Doc's Bizzarre Adventures

Rage-inducing tech and other stories

The PowerEdge Crusade

So I got a server from ma boy kelvinpw (among some other important but less notable things). It's a pretty old machine. The model is a Dell PowerEdge 2850. Now if you're not in to servers that might not mean anything to you, so keep reading.

The machine has dual Xeon dual cores with hyperthreading, for a total of eight logical cores. It's got 6GB of RAM. And a couple of other things like dual power supplies for redundancy, integrated RAID support, and a cute little status display on the front of it which is absolutely my favorite part.

There are a few downsides to it, though. The biggest one you notice is when you turn it on....

This little soundbyte doesn't do enough justice to how loud it gets when you turn it on. Of course it does come back down to a reasonable volume after making sure the fans work, but damn I feel like a pilot every time I turn the damn thing on!

And then there's on more thing that I can't ignore no matter how hard I try: The drive backplane--y'know, the one you plug all the drives in normally to? It uses Ultra 320 SCSI. Mmmmmmmmm yeah! Of course I don't have any SCSI disks, because I'm a nut and I only have SATA and a couple of the older IDE drives.

That now leads me to the big question: How do I use the thing? Ma boi provided a couple of PCI SATA cards to.... try to boot from a SATA disk. Neither of them worked. I guess PCI SATA cards are just that unreliable. Now without any SCSI disks and no native SATA ports, there were three boot options left: floppy, DVD-ROM, and USB.

Floppy is out. Who uses floppy anymore? That and I don't have any floppy disks.... yet I have quite a few drives, but that's not the point. I could also boot from DVD, but that's out too because there's no such thing as persistent storage on DVDs. With the first two options out, I was left with good ol' USB.

Now that I know what I was gonna boot from, I had to figure out what to put on the boot drive. I tried Windows Server 2016 first. Well, given that the machine is more than ten years old, I didn't expect it to boot, and it didn't. Next I tried Windows Server 2008 R2, which I figured was compatible since it's only a 5 year difference. Nope. It refused to boot from a USB. I guess that makes sense; Windows To Go wasn't a thing until Windows 8.x.

So I went to the third option: Linux. I whipped out my copy of Fedora, the distro I will swear by until God comes, and popped it onto the install USB....

It booted.

Success! I can get an OS running on here! So I pulled out the drive I wanted to use as boot and moved it to the USB port, using a SATA to USB 2.0 adapter. Yeah, USB 2.0. But it works. The Crusade is over.

That PowerEdge now sits under my desk, running Fedora Server 25. I'll find a use for it eventually....