printf(“Hello World\n”);

Although I had been threatening to get the new server up since August, the confirmed death of HAL and fall storms convinced me it’s time to get the new platform running.

Old backup server, with extra fan to keep it cool and operating.

Our backup server, based on an old Dell I acquired from Freecycle, was also showing the effects of age and the dreaded Dell capacitor rot. After yanking out the failing capacitors, we had to use a small desk fan to keep the insides from overheating and shutting down.

Late last week, I finally got the last bits in, FreeBSD installed with Apache, PHP, and MySQL. One function I’ve been wanting is both a backup solution, and access to a ‘cloud server’ I could trust. (Based on their terms and conditions, I don’t trust Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, or any of the other ‘free’ services.)

New server, with 500 GB main drive and three 1 TB RAID-Z storage filesystem.

With the drop in hard drive cost, I added three 1 TB drives, and recompiled the FreeBSD kernel to use the Oracle ZFS filesystem. With the ZFS filesystem, configured “RAID-Z’ for redundant storage protection, the three 1 TB drives gives us just short of 2 TB storage. Working with the basic Apache stack and the ZFS filesystem, along with some additional PHP modules, I was able to add on Nextcloud to our system for storage, backups, and data access anywhere.

The system is working fine, as you’re reading now from our new server. Still working on adding the ‘apps’ to the cell phone to access our own cloud, but they are mostly working fine as well.

Are You Serious, Spammer? (Part III)

Found this gem in our comments from the main family webpage:

Did you know that if you stare at the sun for 15 minutes a day, that you won’t need to eat food anymore? You will literally gain superhuman abilities and feel like an enlightened person. Obviously you would need to stare at the sun during the early morning or late evening when the sun is at it’s lowest brightness. But NASA did a study and proved that people who engage in this sun-staring practice achieve a state of high spiritual and mental enlightenment. Full information here (link removed).

Not sure if they were looking for someone that gullible, or just trying to get clicks by posting outrageous nonsense. Either way, no links from us, bunko.

Well, That’s Interesting…

Over the past few weeks, our webcam has been rebooting at various odd times. I’ve checked it for loose power plugs, but it otherwise seemed fine. Then last Monday, someone tried to post the webcam’s administrator account name and password on our main page. They didn’t leave their name, but IP address goes back to an ISP in Tennessee, most likely somewhere around Kingsport. It seems that I’ve violated my own security rules, in that I left the default accounts on the webcam server. In particular I had left the account with administrator privileges named as ‘admin’. Thank you, ‘Anonymous’, for pointing this out to me.

Interestingly, site logs show visitors from the Russian Federation about the same time ‘Anonymous’ tried to post, along with the (routine) Sogou web spider from China and several odd URL scans from Google. Interesting.

Are You Serious, Spammer? (Part II)

While reviewing messages caught in the SpamTrap at work, this gem from a SEO operation in China fell out. Along with the rest of the message insisting we give them our credit card number so everyone could find our website, they provided the warning:

“If you fail to complete your domain name registration (for our) search engine optimization service by the expiration date, may result in the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification proposal notice. ”

Doug and Dinsdale Piranha could not be reached for comment.

Gnome 3

Since stripping out all of the Gnome desktop environment last October (see Upgrades and Downgrades), the Gnome project released Gnome 3. Reports on the FreeBSD website said Gnome 2 had too many problems, which were scheduled to be corrected in Gnome 3.  So I finally took a deep breath, and installed Gnome 3 and the Xwindows support environment. So far, most of the Gnome 3 desktop environment is working fairly well.

Gnome-3 1

The desktop looks like a typical desktop environment, with movable, resizable windows for individual tasks, looking like what Georgie calls ‘…a real computer, instead of the text only black screen.’ Applications are started through one of several interfaces, I’ve configured this installation with the equivalent of the ‘start’ button at the upper left.

Gnome-3 2

Alternately, the ‘desktop’ can be partially collapsed, showing the equivalent of the ‘favorite’ applications on the left bar, and a column showing the multiple desktops available on the right. One extra desktop gets added every time an application is started on a previously blank desktop.

Gnome3 3

So far, Gnome 3 is working relatively well, although running the GUI does drag down the system overall. Still, giving that we’re running a web server, a mail server, a Minecraft server, and the Gnome 3 environment on a 15 year old computer, I’m relatively happy with the performance.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Gave up on upgrading the Gnome desktop environment, after it appeared to have broke the apache web server and associated components of WordPress. Had to strip out all of Gnome and all the components that appeared to be associated, and then rebuilt the server platform. After a few last glitches, it appears that all is running again. I will have to think about reinstalling any desktop environment.

Many thanks to ‘iceflatline’ (http://www.iceflatline.com/2011/11/how-to-install-apache-mysql-php-and-phpmyadmin-on-freebsd/) for his write-up on putting this all together.

Norton Stinks

I would use a much stronger word for this, but this is suppose to be a family blog.

We use Norton Antivirus at work. I’ve come to believe that Norton Antivirus uses us. For some reason, Norton will some days decide that it’s going to suck up 100% of the computer for it’s own use.

Screen capture of Windows task manager, showing Norton running ~53,000 page faults / second.
(click to enlarge)

Our computers will nearly grind to a halt, as Norton throws nearly 53,000 page faults a second. It doesn’t make any difference what you are doing, doing it 53,000 times a second doesn’t leave much time for doing anything else.

We’ve been to the Symantec support site, where the Norton people deny that there any problem. Their postings state that page faults aren’t a problem, page faults are perfectly normal, and besides, other programs generate more.  Also, you should buy more memory, no matter how much you already have. Translation: we know, we don’t care, and we’re not going to do anything about it.