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Old 12-19-2015, 06:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Small Cluster Computer Project

Let me start by saying that I have had a ton of old tech dumped on me by friends and family, in fact at one point I got 9 DOS whiteboxes, a 2005 powermac, 3 ancient field laptops, an 8-port KVM switch, a 4-port KVM switch, 5 CRTs, a 20" flatpanel, etc. all at one time. So if any of you are wondering why I use out-dated hardware or where I get it, that's it.

On to the actual project haha. I salvaged one of the nicer whitebox cases, and have been trying to figure out what to do with it for a while now. I finally decided to use it to house a small cluster computer, using the hardware from 2 Lenovo ThinkCentre 6417-12U computers. I do know that these aren't capable of much, but they aren't meant to be my main computer. One other thing though, is that the case will also be leasing out space to another graphics card for my main pc (the powermac). So far I have mounted the 2 HDDs, the 2 optical drives, the 2 psu's, and one of the motherboards. I have also routed the front I/O which will require some new holes in the front panel. The I/O on the boards will be extended to the PCI holes in the case with some custom brackets. Also housed in this will be a small router to connect the two computers. I got this idea from these Tinkernut videos :

Obviously the programming will be different, as these computers currently and probably always will have linux on them. That's a part that I'll need some help with, as I'm no programmer.

Along with the custom brackets and holes, I'm also going to be using most of the original functionality of the front panel by re-routing led connections and buttons so that both of the PCs will be able to be monitored and controlled from the front.

What do you guys think of this project, and if you have any tips, advice, help, be sure to let me know!

I also took some pictures of the mess as of this post
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Old 12-19-2015, 10:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

Sounds like a fun project. I almost tried something like this years ago, but I ended up scrapping everything pretty quickly because I realized there really isn't much practical use for cluster computing above resource demanding scientific applications; things like weather prediction or massive neural networks that are programming hell. lol On that note though; I have to ask, why are you undertaking this project? Do you have a specific use in mind for this machine; or it is just for the hell of it?

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Old 12-20-2015, 12:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

My guess is for the fun, He's got the equipment so he either has fun doing this or finding a place to toss it LOL
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Old 12-20-2015, 09:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

There are two reasons I'm undertaking this project. For one, yes I have the equipment and want to do something with it. I do however have a specific use in mind for this PC: Systems Monitoring. I want to use this to monitor all of my other systems. Not as an interface with those systems (on the software side), but simply to tell me if something is on, let me turn things on and off, etc. I figured that with these two computers, I have a combined total of 12 USB I/O, so that isn't an issue. Another thing is I'll be using 2 or 3 laptop LCDs as the displays, and each one will also have a tablet mounted underneath to act as a control interface. I'm kinda going for something Star Trek TNG-esque, but with the main displays not being touch capacitive (thus the tablets).
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

How would you do something like this? Is it down to programming and the Language in question. I have over a dozen PCs then servers on top of that. How could I do something like this my self connected threw a Switch.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:13 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

If you take a look at the videos linked in my first post you can get a general idea of how to do this. At your scale I'm not sure entirely how you'd do it. That being said, I know that it is possible. for example if you look at Virginia Tech's Apple Powermac G5 cluster supercomputer they built in 2003.
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Old 12-28-2015, 11:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Small Cluster Computer Project

Hey Guys, time for an update!

Let's start with the front panel. I started by sorting out the power switch. I took a push-button switch off of an old PSU, and because the original power switches were momentary switches, I took apart the push-button one and removed the locking pin. Then it was just a matter of soldering on some wire to extend the 2 original harnesses to this switch. I then also wired the LEDs to the original harnesses. To do this though, I also needed to add a hole for a 4th LED, so thanks to the Dremel-type rotary tool I got for Christmas I was able to do that, and thanks to the 3D-printing pen I also got, I was able to make a plastic support for that fourth LED. Going back to the "Dremel", this tool also allowed me to add the slots for the front I/O. I took the wires for everything but that I/O and managed to get them into a sort of a braid thanks to some plastic cable-management clips. I have also been working on cable-management for the rest of the components, but it has indeed been a struggle as I still have to order right-angle connectors and short extension cords for the I/O on the boards to be run to the rear slots as well as a much shorter ethernet crossover cable. On to the programming side. I have managed to get both computers to POST, and started setting them up, however I have run into some temporary road-blocks due to what I have on hand and the fact that these aren't connected to the internet. Here are the pages that I have been using to help me in getting them to communicate with each other. Also, note that these are both running Mageia 4.
Connect Two Computers using a Crossover Cable
How to setting static ip address in Mageia 3 using GUI

Explanation of pictures:
The first is the mess of cables in the PC currently.
The second is specifically to show the custom harness going to the front pannel.
The third is showing both PCs booted (Host on left, Node on right)
The fourth is showing the front panel. Note the front I/O and the left-most LED. Also note that the two yellow LEDs (the HDD activity LEDs) are tapped into with a separate power source to get this picture, hence the higher brightness than the green power LEDs.
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File Type: jpg IMG_20151228_104623.jpg (98.9 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_20151228_105935.jpg (96.0 KB, 4 views)

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