Archive for the ‘Linux’ Tag

Spanning files over multiple smaller devices   3 comments

Imagine you are in Tasmania and need to move 35TB (1 million files) to S3 in the Sydney region. The link between Tasmania and continental Australia will undergo maintenance in the next month, which means either one or both:

  • You cannot use network links to transfer the data
  • Tasmania might be drifting further away from the mainland now that it is untethered

In short, I’m going to be presented with a bunch of HDs and I need to copy the data on them, fly to Sydney and upload the data to S3. If the HD given would be 35TB I could just copy the data and be done with it – no dramas. Likely though, the HDs will be smaller than 35TB, so I need to look at a few options of doing that.

Things to consider are:

  • Files should be present on the HDs in their original form – so they can be uploaded to S3 directly without needing a staging space for unzipping etc
  • HDs should be accessible independently, in case a HD is faulty I can easily identify what files need copying again
  • Copy operation should be reproducible, so previous point could be satisfied if anything goes wrong in the copying process
  • Copying should be done in parallel (it’s 35TB, it’ll take a while)
  • It has to be simple to debug if things go wrong

LVM/ZFS over a few HDs

Building a larger volume over a few HDs require me to connect all HDs at the same time to a machine and if any of them fail I will lose all the data. I decide to not do that – too risky. It’ll also be difficult to debug if anything goes wrong.

tar | split

Not a bad option on its own. An archive can be built and split into parts, then the parts could be copied onto the detination HDs. But the lose of a single HD will prevent me from copying the files on the next HD.

tar also supports -L (tape length) and can potentially split the backup on its own without the use of split. Still, it’ll take a very long time to spool it to multiple HDs as it wouldn’t be able to do it in parallel. In addition, I’ll have to improvise something for untarring and uploading to S3 as I will have no staging area to untar those 35TB. I’ll need something along the lines of tar -O -xf ... | s3cmd.

tar also has an interesting of -L (tape length), which will split a volume to a few tapes. Can’t say I am super keen using it. It has to work the first time.

Span Files

I decided to write a utility that’ll do what I need since there’s only one chance of getting it right – it’s called It operates in three phases:

  • index – lists all files to be copied and their sizes
  • span – given a maximum size of a HD, iterate on the index and generate a list of files to be copied per HD
  • copy – produces rsync --files-from=list.X commands to run per HD. They can all be run in parallel if needed

The utility is available here:

I’ll let you know how it all went after I do the actual copy. I still wonder whether I forgot some things…

Posted February 7, 2016 by malkodan in System Administration

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Fault Tolerant Nagios Cluster

I’ve been searching for a while for a solution of “how to build a fault tolerant Nagios installation” or “how to build a Nagios cluster”. Nada.
The concept is very simple, but it seems like the implementation lacks a bit, so I’ve decided to write a post about how I am doing it.

Cross Site Monitoring

The concept of cross site monitoring is very simple. Say you have nagios01 and nagios02, all that you have to setup is 2 tests:

  • nagios01 monitors nagios02
  • nagios02 monitors nagios01

Assuming you have puppet or chef managing the show, just make nagios01 and nagios02 (or even more nagiosXX servers) identical. Meaning all of them have the same configuration and can monitor all of your systems. A clone of each other if you’d like to call it that way.
Lets check the common use cases:

  • If nagios01 goes down you get an alert from nagios02.
  • If nagios02 goes down you get an alert from nagios01.

Great, I didn’t invent any wheel over here.
The main problem in this configuration is that if there is a problem (any problem) – you are going to get X alerts. X being the number of nagios servers you have.

Avoiding Duplicate Alerts

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume again we have just 2 nagios servers, but this would obviously scale for more.
What we actually want to do is prevent both servers from sending duplicate alerts as they are both configured the same way and will monitor the exact same thing.
One solution is to obviously have an active/passive type of cluster and all sort of complicated shenanigans, my solution is simpler than that.
We’ll “chain” nagios02 behind nagios01, making nagios02 fire alerts only if nagios01 is down.
Login to nagios02 and change /etc/nagios/private/resource.cfg, adding the line:

$USER2$="/usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/check_nrpe -H nagios01 -c check_nagios"
$USER2$ will be the condition of whether or not nagios is up on nagios01.

Still on nagios02, edit /etc/nagios/objects/commands.cfg, replacing your current alerting command to depend on the condition. Here is an example for the default one:

define command{
        command_name    notify-host-by-email
        command_line    /usr/bin/printf "%b" ...

Change to:

define command{
        command_name    notify-host-by-email
        command_line    eval $USER2$ || /usr/bin/printf "%b" ...

What we have done here is simply configure nagios02 to query nagios01 nagios status before firing an alert. Easy as. No more duplicated emails.

For the sake of robustness, if you would like to configure also nagios01 with a $USER2$ variable, simply login to nagios01, change the alerting command like in nagios02 and have in /etc/nagios/private/resource.cfg:


Assuming you have puppet or chef configuring all that, you can just assign a master ($USER2$=/bin/false) and multiple slaves that query themselves in a chain.
For example:

  • nagios01 – $USER2$=”/bin/false”
  • nagios02 – $USER2$=”/usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/check_nrpe -H nagios01 -c check_nagios”
  • nagios03 – $USER2$=”/usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/check_nrpe -H nagios01 -c check_nagios && /usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/check_nrpe -H nagios02 -c check_nagios”


Hebrew Keyboard Layout In Linux   1 comment

Since I got this question from way too many people, I wanted to just share my “cross distribution” and “cross desktop environment” way of doing that very simple thing of enabling a Hebrew keyboard layout under Linux.

Easy As

After logging into your desktop environment, type this:

setxkbmap -option grp:switch,grp:alt_shift_toggle,grp_led:scroll us,il

Alt+Shift will get you between Hebrew and English. Easy as.


Making it permanent is just as easy:

mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart && cat <<EOF > ~/.config/autostart/hebrew.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Enable a Hebrew keyboard layout
Exec=setxkbmap -option grp:switch,grp:alt_shift_toggle,grp_led:scroll us,il

Should sustain logout/login, reboots, reinstalls (as long as you keep /home on a different partition), distribution changes and choosing a different desktop environment (KDE, GNOME, LXDE, etc.).

Posted May 3, 2013 by malkodan in Bash, Linux

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Creating a puppet ready image (CentOS/Fedora)   10 comments

Cloud computing and being lazy

The need to create template images in our cloud environment is obvious. Especially with Amazon EC2 offering an amazing API and spot instances in ridiculously low prices.
In the following post I’ll show what I am doing in order to prepare a “puppet-ready” image.

Puppet for the rescue

In my environment I have puppet configured and provisioning any of my machines. With puppet I can deploy anything I need – “if it’s not in puppet – it doesn’t exist”.
Coupled with Puppet dashboard the interface is rather simple for manually adding nodes. But doing stuff manually is slow. I assume that given the right base image I (and you) can deploy and configure that machine with puppet.
In other words, the ability to convert a bare machine to a usable machine is taken for granted (although it is heaps of work on its own).

Handling the “bare” image

Most cloud computing providers today provide you (usually) with an interface for starting/stopping/provisioning machines on its cloud.
The images the cloud providers are usually supplying are bare, such as CentOS 6.3 with nothing. Configuring an image like that will require some manual labour as you can’t even auto-login to it without some random password or something similar.

Create a “puppet ready” image

So if I boot up a simple CentOS 6.x image, these are the steps I’m taking in order to configure it to be “puppet ready” (and I’ll do it only once per cloud computing provider):

# install EPEL, because it's really useful
rpm -q epel-release-6-8 || rpm -Uvh`uname -i`/epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm

# install puppet labs repository
rpm -q puppetlabs-release-6-6 || rpm -ivh

# i usually disable selinux, because it's mostly a pain
setenforce 0
sed -i -e 's!^SELINUX=.*!SELINUX=disabled!' /etc/selinux/config

# install puppet
yum -y install puppet

# basic puppet configuration
echo '[agent]' > /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
echo '  pluginsync = true' >> /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
echo '  report = true' >> /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
echo '  server = YOUR_PUPPETMASTER_ADDRESS' >> /etc/puppet/puppet.conf
echo '  rundir = /var/run/puppet' >> /etc/puppet/puppet.conf

# run an update
yum update -y

# highly recommended is to install any package you might deploy later on
# the reason behind it is that it will save a lot of precious time if you
# install 'httpd' just once, instead of 300 times, if you deploy 300 machines
# also recommended is to run any 'baseline' configuration you have for your nodes here
# such as changing SSH port or applying common firewall configuration for instance

# and now comes the cleanup phase, where we actually make the machine "bare", removing
# any identity it could have

# set machine hostname to 'changeme'
hostname changeme
sed -i -e "s/^HOSTNAME=.*/HOSTNAME=changeme" /etc/sysconfig/network

# remove puppet generated certificates (they should be recreated)
rm -rf /etc/puppet/ssl

# stop puppet, as you should change the hostname before it will be permitted to run again
service puppet stop; chkconfig puppet off

# remove SSH keys - they should be recreated with the new machine identity
rm -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*

# finally add your key to authorized_keys
mkdir -p /root/.ssh; echo "YOUR_SSH_PUBLIC_KEY" &gt; /root/.ssh/authorized_keys

Power off the machine and create an image. This is your “puppet-ready” image.

Using the image

Now you’re good to go, create a new image from that machine and any machine you’re going to create in the future should be based on that image.

When creating a new machine the steps you should follow are:

  • Start the machine with the “puppet-ready” image
  • Set the machine’s hostname
    hostname $hostname
    sed -i -e "s/^HOSTNAME=.*/HOSTNAME=$hostname/" /etc/sysconfig/network
  • Run ‘puppet agent –test’ to generate a new certificate request
  • Add the puppet configuration for the machine, for puppet dashboard it’ll be something similar to:
    sudo -u puppet-dashboard RAILS_ENV=production rake -f /usr/share/puppet-dashboard/Rakefile node:add name=$hostname
    sudo -u puppet-dashboard RAILS_ENV=production rake -f /usr/share/puppet-dashboard/Rakefile node:groups name=$hostname groups=group1,group2
    sudo -u puppet-dashboard RAILS_ENV=production rake -f /usr/share/puppet-dashboard/Rakefile node:parameters name=$hostname parameters=parameter1=value1,parameter2=value2
  • Authorize the machine in puppetmaster (if autosign is disabled)
  • Run puppet:
    # initial run, might actually change stuff
    puppet agent --test
    service puppet start; chkconfig puppet on

This is 90% of the work if you want to quickly create usable machines on the fly, it shortens the process significantly and can be easily implemented to support virtually any cloud computing provider!

I personally have it all scripted and a new instance on EC2 takes me 2-3 minutes to load + configure. It even notifies me politely via email when it’s done.

I’m such a lazy bastard.

Posted March 23, 2013 by malkodan in Bash, Linux, System Administration

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Bash Scripting Conventions   2 comments

Have decided to publish the infamous Bash scripting conventions.

Here they are:

Please, comment, challenge and help me modify it. I’m very open for feedback.

Posted January 28, 2013 by malkodan in Bash, Linux, System Administration

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EVE and WINE   1 comment

It’s also been a long time since I’ve played any computer interactive game. Unfortunately a work colleague introduced me to EVE Online.
I’m usually playing EVE on Microsoft Windows, which I believe is the best platform for PC gaming.

It’s been a while since I dealt with WINE. In the old days WINE was very complicated to deal with.
I thought I should give it a try – EVE Online on CentOS.

This is a short, semi-tutorial post about how to run EVE Online on CentOS.
It’s fairly childish so even very young Linux users will be able to understand it easily.

Let’s go (as root):

# cat > /tmp/epel.conf <<EOF
name=\$releasever - \$basearch - epel

# yum -y -c /tmp/epel.conf install wine

Let’s get EVE Online (from now there’s no need for root user access):

$ cd /tmp
$ wget

XXXXXX is obviously the version number, which is subject to change.

Let’s install EVE:

$ wine /tmp/EVE_Premium_Setup_XXXXXX_m.exe

OK, here’s the tricky part, if you’ll run it now, the EULA page will not display properly and you won’t be able to accept it. This is because it needs TrueType fonts.
We’ll need to install the package msttcorefonts, a quick look at google suggest you can follow the instructions found here.
Let’s configure the fonts in wine:

$ for font_file in `rpm -ql msttcorefonts`; do ln -s $font_file /home/dan/.wine/drive_c/windows/Fonts; done

Run EVE:

$ wine /home/dan/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/CCP/EVE/eve.exe

It’ll also most likely add a desktop icon for you, in case you didn’t notice.

EVE works nicely with WINE, an evident that WINE has gone a very long way since the last time I’ve used it!!

I believe these instructions can be generalized quite easily for recent fedora distros just as well.

Feel free to contact me on this issue in case you encounter any problems.

Posted February 4, 2010 by malkodan in Linux

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Rocket science   Leave a comment

I still remember my Linux nightmares of the previous century. Trying to install Linux and wiping my whole HD while trying to multi boot RedHat 5.0.
It was for a reason that they said you have to be a rocket scientist in order to install Linux properly.
Times have changed, Linux is easy to install. Perhaps two things are different, one is that objectively Linux became much easier to handle and the second is probably the fact I gained much more experience.
In my opinion – one of the reasons that Linux became easier along the years is the improving support for various device drivers. For the home users – it is excellent news. However, for the SysAdmin who deals mostly with servers and some high-end devices, the headache, I believe, still exists.
If you thought that having a NIC without a driver is a problem, I can assure you that having a RAID controller without a driver is ten times the headache.
I bring you here the story of the RocketRAID device, how to remaster initrd and driver disks and of course, how to become a rocket scientist!


With Centos 5.4 you get an ugly error in the middle of the installation saying you have no devices you can partition.
DOH!!! Because it discovered no HDs.

So now you’re asking yourself, where am I going? – Google of course.
RocketRAID 3530 driver page

And you discover you have drivers only for RHEL/CentOS 5.3. Oh! but there’s also source code!
It means we can do either of both:

  1. Remaster initrd and insert the RocketRAID drivers where needed
  2. Create a new driver disk and use it

I’ll show how we do them both.
I’ll assume you have the RocketRAID driver compiled for the installation kernel.
In addition, I’m also going to assume you have a network installation that’s easy to remaster.

Remastering the initrd

What do we have?

# file initrd.img
initrd.img: gzip compressed data, from Unix, last modified: Sun Jul 26 17:39:09 2009, max compression

I’ll make it quicker for you. It’s a gzipped cpio archive.
Let’s open it:

# mkdir initrd; gunzip -c initrd.img | (cd initrd && cpio -idm)
12113 blocks

It’s open, let’s modify what’s needed.

  • modules/modules.alias – Contains a list of PCI device IDs and the module to load
  • modules/pci.ids – Common names for PCI devices
  • modules/modules.dep – Dependency tree for modules (loading order of modules)
  • modules/modules.cgz – The actual modules inside this initrd

Most of the work was done for us already in the official driver package from HighPoint.
Edit modules.alias and add there the relevant new IDs:

alias pci:v00001103d00003220sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003320sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003410sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003510sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003511sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003520sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003521sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003522sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003530sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003540sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00003560sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004210sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004211sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004310sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004311sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004320sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004321sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004322sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop
alias pci:v00001103d00004400sv*sd*bc*sc*i* hptiop

This was taken from the RHEL5.3 package on the HighPoint website.

So now the installer (anaconda) knows it should load hptiop for our relevant devices. But it needs the module itself!
Download the source package and do the usual configure/make/make install – I’m not planning to go into it. I assume you now have your hptiop.ko compiled against the kernel version the installation is going to use.
OK, so the real deal is in modules.cgz, let’s open it:

# file modules/modules.cgz
modules/modules.cgz: gzip compressed data, from Unix, last modified: Sat Mar 21 15:13:43 2009, max compression
# mkdir /tmp/modules; gunzip -c modules/modules.cgz | (cd /tmp/modules && cpio -idm)
41082 blocks
# cp /home/dan/hptiop.ko /tmp/modules/2.6.18-164.el5/x86_64

Now we need to repackage both modules.cgz and initrd.img:

# (cd /tmp/modules && find . -print | cpio -c -o | gzip -c9 > /tmp/initrd/modules/modules.cgz)
41083 blocks
# (cd /tmp/initrd && find . -print | cpio -c -o | gzip -c9 > /tmp/initrd-with-rr.img)

Great, use initrd-with-rr.img now for your installation, it should load your RocketRAID device!

A driver disk

Creating a driver disk is much cleaner in my opinion. You do not remaster a stock initrd just for a stupid driver.
So you ask what is a driver disk? – Without going into the bits and bytes, I’ll just say that it’s a brilliant way of incorporating a custom modules.cgz and modules.alias without touching the installation initrd at all!
I knew I couldn’t live quietly with the initrd remaster so choosing the driver disk (dd in short) option was inevitable.
As I noted before, HighPoint provided me only a RHEL/CentOS 5.3 driver disk (and binary), but they also provided the source. I knew it was a matter of some adjustments to get it to work also for 5.4.
It is much easier to approach the driver disk now as we are much more familiar with how the installation initrd works.
I’m lazy, I already created a script that takes the 5.3 driver package and creates a dd:


# $1 - driver_package
# $2 - destination of driver disk
make_rocketraid_driverdisk() {
        local driver_package=$1; shift
        local destination=$1; shift

        local tmp_image=`mktemp`
        local tmp_mount_dir=`mktemp -d`

        dd if=/dev/zero of=$tmp_image count=1 bs=1M && \
        mkdosfs $tmp_image && \
        mount -o loop $tmp_image $tmp_mount_dir && \
        tar -xf $driver_package -C $tmp_mount_dir && \
        umount $tmp_mount_dir && \
        local -i retval=$?

        if [ $retval -eq 0 ]; then
                cp -aL $tmp_image $destination
                chmod 644 $destination
                echo "Driver disk created at: $destination"

        rm -f $tmp_image
        rmdir $tmp_mount_dir

        return $retval

make_rocketraid_driverdisk rr3xxx_4xxx-rhel_centos-5u3-x86_64-v1.6.09.0702.tgz /tmp/rr.img

Want it for 5.4? – easy. Just remaster the modules.cgz that’s inside rr3xxx_4xxx-rhel_centos-5u3-x86_64-v1.6.09.0702.tgz and replace it with a relevant hptiop.ko module 🙂

Edit your kickstart to load the driver disk:

driverdisk --source=http://UGAT/HA/BAIT/INC/HighPoint/RocketRAID/3xxx-4xxx/rr3xxx-4xxx-2.6.18-164.el5.img

Make sure you have this line in the main section and not meta generated in your %pre section as the driverdisk directive is being processed before the %pre section.

The OS doesn’t boot after installation

You moron! This is because the installation kernel/initrd and the one that boots afterwards are not the same!
You can fix it in one of the 3 following ways:

  1. Recompile the CentOS/RHEL kernel and repackage it with the RocketRAID driver – pretty ugly, not to mention time consuming.
  2. Build a module RPM for the specific kernel version you’re going to use – very clean but also very time consuming!
  3. Just build the module for the relevant kernel in the %post section – my way.

In the %post section of your kickstart, add the following:

(cd /tmp && \
        wget http://UGAT/HA/BAIT/INC/rr3xxx_4xxx-linux-src-v1.6-072009-1131.tar.gz && \
        tar -xf rr3xxx_4xxx-linux-src-v1.6-072009-1131.tar.gz && \
        cd rr3xxx_4xxx-linux-src-v1.6 && \
        make install)

The next boot obviously have a different initrd image. Generally speaking, initrd creation is done after the %post section, so you should not bother about it too much…
Server should boot now. Go play with your 12x2TB RAID array.

I hope I could teach you something in this post. It was a hell of a war discovering how to properly do all of these.
Now if you’ll excuse me – I’ll be going to play with spaceships and shoot rockets!