Mac in a 2U Rack

Posted by: autodidactic

Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/20/05 11:21 AM

Hi every body. I'm new to the forum and new to modding in general.First off, I'd like to extend my congratulations to all who have submitted mods on this site. They all look great! Well,I'll be honest. I haven't seen every last one, but I have yet to see one that hasn't impressed me on some level.

I am about to embark on my first mod ever and I have chosen a mac for my maiden voyage.I am going to need some help. I am not a complete ignoramus to computers. I have upgraded and done minor maintenance to my P4 PC but from what I gather Macs are gonna force me to think different. :P

My goal is to cram an upgraded Sawtooth G4 into a 2U rackmount chassis that I will build from scratch.I will check for the Uni N7 and if it's good then I'll upgrade to a dual CPU card. If not, I'll go with a Sonnet 1ghz single CPU.This computer will be used for a mobile audio recording rig to run Pro Tools M-Powered, so the case will need to be shallower than your average server case I'm shooting for less than 18" preferably 15". I've decided to build a modded mac over buying a mini in order to have the PCI slots I need for my Maudio interface.

Here's a few things that I'm not quite sure about.

I'd like to have 2 fast hard drives (7200 RPM). One small system drive and another large drive for audio.Will regular IDE hard drives work?

I would like a slot load combo drive. What are my options? Will patchburn make any drive compatible? Could I buy an old powerbook drive and run it internally?

Although I have a powerbook I have no experience with a desktop G4. Are they loud? Would it be possible to make it virtually silent?

I've seen the perfect 2u riser card.It's a 2PCI+1AGP slot. It says that the AGP slot is for "newer" 2X cards. Will this work? What are the alternatives?

Sorry to bombard everybody with so many questions from the get go but I think I'm right in assuming that any hardware purchase mistakes will be expensive ones.I'd rather get advice from people experienced with this.

I thank you all in advance for any suggestions you may have. I'll be posting semi regularly as I progress.I'll be including images as well.


Post edited by: autodidactic, at: 2005/07/20 11:29
Posted by: Jias

Re:Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/20/05 11:53 AM

As for mounting it, I know you can find brackets to replace the font handles on the G4 towers to fit them in a rack. I can see at my other job (I do computer support and some sound engineering at a recoring studio) if I can find out about brand names or whatever (we have a Quicksilver mounted that way).

Hard drives: the hard drive bus is just a Ultra ATA/66. You should be fine.

Optical drive: don't know much about it, but I'd imagine you could make it work.

Noise: most G4 towers (the Mirrored Drive Doors being the most obvious exception) are PRETTY quiet. I mean, not as quiet as my G5 at work, but not NEARLY as load as most beige-box PCs.

Riser cards: no idea.

Best of look, it seems like a good, pretty straight-forward project.
Posted by: krusher117

Re:Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/20/05 12:00 PM

here's some info on faster SATA drives in a Powermac using a SATA PCI card. ( I think you'll be fine with regular ATA drives for sound work.

An after-market drive will be compatible using patchburn, but I'm really not sure about the powerbook drive working. I would assume that you could pick up a slot loading drive from someplace like FastMac if you didn't want to worry about drivers and compatibility issues.

Post edited by: krusher117, at: 2005/07/20 12:00
Posted by: oojacoboo

Re:Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/20/05 12:14 PM

As far as noise is concerned, I would look into some nice aftermarket fans for the case that are virtually silent. It shouldn't be too loud if you chose the right ones.

For a DVD/CD-RW, I would recommend getting one that would be compatible without the use of patchburn, but again thats your call. There were some 2x ones from about 2 years ago made by the same company that made the stock apple drives. They were rebranded with another off brand name, I can't think of it at the moment, but they were cheap and very good.

You should be find with standard IDE drives.

Best of luck and be sure to take plenty of pics for a mod guide.
Posted by: Waragainstsleep

Re:Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/20/05 01:50 PM

OK [Takes deep breath]

7200rpm ATA drives will work, but you have two dual channel busses to use in total and one is faster than the other. ATA and IDE. Both look the same, and are backwards/forwards compatible, but like I say, one is faster. I'm guessing you plan on RAIDing the two faster drives, so you should stick these on the faster ATA bus. (Thats the one your current drive will be on at the moment, Optical drive will be on the IDE as standard).
This means that you may lose some general system snappiness and slow your boot time, since you will have to move your boot drive to the slower IDE bus. I think you should be OK to boot from the IDE bus with a slave drive. Best to use the Optical as master, as they tend not to be bootable otherwise.
Of course if you go with the SATA card and SATA drives (all three), then your data access and boot time and general snappiness will all be much faster. So get a bootable one. Some of them may not be.

As for optical drives, the most popular choice with modders is the Pioneer DVR-1XX Range most of these (from the 103 up to the 109, no doubt the 110 soon) have been fitted as standard in a Mac at some point. You can certainly flash them to be like an OEM Apple version without too much fuss. See the FAQ and drive compatability database at for more info. PC versions are cheap too.

As for noise, the G4s got noisier as they went on. Your sawtooth is an early G4 and will be virtually silent. Especially if you compare it to a Mirror Door.

As for the riser card, not entirely sure what you mean. If you mean a single card with 2 PCI and 1 AGP slot, I would tend to avoid such items. Simple is safer with this sort of thing. A single slot riser (should be available for PCI or AGP) should be nothing more than bunch of wires printed on a pcb. Just to extend your existing slot around a corner. If it has big, complicated looking chips on it too, it likely needs drivers. Which likely don't exist for the Mac.
Posted by: smuth

Re:Mac in a 2U Rack - 07/21/05 07:19 PM

The on-board controller will handle 2 drives as Master-Slave without adding a drive to the slower bus that drives the CD/DVD on a Sawtooth, the cables and mounts are there already. If you want a cheapie, buy Marathon G4 rack kit for the existing case.

A 2 U case holds a full size 5.25 CD/DVD with no problem so I don't see the need for a slot load unless you want more headaches.

I'm building 1 myself but can't get a riser to work right and I have cable lenght issues, I do have it booting from the ATX power supply but its too ugly to post yet!

Good luck, just keep it simple