard. What I need is a way of connecting an older (IDE) drive to a modern motherboard. I did find something on eBay, but it was located in China and I wasn't prepared to wait at least two weeks before it was delivered.

This set about the seeds of change and I started to wonder about replacing the SSD. This meant cloning the existing system partition to another disk and getting the boot loader to work,... sounds like it might work! A quick google on the topic and I found you can use Clonezilla, or if you don't mind messing about on the command line then you can use the dd utility.

Here's a good page I found that takes you through the basics.

Now the problem was reduced to a simple "what to buy". I could get another 2.5" laptop size drive, and the choice was huge, or I could use one of those Mini PCI Express sockets on the new motherboard to attach a solid state disk directly to it.

Mini PCI Express is a laptop technology to help reduce the size of upgradeable components. (USB and wireless adaptors, that sort of thing.) But an interesting variation allows mSATA solid state drives to be fitted.

nb. Not all mini PCI express sockets support this so check your motherboard documentation before you order one.

The full length mini pci express socket in the DQ77KB can be used for an mSATA card, which means I have one less drive to worry about mounting in the case. The only real disadvantage being that I won't be able to connect both the mSATA and the IDE system disks in the same machine in order to perform the disk cloning. But I have a few old SATA disks kicking about so I'm sure I'll be able to either clone a clone, or create a clone image file that I can use. I'll worry about that task later.

So I ordered an Intel 60Gb mSATA card which had the 6Gb/sec interface and around 500Mb/sec read and write speed. There seems to be an Intel theme building here!!

Another Brick for the Wall

If you remember the motherboard uses an external laptop power supply rather than the usual internal desktop type unit.

Laptop power bricks can be really expensive to buy unless you get one from ebay. Elsewhere even the cheap ones are sixty quid and others as high as ninety! Now ideally I don't want to be a cheap-skate here because the more frugally priced units tends to have less efficiently designed circuits. There's loads of articles on the web about this but the main thing to realise is that the majority of the power supplies out there are at best 80% efficient. The head of the company Delta recently stated, "we can produce units with an efficiency of 92%, but the laptop manufacturers are unwilling to pass on the expense to their customers."

Now consider that different laptop manufacturers choose different voltages from each other, and then compound that with the fact that they have a range of possible DC connectors. I looked at a lot of different power supplies and in the end I played it safe and just bought something that I knew would work. Most forum posts stated that the Dell PA-10 works fine so that's what I bought, for just £12.

Hard Case

I like my current server case, but when I put together Pingu Mk3 I had to do some extensive dremeling on the back panel to allow the system board sockets to fit. It had been a cheap case designed for a board that I didn't have, but it was close in design to Pingu Mk2 and I liked it so I bought it. Odds are that I won't be successful if I try to modify the rear panel again so I'm going to get a new case.

Trying to find a case that's cheap, quite small, yet can house more than one 2.5" disk turned out to be another challenge. I have two 2.5" laptop drives and a full size 3.5" desktop drive so the small cases were no good to me. There were a few slightly larger with built in ATX power supplies (which I don't need) that made the case really quite deep, and then there were much bigger cases, some with quick release disk drive bays. I originally had a target of around £30 which is OK if you're not too bothered what your case looks like, but I didn't like them.

I fell in love with the Streacom F7C EVO case which I discovered on the store, but at nearly seventy quid I hesitated. It is made of lovely thick aluminium and oozes quality, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy it. So I dallied around for another day or so trying to find cheaper alternatives and in the end I figured "Why shouldn't I have a nice case" and ordered it in silver.

You can get fanless versions higher up the range, which come with cpu heat pipes and have integrated heatsinks down the sides of the case, but the prices where getting silly. Plus it doesn't take into consideration the heat generated by the disk drives.

And Finally..

These days everything's digital, and very few system boards have analog video out, so this rules out using my old analog TV as a display (during setup). OK quit laughing again!... my best bet was going to be a HDMI to VGA converter and borrow the screen from the boys' mac mini. Cheap on eBay.

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