After years of using desktop UPSes for my server and network gear, I finally bought a rack mount, data centre grade UPS. Over the years, APC was my go-to brand. However, after two of my three UPSes had their batteries die, that all changed especially after buying new batteries – even generic replacements – was approaching the cost of a new UPS.

In searching eBay for the replacement batteries I stumbled across a Canadian (useful due to shipping, import duties when buying from the US) that was selling rerfubished Lenovo RT1.5kVA UPSes with new batteries.

The RT1.5kVA also includes an SNMP network card so I no longer have to use USB connections and can easily have other devices like my pfSense firewall, Proxmox host and two Synology NASes “share” the UPS and not have to rely on some other device.

I now have just under 30 minutes runtime.

The last, just under 3-year-old APC UPS will now be reused for my ISP’s router and ONT. With 1500 watts available that is 5x more than the old 300 watt UPS that is getting rather old and probably needs a new battery, too.

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Happy 2024! And looking back over the years

Good bye 2023… Hello 2024! I wish everyone health, wealth and happiness over 2024.

I guess I’m getting a little nostalgic as I have become ye olde IT grey beard…

I thought I would put up some my “server closet” – actually, it was a closet – pictures and tech details from 2002.

The firewall ran SmoothWall 0.9.9. This was a highly modified and hardened VA-Linux kernel that provided firewall, Intruder Detection Systems (IDS) and proxy services.
Tech specs:

  • Asus AP53 motherboard
  • Pentium 166 MHz CPU
  • 128 MB RAM
  • One 340 MB IDE hard disk
  • 24X E-IDE CD-ROM
  • 3Com 3c905B network adaptor
  • SMC Ultra network adaptor
  • Matrox Millennium G200 PCI video card

The Windows 2000 Server was the file server, secondary internal DNS server and Active Directory Domain Controller. This system was used to run Internet Information Server 5 until it was hacked in the first Code Red attacks in July 2001. It also ran the RealProducer software using a Logitech Color USB WebCam. (I really wish it was an AlphaServer 4100!)
Tech specs:

  • Soyo SY-7VBA 133 motherboard
  • Celeron 700 MHz CPU
  • 192 MB SD-RAM
  • Two fixed 9 GB Ultra SCSI disk
  • Adaptec AHA-2940U SCSI Controller
  • 4/8 GB WangDAT 4mm DAT tape backup
  • 48X E-IDE CD-ROM
  • ATI Mach64 4 MB PCI video card
  • 3Com EtherLink XL 10/100 PCI network card

And last, but not least, the HP NetServer LD Pro that ran Red Hat Linux 7.0. It used Apache with PHP and Perl as the web server. FTP services were handled by ProFTPD. The NetServer also provided primary internal dynamic DNS services with BIND 9. Live Web Cam services are provided by RealServer 8. Of course, it was constantly updated with security patches (after Code Red)!
Tech specs:

  • Pentium Pro 180 MHz CPU
  • 96 MB ECC RAM
  • One fixed 9 GB Ultra SCSI disk
  • Two hot swap 9 GB Ultra SCSI disks
  • Intel EtherExpress Pro/100 Plus network adaptor
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pfSense Unbound “Phantom” Entries

Every so often with pfSense I get “phantom” entries of pfSense’s hostname to incorrect VLAN gateway addresses. You can remove these incorrect entries – which appear in /etc/hosts but they will auto-magically reappear when Unbound is restarted.

The solution is to configure the DNS Resolver by:

  1. Disabling automatically added host entries
    Services/DNS Resolver/Advanced Settings/Disable Auto-added Host Entries
  2. Manually adding a Host Name Override for the router
    Services/DNS Resolver/General Settings/Host Overrides
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Fix: Slow Wired Ethernet on Lenovo Legion 5 15ARH7H with Pop!_OS 22.04 LTS

Ever since moving to Pop!_OS 22.04 LTS wired networking have been very slow. I recalled seeing posts on this problem and the issue being the included driver for the RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller.

Performance was not only poor but downloads were much slower than uploads as evidenced by the Speedtest CLI package:

* Speed: 83.19 Mbps
* Jitter: 34.18ms, low: 6.21ms, high: 385.14ms
* Speed: 464.66 Mbps
* Jitter: 58.86ms, low: 8.41ms, high: 1139.23ms

The problem is the driver is the r8169. The solution is replace the r8169 with the correct r8168.

Here are the steps (thanks to – full details at:

  1. Download the r8168 driver:
    sudo apt-get install r8168-dkms
  2. Make sure the r8169 module doesn’t load any more:
    sudo echo "blacklist r8169" > /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-r8169.conf
  3. Remove the current r8169 driver:
    sudo rmmod r8169
  4. Install the r8168 driver:
    sudo modprobe r8168
  5. Activate the change:
    sudo systemctl restart networking

Here are the new results (noting people in the house gaming, streaming, etc.):

* Speed: 528.56 Mbps
* Jitter: 0.34ms, low: 1.81ms, high: 2.67ms
* Speed:705.05 Mbps
* Jitter: 0.68ms, low: 2.04ms, high: 18.32ms

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When Windows 11 Blows Up Pop!_OS’ Bootloader

I’m not sure if this is an issue with Lenovo’s updating of the BIOS resetting the default boot back to Windows or if it is Windows itself. Since this has happened a couple of times, this is a reminder to myself on how to fix this:

  • Repair the bootloader – since even manually selecting Pop!_OS leads to a hang in UEFI

From System76: Repair the Bootloader

  • Restore Windows 11 back to the bootloader

From spxak1: Dual Boot Pop!_OS with Windows using systemd-boot

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July 1 Update – Rack Stuff

Well, despite my misgivings over the price of Netgate’s rack mount for the 4100/6100 firewall series, I finally broke down and bought one. I still think it is far overpriced even with the nice blue anodised aluminium. I really wish that Netgate had created a proper chassis with integrated power supply for the 4100/6100 series. Not that I would be buying a replacement even if they did given the cost. It does look okay; but, in reality, a standard rack shelf is good enough.

Next, notice anything else new in the rack:

Hint: Is isn’t HPE but from IBM…

My son has made fun of me for not having “one of those pull out screens” for the rack. I actually have been looking for some time on eBay but the prices for any that will ship to Canada is like cra-cra even for those that are broken, unknown working, missing cables, missing rails, etc. However, I found one that was being thrown out (keyboard damaged, monitor unknown) but it has the rails, the cable management arm and both the rails and arm were only slightly bent (i.e., fixable).

The keyboard was the “classic” ThinkPad keyboard with the TrackPoint and touch pad. But it has PS/2 connectors (oh-so-retro) that neither the DL360 G8 or DL380 Gen9 has and I didn’t have a proper PS/2 to USB adaptor (most are just electrical pass-thru which does not work – for me at least).

The solution was to pick up a Lenovo ThinkPad Compact USB Keyboard with TrackPoint. Not having a track pad doesn’t bother me as my servers just run in text mode. I did have to modify the drawer as the compact USB keyboard is about 1 cm narrower and if bumped would drop the drawer. The drawer is designed with the original keyboard hanging through the drawer and held down with a big piece of Velcro (as is the monitor’s power supply – simple and effective). I solved this with a piece of 3/8 thick backer board and drilling some countersunk screw holes. But no Velco because I don’t have any and I don’t think it is needed.

I am now a “proper” nerd with a rack KVM console. No KVM switch because the two I still have are HDMI, not VGA – but my two servers (and old pfSense box) use VGA. There is some interference on the monitor (it is only 15″) and it uses some weird interface that the power and VGA connect. It is pretty thin and uses a standard VESA mount. I’ve looked around but these seem hard to get and I can live with the interference for the limited times I use it. I mostly use the iLO but there are cases when I need to be at the console.

The old DL360 G8 is only used for testing. I did manage to get the pfSense box working again after replacing the RAM, reseating the mSATA drive and re-installing pfSense. But, with a server, my backup UniFi Switch24 and a firewall, hmmm… Opportunity?

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17 Days with New Netgate 6100

Netgate 6100 Rear – Because the Front is Boring 🙂

It has been just over 17 days with my new Netgate 6100. Shipping was sort-of a day late – I guess because couriers seem to have difficulty with delivery times to the easterly part of North America. I purchased the “base” model with 8GB RAM and 16GB of storage. I’m not worried about the storage since all the logs go to another syslog server anyway. And I’m not running a branch office or anything this is more than sufficient for my needs.

The migration from the old commodity-based router was fairly easy. I booted up the new router with my workstation connected to my planned “LAN” interface (not really as my configuration has a few VLANs, etc.) and the planned WAN interface into, well, the WAN, I allowed the 6100 to update to pfSense+ 23.01 (the most current). After looking up the network interface names from Netgate’s awesome documentation you only have to edit the XML file to replace the old network interface names with the new interface names. Then you restore the suitably modified backup file. Some additional time is needed to bring the additional services such as OpenVPN, pfBlockerNG, etc. to download and update.

The only problem I had was that despite adding the MAC address to my ISP’s router’s Advanced DMZ configuration inbound access was not working. After checking – and double checking – my configurations such as “Did I enter the correct MAC from the 6100?” I fell back on the old, default IT help desk recommendation… I rebooted and all was working again.

What I like about the 6100:

  • Longer-term futureproofing: I now have 10GbE interfaces if I go above a 1GbE WAN connection and/or upgrade to 10GbE internally. The four “LAN” ports are actually 2.5GbE so more room there, too.
  • pfSense is fully supported by Netgate on known hardware: Less worries about upgrades going wrong.
  • Price: The price is essentially the same for a generic router with two 10GbE SFP+ ports, two copper/SFP shared ports plus four 2.5GbE ports – assuming you can actually find this configuration.

What I do not like:

  • Having to buy a 1U adaptor. The price of US$107 is something I really do not like.
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Arrggg!!! Generic pfSense Hardware Has Failed

I guess buying the not-so-cheap Alibaba-ish 1u rack router was not a totally great idea. Something failed and I think that it is network ports. All the network ports. All six of them.

Anyway, I have a Netgate 6100 ordered with one-day testing and express shipping by FedEd. One day shipping – I wonder how that will work out coming from the US – was only $7 more.

Once I get it in, I hope that simple editing of the backup file to line up the new interface names with the port assignments will put everything back to normal. The one thing I think I’m going to miss is the VGA output as it makes set up so easy. I wonder how the console connection will work out.

Not much to do now but wait. With pfSense down, there are no VLAN/subnets, DHCP, DNS, access any network resources like the NAS, etc.

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Happy 2023!

Here’s hoping that everyone had a Merry Christmas (or whichever holiday you celebrate!) and wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023!

Since my last post back in mid-October, I had my thoughts on what my next upgrade(s) would be – and I changed my mind. The DL360G Gen8 is, frankly, too noisy. It is great for testing things out, but with hybrid work it is a distraction at best and maddenly irritation at worst. Thus, buying the UniFi Aggregation Switch would serve no purpose – for now.

The other driving factor is that my “work” laptop, an old Lenovo Y50-70, started getting far too flaky. I think that there may be some cold solder joints but I am not set up to fix them. And it is getting old. I first thought that all the the Ubuntu 22.10 upgrade had gone sideways. There had been a lot of upgrades from Ubuntu 16.04 and I don’t limit myself to the LTS releases. When I went to do a fresh 22.10 install and the install would fail with not being able to find the Samsung Evo 850 SSD. I put the SSD in the MiniG3 and the Evo worked fine. The Samsung SSD from the MiniG3 showed the same issues in the Y50-70. After valiant service, I decided that the Y50 had to be put out to pasture.

I decided to replace it with my IdeaPad L340 (my now-old gaming laptop) with a minimal Windows 11 install – jury’s still out on Windows 11, but it seems to be incrementally improving; maybe Windows 12 will fix it 🙂 – for some specific Windows things. Most of the time it will be booted in the Ubuntu.

Of course, that meant the L340 needed a replacement. The Black Friday/Cyber Monday week sales were on and I decided on a Lenovo Legion 5 AMD. It is running an AMD Ryzen 5 6600H, RTX3060, 16GB DDR5 dual-channel RAM and a 512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD. This is my first AMD system in, what?, 30 years. My last one was an AM386-DX40. Besides, my son had decided he wanted to build his own gaming rig using the Ryzen 5 6600 🙂 It is a nice laptop – runs quick, battery life for web browsing, YouTube is about 4-5 hours (with a 80% “full” using Lenovo’s battery conservation).

What’s next? Not sure yet. I’m still waiting for ArmA 4…

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Ubuntu/Debian and Broadcom BCM5762

I picked up an HP EliteDesk 705 G3 Mini PC as the potential third node for a Proxmox cluster. While I wouldn’t be using HA, I did not want to cause potential problems with a tied quorum vote. For under CDN$100 I got an AMD Pro A10-8770E, 8GB RAM and a 128GB (Samsung OEM) SSD. It is really small and uses next to no power. And, it has no noisy fans.

While the jury is still out on this approach because the DL360 G8’s fans are so annoying, I still installed Proxmox on the 705. Part of this was because I wanted to experiment with only having one NIC and using VLANs. Setting up the VLANs was no real issue – just a little more fooling around on the command line manually configuring the admin interface to work on a VLAN and allow the other VLAN bridges to be available. However, this really messed with my head as I would have the network interfaces drop offline when under heavy load. And sometimes for what seemed to be no reason at all! Of course, since this was my first time using a single NIC, I was placing the blame on me not setting up the VLANs correctly.

Maybe the issue was Proxmox (and Debian?). So, I put on Ubuntu 22.04 server and desktop as well as Linux Mint 21 to test that theory out. No VLANs, just a “normal” installation. Same issue: under load the NIC would go offline and the console (for server) would sow my field with salt – or rather a bunch of errors. Since this occurred with and without VLANs, the error had to be with something other than my VLAN configuration.

After much digging, there seems to be a (longterm?) nasty kernel bug with tg3 and the Broadcom BCM5762 NIC.

The solution that worked for me was to add iommu=pt to /etc/default/grub:


The just run update-grub and reboot. Problem fixed.

I read other suggestions on blacklisting tg3 in /etc/modprobe.d as that was the issue but that did not work for me.

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