• Linux

    Going back to my roots: testing Mageia 4 beta

    Many years ago I used to be a Mandriva user and contributor, mostly active in packaging software. I stopped my contributions because I had the feeling the distribution was having more and more trouble keeping up with all new evolutions in the GNU Linux free software world and was loosing ground to other, more innovative distributions. Finally I settled for Debian myself. Even though it is not always the most innovative distribution itself, I liked its open, independent community-based nature. Now after all this time, I was curious to see how my former favourite distribution had evolved. Mandriva was forked by former Mandriva employees and contributors, and so Mageia was…

  • Linux,  Work

    Leap second causing ksoftirqd and java to use lots of cpu time

    Today there was a leap second at 23:59:60 UTC. On one of my systems, this caused a high CPU load starting from around 02h00 GMT+2 (which corresponds with the time of the leap second). ksoftirqd and some java (glassfish) process where using lots of CPU time. This system was running Debian Squeeze with kernel 2.6.32-45. The problem is very easy to fix: just run # date -s "`date`" and everything will be fine again. I found this solution on the Linux Kernel Mailing List: http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=134113389621450&w=2. Apparently a similar problem can happen with Firefox, Thunderbird, Chrome/Chromium, Java, Mysql, Virtualbox and probably other processes. I was a bit suprised that this problem…

  • Linux

    Creating your own GNOME session based on cairo-dock and Compiz

    Personally I absolutely do not like the gnome-shell in GNOME 3. I actually even hate it: it is slow, messy and cumbersome to use and I have the feeling that developers are not listening to criticism. Obvious and trivial design bugs which are well known, are totally ignored (bug 662738 is an example). For that reason, I went looking for an alternative desktop. KDE is way too bloated for a netbook with 1 GB of RAM, while XFCE is not as polished as a traditional GNOME 2.32 desktop. The best alternative I could find out right now, was to just replace the GNOME Shell by a custom panel or dock…

  • Linux,  Work

    MegaCLI: useful commands

    Recently I installed a server with a Supermicro SMC2108 RAID adapter, which is actually a LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260. LSI created a command line utility called MegaCLI for Linux to manage this adapter. You can download it from their support pages. The downloaded archive contains an RPM file. I installed mc and rpm on Debian with apt-get, and then extracted the MegaCli64 binary (for x86_64) to /usr/local/sbin, and the libsysfs.so.2.0.2 from the Lib_utils RPM to /opt/lsi/3rdpartylibs/x86_64/ (that’s the location where MegaCli64 looks for this library). Here are some useful commands: View information about the RAID adapter For checking the firmware version, battery back-up unit presence, installed cache memory and the…

  • Linux,  Work

    Fixing grub-probe error: Couldn’t find PV, check your device.map.

    Today I was getting this error when installing a new kernel on a server running Debian: /usr/sbin/grub-probe: error: Couldn't find PV pv2. Check your device.map. The error can be reproduce by running the update-grub command. The day before, a new RAID disk was added to this server, so I suspected this could be the cause. The file /boot/grub/device.map contained a reference to the first RAID disk as (hd0) but did not contain a reference to the new RAID disk. I ran # ls -l /dev/disk/by-id/ to find out which SCSI ID referred to sdb (the new RAID disk), and then added the following line to device.map: (hd1) /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-3600304800087c4f015fb4f2e4cc7a8e5 Now installing…

  • Linux,  Work

    Linux performance improvements

    Two years ago I wrote an article presenting some Linux performance improvements. These performance improvements are still valid, but it is time to talk about some new improvements available. As I am using Debian now, I will focus on that distribution, but you should be able to easily implement these things on other distributions too. Some of these improvements are best suited for desktop systems, other for server systems and some are useful for both.

  • Linux

    GNOME Shell moving forward

    Some news about GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell: The minimize and maximize window decoration buttons are now removed. It is estimated that these buttons are not useful actually, and users should be using Alt-Tab, the dock or different workspaces to switch between different applications, and maximize windows by double clicking on the title bar. As this will also make the desktop more difficult to access, I guess this also means that there are no plans to re-implement desktop icons. The problem with the ellipsis of long application names has been fixed by enlarging the icons in the application browser. On the #gnome-shell IRC channel there was a discussion earlier today…

  • Linux,  Work

    Improving Mediawiki performance

    Now that I am on the subject of improving performance, I configured some performance improvements for a Mediawiki installation here: Make sure you run the latest Mediawiki version. Mediawiki 1.16 introduced a new localisation caching system which is supposed to improve performance, so you definitely want this to get the best performance. Create a directory where Mediawiki can store the localisation cache (make sure it is writable by your web server). By preference store it on a tmpfs (at least if you are sure it will be big enough to store the cache), and configure it in LocalSettings.php: $wgCacheDirectory = "/tmp/mediawiki"; Iif /tmp is on a tmpfs, you might add…

  • Linux,  Work

    Improving performance by using tmpfs

    Today I analyzed disk reads and writes on a server with iotop and strace and found some interesting possible optimizations. With iotop you can check which processes are reading and writing from the disks. I always press the o, p and a keys in iotop so that it only shows me processes doing I/O and so that it will show accumulated I/O instead of the bandwidth. With the left and right arrows I select on which columns to sort the list. Once you have identified the processes wich are doing much I/O, you can check what they are reading or writing with strace, for example # strace  -f -p $PID …

  • Linux

    Is Unity a better alternative to the GNOME Shell?

    After my disappointment with the current GNOME 3.0 development version with GNOME Shell, I thought it would be interesting to compare it with Ubuntu’s Unity. Ubuntu has just published a new alpha version of what will become Ubuntu 11.04, so I used that for a quick test. On the positive side: On the dock on the left side there is a button which opens the workspace switcher which gives a nice overview of your virtual desktops and their contents. The workspace switcher is easy to find and it looks awesome: this might be exactly what is needed to make more end users finally get to use virtual desktops. The list…