Ultimate Linux Box 2005

Some people wanted us to build a big powerful SMP system. Some people wanted us to build a silent machine that would be good for audio. So we did both.
Case

Cases capable of accommodating and doing justice to Ultimate Linux Boxes are rare. This year, only one alternative would work: going full custom. This year's case has acrylic windows to show off the cooling system, integrated supports for the three Reserators and a mounting place for the RME Multiface.

Look, everybody, no leaks! Justin sets up for the cover photo shoot (photo: Don Cameron).

Conclusion

Difficult as it might be for us to believe right now, many real-world systems don't need both 52-channel audio and Fibre Channel. But unusual combinations of hardware are what enable creative projects, and we're happy that Linux stays out of our way and lets us hook up what we want.

When you start with what's possible and take out what you don't need, you'll be confident that you can build a machine for your needs. We hope that whatever class of system you decide to build, you'll get some ideas out of this year's Ultimate Linux Box.

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Case with 2 - Motherboards?

Anonymous's picture

Anyone know where I can get a case that will hold at least two motherboards having expansion room for each, external cooling, and hot swap PSU, drives, CF support, etc? I see many doing case mods but nobody consolidating multiple systems in one CPU. I have seen a manufacturer with a commercial cabinet for as many as eight motherboards but it was not tailored to anything other than the commercial environment.

Each motherboard in the dual system could run VMware Workstation with one motherboard hosting failover firewall(dual), radius, LDAP, etc, and the second running multiple LAN clients. The option to one CPU with multiple boards is one high end CPU running VMware ESX or GSX which cost quite a bit more so the trade off is software vs hardware...but a box developed for ESX or GSX is going to cost far more than a dual motherboard system tucked into one CPU cabinet given the high end hardware solution will require 8-12GB of RAM on one board. The boards could each be populated with 4GB of RAM and dual core CPU. Your cost for _one_user_ with such a setup would be the cost for the systems and two copies of VMware workstation. I would think you could share the components of cooling and power at a minimum and there may be more. Why do this? So many cabinets...not enough processing power in one cabinet in residential systems but at this time they are cheaper to build.

Great modding article.

Step one?

Porges's picture

You guys seem to have skipped something on the way to building your own Ultimate Linux Box... where to get the money!

To build a comparable system would likely need the backing of a few (or many) sponsors, would it not?

Boot drive options

philiph's picture

When I built my custom wan router (August 2004 Linux Journal article 'Point to Point Linux'), I went through a similar decision about the boot drive. While that system is quite a bit different, the goals are the same: reliability and minimized heat output. I chose a 256mb flash ide drive from MagicRAM because we had some problems with the CF-IDE adapters we tried. The MagicRAM device plugs right in to an IDE connector as a small dongle. On the downside, it is more expensive than CF/IDE solution.

I also was able to shrink a stock Fedora Core 1 distro down to a size that ran comfortably off the 256mb disk. That of course requires throwing out all graphical components and other extra stuff, like man pages and localization. Still, it is completely possible to get a good working Fedora environment in that space. That may be a more robust solution since it's more 'standalone' than having to depend on network booting, etc.

One thing you have to be careful about in that situation is moving all your log files and other temporary data to a tmpfs. Flash devices are great but individual memory bits can only handle a few hundred thousand writes before dying. Thus its important to minimize continuous writes like log files.

Ultimate Linux Box

Romuald's picture

This is a wonderful, insightful and uplifting case of a revealing infrastructure implementation of Open-Source & Free Software.
Keep up these useful pieces.
Romuald

I was wondering about the Res

Anonymous's picture

I was wondering about the Reserator 1, how it was modified to allow cooling by natural convection. I understand they took out the pump and attached a pipe to the inlet port, which then went up through the reservoir. Makes perfect sense, thermodynamically, and I wonder why Zalman didn't think of this in the first place (even without removing the pump). All you get now, without the pipe up, is a lot of turbulence in the reservoir (or is that good?)

Anyway, anybody have any idea how hard it is to make that modification? Did it require some serious custom metalworking just like they did to the power supply, or is this something an average DIY can do in his garage?

Also, Zalman has the Reserator 2 out, which has coolant hose connectors that seal when you take them apart, so you don't have to mess with clamps anymore. Anybody knows if this restricts the flow of coolant seriously enough to prevent effective natural convection?

Very nice case

jsroy's picture

What really caugth my eye when I looked at the Linux Jounal is the incredibly cool case for this machine. It then made me think of my lame desk, and that my machine deserved better. Finally, it made me want to build one (or maybe even commission one) for myself.

So I was woundering if anybody would know how or where I could get plans to build a cool custom case?

Also, I have tryed to look into the "www.woodentemple.com" site to look at the craftmans works, but can not seem to get there. Is the site not built yet?

Thanks

More nice cases

Vaino Husgafvel's picture

Go to www.mini-itx.com and at right You see several projects.
Click any of them and enjoy and be INSPIRED !

Best Regards

Vaino

Very nice case

jsroy's picture

What really caugth my eye when I looked at the Linux Jounal is the incredibly cool case for this machine. It then made me think of my lame desk, and that my machine deserved better. Finally, it made me want to build one (or maybe even commission one) for myself.

So I was woundering if anybody would know how or where I could get plans to build a cool custom case?

Also, I have tryed to look into the "www.woodentemple.com" site to look at the craftmans works, but can not seem to get there. Is the site not built yet?

Thanks

Touchstream LP Keyboard

chrisg's picture

Curious about this device, I looked it up on Google (since you didn't include it in the parts list, I didn't know the manufacturer). I found this interesting note on the home page at www.fingerworks.com:

Important note!

FingerWorks has ceased operations as a business.

I was actually hoping to try them out...

I have one...

Anonymous's picture

While the interface is kind of novel, and gesturing to replace the mouse is nice, it wasn't the best $400 that we ever spent. I can touch type fine but my speed never improved on it to the point that I'd consider shelving the regular keyboard. After a couple weeks of having both a normal keyboard and the gestureboard on the desk at the same time, it moved up to the shelf, where it stayed, except when I try and fob it off on friends who invariably return it.

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