Comicraft’s New Years Day Font Sale

Comicraft is also known as Comic Book Fonts and sells some great fonts throughout the year. Every New years Day they sell all their fonts for the price of the year in pennies. So this year their fonts will be $20.11 each. This includes their $395 font Comicrazy. But it also includes their $19 fonts.

So you may want to head out and download their catalog (pdf link) to be prepared (their website won’t display regular prices on New Years Day.

The OS Quest Trail Log #57: Year End Party Edition

Santa’s finished his deliveries and is tipping back a few. Time for me to wrap things up for the year and get ready for the next one. Not much has changed since the last trail log but I figured it was as good as time as any to wrap things up.

Power Upgrades

It’s still in the box, but I did get a new UPS after my recent power problems. I bought the CyberPower CP685AVRLCD Intelligent LCD Green UPS which I’ll use for my Mac Mini with attached Drobo. Because of it’s location I wanted one with the outlets facing up. I also like the LED readouts to show capacity, load and other stats. This model also has line conditioning so the UPS will compensate for variations in power quality. I’ve had good luck with the reasonably priced CyberPower brand so stuck with it. Like I said, it’s still in the box but the ups does support Macs. The weather report is for lots of snow here on the east coast so I should probably hook it up as soon as I post this.

Wireless Upgrades

I’ve been having problems with the wireless bridge I use to connect to my workbench. The problem is the PC’s on the workbench side of the bridge frequently fail to renew their DHCP address so lose network connectivity. I say fail to renew because when I turn the PC on it gets an address and connects. Sometime later it will lose the address, I’m assuming it’s related to the renewal but maybe not. Happens on every PC I used and the address typically drops after I’m away from the PC for some time.

Two things happened shortly before I noticed this problem. The first was my power problems, and the wireless bridge is not UPS protected. The second, and my personal pick as the cause, is I changed up my network configuration and added a new router. This takes the Netgear router that connects to the bridge out of the loop as a connection to my WAN and as my DHCP server.

So I’ll be ditching the Netgear router and will try out a couple D-Link DAP-1522 Xtreme Wireless Bridge/Access Point. Hopefully I’ll get some time to set these up before the new year.

Ubuntu Home Server

My Ubuntu Home Server is still chugging along and serving files as quick as I consume them. The RAID has been stable and the server has been stable so I’ll start looking to expand it’s use beyond serving files. First step will be to install Apache and the other assorted software to set up a test server for myself.

I’ll also need to start researching setting up remote access, although this will primarily be a dynamic DNS problem. Since there’s no GUI all my connections will be via SFTP or SSH. I may consider making the web server available from outside my house, but the potential security issues has me concerned. My gut reaction is it won’t be worth the hassle.

Windows Home Server

I shut down my Windows Home Server when I went away for Christmas, and when I powered it up one drive came up as missing. I think this is a return of my motherboard SATA port problem and not a real bad hard drive. I had re-used the ports to try and add space cheaply. They tested well, so I hoped the cleaning and reseating resolved the problems. At this point, duplication is not turned on for anything on the server.

Since the Windows Home Server is now used exclusively to backup files (and PCs) I simply went through the drive removal process and ran the backup database repair. The lost files were recovered when I ran the backup again.

As for the PC backups, they were all lost according to the consistency check. Not a major problems for me since it’s not a primary data backup for me.

On Tap

Since looking ahead seems to be the thing to do this time of year I’ll do the same.

This past year saw a lot of PC builds. Not so many in the year ahead. Maybe some minor upgrades but all the major bases should be covered. I still haven’t decided what to do in the living room. I’ll want to get video to my TV in some way, I might build a HTPC to handle the task.

I’ll keep looking into a new Home Server. I think the Ubuntu Home Server will be the best choice for me, if not for most other WHS v1  users. But that tends to fit in with what I’m itching to work on in 2011. Web development, design & programming. It’s been a long time since I did any programming for fun and I’m hoping to use some web projects to get back into it. We’ll see.

Happy New Year

I might still have one more article in me before the year ends, but I suspect this will be it. So have a happy new year.

Links: Tech Links for Saturday Dec 18th

Tile for posts in the Links category

Tile for posts in the Links category

There was news this week that Yahoo would be slimming down, both in people and products. On the product side only the Delicious announcement caused me to perk up. I use Delicious pretty extensively. Later there was a Delicious blog post saying that Delicious would live on outside of Yahoo, although details were lacking. Lifehacker, among others, posted alternatives to Delicious along with how to export the bookmarks. A lot of my Delicious bookmarks are cruft that I no longer need. Guess it’s time to clean them up, no matter what I do.

Dropbox left long-term beta and released Dropbox 1.0 (actually now 1.0.10). I found that my Dropbox client was still on version 0.7.110, which is pretty old. I downloaded and installed the latest version from the Dropbox website.

FlexRAID has been getting a lot of attention as a drive extender replacement for Windows Home Server v2. MSWHS has summary of why FlexRAID seems promising. I’m still heading down the Ubuntu Home Server path myself. In a couple months we should have a better idea of Microsoft’s commitment and plans for Vail.

Scott Hanselman has first hand experience as to why it’s so important to have a backup & recovery strategy.

I’m still trying to decide how to get media to my TV so I was happy to see Ars published their HTPC guide. Lifehacker’s popularity contest for Personal Media Streaming tools also provides a list of software for me to look at.

As someone who uses both Mac and Windows PCs and Ubuntu on servers it was interesting to read Harry McCracken’s Confessions of an Operating-System Agnostic.

Saved by The UPS

Fixing the power lines

Fixing the power linesEvery time I buy a UPS I cringe at the expense, yet I do it and have my servers and main PCs hooked up to a UPS with the shutdown software installed. I just bought one for my new server build. I was going to use the one from my WHS box but decided both would be online long enough to give the new hardware it’s own UPS. In my mind I justify the expense since it provides protection to the computers. I didn’t want the nice new hardware to take a power hit and I didn’t want to remove a UPS from my still production (at the time) Windows Home Server. So I dug into the wallet and bought a UPS for it. Tonight that decision was validated.

I like the CyberPower UPS’s as they’ve worked well for me and have them my two server boxes and my main Windows’s PC.  Although my Mac Mini has a older APC UPS. I’m not a fan of the APC consumer UPS models even though they’re widely available. They seem overpriced compared to the competition. In this case the UPS doesn’t communicate to the Mac since it’s a older model with just a serial connection.

My three main boxes, My Windows 7 PC, my Windows Home Server and my new Ubuntu Home Server all have CyberPower UPS’s set up to communicate to software on the server through USB.

While nothing was damaged, tonight’s power problems had potential to cause havoc. Depending on which report I believe either a nearby power line or transformer blew. Power went out, then came back, then went out again for several hours. Then when it started coming back it came and went at least three times.

Lesson’s Learned

I was home so I was able to shut down the Mac Mini while it was still on UPS. If I wasn’t home it would have just died when the UPS ran out of juice. I should probably get a UPS capable of shutting it down. But since I don’t usually leave apps running on it when I’m out I’ll probably put it off.

As I was building my Ubuntu Home Server I made it a point to find the Linux software for the UPS and install it. It wasn’t something I thought of until I realized I was copying gigabytes of data to it.

I hadn’t tested it beyond making sure the software could see the UPS and put off a test while the RAID array was building and I was copying files. Then I never did test it. But it worked fine in tonight’s live event.

The server software initiated the shutdown after a minute of no power which I knew it would do and considered changing the the default. I should probably lengthen that since there was some file copies going on. Since I was home I could have ended the file copies in an orderly fashion but didn’t have time.

One of the reasons I didn’t have time was that the monitors weren’t in the battery powered UPS ports so I had to find the cables and plug them into the battery powered ports. The theory was that the UPS would last longer. Nice theory and technically true. But if I’m not home the monitors are asleep so have little power draw, and if I am home I want them. By the time I got the monitor power for the Mac Mini everything else had shut down.

Another problem was power to the switches and modems. I do have a UPS shared by my cable modem, switches and and older Mac Mini sitting nearby. Unfortunately that’s too many plugs for the battery backup outlets and I’ve made no attempt to keep hubs/switches powered. So I immediately lost connectivity between my computers. It’s not all that complicated and I‘ll need to spend some time making sure the switches have some battery backup. I’d like to keep the cable modem on battery for continuity in the event of short outages but I probably don’t have the outlets to do it.

The old iMac in my bedroom doesn’t have a UPS since it’s used as a entertainment computer and off much of the time. I should probably buy a new UPS for my Mac Mini like I mentioned, and then move the old APC unit to the iMac. At least that will provide some protection against sudden outages or surges. But it seems to have survived this round.

So I feel I got my money’s worth but I need to keep better tabs on my setup as the UPS’s need to do more than an orderly shutdown. But it was good to see the three UPS’s configured to shut down a box worked as intended. Actually, my Windows 7 PC was told to hibernate which saved work in progress. The Ubuntu Server and Windows Home Server V1 shut down.

The only thing I lost were the veggies for dinner as they were half cooked in the Microwave when power went out. No great loss, replaced by oatmeal cookies.

Do you use a UPS?

The OS Quest Trail Log #56: Decisions, Decisions Edition

A winter sceneNovember was a busy month on the Quest, not all of it stuff I would have wanted to do or expected, but it’s turning out OK. That’s not a recent picture, but we did have our first dusting of snow this month.

I’ve completed a couple of system builds. There was my new home server (more on that later). I’ve discussed the CPU and motherboard I picked for the build, but my PC upgrades turned into a complete system build as everything was replaced except for the Velociraptor drive. But even that was demoted as my system drive.

In both the server build and the PC build I decided to go with quality and value over a budget build. My definition of value doesn’t mean the parts were the cheapest out there, just that I thought I got my money’s worth.

But the new server build, coupled with Microsoft’s killing off drive extender has forced some additional decisions on me. I moved everything back to my Windows Home Server v1 box right after the announcement.

I tacked a couple days onto the Thanksgiving holiday and since you couldn’t pay me to go near a retail outlet I had time to dig into an alternative. There’s no particular rush, just my own impatience to use my shiny new server.

After considering some alternatives I spent most of my time off setting up and breaking Ubuntu on my new server hardware. In short, it seems like a good solution and I’ve since moved all my file storage over to the new hardware. I’m using Samba to share out the files to my Windows & Mac clients.

Seems to be working for me so far, but I’m hedging my bets by copying everything over to my Windows Home Server box every night so it will be relatively easy to move back. I’m still using the WHS for backups and since I’m copying everything there anyway I’m still using KeepVault for some of my offsite backup.

Now that HP has dropped WHS from their product line I’m even more concerned about the future of WHS. I’ve been considering keeping a small WHS box to handle PC backups and anything else that seems better suited for WHS rather than Linux. I don’t think the HP announcement was triggered by Microsoft’ dropping drive extender. It seems more reasonable that WHS just isn’t generating the business to warrant the investment. Other companies have said that they’ll continue WHS support, but at least here in the U.S. HP has had the only WHS I’ve ever seen promoted outside a website dedicated to WHS.

ISPs and Caps

Comcast Banwidth Usage Nov 2010With some of my backup changes and testing this month my web usage skyrocketed and I approached my 250GB Comcast cap, closing to within 8GB at month’s end.

This caused me to look at alternatives. Which, in this part of the world means AT&T. Even if I go with another DSL vendor it’s still over AT&T wires. Cable is faster, especially up stream speeds which are important to me, so I’m not looking to switch. Rather, I’m looking to go with redundant connection to share the load. Even though this months usage was an anomaly, redundancy isn’t a bad idea since the internet is important to me these days since I work from home a lot to save a two hour round-trip commute. Also, Comcast’s recent problems (which didn’t affect me, maybe because I don’t use Comcast DNS) help make the case for redundancy.

So I decided to go for it and placed an order with AT&T and it went live last night. I’m planning to cut Comcast back to a cheaper plan to absorb the DSL costs. The AT&T price is a promotion for one year so I’ll have to reconsider the benefits in a year.

My typical usage is about 110GB/mth (although it’s been steadily increasing) and I backed up at least another 110GB in November that I normally wouldn’t have since I migrated much of my data to the Vail server which sent everything offsite again. Of course, that Vail box is now shut down and the data will be backed up yet again when I move things over to whatever comes next.

And this month, with a another server move (at least as far as the software is concerned) I’ll be backing all that 110GB up again. I’m funneling the data through the slower DSL connection but it keeps the faster Comcast connection available for everything else.

Drobo

Drobo Rebuild StatusDrobo is often mentioned as a replacement for Windows Home Server as far as drive extender goes. I’m not a fan of Drobo. The one I have is a solid, if unspectacular performer. I had performance issues early on and was not impressed by Data Robotic’s attitude (at least public) that all of us experiencing performance issues were an anomaly. Yet each firmware upgrade brought better performance with no changes on my end. Copying a large number of small files has always been worse than any other drive/array I’ve ever used until the latest firmware upgrade. Now even that is better.

But one issue remains. Yesterday I popped a drive out and replaced it with a larger drive. This is a main benefit of the Drobo, stupid easy drive replacement. The downside is an extremely long rebuild. The rebuild is 24 hours in and it estimates another 35 hours remain. In the past I’ve always copied files off and reformatted as the quicker way to do this. But I decided to let this run and see how it goes. The drive is still usable and the rebuild time isn’t really any worse than other consumer level RAID options.