Remodeling the Home Network

I’ve been spending my evenings upgrading and improving my home network lately.  It’s not quite at a point where I can design robotic superhero suits in the garage or anything, but things are looking up.  There has been a lot of moving services around to position them properly. 

I have moved my DHCP and DNS out of the LXD containers they were once in to run on a box of their own. “Why do you even need your own DHCP and DNS?”  you may ask.  It’s pretty simple actually.  These two services are the meat and potatoes of TCP/IP networking. One controls whether you can join the network easily.  The other controls what your device is called on my network. 

I noticed about a year ago my systems were being named xxxxx.<insert-nameof-ISP>.net while using the DHCP and DNS in my router.  I own the modem I use for service, but loocking through the logs, it was somehow obtaining an IP inside my network and giving out domain suffixes to hosts.  While everything worked in the sense that everyone could get on the Internet as they pleased, it triggered my “stay off my land” instincts having dealt with demarcation so long in the past dealing with telcos. 

When I first learned about LXD, I got a little container happy and proceeded to run about 21 servers out of one machine.  I was tying up all 16GB of RAM in the server and the whole network was slowing down.  I had Gitlab, Icecast with radio stations for all the major holidays and 4 decades of music, 2 WordPress instances, a personal Python Project, Planet, DNS, and DHCP containers.  Things got carried away.    

Then the routing table somehow became corrupted on the server and I could only ssh into the containers. not the server.  I could fix it for a while by manually rebuilding the route tables, but it would ultimately end up in a failed state again when arp rebuilt the tables.  Something was telling me it was time to ease up on the containers.

After over a month of messing with it, I made the choice that functionality was ultimately more important than the satisfaction of fixing the problem.  I tarred all the containers and put a fresh copy of Ubuntu Server 18.04.1 on it.    I’m still debating which containers are important and which should remain on backup. 

It’s going to be much easier to stay disciplined now rather than after I put everything back.  Sandboxes are good, but you shouldn’t fill your yard or your server with them.  I have reinstalled LXD, but it’s not going to be the only thing I focus on.

Building to Something Big

So, I’ve been silent on here for quite some time.  I haven’t been completely devoid of the Internet, but I’ve been working on something big.  So, if asked “What have you been doing lately?”, my answer would be “learning”.  I am learning so much where I am at.  Not the technical stuff, that was always easy.  I am learning what it takes everyday and I am better off everyday.
Steve Jobs’ passing away had an impact on me.  It was a kick in the ass to get things started.  Listening to the Stanford dissertation again was quite a motivator as well.  My favorite part of it was when he described evaluating his tasks everyday and whether it was what he wanted to do.  I want to learn right now.

On a Quest for a Universal Remote

I am thinking it is time for change.
I am thinking it is time for change.

It is time to simplify things a little. I am on a quest for a universal remote. This is the assortment I currently use on a daily basis, and it is driving my six year old absolutely crazy. That’s not mentioning the fact that it is driving me crazy trying to keep them all in one place with a six year old.

From left to right, you have two Wii Remotes (for the Wii and also the Media Center), a Roku Player, the Magnavox DVD Player, the Philips TV, and the DirecTV Tivo Series 2.

I am very skeptical that I can find one universal device for all of them. The Wii Remotes will have to stay and are pulling more than their share of the load. I have my Media Center computer connected with them over Bluetooth as well as using them for normal gaming. The Roku Player is fairly new. I am hoping I can find something compatible, but might have to manually program it for that. The DirecTV, Tivo, DVD Player, and TV should work with most devices.

I am going to look at the Logitech Harmony and see what I can come up with. Anyone else have any suggestions?

The Road Towards Good Backups: Mile One

One of the most critical concepts in maintaining business continuity is data organization.  Any company, client, or even home user, has to organize their data in such a way that they know where the “important stuff” is and also have access to that one @#$%! file that they know they will need months from now.  Ideally, the less backup targets you have, the better.  This reduces the licensing costs to produce a stellar backup and disaster recovery can devour your entire IT budget if you are not cautious.

A heart-to-heart may be needed with management and ultimately the people you support.  Environments that have a long standing history of doing it themselves will have a hard time with being told how and where to save their files, and there will even be some people that have a workable system.  The key is to get as many people on board as possible.  Let them participate in the filing system planning to prove to them you have their and the company’s needs in mind. When you are new to a network, always be sure to perform a rundown of all user accounts to make sure all home drives have been provided and are mapped correctly.  The last thing you want is to have your customers question sincerity because they are feeling overlooked.

Running a quick check of applications running on the network and the drawbacks of forcing that data onto a shared drive can also reduce the number of backup targets.

The solution in regards to data consolidation will vary based on your environment and this makes complete sense.  Each organization will have it’s individual needs, but it is very important to address this issue to ensure a cost effective backup system.

Lifestream Plugin

I just implemented an awesome plugin that keeps track of all your social junk in one place. If you look to the right, there is a link to my Lifestream page. So far, I’ve added twitter, youtube, flickr, jaiku, brightkite, my Gallery feed. Those familiar with with FriendFeed and Facebook will understand what this functionality provides. I love that this is integrated into my own site (that I own). It’s not like I am going to sell my own marketing data to other companies. Anyone with WordPress should really check this out.

Adventures in GPS

I have been in need of a new GPS receiver for a while.  While I love my Garmin eTrex and it has been a lifesaver on several occasions, the netbook lacks serial ports.  Carrying a serial to USB adapter is out of the question.  I wanted ultra-portability for my kit, especially on vacations and while traveling. Whatever solution I came up with, I knew from previous experience what package would need to be installed first:

sudo apt-get install gpsd

Enter this device:


No brand name, no fancy package.  I plugged it in and it functioned beautifully.  Ubuntu detects it as a Prolific PL2303 USB to Serial Bridge Controller as revealed by dmesg:

[  950.076139] usb 2-2: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 3
[  950.242660] usb 2-2: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
[  950.246324] pl2303 2-2:1.0: pl2303 converter detected
[  950.271393] usb 2-2: pl2303 converter now attached to ttyUSB0

That last line is important.  I needed it to issue the next command:

gpsd /dev/ttyUSB0

As this device lacks a screen to indicate satellite fix, my next step was to install xgps:

sudo apt-get install gpsd-clients

I mostly use xgps for testing connectivity.  It is a very basic interface with limited information.  Pretty useless for navigation unless you work with satellites all day and know where they are supposed to be in the sky.

Eight years ago when I started experimenting with laptops and gps, I quickly found GPSdrive.  It was really the only map-based GPS software available.  Recently, using a netbook’s small 16:9 screen became a major problem when I realized the application wasn’t written for the Gnome toolkit.  I was unable to maximize to my screen resolution of 1024×600, making any buttons at the bottom of the app hidden. TangoGPS has most of the functionallity necessary to track where you are on a map. Like GPSDrive, it is compatible with the Open Street Map project,  works with gpsd, and even allows for friend updates.

For now, I have a system that tells me where I am, how fast I’m driving, and allows me to contribute to open street map.  I will be eperimenting with another program called viking shortly and will discuss it here when I know more about it.

After The Fact?

All of my computers are now on Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex).  That’s a Dell D820, a Precision 650, the GQ computer  that I picked up at Fry’s a couple years ago, and even the One.  I’m usually cautious about moving from a LTS edition to a newer version, but for some reason I decided to pull the trigger on upgrading each of my systems instead of performing complete reloads.  All four machines upgraded without catastrophic failures.  I did have to reload the kernel modules for my sound card on the Aspire, but it’s not a big deal.  On the Precision, some lunkhead sysadmin (who is reamining nameless) forgot to move /home to the second drive last time.  All I needed were these instructions and I was back in business:

My Own Aptitiude Repos

I now have several machines running Ubuntu and Debian on my home network.  Each one had an inconsistent version of the packages on it, and I finally decided this morning I was done upgrading each machine individually and downloading updates when I got around to it.  Mikey’s got his own repo now and Mikey likes it.

I found some very simple, very focused instructions at this link:

Next step:  Add a GPG key.