|Recent Interesting Purchases for the Office
||[Apr. 13th, 2005|06:24 pm]
I've been meaning to write about various things we've bought for work recently, but just haven't got around to it. So, here goes a bumper pack:|
First up, a graphics card, now let me explain. People in our office fall into one of a few camps. Some like really really big screens (be they LCD or CRT, depending on how good a case they can put forward). Some are stuck with whatever their laptop comes with. Some (including me) like having two smaller screens (one laptop, one external).
JP started not too long ago, and ended up with a single medium size screen. He quite wanted to go for dual screens, but his machine lacked an AGP slot, only having an on board graphics card. A quick bit of ebaying later, and we had a Matrox G200 dual head card for under a tenner. (This is slightly older than the more common G450, but more of them are PCI rather than AGP). Getting it going under linux was a bit tricky, but we've updated the Gentoo Dual Monitor Wiki with the details, so it should be easy now.
The picture quality with the G200 actually seems to be better than with the on board card. Since we're not playing games, we don't need lots of video memory or anything, so it doesn't matter that it's a little old. Still, some graphics things actually seem faster, which I guess shows that all that money (when new) actually does get a better card!
Next up, we have our IP KVM. Before now, if one of our hosted servers had gone down, we had to get an engineer to go plug a screen in to tell us what was up. Then I discovered the Aten CN-6000, an IP KVM without the usual excessive price tag. We couldn't find a UK based reseller, but Next Warehouse did it for $500 including shipping, which is pretty good.
The box lived up to the promise. It's small (about the size of a 8 port hub), you feed it a KVM cable and ethernet, and you're away. You can connect to it with a windows client, or a java one, so it's nicely cross platform. We've plugged it into a normal 8 port KVM, and all our machines into that, all in 1u height+width and about 1/4 u length. We can now get at the console of all our machines, for a surprisingly small outlay, so we're happy :)
The only issue we've got is sending scroll lock (scroll lock + scroll lock is what the 8 port KVM uses as it's hot switch). With a bit of practice, you can do it, it's just a bit more fiddly than it might be. Oh well, for the price you can't moan!
Finally, we have the Firebrick. We're about to buy our 6th on of these, so you can tell they're good! They're tiny tiny hardware firewalls, made by AAISP (our ISP) and Watchfront electronics. In a smaller space than our 4 port hub, this thing packs 5 ethernet ports, a decent firewall, and a nice web front end.
By default, the box does firewalling and natting, and is perfect for protecting a few boxes in a datacentre (it's even so tiny it can fit behind a machine in a rack). If you want more power, you buy a few extras. We use the profiles feature to do automatically point a website at another box if the main one goes down, and also to re-route our traffic if one of our office internet links goes down. We use the shaping feature to do QoS on our internet traffic. We use the bonding feature to glue several ADSL links together for our office link. There's loads more you can do too. They're great!