Server maintenance…

For the first half of this month, I’m on two weeks holiday from work… we were supposed to have three weeks off, for Sabriena’s sister and her family to come out and visit, and we’d go gallivanting around Victoria all sorts of places, but well, COVID-19 got in the way. So instead, we’re sitting at home, not doing much besides playing video games.

So what do I do on my time off from administering servers? Why, I administer servers! Specifically, it’s time to do all the things I wanted to do months ago but couldn’t be bothered because on Fridays I just don’t want to look at servers any more. I spent the first few days dicking around with an NTP server, and then I’ve been condensing and combining my many VMs in various providers down to a mere handful of very small machines, which should reduce my bills in the coming months.

A few days ago the shelf and rack screws I bought arrived so I took everything at home down and reorganized the cabinet - we no longer have to climb into the rack in order to reach the VDSL modem should it need resetting (luckily, not a common occurrence since we moved!). Since everything was offline and my kid was on the foetal position anyway, I took the opportunity to update the firmware on all of our devices as well.

The server will need to come out again in the next couple of weeks - I specifically bought a Poweredge R510 because it was cheap, and it was cheap partially because it came with no rails. So it’s sat on top of an Inwin H500 ATX case in the bottom of the rack, which is a pain in the arse because if I want that machine (primarily used to interface with PATA/IDE hard disks, such as the one in my PlayStation 2), I have to power down the R510, remove it carefully, and then power everything back up.

I have a 24U rack, and I’m feeling the urge to fill it, so yesterday I was window-shopping on eBay, looking at the lower end of the “sort by price” range to see if there was anything interesting that I could put in the rack and leave powered off (things like SPARC-powered Sun machines and the like), and I stumbled across what looked to be a pair of rails for my R510, super cheap with free shipping. These things normally go for around $130AUD or so, with shipping on top of that, and they seem to go fast in Australia, and getting them shipped from overseas would mean they’d be around $200 or so, and these were less than a quarter of that. They were missing all the common keywords, so I think they sat there for some time, but I checked up the part numbers etc and they’ll definitely fit, so I bought them.

I just need to replace my office switch with something rackmount (I really want something with SFP+ for future-proofing, but I just can’t bring myself to drop the money on the equivalent Unifi switch), and then figure out a non-white-trash method for blanking off the unused bays (there’s currently a piece of board providing separation between the cold and front sides right now) and I think I can live with it… though those SPARC machines really are calling my name!

Finally, I’ve been dabbling off and on with Docker. Originally, our home server was FreeBSD, with manually configured jails for some of the services, and some just running on the host. I switched to Ubuntu when I started at my current employer, because they use LXD for everything and I wanted to get up to speed fast… what better way to get up to snuff with it than breaking it with all sorts of whacky configurations in order to do everything I want? This has served me well, and I’m super happy with it, but while I’ve no interesting switching employers any time soon, I do have this crushing feeling that I’m boxing myself into a niche - LXD is not very popular, Docker and Kubernetes are far more common, and I thought it might be a good excuse over the holidays to try something new.

Unfortunately this has been mostly hit and miss. There are premade images, but I won’t learn much from a docker up <service> and calling it a day, so I’ve been having a crack at rolling things out manually with mixed success. I think I could get everything I want done at some point, just not sure whether I’ll get it done by the end of this holiday…

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle

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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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