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Server Room Build Log – The Finished Product

Posted on: September 8th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

From This:

To This!

So the room is 100% completed, see photos below.

The rack and the finished room:

All in all this was a great project that has given me a chance to apply the ideas I’ve had for a while. Some would call this room a man cave; not me however because that is a shit term and I hate it. In terms of things I would do differently if I was to make another one, I would say nothing really, except move into a bigger room and have a wall-mount TV or even projector for the purposes of movie/tv watching, but I’ll save that for my next house i think.

Imgur Link

Posted on: September 8th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

If you want to see the build process in an image gallery. Most of the pictures are on chronological order:


Server Room Build Log – Cameras

Posted on: September 5th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

Regarding cameras, I bought a commercial kit from a proper security shop, the cameras are not IP ones but they go back to a central DVR unit which is IP enabled and can be viewed either through the software, from a web browser or from an iPhone app. This means I am able to view the cameras from the iPhone app from outside the house, like when I’m at work. My wife loves this as she can keep an eye on our dog.

The cameras are around 700TVL (TV Lines) which is slightly less than DVD quality and I defo would not go any less quality if I were to buy cameras again. They are full colour of course, and they are also have vandal proof enclosures and infra red LEDs for night vision, and the LEDs are extra low heat ones to prolong the life of the lens, as this is a common cause of cameras dying.

The DVR unit also has NO/NC contacts for connecting into your house security system (the security system sees the DVR as just another PIR, so it’s interfaceable with any alarm system) and you can configure the unit to trip the alarm if any of the camera feeds is lost, i.e. if someone is having a crack at one of your cameras. You can also set specific regions on the cameras to trip the alarm if motion is detected, but I find this feature useless.

Finally, I have a PTZ camera at the rear of the house as there is a walking path next our house that people walk their dogs along and kids walk to school. It’s a tracking camera and it’s been set to scan along the fence line, and when it detects movement like a person it tracks that object until it loses it. We have seen some hilarious things like a drunk guy having a leak in the river the goes behind our house, and not fully putting his junk away before turning around and unwittingly facing the camera whilst it was zoomed in on him.

The DVR is an 8 channel unit and I  got 4 cameras to go with it. Very happy with the quality and setup, would buy again

Server Room Build Log – The Finishing touches

Posted on: August 31st, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

Some finishing touches for the room, for that professional feel:

A Clipsal 56 Series captive outlet with screw plug – This will ensure that the power plug doesn’t accidentally get ripped out.

Some C-Bus connections have been added to the patch panel, which allows for the patching of a c-bus network interface to any data point in the house, or easily adding C-bus devices into the rack, such as a wiser unit.

A C-Bus Wiser unit has also been added to the install; this is mainly to allow for the control of the C-Bus network from an iPhone, which means pressing “watch movie” on the phone from the comfort of your chair and having the lights dim. I would recommend Wiser to anyone with or considering a C-Bus network. The Wiser is also a wireless router (NOT a modem) that can replace your existing wireless router or work in addition to. Since I have a Netgear DGND3700 I want to use that and use just the C-Bus connectivity of this Wiser.

The Wiser unit is sitting just below the switch, on top of the HDMI splitter.

Below shows an additional light switch which is identical to the LCD switch shown in a previous post (without the screen of course) but this is accessible from the comfort of my chair. Just to the right of that is a C-Bus network point for programming new devices or updating the network.

Server Room Build Log – Installing the Rack and Finishing off Loose Ends

Posted on: June 5th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

The rack has been installed, and now the fitoff of the patch panel and installation of the equipment can begin.

Now that the rack has been installed, the architraves and skirting can be finished. The gap above the rack (centre photo) will be filled in.

The patch panels, cables managers, switch and security DVR. The front of the rack with the work light on (and a temporary monitor), and of course the black blind to suit the rest of the room.

Fitting off the power and data points:

From top-left in a clockwise direction: filtered phone, MATV (television), surround left and surround right speaker terminals, 4 x data points, and a powerpoint. The speaker terminals, phone and tv points were unfortunately not available in black, but it doesn’t look too bad and these plates are hidden underneath the desk anyway.

Installing the security monitor:

Now I can keep an eye on the house and see if anyone is at the front door with an easy glance. That monitor used to be white, had to do a quick monitor paint mod.

The carpet is installed!

Almost there! Check back soon as I will have the finished pictures posted.

Server Room Build Log – Lighting

Posted on: June 5th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

Lighting is a major part of a room. Particularly for a stage, lighting can really add that wow factor when done properly. It’s only fitting then that proper lighting be done in the server room.

There will be regular white room lights, as well as red and blue feature lighting, which is my favourite colour combination as you get irregular splashes of purple when the two colours overlap. Matching the shades of colour is also important for a consistent effect. There will also be white picture lights to highlight the posters. Finally, there will be red and blue LED strip lighting inside the rack and behind the security panel. There is already red and blue lighting in the window of my case that will complement the new lighting beautifully.

The coloured lights are just downlights with stage lighting gels inserted into them. brushed aluminium downlights have been used throughout the room as the metallic silver stands out nicely against the black roof. As the gel is pressed to the very hot glass surface of the light, they have a tendancy to melt, so it’s not possible to use 50w globes. Even 35w was too bright, so I had to use 20w globes and install more of them. Red is very bright and is usually overpowering, whilst blue does not spill out very well and is overpowered by the red. Hence in the picture below, there is one red light to three blue ones.

The lighting effect reflected from the slab. So far so good. It will be interesting to see how it looks once the other effect lighting, carpet and furniture is installed.

Next up is the picture lighting. These are 4 x 20w gimble downlights, which means they are tiltable. 2 lights are for the Battlefield 3 poster, one for my uni degree, cert III and c-bus accreditations and one more for another poster, which at the moment is a map of Skyrim.

(BF pic was taken after the room is finished)

Finally, the LED strips for the rack and security panel are installed:

(These pics were taken after the room is finished)

The strip lighting comes up very nicely, and in the case of the security monitor has the added bonus of reducing eye strain as it’s now backlit. The LEDs are very cheap to run, 5m of LEDs is 24w, so the ~10m that has been installed comes to 48w, or one downlight. That’s for 10m, so the cost ratio is very cheap.

Almost there! Only have to finish up the loose ends, get the carpet in and we’re on!

Server Room Build Log – The Server

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

Obviously the server will be installed in the rack, so a suitable case must be chosen. The Antec 4U22ATX is perfect for this application as it’s 4RU high and deep enough to cater for ATX motherboards, not just mATX ones. It’s also high enough to fit my aftermarket CPU cooler, which is a nice bonus. The build was very easy with no unwanted surprises.

The server will perform the following functions:

  • File server
  • Ventrilo and TeamSpeak server
  • SABnzbd+
  • SickBeard and Couch Potato
  • utorrent
  • XBMC
  • Backup

The file server consists of 8tb of hard drives – 2 x 2tb and 4 x 1tb, with the 1tb drives being raided into 2 sets of raid0 arrays.

One of the caddys

Cooling for the drives is catered for with 2 x 80mm at the rear of the case and 1 x 120mm fan at the front of the enclosure in the picture above. Temperature sensors around the case will automatically adjust the speed of the fans according to the temperature inside, which will prevent overheating of precious storage space.

Ventrilo and TeamSpeak are voice chat programs which are used by the majority of serious gamers to better coordinate in-game tactics. Usually you have to rent a private server which costs a few dollars a month, however as I have a static IP and the necessary bandwidth, web domain & DNS services, I can set my own up that is available to myself and my friends for no cost.

SABnzbd+ is a very pretty usenet binary newsreader and downloader with a web UI, so things can be qued for download from anywhere in the world. So for example, if someone tells you that a new game patch has been released, you can que it for download from your smartphone and it will be finished and waiting for you by the time you get home.

SickBeard is an automatic downloader for your tv shows. All you have to do is type in the name of the show you want to watch and it will download all of the existing episodes that are available, and automatically download new ones as they come out using SABnzbd+. Once downloaded, it can email you and let you know that the download is finished, and it will also automatically update your XBMC library. Coach Potato is the same as SickBeard, but for movies.

uTorrent – self explanatory. There is a web UI available, which once again lets you que downloads from your smartphone or work computer.

XBMC is a media center that organises your tv shows and movies in an aesthetically pleasing manner for ease-of-viewing. In this configuration, XBMX will run on the HDMI output, which is sent to an 8 way HDMI splitter and is then distributed to every tv in the house, so you can watch your movies and tv shows wherever you want, and only be using the one computer. You control XBMC through a very easy-to-use iPhone app, so if you are watching a movie in the lounge and want to watch the rest of it in bed, its just a matter of pausing the movie, going to the bedroom and resuming it. The only limitation is that the same image is sent to each tv, so everyone must watch the same thing but this is not a problem as there is no-one else in my house who would be interested in using this.

The HDMI Splitter

Finally, there will be automated backups of my documents, pictures, music etc… and of course saved games. All of this is backed up to the server which is located in the same room as the computer, which is technically bad practice as there really should be an off-site backup as well in case the house burns down.

Server Room Build Log – Backup Power

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

To back up the rack, an Eaton Powerware 9125 1000va rackmount UPS will be installed. This will ensure that the security cameras and alarm system continue to function in the event of a power outage and wireless internet will still be available. The server room is on it’s own circuit, so if something trips in the rest of the house the server room will not be affected. The lighting is still part of the main lighting circuit however. If the power does go out, the UPS is fitted with an optional ConnectUPS Web/SNMP card which allows the UPS to connect to the network, which will allow the user to check the status, load % etc… from the convenience of a web browser. With the correct port forwarding, it is possible to access the status page from anywhere in the world. The other advantage of the ConnectUPS card is that it is able to broadcast to the server a shutdown message when the power goes out. This means the server will shut itself down properly and will lighten the load on the UPS will lighten, which means the cameras will be able to operate for longer.

It would be ideal for the UPS to backup the lighting circuit as well, howeer 1000va is not nearly enough power to keep a house full of lights going, so the UPS must be beefed up. The batteries shown below are 50AH each, which amount to 200 amp hours. Currently there is 18AH in the UPS, so this will be a nice upgrade.

The batteries are all new and were in service for about a month before the battery bank that they were part of was dismantled and were going to be thrown away. Removing them was a bit hairy, as there were many batteries connected in series to make 415v, so accidentally touching both active leads would have been poor form. The cables to connect them will be 10mm2 flex that will need to be lugged, heatshrunk and bolted to each battery. As the UPS is 24v and these batteries are 12v, two batteries will be connected in series in series, then connected in parallel (with the other set of two) to the UPS.

The batteries will be connected to the external battery connector of the UPS, so the UPS will see the batteries as what they are, additional banks. This will not increase the total amount of power that the UPS can output, but it will increase the length of time that it can operate.

The original UPS battery on the left, and prepping the new batteries (right)

Depending on how much load the rack requires, there may be an option to backup the C-Bus panels and lighting as well but this will need to be investigated once the UPS is installed and the rack is commissioned.

Server Room Build Log – C-Bus System/Colour Lighting

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

C-Bus is a microprocessor controlled home automation solution. Your house becomes a “smart house”. With C-Bus, you can have all of your (electric) blinds and curtains automatically go up/open when it’s light outside, and lower/close when it’s dark, or at a certain time of day. Light sensors in each room can also monitor how bright each room is, and fine-tune the level of the blinds. You can also automate tasks, for example when your alarm goes off you can have the bathroom light turn on, and when you finish in there the kitchen lights can turn on, as well as the coffee machine and maybe the tv. When the house detects that you’re about to leave, it will turn off the lights behind you (sensors can detects whereabouts in the house you are) and turn the outside lights on so you don’t trip over as you leave. Then, once you’re gone, the house shuts down again until the next person gets up. You can also control the heating/cooling from your iPhone, tablet or laptop from anywhere in the World, and you can also control individual lights as well as infra red devices (tv, blu-ray etc…). There is also a touchscreen you can have installed (usually near your front door) that can display the weather, and let you control any aspect of your house, including your electric garage door.

The C-Bus dimmers

I will not be installing that level of sophistication into my house, but I will have a few lights controlled by C-Bus and maybe some other stuff. For the purposes of this write-up, I will be focusing on the server room only. Below is the Clipsal C-Bus DLT wall switch (Saturn model with glass fascia):

The DLT first powered up (left) and after being programmed and customised

There will be a few scenes on the DLT:

  1. Welcome – turns the colour lights on and the picture lights
  2. Exit Room – activates the motion sensor and turns off all the lights. When the door is opened or someone walks into the room, the colour and wall lights fade up over four seconds
  3. Games/TV – turns on the colour lights and the white room lights (only enough to illuminate the desk)
  4. Movie Mode – turns all the lights off except for the picture lights; this is so that there is still a little bit of feature lighting in the room and will help prevent eye strain
  5. Shutdown – Turns all lights off and disables the motion sensor
  6. Room Lights – Turns the two white lights on only.

This will create a unique look for the room no matter what activity is being undertaken. All lighting scenes will fade in or out over 4 seconds, creating a smooth transition between scenes.

One of the blue downlights. This effect was achieved by taking a normal 50w downlight globe and wrapping a high temp stage lighting gel around the base of it. It was then pressed firmly into the globe holder, which ensured that it did not cease or wrinkle. The finished product is of very high quality. Below is how the effect turned out:

Finally, there will be four picture lights in the room which will light up a spot on each wall for a certificate, game poster, picture, whatever. The lights are just gimble downlights aimed at the wall using 20w globes. The dimmer was then set to 50%, so the light output only ended up being about 10w per light. This was enough to make the picture really stand out against the black background, and helps draw attention to it and make a nice little feature.

One of the inspirations for the lighting in this room is the following pictures, taken from a stage lighting set I did a while back:

I really like how the colours cross fade and create a third colour in the middle – from red to purple to blue (although the effect is helped in the above photos by gobos on moving lights), and this is what I really want to emulate when the room is complete. The best way to really make colour stand out is to add a bit of haze (stage fog) to the room, so looking into eBay for some cheap hazers is on the agenda as well.

Server Room Build Log – Getting Everything Black

Posted on: May 13th, 2012 by Child of the Sunfish

Because the walls, ceiling, window blinds, cornices, skirting/archs will all be painted black, anything else that’s going into the room will need to be match. The ducted air grill, and security PIR, the plastic cover on the motion sensor, even the switchboard cover all need to be sprayed. The plasticware is easy, just apply light coats of spray paint until coated. Not too much though, otherwise the paint will sag and cracks of the original colour will show through.
Some of the gear after painting

The table however, is a different beast. As it’s wood it needs to be sanded right back, primed and sealed, and then painted with a protective enamel oil based paint. I had to borrow a proper belt sander from a carpenter mate at work, and then I damn near called in sick for the rest of the week because the bloody thing almost ripped my arms off. Protip, when painting with a brush, do long strokes so you can’t see the marks.

In the picture above, those white legs are not the proper ones. That is my now-black table top sitting on top of an old hardwood table. The legs to my table are black, steel and sleek.