What can you say

I’ve been neglecting the blogging, Twittering, facebook world lately as personal issues have, I was going to say crept into, but it’s more like slammed into, me again. It’s not depressing enough to hear about an incompetent Irish government politicians robbing from their citizens to bail out their friends. Or to hear about the number of mindless multi-nationals stumbling along destroying communities all over Ireland. I must now travel back to the U.S. during a Swine Flu pandemic to prepare for the death of my younger brother from Pancreatic Cancer.

Great, the next time someone tells me ‘things could get worse!’ is going to get a sock in the mouth.

Legacy Unix always works

Great, I now have a printer that works, but not due to any fancy new features, and also not due to my brilliance, though it should have. But again I am reminded (via Google) to remember the one thing that Unix is, it’s files everything in /dev is a pointer to the device, which for all intents and purposes is just a file. So to print, just cp to /dev/printers/1 which in my case was the USB printer. So by bypassing the fancy stuff, you just call it a file and point at it.

Webmin back door

NOTE: Do not accidently drop your own permissions to su to root.

{Unless you happen to remember to have Webmin running. }

This weekend while trying to get CUPS to print on my DYI-Server I managed to grant myself ‘CUPS management’ and lost all other permissions, including the ability to su to root. If you aren’t a sysadmin this is roughly the equivalent of locking your keys in your house. OpenSolaris, and most of the modern Linux distro’s don’t allow root login. So I thought I was thoughly screwed, until I calmed down, and realized that I had Webmin running, so permissions repaired. Yet another harrowing learning experience.

I’m learning too much that a classic, easy to administer desktop operating system might be beyond Linux and OpenSolaris. Windows and MacOSX have just managed to hide most of the pain involved from the average user. And believe me, there is a lot to hide. Unfortunately for Linux and OpenSolaris, the developers and discussion groups associated with these OS’s ARE NOT end users for the most part, and have little interest in the area of user experience. So if printers don’t print and webcams only work ‘sometimes’ that’s Ok, something of interest, just not a serious impact on their development or their perceptions of the impact to the end user experience.

I appreciate that OpenSolaris is reasonably stable, and features are abundant. I’d just like to snap a picture off the webcam, and play a DVD movie once in a while and not just marvel at ZFS time shifting and what not.

Now back to the books….;-)

A different thing in a real OS.

Through the weekend I believed that I had managed to screw up my OpenSolaris installation. So serious was my suspicion I was planning to erase the disk and reinstall the entire system. The sound system that I’d manage to get working wasn’t, the ZFS snapshot system kept failing into maintenance mode and the NetBeans IDE that I installed disappeared. Perhaps living in a windows world tainted me but in my ignorance, I recognized my lack of understanding and started Googling.

Sometimes panic can instill reason, and so with some illustrations and illumination from the OpenSolaris.org site, I discovered that the issue was the multiple packages that I had been downloading. The ZFS file system had been doing boot snapshots and I was rebooting into one of many boot ‘pools’ that were ‘confusing’ the system, when I was shown the tool for selecting the correct boot environment, and deleting the others, everything became stable. The sound works, the tools were there and it all works.

One note, the ZFS file system in OpenSolaris will surprise you, it takes a ‘snapshot’ of the ‘partitions’ you choose, and performs a type of backup journal of all the files there. Given that, the file manager, using a slide bar, allows you to ‘time slide’ the directory through the entire snapshot history to display the changes that have happened. Very interesting, but it takes a bit of getting used to. I have ‘time machine‘ on my Mac, though I have not used it, so I suspect this behaves in a similar fashion.

There was one issue, of course created by myself, in and effort to get video on the system I purchased a Logitech 3500 video class webcam with built-in Mike. And while the Ekiga VoIP and video conferencing application could detect and use the video from the camera, the built-in mike would kill the sound system. So I’m operating without the camera, hoping for a bugfix.

The conclusion, more or less, is that the fixes I perform, did not require a drastic rebuild and the loss of my work. Only some understanding, and some learning on my part. Learning about how a real OS operates, and protects itself. Something toy OS’s from the past have made us all believe don’t exist.

Time to learn that something old, is new again.

No good thing goes unpunished

I just got the home server running on a dynamic dns server, and sure enough, we are already getting spam comments on the wordpress software I installed there. I knew our server wasn’t going to to go unnoticed when both Google and Yahoo found it Friday. But really, spam?


http://rwjordan.homeunix.org/
http://mjordan.blogsite.org/

The distributed Internet

A posting from Bernie Goldbach Powering the Information Age reminded me about the nature of the Internet. The underlying structure of the Internet is distributed, fault tolerant networking, initially intended to continue operating after a nuclear war. In the current climate, it routes around ‘damages’ like ‘censorship’ firewalls, and corporate throttling of bandwidth.

But one of the other things it’s good at is distributed computing, two nodes in the same domain can be geographically separated by an entire planet. This seems to escape the mindset of current datacenter deployment. While it might make sense to concentrate servers into small areas, in an energy constrained world perhaps powered by distributed power sources, it doesn’t. the loss or degradation of the power source to a datacenter places it on the back foot operationally, constrained to secondary generation, it server’s, all the server’s in the datacenter become vulnerable to the same ‘outage’ which the Internet will also treat as ‘damaged’ and route around.

Given a properly functional broadband infrastructure, servers located at the endpoints of the networks will as a whole, be less likely to be dropped from the Internet as damage. The likelihood of power being eliminated from a large distributed server domain is also contained. In a potential alternative energy future where solar and wind could be the primary source, distributed ‘green’ servers fit the requirement.