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The Black Dragon

The Black Dragon, 4-27-2003

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The Black Dragon

  • AMD Athlon 1200 MHz
  • 512 MB 133 MHz SDRAM
  • EPoX 8KTA+ motherboard
  • Highpoint RocketRAID 100 controller
  • IBM 80 GB 7,200 RPM ATA/100
  • IBM 80 GB 7,200 RPM ATA/100 (mirror)
  • IBM 80 GB 7,200 RPM ATA/100
  • WD 100 GB 7,200 RPM ATA/100
  • WD 100 GB 7,200 RPM ATA/100 (mirror)
  • Chieftec Dragon series
  • 400 watt power supply
  • 4x80mm case fans
  • ThermalTake Dragon Orb heat sink and fan

Current status

The Black Dragon currently has an unknown set of hardware but is operational. It is a very old system but still functional. Most of the hard drive space is used holding archive data when storage became an issue many years ago.

News

Sometime in 2009 the Black Dragon became a community computer. Although very slow it is still powerful enough to browse the web.

December 27, 2003; the Black Dragon's motherboard died—again. This time due to a manufacturing defect in the RAM slots (I'm guessing a solder problem). The motherboard could not be replaced since it was no longer carried. For over a month, the Black Dragon sat idle, as we searched around for the best replacement. In mid February, Pluvius gave us the option to take an older motherboard from a system to be upgraded. Overall, the system will be a little slower—but is back online.

On November 11, 2003, the Black Dragon went down due to a motherboard failure. After investigation, we found that several of the electrolytic capacitors around the voltage regulators were leaking around the top. This is likely due to excessive heat, which caused the innards of the caps to swell and burst out the top. Interestingly enough, the motherboard would work, but only when it was warm. It had probably crashed in the past due to this problem—when we were on the road for work, we often left the attic door of the Dragon's Den open to allow the heat to escape. This often cools the room down below a comfortable level, but when I'm on the road, I'm not in the Dragon's Den. While working, the Black Dragon crashed several times. When I returned, it had no problems at all. When the Black Dragon crashed the last time, we were removing the window unit air conditioner, which cooled off the room while the window was open. And during testing, the Black Dragon would not start for several minutes after we turned it on—just simply lock up at random places during it's boot sequence. However, once it came up to temperature, it did boot and run.

Due to this problem, we had to replace the motherboard. It would only be a matter of time before the Black Dragon could no longer boot. The leaky capacitors probably were drying out their insides, and eventually would have no capacitance—or, at least, not enough to assist the voltage regulators. So, our good friend, Tyson "Pluvius" Mohr, helped us selected a suitable replacement—a Soyo KT400, Black Addition. Yep, a black motherboard for the Black Dragon. After a few driver changes, the Black Dragon was back in service without a hitch.

Original background

The Black Dragon is a storage monster, with a total of 500 gigabytes of drive space—that's 1/2 a terabyte! The emphasis with this machine is reliable storage. Two of the IBM 80 GB drives and two of the Western Digital 100 GB drives are setup in RAID-1 (driving mirroring). In this way, there is 180 GBs of completely redundant storage. This storage hosts all mission critical data.

The Black Dragon is the sister computer of the White Dragon, and was partly derived from the White Dragon. The video card is an Asus 7700 video card, equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce2, 32 MB of DDR-SGRAM and video in and out, which originally belonged to the White Dragon. As did the one of the Western Digital 100 GB hard drives and Western Digital 60 GB hard drive.

The Black Dragon

Inside the Black Dragon

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With emphasis on reliable storage, keeping the system cool is a priority. Heat kills computer—especially hard drives. There are a total of 10 fans inside the Black Dragon. Two intakes blowing over the hard drive clusters, another intake under the hard drive clusters, 2 exhaust fans, CPU fan, motherboard chipset fan, video card chipset fan, power supply intake fan and power supply exhaust fan. The idea is to move as much air though the computer as possible to provide cool air from the surrounding room and remove warm air from the computer.

We started out with a 300 watt generic power supply in the Black Dragon. But the problem was, he had 10 drives to feed—6 hard drives, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, a 3 1/2" and a 5 1/4" floppy. The power supply had enough wattage to power everything, but not enough plugs. So, we had an array of power splitters to get power everywhere it needed to go. Unfortunately, the power splitters were poorly build and had intermittent connections. On occasion, a drive would just shut off and come back on. This was not acceptable. The power supply was replaced with an Enermax Wisper 431 watt power supply. This monster boosts not only 400+ watts of power, but 800mm long cables to reach anywhere in the case and a motherboard controlled/monitored fan. It went in without a hitch and quickly had the system running with reliable power—and that's how we like'm!

The Black Dragon

Inside the Black Dragon

(Click for a larger image)

The case selected was a Chieftec Dragon series mid tower. This case did some things with a power user in mind. There are two sliding bays for 3 1/2" hard drives, each with fan mounts in front of them—very nice for keeping high speed hard drives running nice and cool. The side panel is latched for easy opening—and guys like me are always pulling off the side to get at something.

In June of 2002, we were again low on hard drive space. Not only that, we were concerned about the integrity of the massive amount of data we did have. This is when we added on the other 100 GB drive and two 80 GB drives. The 100 GB was the same model Western Digital 100 GB and the two 80 GB drives are IBM ATA-100, 7,200 RPM drives. Both were setup as RAID-1 arrays (mirrored). This solved both the space and integrity problems. I came to the decision to use a RAID-1 array after looking at other methods of backup. It was always an issue of price of system, media and time to backup. Using 100% redundant system meant data was always backed up.

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