(   )
                          (    )
                           (    )
                          (    )
                            )  )
                           (  (                  /\
                            (_)                 /  \  /\
                    ________[_]________      /\/    \/  \
           /\      /\        ______    \    /   /\/\  /\/\
          /  \    //_\       \    /\    \  /\/\/    \/    \
   /\    / /\/\  //___\       \__/  \    \/
  /  \  /\/    \//_____\       \ |[]|     \
 /\/\/\/       //_______\       \|__|      \
/      \      /XXXXXXXXXX\                  \
        \    /_I_II  I__I_\__________________\
               I_I|  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I_II  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I II__I  I     XXXXXXX     I
            ~~~~~"   "~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tue, 18 Mar 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

As a long-time fan of Carl Sagan's works, I am happily gobbling up the recent Cosmos remake on Fox with Neil deGrasse Tyson (NdT). It is very well done and NdT was definitely the right person to host the show.

Cosmos spaceship on Europa

[Image © Fox]

I'm disappointed with the format, however. They put each episode into a standard, 42-minute TV 'hour', meaning 18 minutes of commercials. This is in itself amazing given most people watch TV via cable, and pay a monthly fee to do so. If I'm paying for cable, there should be no ads, but I digress. With a show like this, the breaks are awkward, they really interrupt the flow, the editing can't hide that. I've seen other placements for ads - like having them all at the beginning and end of the hour, so at least the show is uninterrupted. Fox used to do this for the '24' season premieres, so it's not without precedent, and for an educational show, it should be the norm.

Apart from that, the show is wonderful. It's good to see science literacy making a comeback, especially with recent stories about the rate of evolution denial in the US [0].

posted at: 09:53 | path: / | permalink | carl sagan, cosmos, evolution, neil degrasse tyson

Wed, 12 Mar 2014

Adventures of a Sysadmin, Fun With cPanel Edition

Oh, how I loathe cPanel. It completely takes over your linux servers. Once installed, there is no uninstalling it, it has hooks into every part of the OS. Once infected by the cPanel virus, you must make all changes to the server configuration through cPanel, or cPanel's highly intuitive collection of command line utilities. Everything.


I have a client for whom I assist in maintaining a cPanel-infected server. He has about 25 hosted accounts, and since cPanel has made it oh-so-easy for him to perform common administrative tasks himself, he felt the need to buy a shell domain just to use as a DNS zone for a handful of other domains - all on the same server (right, it doesn't make sense to me, either). In effect he's only using this dummy zone's NS records to get traffic to the server itself.


So anyway, the other day he asks me to transfer one of his websites to a new server. No problem, cPanel provides a web-gui just for that! It first backs up the entire account, then, instead of just transferring it, it helpfully compresses it all and transfers the tarball to the new server. Of course, this is his biggest account, with 4GB of website. And holy fuck, this thing is the slowest compression utility I have ever seen, somehow it is gzipping at like 1MB every 20 seconds. It must be using some native perl interface to zlib. I'll let it run, why not? I've got time to kill. Two hours later...sigh, kill the web page, which is spinning aimlessly, kill the backup process. Delete the 270MB partial backup tarball (270MB in 2 hours...). Delve into the cPanel docs for that obscure command line switch not exposed to the web gui that will fix things.

Aha! --skiphomedir. Re-run backup from command line, which now takes 10 seconds. Install it on the new server, another 10 seconds. Rsync the home directory to the new server - a minute or two via a fast LAN connection. Phew.

Now my client says we MUST use the exact same DNS servers for this domain. "Problem," I say. "You're using the nameservers for this domain in six other domains. If we move the nameserver IPs, those other six sites will break. I'll just change the host records for this website to point to the new server...it will take a few seconds." This works, but I guess is not what he wants as it is far too easy. I should have intuited that moving a website meant also moving the DNS server. I change the IPs back, he buys a new domain name, I create a new dummy domain on the new server, and give its zone two NS records that point to...you guessed it, itself. Now he has to change the delegation at the registrar. And create the glue records. And this just became a whole lot harder to undo if there is a problem.


Ah, cPanel's so-called easyapache. Re-compile apache and PHP, and choose all the addon modules you need. It's easy! Just don't think of using older versions of PHP. Or perhaps the older versions using deprecated functions still in use on a website you just transferred to a new server. Shit. . "Hmm, cPanel has old versions of PHP I can install, they are unsupported, but who cares! Sweet!" . Website now showing a blank page. . Apparently, enabling an old version of PHP as an addon module to easyapache helpfully ignores all other addon modules. I mean, it's old and unsupported, why would you need that pesky GD API?


posted at: 16:50 | path: / | permalink | cpanel, linux, sysadmin