I have just shut down my faithful P133 Red Hat 6.1 server after 12 years of continuous use. It’s been doing a fine job as a firewall, NFS + SAMBA server, print server, even a web server until the traffic to the Free Telephony Project got too high. Every IP04 I have shipped was commissioned using the RS232 serial port on this machine (it has two!).
This computer started out as a Windows box in my previous business some time around 1997. In 2000 I installed Red Hat 6.2 and used it for an office server for a few years before setting it up at home.
I use my kids as “host name servers” for new computers. So every time I get a new computer I ask the youngest to name it after their toy or whatever. This process usually goes something like:
“What do you call your rabbit, Amy?”
So the next computer gets a hostname of “froggy”.
This box was originally called “whitesnow”, a mixed up version of “snow white” from my then 4 year old daughter. When I took it home my then 3 year old son renamed it dragonballz after his favorite cartoon at the time.
It was still happily running a Linux 2.2.16 kernel on a 133MHz “Genuine Pentium MMX” processor. For many years it had just 32M of ram, although I upgraded it to 64M in 2004 when I installed a database. Keeping it’s 2G hard drive from filling was a continuous chore, but I found constant pruning made me just keep the files I really needed (mainly home and small business data).
Without planned obsolescence it’s amazing how long something electronic can last. I guess open source breaks the traditional Microsoft type model of “buy a new computer as the latest operating system needs more memory and CPU”. No real reason a basic server can’t last for 20 or even 50 years I guess. Plenty of human activities remain the same over many years, like driving a car or posting a letter, or listening to AM radio. I bet we will be sending text emails in 20 years time, and storing files, and connecting to the Internet. It’s only the economic models we fit around these activities that force an upgrade, like the switch from analog to digital TV, new operating systems, or the cost of spare parts and labour for maintaining a car.
I am replacing dragonballz with a WRT54G, as I need a more modern kernel that can pass SIP through the firewall. That way I can finally use VOIP for my normal phone calls. Yeah yeah I know I make VOIP hardware for a living, but mechanics always have the roughest cars, and electricians always have wires poking out of their walls. So I am a slow adopter for actually using VOIP. Another reason is that I would also like to reduce the power consumption of my office and to be honest I am the only person in the house using the file server, so I might as well just put the files on my laptop.
Dragonballz was a rather noisy PC, the two fans (CPU and power supply) used to make most of the noise in my office. Spookily quiet without those fans though, you get used to certain sounds when you hack away in front of them for 9 years.