New PC -- and uptime

An accidental end to two+ years of uptime

Today I built up a new desktop system, and pulled a boner that ended over two years of uptime on my primary server.

For almost 10 years, I used a desktop system that Intel shipped me way back when I used to edit their erstwhile Moblin website for embedded system developers. It was a Dell Studio XPS 435MT, with a PRE-PRODUCTION Core i7 920, the very first generation of the long-lived Core architecture.

It was a beast then, and frankly, the 920 was still more than adequate as my kitchen computer. Ezra played games on it — the Intel iGPU having long been supplanted by a decent AMD Radeon card. I looked up recipes on it. And, since all my work files live on a file server, I could even get a bit of work done on it while watching a pot or something in the oven.

But I got tired of the heat and noise it made, especially when Ezra played Minecraft, so I decided it was finally time to upgrade.

With the run on crypto, graphic card prices are insane right now, so I went with a just-released Ryzen 5 chip with integrated graphics. The board is a no-nonsense Asrock B550 Pro4. There’s a half Gig NvME card, and 64GB of fast DDR-3600. There’s a fanless Seasonic Prime power supply (this was the big splurge), and the case is last year’s base model Be Quiet! unit that I found on sale for $60 because it lacks a front USB 3.2 Type-C port — no biggie, since the board has one, and I have a hub.

The build was a bit difficult because I had to first install an older CPU and RAM in order to upgrade the bios and configure the proper speed for the new DRAM. But after playing with it on and off for a couple of hours this morning, it started running fine.

It’s incredibly responsive, and almost inaudible, even when stress tested. Whether it will last ten years, time will tell.

I very rarely reboot anymore, because suspending desktop computers works so well, letting you pick up right where you left off. But today, I rebooted often, as I tweaked various BIOS settings between benchmarks. And, of course, one of the first tasks with any new machine is to copy its keys to the servers. And thus, intending to reboot my desktop, I inadvertently typed ‘shutdown -r now’ into a shell on my server!

Rebooting an enterprise Dell server is always kind of a nail-biter. They take a very, very long time to POST under the best of circumstances. If it’s been more than a year since the last boot, though, the kernel won’t mount the filesystems until it’s fsck’d them. Good times.

If there is a silver lining, it happened on a Sunday afternoon, when traffic levels are low.

Another blessing is that I remained blissfully unaware of my mistake until 20 minutes later, when an email from a monitoring service arrived. By then, the server was back up and all was well. Phew!

Still, I regret the error, which resulted in my second-longest server downtime since starting WinWebWorks in 2009.

The longest? Thanksgiving Day, 2012. I was 300 miles from home, dining with my soon-to-be in-laws, when a drive failed. That was back when I used el cheapo “dedicated” servers.

Fortunately, I had my laptop, and after the ISP installed a new drive flashed with Debian, I logged in and restored about three dozen sites from the server’s backup drive.

It was a long night, but by dawn, everything was back up. If any of my clients noticed, I never heard about it.

This Thanksgiving, my loyal, enterprising, and always kind clients will definitely top my list of things to be grateful for. I am lucky to work with each of you. May the season bring you blessings!