Monday, October 27, 2008

Gaming Lab File Server

So I spent a few hours at school on Saturday to assemble the file server for the Johns Hopkins Gaming Lab. It's the first piece of hardware for the lab, and while it won't be impressive to some of the real geeks out there, it sure was lots of fun for me to spec out and (almost) build. I still have to actually put the motherboard in and test it tomorrow, but I hope that won't really be a problem. Here are some shots of the whole thing, first the case with the power supply and the six 640 GB SATA drives mounted:

File Server Case-Drives-Power

(Yes, there's also a DVD writer at the top, who cares... :-)) A shot from the front, showing the cooling fans for those drives in their little fold-out cages:

File Server Drive-Cooling-Fans

And finally the assembled motherboard waiting to be popped into the case and wired up tomorrow:

File Server Motherboard-CPU-RAM

This thing will have 2.5 TB capacity as a RAID-6 array, and the only thing that could stop it from being really cool is one of the SATA drives freaking out. Sad fact: The more drives you have, the more likely a failure becomes. :-( Wish me luck! :-)

Update 2008/11/06: I finished assembling the server a few days after the original post, and until 2008/11/04 I was still trying to get it to run using a huge variety of operating systems. I mean I tried everything short of Windoze and Plan 9, but nothing worked right for my setup. Now I finally settled on something that does work: OpenBSD!

Once again, about 10 years after I established the infamous server using OpenBSD, I am using this conservative piece of secure low-tech-ness. And I am loving it! :-)

I had really started to hate on Theo a while ago when all the childish craziness between him and the bcm43xx guys went down. I sort of "swore" never to touch OpenBSD again because of it. But now I have to admit: Theo, you are sitting on one hell of a stable OS there. I still don't like what you pulled off with the Linux driver guys, but I can admit when I make a mistake: Regardless of your behavior, OpenBSD still rocks! :-)

The only two things you guys desperately need is a better software raid solution and something like LVM, I miss those things sorely. :-( Yeah, I am stuck running RAID-10 now, no RAID-6 in sight, and static partitions all over. Oh well, at least it works. :-)

Update 2009/04/17: Actually, I take that back. OpenBSD does suck! What happened was that I tried to install a web application that needed PHP, and in the process OpenBSD hosed itself so much that it wouldn't boot anymore. Yes, I used the standard OpenBSD package system, I did nothing directly with the install. Wow. So I ended up putting Gentoo on it right before the semester started. That was a little hectic, but the server has been up for a while now:

gaming ~ $ uptime
17:41:41 up 72 days, 5:23, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

I have RAID-1 with spares for the boot, root, and swap paritions, and RAID-6 for the rest. LVM2 makes sure that I can resize the various pieces of that RAID-6 to whatever the students need. Another Gentoo success! :-) Seems like my BSD days are numbered... :-(

Update 2009/09/08: I rebooted for the first time in a long while, and almost everything worked on reboot (I was afraid it may not). Before the reboot, I had this:

phf@gaming ~ $ uptime
12:25:32 up 216 days, 6 min, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
phf@gaming ~ $ date
Tue Sep 8 12:25:33 EDT 2009

Pretty impressive. No complaints ever from students about the performance of the thing either. So yeah... Gentoo FTW. :-D

Update 2011/10/09: Sorry for the broken images, I am not sure I can recover those anytime soon. But the same setup is still running perfectly! I've had a few disk failures in the meantime but I never lost any data thanks to the RAID-6 setup. One of these days I may want to re-install everything from scratch just because some crud has accumulated in all these years, but it's really not too bad. And the fun thing is: Now I can buy a single disk to backup the whole machine on if I decide to re-install it. At least the human race is making progress in one dimension: the size of cheap SATA disks. :-D

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Business of Generals

The Carey Business School just announced its Leaders and Legends lecture series. I'll refrain from commenting on the title itself, what's really interesting is the first speaker they chose: General James E. Cartwright. I assume very few people see anything wrong with this, but of course I do. I'll quote what one of the more honest generals, Smedley Darlington Butler, had to say about the intersection of business and war:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

I am sure "Hoss" would be quick to claim that Smedley was a "pinko commie", or that the "modern" military does not do any such thing anymore. I won't spend $35 to hear his talk only to get thrown out during the Q&A session when I ask something inconvenient. I hope nobody else goes either, and empty hall is probably the easiest way of commenting clearly on the choice of speaker.

Not sure yet? Just try to think through what a general knows about business. He knows that "funding" never runs out. He knows that "employees" will do what they are told or else. And he knows that "laws" can be broken without consequence whenever that is convenient.

Still not sure? Why don't you read Smedley's War is a Racket for some historical perspective and then follow it up with Naomi Klein's Risky Business in Iraq for some more recent examples. I wonder how long it'll take them to invite Naomi to speak... :-)