Upgrading the Home Network

The two PCs that have been performing server duties for my home network for the past several years were retired today. One served as the internal server and the other as the external server. The external server handled email, web, and routing duties. The internal one handled NIS, DNS, NFS, SMB, DHCP, and other inside-the-firewall duties. Each was packed full of disks setup as RAID-1 mirrors. These machines had so many drives and other oddments in them and on them that they heated the closet in which they resided to many degrees above ambient. Cooling them was troublesome and very noisy. So, I decided to get rid of them and simplify. They have been replaced by one machine residing in a small, quiet Antec Aria micro-ATX enclosure. Two big full-towers crammed with junk were replaced by one toaster.

The new network appliance is compact and simple. Gone are the RAID setups. Instead, I’m using a 200 Gig SLED. I didn’t really need the RAID. It was overkill. Now I simply rely on hourly backups made to some big disks in external USB enclosures dangling off of other machines. If I lose an hour, no big deal. If the server is unavailable for a while, oh well. I don’t need a hot standby drive, and I certainly don’t need a hot, noisy closet.

Building the machine was rather tedious. The Aria is cramped. The first motherboard I tried, an Abit VA-10, didn’t work due to the position of the CPU socket. The socket was directly under the PSU, making it impossible to install a heatsink. There was no way the Zalman CNPS7000A-AlCu I wanted to use was going to fit. So, I searched around for a motherboard where the CPU socket was located more towards the center of the board. I found a Soyo SY-K7VME board. The CPU was in the right place, but it lacked the heatsink mounting holes that the Zalman required. So, I picked up a Thermaltake A1889 that uses the typical three point mount. This heatsink fit, as long as you removed the fan. (This is where I started cursing.) The Aria case includes some special mounts for just such a situation, fortunately. This review of the Aria shows how the heatsink fan can be dangled from a rail attached to the PSU. That’s what I had to do. With the heatsink installed came the task of getting the myriad cables attached, no small feat in such a small space. In the end, though, I managed to get everything assembled. The final hardware spec consisted of the Aria case, the Soyo mobo, the Thermaltake heatsink, an AMD 2500+ CPU, a 512 meg stick of Kingston PC2700 memory, a Memorex CD/DVD combo drive, and a 200G Seagate hard drive. More than enough machine to serve as a home network appliance. Overkill, in fact.

To my relief, it booted up on the first try. I proceeded with a painless install of Fedora Core 3. It recognized all of the onboard hardware — video, audio, lan, card readers, etc. — and was up and running in no time. I consolidated the data from the other two machines onto the new machine, configured httpd, mysqld, dhcpd, and friends, and then threw the switch. Tada! Well, I did have a couple of small glitches with SELinux being too restrictive, but I figured them out without too much headscratching.

Next up is a new desktop. Although not as bad as the old servers, my primary desktop is big and noisy too. I’m thinking of a small form factor barebones system like a Shuttle G5 9500. AMD64 with a SATA drive and two gigs of fast RAM in a small, quiet enclosure. Nice. Goodbye towers full of fans. I won’t miss you.