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New server mostly up and running

I seem to have reversed the forces of entropy! The new server is basically operational, and this blog is now being served by fresh, clean hardware. I’ll post something detailing the innards of the new box this upcoming weekend.

Interesting gotchas from the install

  • always pay close attention to disk space when migrating / backing up old servers: I spent several hours trying to fix a problem that was nothing more than my old server running out of disk
  • Linux drivers still have problems with network autonegotiate: Or maybe it’s Cisco/Linksys with the problem? For about a decade now, twisted pair Ethernet hubs and NICs have often failed horribly when trying to agree on 100 versus 10 Mbps, and particularly on full versus half duplex. I noticed my file transfers between my two Linux boxes were very slow (on the order of 60 KB/s). I checked my Cisco hub status monitor and, surprise of surprises, both Linux boxes had negotiated themselves a half duplex connection. I changed their configuration to forced 100 Mb/s full duplex, and suddenly I was getting upwards of 6 MB/s of encrypted transfer
  • Linux GUI software is sometimes better than the command line: Examples include:
    • installing OS packages/software components- in the GUI, you get a nice list showing what you have installed already and can search component descriptions visually
    • sftp: the command line sftp must use horrible default settings- I was barely able to get to 1 MB/s using it between two computers on a 100 Mbps LAN (the maximum on a 100 Mbps network would be around 9-10 MB/s); the GUI based FileZilla, on the other hand, happily pushed bits at about 6 MB/s
    • USB file system mounts: plug a drive in to the computer, and the GUI autodetects it and pops up to tell you it is mounting it and it just works: basically, just like Windows and OSX

    I am leaving the GUI (KDE) running on this box; now if I could only get the remote desktop (tightvnc) to work without corrupting the keyboard input, I’d be set

  • sometimes it is best to give up: One of the things that didn’t work quite right was my install of vncserver/tightvnc. This software allows me to remotely connect to my Linux box with a graphical interface: I use it around the house (not over the Internet) when I’d rather not go and sit in front of the server. Unfortunately, the current install with Mandriva only works until you try to actually use it: at that point, you encounter two problems
    • the vnc session fails with a fatal “fixed font not found” error. I fixed this by installing the XFS package, but it took me several hours to figure out
    • at this point I was able to open a session and see it on my other computer. Unfortunately, anything I typed came out garbled: E.G.: typing “l” would seemingly send an “r” character

    I banged my head against the wall for hours trying to get this fixed, then read this post. Apparently, this “bad character mapping with Mandriva’s tightvnc implementation” problem has existed for months…

  • Avhai/ZeroConf/Bonjour are cool: I decided to set up the new server so I could get at its filesystems using my Mac. to that end, I configured Avhai. To get this to work, I followed some guides referred to by this guy. The short story: install and config netatalk, then install (if necessary: it was already installed in my Mandriva build) Avhai for the afp service you just added. Avahi and its friends are really just advertisers: they aren’t “services” in and of themselves, but the let other machines on your network know what is available. For the record, my file share services are blocked by my firewall: sorry 🙂 Once complete, the services offered by my Linux box show up on the Mac: file shares, terminal services, and potentially other things. I also noticed that the network performance of AFP seems better than SMB. Note that this is purely a seat-of-the-pants observation

There will likely be a few more brief outages over the next couple of weeks as I finish up installing things and tuning the configuration a bit.

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