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Matts (1087)

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I work for MessageLabs [] in Toronto, ON, Canada. I write spam filters, MTA software, high performance network software, string matching algorithms, and other cool stuff mostly in Perl and C.

Journal of Matts (1087)

Sunday April 07, 2002
02:41 PM


[ #4017 ]

Ugh just about sums up my weekend. I spent most of Saturday day, all of Saturday night, and almost all of Sunday, upgrading Ted, the computer that runs

This was problematic for a few reasons:

1. I could no longer get security updates for the version of Linux I was running (Mandrake 7.0). This upsets me a lot, but I guess you get what you pay for (yeah, I know MS also deprecates versions of their OS, so I guess the whole world sucks today ;-). The upshot is I needed to upgrade my entire OS.

2. I don't own a CD burner, so no CD upgrades. Must be a network upgrade.

3. I wanted to move to an "apt" capable distribution. urpmi is nice, up2date is nice. apt is just nicer.

4. I wanted to play with KDE3. I have this on my laptop and it makes me more productive. Really.

5. I wanted to do the update directly via apt. This worked OK on my laptop so it would work ok on my server, right?

6. All this with minimal downtime required.

I decided to go for a completely new Linux distribution - Conectiva Linux. They are the guys who ported apt to support rpm (instead of dpkg) and they're fully behind apt - to the point that their snapshot distribution is available via apt. So that's what I went for - Conectiva Snapshot. (oh, and Conectiva are so far the only guys who ship AxKit with their distro ;-)

So I installed apt and set about doing the upgrade. It took most of the day to download the 500 rpms that needed updating, then a good couple of hours sorting out the broken dependencies. Finally it installed everything. I did a lot of checks to make sure it would come back up, and rebooted. Up she came. But no X. Next time up everything seemed OK, and I installed some necessary bits and bobs to get X up. I got a few lock ups along the way, but I dismissed them as configuration issues that I would iron out.

Once I got X up, I discovered that I couldn't su. It just locked up solid. I tried from the console. Same thing. Then I tried logging on multiple times - and got lock ups once again. Eventually I found out that it was /bin/login locking up. An strace revealed it was going:

ioctl(0, SNDCTL_TMR_CONTINUE, {B38400 opost isig icanon echo ...}) = ? ERESTARTSYS (To be restarted)
--- SIGTTOU (Stopped (tty output)) ---
--- SIGTTOU (Stopped (tty output)) ---

Over and over and over ad-infinitum.

A search revealed very little - two people had the same problem but with different setups. Two. Bizarre. I'd never seen such strangeness. And I had no idea what SNDCTL_TMR_CONTINUE on STDOUT was supposed to do (there are no docs to be found on this).

I did everything to try and debug this. I installed different kernels (including the stable Red Hat linux 7.2 one). I re-installed RPMs. I recreated /dev. I tried to use devfs. It was truly horrible. In the end at 2am I slunk into bed without a clue how to fix it.

Of course, as always happens, I woke up with ideas. I completely cleaned out /etc/rc.d/rc.* and re-installed all the RPMs for those files. Reboot. It worked. IT WORKED!. Wooohooo! Actually I was too tired to celebrate that loudly, but whatever...

So after that I just had to get everything working again that wasn't RPM based: Perl, Apache, mod_perl, AxKit, qmail, firewall, tinydns, courier imapd, and a few other bits. Oh and of course make sure everything worked from both inside and outside the network.

Well it all took me way too long, but I'm very happy with the results. My desktop feels much faster - like a new computer. I'm now on Perl 5.6.1 (after all that time on 5.00503). And I'm running KDE3 here, which is nice to use.

After all that, our radiators have been making a hell of a racket lately. So I ventured up into the loft to check out the header tank. Needless to say it was full of crap. So I emptied it with a bucket (because I didn't want to send all the crap down the system) and now will have to get some radiator flush. My hands are now full of fibreglass splinters from moving the insulation around.


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  • Why Windows will continue to remain the #1 desktop system. Your experience with bizarre startup/X/whatever problems are not uncommon with Linux, and I've had them myself.

    That being said, I'm going to order Suse Linux 8.0 when it comes out on April 22nd (or maybe I'll just buy it at the store). Easy installation, KDE 3, the works. Dunno if it comes with AxKit or not, though. :)

    • Windows can have the desktop market. I don't care. Frankly all forms of Unix are for advanced users, with the possible exception of Mac OS X, but I think you'll find you can't really do a complete "distro" or packaging system switch with OSX.

      Personally though I've had exactly the same sorts of problems with various forms of Windows over the years. Only you don't really get a chance to debug it with Windows, so you're stuck with one option: reformat and start again. I don't know anyone who would do a major
      • Oh, hey, don't get me wrong. I like Linux - I've had different flavors on my machine before (usually Mandrake), but usually something started to go wrong (usually X), and I'd get fed up and rip it off, or I just needed the disk space. You're right about the installation process - that has come a long way for Linux. I remember the first time I installed Slackware Linux back in '96. El Stinko.

        I'm also intrigued with OSX as it seems to have the best of both worlds, though I would rather BeOS had done wel

  • > oh, and Conectiva are so far the only guys who ship AxKit with their distro

    That's not true. Debian has Axkit in both 'testing' and 'unstable'.

    > apt-cache show axkit
    Package: axkit
    Priority: optional
    Section: web
    Installed-Size: 1000
    Maintainer: Ardo van Rangelrooij
    Architecture: i386
    Version: 1.5-1
    Depends: perlapi-5.6.1, perl (>= 5.6.1-7), libapache-mod-perl, libapache-filter-perl, libapache-requ est-perl, libcompress-zlib-perl, libdigest-md5-perl, liberror-perl, libhttp-ghttp-perl | libw



    • Ah, thats cool.

      I think it's not that I don't like debian, but I don't like their installer. The concept of apt definitely has me won over.
      • Perhaps you should give it another chance.

        I was reading your comments, and all through it, I was thinking how debian would have made your life easier. Granted that the installer might not be up to your expectations, but you are going to install the system just once. And you'll never have to reinstall again (just do incremental upgrades).

        1. I could no longer get security updates for the version of Linux I was running (Mandrake 7.0). This upsets me a lot, but I guess you get what you pay for (yeah, I know

        • Oh, and for those rare occasions when the only possibility is to use rpms (for instance, the sybase openclient libs for Linux are rpms only), there is alien, which converts rpms to debs.


        • All of this is fixed by porting apt to RPM though :-)

          The biggest problem with switching Ted to debian would be you can't (easily) cross upgrade a system from RPM to DPKG. It just plain won't work as far as I can guess. So I picked the next best option. Actually maybe I picked the best option - I'll let you know :-)