State of the Nerd Report / Homelab Update


The last few months have been quite a ride. I’ve been busy, both at work and at play. And both influence one another. Of course, if I were going to write about work tonight, I’ve got another outlet for that. So let’s catch up on what I’ve been up to in my personal nerding.

I’ve largely pulled back from photography. This isn’t so much on a permanent basis, but long enough for me to catch up on some other geekery. My home office was looking like something out of hoarders, though, so I took drastic action before my family could stage an intervention.

The part that hurts the most is that I’ve liquidated almost all of my darkroom equipment. I can still process exposed film in 35mm and medium format, but no longer have the trays for sheet film processing. All three enlargers are gone, safe lights are gone, enlarger timer is gone. In a nutshell, I can no longer create analog enlargements. This reflects the reality of how poorly my darkroom setup was. Quite literally, it involved crawling around on the floor of my downstair bathroom with an enlarger propped up on the toilet lid, trays in the bathtub, other supplies scattered on the floor around me. My knees can’t take it anymore, and I’m not making a significant upgrade in my house to accommodate a permanent professional type darkroom, so off it went.

A lot of old computer junk went off to the recycling center. I still have a bunch of hard disks to drill out, but this also freed up a lot of floor space.

But I didn’t just spend my time getting rid of stuff: there are new toys, as well.

  • Force10 S50 switch – 48 managed gigabit ethernet ports. This was much-needed. The Cisco SG300-10 was moved upstairs to the living room. I’ve now got a wired connection between upstairs and downstairs, which fundamentally changes how my whole house network functions now… especially since the internet connectivity comes into the house from upstairs, and all of the real infrastructure is downstairs.
  • Many upgrades to the N40L. The ZFS pool was upgraded from 4x 2TB disks to 4x 6TB disks, which will now give me room for a backing store for virtual machines. 2x 128GB SSD’s were added as boot disks, so the OS could be changes from SmartOS to OmniOS. I did this mostly because I felt what I needed was more of a general purpose OS on that machine, and I also wanted the better IPv6 support that OmniOS provides. I added a third 128GB SSD as a slog device. Yeah, it’s way too big. But I didn’t want to partition a reach cache device for this. I’m saving the final 2.5″ disk slot for an L2ARC SSD.
  • ZFS-backed network Time Machine backups for my Macbook.
  • WiFi upgrades – The Apple wifi gear is gone. This is great, because the Apple Airport Extreme would fall over when placed under heavy load, sometimes multiple times per day. I split the router/firewall role out to a pfSense machine, and moved the WiFi duties to ubiquity gear. Remember how I told you how to create a Tor-only VLAN with a Raspberry Pi last year? Well, that VLAN is still running. And now it finally has something to do: it’s the basis for my WiFi guest network.
  • Desk – I really hated my old desk. I never liked it. Not even a little. I got a small bump in cash from recent events at work, and put some of it towards a nice desk upgrade. I’m now writing this while standing up at my carbonized bamboo GeekDesk Max.

I feel like I’ve been super busy and not getting a lot done. But I have gotten a lot done. I just have a lot more to do.

Some of the things I want to get done soon:

  • Get my private cloud bootstrapped.
  • Spend some time really learning and putting to use a programming language like Ruby, Go, or Python.
  • Get more involved with contributing to the Tor community. Somehow. See the bit above about learning a new programming language.
  • Speaking of Tor, one of the moderators at /r/tor just up and banned me with no warning or conversation or anything. The explanation didn’t seem to make sense. Given I’m going to be spending more time writing about Tor, I’d hate to be closed out of this part of the community. Stretch goal: figure out how to be allowed back in through the front door. I don’t have interest in sneaking through the back.
  • I’ve got a lot of ideas around automating orchestration of a bunch of Tor relays “in the cloud”. And I plan on budgeting some $$ every month towards deploying and maintaining such a hive of relays.
  • Beaglebone Black. I’ve got one. I just need to find a cool project for it.
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