Linux Upgrade Time!

by Aaron 17. August 2010 09:29

Over the past few weeks I've experienced some ridiculous network behavior.  It started with an old Linksys router that was in place.  It started dropping my network connection, but I was still able to see all of the rest of my network.  I called Time Warner.  Went through all the hoops, unplugged my router, then plugged it back in...  My router wouldn't power back on.  This is router #1

At this point I think, "not so smart now are you, Aaron?!?"  My own router, and I never suspected it.

I took a different router down there (router #2) and plugged it in temporarily, until I could get a new, better one.  I bought a new one (router #3).  New issue: the router randomly drops the entire network.  So I plug router #2 back in.  This one seems to drop the external network randomly like router #1 did.  I can still see my network, but I can't get out.  Stranger still, I can get into my network from the outside.  It's like the router is losing all of the DNS server information.

I buy another Linksys (router #4).  This one reboots randomly.  Again, I go back to router #2.  No new issues, just the same old ones.  I don't think there's an issue with my hardware, although it's possible.  I think somebody's attacking my network, and something about the attack is doing this nasty business.

I took back router #4, and just today I bought a new network card.  This time, I'm going to build my own router.  I want to capture as much log info as I can about the issue, if it still persists after I do this, and maybe even shut down the attacks, if that's what is causing the problem in the first place.

To do this, I have a Linux box in my basement, running headless, that's very stable.  It's been running for years now.  I mean, this thing has been running since before I met my wife.  I've been using it as a file server, SVN server, web server, SSH server, Icecast server, TiVo home media server, DHCP server, local mail aggregator and server, and who knows what else.  It might even be lowering my cholesterol or car insurance!  And now I'm about to turn it into my new router and firewall.

About a year ago though, I decided that I wanted to upgrade some of the server software running on my Linux box.  I run Debian Linux, and the release I was using was Sarge I believe (version 3).  It took me a while to figure out how to upgrade, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed.  It was HORRIBLE!

Once I finally fiugred out how to do it, it upgraded my kernel on me.  When I did that, it didn't have IDE hardware compiled into the kernel, so it wouldn't recognize my hard drive anymore.  I should also add at this point that the hardware is an AMD Duron 950MHz processor with a couple of IDE hard drives in it.  When I say I run it headless, the only time I plug a monitor into it is when it doesn't seem to boot back up.  That happened after the kernel upgrade.

I then had to boot up with a rescue disc (Trinity Rescue) and build a new kernel using the crappiest console interface possible.  I successfully got it back up and running though, and it's been rock-solid ever since.

I tell this back story because now, I have to do it again.  I'm afraid.  Like really afraid.  I hate the process, and I wish that it could be smooth and easy, but I suspect I'm going to run into the same issue.

The reason I have to upgrade to Lenny (version 5) now is because Etch (version 4) is no longer supported.  I want to look for and possibly use some routing/firewall apps to help lock down my network.  I want to make sure I've got the latest, most secure crap running on this thing possible.  I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.

I'm approaching my upgrade the same way that my wife approaches any problem: Google  Google.com is your friend.  The first link I found is perfect really.

I started by first putting in the new network card.  That's the first new piece of hardware to be installed in the Linux box in several years.  The only other new hardware was an additional hard drive.  The machine booted up without issue after installing the card.

Next I updated APT.  I started getting GPG errors when I tried to update the package cache.  I apparently needed some GPG keys, so I installed any keyring package that had the word Debian in it until my error went away.  the APT package cache is now updated.

Now, I'm about to install the dist-upgrade APT package.  That's where I'm going to leave off for now.  The box IS my DHCP server, and if it goes down, so does the connection to my network from this laptop.

Stay tuned for Linux Upgrade Time Part 2: Rising from the Ashes.

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