Thursday, January 18th, 2018
Ah, the physicality!
It was again Solderpunk who brought me to thinking. Once upon
a time, for a brief moment, I too had a physical server and I still
miss it. But let me start (as usual) with a bit of local history
(sorry, I had modern history as minor on college and I just can't help
In the late 1990's and early 2000's Internet connection in the Czech
republic was quite an expensive thing to have. The only option in most
areas was dial-up, which was super-expensive until cca 2000 due to
state monopoly on phone lines. Contemporary comparison shows that in
1999 the cost of twenty hours of connection in the U.S. was around $25
and here it was up to $86, while the average annual income in the U.S.
was $19776 and here $6168.
Protests changed nothing and when WiFi standard emerged, people solved
the matter themselves: non-profit organizations were formed, which
bought connectivity from commercial providers and distributed it via
WiFi to their members for acceptable monthly fee. Quite quickly we
become WiFi superpower, there is no other country in Europe with that
many WiFi networks everywhere. If you scan the 2.4 GHz channels on
street of any bigger city, you find maybe 80-100 networks. I live in
quite a small town (under ten thousand inhabitants) and when I scan
with my laptop sitting on sofa in our living room, over 30 networks
are discovered. Compare that with France, where ten years ago WiFi was
forbidden for use outside buildings.
Back in 2003, when the cost of our dial-up went over 1/4 of my
father's wage, we decided to join the WiFi madness. WiFi
routers/access points were expensive then, so we bought just a 802.11b
PCI card and built PC from some leftover parts to do all the routing
Here are the parameters:
CPU: 2x Intel Pentium MMX @ 200 MHz
RAM: 128 MB (2x 64 MB EDO SIMM 72-pin)
HDD: 520 MB + 2 GB IDE
VGA: S3 PCI
OS: Slackware Linux 10
I used old server big-tower case, somehow managed to fit there regular
AT power-supply instead of the broken non-standard one and configured
the card using ndiswrapper and Windows driver. The machine sat
directly under the roof, as close to the antenna as possible. As it
was on 24/7 and we got an IPv4 address for free, I bought a .net
domain, installed Apache, ftpd and various other server-side apps and
my first (and only) physical server was born.
I wasn't living with my parents at the time as I was in different part
of the country on university, so I started to use the machine as
a remote shell for mail, IRC, etc. After a while some of my friends
asked me to create them an account and soon there were 8-10 SSH
connections day and night. When I visited my parents, I enjoyed
working directly on that computer, talking to connected users, doing
the updates etc.
Sadly after two years the WiFi provider disappeared and as prices of
connection dropped significantly, my parents switched to an ADSL line.
There was no reason to pay for electricity for a continuously-running
computer, so the machine went off, never to serve anything again.
I tried to boot it couple of years after that and the board burst in
flames - under the roof, there are freezing temperatures in winter
and boiling in summer and capacitors didn't survive such conditions.
Since then I have no physical server, but I plan to go this way again