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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Tuesday, 25 January 2005

rebuild ... again! (or "overuse of bullet points")

Using aged laptops as webservers, although moderately economical as far as equipment spend and electricity costs go, is much like running an old car. It's a fine strategy, as long as you don't mind paying out moderately regularly for large parts that seem to break and fall off, until the time comes to call it a day and get a slightly newer one.

So "plinth" (a redundant Toshiba Satellite Pro Pentium 166MHz) is gone - my Windows 98 laptop "chunter" (a beloved Compaq Armada 7800 Pentium II 300MHz whose screen suffered an ignominious fate) is well on the way to taking its place, as has (with any luck) been borne out by this blog entry.

There are quite a few outstanding issues to deal with, some of which are fairly fundemental to the operation of the server:

  • backups
  • power management that will extend the life of the hard drive a little and save electricity
  • shoutcast for Image FM broadcasts
  • sorting out the irritating little errors that crop up from time to time
..and many others which make up a list that's re-emerged since I have a little more processor power to play with:
  • webmail server, so I can read my email wherever I am (including IMAP, Squirrelmail and Spamassassin - thank you to Ed, for his invaluable help so far!)
  • Webcam serving - regular photos (and possibly a Realmedia feed) from my studio webcam
  • Audio distribution - I'd like to be able to listen internet radio stations and MP3s using my MusicBox
(so not much, really, then).

As I mentioned, the fact that my blog is up and running again is only part of the story. Here's what I've done so far:

  • I installed Fedora Core 3 (the latest offering from RedHat) selecting various bits that I might find useful, and SELinux - a new 'flavour' of extra-secure Linux that stops things from working when they shouldn't (and even when they should).
  • Installed webmin - probably one of the most useful tools I have, as it's browser-based, and a better front-end for system management than any of the X-desktops I've suffered through (I'm on the verge of resorting to 'runlevel 3' - text only mode, although that might cause problems with video capture. I'll cross that bridge when I've fallen over it)
  • Carefully (this time) restored the backups of my web server content and various other little settings (such as the configuration for Apache, which has all the useful bits on it)
  • Struggled for ages with nasty "mysql.sock" messages, only to discover that it's actually SELinux being over protective - stopping the web server section talking to the database, which it needs to do so that it can get the content off it - see this handy forum entry for the easy way to deal with these problems (that doesn't involve turning SELinux off)
  • Struggled with yum - a remarkable package installer that nearly makes running Linux quite easy - first trying to download GPG keys and then getting bogged down with the repositories collection

That's where I am now - to cut a very long and distracted story short. I'm certainly not finished tinkering, yet (have you ever seen me be?) so when I'm home tonight, I'll:

  • Turn my computer to run-level 3. Bored now.
  • Find out if IMAP is working
  • Find out how to run fetchmail as a daemon - I'm still going to use my ntlworld account as the main incoming store for the time being; changing domain hosting MX records is a bit too scary
  • Find out why Squirrelmail doesn't work, even though apparently it's installed (although I don't know what .noarch means)
  • Get powersaving working (APCI? APM? BIOS settings?
  • Re-install shoutcast server (for Image FM broadcasts)
  • Set up the backup jobs to save my computer from further disaster

From there, instead of doing any creative music-making in the studio, I might try my hand at:

  • Finding a sound card driver and building it into the kernel (without breaking everything else - I can't believe Linux is still not very good with audio
  • Retrace my steps with the webcam driver, in an attempt to make it take some pictures of my studio and put them on the web
  • Actually understanding how half of this stuff works, or why it's not.

Ambitious? Probably, but it's my grown-up equivalent of that huge Technical Lego model that would never be finished, although there's less chance of members of my immediate family smashing it up, these days. I say that, but I've got children now...

Posted by james at January 25, 2005 11:54 AM

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