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Jan 12, 2017
Category: Christmas
Posted by: adrians

64 Lamb’s Lane, Cottenham, Cambridge CB24 8TA, UK
Tel: 01954 204610
Email: adrian.stephens@ntlworld.com

Click here for pdf with pictures.

Christmas Letter 2016

Well, it’s that time of year.  Our American friends have already stuffed, cooked and consumed their turkeys.  We can look forward to the same in a few weeks.  So it is time to cast a retrospective eye on the happenings of the year.

What a busy year it has been.  Two weddings, a funeral and a semi-retirement.

We said goodbye to Aunt Eileen, who lived with my parents.  She had suffered two strokes and found life very difficult.  She died in May.  Adrian and Tina were out of the country at the time, but Sarah and David were able to attend to pay their respects.  She was much loved and will be missed.

Our son David married Eleanor Fountain in Bar Hill (near to Cambridge).  They had a lovely wedding on a hot summer’s day.  They live in Bar Hill along with (from time to time) a cat, a pug, a sister (until recently) and two chickens.  They are also expecting a baby in May next year.  David continues to work for the fire service in London. The photos are here: http://www.chezstephens.org.uk/piwigo/index.php?/category/765.

Our daughter Sarah married Derek Archer near their home in Raunds.  Adrian got to give her away, which meant a ride in a 1932 Rolls-Royce to the hotel venue where the wedding took place.  Unfortunately it rained, but that didn’t dampen folks’ spirits. 

The photos are here:  http://www.chezstephens.org.uk/piwigo/index.php?/category/772. Counting Derek’s two children Jaden and Kyson we now are proud grandparents of 3, 5 (including step-grandchildren) or 6 (including ex-step-grandchildren).  Sarah continues to enjoy her work for the police looking (medically) after those in custody.  She is studying for a master’s.

 

Our daughter Ruth has a boyfriend John, who is in the US air force.  As I write, she is gallivanting round the USA (Chicago, Washington, New York, Maryland) to “meet the family”.  She continues to enjoy her work at the Cambridge Botanic gardens doing things with plant DNA.

 

 

Tina and Adrian are thankful that they are decaying gracefully at no more than the expected rate.  Adrian’s condition is stable. Pity his fashion sense hasn’t improved.

 

Tina’s Aunt Elsie had a fall at the end of last year and spent quite a lot of time in hospital (which was a strain on Tina) as they tried to work out her medications and care package.  We are thankful with the provision of a full time care assistant that allows her to keep her independence.

Adrian was offered a separation package from Intel, somewhat out of the blue.  As big American corporates often do, they needed to do a “headcount reduction” of about 10%.  This time they were “cutting from the top”, and I got offered the choice of taking voluntary redundancy.   I took the offer, and subsequently negotiated with them to support me as a consultant for the remaining 18 months of my commitment as 802.11 chair.  This happened during our May holiday.  He continues to travel about 10 trips a year. 

The separation allows me to spend more time on my own projects, such as building a church sound desk, rebuilding a window, fixing joist sag (painful).  I’ve yet to become idle.  If I do, I anticipate what my colleague Jon describes as “honeydo” projects (“Honey do this,  honey do that…”) to keep me occupied (or I might just buy a large padlock for the office, now christened the doghouse (Tina)).

We give thanks to God for the year past, with its comings and goings.   God bless you wherever you are.

Sincerely/Love/Kisses/Hugs/Manly Handshakes (according to our relationship),

Tina and Adrian Stephens xx

Dec 21, 2015
Category: Christmas
Posted by: adrians

Click here for .pdf version (with pictures).

 

The Stephens Family Christmas letter

Dear friend,

It is that time of year again.  The turkey is getting worried (or, if you are one of our friends from across the pond, the turkey is past worrying).  Christmas present suggestions fill the airwaves. Everybody is making preparations.  I’m wondering just what I can get Tina when she says she wants nothing.  I guess she is wondering the exact same thing.  We’re looking forward to having Eleanor’s family up for Christmas lunch.  Adrian, as, supervisor of the cooking, will try not to poison them.  He’s never actually killed anybody yet.

 

 

Adrian is still gainfully employed at Intel and as chair of IEEE 802.11, and is flying around the world (about 12 foreign trips a year) helping others create fine standards.  Tina likes to accompany him.  And as we meeting once a year in Hawaii, that’s a great opportunity for us to take a holiday.   So we did the usual and enjoyed ourselves snorkelling and eating out on Big Island this year.

 

 

We thank God for continued relatively good health and the opportunity to see the world (or certain bits of it).

Our Children are all getting hitched in various ways this coming year.  Ruth is moving up to Scotland to be with her boyfriend Rory.  We will be sad to see her move away (Tina likes her girls’ nights out), but we are pleased for them both and hope that Ruth will be happy. Rory is a fine fellow – for a Scot. Sarah and her fiancé Derek will be getting married, as will David and his fiancée Eleanor. So next year will be busy.

Tina’s Aunt Elsie had a fall and is currently in hospital with a broken elbow. 

 

 

Adrian’s parents are still growing older gracefully.  He will be seeing them shortly with a hamper of goodies, and will be cooking them an early Christmas lunch too.

Our church called a new minister, and we look forward to his ministry in the Church.  Tina as treasurer has been particularly busy.

 

 

 

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful 2016.

With hugs, kisses, manly thumps on the back, etc… as (in)appropriate to our relationship.

 

 

Adrian & Tina Stephens

Dec 22, 2014
Category: General
Posted by: adrians

I have been using Menalto's Gallery project for years.  It has now been end-of-lifed.

As a result,  I have moved to Piwigo.  Here is the finished result.

The conversion process took about 2 hours.

Dec 22, 2014
Category: Christmas
Posted by: adrians
Click here for the 2014 Christmas Letter
Apr 21, 2014
Category: General
Posted by: adrians
Changed infrastructure from plain HTML to CMS made simple.
 

Network

Network Details

The page was originally written in ~2001,  when having a home network was unusual.
Now with cheap broadband,  and even cheaper components made in China,  having a home
network is nothing to write about.

But that won't stop me.

Hardware Components

The Stephens home has a small network consisting of the following items:

Cable Modem (100M down, 4M up) connected to Virgin Media cable service. 3 APs.  Wired 100 Mb/s Ethernet in the house, garage and shed.  Server in the shed (Dell 2950 with 4 CPUs and 16 GB memory.  6x1TB disks running RAID5 + spare) running Debian Wheezy and hosting a number of virtual machines:  DNS/DHCP,  Web server, file server, plex media server and asterisk PBX.

Applications accessed through http:
Piwigo (photo album)
php LDAP admin
Some password-protected directories via WebDAV
Various password-protected SVN repositories

Dynamic IP Address Translation

The network sits on a single dynamic IP address granted by ntlworld to the firewall. This is a DHCP client to the outside world, does NAT and provides DHCP services to the rest of the network. A free dynamic IP name translation service is used to resolve this address (Zoneedit).  A small client runs on the linux server and periodically checks with Zoneedit that the external IP address has not changed. This might create a delay between a change of IP address and name resolution updates. In practice, the dynamic IP address assigned by Virgin Media seems very stable.

Setting up the Linux Server

Adrian reports that setting up the linux box was a lot of fun - but not something for those who don't want to get their hands into the guts of the packages.
2005: The server started off running Red Hat 7.3 on a 300MHz Compaq Deskpro SFF (now obsoleted).  This was upgraded to Red Hat 9.
Then I moved the server to a new machine:  a Dell Optiplex 170L bought for £70 from ebay, and upgraded to Fedora Core 3.
At the same time,  I restructured the file system so that /backup, /home,  /var/mail,  /var/www/html are separate filesystems,  and changed all filesystems to reiserfs.   These are created in block devices provided by LVM on a single 200GB hard disk,  with room for spare copies of the root partition.   It is currently running Fedora Core 4.   The only difficulty upgrading was with the LDAP database getting hosed.
2011:  The Optiplex has been replaced for a couple of years by a dual-core 3GHz,  1GB ram nameless system.   Just upgraded from Fedore Core 10 to Fedora Core 15,  which was a lot of work.  There's no alternative but to rebuild from scratch and then copy config files from the old system one by one and bring them up.   I have two 1TB disks that are mirrored and contain the website and backup of our internal documents/images/music.   The NAS server in the garage provide an iSCSI target that is mounted and backs up the backup.   The system and boot disks are raid1 mirrored on to partitions on one of the 1TB disks.   A cron job periodically connects the mirror and then disconnects it,  thereby giving me a bootable standby if the SSD goes down,  but allowing me to spin down the hard disks.   The backup and html directories are automatically dismounted after 30s inactivity and the disks are spun down after 30minutes of inactivity.
2013: The Optiplex was retired and a second hand IBM 2U server was installed in the garage,  where it constantly makes a noise like a jet engine taking off.  This has a 5TB software raid (the hardware RAID that comes with the server is cludgy and unreliable,  and slow).   A bunch of virtual machines run the various servers and provide a place to experiment.   The system boots off lvm over raid5,  itself no mean trick.

2014: The IBM server was retired and replaced with a Dell poweredge 2950.  This is just as loud.  The hardware raid is much better.  CPU performance is much better.

The mail system

The mail system is configured to collect email from a number of IMAP accounts.  IMAPS/SMTPS is used outside the home network to access the local mail service.  An LDAP server provides centralized storage of email addresses for outlook and outlook express clients (although it can't easily do email groups, which is a great annoyance). One of the annoyances of having an ntlworld dynamic IP address is that some SMTP servers refuse to accept mail from such clients (e.g. AOL). Postfix can be configured to route SMTP email for specific domains via some other SMTP server, so all my outgoing mail is sent via my ISP (ntlworld).
All other external access into the home network is now via ssh tunnels.   This is much more secure than opening various ports.

Backup

As someone who's been working with computer media all my working life (paper tape and cards at university, 8" floppies, DK05, RL01, RM03 disk packs, 5.25" floppies, Travan tape, Iomega disks, and more hard disks than you can shake a stick at), backup is important to me.

Probably the most important thing on this network is our digital photos. I have multiple copies spread across multiple machines. I download the cameras into the "playroom" computer. This gets backed up periodically to the linux server. I also upload the photos to my gallery system (this is the public view of the photos available at www.chezstephens.org.uk/piwigo) at the end of each month. The linux server hosting this backs itself up using rsync over ssh to my W2K machine that has cygwin + rsync & ssh installed. The W2K machine backs itself up using syncback to the linux box. The playroom computer also periodically grabs a copy of the gallery from the linux server from an SMB mount using syncback.

The hard part of all of this was to try and avoid backing up the backups of the machine doing the backing up - otherwise the backup size would grow forever and exceed the capacity of the hard disks. So each machine has a /backup/<machine-name> directory for the two other machines. And this is excluded from backups.

2014: Backup is now a fedora core 19 desktop that wakes at 3:00am every day and uses rdisk to mirror the /backup directory on the files server.


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