Cobalt
RaQ 2






The Cobalt RaQ 2 was the second in a line of Cobalt rack mounted servers. Running on a MIPS RM 5231 250 MHz cpu it could serve up web pages, mail, and act as an ftp server all from a 1U form factor.

What makes the Cobalt servers interesting is that they were stand alone units that had no provision for keyboards or monitors. Configuration was done through a web browser with initial setup being done through the front LCD and keypad. It ran a modified version of RedHat Linux though in recent years folks have been able to modify different versions of Linux to run on this server. Of note though is that you will loose the graphical web interface if you remove the original Cobalt software. As of 2008 however you can still download ISO files of Cobalt installation disks from the Sun ftp site.

Although there is enough room inside the RaQ 2 for dual hard drives it has been reported that the power supply isn't up to the additional load so I would not recommend it. Also of note are the two 72 pin simm slots at the top right corner of the motherboard. I have run double sided 128 MB simms as well as 64 MB single sided simms. Double sided 64 MB simms do not work with this server.

My RaQ 2 is the stripped down version with a single ethernet plug and no SCSI plug but it still functions just fine with a few odd quirks. On the far left is the power supply which connects to the motherboard with a since connector. Up in the front left corner is the power cable for the hard drive and on the lower right is the ribbon connector for the faceplate. There is a single fan on this motherboard though there is a covered grill in the power supply area for a second fan.

Since there is no CD drive or monitor the OS has to be loaded from another computer on the network. I downloaded the disk images from the Sun website, burned it to a CD and run it from my laptop.

Some important notes, make sure you download the English version for the RaQ 2 and not the Japanese!

Make sure you download the version specific to the RaQ 2 as any other version of the restore software will not work!

Using the Cobalt installation CD I have discovered that the largest hard drive supported is only 4.6GB anything larger and the installation process fails. I have looked around the web and have found references to modifying the code on the CD but this is beyond my abilities.

When you reload the software from the CD it will erase everything on your hard drive and reinstall a brand new version of the software! So need to backup your drive first! Once you are ready to go reboot your installation PC with the CD and follow the directions on screen. If you are going through a hub make sure your router is turned off as it could cause installation problems.

Next boot up your Cobalt while holding down the left and right arrow keys until you see 'metwork booting' on the LCD display. The LCD on the Cobalt will indicate the various stages of the installation process and will if needed reformat the drive. As mentioned above I have had problems installing drives 10 GB and larger and the smallest drive I have is the 4.3 which is also the size of the drive it came with.

The loading process will run through several stages and takes a little while to complete, if it installs properly the LCD will ask you to power down the server from the switch on the back.

Once you reboot the RaQ it will check the network and if it is assigned an IP address from a DHCP server it will display it on the LCD. If it does not find one you will be asked to enter an IP address for the RaQ. Once this is done the rest of the configuration is done through a web browser pointed to this IP address.

Shutting down the RaQ is a bit tricky as it must be done from the server console by pressing the S button and cycling through the commands until you find the Select: Power Down screen.

In order to complete the process select yes to fully shut down the RaQ.

My RaQ 2 does not have the dual Network ports or SCSI port that some RaQ 2's shipped with. The biggest challenge is the limitation with hard drive size which makes this an interesting computer but a bit limited if you wanted to serve up a large website. Still if you are a collector of computer hardware this makes an interesting addition to your collection.

Comments? Feel free to e-mail me at kevino@newsroom.net.