June 26, 2017

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Sunday, September 17, 2006
Time for another technical post.

Earlier this year, I built 2 servers for the house: one as a general file and web server, and the other as a private PBX using Asterisk. I talked about the PBX a bit in a previous post.

On the file server, I decided to put in a RAID 5 system that would give me lots of storage for movies, mp3s, and personal data. Using a RAID 5 system allows me to have lots of space, but more importantly, allows me some redundancy so that I can lose one hard drive due to a failure and not lose any data or uptime.

To build the raid, I wanted to use Seagate hard drives. I have been impressed with them in the past and they now offer an awesome 5 year warranty on their hard-drives which is great. I bought all of the parts off of Newegg (my favorite site to order this kind of stuff - great service). The hard drives I bought were "Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3250824AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM". This is a SATA II drive (higher speed) so I needed a SATA II controller that would work well in linux. I decided on the Promise SATA TX4 controller. It does not have a hardware raid: it is a controller only, which is why it is affordable. No worries. The linux software raid works just fine. I also bought a gigabit network card.

Everything has been working great. I used Centos and got all of the hardware set up. I had a small glitch with the Promise SATA driver, but I easily found the bug in the install script and fixed it manually. I set up a software RAID for RAID 5 using the 4 250 GB drives which gave me 750 GB of usable space. I set up mdmonitor to email me on any events I should know about (such as a failed drive) and everything has been great.

A few weeks ago, we had some sort of weird power event. My server locked up for the first time ever. I received an email telling me the array was degraded and it automatically rebuilt across the other drives. Awesome - it did what it was supposed to. I pulled out the failed drive, filed an RMA on seagate's website, and a new drive arrived in a few days. I installed it, and ran "mdadm /dev/md0 --add /dev/sdb". That was it. It detected the new drive, rebuilt the array on all 4 drives (with no downtime), and in about an hour, I was back up to being single fault tolerant. Awesome.

Kudos to Seagate for a really good RMA process. Also to the mdadm developers - the software raid performs very well and is very easy to maintain.

If anyone is setting up a similar software raid and has some questions, let me know and I'll see if I can help.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006
I wrote a project page describing the code I wrote for the new photo gallery. The page explains how I wrote the sync scripts that keep the website in sync with my PC, how I generate the thumbnails with the mkThumb utility and a recursive perl script, how I dynamically generate the XML data for the SimpleViewer utility using php, and also how I make the directory navigation/breadcrumbs bar at the top in php.

Hopefully the code will be helpful to others. You can find the page here. If the code is helpful to you, please write me. I would love to hear about it!

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Monday, June 05, 2006
Many of the readers of this website probably aren't familiar with Linux. Many of you probably don't even know what it is.

For those that do, I just wanted to let you know about my experience with the latest release of Ubuntu Linux (6.06).

I first heard about Ubuntu from my brother. He mentioned that he had tried it on his laptop and was very happy with it. After reading about it on the web a bit, it was obvious that Ubuntu has been generating a lot of buzz in the Linux community as one of the first truly easy to use Linux distributions where things "just work". Having used many of the Linux distributions out there, I can honestly say that Linux has a long way to go before people can ever say it "just works" the way they do about a Mac, for example. But nevertheless, Ubuntu has made huge strides towards a Linux distribution actually usable by the masses.

Installing Ubuntu was easy on my Dell Dimension 9150. The install disc is a Live distro with the option to install to the hard drive. Installation was easy and straightforward with no glitches.

The only things that didn't work after the installation was my video card, and my sound card. I should rephrase that. Both of them worked, but not correctly. My video card was working and showing good graphics, but the 3D acceleration was missing since it was using the generic vesa driver. Secondly, my sound card was detected and making sound, but only the bass frequencies for some weird reason. Everything sounded muffled.

The graphics problem is not really their fault. Basically, to get an ATI graphics card running in Linux, you need a driver. And the drivers that ATI releases are not open source, and therefore not included with the distribution. I don't blame Ubuntu for that. And installing it was easy enough. Just selected the fgl driver package to be installed from the package manager and hit install. After some quick changes to my xorg.conf, I had full 3d acceleration. Pretty easy for me, but for the average user, probably a nightmare.

The sound thing I haven't fixed yet. I haven't been worried about it because I don't need sound when I'm doing my work. Once I figure it out, I will post it here.

The thing I like about Ubuntu is the package management and intuitive settings. For example, I wanted to install an ssh server. So, I opened up the package manager, searched for ssh, and hit install. After it installed, I wondered how I might disable it. So, I looked under the services menu, and sure enough, it automatically added it to the list with a simple checkbox letting me know it was enabled. That was it.

I can honestly say that this is one of the first Linux distributions that I am fairly impressed with. These guys are going in the right direction. One downside is that it is debian based, so all of those people familiar with red-hat will have to learn a few new tricks to learn how to configure and get around in Ubuntu.

Another nice thing is the flavor of Ubuntu called Edubuntu. This is a Ubuntu release packaged with children's themes, games, and education programs to help children learn about many things, including using the computer. I am running an older version of Edubuntu on Neo's computer and he loves it.

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