Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Very Nice Linux Desktop System

The requirements were for a system to run Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop, standard applications, and no gaming.  The system needed to have plenty of processing power, scale if necessary, and be easily upgraded.  The system was also going to be a development host and network storage server.  After digging around a bit I decided on the hardware below.  Total cost was below $800.

Motherboard = Asus ATX DDR3 2400 Socket P Motherboards A88X-PRO

CPU = AMD Quad-Core A8-Series APU A8-6600K with Radeon HD 8570D

Power Supply = Rosewill CAPSTONE Series 450W 80 Plus Gold Certified Modular

Memory = Kingston Technology HyperX 8 GB (2x4 GB Modules) 1600 MHz DDR3 Dual Channel

CD/DVD = Asus 24x DVD-RW Serial-ATA Internal OEM Optical Drive DRW-24B1ST (Black)

Hard Drive = 2ea WD Blue 1 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, 7200 RPM, SATA 6 Gb/s

Case = Fractal Arc Midi R2w/side window

Monitor = Asus VS248H-P 24-Inch Full-HD LED Monitor

Keyboard/Mouse = Logitech Wireless Combo Mk520 With Keyboard and Laser Mouse

The Fractal Arc Midi R2 case is very nice.  It comes with 3-140mm fans that are very quiet and keep things well ventilated.  All necessary hardware comes with the case and both side panels come off easily making building the system pretty easy.

The Rosewill modular power supply cut down on the cable volume

Build time was about 1 hour.

Here's the final build before putting on the cover.

This system runs Ubuntu 12.04 and the graphics are very nice.  There's enough resources so the desktop user doesn't notice any other demands on the system like backups.

I thought about springing for SSD drives but the two SATA drives are so fast I don't think I would notice any speed increase except possibly on boot which occurs rarely.  For the price this system has impressive performance.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Moab Dust Bowl

I took this picture on 10/28/2013 from Sand Flats on a day when the wind was blowing out of the SE around 15 mph with gusts over 20 mph.  Looks pretty dusty to me.

My wife and I moved to Moab in 2007.  When the wind blew there wasn't noticeable dust, but over the last few years the blowing dust keeps getting worse.  The more the south end of Moab Valley is developed the worse the dust is when the wind blows.  What's in the picture above is pretty tame compared to a day with wind over 30 mph when dust can make the air very dirty.  I think the increase in blowing dust lowers the quality of life here and it is only going to get worse.

The unfortunate thing for continued development around Moab is the soil is very sensitive to disturbance.  This paper is one of many on the effect of soil disturbance on arid and semi-arid soil.  One of the visible effects of more disturbance is more blowing dust.

Moab has a bit of a conundrum.  The quality of the environment is what brings tourists to Moab and much of the development in the Moab Valley is damaging the environment.  At some point environmental degradation will drive tourists elsewhere.  With tourism being ~75% of the area's gross domestic product there is a lot at risk.  It will be interesting to see how much more development it will take to tip the scale.

Monday, August 12, 2013

CrashPlan is a Fantastic OS X Backup Solution

For the last few years I have been trying to find a place to stash my 90GB of photos and videos online without much success.  Backing up to an external drive is fine unless something happens like a house fire, robbery, or natural disaster.  Then everything can easily be lost.  As a former UNIX Systems Engineer with extensive data retention experience I think about things like that and wanted a simple solution.

My requirements were simple: cost no more that $5/month, fast upload speeds, no throttling, solid security, and no frills.  I tried a variety of services and didn't find them satisfactory because of one or all of the following: cost, upload time, and/or repeated upload failures...until I tried CrashPlan.  I was able to upload all 90GB of my files in two days without one restart!  The cost per month for the one year plan is $5 and they state no bandwidth throttling.  The backup application for OS X installs easily, has a small resource footprint, simple configuration, and just works.  Restoration of files is simple via the client application.

One thing I didn't care for much with Google Drive and DropBox was the need for a separate directory for items to be included in the backup set.  This was OK with Dropbox using symbolic links to keep my current directory structure.  Google Drive does not support symbolic links which means everything in your backup set must go in the Google Drive directory.  CrashPlan's client just backs up what you specify.  This was a big plus for me.

Until I tried CrashPlan my favorites were Google Drive and DropBox.  I ended up rejecting Google Drive because of repeated backup failures and Dropbox because of the $10/month cost.  Dropbox is a superb feature rich service but the additional features aren't worth an extra $5/month to me.

One thing that is easy to take for granted is restoring data so I restored some random files with no issues.

Bottom line...if you have data you care about try backing it up to CrashPlan.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to turn a Mac Running OS X 10.8.4 into a Caching Nameserver

I found that I wasn't happy with DNS response times so I decided to turn my MacBook Pro into a caching nameserver. So far it runs DNS queries very quickly and has a very small system resources footprint.

If you want to know what a caching name server is read this

Turning a Mac running OS X 10.8.4 into a caching nameserver is simple using the following steps. If you are not running OS X 10.8.4 this may not be for you.

1- Using terminal run the following command to verify the Bind Nameserver is installed on your system:

ls -l /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.isc.named.plist

If org.isc.named.plist is not in the /System/Library directory you may need to install Bind on your system. If the file is there move on to the next steps.

2- Now setup the /etc/rndc.conf and /etc/rndc.key files.
sudo rndc-confgen -b 256 > /etc/rndc.conf
  sudo head -n5 /etc/rndc.conf | tail -n4 > /etc/rndc.key  

3- Now make sure both named.conf and rndc.conf show named running on the same port.  grep port /etc/named.conf  grep port /etc/rndc.conf  If they aren't running on the same port edit both files using your favorite text editor and change the port numbers so they are the same.  I am running on the traditional port 53.  

4- Now setup Bind to run on startup with a single command. 

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.isc.named.plist 

Note: When you run this command a window should pop up asking 
you if you want to allow access to this service through the firewall. 
Your answer should be "don't allow" unless you are running a server.

5- Your caching nameserver should now be running.  

6- The last step is to change your DNS servers in System Preferences to point to  Go to System Preferences -> Network and change your active interface/s to using the caching nameserver.  

7- Now you are done.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not scuba diving any longer...and a site change...

After over 2000 dives since 1971 my scuba diving days came to an end in 2005 with an ear injury. I moved all of my underwater photos to my Picasa site which you can also reach via the Photo Albums link to the right. The other links I had on my previous site are still there except for the UW Photo and Diving Links page.