Expanding the Retro Lab, and Putting It to Work

Over the past month, I have been blessed with being in the right place at the right time to acquire a significant amount of really cool computers (and other technology) for the Retro Lab.

Between the collection I already had and these new “hauls”, I now have a lot of computers. I was, ahem, encouraged to stop using the closets in my flat to store them and finally obtained a storage locker for the computers I’m not using. It’s close to home, so I can swap between what I want to work on virtually at will.

Now I am thinking about ways to track all of the machines I have. One idea I’ve had is to use FileMaker Pro for the Power Macintosh to track the Macs, and FoxPro to track the PCs. One of my best friends, Horst, suggested I could even use ODBC to potentially connect the two.

This led me to all sorts of ideas regarding ways to safely and securely run some server services on older systems and software. One of my acquisitions was a Tyan 440LX-based server board with dual Pentium II processors. I’m thinking this would be a fun computer to use for NT. I have a legitimate boxed copy of BackOffice Server 2.5 that would be perfect for it, even!

Connecting this system to the Internet, though, would present a challenge if I want to have any modicum of security – so I’ve thought it out. And this is my plan for an eventual “Retro Cloud”.

Being a cybersecurity professional, my first thought was to completely isolate it on the network. I can set up a VLAN on my primary router, and connect that VLAN to a dedicated secondary router. That secondary router would have total isolation from my present network, so the “Retro Cloud” would have its own subnet and no way to touch any other system. This makes it safer to have an outbound connection. I’ll be able to explore Gopherspace, download updates via FTP, and all that good stuff.

Next, I’m thinking that it would make a lot of sense to have updated, secure software to proxy inbound connections. Apache and Postfix can hand sanitised requests to IIS and Exchange without exposing their old, potentially vulnerable protocol handlers directly to the Internet.

And finally, as long as everything on the NT system is public knowledge anyway – don’t (re)use any important passwords on it, don’t have private data stored on it – the risk is minimal even if an attacker were able to gain access despite these protections.

I’m still in the planning stages with this project, so I would love to hear further comments. Has anyone else set up a retro server build and had success securing it? Are there other cool projects that I may not have even thought of yet? Share your comments with me below!