A most perplexing problem occurred with my Windows Server computer. This computer was built about 2 years ago and is my primary server for the home network. It has a SuperMicro Workstation Class motherboard with ECC RAM. I built this box, after getting annoyed with inexpensive Dell Tower Servers. The Dell Servers performed well and are a good deal for most people, but my server is in my home office and I prefer a quieter box. The Dell Servers have noisy fans and even trying a few different replacement aftermarket fans, they still produced enough noise for me to invest in a custom system. I also found myself replacing the Dell Servers more often than I cared to. They were cheap enough, that I would end up upgrading the entire box every two years. The server I ended up building was very quiet and ran 24/7. It was connected to an APC UPS and so it ran almost without interruption. At least it did this until rather recently.
After running for two years, the box was completely silent one day. Pressing the power button on the case would do nothing. There were no lights or any other signs of life (in this case electricity). I unplugged the computer from the UPS and into the wall outlet directly. Pressing the power button on the case would make the case fan and cpu cooler fan spin for about a second or two. The motherboard would never light up. It would only do this once. I had to unplug the power cord and try it again to get the fans to spin. I then unplugged the power supply connectors from the mother board and then tried the paper clip test with the power supply and it would power the fans again for a couple of seconds.
Alas, I could not resurrect the computer. My next step was to order a new power supply from Newegg.com and hope that it was my fancy power supply and not my fancy workstation motherboard that died. The new 1050W power supply was an upgrade from the 850W it was replacing. Other than the wattage difference, the new power supply had a switch to cycle on and off the power supply fan as needed. Once I swapped out the power supply, the box came back to life. The good thing about buying good components is that they are warrantied. I submitted an RMA request through the manufacturer website and a few days later, it was approved. After a week or so, they sent me back another power supply. I expected them to send me back a repaired unit, but instead they sent me back a brand new sealed box!
Before I sent my power supply, I inspected it without opening it. The only thing I detected was that on the top of the unit, there was a sharp indentation, where it seemed as something pushed up against metal from inside. I am pretty sure that was not there when I installed it originally. Other than that the unit looked normal.
The Windows Server has been running now normally for weeks.
Working remotely is pretty common these days, and even if you take your iPad with you, you always end up needing to access something on your local computer. For this, I have a Windows Server to which I connect to via Microsoft Remote Desktop. This works out great and allows me to access files, or use applications on my Windows box, that are not installed on say my iPad or my MacBook. However in order to get to my home machine, I need to have an external address on the internet. For this I have my own domain name which I have had for a few years now. The other issue I have is that my home internet connection does not have a static external IP address and so the IP address changes from time to time. Even though I have a domain name, I need a way for the domain name records to update every time the IP address changes on my DSL modem. This is what Dynamic DNS was invented for: updating DNS records as needed with new IP addresses. If you have your own domain name, you usually have to pay a provider to host your DNS and they will provide some sort of software or script that will update your DNS. This posting details how I setup pfSense to update my DNS provider ChangeIP.
Add Dynamic DNS to pfSense
First log into your pfSense admin panel and choose Services – Dynamic DNS. Under the DynDNS tab click on the cross icon to add an entry. You will come to a screen like this one:
- Change Service type to Custom
- Check the Enable verbose logging option
- Add your Update URL
- Add a description
- Click Save
The URL needs to be specific to your setup at ChangeIP. In my case, I have one domain with the three basic DNS A records: domain-name.net, www.domain-name.net, and ftp.domain-name.net
Here is an example of the URL:
In order to update all my dns records, I have setup domain-name.net, www.domain-name.net, and ftp.domain-name.net to be in set 1 at ChangeIP. The SET= parameter tells ChangeIP to update records in set 1 to the IP specified. The %IP% is a the variable pfSense uses to input the IP address it resolves for the WAN interface. Reference ChangeIP DDNS API Information for parameters and Setting Sets for DDNS Update.
Adding Cronjob for DDNS
With the Cron package installed, it is easy to add and modify Cron jobs. What I recommend doing is scheduling a Cron job to run every ten minutes.
Checking System Log
Once you force the update, it is important to check to see if it worked. You can check the System Log in pfSense to see if there were any problems that occurred and then at ChangeIP, check your Domain Manager – Premium Domains – Domain-Name – A records, to see if all records in Set 1 updated to the same IP address.
I am always looking for a better flash drive and my current favorite is the Mushkin Atom. The Atom is not the smallest physical size drive, but it is faster than most of the competition. I use my flash drive with PortableApps, which allows me to have most of my apps on a flash drive. This is a great way to keep all your apps when switching between two Windows computers. The only downside I have found is that Google Chrome does not work as well. It is a bit slower for some reason. Firefox is my preferred browser and the PortableApps version works very well. As to the Mushkin Atom performance, I ran a quick test with USBDeview for Windows and read results were a third faster than my previous Sandisk drive.
This test was run on the Mushkin Atom 32GB USB3 flash drive with USBDeview 64. Your results may vary depending on your computer and USB port.
I have been using the Atom for about 3 months without any issues on a Windows 7 laptop.