I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

One of the last things to do to get this 4U beast finished was to figure out how to get some of the data off of the old Ultra-wide SCSI drives. Originally the machine was used to house four separate 9GB virtual machines, and the whole thing was stuffed into a co-lo down on San Antonio road in Palo Alto back in the early 2000s. I’d used one of the VMs as a general purpose Linux host which did double duty as a web server and an email server and the other ones were used by friends for pretty much the same purpose. I really wanted to get some of the emails back though because I’d lost touch with a friend in Japan, and knew I had his email and snail mail addresses buried somewhere on one of the drives.

There were, however, several problems I needed to tackle to get the data back. Not only did I not have a way of getting the Ultra SCSI drives to connect to anything since the old motherboard was dead, I also needed to figure out how to read the file system, since they were partitioned as VMFS2 although the virtual partitions were primarily ext2.

The SCSI problem I solved by buying a cheapo $45 LSI Logic card on Amazon Marketplace which was being sold as a tape backup adapter. It looks like someone just plucked it out of an old HP machine, but it was cheap and did the trick. Four of the five drives spun up just fine, although the years haven’t been particularly kind to them as the whine from them was pretty much unbearable. I can only imagine how loud they would have been had I had left the old fans in as well.

To get the data off, I just “dd’d” each of the drives into files on the SSD drive, since I figure I’ll never use them again (also, does anyone need a slightly used LSI Logic Ultrawide SCSI card?). I can attach the files as loopback devices in linux, however I still don’t have anything which will directly mount the VMFS2 partition. I’m fairly certain ESXi can auto-convert from VMFS2 to VMFS3, but I’m not sure how I’d do that since I have no idea how to loopback mount each of the files.

Anyway, it’s a moot point. I just used “strings” on the drive I wanted and was able to pull out my friend’s email address and it turns out he still has the same one after 12 years!  I’m going to call it mission accomplished.

There were still a few remaining things to do though before I could re-rack the machine. I used one of the 5.25” to 3.5” adapters from the old drives to attach it to the 3.5” to 2.5” adapter I had bought for the SSD drive. I also needed to get a cheap video card to hold me over until the GTX 660 was freed up from the gaming rig, so I bought a GT 730 since I figured I might as well get one which was quasi-useful.

Here are some pics…