Technical Blog

Junking Hardware / Cleaning Office

I’m clearing out about 90% of my old hardware from my home office.

Things like my ancient Sun Sparc Station 4 and 5 for my old Oracle work, and the older Sparc Classic (lunchbox), Sparc IPX systems used in my distributed web development days, and the Cobalt RaQ and iMac G3 systems I did development on about a decade ago. I’m also dumping a Compaq 286 laptop that served me well in doing assembly and C coding and it’s cousin the 486 that was my constant companion for several years. The dumping continues with numerous boxes of old cabling, strange and exotic old cards (ISA, PCI, MCA, EISA, VESA, Sbus, and some I don’t even recognize now), a couple of engineering sample video cards, some really old KVMs, couple of 24 port serial port concentrators (that I hacked the firmware on) and even a pair of old Cisco 2500’s used in my network testing days. It’s about 20 years of hardware exiting the house before we do the renovations and addition to my home.

It is really sad to see some of these little guys leave the house but looking forward to a cleaned out home office that I can get back to being a pleasant work and coding environment. So out the door they go.

In dumping all this equipment, I’ve been gathering the hardware junk box that I can re-use in other hardware projects. So far I have two of these boxes with weird stuff like an old Palm 5 docking station, some ear phones, some older coaxial cable, and the other random assortment of hardware junk you find useful when hacking hardware. These two boxes are starting too look really strange like something from a Mad Max movie.

This is cathartic writing about all these old pieces of equipment that were used in my professional and personal learning processes. It’s hard to part with some of these because of the happy memories associated with figuring out the next big problem in technology for that time.

Good bye little friends and now to start gathering the next set. :)

UPS and Print Server

I bought an “APC Back-UPS ES 550” awhile back from CostCo without knowing for sure if it would work with the Seagate BlackArmor NAS. It works great so far. I was afraid I would have to hack on the configuration file for the software but it worked out of the box without any extra effort other than enabling the UPS Manager.

I had a second dilemma which was that I use the NAS as my print server for an older “Brother MFC 7420” printer and did not want to loose that configuration. There is only one USB port off the back of the unit that is supposed to work with printers and UPS. So for my next surprise, I found that it works for both the UPS and printer with an old un-powered notebook USB hub that I got as a door prize at some Cisco event.

I may test plugging up my old 500GB Seagate USB hard disk to that hub as well and see if it recognizes the space and makes it available.

So for anyone else, I cannot vouch for all UPS and printers but my configuration above is working great.

Serial Port on BlackArmor NAS

I found my old Samsung x426 USB cell phone programmer cable as I was cleaning out my home office. I might have mentioned this cable earlier when I wrote about adding a serial console to the BlackArmor NAS. The cable is a really old style one that has a weird connector for the cell phone way before the mini-USB became standard. The interesting thing about this cable is that it has a serial to USB converter chip (2303HXC 0546) that does the magic of converting serial to USB. That is why that thing was ridiculously expensive ($35) when I bought it back in the day.

Why this is even on my radar as possible is that the website CrapNAS had an entry for how to connect a serial or USB cable so you can watch the Linux boot up as a serial console session. They specify two different ways to do this. For the serial connection, they specify a MAX3232 as necessary. The USB connection has a schematic that includes a 2303HX. I’m not sure what the difference is between that and my 2303HXC so I will be doing some reading before I cut into the cable and get out the soldering iron.

Why am I even messing around with a serial console? Because as I am planning to mess around with the lower level system, I should have a back out plan if I do something wrong. A serial console on the device gives me more options during the boot up even if I cannot connect via a network connection.

As far as getting time to work on the compiler toolchain, I’ve been relaxing over the holiday break with family, cleaning my messy home office and have not even booted up the virtual machine since my last post. I intend to get back to it someday.

Seagate Black Armor NAS

Yeah it’s been hectic at work and lots to do in domestic life as well so this hobby project hasn’t gotten much attention. Christmas break is coming however and I’m planning on getting some time to work on it. I think most Open Source projects or hobbies get a boost over the holidays.

Merry Xmas & Happy New Year in case I don’t get back here before the holidays.