Why The Hell Do I Do This To Myself?

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:13 pm

So yeah, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted in almost two weeks. Sorry about that. My delinquency, while not justified, is at least explainable. See, I wanted to play Left 4 Dead.

That’s a gross oversimplification, of course. It’s not as though I have spent the last 13 days playing L4D 24/7. But that’s how this sordid tale begins.

So I was all hot to start playing Left 4 Dead, the new team-based, zombie-centric survival horror game from Valve Software. Not a problem: not only is my hardware already well up to the task, but my buddy Gary got me a free key to play it over Valve’s content control/distribution server Steam. All I needed was a good headset and a few friends and I was ready to go. The friends were a crucial element: not only is the game somewhat repetitive when played with bots as your teammates, but frankly, I wasn’t going to be able to play this thing by myself. The game scenario—you and your team stuck in a zombie-infested city, struggling to survive and find a way out—was entirely too much like the stress nightmares I have when I am seriously overworked or otherwise overwhelmed. Seriously, when my waking hours are too stressful I am all too likely to spend a good chunk of my REM sleep fleeing boundless swarms of the living dead. The only way I was going to be able to play this sucker was in the company of a few friends, present both as avatars and via voice chat, to remind me that it was only a game.

So that’s why I haven’t posted a new entry in two weeks.

No, wait, that doesn’t make sense, there must be more to it….

So I played a few rounds online with some chums, and it occurred to me that I could get another friend in on the game by setting up my currently-mothballed ex-blog server as a second gaming machine. The thing is pretty wicked fast—it’s based around the same motherboard as my gaming rig, and was initially purchased in an act of desperation when my original motherboard decided to expire right in the middle of playing Bioshock and I couldn’t wait until the thing got RMAed to finish the game. I used it to serve out my blog for a while before deciding that a big overheated blowtorch like this was a bit of overkill for this purpose, at which time I replaced it with a much humbler machine I had lying around and set it aside for a while. I have been contemplating hooking a PC to the big TV upstairs for some time now anyway, so faced with an excuse to do so I picked up a few components and put together a decent gaming computer for the living room, complete with connection to our surround sound home theater system. You can practically feel the zombies taking bites out of your ass!

Thing is, this put the number of active computers in the house up to a quantity bordering on the redonkulous. I by myself already run a design workstation, a gaming computer, a laptop, a web server and a combined camera server/Unreal Tournament server/spam trap. Adding another gaming computer to the mix seemed like conspicuous consumption….or conspicuous power consumption at the very least.

I decided it was my duty to eliminate one computer from my cluster and fob its job(s) off on another machine. The obvious choice was the web server, an antediluvian Power Macintosh G4 Cube I had sitting around and decided to employ as an Apache training exercise as well as for the fun of it. Well, fun’s over, everybody out of the pool. 😐

So I deked the Cube and moved my blog over to the Shuttle I’ve been using for my camera/UT server.

For anyone keeping score (oh let’s not fool ourselves; no one is keeping score, not even me), this is the seventh computer I have used to host my blog in the approximately five years I have served our site out of our home: four Macs and three PCs. I’m back on the PC again this time ’round, only this time, I’m running the thing under Apache rather than IIS. I figure, as long as I’m throwing another gooey bucket of chaos over the gears and cogs of my home life, I might as well try to learn something new in the process. And as I’ve mentioned before, between Apache and Windows Internet Information Services, my preference definitely skews towards Apache.

For anyone contemplating setting up a home Web server with minimal fuss, I would heartily recommend a free program called XAMPP. XAMPP offers a full meal deal for Web serving: Apache, MySQL, PHP5, Perl, FTP and mail servers, all in one distribution. This package is designed for development on a home machine, inaccessible from the Internet, but locking it down to a reasonable extent for public consumption is pretty easy, and there are a host (heh heh, get it?) of tutorials out there for making XAMPP more secure. I was able to get my blog ported over and ready for testing in short order.

At that point, however, things took a bit of a tumble. Something that I have come across before but have never been able to fully explore got in my way; namely, that Windows XP seems to have a real bug up its ass about multihoming. I prefer to run my Web server in its own network address space, with other network-oriented tasks taking place on a second WAN and LAN address range. I ran my Mac Cube server on two discrete networks without a single problem, but both times I have attempted to run a Web server on an XP box—IIS or Apache—I’ve run into insurmountable problems. Traceroutes from one interface to the other (out one router, across a switch and into the other; just as easy as walking out the front door of your house and re-entering from the back porch) would just disappear somewhere in the middle, causing all manner of bizarre timeouts and other unproductive behavior. After hammering away at the problem for a couple of days, I gave up and consolidated all of my network activity to one IP address range. Sloppier and more stressful on my router, to be sure, but way less stressful for me. Any more trouble with this project and I was going to start having zombie dreams.

Anywho, so that’s the main reason why I haven’t been posting. Overall this project has had me wrangling with three different computers, including two different copies of my blog, and anything new I put up on one would inevitably have to have been updated on the other. I figured it was just easier to let you all think I was on a major pill jag or something. On the other hand, this whole thing did help to fulfill my deep-seated need to fuck around with stuff that’s working perfectly well until it no longer is, then find new and interesting ways to bring it back from the edge of the abyss. Anyways, now I’m back, and hopefully you’ll be reading from me on a more regular basis.

Oh, and if anyone knows why Windows Xp is such a turd about multihoming, drop me a line, wouldya? :mrgreen:

2 Responses to “Why The Hell Do I Do This To Myself?”

  1. Tony Lenzer Says:

    Well, Andrew, I don’t know anything about “multihoming,” but I do know that we tried to give you one good home as a child, in which you learned to speak proper English. It is evident, from, the above, that you have completely lost that ability.
    Your Dad

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    LOLZ Dad, u R teh r0x0r! GTG TTFN!

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