minus 1 week

Just had my last weekend in NZ before 2009 . I’m flying over this coming Saturday and back the Saturday following. So this weekend I’ve cut down a bit on other stuff and been prioritizing LCA.

I sent sent out a call for lightning talks to the LCA attendees list. So far we’ve got 3 confirmed lightning talks for the Sysadmin Miniconf and with a 1 hour slot on each day we have plenty of space for more. I hoping that a few first-time presenters will do quick talks about things like how they deploy apache or which monitoring system they use. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a feel for what other people are doing and a 5 minute talk on a simple tool can really help a lot of people.

Towards that I volunteered to do a 10 minutes (approx) talk on mondorescuse and PXE based on some stuff I’m doing at work and a previous blog post . My main bit last night and today was getting some screenshots of mondorescue and doing a little testing of stuff I didn’t cover at work.

I did my own screenshots since I couldn’t find any under a nice license ( I’ll release mine under Public Domain ) and the ones at work using VMWare client under Windows XP didn’t look right. To get mine I just ended up using KVM on my desktop and the built-in gnome-screenshot program.

A couple of interesting links:


Chess for 2009

It’s around 11 months since I started playing chess again so I thought I’d do a bit of a review and some goals for 2009.

I’ve found I enjoy playing quite a bit both at the club, tournaments and online as well as doing study both by myself and with others. So I’m definitely going to keep going this year.

In the last rating list my rapid rating went from 1276 to 1314 but my normal rating only went from 1261 to 1274. The main reason for this is that I am still losing the odd game to very low ranked players though carelessness. My actual rating is probably closer to 1400 in both rapid and normal going against my results against players in the 1400-1500 level.

Goals for 2009

  1. Get my Rating to over 1700
  2. Play in NZ champs in early 2010 and do well in under-2000 grade.

Programme to accomplish this

  1. Keep playing at the Club
  2. Enter as many tournaments as possible.
  3. Play in over-1400 grades when able
  4. Train 10-20 hours per week
  5. Keep going to fortnightly coaching

Weekly training

  1. 10-20 hours
  2. 500 problems on tactics server ( 4 hours )
  3. 20 Blitz games on FICS each week ( 4 hours )
  4. 10 Standard games on FICS each week ( 4 hours )
  5. Study Openings repertoire and practice it ( 4 hours )
  6. Play though annotated games ( 4 hours )

Well that is the plan anyway. Certainly if I keep to it I’ve got a chance at reaching the goals. However keeping myself on track will be the hard bit.

I’m using a little area in the spare room going as a study space. For a computer I’m just going to use my Eee ( with external keyboard, screen and mouse ) but keep it off the network most of the time to cut the urge to browse. But for now just a board and a few books but thats enough for a start.


Upgrading stuff

I’ve been spending most of today upgrading various bits and pieces on my external server. Since March 2007 I’ve had a dedicated server at Layered Technologies in the US. However with the change in the value of the dollar, a price rise they had a while back the cost has gone from around $NZ 100 to $NZ 200 ( $US 105 ) per month (with me paying a larger percentage of it) which is just a little too much for what I need.

So a couple of weeks ago I bought a $US 40/month VPS at to replace it ( switch off of the old machine is the end of January ). So far I’ve been pretty happy, the box was provisioned in a few minutes, I got an extra IP no problem and it came with a nice minimal Ubuntu 7.10 install.

Today I’ve been moving over a few more service to the new machine and documenting it as I go.I’m also trying to get the config a little tidier than the previous one

  • DNS was pretty easy and I’ve tidied up my domains ( all 10 ) . I’m just waiting for people I secondary DNS for to make some changes before starting cut overs.
  • Some websites are move. The static sites ( like my homepage ) were easy and the wordpress ones were as well ( dump DB, scp , import DB ).
  • I upgraded WordPress to 2.7 while I was at it which seems to have worked okay. Only thing I don’t like is the small fonts on the admin pages.But there is probably a way to fix that.
  • I had a few problems moving over one web-app since it was keeping old info somewhere (I checked the DB and the configs) but as luck would have it Ubuntu has recently fixed the package to work with non-apache Web installs (I am using lighttpd) so I just blew away the DB, grabbed a clean install and took 20 minutes to re-add the small amount of data.
  • Wiki sites are still to be moved and I’ve left off a couple of that are probably getting moved elsewhere.
  • I got the basic backups working also just in case something goes kaput.

Overall it’s been a fun day. I would hope I’ll be able to finish the rest of the move by the end of next weekend.


Youtube comment filters waste of time?

Even now and then I get bored and look on youtube at the odd video. One thing I notice is that in the comments for a video you have the option of flagging comments as a “poor comment” or a “good comment”. You also have the option of filtering the comments you see to only show those with scores of greater than -10 , -5 , 0 , +5 or +10 ).

The problem appears to be that nobody ever rates comments as good. So this feature is completely useless. To check I had a look at the top 8 videos on the most viewed videos of all time page and even though most of the had thousands of comments not a single comment was rated better than +5 . In other words a complete rating system for video comments that is completely unused by anyone.  Perhaps they should just remove the buttons.

I also noticed that the most viewed video on youtube ever ( Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend ) is “not available in your country” when I try to view it. I assume this says something about somebody’s business model.


Sysadmin Miniconf programme up

I’ve just posted the programme for the 2009 Sysadmin Miniconf !

This year we were allocated 2 days by the programme committee so we have 15 full length talks by some great speakers on a wide variety of topics. Have a look for yourself to see which ones you are interested in.

I’ve not yet updated the lightning talks but we have a few already and are still looking for more, so contact lca09 @ is you are interested in presenting.


Server recovery first steps

At work last week we were looking at backups on a group of machines that had been installed by another company but which our team had recently taken over. I was interested in the backup system they had which involved doing a lvm snapshot of the boot partition and then rsyncing this to another machine is the group ( the rsync’s went around in a circle more or less).

This looked quite cute for quick machine recoveries ( we kickstart our servers but we are still at the stage of doing a fair bit of post install setup ) and we had a think about recovering machines by doing a simple kickstart, then netbooting the server, mounting the root partition under the netboot and rsyncing it back to the install. This seemed a promising idea which we thought would only take an hour or so per machine.

However over the weekend I had a bit of a think and it popped into my head that Mondorescue almost did this sort of thing out of the box already. So I’ve been playing around a it this week with it.

So what I have now ( testing using a scratch VM ) are a few commands that:

  1. Backup the server to a NFS partition.
  2. Make an differential backup since the previous backup

Which means I now have a directory on a NFS server with a couple of bootable ISOs sitting in it. One has the full backup of the machine ( it’s about a third of the size of the used space ) and the other has any changes made since the first was done. I do the differential since the full backup takes about 30 minutes of hard work for the server while the incremental only takes 3 minutes or so ( YMMV ). I’ll probably do full backups every week and differential backups nightly.

The fun bit is the recovery:

  1. Remove console the server and boot it over the network
  2. Use PXE to boot the full backup mondorescue image
  3. Mondo boots and thee automatic restores the server to the state is was when the last backup was made (about 15 minutes) . I then have to hit enter a couple of times to reboot
  4. Netboot the incremental mondo image.
  5. Mondo now applies any changes between the last full and the last differential backup.
  6. Reboot again to the hard drive
  7. Finished, machine should be up and running.

A bit of testing shows this only takes about 20 minutes for my test VM ( 3 Gigabytes of default RHE 5 goodness ) and production servers shouldn’t be much slower ( more data but faster disks and CPUs ).

With a bit of luck I should have this ready to deploy in a few days ( although I’m a little short of NFS space to apply it to every machine ).

Overall a fun couple of days, depending on how it goes I might even do a lightning talk about it at the Sysadmin Miniconf next month although I’m not sure if it’s a little trivial since this is close to “out of the box” functionality for Mondorescue.


Economist plus meme

Why I love The Economist :

China could stop making aggressive gestures towards Taiwan and buy Malaysia instead. It’s already run by Chinese, so they’d hardly notice the difference. And Barack Obama, committed to uniting America, could defuse the nation’s culture wars by purchasing an alternative homeland for those of his countrymen who want more use of the death penalty, less gun control and no gay marriage. A slice of Saudia Arabia’s empty quarter would do nicely: there’s plenty of space and the new occupants would have lots in common with the locals

From O give me a home… in the Nov 13th 2008 edition.

and the Book Meme thats going around Planet Linux Australia.

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST

and mine is:

Black has a backward d-pawn and a weak square on d5, though it is difficult for White to exploit either – the d-pawn is well guarded, while occupation of d5 often simply results in exchanges.

From Understanding the Chess Openings by Sam Collins.

Which is I guess what you get when you insist on the nearest book.


Election day ( NZ version )

After a bit of excitement earlier in the week with the US election today it’s New Zealand’s turn. Unlike the US where the vote takes place on a week day and most people have to fit voting in between work in NZ we have it on a Saturday in early spring ( and it is nice an sunny outside right now).

In NZ it’s also pretty easy to vote early or at any voting booth either in your electorate or outside it, so you can just pick whichever is the closest on the day ( although I have 2 places within 5 minutes walk of my house so I’ll probably go to one of them).

More about the NZ electoral system on wikipedia and .

This year things are fairly interesting as it looks like there is a good chance there will be a change in government with the Centre-Left Labour Party being replaced by the Centre-Right National Party.

The government is actually ( and the new government will also probably be ) a coalition with one big party and smaller parties either formally part of the government or mostly supporting it.

In Labour’s case one of their big problems is that the New Zealand First party ( which is one of their partners) has gone beyond their previous populist position of bashing immigrants and otherwise pandering to their over 65 base to some very dubious practices including lying about donations, hiding them and then trying to give donors diplomatic posts or their industry government money. Which all might be legitimate in some countries like the US but in NZ is usually viewed as corruption.

Labour’s problem is that since it’s needs New Zealand First’s vote it has turned a blind eye to much of this and said it’s a matter for the courts etc. It’s also said it’ll probably keep the NZF leader Winston Peters in cabinet if it gets re-elected ( NZF is really the Winston Peter’s party since he founded and completely dominates it) . Labour is also perceived as a bit tired and running out of policies ( third-term-itis ) .

The opposition National Party while not looking stunning ( the leader John Key is a little bland and politically in-experienced) is at least looking a bit fresher ( I’m trying to ignore Maurice Williamson etc ) and while it probably won’t win enough votes to govern by itself it will certainly be the largest party and the big question is will it have a majority with it’s “Natural” coalition partners or will it have to reach out to more distant parties ( or failing that Labour might even be able to cobble together a wide ranging coalition) .

Personally I’ve been considering voting for National this year since I’m a generally right-wing on economic issues and liberal on social issues. The main things I dislike about National are:

  • Some knee-jerk recent policies to give welfare payments to mortgage holders who lose their jobs, I’m sorry but that is what employment insurance is for and discriminates against people like myself who rent.
  • Some ideas to change the electoral system ( not very defined beyond the don’t like the current one ) . I don’t like this because they will probably do their best to favour larger parties and also I dislike the fact that where somebody lives determines the worth of their vote. I live now and have lived previously in safe electorates where my local MP has zero chance of not being elected so my local vote doesn’t matter. On the other hand if I lived across the street ( really! ) I would be in an electorate which is competitive and my vote would matter quite a lot.
  • I generally dislike “tough on crime” policies of building more jails, longer sentences, reduced parole etc since I don’t believe they fix the problem. The things that will reduce the crime rates involve helping poor families and parents of kids that are likely to grow up to be criminals. These programmes are a lot cheaper per person ( verses $50,000 plus per year of housing a prisoner) and more effective in the long term but don’t have the headline grabbing that longer sentences does.

I also favour lower government spending in general ( except for my pet stuff like fibre networks and public transport  ) which I’m not sure National is committed to.

So I think this year I’ll be voting for Act again. I’ll admit they do push some of the anti-crime stuff I dislike but as a rule they are more liberal than National on social issues while I really like their policy of freezing government spending to the same level ( adjusted for inflation and population growth ). If National gets in then Act will be a coalition partner and I want to to have more influence over the government’s policies that it will have with more MPs.

Results from the election will be on the official website from 7pm tonight and also in the media ( eg the Herald ) . Personally I’ve got a little “Election Party” to go to at a friend’s place.