Archive for February, 2009
The tractor is now half way through its 13,500 mile service interval. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe that oil can maintain useful levels of lubrication if left in an engine for that kind of period. I’m also extremely aware that the turbocharger shares the same oil supply. As such, I change oil twice as often as BMW recommends.
BMW’s oil filter kit is good value. A little over £5 gives a new filter, sump washer and filter seal. A classic last minute Halfords oil purchase was significantly worse value: a little over £90 for only 8 litres of Magnatec diesel 5W30.
I also had trouble changing the filter. E36 M3s have a metal casing clamped together with a 10mm headed bolt. The E46 330d has this plastic casing held with a plastic moulded 36mm hexagonal lump.
As I don’t own a 36mm socket, in the past I’ve managed to operate this with an adjustable wrench, but in this case it would appear that a BMW technician has overtightened the container at the last official service. Still, I’m a great believer in having the right tools for the job so another £10 of overpriced 36mm socket at Halfords and the job was done.
As I’ve mentioned before, I run a home server here. It has three main roles:
1) Redundant media store for music, video, and photos
2) Web server for Diane’s website development
3) Media sharing (playback) on the lounge TV
I’ve decided to go with a Linux solution, partially because I’m familiar with the OS professionally, partially because it is free, but mainly because I believe it is the way forward. As such I thought I’d document the process here.
This is the third time I’ve built this server in six weeks. That’s a pretty bad statistic, but I lay the blame firmly at the door of the HDDs I chose. I want as much redundant storage as I can get, and my chassis had room for 4 SATA drives. I found 4 1TB drives on eBuyer at a reasonable price, which at RAID5 gives me 2.7TB of storage where I can afford to lose any one drive at a time. This sounded great, but sadly a drive had bad blocks. So I replaced it. I then tested the replacement, and found that was bad too. This was still fine, but at that point I chose to test the other three drives and sadly one of those was wrong. The problem I then had was that the system marked two out of four drives as bad, and decided that as such it couldn’t continue.
I then rebuilt into a test configuration and finally (I hope!), I’m rebuilding it tonight on four discs that have checked out okay. There’s a difference with this install though. Thanks to Stuart Wallace, who has provided me with both the idea and the IDE to CF converter, the machines six drives are:
IDE 1: DVD rewriter
IDE 2: 4GB compact flash card
SATA1: 1TB HDD
SATA2: 1TB HDD
SATA3: 1TB HDD
SATA4: 1TB HDD
The CF card is a master stroke because I’ve carved it up into a 200MB /boot partition, and the rest is the machine’s swap space. Hopefully the machine should never need swap space as it has 4GB of RAM (although due to the hardware being a bit elderly it only sees 3.6GB). The great thing is that the machine can boot on the CF card, it should rarely need to write to it and so should not wear it out, plus I’ve got a spare CF card that I’ll back up to, so if the main one ever fails I can just swap them over and get going again. This may all sound unnecessary, but if you’ve ever had a knackered boot partition before you’ll see the value!
Let’s have a picture break. Here’s the machine with the spare CF card. As you can see, I’ve just finished installing FC10 (64 bit) and am now recovering my data from my external USB drive and my old server.
So while copying files across the LAN, and from the USB drive, building the RAID and doing a vast yum update, the machine gets a bit sweaty.
Annoyingly it has proved me wrong by swapping already, but hopefully this will rarely be the case! I’ve removed host and username information as a security precaution BTW. Good to see plenty of disc space available.
I’ve got a lot of work left to go before I get any real use from this server, but it’s good to know that matters are underway. Keeps the 40″ TV entertained anyway.
Finally, on another note we’ve got the 106R’s spare wheels boxed up ready for shipping. Doesn’t our living room look lovely!
I’ve had a brilliant day out yesterday with friends Robin and Alex, spectating at the Wyedean Forest Rally. We were up at the crack of dawn to get to the Welsh border at a reasonable time. It was a really thick frost – opening the car’s doors at 6am reminded me of the time machine in Back to the Future! The electric windows didn’t start to work until we were passing Swindon and there was still frozen ice on the roof when we eventually arrived in a rather snowy car park.
Maneuvering the car around that car park was hilarious. Needless to say we quickly became stuck in a trough where it was necessary to climb a hill to either get out or get in to a parking space. With wide summer tyres and rear wheel drive it looked for a few moments as though we’d never even manage to leave, let along park and get to see any rally action. Lateral thinking came to the rescue: Robin and Alex sat in the boot, and with the extra tonnage over the rear axle we were able to easily drive up the hill and park neatly. Result!
We arrived at special stage three well before the first cars ran. It was covered in snow and ice – the organisers were doing their best to get it cleared.
We took our time wandering along the track, soaking up the scenery and deciding where the best place would be to see the most action. The Wyedean forest looked stunning as the sun lit the winter landscape.
Before long the first of the special cars was out. Just look at how icy it was!
This was a strange looking chariot:
There were some larger than normal intervals between the cars. We don’t know why but it would make sense that there were many crashes and difficulties getting to the start point; even the public roads were treacherous! Robin went for a brief skate up the track to warm himself.
The specials were mainly Novas and Rovers, so with all due respect to the rally juniors, I didn’t take many photos. Robin was a little nonplussed.
There were some cars we liked though, like this little 106 romping along.
This MkII was fantastic, permanently oversteering all the way, even on the straights! I wish I had videoed him.
After the specials had run (those with numbers starting with a ’2′), the vintage class came out (numbers starting with a ’3′). Some real heroes here! Let’s start with an Opel that was beautifully steering from the rear:
A classic 60′s Volvo doing the same:
Lovely MkI Escort:
This Saab was FWD, yet managed to oversteer in front of us into a bit of a ditch. We were on hand to assist, but he managed to do most the work himself and get on his way.
At least I think that’s a Saab. In any case, we’d found a nice icy corner, and after a spot of lunch we were ready to see the rally proper. The fastest cars sound like dragons in the forest. Where the earlier cars has tip-toed their way across the ice, the four wheel drive monsters just dug in, tore up the surface and charged on. In the next sequence of photos, look how quickly the surface changes from ice to ploughed mud.
Car one, Andy Burton, in his Peugeot Cosworth. Andy suffered a horrible accident at the Wyedean last time we saw it in the snow (2007), so I was pleased to once again see him at full attack.
Andy won last year, but that wasn’t to be the case this year – he finished third. First place went to car 5, Nik Elsmore. He was really shifting!
As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos, and I won’t put them all in this post; instead I’ll put them on a web page and link to them all at the end. Here are a few choice pictures to whet your appetite from throughout the day.
Overall, an excellent day out. I’m pleased I finally managed to drag Robin to a decent British rally event – something he is unlikely to see often as he is emigrating to California in two weeks.
Yes, I’m a bit excitable about snow. No, I’ve never seen it this deep in Woking.
One person tried to leave the street. No one else has bothered. Since then (about an hour ago) their tracks have almost disappeared!
Just in the garden:
A lot deeper further out there, but I’m not willing to go and survey!