Christmas Presents for Geeks

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I guess it's that time of year when I ought to acknowledge that the festive season is upon us. You can always tell when Christmas is on the way because computer magazines are full of "ideas for presents for computer users". I don't know about you, but a 2GB USB memory stick doesn't really seem like a present I'd want to give somebody, unless perhaps it came dressed in a Santa outfit and long flowing beard. Likewise, a Webcam. I mean, they'd probably expect me to start visiting their FaceDiggSpace page to see how ugly they look when viewed from eight inches away.

However, when my wife asked me what I really wanted for Christmas, I suppose I unfortunately revealed an even deeper level of my geekability when I said I needed a new fan for a Dell 1400SC server. The one that was in it had decided to reach its MTBF and had started howling like a banshee. I can't trace one anywhere, but she has that wonderful knack of being able to find the weirdest things that we need in some charity shop, second-hand emporium, or bargain store. But I guess this quest was beyond even her legendary capabilities.

OK, so I found a spare fan in my junk box and managed, using my vast experience in percussive maintenance, to persuade it to fit into the server. But it only has two wires instead of three, which means that the server doesn't believe there actually is a fan, even though there's more wind coming out of the back than you'd get from a flatulent elephant. So whenever the server reboots, it stops to ask me whether I want it to carry on and run Windows and do something useful, or do I want it to just sit there forever still running (and, you'd assume, overheating if there was no fan) but doing nothing.

At one time it used to do the same if the KVM switch wasn't pointing to it when it booted (with the extremely useful message "Keyboard not detected, press F1 to continue"), but I found out how to disable that in the BIOS. But there seems to be no way to tell it to ignore the "system fan not detected" error. I did wonder about just shoving 12 volts onto the third pin on the motherboard, but even my non-averse approach to experimental maintenance suggested this was probably not a wise move.

So, my Christmas present is a pair of cheap Dell Quad core Xeon servers with tons of disk space, 8 GB memory, and three network cards in each one. Yep, I'm going to have a virtual Yuletide and play with Hyper-V to see if I can drag my remote office server and network infrastructure into the 21st century. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get all the stuff I need, such as AD, DNS, DHCP, ISA, Exchange Server, and a couple of Web sites up and running again. If I seem to have gone very quiet over the next month or so, you'll probably find me in the garage with my head in the server cabinet emitting streams of expletives.

It's probably a good thing that nobody gave me a Webcam for Christmas.

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Christmas Presents for Geeks