Thursday Mar 31, 2011

Alienware X58, Dell studio XPS and OpenSolaris

Previously I had blogged about pogolinux (an i730 system).  Since then we got a couple more boxes to try.  

Alienware X58: What a hunk of system and I don't mean that in a good sense.  It's back breaking.  The first set of systems we got were DOA.  As two of us were lifting one from the box an uncomfortable loud "thunk"  came from box.  When I opened it, the fan had come loose from the side and was flopping all around.  We sent those back and got new ones.  These were definitely better. They came out of BIOS.   Installing OpenSolaris via USB was quick.  About 5 minutes and this image had all the languages.

I must add that the pogolinux box without was just a wee bit quicker. 

saved by the bell

After a number of unsuccessful attempts...this finally worked.  Save and migrate this blog

Wednesday Feb 03, 2010

Recovering an OpenSolaris system

Before I decided to blog this, I figured I would first search to check out if there are other blogs that discuss the techniques required to recover a system.  Turns out sriram blog talks about using beadm technique but here a bit more elaborate version.

Our local admin was trying to upgrade the AI server to a newer build.  The system was installed with OpenSolaris 2009.06 and he had published a number of install services.  However a simple pkg image-update failed miserably and so did pkg install SUNWipkg.  A quick investigation revealed that someone had added an older version 2008.11 version of the SUNWipkg(pkg verify is your friend). This normally would be possible,  but the user had added the SVR4 version of SUNWipkg.  So the system was not upgradable.  A reinstall was not the answer he wanted to hear.

So here's what we did:

1. Created a new beadm from the snapshot and activated it.

2. Rebooted to the new BE and mounted the old one.

3. pkg image updated the old BE.

4. Upon successful completion, activated the old BE and rebooted it.

These are the steps. All these commands were run as root.  The name of the BE was opensolaris.

1. beadm create -e opensolaris@install opensolaris-1

2. beadm activate opensolaris-1; reboot

3. (after logging in), beadm mount opensolaris /mnt

4. pkg -R /mnt SUNWipkg

5. pkg -R /mnt image-update

6. reboot.

Over Chasm

The waiting is over, deal is done.  Sun + Oracle = Oracle.   I am glad I made it across but it is sad to see old friends depart.  The move to Oracle will definitely require one to adapt to new ways which at times will be challenging.  But for me it's a marked timeline in my life.  I will be a bit nostalgic about the past, but it's time to move on and look at the future and hope its bright.

Thursday Apr 02, 2009

Why I removed Ubuntu ..Really!!


A couple of  months ago, I got  a new workstation.  A quad core Xeon box from Dell. It came with preinstalled Ubuntu.  I decide to play with that for while.  After a while I noticed that the system would randomly reset. Ah the darn unstable linux is what I thought!!

I reinstalled the system with OpenSolaris 2008.11 and it ran for a day or so. The system reset again.  Annoyed I started looking at /var/adm/messages and I found that there was a hardware fault detected by FMA and taken appropriate action.  Now it was nice to call Dell Support  and tell them definatively the cause, diagnosis and that I needed a new motherboard.  

The rep asked me what test was running.  I said nothing. This functionality is built into OpenSolaris...and it's free!!  One cannot get this running linux.

Here's what fmadm faulty printed

--------------- ------------------------------------  -------------- ---------
TIME            EVENT-ID                              MSG-ID         SEVERITY
--------------- ------------------------------------  -------------- ---------
Feb 20 01:29:08 152a7687-c256-40dd-80b1-83c1f4ed74c7  INTEL-8001-43  Critical 

Fault class :
FRU         : "MB" (hc://:product-id=Precision-WorkStation-T3400:chassis-id=65QLTH1:server-id=opensolaris/motherboard=0)

Description : Northbridge has detected an internal error  Refer to
     for more information.

Response    : System panic or reset by BIOS

Impact      : System may be unexpectedly reset

Action      : Replace motherboard

--------------- ------------------------------------  -------------- ---------
TIME            EVENT-ID                              MSG-ID         SEVERITY
--------------- ------------------------------------  -------------- ---------
Feb 20 01:29:08 50ba84aa-3f12-c2c5-9c0b-8fdec9454104  INTEL-8000-LE  Major    

Fault class :
Affects     : hc://:product-id=Precision-WorkStation-T3400:chassis-id=65QLTH1:server-id=opensolaris/motherboard=0/chip=0/core=3/strand=0
                  faulted and taken out of service
FRU         : hc://:product-id=Precision-WorkStation-T3400:chassis-id=65QLTH1:server-id=opensolaris/motherboard=0/chip=0

Description : A level 1 Data Cache on this cpu is faulty.  Refer to
     for more information.

Response    : The system will attempt to offline this cpu to remove it from

Impact      : Performance of this system may be affected.

Action      : Schedule a repair procedure to replace the affected CPU.  Use
              'fmadm faulty' to identify the module.

pogolinux offers preinstalled OpenSolaris 2008.11 systems


We recently got a few Nehalem systems from pogolinux.  When ordering we noticed that they offered to preinstall the systems with OpenSolaris 2008.11.  Naturally we chose it.

The systems arrived, we plugged them in and there was the login screen for OpenSolaris.


Tuesday Mar 24, 2009

Acroread 9 is finally here.

ItÅ› been a long time but its finally nice to have acroread for Solaris x86.   Thank you very much Adobe folks

Saturday Jan 17, 2009

Macau and me !!!

I was listening to the radio while driving when this caught me by surprise...

 Yeah, I am in two places at once!!!

Monday Jan 12, 2009

Using Distro constructor to add SVR4 pkgs to your image

As a developer, I often have to build modified images to test out my changes.  Using DC one can do this very easily. I imagine others might have similar  needs, hence here is a quick tutorial.

The distro_constructor lists the set of steps required to build an ISO. One can see this by running:

distro_const build -l <config_file.xml>. Here's an output from one of my runs.

distro_const build -l slim_cd.xml
Step           Resumable Description
-------------- --------- -------------
im-pop             X     Populate the image with packages
im-mod             X     Image area modifications
slim-im-mod        X     Slim CD Image area Modifications
br-init            X     Boot root initialization
slim-br-config     X     Slim CD boot root configuration
br-config          X     Boot root configuration
br-arch            X     Boot root archiving
slim-post-mod      X     Slim CD post bootroot image area modification
grub-setup         X     Grub menu setup
post-mod           X     Post bootroot image area modification
iso                X     ISO image creation
usb                X     USB image creation

Modifying an image in DC is achieved by addding an extra step. In the example below, I had to test the install changes to support booting off a multi-terabyte disk. My SUNWinstall, an SVR4 pkg, had the updated changes. Since the installer is part of the microroot, I decided that changes had to be applied after "Image area modification".

In the slim_cd.xml file these steps are called out in the finalizer class. Each step is a script sub-class which has a step name, a message and the script to call. Invoking my favorite editor (emacs!!) I searched for "<finalizer>". The following lines were added to create a new step.

 <script name="/export/bld_images/mtb-pkgadd">
         <checkpoint name="mtb-pkgs" message="Add MultiTB pkgs"/>

These lines were inserted after the "im-mod" step. Next, I created my script mtb-pkg. When the script is called from the distro constructor, stdin and stdout are not available. For a pkgadd to run in this mode, a private version of the admin file is required. My mtb-pkgadd script was:



pkgadd  -a ${ADMIN_FILE}  -d /brmnas/nadkarni/slim_wses/gui-changes/packages/i386/nightly-nd -R /export/bld_images/mtb/build_data/pkg_image SUNWinstall

That is really all that is need to apply the changes. Since I wanted to verify that the pkg was applied correctly, I decided to stop after mtb-pkgs step.

distro_const build -p slim-im-mod mtb.xml

DC stops at the start of the step. Running

distro_const build -l mtb.xml
Step           Resumable Description
-------------- --------- -------------
im-pop             X     Populate the image with packages
im-mod             X     Image area modifications
mtb-pkgs           X     Add MultiTB pkgs
slim-im-mod              Slim CD Image area Modifications
br-init                  Boot root initialization
slim-br-config           Slim CD boot root configuration
br-config                Boot root configuration
br-arch                  Boot root archiving
slim-post-mod            Slim CD post bootroot image area modification
grub-setup               Grub menu setup
post-mod                 Post bootroot image area modification
iso                      ISO image creation
usb                      USB image creation

I verified the bits and then resumed the build process by running:

distro_const build -R mtb.xml



2008.11 in the side view mirror

Call me the "late Latif".  Most people blog about a release when it's released.  I blog about it when it's aged a bit.   After months of hard work it was great to finally deliver 2008.11.  A functionality that has not been discussed in the blogs thus far is  the support for booting off a multi-terabyte disk.   While support for multi-terabyte non boot disk has been available for quite a while, boot disks were limited to under 1TB. Boot disks can now be upto 2TB. This feature along with the prototype version of the Automated Installer should interest users in the enterprise space who have been waiting for jumpstart type functionality from the Caiman project for a while.

Another component delivered by the Caiman project is the Distro Constructor(DC).  This tool enables one to create liveCD or Automated Install (AI) images.  It is preferable to run this tool on a reasonbly powerful machine as it does
require a fair bit of compute power.

 When I first tried to build it on my Toshiba M9, I noticed that I could keep my coffee warm by the heat it was generating. My desktop, a W2100z was no better. Building images on this
system upped the decibel level of fan noise to that of a jet engine.  Luckily, I was able to snag an Ultra 24.  Its quiet and efficient. I can build images in 20-30 minutes on this puppy.
Often its even faster since I use DC's snapshoting capability

I view building ISOs as BDC (Before DC) and ADC (After DC). In the BDC world, one used "cdkit". It required a complex setup and assummed a very specific environment. Even users inside Sun would have to struggle to create an ISO.  Distro Constructor was designed to eradicate the "fear" of trying to build an ISO and I feel this goal has been met.

So go ahead fire up those fans, use  DC and send us your feedback either on
or by filing bugs for new features.

Thursday Jul 24, 2008

sparc port..

Over the last couple of months I have been mentoring Chris Walsh and monitoring the sparc port.  It  was a lot of fun.  Chris's dogged persistence on getting this to work is remarkable.  He has blogged his trials and tribulations at  and

Chris will be giving a talk on this at the FROSUG meeting in August where you can see a demo.

Friday Feb 15, 2008

Recovery on OSDP or Indiana

Six easy steps to  recover your scrozzed system in  OpenSolaris Developer Preview 2.[Read More]

Wednesday Oct 31, 2007

Opensolaris Developer Preview - A Halloween Event

OpenSolaris Developer Preview - an halloween event!!


[Read More]

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

Solaris Volume Manager Internals Tutorial

The long overdue and promised Solaris Volume Manager Internals is finally available  here.
The contents were developed as a tutorial for internal engineers and it was a week long course. 


[ T:  ]

Monday Nov 13, 2006

Caiman - the new installer

Work on the new installer for OpenSolaris has begun.  See how you can participate.[Read More]



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