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low-MHz server



Hello,

I have an unusual situation and problem at which I've been chipping
away.  The base technology predates my IT experience.

My wife is sensitive to what she describes as electromagnetic fields.
She gets headaches and other pains when exposed to equipment: the higher
the frequency, the worse her symptoms.  For example, a VT is better than
a regular CRT connected to even a P-II-233 MHZ while a 486DX4-100 is
better than the P-II.  Both are far better than my Athlon64 @3.5 GHz.
And any CRT is better than any LCD/plasma screen.  Even my Palm Zire (I
think 233 MHz) with its ~2"x~3" screen is unsuitable within about 30
feet of her.  She can't wear a digital watch.

For lack of anything suitable, I have been using my Athlon64 for daily
use, with the P-II used for other-machine backup and ssh access to the
Athlon64 (one is upstairs, the other is downstairs) for e.g. a quick
email check.  My 486 isn't used right now since it only has 32 MB ram
and an 850 MB hard drive.  The backup set size right now is around 2 GB.

I now have a VT520 which I can put upstairs for those email checks which
means I can move the P-II farther away from her.

While I want to keep the Athlon64 for serious heavy lifting (graphical
web browsing, watching DVDs, burning CDs, etc,) I want to move the main
application server function off of it.  The P-II only has 64 MB of ram,
is a abused box I rescued (full of cat hair and over-heating).  I would
like to get a box (or boxes) that is (are) reliable, run at e.g 133 MHz
(certainly less than 200 MHz), with lots of ram, and lots of hard drive
space.  Since the apps run on it will be non-graphical, it could be
headless, accessed via the VT520 or ssh from the Athlon.

I'm thinking that this will be unsuitable for an embedded device like a
soekris and more like an older multi-disk server.  I guess I'll have to
go to eBay for the hardware since its long gone off any reseller's
shelf.  I don't have any experience with anything other than i386 or
amd64 so in that line I figure this will be a multiple-CPU 486 or
Pentium box.

Because the box will be so old, it would have to be one that was popular
so that spare parts are readily available, but also one that was well
designed and built in the first place.  I can tolerate some down time
while I swap out parts but I want to be able to keep spares on hand.  I
suppose I could buy 3 complete functioning boxes just for the spares.
Looking at the packages lists in the different arches, the four
possibilities are i386, alpha, sparc, and sparc64.  Since this is a
finished room in the basement, not a datacenter, I want the box to do
its own hard drive storage and not just be a compute node that is
supposed to have a separate box full of drives (unless this is
straight-forward).  I'm envisioning something like a 4- or 5U server
box.  Rackmounting a single servier is fine since I can make a suitable
shelf to simulate a rack.  Of course, a tower model would be fine if it
was popular (re spares).

Here's the software that I need to run on the box:

vim
mc
mutt
tex
python
some kind of printfilter to serve my Epson LQ-2080 impact printer.
lynx
exim.

All this used to work on my IBM 486 with Sarge, but Etch is a little too
dicey on it.

Here's the hardware-type I'm envisioning:

Multiple CPU so that multiple apps can run better on limited individual
CPUs, running under 200 MHz
Probably PCI bus.
Paralell port for the printer (or I would just use a USB adapter)
USB for future needs
serial port for console
multi-port serial for terminal(s) and my external 3Com Courier modem.
10 or 10/100 Ethernet
Multiple hard drives:  IIRC, the older boxes had 9 GB SCSI drives.  I
	don't know if one can plunk new eg. 250 GB SCSI drives in them.
SCSI HBA for a tape drive


Any suggestions for good old boxes like this that will run modern Debian
or OpenBSD and be reasonably reliable?

Thanks,

Doug.


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