Technical tribulations

When Mood Music
2010-07-02 21:09:00 contemplative FriComedy: Now Show 25 Jun 10 – BBC Radio 4

As well as being my afflicted by various bodily woes, the IT in Servants’ Quarters has been troublesome:

  • SURGE has been flaky since March. A full reinstall didn’t help, nor did replacing the supposedly dying hard disk. SURGE still refuses to acknowledge that he has an AirPort (wireless) card, while just about all core apps (including Time Machine) will not start. My guesses are a faulty logic board and/or airport card, corrupt installs and maybe a failing optical drive – it took several goes to install the OS.Before I sent SURGE away for diagnosis and repair, I attempted an emergency manual back-up of all my data to one of the HDs in Guffaw. It failed (see below) but the Time Machine/Time Capsule backups lasted long enough…
  • Hexie behaves OK except that since the update to MacOS 10·6·4 and Safari 5 she freezes on being connected to my VGA monitor. (The monitor appears to work OK with my Xserve so I blame the software update.) With only 1 GB of RAM, a 1·8 GHz Intel Atom processor and currently no way to attach her to my big DVI monitor, Hexie isn’t really a replacement for SURGE although she can run anything that SURGE did, and so is OK for use away from home.
  • XServalan was bought about a year ago so that I could begin to teach myself about servers. He cost very little because he had a hardware fault that prevented him from staying on for more than 5 minutes but I gambled that he could be fixed for less than the difference between buying him and a fully-functional Xserve. The gamble paid off when SURGE started flaking seriously: all that was needed was a new power supply unit.However, with only one 80GB HD, Xservalan doesn’t have enough capacity for all our data. Also, the original 512 MB of RAM precluded installing Leopard Server OS so he’s currently running vanilla Leopard. I’ve just received and installed six 256 MB sticks so I’ll try installing Leopard Server later. With some expenditure on hard disks, the potential to add another processor and some work on reducing the effect of his noisiness, he’ll eventually become a nice wee server. For now he’s an acceptable stand-in for SURGE, apart from the fan-noise.
  • Guffaw won’t fly Leopard and so can’t do Time Machine backups. However, she had three 180GB hard disks, and hence had plenty of space for secondary and emergency back-ups of other macs. Such a shame that the disk I used for SURGE’s pre-operative emergency back-up died, and that this was the HD containing the OS and apps too! Having extracted this disk and reinstalled the OS and apps onto another disk, Guffaw is back to normal. However, she’s not really powerful enough to be a main computer and, because she’s a bit noisy and power-hungry, she’s not really suited to being a web-server. So she’s edging towards the transfer list.
  • TC (500 GB 2008 model) allowed me to retrieve and copy back all my data when SURGE’s new disk was installed. It also allowed access to this data while SURGE was being ‘fixed’. However TC has just suffered capacitor burn-out, so I’ve lost
    1. primary back-up system , including access to old backups
    2. primary wireless network router
    3. 3-port gigabit ethernet hub.

    I think the hard disk will still be OK so the backups haven’t been lost irretrievably.

    To get around these issues

    1. I‘ve set all our Leopard and SnowLeopard macs’ Time Machines to back up to a 2GB NAS bought when Guffaw and SURGE both went down. It’s also where I’m keeping the working copies of my data until SURGE is properly fixed or replaced. However keeping actual work and back-ups on the same medium is hardly a good long-term plan, so here’s hoping that TC can be fixed soon.
    2. I’m using an AirportExpress (whose primary function is to pipe music from the macs to the hifi) as a wireless router.
    3. I’m using an 8-port gigabit ethernet switch, swapping ethernet cables as needed gigabit ports without TC. See here for why.

    I’m waiting on a reply from someone who can replace the burnt-out capacitors and install a large cooling fan. Failing that, I’ll need to get another gigabit ethernet switch, continue to use the AirportExpress for wireless networking and buy a NAS enclosure for TC’s hard disk.

The only computer I have which isn’t noisy, has a display large enough for useful work and just keeps on going is Pismo, a 10-year-old, 400 MHz G3 laptop which I use as a webserver. At a push, he will run older versions of Creative Suite. I’ve upgraded him a lot (maximum RAM, maximum hard disk, DVD-RW, PC card to connect it to DVI monitors). I could give him a processor upgrade (500 MHz G4 or 900 MHz G3) but this would be very expensive and still wouldn’t enable Pismo to run more modern software. Having said that, I love this highly adaptable, solid and curvy wee laptop and will keep him for playing Carmageddon even if all his other uses evaporate.


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