Upgrades Galore

I fitted my new SSD to my fileserver yesterday as it was a rainy Sunday afternoon. Oddly enough the new 2.5″-to-3.5″ drive rails I got don’t fit in a floppy bay – well they do but the screw holes won’t line up, so I fitted it in my one remaining hard disk bay.

Anyway I was surprised how quickly I replaced the Ubuntu 9.10 setup with Debian 6.0.3 without losing any functionality. I decided to stick to Squeeze+Backports as Wheezy like on my desktop machine is way too much maintenance for a fileserver – I can’t cope with the “apt-get upgrade” fear! 😉

Speaking of backports, to replace OpenOffice.org with LibreOffice, you need to run this and answer “yes” to the dependency questions:

apt-get -t squeeze-backports install libreoffice libreoffice-gtk

Anyway the main thing I was worrying about – the printer/scanner was truly plug’n’play – I turned it on to do some scanning and CUPS automatically configured the printer part, and SANE just worked. None of the Epkowa (iscan+pips) Epson proprietary crap required.

I encrypted the boot drive using LUKS+LVM so I only need to enter the passphrase once, that seemed a lot easier than when I installed Wheezy and did multiple partitions.

I copied across the fstab and /etc/exports and all the various disks mounted and shared over NFS to the Mac seamlessly. I literally rebuilt the fileserver in two hours! Plus now it is all encrypted I can use it as a backup desktop machine for work.

Next up was the Mac Mini, currently running Leopard 10.5.8, I decided for £21 I might as well upgrade to Lion 10.7.2 as I already have 2Gb RAM and a Core2Duo, and apparently the new version of Plex doesn’t work on 10.5

Luckily I had a Snow Leopard 10.6.8 install in a virtual machine, so I bought Lion via the App Store (basically iTunes) using that. Wow the App Store is crap – I had to sign in about 6 times, I guess they’ve not heard of sessions at Apple.

I then used these instructions to create a bootable USB disk to do a fresh install of Lion – all within VirtualBox.

I’m actually dual booting Leopard and Lion using these instructions. Shrinking the disk so I could add a partition in the free space took the longest, installation was about 25mins. I’m glad I did it actually as although Lion runs fine (except it doesn’t like etherwake) the latest Plex is rubbish, so I’m booting Leopard and Plex at the moment.

Backup Night

I spent most of last night (bit sad innit?!) backing up my computers – well it started off as I thought I should clone my Mac Mini (in case I decide to buy OSX Lion) which I’ve never done before.

Booted Ubuntu 11.04 from a LiveCD, and dd’ed an 80Gb disk image to the 1Tb NTFS drive over USB. Ubuntu 11.04/Unity is a bit better than Fedora 15/Gnome Shell.

Click for fullsize
Click for fullsize

Did the same with the laptop, 160Gb image that time, but its XP+Fedora, did the 80Gb desktop the other day and the other 64Gb desktop a while back. I’ve got to clone my HTPC too, that’s running Win7+Fedora, think that’s 250Gb.

Then I backed up the images to my fileserver. I decided that over 300Gb of disk images (so far – all the PC’s would come to about 900Gb) was a bit much to keep on my desktop machine or eSATA backup drive, so I’ve just got images on the USB drive and the fileserver, I can’t see both failing. I’ve got a spare 1Tb drive lying around which I might get one of those weird docks for and free up a few hundred gigs on the fileserver!

Thinking about it, I should clone the fileserver’s boot drive too, although that would be a 250Gb image – I could just backup used blocks with Clonezilla or Acronis but I don’t trust either anymore. Maybe I’ll treat the fileserver to a little 64Gb SSD or something, its running Ubuntu 9.10 so could probably do with an upgrade when 11.10 gets released in October.

Halfway through all of this we had a power surge which rebooted my computers, so had to re-rsync the data drives on two of them and the eSATA drive, and check the image on the USB had copied properly to the fileserver (md5sum runs slow over USB2!) left that going this morning, its done now.

Wire speed!

Dad came over the other day and helped me run some CAT6 cable from my computer room to my lounge so I can stream video’s etc at gigabit speed over NFS from the fileserver upstairs to the Mac Mini which is now hanging off the LCD TV using my new HDMI-to-DVI cable.

MacOSX at 1920×1080 on a 37″ screen is incredible! I’m awaiting my wireless keyboard/trackerball so I can use it to surf downstairs as well as running Plex (Xbox Media Center ported to the X86 Mac) with the Mac’s remote control. I’ve watched my first 720p and 1080p movies, and you can actually see the difference from a regular 480p XviD or DVD – not just the resolution, but the detail like hair and leather textures and lack of compression artefacts, plus you get DTS 5.1 sound and so on that the Xbox1 simply can’t cope with.

I’m going to order 15m of white CAT6 or 5e from ebay though, as the blue looks a bit naff against my white walls.

I’ve been playing with Windows Vista today under VirtualBox3, it really is a pile of poo – can you believe that to install Service Pack 2 you actually have to first install SP1? They each take about an hour, and afterwards there’s still more to get from Windows Update. Literally to install Vista, Norton and Office (plus service packs etc.) must have taken well over four hours! Nothing like RedHat where you install 5.0, type “yum -y update”, go make a cup of tea and come back to 5.3 with OpenOffice and so on pre-installed.

Weather’s still boiling hot, in fact I’ve come out in prickly heat/heat rash, so am showering every few hours to keep my core body temperature down and minimise sweat.

I also finally found my old GnuPG key, so I’ve revoked the Jedi one from the keyservers, leaving the more up-to-date Synaptic one which uses better encryption.

New Home Theatre setup

I’ve just bought a 37″ LCD TV, 1080i FullHD all the bells and whistles. Its lovely. I’m awaiting a HDMI->DVI cable for my Mac Mini, and then that will be hooked up to replace my Xbox as my media centre box (running Plex).

Someone is seriously inflating the cost of computer accessories in France though – a 1.5 metre HDMI->DVI cable was 30e in the supermarket where the LCD came from, or four quid including postage from ebay UK for 2m!

I’ve moved the CRT telly into the snooker room, along with the Xbox. I tried overclocking my OpenWRT wireless routers to get the signal through the two 3 foot walls, and it just managed it at 15dbm (up from 7dbm!) but there’s more noise and heat and less signal now, so streaming video doesn’t work, even though http/ping/ssh are usable. So I’m going to have to run some CAT5e up from my bedroom through the lofts and down I think – which I already did when we renovated the snooker room, although its on the opposite wall to where I need the TV, and we’ve sealed up where the a cable could run behind the skirting boards!

I’ve got to do the same down to the Mac, as I tested and even 720p video’s can’t stream over 54g wireless (regular DivX does of course) and VNC is a bit slow too, gigabit will be much nicer. So I should be able to run a cable from a switch in my computer room, through the ceiling where the gas pipes go, and along the beam in the lounge to the Mac. I’ve got to look into the effects of running UTP cable alongside copper pipes, and then either beg some cable from PP, or see if the couple of 25m lengths I’ve got are enough – should be for the Mac, dunno about the snooker room though.

If I cable those two up, I can completely disable wireless in my house, it is an awful piece of technology really – too many “standards” with differing implementations, way overstated speeds and far too vulnerable to interference from microwaves, phones etc. Fine for some casual web surfing from a laptop, although I don’t have a laptop anymore – another piece of technology I don’t really have a use for.

I’ve also got to get a friend to help me run some more satellite cable (which I’ve got to measure and buy too) for the snooker room, I’ve got a spare Sky box, card and LNB socket, so might as well plug it into the telly.

It’s sweltering hot the last couple of days, I’ve been over to the folks and used their jacuzzi, but it doesn’t cool you much when its over 31c outside. My lounge is about the coolest place at the moment, being all thick stone walls and tile floors, as long as I keep the door shut.

Update: I just moved my 24″ LCD onto my main desktop machine, seems like a waste on the laptop docking station (it used to share with the Mac Mini) and wow, 1900×1200 is a lot of desktop space! You can play 1280×1024 games in a window, or have what used to be a fullscreen VirtualBox session in a window and still have about a third of the desktop free. Websites can look a bit odd though. An 80-column text editor only fills about a third of the screen too, so it should be useful for programming. The sound is a bit tinny compared to the 19″ though – as that was a TV as well, so had good speakers. Of course its handy for watching movies with the widescreen aspect ratio.

Update 2: I found that even the wireless speed of the Mac Mini was unacceptable – scp’ing a 700Mb DivX took ages, so I’m currently hanging a 15m piece of CAT6 out of the window and in through the back door! Getting around 35MBytes/sec over GigE now, so copying a 4.4Gb Matroska file took under 3mins!

I’ve also figured out how to sleep the Mac Mini remotely, as if you use shutdown it won’t wake using WOL. So you just make the following AppleScript:


tell application "System Events" to sleep

chmod a+x it and run it over SSH.

Automount goodness

I’ve just found my favourite piece of software (of the week, at least): Automounter or amd.

Basically it allows you to mount filesystems on demand, so I’ve got it setup on all my Linux boxes now to mount each other’s NFS shares. The extra good bit is that if the NFS server is offline it doesn’t hang your machine on boot (like putting it in /etc/fstab does).

All you need is to install autofs (“yum install autofs”, which i think sets it to start on boot) and create the following two files:

/etc/auto.master :

/media /etc/auto.nfs --timeout=3600 --ghost

That mounts the shares in /media, and tells it to create the directories even if the server is offline, and to unmount them again after and hour if idle.

/etc/auto.nfs :

data5 -fstype=nfs,hard,intr,timeo=10,async,rw

That’s the equivalent of your “mount -t nfs” command (or /etc/fstab entry), it tells it to nfsmount in /media/data5, not to fall over if the server goes offline (although it still does a bit), async for performance, read+write permissions, and the server IP and mountpoint on the end (as in /etc/exports).

What’s extra cool is that when the NFS server boots, it creates disk icons on your desktop (due to the mountpoints being in /media)!

I guess this is similar to how MacOSX does it with its “Directory Utility”. I upgraded the MacMini to OSX 10.5.6 today, doesn’t seem to be anything particulary new/interesting….