IMPORTANT INFORMATION!
The creator and maintainer of this web site Tony Sanderson died in June 2006. This web site is being maintained in his memory by others.
As a result information on this web site IS NOT CURRENT OR ACCURATE and should not be relied upon at all.

Bluehaze Solutions - the web site

Quick Intro

The name "Bluehaze Solutions" derives principally from the particulate makeup of the air in the back room where this server resides. The atmosphere is indeed a blue haze on some occasions - whether from my soldering activities, cigarette smoke, home-made fireworks experiments, or even just the barbeque (the latter two usually take place just outside the window here).

The server (and the Bluehaze office) are located in beautiful downtown Surrey Hills - a suburb about 20Km due east of the Melbourne metropolis in Victoria, Australia. So far, it's just a part-time business which doesn't even pay for the costs of running the server, but because I enjoy computers, electronics, photography and audio, running such a system is actually lots of fun and quite educational. So even though I'm currently working full-time in computing (programming and Unix maintenance), I'll continue expanding this site (Bluehaze) in parallel for as long as I can.

There are presently two quite separate areas on Bluehaze. One is maintained by myself, Tony Sanderson - accessible via http://www.bluehaze.com.au - and the other is run by a gypsy scientist (and ex CSIRO work-colleague of mine) Lachlan Cranswick - http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au

We each look after our own web "trees" on Bluehaze, and we also share the monthly ADSL ISP connection costs. (In fact, if you'd like to set up your own area and maybe even help maintain the system, just let us know ... the bigger the group, the cheaper it gets for all of course)

Anyway, Lachlan's tree was re-planted at this site on Friday April 21st, 2000 (Good Friday) from its old home in the UK because the people over there at RAL were becoming uncomfortable with the political connotations of such items as "Bollocks Now" ...

Lachlan and I manage the server co-operatively, so if something needs an upgrade, then either of us may end up doing the work. (In practice of course, I end up doing the more major stuff because the server and console is currently located in my home office.)

Apart from all that, the site's main purpose in life is as a convenience factor for moving software and data (such as audio files) around the place. For example, I do a small amount of contract programming and/or PC/Unix work from time to time, and although my full-time employer has a number of high-bandwidth servers which are permanently on-line which I could use to move around the odd file, I decided in 1999 that having my own system and connection was a better approach.


Bluehaze Software Services

If you need any programming work done, you can also check out the Bluehaze services page.


Network Connection

Bluehaze Solutions maintains a permanent (24x7) connection to the 'net via Pacific Internet here in Australia. They provide a reasonably priced ADSL service using the standard Telstra twisted-pair copper telephone line, and they're also flexible enough to allow people to connect their own Unix servers. This is extremely useful if you want to do any more than simply 'put up web pages'. For example - I also run an FTP service, and allow "ssh" (secure shell) logins.

If you want to run your own server and you're reasonably experienced with networking, linux, apache, and so on, Pacific Internet are (in Australia) a pretty fair bet. They stand out from the rest (*) on one point especially with their ADSL - they currently don't charge for outgoing traffic. For us, this was a critical factor since we have no control over what people click on at Bluehaze from week to week. After all, one only has to rate a passing mention in someone's news posting somewhere and suddenly you may find you've gone from 1000 hits per month to 20,000 hits per month. This can be difficult if your ISP is charging you for outgoing and you suddenly discover one day that you've hit the monthly limit after only 3 days!

Internode, based in South Australia, also offer unlimited outgoing traffic now, and (so I'm told) good service, so I'm not necessarily saying that Pacific are "the best". I just happen to be using them because their ADSL was one of the first offered, their prices are still as good as any, and the support guys at Pacific Internet also rate 10 out of 10 for helpful, quick service. I've had reason to contact them at various times (esp during the first few months with the inevitable teething problems), and over the past 3 years or so, I've found them to be quick, courteous, efficient and helpful.

This is in spite of the fact that I'm running a Linux server rather than the default (MS Windoze) connection package for which they normally supply their communications software. In fact, when PI realised I wanted to run a Linux server, they suggested that I install the Roaring Penguin package to make ADSL life easiest under that platform. And that advice was spot on - the ADSL came up effortlessly.

The downside of ADSL? Well, the speed is marginally less than your typical cable connection, although the difference is pretty minor unless you're loading down large files (eg: videos). But apart from this minor difference, I guess the main caveat would be

Cost - here in Oz, cable is around $75 a month, whereas ADSL (on a 1500 Mbit download speed deal with PI via the "Business" package) is around $150 a month,
Interference - because ADSL runs high frequency data down a normal unshielded telephone line, reception of normal AM radio stations now seems to be quite poor in this building.

So my advice, which should be fairly obvious - if you can get cable on, don't even consider ADSL unless you need to run your own server(s). Cable is around 1/2 the price of ADSL.


Previous network provider

I must still mention the ISP that Bluehaze used for the first 2 years when getting started - the unfortunately now defunct ISP Sensation Internet Services (run by Rowan Crowe) here in Melbourne, Australia.

If you were thinking of diving in the deep end and setting up your own server (Linux or BSD) from your home office, and you weren't too confident, a budget account with Sensation (using a permanent PSTN dial-up via a 56K MODEM) was a great way to start.

Rowan stepped me through from the starting point of a basic Linux installation on my old '486 and got Bluehaze on the air with professional ease. He sent me dialup scripts, DNS tables, and debugged my setups until the early hours of the morning via his friendly IRC group (#sensation). I left Sensation only because Telstra here in Australia have set their wholesale rates for ADSL such that small ISPs just can't possibly compete.

Unfortunately though, as of November 2001, Rowan has finally succumbed to Telstra's rather ruthless wholesale pricing structure, and his ISP service is no more. All of us who were a part of his Sensation ISP services here in Melbourne (Oz) at various times over the past 5 years certainly wish him luck with his new computing and internet ventures.


Hardware

The combined server and firewall here is a collection of bits I strung together in March 2000 using an Asus P3B-F motherboard, 64Mb of ECC RAM, and a Celery CPU, using Linux as the Operating System.

If you've bothered reading down this far, I'll give you a couple more pics. Like ... let's face it, that server shot at the left is pretty unexciting ... a PC with Linux on it is hardly much to look at.

Okay - just to left of this server on the same bench is my desktop PC - a dual-boot Windoze/Linux setup (which I won't waste your bandwidth by including). Left of that again is an audio turntable that I use for copying vinyl to CD. (There is a close-up of this on the Bluehaze Vinyl to CD page ). But the real action in the room is immediately to my left on the workbench. Some of the equipment here probably belongs more in the local museum, but as long as it all still works, I just keep using it! (The old Akai reel-to-reel is the only item I bought new ... everything else was either a $25 special or something I've built.)

By the way - just in case it isn't half obvious - this shot was made up by "stitching" together 6 video-camera "grabs" (3 on the X-axis and 2 on the Y-axis). If you want to see slightly more on the X-axis, try this 4 X 1 stitched panorama, which almost makes it around to the back window!

Not really much else I can show you, unless I take you out the front door and give you a bit of a tour around Surrey Hills. So that's about it - the Bluehaze server (and it's slightly unusual little "server room").

As one who's now used Sun and HP Unix systems for many years professionally, I must say that Linux is truly wonderous stuff. Deep and frustrating at times, but quite amazing. Incidentally - if you're feeling particularly masochistic and you want to get totally sidetracked by a comparison of Unix and MS Windows for server use, you can even go and browse through my thoroughly biased Unix vs NT/W2K page as well.


Of course, one must always keep in mind that the basic nuts and bolts of what the world calls "Linux" is really just a small operating system kernel (Linux) which is shipped with a massive, bundled up set of utility programs called GNU. A much more mature project than Linux, GNU stands for "GNU's Not Unix".

Needless to say, the fact that Linus Torvold promptly named the entire package "Linux" after himself (when in fact the vast bulk (99% of it) is the open-source GNU package developed since 1984 by many hundreds of others) now has the GNU folks just a trifle miffed. But that's another story.

I guess that, if nothing else, we can thank Linus for getting it all out into the open. The GNU group had in the past always displayed an unfortunate degree of ... how should one phrase this ... intellectual aloofness, perhaps? So even if Linus Torvold had done nothing else but package the GNU collection up with his modified Minix kernel into a fully functional free Unix replacement and make the world aware and enthused, we'd still owe him a huge vote of thanks!


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Last update: Thu Jan 29, 2004
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