Geekery Datacentre Project Completed

When it was but a closet
When it was but a closet
The Initial Setup
The Initial Setup
And Finally
And Finally…

Shortly after moving in to my house, I opted to use a room for my Geekery (formerly known as “Nerdery”).. I dedicated circuit for power installed to make this closet remotely suitable to set up my hacky server “rack” (AKA Ikea Shelf) in.


Update (Apr 26)

This hack has been posted on Hackaday, Howtogeek and geeknmod (I suppose some others too). Coolness.



After several months I couldn’t stand the sub-organization of it all. I wanted to be able to close the closet door (which had cables coming out of it) and I felt I needed some substantial air-flow through the space. Thus the “Datacentre Project” was born.



Like any good geek, I opted to also use the project to explore some other things. You know, n-birds with 1 stone. So by incarnating the Datacentre, I indirectly explored Google Sites, Picasa and Elementary Woodworking.



It took me of the order of about 40 hours to complete the whole thing from start to finish. Much time was spent planning, measuring and driving back to the hardware store for some small thing(s) I needed more of.



As I said, I used the project to also explore Google Sites. Thus, I made a kind of journal with detailed notes & photos here.


On the Layout

The layout I ultimately built out was done so to enable me ideally easy access to the innards of all machines in the space. I can (tightly) negotiate my body between the machines and switch things up without having to move anything (that’s epic). I have a pair of cables I can attach to any of the machines (poor-man’s KVM) so I can get at their consoles if I’m having remote problems. I’m considering making a narrow set of drawers that can be rolled in and out of the center cavity. I’d put cables and things in those. The only other thing the space could probably use, is more cowbell!


Looking Back

In hind sight the whole project took me far longer than I expected. Like in many other areas so much time went to in planning (which ended up being a highly iterative process as I’d think of new things as I’d be about to implement a previous idea). I must add, I don’t really like the LEDs, except they ended up being functional. Ideally they’d be white or a whitish-yellow. But that wasn’t an option.

Throwing Down an LED where the Potential is great

I saw this post on Instructables where someone asked how they could add an LED on to a high-voltage source. And for reasons I can’t explain, I just felt compelled to take a crack at it…

Read more “Throwing Down an LED where the Potential is great”

MakerBot Plastruder Modified For Slightly Enhanced Awesomeness

Hello world, so I’ve been working very hard at getting my most awesome MakerBot working. It’s been a patience invoking venture and also extremely educational. The MakerBot employs some rather brilliant little tricks that make it simple, strong and friggin cheap. It’s a great gadget to have, though it’s definitely NOT for those who want everything now and aren’t capable of taking their time to do the job correctly.

Meet My Mod

So, in trying to get my MakerBot rockin, I’ve had to debug some stuff in my assembly. The instructions given on assembly are outstanding considering how much stuff you need to do to build one. That said, they’re not flawlessly exhaustive either – and this isn’t yet an exact science. I found myself frustrated by the positioning of the circuit board (I’ll just call it a PCB for now) positioned on the thing that outputs the plastic (Plastruder/RepRap). As you can see in my included photos, I’ve moved the PCB off to the side and flipped it behind the Plastruder.

A Before & After View of my MakerBot/RepRap Mod

Yes, it’s awesome

So as you can probably tell I love this mod because now I can quite easily see the plastic as it moves through. I can see little (or rather massive) teeth marks in the plastic due to contact with the gear on the motor that pulls it through.. So I can watch those marks move down in to the heater barrel – this has been helpful for me in trying to decide if some other printing problems I’ve been having have been due to any of a number of factors that no long include questioning if it’s actually feeding in more plastic..

Wanna see more?

You can check out more of this stuff here

PCB Etching Progress

Freshly Transferred Toner
Transferred Toner

Well, a few of us Protospacers met up and worked out some more home-made cheap Printed Circuit Board progress.. Vast thanks to the help of my esteemed friend HappyThawts, we finally got out a board of usable quality! Woot! We used a single sided Arduino pattern I found (saved me some seri

ous time). And followed a fairly well documented process involving use of Ferric Chloride, Acetone, Clothing Irons, Cheap Magazine Paper, Water and patience.

Freshly Etched
Freshly Etched
Finished Board
Finished Board

All in all, it worked damn well. I’ve been getting ready to run a Protospace workshop on the topic for awhile now, so this particular attempt had been intended to be the first run through with a big group. But after several failed attempts at getting a usable PCB out of the process (and some other problems involving shipping stuff from China taking for FREAKIN’ ever), I decided to delay the first real workshop somewhat. Nevertheless, the results were great and I’m certain the next attempt will be a great deal better on account of the toner transfer used here was several days old and probably a lot more settled than toner that’s minutes old. 😀

World, meet my first home-made circuit board

My very first PCB
My very first PCB

Well, with the priceless aid of my dear friend HappyThawts, I’ve managed to produce my first home-made Printed Circuit Board!

How it went

There were a bunch of weird issues that came up in making it and thus it’s not all that ideal, though I could hack it to work. The main challenge was that my copper clad boards were actually covered with PhotoResist (for masking boards via UV). The process we used entailed working directly on a layer of Copper. Thankfully Happy realized that Acetone would probably send the PhotoResist on it’s merry way to aqueous exile in my trash-chemicals bucket. She was dead-on there.

Another problem was that we used Ferric Chloride as our etchant, however, the particular solution I had on hand was given to me by someone cleaning out their closet a few years ago. It turned out that the Ferric we had was 12 years old! Happy informed me that it tends to lose it’s muscle over time, and the etching we did took a lot longer than it should have.

The Process

The process we followed is a well-documented method that’s meant to aid in cheap, rapid prototyping. There are many small variants on this process to choose from. I love the notion that I can come up with an idea and later that night have a working prototype built out. In addition to written instructions being a dime a dozen, there’s a ton out there and some good YouTube videos on it too.

In short the steps are:

  1. Print out your desired circuit pattern on the low quality (thin) magazine paper using a lazer printer. Glossy magazine paper doesn’t hold the toner well and the cheap paper make it easy for you to remove the paper at the right time just by weting it with water and letting it fall apart.
  2. Clean off some Copper-Clad (essentially a fiber-glass board with Copper plated on a side), position the magazine paper on the board and apply a bunch of prolonged heat via an Iron.
  3. Remove the magazine paper by dipping the board in water and gently brushing away the paper.
  4. Dip the board in an etchant such as Ferric Chloride. Check on it closely to monitor your process. Observe proper chemical handling safety precautions.
  5. If you like, you can remove the toner with Acetone / Nail Polish Remover, though I like keeping the toner on the traces to isolate the copper a little more from the elements.
  6. Go ahead and use your board!

What’s Next

Next I’ll be repeating this process, but using more appropriate boards and fresh Ferric Chloride. I expect this to work out really well and a few Google Searches on the subject will re-inforce how many people are making this work for them. I’ll blog on this in more detail as I continue on.

What would you make?

So, with this established, I’m wondering what kinds of boards people out there would use this process for? Personally, I’m a fan of making a bunch of Arduino rip-offs with it. In fact, the board I made this time is a single-sided Arduino board.