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thallium 10-19-2012 04:58 AM

Windows user turned Linux - Why, how I got here, my experience and where I'm at.
 
This is my story, read if you need encouragement:

Previous Experience:
I was a hardcore Microsoft user for awhile and I can troubleshoot almost anything in Windows, knew my way around Office with VBA, even interfaced to some devices at work with C using notepad++ to VisualStudio. I work in chemical research and I encounter many different types of challenges, sometimes machines must be interfaced to computers and tweaked using C, Python, JAVA, etc. However, I was use to always having the windows GUI and at worst running a few things on the command line (ipconfig /all?)

The Problem:
I considered myself a fairly experienced computer user and wanted to have more control over a particular problem that might get expensive: Managing data for projects that span 3-5 years time. I had an experience that was a disaster and wanted to never repeat that problem again. I wanted to use mediawiki for this, it seemed to have stood the test of time. As I researched the problem, I came to the conclusion I needed to put this on a more private server given the confidential nature of the data. But also, just to learn more about serving pages (Apache), database (MySQL), and server side programming (PHP).

The Solution:
I settled on using Ubuntu Server 12.04 PP, a LAMP setup. I bought a $30 box, Dell Precision 670, with SCSI, IDE and SATA ability. I needed this box to just develop things and as a proof of concept for what I was doing. Also as just a plain learning experience about servers. I also wanted to have a place to store data just for my personal use (music, etc.)

My experience:
Going with Ubuntu Server was a weird choice for a n00b. But I wanted a box that was going to be headless and I would manage remotely, having a GUI might tempt me to get a little lazy. Ubuntu installed without a hitch. I then installed mediawiki, which also went well. I had access to a running website within a few hours.

The headaches:
I wanted a GUI anyways and installed one, but it caused way more problems. I couldn't really behave as root when editing files, also it didn't really detect my internet connection also the icons disappeared after the second boot up, I figured out a way to only open the GUI if I need to post something to a forum. I also found out that I couldn't make my IP static on my router, so I was going to have to do something about that.

I needed this thing to be remotely accessible, so I installed OpenSSH-Server and thot everything should work well with Putty and WinSCP from my Windows Box. It just didn't work, my jaw almost dropped. Every forum made this seem like a no brainer. What I found out is that my sshd_config had been written to more than once and it just plain didn't allow SSH to keep a session open for whatever reason (i.e. there were multiple instance of Port 22 being listened to). This lasted many days as I just managed the server in person at night ugh. Until I fixed it.

Remotely managing my server was a dream come true, I was literally moving files around, modifying HTML and building up a site, one keystroke at a time.

I tried to install another web based service, but it took me a whole day of tinkering with PHP extensions to get it going, wow. It was painful compared to mediawiki. It was an opensource project that had only been open for a few years (Open Enventory), I just wanted to see if I could get it up and running and I need. Linux, Apache, MySQL, JAVA, PHP and all!

It was time for my last and final step, put my NTFS hard drives on the server and start backing them up and accessing them remotely through SSH.

With some trouble, I got the drive mounted on the IDE cable in my box and was accessing my files over the internet! Awesome!

Then the hard drive with my ubuntu OS along with all my newly installed and configured web services and my ddclient DynDNS updater died. Just plain hardware failure. Ugh. I still had all my data, just all my OS and services were all gone.

I had come so far but learned so many lessons, my next one is learning how to back up hard drives. As annoying as the lessons were, they will stick with me very much as I go forward.

rtmistler 10-19-2012 02:19 PM

Kudos to you for taking a leap and trying something new. Sounds like it was working to a point, there were deficiencies, but you stuck through it and found some rewards.

I'm confused. $30 system. Second hand? Brand new, stripped system? If second hand, yes, failure of some unknown aged device can occur and it is simple to buy replacement hard drives. New system and the hard drive failed? Are you sure? Or has it just become un-bootable because all the stuff you've been trying you ended up causing Linux or the bootloader for it to become invalid.

If you can boot off the CD or a thumbstick and recognize your hard drive and re-install, you may be able to recover all the existing data on that drive. In fact, by not re-installing and booting off of CD or flash drive you should be able to see the hard drive and it's contents. If the hard drive has truly failed, then no, you won't be able too.

I say buy a fresh hard drive, but consider buying a brand new system if you happened to buy something second hand. These days one can buy a free-OS based system that is new for a small amount of money.

Get it configured as you had done previously. Stop at a convenient point and make a backup of that drive using a flash drive of some sort. Have it so that the flash drive can contain 2 or 3 backups. And practice persistent backups.

thallium 10-19-2012 03:34 PM

The dell is a second hand machine.
The drive is very dead. BIOS detects the drive, and the SCSI controller shows that it has a -Medium Error on it. Ubuntu does not see the drive really. It keeps saying it's a 1.8MB drive and won't install on it. I'm just going to get another hard drive. For $30, the machine has served it's purpose well and I learned a lot. I will try to go with new stuff next time.

jefro 10-19-2012 03:41 PM

Use scsi bios to see if you can do a low level format on it?

thallium 10-19-2012 04:40 PM

Just tried that, and it just returns an error. I think it is just a big coincidence. The drive may be over six years old already, but I got off easy this time, since I had invested so little in the projects. Thanks for the suggestion.


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