First get your drives. I would recommend 5400 RPM drives as they normally
produce less heat, consume less power, and are less noisy than 7200's.
I went with drives from two different manufactures. The first (boot
drive) is a Maxtor R120L4.
The second is a Samsung SV1204H.
Both of these drives are almost silent. I won the Maxtor in a bet...
I bought the Samsung from Eric,
on his recommendation. After using both, I would recommend using 2
Samsungs. The SV1204H is almost dead silent, and runs slightly cooler
than the Maxtor. According to the NetBSD/Cobalt guys, heat really
isn't a major issue for the Qube. Some people say they've been told
by Cobalt engineers that they "Should disconnect the fan"
if they think it's too noisy. On the other hand, stock Qubes don't
run two huge 120 Gig drives.
The major concern with this upgrade is the power
supply. The Qube has a relatively weak power supply. I believe
that some Qubes may not be able to handle two drives, and I know
that there are different PS parts that were used in some Qubes.
In fact, Cobalt sent me a new PS early on in the life of my Qube.
This was well before I had ever popped the screws on the thing.
Apparently they have a known problem with some parts, where the
PS just fails over time even on a bone stock machine. Since Cobalt
replaced the part I've had no problems, even with the 2 drives.
Next you'll need more RAM. My Qube came with 16 Megs, which isn't
enough to play text mode Tic-Tac-Toe, much less do anything useful
at any reasonable speed. I went with a 128
Meg SIMM from Crucial. The SIMM cost me $59 bucks.. which is
expensive in terms of normal PC RAM but if you're going to have
240 Gigs of HD space, then you're going to need the extra RAM for
file cache. Especially if you want to use Samba to connect your
Windoze machines, it's well worth it.
Other Supplies you'll need:
- Two 14"
- An IDE extender
- A female
to female Molex power cable
- A piece of
a bubble wrap envelope for insulation
- Double stick
Now all you
have to do it put it all together. Simple, right? Yup.
I'm not going
to go into detail on the disassembly of the Qube as it's self-explanatory.
Just grab your screw driver and take it apart. Once you're inside,
you'll need to remove the stock cobalt drive to make room for your
new 120 Gig boot drive. Again, this is very simple so I'm not going
to go into detail... 4 screws, left side.. done.
Qube guts. Boot drive has been removed.
CPU board laying on table... (128M SIMM installed)
replace the stock Cobalt drive the one of your new 120's. Simple,
we are with a clear shot of the new boot drive.
The CPU board was removed just to make it easier.
word about RAM. I've read reports on the NetBSD/Cobalt
mailing list that some people had strange problems and instability
using 2 SIMM's. One guy figured out that the problems had to do
with the order of the SIMM's relative to their size (big one in
slot 0, small one in slot 1, etc..) However, I
elected simply to remove the stock 16MB SIMM and save myself the
hassle. I also didn't feel like the 16 megs was worth the additional
voltage to run the second socket as I'm a bit paranoid about unecessary
strain on the tiny Qube power supply.
the second drive:
overview: Mount 2nd drive to back of CPU board using 2 Ty-Wraps.
Now the details...
you are mounting the drive onto the back of the CPU board, you MUST
insulate the two components. Meaning that if the metal drive casing
is in direct contact with the CPU board.. you may start to smell
something funny... as in Qube flambé. To provide insulation,
I used a standard bubble wrap envelop and cut out a drive-sized
piece which is affixed to the drive with double sided tape. You
should be able to get this any stationary store, office supply,
etc. It seems to do an adequate job keeping the qube from catching
envelope... the fine line between life and death for the Qube.
Click to enlarge
Qube has 2 PCI slots, one is used by the CPU board, one is empty.
We're going to use the space left by the empty PCI slot to house
our 2nd drive. We're going to do here is mount the 2nd drive to
the CPU board using 2 Ty-wraps.
2nd Drive mounted to CPU board. Notice yellow insulation
Click to enlarge
View from the top. Notice orientation of drive, power on top.
Also, notice placement of Ty-wraps. These should be nice and tight
few things to watch out for here. This is a fairly tight fit, you
must remove the PCI dust cover before installing the drive. The
IDE cable from the drive will protrude slightly out of the PCI slot,
make just enough room for a nearly perfect fit. Removing the dust
cover will also benefit cooling by allowing additional airflow.
the IDE cable poking out through the PCI slot
Click to enlarge
about all there is to it for the hardware part. You should be able
to get a very good fit on the 2nd drive. And with the Ty-wraps cinched
down, it's not going anywhere. I'm more than comfortable taking
my Qube on road tips to friends houses to swap data at 100Mbps.
Another big benefit of having a small high density server ;)
Software; Loading NetBSD:
one thing that makes this all worth doing is the Cobalt
port of NetBSD. NetBSD/Cobalt provides the Qube with a modern
OS that can recognize and utilize all of the new space you just
strapped into it. The Qube had an interesting fate with Linux. The
Qube uses a variation on the Mips R5000
series CPU made by Quantum Effect Devices, the QM5231.
Cobalt ported an ancient Linux kernel (2.0 something?) to the QM5231
and shipped it on the Qube. The problem was that the kernel that
Cobalt used was old (even for the time) and sluggish, and didn't
support large drives, and was notoriously insecure in it's factory
configuration. I didn't spend much time with it, but the few moments
I did were ugly. This problem was compounded by the fact that the
Linux community seemed to consider the Cobalt port good 'nuf so
nobody ever made a more modern Linux port. Today Cobalt has moved
on to the Qube 3 which uses an AMD K6-something.. in any case it's
uses the X86 instruction set, making the early generation Qube incompatible
(can you say orphan?) and unable to benefit from newer versions
of Cobalt Linux.
NetBSD. For those unfamiliar with the NetBSD project, it's a gem.
One of it's best features is that it runs on everything but a John
Deere (give them time) including the Sega Dreamcast, Plastation
2, Amiga, Atari, and some even more exotic hardware that I'm unfamiliar
with. It also provides a very nice little free (as in your mind)
BSD OS for practically every Unixish box around. Including of course,
our beloved Qube!
this part used to be pretty tricky, requiring that you netboot the
Qube and feed it a kernel and root device served up on an NFS share.
Also, the Qube is hardcoded to boot from a gzipped kernel on a Linux
partition, so the NetBSD kernel had to be compressed and placed
in the correct location of the Linux boot partition.
spent a few days getting NetBSD loaded onto my Qube, and I was going
to write a comprehensive guide on how to do it. But before I got
around to it, Dennis Chernoivanov made a "Restore CD"
that pretty much does the whole install for you. It works on the
same idea as the factory Cobalt restore CD. Basically, you put the
CD in a PC that is connected to the Qube via ethernet, and boot
the PC from the CD. You then fire up the Qube and netboot
it, and *poof* some time later, you have a Qube running NetBSD!
I haven't actually tried this method, but I hear it works quite
seems that the new restore
CD should resolve the need for comprehensive instructions on
how to load NetBSD on the Qube the *hard* way. If you think this
would be useful, email me.
I'll write one if there's still a need.
out the NetBSD/Cobalt
FAQ and the Mailing
List Archive. There's plenty of info there to show you how to
get NetBSD installed on your Qube the hard way ;)
thanks goes out to the NetBSD Project and the Cobalt porters in
particular! Also, Thanks to all the good folks on the mailing list.