Straightening Up

P1010787.JPGBeing that this is my first weekend in a long time to get some stuff done around the house, I decided to finally move my server/home networking equipment to a new arrangement. About a month ago, I went down to the IKEA store in Minneapolis and picked up 3 of these LACK end tables. They were on sale for $8 each. They’re nothing really that special looking, and are constructed of particle board. The kicker? They are actually the exact width to mount 19″ network hardware in. I thought this would be great! Problem though: I don’t own any 19″ hardware. Dang. Well, I bought them anyway, and simply mounted all of my non-19″ rackmount equipment onto it. And by mount, I mean set..

Here is a list of the hardware that I have here. And yes, they are all named after scientists.

  • Volta – This is the WRT54Gv2 running DD-WRT (of course). It is acting as my router for the network. I was using a smaller HP with pfSense, but that starting having major issues, so I dumped it for the ol’ hardware router. It is also my wifi access point.
  • Coulomb – This is the large HP Compaq desktop that is acting as a server. It is running Debian 5.0 (Lenny) and serves file sharing, print sharing, VPN, and Teamspeak. Specs are a P4 @ 2.8GHz, 1GB DDR SDRAM, 2x 120GB IDE Hard Drives (7200RPM), Gigabit LAN.
  • Marconi – This is the tall device in the back. It is a Cisco Network Media Hub (NMH410) with 1TB of network attached storage. I use this for all of my media storage at home. I plan on purchasing another 1TB drive to create redundancy.
  • Trendnet TEG-S5g – It’s not in the picture, because it’s hiding underneath (as it’s supposed to). It’s a simple 5-port Gigabit switch that I got on sale at Newegg. Though I just noticed…I never got the gift card they said they mailed to me in May for the rebate. Crap.

I hope to eventually recable my desk and associated work area so that it looks like this. No wires showing, mounted power strips, and the like. I also want to create a spare set of cables, so that if I wanted to go to a LAN party, all I would need to do is disconnect the big components (monitor, PC, mouse, keyboard) and take them with, and I would have a fresh set of cables waiting for deployment.

Designed by Apple in Cupertino

So I finally gave in and bought an iPod touch. This is the first Apple product I have ever purchased new. So far, I like it a lot. I’m finding that there is no shortage of applications, and that the ones I have downloaded aren’t too bad.

One of the big things to get used to is the predictive text input. Basically you can get really close to what you want to type and it will make a decision based on what you typed. I have yet to put my faith in it yet fully.

Well, I know that this is a rather short post, but hats because I wrote it out using the wordpress application. Lots of little errors that I don’t feel like going back to fix.

FloodCheck Application

FloodCheck screenshotMy first real useful application, written in C#. It’s a simple program that grabs the latest Red River level and displays it in your system tray. It just sits in the corner, only popping up every hour to notify you of the current level. It can also be shown in a larger display.

There really isn’t much by the way of documentation. Just run the application, and click the “Send to systray” button to minimize the program.

The program is provided AS-IS, with no warranty of any kind. I guarantee nothing.

Download [download id=”747″]

Latest Version: v1.0.3780.14180 (May 8, 2010)

Please post any feedback or feature requests into the comments!

UPDATE: From now on, FloodCheck will have its own page. Click here to redirect!

RIP Einstein (2003-2010)

Einstein in his final days

Einstein, my first desktop PC turned home server in the corner, has passed on to the great /dev/null in the sky.

When I first bought him, back in 2003, he was but a refurbished Dell Dimension 2350, with a mere 128MB of RAM. It was the fruit of a summer working for my parents. He arrived while I was at work, and I begged to go home and set him up to play with the then fun new features of Windows XP. That Christmas, I got my first real video game, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, along with a 256MB memory upgrade. Einstein could be called a gaming machine. We had great fun playing with the new Windows Movie Maker 2.0, too.

Einstein soon outgrew his integrated video adapter. I had been browsing the local computer stores for a PCI graphics card, for Einstein only had PCI, no AGP. I found a nice GeForce FX 5200 at OfficeMax for a reasonable price. I added it, and suddenly I could run games at 1024×768! It seriously brought Einstein up to current standards for the time.

Original Dimension 2350
Original Dimension 2350

The next great improvement was a new 120GB IDE HD and a 512MB stick of RAM, making the two slots add to 768MB, around 2006. It vastly improved storage over the 30GB stock HD that came with him. Now I  could have all my games installed at once without swapping back and forth between the big ones. And, everything was much zippier.

When I purchased Galileo in 2007, Einstein started to move to a server role. He didn’t play nice with the video card anymore, which I’ve now found to be defective. I installed Ubuntu Server edition, and Einstein had new life. It was my first home server experience. I installed VMWare Server and ran some virtual machines. I also installed TeamSpeak 2, and ran a voice chat server while in games.

In his last year, he has been my NAS/Print/Remote access server, as well as a TeamSpeak 2 and TS3 server that just sat in the corner and never bothered anyone. He had solid uptime, was quiet (comparatively), and never made a fuss about updates or errors. In his final days I was contemplating reinstalling the OS, but it was so rock solid that I didn’t see the urgency. He’s in a better place now.

I’ve already began working on ghostofeinstein, a virtual machine to take over the duties that Einstein has left behind.

The Wonderful World of Amateur Radio

So this past weekend the Red River Radio Amateurs had their annual Hamfest. After many suggestions that I take the test and get my FCC license, I studied up and headed out there. I had no idea what to expect, so I brought along a friend to keep me company. When I got there, a gentlemen from the National Weather Service was giving a presentation on WSR-88D (basically, Doppler Radar). That was the first sign that I was in the right place. As we walked through the doors to the flea market area, we knew we were in the right place. Rows of tables lined with radio equipment, computers, electronics parts, and odd stuff that just looked cool. We walked around, finding some interesting items. There was a low-voltage tester that looked about 50-60 years old. It was in a solid metal case, and just looked really cool. We also found an old Commodore 64 (we think…) for sale for $25. But the best would probably be a couple of VHF radios for near $100. Had I gotten my license, I would have gotten a radio there and called it good. Unfortunately, the testing was late in the event, and so most of the good stuff was gone by the time I was license-bound.

ft11rI did successfully get my Technician class license. I’m going to be studying up for the General class exam so that I can have access to the lower frequency bands (the ones that go farther distances, like Italy and Spain). Right now I have access to most everything in the 50Mhz+ bands, and am cutting my teeth on VHF (2 meter). I was fortunate to find a gentleman in Fargo that was willing to sell his old handheld to me for a great price. It is a Yaesu FT-11R 2m handheld with a load of features. I also received an offer for a mobile VHF unit, but it was more expensive, and I knew that the handheld would work out of the box with no power concerns (Mobiles need a power supply, like a car, or a bench supply. I have no bench supplies, and I’d like to use it outside the car.) I’m concerned that the handheld’s battery is not very good, but I’m still playing with it and seeing if I can power it without a battery (like…from a car).

All in all, I’m having a great time. I’m meeting new people (unfortunately I haven’t gotten to put faces to call signs yet) and learning a lot about this quite huge world of Amateur Radio.