Sunday, 16 July 2017

Webserver Follies

In the winter of 1996 my friend and former boss Wiljan Derks introduced me to Linux. By the following spring I picked up a Walnut Creek Slackware 1.0 CDROM and installed it from a stack of some 13 3.5" floppy disks. My desktop was a 33MHz Zeos 80486DX souped up to a giddy 66MHz with an 80486DX2 CPU

I had a website, running at tripod, back then one of the first sites to offer free webhosting. Next was a Malaysian pay webhosting site costing some RM300 a year, which proved short-lived. After the site raised its charges by a few hundred percent, and with 3 years of Linux under my belt I hosted the website at home on my trusty Zeos over a 512Kbps broadband line. It was a joy- Linux was a natural fit as a webserver, and without needing to share the server with other websites, performance jumped.

From 1998, home was on top of a little hill in Seremban, which seemed to be a magnet for lightning.No way a little bit of natural static electricity was going to stop me, right? For 20 years I fought the good fight. First I just repaired the procession of stricken modems, routers, network hubs, desktops and  implacably put them back on line. Then I realized that the lightning caused so many power outages I needed an uninterruptible power supply.

The UPS solved the power outage problem, but made the lightning problem worse. With the web server running through the storm the lightning strokes frequently ran through the telephone landline into my power grid Earth, often passing through the surge arrestors in the modem. This made for a lot of dead modems. Sometimes the strikes hit the lamp or telephone post in my compound(don't even talk to me about the gatepost lights) and even damaged monitors, network switches and network cards.

WiFi brought some hope - there is now no direct link between the server and the modem. True, modems still died at the usual rate of some 4 or 5 a year but the server was usually fine. This meant the UPS had to be up-sized especially if the storm occurred on a weekend and we were not at home to reset the mains breaker. Even with an out-sized UPS, the battery replacement costs were roughtly RM800 over 2 years. It made more sense to downsize the server to the ARM-based beaglebone. The Raspberry Pi seemed even better, but try as I might it would not run WiFi reliably.      

 Currently the web server runs on a Beaglebone original, a 720MHz 256MB ARM Cortex-M3 (Zeos was 66MHz 16MB and used bucketloads of power), hacked to run Slackware. A WiFi modem supplies 4MBps bandwidth (512Kbps uplink) and the hacked APC Matrix 3000 can pretty much power the setup for a week, but Fate intervened.

After so many years, the wife have had enough of the lightning strikes taking out the modems and interrupting her Facebook sessions. She had taken to disconnecting the telephone line from the modem before the storms which saves the modems but do not do much for server uptime.

So it is time for paid webhosts again. I signed up for Amazon's AWS and after a full year's free trial it is time to move the website, this time to AWS with docker and Wordpress, the latter to to sex up the 20-year old website a little.

About time, don't you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment