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Weird and Wonderful PCs: Your Stories Part 2

LAN Party Server With Four Motherboards, Yipes!

From: Scott Ware

This project had been rolling around in my head for a few years. It all started after I built four machines to use as servers for LAN parties I host and attend. It was a big pain transporting all of them plus my game machine and all the other crap. I thought about rack mount stuff but I would end up with a huge heavy box, and it would cost a fortune. I had a case that I thought would be perfect because it had four 5.25" drive bays. I did some looking around but never could find parts that would work and that I could afford.

A few years passed with me seeing items now and then that might work but nothing seemed just right or the cost was too high. Then I got a Shuttle SS51G XPC, which was great for LAN parties! I watched the price of the motherboards it used to see if they would drop but it never happened. I happened to see an ad for a micro-ATX MB and a XP 2000+ for around $100 and thought that the price was right for me to start working on my server mod. I started ordering parts and the result is what you see here.

The Case

The case was just a standard mini tower case. I used the plate that holds the motherboard and just drilled new holes so I could mount the motherboard lower. The back of the case had a lot of metal cut out of it to make room for the motherboards and power supplies.

The Power Supplies

For the power supplies I had been planning on maybe 2 x 400w units, but the XPC I owned had a nice and small 200-watt power supply that, after a few measurements, I determined would be perfect. I was able to put four of them side by side in the same space a normal PS would fit. I used a piece of aluminum and cut out all the holes need to mount them in the case. To hold the front of the power supplies, I used a metal band as a hanger. Since all the power supplies would have to do is power the motherboard, hard drive, and a few fans, 200 watts were plenty for my needs. I was also happy each computer would now be independent of the others over my original plan with two 400 watt units.

The Motherboards

For the motherboards I picked the Biostar M7VKQ because it was cheap. On each I installed an AMD XP2000+ and used the Vantec CCK-6012 for a heat sink. The motherboards are stacked on top of each other with 1.5" spacers. This gives almost the same amount of space you would find in a 1U case. I also had to be careful about memory because some of the modules out there are very tall. On the back of the case I used some thin metal and my dad went through the long process of cutting out all the holes for the connectors. So far the temperatures have been very good and I will talk about cooling down below.

I am not really happy with these motherboards because I cannot get them to run stably under FreeBSD. I get all kinds of IDE and PCI bus issues. The VIA KLE133 chipset just has too many bugs and FreeBSD does not have the drivers to cover them up. I will soon change the old motherboards for the Biostar M7VKQ Pro with DDR RAM and ATA133, and I hope these will be better. The new motherboards will have a different connector layout so I will have to make a new plate for the connectors. What a pain!