Thursday, April 29, 2010

Monster Server

I am in a position where I am running very low on storage space in my computer. Having recently acquired a totally unlimited ADSL2+ connection, the sky is the limit. Except, it's not! My HDD space is!

My current machine has 2x Seagate ST31500341AS 1.5TB (1500GB) drives, both of which have been hovering between 2gb and 50gb free space for some time. I also have a server with 4x Seagate 500gb drives in RAID5, giving 1.5TB of usable capacity. So, as I've been running low on space in my normal machine I've been moving "less-frequently-accessed" data (read: "old linux isos") to the server. Now, the server is running low on space, and I'm running out of "less-frequently-accessed" data to move.

Since I've been shuffling data around for about 9 months now, and I'm also beginning to worry about the safety of my files on the 1.5TB Seagate drives. I'm concerned that if one were to fail, I'll lose all my "linux isos", some of which aren't available via the usual channels anymore.

I recently purchased a Promise FastTrak TX8660 RAID controller, which will allow me to build a RAID array (using 8x Seagate ST31500341AS 1.5TB drives), and give me around 10TB of usable space.

I have invested considerable energy building an LED Array (8x Green LEDs, and 8x Orange LEDs) to indicate activity and failures respectively, and I'm also purchasing a new case:
Antec Twelve-Hundred Full Tower Gaming Case (

The case is required as I need to be able to house the 8x 1.5TB drives for the RAID Array, 1x 1.5TB drive for the OS (which I already have), a DVD-RW drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum front panel, and perhaps my LED Array.

I'm particularly proud of my LED Array. I extracted the LEDs from 7 old Compaq Tower Server HDDs, they were 10,000RPM 4.3GB SCSI drives, and had 2x Green and 1x Orange LEDs. I have a surplus of Green LEDs, and I am short 1x Orange LEDs which will hopefully be solved shortly by a second trip to Jaycar! It was particularly fun extracting the Magnets! Very powerful! UPDATE: A colleague of mine picked up an Orange LED for $0.55 today! So, now I have to solder it on to a wire, and I'm done!!! GREAT SUCCESS!!!

I am slightly confused by the LED headers on the card. According to the manual ( - 2-12 (Page 20)) there are 2x 16pin headers (Activity and Failure LEDs - EASY!), and 1x 8 pin header for "Aggregate LEDs" and "Global LEDs". I was slightly confused about this one, and managed to find a Forum ( which discussed the same topic on a similar RAID controller.

As I understand it, Your case (which would normally have 1x ACTIVITY LED) would normally be connected to the motherboard to display the activity lights for your system HDDs. The forum seems to suggest that instead, you connect the Motherboard HDD LED 2pin header to the RAID Card, and then you connect the Case LED to the RAID card as well. It then uses the same system LED for the System HDDs as well as the RAID Array activity.

This 8pin header (while not appearing to be numbered) is arranged as follows:
+ +
R -
G -
+ +

It would appear that the top right pin (+) is pin number 1, which would make sense. But, I can't quite figure out how I'm supposed to configure this. The manual doesn't seem to discuss this much, Perhaps it will become more clear once I actually have the card in my hands (c'mon australia post!), but for now I think I can live without Aggregate LEDs since I have my 8x Green LEDs anyway.

Jaycar has been particularly helpful, as I was a little confused about how I'd connect the Header Pins on the RAID controller to the actual LEDs, which may be up to 1 meter away. I considered using CAT5 for Length, and I stripped a heap of old 2pin case connectors (Power Button, Reset Button, LEDs, and even the Internal SATA port connectors) in an attempt to rig up some dodgy "super-glued" connector for the RAID 16pin header. Instead, I went to Jaycar and asked the guys there. Eventually, I purchased 2 meters of 16-core Rainbow Ribbon Cable (,
2x 16 Pin Headers to crimp on to the Ribbon Cable, and
1 length of 1.5mm Heat Shrink Tubing.

I used one of the old Compaq HDD Chassis to mount all the LEDs in, the holes were exactly the right size to fit in the LEDs, and I used some tin snips to cut away all the excess plastic.
I'm still unsure of how to physically mount the LEDs in the case. It's a pretty sexy case, so I don't really want to cut anything out. It hasn't arrive yet, so I'll have to figure that part out when I pick it up.

I'll be moving my Motherboard, PSU, CPU, RAM, DVD-RW, Sound Card, Video Card, and System Drive from my existing case to the new case, which will mean I have an empty shell. "The Boss" probably won't like having another empty shell lying around the house, but she'll have to deal with that for now. Down the track, I plan on filling the empty case with some new gear to create a seperate gaming rig to what will become known as the "Monster Server". Will need to wait on finances for that one though.

All in all, I really only have my LED array in my actual possession, but the card should be in the mail (expected to arrive today or tomorrow), and I've placed an order through IJK ( for the HDDs and the Antec Case.

"The Boss" is working on Saturday, so I should have the day to myself to tinker and build the biggest coolest home server I've every built.

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