inessential by Brent Simmons


I retired a server last night. Woo-hoo! As a guy who runs or helps run about a dozen servers, this is a great thing.

Here's the life story of this server, a Mac 7200/120.

Ranchero's original server was a Quadra 650, purchased at Future Shop on Aurora in 1995. It was originally at the end of a dedicated 28.8 modem, before being moved to digital.forest, then in Redmond. (I think it was Redmond -- it was in the woods somewhere.)

Before going to digital.forest, for a few months it was in my bedroom -- and I'd wake up at night when AutoBoot kicked in and restarted it after a crash. The Mac startup chimes would wake me up. Then Sheila would say: wake up, the baby's crying. She still teases me about it. (More proof how cool she is -- she put up with having a server in our bedroom. Sheesh.)

Anyway -- it wasn't long before we wanted a faster server, and so we bought the 7200/120 to replace it.

So -- back to Future Shop to get a 7200/120. In 1996 it was a pretty fast machine, though not the top-of-the-line, so it was a good deal.

We drove it out to digital.forest, and basically just copied the hard drive from the 650 to the 7200.

And now, four years later, it has been turned off. A real trooper, it performed well with few glitches for four years. Its services are now running on other machines.

Its name was jeeves. The original 650 was also named jeeves. Now it's the end of an era -- there is no more jeeves.

I'm now running just one pre-OS-X Mac server, a G3 we bought in 1998 (I think). It's running some of jeeves' services plus a few of its own. I'm working toward retiring it too.

But I have and will continue to have a fondness for the old Macs. They're what I cut my teeth on -- and they did make pretty good servers. Security was much less of an issue than on NT or Linux or OS X. WebSTAR, EIMS, QuickDNS, Rumpus, LetterRip, etc. -- they're all so damn easy to maintain. If you're a Mac guy, and I was and still am, you had to appreciate the beauty of how even the server apps were Mac-like. So much attention to hacking the details.

The worst thing was, of course, that they didn't stay up as well as, say, Linux boxes. They crashed or froze. Even still, I sometimes got uptimes measured in months.

But then a server might go through a period where it wouldn't stay up for more than a day, as if Murphy was cradling it in his accident-prone embrace.

So that's a horrible way to live, and it's why you have to retire these great old machines and go with OS X, Linux, BSD, NT, something a bit more stable.

While I feel sentimental toward the machine, toward the history it represents for me -- it's a huge relief to turn it off. It's one less machine to crash on me.

But I couldn't let this pass -- nearly five years of service -- without a notice.