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21 November 2007


Hooking up a serial port to the server
serial port adaptor and "cybertool" swiss army knife

It's not good to talk to a dead server. But when your server is only almost dead, it might be possible to talk to it through a serial console. Apple's G4 computers never had serial ports built in, but there are products that let you exchange the modem with a "real" serial port. Wildweasel (of #bsdcow fame) got me one, and he also soldered me a suitable cable with his own bare hands (thanks wiwi!). Yesterday I finally set out to install it on my server. It was quite an adventure, but my server is still running (hey, you're reading this on it)...

We arrived in the server room, I switched off the server, took it out of the rack, opened it and inserted the serial card. Wait. I tried to insert the serial card. It wouldn't fit, for something like a few millimeters. Tried this way, tried that way, looked at it from this side, looked at it from the other side. No go.

Since there was no way, I just went over to the club room, ready to eat some pizza and then go back home. When I told the members of the IN-Ulm club there about the card, one of them (raimund) spoke up and after checking the card declared that it should be possible to cut a few mm of plastic and board. I pulled out my "cybertool" swiss army knife and he started to cut and file.

cutting from the mainboard power adapter with a "cybertool" swiss army knife

Now, if this sounds cheesy, dangerous, or crazy to you, I must tell you... you are right. Kids, don't try this at home. Or at work. Some people are crazy enough it seems. Since cutting on the "cereal" board wasn't enough, he cut from the power connector (the one that was in the way) too. That was when it got really scary. In the end the board went in, a little bit wacky and I wouldn't want to shake the box too much. But it works now and hopefully will for a while. Many thanks to raimund, Taxman and the other IN-Ulm guys! Thanks to the_eye for the pictures, there are some more pictures here.

Why did the board not get in cleanly? Apparently (from the leaflet) it was meant for older versions of the G4. Apple must have moved that silly connector around a few mm, and the guy who designed the board made some decisions of placing stuff that he wouldn't have done in hindsight.

I probably would not have gone with this approach, but I had traveled from Athens, over Munich, to Ulm to put in this board (well, not exclusively). Having to go home without the card in would have been ugly. Lucky me it worked.

Posted by betabug at 18:02 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Re: Cereal-Killer!

As we use to say in Spanish: "¡Qué Cojones! Macho". I'm happy that your server is still alive :)

I have a SUN Sparc workstation waiting for me in Spain. I'd like to bring it here but with a weight of 30 kilos I don't know how to make it fit in my "luggage" :D

Posted by: graffic at November 24,2007 18:57
Re: Cereal-Killer!

Hey graffic! Thanx for the comment, yeah, cojones! :-)

30 Kilos is a *lot* for transport by plane. Too bad, it would be a nice machine. Hope you find a way to get it here some day!

Posted by: betabug at November 26,2007 09:54
Re: Cereal-Killer!

As we use to say in Spanish: "¡Manda huevos!", repair a server with a swiss little knife :D. Happy to know that there are Spanish people on Greece.

Posted by: r0sk at November 26,2007 09:58
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