I decided to go ahead with a whitebox build instead of trying to buy a used server. It was more expensive, but the performance will be a lot better, and by doing a "green" build I will be shaving about $15 a month off the electricity bill. This server should be powerful enough to last 5 - 10 years, so over the lifespan those savings will cover the cost of the box. I really liked @Rootwyrm's Baby Dragon. Chris Wahl did a variation of this that I liked even more. He used a Synology NAS box for all of his storage and populated that with some "green" hard drives for even better power savings. Both of these guys were fiends on noise and wanted to go fanless, but I decided to use a platinum certified power supply (with fan) and put it all in an old 4U server case I had. The case uses 3 wire fans and neither cooling or noise is an issue for me since the rack is in the sub-basement.
I had not upgraded the network since the original install in 2003. Because I have to be able to remotely manage the entire system from China I wanted IPMI on the server, and remote management of the switch, router and NAS. A HP ProCurve 1810G switch replaced the old Catalyst 1650. The old switch had taken a couple of lightening strikes and I had lost almost half the ports. Because of that I knew I needed some beefy protection, so a APC 1500C UPS was added to the rack.
- Intel Xeon E3-1230 “Sandy Bridge” – 3.2GHz, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 8MB
- Supermicro X9SCM-F – Intel C204, Dual GigE, IPMI w/Virtual Media
- 16GB (4 x 4GB) Kingston 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1333
- Lexar Echo ZX 16GB
- Rosewill 450 watt Platinum Certified
That fingernail drive is awesome. There are no hard drives in the server, everything boots off the 16 gig fingernail drive. Installation was smooth using VMWare's Hypervisor 5.0 iso and the UNetBootin utility to prepare the USB drive.
I am still working on getting everything running, and then I will get the VPN setup completed and attempt remote management from the laptop. I struggle with VMWare because I am not Linux fluent, but this is a good opportunity to polish up that skill set.
While looking over the last .NET project I realized my hardware and software on the development server was getting out of date. I would like to upgrade the system, and at the same time really reduce my electricity costs. Virtualization is the way to go since I can run multiple instances and VPN in through the new Cisco router. The router is giving me a hard time, but I should have it figured out in the next few weeks. Any upgrade has to have the costs kept to a minimum so I am looking over several options. There are lots of old Dell PowerEdge 1950's and 2950's on eBay, or I could try and do a whitebox build of some kind. The whitebox would give me a solution with a lot lower electricity costs, but its also riskier than pursuing a certified hardware solution.
- Windows 2008 w/ SQL Server 2012
- Windows 2008 running IIS 7
- Oracle Linux with Oracle 11g Express
Future options might include the ability to run another instance for a Sharepoint server. I have not worked with Sharepoint but it is a skill that is in demand and I would benefit from learning the basics. Licensing is going to be an issue, I can't see paying full price for the MS products, so either I look at their developer editions or I think about a MSDN subscription. All of this, plus a UPS and a gigabyte switch will require some serious planning if I go the whitebox route.
While I am back for the summer I have been looking over a .NET project for my cousin's radio station. At first his provider was using a PHP based solution but they were having problems with their developer who was overseas in the Phillipines. A couple of weeks in they have now switched to a solution from MarketGrabber. They offer a predeveloped classified ad package that already imports directly from the main automotive DMS (dealer management system) providers. It is in .NET but coded primarily in Visual Basic so I have to make the mental switch back from C# but I did VB for quite a few years. I'm not doing that much, just helping his IT guy understand how .NET projects work and some of the coding. It has been fun and I enjoy the spending some time looking at web development projects again.
I finally updated the section of the site that describes the shop. There are lots of new pictures and pages to describe how the shop is setup and the tools I use. I have not had a chance to do a browser check yet, but I hope to get that completed before I leave China.
It has been one week since I arrived back in Beijing. I got rid of my jet lag and put my kitchen back in order. The reverse osmosis unit has been a great addition to the apartment and really cut down on our expenses plus I have safe water. I really did not do much in the way of cooking over the holiday but starting Wednesday we began putting some things together. I will build up momentum over the coming weeks and we will host a few parties.
The sites need a serious revamp and some formatting work. The style sheets holding the Tin Turtle site together are some butchered copies I did from the original BlogEngine install and I need to build new ones from scratch. I didn't notice it as much here when I built the site last year, but when I got back to the U.S. and saw it on my 26" monitor it was painful. And I need to do browser checking, this site was developed in designed for I.E. with no regard for anything else, and with I.E. having less than 50% of the browser market that won't cut it. Mindspear has to be redone too, it hasn't been touched since 2002 and none of the cool projects I worked on in Chicago are even on the site.
The package I put together to practice guitar in China has worked out really, really well. I still have the laptop from 2009 which was a really good unit when new, and honestly still has pretty good performance. I had really thought out how to have a completely portable work station with enough ooomph to do full on development with VS and SQL Server. So when I added on Reason 6 with the Focusrite Saffire 6 pre it worked well. The tone in the Line 6 amp models built into Reason are very good - and I am a hard core tube guy. But they are more than adequate for what I am doing. And it all still fits in one backpack. There are some latency issues with the Focusrite and that seems to be in how the unit attaches to the internal USB hub. Once I have it ironed out I will post how I have this set up and what I am getting in terms of performance.
I've added some thumbnails linked to pics in the Workshop section, but still only thumbs in the Gallery. I can't seem to come up with a solution I like that will allow me to show captions, thumbnails and scale dynamically. And I want something that will not force me to use popups or new pages. I'd like to go with a Silverlight app but I am too lazy to learn it myself, I'd much rather use someone else's code
I have spent some time now working with this project and I am really very impressed. This is the first open-source project I've used that is this complex. The code base is really very complete. There is nothing stopping me from customizing the app in any way that I want. And there are literally thousands of hours in this project. If this was a project for a medium sized corporation I would SWAG it at $350k plus for the initial release, and then you have at least one major update.
Don't get me wrong it has some rough edges, but so far I have not had a functionality failure. My only beef is with the way it displays and does some things. But all of those I can tweak how I want, and honestly other people might not want those changes. Documentation is kinda weak, but not bad and better than many projects I have been on. The rather funny part is I have not went back to the docs one time so far, the comments in the code have been all I needed. How many projects can you say that about?
Its a one or two minute download and free. Amazing.
Tin Turtle is hosted by DiscountASP.NET along with Mindspear Technologies. I've been using them for a while and hosted at least 3 sites for clients with them. They have a great reputation as well as all the latest MS software. I can use Server 2003 along with SQL 2005 and duplicate my development server at home. That is a huge plus because I don't like surprises, and I would like to bring the hosting of those sites back to my server when I get a new firewall.
BlogEngine 2.0 was released on 1/1/2011 and I was still using the 1.6 codebase. I had to pull down the latest release, bring it into VS and then push it up to SourceAnywhere. No big deal, except I am in China. My upload speed is about 16 kbs. When I can maintain the connection. China Telecom DSL... gotta luv it. So I get that out of the way, get the app running locally and decide to ftp up to the host. I know - but I figure I get it up once and then I just have to push up the individual files when I do an update.
It takes about 6 hours.
But it works. And I connect to SQL server instead of writing to those XML files (which always seemed kinda clunky to me). I smile in amazement. I pat myself on the back. Then I decide to setup a simple splash page to redirect to until I can get the real site at least halfway usable. A small tweak to the code behind and I upload my html page and the dll.
This is where I learn about Microsoft and their Web Site versus Web App project. Yes, I know it has been a long time for me. And no - I didn't miss it - at all. In fact I am reminded quite rudely of why I wanted to build furniture. Or guitars, Or amps. Or anything but software. But anyway, the end result is my discovery that BlogEngine 2.0 is a Web Site project, and that means every update will be a full publish of the files. So I click Publish and go to bed.
8 hours later I wake up and its hung. So I start it again. 5 hours later the publish is complete. And then I find out I spelled "splash.html" as "splaxd.html" in the redirect. This is where my Chinese neighbors learn how to say F!@K in a wonderful and eloquent way. Because I repeat the lesson several times. It is important that one use the emphasis correctly.
I knew I had to convert this thing to a web app or give up. That was not going to be fun. Especially as rusty as I am with C#, not to mention VS 2010. But I got really lucky, and what happened made me really appreciate the effort the BlogEngine community puts into supporting this thing. The guys at BE had created a fork with the BE code converted to a web app, and using .NET 4.0.
I pulled it down, rebuilt my projects, updated source and got it to run. Actually fairly quickly, it only took about a day and a half to get everything organized and working. But the best part was my publish times went from 6 hours to about 5 minutes max. Its an incredible improvement. Unfortunately I had to bite the bullet and go to Server 2008 along with .NET 4.0 hosting. So I can no longer go back to using the server at home for either development or hosting. At least not until I can scam/steal/beg/borrow a copy of 2008 from somewhere.
I know, they sound.... cheap. Which they were, but that was the last criteria on my list. I have been using Network Solutions since when there was only Network Solutions. Grumpy old farts like me don't change easily, but it was really more of a stability issue. When ICAAN first opened up domain registration to allow competition there were issues with fly-by-night companies, dispute resolution etc. and it was just safer to stick with Network Solutions. But they have gotten greedy, and some of the marketing tactics with renewals are borderline fraud. I wanted a new registrar for Tin Turtle, and I wanted to roll all my domains over so I could admin from a single place.
Namecheap sounded absolutely horrible, but they have a pretty good reputation. The first year of WhoIsGuard is free, so that was a plus. Everything was finished up today and the rolloevers went without a hitch. No email outage, no site outage... all is good.
I downloaded the standalone version of SourceAnywhere. Its one user free (always per their site) so I put it on the Enterprise 2003 box and it was a quick install. The client went on the workstation fairly smooth and connected without a problem. I went ahead and pulled the unit from the rack and checked the fans, blew out the filters etc so it would be good to go while I am in China. I had probably a day total into getting everything setup. But then the nightmare of bringing in 7+ years of source code from VSS began. First of all, the problem is not with SourceAnywhere. There is only so much they can do when it comes to maintaining the project structure when you bring it over. And to be fair my understanding of VSS 7 years ago was not the same as it was towards the end of the life cycle, so my organization was dubious on the old stuff. But remembering where things were branched, and why, and then trying to make sure I haven't lost something important during the import - it was a pain. I blew away the repository more times then I can count over a period of 3 days. Finally I think I have everything, and I burned it to DVD just in case. I hate it, I've been at it a week and I'm not out in the shop where I want to be. Theres only a few weeks before I have to leave. Christmas went by and I wasn't able to get back to see my family either, so I'm less then happy.