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Category: computers

Clean, Clean Feet

There is something surprisingly satisfying about washing one’s feet (and thus hands) after working a bunch.

After another very sleepy class today I stopped at Sears and picked up a small scale (inch pounds) torque wrench (the same as borrowed earlier) along with some bits. I then cleaned up parts from my bike a bit, confirmed the torque on parts like the cranks, hand grips, and a few other things. Come Monday (I believe) I’ll be able to reassemble it with the new wheels and brakes, and the torque wrench should make it lots easier.

Sweeping, cleaning, and lots of wandering around had turned the bottoms of my feet deep gray, so it was into the bath tub to wash them off. They feel really nice now.

I think now I’ll run out to Sears and return the bits, as is going to facilitate my acquisition of an adapter which will make them useless. Then I’ll grab some food, come back here, and probably start reading the Official (ISC)²® Guide to the CISSP® CBK® which I received in class today. I strongly suspect it’ll be more useful than the training materials I’ve been given thus far.

For what it’s worth, I’m taking the New Horizons Training for CISSP Certification. It isn’t a formal CISSP class and I’m finding it a bit strange. The instructor seems okay, but he’s living up to the stereotypes of someone who would teach an “ethical hacking” class, which he does. It’s a bit bothersome, particularly in the way which he’s made some direct, but inaccurate statements about technical issues. For example: no matter what it’s always possible to hack into a service listening on a port, DSL uses the unused phone wires coming into your house, an SMTP packet won’t contain a TCP header, and a few other things which I’ve forgotten.

The class is very pointedly designed to teach only the things known to be on the test. I would prefer a much faster paced class, but I think it’ll be useful as I’m now feeling reasonably confidant that I can pass the CISSP exam. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve worked doing what I do at EDS for so long; it means I have the paper / job qualifications to get the cert too.

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How To Use Consolas with cmd.exe

Consolas in cmd.exe.

Back in January I mentioned that I have switched to Consolas as my preferred monospaced font for on-screen work. As part of this I switched cmd.exe to using it as well, but doing so was not a trivial matter. If you wish to do so, here’s how in a couple of nice, easy steps:

1) Get a copy of Consolas. You can either get it here direct from Microsoft, or I also have a copy of just the .ttf files here.
2) Add the fonts to the machine by dragging and dropping them into %WINDIR%\Fonts (eg: c:\windows\fonts) or add them using the Fonts applet in Control Panel.
3) Add a string value called 00 with a value of Consolas to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Console\TrueTypeFont. Importing this .reg file will do this for you.
4) Start up cmd.exe and you’ll now be able to change the font to Consolas. I suggest saving the changed properties for future use.
5) Note that despite changing the selected font at this time, it does not actually change in the window. You must now reboot the computer (not just log out, but actually reboot) and then log back in.
6) Fire up cmd.exe and you’ll see that the font being used is now Consolas, as shown above.

Note that the window shown above has the font size set to 14 point. For what it’s worth, I run the console on my laptop (with a 1400×1050 display) at 14 point, with a window width of 150 characters and height of 70 characters, as can be seen here.

I also use Consolas in PuTTY running at 11 point, 80 columns and 50 rows and in Notepad++, also at 11 point.

One last thing to remember is that this font was designed to be used with ClearType, Microsoft’s implementation of subpixel rendering. Without this it’ll look like poop.

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Download Tools

You all know those shiny download tools which open loads of connections on a file to try and get it quicker? Those are crappy and put lots of unneeded load on servers. Here’s an example:

I host this simple page for a friend of mine in the UK for when he needs US-based hosting or some place high speed to distribute files from. As part of this he hosts the animations found on this page, which overall aren’t very big. However, someone in Thailand ( is deciding to get them as quickly as possible using some stupid download tool.

What I see is that the workload on the httpd is at ~277, up from it’s typical of 2 or 3. netstat shows lots and lots and lots of connections (currently 276) from that box, all of them established.

The http log currently shows 9291 these: - [11/Jun/2008:16:58:34 -0400] "GET /justin/img/piston_std4.mpg HTTP/1.1" 200 32768 "" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.00; Windows 98)"

Load on the box itself is .23, which is tolerable, so I’ll probably let this continue. If it’s still going at midnight I’ll take some action, but for now it’s just a bit of irritation. Yes, I know I could limit connections on a per-IP basis, but I prefer not to do this unless it’s actually a problem. If I do need to block that IP, I’ll probably just fail to return anything on that vhost to that netblock. Hopefully they’ll finish getting their file sooner than that.

If you’d like to see it, here’s the current netstat: netstat_11jun2008_1.txt
Here’s a capture of a minute or so of 45 seconds of traffic with that address. Note that each GET results in a whole conversation of only 10k or so: 11jun2008_weird_1.cap.gz

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SiI3124 Not Working… Right

Top view of the Koutech PSA421 on the antistatic bag. It has four internal single lane SATA ports.

Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday today. You all made me smile lots. (Yes, I do share a birthday with Karl Marx, and yes, I am now 30.)

I received the SiI3124-based disk controller mentioned earlier, but it didn’t wish me a happy birthday. In fact, it just didn’t work as I hoped. For some reason its on-board option ROM isn’t starting up when the rest of the computer does, so it’s not initializing the disks and making the main BIOS aware of their existence. This prevents me from booting off of them. FreeBSD can talk to the disks on it just fine, but without the BIOS it’s not useful to me.

When I tried the card in my MAME cabinet and it works fine there, so I think something like the following is occurring: The on-board SATA / RAID controller is a SiI3114, and when I disable this via the BIOS, perhaps this somehow disables the SiI3124? Or, perhaps when the controller is enabled, the option ROM from one is interfering with the other? After all, the SiI3114 BIOS still loads and displays. I did also try changing the PCI enumeration order and tried the cards in other PCI-X slots and the lone PCI slot, and none of that produced positive results. The SiI3114 always enumerates first (or not at all?).

As a test I put a classic Adaptec AHA-2940UW (can you believe this card is more than 10 years old at this point?) card in the box and its option ROM displayed just fine. So, the motherboard seems to handle disk controllers in slots, just not this one.

Instead of the SiI3124-based card I really would like a 3ware 9550SXU-4LP, but its $319.99 price tag is a bit hard to stomach. Maybe I’ll just return the card and stick with the onboard controller and software RAID.

Oh, and if you want to see them, there are more photos of the Koutech PSA421 in here on page 3 of my gallery.


Southern Tier’s Back Burner

Souther Tier's Back Burner Barley Wine poured into a glass.

Things have been a bit boring around here lately, with me working at my job, working on the new server, riding my bike, and trying to relax a bit, so I just thought I’d post this photo of Souther Tier‘s Back Burner, a decent (and quite hoppy) barleywine which I drank while watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Danielle on Sunday night.

Today I got GEOM-based disk mirroring working on, but in doing so I realized that the on-board SiI3114 controller only supports SATA/150 (aka SATA I) and thusly no NCQ, which disappointed me. To remedy this I ordered part number N82E16816104007 from, a Koutech PSA421 4-Channel Serial ATA & Serial ATA II 64-bit PCI Host Controller which appears to be a reference (or very standard) implementation of the SiI3124 PCI/PCI-X to 4 Port SATA300 chipset. This should fit in the one usable slot in the case and provide the SATA interface that I really want. I just wish it’d arrive sooner.

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Loud and Fast

The two Opterons 885 CPUs, seated nicely in the sockets.

Yesterday I received very kindly sent FedEx package containing some spare computer hardware a friend of mine had, a pair of Opteron 885 dual-core 2.6GHz CPUs and 8GB of registered RAM, to be used in my new server.

I’ve been having some problems with it all, but I’m not quite sure what the cause is yet. With all 8 DIMMs fitted the machine kept hanging while installing FreeBSD 7.0. Per my friend’s suggestion I’m trying the install again with only one DIMM per CPU installed, as he said he’s seen problems with a fully kitted out machine installing some OS’, for som reason. For the first half of the memory things have gone just fine, so I’ll finish running through the pieces two at a time. After those tests I’ll run Memtest86+ on discreet pairs of DIMMs, then on the full 8GB.

I might also install XP on it so that I can run SiSoftware Sandra on it for a while, as it’s really good at eating a machine alive.

Unfortunately I can only run these tests during the day because the server is simply too loud to do otherwise. I measured it at 74dB while standing next to it at the keyboard, and the noise seems to be three distinct tones (low, mid, and high) caused by the different fans in the box. It’s really not much different from a siren. The noise is enough to bother me a bit while just sitting around the house doing other things, so trying to sleep while it is running would be just awful.

Oh, and some quick testing last night showed that it ran most things in openssl speed faster than my Mac Pro. Hopefully I’ll be able to run the whole DB from RAM.

Hmm, I just dropped the full 8GB back in there, turned on PowerNow! and ACPI 2.0 and I’m building ImageMagick to see how things go. While that runs I think I’m going to go for a bike ride.

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Tyan Transport GX28 (B2882)

I just hit submit at to complete the purchase of a Tyan Transport GX28 server with a Tyan Thunder K8S Pro (S2882). As item number N82E16856152008 the barebones server was only $409.99, with $31.24 shipping. Thanks to a friend helping me out with some RAM and some disks which I’ll be able to make redundant I’ll likely end up with a 1U server with a pair of Opteron 800-series CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and mirrored 500GB SATA disks.

This all brings about an interesting question of where to host the new box. I’ve discussed this before, and the more I think about it the more I want to get my box out of Waveform. Things are working fine for now, but I question what will happen if or when the box does start to have problems. The provider I’m most seriously looking at would run $100/mo

So, now I just have to wait for things to be shipped and delivered and then I can start assembling it all. I imagine I’ll let it cook for a few weeks to a month before installing it. It’ll be running FreeBSD 7.0, likely with a custom kernel and world rebuilt specifically for the CPU. I think I’ll also want to give the new ULE scheduler a go, particularly after seeing this presentation (PDF) about where FreeBSD is going.

I’ll continue to stick with lighttpd, although I hope that the OpenSSL bug in 1.4.19 is fixed in ports soon. Disks will likely be mirrored with gmirror, although I will investigate the on-board hardware RAID. I’ll probably also stick with MySQL for the db and Postfix for mail. Basically, nothing will change in that regard.

I may opt to eliminate some individuals I currently host from the box, mostly because I never have contact with them. I don’t mind hosting people, but when the sites sit mostly unused and I have almost no contact with the individuals who use them (except when there are problems, of course), it’s a bit frustrating to keep up maintenance on apps running on the sites. Also, this new provider has stricter limits on bandwidth (1mb, 95th percentile), and I need to be a bit more careful about how it is used. Anyway, if I’m opting to remove your site from hosting I’ll contact you outside of here and provide you with a chance to get your data.

For now I wait, then build. This could be pretty nifty. Oh, and the colocation provider offers IPv6 at no extra charge, so that ought to be fun to play with as well.

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Time to Move Colocation Providers?

For a few months now I’ve been considering replacing the mid tower server currently hosting,, with a new 1U box. After Waveform moved my server between facilities, powering it off hard without warning, I’ve been thinking that I should really look for other colocation facilities in Southeast Michigan.

Thanks to some folks introduced me to via IRC, I seem to have two options, both in Southfield. One of the facilities I’m looking at is a privately leased rack in‘s facility and would cost around US$80/mo for 1Mb, billed to 95th percentile. The other option is Clear Rate Communications colocation facility, and that would run $99/mo for the same amount of bandwidth and no-charge access during business hours.

While Waveform has generally been good to me, I have noticed some issues with customer service since I moved in there a few years ago. Response to support tickets is very slow, and it’s almost impossible to actually get someone on the phone. I’ve also received a handful (two or three, I believe) of unsolicited pieces of email from individuals who are looking for some way to contact anyone at Waveform. It seems that their boxes had gone down for whatever reason and they were unable to get a hold of anyone to reset them, ship them back, or even tell them what was wrong for multiple days.

This all brings me to my thoughts about a possible replacement server. Ideally I would buy a new 1U server, put that in the new facility, move the data away from Waveform, transfer all services, then shut down the box at Waveform. I’m fairly sure I know what I want server-wise, but I don’t know if I can (should) afford it. Ideally I’d get something like the following:

· Supermicro SuperServer 5015M-MT+ / 5015M-MT+B ($629.99 at Newegg)
· 2x Seagate Barracuda ES.2 SATA 3.0-Gb/s 500-GB Hard Drive ($131.99/ea at Newegg)
· Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 ($188.99 at Newegg)
Supermicro AOC-IPMI20-E IPMI Card/BMC ($55.95 at Amazon)
· Crucial 2GB kit (1GBx2), 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-5300 memory module ($63.99)

This is $1070.91, plus around $35 in shipping and taxes. Of course, I could just move the box from Waveform to Clear Rate (or wherever). That would cause a few days of weirdness, but it’d be a lot cheaper. I could then wait until the current box becomes a bit more questionable and get a new machine at that time.

I’m just not really sure what to do for now, so I think I’ll just wait a bit. Hopefully Waveform (and my box) will at least remain stable.

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