Category Archives: Linux


The new tape drive arrived today … I was a bit worried that it would ever show up, as the vendor I purchased from seemed to be pretty disorganized.

It seems to be ok. It’s even new. I was half expecting the unit to be refurbished, which I would be OK with, because the price I paid was $200 less then the next higher vendor.

The only problem with the tape drive is that it’s noisy as hell … louder than both of the servers put together.

One oddity I found … the old tape drive would erase tapes in under a minute … but the new tape drive wants to write over the entire length of the tape. When I issue the mt erase command, it spins for a very long time.

Anyone want a marginally working SCSI DDS3 tape drive? 😉

[tags]linux, backup, tape, dds3, usb, scsi[/tags]

Hard Drives Hell

Oh boy … talk about a bad day for hard drives.

Thursday evening I noticed my laptop was getting REALLY sluggish … I ran uptime (part of the MKS Toolkit, which I can’t do without) and found out my system had been up for 15 days straight without a reboot. Almost a record for a Windows machine, I think. So I decided to reboot the system.

I started the reboot process and noticed it was taking a VERY long time to boot … so I powered off again and ran diagnostics. The hard drive was failing. Unfortunately, because this hard drive was an upgrade I purchased from Dell, it was not covered under my laptop’s warranty. And, even though Hitachi offers a 3 year warranty on the drive, Dell only gives a 1 year warranty.

Oh well, hard drives aren’t that expensive … so I figured I would swing by Frys after work on Friday. I was confident that I had a solid backup of the system, that was only a few days old.

During the day on Friday, someone told me that the archive server was very very slow. I checked it out and saw that that system (gondor) was showing disk errors on the 2nd hard drive. Oh joy, another drive to buy at Frys.

I went to Frys to get replacement drives … I wasn’t super happy with the selection (although they had a huge quantity of the drives they had available). I ended up getting a 100gb, 5400 rpm, Seagate PATA drive for the laptop and a 300gb, 7200 rpm, Seagate SATA drive for gondor.

Getting gondor restored wasn’t a big deal … it gets backed up on a daily basis to a usb removable drive.

The laptop is a different story … as Windows doesn’t really have the best backup mechanism I rely on Norton Ghost. It’s always worked OK for me in the past.

It’s in the process of restoring right now … it’s VERY slow going, but I have high hopes.

Luckily I keep the Quicken data files on a LAN drive, so I haven’t lost anything there.

Update … 5:30 pm … oh boy, talk about a long day.

I had to do the restore from the Ghost image 4 times … I couldn’t get it to restore the image and allocate the extra 20gb to my primary Windows partition.

I ended up just restoring the partitions with the same size they were before the failure. I’ll have to get a partition resizing utility in the next week or so so I can resize the partition to allocate the new space.

[tags]Windows, Hard Drives, Backup, Norton Ghost[/tags]


I need to figure out how to setup a watchdog timer on my linux systems.

While Ginny and I were out on a mini-vacation this weekend … gondor, my main web server, went weird on me.

It would respond to pings … but none of the servers would respond. I could telnet into the specific port, and it would connect, but the server itself would not respond.

So we cut our vacation a little short and came home (Gondor is kind of important) … when I looked at the system it wasn’t locked up (which I didn’t expect, because it still responded to some things), but it wasn’t doing anything.

Nothing serious was showing up on syslog, but the system was still hung up.

I ran a bunch of diagnostics, which didn’t indicate any problems… so I’m pretty much at a loss. Diagnostics were run on memory, the main-board, and the hard drives. I should note that one of the hard drives is making an odd whining noise … which indicates to me a potential problem … but the diagnostics didn’t indicate a problem.

Once I can figure out how to get a watchdog running, if the system goes weird on me again, it will at reboot itself. Not a prefect solution, but workable until I can figure out what is going wrong.

[tags]Linux, hardware, diagnostics, Dell, watchdog[/tags]

Another upgrade

This weekend I’m going to attempt another hardware upgrade.

The main mail server for (rivendell) is showing it’s age … mind you, it’s still performing fine, but it’s pretty loud and it’s maintenance contract expired last month. A new contract would have costed $300, while a new server only cost $600.

So I got a new Dell PowerEdge SC430 (Pentium D, 3ghz, dual core, 1gb ram, 80gb DASD) to replace the current Dell PowerEdge SC600.

My plan is to backup the drives (mirrored pair) to a USB hard drive and then transplant the drives into the new server.

The only hitch is that the new server primarily runs on SATA, while my current drives are PATA. This I’m solving by getting an add-on ATA/133 card. I’ll set the system to boot off of the drives on the add-on card and use the SATA drive as swap space and a backup drive.

In the past, this kind of hardware upgrade went very smoothly. Mainly because Linux was able to detect the changed hardware and reconfigure itself appropriately. This is why I upgraded rivendell to Fedora Core 4. Redhat 8 would not have been able to deal with the new hardware.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Update 3/25 @ 3pm

Looks like the upgrade was a success!

There were a few minor glitches with the file system table (fstab) … since I put the main drives on the ATA/133 adapter card, they changed from being /dev/hda to /dev/hdc. I had to twiddle with the config to get it to boot properly.

And, in case you’re wondering, I did back it up to the USB drive. That took a bit of doing though, because the USB ports on the old system are ‘full’ speed (10mps). I had to put the USB drive on gondor and do the backup via the network in order to get it done in a reasonable amount of time.

[tags]Linux, Fedora, Dell, Poweredge, Upgrade[/tags]

Linux Upgrade!

Well, I did it … and, so far (knock wood), it’s working ok.

What I did was: Upgrade my Redhat Linux 8.0 system to Fedora Core 4.

Last time I tried this it went horribly wrong … there was some kind of problem with the system that caused all available memory to be eaten up like it was going out of style … and then it started chewing on the swap space … to the extent that there was no memory and no swap space available.

To add insult to the injury … my backup procedure wasn’t as solid as I had hoped.

The end result was that my system was down for about 2 days while I recovered manually.

This time, however, I had a absolutely fool proof backup plan.

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Generic Listname Identification

As you might suspect, I’m subscribed to a large number of mailing lists (most of which I host myself).

One of the problems with mailing lists is that, if you use a singe email address for all your list subscriptions, there isn’t an easy way to file individual list messages based on the list name.

The other day, however, I found a rather handy procmail recipe that helps with that work…
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SecureCRT and OpenSSH

I use Vandyke’s SecureCRT to access my linux machines. Due to the recent increase in the number of attempts to break-in to my systems via SSH, I decided it was high time I switched to using public/private key authentication instead of simply password.

I had devil of time figuring out how to get the public key generated by SecureCRT into OpenSSH’s authorized_keys2 file.

After digging through the SecureCRT help file for a bit I finally found the command (it was pretty obvious, had I read further).

cd .ssh
ssh-keygen -X -f >> authorized_keys2

Now I just have to figure out a way to keep my public keys with me whenever I might have need to access my systems without a system I work on normally.

This was a bad weekend

This weekend was supposed to be a nice quiet, calm, time… I had planned to spend it getting some files organized in the two filing cabinets I purchased from MKS (getting rid of old stuff in anticipation of our move to new digs).

Friday was the company holiday party … it’s always been enjoyable … even if I don’t like dancing (Ginny ends up dragging me onto the dance floor a few times). This time, unfortunately, Ginny’s dinner didn’t agree with her… so we headed home early.

Once home, I made sure Ginny was comfortable … and went downstairs to dink around with the computers.

I then made my fatal error.

I decided to upgrade the main linux system to Fedora Core 3. I figured it would be fairly straight forward to upgrade from Redhat 8 to FC3.
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