Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 11 July 2005

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 11 July 2005

Latest Update: Friday, 15 July 2005 09:09 -0400
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 11 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:36 - Barbara took a day trip bus tour Saturday with our friend Bonnie Richardson up to see the Highland Games in the North Carolina mountains. She'll have photographs posted on her site this evening.

Friday, I backgraded my own system, newton, from Xandros 3 Deluxe with SP2 and the 2.6.11 kernel update to an unpatched version of Xandros 3 Deluxe. That system now appears to be stable, although it still has problems accessing some (but not all) shares on Barbara's system, adelie, which is running Xandros 3 Business Edition. I'd intended to backgrade Barbara's system while she was gone on Saturday, but I didn't get around to it.

For various reasons, including laziness, I never got around to installing an actual server for us after I shut down our Windows NT 4 server and donated the hardware to a local non-profit. Instead, I started using Barbara's system as our server, on the theory that since I try to avoid messing either with servers or with Barbara's systems, adelie would make a good interim server. Alas, interim became de facto permanent. The recent experience with updated versions Xandros 3 has reminded me that I really, really don't want to keep our data on a system that's also used as a desktop client.

So now I'm thinking about building a real dedicated file server for us. It doesn't need to be much, just a box of disks. I'm thinking about using three or four S-ATA hard drives in a RAID 5, which would provide 1 TB, give or take, of redundant disk storage. It doesn't need much of a processor, nor even necessarily a keyboard, mouse, and display. I want it to be extremely reliable, of course. It should be quiet and unobtrusive, just sitting there storing data.

I thought about using a low-power processor and a small form factor case, but I think I want more room for expansion and possibly more horsepower than a minimum configuration would provide. I might, for example, want to run a mail server or some other server-based application on it at some point. I might also want to expand the number of hard drives as our storage needs grow.

I think I'll build our new server in an Antec TX1088AMG case, which meets all our requirements. It has 10 drive bays, so I'm not likely to run out of room, and comes with a 480W TruePower 2.0 power supply. At $149 street price, it's also reasonably priced for a server case. I'll probably use an Athlon 64 processor on an ASUS motherboard with a stack of Seagate hard drives. I won't need much of an optical drive, so perhaps I'll just use one of the many CD writers or DVD-ROM drives I have lying around. The server won't be backed up locally, so it doesn't need a tape drive or DVD writer.

For the operating system, I plan to install Microsoft Small Business Server. (Stop choking; that was a joke.) Actually, I'd probably install Xandros Small Business Server, assuming it supports software RAID, but it's not yet been released. The Xandros desktop versions don't support RAID, which means I need to look elsewhere. Suggestions are welcome. I'm looking for something that has training wheels, like Xandros, but can reasonably be used on a real server. I think I'll look at MEPIS, Kubuntu, and a couple of other "newbie" distros.

This will actually be a nice project for one or another of the books we're working on. A low-cost, reliable SOHO server.

10:36 - This warning from Roland Dobbins.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Dell Windows XP hidden admin account w/blank password.
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2005 07:26:04 -0700
From: Roland Dobbins
To: Robert Bruce Thompson,    Jerry Pournelle



Security? They've heard of it...


Tuesday, 12 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:00 - Yesterday afternoon I backgraded Barbara's system to Xandros 3 Deluxe with no patches. It works fine, now. All shares are accessible to other systems on the network, and Xandros File Manager works normally, without hangs.

As far as Ron Morse and I have been able to determine, the problems manifest on systems that have S-ATA hard drives and P-ATA optical drives. At first, I thought Barbara's system was all P-ATA, but when I did the backgrade yesterday I discovered that it, too, has an S-ATA hard drive. All four of my systems that have exhibited problems have that same configuration, except that my main system has two S-ATA hard drives. Originally, I thought the problem might be limited to systems with multiple S-ATA hard drives, but that turned out not to be the case. It appears that something in SP2 breaks S-ATA.

I'm going into a heads-down writing period. I have a book to finish up by mid- to late October, so there won't be a lot of time for entries here. As usual, I'll post draft chapters to the subscribers' web page. It may be a while before I have any ready to post, because I'm working on a lot of chapters simultaneously.


Wednesday, 13 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:51 - I'm still doing heads-down writing on the new book. I hope to have a chapter or two posted on the subscribers' page in the next couple of weeks. When I write a new book, I generally work pretty linearly, finishing one chapter and starting the next. I often work out-of-order in terms of the final chapter arrangement, but I don't generally have a lot of chapters in progress simultaneously. This new book derives from PC Hardware in a Nutshell, although with a greatly changed focus, and I'm working on many chapters at the same time.

The new book will resemble Building the Perfect PC in size, format, and layout, and will also be four-color, but will focus on repairing and upgrading PCs. We don't yet have a final title for it. It should be in the bookstores late this year or early next, which means I have to focus pretty much exclusively on it for the next three to four months.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. If you received a review copy of Astronomy Hacks, please post your review of the book as soon as you can. Amazon.com is the most important place to post your review, but please feel free to post it elsewhere as well.

Having many reviews posted early really helps the momentum of a book, so the more reviews that are posted for the book the better it's likely to do.


Thursday, 14 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:22 - This from Chuck Waggoner on the SOHO server:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: SOHO Server
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 20:45:05 -0500
From: Chuck Waggoner
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Could I just throw in another consideration--as I am really interested in how this SOHO RAID server thing turns out.

That factor is power consumption.  In Germany, and throughout much of Europe, power is much more expensive than in the States--about 4 times more than common rates in Midwest metropolitan areas.  In fact, almost everywhere one goes in Europe, hallway or entryway lights are on timers that shut off after one or two minutes.  Front porch lights are often on light sensors which keep them from being turned on accidentally during daylight.  No one leaves lights on in unoccupied rooms.  Offices make use of big windows and sunlight a LOT more than in the US, in order to turn off overhead fluorescents during daylight hours.  And, even during darkness, task lighting on desks is often used, instead of overhead lights.

Likewise, nobody leaves computers on 24/7, and few businesses are willing to run servers on-site 24/7 (we even turn off our computers at home when no one is sitting in front of them).  Central server farms provided by ISP/IT firms are common, because power costs can be spread across many businesses, and servers then do not go unused after business hours.

So, it would be nice to see how slim the power requirements could be made, and/or a system that could be daily bootable so it could be shut down overnight.

Just my 2 cents worth of interest in this topic.

That's interesting. I have no idea how much we pay for electricity. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe $0.08 to $0.10 per KW/h. At that rate, it might cost me $5 to $15 per month to keep a system running 24X7, less if power management is enabled. That's a "convenience tax" I'm willing to pay for the four or five systems that are always running here. The idea of a server that isn't always running seems counterintuitive to me. I suppose that if electricity were very expensive here I might use power management on our server with wake-on-LAN enabled. That way, it'd use only a few watts while sleeping and draw full power only while it was actually being used.

The main power loads in a modern system are the processor and possibly the video adapter. We can eliminate the current used by a video adapter for a server by running it headless or using embedded video, which consumes little power. The problem is the processor. Even the lowest power mainstream modern processors like the Sempron have TDP of 60W or more, although they draw less at idle. I see several alternatives:
The first alternative is semi-reasonable. You can pick up a Socket 370 Celeron/866 for $30 or a 1 GHz PIII Coppermine for $80, and that's sufficient to power a small SOHO file/print server. My problem with this alternative is that Intel no longer makes Socket 370 motherboards or chipsets, which limits you to off-brand motherboards that use VIA chipsets.

The problem with the second alternative is that the VIA processors are too low-powered to handle the job. That, and the cost of mini-ITX boards and processors.

The Pentium M is the best alternative, as long as you have the budget for it. The cheapest Socket 478 Dothan is over $200, and they go up quickly from there. Still, they offer P4-class performance, at least for typical server tasks, and their power draw is minimal. With a Dothan, it should be possible to put together a SOHO server that idles at under 50W.

Other than that, I'm not sure which direction to head. I'm leery of using heavy power management, particularly on a server. Too often, a system that was supposed to be asleep turns out to be in a coma. I suspect the best choice for you might be not to use a dedicated server at all, but to have your primary system also function as your server. I haven't played around much with STR (suspend-to-RAM) functions, but if they work for you that would give you an "instant-on" feature that might be nearly as convenient as having the system running 24X7.

13:42 - Here's more on the attempt by the U.N. to hijack the Internet. For once, President Bush made a right call, telling the U.N. to go suck eggs. I can't imagine anything more likely to destroy the Internet than turning it over to that bunch of morons. Giving up U.S. control of the Internet would be a really stupid move.

Whether other countries like it or not, the U.S. created the Internet, and it belongs to us. We've been nice enough to allow other countries to use our Internet, but, let's face it, they need us a hell of a lot more than we need them. If Syria and China and Ghana and Brazil don't like that, I suggest they start their own Internets. Frankly, I'd be just as happy if they did that. I'd as soon see our own Internet limited to the U.S., U.K., Canada, and other English-speaking countries, along with western Europe.


Friday, 15 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:09 - DRM is in the news today, with good articles from The Inquirer's Charlie Demerjian and Engadget (thanks to Roland Dobbins for that link.) Charlie Demerjian sums up my own attitude in his article:

"If you don't like it, you can live without music, TV and movies, an increasingly appealing proposition to me."

Barbara and I have almost completely given up TV. We haven't seen a movie in a theater in 15 years or more, and will probably never attend another. She still buys music, but increasingly she does so directly from the musicians, rather than feeding the RIAA IPigs. We spend most of our free time reading instead of wasting it sitting in front of a television.

In Stranger in a Strange Land, there is a scene where Jubal Harshaw needs to see something specific on the TV news. They remove the "god damned noisy box" from the closet, where it lives, and connect it up just to watch that one news segment. That would be my ideal. The only time our own GNB has been turned on recently was to watch the TV weather when we had severe thunderstorms rolling through the area. Back in February, we cut our cable TV service to the basic, $6.66/month local-channels-only option, and we haven't missed the extra channels.

The typical cable TV subscriber probably pays $600/year or more in exchange for receiving 100 channels of garbage. How nice it would be if everyone just stopped doing that and instead spent that $600/year on alternatives. That $600 would buy them two or three new hardback books per month, perhaps eight new paperbacks, or three or four DVDs. Excess books and DVDs could be donated to local branch libraries, where they'd benefit everyone. Sports fans could devote some of that $50/month to attending local minor league games or supporting their local Little League and other children's teams. We'd all be better off.

People tell me that it'll never happen, but I'm not so sure. TV is spiraling downward. Every year, it is targeted more to the poor and the stupid, which have become its primary audience. The smarter, better-educated, and wealthier people have largely abandoned the traditional broadcast networks, except for their news and sports programming and the increasingly rare intelligent programs. As the downward spiral continues, more and more people are going to ask themselves the same question Barbara and I did: "Why are we paying $50 or $100 per month for this garbage?" And at that point, they will seek alternatives, as Barbara and I did. It can't come soon enough for me.


Saturday, 16 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Sunday, 17 July 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.