tech stuff.

Updated OpenBSD softraid install page

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With their 5.1 release, OpenBSD has added support for placing the root filesystem on a softraid(4) device for the i386 and amd64 architectures.  Additionally, the amd64 port supports booting the system from a kernel on the softraid device.

Previously, the way to provide system redundancy using software RAID was to use softraid for all of your filesystems except the root filesystem.  The root filesystem would be copied to an identically sized partition on the second disk every night by the /etc/daily script.  It was up to you to keep the boot blocks up-to-date.

Awesome.  I’ve updated my Installing OpenBSD using softraid page.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Written by Lee Verberne

2012-06-25 at 14:23

Posted in BSD

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SuperMicro iKVM Video Only

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Frustrated that the IPMI iKVM session on your brand new SuperMicro server says “Video Only” at the top and your virtual keyboard won’t work?  I was.  I’m sure the culprit could be any of a number of issues, but for me it was a BIOS setting.

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Written by Lee Verberne

2012-06-21 at 21:55

Posted in Hardware

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Quicktip: Updating AMI BIOS on SuperMicro Mainboards

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At SuperMicro’s Support site you can download a new version of your AMI BIOS to update your mainboard.  They recommend you not do this unless you’re experience problems.  I was experiencing problems, and — after trying and failing to locate a change log — I thought I’d give it a try anyway.  So my options are:

  1. Download a Windows executable that will write a bootable floppy disk.  Wait, what?
  2. Download a zip file containing a binary blob and a DOS executable to flash the BIOS.  You know, for if you already have DOS installed.

Sweet.  Floppy disk.  Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen one of those things.

Anyway, it turns out there’s a clever, painless way to make this work.  All you need is a little VMware misdirection.  Here’s what I did:

  1. dd if=/dev/zero of=floppy.img bs=1k count=1440 (not sure this was necessary, but I did it anyway)
  2. Attached floppy.img as floppy drive to my Windows 7 VM
  3. Ran the funky Windows executable from SuperMicro and detached the disk
  4. Inserted a USB flash drive (as disk3) and dd if=floppy.img of=/dev/disk3
  5. Booted said USB flash drive in yon mainboard
  6. PROFIT

FreeDOS booted and the AMI BIOS update automatically ran.  Easy.  Be careful with that flash drive, though.  Now it’s an auto-running BIOS killer.

Written by Lee Verberne

2012-06-20 at 16:37

Posted in Hardware

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Quicktip: Use your own VNC client for Softlayer CloudLayer console

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Contrary to what Softlayer sales would have me believe, Softlayer’s CloudLayer service does, in fact, provide console access. It’s provided via a java VNC applet accessible from https://manage.softlayer.com.

I use Linux on the desktop, though, so anything involving the words “java” and “applet” seems destined for failure. Fortunately, Softlayer is stand-up enough to provide the VNC connection information on the same page, so I thought I might fire up PPtP and give it a shot.

Strangely, I was unable to get Vinagre or gtkvncviewer to work. They would connect and send keystrokes successfully, but the display would remain blank. Bummer. The jtightvncviewer provided by Ubuntu’s tightvnc-java package works, though, and I don’t care enough to figure out why Vinagre didn’t work.

Good Luck, and if you figure out why Vinagre doesn’t work please let me know.

Written by Lee Verberne

2012-02-12 at 13:29

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OpenBSD Install via IPMI on SuperMicro Server

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This is a step-by-step guide for how I remotely installed OpenBSD 5.0 to my SuperMicro X8SIE-LN4F based server.  This includes setting up IPMI and remote serial console.

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Written by Lee Verberne

2012-01-13 at 22:07

Posted in BSD

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Insufficient serial devices in the amd64 GENERIC kernel for SuperMicro

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As I was futzing around trying to get OpenBSD 5.0 (amd64) to play well with the SOL provided by the BMC on my new SuperMicro server, I noticed something unexpected about the amd64 GENERIC kernel.

I really want a reliable console on these new servers, and I’m pretty sure that if any OS is going to manage decent serial support, it’s going to be OpenBSD.  Getting OpenBSD to use a serial console is well documented and pretty easy, but installing via serial console is a little more difficult.  In my case, though, I don’t need to modify the install CD because I don’t technically need a 100% serial install.

The AMI BIOS on this server provides console redirection that — while not the best — works well enough to allow me to interrupt the VGA boot loader and change the console to the serial port via set tty com2.  After that, the ramdisk kernel booted with a console on the third serial port and my generic OpenBSD 5.0 install went very smoothly.  Until it came time to boot into the new OS, that is.

An OpenBSD install is a thing a beauty.  It’s the most well thought out installer I’ve ever used, and it’s exclusively text-based.  So it’s a great fit for a serial console install.  It even detected that I was using com2, and asked if I wanted to make that the console on the install.  When I rebooted, however, I received all the kernel messages on the SOL console, but nothing from the startup scripts or getty.

It appears to me the problem is that — while the amd64/RAMDISK_CD and the i386/GENERIC kernels both come configured with 3 COM ports — the amd64 GENERIC kernel is only configured with 2 COM ports.  If I use config -e to add a third com port and boot that modified kernel, everything works perfectly.

As soon as I understand the issue a bit better, I’ll be posting a step-by-step guide with some model numbers.

Written by Lee Verberne

2012-01-07 at 00:45

Posted in BSD

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x509 hash changes in Ubuntu Oneiric

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Did your commands with custom -CApath stop working after upgrading to Oneiric? Mine did. It turns out Oneiric introduced a change (via OpenSSL 1.0.0, maybe?) that changed the subject hash algorithm used to index certificates in a -CApath directory. Look for a handy code snippet after the jump.
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Written by Lee Verberne

2011-11-10 at 17:27

Posted in Linux