nothing like a small crisis to motivate an upgrade to OpenSolaris

Like many other folks, we've got a small server at home which runs nameservice for our personal domain along with mail and even a webserver from time to time. To my shame (or just as a testament to my laziness/ability to leave things alone which Just Work), it had been happily running FreeBSD 2.2.mumble for over a decade. Yes. The 2.2 branch. Before modern conveniences like ELF as the default binary format, and an MT kernel. Taking a moment to pause and laugh at the antiquity of this part of my home infrastructure is entirely appropriate.

In my defense, the NFS server has been running Solaris for a very long time. Laptops run OpenSolaris, of course. We had also bought a small shuttle box quite a while ago with the intent to retire the FreeBSD box in favour of Solaris. Just never quite got around to the migration.

Yesterday morning, I received a phonecall from a friend saying that my email had been bouncing for days. Sure enough, the nameserver wasn't serving, and the machine wasn't pinging. Not much could be done about the problem from work, so after we're home around 8:30pm, I trundle down the basement stairs to the console and find the system wedged. Hard. There was no response to the keyboard, many bizarre messages from various drivers on console. All attempts to soft-reset the system failed, and I power cycled. Unsurprisingly, a fsck of the filesystems was required. / and user data responded favourably to fsck -y, but /var was totally scrogged. Rather than spend time trying to nurse it back to health, figured we'd see how quickly we could switch to the new hardware and OpenSolaris.

Fortunately, by 1am the system was installed with OpenSolaris build 111 from, configured, nameservice configuration was migrated, and I learned enough about postfix to get it up and running rather than trying to migrate ancient sendmail configuration.

Details were fairly straightforward. pkg search -l in.named revealed that SUNWbind was already installed. No big deal to migrate that config, and svcadm enable dns/server.

There's no IPS package for postfix yet (and I really hope that Ceri will have the time to integrate mailwrapper, as described in PSARC 2008/759). System V packages for third-party software work great on OpenSolaris, so I would have used the lovely postfix package distributed by Ihsan Dogan, but it's compiled against a different version of libssl than we have in OpenSolaris. Downloaded the postfix source, pkg uninstall SUNWsndm; svcadm disable sendmail; svcadm disable sendmail-client, pkg install SUNWgcc, and the compile was quick and clean. To keep the software manageable, though, I did use his makePostfixPkg script to create my own package which I could install and remove at will. After pkgadd of the new package, configured, svcadm enable postfix, and mail was back online too.

It's really nice to be on OpenSolaris and a sensible upgrade path, with planned biweekly pkg image-update. But right now, I'm mostly reveling in the safety of a mirrored ZFS root. Should have upgraded a long time ago.


I had a similar incident over a year ago where the hard drive in my home Windows server head crashed. Through sheer luck and a lot of digging I was able to recover most of the family photos (though I lost the most recent ones, to the chagrin of my family).

As a replacement, I built a Solaris 10U5 server with mirrored disks and ZFS. I don't believe I'll have many worries about this in the future (except adding more disk and expanding the zpool).

If I had known OpenSolaris was available when I setup the new server, I'd have used that instead. The kernel-level CIFS support would have been very nice, but I've found ways to make the current arrangement suit my purposes.

As an aside, thanks to everyone for all of your hard work making Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris a solid and worthwhile choice for the x86 platform. I look forward to using it for many years to come.

Posted by Patrick on April 08, 2009 at 11:01 AM PDT #

Next time you get an urge for Postfix, ask me for fully Solaris integrated Postfix packages (yes, that includes integration with SMF and PostgreSQL, too).

Posted by UX-admin on April 08, 2009 at 04:46 PM PDT #

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Liane Praza-Oracle


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