Owen's Portal > Interests > Computers & Linux

I enjoy tinkering with computers. I'm not so interested in the latest and greatest hardware, rather, I enjoy reviving and re-purposing old machines and giving them new life. I am also a fan of the Linux Operating System. I operate a home server that runs on Ubuntu Linux, and I use Kubuntu on my main desktop machine. I also have an off-site backup machine that sleeps during the day in an undisclosed location and wakes up every night to grab copies of my files for safekeeping. These machines are all semi-obsolete computers that I have "rescued" from various sources; I actually spend very little money on computers and related equipment.

I consider my server to be an extension of my brain. My organic brain has limited capacity to hold information, and often suffers from reliability problems, so I outsource much of my daily accumulation of extraneous information onto this other brain based on silicon, copper, and spinning magnetic platters. Of course, most inhabitants of modern culture do this too, but I find comfort in having full control over this information and having a fairly comprehensive understanding of how it is stored, manipulated, and distributed. Also, I just like tinkering.

My server's name is jezzubu.kehoe.org, and it is the home of the kehoe.org domain, as well as a few others. The name jezzubu is derived from the game Jezzball. The first incarnation of my server was called the Jezzmachine, it started out as a spare machine sitting in a closet that was mainly used by my college housemates for playing the aforementioned video game. Once it got a DSL connection with a static IP address, then I started doing more useful things with it like using it as a file/FTP server, then I bought the kehoe.org domain and hosted a web site on it. Back then it ran WindowsNT 4.0, a terrible operating system. I renamed the jezzmachine to jezzubu when I rebuilt it to run under Ubuntu Linux, dumping WindowsNT for good. Now, I use my server for the following things:
  1. Hosting web sites using the Apache web server, not just for this personal site, but also for a few other worthy organizations such as the Seattle Farm Coop.
  2. Operating a fully-functional email server using postfix (SMTP) and Dovecot (IMAP)
  3. Providing a central repository for my files, using Samba for accessing my files over the LAN, and SSH/SFTP for accessing these files remotely
  4. MPD for playing music from my collection and streaming audio throughout the house
  5. A Tiny Tiny RSS installation to keep myself informed of current events
  6. Sharing a somewhat-temperamental color LaserJet printer via the CUPS print server
  7. VPN tunnelling over SSH to securely browse the web over public wifi
  8. Using rsync and cron to back everything up to a remote location
  9. Charging devices in the basement via USB port (since it's usually on all night)
  10. Drying laundry when needed

The one disadvantage of using a home server is that it has to be running 24/7 and therefore constantly draws power (about 60 watts continuous). Various cloud services could probably provide most of these functions using less energy. However, the heat generated by my home server can be used to keep the house warm for 8 out of 12 months of the year in the pacific northwest, whereas large data centers waste this heat and have to employ elaborate cooling systems to deal with it.

The house has a grid-tied solar array, so this server is largely solar powered!

Some of my favorite tech/linux links:

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