This computer, affectionately referred to (by me anyway) as "BMF", began its life as my first attempt at a file-server for a small LAN. It originally was put together from a bunch of spare and donated parts, which is why some people (myself included, occasionally) have been known to affectionately refer to it as "that bucket of bolts". The computer is such a hodge-podge of spare parts, in fact, that the only hardware I originally purchased for it was a single 16-gig IDE hard drive. At the time, however, (summer of 1998) that was the largest IDE hard drive that was available, and was far larger than the total capacity of any personal computer I knew of. Thus I originally dubbed the computer "BMF". (The meaning of this acronym is left as an exercise for the reader.)
In those days, the sole purpose of this computer was to act as a file-server for a small network of individuals who lived in my dorm. The primary content of the server was to be a large collection of MP3s, which could then be shared by all of the users and be available all the time. Though I had a decent amount of experience with Linux at that time, I originally opted to use Windows NT on the server, primarily because everyone on the network was using some form of Windows, and I had already set up a Windows NT domain controller on another computer. However, after two crashes within the first few weeks of operation of the server, I realized the error of my sinful ways, and I wiped out the Windows NT installation to replace it with Linux.
At the time, I wanted a fairly quick and easy solution, and Slackware was the only Linux distribution that I had experience with. So I installed Slackware just to get the system up and running, and then began the process of getting it to talk to the Windows computers. This was a bit difficult, because I needed a pretty recent version of Samba to communicate with the NT domain at all, and even then it was a bit of a hack. Furthermore, I had to compile Samba by hand, and that was a fairly daunting task for me at the time. Eventually, I got it all working, and BMF began its boring but valiant life of sitting in a corner, headless, under a cluttered table, quietly serving up gigabytes of MP3s and other files at the request of its often ungrateful users.
Since then, BMF has gone through many changes, though its original purpose still remains one of its primary ones. Its MP3 collection has grown to well over 25 gigabytes, which, along with its greatly expanded roles, has required the addition of two more hard drives of greater size than the first. Currently, however, the computer hardly seems deserving of its name, as its total drive capacity is just over 50 gigabytes, and today you can buy a single drive much larger than that for under $100. I plan to add a new hard drive in the next few months, which will not only more than double the total drive capacity of the system, but will also allow me to put the beloved MP3 collection onto a RAID-5 array.
In addition to its original duty as a file-server, BMF now provides several other services. Since moving from Payne Hall to its new home at the Canterbury House in May of 2000, it has by necessity served as a transparent IP-masquerading proxy server for the other computers within the house. The computers within the house are connected via a 10base-T ethernet network (powered by an amazing Bay Networks rack-mountable 12-port hub, purchased at a local yard sale for the even-more-amazing price of $2.50... no, that's not a typo.) Our only connection to the internet was originally a 56K modem, which remained connected to the Virginia Tech modem pool whenever necessary using "diald" and "pppd". Fortunately, we got DSL back in November of 2000, so now the server simply has two ethernet interfaces, a much more efficient and elegant solution (not to mention FASTER!) Since then, I have set up an IMAP server on BMF, which I now use for all of my email. As an interface to the IMAP server, I have also installed two IMAP-based webmail systems: IMP and Silkymail. The web server that you are now browsing has been set up on this system for quite some time, but only since installing the webmail systems have I actually begun to use it for anything. The current configuration also includes a RAID-1 array, powered by Linux software RAID, which houses the user home directories. This allows users to store their most important personal data on the server with a good degree of insurance against the possibility of a physical disk crash. Disk quotas prevent users from storing more than their fair share on the RAID array. The array also stores the email handled by the IMAP server, and the web pages. The system is further protected against hardware-related crashes (specifically power irregularities) by a Belkin Regulator 425VA UPS, which is monitored through a software package called NUT. And finally, the powerful SQL database software PostgreSQL is installed, primarily to serve as a backend for web applications. This will soon be put to use in my online photo album.