If I ran Kodak…

(Disclaimer: I’m working at Kodak, but not with anything to do with Picture Kiosks. I’m not privy to any discussion of new technology or upcoming enhancements to the Kiosks.)

If I ran Kodak, I’d connect all those Picture Kiosks up to the internet with cheap DSL. Then, after you’d uploaded your pictures to OFoto (sorry – “Easy Share Gallery”, I think), you could say “Print this picture to the nearest Kiosk”, and it would tell you where the Kiosk was (and give the option to choose a different Kiosk if that one wasn’t good for you) and give you a PIN. You’d go to that Kiosk and enter your PIN, and out would come the pictures you’d sent to it. Much handier than having them mailed to you, or having to go to certain participating stores.

Is it time for a new server yet?

I’ve had my Linux server for several years now. I don’t remember exactly when I got it, but according to the time stamps on the picture gallery from when I did it, it’s been about 2.5 years since I improved the cooling with monster copper heat sinks (1 pound on each CPU). In my experience, a heavily used server like this isn’t good for more than about 3 years before it starts getting flakey. But so far it’s been solid as a rock. Since improving the cooling (and stopping running SETI@Home, unfortunately), I can’t think of a single time when it froze up or rebooted spontaneously.

So I’m thinking that although I don’t need to rush out and buy a replacement, I should at least start thinking of what to replace it with. And here’s the problem – computers have become way more powerful and fast since then. This computer was pretty fast for its day, and I could easily get CPUs that run 3 or more times the speed, but so what? There is nothing I do on this computer that stresses the CPUs in any meaningful way. Normally my load average is down around 0.01. So what would I want out of a replacement? “Bottom of the rung” CPUs, but really fast networking and disk? Something small and quiet like a Shuttle? Something maybe not top flight speed-wise, but really well built by a company that knows how to make reliable hardware like a Sun or IBM or an Apple G5?

One thing I really like about this computer, though, is the fact that it’s dual CPU. It seems to me that if one process runs away the other CPU keeps it pretty responsive until the process finishes or I figure out what’s wrong. For instance, yesterday I noticed the system getting pretty slow. “uptime” showed the load average up over 15, and “top” showed a process owned by the apache user called “oops” taking a bunch of time. One quick “/etc/init.d/httpd restart” later, and things were back to normal.

If I were to replace or improve this computer, I can only think of a few things I’d like to do:

  1. More RAM. 1Gb seemed like plenty when I got it, but since upgrading to Fedora Core 4 from Fedora Core 3, SpamAssassin seems to take WAY more memory so when I start up X and start doing stuff on the console (not very often) it actually starts dipping into swap.
  2. SATA. Right now IDE drives are wonderful and cheap, but it looks like the future is SATA.
  3. RAID. If I’m going SATA, I’d like to get a real RAID. I don’t know why, but it seems that most of the talk in the SATA world about RAID is RAID 0+1 (striping + mirroring), but I was really impressed the first time I saw a RAID 5 setup and the owner of it just yanked a drive out of the array and slapped another one in, and the application didn’t even hiccup while the RAID controller went about its business rebuilding the new drive.
  4. LVM. I like the fact that LVM can do a “transaction snapshot” almost like a database transaction, so you can backup a consistent view of the system instead of trying to copy an image of a system that’s changing while you copy it. I haven’t read if this is possible, but it seems to me that you’d be able to stop all the services that are most likely to have problems with consistency (postgres, mysql and innd for instance), start your backup snapshot, and then start those processes again, so the services would only be down for a few seconds rather than however many hours your backup took.
  5. Dual processors. Like I said, I consider that one of the best features of this current machine. Any replacement would also have to have them.