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 …

Posted on October 29, 2006, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. If this is any sort of “production” machine with high uptime requirements, then I would fix the FreeBSD issue and stick with FreeBSD!

  2. Solaris as a desktop? that’s certainly doable and if you feel like reminiscing about old times you can still have CDE as your desktop and there’s also gnome and xorg if you prefer that.
    Personally I’m much more interested in Solaris for its qualities as a server and for the very good developer tools available in Sun Studio and dtrace (which reminds me that I should blog about how to use dtrace so that httpd -X isn’t necessary to debug).

  3. Matt, I regard Linux and FreeBSD as essentially interchangable, and I’ve had sustained periods with each as my principal desktop system. My (linux) webserver has uptimes measured in years – about three since I last physically touched it. The drawback of Linux is that each distro tends to be someone’s wet dream of a packaging system, but if you’re prepared to play along with it and/or ignore it where necessary, it’s fine.

    Mads, I detested CDE back in the ’90s, and I’m d***ed if I want to go back to that. Openlook was less annoying, at least if you throw away most of it other than the WM, and olvwm was a nice environment on Linux back in the 90s.

  4. Niq, I mentioned to you on #apache that I would be interested in taking the old via board off of your hands. If you are headed to Apache Con US throw it in your bag and I’ll buy it from you when you get here. We can avoid the shipping that way. You should have my work email now if interested. Thanks much for all of your help!

  5. One thing is sure : it’s nice to try different things arround ; and FreeBSD is worth trying !

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