Basement Cleanup

December 30, 2007

With a long weekend we decided to clean up some of the junk in our basement. It really wasn’t that bad, a good portion of the task was just breaking down lots of cardboard boxes, sweeping up the floor, vacuuming the corners and making our storage piles a little more organized. By the end we easily created enough space for the kids to ride bikes in the basement – a nice feature for when they start feeling trapped inside due to winter temps or unfavorable yard conditions.

I also took the time to finally power up some of the hardware I have down there that I have acquired over that past year or so. Despite my having moved to virtual machines for nearly all my testing, I have a really hard time saying no when someone offers to give me some hardware. So there were several machines that I had down there that I simply needed to power up and see what I had.

One was an older Dell desktop, nothing particularly noteworthy, I was hoping for an upgrade for my parent’s old machine or perhaps a machine for my son. But it didn’t have any RAM. I labeled it and put it off to the side, I am sure if I dig into one of the other carcasses down there I can find some RAM for it – but that was not today’s project.

I also had four rack mountable “servers” that I had played with yet. They were no-name servers and really more of a PC stuck in a rack mounted case. Two of them were without RAM, so labeled and off to the side they went. The other two were decent machines for home server use. One was a PIII 600 with 256MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. Looks like it had a copy of Windows 2000 Server on it – that will be replaced with Fedora or CentOS when the time comes to use that box.

The other was a dual processor PIII 700 with 1GB of RAM. It had a Clark Connect Linux install on it. I had never heard of Clark Connect before, but it appears to be based off of a Red Hat OS and judging from the Clark Connect website it was probably a Gateway version. I did not play with it much, I was mainly just trying to get the hardware specs from the machines and determining if they were bootable. I will probably play with it just a bit more before I blow it away and replace it with Fedora or CentOS.

I also had an old machine I use to “host” at a friend’s house with a high speed connection when we first moved into an area without high speed several years ago. I powered it up just to see if it still booted and to remind myself as to what the specs were for that machine. It was from an era when I used to run Debian and it still booted with no issues save for a really noisy fan. Nothing noteworthy hardware wise.

And finally I powered up an old SGI Indy I came into. It booted up with no issues. I did not have a login for the box, so it will be another day when I reset the root password on that box and actually poke around more on it. My primary interest was to see if it booted – and it did.

I labeled all the machines, stacked them back up and now I just have to figure out what I want to do with them. I will probably not make any decisions to that end until I go through my old stash of test machines I used to use and decide which ones of those to finally get rid of.

Bye Bye Vista!

December 27, 2007

Last night I rebuilt my main desktop computer and I now have it running Fedora once again. It feels good to be back! As mentioned in other posts, I was running Vista for a couple of reasons. One, my $dayjob involves supporting Windows networks. Two, I kept hearing the stories about Vista but hate to base my own opinion solely on what one reads on the Internet – that is just not wise. Three, running Vista myself helps me understand better what Fedora does well and what Microsoft does well.

My Vista experience did not start out so bad. But over time and as I started to do more and more real work I felt the OS was consuming too many of my system resources and limiting what I should be able to do with my computer. It seemed to do what is typical of many Windows systems, exhibit a performance decrease over time. With the holiday break it was time to move back to Fedora – which is what had been running on the desktop before the Vista trial (my laptop has been running Fedora).

I installed off the recent Fedora Unity re-spin to save myself some updates. I used a DVD install and it went along without any issues. I was soon up and running with Fedora 8, followed by a quick ‘yum update’ to catch the updates since the date of the re-spin.

Everything pretty much worked out of the gate. In fact, installing the printer was the easiest, most pain free printer install I have ever done – on either Microsoft OS’s, Apple OS’s or Linux OS’s. I just chose Add Printer, pointed it to the IP of my network printer, it knew it was a Brother printer, I selected my model number (7820N) and said Okay. It was that easy. It was more work to install the same printer under Vista than it was in Fedora.

There is an Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT in this machine. I headed off to install the driver for it. No issues installing and Compiz worked well.

The only downside is if Compiz is enabled the Fast User Switching breaks. Unfortunately I need Fast User Switching to work as the main machine is used by several family members. I ended up disabling Compiz and even with the proprietary driver installed the Fast User Switching still appears to be working. A little disappointing, but I can get the eye candy on my laptop – so that will have to suffice for now.

I consider this another great success. Every release is easier to install and just have things work. As I mentioned, I did more configuration work to get Vista in proper order than I did to get this Fedora 8 install running.

Agh! Vista.

December 21, 2007

Agh!! Vista is driving me nuts. Yes, I am a Windows and Linux admin, so I need to work with Microsoft OS’s as well. I have been test driving Vista for the past few months. At first, it wasn’t so bad. But as real work needs to get done I get very frustrated with its performance.

Example, I was running Fedora as the main OS on the machine I run VMware Server on. I could run about four or five VMs in the background and you tended to forget they were even running in the background. Now I am running Vista with VMware Server. Ugh! Even running *one* VM is painful! Just to start it and the OS starts hitting the disk heavily. Once it gets running it isn’t too bad – but keep in mind I am running *one* VM compared to the four or five I used to run.

Google Apps

December 1, 2007

I am giving Google Apps a try for one of my domains. I really hadn’t been planning on trying it, I was relatively happy with my current hosting situation. Several months ago I started forwarding all of my email to the various domains I have to Gmail. The Gmail interface worked for me, I could access it from any computer without needing to setup IMAP settings on each PC. And now that Gmail offers IMAP access I always have the possibility of using a thick client if I feel then need. This setup has worked well for the past several months.

Then this week happened. Any emails forwarded from my hosting provider to Gmail have been taking 12 to 24 hours to get passed through. The hosting provider is aware of the issue and is supposedly working with Gmail to resolve the issue. But as of yet, no change for the better. Most of the mailing lists I subscribe to are affected by this forward. Now I could have resubscribed to the lists with a gmail address directly, but the reason for the forward is to minimize me ever having to change the subscribed address – I could just update the forward.

After three days of this I decided to setup a Google Apps account for one my busier email domains. The setup was pretty painless. I still have to play with some of the features, but for now my email is happily flowing without delay.