At one point you had a home-made server rack in the spare bedroom of your second-floor apartment.

A conglomerate of ancient and new hardware, the network was a failure-tolerant datacenter in miniature. There were multiple internet connections. There was a firewall. And a DMZ. There were redundant DNS servers. Clustered webservers. UPS battery backups. Primary, secondary, and tertiary mail servers. Behind it all, intertwined, patch cables tangled to form an elaborate birdsnest, just out of view.

There were 386’s. 486’s. Pentiums. There was an old Sparc whose external hard drive heated-up and noisily vibrated when accessed. An old monitor, long since losing its color and going monochrome, relayed the passsage of mail and website hits. There was an old laptop, missing its battery, used only as a serial-console.

One of the machines, a hulking beast you found in a dusty storage room and purchased for $40, had a thick metal hide and required special tools, no longer available, to open. The bolts held it shut and you hoped nothing would go wrong inside. When it rebooted, you held your breath.

On Intel there was FreeBSD. OpenBSD. There was RedHat. Debian. There was Windows NT and Windows 2000 for those times when you needed IIS or ASP.

On Sparc there was Solaris. The smaller one, what’s called a lunchbox, ran 1.4.3. It’s brother, a pizza-box, ran 7. Despite it’s fancy dual-cpu’s, it lumbered, compiling MySQL more slowly than a 386 with a failing hard drive.

The machines ran 24/7. Through power-failures and thunderstorms they held their uptimes. At night, if you listened closely, you could hear them clicking through the walls.

That was then.

This is today. At home, in the bedroom you use as an office, sits the PowerMac G4-Dual. Running Mac OS X and Virtual PC, you’ve got every OS you’ll ever need. Every development environment you might want. In the spare bedroom, running silently, you’ll find a wireless iMac, for use by guests and visitors.

You just hope the power doesn’t go out.

More articles in the Archive →