Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The only constant in this equation is change.

With winter rolling in (practically overnight), it is time to focus my spare time on inside-the-house projects. I am working on remodeling our 1934 2 story (plus full basement) house; rewiring to current code, new plumbing, insulation, and drywall. First on my project list for this winter is my office. The ceiling fan/light is on the shared knob & tube circuit as the rest of the lights in the house.   And the single wall outlet in the room is shared with an outside plug with a grounding wire that is almost invisible (and to think I had as many as 15 computers running on this). There is almost no insulation, so during the last year, temperature in this room went from 65F (18C) in the winter with the furnace running, to 85F (30C) in the summer with air conditioning. The problem is that my office is an addition on the south end of the house, so it gets sun all day long (when the sun is out). It also doesn't have a full basement, only a crawl space with a large opening next to the stairs to the back door.

In years past, I could regulate the temperature better by turning on or off computers, but since I am now doing ARM based testing, my systems don't generate nearly the same amount of heat. My tower of 4 Pandas with drives consumes less than 20 watts of power. For comparison, the average x86 processor today uses 65 watts, and that is just the processor. Think in terms of light bulbs. A 60 watt bulb generates enough heat to burn your fingers if you try to remove it while it is on, whereas a 20 watt bulb is only slightly warm.

Back to this relocation project, I have moved all of my test systems and their 8' table to a big room in the basement, and it is now back online after reimaging my serial console (serial-killer) with 11.10 server. The rest of the systems are booting fine and waiting for me to start slamming them with tasks. Now I just need to move my other 8' table downstairs, along with my desktop system and netbooks. This brings it's own set of problems, as my current firewall is also here along with the dsl-modem. The firewall is an old Pentium III-450mhz (clocked to 300mhz for passive cooling) running Mandriva 9.0 (2.4 kernel and just plain ancient). It has been my firewall now since ~1999 (well before Ubuntu existed). I reinstalled it in 2003 when I moved, mainly because the 10G drive in it had failed. It has been running since then, with the only downtimes due to power outages. If it isn't broken ...

I have a new firewall system in a 1U rack case currently running in the basement. This system is based on a Pentium-M 800mhz with dual gigabit ethernet ports. and using an 8G CF card on an IDE adapter for the OS. It is currently running Ubuntu server and manages DNS and DHCP for the house. It will also provide IPv6 control once it is the primary firewall. My only reservation is the downtime that will be inflicted when I move the dsl-router. When I built and configured my old firewall, it was setup such that it looks like a hole at that ip address, neither responding or timing out (unauthorized access is put into a holding pattern instead of being dropped, a trick I learned during the Code Red virus days of 2001). I am having to relearn how to setup a firewall though, as a lot has changed since 2003 (like say the kernel). I also had to run new phone wiring as the existing wires are the old style 4 wire phone lines, all terminating at a ceramic block with 2 brass studs and nuts in the basement. Talk about scary. With any luck, I should have the new system fully online in short order.  Hopefully the new phone line will also improve speed.

Old Phone Wiring

New Phone Wiring

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