Booting with syslinux

Having read about using syslinux as a boot-loader for virtual machines I tried to replace grub2 on one of the Fedora 24 virtual machines I am using with syslinux:

Not completely knowing what to do I did:

  • dnf install syslinux-extlinux.x86_64
  • /sbin/extlinux –install /boot/extlinux/

The I tried to create a configuration file using grubby:

  • grubby --extlinux --add-kernel=/boot/vmlinuz-4.4.6-300.fc23.x86_64 --title="4.4.6" --initrd=/boot/initramfs-4.4.6-300.fc23.x86_64.img --args="ro root=/dev/sda3"

Which resulted in:

# cat /etc/extlinux.conf 
label 4.4.6
 kernel /vmlinuz-4.4.6-300.fc23.x86_64
 initrd /initramfs-4.4.6-300.fc23.x86_64.img
 append ro root=/dev/sda3

I added following lines to the file manually:

default 4.4.6
ui menu.c32
timeout 50

After that I rebooted and the virtual machine was still using grub2 to load the kernel.

To write syslinux to the MBR following additional command was required:
dd if=/usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin of=/dev/sda bs=440 count=1. I was a bit nervous rebooting the system after overwriting the MBR, but it rebooted successfully. The configuration file was also correctly updated after I installed a new kernel via dnf. I also removed grub2 (dnf remove grub2*) and was able to successfully reboot into the new kernel without grub2.

New MirrorManager2 features

The latest MirrorManager release (0.6.1) which is active since 2015-12-17 in Fedora’s infrastructure has a few additional features which provide insights into the mirror network usage.

The first is called statistics. It gives a daily overview what clients are requesting. It analysis the metalink and mirrorlist accesses and draws diagrams. Each time the local yum or dnf metadata has expired a new mirrorlist/metalink is requested which contains the ‘best’ mirrors for the client currently requesting the data. The current MirrorManager statistics implementation tries to display how often the different repositories are requested from which country for the available architectures:

In addition to the statistics where the clients are coming from and which files they are interested in the old code to draw a map of the location of all mirror servers has been re-enabled: maps

Another new visualization tries to track the propagation. The time the existing mirrors need to carry the latest bits. A script connects to all enabled mirrors and checks which repomd.xml file is currently available on the mirror. This is done for the development branch and all active branches. The script displays how many mirrors have the current repomd.xml file or if the mirror still has the  repomd.xml file from the previous push (or the push before) or if the file is even older: Propagation.

Another relevant change in Fedora’s MirrorManager is that it is no longer possible to enter FTP URLs. This is the first step to remove FTP based URLs  as FTP based mirrors are often, depending on the network topology, difficult to connect to, other protocols (HTTP, RSYNC) are better suited and more mirror server are not providing FTP anyway.

Bimini Upgrade

I finally upgraded my PowerStation from Fedora 18 to Fedora 21. The upgrade went pretty smooth and was not much more than:


$ yum --releasever=19 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync
$ yum --releasever=20 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync
$ yum --releasever=21 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync

As I was doing the upgrade without console access I did not want to change the bootloader from yaboot to grub2 and I also excluded the kernel. Once I have console access I will also upgrade those packages.

The only difficulty was upgrading from Fedora 20 to Fedora 21 because 32bit packages were dropped from ppc and I was not sure if the system would still boot after removing all 32bit packages (yum remove *ppc). But it just worked and now I have an up to date 64bit ppc Fedora 21 system.

Cluster Updated to CentOS 6.5 (IGB/PTP Problems)

Normally I would not mention that our Linux cluster was updated. But as the update to CentOS 6.5 produced some strange errors I thought that I write it down in case somebody else has the same errors.

Our cluster has a bit more than 200 nodes and all nodes are running disk-less with read-only mounted filesystem over NFS. Until now we were using Scientific Linux 5.5 and it was time to update it to something newer: CentOS 6.5.

So all nodes were shut down and then started with the new CentOS 6.5 image and everything seemed fine. After a few minutes there were, however, about 30 nodes which went offline. The hardware on all nodes is the same and it was strange that 30 nodes should have the same hardware error after a software upgrade. I was not able to contact the defect systems over Ethernet but they still were answering ping requests over InfiniBand. I could not log in into the defect systems as the filesystem was mounted over Ethernet and not InfiniBand. Going to the console of the systems I saw that the system was still up and running but was not reachable over Ethernet. The link was still active and the kernel detected if the link was going up or down. But the driver of the Ethernet card refused to answer any packets.

Without Ethernet it was hard to debug as the systems have no local drive and as soon as the Ethernet driver stopped working no logging in was possible.

Looking at the protocols of the boot I saw that the system starts up with the wrong date which is then corrected by NTP during the boot. I also saw that the moment the time was corrected the systems stopped working. At least most of the time.

Looking at the parameters of the network driver (igb) to find some debug options I saw that it has a dependency on the ptp module. I had no idea what PTP was but the Internet told me that it is the Precision Time Protocol and that it is a feature which was enabled with RHEL6.5 and therefore also with our used CentOS 6.5. The network driver also stopped working once I tried to write the correct time to the RTC using hwclock.

On some of the systems the time stored in the RTC was more than 3.5 years in the past. The reason for this might be that the most of the time the systems are not shut down cleanly but only powered off or power cycled using ipmitool because the systems are disk-less and have a read-only filesystem. But this also means that hwclock is never run on shutdown to sync the time to the RTC.

Setting SYNC_HWCLOCK in /etc/sysconfig/ntpdate to yes syncs the actual time to the RTC and after the next reboots all my problems were gone.

Syncing the RTC to a reasonable value helped to solve my problem but this still looks like a bug in the network driver that it stops working after changing the time.

Checkpoint and almost Restart in Open MPI

Now that checkpoint/restart with CRIU is possible since Fedora 19 I started adding CRIU support to Open MPI. With my commit 30772 it is now possible to checkpoint a process running under Open MPI. The restart functionality is not yet implemented but should be soon available. I have a test case (orte-test) which prints its PID and sleeps one second in a loop which I start under orterun like this:

/path/to/orterun --mca ft_cr_enabled 1 --mca opal_cr_use_thread 1 --mca oob tcp --mca crs_criu_verbose 30 --np 1 orte-test

The options have following meaning:

  • –mca ft_cr_enabled 1
    • ft stands for fault tolerance
    • cr stands for checkpoint/restart
    • this option is to enable the checkpoint/restart functionality
  • –mca opal_cr_use_thread 1: use an additional thread to control checkpoint/restart operations
  • –mca oob tcp: use TCP instead of unix domain sockets (the socket code needs some additional changes for C/R to work)
  • –mca crs_criu_verbose 30: print all CRIU debug messages
  • –np 1: spawn one test case

The output of the test case looks like this:


[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open()
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: priority = 10
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: verbosity = 30
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: log_file = criu.log
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: log_level = 0
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: tcp_established = 1
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: shell_job = 1
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: ext_unix_sk = 1
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: open: leave_running = 1
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: component_query()
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: module_init()
[dcbz:12563] crs:criu: opal_crs_criu_prelaunch
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open()
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: priority = 10
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: verbosity = 30
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: log_file = criu.log
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: log_level = 0
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: tcp_established = 1
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: shell_job = 1
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: ext_unix_sk = 1
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: open: leave_running = 1
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: component_query()
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: module_init()
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: opal_crs_criu_reg_thread
Process 12565
Process 12565
Process 12565

To start the checkpoint operation the Open MPI tool orte-checkpoint is used:

/path/to/orte-checkpoint -V 10 `pidof orterun`

which outputs the following:


[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: Checkpointing...
[dcbz:12570] PID 12563
[dcbz:12570] Connected to Mpirun [[56676,0],0]
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: notify_hnp: Contact Head Node Process PID 12563
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: notify_hnp: Requested a checkpoint of jobid [INVALID]
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.00 / 0.08] Requested - ...
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.00 / 0.08] Pending - ...
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.00 / 0.08] Running - ...
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.06 / 0.14] Locally Finished - ...
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.00 / 0.14] Checkpoint Established - ompi_global_snapshot_12563.ckpt
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Receive a command message.
[dcbz:12570] orte_checkpoint: hnp_receiver: Status Update.
[dcbz:12570] [ 0.00 / 0.14] Continuing/Recovered - ompi_global_snapshot_12563.ckpt
Snapshot Ref.: 0 ompi_global_snapshot_12563.ckpt

orte-checkpoint tries to connect to the previously started orterun process and requests that a checkpoint should be taken. orterun outputs the following after receiving the checkpoint request:


[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: checkpoint(12565, ---)
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: criu_init_opts() returned 0
[dcbz:12565] crs:criu: opening snapshot directory /home/adrian/ompi_global_snapshot_12563.ckpt/0/opal_snapshot_0.ckpt
[dcbz:12563] 12563: Checkpoint established for process [56676,0].
[dcbz:12563] 12563: Successfully restarted process [56676,0].
Process 12565

At this point the checkpoint has been written to disk and the process continues (printing its PID).

For a complete checkpoint/restart functionality I still have to implement the restart functionality in Open MPI and I also have to take care of the unix domain sockets (shutting them down for the checkpointing).

This requires the latest criu package (criu-1.1-4) which includes headers to build Open MPI against CRIU as well as the CRIU service.

Using the ownCloud address book in mutt

Now that I have been syncing my ownCloud address book to my mobile devices and my laptop I was missing this address book in mutt. But using pyCardDAV and the instructions at http://got-tty.org/archives/mutt-kontakte-aus-owncloud-nutzen.html it was easy to integrate the ownCloud address book in mutt. As pyCardDAV was already packaged for Fedora it was not much more work than yum install python-carddav, edit ~/.config/pycard/pycard.conf to get the address book synced.

I was already using a LDAP address book in mutt so that I had to extent the existing configuration to:
set query_command = "~/bin/mutt_ldap.pl '%s'; /usr/bin/pc_query -m '%s'"

Now, whenever I press CTRL+T during address input, first the LDAP server is queried and than my local copy of the ownCloud address book.

New external RAID

Today a new external RAID (connected via Fibre Channel) was attached to our mirror server. To create the filesystem (XFS) I used this command:

mkfs -t xfs -d su=64k -d sw=13 /dev/sdf1

According to https://raid.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/RAID_setup#XFS this are the correct options for 13 data disks (15 with RAID6 plus 1 hot spare) and a stripe size of 64k.

Dynamic DNS

For the last ten years I wanted to set up my own dynamic DNS service but was never motivated enough. Recently enough motivation was provided and using the scripts from http://www.fischglas.de/software/dyn/ made it really easy to set up a dynamic DNS service using bind. Following changes were necessary to the named.conf file:

zone "dyn.domain" in {
        type master;
        file "db.dyn.domain";
        allow-update {
                key host.domain.;
        };
};

Whenever the IP address of my host changes I am loading a URL with my hostname and password encoded. The script behind the URL checks if my hostname and password is correct and updates the zone file using nsupdate with a TTL of 120 seconds.

The script uses a simple configuration file (/etc/dyn/dyn.cfg) with the following content:

dns.key.name:host.domain.
dns.key:yyeofEWfgvdfgdfgerX==
authfile:/etc/dyn/secrets
dns.host:host.domain
debug:0

bcache Follow-Up

After using bcache for about three weeks it still works without any problems. I am serving around 700GB per day from the bcache device and looking at the munin results cache hits are averaging at about 12000 and cache misses are averaging at around 700. So, only looking at the statistics, it still seems to work very effectively for our setup.

RPM Fusion’s MirrorManager moved

After running RPM Fusion’s MirrorManager instance for many years on Fedora I moved it to a CentOS 6.4 VM. This was necessary because the MirrorManager installation was really ancient and still running from a modified git checkout I did many years ago. I expected that the biggest obstacle in this upgrade and move would be the database upgrade of MirrorManager as its schema has changed over the years. But I was fortunate and MirrorManager included all the necessary scripts to update the database (thanks Matt). Even from the ancient version I was running.

RPM Fusion’s MirrorManager instance uses postgresql to store its data and so I dumped the data on the one system to import it into the database on the new system. MirrorManager stores information about the files as pickled python data in the database and those columns were not possible to be imported due to problems with the character encoding. As this is data that is provided by the master mirror I just emptied those columns and after the first run MirrorManager recreated those informations.

Moving the MirrorManager instance to a VM means that, if you are running a RPM Fusion mirror, the crawler which checks if your mirror is up to date will now connect from another IP address (129.143.116.115) to your mirror. The data collected by MirrorManager’s crawler is then used to create http://mirrors.rpmfusion.org/mm/publiclist/ and the mirrorlist used by yum (http://mirrors.rpmfusion.org/mirrorlist?repo=free-fedora-updates-released-19&arch=x86_64). There are currently four systems serving as mirrors.rpmfusion.org

Looking at yesterday’s statistics (http://mirrors.rpmfusion.org/statistics/?date=2013-08-20) it seems there were about 400000 accesses per day to our mirrorlist servers.