Server Outage: Warren the Hero

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Dirty MotherboardDirty MotherboardI doubt many people actually noticed but the server that runs this site (and about a dozen more) and my email... died sometime between 4:30 and 6:40 this morning. I texted (using Google Voice since I do NOT own/want a cell phone) Warren (since the server is in his house) about 6:38 and he responding back at 7:10 saying the server was dead. It would power on for about a second and then immediately turn off. It was full of dust bunnies so Warren cleaned it out and re-seated everything that might have had a loose connection... but still power-on failure. Warren opened up the power supply and cleaned it out. Inspecting both the motherboard and the power supply, there were no obviously bad components... no bad caps. Still no results.

Without a quick fix we decided to try to get a temporary system going... perhaps using a desktop computer with 4 SATA ports. 4 SATA ports are needed because the dead server has 4 hard drives that are in a Linux software RAID 5 configuration. Luckily Warren had access to a spare Dell OptiPlex 960 Core 2 Duo system with 8GB of RAM and 4 SATA ports. Many tower systems that have 2 hard drive bays come with 4 SATA ports so they can support 2 HDs and 2 optical drives. Getting the cables to go where they needed to go (both data and power) for loose drives seemed to work and for the time being the desktop power supply seems to be beefy enough to run all of the drives. Seeing as we run CentOS 6.x for OpenVZ... I was concerned that the network chipset would be too new... and for a little while that seemed to be the case... but Warren booted from a CentOS 6.7 LiveDVD and the network worked fine... so we knew it was a configuration issue from the previous hardware configuration. Turns out the NIC was detected as eth2 rather than eth0. While that could probably have been resolved by nuking a udev rule file somewhere, Warren just moved and edited the eth0 config file so it was eth2 and we were up and running again.

Dirty Power SupplyDirty Power SupplyWhile I do have backups (a couple of days old) and have previously researched a few cloud services (6sync and fastmail are on my radar) just in case, it is great to be back up after a few hours rather than having to worry about transferring a few hundred gigabytes of data before we are back up.

For the mid to long-term we haven't thought about where to go... and are just happy to be up and running again. Warren had it back up about 2 PM so he put a good 7 hours in today. Turns out Warren starts the Montanan Marathon early tomorrow morning, which he has been training all year for, so he wanted to get some rest today. I hope he does get some rest after saving our hobby server. Thanks Warren! I hope you do well in the run tomorrow buddy.

Video: Netbook Pixel Qi Screen Mod

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It appears that the netbook shown in the video is a slightly newer build of the one I have (Acer Aspire One D150) and should fit in a number of 10.1" netbooks. Unfortunately I don't have $275 to spare to try this screen out myself. This is the first OLPC-type screen available as a mod.

You can order one from here if desired.

I think I'll wait until the Pixel Qi screen (or one like it) is standard in new netbooks. In this case I don't think it is too practical because, to the best of my knowledge, you can't get to the eReader mode (monochrome at a higher resolution) until you have a BIOS update that will allow the backlight to be completely turned off. Supposedly though, in color mode, they are still very readable in direct sunlight.

Review: Acer Aspire One D150 and Linux

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I have had about ten laptops over the years. My first one, if you could call it a laptop, was an Atari Portfolio (1992) which I still have and it still works. I've only bought three laptops new and the rest have been given to me as retired machines by work, friends, and/or family. Here are a few things you need to know before you read this review:

  • I'm a long time Linux user
  • I am NOT a hardcore 3D gamer
  • I don't use any high end vertical apps like CAD or video editing
  • I'm a technical user who doesn't mind a certain amount of hacking

What is a Netbook?

According to the wikipedia page:

A netbook is a small portable laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet... primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer. Netbooks typically run either Windows XP or Linux operating systems rather than more resource-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista. The devices range in size from below 5 inches to over 13, typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds (~1 kg) and are often significantly cheaper than general purpose laptops

Netbooks have been out for a couple of years now and the Asus Eee PC 700 series with a 900MHz Intel Celeron M processor underclocked to 630MHz is generally perceived to be what started the trend with inspiration from the OLPC Project. The current crop of netbooks (circa June 2009), regardless of the manufacturer, are all very similar:

  • 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 10.1 inch screen with 1024x600 resolution
  • 160 GB hard disk
  • Windows XP

Linux used to ship on most netbooks especially those with smaller SSD (Solid State Drive) storage but it seems that the volume sellers all have hard disks and Windows XP pre-installed. This is mostly due to significant price breaks Microsoft has given netbook makers on Windows XP and the market seeming to move toward traditional hard drives for their increased storage capacity over SSD storage.

Review: Sandisk Sansa Clip

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Sansa ClipSansa ClipI have always wanted a good quality audio player that works well with Linux and plays Ogg Vorbis files. Even though the Sansa Clip was originally released in 2007, I somehow missed it. The gang on The Linux Link Tech Show mentioned the Sandisk Sansa Clip as being an affordable, quality portable audio player that worked well with Linux so I decided to give it a shot. I did a little bargain hunting online and found a refurbished 1GB unit for $18.95 plus shipping so I thought it was hard to go wrong for that price. The unit arrived three days ago and I spent all weekend using it.

All of the reviews I'd come across (including a few video reviews) gave it high marks. The latest firmware available for it allows for playback of .ogg (Ogg Vorbis) and .flac (Free Loseless Audio Codec) in addition to .mp3, .wav, .wma and Audible.com DRMed audiobooks. It DOES NOT play .m4a (AAC) format. I prefer to use formats that are not patent encumbered so the vast majority of my music is in .ogg/.oga format.

Thinking Past Platforms

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Doc Searls is challenging the big OEMs to think outside the Microsoft PC box. It was three or four years ago that Searls observed that Linux is not a platform. Here he is back riffing on that theme...
Thinking Past Platforms: the Next Challenge for Linux

Towards the end of the article he challenges us in the FOSS community to stop thinking of and advocating Linux as an alternative to Windows/OS X. This is a very good point and one I, personally, should have thought of a long time ago.

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