[conspire] cabal

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Mar 23 15:41:53 PDT 2012

Quoting Sean (sean.channel at pacbell.net):

> Isn't AOE or iSCSI good enough? Well..
> I must admit it's awful cute, but not entirely sure where it fits in
> deployment wise....

Well, I can tell you that.  Basically:  ultra-reliable, low power,
quiet, compact Internet server.

Since the late 1980s when I started having my own Unix machines, I've
gotten accustomed to maintaining at least one machine online as a
permanent Internet presence -- at first, on SMTP e-mail and Usenet, and
then on the Web.  At first, that was various forms of on-demand access,
then in the early 1990s I started having a 24x7 presence with fixed IPs
-- which was sort of addictive and had unique advantages, so I've kept
doing it in various ways.  Currently, that's above-average residential
aDSL through Raw Bandwidth Communications.

While doing that, I gradually got used to having basically _all_ of my
substantive computing (except Web browsing) on my server, and accustomed
to working remotely on that server over an ssh tunnel.  This e-mail, and
all e-mail I handle, is being composed on my headless server in Menlo
Park, while I'm physically elsewhere (anywhere).  I use standard console
shell tools, as my preferred computing environment.

I've gone through four generations of boxes serving in that role,
learning what sucks and what doesn't as I went.  

1.  When you have a server in your house, noisy sucks.  My last-but-one
box was in my living room, a 1998 2U rackmount VA Research model 500,
and I gradually realised I was avoiding siting at my desk because of the

The current one is much quieter, because I replaced its crappo stock fans
with Cooler Master ones, but it could be better.

2.  Heat-buildup sucks, because it kills electronics and requires more
ventilation which causes more noise.  A hard drive failure at my old
house was probably caused by partial fan blockage by dust and household
obstacles put carelessly in the way.

3.  Gobbling AC power sucks.  Maybe data centres have sweetheart deals
with PG&E, but I definitely don't.  Mail thread including estimated 
monthly power cost of the current server, a 2001-era VA Linux Systems
2230 2U with 3x SCSI HDs:


Power draw of the unit's probably closer to 100W than 200W, but PG&E
hit's probably still around $30/month.  That's just pure dead loss out
of my pocketbook, if the same job can be done with more-thrifty hardware
-- and it can.

Moreover, every extra watt drawn from the wall is another watt of heat
generated, which stresses the electronics and heats up my place in the
summer.  Unlike a data centre, my house isn't equipped to pump heat out.
(If it were, that'd be just more dead loss of money.)

That explains why low-power and quiet matter to me.  Why ultra-reliable?
Because I get hassled by other people's problems all day long at work,
and don't have time to be hassled by mediocre gear at home.  My server
has to survive and thrive with benign neglect.  Thus, no-bullshit good
components only.  Thus, no overly elaborate storage arrays; just a nice,
reliable RAID1 pair, thanks.  And all I need for that is two eSATA

And 'compact'?  Eh, it's mostly just nice to be able to stow a working
computer somewhere unobtrusive and not overwhelm a room with it.

For those purposes, I just don't need AOE, iSCSI, etc. -- although if I
need expansion storage for some purpose, it's nice to have both USB2 and
a couple of micro-PCIE slots.  And network connections?  100Mbps would
be perfectly fine; it's mostly talking out over aDSL, after all.

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