Monday Dec 07, 2009

OpenSolaris Bug and Workaround: Package Manager

So, I wanted to use the latest build of OpenSolaris to take advantage of some new features.  I am using the June 2009 release (2009.06) and upgrading to the latest build means using a development build.  I was thinking the easiest way for me to switch to the development builds is to go into the Package Manager application, add the publisher "" (and give this publisher a name like "development"), tell Package Manager to set this as the preferred publisher, then delete the "" publisher from the list because I no longer need that one; I'm getting the software I need from the dev publisher.

Well, that's nice in theory but it didn't work for me, and there's a bug for that (here, check it out).  Turns out that for now, you must name your preferred publisher "".  So the relatively simple workaround is to create a publisher called "", and have it point to "", then delete the original publisher that is called "".

Worked for me, and now I'm using build 128 (b128) and it's working (mostly) like a charm.  There are other minor things going on with that build, but I've been able to work around them so far with no problems.  I'm happy.

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Sunday Nov 22, 2009

My Home Media Server using OpenSolaris, ZFS, and free software

A while ago, I wrote several blog entries about what I did to set up a media server at home.  I'm writing this blog entry to wrap things up with some details about how much it all cost, and the software I'm running on the computer now.


I decided to design a "media server" for home that would be the main data storage for our family's music, photos, recorded TV shows and movies, and personal documents and backups of our home directories on the computers we commonly use at home.  I had a few objectives for the media server:
  1. All of this data would be in a single computer that we could grab and stick in the car in case of emergency.  Friends of ours lost their house, but they had the foresight of having all of their personal data (over a terabytes' worth) on a single file server, so when they evacuated the house, they didn't lose any personal data.  Seemed like a great idea to me.
  2. The media server would store data reliably; i.e., I assumed that a disk would fail, and I wanted the media server to be able to continue working in case of failure.
  3. Reduce noise in the house as much as possible.  That meant putting the server in the garage where it could make as much fan noise as it needed to, but we wouldn't hear a thing in the home office or where we watch TV.
  4. Keep the cost down to a reasonable amount.  This was not the primary factor, but it was important enough for me to pay attention to when shopping for the components.

What I Purchased

Here's the build of materials for the computer I put together (I'm sure prices on these will have gone down since I bought them in October 2008).  Total price of the system: $742.  If you take out the cost of the disks, the rest of the computer cost $345.
  • Motherboard (, $62.99) : ECS Elitegroup A780VM-M2 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard.  Supported the cheap AMD processor I wanted, and had plenty of on-board SATA ports (6).  Remember, I want all the disk to be in a single enclosure for easy, snatch-and-grab transportation.
  • Memory (, $69.99): GSkill 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 SDRAM (PC2 6400).  No reason to get greedy, and it keeps power draw and price down for the system.
  • CPU (, $59.50): AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000 Brisbane 2.6GHz Socket AM2 65W Dual-Core Processor.  Nice price for a processor that does everything I need in a media server that can also run some apps.  More on the apps in a bit.
  • Disks (, $396.80): 2 Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB 7200 RPM SATA internal disks.  Prices have gone down considerably for the storage, but this was a fair enough price last year.
  • Case (Fry's Electronics, $130): Antec Sonata III Mid Tower ATX Case.  Got good reviews, came with a 500W power supply which is plenty for what I was putting in it, and has plenty of ports and internal drive bays for the storage.

How I Set Up The Media Server

Here is the first blog entry I wrote that describes my thought process about using ZFS on OpenSolaris to store our home's data.

Here is the second blog entry I wrote, giving all the details about what I needed to do to format the disks and set up the ZFS pools and filesystems.  This was based on the OpenSolaris 2008.11 release; I plan to upgrade to a more recent release (probably an OpenSolaris build after the June 2009 release; I'd love to try the new ZFS deduplication feature).  Everything has been running fine, with the exception of the TimeSlider feature for doing automated ZFS snapshots.  That was fixed in the June 2009 release.

What I'm Running On The Media Server

The media server is doing a few things for us at home; here are the services it's providing:
  • iTunes music storage.  We have a Mac mini that we use for iTunes; all of our music is in iTunes, and the Mac mini NFS-mounts a filesystem from the media server.  I tried both CIFS (Samba) and NFS.  I preferred NFS, but it seemed to have troubles with the Mac as an NFS client.  After reading James Gosling's blog entry on what he observed with Macs and Solaris and NFS, I made a tweak on the Mac mini and everything has been working smoothly ever since.  We make this library shareable to our other Macs on the home network.
  • iPhoto storage.  The same Mac mini also stores all of our photos.
  • TiVo media backup and playback.  There is a great open source Java application called Galleon that uses the TiVo Home Media Engine (HME) API; the API lets you write your own Java apps that show up as part of the TiVo's on-screen menu system, and it lets you talk to the TiVo to grab shows off the TiVo's disk and put shows on there, among other functions.  Primarily, we use it as a way to keep backups of shows that we don't want to lose in case the TiVo's disk crashes and loses data.  This has happened several times, mostly due to unforeseen loss of power.
  • Personal finances (via Intuit's Quicken software).  To do this, I run the free, open source VirtualBox software.  I used to use VMware, but VMware isn't free and it doesn't run on any version of Solaris.  VirtualBox runs on every operating system I use, it's free, and it's improving much faster than VMware is.  So, I run Windows XP as a guest OS inside VirtualBox, and use that guest OS to run Quicken.  When I'm feeling like the guest OS is getting slow or am worried that it's collected viruses, I just blow away that guest image and go back to an earlier snapshot.

My Wish List

Are any of you doing something similar with your home setups?  If so, maybe you have done some of the things I'd like to set up but haven't gotten done yet.  Here's my wish list of apps and features I'd like to add, and I'd like to do it all natively in OpenSolaris (in other words, none of these services would need to run in a guest OS like Windows or Linux under VirtualBox):
  • DLNA server running natively in OpenSolaris.  DLNA will give me the ability to share and stream my media (photos, music, video) to the PlayStation 3.  I've played with several solutions; more on this in a moment.
  • Live streaming of TiVo content from the media server back through the TiVo.  Galleon lets me transfer shows to and from the TiVo, but not play them live.  This is a feature that the ReplayTV product had (I still miss that product, and am sorry they went out of business), and their Java app was superior in several ways to Galleon.  But, it looks like somebody has written software to let you play TiVo shows from your media server straight through the TiVo.  I just haven't gotten it running on the media server yet.

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Wednesday Nov 11, 2009

How To Install Acquia Drupal on OpenSolaris (it's easy!)

I just published a short how-to video showing how you can easily install Acquia Drupal on OpenSolaris.

Sun's ISV Engineering group has been working with Drupal for a couple of years now; I also use Acquia Drupal to develop and maintain this web site, which also hosts my personal blog.  The Drupal community is amazingly vibrant and growing by leaps and bounds, and Acquia has done a nice job of commercializing the Drupal open source content management software package.  Acquia Drupal is still free, but it has some nice additions that any Drupal user or developer would want.

Anyway, check out the video; it's about 8 minutes long and walks you through the steps to find the catalog of third party applications, then get Acquia Drupal and configure it on your OpenSolaris system.  It's easy, and it just works.

Oh and by the way: props to our Sun Learning Exchange web site and staff for making it so darned easy to publish content.  Nice job, folks!

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Friday Nov 06, 2009

Installing and running Ruby-rack on OpenSolaris

Rack is a webserver interface for the Ruby open source programming environment.  Amanda Waite took the trouble of making this package available via the OpenSolaris packaging mechanism; ultimately, ruby-rack will be in the OpenSolaris "contrib" repository, but not until it gets a little testing and review, and some votes from the community, this functionality is now in the OpenSolaris "pending" repository.  I admit to great naivete about Ruby, so I'll refer you to this excellent explanation of what Rack does for Ruby developers.  (my summary of what I got from the explanation: Rack is a web framework for Ruby developers; in other words, if you like writing Ruby code and you want to write code to create a web-based application, Rack is a nice extension to Ruby to make doing this easy).

Anyway, been doing some testing of the package that Amanda submitted.  Here's what I did and what I observed:

First, I made sure I had access to the OpenSolaris Source Juicer "pending" repository.  As I've noted before, two steps:
  1. type "pfexec pkg set-publisher -O jucr-pending"
  2. type "pfexec pkg refresh"
After that, the next time you launch the Package Manager application, look on the right side of the application and you can choose "jucr-pending" from the pop-up menu.  Do that, and after a moment you'll see a list of all the packages in the "pending" repository.  You will find the package "ruby-rack" there.  Note that case matters; the package name is all lowercase.

So I did this and downloaded the package.  The package notes that it depends on the Ruby package.  The Package Manager pulled it in just fine.  How do I know?  Before installation, I could not type "ruby" and get anything back.  Afterward, it worked.

Next step:

$ cd /usr/ruby/1.8/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/rack-1.0.1/example
$ rackup

This starts a web server on port 9292 with a little "lobster" program.  I launch the web browser and go to "http://localhost:9292" and I saw a simple web app that shows a crude "picture" of a lobster, and two things I can do: flip the lobster from right to left and back again, and show a crash dump of the Ruby Rack program.  I tried both of those things; they worked just fine.

After this, I killed the "rackup" program then tried it again with the other ".ru" file in that same directory, "".  That gives an added feature of authenticating into the web app (password is "secret"; as far as I can tell, use any username you wish).  That worked, too: if I didn't provide the right password, nothing happened.  If I provided the right password, it worked fine.

So that all worked just fine.  The next set of tests was more in-depth, running a partial test suite.  For this set of steps, I had to install both the "SUNWgcc" and "SUNWgmake" packages, again with the Package Manager.  I did these steps:
  1. su - (i.e., pretend you're root; without doing this, step 3 below complained that it couldn't write to /var/ruby/1.8/gem_home/bin)
  2. Add /var/ruby/1.8/gem_home/bin to your $PATH
  3. type CXX=/usr/sfw/bin/g++ gem install memcache-client ruby-openid camping mongrel thin test-spec --no-ri --no-rdoc
  4. type "gem install rake"
  5. type "rake test".
The output showed it compiling some stuff, then it said "Started" followed by a bunch of periods showing status, then "Finish in 3.960495 seconds."  Finally, a results line said "267 tests, 928 assertions, 0 failures, 0 errors".

That sounds like good news to me!

So folks: the Ruby Rack web framework is available via OpenSolaris.  Check it out and see if it works for you, Ruby developers.  Let us know how it goes, will ya?

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Tuesday Oct 27, 2009

Installing and running Silverstripe on OpenSolaris

SilverStripe is an open source content management system (CMS); we in Sun's ISV Engineering department have been working on getting this and other important open source applications into the OpenSolaris "contrib" repository, a place meant for third party applications that anybody can contribute.  I've been testing the SilverStripe package that Jenny Chen contributed; here are my notes.

Mostly, SilverStripe installs just fine; however, it has the same little hiccup as Joomla! did when I tested its installer.  (I documented that problem and workaround here)  No big deal, though: it's easy to apply the same quick workaround for MySQL before you get on your way.

Once done, I launched my web browser on my OpenSolaris box and went here: "http://localhost/silverstripe".  That brings me to the web-based SilverStripe installer.  It all looks good, but one thing to note at the bottom of the page (in the "Webserver Configuration" section) is that SilverStripe can't tell what web server OpenSolaris is running.  With the Web Stack, we're running the Apache web server.

One other note from the SilverStripe installer: it advises me to set the "allow_call_time_pass_reference" parameter in /etc/php/5.2/php.ini to "On", which I did just to avoid getting warnings shown to me during the installation process.

Anyway, did that, then pressed the "Install SilverStripe" button to get the installation on its way.  The installation took two minutes fifteen seconds (really; I timed it) under a fairly heavily-loaded computer.

It worked fine; I was able to add a couple of pages to my site, add a user and give that user privileges, and see it in action.

So now, if you use SilverStripe you can get to it in OpenSolaris via the Package Manager.  If you don't know how to install packages from the OpenSolaris "pending" repository (a staging area we use to test packages before they're promoted to the "contrib" repo I mentioned above)., then the main thing you need to learn is how to add repositories to your Package Manager application.  Do these two steps from a shell on your OpenSolaris installation:
  1. type "pfexec pkg set-publisher -O jucr-pending"
  2. type "pfexec pkg refresh"
After that, the next time you launch the Package Manager application, look on the right side of the application and you can choose "jucr-pending" from the pop-up menu.  Do that, and after a moment you'll see a list of all the packages in the "pending" repository.  You will find the package "silverstripe" there.  Note that case matters; the package name is all lowercase.

Check it out and let us know what you think.  Did SilverStripe install and work fine for you in OpenSolaris?  Give us some feedback.

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Monday Oct 19, 2009

Nagios is available for OpenSolaris; did we get it right?

Nagios is an open source system monitoring software package; we thought it important to get the Nagios community supported on OpenSolaris so Sun's ISV Engineering department spent some time on the task.  You can check out our results by going to the OpenSolaris "pending" repository and installing these packages:
  1. nagios
  2. nagios-plugins
  3. nrpe
If you want to see what I did to test these packages after installation, look at this review page and you'll see my comments from October 17.

If you don't know how to install packages from the OpenSolaris "pending" repository, then the main thing you need to learn is how to add repositories to your Package Manager application.  Do these two steps from a shell on your OpenSolaris installation:
  1. type "pfexec pkg set-authority -O jucr-pending"
  2. type "pfexec pkg refresh"
After that, the next time you launch the Package Manager application, look on the right side of the application and you can choose "jucr-pending" from the pop-up menu.  Do that, and after a moment you'll see a list of all the packages in the "pending" repository.  Nagios, nagios-plugins, and nrpe will be there.

Check 'em out, and leave comments to let us know what you think.  If they look fine, we'll promote them to the main third-party applications repository, the "contrib" repo.

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