Move to Linode

Since I’ll no longer have a broadband connection (or much of a home) in a month to a month and a half, I decided that it was finally time for me to move my websites off of my desktop, which has been acting as my webserver for several years, and onto a hosted server. Having heard of Linode from several friends, I decided to check it out. The cool thing about Linode is that I get a virtual machine that I install my own OS on (I’m running Ubuntu 7.10 on it) and I have the root password for that VM. This means that I can do whatever I want, without having to rely on a sysadmin somewhere to install software as I need it.

So, starting today, I’ve begun the process of migrating my websites out of my apartment and onto the server. In another 3 hours, the data transfer should be complete and at that point I can begin testing to make sure I’ve remembered to install all the software and have the server configured correctly. Once I’m satisfied that everything is ready, I’ll update DNS to reflect the address of the new server and everyone should (hopefully) see a seamless transition as I’ll implement redirects while the new DNS settings propagate.

For those of you using Linode, do you have any suggestions for me? Nifty tips and tricks? Things to watch out for? If so, please, let me know.


And the transition to Linode is complete. If you notice any problems, please let me know.

Ubuntu: 6.10 (Edgy) to 7.04 (Feisty) upgrade

Today, Ubuntu made their latest release, 7.04 Feisty Fawn. I’ve been using Ubuntu since before their first official release and love it. They’ve really come a long way in making Linux a usable desktop for the average user. Overall, this upgrade went pretty well, though I ran into a couple problems.

My first, and biggest problem, is that upon rebooting into Feisty, the boot process stopped for maintenance. That’s never a good sign; Linux wasn’t able to identify several of my hard drives. “That’s no big deal.” I thought. “I’ll just log in and see what’s up, I know my data is safe.” Well, it turns out that in Feisty, the way drives are mounted has changed. No longer are IDE devices mounted using “/dev/hd*#” instead, they’re assigned to “/dev/sd*#” where * is a letter that may or may not match up with the old hd* designation.

Since I have a mix of SATA and IDE drives in my machine, things got complicated pretty quickly. My /etc/fstab (which controls which drives mount where) was in shambles. The computer was trying to mount devices that had changed names. The default way this is now handled in Ubuntu is by assigning a UUID to each partition. This ID allows devices to be mounted no matter what order they’re plugged in, which is cool. If I wanted to reorder my drives and still have them mount in the same places. It’s not so cool when your drives no longer mount and you aren’t sure what’s what.

After some experimentation, I was able to identify all my drives (by mounting every device and seeing what it contained). I then found the UUIDs for each device and edited my /etc/fstab by hand. This is not what I expect from Ubuntu however. If a “normal” user (think Mom or Dad) had run into this problem, they would have been lost and probably would have never recovered their data.

A bug report has been opened and hopefully is solved soon, this is a major problem.

My second problem is that metacity no longer starts up on login. This appears to just be a setting in Gconf that needs to be fixed (things work fine with a new test account). I’ll update this post with the fix once I find it.

Update: I tracked this error down and at some point I apparently created a .gnomerc file when I was playing with compiz. It contained the following information:

export WINDOW_MANAGER=~/.gnome-compiz-manager/openbox

Why this didn’t cause a problem before, I have no idea. I deleted the file and metacity starts again.

Ubuntu – Linux on the Desktop (Event Notifications)

As I mentioned in a recent post, my friend Matthias got a notification the other day that the battery on his wireless mouse needed to be charged.

Well, a mouse battery isn’t the only thing those notifications are good for.

I live in a pretty remote part of the country. There’s only one fiber line in and we get at least a few (5 so far this year) power outages a year. The fiber outages tend to be caused by constructions crews (mostly in Wisconsin) but wild animals, mother nature and single fault tolerance equipment make the power unreliable. A UPS is a good investment; at the very least, it will let you shut the computers down properly.

The last time the power went out, I couldn’t figure out what was beeping. That’s where the message that showed up on my screen was useful:
UPS power

Ubuntu – “Hey, idiot! The obnoxious beeping is the giant battery you connected to me!”

Have a picture of an event notification you’ve gotten from Ubuntu? Post it in a comment.

Debian Etch and Apache2

Anyone running Debian Etch and Apache2 may have noticed that a recent update (to version 2.2.3-3) has rendered AuthDigest unusuable. Here’s what you need to do to get it working:

  • Change any instances of AuthDigestFile to AuthUserFile (in apache2.conf, your VirtualHost definitions, etc.)
  • The recent update unlinked authz_user.load from the enabled modules. You’ll need to relink it.
    ln -s /etc/apache2/mods-available/authz_user.load /etc/apache2/mods-available/authz_user.load
  • That should fix the problem for you. There are a couple of bug reports that have been filed, so hopefully it gets fixed soon.

    Ubuntu – Linux on the Desktop (Add/Remove Programs)

    There’s more than one way to install applications in Ubuntu. You can use apt, the Synaptic Package Manager, or, you can can even use the Add/Remove menu under Applications.

    It brings up a nice interface that allows you to select software to install by category and even lets you sort them by popularity. (Ubuntu comes with a package called popularity-contest that submits back anonymous information to Ubuntu about what software is installed.)

    I checked the box next to xpdf since it is one of my favorite PDF readers and pushed Apply. After confirming and asking me for my password, it began the install.



    After an absolutely painless install, I head back up to my menu to find that the program launcher is already there. Gone are the days when you would have to logout/login for your menu changes to propogate.