Virtualized servers & OpenBSD

I  now have virtualized all my servers with a vmware-server. I have chosen to use the rPath LAMP appliance for the web stuff and an OpenBSD Mailserver from Johan Allard. You might say why I buy a virtual appliance and not do it all by myself. The reason is simple.

  1. my main provider Firstdedicated decided to increase prices drastically (nearly 100%). Because of that I has an extraordinary right to end the lease  which I did.
  2. But that ment I had to set up all servers very quickly.

I had only did some minor testing before so I was lucky to get a helping hand to set up vmware-server on my new provider Hetzner. The new server should run about 4-5 virtual servers.

As I looked more deeply into what the LAMP appliance does I was not so happy with some decisions. Like they configure it with no root password. This leads to a phpmyadmin that tells me that I shouldnt work with a root mysql access without no password. And sure thats true and also I have changed that. Then I think the LAMP appliance primarily builds on rPath – and is not built up from the ground. So there are a lot of packages that one does not need. Like Postgresql. I like Potgresql and indeed think its better than Mysql. But I think a LAMP appliance which means “Linux, Apache, Mysql, PHP” should just contain that. The on a simple “conary updateall” which should give me the latest packages I got a brand new kernel but without a vmware trove which is required. The question is why should the appliance update a very critical component like a kernel and then fail to update. Personally I think the kernel should be the last think to update because it requires a reboot and should only be updated either if it gives you very better performance, features or fixes serious bugs. On an appliance not being able to reboot is fatal. So I would rather expect an appliance to be most conservative when it comes down to the  kernel. Personally I really dont care about any feature additions kernel wise. Where I do care most are updates to the latest PHP, because that tends to be vulnerable and all other components that are critical. But is working ok for now, but I think I will switch to an OpenBSD Apache appliance soon.

And after my server switch I also updated my OpenBSD desktop to version 4.3. This went quite well. I am still missing Epiphany 2.20.3 but there is a patch I need to test, soon. There are only a few other things I am missing on OpenBSD. When it comes to web this sure is flash support. I couldnt get that working ok with Opera and gnash, the free version has a very high CPU load still. Another thing is support for USB sticks. This doesnt seem to work dynamically/automatically as I would expect. But those sticks are very common, so they need to work if you want OpenBSD as a viable desktop alternative.Shouldnt be too hard. I always had a very high load average on this machine. I am now testing the “cwm” window manager as a GNOME replacement. Why cwm? Because OpenBSD works on this one as a new default as far as I understood. It was inspired by evilwm and so its similar to wmii. I think this is the right direction. Let me show you the quick reference:

C-M-Enter Spawn a new terminal.
C-M-Delete Lock the screen.
M-Enter Hide current window.
M-Down Lower current window.
M-Up Raise current window.
M-/ Search for windows.
C-/ Search for applications.
C-M-n Label current window.
M-Tab Cycle through currently visible windows.
M-S-Tab Reverse cycle through currently visible windows.
C-M-x Delete current window.
C-M-Escape Enter group edit mode.
C-M-[n] Select group n, where n is 1-9.
C-M-0 Select all groups.
M-Right Switch to next group.
M-Left Switch to previous group.
C-M-f Toggle full-screen size of window.
C-M-= Toggle vertical maximization of window.
M-? Spawn “Exec program” dialog.
M-. Spawn “Ssh to” dialog. This parses $HOME/.ssh/known_hosts to provide host auto-completion. ssh(1) will be executed via the configured
terminal emulator.
C-M-q Spawn “Exec WindowManager” dialog; allows you to
switch from cwm to another window manager without
restarting the X server.

for more see the cwm manual on OpenBSD. This allows very nice interaction with the GUI. cwm works on a file basis and has included some ideas from 9wm (plan 9 like window manager).The development of the official cwm has halted sometimes at 2005 it seems and is now developed as part of OpenBSD. This I think is one of the core principles of OpenBSD – a operating system as a whole – or lets say many BSD strive to do that. But like FreeBSD – they encourage to use Apache as a port . But this means that only some maintainers work on it – and its not considered part of the OS like in OpenBSD. So you cant really blame the OS if it fails. I think the big goal OpenBSD has and would go for if it had all ressources it could have is to have a full operating system that gives the people all the basics they need – so for the desktop – log in graphically, read the web, write mails, write letters, import photos from the camera. Right now OpenBSD mostly gives these features either per default via the command line or through  maintained packages. So you get a thunderbird and epiphany and OpenOffice.org or gthumb. But these are all maintained by different parties, they are NOT part of the OS. The OpenBSD team just cant do it all, but I am sure they would love to. Just like the plan9 guys. I think those goals could be accomplished. I dont see such efforts in Linux. Linux has accepted the fact that there are countless projects which each fight against each other. Linux really just is the kernel – and they try to accomplish some minor common sense which you can see in the LSB (Linux Standards Base) and also partly in the FreeDesktop project (which also is for other platforms). The problem is that all those effors go towards a new Linux desktop which does not have a common vision and is basically a “Windows done right” or some wannabe Mac. But that cant lead to something convincing.

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