The Cobalt/Sun Qube 3 was the last in the line of very cool server appliances that were marketed by Cobalt and then Sun who bought Cobalt. According to records there were three versions the Basic, Business and Professional but if you go with the ISO downloads on the Sun website they have three unique installation CD's. One for a Qube 3 Standard, Qube 3 with Caching and Qube 3 with Caching and RAID.
The Qube 3 pictured on the right is a Qube 3 STD PLUS and differs from the other Qubes in my collection in that it has SUN Cobalt stamped on it and arrived with a single 20GB hard drive and no external SCSI port. I couldn't resist adding my Kenwood Cobalt blue radio toaster which is sitting on top of my Cobalt RaQ 2 server.
The Qube is an all in one server unit able to host websites, act as a mail and ftp server and even a DNS server. Running proprietary software on it's single internal 20GB hard drive it is a pretty neat little package.
Cobalt sold three versions of the Qube the 2700, Qube 2 and Qube 3 which used different CPU's. Gateway sold a version of the Qube 2 under their trademark called the Gateway Micro Server which is pictured on the left shipped with a 20GB hard drive, 64MB of ram and an internal modem in the PCI slot. My particular Gateway Micro Server is the model 200.
As mentioned above I have two variations of Qube 3's the STD PLUS and the PRO. The main differences are that the Pro had dual 40GB Seagate ST340810A U6 hard drives and an external SCSI port while the STD PLUS had a single 20GB hard drive and no external SCSI port. Oddly the CPU daughtercard has a SCSI plug on it so it appears that Sun/Cobalt may have used the same motherboard.
The Qube 3 is quite easy to open, basically remove the single rear screw at the top middle of the trim and gently lift off the top cover which is tabbed around the edges.
Once the top plastic cover is popped off just pry up the top metal plate to gain access to the inside of the Qube. This is a different method than what is used on the Qube 2.
With the cap off the inside of the Qube is quite easy to get at. The CPU is mounted in a slot to the left, there are two slots for hard drives.
The CPU is on a daughtercard, it is also socketed although I have not heard of anyone doing a swap yet.
There is provision for two strips of memory but you must put the larger strip of memory in the slot closest to the CPU.
Also of note is the 68 pin SCSI connector on the motherboard which makes me think you can install internal SCSI hard drives though on the Qube 3 PRO a SCSI ribbon cable is attached to this plug and routed to the external SCSI port. The STD PLUS does not have this external port.
As with all the Cobalt Qubes all connections and basic configuration and controls are accessed from the rear of the unit. The main difference with the Qube 3 is that it uses a very different power supply which is not compatible with the Qube and Qube 2 as well as a USB port.
On power up the Qube will go through the startup process.
If this is the first time it has been started after a clean installation of the system it will set an IP address if you have a DHCP server on the network or you can set your own through the buttons on the rear.
Once your Qube is configured all of the setup is done through a web browser. If you are using a Mac Safari does not work with the built in web pages, while Firefox does. You can also use Explorer.
In terms of software upgrades, you can download the RaQ 550 ISO's from the Sun ftp site. The file I used was 259-3894-11-RaQ550.iso.gz but there is a second version which is 259-3894-13-RaQ550.iso.gz. I do not know what the difference is so I will only refer to the -11- ISO.
As with all Cobalt re-installations they are done by networking your Qube to another PC which has the OS CD installed on it. I use a hub but disconnect it from my DNS server in order for the operation to function properly. I use an old Toshiba laptop rescued from the tipper as my network boot machine.
You install the CD, boot the PC let the installtion CD initialize. Answer [Y]es at the prompt and then let the CD continue to load. If the installer hangs up at the part discussing network cards there is a good chance that your network card is not compatible with the installer. It will give you some examples though. Once you get past that you are given instructions on how to boot up your Qube, select Net Boot from the various options.
If you are using the RaQ 550 disks you must select the correct Cobalt server when prompted as the CD is going to flash your Qube's ROM! I have read that you will kill your Qube if you select the wrong device here, DO NOT SAY RaQ 550! Choose Qube 3!!!
Once you get past this you just let the installer run it's course. I should mention that these installers seem to be very picky about the type of hard drive you have installed. These must be U6 drives otherwise the installer may go into a loop trying to reformat your hard drive!
If all goes according to plan you will have a RaQ 550 OS on your Qube 3 and not a Cobalt blue doorstop..... Did I mention that getting the flashing of the ROM correct is really really important? It is and I'm not 100% sure it can be easily undone though when I flashed my Qube it did write a backup somewhere.
Finally, once everything is done the only odd thing I notice is that my Qube will say Powering Down when I force it into a shutdown from the buttons on the rear. At this point I turn off the power as it looks like the ROM upgrade puts up the wrong shutdown message. So far I have not had any issues doing this but it threw me the first time.
Comments? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.