MDLog:/sysadmin

The Journal Of A Linux Sysadmin

Debian Lenny 5.0.5 Updated

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The Debian project just announced the fifth update for its stable distribution “lenny” 5.0.5. Those installing regular updates from security.debian.org will notice just a few new updates (base-files for the version change to 5.0.5, apache2, apt, bind9, linux-image, openssl, etc). Also the installer has been updated in this point release to correct an issue with the display of the “BIOS boot area” partitioner option when using GPT partitions and to update the list of available mirror servers for package installation.

_”The Debian project is pleased to announce the fifth update of its stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (codename “lenny”). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustment to serious problems. _

_Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away 5.0 CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to- date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated. _

_Those who frequently install updates from security.debian.org won’t have to update many packages and most updates from security.debian.org are included in this update. _

New CD and DVD images containing updated packages and the regular installation media accompanied with the package archive respectively will be available soon at the regular locations.”

Release Announcement: http://www.debian.org/News/2010/20100626

Velocity 2010 - Web Performance and Operations Conference

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O’Reilly’s Velocity conference is THE place you want to be if you are in the Web ops and performance field. This is the third year of the conference started by Steve Souders and Jesse Robbins and it is the place where all the important people in the field gather once a year. This is my first year I’ll be able to attend Velocityconf live here in Santa Clara and I’m very excited about it.

Anyone not able to attend Velocity live can still learn a lot of what’s going on by watching the keynotes that will be streamed live and made available later on demand. Being here, I’ll try to come up with some short blog post on what I found interesting and think might be valuable for the readers of my blog. If you are interested in something in particular ping me on twitter or send me an email, and if possible I’ll try to attend and write about it.

Today is a full workshop day and I’ll be attending some very interesting ones: “Scalable Internet Architectures”, “Cassandra Workshop”, “Infrastructure Automation with Chef” and “Cloud Security: It Ain’t All Fluffy and Blue Sky Out There!”. It should be a great day with many interesting talks, and later in the evening some cool BoFs and Ignite Sessions.

Playing With Google Command Line Tools on MacOSX

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With the release of GoogleCL, the command line tool for the Google data APIs, Google reconfirmed if that was needed that it’s a geeky company (I mean you would not expect something like this form M$, right?) and they like command line tools. They released some basic command line tools for calendar, contacts, docs, picassa, blogger and youtube. Of course, coming from google the tools are written in their preferred language, python.

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~$ google
> help
Welcome to the Google CL tool!
Commands are broken into several parts: service, task, options, and arguments.
For example, in the command
"> picasa post --title "My Cat Photos" photos/cats/*"
the service is "picasa", the task is "post", the single option is a name of "My Cat Photos", and the argument is the path to the photos.
The available services are 'picasa', 'blogger', 'youtube', 'docs', 'contacts', 'calendar'
Enter "> help <service>" for more information on a service.
Or, just "quit" to quit.

Debian 6.0 Squeeze Expected to Be Released by the End of the Year… If All Goes Well

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The Debian release team recently announced the current status of the next Debian release Squeeze. The team just finished the work on some major parts like completing the changes to run init scripts in parallel, transition to eglibc into testing, GNOME 2.30 and KDE 4.4.3. The next big step is to make Python 2.6 the default python version for sqeeeze and based on Adam Barratt estimation this could be finished sometime in late August, and at that time to freeze the release.

Squeeze freeze was planed for December 2009, meaning it is already way behind schedule, and it looks that it is not so easy for the Debian project to switch to a fixed 2 year release cycle (or freeze cycle). This was pushed back because of the high number of critical bugs for a release freeze. Based on past experiences there will be at least 4 months needed after the freeze to release the next stable version, meaning this could show up by the end of the year if everything works out fine. But realistically, this could take 6-8 months after the freeze, and push the release date in 2011.

FreelanceCamp Pro - SF2010 Impressions

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Last week I attended FreelanceCamp Pro in San Francisco, hosted by the offices of the newly open coworking facility of the main sponsor and organizer NextSpace. This event is based on a model of a BarCamp for freelancers and independent contractors.

If you don’t know what a barcamp is, this is a an “international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The day consists of sessions proposed by attendees and the schedule is created on site the morning of the event. BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn from each other in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants.”

This was my first barcamp, or unconference type of event I’ve attended and I must say it has been by far the most interesting conference I’ve ever participated. So much better, engaging and with great conversation than a the usual conference where someone on the stage presents his slides. I’ve learned many things and this post is to outline my takeaways from this event. Here are just the most important ones:

Reloaded

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve updated my blog, and many things have happened during this time. As most of my friends and readers know by now, we moved to the States last year in December (about 5months ago), and this has been an amazing time for us with many changes in our lives. I could describe it as a full reload, complete reset, start from scratch, and so on. But it has been a great experience so far and we enjoy it and definitely have no regrets. We now live in beautiful California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Cupertino.

I’ve been lucky to have my brother (that is living in the States for many years now), help me out initially, and after that had great support from my US friends that perviously I knew only from Skype calls and emails. It was amazing to meet up with people I knew for many years but only ‘virtually’, and they have all been great and I am really thankful for all their support. It has been very hard to leave back home our family and friends, but again Skype to the rescue, and now we use it in the different direction (taking with people back home), and it has been an invaluable tool during this time.

I’m really excited to live in a place where most of the interesting ‘things’ in the tech field are happening, and I’ve already started getting involved in several meetups and conferences, and I expect that with time this will only become more and more interesting. Exciting times are coming in our field, and sysadmins/devops/webops will see a dramatic shift in their work in the future, as we move into cloud computing and automation.

I’m also very happy that I can now interact directly with my clients, going to their offices and having meetups in person is definitely a much better experience. I’ve been working for a long time remotely and this has definitely its advantages and I still work for much of my time remotely even now, but being able to speak and meet with people is definitely a much better experience for any consultant. I’ve also been very lucky to work on very interesting and challenging projects, and with the very best and smartest engineers in the industry, and this makes it even better.

Now that things are starting to cool off a little, I hope to be able to return to my blog and have the time to write about some of the exiting things I’ve had the chance to work on lately, like configuration management and automation with chef and bcfg2, scaling high traffic sites, cloud computing using amazon ec2/s3 and eucalyptus, but also about normal stuff that happen during the day of a sysadmin.

Debian Lenny 5.0.3 Updated

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The Debian project just announced the third update for its stable distribution “lenny” 5.0.3. Those installing regular updates from security.debian.org will notice just a few new updates (base-files for the version change to 5.0.3, heartbeat, perl, openssl, linux-image, svn, etc). Also the installer has been updated to incorporate the new kernels released with this point release, adding support for new network hardware, and to fix a segfault early in the boot process of installations for the S/390 architecture.

“The Debian project is pleased to announce the third update of its stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (codename lenny). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustment to serious problems.

Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away 5.0 CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated.

Those who frequently install updates from security.debian.org won’t have to update many packages and most updates from security.debian.org are included in this update.

New CD and DVD images containing updated packages and the regular installation media accompanied with the package archive respectively will be available soon at the regular locations.”

Release Announcement: http://www.debian.org/News/2009/20090905

Amazon Introduces Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC)

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Amazon just announced the limited beta of Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), a secure and seamless bridge between existing IT infrastructures and the AWS cloud. Amazon VPC enables us to connect our existing infrastructure to a set of isolated AWS compute resources via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection.

“Amazon VPC enables you to use your own isolated resources within the AWS cloud, and then connect those resources directly to your own datacenter using industry-standard encrypted IPsec VPN connections. With Amazon VPC, you can:

  • Create a Virtual Private Cloud on AWS’s scalable infrastructure, and specify its private IP address range from any block you choose.
  • Divide your VPC’s private IP address range into one or more subnets in a manner convenient for managing applications and services you run in your VPC.
  • Bridge together your VPC and your IT infrastructure via an encrypted VPN connection.
  • Add AWS resources, such as Amazon EC2 instances, to your VPC.
  • Route traffic between your VPC and the Internet over the VPN connection so that it can be examined by your existing security and networking assets before heading to the public Internet.
  • Extend your existing security and management policies within your IT infrastructure to your VPC as if they were running within your infrastructure.”

Besides the regular ec2 prices, we will have to pay for the VPN connection ($0.05 per VPN Connection-hour) and for the data transfer using the VPN tunnel ($0.10 per GB IN - and starting with $0.17 per GB OUT).

This is a great new service from Amazon that takes the cloud computing offerings to a new level. And this just when major competitors thought they were gaining on Amazon with their offerings, Amazon continues to innovate and launch great new services like this one ;) .

Review of “Learning Nagios 3.0” by Wojciech Kocjan

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I’ve just finished reading “Learning Nagios 3.0” by Wojciech Kocjan and published by Packt Publishing, and this is a great book for anyone interested in nagios. This is a beginner level book that introduces nagios to new users interested in monitoring their infrastructure, but it will also present advanced features that even more experienced sysadmins can benefit from. All these in a pretty compact book, at 301 pages.

The topics are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Installation and Configuration
  • Using the Nagios Web Interface
  • Overview of Nagios Plugins
  • Advanced Configuration
  • Notifications and Events
  • Passive Checks and NSCA
  • Monitoring Remote Hosts
  • SNMP
  • Advanced Monitoring
  • Extending Nagios

Using Instance-specific Metadata in Eucalyptus

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One of the great features of Amazon EC2 is the possibility to dynamically query and use instance specific metadata, or even custom data. This can be useful for various reasons, and the greatest advantage I’ve personally seen into this, is the possibility to allow the instance to have some information on how to configure itself when first booting (using chef or puppet, or some other configuration management tool).

The Amazon documentation explains how to get this information, basically just by using simple http get requests on the ip: 169.254.169.254, like for ex (for the metadata index):

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curl http://169.254.169.254/latest/meta-data/

or for the custom data:

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curl http://169.254.169.254/latest/user-data

Eucalyptus supports this great feature (starting with v1.4), but we obviously need to target a different ip to retrieve this information (as the amazon ip has nothing to do with our internal cloud ;) ). We need to use the cloud controller IP for the request and the port it is bound (by default 8773 if you have not changed it). This will look like this (you need to run it from inside the actual instance):