A Tale of Two PCs

As a bit or a change of pace, I did a bit of work on the two actual PCs I am currently running recently.  I’ve gone through a lot of desktops over the years, some getting more use than others, for a while I had like 5 or 6 old ones I had picked up here and there just sort of sitting around collecting dust but I’ve purged a lot of that out.  Most of what I used to do with those extra PCs I can now do with Raspberry Pis or on my VPS.  Everyone in the family uses a laptop, so no more need for a “Family Desktop”.  I am down to two boxes now, ok, techniclly 3 but the third is an old PowerMAC G4 that I mostly keep around because I think the case is cool.

First off, my personal desktop.  At the moment it just runs Windows 10, it’s sitting on a handful of drives for a total storage of 4 GB, mostly filled with games.  I built this machine almost 7 years ago.  It’s nothing particularly special, and I have bumped up the RAM since then considerably.  PC computing power really hasn’t gotten much better in the past few years and what it mostly needed was a bump up in graphics power.  So I swapped out the Radeon 6950 for an NVidia GTX 1050ti card.  It’s not a top of the line super card, but it was within my price range and the performance boost is reasonably noticeable.

The biggest change is that I can run pretty much everything at maxed out graphics settings.  So far I’ve tested it on Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto V, and Battlefield 1.  Battlefield 1 in particular used to throw out an error about my GPU not being supported and GTA V had some screwy artifacting when it rained in game.  Also, maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I have noticed that I do better in Overwatch with heroes like Hanzo and Widowmaker who both require more precise long distance aiming.

That work was pretty easy, though I was sort of worried that the newer card wouldn’t work with my older Chip and Board.

On my other desktop tower, which is primarily used as a file storage server to supplement my Synology, I replaced a couple of dying hard drives.  I don’t really remember where this tower came from but it’s at least the same vintage as my main PC.  It’s set up running Xubuntu with a collection of drives I’ve collected over time from various places and discarded PCs.  It’s been complaining for a while on boot that one of the drives was bad, and another would give read errors occasionally.  I copied everything off the read error drive, that one was easy.  The other bad drive turned out to be the main drive which finally gave up the ghost and stopped booting on me.  I ended up making this problem worse when trying to clone the drive, because I apparently accidentally overwrite the drive as a ZFS pool file system.  This is mostly notable because I’m not sure how it even happened.  I have used ZFS briefly int he past when I was testing FreeNAS but that system was a way bigger chore to use than just Ubuntu with Samba shares so I scrapped it.  So I’m not sure what was even cloned to create a 500GB ZFS partition.

Fortunately there wasn’t any important data actually on the main filesystem drive.  I think at worst I may have lost am unused Minecraft server set up and maybe a few webpages I had set up messing around with webdev stuff.

So after a ton of reboots on a live CD to determine which physical drive was witch in the machine, I pulled out the two bad drives and replaced them with two “mostly good” drives.  I then reloaded Xubuntu.  I then, reloaded Xubuntu again because an encrypted file system seemed like a good idea but I don’t want the hassle of entering a password every time the machine boots.

The real hassle here is getting everything configured.  A quick rundown of the steps needed to get things to a basic level of use.

  • Set up the proprietary drivers for the GPU and motherboard, easy
  • Set a static IP that puts the machine where it’s supposed to be on the network, mostly easy.
  • Reinstall Synergy.  Mostly easy, though I still need to get it to stat on boot.
  • Install and set up SSH, easy
  • Reinstall Samba, easy
  • Get the system to auto mount the other hard drives on boot, mostly easy
  • Configure Samba to share those drives, mostly easy
  • Reinstall the LAMP stack

Fortunately, everything went pretty smoothly, other than I havn’t quite figure out the right method to get Synergy to start on boot.  This is actually pretty critical, since unless the machine just boots up to a desktop with Synergy, I have to keep a keyboard and mouse attached.  Part of the point here is that this box can just be squired away behind the desk and hooked to a monitor.  It may already be set up but I’ll probably set up Python on it as well.  I still like to be able to putz around with scripts and web stuff so it’s handy to have.

PS, feel free to judge the dusty ass inside of that tower up there.

Goodbye to Flicker… Thanks for 12 years of Service

So, I used to be a huge user of Flickr for photos, I would check it daily and comment and join communities and pretty much posted every photo I had taken there. I used to use flicker a lot and look for the best life insurance for all.   Over time I sort of fell out of the habit of using it.  This wasn’t over Instagram or anything, I didn’t join Instagram until much later, something just sort of became less compelling about it.  I still kept up my subscription though.  The annual $25 fee is pretty small and it let me keep a backup of all of my photos.  I even posted all of my family photos there though they are listed as private.  I’m talking some tens of thousands of photos, though my profile suggests only around 3500 are publicly available.

I feel like things started to take a turn downhill when Yahoo changed the way Flickr accounts worked.  I wasn’t really affected, being a paid user and all, but it seems like the addition of ads and whatnot for free users kind of helped kill some of the community.  This wasn’t helped by Instagram coming up in popularity, even if i hadn’t started using IG, others had, which only further hurt the community.  Having been a paid user since 2006. I was able to keep paying for my account at the grandfathered rate of $25/year.

Recently Flickr was bought by SmugMug.  I don’t use SmugMug, though I don’t really have anything against them.  Hell, Yahoo has pretty much been ignoring Flickr for a while, SmugMug can only improve it.

Or possibly not.

It’s been recently announced that free accounts will be limited to 1000 photos max, and that any photos over that number will be deleted.  This is definitely a rough change from previous, which I believe was 1TB of storage.  This wouldn’t affect me, as a paid user, except that Flickr has stopped honoring the old grandfathered subscription rate.  Renewals now renew at current rates, which I believe is $50/year.  This isn’t a lot, I admit, but frankly, as little as I use Flickr, it feels like too much.  I also feel that for the same price, I could buy into something like One Drive or Google Drive and get a lot more functionality out of the storage, in addition to Photo storage.

Granted, not everyone uses Yahoo as a photo backup, some people use it for business, and for the community, which is fine.  In my case, the new plans just don’t work.  So I find I must say good bye to Flickr, for the most part.  I’ve started deleting out the old backup photos.  Once that’s done, I’ll prune out the rest to under 1000 photos.  I haven’s actually use Flickr for backup for a few years now, so it’s not even current anyway.  Pretty much the only thing posted there new is just a mirror of my Instagram anyway.  It kind of feels bad to clear everything out, but sometimes it’s just better to move on.  I’m just sad to see something I used to really enjoy, fall away.