System Failures

Why me?

Myself and at least one of my friends have been having lots of system problems of late, and I can’t figure out what it is. Is it the weather? Sun spots? My influence? Am I just scaring the bejeezus out of every computer I get near???

Basically over the weekend I had some system problems. My apologies to any friends of mine who suddenly received email from me at 11pm last night, I figured out part of my problem…

I have had two servers at home for some time; one Windows 2000 server and a Linux box. The Windows server was my original DNS server for my web site as well as an internal DNS server and DNS cache. It also acted as my file server and Windows domain controller. Anyway, a year ago I started migrating the file services to Linux. The reason for this was simply performance. While my Windows box was a nice fast CPU (1.4Ghz), had plenty of RAM and so forth, my PIII-800 based Linux box ran rings around it, and had the advantage of a hardware RAID5 (4x18Gb drives). So I migrated everything off with the exception of my MP3 file collection (all stuff I own on CD before you ask, and my own compositions and stuff from friends bands). I didn’t move that collection because it was simply larger than I wanted to put on the relatively small RAID5.

Over the weekend, the first sign of trouble was that suddenly web surfing was non-existent. I did all the usual troubleshooting steps like resetting my SQUID proxy, checking my internet connection and so forth. No dice. Finally after about 45 minutes I decided to crank up some music while I worked. Aha, my MP3 share was inaccessible. This isn’t that unusual; I have had crashes on that server before… so I went up to my study (I’d been troubleshooting over SSH from my laptop) and kicked the KVM over to the server. Completely black screen. No problem says I and I hold down the power button until the machine spools down. OK, turn it back on; fans spin up, hard drives spin up… hmm… black screen.

To make a long story slightly less long, after replacing components for an hour I finally decided the motherboard or the CPU were toast (or both).

Sooo, I pull one of the mirror set of hard drives and put it in my workstation. Cranks up fine, and I can recover my MP3’s. Phew! Unfortunately I have nowhere to put them! Finally decide that my rather full MythTV box will do the trick as a media server until I can work out a more permanent home. I recently upgraded the MythTV to a pair of 150Gb drives in a RAID1 (mirror), so it’s now redundant but filling up rapidly with recorded TV. I’m now going to have to start cleaning up that hard drive too.

Last night I finally figure out that my outgoing email hasn’t been flowing since the weekend. I start thinking through my structure and realize that when I implemented my email server I only had one DNS server (the one that was now down). I go sifting through the SMTP configuration. Lo and behold, it’s pointing to the old DNS server and nothing else. Quick reconfiguration at 11pm last night, a reset of the process and voila… my Internet connection slows to a crawl. Well, in this case that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, my lovely significant other reports to me that her computer’s not working. I boot it up and find it infested with spyware and adware. I look at her, back at the screen and start working on cleaning up. Adware, Spybot and a couple of other tools were installed, but still stuff is crashing, applications aren’t coming up and I can barely move for all the popups.

Guess what? Another machine is toast! I spend two hours working on it last night (up to about 1am) including rebooting to Safe Mode a couple of times and running the adware/spyware removal tools. They all find stuff wrong, they all “fix” it, but on first normal boot all the spyware comes back and reinstalls itself!!!!

Lovely. So this evening I get to go home and reinstall Windows on her machine from scratch. I’d love to install Linux on it and just be done with it, but I’m not sure that’ll fly with all the kids software.

So this morning I’m a little tired and cranky; I went to work at 7am yesterday as normal, worked until 4:00, went to the gym then went to a Catholic school where I’m helping them get ready for the school year. Then I get to go home and do more PC troubleshooting. I tell you, this is getting pretty old!!! This is like the 4th day in a row I’ve not had a break from fixing computers!

Unfortunately a friend of mine ALSO had problems with one of his computers over the weekend. His situation is a little worse than mine; he’s lost 3 years worth of pictures of his kids (who are both under 5) in a hard drive failure. No backup of course. I’m working with him to try to assist in the data recovery, but so far it’s not looking so hot. Keep your fingers crossed for Bill!!!

Anyways, I have to run and get some REAL work done today. Toodle-pip…

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