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Ubuntu Intrepid on an old Dell PowerEdge 1400SC

I had an old Dell PE 1400SC that I wanted to run Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) on. It turns out this required some dusting and cleaning of the digital type, but a little extra attention and it's humming along great now. If you're running into the same thing, maybe I can show you the way and save you some time. The two primary problems I had was an old BIOS firmware and a missing kernel option after install.

Upgrading Firmware
So it turns out that Dell has some firmware upgrade options for Linux based computers, but if the computer doesn't yet have an OS and you can't get Ubuntu installed yet because of the OS you have to pull out a Windows disk and install. I tossed a small IDE drive onto the same ribbon cable that the CD drive was on and popped in a Windows XP CD. Not intending to leave it installed for more than a couple hours, I don't believe licensing is an issue.

Once I did the typical install I acquired the firmware. Don't go with the default BIOS download. It requires floppies and I don't know about you, but I don't even have any in my office. The other will install from the running XP install. Select the proper one from this PE 1400SC BIOS Download page.

Then all you have to do is run it and your first problem is solved. Be sure to remove this drive before you install Ubuntu as this will end up holding the boot sector and you'll have some difficulty removing it later.

Won't Boot Intrepid After Install
After having done the complete install of Intrepid, I went to boot up the system and enjoy my fresh Linux goodness, but it was not to be. I receive a message complaining about a bad UUID and suggesting rootdelay be added to the kernel and some other things. Then it bounced me to the BusyBox prompt.

  1. At the busy box prompt, type reboot
  2. When the Grub prompt comes up, hit 'e' to edit the default line
  3. At the end of this line, type rootdelay=50
  4. Then hit 'b' to boot the box, this works, but is only temporary

In order to make the rootdelay stay between kernel upgrade and other process that upgrades grub, I also ran through this process after logging in.

  1. Run sudo vim /boot/grub/menu.lst
  2. Find the line starting with # kopt=root=UUID...
  3. Add rootdelay=50 to the end of that line. (type i in vim to insert text)
  4. Save and exit the document (hit your ESC key to leave insert mode and then :wq to write and quit vim)
  5. Run sudo update-grub
  6. Run sudo reboot just to prove that it worked

You should now be up and running. That old iron in renewed to its former glory through the power of linux.

Making Content Creation More Friendly in Drupal

This is a super simple way to make adding content to a drupal site just a little bit more comfortable. If you've created a Content Type, then you know you have the opportunity to change the "Title" and "Description" field names. The first time I ran into this I had trouble figuring out why I'd change these. The more I get into Drupal I find more and more reasons to tweak this.

Taking Drupal Mobile with Domain Module

I've been playing around with the idea of a mobile site for awhile now. This evening I've created the very basic beginning of I used the Domain Access module for Drupal to create a second domain for that has the same content. Using the Domain Theme module that comes with Domain Access, I can then provide a handheld theme. My current one is pretty much the Zen STARTERKIT theme with a few things stripped out of the page.tpl.php. I'll look to improve it in the future.

Changing the Wording of "Submitted by" for Drupal Pages

I've found myself wanting to change the wording of "Submitted By" in a drupal blog and pages for a church site. When you only have one or two authors and the primary point of the site isn't blogging or writing, then "submitted" seems like a somewhat awkward term. Changing this is really quite simple. Here's a quick tutorial.

  1. The first thing you'll want to do is turn on the Theme Developer module. It is one of the ones in the Dev Module.
  2. Then click the little button in the lower-left to activate it.
  3. Select "Submitted by" and check out the dark grey box that appears. You'll notice that it identifies a function that is providing this. It also identifies a number of other function names it looks for to provide this.
  4. You should click on that to take you to a Drupal site that will show you the function.
  5. Copy this function into your own theme's template.php file. This is a hook so rename the first part of the function to the name of your theme. The function name will look something like themename_node_submitted(). It should be one of the candidates in the grey box you originally found the first function name in.
  6. Inside the code you pasted into template.php, you'll notice the words "Submitted by". Simply change that to your preferred wording. Mine was "Written by".
  7. Then you just need get drupal to recognize this new function by emptying your cache by going to the Admin-> Site Configuration -> Performance page.

A Church Drupal Installation Profile

I've been thinking an Installation Profile for churches would not only be helpful to me, but also many others so I spent some time yesterday playing around with the idea and made some progress. I haven't figured everything out, but I started with the phpedu_profile-6.x-1.1-beta1. (As you can see my efforts are directed at Drupal 6.) phpedu_profile was far more complicated than I expect to need so I cut out a lot, most of it even. Then I exported content types from a church site I've done and used their code to import. I also have views, but haven't yet figured out how to import them.

Going to DrupalCon 2008

Linux saves Mac and Windows from themselves

I had an interesting day yesterday. Circumstances led to a rush job at a clients house. I had to pull the backup data out of a Time Capsule from Time Machine backups without the Mac it backed up from and then restore these files to a Windows XP based machine.

In order to do the recovery I acquired another Mac to connect to the Time Capsule's Mac formatted partition and pulled the recovery out over the air. Due to the clutter on the disk, and not being able to use Time Machine, it took me awhile to find what I wanted. I pulled it down onto an external HD to transfer to the Windows machine. This HD turned out to be formatted for the Mac so windows couldn't read it.

No problem! I called my wife and asked her to drop off one of my Ubuntu Linux LiveCDs, booted into Linux, mounted the Mac partitioned External hard drive and the Windows NTFS partitioned internal hard drive and got busy moving things. I simply copied the files across. Linux became the glue and solved the problem quickly for my needs.

My wife reminded me of how frequently I need that Linux CD and encouraged me to keep one around. She knows right where I keep them because I ask for them somewhat regularly, so today I went out and purchased an 8Gb USB memory key to install this LiveCD on. It is a lot easier to carry around. I followed the directions provided by USB Pen Drive Linux called USB Ubuntu 8.04.1 Persistent install from Linux. They were very well written. I was so pleased with what they put out that I even spent some time checking out the websites for the ads on the site, hopefully giving something back to them.

I think my wife intends to see that a few of these disks end up in the glove compartment, just in case.

Mollom - The Bullet Proof Vest

I can remember the good old days when blog spammers were as bad or worse than email spammers. I've mananged to quelch the noise of my email spam through the Google's Email service. It's nice to hear myself think again when I open my inbox. Now I'm deluged mostly by stuff I ask for.

Protection from blog and web form spam has been another issue entirely. Things have come along, but they all have required my attention. I haven't been deleting thousands of comment spams a week on my blog for a long time, but the methods for protection were always a nasty necessity. I wanted my noble readers to be able to participate in the discussion immediately. Having to wait for me to wake up and realize that they have commented and then letting their comment through the net slowed thing downs in a fast world.

Churches and Drupal

Churches are increasingly turning to Drupal for their websites. Sometimes built by web guys who are related to the church, sometimes built by pastors who see the need and then sometimes built by people with experience dealing with Drupal. I'd be glad to share with you how Drupal can make your church website sing. A list of other churches and religious organizations using Drupal for their websites can be found here.

Since elementary school, I've had the opinion that you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. I would watch shoes as I stood in the lunch line. Now I say you can tell a lot about a church by their website. I rejected this for awhile, but our latest church search simply confirmed it for me despite my desire not to believe it.

You may enjoy flipping through some and learning about the churches based on the information on the site, the quality of the writing, the quality of the design and the overall care taken in developing the site. Also, watch for who the audience of the website is. This will tell you a lot about who this church serves best. Some churches are better at discipleship and strengthening Christians. Others are stronger in evangelism and reaching outside their walls. Enjoy this casual study, should you choose to accept it!

SAN/NAS/DAS and VMware

While the technology company I work at has both a EMC CLARiiON CX3 20 and a Dell NAS running Windows 2003 Storage Server, which are rock solid, lately we have been testing a three unit cluster of LeftHand NSM 2060 and some of LeftHand's VSA machines on our ESX cluster.

Most people are probably familiar with the CLARiiON and the Dell NAS but I doubt many have heard of LeftHand Networks. Their NSM 2060 is a rebranded Dell 2950 running a custom Linux distro that they call SanIQ. While it is one of those classic arguments (re: Microsoft/Apple/Linux) where people feel irrationally passionate I personally do not have strong feelings about iSCSI networks versus fibre channel. I prefer iSCSI though because of the reduced complexity and cost in setting it up. (Our CLARiiON is actually connected by iSCSI to our ESX cluster) What excites me about the LeftHand SANs is the ability to leverage iSCSI to slowly build up a SAN.

A SAN from EMC, depending on options, costs in the $100,000 range while an equivalent SAN from LeftHand will cost between $45,000-$75,000. This is accomplished because of the relative cheapness of the hardware and the lack of fibre channel support. The SAN/IQ software allows you the ability to add more units to a cluster on the fly and will automatically restripe and add the additional storage to the pool. Rather than having to completely dump your SAN when need more space this allows you to continue to add machines as you need them.

One of the biggest arguments for fibre channel against iSCSI is the speed advantage it has. This is a very valid argument but one of the neat things about building a SAN with LeftHand or Dell's EqualLogic is that every time you add another machine to the SAN cluster it increases in speed because you are adding more iSCSI ports. After working at a college where money for IT was often non-existent I am always interested in inexpensive solutions. As interesting as LeftHand's NSM appliances are they are still out of the price range for most small businesses/ministries. In a later post I will elaborate on, what I think is much more powerful for them, LeftHand's VSA machines.