ZFS, Boot Zones and data loss

Note to Self: One must remember not to accidently pull the power cord out of your OpenSolaris server.

Somewhere between the sudden power down, and booting into different Boot Zones my MySQL database has lost records and the Apache HTTP server logs are missing whole time periods in the access logs. I have been digging through the OpenSolaris Bible looking for a reason the data is missing. There appears to be no ZFS snapshots missing, and MySQL show there have been no deletions from the tables and they aren’t corrupt, the Data in the logs and MyISAM records are just missing.

I can point to the File buffering of the file system for the loss, except for the fact that the MySQL database records have been in the database for days, and the Apache Logs have lost whole days worth of records.

I’ll keep you posted, if I find out, as this does not bode well for OpenSolaris if it looses data. In the mean time I’ll be more careful of the power and switch the power connection to the Telecom USP.

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?


The price of a Green PC server.

I keep calling this DYI project a server, which it is currently doing, Samba server, MySQL server, Apache server FTP server. But beyond this it’s also a desktop server with all the features of your average desktop PC. 2GB of Ram, 128MB Video, 250GB disk DVD-RW DVD+RW, Gig Ethernet and low power consumption of less than 50 watts. All this for 271 Euros delivered!


As you can see I purchased the parts from Elara but you should be able to pick up the parts anywhere you can find them. You may be able to buy a pre-made server/PC elsewhere but then you wouldn’t learn anything new 😉

Nature Hates a Vacuum

Yesterday I thought I’d screwed up my USB ports and that would require a motherboard replacement. But in IT a mystery is unacceptable! So when a bit of fiddling and a reboot made the the USB (and attached mouse) revive, I was disturbed. But like in anything, Nature hates a vacuum, so like the vacuum in my head, I filled it with an answer. The Open Solaris ‘filemanager’ has a bug, don’t press the ‘Eject’ icon if the disk is mounted on the USB ports, any of the ports as it will unmount the, in my case, mouse, and then refuse to remount anything else on the USB ports. I’ll send in a bug report. See the picture below for what to avoid. This may be only an isolated issue with this motherboard. And the eject seems to work Ok for the CD/DVD drive (different controller).


Missed A Bullet

I missed a bullet today, while unplugging a usb powered portable drive from my new server I hung the USB ports on OpenSolaris, I though I could have proceeded, the mouse was on a USB port so I was mouseless. Not a good thing with GUI, during my attempts to diagnose the issue I manage to power down and after who knows what, the system came back up and all was well.


And all is running fine with OpenSolaris. Mind you I could NEVER recommend this operating system to a novice. While I managed to make services screen bring up SMB, and Webmin I’ve yet to get the OS to print on an HP 4200 Series printer, while it recognizes it when it’s plugged in, it will not send a test print.

Another point, is OpenSolaris supplies Totem Media Player and SongBird nether will play an MP3 file, let alone anything else. Opensolaris even recognize a DVD, but then won’t play it. USELESS!! why include them. It took hours of Goggling to find plugins, and then you have to BUY THEM from Fluendo


Size doesn’t matter, in IT

In the previous post I mentioned that the Intel Atom 330 D945GCLF2 motherboard looks lost in the Minuet 350 case;


and even the case is not very large as seen here compaired to a Dell 3100 case


and there is still room for a half high PCI card in the case where the motherboard extends across the end of the case where there are slot openings.


The good news is that as expected, the server could be considered Green with

  • 9 Watts – Power Off!
  • 49 Watts – During Boot (Peak)
  • 27 Watts – At idle screen
  • 35 – 38 Watts nominal usage

Forgotten Rule of IT!

If you happen to read my Blog, you will know that I’ve started a project to build a home server that more or less mimics the sort of server I use at the office. And while I’ve have had the parts for a few days, in fact, assembled on the first day, following some basic photos, I have not really begun to operate it.

During the weekend, a fellow blogger Connor announced, rather twittered that they had their home media server assembled and running. At first I thought he had beaten me to the Idea, but his is more for home Media, MythTV, rather than IT practice and development. And then he was hit with the first rule of IT regarding new equipment. “Don’t count your systems until they have burned in“.

Which is what happened, his system failed due to a common phenomena in IT. Either the equipment starts and runs for 100 years, or it dies in the first couple of days. Infant Mortality is one of the most common effects of new IT equipment and usually means you can never commit time to the new system for several days, up to a week until you feel safe with the system. During that time you can test it, stress it, but don’t count on it. Then when you are happy, erase your testing environment, and load the real installation.

So hence, I’ve been a bit patient and deliberate in my new system. So far the BOXD945GCLF2 (also known as the INTEL D945GCLF2, or Little Falls 2) motherboard has been performing quite well and the OpenSolaris OS has found and configured all the hardware I attempted to use. The board is currently mounted and operating in a Antec Minuet 350 Case.

And I’ll write and photograph this more later, needless to say that while this is a small case tailored for the microATX D945GCLF2, the board itself is nearly lost inside as I’ll show you later.

Personal IT server Simulator

</p> <p><span style=font-size: 0.9em; margin-top: 0px;><br /> <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/21709201@N00/3359869351"><br /> Originally uploaded by </a><br /> <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/21709201@N00">Branedy</a><br /> </span></div> <p></center></p> <p>I am undertaking the task of building a personal server which more or less emulates the type of environment I use at work. In this stage I built a small system from the Intel 330 BOXD945GCLF2 motherboard. This is a dual core hyper-threaded Atom chipset that looks like a quad core server, only at 1/4 the wattage, and about 1/3 the CPU crunch power. But it’s still looks and feels snappy enough. </p> <p>I’ve currently loaded <a href="http://opensolaris.org/os/">OpenSolaris</a> as Solaris is a mature OS common in the IT world which also is very well tailored to mutli-core CPU’s.<br /> <br clear=all /></p> </div><!-- .entry-content --> </div><!-- .post-entry --> <footer class="post-data"> <span class="cat-links"> Posted in <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=220" rel="category">DIY server</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=53" rel="category">Energy</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=2" rel="category">General IT issues</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=10" rel="category">Linux</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=198" rel="category">MySQL</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?cat=83" rel="category">RDBMS</a> </span><br/> <span class="tags-links"> Tagged with <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?tag=intel-atom" rel="tag">Intel Atom</a>, <a href="http://www.branedy.net/?tag=opensolaris" rel="tag">OpenSolaris</a> 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