New server!

So I finally moved to a new server. I got a dedicated machine at iWeb for a very good price through their clearance department. I’ve been toying with the idea for years now, but could never justify the cost, and didn’t want to get into the business of being a commercial webhosting company or anything. Redowl has been just hosted at home over a DSL connection for all this time (first appeared in 1996!)

The new server is called scallop. It replaces squid as general-purpose web and mail server, among other things. (My computers are all named after molluscs starting with the letter S – and no, that’s not the strangest naming convention I’ve heard of). It’s very nice to have better bandwidth – you might have noticed it already. The upload speed from the DSL connection here was never really good enough to run a server from, but the new one should be plenty for quite a while.

Beware – technical junk coming up.

Setting up the server itself was very simple – I’ve installed countless linux machines now, so getting the right packages installed and configured wasn’t any trouble. The difficult part was in switching things over from the old server to the new one. There are two main issues with a move like this: one is that right up until the move happens, the old server is still processing data and receiving mail. So if I just copy everything over and then switch servers, there’s a good chance that something would change on the old machine in between – those changes would then be lost. A thornier problem is that when you switch a machine from one place on the internet to another – in this case, moving the name from its old IP address with teksavvy (my ISP at home) to the one with iWeb – the change doesn’t happen instantly for everyone on the net. Even after switching, many computers might still try to contact the old server, just because they remember where it was and don’t check every time to see if it has moved. So I had to also set up some things on squid to say, for example, if any mail is received, it should be forwarded on to scallop, and not kept on squid.

Much to my astonishment, everything seems to have gone very smoothly. I only made one ridiculous mistake: When I made the switchover, I forgot to turn off fetchmail – a program that retrieves mail from my McGill account – so mail from that account kept arriving on squid instead of going to scallop! Luckily, I caught it before long, and it wouldn’t have affected any other users on the system. I just had to transfer a few messages manually to scallop.

So now I feel like a grown-up computer geek. I have my own little bundle of IP addresses and a real server in a datacentre. Feel free to suggest fun things to do with it!

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