A busy couple of days, to be sure.

Jun 29, 2007

The past couple of days have been busy, highly eventful, and fruitful, to be sure, which is why I've only been posting terse updates here and there.

Here's what happened:

Lucien, the mail server that I've been running for the past couple of years, flamed out on Monday afternoon, leaving me mostly incommunicado for a few days. I had to scramble to construct a replacement for reasons that I'll go into shortly. What I wound up doing was downloading an .iso image of the 2007.0 release of Gentoo Linux and while Leandra was pulling it down I hunted through the lab closet to find suitable replacement components - a mainboard, RAM, and CPU. The night before I'd run to Micro Center to buy a new power supply because I would be using the chassis of Lyssa's old workstation. I also had a couple of hard drives stashed away in the closet that I'd have to reformat to put to use.

The specifics of how I built Akara (the new mail server) are fairly straightforward as servers go. The only really unusual thing I did was split the drives between the two IDE channels because I mirrored the disks for redundancy's sake, so if one drive blew the other would keep running until I could find a replacement. Then I set about installing Gentoo, which proved problematic - it took a couple of tries before I could get the live CD to boot properly. In hindsight, I think that there's a bad memory module on Akara's mainboard that I'll have to track down at some point. Maybe it's Stockholm syndrome at work here, but I love using Qmail to set up mail servers. Not only do you not have to speak Enochian to configure it (just read the manual) but I've abused it in some very scary ways over the years and it's taken everything I could throw at it, flagged me off, and come back for more. Say what you will about Dan Bernstein, but he's written a hell of an SMTP server. Because it's included in the Gentoo Portage collection, all I had to do was chain together a couple of commands, go to bed, and by the next afternoon (yeah, it took a while - an 800 MHz CPU isn't the fastest on the planet) I had a mail server ready to configure.

In the meantime I stripped Lucien's chassis to yank out the old drives and figure out which one exactly I kept the mail store on. While at Micro Center on Monday night I also picked up a device indespensible for techies, an IDE-to-USB converter rig, so I could poke around on the drives without having to take another system down. As it turned out, the mail store was kept on the one SCSI drive I had in Lucien, the one that I couldn't find an adapter for. It took a bit more finangling but I was eventually able to pull everyone's messages off of the hard drive and get them loaded into Akara so that they'd be available again. I've been monitoring Akara while she's been playing catch-up and she's holding up under the load quite nicely. I might have to tweak a couple of things to get better responsiveness out of her when I shell in but that's really parenthetical at this point....

On Thursday night Jean drove down with Chandler (her dog) and the betta that she gifted us with (who's been named Stumpy, because he's recovering from fin rot) from New England to visit us for the next week She arrived around 1900 EST5EDT and after we got her unloaded, met up with Orthaevelve and Jen, and then headed out to Tequila Grande for a late dinner. I hadn't had anything since breakfast (around 0800) because I spent much of the day at the new office doing paperwork and getting the low-down on my new gig.

Not to be too technical about it, I changed jobs this week. It looks like I'm getting out of the system admin business, at least for a while, and going back into my primary interest, which is information security. The project I'd been working on through my last job wound down not too long ago, and I'd been looking for another gig for a while. A chance luncheon meeting with a buddy later, and I'm getting ready to start on Monday with a security outfit just outside of the Beltway that seems like a good fit. I'm kind of worn out after today so I'm a bit scatterbrained - I'll write more when I'm fully conscious.

Today I went in to work to clean out my inbox on their mail server, clean out my desk, and say my good-byes to everyone. I also swapped business cards so that at the very least my PGP key and fingerprint are out there. At most, they're probably reading this entry and wondering just how strange I really am.

Hi, guys.

I left work and headed for home to meet up with Lyssa and Jean. None of us had eaten lunch yet on Friday (it's now shortly after midnight local time) so we stopped at the bank to take care of a few things and then headed to the mall to get lunch at the Califoria Pizza Kitchen. I didn't realise how hungry I was until well after I'd polished off half of a Thai chicken salad without coming up for air; the three of us all but killed two pizzas (they're actually not very large) before we were feeling well enough to run the rest of our errands. Lyssa's been in the market for a new cellphone lately, and she finally found one that will suit her needs: A Motorola Q Phone hooked up to her existing Sprint customer plan. It's about the same length and width as my Palm Treo 700p but is about one-third the thicknes. The down side is that the power cell is only good for about two and a half hours of talk time, but you can get a different battery that'll extend its useful life by a couple of hours. The guys over at the Sprint store were even nice enough to dump the database of contacts out of her old phone and upload it into the new one. She's used it a little bit and it seems like it was a pretty good purchase. I haven't read the manual myself yet, so I'm not entirely certain of what its full capabilities are. After that, we roamed around the mall for a while - Lyssa had to stop at the bead store to pick up some stuff for a project, Jean rode shotgun with her, and I headed to Barnes and Noble to pick up a few books on network programming to get a jump start.

Here's a hint for B&N: Making people pay for the privilege of carrying a bonus card is less likely to entice them to get one, which means that you'll accumulate less marketing information. Take a hint from Borders.

After that we hit Petco to get a new cage for our hamster, Lucy, and along the way pick up some stuff for the betta that Jean brought down to us. Lyssa fell in love with a black crowntail betta that she hasn't named yet; we've suggested various names that would be suitable for a black fish that looks like it has tentacles or dreadlocks (Rogue, Bob Marley, Howard, Lovecraft...) but she hasn't decided yet. So we wound up coming home with another fish, in addition to a new three-story cage and some new toys for Lucy.

For the record, we moved Lucy into the new cage tonight. She's not sure of how to walk on the mesh floors yet, so we added some blocks of wood to them so she has someplace stable to sit. As far as we can tell, she loves her new digs.

And now, I think I'll cut this entry off. My short term memory is getting fragmented, and it seems that my writing's going to hell in a handbasket. On top of all of this, I still have more random stuff to talk about, so it's off to bed for me, hopefully to get a full night's sleep.