Saturday, May 22, 2010

Computer Updates

For the last few days I have not done much HAM Shack or Homebrew work. My computers have taken most of my spare time, updating the Operating Systems to newer releases.

My "Direct Laser Print to PCB" project is temporary on hold, awaiting a new strategy or idea.

As a Computer Consultant I have several (more than I should need) Home/Office/Shop computers that I use:
  • A Production File and Print Server - Big and slow
  • My Workstation - A High Speed Machine
  • My Laptop
  • A Backup Server - Multi Tera Bytes of Storage
  • A Local Web Server
  • A Shop PlasmaCAM (CNC) Computer - an MS OS, darn.
  • A HAM Radio Computer - QRSS and PCB Design
  • A Remote Web Server - 30m QRSS Grabber, WSPR Radio Server
  • A Boathouse Server - Network and File Server
Except the Shop CNC Computer, all of the systems have always had some form of Linux installed, Red Hat, Fedora, or Ubuntu, etc.

During the last few years I have been slowly moving to Ubuntu on each of them. But due to many factors, even the same revision of Ubuntu has NOT been installed on each.  I am now trying to fix this with the new release of Ubuntu 10.04.

Over the last 30 years while working with the UNIX OS as a profession and with this many Home/Office/Shop systems, I have learned many things that help avoid system-admin-madness.

Here are a few strategies that I use:
  • Avoid customizing the Operating System directly. Use appending files with your modifications.
  • Install additional Data Disks for most of your "user storage" space. The OS disk should contain only the OS stuff.
  • For performance, use a local "DNS Caching Service", use a program called "dnsmasq
  • Each day, backup most user data into a locally created "/Attic" directory, on a separate disk, mounted on the local machine, allowing for multiple date stamped copies - disks are cheap.
  • Backup all important data to another system, devise a way to have multiple date stamped copies on-line (i.e., my backup server). I do not use tape, again, disks are cheap.
  • Create a special local area that is NOT backed up for on-line copies of CD's (I call it: /Depot/@CDs/), CD's and/or most downloads should not need to be backed up. In my backup scheme, any directory name starting with an "@" are purposely NOT backed up.
  • Use "ssh" to work on other systems from a central workstation.
  • Customize the command prompt to include the "system name", this helps avoid executing a command on the wrong computer.
  • Ubuntu supports an easy to implement "apt-cache-ng" server for local copies of system updates, so that each system is not required to obtain same from across the Internet from a remote Internet resource. To implement, it is only a one line statement in the "/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/01proxy" file.
  • Use "rsync -a" to backup directories, locally or onto a remote system.
  • And, etc,  etc .  .  .
Many years of experience has created a much longer list, but you get the idea, for now this will do.

More work is to be done before each of my systems are brought up-to-date - but, I am still working on it!

Tess is not liking this effort, I have not taken time to play with her, she keeps bringing me her ball for me to throw down the stairs from the loft. She loves to chase and return it. Very seldom does she get more than about 30 feet from my side. She is a great joy!


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