I bought a new DataStor Remote Reboot card on eBay, for $40. My purchase was a gamble, because I could not find any detailed product descriptions or reviews, and I was unsure whether my system would be fully compatible. No documentation is available on the manufacturer's website. However, I really wanted a way to reboot my mail/webserver remotely when it crashes, and this seemed to be the only affordable solution.
Recommend this product?
When the product arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the detailed documentation. The quality of English was not perfect, and it was printed cheaply on a stack of letter paper - but at least it was documentation. The Remote Reboot card is basically miniature self-contained computer, which sits inside the case of your PC. It receives power directly from the ATX power supply, using a special connector (supplied) between the power supply and motherboard. Unlike the CD/hard drives, your reboot card will still have power after the computer has shut itself down. The reboot card also connects the motherboard to the power switch on the front of your case. Thus it can send on/off signals to the motherboard, simulating the action of the on/off switch. Finally, the reboot card has its own ethernet port, completely independent of the PC's network connection. This port, obviously, will need its own network connection, with its own IP address (thus you must have an ethernet router if you plan to use the product at home; this is not made clear in the sales description).
Setting up the hardware took less than fifteen minutes. The only complicated part was finding the power switch connector on the motherboard; I had to consult my motherboard documentation to identify the various wires from the switches and LEDs on the front of my case.
The network setup was more complicated. The device is preset with an IP address of 192.168.1.253, and so the router must be configured to allocate this address (at least temporarily). This was not helped by two problems: (1) the documentation wrongly gives the IP address as 192.168.7.253; and (2) my Netgear router's web interface did not recognize the reboot card as a connected device. Fortunately, however, the reboot card ships with a CD containing a Windows application to search for reboot cards on the local network. The application found my reboot card at 192.168.1.253, to my surprise.
At this point I hit three problems. Firstly, I tried to log in with the admin password given in the documention (123), and it didn't work. It kept giving me a "wrong password" error. I tried resetting the password by connecting two pins on the board, as described in the documentation, but it still didn't work. I sent an email to the customer support people, and got no reply. Eventually I tried again from Internet Explorer on a Windows PC, and the password worked. For some unknown reason, the password is only accepted on Windows versions of IE (not the Mac version, and not Firefox).
My second problem was equally frustrating. I unwisely used the Windows application to change my reboot card's IP address to 192.168.0.255. I hadn't realized that IP addresses ending in 255 are special, and unwittingly made my card completely inaccessible to Windows. This problem should have been foreseen. Once set, the IP address can only be reset by software, as it is stored in non-volatile memory. I discovered that the card was accessible from Mac and Linux, but the login password was only valid on Windows IE. I eventually managed to reset the IP address by tunneling a connection from Internet Explorer though a Linux machine, which took hours to set up.
I then hit a third problem. The web interface on the reboot card only accepts connections on port 80, and this cannot be reconfigured. Many ISPs, including mine, block incoming connections on port 80. Furthermore, my Netgear router does not allow different incoming and outgoing port numbers when forwarding a connection (the DataStor documentation assumes that your router will have this capability, so that external port 8000 could be mapped to internal port 80 in the router, for example). This is a major problem, and a serious design flaw. I did, however, find a workaround - I installed a port forwarding program on my second computer. My router now forwards port 8001 to computer A, and computer A forwards this connection on port 80 to my reboot card, which sits inside computer B. So, in the event of computer B crashing after a power glitch, I would not be able to reboot it unless computer A recovered successfully from the glitch. Also, if I didn't have two computers, I'd really be stuck.
I should clarify my statement about "driver availability" below: the reboot card does not depend in any way on the operating system of the host computer. It is connected only to the power supply and on/off switch, and exchanges no data with the computer. However, it does depend on Windows in two ways: (1) the installation CD is Windows only. However, this installation can be done from any computer on your network, and is only needed if you do not know the IP address of your reboot card (due to the error in the documentation, for example!). (2) The web interface for rebooting your computer is only accessible from Internet Explorer.
Read all comments (1)
Amount Paid (US$): 40
Driver Availability: Windows only