Daily Archives: October 29, 2006

Replacing the desktop box

No doubt hardened BOFHs will disagree, but I think a change of hardware should be something one can do at leisure. Install an operating system, sort out glitches, migrate stuff.

But when it’s a mission-critical machine that’s died, there’s a bit more pressure on the replacement. Such was my case on Thursday, when the desktop box, which crucially also receives my email and runs an imap server, died irredeemably.

I had already tinkered with the new machine, and installed a couple of operating systems on a new SATA disc. Gentoo got its knickers thoroughly in a twist and declined to emerge enough to install a working X11. FreeBSD installed fine, with a couple of issues. The worst problem there was that periodically (rather often) the whole thing would freeze for a few seconds. I think that’s associated with timeouts on nve0 appearing in syslog, and that a kernel rebuild should be able to fix it. But it’s not a chance one wants to take. Fine to figure it out when one isn’t under pressure, but not when mail is waiting. And unfortunately, I only noticed it when I attached the new machine to the monitor, mouse and keyboard and started trying to use it.

The disc from the old machine is fortunately fine, and booted OK in the new machine (once I’d repaired the boot sector and fscked it). That was running gentoo, but with a custom XFree build for the old hardware. After building the network driver for the new hardware, I unmerged the old xf86, and tried emerging Xorg, but that failed. So no GUI. Oh well.

One more thing to try before reverting to the FreeBSD install. Ubuntu has been getting a good press, and I’ve been meaning to test-drive it. So tried installing it. And, lo and behold, it’s working nicely! So without further ado, I’ve installed postfix, dovecot and a bunch of other packages, and turned it into my operational desktop box. Still some glitches – like messing up the clock (reminds me of windows there) and installing a badly broken Grub configuration (without the option). But no show-stoppers. So, it looks like this may be my regular workhorse for the forseeable.

And there’s still plenty of disc space to mess about with obscure things, like the OpenSolaris CD I picked up at OSCon. Haven’t had slowaris on my desktop since ’98, so I wonder how it’s changed …