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January 30, 2009

Welcome Micro-Dragon

Rev. James

Rev. James

   Today a bunch of computer parts arrived.  Most of these are for Sean's new computer.  However, a couple items were for me.  Among them, a small Intel Atom-based computer that will replace the webserver--an Asus Eee PC.  This little guy packs a 1.6 Ghz CPU, 1 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard drive.  But what makes it worth my while is the peak-wattage--22 watts.  Among my other items is a device I've wanted forever--a "kill-a-watt" voltage/amprage line monitor.  So as I setup this new server, I watched the wattage on the meter, and it never went above 20 watts--usually hanging around 18 watts.  I'm not even sure what the Indigo Dragon (my current server) does--although it was designed to be low power.
   I booted whatever Linux install was on the PC once just to look at it, then went right to reformatting the system.  The PC doesn't have an optical media drive, so I knew I had two options for installing an OS: USB or network.  I've never done a network boot before so I thought I'd give that a shot.
   First of all, I think the network boot thing isn't all that great.  It has to be done with the DHCP server.  For me, this meant tempararlly disabling DHCP on my router and giving that responcibility to the Blue Dragon.  I suppose if I had two network cards in a computer it may have been easier--but I didn't.  I used some software that was both a TFTP and DHCP server packed into one--clearly meant to be a network boot source.  Getting it to work wasn't trivial, however, I did make that happen.
   I started with the Ubuntu alt. install ISO.  On it was the "netboot" directory, which contained a directory tree.  In there was a file called "pxelinux.0" which I read was what needed to be sent on a network boot.  However, also in that directory is a "ubuntu-installer/i386" directory.  That also has a "pxelinux.0".  I found if you use the one in the root directory, nothing happens.  If you use the one in the i386 directory, it starts to work.  But it wasn't until I copied everything in the ubuntu-installer to the root directory that things worked.  Has to do with the file locations and it took awhile of messing around before I figured this out.
   Once the netboot began, installing Ubuntu as a text-based server was easy.  I wish the installer would list the mirror servers because if you use the default, you're in for a wait.  Anyway, Ubuntu went on smooth and I started the long process of building all the webserver software.
   Some people might use the packaged version of Apache/PHP/MySQL--but I've never done it that way.  When I first started using Debian as my server OS, I found they did not support Apache 2.  I never bothered to look if they fixed that.  Now I've been doing a manual build for so long, I don't really want a "package deal".
   At first, Apache didn't want to build using MPM-Worker.  This created a lot of other problems trying to build a working PHP modual.  MPM-Worker is a "Multi-Processing Module implementing a hybrid multi-threaded multi-process web server" and somewhere I read this was the best.  I like the best, so I went about figuring out why it didn't want to compile.  I found this site and the guy said to build the APR first.  That did the trick and I didn't have any other problems. 
   After the webserver, I had to install/setup the e-mail servers (Postfix and Dovecot) and MySQL.  Then configure Samba and Rsync, setup all my Cron jobs, and add Apache to the boot list.  But once that was done, I have my "Sync" script that mirrors the website (including logs, databases and configuration files).  Launch that and the Micro-Dragon is born--ready to host

January 26, 2009

First Day of Spring Classes

   First day of class and everything is in order.  Mondays are my longest days, running from 10:30am to 4:24pm.  Still, this is one of the nicest schedules I've had.  Tuesdays and Thursdays I have class 1:00pm to 4:25pm, and Wednesday 10:30am to 2:15pm.  Fridays I do not have class.  My chemistry class is the largest class I've ever had--52 people.  Calculus 2, there are maybe 10 of us.
   Anyway... first days usually are not much fun--orientation and lots of handouts.  On the plus side, I get to see all my classmates again :)