Book Review: Roo’d

Given the title, how could I not read this book?

I came across this book while browsing feedbooks using Stanza.  For the past couple of months I’ve been reading (free) eBooks almost exclusively.  At first I was using my NDS, and now my iPod Touch.  Primarily I’ve been reading material from the Baen Free Library, but lately I’ve moved over to feedbooks as they have a nice recommendation system which is how I found Roo’d.

I was hooked within the first few pages.  It was a fun and easy read, with plenty of actual technical jargon thrown in and for the most part the jargon was used in a way that made technical sense.  You do need to suspend disbelief a little with this story, and there are clearly areas where concepts from the Matrix and other popular sci-fi has been re-used and adapted.  It has a very similar feel to Little Brother, which is another eBook I’d highly recommend.

You can also purchase a hard copy of this book (paperback) from  I’m a little surprised by the somewhat hefty price tag on this, considering it is downloadable for free.  Still, it is nice to know you can get a ‘real book’ version of this – while I’ve been reading lots of eBooks, I still like real books.

For more information, check out the author’s website.

The New Server

I had previously posted about the server than runs and that it had been given me trouble.   Well, the new parts came pretty quickly and it was a good thing – as just last week the old server packed it in.  It turns out that the most likely reason for the instability was the CPU fan, as it totally seized on the failure day and my CPU temperature climbed up past 90C.  An $8 fan might have solved my immediate problem, and been a lot less headache — having temperature graphs of the server would have helped spot this, something I plan to do with the new one.

At least I had a good excuse to buy new hardware.img_1086 So here is a picture of it hanging out in my furnace room next to the water heater.  While the new system is based on a MiniITX mainboard, I’ve opted to use a full size ATX tower case to house it (the case was a free hand me down from a friend).

I did modify the case quite heavily.  The stock fan grills were simply holes drilled in the case – it was more grill than not, so the airflow was pretty poor.  A couple of minutes with the dremel removed the grills entirely.  I also opened up the front bezel to provide easy inflow of air for the lower case fan.  The upper case fan is mounted to a pair of drive bay covers I’ve glued together.

This case has 6 x 5.25 drive bays, and 3×3.5 bays.  My system drive lives down in the bottom and the data drives are up where the top fan is.

I also cut a fan vent in the side panel to blow down onto the mainboard itself.  This I did with a jigsaw, and I think it turned out well considering it was my first attempt a something like this.

img_1071This older ATX tower case had all of the right connections for this new motherboard.  Power, reset and HDD connectors hooked up no problem.  The power LED was a 3 pin connector vs. the required 2 pin connector.  Karl was able to hook me up with a spare HDD connector that I spliced onto the power LED.

Since there were mounting locaimg_1074tions for 2 more exhaust fans, I couldn’t help myself and added two more at the top/back of the case.

If we count fans, I’ve got 5 case fans, 1 more in the power supply, and a chipset fan on the mainboard.  Overkill?  Yes. Required?  No, probably not.  There seem to be plenty of folk out there running exactly the same board with very minimal cooling.

My motivation here was the current system failing due to heat death, and I’d like this new system to run problem free for years.  The extra cost of a few fans isn’t a big deal, and its very quiet relative to the furnace.  I may further duct / optimize the cooling as the measurements thus far don’t show much of a delta from other peoples numbers on the net.

One more picture of the guts, to give you a sense of how small the MiniITX board is:

img_1070The transition from the old system to the new one should have been as simple as dropping in the drives and booting.  Unfortunately the old version of Ubuntu (Dapper) didn’t have support for the new Atom board and couldn’t make use of its network drivers etc.

Worse still, the system drive refused to boot in the new machine.  It is something that still has me scratching my head.  I even went to the effort of cloning the boot drive onto another which I had proven would boot with the new system – and still no go.  It was almost as if the MBR was in an unexpected location.  Last week I lost a bunch of sleep.

img_1075Above is a picture of the old server while it was cloning the boot drive (which as I mentioned, turned out to be a waste of time).  After five hours of beating my head on the problem, I simply moved the data drives to the new system – and did a clean install on a fresh boot drive.  The old server continued to host on the old system drive using the external fan to keep the CPU cool.

Yesterday I turned off the old server.  Here are a few URLs that I found helpful in the migration:

As I host a number of wordpress blogs here migrating them required a database backup / restore.  I simply copied over the /var/www directory data instead of re-installing the blog software itself.


mysqldump --add-drop-table -h localhost -u sql_username \
--password=sql_passwd sql_database_name > blog.bak.sql

Create DB on new host:

$ mysql -u root -p

mysql> CREATE DATABASE sql_database_name;

mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON sql_database_name.* TO “sql_username”@”localhost”
-> IDENTIFIED BY “sql_passwd”;


mysql> exit


mysql -h localhost -u sql_username  -p sql_database_name < blog.bak.sql

Well, if you’re still hanging in there – let’s talk about power consumption.  I borrowed Trent’s Kill-A-Watt meter and did some measuring.  My home desktop machine draws around 150Watts, and up to 200Watts of power when loaded (and using the CD drive).  The old server machine used 2W in standby, 120W during boot (loaded) and 112W steady state.  The new machine uses 1W in standby, a peak of 100W at boot (when the drives are spinning up), and 60W steady state.

In conclusion: Server machines need to have monitoring setup to track potential problems (temperature).  Migration of your data is less painful if you keep an install log with notes and links (thank goodness I did one last time).  New hardware usually needs a new software install, don’t fight it.

Exit Review: Nokia 6585

img_0760This post is inspired by Bunnie’s Exit Review of his Blackberry, he also did one for his Thinkpad T60.  The concept is a good one, often our new gadget purchases are based on our personal past experiences as much as they are influenced by our friends and “the latest new thing”.

From the picture above, you can see that its had a hard life.  The paint is rubbing off on the corners, the keypad is starting to show black plastic under the chipped keys and the screen is held on with some scotch tape.  This phone has survived countless high impact falls to the floor, a few to pavement- and a handful that resulted in a yard sale style disassembly upon impact.

This was my 3rd Nokia phone.  When I purchased the 6585 in late 2004 I was switching from a GSM based carrier onto a CDMA carrier, my reasoning here was for improved coverage.  At the time, GSM coverage at my home was spotty (it has improved since).   I was attracted to the form factor (4.17” x 1.77” x 0.80”), and battery life (standby time 6 days).

Via eBay I did pick up the headset (with integrated radio antenna) which served me well.  Both the speaker phone and headset voice quality were such that I could be on a business conference call and people couldn’t tell that I wasn’t on my office phone.  As for extras, there wasn’t much to rave about.  The web browser would quickly drain your battery.  The screen 128×128 resolution and 4096 colours was poor.  The embedded java was only MIDP1.0.  The radio was a neat addition, but I never used it.

This phone does have an IRDA port on it.  This let me synchronize my contacts with a PC with the Nokia PC Suite.  I could also store pictures (low quality due to the display) on the phone to customize it.  This was also the first phone which I did any amount of text messaging with, and found the predictive T9 input to be fairly usable.  I also found the alarm clock to be invaluable when traveling – hotel alarm clocks can be challenging when you’re jet lagged.

I probably would still be using this phone had the battery life not degraded to the point where it needed charging daily to be reliable at all.  It was far too common to hear the sad ‘dee doop’ Nokia low battery sound from my pocket.

While the 6585 didn’t offer a lot of whiz bang features, it did work well as a phone.  The PC connectivity is something I can’t imagine not having now.   My new phone is another Nokia, more on that in a future post.