Dell CS24-SC Server

I’ve been using the Dell CS24-SC servers at work now for about two years, so I figured I’d post about them.  While they are Dell-branded systems, they are manufactured for Dell by Quanta.  Most of them were manufactured for Facebook.  The most common hardware configuration we’ve seen is a Dual Xeon L5420 with 16GB RAM.

The BIOS and BMC firmware that comes on most of these systems are horribly outdated. There are a few BIOS and BMC firmware versions floating around, but the most stable ones I’ve found are BIOS 3A25 and BMC version 2.50.  They are available on

The systems perform very well and are reasonable on power usage compared to other servers utilizing these CPUs, thanks to the DDR2 ECC PC2-5300P Registered RAM modules.  These RAM modules use a fraction of the power that Fully Buffered DIMMs use, which was the most common RAM used on the Xeon 5400 series.  The CS24-SC is limited to a maximum of 24GB RAM using 4GB modules.  The RAM is also available very inexpensively on the used market.

They run all modern operating systems with no issues that we’ve run into so far.

Based on performance per dollar, these systems are a great value, even though they are as much as 7 years old now.

SuperMicro SuperServer 6018R-MT / X10DRL-i

My company recently purchased a SuperMicro SuperServer 6018R-MT which contains a X10DRL-i motherboard.  The BMC in the server would not work after configuring the IP address, despite upgrading the BMC firmware.  The server came from the factory installed with version 1.50, and we updated to the latest version from the SuperMicro website (which was 1.64).  We originally thought that it could be related to the BMC now running on a 1 Gbps port instead of the 100 Mbps port speed of previous SuperMicro BMCs.  We tried different switch ports, switches, Ethernet cables, switch port settings, and lots of other things in an attempt to get it working.  After a few frustrating hours, we plugged a laptop directly into the BMC port, configured the Ethernet port of the laptop to an IP address in the same subnet as the BMC, and to our surprise we were able to get to the web interface!  It seems that the gateway address was not being sent from the BIOS to the BMC.  After manually setting the gateway address through the web interface, we were able to access the BMC with no issues.  Another alternative is to use the ipmicfg utility available from SuperMicro’s website.

I thought I’d post this in case anyone else runs into issues with this specific system/motherboard.  Hopefully it saves you some time!

Intel DG33TL – Supported CPUs

Despite what is on Intel’s website, the Intel DG33TL does not support Core 2 Quad Q9550 CPUs and has trouble with 1333 MHz FSB chips in general. I also ran into problems with Core 2 Quad Q6600 chips, but not on every board.

Most of the time, the board will post and will work somewhat, but things like virtualization support in the BIOS won’t show up. Other times, the board will not post and doesn’t seem to work.

This board also seems to be very picky about RAM. If you put some RAM in the first and third slots, it won’t post, but if you put it in the second and fourth slots (and put a different brand/model RAM in the first and third slots), it will post.

I’d steer clear of this board unless you are looking to use it with a 1066 MHz or less FSB CPU with either single core or dual cores.

Intel DG41WV Motherboard = fail

Well, after a long break, I’m going to start posting again. 🙂

We purchased some Intel DG41WV LGA775 Motherboards back about August 2011 because they supported DDR3 RAM, which is significantly cheaper than DDR2 RAM. We had a few systems that customers wanted to upgrade to 8 GB RAM, and the old motherboards only supported 4 GB.

We had some weird issues getting them up and running, but now that they are in service, most of them seem to run without issues. However, one of the boards is having major issues running XenServer 6/5.6, so we went to see if there was a new BIOS update.

SURPRISE – Intel and NewEgg both have lowered the maximum supported RAM to 4 GB. Wow. How can you change the maximum supported RAM after the fact?

This might spell the end for our purchase of Intel motherboards.

We recently purchased a number of Gigabyte GA-G41MT-S2PT and they work flawlessly. We’ll probably purchase some more and throw the Intel boards on eBay.

I’m very disappointed in Intel and NewEgg. We would not have purchased these boards if they stated that they only supported 4 GB when we initially purchased them.

Linux Hardware Compatibility

I have yet to find a reliable source for learning whether a motherboard or other piece of hardware is going to work in Linux. There are some sites and forums out there that have bits and pieces, but I have not found a reliable, up-to-date, and complete source for the latest hardware. Especially since there are so many viable distros – each with their own level of compatibility.

If anyone knows of a site that I haven’t found yet, please shoot me an e-mail to my first name at

Gigabyte i-RAM SATA Storage Device

The Tech Report has a great article on Gigabyte’s new i-RAM SATA Storage Device.  The PCI card uses regular DDR SDRAM paired with a battery to create up to a 4 GB hard drive that requires no special drivers.  Simply hook the card up to your SATA port and your BIOS recognizes the card as a hard drive.  The battery also will keep your data safe for around 10 hours if your power goes out, which is a good precaution.  Needless to say, if you were putting this in a place where the power could fail, you should back up frequently, or buy a large battery backup for your PC.  I’m looking forward to future revisions of this card that allow for more than 4 GB of RAM to be used, and perhaps an upgrade to the transfer rate to take full advantage of the RAM.

Samsung 16 GB NAND Flash

Samsung predicts the death of hard drives with their newest release of 16 GB Flash. I agree, and I can’t wait. Hard drives have gotten a lot more reliable in recent years, but things will be so much better – especially in the server world – when we all use flash memory for storage. If Samsung wants to send me a sample to play with, I’d be very happy to accept one!

Wireless USB Set To Kill Off Bluetooth

Wireless USB Latest News about USB products will be in the shops by Christmas, and the widespread adoption of the technology will rapidly kill off Bluetooth Latest News about Bluetooth, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Latest News about Intel has claimed at its Developer Forum in San Francisco.

The wireless USB protocol will be completed by the end of March, and the access controller specification should be approved by the end of the year. Wireless USB is designed to be used at ranges of less than 10 meters and will allow peak data speeds of 480 mbps.

“In the next 12 months we will see wireless USB products in the retail sector,” said Kevin Kahn, senior fellow at Intel.

“Many companies are ready to adopt this stuff and start shipping it. Multiple silicon builders are around to provide a healthy competitive market as well.”

Kahn demonstrated a USB dongle that fits into a standard USB 2 port and would make any machine with a USB port capable of using the device. Over 200 companies are due to bring out wireless USB devices.

Key to the uptake of the new technology is ease of use. Bluetooth has turned off many users due to compatibility problems, but USB is well understood and some analysts rate it as the most successful interface in the world.

“The general consumer doesn’t have a clue,” said Jeff Ravencroft, technology strategist at Intel. “Thirty percent of returns to technology retailers are because of set-up problems. If it isn’t easy to set up this isn’t going to happen.”

This sounds interesting. I never played around with Bluetooth, but just about everything I use runs on USB. Wireless USB could potentially pose security risks, which I’m sure will be discussed as the technology becomes available in the stores.


Check out this site – it’s got some great stories of custom small boxes using the Mini-ITX standard. In addition, they have a picture of the new Mini Mac’s motherboard on their site right now. Very cool stuff.

Enjoy! –Jeff

PowerLabs High Speed Exploding CDs!

Have you ever loaded a faulty CD into a high speed (30X or higher) CD-ROM player, heard it spin up to incredible speeds, rattling and whining, and thought to yourself: “this thing is going to explode”? When CDs came out they were heralded as the solution for the need for high storage-high speed information devices, transferring data at a whopping 150kb/s, but like all technologies, 1x CD players quickly became obsolete as the need for higher and higher transfer rates pushed for faster players, and, with them, higher rotational speeds. As we advance into the 21st century CD players are reaching the ultimate speed limit: we are getting to the point where the CD player simply can not spin the CD any faster or else the CD will literally fly apart.
On the interests of the advancement of high speed computing PowerLabs brings to you:
WARNING: This page is written for amusement only: These experiments are VERY hazardous!; A high speed rotating CD Rom is a bomb ready to explode and will send razor sharp plastic shrapnel in all directions when least expected. Do not attempt to replicate any of the experiments described below!

Saw this on one of the mailing lists I subscribe to. Needless to say, I want to try it some day with some spare AOL discs (kidding).

Enjoy! –Jeff