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Scott's Column
UPS, Server Configuration, Finishing The Deck

August 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

I took a quick trip to New York during July, so I did not have as much time to do projects as I wanted. I am still working on the deck, but hopefully it will be done soon. Last month I mentioned that I needed to spend some time configuring my server, and I managed to get to that which included buying a UPS for the server room.

The Deck

As I write this... just a couple of days before posting on Aug. 1st, the deck is not much further along than it was last month. My trip to New York and trying to catch up on other things have put the deck on the back burner to some extent. My brother-in-law did come help me setup the perimeter of the remaining portion of the deck. I just have to build the framing and surface area. I will need his help when it gets close to the end of the framing because we need to rip a couple of boards and cut a couple at unusual angles. I will most definitely screw that up.

Next month I should be able to show you the completed surface area of the deck. I don't know how soon we will get the railing up. I have all the lumber I need to finish the framing and surface, but I have not bought any of the material for the railing.

Just a couple of days before I wrote this the DVD player in my bedroom stopped working, and at the same time my lawn mower decided I didn't need to mow the lawn. More obstacles to get in the way of finishing the deck.

UPS

We'll I finally did it... I bought a UPS for my server. Whenever I think about a UPS for a computer I think of a saying from Jerry Pournelle. It goes something like this, any work that you do that does not have a UPS on it can't be important work. And that has been the case. I don't do anything important that I need a UPS. At home I have not had any trouble with my server, but when it shuts down due to a power "blip" it won't turn back on.

The reason it won't turn back on is because a monitor is not attached to it. I have done everything I can think of in the BIOS to try and get it to boot up without a monitor, but no luck. I even have the computer set to startup after a loss of power. I need to try and find a monitor cable and see if just attaching that will work, but my boss says that won't be enough.

Back to the UPS. Another reason for getting the UPS was for my cable modem and Linksys router/hub. The cable modem does a fine job coming back on after power blips, but the router/hub would much prefer to have a moment or two to "relax" before turning back on. If the power outage is very short (one or two seconds) the router/hub will not come back on properly. This makes it difficult for my wife to get on the Internet unless she is going to unplug the router/hub, wait a few moments, then plug it back in. Then she may have to reboot my computer on top of that.

I bought a Belkin UPS from CompUSA. It has 45 minutes of power. This should be enough. If the power goes out for a long time then it won't matter. But this is perfect for what we need. I plugged my server, the cable modem, the router/hub and my stereo into the UPS. Why the stereo? Because if the power goes out for more than a few seconds my stereo will forget all the stations programmed into its presets.

Server Configuration

The main reason I needed to configure my server was for the above mentioned monitor issue, and I wasn't getting any sound out of the sound card to pump MP3s into my stereo, which in turn is hooked up to speakers on the back porch.

So I hauled my monitor and keyboard into the server room (the closet of my study) and reboot the computer. I initially went into the BIOS setup to see if I could find a way to get it to boot without a monitor attached. I checked a couple of options, but no such luck. It will not even give the single beep at the beginning of the boot sequence.

I was not getting any sound out of the server's sound card. In fact, I could not even select the sound card as a valid sound output device. The server indicated that all was good with the sound card, but no output. I assumed I didn't get any sound because the sound card did not have anything plugged into it when I loaded the OS. Windows has a nasty habit of ignoring sound cards that don't have speakers attached to them. When I reboot the computer with the sound card hooked up to the stereo, all seemed well. I had to fiddle with which jack to plug into the sound card, but in a couple of minutes I had MP3s playing on the back porch.

Time to unplug the monitor and keyboard from the server and put them back on my desk. This is when things got bad. I connected to the server with Terminal Services, and there was no volume control in the system tray. Oops! I went into the sound applet of the Control Panel and sure enough it would not let me select a sound output device. The selection box was grayed out.

I did a quick search on the Internet that eventually led me to Microsoft's site. Once there I just figured I would check their site. A search on terminal services and sound card pulled up a page describing how terminal service does NOT make use of the sound card by design. Oops! Now What.

Well, the simple solution is to use pcAnywhere. I had originally planned this when I built the server, but I like Terminal Services better. The main difference between the two is that Terminal Services has you connecting to run a session. This means that you could literally have two (or more, depending on the configuration) people using the server at the same time. The person actually at the keyboard of the server can use it while another person can connect with Terminal Services and they do not see what each other is doing. Mind you, that can have problems, but they are easily avoided, and not a problem in my case where there is not a keyboard or monitor normally attached to my server.

pcAnywhere, on the other hand, actually connects you to the machine as if you where sitting at its keyboard. You would see exactly what the person looking at the server's screen would see, and if you both worked the mouse, you would be interfering with each other. Since the server has sound, connecting to it this way means I could run applications that make use of the sound card.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find my pcAnywhere disk. So loading it will have to wait until next month.

Laptop

My wife's laptop is still in the shop. At posting time it has been with Best Buy for 6 weeks, and they still can't tell us more than they did 5 weeks ago. They say it is in vendor repair. For 5 weeks?!? They can't even tell us when we can expect it back. Repeated calls get the same lack of information. ANd whenever they say they will call back they don't. I highly doubt I will buy a laptop from Best Buy again.

However, when we do get the laptop back I will load pcAnywhere on it, and my wife can connect to the server from the deck and adjust the playlist for the back porch. Also, she should be able to stay online during a power failure for as long as the battery in the UPS and the battery in her laptop hold out.

Conclusion

The trip to New York was a double edged sword. I was visiting my sister in the hospital, but I did manage to see quite a few people that I have not seen in a lot of years.

School will be starting soon, so big projects will have to wait as we get the kids ready. My youngest son will be going into Kindergarten, so we will be making a big deal out of it.

Until next month...

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