New site design – it’s here!

It’s arrived!

In case you’ve missed the rest of the site, I’ve pushed the staging branch to the world in it’s black and green(ish) glory. It may not to be to all tastes but at least it’s better than the old layout.

It doesn’t validate yet, but I’m working on that. It’s CSS does, but it still looks weird on IE. Then again, that’s Internet Explorer’s rendering for you. If you don’t like it, well, tough shit. 🙂

There’s still a little work to do – I’ll probably put the code and anti-spam stuff in the tech wiki I’ve started up (note to self: populate the wiki with Useful Information) . The Gallery is incomplete too (the Buddha Birthday stuff should have got it’s own album. I’m sure I’ve got more pics of Tina and a couple more gag shots.

The servers are now in better shape – the power supply in Qbert has been replaced with a 450W model (that for some reason closes down after a minute if there’s no keyboard attached at boot!?). It’s been great otherwise. The extra exhaust fan has been a benefit too, the box is much cooler.

I also took the opportunity to move some stuff around – the servers, modems/switches and such have primarily been on the same curcuit, something I’ve now rectified as much as possible. No point in stressing the UPS unless it’s necessary 😉

Hardware with a case of the Mondays…

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

I wonder why the hell I ever got involved with technology.


I’ve needed a printer / scanner to replace my venerable (and often dodgy) Lexmark and Genius combo (the Lex part having never worked with Linux but OK with Win), so I pick up a nice little HP PhotoJet 3180 for $99. Hooked into defender as a test, worked perfectly. Visit folks for BBQ, stay the night.


Get home, try printer on qbert. Detected perfectly, however hpjis package is old and doesn’t have the PPD. Decide to bite bullet and upgrade box to FC6 per plans for a month. Offline for an hour while this proceeds. Aside a couple of dumb package non-upgrades (BIND!) manually fixed, SELinux relabel, yum update + reboots, all is OK.

Connect printer up post-upgrade with extra-long USB cable, works perfectly. Client setup a little trickier (still haven’t tried Windows via Samba) but it’s there now. Settle in.

Later in the evening, have a look at Munin status graphs. WTF? Temperature on qbert is going up and up and up…. Has been since midday, just before Mum and I got back to my unit (bought a bookshelf she delivered). The top of the case is very hot, as is the gig switch sitting on top of it. Decided to shut down the box and clear out the dust bunnies. A little better but not ideal.



Fire up desktop, check mail over breakfast. Nothing seems unusual – except even overnight the temp didn’t drop. Hmm… No time, off to work.

Checking via ssh session periodically – temps continue to rise over course of the day, hits almost 70C at 2pm. Fuck this, says I, and I shut it down before it becomes a very expensive heater. Russ calls asking why he can’t get mail – I explain the issue, thankfully he’s understanding.

Get home from work – a little more cleaning, fire it back up. Temp evens out to ~55 degrees. But over the course of tonight it’s risen to ~65C, even with the air conditioning on (62C at the moment).

A closer inspection of the back of the box reveals the fan in the power supply has stopped dead, so no exhaust out the back to pull hot air out. There’s an 80mm fan under it but it’s struggling to keep up.

So, I ordered a new PSU with a 12cm fan on it, which should arrive tomorrow or Wednesday. Hopefully things will stay meltdown-free for that long but alas expect more downtime.

All hardware really does suck.

Holiday halfway point.

One full week to go before I’m back to the grind (something I’m not looking forward to, but I have to eat)

I’ve at least managed to get something different in this time – a visit to the new Modern Art Gallery at Southbank, a stroll or three around the Botanical Gardens (which is always good to de-stress oneself and remember that even as a city-dweller I’m a part of nature and it a part of me).

The gallery was quite impressive, even if most of it doesn’t make too much sense immediately – you’d look at the work, think “what the fsck is this all about?” then look at the work’s title (which is all-too-ironically titled “Untitled” – the creativity stops at the naming of a piece??) – but even for an Arts grad like me it’s little help. 🙂 Some of the photography was impressive and for some reason, there was an “installation” showing parts of Jackie Chan movies – gotta love pop culture.
More kit coming into the home – the gigabit stuff is working splendidly (builds are absolutely flying) and I’ve got a hard drive enclosure (USB-external) and a new brain coming (Sempron 3300 – no real need to go AM2 just yet and they’re cheap right now) .

I do need to find a good fan for Mum’s machine, as it’s running 50+ degrees idling…
Squashed a couple of my open Fedora bugs, and locally ran up a copy of mod_security 2.0.4. I’ll consult the peanut gallery on how to get this cleanly into Extras, as it’s quite an upgrade. One word of warning – the “core rules” are quite fascist and I soon turned them off. Repoview and Munin agents don’t get along well with some of the protocol rules.

I pushed my GeoIP fetcher scripts into a new Extras GeoIP package release (closing the bug kindly opened by Matthias Saou of FreshRPMs fame some time back) and all looks good there. I might finally get the GeoIP-Perl package in there soon, it’s fairly clean and has been super-reliable for me for some time.

I also switched my spam filtering (for all users and domains, not just me w/bogofilter anymore) to amavisd-new, and it’s worked fairly well so far. It’s bayes recognition isn’t as good as bogofilter’s alas, so some training is still needed.

A site redesign is being planned (or at least I’ll start) for the weekend. Primary targets for love are the About page (which is horribly outdated now) Zen (WTF? Gotta update that!) and Tech (Which I may as well expand and perhaps wikify?).

As I’ve previously mentioned, the picture items are going to Gallery2 anyway and the site layout needs an overhaul to bring it out of it’s 1998-style.

It’ll also give me a good chance to see how well I’ve managed my bazaar-ng repositories vis-a-vis branching.

You’ll see the difference when it’s up 😉

…so he tries to get too frickin’ clever..

…and almost loses.

As noted in my last entry, I picked up a gigabit switch in the post Christmas sales along with a suitable network card. Today, being a generally wet/overcast day (meaning “watch cricket on the TV and hack around a bit if it’s slow”) I picked up a matching gig card for Qbert, my server.
For someone of my experience, this installation would not normally pose an issue. Alas, as it’s my homebrew FrankenServer and not one of the nicer pre-built IBM/HP jobs I deal with at work, I obtained the following wisdom (or thoroughly LARTed, depending on your perspective).

While all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, can become bodhisattvas and save others from suffering, all non-sentient computer hardware has Bastard-nature, can become mischievous and cause great suffering.

The card slotted in fine, everything powered up ok initially – except it decided to throw a watchdog error and refuse to pass traffic. A reboot, reconfigure – nothing. Frob a couple of extra bits in BIOS. Nope – what NIC are you talking about, thinks the system. A regression / sense of deja-vu tells me to try another PCI slot and take the IRQ away from the USB ports (which Linux will handle OK thanks)… Bingo.

“I want to transfer packets,

But the switch I cannot see,

A power cycles helps not,

Fscking IRQ conflicts!”

Well – all was OK. I’ve not seen an IRQ conflict in years – even on old, decrepit crap (like pong). Seems the RAID array controller and the new NIC wanted the same thing, as the others had already been taken according to BIOS. Removing the USB IRQs freed enough for them to go their seperate ways.

This leads me to a second oddity, but less of a problem for my situation. It seems the new switch (a Linksys SD2008 for those interested – 8 port unmanaged switch) doesn’t support jumbo frames.

What’s a jumbo frame you ask? Gigabit ethernet supports frames with a Maximum Transfer Unit (MTU) larger than the normal Ethernet standard of 1500 bytes – often up to 9216bytes per frame. This is very handy for huge files (video, CAD documents, massive images). However this switch lacks the capability according to some Googling.

Mind you, the testing I’ve performed gives me quite adequate transfer rates (around 2G a minute plus) so I’m not overly concerned. I’m primarily interested in spooling smaller files from my server (mail, RPMs for build systems, music and SMB/NFS shared files) than massive images. Still, how many places will sell an 8 port gig switch for $AU150 (without it being shite)?

I’ll see how it all fares in the longer term 🙂

Another Christmas survived.

It wasn’t half bad, actually – got to catch up with Paul and his missus among other relatives I don’t see too frequently. As usual, the food is plentiful and good.

Sleeping on the couch (as per tradition for me) was not so good and my back is absolutely killing me. Next year I’m either demanding a proper bed or bringing my own 🙂

I’m now up one apron (!?), a cookbook, a Far Side calendar (I miss Gary Larson too..) and a small Buddha/mini Zen garden. I’m halfway through a bigger one without the candles in it. However it’s a definite improvement over the dead bonsai currently on my outside table 😉

The cash also proffered (a good standby for folks unsure of what gifts to buy) have been put to good use in the post Christmas sales – a couple of decent shirts with stuff left over.

I’d also hung onto enough saved cash to upgrade the local network to Gigabit ethernet – an 8-port Linksys and associated NIC for my workstation so far (just a simple Netgear GA311, which has been painless). I’ll likely pick up another for qbert later this week.

I also acquired my brother’s old Logitech Quickcam 3000 – which to my amazement was immediately spotted and configured under Fedora, as it uses the Phillips chipset (pwc kernel driver). I’ve not tinkered too much, just Ekiga (SIP / VoIP software) and a couple of snapshots.

Now, to find a SIP phone app that does half-decent video/audio, is free and cross-platform. I’ve tried OpenWengo and it’s left me unimpressed so far (looks good, not easy to use). I’ve already got the aforementioned Ekiga software but that’s currently Linux-only unless you want to risk a beta for Windows (no, not on Mum’s machine)

Things to look forward to: Holidays for 2 weeks from the New Year. Catch up with Bri and other folks I’ve not seen over the Christmas break. New website design planning (repoview is already ahead, due to it breaking with new python-kid packages ;-))

A little extra reliability…

Payday finally arrived! I’d been looking at a good UPS (uninterruptible power supply for the non-hacker/tech readers) and finally settled on the APC RS 500 (about $AU300). It was painless to install and even with my current-sucking bittybox (ie pong, the environmentally-unsound old beast it is) I’ve got 15mins post-powercut to get my shit together and shut down cleanly. Plus, the unit does surge protection and voltage regulation (no spikes/undercurrents damaging components)

Monitoring is easy, thanks to apcupsd and munin’s APC UPS network plugin (apc_nis) (remember that qbert is a Linux box and while I have PowerChute, I’ve not used it yet)

Why a UPS for the home? Well – not only am I managing my own stuff but I’ve got sites for my brother and my friends the Turners to consider. I’m not getting paid to manage them but it’s a matter of professional pride. Data integrity is important. Additionally it will hopefully lengthen the life of the attached gear, which will save money.

However, the wiring at the back of the boxes is well…..

…it’s a bit of a mess, really. I really should break out the cable ties. Hell, I don’t even know where half of them go.
On other fronts:

Life: Dad is out of hospital and is well, although he has acquired a minor obsession for movies covering the Boer War. If anyone knows whre to get “Zulu Dawn” on DVD, we’d like to know.

Good luck to Tina Wallmann at Indy, I’m in your cheer squad in spirit if not in person (I still chuckle at the night you, Ali, Veronica and I had at Adrenalin, even if I barely got through my shift the next day)

To the charming lass that bagged Emma Brown at a recent competition, take a good look at yourself. You brought two people down (yes, two – that’s why I said to take a good look at yourself) for what? So you could convince yourself you’re important for 30sec? Sad.

I’ve said my piece, so I bid adeiu for the evening… 🙂

Because I’ve not put one up for a while.

…here’s a desktop screenshot.

I’ve been running GNOME for who knows how long now – thought about KDE (nah) and Fluxbox (almost..) but stuck with what I know best. It just Works.
I’ve also avoided putting up images of late because I’m planning to move my hand-crafted / gThumb-generated galleries to Gallery2. However they do seem to get a lot of traffic and Google loves them (especially some of the joke ones or shots of Tina Wallmann) so I’ve held off so far.

The weekend saw me trying to get ahold of a UPS for the servers – the power feed in this block is decent however we still get brownouts and cuts occasionally. I’m not so bothered with downtime, I just don’t like the idea of shorting out the gear or limiting it’s lifespan. I had my eye on a good APC UPS, alas they were out of stock when I went up to Harris Tech (which is just up the road, I’m slack) to pick one up. A week and a half says the salesman – mind you, this is just in time for payday, so I may find myself capable of picking up a slightly bigger one.