Movable Type, Perl, Apache, CGI, PostgreSQL/SQLite/MySQL… Oh, My!

6 05 2009

Bah. Humbug!

I wasted hours on this one as I was trying to install MovableType on my Mac. I had long ago installed PostgreSQL using MacPorts, and that’s where everything started to break. See, MT scripts all begin with #!/usr/bin/perl Don’t get me wrong; I have a perl interpreter there. The problem turns out to be that it’s a 32-bit executable and MacPorts builds 64-bit binaries. So in the end, if you want to use a MacPorts database installation with Movable Type, you end up having to hack all its files to begin with #!/opt/local/bin/perl

This command worked for me:

find . -type f -exec sed -i -e 's|#!/usr/bin/perl|#!/opt/local/bin/perl|g' {} \;


Promising Linux Admin Blog

6 04 2009
Pupeno seems to have some really good answers to questions that have been rattling around in my brain for too long, including

Maintaining compiled versions of elisp packages

5 04 2009

Looks like my “portable elisp system,” which started with Peter Teichman’s work, needs some slickening of its auto-recompilation.  There are a few issues:

  1. Some packages, e.g. w3m-el, has internal recompilation dependencies among its files.  In other words, if you want things to Just Work, you’d better use their makefile
  2. Some packages have invalid elisp in them (see org-mode’s EXPERIMENTAL directory)
  3. It doesn’t account for files being removed from packages.  For example, Git’s vc integration was moved out of the Git tree and into the emacs tree, but I still had the .elc file hanging around, masking the file it should have been using.

Not sure what I’ll do about all this yet. If anyone has really bright ideas, please comment!

Speedy Mail (Sending) From Emacs

18 03 2009

I’ve long ago given up resisting Emacs as the most productive working environment for me. But a few things still make it a drag. One is that emacs sends mail in the foreground, holding up my UI while it connects to my server and ships the message out.

The way around this problem is to use a local MTA (Mail Transfer Agent). I’ve done it before with exim (I’ll try to dig up my old config if you ask for it) and for my Mac I’ve just done it again with postfix. I followed this thread (and posted followups about the parts that didn’t work for me as initially prescribed).

Once done, I set message-send-mail-function to ‘message-send-mail-with-sendmail, and was off to the races.

One remaining worry is what happens when the connection to the server fails; is the mail lost, postponed, or what? When I have time to look into that, I’ll post an update here.

The other thing this brings up: what I need to do to make reading from my IMAP server more responsive? That’s another project for another day.

News Flash: MacOS NDG Either

14 03 2009

It turns out that MacOS has its share of annoying quirks that can result in hours of delicious yak shaving. Here are a couple I just wasted time on:

  • My bash prompts started showing up as “108:~”  Turns out this was due to the Mac’s goofy way of choosing a hostname combined with the fact that when I rebooted my machine I was connected at a TMobile hotspot. Adding to /etc/hostconfig works around the issue, but it’s not encouraging that that file starts with the comment # This file is going away, and isn’t changed when I update the hostname in my sharing preferences pane.
  • Spotlight started indexing my remotely-mounted TimeMachine volume, and my attempts to tell it not to by using the Spotlight prefs pane resulted in an unknown error. Eventually I stumbled across
    # mdutil -i off /Volumes/TimeMachine
    # mdutil -E /Volumes/TimeMachine/

    , but I’m still not entirely sure that will work. Fingers crossed.

Iozone Author Speaks Out… Hilariously

27 02 2009

When my experiment in benchmarking ZFS-Fuse yielded more data than I knew what to do with, I googled around a bit and found at least one other person in a similar position who contacted the author (Don Capps) of my benchmarking tool (Iozone) to get his take on the results. I figured it was worth a shot, and found Don to be extremely generous with his time and expertise. He distilled my numbers down into this graph, which made things a lot easier for me to grasp:

Distilled Worst-Case Stats for ZFS-FUSE vs. XFS

Distilled Worst-Case Stats for ZFS-FUSE vs. XFS

Basically, Don only looked at the results where the file size exceeded the system’s RAM size, since any transfer that fits in RAM isn’t going to tell you much about the underlying filesystem technology.
He also told me that if I was getting those kinds of speeds on commodity hardware, I should feel pretty good about my results.

So I posted a little about these results in a relevant mailing list, and someone else posted some numbers for a competing FUSE filesystem that were so much better that I had to ask Don for his opinion. Naturally, Don wanted details about the poster’s hardware and testing protocol, and suggested that we were very likely seeing pure cache effect in those numbers. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to get any details—just one among several reasons I’m not giving those numbers much weight. In any case, Don followed up with a few messages about what sort of setup one would need to reproduce those claimed speeds. Those followups are the point of this post. They’re reposted here with Don’s permission, and IMO they speak for themselves:

Since you are interested in the science, I thought
I would describe some ways to get 1.2 Gbytes/sec
off the platter. ( It can be done, not easily, but
if one has ~infinite resources…..)

Note: Assume all values below are ballpark and not any
specific hw.

Assuming ~40 Mbytes/sec/disk ( Typical modern disk drive )

Then to get to 1.2 Gbytes/sec == 1200 Mbytes/sec
1200/40 == 120/4 == 30 disk drives.

Now we need someway to connect 30 disks. Assuming
we can get 10 disks in a JBOD, we’ll nee 3 disk
enclosures… Well… Not exactly. We still need
to have an aggregate interconnect of 1200 Mbytes/sec.
Ok.. Fibre Channel (1 Gigabit FC) can do around 100 Mbytes/sec
so… 1200/100 = 12 fibre channel connections. That’s
a bit of a bummer as most PC’s don’t have 12 PCI slots.
So… We will need to go to 2 Gigabit fibre and use 6
slots,… Oh darn… Most PC’s doesn’t have 6 free
PCI slots, so we’ll probably need 3 dual ported 2 Gigabit
FC cards. Since each of these cards is going to be
sustaining 400 Mbytes/sec, it’s probably a good
idea to make these PCI express slots.
So far we now have:
30 disks
6 Disk enclosures with 5 disks in each.
3 Dual ported 2 Gigabit FC cards.

Now on to the next bottleneck… Be sure that one
starts with a motherboard that has a backplane that
can sustain 1200 Mbytes/sec.

Next up, integrity… I doubt that most folks are
going to want to be ripping through data a 1.2 Gbytes/sec
and not care about their data. So… Chances are good
that they’ll want some level of RAID. RAID 1 would be
a good choice for speed, but it does mean that we’ll
need 60 disks instead of 30. If we use RAID 5 then we
will still need more disks, but not as many more. The
bummer of RAID 5 is that it generally slows down the
writer. To make up for that issue, we’ll have to
either choose more disks (RAID1) or a smarter RAID
enclosure, that can do the RAID5 XOR ops independently
of the system CPU, and hopefully double buffered, and
with multiple XOR engines and data paths. All doable,
but it does increase the cost of the system.

So.. Here we are. We can do 1.2 Gbytes/sec, but it
is not going to be cheap or easily achieved. If we
ballpark this we get something like:

* 3 dual ported 2Gbit FC controllers with multiple RAID5
XOR engines… ~ $3,000
* 40 to 60 disks .. ~$4,000 to $6,000.
* 6 JBOD enclosures.. ~$6,000
* 6 FC cables… ~$600
* PC with nice MB for that 1200 Mbytes/sec
backplane.. ~$2,000
~$15,600 to ~$17,600

( And that could go up higher if one wanted dual path
HA type connectivity as it would push one to dual
ported enclosures and quad ported FC cards )

Don Capps

P.S. The above may get one to 1.2 Gbytes/sec for sequential
workloads, but it will not be nearly so speedy if
that workload were to shift towards a random I/O
access pattern… 🙂

P.P.S. Once you have this beast built, then you can
start thinking about the environmental impact.
It’s pretty likely that these 6 disk enclosures,
60 disks, and the PC, are generating a fairly
significant quantity of heat, noise, and making
the electric meter spin at rate you have never
seen before, and can not afford to sustain 🙂
BUT, it will be beautiful and a work, of both,
science and art 🙂 … Make sure you install
plenty of blue LEDs, as the blinking lights with
this many disks is mesmerizing, and will satisfy your
wife that you have constructed something really
interesting and have not been simply wasting your
time… 🙂

Don, this is hilarious and educational. Do you mind if I post it on my blog
(with attribution, of course)?


I don’t mind. But I did leave off a few other thoughts…

Environmental impact continued:

It’s fairly likely you’ll need to hire an electrician to
come out and put in a special circuit and rewire the
bedroom (where you have the storage system) as the current
draw is probably going to exceed the typical breaker used
for a bedroom. + $500

You also may need to call the air-conditioner folks and
upgrade that 3 ton handler to a 5 ton handler, as the
thermal load is pretty high and without addition cooling
capacity, your house may become a sauna. + $6,000
It may also be possible to construct the beast inside of
a water cooled chamber and put a heat exchanger outside
your house. A small cooling tower should do the trick
but you may wish to check with the homeowners association
before you install the external tower.

Make sure the room is very dark and those blinking blue
LEDs look their best, otherwise you may need to explain
to your wife why you spent $23,500 on this project, instead
of a new car, a fur coat, a diamond ring, or a European
vacation … Trust me, you really want those LEDs to be

Don Capps

P.S. If you would like I could send photos of my home
bedroom lab. Yep… My wife really liked the blinking
blue lights, but then again, she is a computer scientist
too 🙂

I’m not going to post a picture of the inside of Don’s bedroom here, but I can tell you that while the rack is impressive, it’s not nearly as scary as I expected. My guess is he’s not trying to reproduce these claimed performance numbers 😉

So Outdated Already?

25 02 2009

Today I finally got VMWare up and running on Hydra, and simultaneously installed Windows XP Pro x64 edition on that and on my new MacBookPro 17″ (more on that later!) under VMWare Fusion. The neverending sequence of updates required every time you install Windows completed in—well, I’m not sure; I’m still waiting—let’s just say a lot less time on the MacBook than on my relatively muscular server.  Yeah, the MacBook has a higher clock rate but the server has twice as many cores, eight times as many disks, and dual I/O channels.

In fact, these updates seem to be deadly slow on that VM.  I don’t know how to account for it; top says vmware-vmx is using a maximum of 36% of one core and zfs-fuse is using maybe 11% max.  I’m looking at an “Installing Updates” window that has had an empty progress bar for the past ten minutes.  It’s almost as though there was some sort of deadlock in the filesystem.  Grrr…