Linux Advice

I’ve just started this super-nerdy project and I need some advice from my more linux-literate friends.

I’m taking a 7U chassis from work that can hold 4 slot-mounted computers (plugged into a backplane), and starting with two computers I’m going to populate the thing.

7U - 4 Computer Chassis

Here is what I need help with.

I want to start with one system being a workstation for people to use when they are over at my house. For this system I was thinking of using Ubuntu (in fact I’ve already installed it and it is working pretty well). But I need to know what other people who have tried out some systems think. Like Ubuntu vs. Fedora Core 4 (or 5 when it is out of beta, which looks pretty cool) or that new mandrake thing. Also, I’m looking for this to be easy to use for non-nerds, it needs to run an office suite, and so far OpenOffice looks like the best. But I want to be able to get at it, so I need to get an SSH server going on it, and some fun stuff.

The second one, is the more interesting bit. I want to run it as a gateway server / domain controller. I was thinking of experimenting with Samba 4 (but maybe not since it is super new). I was thinking after I get this working it could replace my router. And, I want this to serve as a file-server as well for my house. And, it would be good to have this running a web server with Ruby and subversion so I can do some project work on it. (Do I need to run X’s server on that so I can forward windows to the workstation box when I’m programming on it?) So I’m thinking I need to learn how to set up BIND, DHCP, Samba, Samba, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Ruby on Rails, FastCGI, etc. It might also be nice to get my wireless using that as the back-end for authenticating to my network. that way I could have a “Guest” account you just have to know the password for, and not have to go look up that stupid hex passphrase on my router every time someone new comes over with their laptop.

I have no idea what distro to use for this part. I just know I’m not clueless, but I’m not good with Linux either. So please send me opinions, ideas, documentation, etc, that might help me out.

I’m counting on my fellow geek friends out there, cuz I have no idea which direction to turn to in the vast see of Linux/BSD distros. (Can too many choices be a bad thing?)

When I get two more Single-Board-Computers I’m going to probably make a second server and start dividing up tasks (maybe run Zimbra as an email server on it again, since I toasted that server for parts the other day), and an asterisks box, so I can ge the cool VOIP action going.

In other news, Kyle and Ellen are going to be here this weekend, and Saturday Lauren is having a girls night, and I’m taking Kyle out to do something fun that is still TBD. So if you are a girl stop by my house on Saturday for good girly time, and if you are a guy give me a ring and I’ll tell you where we end up going.

Installing Linux

Since no one seemed really interested in my Computers 101 idea from before, I’m just going to go ahead working on my project in my spare time.

But, Josh 3 seemed interested in taking a look at how Linux installs and what-not, so tonight I’m planning on using a little of my free time to run through a setup and install of Ubuntu Linux.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to play around with Linux, and see how it looks, and installs, or anything like that, without the hassle of messing with your own computer, come on by.

I’m thinking around 7 I’ll start working on things, getting hardware ready to roll and what-not. If your interested come by around then.

Get paid to blog?

I applied for Googles Adsense program yesterday, got accepted, and now I’m in the process of augmenting my WordPress theme to add Googles little text-only adds to the sidbar of my page.

Hopefully at some point this will provide returns, and I will actually make a few bucks for blogging.

But, to optimize the money I’m getting, I need to post more content that gains attention on search engines.

So, one way to do that I think is to add more technical stuff. By that I mean write down what I’m doing in my side projects in a more technical manner (and hide them behind an LJ-cut on the Livejournal version). Open up the source to some things I’m doing, including some work stuff that I’ve been up to in VBA (It isn’t anything too special or proprietary, so that is probably OK). Also, I’ve been thinking about some fun electronics projects to do, one of which is a personal audio amplifier for headphones based on a board I can get for cheap at work. Another is a linux project I want to throw together, which would involve setting up Samba as a primary domain controller, and then using the login credentials to also work with a wireless access point which would use WPA2 with Radius passthrough as the encryption method. This box would also be a small-scale file server.

Besides that does anyone have any good ideas for “How-to’s”, “FAQ’s”, or product reviews I could write about technical stuff that you haven’t seen a good guide for online already?

I’m open for ideas…let me know what you think.

Wanna Learn About Computers?

I have parts laying around for somewhere from 2 to 4 computers at my house right now, and as soon as I get a case from a guy at work I’m going to build them up.

I was wondering if it would remotely interest anyone if I turned that into a little info session. I could go over some basics about hardware, proper grounding for working in computers, and things like that, and then maybe walk through an installation of Windows or Linux. It could be a really hands-on kind of thing, very lab-like.

If no one is interested I’m just going to make it a weekend project for myself. But I figured since the sum total of these parts value isn’t more than a couple hundred dollars it might be a good way to get your feet wet with computers if your a person who has wanted to, but has always been a little afraid of making expensive mistakes.

Anyway, leave some feedback, and if there is enough interest I’ll set a formal date and time for this to go down at my place. (That date will be after I finish helping set up sound and tech stuff at church though)

A Little Batch File Help

I’m writing a batchfile, and I can’t seem to get it to do exactly what I want.

I’m taking a directory of files, and running all the .wav files through LAME and spitting out mp3’s with the correct encoding settings. I’m only writing the batch file because stupid winLame stopped giving me options to control all the bit-rate, and sample frequency settings.

Anyway, here is the stuff:

For %%a in (*.wav) DO lame -m m –cbr -b 32 -s 22.05 –add-id3v2 –tt “%%a” –ta “Jeff Heidkamp” –tl “Mercy Vineyard Church” “%%a” “%%a.mp3”

in this the %%a is the filename, and when I spit out a sermon in mp3 the filename ends up sermonName.wav.mp3 All I really need to know is how to strip the file extension from that variable name.

Anyone ever done something like this…I’m finding batch file programming scarce these days.

Turning over to the Darkside

Yes, With the annoucement of the MacBook Pro I am contimplating turning over to the dark side of the PC Universe.

I’m mean, it is just so sexy, and I can dual-boot windows or OS X or any flavor of X86 linux I want.

On a more serious note, I just want to run down some technical reasons on why this is probably the best laptop announced over the last two weeks (and there were many many laptops announced).

Intel’s new Core Duo is a great processor. Two cores, so essentially two processors, running on one system, which means you can process about twice as much information at one time. There are limitations on how effective this is at improving your preception of the performance increase, but for the most part, it is definitely going to improve your speed vs. other single-core processors. Also, this thing gets amazing battery life out of laptops for how much horsepower it packs.

EFI instead of BIOS…this is technical, but I think it is an important step. BIOS is what is called a ‘legacy’ technology. BIOS is your Basic Input-Output System, which lets the hardware talk to the software. It is what loads when your screen is black and runs that memory check. EFI, or Extensible Firmware Interface replaces that for something much more flexible, and up-to-date.
This means you could build in a media player that ran without booting the whole computer more simply than they do it currently. Also, something to note, Windows Vista supports booting from EFI, while XP does not (XP 64 bit edition does, but core duo is not eAMD64 compatible)….fortunately, I’m a beta tester for Vista, so if I buy a MacBook I can easily set up a dual-boot enviornment…..mwahahah

But, why dual boot (which means pick one opperating system or another during boot-up) when I can have BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!

Thats right kiddies, Microsoft, Intel, and AMD are all working together to provide us with what is called Virtualization Technology (VT). This VT stuff allows us to seperate our hardware into individual ‘Virtual’ systems with no loss of speed. That means if you have a dual core processor, you could virtually seperate one core from the other to be running one OS on once core, and the other OS on another. The only hiccup is that the OS has to support this. Windows Vista does (or will), but I don’t know if OS X is going to. I”m sure some Linux’s will, but honestly I’m only interested in OS X because it is essentially a version of BSD that has a working DVD player and laptop power-saving modes.

Now, I have one other thing to point out about VT that some of my tech friends probably don’t know about since I found out at an MS seminar and haven’t heard of it before or since.

VT allows even more seperation of hardware, to the point that the OS can detect failures of components in systems, and shut down just those parts without messing up the rest of the system.

The example I found the most interesting that MS told me about was this. You have a server with multiple processors. One processor blows. The OS detects it, stops using it, and informs you it is fried. You tell the OS to electrically turn it off. Then, while the system is still running you take off the heatsink, remove the processor, replace it, and tell the OS there is a new one in and to start using it again. It takes off without a hitch…no shutting down or rebooting. (This scenario scares the piss out of me because I drop screws a lot while working on computers, but it is cool)

My understanding is that this can work with PCIe, PCI, AGP, RAM, and all kinds of other stuff, and the MacBook supports it.

Also, the Macbook has a widescreen, is under 6lbs, and uses expresscard (replacement for PCMCIA…but not backwards compatible), has wireless….hopefully mini-pci based so I can upgrade when 802.11n comes out in 2007… and it has bluetooth, built-in camera for video chat, dvd/rw and all that jazz.

Now, when the memron core version of core duo comes out, and they add firewire 800, I think you will have the best laptop in existance. I may have to purchase a new laptop in 2006…and it might not be one I put together myself.

I’m a traitor…it is OK to tell me so.

Help with setting up a mail server

I’ll spare the non-technical types, and just beg for help from people better than me with Linux.


So, I’m working on setting up this Zimbra email server. It is some sweet stuff, but you can read about that in my other posts.

here is the setup. I have this server sitting behind my router. I have all the ports forwarded that the server will use (according to zimbra’s documentation).

I have the hostname set to ‘zimbra’ for server, and I have the domain set up as bigcat.kicks-ass.org

This a dynamic dns (www.dyndns.com) address, and I’m using a windows updater on my desktop, to make sure it is set correctly.

in my hosts file (/etc/hosts) I have two entries
127.0.0.1 localhost.localdomain localhost
192.168.2.18 zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org zimbra

Do I need to do anything else. I’ve no idea if BIND is set up on this thing, if it is I didn’t do it, and I haven’t changed any mx records, nor do I have any idea how to change mx records.

My guess with this problem is that while bigcat.kicks-ass.org is resolving to the correct ip, and forwarded to an internal port on the server, once it gets inside of my router it is bouncing around looking for a domain called ‘zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org’. In the administrators console for my server it is showing the domain as ‘zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org’. So I think I need to set up an mx record that says something like;
bigcat.kicks-ass.org 10 zimbra.bigcat.kicks-ass.org

Is that sound correct?

Help would be appreciated.

Oh yes, and GO BEARS!!!!! According to Seth, Rex Grossman is the touchdown Jesus. I had to agree with him. I think the bears have found their new starting quarterback who will get us some decent points.

Zimbra improvements

I spent some time over the last week or so checking out the forums on Zimbra’s website, trying to iron out some kinks that were preventing a few of the components from starting up.

Well yesterday I fixed the last one, and this thing started to fire on all cylinders…or at least it wanted to fire on all cylinders.

I got every service up and running, but the extra load those missing services created pushed the computer into crap-ola land. It totally choked the thing. And, more searching on the zimbra website found that the minimum requirements were 512 megs of ram, I had 64. 8 times less than what is required. But I also found that 256 works OK for a test box.

Well, Rob from work knows this place up north of the cities that does computer recycling. Nothing is guaranteed, but everything is 5 bucks.

I picked up a grand total of 640 megs of ram, and two pentium 3 processors (one 866 MHz, and one 800 MHz) for 30 dollars. One stick of RAM didn’t work, and I haven’t tested one of the processors, but I suspect that will be OK.

So, Zimbra started without a hitch first time, loads much more quickly, and the web interface is going great. Now I just need to get it to send mail 🙂

The good news is I have enough hardware to setting up a second server either as a router / domain controller / file server, or I could start working on that asterisk box I was thinking about getting going.