Ubuntu and Debian Installation Fun

Home Data Center Saga continues…

The “home data center” is getting a bit crazy to maintain. It is a good thing I have so much free time on my hands (not). I did finish a couple of the projects on my list last weekend. I wanted to upgrade one of my P4 3.0GHz “home brew” machines from Fedora Core 3 to Ubuntu and put Debian server on one of the “new” used Dell 2850 servers I bought from work. I am now the proud systems administrator of both of these machines – with plenty of fun along the way.

Upgrading from Fedora to Ubuntu

I started with the Fedora Core 3 to Ubuntu conversion by making sure all of the applications I had written in Java, PHP, Perl, sh, as well as the databases in MySQL had been successfully ported to another CentOS machine and regression tested. That took longer than expected (of course). I had already used BitTorrent (thanks Bram Cohen) to download Ubuntu 9.04. I like their numbering scheme as even I can figure out how new/old the rev is. I then went and installed it on my “home brew” Intel motherboard based system. It worked like a charm and I was checking out its slick UI and features within minutes. So far, so good.

Next I decided to see how the graphics worked and if I could get it into 1920×1280 mode with my 24″ monitor. That was a tad trickier – but I was pleased to see that it went out on the Internet and figured out where to get the latest NVidia driver that supported the video card I had bought years ago. That was slick and the graphics were awesome. In high res mode it even puts some transparency to windows and gives them “momentum distortion” as you move the window. Not sure how useful it is – but it looks pretty cool.

VNC for graphical UI across machines

I like to sit in my home office and use VNC to access the 7 Linux boxes running in my basement and other rooms (versus running between them to try things). I know that “real systems administrators do not use VNC” as told to me by one of our real systems administrators at AOL (and CNET years ago). I am not embarrassed to say I am not a real systems administrator!  I like the graphical UI access to all of these machines. It makes working on them so much easier with 4 or 5 windows open at a time. So here is where the rub is. I enabled VNC, ran back to my office, and tried it. No luck. I made sure SSH worked and I could get to the box – that was all set and good to go. I check that the machine was listening on port 5901 – that was good too. A little snooping in the VNC log file let me know it could not execute the /etc/X11//xinit/xinitrc script. I thought that was odd but enabled execute permissions on the file and everything worked.

Upgrading versions of Ubuntu to 9.10

As I performed a routine update of the OS and files, it let me know that Ubuntu 9.10 was now out (as it was past October – month 10 in year 2009). I had downloaded 9.04 a month earlier when I began thinking of the project. A 9.10 upgrade sounded great – so I decided to “go for it”. Bad decision. After the upgrade the video would not work in graphics mode and I could only bring the system up in text mode. Not a big deal for a “real systems administrator” but definitely not what I was looking for – especially on a desktop machine where I wanted to check out the cool graphics in Ubuntu.

Video driver hell

Since the machine had no real work on it and I did not feel it was worth my time to really figure it all out in 80×24 text mode as I trouble shot the X Window system, I simply put 9.04 back on the machine and got it working where it was before the upgrade. This would represent my fallback case in a worst case scenario. I then used BitTorrent to get 9.10 on a DVD. Ubuntu allows you to add multiple OS versions by partitioning the drive. I did that and shared the drive with 9.04 and 9.10 and performed the installation. 9.10 came up and worked from scratch – but the video upgrade would not work. When I tried to get it to go out and upgrade the video driver as it had in 9.04, it kept telling me that there were no drivers and that the upgrade was not possible. This did not let me use the 1920×1024 graphics mode of the card or monitor.

After playing with the software update tool, I was able to find some NVidia drivers that were available and downloaded those. Once I did that the system finally let me do the upgrade to enhanced video mode and use the 1920×1280. I am not sure why the 9.10 version was not able to automatically find these drivers as the 9.04 version was, but clearly this was why the upgrade had failed when I tried to go from 9.04 to 9.10 “in place”. The VNC issue for xinitrc still existed and I again corrected that. Project complete!

And on to the Debian upgrades

The Debian 5.0.3 server install for my Dell 2850 proved to be less frustrating – but not without hiccups. I had downloaded the first 3 DVDs for Debian and proceeded to the basement to start the install. That is when I noticed that this 2850 came with a CD-ROM drive and not a DVD-ROM drive! I had already put CentOS on the other Dell 2850 months ago – so I “assumed” that both machines had DVD-ROM drives. Bad assumption… The nice thing about Debian is that is allows a “net install” CD to be burned that is fairly small. It then downloads the rest of what it needs as it goes along. So this is the route I chose for the Debian server. From there the install was fairly straightforward. The graphics are nowhere as nice and Ubuntu – but this is a server install and I don’t have a fancy video card in the 2850 anyway. The VNC issue for xinitrc also exists with this version of Debian – which is no surprise as Ubuntu is a downstream distribution of Debian. Another project complete and now I have systems to compare different OS features and issues and keep up with some of the pilot projects we are doing at work to streamline software distribution, etc.

Ted Cahall

Windows, MacOS, and editing race cam videos…

Windows 7 solves so many issues

I finally got around to installing Windows 7 on a used Dell Precision 360 w/ 1GB RAM that I bought from work. During installation I somehow fried the AGP video card’s DVI port. I was able to still get the VGA port to work – and was impressed with the graphics and performance.

I went out and bought a new AGP card and am now really impressed with the “Aero” themes and video effects. The system is amazingly fast.

Windows 7 and video editing

I figured I would look at the Microsoft Live extensions including the Movie Maker download. I was able to get the software up, running, and edit one of the MPEG videos from my TraqMate race cam within minutes. This was really interesting to me as everyone says the Mac and Final Cut are the way to go. Movie Maker was FREE – while Final Cut Express was $199.00 at the Apple Store. 🙁

Mac Snow Leopard and Final Cut Express

I recently bought the Snow Leopard upgrade for my Intel based Mac and Final Cut Express 4.0 for editing videos. On Final Cut Express (not sure about Pro), the version of MPEG that the car cam shoots is not recognized. I need to read in the video with the software provided by TraqMate. The “fun” part about MPEG is that the file extension does not say it all.  There are 3 versions of MPEG videos… It seems that the TraqMate shoots MPEG2 and Final Cut only recognizes  versions 1 and 3. TraqMate makes a video conversion utility that I have not tried yet. http://traqmate.com/downloads/videoconverter/TQConvertInstall.exe.  There are several other free utilities out there as well.

A pay program from Apple should have at least the minimum features of the FREE program from Microsoft…

And a Ted Cahall Racing Video is Born!

When I was done, I went to post the video to YouTube.  But – YouTube was down! I first tried at 11:15AM ET today.   It was down for a while. It was back up when I checked back at 11:30AM. Movie Maker posts directly to YouTube. So here it is.

Ted Cahall

AOL Wins Green IT Award from Uptime Institute

It was great to be up in NYC last Wednesday representing AOL.  The Uptime Institute awarded AOL its Green IT Award for “Data Center Energy Efficiency Improvement: IT“.

Great work by Brad Allison in creating SUMO and for the data center and SA teams for pushing its usage.  This tool allows AOL to identify underutilized servers and either decommission them – or bundle them up onto virtualized hosts.

It is great to work with dedicated people that are not only smart, but care about their environment at the same time.

Ted Cahall

Internet Architecture Video

Back sometime in 2004/2005 when I was the CIO/SVP of Engineering for CNET Networks, they shot a video of me explaining, “Scaling out an Internet Architecture“.  I was thinking about the current publishing system at AOL, DynaPub, that we developed in 2007 after I arrived.  It was interesting after I watched the video again how close DynaPub follows the key principles described in it.

The only parts the video does not cover are:

  • Use of Lucene as the Search engine and SOLR as the container to hold Lucene (we invented SOLR while I was at CNET).
  • Use of XML over HTTP as the transport layer between the App Servers and DBs / Search engine.
  • Use of denormalized MySQL tables for speed
  • The main tool, the CMS, and its very specialized table structure for high-performance.

The AOL Publishing system is the fourth generation publishing system that I have been involved in either designing or managing.  IMHO, most of the: bloated, over-designed, needlessly complex issues from previous publishing systems have been eradicated in DynaPub.  It also has ZERO licensing or maintenance costs as it is all built on open-source – including the operating system – as mentioned in a previous blog post here.

Ted Cahall

Employee Purchase Program – more servers

I recently ordered and received a couple more servers from the AOL Employee Purchase Program.  They are a couple of Dell 2850s with 4GB of RAM.  I also picked up a nice Dell desktop for $100 as well.  Can never have enough of those.  I grabbed some speakers for $5 to hook up to one of my Apple AirPort Express units to allow music in a remote room through iTunes.

Onto installing CentOS on the servers and Windows on the PC.  This should complete my home data center.  I am really racking up a power bill.

Ted Cahall

CentOS Rocks Good-Bye RHEL

Home Data Center saga

I upgraded my home “data center” recently with the addition of two used HP DL320s.  They both have 4GB of RAM and two 15k 36GB drives in a RAID1 configuration.  I build and buy hardware as a hobby to keep me close to the reality of managing corporate software systems and data centers.

From RHEL to CentOS

I decided to run CentOS 5.2 on these new home systems.  It is fantastic.  You have to love the GPL that makes this possible.  Some companies making their first foray into Linux might not feel comfortable using CentOS.  Mature companies that have been using some form of RHEL for a few years should feel very comfortable.  How many Linux OS support calls do you make in a year anyway?  Needless to say, we are migrating AOL from RHEL to CentOS at a significant annual savings.

I would have gone to Debian, as I needed a free alternative  to improve my company’s operating margins, but why not use CentOS when it is binary compatible with RHEL and FREE?  Easy decision.

Open Source Commoditization of Software

Similar to my decisions to move my previous companies off of BEA WebLogic to Tomcat and Sybase to MySQL.  It is almost hard to believe that companies payed for the Netscape Web Server now that Apache is ubiquitous.  Distant memories of companies paying for Alta Vista, Verity, or FAST search products now with Lucene and SOLR.  Thank you Open Source!

Ted Cahall

Home Data Center “Drudgery”

Managing my home data center takes more time lately. I now have a mac mini and a Fedora Core 3 box in my office.  This is in addition to the servers in my garage.

I enjoy the Fedora Core 3 box and am looking to upgrade an older AS2.1 box to Fedora.  First I need to  move the old applications off of it. I am keeping notes in a Wiki on one of my machines now to track all the stuff I am doing to these boxes. At least I have MRTG graphs for my PIX and my NICs on all the machines in the garage. I also have RRD graphs for all of the web servers on those machines as well.

Connecting my DSL and Cable Modem Networks

I plan on buying a PIX for the upstairs office.  This way I can make a site-to-site VPN that auto connects between the upstairs cable modem and the garage’s DSL line. Then I will instrument the upstairs machines with MRTG and RRD as well.

Maybe I will start my Harley some time in May. It has been so long the battery may be dead by now. 🙁 It is overcast and cold this morning up here in the hills – so no ride today.

Infineon Raceway and my 2001 Z06 Corvette

Wednesday night at the races at Infineon Raceway. Isn’t it great to live in the USA? Anyone with a license and mom’s station wagon can burn up the tires. For me it was 111 mph and 13.08 second quarter mile in my 2001 Z06 Corvette with street tires and my work clothes on. Kudos to Ross at work for actually dragging me away from the office!

Ted Cahall 2001 Z06 Corvette
Ted Cahall 2001 Z06 Corvette

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I need to take my Harley Fatboy up there and see how the 96 ci motor I put in there runs. I doubt I am talented enough to go sub 13 seconds on it. Not even sure if a really good pilot could do it.  Maybe I will ask John Strickland to run it once.   He did a 12.25 on my old 1200 Sportster that I sold him…

Modifications to the 2001 Z06 Corvette?

Hmmm… Now I am thinking of buying a “second” set of rims and tires so I can see if I am capable of running in the low 12 second range with my Z06. Some kids there were telling me about a super-charger I could bolt on to take myself to 450 hp. Or I could just wait for the 2006 Z06 to come out – rumor has it that it will be 500 hp out of the box… That sounds nice – an ’06 Z06…

 

Fedora Core 3

Fedora Core 3 is really nice.  Running it on a P4 3GHz w/ 2GB RAM.  Now if I could just get the PPTP stuff from SourceForge to work I could see if the Ximian connector is worth using with  a corporate Exchange account.

I know – PPTP?  We also have an SSL VPN – so maybe I should use that…

“social” scribblings (sort of)

I guess you can’t scribble with a keyboard very well…

This post was mostly just to try out the system and get my feet wet – so to speak. Not that anyone should read this. I am just an obscure guy whacking away on some interesting technology in the community space. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Brad Fitzpatrick, founder of Live Journal, and decided to see what the buzz was all about.

The more I poke around, the more I realize that I need to get some hobbies that involve other humans! Maybe I should go and look up the Oakland chapter of HOG now that I have lived here for over 2 years. It should not be too much trouble to ride at 9AM on a weekend day.

My big event last weekend was replacing my ATA/100 RAID 1 setup in my desktop with a SATA setup (big 150MBps!!!). Not that I wanted the extra speed, the damn controller kept crashing and corrupting the drives, and I was tired of playing with them. Now I am back to more fun projects like connecting my cable modem to my DSL line through two Cisco PIX 501s…

Time to get a life…