Monday, April 30, 2018

Cobalt Qube 2 / RaQ 2 Notes

I've had an old Cobalt Qube 2 in my possession since at least 2003 and I got my hands on an old Cobalt RaQ 2 sometime in 2007. These are cute ("qute"?) MIPS machines that (used to) work great as targets for my Compilers and Interpreters course. Sadly both boxes have been "out of commission" for a few years, but I recently decided that I want to run them again, the RaQ in particular. In the process I noticed that a few important pieces of Cobalt information are hard to find online these days, so this post is mostly a collection of notes for myself.

First here are two basic shots of the RaQ 2 in pretty much the state I received it in over 10 years ago. First note the lack of a cover for the power supply! You'll need to be somewhat careful working in here if you're worried about a capacitor zapping you.

Cobalt RaQ 2 Front

There is also a spot for a fan but apparently the power supply never gets hot enough because (as you can see in the next shot) that grate is actually covered by the Cobalt logo.

Cobalt RaQ 2 Back

The installed fan is incredibly tiny and in my RaQ 2 it doesn't sound particularly healthy anymore. I have not double-checked yet, but supposedly Cobalt used this SUNON fan for the RaQ 2. Sourcing an exact replacement fan has turned out to be difficult, but I've also found some ancient posts that claim that these machines don't really get hot enough to require a fan in the first place. I am leaving mine in for now, hoping that even if it fails it won't bring down the box with it.

Next topic: Failed battery. There's a CR2032 located on the main board next to the power supply. Sadly the thing has one of those dreaded sockets with an excessively tight retaining clip on top. You're supposed to "lift the clip" and then slide out the battery, but of course in the process of doing that the entire thing just "ripped off" the mainboard. To add insult to injury, a solder pad came off as well, complete with the attached copper track of course.

Socket and copper track, yikes!

Witness the complete destruction on the mainboard:

Battery connector destroyed.

The lesson here is either that I am incapable of treating a piece of history with the required tenderness or that one should just leave good enough alone. Good enough? Well it turns out that the machine works perfectly fine with an empty battery. Better yet, it works perfectly fine even with a ripped out battery. So luckily I did not actually destroy the entire machine with this horrible mistake. If I ever decide to give my Qube 2 the "same" treatment, I'll desolder the entire battery socket instead and replace it with a less insane one.

To be continued... :-)