Work has been killer this last week. After putting Debian stable on the firewall (and having to go through why Debian/dpkg is superior to Slackware/checkinstall—mainly /etc/init.d and the fact that since checkinstall only works as you’d imagine if you remove the old package before checkinstalling an upgrade, it’s no more useful than make uninstall, which is ubiquitous in the New Autotools World Order), we decided to upgrade the 60G/mo traffic, once-slashdotted, 1m hits/week web server to Debian sarge from RedHat 7.3 as well. For the Hatters in the audience, the major reason is both me and my boss are much more comfortable with Debian’s way of doing things. I can hack a debian package together (and did for the newer bridging stuff we needed for the firewall) if need be, and I know what files need to be edited, what stuff needs to go where, etc. More importantly, I can find backports of most anything for Debian—to setup a shiny LAMP server or firewall—but it’s much more difficult with RedHat 7.3, even though both were released around the same time. In this particular case, the web department has been pestering us to upgrade MySQL for a long time, and it’s a real PITA to find MySQL 4 for RedHat 7.3. NORLUG has some RPMS available, but only if you want to upgrade nearly everything on your system while you’re at it—Apache 2, MySQL, libdb, obdc, glibc, etc. As long as you’re doing that, you may as well just go all the way and get a faster FS while we’re at it (I prefer XFS since I’ve never had XFS crap out on me, though in retrospect reiserfs may have been a better choice given the number of tiny files we’ve got on the website).

One obvious snag that we did run into was the SunONE ASP server (since renamed to “Sun Java System ASP.” Apparently Sun has some hangup where every product name must have the word “Java” in it—GNOME applications went through a similar phase, but that was the early days, it’s totally passé today. :-)) Anyways, the web-admin that ships with it does not work with glibc newer than 2.1 (anything newer than Debian woody/RedHat 8.0), forcing you to use this evil console-based tool to do simple things like add ODBC bindings (which is how ASP scripts know how to contact your SQL server), until you give up and just edit odbc.ini manually, dire warnings about potential screwups and re-installation be damned. Of course, none of this would have been neccessary if it was covered under a free license—if there wasn’t a debian package already I could’ve hacked one up with dh_make and vi. I could’ve recompiled against the newer libc, and others would’ve made sure that it could’ve. If they hadn’t, I could’ve debugged the stupid thing and fixed it myself.

But, of course, Sun paid good money for Chilisoft (the company which originally made the beast), so they want to make that money back—which means I have to deal with the stupid incompatibilities and such or use one of the free ASP conversion modules, which strikes me as kinda dodgy, especially since the orginal authors of the ASP scripts that need to be run have long since left.

After that, I dropped the propriatary Shoutcast server for Icecast and got all that up and running, fixed some NT domain issues from the move (as a quick-n-dirty hack, we copied root [/] to another server and ran the services from a chroot shell to keep downtime to an absolute minimum—ugly, but it worked allright), and wrote a unified statistics website to publish pretty statistics on all 10 of our public services. And, all the while in the background, I’ve been hacking a GLib-based C app to parse through old Folio Flat Files from our now-dead Folio Infobase “ancient-archives” server and get them into MySQL, and it’s working well enough actually start moving the 30k articles over.

So naturally, I’m going to be in trouble with payroll for working too much. Now, I understand the whole “we want you to work but we don’t want to pay you” dynamic of capitalism, but restricting my hours is effectively punishing me for enjoying my job and working my ass off at it, which is totally insane. I will not work for salary, since I’m of the opinion that time is the only true currency (since you spend it to get everything else), and I’m not about to trade it for a flat fee. Getting in trouble from management for working too hard.

Hilarious :-).



  1. Anonymous says:

    RHL 7.3 is end-of-lifed since over a year, so backports would be pointless. (You don’t get any security updates, by definition.) Backports for RHEL3 would be useful though. The alternative in the RH world is to use Fedora Core. Or wait for RHEL4.

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Jim, the former Systems Mike here. I’m not opposed to the Debian conversion at all (in fact, it’s what I run on two x86 servers, a SPARC server, an iBook, and an x86 desktop) but I want to point out a couple things:

    MySQL 4 (statically-linked) for RHL 7.3
    – APT is/was installed on the RHL 7.3 boxes using the Fedora Legacy repository, which includes backports and security updates.
    – I should mention the benefits of learning a new OS, but my point would be more valid if RHL 7.3 WAS a “new OS.” 🙂
    – I want to apologize personally for Chili!Soft and Shoutcast, and I’m glad to see you and the various other departments chipping away at those proprietary technologies one at a time. Sorry about Folio, too, even if that was three generations before me.

    Keep up the good work. I hope you don’t mind if I troll your blog… blame Lee for giving me the link!

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