networking

My server has been going slightly slower than I’d like lately when it comes to serving up HTTP requests. Sometimes when I go into WordPress or its admin, it would take up to a minute to finally go through. It was driving me kind of crazy. I like to blame it all on Jason though, since I bought the box from him, and he doesn’t know the first thing about building computers. ;)

I think I may have fixed it though, and it was pretty simple, really. I went into my kernel config and started flipping all the network configs to modules instead of being compiled in. In the first place, I theorized, if the kernel really needs it, it can load it instead of me telling it to put it in there. I’m not sure how well that rationality holds in reality, but in my dreamland it sounds great and smells even better. Secondly, I went back and admitted to myself that I really don’t know that much about networking (which is putting it mildly), and turned off any features that said, “If you are unsure, say N”. Recompiled the kernel, rebooted, and lo and behold … it’s much, much snappier.

The kernel only ended up pulling in a few fundamental modules (which I was expecting it would), so I guess that cut out some of the overhead. I haven’t run any networking benchmarks or anything, but apache and ssh are noticably snappier. I haven’t had one timeout yet. The lesson to be learned here? Read the kernel docs, build your own stinking boxes, and don’t let me anywhere near your network.

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mini updates

I got both my new Linksys router this week and my new Mini-ITX system, and have them both working pretty well. Nothing really too exciting to report about them yet, and I’ll post some better specs and benchmarks once I get everything setup.

I installed OpenWRT on the router, and earlier I had two posts on here about my experiences with them, but ultimately deleted them because I was in quite a haze when I wrote about it. The sum of it was this though: Installing the firmware was a cinch. All I had to do was upload the White Russian binary straight from the Administration page in the original firmware’s website. That was cool.

It took me a very long time to get the firewall working, but only because it took me a good while to realize that it was resolving all my external requests to my box internally. Basically I would go to http://wonkabar.org/ and it would load the website from http://192.168.1.1/ The second I got outside of the WAN and looked at it, I realized what I was doing wrong. I was equally torqued because there wasn’t any default documentation for the firewall on the OpenWRT wiki, so I threw up some basic instructions online that helped me to get it working. Wasn’t really their fault — it was just that the three snippets of notes in the firewall config file weren’t really sinking in.

Like I said, I still haven’t decided what to do with the thing. I’m quite happy that it’s routing packets snappily. I really do like the fact that I can run SSHD on there, though, and not have to use the web interface. It makes it easier to admin the network remotely.

In other news, I got my Mini-ITX system yesterday from the Damn Small Linux store. It came as a real shock when I went home for lunch and the FedEx guy had come, since I assumed it would take a little longer for them to test the box and send it to me. About a week of turn around time after ordering it, and it was already here. No complaints from me! :)

This thing is tiny. It’s about as wide as my desktop’s CPU case, and twice as tall as my router. I haven’t been able to get it to successfully boot off of my USB stick yet. I’ve tried both Gentoo and DSL-N, and it’s either erroring out or just not seeing it at all. From what I can tell, it will only boot off one of the USB ports. Plus, there’s a lot of variables to play with still, and I really haven’t tried that hard just yet, so I’ll probably get it sooner or later. One thing that confuses me is that the BIOS settings has two options to boot from: USB-ZIP and USB-HDD. I have no idea what the difference is.

Either way, it’s not really a big deal because I’ve already got it booting off the network. I setup LTSP 4.1.1 last night on my mythbox / server, which only took about a few hours to do. Most of it was just remembering all the tweaks I had to do to get it setup at work, too (mostly TFTP and DHCP). Interestingly, this box couldn’t load the kernel straight from Etherboot, so I had to send it a PXE loader first. Not really a big deal, but I always find it curious to see which ones can handle the larger boot images.

Then this morning I tried it again, and it was having issues with devfs, so I upgraded to LTSP 4.2 which adds udev support and removes devfsd. That helped a lot, and it boots much faster and seems snappier. I setup esound as well, and got video and sound to play over the network locally. I’m not sure if its esound or the network, but both XMMS and Audacious would pop badly at the start of playing anything. Considering how crappy I’ve heard esound is, I’d be quick to blame it on that. I was just glad it was working at all. I’m going to give arts a whirl, too.

Unfortunately, there’s no way this thing is going to work as a mythfrontend over the network. Watching a movie over the LAN, the A/V is way out of sync by at least five seconds. Not a huge deal in the least, though, since I plan on putting a notebook harddrive in there, and just running Gentoo off of the box.

The Mini system is absolutely amazing. One of the first things I noticed when I got it yesterday was that it has SPDIF optical out and an S-Video out too. I knew about the optical, but not the s-video, so I was really excited. Once everything’s working, it’ll be a perfect drop-in for myth. I won’t need to mess with the cables, either.I also got one of the larger cases, so if I wanted to expand on it a bit, I can. There’s room in there for a notebook harddrive, a DVD/CD drive and a PCI card!

As far as ports on the back goes, this thing gives the smack-down to anything else I’ve seen so far. Four USB 2.0 ports (two on the back, two on the front), COM port, parallel port (for my Dot Matrix printer, sweet!), 10/100 Ethernet port, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, S-Video, VGA, SPDIF, Line In, Line Out and Microphone. Plus there are breakout ports on the case for Firewire and a serial port. The only thing the Mac Mini has on this box is the DVI out instead of the old-school VGA, and a Gigabit network card.

The other great thing is this computer is *completely* silent. And I don’t mean quiet as in don’t make noise cuz grandma’s asleep, I mean quiet as in completely fanless, and the only way you can tell if its on is by the LED power display on the front.

So far I’m really impressed with both the new router and system. Now I just gotta figure out what I want to do with them. :)