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Hardware Idle

Speed-Assembling Servers 160

Nieriko writes "The Planet is holding competitions to speed-assemble rack-mounted servers. It's like watching latter-day Marines field-strip and assemble their weapons. There is a video on YouTube about this incredible contest. Looks pretty challenging."

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Speed-Assembling Servers

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  • Jeebus. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 )

    That is INSANE. I would love to see a similar competition for wiring up a small sound studio :-)

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:37AM (#31482538)

    "It's like watching latter-day Marines field-strip and assemble their weapons."

    Well no actually, it looked like any normal IT support guy putting a machine back together, except most people don't even fumble and drop the RAM.

    Really, that was fast? I'd be inclined to believe anyone here on Slashdot whose built a machine a few times could do it faster than that. It's not like they even had to build half the machine, the fiddliest components were already in place anyway.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Aaron_Pike ( 528044 )
      I do a very similar exercise with my shiny-new, mostly-freshman high-school class at the very basic introductory level of computer science. They'd be competitive with the dude in the video (sorry, dude in the video).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        I guess you should have been in my Intro to Networking class, we had to dig the parts out a room with a lot other junk, get the computer up and running then install the OS. At least it was a group project, but still after 2 motherboards we got it to post, then came the fun trying to get the Network card to work, we when though 6 cards to find one that worked correctly.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by composer777 ( 175489 ) *

      Agreed. That is not fast, at all. I think I've thrown together machines faster than that in the excitement of getting new hardware up and running. I think it would be more impressive if they were required to get them to boot, not to mention small details like hooking up the power and reset buttons, etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Exactly, you should have to screw the motherboard into the case, plop in the CPU, apply thermal, stick the heatsink on, put in the PSU, etc etc.

      This is like buy a prebuilt Dell and upgraded the RAM.
      • I know right? They call it a race to assemble a server. It's like running the 100m sprint, but starting 80m down the track. Children could do this.

        I used to build computers on a daily basis. We once got an order for a multitude of PC's so myself, and the other guys at work decided to have a race. We had a box cutter, screwdriver, all the components in a pile still boxed and the desire to win. I can't remember what the timing was, but from pickup the box cutter to powering on was less than 5 minutes.


    • by ranulf ( 182665 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:45AM (#31482682)
      This task was just pointless. The CPU was already in there, the graphics card, disks, DVD drive etc... Make it a real challenge and actually get them to assemble the machine in order to win a speed-assembling prize.
      • by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:04PM (#31482950) Homepage
        Seriously. Rack mounted server? That was just a regular computer case (Sure, it could be rack mounted, but that kind defeats the point of a rack)... Where's the thermal paste? Not to mention the IDE hard drives (I thought SCSI at first, but that doesn't look like a u320 68 pin (or 80 pin) SCSI, so I can only assume it's IDE...

        The better test would be to give all the parts set on the table along with all the screws. Then time from the first part picked up to the computer booting into a boot CD (to test that everything actually works). For bonus points, chose the parts from a bin (So they would have to select the proper CPU/Mobo combination, etc)...
        • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:25PM (#31484126)

          The better test would be to give all the parts set on the table along with all the screws.

          In their original packaging.

          I swear... Some of this stuff, it takes longer to get it out of the plastic than it does to build the server.

          • I swear... Some of this stuff, it takes longer to get it out of the plastic than it does to build the server.

            I've come to believe that one of the most essential tools for computer building is a sharp knife. [] Freeing the components from their packaging, cutting liquid cooling tubes, stabbing anyone who questions your choice of CPU; there are endless uses for a good knife.

            • I've got a nice little swiss army knife I carry around everywhere...

              The blade is a little on the short side, but it's plenty sharp. It's also got scissors that are again small but incredibly sharp. They'll cut through zip ties, most plastic packaging, and even CAT5. It's got a flat screwdriver, and a flashlight, and even a USB memory stick.

              Very, very handy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by RulerOf ( 975607 )

          The better test would be to give all the parts set on the table along with all the screws.

          AND make EVERYONE use the same 50 cent Wal-Mart non-magnetic screwdriver!

        • The better test would be to give all the parts set on the table along with all the screws.

          Damn straight. I've been assembling for years, and the key to speed is skill with screw insertion.

          I prefer an extra long phillips driver for extended reach and increased moment of inertia. The moment of inertia allows screws to be fully inserted by a single spin of the driver. One hand balances the driver lightly, while the other hand gives it a quick spin by the shaft. When the screw head bottoms out, switch to the handle for grip and tighten a final half-turn or so.

          A magnetized tip is also essential for g

      • by IICV ( 652597 )

        Seriously, screwing the motherboard into place on the chassis, putting the PSU where it's supposed to be without destroying something and mounting the heatsink without blowing away one of those delicate motherboard capacitors that designers are fond of putting right next to where the huge heavy sharp heatsink goes are the three most challenging parts of assembling a computer. The rest is all plug 'n play a monkey could do, and I bet a monkey wouldn't drop the goddamn ram.

        • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
          I did pretty much this same exercise with a group of 8-10 year old Cub Scouts as part of them earning their computer badge.

          Sure, it took them most of the 1.5 hour meeting to watch us demonstrate (explaining what each part was about) and then turn a box of parts into a running computer.
      • I agree. At the start there should have been a pile of boxes and a pick list/order sheet with everything listed.

        This competition was like having someone "speed assemble" a car by putting on the oil filler cap, gas cap, and shutting the hood.

      • I'd agree, except this is a trade-show booth contest.. so it's designed to be techie enough to be techie, and simple enough anyone can do it..

        Aside from that.. who the hell still uses mid-tower format (3u? 4u?) servers in that density? get some 1u pizza-boxes or at least some 2u's..
        (I'm sure it's just decommissioned h/w they have for this show though.. or so I hope..)

      • What's the point? They'd only break something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Nesman64 ( 1093657 )

      On top of that, look at the blue snap-in parts. This is a Dell. Hardly a single screw to bother with in there even if he did it from individual parts. Motherboard, drives, fan, even the CPU in many cases, just snaps in place.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        They could even go one step further and have everything still in the box and turn it into a real machine. Two HDs, processor, heatsink, memory, CD/DVD player and obviously the motherboard.
        Time should only be valid if the PC boots and all hardware responds correctly.

        OTOH it is a neat little attention grabber for a fair.

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          Time should only be valid if the PC boots and all hardware responds correctly.

          And if they didn't drop the hard drive. Which I hear was a single IDE drive. Classy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by billcopc ( 196330 )

        Looked more like an Asus, but yeah... real computers take way longer than that to assemble. This was more like a kindergarten Lego competition. The guy looked like he was one of those Geek Squad half-wits who'd never used a screwdriver his whole life. You want a real competition ? Give them a pile of boxed parts, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Timer starts the moment they touch anything.

        As someone who used to run a store and has built tens of thousands of PCs, I had gotten to a point where my entr

    • No kidding. I'd be impressed if he was doing at that speed blind-folded, like many people can do with guns [] for example
      • That's actually pretty slow for a strip/assemble, even blindfolded. Pretty good for a kid with no real training, though.

        • Yeah, I couldn't actually find any really good examples on youtube. I suppose the guys who are best at it aren't fiddling around on youtube.
    • by flosofl ( 626809 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:15PM (#31483062) Homepage
      Wow Nierko (the submitter), way to plagiarize BoingBoing. Cory Doctorow used this exact same phrase in his post [] last night about this event.

      The Planet is holding competitions to speed-assemble rack-mounted servers. It's like watching latter-day Marines field-strip and assemble their weapons.

      Seriously, you couldn't come up with something original?

      • Original? I'd settle for true.

        If Marines were that clumsy we'd all be speaking German or Japanese now.

    • Well no actually, it looked like any normal IT support guy putting a machine back together, except most people don't even fumble and drop the RAM.

      Exactly. I drop almost everything else. Power wires that you have to spend 30 seconds relocating in the jumble of other cables. Fans. The video card sometimes because the things are so heavy these days. Screws...especially screws. Have to hold the bloody case upside down to get them out. But RAM? No, that's about the easiest thing to get in there.

    • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:23PM (#31483184) Homepage Journal

          Ya, severely misrepresented.

          The guy installed a CPU and memory into a desktop box, and hooked up a couple cables.

          We used to do real "speed assembling servers". You start out with organized piles of parts from the vendors. Memory, CPU, hard drives, rails, piles of sorted screws. We used a lot of SuperMicro machines, so the motherboards came mounted in their case. Well, originally, it was all from scratch. We just got lazy with the SuperMicro stuff. :) We were probably under 2 minutes, and then just around 5 minutes to get it complete with OS. It was more impressive with two people flowing 10 machines through simultaneously. While you have all your powered up positions full, keep the assembled hardware pool ready to start new installs on.

          All they did was complete the assembled hardware, which looks like they just pulled a little of it apart anyways. They didn't get the OS on the drive, which is kind of essential to call a computer a server. :)

      • The guy installed a CPU [...]

        Worse than that, he just had to install a heatsink/fan assembly. The CPU was already in there...

        •     Oh. :) I thought it was pretty quick stuffing the CPU in without checking the alignment, or bending any pins.

    • by FlyByPC ( 841016 )
      Not only was it only sort of fast (although I don't know if he's one of the contestants or just "demonstrating" the challenge, like the other guy said) -- I wouldn't want any servers that I paid for built this way.

      Honestly, guys -- which is less likely to get you in trouble with the boss -- taking an extra half a minute to do it right, or snapping a stick of DDR3 in half because you were in a big hurry?

      I can see the point of assembling and disassembling a weapon quickly (Marine-style); they're built for
      • I've taken apart all sorts of servers in the past (HP being the most finger friendly.. Dell the least - sharp metal!) and am able to disassemble the entire machine, replace the mainboard, put everything back together (they can get really crammed in there, unlike this wide-open desktop case) and had the machine back up and running in no time.

        Not even trying to be fast, and I can do it much faster than this guy.

        Just saying that any dumbass can put together a computer quickly (always could.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hyppy ( 74366 )
      Funny thing, the comment on the Marines was Nieriko's, which I assume means that Nieriko is Cory Doctorow's alter ego. Original Boingboing story []. Either way, my opinion of Cory just took a nosedive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by g0bshiTe ( 596213 )
      No ESD strap, dropping RAM, mindlessly plugging things in, what's this guys number? I want him working on my servers.
      • Shit dude. A real man assembles servers with the power supply plugged in, wearing a wedding band and a large gold Mr T style chain around their neck, with NO wrist strap. In the swimming pool. Kids these days.
    • I don't know about most people on /. but I build outside the case.

      CPU, RAM and cables are installed before attaching the mobo to the case.
      Then its a simple step of attaching power and HDD cables and Im done.

      I dislike working inside a case, get too many cuts

  • Lame. I was hoping they were going to assemble a 40U rack. Maybe actually use tools. Maybe a stop watch that works the first time you try to stop it. Lame.
    • by Hyppy ( 74366 )
      Or maybe they could assemble an actual rackmount server? What's with this IDE and single power supply crap? No engineer/admin in their right mind would call this a "server." And this is a plug for a HOSTING company? Dear $deity, I weep for their customers.

      Lack of server-level hardware aside, how could they even call this "assembling?" My neighbor's 8 year old could plug in two Molex connectors, a couple IDE cables, a couple sticks of RAM, and a processor fan in 45 seconds, and still have time to tex
  • by pathological liar ( 659969 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:42AM (#31482638)

    ... and that's not speedy.

    The youtube clip is some knob plugging in ram and an *IDE* disk cable in what appears to be a several-year-old desktop. If any of you can't match that, turn in your computer geek card now...

    • by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:13PM (#31483040) Homepage
      I wouldn't match it. Not because I couldn't reach that speed, but because I chose not to. I prefer to take the time to make sure every cable is secure, that each screw goes in straight, not stripped and tight. I take the time to apply thermal grease and make sure it's applied well before carefully placing the heat sink so as not to disturb the grease... I take the time to power the computer up while the case is still apart and on the bench, so that I can verify that all components are working properly before buttoning it up. Sure, doing it fast is nice. It may take twice the time to get it together, but I wonder how much longer it would take you to figure out what's wrong when something doesn't work (including removing the case, and possibly removing components that are blocking the issue)...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        As a former Dell Server operator, systems of that type were expected to be built in 8 to 10 minutes from motherboard install, rear fan, processor, heatsink, ram, CD drive(s), floppy drive, harddrive(s)and cards. And a quick test to make sure it boots. And the guy in the video forgot to connect the floppy drive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 )

        Hey, I take hours building my home PCs - and I enjoy every moment of it. Nothing wrong with that.

        It does take an annoyingly long time to get that default thermal gunk off the heatsink, and replace it with your own. Looks like they skipped over that entirely.

        Without trying, I'd probably do the same stuff this guy did in ~5 minutes. From scratch assembly in 10 mins would be more impressive to me, but I'd probably still do it in 1 or 2 hours, just so I can drool over each and every part as I assemble my new be

    • ... and that's not speedy.

      It is for ThePlanet... ;)

  • Just an idea... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps they should stop fucking about with stuff like this and get rid of the many spammers they have for customers?

  • by naich ( 781425 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:44AM (#31482664) Homepage

    Was I the only one that read his shirt as saying "Herpes without capes" due to the placement of his name tag strap? Oh god, it was just me, wasn't it? I'm sick.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tom17 ( 659054 )
      OK, I admit I had to go look at it again after seeing your comment - just so I could see what it *did* say.

      I read it as herpes, didn't get it, and moved on.

      it makes much more sense now :)

    • You are not alone. I blame it on the yellow strap fooling me into seeing "p" when just glancing at the shirt. Either that, or we're both sick.
  • I would like to see them assemble 300 servers including the racks, wiring and software.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by leuk_he ( 194174 )

      300 racks, Blindfolded, while answering phones from angry users asking why their server is down, and being chased by 2 service managers who do have a bet running on you.

      I will see your raise...

    • They even have a name for that at Google... it's called "a typical Tuesday afternoon".
  • by Rhacman ( 1528815 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:51AM (#31482770)
    Maybe I'm just clumsy but the job isn't truly over until you discover all the cuts on your hands that you didn't realize you made at the time. The ones that have that sort of quantum uncertainty to them in that they don't hurt until you see them for the first time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You must give blood to the BIOS gods or your PC will not boot when first built.

    • While I know what you mean, I've only ever done this once with computers since my boss thinks that Blood on the components is a health and sanitary issue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cyphercell ( 843398 )

        Your boss is right. If you're really clumsy or doing a lot of work in the cases wear gloves. []

        I know some folks that have to wear debris masks while dusting out PCs.

        • Dust is mostly made up of dead skin. If it is just your dead skin, well, a dust mask may be OK for you. However, keep in mind that people are regularly excreting small amounts of their medications through their skin and people also have a tendency to rub various medications (and who-knows-what else) onto themselves as well. Not to mention the various pesticides we regularly squirt onto our pets for flea and tick control. Coming in contact with such chemicals usually isn't a big deal (be careful, wash yo

    • One of my early jobs was at a local newspaper. I sliced my hands open pulling a workstation out from under a desk and didn't realize it for several minutes, all the time wondering why the computer was covered in some red liquid.

    • Put your hand in the box.

      What's in the box?


  • He'll end up planning server installation within the hour; "real geeks can setup a server in 1.2 minutes", he'll mock you.

    "But, they already chosen the different components, invested time comparing and haven't installed software on it, they're just clicking the parts together", will end up in deafmans' ears.

    Soon enough, they'll call you a slacker because you took 3 days to get that server-rig running with redundancy system to be able to support your SLA-contracts.

  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:09PM (#31483004)

    I can go from a collection of parts to a desktop running Windows in under 15 minutes using a prepared disk image on a USB stick.

    Servers are actually a bit easier to deal with than that, since the layout is more open. On a Tyan GT20 (a barebones server platform) there's probably about three minutes of work involved in sticking in the CPUs, RAM and hard drives. If I had a prepared disk image for one I could probably get one of those running in 10 - 15 minutes. The hardest part of the whole thing would be getting the machine into the rack.

  • Did it work? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trippyd ( 307143 ) <david@wher e a r e m y p a n t> on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:10PM (#31483014) Homepage

    I would think that any contest for assembling a computer would involve actually turning the computer on to test if you did it right.

  • That was not the contest.
    Maybe they did not want to show the actual servers before the beginning of the contest and only used the tower to demonstrate on?

  • This is stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jgreco ( 1542031 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:14PM (#31483050)

    We build servers here. First rule is that if you hurry, you're likely to screw something up and end up needing to fix something down the road. The hour of downtime and cost of replacement parts later is not worth any up-front savings in time.

    Building a server starts with a bare metal chassis (not just plugging in a few snap-in components to a prebuilt). Integrate your power supply, install system board, from there of course it gets dependent on the specifics... but if you're not spending a fair bit of time trying to be neat, tying your cables down, thinking about how to route the cables for airflow, custom-building cables to fit odd needs, tightening screws with the right torque, and all of that, then you're not really doing a good job. Rack mount servers are especially sensitive to the skills of the designer and builder.

    Your rack mount server will end up in a rack somewhere where it may not be pulled out for another five years. There may not be a "second chance" to fix it if you rush through building it - it becomes someone else's problem, perhaps, but they won't be thanking you for it.

    • I'm lazy. I just buy barebones from Tyan and plug in the CPU, RAM and harddisks. The part that takes the most time is actually mounting the thing to the rack.
  • I don't like building servers any more. Rather I would have had my clients purchasing either well-known systems already builtr and burned, or at least primary assembly. Maybe I would install drives.

    Now a more fun competition would be to build a full sized cabinet, rack/stack the servers, create RAID volumes, install and wire a KVM switch, configure the servers to the KVM, wire Ethernet, configure IPs and remote access, and put your hands up. Then let the referees try and remote in to start OS loads. Ext

  • I'd like to see them speed un-boxing heavy servers, cursing at different rail types that require access above and below the rack space allocated to you. I'd also like to see them curse when there isn't enough power outlets available in the rack space you've rented, or there aren't enough cable management systems in place to hold all the stuff that connects your gear together.

    That would be much more entertaining.


  • I mean, by beating the tar out of these nasally nerds, swiping the prize, and taking their iPhone and lunch money while I was at it. Then going back to wedgie them, because damn, that was utterly, tragically pathetic.
  • latter-day marines? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bunhed ( 208100 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:23PM (#31483180)

    "It's like watching latter-day Marines field-strip and assemble their weapons.", it was not like that at all. It was more like watching a guy plug in a usb cable.

    • It was more like watching a guy plug in a usb cable.

      But the guy fails to get to get the usb to plug in the first time, rotates it, tries again then figures out he had it the right way the first time.

      I'm guessing that guy doesn't have a girlfriend, because if he's as good in bed as he is at putting computers together.... "Ooops ooops ooops. This time it will work. Ooops."

    • No, it's more like watching my grandma trying to plug in a USB cable. Guys usually get it right the first time.
  • "rack mount"? most racks don't accept full size towers. I'll try to ignore that minor oversight and press on....

    So he had to plug in the cables for the hard drive, but not install the hard drive itself, that was already installed for him?

    Heck the motherboard was already installed and most of the wiring attached. Over 75% of the work was already done for him. This whole thing was a joke.

    This was like a cooking contest that involves seeing who can be the fastest at pulling prepared courses out of the frid

  • PHB = Impressed by how fast you slap RAM sticks into a glorified desktop. Nice job not running memtest86+, its cheaper for the users to open support tickets after the guarantee expires, right?

    Real Techs = Impressed by how cleanly the cables are routed/tied down and how well the equipment and external cables are labeled/documented.

  • by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:28PM (#31483292)
    fast server assembly? BFD. Servers come already assembled. If you want to wow me, show me a challenge where the guy racks, cables it per standards, labels the server properly, labels the cables, sets the switch port vlans, updates the CMDB, etc. You know, does the WHOLE thing, not just the easy part.
    • by isorox ( 205688 )

      updates the CMDB
      Oh, the easy bit. You then need to do the following:

      Fills in the chagne control paperwork
      Fills it in again after Remedy times out
      Waits 2 weeks for the change board to meet
      Reads in astonishment that a couple of idiots without a technical clue between them have blocked it because you claimed 48 internal drives, and they say that you're lying (this is for an x4540)
      Resubmit the change control with photos
      Waits 2 weeks for the change board to meet again
      Enter change lockdown period because there's

  • Is having a triple espresso before this competition considered doping or is it just expected...

  • I was hoping to see them install rack-mount computers. Sure, it isn't as fiddly, but when you have 40 of them to do all at once... you tend to get good at it.
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Sure, it isn't as fiddly, but when you have 40 of them to do all at once... you tend to get good at it.

      And it can become a very visual explanation of the "off by one" software bug.

      You can also do some pretty good slapstick comedy by installing one heavy rail mounted server in a new empty rack, pull the heavy server out on the rails to test them, then dodge the tipping over rack. You did anchor the rack to the floor and overhead first, right?

  • I have been a participant of a similar event in my local city back in my high school (like 8 years ago). I tell you what it should be like.
    The competition included everything from screwing motherboard to the case, then CPU, heatsink, fan and all the tightening up all screws. And all component from Fan to PSU to HDD has to be fixed by screws, it wasn't a slide in design. The timer stops when POST is passed will a check with all the components position and make sure they are properly fixed by screws. Like you

  • Not to mention the lack of any sort of ESD strap... Or maybe it was on his 3rd leg... []
  • Watch me plug these cables in. Now where's my 6 figure salary because computers are so hard.
  • So it was basically putting in two sticks of RAM incorrectly (no dual channel for him - assuming he hasn't already fried the chips) and plugging in a couple of molex connectors that took 50secs.

    It would be remotely interesting if it included fitting the motherboard and HSF, which are the only time-consuming parts.

    March 15th 2010: Slow News Day

  • I'd say just a cheap desktop scrap... try disassembling and debugging an IBM System x3755 [].

    bah... a new /. low ;)

  • Quoting the comment by the YouTube uploader:

    This challenge was created specifically for a trade show environment where participants may be intimidated by the task and don't have much time to participate.

    So it’s a pure publicity stunt. Which is another way to say “viral marketing”. Which is a form of advertising.

    And even if not: Any random dude could put that together in that time. Why? Because it actually is a random dude in that video!

    Slashdot FAIL!

  • He has an unprofessional touch, just crudely jamming everything in place. Hurts to watch that.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"