So I picked up a Google Mini 1u server from a local electronics recycling goldmine-of-old-stuff. I’m not a huge Google fanboy by any means, it’s kind of like self-inflicted spyware — or some sort of trap. But I figured this computer looks cool and it would be fun to re-purpose into other tasks.
The machine is pretty old. 250 watt power supply (Ablecom), Supermicro motherboard that has PCI and PCIe-64 bit slots, and a 3Ghz P4 era CPU as I recall. In the future I can see myself swapping in something faster and more power efficient. But I’m not going to worry about that now.
Someone else provided some instructions about how to reset the BIOS as there was a password on it. It’s two half-moon pads near one of the large ICs near the PCI slots. Thanks for the info, that got rid of the password. I ended up mounting two 1TB disks in the thing, which required buying a 2nd right angle SATA power connector and I have a right angle data cable on the way for good measure.
I used a utility knife to carefully cut across the top front of the sticker that covers the entire top of the computer. This is the one with the google logo. I used a dremel tool to cut a straight slot through the security screws so I could remove them with a normal flat blade screwdriver.
Installing CentOS on the thing was the tough part. With the default BIOS revision of 1.1, it didn’t seem to want to boot off of USB. I burned a CD with the CentOS 7 ISO and the initial boot screen would come up but the OS didn’t seem to load. Memtestx86 from that CD just locked up. This was using an external BD-R drive connected via USB. So I downloaded the version 1.1A revision of the firmware and that added much better handling for USB booting. It did wipe out the custom Google Mini splash screen, though. Once the USB thumb drive was connected it was possible to go into the BIOS and set the removable USB device in the boot order. Note — one of my hard drives had some sort of boot block that just gives a cursor and a freeze so that complicated things a tad. There is a setting to slow the blower down which helps with the noise. It’s not as loud as the 3u Supermicro I have so it isn’t much of an issue to me.
Disks are setup with software RAID. I have a 4 port 3ware left over from an old 757.org server and I contemplated getting a 1u 64bit pci riser card so I could put the 3ware card in, but decided against it. I’ll probably regret this at some point in the future but at least the disk IO will be faster.
In the end, it’s up and running CentOS 7, which is kind of gross. It’s this new systemd that most people seem to dislike and they’re doing everything they can to make it look like Windows. I installed OwnCloud to evaluate it for a personal project but realize it’s not what I need and will revert to a long configuration of Apache + mod_dav + LDAP with 389 Identity Server behind it.