Skip to content

Legacy Commercial Gear in Home Networks

2012/02/26
IBM's APC UPS

I have found it can be pretty effective to recycle legacy commercial equipment for use in home networks.  A few years ago I was buying HP JetDirect devices on eBay and using them to extend the life and usefulness of workhorse HP LaserJet printers.  Right now there is a LaserJet 4MP in my basement just waiting to print 600dpi monochrome printouts from any computer in the house.  It’s a JetDirect box that makes that kind of thing possible without requiring me to host the print queue on a specific operating system.

A year or so ago I noticed the IBM-branded UPS750TLV APC Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) units were appearing on eBay in pretty large quantities.  I picked up more than one (if one is good, two is great, right?) and began to use them to protect my home network equipment.  The first unit went into the basement utility closet where I house the ISP Router, my Home router, a Security/Automation system, and my network storage units.  A second unit was placed in my home office to protect the Mac and Linux machines that help me multi-task to the max.

I’ve never enjoyed walking around the house visually inspecting how the equipment was behaving.  I like remote access, and I love to be notified when something is not quite right.  For me, that meant finding an affordable way to add an ethernet interface to the UPS units, possibly with SNMP, email,  or Webserver support

The IBM eServer UPS units are rebranded APC models, so I hunted for the APC AP9606 Web/SNMP Interface card.  You can find these at ridiculous prices “refurbished”, or get an affordable one on eBay for about US$20-25 at the time of this writing.  The cards are low-speed and do not support DHCP, but they are useful in the home network if you know how to get them going.

Any job is easier with the proper tools.  For my work with the AP9606, I needed to purchase a special serial cable to the card, the APC 940-0024C serial cable.  I found this on eBay for US$7 plus shipping for a new cable.  Not a fancy or premium cable at that price, but the cable worked immediately and that’s important.  Locate a computer with a serial port and you’re ready to go.

I used a Linux system with a Serial Port Terminal program (like HyperTerminal) and set the parameters to 2400/8/N/1.  After connecting the AP9606 to the APC SmartUPS unit (IBM/APC750) I pressed the recessed RESET button on the AP9606 and hit the ENTER key on the terminal program 3-5 times.  At the User Name prompt you enter “apc” and for the password you enter “apc”.  Any time you get stuck and can’t access the unit, you can try this again, and it should work.

After gaining serial access to the AP9606, the first thing I do is update the User Acocunts so I can login again without hitting RESET.  You do this through the SYSTEM Menu and the USER ACCOUNTS menu.  There were two accounts on my systems, device and apc.  In some cases the previous owner had changed these, but I change them back to these.  I set the password to a known password for me, and save the change.

The second change to make in the serial console is to change the NETWORK setting for IP ACCESSS, DNS and GATEWAY.  Since this does not support DHCP, select a value carefully and make a note of it.  I get many used cards with the IP Address on a label on the card and I understand why.  It’s a good practice to know when address the card is.  NOTE:  If you buy a card with this label attached, try access the card in point-to-point from your computer.  It might save you buying the serial cable.

After I’ve set the login, password and network address I move away from 2400bps serial access.  After downloading the appropriate firmware binaries from APC.com, use “ftp” to access the UPS over the network.  Although this is a 10baseT card, that’s still a LOT faster than 2400bps serial.  After using the apc/apc login to establish an ftp connection, set your transfer type to BINary (“type binary”) and use “put” to transfer the new firmware to the AP9606.  Each time you do this the card will say it’s rebooting, although I’m not totally certain that it is..  There are two files you’ll want to add, in my case it was:

APC’s OS & TCP/IP Stack v3.2.5 aos325.bin

Smart-UPS & Matrix-UPS APP v3.2.6 sumx326.bin

Your best bet is to use your favorite search engine and you should get right to them on the APC site. Download them to you computer, change to the directory where you saved them and the ftp will be easy. If you get an error that the peer reset the connection, you forgot to set the transfer to binary. Try that again.

After using the serial console to set up the basics, and ftp to update the firmware, it’s now time to use the Web interface. Here you’ll find all the things the previous owner forgot to erase, like the address of their network management system, the contact names and numbers for their support staff and those kinds of things. My favorite option on this interface is Alarm Disable, since I long ago lost patience for every UPS you own letting you know the power failed and that’s why all the lights are out. You probably want to clear the Event Log of anything old, and update the Battery Replaced date if that was something you did with your UPS install.

My next hope is to get a local SMTP server set up so I can forward email alarms to my mobile devices (smartphone, tablet), but the AP9606 is up and running and working as expected.

So, how cost effective is this, anyway?  A refurbished UPS is around US$100 plus shipping, which includes batteries that should last five years.  The card adds US$25 and the cable maybe US$15.  So, for US$150 or so you can add a nice margin of remotely monitored protection for your home networking equipment.  I don’t see how you can go wrong at those prices.

I tend to avoid direct site links since they are hard to maintain, but searches of refurbups.com, ebay.com and amazon.com will most likely find what you need.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: