Servers, Damn Servers

I like using internet tools. I hate taking care of servers. Today has been a bad jinxed day. Is that more Alberta voodoo?

For one thing, I loathe turning off web sites that are still accessible or even actually used. I have some web pages that first popped up more than 12 years ago. But I did have to retire one site today. Back in 2000, I did some experimental work with (then) Macromedia Director and its Multi User Server (MUS) technology allowing me to create a couple of multi-user multimedia applications. But now, my multi user projects are now dead.

The MUS allowed for environments to be created that could be shared by multiple users, so I had developed on simulation that allowed multiple people to control the variables in an ideal gas law experiment (chemistry, we all remember PV=NRT right?):

Ideal Gas Law Game
Designed for introductory chemistry students, this provides an environment for them to understand the interplay of the four variables described by the Ideal Gas Las. Working in groups, the teams attempt to achieve a target pressure (P) in an experimental chamber by manipulation volume (V), Temperature (T), and number of moles of gas (n). A separate instructors tool allows the creation of new groups, adjustment to initial conditions for each group, and a means to monitor the progress of multiple groups while they are using the environment.

Balancing Chemical Equations
Also developed with chemistry students in mind, this application provides a place for them to practice balancing stoichiometric equations by manipulating the coefficients. The all must agree upon their final answer before submitting it electronically. There is also a special tool for the instructors to import new equations into the server (from Word documents) and monitor the progress of groups as they work.

The communication was enabled by a server based messaging application. Since 2000, this has been running on a mid 1990s vintage Mac 8500/150, running OS 9, that sat on a shelf in my office. I recently learned this was going to need to be moved/killed because of security changes in our network that will not allow incoming internet traffic onto my office floor. I was hoping to find another place to put the MUS, and even had a colleague offer, but I was really fuzzy on the set up- there were, if I recall, some funky arcane commands to set up the multiuser database variables. But I was unable to even look at the server, since the old monitor gave out that same day, and I do not even have a spare that will work on the old computer.

So have just given in, and posted notes that the sites no longer would work. It’s too bad, as they were quite functional, and the connection logs showed at least 10-100 connections/uses on a daily basis. Who they were and what they were doing, I have no idea. Sorry if I left anyone high and dry.

Even worse has been the pummeling of our “Jade” (An Apple XServe) server that houses Feed2JS. Sometime recently, the hard drive that holds the server content came up with directory issues. So I had to take it offline, and rebuilt it with DiskWarrior (another victory for the warrior).

The problem is when this server goes down, and all those web pages that use Feed2JS go with it, the traffic is n-tupled as people keep trying to reload pages. The bigger problem was a few weeks back when our office’s in house OS X Server’s hard drive also went bad, and has been lined up for a drive replacement. Until then, I had put the office’s stuff on our Jade Server, which is already rather stressed by its network demands above.

It’s a good thing this is a quiet week- faculty here are on Spring Break, and many others take off as well. I need to run down to Fry’s today to pick up a new HD for the old server, move the content back, and hope it call gets cleaned up for our office as I too am planing a week long absence starting tomorrow.

The reliance on our simple server for Feed2JS has been a problem in my mind, and I have ideas sketched out on how to better distribute the load, and move the primary site to EduForge. It has become an out of control monster.

Servers, damn servers. I hate ’em.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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