After a very long delay I have upgraded this server from Debian Lenny to Squeeze. It has taken about an hour and has gone pretty well, just a few hand edits required. The key services of email and web are still working properly and I've not locked myself out or anything silly yet!
On a server you don't get lots of new toys to play with in the way you do on a desktop system, and it's more important that it works than it's shiny, so the only reason I've done the upgrade now is so that it's before Lenny comes to the end of security upgrades - which is important.
Last week I installed the Linux 3.0.0 kernel image on my Debian Wheezy/Testing system. After a reboot, it started normally and X came up with out a problem. The following day when I booted it started okay but went into a kernel-panic when X started. I rebooted in safe/single user mode and it was okay when I manually started X, but it goes into kernel-panic whenever X starts from boot.
I've tried booting several times and with both the radeon or the fglrx graphics driver and it makes no difference, kernel panic on automatic start of X. The older 2.6.39 kernel is perfectly okay, though the fglrx graphics driver from AMD/ATI makes the PC unusually slow at the moment, so I currently use the open source radeon driver.
It's a pain* getting a venue for a LUG meeting. You need power, Internet connections, somewhere to park cars, proximity to usable public transport, and it needs to be in the right place in the county.
In the past we have used the University of Southampton, which was easy to arrange as it was done for us by a staff member who was also a LUG member. It's an excellent venue and has been the home of the LUG for many years, however we lost our last staff LUG member last year and that means we have been reliant of students. In all honesty our student member have been great, but they don't have the same rites on campus as staff, they go home during the vacations and they keep completing their studies!
Last Saturday we had a meeting at the University with a new student host. Attendance could have been better but the meeting went very well on a technical front, and we should be okay there next month. The hope is that I can get enough students involved so that they can share the responsibility around and cover about 6 months of the year. For the other 6 months we can visit other locations such as IBM or shared meetings with Surrey.
I'm hoping that with this month, next month and the following months booked, there should be enough stability for talks to reappear in the calendar and re-invigorate the LUG. I've already been "volunteered" to give a talk on video connectors...
* Actually it's not that bad, people do keep offering venues.
I have started the process of upgrading all my boxes from Debian 5 "Lenny" to Debian 6 "Squeeze". I started about a week before the actual release of Squeeze by upgrading VM images first, they were the simplest to upgrade and the easiest to roll-back in the event of a problem. There were zero problems on these simple systems.
Next I upgraded my home server - on which the VMs live. This system has more on it and there were some manual tweaks required because of changes to configuration files and such, but overall it went it without a problem.
Finally I upgraded my partner's desktop system. This was the most complex system to-date, having the most installed on it and it was the oldest system, having started life running Sarge. There were several problem with the upgrade - mostly because of manual changes that have been applied in the past, and even after the upgrade there was still quite a lot of antiquated programs left behind that needed manual removal.
All that is left to upgrade now are the remote systems, such as this system which I'll do shortly. Overall a fairly painful process - many thanks to the Debian team.
This weekend I completed my expansion of the filesystem for work's development and production KVM systems. In the end I did the expansion on the server not my own systems, but I did use the technique I developed used last week on my own server. In the end even though my domestic ADSL connection is faster than works AT&T network, neither are fast enough to move about multi-gigabyte files.
Work now has nice shiny expanded servers ready for work. The next challenge will be to upgrade them to Debian 6.0 from the 5.0.8 that they are currently running. As Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" has only just been released I won't be doing it in a rush. I've got two systems at home, two systems with family, and three systems at work to upgrade before I tackle the hosted systems I look after.
We have a remote server at work that is running virtual machines for various web purposes. Alas when originally created the file system of the virtual machines was smaller than we needed. The physical host system has plenty of space, we just have to grow the virtual file systems.
In principle I could have grown the file systems on the server but that would have loaded the server during the working day when the customers use it, plus our corporate network is too slow to do anything significant over the public Internet.
My original plan was top stop the virtual machines for a few seconds, copy
the virtual file system, restart the virtual machine then transfer the copy
to a machine at work. Once I have it on a fast system with plenty of disk-space
cat some zeros on to the end of the container, boot it
up with a live disk and extend the filesystem over the empty space. I'd reboot
it with it's own Kernel to make sure it's all okay and happy, then copy the
enlarged file back up to the remote server.
I however hit some problems... Though we have a fancy network at work, in practice it's slower than the ADSL network I have at home and not only is it slow but it often hits capacity problems, dropping connections. "Plan B" was to use a test ADSL link to pull the files down, but that still left a slight outage during the working day. Even if I could get the filesystems down to a work machine, our desktop systems all run Windows and have tiny hard drives - which isn't much help. I managed to find an older desktop system and borrow a 1 TB external drive, but in the end I decided it would be easier to do at home on my home systems.
Yesterday I pulled down a development and staging virtual system as Qemu/KVM
qcow2 files. On my home server I converted them to raw image
files and made them larger. Using a Debian GNU/Linux live image I booted
them up, expanded the
ext3 filesystem and shut them down. I
rebooted them with their own KVM Kernel to test that they were okay, then
converted the raw image back into a
qcow2 and at the moment
scping them back to the server.
It's sad that I couldn't really do this at work, but at least I learnt some new stuff and I know my home infrastructure is better than works. I also found out that as expected a 2 GiB file as qcow2 expands to a 4 GiB raw imaged, which I expanded to 20 GiB, compresses back to a 2 GiB qcow2 - very cool!
Very shortly Debian 6.0 will be released, this is good as it's got good stuff in it that will be a nice step up from the current version which is starting to show it's age.
Some new things have arrived such as Google Chromium-Browser and KDE4, and some things have gone such as KDE3 and Splashy. I run testing on my desktop so won't see a radical change when the new version comes out but I'll have to upgrade the various stable systems I run once I'm happy it can all be done without any pain - which is usually the case.
KDE4 is really good now I've got use to it and it's big step up from KDE3 which while good was getting long in the tooth. Most KDE3 software is now available upgraded to KDE4 but there are some notable exceptions, for example Quanta+.
Splashy has been replaced by Plymouth, except that Plymouth doesn't work on my system. Having said that Splashy has been buggy so it's not a major change really.
After the Mythmas and New Year break I returned to work to discover that my work PC has had MS Office 2007 installed on it, instead of Office 2003.
I didn't start life hating Microsoft products, once upon a time I actually liked what they did. Now I see every change as a negative. Windows and Office gets worse at every "upgrade". Office 2007 is particularly nasty, doesn't fit with the rest of XP, looks like a child's toy, seems to be as slow as hell, and uses an already abandoned file format...
Open-source software seems to change without the same pain as Microsoft. KDE4 is radically different from KDE3 but somehow I didn't mind the transition - so it's not change that I don't like...
Today I spent most of the afternoon trying to get Ubuntu to play ball with an Edimax EW-7711In PCI WiFi card. On the Edimax website they allow you to download Ralink RT3070 drivers for the Linux kernel. We downloaded a more recent version of the driver from Ralink, as we had problems with the file from the Edimax web site.
We installed the right bits and kernel-headers, compiled it all, installed it
network-manager ignored it. We tried a few tweaks and still it
was ignored. We then re-seated the card to make sure that wasn't a problem - it
wasn't. However I noticed that the chip on the board was a Ralink RT3060,
which is also what
I then downloaded the RT3062 family driver - RT3060/RT3062/RT3562/RT3592. We
repeated the make dance and it popped up in network-manager the second we
The past few week has not been good for them. They have very serious security defects in all version of Internet Explorer from as far back as records go up to and including the very latest version in Windows 7. Several governments have formally recommended that users do not use IE of any version until it's fixed.
To make matters worse it now transpires that they knew about the problem some time ago and even when exploits were being used they did nothing about it.
Using Microsoft products is one long pathetic patch process. You buy, you hope, you patch, you patch again and finally you start again at buy...
No sane person starting today would ever deploy anything from Microsoft, the only reason anyone uses their products today is because of ignorance, inertia and the fact even if they want to change they are trapped (addicted?).
This week I've been going up to Feltham near London for a training course. Normally this would mean a simple train trip and to pass the time I'd read books. This week because of a rain damaged bridge it's been a slow and complicate process - but I've at least had more time to read and think about books.
One of the books I've been reading via Reading is Linux System Administration Recipes by Juliet Kemp. Fatally I had high hopes for this book, I've followed her blog and columns and was expecting a very good book. The book is not bad, it's just that I was expecting so much more. My first problem with the book is that it's way too short, a slim volume just isn't suitable for a computing recipe book, the format demands a more lengthy work. My second worry is the topics that have been selected, it's not that they are wrong per se rather that there hasn't been sufficient discussion of the alternatives.
Another problem I have with the book is that Juliet is a keen advocate of Kerberos, which is good as it's not as common as it should be, but she misses the opportunity in the "centralising" chapter to talk about Keberose secured NFSv4, rather sticking to the older insecure NFSv3.
There are also some "school boy" errors that really should be lurking in a technical book, some of which have been picked up in the publisher's errata, some that have not.
I really wanted to like this book, however it feels like an unfinished draft, still missing content. I'll next have to write the book up as a full review on the LUG's website. The problem will be creating a constructive review, I think the book is a good start and I really hope that a later edition will be a great deal better.
The UK is a real techno laggard. I'm ashamed of how backwards we are in the UK. We have poor domestic broadband, terrible IT education and dire open-source adoption. Our own government seems hell bent of spending more money than anyone else on failed closed source IT projects and seems unable to adopt open source and save billions: Open Source and the Fear of Failure.
Meanwhile our neighbours across the Channel seem to be running away with technology. They have good domestic broadband provision and several high profile open source projects driven from central government. So far they have saved a fortune and not had the same dismal failures that the UK has been plagued with: FR: "Almost entire public sector is using open source'.
What has happened to British inventiveness and forging the future in the white heat of technology? I suppose we've swapped it all for buying our way out of depression with borrowed money...
Carla Schroder's blog article De-Programming Windows Refugees is really interesting. Obviously it makes the point about getting Windows users to unlearn all the bad habits they have picked up if they want to upgrade to a proper operating system. It's often easier to teach Unix to someone who has never used a computer than a seasoned Windows user...
She goes on to make a more interesting observation. The marketing drones at Microsoft and Apple go on about how "intuitive" their products are, yet when you think about it that's an absurd claim.
Neither the Mac nor Windows are intuitive, and I wish the word "intuitive" would go away entirely because the poor thing is so misused it needs a long vacation. Here is a dictionary definition of intuitive: "Known or perceived by intuition."
What is intuition? "The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition."
Some synonyms are clairvoyance, innate knowledge, instinct, premonition, presentiment. Some antonyms are knowledge and reason.
O'Reilly's best selling book isn't anything to do with "hard" Linux but it's "easy" Macs that need manuals: Mac OS X, the Missing Manual....
This week I deployed a Debian GNU/Linux system at work, I'll deploy another one shortly. They should be Microsoft Windows XP systems but it's company policy that only approved Windows systems go on the network, and all company Windows systems MUST have a screen saver with password set.
The problem is that these systems are basically running public displays so the screen saver is required to be off. Therefore it's easier to deploy a Linux system which isn't part of the company wide Windows Domain to solve the problem than it is to use a Windows systems...
Ironic isn't it? Personally I'm always happy to replace Windows systems with Linux ones but in this case the decision was forced onto me by the IT department - which is becoming increasingly less Windows centric...
I'm normally quite conservative with computing, it is more important that it works than it's the latest toy. The only exception is my desktop system, which runs Debian "testing", so periodically things break.
The latest 2.6.30 kernel and 173.13.09 nvidia glx drivers are not compatible. I can either run an older kernel with working drivers or a later kernel with the 2D only open source nvidia drivers which are working fine.
One can understand why my family and my servers at home and work all run Debian "stable" (currently 5.0.2). Once it goes in, it keeps working, Debian stable upgrades are perfectly safe.