This is just a little note to mention that malak.ca has been down for the past 28 hours or so for an upgrade only planned as of a few days ago, when the site had been hanging for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and diagnostics suggested that the hard drive may have been on its last legs.
A backup of the blog database was created, and saved on an external drive;
The external drive, used as a backup for my other computers and the location of the static parts of my website, was separated from the machine, which was then powered down;
The old hard drive was physically removed;
The SSD was connected;
Fedora 34 workstation, which had been previously downloaded and installed on a USB key, was installed on the SSD yesterday evening (I’m currently still running on F33 for my desktop, laptop, and one of my worldcommunitygrid.org nodes)
The desktop for F34, on the core 2 duo, is faster, although some of that is due to the SSD, of course;
Interesting to see the dock moved from a vertical position on the left to a horizontal position at the bottom;
I find it interesting that at bootup, the activities screen appears to be the default;
This evening, the web server was installed;
Although we had planned to use php-fpm to separate permissions, but since this is a single domain box, we used a simple virtualhost;
MariaDB was installed;
The re-registration of my redirections for things like www.malak.ca with noip.com to account for the dynamic nature of my IP address was done;
The re-registration for my Let’sEncrypt was performed;
Various linux kung-fu tricks were performed, and magical linux incantations were uttered, and the setup was complete;
The external drive was reconnected;
The blog was restored from a backup.
The system is peppy, and this blog, which is hosted on the SSD instead of the external drive (as is the rest of malak.ca), loads somewhat more quickly.
As usual, great thanks go to my brother whose herculean efforts were at the core of the setup. Thank you!
I have a thing about glasses, cups, and containers for drinks of the water and non-alcoholic varieties, specifically for drinking iced tea (Nestea for those who are wondering), of which I drink really large amounts daily, and which itself is a personal trademark.
My obsession with drink containers is to the point that it would also be a bit of a personal trademark in and of itself except that, barring given containers that have been and/or are particularly noticeable or distinctive in their colouring scheme or design, most people would not notice my obsession because most of the containers I use — publicly, anyway — are actually rather mundane containers and cups.
That being said, I’ll start with what I use at home to drink my iced tea:
At home, my favourite drinking glasses are old glass candle holders of the variety that some restaurants have been known to have on their tables. I started using the glass candle holders back in the early 1990’s when I found one still with the wax in it; I took it home, reclaimed the wax for a hobby of mine that uses wax, and cleaned up the container. I have since found, cleaned, used, and unfortunately, broken well over a dozen of these containers over the years.
I also have a tall glass container that may have once served as a flower vase, which was found in a garbage bin.
When I go out, whether or not the drink container I use is distinctive enough to be a personal trademark depends on which container I bring with me. Below are three of my more distinctive containers:
The large “X-Treme Gulp” mug – the largest of them in the centre – holds about a litre and a half, and garners attention and incredulous comments to the order of it being “one really big coffee mug”. This was a surprise Christmas gift from my aunt in 2005; I had mentioned my interest in (at least somewhat) unusual drinking containers, and I probably joked about wanting a clownishly large container. That Christmas, a package arrived in the mail, with the mug in it. It is indeed clownishly large, and at the point of being unwieldy to use and drink from.
The yellow mug on the right holds about a litre, and garners similar attention. In 1995, I was driving around for work, and a yellow “something” caught my attention in a snow-filled ditch; I stopped and went to find it, and it was the thermal travel mug pictured above (but without a lid). Obviously, I grabbed it and took it home.
The smallest of them holds about a half litre, and its claim to fame is its wide bulbous base. In 1996, I was part of an organizing group for a party weekend with a wide group of friends, and we’d ordered a bunch of those travel mugs with custom artwork put on it memorializing the event — this one being the tenth edition of the event. We ordered enough for everybody to get one, so as to discourage people from leaving empty bottles of beer, liquor, and soft drinks laying around, which not only of course would have been a nuisance to clean up at the end of the weekend, but which also would have become a safety hazard when many of about a hundred, twenty-somethings became somewhat to very inebriated.
A particular characteristic many of the cups, mugs, and bottles which I have collected over the years is that they have been found on the street, or were found in recycling bins or the garbage.
Most of these containers and mugs shown above have at various times been a favourite container of the moment, and have seen a lot of use over the years. In fact, the opaque container with the red top (second row, first on the left), which I found in the bushes while I was geocaching in 2002 or 2003, came with me on a trip to London, while the small greenish Nalgene container with the black lid (first row, second from right), was found in a lost and found pile in 2017, and went with me on a couple of cruises.
Of course, all containers I find on the street or elsewhere are properly washed in a dishwasher before I ever use them; it’s the same logic as “don’t you wash your dirty dishes before using them again?”
Unfortunately, a number of the bottles and cups I find in the street, including the stainless steel units, that were used for coffee, have a lingering coffee odour to them, and even after an initial cleaning, will impart a coffee taste when filled with a new drink. This is a mild issue for me since I do not drink coffee, nor do I particularly care for it. However, the taste disappears after a few uses and cycles in the dishwasher. Soaking in a mild bleach solution can help in extreme cases.
One virtually new travel coffee cup I found on the street in a snowbank in 2018 was branded with the logo of a well known goodwill organization; I imagine that the organization’s local major location being barely a block away made the chances of finding the mug there coincidental approaching zero. A family member guilted me into not using it, and tried to prevail upon me to return it to the organization. I ultimately gave the travel mug to my aunt when she visited, so that she may have a thermal coffee mug for when she were to go about her visits with friends.
Another travel mug I found in 2016 is a favourite given how well its lid seals (photo above, first row, third from the right); however, it has two little holes in its base, which allow water to enter in between the mug’s interior and exterior when I clean it in the dishwasher, upside-down. Mildly annoyingly — and a perverse reason why I like it all the more — it leaks a lot of water after I take it out of the dishwasher. However, its story lies in the corporate logo and company name which were silk-screened on it side; I was not familiar with the company name, and thought nothing of it, much as I would not think anything of most other common corporate logos on a mug. For months after finding the mug, I innocently used it everywhere, such as at work and other areas my life would bring me. One day, a work colleague saw my mug’s logo; he asked me if I knew what it meant, and suggested – in a suspiciously insistent way – that I should look it up. My immediate reaction was one of horror that it might be connected to a website of a particular type of explicit material (which could lead to unwanted consequences with my employer); I checked on my personal phone’s internet connection — of course not my work computer with the work internet — and found out that the logo was indeed generally connected with explicit websites. I quickly scraped the silk-screened logo off of the stainless steel exterior of the mug, and of course I continue to use the mug to this day.
Nalgene Water Bottles
Prior to learning about Nalgene containers for the consumer market in the early 1990s, and that they don’t absorb and retain flavours, then impart them in later contents, I only knew of Nalgene through school lab equipment such as squeeze bottles for lab-grade water and other reagents and solvents such as acetone and hexane.
Generally, I use Nalgene bottles for carrying water around, and I’ll drink my iced tea from another container or mug.
My first Nalgene bottle was one I found at a campsite in Vermont in 1994, left behind by previous users of the site. Unfortunately, after several years of service, I inadvertently left it – filled with water – in my car overnight in the middle of a particularly bitterly cold part of winter. The ice expansion caused the plastic in the bottle to split open, and I put it in the recycling bin.
Another early experience with Nalgene bottles was during a sales call with my employer in 1995, who showed a potential client two water samples — one murky, one clear — in clear Nalgene sample bottles in order to demonstrate his filtration device to recondition the process water or glycol in building heating and cooling loops. The sales demonstration was very effective on me, and I asked if I might be able to secure a bottle or two. I used the bottles he gave me for several years; however, the plastic was soft and over time became deformed by the heat in my dishwasher.
Over the years, I have found a Nalgene bottle in a recycling bin (second from the right, 500mL, blue cap), another in a lost and found bin (last on the right, green container, black cap), and others at used goods stores. My most recent acquisitions are two 1.5 litre bottles (first and second on the left), received as a recent Christmas gift (2019).
Stylish Insulated Stainless Steel Bottles
There are the relatively new fangled stylish insulated bottles that seem to have taken the water bottle market by storm. Although stainless steel insulated bottles and thermoses have been around for ages, S’Well and similar bottles seem to have started a style revolution in water containers over the past few years, with a lot of copycat competitors, ranging from low end look-alikes to high-end rivals.
I have three new such bottles which I have never used: One received from my employers in 2017, of course with corporate branding (third from the left), and which was the first time I’d seen the style; another received as a Christmas gift in 2018 (first on the left), which was a copycat; and one received as a promotional item during a themed cruise in 2018 (second from the left).
The only such bottles I actually use are the three I found on the street: A cheap discount store, single layer / uninsulated knockoff bottle in 2019 (third from the right); a salmon pinkish orange bottle of the S’Well brand in 2019 (second from the right), and a third, which I call “Le Chic” (because of the branding on it) in 2020 (last bottle on the right). All three show varying degrees of definite signs of wear and tear, and at least two leak very slightly, one a bit more than the other. The “Le Chic” bottle is a very recent addition, and it has the coffee taste issue mentioned earlier; it will probably enter into my regular usage rotation.
Glass Drinking Jars
I have known about glass drinking jars for a long time, although I only first had one in 2006, when I bought two at the tuck shop at a campsite I was spending a long weekend at; they were relatively expensive, but I purchased them anyway.
Since then, I have found a few at Walmart (the fruit design on the left in the picture above) at a far more reasonable price. Of the other two, one was found on the streets when it caught my eye one morning, while the other was given to me by the recipient of some of my pickled eggs who was returning empty mason jars.
Save for the fact that they are glass and hence susceptible to breakage, these jars are great travel drink containers: In fact, I brought one with me as my main drinking container during a month long business trip out of province in 2009. It served me well, and it amused me when I used it on an airplane. Once I’d finished drinking the water the flight attendant poured into it, I put a lid on the drinking jar. When the airplane landed, I opened it, and was amused by the popping sound caused by the relative vacuum created due to slightly lower cabin pressure.
However, as to the breakage factor, they can be difficult to use on a daily basis in a backpack, since I have accidentally broken a couple of them over the years by simply putting down my backpack on a hard floor in a less than ginger fashion, unfortunately breaking the jar in the bag.
What’s Next on the Horizon?
Of course, I haven’t told the stories to all of the containers I’ve seen come and sometimes go, let alone some that never were. But that is, in a sense, part of the story: There have been so many over the years — including old plastic containers never meant to be used as drinking containers, but rather should have been placed directly in the recycling bin once the original contents were consumed, or finding really good quality travel mugs on the street with excellent seals, that allow me to vigorously shake it to dissolve the iced tea powder I added to the water in it. Oh, and the sort of pear-shaped clear 500mL bottles that a certain type of inexpensive, convenience-store table wine came in … I have fond memories of using those for several years throughout the 1990s.
And while over time I’ve had — and continue to have — favourite containers in the lot, the choice of which container(s) is(are) today’s or this week’s favourite can be ephemeral over time, especially as the overall collection grows with new additions, and contracts due to losses and breakage.
Also, while I actually (somewhat) zealously protect my containers, including very much those found for free, this has also led me have a certain zen when one goes missing, especially if it was one of the “found for free” containers. Just as I found the container because somebody else lost it before me, sometimes I lose containers, leave them behind locked doors to rooms to which I no longer have access, or they get confiscated at a public event such as at a stadium that doesn’t allow participants to bring in items like mugs and bags, both for safety reasons (projectiles), as well as to protect revenue streams from the concession stands.
But this is one of the fun things about what I dare call a hobby: The collection evolves and renews itself, and while I may “mourn” the loss of one of my containers, all I have to do is wait to find another “new to me” container or mug in my various travels, and I’ll end up with a new favourite container.
Over the past at least twelve years, I have been salvaging computers I have found on the streets on garbage day, or found in other locations where my various personal travels have taken me, for use to reformat into usable computers. The various finds have served as main desktop computers, secondary computers, home servers, computation nodes for the World Community Grid, gifts to my brotheror the occasional friend, and the like. It has variously allowed me to indulge in a bit of tinkering, trying out a new linux distro or version of BSD, build a home server, or just pass the time while engaging in a hobby.
In the process, I’ve watched the lower bar of what is acceptable “junk that isn’t junk, at least not yet” move upwards from about P4-533 MHz 32 bit processors to dual core 2.66 GHz 64 bit processors (although single core 64 bit P4 at 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz range is good if you don’t want to depend on a GUI, or if you have a lot of RAM and an SSD), 512 MB of RAM to 2GB of RAM, and 20GB hard drives to 80GB hard drives. Now it seems that the next big thing will be in moving from mechanical drives to SSD drives, which I expect — when SSD drives become common in the old computers I find being thrown out — will make a revolutionary change upwards in speed in low end hardware, the way I learned the same in 2017 when I swapped out the mechanical drive in my laptop and replaced it with an SSD. (To be fair, when I bought the computer new in 2015, the hard drive was curiously a 5400 RPM model, presumably either to make it less expensive, less power hungry vis-à-vis battery life, or both.)
As an aside: My favourite brands of castoffs have been, in order, IBM / Lenovo ThinkCentres, then Dells. After that, I’ve had an excellent experience with a single used HP desktop that has been doing computations for World Community Grid running at 100% capacity, since late summer 2016. I’ve dealt with other types of computers, but the ThinkCentres and the Dells have been the ones I’ve had the most success with, or at least the most personal experience. (Since initially writing this post, I have been developing a suspicion that based on the longevity of the HP cast-off I have, HP actually might be superior to the IBM / Lenovo when it comes to cast-offs; however, since it’s the only HP cast off that I can remember ever having, it’s hard to form a proper opinion.)
But to wit: Over the past two weeks, I have tried to revive three used computers that were cast-offs.
Two of them were IBM / Lenovo ThinkCentres, which I think were new in 2006 / 2007, 2.66MHz 64 bit dual cores, 80GB hard drives, and 2 GB memory. The third computer was a Dell case with only the motherboard (proving to have been — see below — a 64 bit dual CPU running at something like 2.66MHz) but no memory, no hard drive, no wires, no DVD player, and not even a power supply!
The two ThinkCentres were from a pile of old computers marked for disposal at a location where I happened to be in mid-2017, and I was granted permission to pick and choose what I wanted from the pile. I gave them to my brother, who at the time evaluated them and determined that neither worked, one just beeping four times and then hanging. After that, they just sat around in his apartment for whenever they might come in handy for spare parts. He had since determined that one actually worked, but he hadn’t done anything with it.
The third computer was found on the street near home a couple of months ago, and was covered with about an inch of snow by the time I’d recovered it. I brought it home, and let it sit around for several weeks just to make sure that it dried out properly. Based on the “Built for Windows XP” and “Vista Ready” stickers, I’d guess that it was new in about 2005 or 2006.
Having forgotten about the ThinkCentre computers I’d given to my brother in 2017, I casually asked him if he had the requisite spare parts to make the snow-covered computer work, since we normally share our piles of spare parts retrieved from old computers that die. To my surprise, he sent me the functional ThinkCentre. My knee-jerk reaction was “I don’t need a new-to-me computer; just the parts required to see if I can get the snow-covered computer to work.” Perversely, I didn’t actually want the results of my planned efforts to produce a functional computer; I just wanted the amusement of a small project, and more generally to see whether the Dell found on the street would work.
In parallel, my home server on which I hosted my backups and my website, another computer of the used several times over variety, worked perfectly except for mysteriously turning off on its own a couple of times recently, perhaps once a week. My brother and I decided that what was probably happening was the result of one or more thermal event(s) which shut down the computer, no doubt due to a combination of dust accumulation, the CPU fan ports in the case not having enough clearance from the computer next to it to allow for proper aspiration of ambient cooling air, and possibly high heat generation from occasional loads due to search engine bots crawling my website. Despite cleaning out the dust, removing the computer’s side panel from which the CPU fan drew air, and shifting both computers a bit in order to allow for adequate ventilation, the computer turned itself off again after about a week.
My brother and I made a swift decision to replace my server with a new installation on a “new” computer — the good ThinkCentre I initially didn’t want — because even though the existing machine was otherwise performing spectacularly well given the overall small load, we tacitly agreed that the shutdowns were a problem with a production server, though we hadn’t actually said the words. This incidentally dealt with another curious behaviour exhibited by the existing server which appeared to otherwise be completely benign, and hence perhaps beyond the scope of why we changed the physical computer.
The operational ThinkCentre was plugged in, formatted with Fedora 31, and my brother helped me install the requisite services and transfer settings to the new server in order to replicate my website. Newer practices in installation were implemented, and newer choices of packages were made. For instance, the “old” machine is still being kept active for a bit as a backup as well as to maintain some VPN services — provided by openVPN — for the purposes of setting up the new server and installing WireGuard for VPN on the new server, and generally allow for a smooth transition period. Other things that we had to remember as well as learn, perhaps for another time, were to install No-IP as a service, and that drive mounts should be unmounted and re-mounted through rc.local.
One of the unexpected bonuses to the upgrade is that it appears to be serving web pages and my blog a wee bit faster, for reasons unknown.
In the meantime, on the next project, I got the non-functional ThinkCentre for its spare parts. The first idea I had was that maybe this second ThinkCentre might still be good, and we looked at a YouTube video that suggested cleaning out the seats for the memory sticks with a can of clean compressed air. I was suspicious of this but let it go for a while, and I proceeded to harvest parts from the computer after deciding that the machine wouldn’t work regardless.
A power supply, cables, a hard drive, and memory sticks were placed in the Dell found on the street. It powered up, and after changing some settings in the BIOS, I was able to boot up a Fedora 31 LiveUSB. Using the settings option from the Gnome desktop, I was able to determine that there was a 64 bit dualcore CPU running at about 2.66GHz, that the 2GBs of memory I’d inserted worked, and that the 80GB hard drive was recognized. I looked around on the hard drive a bit with a file manager (Nautilus) and determined that the place from which I’d retrieved the ThinkCentre appeared to have done at least a basic reformatting of the drive with NTFS. I didn’t try to use or install any forensic tools to further determine whether the drive had been properly cleaned, or had merely received a quick reformat.
Suppertime came around, and the machine was left idle to wait for my instructions for about an hour or so. When I returned to the computer, I saw an interesting screen:
(If you can’t see the picture above, it’s an error screen, vaguely akin to a Windows Blue Screen of Death.) After a few reboots, all with the same “Oh no!” error screen, my brother suggested that the machine may have been thrown out for good reason, intimating that it was good luck that I’d even managed to boot it up in the first place and look around a little bit. I, on the other hand, was relieved: I’d had my evening’s entertainment, I’d gotten what I wanted in the form of working on the machine to determine whether or not the machine could be used, and I’d learned that it indeed couldn’t be used. Parts were stripped back out of the Dell, and the box was relegated to the part of the garage where I store toxic waste and old electronics for the times I have enough collected to make it worthwhile to go to an authorized disposal centre.
At this point, something was still bugging me about the second ThinkCentre. I hadn’t yet placed my finger on it, but I was suspicious of the “use compressed air to get rid of the dust in the memory bays” solution. So I placed the salvaged parts back into the ThinkCentre — having fun with which wires go where in order to make it work again — and got the four beeps again. I looked up what four beeps at start up means (here’s my archive of the table, which I had to recreate since a direct printing of the webpage only printed one of the tables,) and found that at least on a Lenovo ThinkCentre, it means “Clock error, timer on the system board does not work.” While I assumed that changing the BIOS battery may well fix the problem, I decided not to investigate any further.
I salvaged the parts again and placed them in my parts pile, ready for the next time I find a junker on the street or from elsewhere. The second ThinkCentre’s case was also placed beside the Dell, awaiting my next trip to an authorized disposal centre.
This means that out of the last three computers, I have one functioning computer replacing an existing computer (that I hope will continue with an industrious afterlife doing something else), one computer scavenged for spare parts and the case relegated to the disposal centre pile, and the Dell computer which was found on the street also relegated to the disposal centre pile.
Or, to paraphrase Meat Loaf, “One out of three ain’t bad …”
I started volunteering some of my extra computers’ idle time for the World Community Grid in December, 2013. Unfortunately, the machine in question, a used computer I’d bought about five years earlier and, after having been used as a desktop for a few years, had been converted to being a server under CentOS, died from a “thermal event” nine months later. It had completed 713 results and earned 419,591 points.
In 2016, I found a P4 3.4GHz machine, installed CentOS 7 on it, and then the BOINC infrastructure. I assigned it to the World Community Grid and 100% of its capacity to the project. From when it began in September, 2016 to today, it has completed 4,540 results, and earned 2,568,590 points.
In 2017, I finally converted my old netbook (32 bit atom processor) to CentOS 6 and did the same thing. From when it began in April until today, it has completed 261 results, and earned 133,073 points. (What a difference in capacity that 3.4GHz 64 bit has as compared to 1.6GHz 32 bit!)
Over the past few months, I have been collecting up a number of old machines which have come my way, including some IBM ThinkCentres from the Windows Vista era. So far, my brother and I haven’t been able to get them running properly, and we will probably end up using them for spare parts.
In the meantime, we acquired two more computers. My brother wanted / needed a replacement computer for his aging media server, an old reclaimed IBM ThinkCentre I’d gotten for him a few years ago. I, in the meantime, wanted to add another node to the World Community Grid (of course, working at 100% of capacity.)
I chose CentOS 7 for this build, like I did for my other nodes, for what I consider to be the obvious reason that I want to pretty much forget about the computers and just relish in the numbers on the World Community Grid website — I don’t want to be re-installing every year!
The install went well enough, although it was long enough process for the base install, as compared to my laptop and desktop. I will rule out the comparison to my laptop since the SSD and physical drive don’t compare at all. As for the desktop and node, I’ll chalk up the difference mainly to processor speed and general architectures: A 2015-era four core i5 running at 3.4GHZ vs a 2010 era Pentium dual-core E6500 running at 2.93GHz (no HyperThreading).
What was really long after that was the yum update after the initial install — about 650 packages! In the process of the updates, I tried a few things like web surfing, and the gnome desktop became unstable; I ended up with a flashing text screen. I finally rebooted, and tried to downgrade to an older kernel in GRUB, to no avail. I tried the rescue kernel, no avail. Under both situations, I couldn’t pull up a terminal with Alt-Ctrl-F2. A quick check under a Fedora live environment was a waste of time, since I didn’t really know how to diagnose things; however, I was able to mount the CentOS drive.
There was some flirting with the idea of installing Fedora 27, but I don’t want the re-installation mill on this machine (or any of my other volunteer computing nodes) every year — although, seeing my brother upgrade from Fedora 25 to 27 through the GUI go as smoothly as a routine DNF upgrade is making me wonder if the point is moot. (Note that CentOS 7, based on Fedora 19, is still using YUM, while Fedora has been using DNF since version 22.)
I continued with the installation of the Fedora EPEL repository (as root “wget http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/epel-release-latest-7.noarch.rpm”, then “rpm -ivh epel-release-latest-7.noarch.rpm”). Installing the BOINC infrastructure was easy: As root “yum install boinc*”.
I launched the BOINC manager from one of the pull down menus, and, to my surprise, it actually worked out of the box, unlike previous installations. Someone must have updated the packages. 🙂 I added the World Community Grid website information, and my account and password.
Voilà! At 12:00 UTC the next morning, my machine had already submitted FIVE results, and earned 2,429 points! And, at 00:00 UTC as I’m completing this post, a total of EIGHT results, and 4,638 points!
In 2011 a new hire at work was assigned to join me on a few field jobs in order to expose them to the kinds of things we do at the office.
At the time, I enthusiastically told him about my use of linux. Suffice it to say his reaction was “What is this communist stuff anyway?!?!” Harrrummmpphh. “Red Hat is in line to have $1 billion with a big fat capital B in revenues this year alone. Doesn’t sound very communist to me at all.”
Back in mid-December of 2015 — after countless times of telling him about linux in the meantime, hopefully a bit more toned down — he sent me a message: “Here’s a modest budget; set me up, I’d be interested in trying it out.” I was practically beside myself in my pleasure.
I came back from the Christmas holidays and announced that I’d tracked down a used computer for free, and just needed to get it into my hot little hands. I explained that I wanted to give him a relatively risk free introduction. In the meantime, the computer in question, I’m told, proved to be dead and not usable. I’m promised another computer, and this week, when it looks like I’ll indeed be getting it in time for an install day this weekend, I further explained to my colleague: “The computer is probably about four or five years old but it’s supposed to be a dual core with 4 gigs of memory. It won’t be the best performing computer in the world, and some things it just won’t be able to do, at least not spectacularly, not because of linux, but because of the computer itself; however, it should still be good enough for videos, games, and day to day stuff, and you’ll be able to explore all the software available for it and see what can be done with linux, and you can add a few things like a bluetooth dongle if you like.”
He cautiously tells me all along that I’m building up anticipation; the caution suggests to me that he is mildly tongue-in-cheek meaning “of the disappointing variety”.
I then start asking him very specific questions, like what he wants as the computer name (I give him examples of current and past computer names I’ve used, and advise him to choose carefully since using the name of a pet or relative could backfire in case something goes wrong, and in the process of relating the experience to family or friends they may be confused or even become upset), the user name and password to use, the root password he wants, and things like which email client he uses at home. Pleased that he’ll be able to use a GMail interface, he begins to apparently genuinely say “Oh now you’re *really* building anticipation!” instead of the cautious insinuations from before.
Therefore in anticipation of the build this coming weekend, I put together this list of the main things I’ll need to install on his computer, especially since I’ll be helping my brother-in-the-know again with another desktop install, and try to get in some of his under the hood expertise at getting my server to be a bit more useful than a rarely used ftp server, a backup server for my data which depends on my remembering to back up my data on it, and consuming electricity.
A few months ago I found a computer on the sidewalk and installed PC-BSD on it. Once I got over the novelty of having done an install, installed something sufficiently “different” from that to which I’m accustomed, etc. etc. etc., the computer languished on my floor beside my home server with no purpose. I never bothered trying other linux distros (partly due to what proved to be the spaghetti wiring inside making my original install seem like a fluke, as it turned out, since I subsequently had trouble booting in and getting the CD players to work), and finally offered it to my brother, who said it’s been a while since he’s had a home server.
To recap, it’s an AMD 1000MHz with 512megs of memory, and to my surprise, an 80gig hard drive (I seem to recall having gotten about 36Gigs out of it with the PC-BSD setup.)
Last weekend we installed Fedora 13 on it after figuring out the spaghetti wiring inside. He brought it home from the cottage, did the updates and started doing his custom setup. Since it’s been a little while since he’s used Fedora — using CentOS on his production servers and having converted to Ubuntu on his desktop, he was impressed at how peppy the Gnome desktop is, and how polished and stable overall the distro is.
And finally, it seems that the problem of it not booting up a few months ago at the cottage has been solved: it seems that it was a defective power cord. The machine worked everywhere else, and when we went through my set of power cords, one didn’t work, so we figured out that any possibility that the previous owner thought it had been fried in a power surge — hence the name of the computer — was due to a faulty wire, that probably came with the computer on the side of the street.
I brought the “new to me” 1GHz AMD to the cottage last weekend, and funny enough it didn’t power up at all. My brother declared the power supply fried, and that that was the likely reason why I found it on the side of the road.
Today I got around to plugging it in, forlorn that a perfectly good computer was suffering from “no power”.
Go figure. I’m typing this from the PC-BSD setup.
I had tried two or three outlets and three power cords. It likely isn’t circuit overload since the current circuit it’s on is also likely overloaded, and I’m using one of the same power cords.
As for the screen, I had difficulty getting it work here too last week but am still holding off until I get a proper cable, since the “cottage test” doesn’t seem to have been valid.
(yes, I know it’s really PC-BSD. I was trying to sing “Found a Peanut” to the tune of Clementine.)
Today I found an old computer AND a 19″ flatscreen on the street, and as per my wont I picked them up, hoping that they would be vaguely useful.
The flatscreen should hopefully prove useful, once I get myself a cable for it.
And the winner is … it’s an AMD 1.0GHz with 512megs of RAM and a hard drive that the windows install said was about 35-ish gigs; I remember the PC-BSD install seemed to only mention about 18 ish but I could be wrong, or it could have done a partition … I don’t know what I’m talking about right now, so I’ll look things up.
The point is, the computer isn’t a clunker, and I’m typing this on the PC-BSD setup (somewhat frustratedly: I’m accustomed to a French-Canadian keyboard, and despite having specified one during setup it’s still acting like an US-English keyboard — I have the same problem with Fedora, funny enough, the installation ignores the designation and even occasionally “forgets”.)
So now I have to decide what to do with it:
– Have a second server (I barely if at all need the first, it certainly does little that my desktop does beyond a few technicalities which could be resolved by switching things around, and of course generate heat);
– Offer it to my brother, but he’s already declined on the basis of claiming to not need another computer in his life at the moment;
– Bring it to the cottage — not much use since I have a laptop, although I suppose that there could always be an argument for it;
– Or, do what I’m planning: Test out various distros with it. I figure I should give each one a couple of weeks or so and try to put things through their paces. One of these days, I’m going to have to try Slackware. Just to annoy my brother, who has always worked on the warning from a friend along the lines of “steer clear of slack, it almost cost me my business.” (In 1995-ish, I should point out.)
So last December I find this old clunker in the garbage pile at work: base memory, CD rom, and power source. Oh, and it weighs a ton.
I decided that I wanted a server to act as my internet gateway and was too cheap to buy a router; I bought an 8 gig HD used for $10 and burned the appropriate disks. Realize that my wonderful PIII 555 is slowing down a bit, so in order to get the most out of it I decide that it should no longer have to deal with internet sniphing, attacks, pinging and so on.
The install takes just about all night. It succeeds, though, and I got to see what the “new” (now of course old) gnome desktop looks like, a glimpse of which I’d seen a couple of years before with FC5. (Shudder. Bad experience.)
And what happens?
My brother says that the HD I bought was a dud. Point final.