Lots of computing updates going on. It all started last week …
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It was the Thursday before Christmas, or Wednesday perhaps, the details blur just a bit. I’ve not been using the Linux box formerly known as Slartibartfast as a desktop machine for quite a while now. My old MacBook Pro got refurbished with a small-ish SSD drive, and that’s the primary desktop system these days. It sits in a custom upright support that I created for the purpose a couple of years ago, and finally put to use
Darlion, the sedentary MacBook Pro
Darlion — the OS X Lion -enabled former Darla — sits forlorn at home each day while the Air, known as Agog, travels with me now. But that’s another story. Anyway, the Ubuntu Linux box needed a shedload of updates, so I let it update. Ahem. That was a mistake.
When I was done, the system no longer booted properly. I’d managed to snag not a set of updates for my system, but a distribution upgrade to the latest and greatest ‘buntu. That’s all well and good, but I had lots of system-level customizations, especially on the networking side, that simply didn’t work anymore. Ethernet devices were renamed, the bloody network manager thing from Hell made a reappearance, and other stuff related to dbus and udev flatlined. That I was unhappy was an understatement, especially since it’s still my fault. I managed that system from a functional desktop that operated most of the time as a fairly reliable home server into a flakey piece of crap that didn’t boot. Me, I did this.
It’s ten o’clock at night on a working evening … I’m not getting this fixed today. Marcia’s nightly backups can skip a night, so can my nightly backups from the web (I back up our webs, MySQL databases, etc. every night into a rolling pattern that lets me restore at intervals back at least 60 days). So the backups just fail out overnight, and by Friday evening, I had time to do the work. Or so I thought.
I tried to get an ISO for Ubuntu LTS 10/04 (the long term support version: LTS) that would install. By around 2300 that night, I was ready to adjust the system with the aluminum LART  I keep in the house. I walked away, and re-approached the problem in the morning. Finally, on the fifth optical disc, and following two failures with USB media tries, I got Ubuntu Server 11/10 installed. That’s good for three years worth of security updates, and maybe I’ll have migrated to something else before then. I thought hard about OpenIndiana … but that’s the next chapter in the story.
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Since I was rebuilding the system from scratch, I backed up the data I cared about separately from the normal weekly backups onto a pair of disks that weren’t part of the restructuring. I then dismantled both midsize towers, at least as far as storage was concerned.
For the purposes of conversation, let’s refer to these machines by the names they assumed at the end of the process: Serenity, the Ubuntu Linux home server, and Hellboy, the OpenIndiana build 151a server and Gaming OS box. Both have quad-core processors (but Hellboy’s is a bit faster, and has VTS extensions, for later experimentation with Zones and KVM). Both have plenty of RAM, at 4G and 8G respectively.
I decommissioned the PCIe 1x 3Ware RAID card out of Serenity, and pulled the two 750G drives out of that system. I also pulled three 1TB drives, and a 500G drive out of Hellboy. All I left there was the 500G Windows 7 system disk. I put two of those 1TB drives into Serenity, and built them into a software RAID0 mirror set, which is fine for my purposes, and removed the dependency on the “custom” 3Ware RAID card. The performance hit for the purposes of this machine is negligible.
The Ubuntu install on Serenity is fine, and everything works. Why didn’t I go with a Red Hat or derivative? I’ve got current scripts with dependencies on packages that are trivial to acquire and install on Ubuntu, and I wanted this done before Christmas. Like I said, later. I configured the DNS, Samba, NTP and SSH services that Serenity provides, transcribing configs and updating as necessary from my backups. Then I restored the 500G or so of Userland data, and nearly everything was working again. I had to do some tuning on Marcia’s box to make backups work again, and modify some of her mapped drives to be happy with the new system, but that took no time at all. Putting the newer, larger drives into Serenity was actually a power-draw win, too! That system is only pulling about 70 watts at idle, where it was nearly 90 watts with the older drives and RAID card in play.
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Next I reinstalled OpenIndiana build 151a onto Hellboy. This time, Hellboy got the two 750G drives as a single ZFS rpool mirror set, and that’s the extent of that system. It’s running, I can experiment with Zones and DTrace and Node.js there, and it doesn’t need to be running 24/7.
Why OpenIndiana? It’s one of the distributions of Illumos, the carrier of the OpenSolaris torch after Oracle abandoned that codebase in 2010. Do you want more Solaris history than that, leading up to what happened? Watch Bryan Cantrill’s Fork, Yeah! presentation from LISA 2011. What an awesome talk! Still, why OpenIndiana? I really like Solaris, but I don’t really want to spend the $2K/year which is the only way to legally license and keep updated Solaris on non-
SUNOracle hardware. I want a Solaris playspace at home, and OpenIndiana provides that. And if the rumors are true, which is that internal to Oracle, Solaris is really just being treated as firmware for Oracle storage and database appliances, then the only general purpose computing inheritor of the Solaris codebase will be something evolved from/through Illumos. DTrace is cool. ZFS is über-cool. Zones are super-cool. And I want to play there, in my “spare time.”
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Node.js and the DTrace book. That’ll have to wait for a pending post, I want supper! Ciao!
 LART – Luser Attitude Realignment Tool, in this case an aluminum baseball bat.