OS Quest Trail Log #61: Long Weekend Edition

Here in the States we have a nice 3 day weekend thanks to the Independence Day holiday. I took advantage of the time to move this site back to it’s original, but now upgraded, web server. It had been running on a second server for about a month while I did the upgrades. I ended up going with an entire site redesign rather than just tweaking the old design to work with the changes. That was mainly because those “tweaks” were looking like more work than expected so I took the opportunity to change things up. Since the new design has been active for less than a day I’ll hold off on any details until the dust settles. If you notice any problems or have any suggestion feel free to leave a comment. But it wasn’t all about the website in June…

Windows Home Server 2011

On the Windows Home Server front I ended up doing a Windows Home Server 2011 restore rather than rebuild the RAID array. That went well. Even so, I ended up moving my Windows Home Server to a new HP MicroServer. I’ve been happy with the performance although there was a bit of a rough spot after the migration. But theses performance issues seemed to be unrelated to the WHS itself but were network issues. Things do slow down a bit if the system drive is heavily used but that’s a rare occasion. I have the system drive in the optical drive bay and the reputation of that SATA port is that it’s slow. I’ve been hesitant to try the third-party BIOS that’s supposed to improve that ports performance but I may give it a shot.

Network Upgrades

I’ve been upgrading my network over the past month. I swapped out my daisy chain of switches and replaced them with a single D-Link DGS-1024D switch. As part of that change I also swapped out some older or unnecessarily long cables. If nothing else it makes things a lot neater and organized.

The other issue I had ended up being traced to the NIC in my Windows 7 desktop. Many of my problems went away when I switched it back to the mother board NIC. That’s my second Intel NIC to go bad this year. I’m beginning to sour on the Intel name. Until now I’ve gone with a Intel NIC for every PC as a standard reflex when building a PC. No more.

The biggest piece of the home network upgrades was the implementation of a software router/UTM (UTM = unified threat manager). I’ve been playing around with various options. While I liked pfSense as a router, it didn’t play well with my DSL so I looked elsewhere. I started with ClearOS, thinking it provided a nice router & UTM along with typical file & web server functions. But it didn’t last long, suffering from stability and performance issues once I installed it so I moved to Untangle. So far Untangle is working fine and seems like a keeper.

This about wraps up my network upgrades. I’ll look for a new NIC for my desktop so I’m not tied to the onboard NIC but it’s not a priority. I’d like to implement pfSense but that’s more for fun than out of need since Untangle is working fine.

Website Upgrades & Changes

While there’s been obvious changes to the look of The OS Quest there’s also been some changes under the hood. As mentioned in my server OS review the site is now running on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. This upgrade is basically what forced the other changes as the Ubuntu 9 that it was running on reached its end-of-life. Since it was an OS upgrade I went with a temporary second server rather than risk an in place upgrade.

I also switched the WordPress theme to WP-Clear. My old theme had become out of date and there wasn’t a direct (a.k.a. easy) upgrade so I took the opportunity to make some changes. While this theme is less flexible than my other one it was significantly easier to set up. Part of the problem is that the old theme had so many options I could play with it forever, The upgrade broke just enough things to require some significant work to upgrade. At least with WP-Clear there’s a much more manageable set of options. I also didn’t have to revisit and update too many old posts.

Update July 5th: I’ve reverted back to my previous theme (mostly). There were some things I didn’t like with WP-Clear so before going too far I rolled back and will re-evaluate my WordPress theme selection.

I also moved the commenting system to Intense Debate but I’m still allowing “guest” comments and not requiring a logon. At least not yet. Spam has been annoying so I might require a logon in the future. My testing shows it’s as easy to get out of Intense Debate as it is to get in so I’m not locked in.

Home Media

My living room finally entered the 21st century when I replaced my tube TV with a VIZIO XVT323SV LED TV and a Blu-Ray player. I’ve yet to link either of these directly to my home server but it’s on the list for the future. At this point I’ve been copying files to a USB drive and playing them from that and it works well. Batch files and some manual attention keeps the USB stick up to date with the shows and movies I want to watch.

On Tap

I’ll probably spend most of this month with WordPress and server software. The site redesign has left me with some things I want to look at a try out. I also want to make some changes to the content structure of this site although exactly what changes won’t be decided until I do some testing. Over the next couple of days I’ll eventually reach the point of no return on this site change and will be shutting down my old server. This post will be the first new content since the site redesign. (As I type this I still have the option to switch back to my old site with no more than a DNS change and still have all my content as it was.)

On the computer side of things it’ll be mostly cleaning up. My Windows Home Server version 1 hasn’t been powered up in a couple of weeks so it’s safe to say it can be retired for parts. I’ll pull the 2 TB hard drives in it and reuse them. But the memory/cpu/motherboard is probably obsolete (they won’t run Windows Home Server 2011 or any other 64-bit OS). There’s always the Linux/NAS option but I have no real need for that these days. I’m sure I’ll find a use for the case though.

So enjoy the holiday barbeque and fireworks if your in the U.S.

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