Sorry for my poor spelling.
This is a better version by Dan :)


This is the story of Helmer. A linux cluster in a IKEA Helmer cabinet.

3D computer renderings are very CPU intensive and the best way to speed up the slow render problems is usually to distribute them on to more computers. Render farms are usually very large, expensive and run using ALOT of energy. I wanted to build something that could be put in my home, be relatively quiet, run using very little energy... and be dirt cheap, big problem? :) Computer equipment costs almost nothing these days, it just a matter of finding fun stuff to play with.

I wanted to use Intel Quad core 65 nm or better. I surfed the web and found 6 of them at a competitive price. I then looked for the cheapest motherboard that could run these processors, and came across the Gigabyte S-series GA-G33M-DS2R/S2 card.

..and my cat approves.

Next, finding memory. The motherboard could hold up to 8GB of memory each, and I wanted to get all that I could. Here are the 12x4GB =48GBmemory modules.

Mounting the CPU coolers.

Next problem was to find a good computer case that could hold these motherboards, but this was a big problem. 6x cases cost almost as much as the motherboards and CPU's! So here was some room for improvement.

I found the IKEA helmer cabinet. Perfect! Who knew IKEA made there stuff ATX compatible. :)

Some extra support for the backside of box.

Mounting power supplies and fans in zig zag pattern to maximize airflow.

Motherboard H1, H2 and H3 mounted. Fans on wrong side. I mounted 3 mm plexiglas under the motherboard so that it would not short circuit when I installed them.

A big mess on the floor.

Disk cloning in progress… I used Fedora 8, and the command "dd" to clone the discs from the bootable System rescue CD disc.

> dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb

Done! I use the software DrQueue as batch job dispatcher. All connected to a 8 port 3 com gigabit switch. Common storage using nfs to a FreeNAS server running on a Via C7 machine (that just needs 20 W power .. another story :) Instead of power switch I used a simple cable to the "pwr" jumper on motherboard. (Wires taped to the right-hand side)

Instructions of how I did the DrQueue setup is here:


The most amazing thing is that this machine costs just as much as a good standard PC, but has 24 cores that run each at 2.4 Ghz, a total of 48GB ram, and needs just 400W of power!! This means that it hardly gets warm, and makes less noise then my desktop pc.

Render jobs that took all night, now get done in 10-12 minutes.

..the next one will be in red..


Update 1:

It has been crazy these last few days. I have got alot of questions regarding details, construction and software setup. I'll do a better page as soon as I can... or I’ll build the Red Helmer II :) It would be fun to use the AMD 16 core Bulldozer cpu x 6 = 96 core in a box :)))

If a hardware manufacturer/pr-guy happened to read this. I'm very happy to receive hardware to play around with ;)

Update 2:

It has happened! I filled the ram, and all boards begun to swap. During this the power consumption was up to 800W. Been running now for a while, I noticed that H1 board (bottom one) gets hotter than the other boards. I think this is because the other boards are cooled from the fan below also.

Update 3:

Well, general planning and webpage have begun on Red Helmer II - thank you Google :)

Update 4:

First alternative hardware for Red Helmer is selected, and will do about 12Tflops. (64x times faster then Helmer 1) and cost about the same :) Stay tuned for more!

Helmer Data Sheet

More Helmer pics here

Get the Helmer desktop image!

Some render tests result here:

The storming sea scene file 24 frames in resolution 4000x4000 pixels.

- On a MacPro 2 x DualCore Xenon 2.66 Ghz with 4 GB ram

took 552 minutes (9.2 h)

- Helmer did the same 24 frames in 4k format in 64 min.

Some approximate numbers give Helmer a floating point capacity of 186 Gflops

My other life-hacks are here:

Building a wind sensor from a PS2-mouse

Building a small linux robot

Building a underwater camera house

Building a solar powered UAV