Fun with Remote Servers

1U Rack Mount1U Rack MountYou may or may not have noticed but this site was down some since late Sunday evening until right before I wrote this. I'm not exacly sure what happened but I have some sense of it so I thought I'd jot it down here. I also cover the hardware that runs this system as well as a little about the hosting company we are using. If you are interested, read the rest of the story.


mod_cband to the Rescue

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status pagestatus pageThe problem: A webserver with a lot of files that are to be public... and the public is downloading too much, too fast, too often... in what seems to be a malicious fashion... especially since everyone seems to be using multi-threaded download accelerators.

Solution: mod_cband

Read more for a better explanation of the problem and the steps needed to install mod_cband.


Taking QEMU for a Spin

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QEMU in actionQEMU in actionHave you tried QEMU? I must admit that I hadn't really tried it until recently... although I have used VMware and Parallels. Supposedly Xen and the new KVM both draw from QEMU code. What is QEMU? Obligatory quote from the QEMU wikipedia entry:

QEMU is free software written by Fabrice Bellard that implements a fast processor emulator, allowing a user to simulate a complete computer system within another one. It is similar to projects such as Bochs, VMware Workstation and PearPC, but has several features these lack, including increased speed on x86, and support for multiple architectures in-progress. By using dynamic translation it achieves a reasonable speed while being easy to port on new host CPUs.

I'm not sure why that says that QEMU is faster than VMware, because it isn't... but QEMU can emulate several different CPU families other than just x86. Read on if you want to hear about my experience installing Windows XP SP2 from an .iso file.


A Different Office Suite?

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I've been keeping my eye on SoftMaker (I've been on their mailing list for a couple of years now) and their products TextMaker (a word processor) and PlanMaker (a spreadsheet). I'm not usually a fan of closed source, proprietary, pay software but the reviews I have read of Textmaker and PlanMaker have said that they are extremely fast, lean, and offer the highest degree of compatibility with Microsoft Office .doc and .xls files. While OpenOffice.org has really progressed over the last few years, it still has a ways to go when it comes to bloat, speed, and Microsoft Office document compatibility.

On December 22nd, SoftMaker came out with new Linux and FreeBSD releases with the two products merged together and called SoftMaker Office. The MSRP is $69.95, which is fairly reasonable. The academic pricing is amazing... as most institutions can get can get a site license for $13 for the Linux version and $13 for the Windows version. It also includes compatibility with OpenDocument files, can export to PDF, and can be run from a USB stick.

So, I'm curious... What do you think? Should I consider the "dark side"? I would like anyone who answers to have actually downloaded the 23MB trial version (Linux, FreeBSD, or Windows) and given it a try.

Now if SoftMaker Office only included a presentation program and a GUI database, there would be more to consider.


What distros have you installed lately?

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In the quest for the perfect Linux distro, and to better familarize myself with others... I occationally download and install lots of distributions. Recently I gave Vector Linux and OpenSUSE a try.


KVM = Kernel-based Virtual Machine

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It seems that a sort of hypervisor is going to be added to the mainline Linux kernel. It has been dubbed KVM... as if KVM weren't already taken by "Keyboard, Video Mouse". In this case, KVM stands for Kernel-based Virtual Machine... and it only works in CPUs that have VT (Intel) or AMD-V/SVM (AMD) extensions via a module named kvm.ko... and will available upon the release of the 2.6.20 kernel.

How does it differ from other virtualization schemes? From the FAQ:

What is the difference between kvm and Xen?

Xen is an external hypervisor; it assumes control of the machine and divides resources among guests. On the other hand, kvm is part of Linux and uses the regular Linux scheduler and memory management. This means that kvm is much smaller and simpler to use.

On the other hand, Xen supports both full virtualization and a technique called paravirtualization, which allows better performance for modified guests. kvm does not at present support paravirtualization.

What is the difference between kvm and VMWare?

VMware is a proprietary product. kvm is Free Software released under the GPL.

What is the difference between kvm and QEMU?

Qemu uses emulation; kvm uses processor extensions for virtualization.

And now for the question everyone wants to ask:

What OSs can I run inside kvm VM?

We have tested Linux (32/64 bit) and Windows (32 bit). Others may or may not work. 64-bit Windows is known not to work. This will be fixed once qemu-0.8.3 is released and merged. Several Linux flavors are known to hang on Intel processors during startup. Workaround is to disable splashscreens in grub.

I wonder how long before this becomes part of all of the distributions... and how it might conflict with Xen???


What to do with an old server?

Front viewFront viewI have an old server at work. It hasn't been used since last Spring. It lasted a fair amount of time (4 years)... yet it is still a fairly capable machine: 1.1GHz Xeon CPU, 2GB of RAM, 1 IDE system disk, a 3ware ATA RAID controller with 8ea 80GB drives (RAID5) and redundant power. I believe it was purchased in late 2001.

One of the RAID drives died and I put in a replacement today. I didn't need to rebuild the existing RAID because I wanted to do a new install anyway... but it makes me wonder if I should even bother. Side viewSide viewI mean, the drives that are in it now are at least 4 years old. They are an accident waiting to happen. So, I have a few options... I can retire the machine and scrap it... or I could spend around $800 and buy some new ATA drives. I figure that the hard drives are the most vulnerable piece in the system... other than say... the fans... that I'll replace if they are showing some wear.

Back viewBack viewIs it worth the money to turn this machine into a backup server? ...or should I just retire it? Do you think the hardware will last a few more years? It would run Linux of course. It was previously.

Let comments be your answer!


RPM -- plans, goals, etc

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Max Spevack sent out an announcement on the fedora-announce-list today regarding the future of RPM. I'm on the mailing list and I include the email here because I think it should be of interest to a wide variety of Linux users.

Sent by: Max Spevack
On: Thu 14 Dec 2006 10:42:03 AM MST
To: fedora-announce-list@redhat.com

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few months about RPM -- its present state, its future plans, and its leadership team. In particular, the Fedora Project has received numerous requests asking us, "what are you guys doing about RPM?"

Here is our answer, in a few words. Then if you want more, you can read the rest of this note:

The Fedora Project is leading the creation of a new community around RPM. One in which the leaders can come from Fedora, from Red Hat, from Novell, from Mandriva, or from anywhere. Job #1 is to take the current RPM codebase and clean it up, and in doing so work with all the other people and groups who rely on RPM to build a first-rate upstream project.

==========


New OpenVZ Stable Kernel Released

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The OpenVZ development team sent out a email today announcing the availability of kernel-2.6.9-023stab037.3. The main difference was stated as:

In-kernel sysfs/uevent layer is now updated to be compatible with FC5 and SLES10 userland.

What that means, I believe, is that whenever one tried to create a VPS of a distro that expects a newer kernel than 2.6.9, that distro would get very cranky... so installing FC5 and SLES10 VPSes used to require using the OpenVZ testing kernel based on 2.6.18. With this kernel upgrade, that no longer seems to be the case. Since I don't have any FC5 nor SLES10 VPSes, I haven't tested this out. Hmm, I wonder if FC6 as a VPS is supported yet?

After looking at a lot of the changes on the changelog page, there seems to be a lot of fixes. I've updated my OpenVZ Host machines and rebooted and it seems to be running nicely... but one always has to watch /var/log/messages on the Host OS as well as /proc/user_beancounter on the VPSes.

I think I have all of my VPSes tuned up well enough because I haven't noticed any failcnt increments in some time.


Getting those Apache/PHP settings just right

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Warren is the guy who has been running Gallery for a few years now. Me? I ran it at my previous job but I didn't get into it much.

Cybernet PCCybernet PCNow I'm running Drupal and on the default Apache/PHP install, PHP is limited to 8MB of RAM. That works fine for most everything... but when you get into graphics processing, it isn't even close. Graphics Processing? The image upload (and photo gallery) module for Drupal take an uploaded image file and then generates a preview size (640x480) image and a thumbnail (125x125?) image. It can use ImageMagick or the GD image processing packages.