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Fixing hardware problems on my Linux (Ubuntu) Web Server

My website was down for a short period of time today, but only about 20minutes or so.

The reason for this is that I wanted to do two things.

Firstly I’ve replaced my firewall (iptables) activation scripts and wanted to check that they worked correctly. I found that the firestarter firewall GUI which is available for Ubuntu Linux, a bit limiting. I therefore created my own script, installed it using update-rc.d and wanted to check it came up alright.

The second was that I had bought a memory module and wanted to install it. The memory module is 128MB, which replaced a 64MB module. Not a big increase but when you’ve only got 320MB a jump to 384MB is significant. This is the maximum my server will hold.
This is sufficient for the webserver that is running on the server, including the mysql DB, the quiz scripts and wordpress providing this blog. All that and the processor is only a 399 Mhz Pentium II. Still a good testament for Linux that the latest version of Ubuntu runs this all on such ancient hardware.

The outage did last a little bit longer than I hoped for as there was a hardware problem when I rebooted the machine. The reason for this was apparently a memory problem, but the memory modules were all fine. The problem was a bit of dirt that had got stuck in the slot where the memory fits, no doubt causing a bad contact. I tried blowing the dust out, and also tried a camera cleaner combined brush and blower, but this still didn’t work. So like many hardware problems I had to fallback on specialist equipment – a sewing needle. A quick poke with the needle to remove the dust and the server is now running again.

One day I will have to replace the server, but my current budget doesn’t allow that. Until then I’ve bought myself a bit more time with a quick hardware fix.