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New Dialup Service

It's taken a lot longer than expected, but we now have 56k dialup service again. Nyx's contract for a PRI line from ICG expired at the end of January, and we'd been set up to outsource our dialup lines to aka Unfortunately, the day of the switchover, Skycomm shut down Nyx's dialup service and demanded an immediate payment of $700 more than we had agreed upon to continue Nyx's service. Strangely, they did not return phone messages or email after this.

As an emergency measure, we switched over to a single analog line while getting service set up through other means.

As of today, we now are handling dialup using ISDN BRI lines provided by Qwest connected to a 3Com RAS 1500 unit, shown at the top of this picture.

3com RAS 1500 remote access server


Mailserver Upgraded

With the ever-rising tide of junk email (and increasingly computationally-intensive demands of filtering said junk email), most of the time Nyx's mailserver is the most heavily-loaded machine around. I've taken the previous incarnation of my main editing workstation, beefed up the heatsinks, added some additional memory, and turned it over to the demanding task of handling Nyx's email.

The new machine is a dual-Athlon MP 1800+ system running on a Tyan 2460 mainboard with 2.5 gigabytes of memory (the most of any of our servers--most of which have 1-2 gigabytes these days--and an AMI/LSI Logic MegaRAID Elite 1500 RAID controller.

Let's hope that the this latest version of the mailserver proves adequate to the task for some time to come. In the past, we've had to upgrade the mailserver at least once per year to keep up with the spam levels.



Thanks to the talents and expertise of Elie Rosenblum, Nyx now offers a web-based email interface. Give it a try at


Nyx10 and Nyx swapped ( and ( are our oldest (and slowest) machines, a SparcServer 2 and a SparcServer 20 with a 150MHz Ross CPU. They're the only ones still running SunOS 4.1.4, and the Ross 150MHz Hypersparc is the fastest system we have that supports SunOS 4.1.4. In terms of computing power and memory, it's about eight times the machine that the Sparc2 is.

We've slowly been phasing out SunOS and the older Sparc hardware in favor of Solaris and Linux on newer platforms, and the latest step in this process was to swap the names and IPs of these two machines, so that now the 150MHz Sparc 20 is at (

We've already moved any critical functions off of the Sparc2, now known as Nyx10, and after sufficient testing, it will be taken out of service and the DNS entry for Nyx10 will be changed to also point at


New Newserver

After two of the drives in one of Irys' (the main news server) drive arrays bit the dust simultaneously, we took the opportunity to build a new machine. These days, serving up the news is nowhere near as demanding as spam filtering, so I put one of the dual P-III Xeon/500 servers into use. It's using a Supermicro S2DGE GX-based mainboard with one gigabyte of registered ECC memory and a MegaRAID Enterprise 1200 controller with 128 Meg of cache memory.

The biggest advantage of replacing the server was the chance to replace the drive arrays, which had been built from fifteen well-worn first-generation half-height Seagate barracuda 2.5 and 4.3 gig drives. The new server uses merely a single array of three eighteen gig Seagate Cheetah 10K drives.

(Pictured at right, top to bottom: Arache, Hermes, Hermey, drive arrays for Hermes and Arachne, Irys. At bottom is Anubis (now offline).)

the new webserver, mailserver, and news server


New Mailserver

After having mail functions split between Anubis (the "old" mailserver--not quite two years old at this point) and Hermes (the "new" mailserver) for the last few months, all mail functions have finally been switched over to Hermes.

Hermes is built with the same motherboard as Arachne (Supermicro 370DLI) with a pair of 1.1GHz P-III processors, 2 Gigabytes of registered ECC memory, an AMI MegaRAID Elite 1500 with 128 Megabytes of ECC cache, and six 18Gig Seagate Cheetah 10K drives.


New Webserver

Nyx's webserver, Arachne, had been a 110MHz Sun Sparc 5 for the last two years (before that it had been a Sparc 1+ with an Axil "Sparc 5" compatible upgrade board, and before that it had been an un-upgraded Sparc 1+) has now been replaced with a dual PentiumIII-850 system with 2 Gigabytes of registered ECC memory, an AMI MegaRAID Elite 1500 with 128 Megabytes of ECC cache, and six 18Gig Seagate Cheetah 10K drives.

Arachne's new avatar is running Slackware 8.1.1 and its drive arrays are now set up with the Ext3 journalling filesystem.

SuperMicro 370DLR dual-PIII


New Login Machines Online

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Casper Maarbjerg and the rest of our volunteer admins, Nyx's new login machines are now open for general use. Unimaginitively dubbed Nyx1, Nyx2, and Nyx3, the new login machines are all Sun Ultra-based systems running Solaris 8, a big leap from Nyx's older login machines (Nyx and Nyx10) which are a SparcStation 2 and a SparcStation 20, both running SunOS 4.1.4.

Sun Ultra2 systems


Modems updated to v.90

After serving us for a year, our trusty v.34 USR/3Com Total Control digital modem bank was replaced with a Livingston/Lucent Portmaster 3 with 50 v.90 modems, bringing us up to 56k dialup service.

livingston (lucent) portmaster 3



Nyx's old mailserver, Noc, a SparcServer1+, was replaced with Anubis, a Pentium-II based server with 512Meg of memory and an array of eight 4.3G drives running with hardware RAID-5.

anubis - the new mailserver

(main box of Anubis shown just above the keyboard, drive array (eight 4.3g Seagate Barracuda drives running of an AMI MegaRAID 428 controller) near the top of the picture)


Main router upgraded

Nyx's trusty Cisco 2524 modular router was swapped out with a newer, peppier, Cisco 3620. (Note that its similarly-configured twin is mounted beneath, ready to take over in a moment's notice if needed.)

(Cisco 3620 routers bottom-left, 3Com 3300-series switches top-left.)

cisco 3620 series routers


Dialup problems fixed

After limping along on the semi-functioning Livingston Portmaster 2 for the past week, one of the Annex 4000 terminal servers was finally put into service so that the Portmaster could be taken down for evaluation, testing, and full repairs.

Note that after the power outage took out some of the dialup modems, the USR Total Control modem bank was configured, tested, and put into service.

total control unit and cisco routers

(New Cisco Routers on left, USR Total Control modem bank and Annex 4000 on right)


Electrical Improvements Continue

The network was taken offline briefly (approximately two minutes) about 5:00 this morning so that the router, CSU/DSU, and channel bank could be moved onto a new UPS. A propane-fueled backup generator has been acquired and is expected to be placed in service after planned wiring improvements to the server area are completed.

Invasion of the CPU Snatchers

Nyx, Nyx10 (Nox), and Arachne were all quietly replaced with newer and faster hardware early this morning. While a much smaller upgrade than the planned switch to Nyx0-Nyx3 (which continues to wait on the availability of volunteers to complete the software configuration), I'd been concerned about the reliability of Nyx (the computer) and it has been replaced with a newer Sparc2 with the Weitek CPU upgrade; Nyx10 was replaced by a Sparc10 running dual CPUs which are each faster than the previous single CPU and include the cache controller which the previous incarnation of Nyx10 did not.

Arachne had been a Sparc5/70 and is now a Sparc5/110 with a little more memory.

Otherwise, the software and configuration of these machines remains unchanged.


Iris repaired

Iris' power supply bit the big one early this morning (3:00AM-ish)
Power supply was replaced, system checks out with no errors and everything seems happy.

Network power switched over without incident

Two of the main switches had still been running directly off the line power since the Nyx's main UPS blew up a few days before. They were switched over to one of the new UPS units quickly enough that there was no known disruption in service.


Rest of charred wiring cleaned up

the rest of the burned wiring was cleaned up this morning and all the nyx machines are on the new UPSs; the new units were given a brief stress test and passed without incident.

former power cables from the Minuteman UPS

(take a look at the former UPS' power cables!)


Special thanks:

Thanks to Tommy Bowen ( ) for donating 80 Boca 33.6 modems to Nyx! I'll start getting those checked out and start swapping out the last of the 28.8 modems in the next few days.
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Nyx Net ( / dialup access 303-409-1401, Denver, Colorado, local dialing area ) the oldest free public access ISP offers a text-based (Unix shell account or menu system) interface providing unrestricted access to a full, uncensored newsfeed, email, web access (through Lynx), and user webspace hosting. Nyx Net is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is supported entirely through voluntary tax-deductable contributions and is for noncommercial use only. (It's also located conveniently right here at the treehouse.)
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