Once upon a time there was a server...
She started out life in the summer of 1997 as a generic Pentium 166 server with 128 MB of RAM and a little IDE drive, but she was quickly named "nancy" (after the character in the Firesign Theatre's Nick Danger sketch).
Soon, nancy sported an installation of Slackware Linux with the spiffy 2.0.30 kernel and, by fall, she was up and running on the 'net, where she handled DNS, RADIUS, SMTP, and POP3 for my ISP. (Of course, nancy was hardly alone. Over the years her "friends" included danger, catherwood, and bradshaw, as well as her alter-egos bettyjo, melanie, and audrey.)
By 1998, nancy was busy handling thousands of email accounts, as well as serving as the primary RADIUS server for over a thousand dial-up customers. That might seem like a lot for a machine in her hardware class, but in fact nancy rarely broke a sweat in those days. For one thing, she ran Linux, with a custom-compiled kernel and no windowing system to slow her down. For another, those were still the halcyon days of the 'net, with spammers only just beginning to make their slimy presence felt.
nancy's name would show up in error messages, of course, with the result that more than one of our customers at first mistook her for a very diligent employee. Even after they learned the truth--that nancy was just a faithful little server, naked and half-exposed in the server room after I was too lazy to replace the side panel of her case one day--customers would occasionally ask after her when we spoke on the phone. Clearly, I wasn't her only admirer. nancy returned our affection, happily staying up and operational for a year or two between being moved to new locations.
Eventually, the burden of continual abuse by spammers and the growing size of email messages meant that nancy could no longer serve so many customers. Yet, she continued to serve in some capacity on our network through three companies, in three offices, over ten years--long after her hardware had been depreciated on the books. Toward the end of her days, nancy was semi-retired, serving as an email, DNS, and shell server on our office LAN, but devoting most of her CPU cycles to cracking RC5.
Which brings us to now. As of today, nancy will be retired. She's still just as reliable as ever (yes, amazingly, she's still running on her original hardware, hard drive included!), but we're working on making our business as "green" as possible, and sadly she no longer does enough work to justify her carbon footprint.
So, farewell nancy, my faithful server! May you dream of penguins as you slumber. And, who knows? Maybe one of your new, fancy brethren will have a bad day and you'll get called out of retirement one day... If so, I know you'll be as ready as ever.
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