Fixpoint

2019-12-12

Uruguay parte 3: encontrar, destruir y proteger

Filed under: Hardware, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:47

Continued from Parte 2.

Upon meeting at Aaron's castle, we chatted briefly then got down to the business of picking out my purchases from the pile and loading the rackmount items onto his trusty fold-up hand truck. I passed on the pile of cables, nuts and bolts as these could be procured easily enough anywhere and the weight adds up quickly. We gathered a complete set of Supermicro rails and he demonstrated their mechanical robustness compared to the more complex and jam-prone interlocks on the Dell rails. He also lent me a bathroom scale and set of finer screwdrivers to help with my packing job.

Then we rolled down the Rambla with the iron, by a route perhaps more direct and certainly with less curbs to navigate than I'd come by. I stupidly neglected to get pics of the intrepid couriers. We got some curious looks but no questions; Aaron explained that while the locals are friendly toward strangers, they're culturally inhibited from initiating contact.

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The trip could have been done by cab, but with the pleasant weather, reasonable distance and helpful host there was really no need. On arrival to the hotel the concierge caught our attention; I was half-expecting some lecture about how we were using them the wrong way, but rather she was helpfully directing us to the parking entrance where there'd be fewer stairs to navigate.

As expected based on measurements, the first server fit in hardshell suitcase with just enough room to spare for some padding. Behold the sweet Opterons, RAID card and true random number generators (which turned out to be mounted by advanced technology of double-stick tape).

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The second server fit likewise in softshell.

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The highest-value item, whether by weight, volume or replacement cost, was a Russian teapot. Well actually, the contents of a box that once held a Russian teapot: another 18 of the aforementioned TRNGs.(i)

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Aaron headed home while I worked on packing. He asked if I wanted to help with his duty of data destruction on former customers' unclaimed storage media. Of course I did, not least of all for the chance to learn from a pro (I learned he once worked for a data recovery firm). We reconvened and went out in search of a pentalobe - apparently the latest wave of screwdriver DRM - for SSD disassembly. We found none at three or four places, but his shop was well stocked otherwise with implements of creative destruction; the aluminum cases proved susceptible to prying and ripping with pliers.

The biggest surprise was the hard disk platters, which we'd both expected to be made of glass, that merely dented rather than shattering on hammer impact. We roughed up the surfaces as best we could with sandpaper then left them to cook outdoors in a mild chemical bath of tomato sauce (with an excellent smelling touch of basil!), Coca-Cola and salt (fluoridated at that, apparently a local thing).

The hammer also proved ineffective for the SSD boards, mostly just ripping the plastic bags we tried to contain them with. The pliers again prevailed as the boards would bend or crack after some flexing, exposing the thin IC packages which could be snapped into flakes.

This time I had stupidly left my camera back at the hotel so perhaps Aaron can provide destruction pics, but here's the setup the next day with chip remains soaking in their own salt bath, to be dispersed across multiple dumpsters.

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Having worked up a good appetite we headed to Expreso Pocitos for dinner. It had recently been named the best in the area, mostly on account of the competition going out of business. Apparently the restaurant landscape in Soviet Uruguay is quite flat, with little variation in menu or prices. Their idea of a basic pizza is just crust and sauce; if you order with mozzarella they figure that means you want it drowning in the stuff. Portions are consistently generous. Water is only served bottled, despite the tap water being safe. Service at least here was not remotely attentive.

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Here as generally I tried to ask my host as many pertinent questions as I could think of, and enjoyed the conversations. General topics included the country and city, their economy and politics, our own Republic, ourselves, and computing. I observed his ability to pick out interesting details from large topics and integrate information from differing fields. One topic I recall might be summarized as the usability hazards of insufficient context in text-only computing interfaces.

After dinner I resolved to get my packing done for real so we could enjoy Sunday for tourism. A particular difficulty was the Ubiquiti Networks EdgeSwitch, a 48-port beast with 500W supply for Power-over-Ethernet capability which weighed in at 6 kg. I didn't have an immediate need for such a thing but had picked it up cheap since I was making the trip anyway. My first thought was to move a server PSU to carry-on, after a pic to note the wiring and RAM sticks I removed to get at its screws:

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This didn't quite save enough weight though, so next was opening the switch, which in a strange laptop-like style required removing a great many small screws.

Remember, kids: if you see an open power supply like this with mains-voltage capacitors that may have been recently powered, short out their terminals e.g. using a screwdriver with well insulated handle prior to handling, as they can pack a nasty shock.

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As there was nothing heavy inside I could remove yet re-package adequately for carry-on, and the switch didn't seem worth the marginal cost in overweight fees, I opted to leave it behind for either the next guy or the dumpster divers ("nothing is ever really thrown away here", says Aaron.)

I disassembled the server rails a bit further, allowing me to bundle them up to minimize chances of damage. I had brought my roll of the proper kind of tape for these jobs, plain old Scotch magic tape.

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Fully mummified rails:

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One server got bubble wrap for its first layer; the other (not pictured) got my old mattress pad.

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Some sound-absorbing foam pads I happened to have at home proved excellent secondary padding and space filler.

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Some $3 pillows made fine space filler to finish it off.

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To be continued with proper tourism.

  1. jfw: asciilifeform: do you know the origin of this zavarochnyi chainik box (if my translit serves)?
    jfw: otherwise, safe travels and enjoy that real olive oil, sadly I didn't manage to grab any
    asciilifeform: jfw: it's a teapot ( the kind where make concentrated tea and then can make quicker at teatime by pouring in cup + hot water )
    asciilifeform: standard item in household of tea maniacs
    asciilifeform: jfw: how didja end up with a ru teapot ?
    jfw: that's what I'm wondering! 'tis what the FGs were stowed in. BingoBoingo?
    jfw: (I didn't end up with the teapot, merely the box.)
    BingoBoingo: jfw: I acquired the teapot at Tienda Inglesa
    BingoBoingo: That's the box it came it.
    asciilifeform: pretty great
    BingoBoingo: It just happened to be the right size for FUCKGOAT packing
    jfw: BingoBoingo: ha, neat. RU teapot from English shop in Uruguay.
    BingoBoingo: Layering happens [^]

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