Well folks, It’s been over a year in the making, but my “ultimate” home computing environment is finally done. If you remember my last post on this subject, I was contemplating the idea of (tastefully) integrating a 12U server rack into my living room. I had actually been thinking about this for a long time prior, but I had never heard of anyone else who had done it, so I was really hesitant to go down that road and risk wasting a lot of money and getting stuck with a horrible monstrosity. But then I saw what this guy had done, and I knew I was on the right track all along.
The first thing I needed was a new desk, and since I live right down the road from an Ikea outlet, I started my search there. Now I should mention that I’m normally really skeptical about Ikea furniture because of their apparent love of particle board, but I was pretty impressed by their Galant Series of desks. The tabletop is particle board (of course), but I don’t care, since all the important structural components are made of aluminum. I settled on a 63” wide Galant desk with the optional filing cabinet.
I also wanted a new chair, but that wasn’t actually part of the original plan for this project. I had pretty much been set on getting a Herman Miller Aeron Chair from the first time I ever sat in one, but since there was nothing wrong with my current chair, I couldn’t justify spending money on a new one. But then in a stoke of sheer luck, I happened across a used one in my local craigslist for $300. Obviously, I couldn’t pass up that deal.
Now that the boring furniture was out of the way, I needed to find a well-built server rack that would actually look good in my living room. As you can imagine, this was not an easy search, but I eventually settled on the Kendall Howard 12U Compact Series SOHO Server Rack. This is a really high-quality rack, and the price reflects that, but with a little patience, I was eventually able to find one on eBay for $300 (with front and rear mesh doors included).
Next came the need for a couple of well-built rackmount cases that looked good and wouldn’t be as loud as an air conditioner. I considered Antec’s Take 4 Series and iStarUSA’s Silent Rackmount Chassis, but I decided they were both way too expensive for what they were. I settled on a couple of iStarUSA D-400s for about $150 each and iStarUSA 24” TC-Rails for about $25 each. But I have to say that I was really disappointed with the rails, because they really short you on screws. If you just stick with what they give you, I can almost guarantee that your server will fall out of the rack, and I say this because it happened to me twice while I was racking the empty cases. I ended up just buying more screws at a local hardware store.
When I started researching monitors, the big question was “Two or three,” but since I’m not a hardcore computer gamer, I decided pretty quickly that three monitors would just be overkill. I eventually settled on two LG L227WTGs for about $220 each. I’m still contemplating buying a dual monitor stand, but I’m not sure if I would gain anything other than a little bit better cable management.
The rest of what I bought for this project is fairly uninteresting, but I’ll list it here for completeness:
- Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P
- Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
- G.Skill 4GB DDR2-800 Kit
- EVGA GeForce GTS 250
- WD Caviar Black (1TB)
- Plextor PX-850SA Super Multi DVD±RW
The other machine in my rack is a dedicated server that, among other things, hosts the website you’re looking at right now. The specs on this machine are fairly dated, as this is actually my old desktop from 2003, but I’ll list them as well for even more completeness:
- Asus A7N8X Deluxe (PCB 2.0)
- Corsair TWINX memory kit (512MB @ 333 Mhz FSB)
- Athlon XP 2500+
- WD Caviar Green (2x750GB in a RAID1 array)
Other stuff in my environment (listed for ultimate completeness):
- Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2
- Logitech LX3 Optical Mouse
- Canon Pixma iP3000 Printer
- Grass Valley ADVC 110 Bidirectional Analog/Digital Video Converter
- Cambridge SoundWorks speakers from 1998
- APC Smart-UPS 1400
- Cisco PIX 501
- Linksys WAP54G
Since cabling was one of my major concerns, I really took my time and made sure all the visible cables were routed as neatly as possible, making liberal use of Velcro straps. And because everything is so tightly packed together inside the rack, I was able to further minimize the cable mess by replacing all the standard 6’ cables (power, network, USB, etc.) with 1’-3’ versions.
As you can see, my new computing environment takes up about the same amount of space as the old one, but it looks way nicer and is much easier to work on (since everything is mounted on sliding rails that can be fully extended when necessary). It’s also semi-portable now, thanks to the casters on the rack itself.