With my software DVD ready, and my hardware on order, all I had to do was wait and fret. And backup all of the posts I still had on the servers at Bluehost. That done, I started deleting files from their servers, preparing my new domain names, and transferring the existing one.

Hosting companies can charge big fees for securing your domain name and hosting it. Since I’m only looking to register the domains, I could go direct to Network Solutions and search for the ones I wanted. It only costs $20/year to secure a domain name.

I picked the two I wanted and purchased them, and then put in a request to transfer jimsantosblog.com from Bluehost to Network Solutions ($9.95 one-time fee). Once the domains are ready and my server setup, I can go on their website and manually point the domains to my server’s IP address – no monthly hosting charge.

Just two days after ordering the hardware, I had my new server! First shock – it was way bigger than I remembered from my network engineer days! And heavier, weighing over 45 pounds. I guess I usually saw them already on the racks, where just the front face is visible.

Speaking of which, once I saw it I realized I should probably order a rack to hold it and a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) to protect it and keep it running.

Where am I going to put this beast?

I had to wait one more day for the old-school VGA monitor to arrive, and then I was ready to do the installation of the server OS.

Not without some trepidation. I had been about 14 years since I got my Red Hat Linux Certification, and while I had fond memories of how well it functioned, and how easy it was to setup and configure services, I also remembered what a pain installation could be.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon to run into problems with hardware support. I had done my best to confirm in advance that Ubuntu 20.04 could handle everything in my new toy, but I knew I might find myself needing to download and install several other packages just to recognize an ethernet or a video card. Then there was the dreaded “nested loop” install problems that used to come up.

I had vivid memories of trying to add new hardware, or a new service. Sometimes I would find the right package, download and begin the install. At some point, the installation would pause, and I would get the fateful message “You must install *** dependency to install this software”.

Fine, I would go and find that package, and begin its install.

“You must install the following three dependencies to install this software.”

Before I knew it, I had a list of a dozen modules to be installed before I could install the one I originally started with. Sometimes I would forget what the heck I was trying to do in the first place, or even worse, finally finish the installation only to discover that for it to function I would have to add two additional modules, and we are off and running again.

The other thing tickling my anxiety nerve was that while I had worked with RAID array systems before, I had never actually set one up.

So after a few sacrifices to the computer gods, I turned on the server (which started with a sound like a 747 taking off), inserted the DVD, and gave myself over to Fate.

Fortunately, it turns out Ubuntu and Linux has advanced quite a bit in those 14 years. The HP380 booted from the DVD, and shortly asked if I wanted to install the software. Crossing my fingers, I entered “y”.

Much to my surprise and delight, it did the equivalent of “Dude, I see you have hardware RAID – want to use it?”. Another “y”, selecting the type of RAID, and it set it all up by itself!

I was so surprised, later that day I restarted so I could look at the drives with HP’s tools. Glory be, everything was configured just the way I wanted it, and all eight hard drive lights were merrily blinking away.

Well, that was easy!

With the basic server setup, it was now just a matter of adding the modules that I needed to make it a web server, allow ftp uploads, connect via secure shell, and so on. I promptly got another pleasant surprise about how things have changed.

I started with installing the web server module, called apache2.

Brief detour here. I mentioned in the last post , there is a tendency in the open-source software world to use quirky names for products. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that years ago when work was being done on a web server module, things were a little shaky at first. Coders call corrections and additions to software “patches”. According to legend, after weeks of a patch here and a patch there, some forgotten hero exclaimed, “Wow, this sure is a patchy web server”.

With that “apache” web server was born.

Anyway, I was ready to install its descendant, apache2, using the marvelous new (to me) command “apt”. Apt stands for “Advanced Packaging Tool”, and brother, it ain’t kidding. The whole process consisted of first entering “sudo apt update” (sudo just means do this as someone with the right permissions and requires a password when used in the first sequence).

This causes apt to go out and check to see that you currently have all the latest updates installed. If it finds some that need upgrading, it will tell you. All you need do then is tell it “sudo apt upgrade”, and it will do the rest.

Now I was ready to install apache2 by typing “sudo apt install apache2”. Instead of that nested loop problem, I saw something like this:

Actually a picture of a later upgrade, but you get the idea. APT did it all for me!

I was on my way! Over the next few days when I had time, I worked on adding all of my desired packages and configuring them. Configuring is still as easy as I recalled – in most cases just editing a text files with the configuration information, saving it, and then stopping/starting the service with a simple “sudo systemctl restart name of service”.

Soon my rack arrived and I assembled it, then got my server off the coffee table and into its new home. BTW – it is named loki as an homage to the first Linux server I worked on, not the Marvel movies. But still.

“Loki” in his new home.

Now all that remains is to get some software on my MAC workstation to design the website, transfer over my old blog posts, setup a subscription field, configure mail, and I’m all set!

How hard could that be?!