Six years ago, I built my first Linux server. It was my third year at uni and I had just bought a new computer; being a poor student I would usually have upgraded but a mate of mine gave me his old case for some reason I don’t remember.

At the time I was living on campus with plenty of geeks on the local irc channel to encourage me and get me started – my debian stable server was born. I named it rei, after the evangellion character (it was the first anime I ever watched, which happened around the same time).

The campus environment at uni was the ideal place to learn server administration. I had lots of people in the same building to get advice from, but each room was networked so if I messed up it only affected me (well, most of the time anyway 😉 ).

And so it was that I learned how to set up a basic firewall, file server and eventually an IMAP server + fetchmail which I have been using ever since. In the years since it has run – in addition to the normal tasks – stuff like an irc server and a local network game server (can’t remember which game though). When I finished uni it became the house firewall (requiring a far more advanced ruleset).

After upgrading to debian testing almost immediately post-setup that little box has survived two motherboard failures, three case transplants, a lucky recovery from a storage drive failure and the incredibly lucky recovery from an accidental “rm -rf *” in the root directory (yay for reiserfsck!).

I did eventually wipe the machine last year, after getting sick of kernel compiles and various other things caused by the age of the install that meant the server took more administration time than I wanted it to. By then I had a mythtv server as well (running fedora core 3), to make life easier I put ubuntu on both. And life was good.

Then with the recent possibility of using a small low powered mythtv frontend instead of the combined front/backend I have now, it got me thinking about why I need two servers. And as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t. Rei’s firewall has been replaced by a decent modem/router that doesn’t need any maintenance; the file server has been mostly replaced by my flatmate who is such a hoarder that he decided to build his own server. The files it serves now can easily be moved to the mythtv box.

The only thing I have needed that server for recently is mail, and I’ve been less than happy with that since I had to punch a hole in the firewall to my imap server in order to check mail on my phone. Even though we have adsl2 at home it isn’t as fast as I’d like. Not to mention that the fans in the case are so old and noisy that they’ve been unplugged so the drives are running hot. I had been holding off switching to gmail, but really the only excuse left was because I didn’t want to lose my first server. With the migration now done, it’s time to pull the plug.

The server name will live on; I already have plans to replace the mythtv backend with my dual core desktop machine when I either buy a new gaming PC or the still-rumored mac mini upgrade (if it has a decent graphics card that can replace the PC). That will be quite an upgrade from the 8-year old CPU (Athlon 1200c) it has been using since the first mobo failure.

But rei is dead, long live rei 🙂 (that’s a bit of a strange way to put it if you’ve seen the anime!)