Revisiting Tacgnol

2009-July-07

Tacgnol is a ThinkPad X24 that I recently put into the role of my web and shell server. It's running debian linux, like many of its web serving predecessors have, and despite being an old, (manufactured in March 2003) small, (the X series is IBM/Lenovo's ultraportable series) laptop, it's actually a very effective server machine.

The biggest reservation I had about using tacgnol is the fact that it really is a pretty slow machine compared to what has been hosting my website for the past year, flatdell which is a Core2 based machine with 3.5 gigs of ram and big, fast SATA hard disks, which was the follow-on to the Sun Ultra60 which was a dual 450MHz SPARC machine with a gig of ram and big/fast SCSI hard disks.

The speed of tacgnol has been pretty impressive though. Of course, I haven't noticed a big (if any) difference at all in the speed of the sites on the server (this blog, along with the wiki, and my personal area.) The other big component of tacgnol is shell access to screen and IRSSI, and in all reality, almost anything can do that particular task effectively. The decTOP I had before the U60 would do it perfectly for multiple users, although it would suffer a slow down in the web department.

One of the things I've been keeping track of is the CPU load and memory usage on tacgnol, and the common trend is that the only thing using meaningful amounts of CPU time on a regular basis is htop, the tool I use to view the memory and CPU usage. To my knowledge, it hasn't ever used more than half of the 384mb of ram the machine has, and in the eleven days it has been up as of this writing, it hasn't even touched swap yet.

And so how long will tacgnol stay the web/shell server? It's likely to stay the shell server for a very long time, I'm really pleased with its performance, mainly because my shell requirements are incredibly minimalistic, and with the exception of last semester when I was doing stuff with C, I doubt my shell requirements will ever exceed the capabilities of the X24.

One nice but weird thing about tacgnol being the server is that flatdell has got nothing to do these days. For a few days flatdell sat around actually turned off, before I made the decision to install Windows 7 RC on it, which is working well, and to make flatdell feel important again, I'm currently running SETI@Home on it, and it has moved under my desk and is hooked up to the TV as Glenn and my's dedicated hulu computer -- whether or not it'll stay in that role, I'm not sure.

Ultimately I'm happy with the decision, which was based on the fact that the SunRay is no longer working properly, and the fact that I really (with only one production system doing most of my work) don't need a fileserver anymore, making flatdell's extra memory, processing power and epic disk configuration somewhat unnecessary for my web server. It frees flatdell as a development and test platform for things like Windows 7, illigitimate Mac OS X, or even just to become a test Windows server for sharepoint and remote apps, and as we approach the heat of the year, it keeps my website functional without adding too much heat. (Although it's worth noting that even running SETI 24/7, flatdell doesn't really put out very much heat at all.)

Also, I hate but love to play this game: Running the incredibly stable Debian Lenny system, and having its own built-in battery, tacgnol is likely to accumulate a pretty incredible amount of uptime. Not having to shut down the whole system when I move will be incredibly helpful. I'm pretty sure if I needed to have it down for an extended period of time I could even put it into sleep or hibernate mode. I suspect that tacgnol will be running for a very, very long time.