Cobalt Qube 2 - a rare server

    Good day!
    Another ancient piece of iron fell into my hands (and maybe not very ancient - only 13 years have passed since its birth), and I would like to tell the Khabrasociety about it.

    Meet Cobalt Qube 2.


    Cobalt Qube 2 is a server manufactured by Cobalt Networks Inc. (subsequently purchased by Sun Microsystems). It got its name for the cobalt-blue color of the case and its cubic shape. In the not so distant two thousandth year, this baby (its height does not exceed 20 cm) successfully performed the functions of a mail and file server, a web server and a server of discussion groups, and also could index and archive documents located on its hard drive. And, you guessed it, a modified Red Hat Linux OS was installed on the Cobalt Qube 2 server. And for management and configuration, a rather convenient and intuitive web interface was used.

    The price of the Cobalt Qube 2 server at the beginning of sales was $ 2,500.

    Cobalt Qube 2 Server Specification:

    Processor 64Bit MIPS RISC CPU QED RM5231-250Q (250MHz)
    Chipset: Galileo GT-64111
    PCI-ISA Bridge / ATA Controller: Via VT821C586 (Apollo VP)
    RAM Capacity 1x16MB RAM (EDO 3.3V, SIMM-Modul 72 Pin)
    Maximum Capacity memory: 256MB (2x128 SIMM)
    Ultra-ATA hard drive 10.2GB (Seagate ST310212A)
    Maximum hard drive size (BIOS limitation): 30GB
    2 network interfaces DECchip DC21142 10 / 100baseTX-FDX
    Control panel with LCD display
    1 high-speed serial port (SubD9)
    1 PCI slot
    External power supply 12V, 3A
    Dimensions: 18.4cm x 18.4cm x 19.7cm
    Weight: 2.8kg
    Supply voltage: 100-240V, 50 / 60Hz
    Power Consumption: 25W


    The Cobalt Qube 2 server case is made of cobalt blue plastic. The dimensions of the case are 18.4 cm X 18.4 cm X 19.7 cm, and its weight is 2.8 kg.

    On the front side of the case there is a power-on light that lights up in a pleasant green color.
    The left and right walls of the case stand out with nothing remarkable, but on the back wall are all the controls and interfaces.


    To the right of the PCI slot (in which I installed the audio card) is the console connector, two network interfaces (Primary and Secondary) and a connector for the power supply. In the center is an LCD display and control buttons. The power button is next door. And above the console port there is a small hole where another button is hidden - the service button. Using it, you can enable or disable the console, as well as reset the password. The fan, located on top, needs no introduction.

    Interior view.

    To look under the hood of the Cobalt Qube 2 server, you need to unscrew the four screws on the back of the chassis.
    Carefully removing the plastic, one more cube appears to our eyes, this time an iron one. Two more screws are located at the bottom of the case - we unscrew them and remove the plastic bottom.

    In order to remove the metal casing, it is necessary to unscrew two more screws on the left and right walls.
    So, we saw the inner world of the Cobalt Qube 2 server.

    Inside, everything is neat and beautiful.

    The hard drive is attached to one of the walls with four screws.
    They will also have to be unscrewed in order to change the hard drive to a more capacious one. By the way, in my copy of Cobalt Qube 2, instead of a complete 10GB HDD, a 4GB hard drive was installed. Apparently, the previous server host had a tendency to minimalism.

    To replace the RAM, you need to remove the daughter board by unscrewing one screw and removing it from the slot.

    And here is the main board.

    Now you can replace the battery.

    In older BIOS versions, there was a limit on the maximum hard drive capacity, which was only 30GB. However, the latest BIOS firmware supports larger disks. Some owners of Cobalt Qube 2 successfully installed a 120GB hard drive, but I only had an 80GB HDD at my disposal, which subsequently took its place inside the server.

    With RAM, everything turned out to be much more complicated. Initially, the Cobalt Qube 2 server had a 16MB SIMM 72 pin in the first slot. In the second (free) slot, a bar was chosen at random, after which the server began to feel bad. As it turned out, if you install several memory sticks of different sizes, the largest of them must be installed in the first slot.


    It is noteworthy that there are only two memory slots, and the system reports four memory banks during POST. To see the process of the server’s initial loading, you need to connect to its console with a null modem cable, indicating the following connection parameters in the terminal: speed 115200 bps, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, without parity.


    The maximum amount of RAM Cobalt Qube 2 can be 256MB (two SIMM strips of 128MB each), but I could not find the RAM. Two SIMM slots for 64 MB were purchased, and the total memory capacity was 128 MB, which, in general, is also not bad.

    Now you can return to Cobalt Qube 2 the native hard drive with the Red Hat Linux operating system, and get acquainted with its web interface.

    Web interface


    To configure and manage the Cobalt Qube 2 server, a web interface is used, which can be accessed by IP address or server name on the network. After authorization, we will go to the so-called Public Site, where you can view a list of users and groups, use the search on documents stored on the server and edit the user profile.

    The Programs menu displays a list of user-accessible programs installed on the server.

    In order to change the settings or add a user, you must go to the Administrator Site section.

    The administrator can use the functions of creating and deleting users and groups, as well as creating mailing lists.

    Configuring network interfaces is available in the Network section.

    In the Control Panel section, you can configure installed services and services.

    The Maintenance section provides functions for backing up data, installing programs, as well as rebooting and shutting down the server.

    In the System Status section, you can find information about the used memory, free space on the hard disk, processor load and network status.

    The Service Status section allows you to monitor the status of running services and services.

    And an oval icon with the letter C displays server configuration information.

    Install Debian.

    The functionality of the Cobalt Qube 2 server is pleasantly amazing. You can turn a cobalt cube into a NAS for storing music, or into a small file bin, or into a web server for the home page of the name of your beloved ...

    Stop! And how is he doing with security from hacker attacks? But no way! Support for this product has long been discontinued, so the software installed in Cobalt Qube 2 is outdated and replete with security holes.
    The only true solution to this problem is to install some fresh * nix or * bsd distribution. Out of habit, my choice fell on Debian, even though installing NetBSD on Cobalt Qube 2 is much easier.

    So, let's proceed to the installation.

    First of all, you need to make sure that Cobalt Qube 2 has enough RAM for installing Debian OS - 48MB or more. Internet access is also required.

    Since Cobalt Qube 2 does not have a CD-ROM drive, server loading and OS installation will take place over the network. To do this, we need a computer (hereinafter referred to as a server) on which we need to install NFS and DHCP services. In my case, the role of the server will be played by a laptop with Debian 6.0.7 on board.

    Install the necessary packages on the server:

    apt-get install nfs-kernel-server
    apt-get install isc-dhcp-server

    Open the file /etc/exportsand append a line to it


    Naturally, instead of the value, your subnet address must be specified.
    Next, configure the DHCP server. We open the file /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.confand add something similar to these lines to it:

    option domain-name-servers;
    subnet netmask {
    host cobalt {
    hardware ethernet 00:10:e0:0:be:5e;
    option routers;
    option root-path "/nfsroot";
    filename "default.colo";
    option host-name "cobalt";

    Do not forget to change the settings domain-name-servers, subnet, netmask, range и option routers to the values ​​corresponding to your local network. Parameterhardware ethernet must contain the MAC address of the Cobalt Qube 2 server (if the native hard drive is still alive, the MAC address can be viewed in the admin panel). The parameter fixed-addresssets the static IP address of your Cobalt Qube 2, and the parameter next-servercontains the IP address of the NFS server.

    If your local network has another DHCP server (for example, on a router), it must be temporarily disabled.

    Now you need to download the files necessary for installing Debian:

    cd $HOME
    cd /
    tar -xzvf ~/nfsroot.tar.gz

    Restart the DHCP and NFS services to apply the changes:

    /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart
    /etc/init.d/isc-dhcp-server restart

    Now you are ready to install Debian. We connect Cobalt Qube 2 to the local network where our configured DHCP and NFS server is running, turn on the Cube and immediately put it into boot mode over the network. To do this, you must simultaneously (and most importantly quickly) press the “left” and “right” buttons on the control panel immediately after turning on the power of the Cobalt Cube.


    The line " Net booting " should appear on the LCD screen , otherwise you should turn off the Cobalt Qube 2 and try to put it into boot mode over the network again.

    As a result of these manipulations, we should see the boot menu. If the boot menu does not appear, check if the Cobalt Qube 2 is correctly connected to the local network - use only the Cuba network interface (Primary or Secondary), whose MAC address we entered in the DHCP server settings.

    In the boot menu, select " Network (NFS) " with the arrow buttons and press Enter. Network download started.

    If during the boot process you received the message " Unit Boot Failed ", you must turn off Cobalt Qube 2 and perform the boot procedure over the network again.

    Now we determine how we will control the installation of the OS. There are two options to choose from - installation via SSH and using a console session.

    In my opinion, using SSH is much more convenient, so I chose the first installation option. Confirm your choice by pressing the Enter button.

    Using any SSH client, we connect to the Cobalt Cube by IP address using the login for authorization installer. The password and IP address are displayed on the LCD of your Cobalt Qube 2.

    Installing the Debian operating system on Cobalt Qube 2 is no different from the standard.
    When choosing components for installation, do not forget to select the SSH server, otherwise you will have to interact with the Cobalt Cube after installing the OS through the console. You can also install a web server and a file server, having slightly expanded the functionality of Cobalt Qube 2.

    Please note that the amount of RAM in Cobalt Cube is extremely limited, so you should install only those components that you really need.

    After the installation is complete, you can log in to Cobalt Qube 2 via SSH and configure the necessary services to your taste.

    Install Webmin.

    As you remember, initially the Cobalt Cube had a rather convenient graphical interface, which is now gone. Install Webmin to fix this misunderstanding.

    dpkg --install webmin_1.620_all.deb

    If the system swears on unsatisfied dependencies, install them.

    apt-get install perl libnet-ssleay-perl openssl libauthen-pam-perl libpam-runtime libio-pty-perl apt-show-versions python

    Be patient - installing Webmin takes several minutes, during which it may seem that the server is frozen. After the installation is successfully completed, you can log into the server using the web interface located at


    where yourserveris the name or IP address of your Cobalt Cube.

    For authorization, the account rootand the current root password are used (we specified it during the installation of Debian).

    As you can see, using Webmin, managing the Cobalt Qube 2 server is much easier and more enjoyable.

    After installing Debian on the Cobalt Qube 2 server, about 80 MB of free RAM and about 70 GB of hard disk space remain. This is quite enough for the Cobalt Cube to become a file trash, a mail server or a web server for a simple home site.

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