Sunday, January 22, 2017

The New Web Server

This is a tale of refection, and testing and economy, and how for once hoarding came in handy

The Requirements

** Note: If you believe Apple computers are perfect stop reading now.

Our current Webserver runs on an Apple mac Mini.  Despite various hardware issues Marcus has stuck with the platform and to be fair to Apple, this very small unit is easily able to server over 1TByte (yes, Bytes not bits!!) per 24 hour day from our almost infinitely fast Internet Connection here in Switzerland.

Recently there have been ominous noises from the unit and I feel it is time for an upgrade.

Not Raspberry Pi 3

The initial plan was to create a new system using the humble, yet capable Raspberry Pi 3.  Indeed I built the solution but it was just too slow:

- Raspberry Pi 3 with Raspbian Linux Installed
- In a Case so it is protected
- Connected to an external SSD connected over USB via a disk Caddy
- Serving the Internet via the 100Mb wired Ethernet
- Wireless Ethernet for Management access

All was going so well but  we found that the performance was not even limited by the 100Mbit lan.   Too slow, but a valiant attempt.

Hoarding and the  Swi$$ Public

Switzerland is a rich country.  So much so that for over 1 year nobody has chosen to buy my wonderful Mini ITX Windows computer.  Sure, I've had plenty of time wasters, but nobody would buy this

8GB memory
Intel Dual Core
Complete Computer with DVD Drive
SSD Hard Disk
2 Ethernets & Multiple USB

for the 100 CHF  (80 GBP) that it has been on sale for.   I know, the Swiss are just not interested.  Rather spend over 500 CHF on a new Hardware Firewall  (my Units last configuration) than buy this wonderfully capable computer

Marcus has been so annoyed that I have indignantly refused to throw the unit away.  We have limited space here in Switzerland, unlike the previous UK Engineering Workshop with oceans of space.  So disposal was on the cards until ....

Asrock AM1B ITX
After Pi3 was too slow I found the most amazingly economical Asrock Motherboard that for an incredible 35 GBP is to form the basis of our new server.

I briefly referenced this Taiwan miracle of manufacturing here

The Cunning Plan

- Gut the existing ITX computer
- Install new Motherboard
- Base OS is Linux Mint 18.1 Cinnamon
- Base Linux kernel is 4.4.0-59
- Base Wiki is Dokuwiki 2016-06-26a "Elenor of Tsort"
- Base Webserver is Apache 2.4.18

The Pictures

Yep, this Asrock product is so amazing.  As a hardware guy I am simultaneously almost fainting and salivating ...  3 Graphics outputs   and well ...

  1. All Solid Capacitor design
  2. Supports AMD Socket AM1 Athlon/Sempron APU
  3. Supports DDR3 1600 memory, 2 x DIMM slots, Max. 32GB
  4. 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16
  5. Integrated AMD Radeon™ R3 Series Graphics in A-series / E-series APU
  6. Multi Graphics Output Options : D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI
  7. 1 x Parallel Port, 1 x COM Port Header
  8. 4 x USB 3.0 (2 Front, 2 Rear), 6 x USB 2.0 (4 Front, 2 Rear), 4 x SATA3
  9. Realtek Gigabit LAN
  10. 5.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC662 Audio Codec)

 Opening up our old ITX firewall

 The old Intel Mini ITX motherboard

 Ready for a new Motherboard

 The Asrock wonder

 Passive heatsink comes with the Quad core AMD CPU

 Fastest Integrated GPU version of the AMD chip is the 5370.  Difficult for me to find, I had to eBay from Germany.  And that is Switzerland in a nutshell,  imported!

 Motherboard is in

 This is the 16GB DDR3 laptop DIMM that I bought to upgrade my Lenovo U430 laptop.  Except that it did not work.  So I bought on ebay a desktop DIMM converter

 Okay initial build is 1 SSD for the OS and a 1TB spinning disk for Web data.  This is because I have to cannibalise a data SSD from another system by disk shuffling.  This will take some days but will help to save some $money.  So well, in these times of economy I have to do it.  And I will cp -pr move the 300 GB data from the spinning to the new SSD Disk then swap it, later.

After a few test installs I settled on Linux Mint 18.1 using LVM (Logical Volume Manager) to mange the OS disks for maximum flexibility should I need to resize things later.

Oh The Software

So the Hardware is fully operational, now the non trivial install and configuration of the latest Apache 2.4.18 is killing me.

In my day one rather long httpd.conf file was all that was required, well with a bit of PHP and custom shell and Wiki install.   Now Apache seems to be having a contest to use the maximum number of configuration files in a whole set of random places.

To be continued.

Intel ITX for sale.  Cheap!