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Re: NFC: NFC server (techie computer geek stuff)

Tim Ayers wrote:

> From my perspective as the web coordinator, Chris Hedemark's idea has several
> attractions. More control is the foremost. But who's going to administrate this
> machine? I hardly have enough time to keep up with the website, so I won't even
> consider volunteering.

You raise a valid issue.  I am willing to spend *some* time on
administrative work.  Of course it could be argued that a system that is
well-tuned up front won't need much handholding.

> Our set up at Interspeed is perfectly satisfactory. Up-time is excellent. They
> provide CGI-capability so I can do some fun stuff. We have unlimited disk
> space. It costs $10/month. If we want to have our own domain name, it costs
> $20/month plus the InterNIC fee of $35/yr.

It sounds like from where you sit it would be best to LEAVE the web site
exactly where it is at?  I still think it would be nice for the NFC to
own a domain name which lends both credibility and portability (it is
relatively painless to move a domain from one ISP to another if you own
the domain).

> OTOH, it would be nifty to have our own mailing lists. It would be great to
> have a database server at our disposal. But I really worry about reliability of
> a server run by volunteers. What if our administrator goes on vacation. Our
> site and mailing lists could easily be down for a whole week. Yikes!

Yes this is true.

While I am a computer professional, I am not a DBA.  I couldn't really
volunteer to run a database in all honesty.

E-mail services I can handle, though.  I am already running my own
personal domain (yonderway.com) and have a small mail server which also
handles a number of mailing lists over a part-time dialup connection.

E-mail services are, for the most part, fairly hands-free.  Most of the
maintenance deals with adding or removing accounts, handholding
subscribe/unsubscribe requests for the mailing lists, etc.  One
volunteer can probably handle the day-to-day responsibilities with
probably no more than one hour invested per week.  In my case,
yonderway.com requires less time than that for mail administration.

It would be trivial to get interspeed to make the necessary adjustments
to their DNS tables to shift the web site to www.[domain].org and I'd
bet they could maintain the link to nativefish.interspeed.net to reduce
confusion.  Similarly trivial would be the setup to get email flowing to
an NFC domain.

Before we start talking about the details of what we can and cannot do,
and who is going to volunteer to do things on an ongoing basis, should
we not first consider what it is that the NFC *wants* out of an internet
presence?  I'd hate to define a solution before defining the problem. 

In any case, I'm sending my $$ off this weekend to join.  I'm interested
in volunteering for two things for the NFC:

1) Partial internet administration.  The web site and the mailing lists
are already in good hands.  I don't mind running the email services (it
sounds like this is something that many would like to see?).  Maybe a
little more but let's define the problems/solutions first and then
figure out who is willing to do what.

2) Focused breeding program on one or two native species.  Prefer to
work with the smaller sunfishes.

> I also wonder if a $500 box is going to satisfy the computing requirements of
> all the advantages Chris listed.

You'd be surprised what $500 will buy you today.  $500 will buy you the
components to build an $800-$1000 computer.  I put these boxes together
frequently and it is about a one hour job tops.  As long as you are not
doing intensive floating point calculations, a non-Intel CPU is just
fine for a server box.  A very fast Cyrix processor will run you $50 or
less today.  Memory is almost down to $1 per meg for SDRAM.  Hard disks
are still expensive components, but not all *that* expensive.  Video can
almost be non-existent (it is nice to have a card in there if you can't
access the server for remote troubleshooting) and a monitor is not
necessary.  A floppy drive and CD-ROM are not only un-necessary, but are
actually security risks for an unattended server.  100Mbps ethernet
adapters are around for about $25 now.

If I go shopping at my local Intrex, which is a retail outlet that sells
components, I can get the following.  Please remember that mail order
parts are MUCH cheaper.  You can check my figures at
http://www.intrex.com/parts.htm :

(prices rounded to nearest whole dollar)
128MB SDRAM (PC100) - $130
100MHz AT motherboard - $75
Cyrix M2/300MHz CPU - $50
Pentium cooling fan - $6
8.6GB hard disk - $160
Mid-tower case - $30
SVGA video - $25
100Mbps Ethernet - $20

Subtotal - $496

I can get that number a lot lower through mail order sources.  Or, for
the same $500, put in some slightly higher end components (like a faster
AMD CPU for example).

Note that this would NOT include a tape backup.  :-/  But then again,
who would perform the backups if the server were located somewhere OTHER
than a volunteer's home or place of business?

> It's a neat idea and I am interested to see how far Chris can get.

I am not formally proposing anything at this point.  Just trying to get
people talking.  What does the NFC want to gain from the Internet?  And
then how do we address those needs?  And finally, who would volunteer
for the care and feeding of the solutions we come up with collectively?

Oh notice that I didn't include software costs.  $0.   That's right. 
I'll donate a copy of Red Hat Linux 6.0 with all of the server software
necessary to make this work.  IBM is already supporting this software on
enterprise network servers so it is not the fly-by-night software that
Microsoft would have you believe (on the contrary... are you impressed
by their claim of 99.9% uptime?   do the math.  that is over 10 minutes
of downtime per week for an NT server by Microsoft's own claims).  But I
don't mean to get into an OS war.  Just pointing out that zero-cost
software is every bit as good as the stuff that big companies pay
thousands of dollars for.

Chris Hedemark,
Hillsborough, NC

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