04 May 2005

Ah, how expensive it is to save money

I’m doing a three-dose set of Professional Development sessions for some Perth (and one Albany) IT teachers. So that everyone got a turn at doing everything, the venue provided us with an identical decommissioned machine each to set up.

The first discovery, the day before we started, was that Warly appears to have broken mkcd, the Mandrake script for turning a mirror tree into ISO images. Oh, well, out with the floppies and on with the network install.

The second discovery is that ancient Harry Tan (Tang brand) floppy drives have about a 1/3 failure rate if left idle for long enough.

The third discovery is that all of the identical machines weren't, specifically the LAN cards weren't. Some of them had odd 100Mb-only (ie, not 10/100) LAN cards for which there appear to be no Linux drivers. Of the four which were real EtherExpress cards, two like the eepro100 driver and two like the e100 driver. Some of the alternatives were... interesting. Like a hp card which did standard 10Mb plus a nonstandard 100Mb mode (and again no Linux driver).

The fourth discovery is that Mandrake 2005LE’s installer doesn't like 96MB of RAM. 128MB is fine, and 64MB worked on Sunday, but 96MB seems to confuse it. It loads the second stage of the installer and then goes straight back to asking for an installation source. Thankfully(?) we had three known-dysfunctional machines by this time, so swapping RAM around to up the 96MB machines to 128MB was easy.

The fifth discovery was another episode of not-identical. Most of the machines had built-in Intel video chipsets, no worries, but some had Virge PCI cards and a couple had... odd... PCI cards. Thankfully, some of the Virge cards were perfectly happy with X11, which differs markedly with my experiences of Virges a few years ago.

If this sounds like a stress-test to you, then you’d be right. However, by the end of the evening (at which point the security guards rocked up and asked what we were doing there, since no arrangements, according to them, had been made), everyone had done a basic installation, got the webserver working with some basic virtual hosting happening, and in some cases got as far as prepping PostgreSQL for its part in the festivities.

The next session will involve some actual PHP scripting, which is what the whole session was about.

Glad to see James Dumay now well past that first critical week as an oxygen-breather. Choose life! (-:

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