Gallery Virtual Appliance

Virtual machines used to be all about managing your data center or server consolidation or running applications that only run on some other operating system. Lately, virtual machines have been gaining momentum in a new area: software distribution.

This is actually quite powerful. Instead of a giving a user a complex set of instructions for installing some application or web service, and telling them what they need to install beforehand and what distros or operating systems it works on, the distributor or project can instead provide a bare-bones virtual machine containing the application or service pre-configured, and users can simply download it and power it on. It’s a great way of previewing applications or even running them day-to-day (depending on the application).

There’s a wonderful service out there called Gallery. It’s a web-based photo gallery that users can install on their server in order to share photos with the world. There’s a number of modules available. Many programs work with it. You can do things like order prints through the web. Great program.

And it’s now available in a virtual appliance! They have a description and instructions for setting it up, and I’ve been informed that they plan to keep it updated with each new release. It contains both Gallery 1 and Gallery 2, giving users a chance to see the differences between the versions and decide which suits them best. It can be used in VMware Player, Server, Workstation, and probably ESX (I haven’t tried). It’s downloadable from their website or from VMTN. You can see h0bbel’s blog post for more information on the appliance.

I think this is awesome and I hope it works out well for them and for the users. I’d love to see more projects go this route, and with any luck, Gallery will have set a precedent in the web services world. And for the developers creating these appliances, please feel free to let us know what VMware could do to make your lives easier. We welcome feedback, and you can send it directly to me.

Hacked

My old server, which I’ve slowly been moving away from over the past few months, was hacked just a couple of days ago. I found this out tonight and though I think I’ve cleaned it, I have been busy moving the final things to my Linode box, namely mail and one website owned by my grandpa. I’m really hoping that this goes smoothly, but if anybody can’t reach me by e-mail for a while, this is why. At least now I have a good excuse for moving the remaining things.

*sigh*

New website goodness

I’ve finally moved chipx86.com, my blog, and my gallery to my linode server from a fairly slow and now saturated DSL connection back home that my whole family uses. The main move happened last night, though today I realized I forgot my blog. Oops. I took the opportunity to install WordPress instead of Movable Type, and then imported my existing blog entries and set up a nice redirect setup for old blog entries. So far, so good! 🙂

The next step for me is to finish the layout I’m working on and slowly apply it to the gallery, wiki, and blog. This should be a real fun exercise.

Update: I apologize to Planet GNOME for taking over the world. Hopefully we can get this fixed soon.

*CLANK* *CLANK* *CLANK*

Ah, the sound of a dead drive. That’s what my 200GB Western Digital drive said to me this morning as I rebooted. This was after I realized that I couldn’t access any of my source code. dmesg was yelling at me about having trouble accessing /dev/hde. This drive contained my source code (almost all of which are on remote SVN or CVS repositories, of course) and all my media (audio, video, images).

I just chuckled.

A very short while ago, a matter of weeks really, I had this bad bad feeling that I was going to lose all my data. No real reason, but I started getting very paranoid about it. I looked around and after factoring in cost and laziness, I picked up a 1.0TB Buffalo Terastation, which is a cute little machine. It’s a PPC-based Linux RAID-enabled NAS, basically, with SMB, FTP, and AppleTalk support. After RAID5, I was left with about 700GB. I immediately copied everything I truly cared about to it (media files, basically). While most places sell this for $1000, I found it just over $900 at Comp-U-Plus.

It arrived and I set it up. I have to say, I like it. It just works. It has gigabit ethernet, for when I finally get around to upgrading my network. You just set it up over the web. Users, groups, permissions, mounts, RAID configuration, formatting, diagnostics, optional periodic status e-mails, etc.

One nice thing about the Terastation is that it has 4 USB ports. You can connect a printer to it and have network printer sharing. You can also connect up to 4 USB hard drives and set up a second RAID array, expand the current array, or back up your array. Nice and expandable. It also has support for hooking up to a UPS system, so it can shut down gracefully.

So with the Western Digital drive dead, I shut down, pulled the drive, and rebooted. I then proceeded to play some music and think to myself how glad I was I bought this thing earlier this month.

Now, the Terastation isn’t perfect. My main complaint was that I couldn’t use symlinks, due to SMB not supporting them (or at least this particular version?). That wasn’t a huge deal, considering it’s mostly media files, but I wanted the option, damnit!

I looked around and found a coupel sites on hacking the Terastation. The main one with all the info is a nice wiki at terastation.org. I went to the section on gaining root access and saw that he soldered dip switches onto his Terastation’s motherboard to make the serial port actually usable. I wasn’t ready to do that just yet. Or ever. Maybe if this thing was a few years old and I had another solution.. Maybe.

I checked back today and looked over the firmware pages. It turns out that Buffalo, the makers of the Terastation, provide a zip file with a image.dat, which is just a password-protected zip file containing a tarball and some other stuff. The passwords are available at the aforementioned wiki. The wiki also has some nice instructions on taking an existing firmware image, adding a sudoers file and an ssh server, and repackaging it.

Feeling stupid, I decided to give it a try. I figured that even if I bricked the Terastation, which I very much doubted I would do (given that I was just installing another server and a sudoers file), I would at least still have my drives, so no data loss. I packaged up the new image, compared the old and new tarballs a few times, and then put it back into the firmware zip file. I went over to my Windows machine and ran the updater. It found my terastation and, after a few moments, I clicked the button.

And waited…

And waited…

They really need a little thing underneath the rarely updating progress bar saying, “Don’t panic, everything’s okay, we’re just really slow. Get some coffee, it’s alright.”

I ran back and forth between my work room and the living room and watched as the Terastation rebooted itself a few times (as was documented in the README). Finally it stopped doing that. I stared at it, daring it to blink. It didn’t blink, but it didn’t have the Red LED of Doom, either. I went back to the Windows machine and it happily indicated that the firmware update was successful!

I ran back into the work room and pinged the Terastation. It ponged! I mounted the shares… I could access my files! The worry was over, but the shaking continued for a few minutes still. One last test… I tried to ssh in.

admin@OLYMPUS:~$ 

Huzzah! Life is good.

And now that I have a little hackable Terastation to play with, I think I’ll play with the NFS packages available for this. More to follow, maybe.

Oh, and if anybody has a Terastation and wants a known working hacked 1.08 firmware file, let me know. If it doesn’t work, though, I claim no responsibility whatsoever.

When In Doubt, Explode Violently

I’ve been sick with a flu the past week, which has been annoying enough, but last night we had a slight server issue. The computer back at my parents’ house that is home to a large number of my websites (ChipX86.com in particular), my e-mail, clients’ e-mail and sites, my DNS server, and several other things stopped seeing the rest of the network and therefore the Internet. My brother and I went through a long debugging cycle over the phone before giving up for the night. Today I had him bring things back to how they were beforehand, and now it all works. I still have no idea why. *sigh*

Anyhow, I’m going to start migrating things to my linode box. I don’t quite trust the one back home to last forever 🙂 At the very least, I should get an automatic backup of all system files and the important websites going, as well as the SVN repository.

I’m absolutely exhausted now, and should sleep, but instead I’m attempting to fix this bug in a change I’m doing in VMware, and I want to get some Galago work done and play some World of Warcraft. Where to start.. Food perhaps. Now I’m rambling.

Galago updates coming soon.