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machine go boom

College (and other) friends and I have shared a server for many years, racked in some colo place. This instance, the third, was bought in 2003, and has served us far longer than we expected. In the past couple days we basically got to watch the RAID die in real time. Still not sure if the disk filling up was a trigger or result or unrelated, but today I watched it die with only 88% full disk. I got to see even some of my own files turning corrupt, like being owned by another user.

Robbie and another friend had unkind things to say about hardware RAID. We'd gotten hardware RAID, 3wire, set to redundancy mode for the server. We'd thought we were doing really well, with some tool reporting no disk failures... now someone else says it may have lied, with disk problems we weren't told about.

OTOH other friends say software RAID really wouldn't give performance or even safety guarantees. I dunno. But the damn thing did survive 13 years of probably somewhat heavy use, with our disks from one vendor; we sure got our money's worth.

The question now becomes "what next?" A bunch of us were still using it as an active server, like for mail, so a replacement would be nice. Previous machines were graciously retired and replaced on a plan; I'd kept urging us to go to machine 4 over the past few years, but people were lazy, and I was in no position to physically volunteer.

Of course, today we have VPS. Since I cleverly had mail going to my own domain, hosted on the server, I found I was able to get my own linode, transfer DNS, and get basic mail working, in under 3 hours. Hopefully at this point I won't *lose* mail, though I have yet to get procmail -- or some more secure replacement -- up; I really depend on filtering. And I don't know about spam... we had greylisting going, which probably prevented a lot of spam even before my powerful spamprobe filter; right now I'm exposed. But it's after 3am, it can wait a day or two.

Anyway, someone could probably replace our machine with a VPS quickly... if they had control over our DNS. That's probably one guy, on vacation right now. Whee. Also, while I backed up my own files, I never thought to grab the passwd or shadow files; if no one else did either, actually making accounts for everyone would be a pain.

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Damien Sullivan
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