Josef “Jeff” Sipek


I briefly mentioned that I was debugging a boot hang. Since the hang does not happen every time I try to boot, it may take a couple of reboots to get the kernel to hang. Doing this manually is tedious. Thankfully it can be scripted. Therefore, I made a simple script and a SMF manifest that runs the script at the end of boot. If the system boots fine, my script reboots it. If the system hangs mid-boot, well my script never executes leaving the system in a hung state. Then, I can break into the kernel debugger (mdb) and investigate.

I’m sharing the two here mostly for my benefit… in case one day in the future I decide that I need my system automatically rebooted over and over again.

The script is pretty simple. Hopefully, 60 seconds is long enough to log in and disable the service if necessary. (In reality, I setup a separate boot environment that’s the default choice in Grub. I can just select my normal boot environment and get back to non-timebomb system.)


sleep 60

reboot -p

The tricky part is of course in the manifest. Not because it is hard, but because XML is … verbose.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE service_bundle SYSTEM "/usr/share/lib/xml/dtd/service_bundle.dtd.1">
<service_bundle type='manifest' name='rebooter'>
	<service name='site/rebooter' type='service' version='1'>
		<dependency name='booted'

		<property_group name="startd" type="framework">
			<propval name="duration" type="astring" value="child"/>
			<propval name="ignore_error" type="astring"

		<instance name='system' enabled='true'>
				timeout_seconds='0' />

				timeout_seconds='0' />

		<stability value='Unstable' />

That’s all, carry on what you were doing. :)

Timesavers: ZFS & BE

I’ve mentioned Boot Environments before. Well, earlier this week BEs and ZFS snapshots saved me a bunch of time. Here’s what happened.

I was in the middle of installing some package (pkg install foo) when my laptop locked up. I had to power cycle it the hard way. When it booted back up, I retried the install, but pkg complained that some state file was corrupted and it didn’t want to do anything. Uh oh. I’ve had similar issue happen to me on Debian with aptitude, so I knew that the hard way of fixing this issue was going to take more time than I’d like to dedicate to it (read: none). Thankfully, I use OpenIndiana which has ZFS and BEs.

  1. Reboot into a BE from a while ago (openindiana-3). The latest BE (openindiana-4) was created by pkg about a month ago as a clone of openindiana-3 during a major upgrade.
  2. Figure out which automatic ZFS snapshot I want to revert to. A matter of running zfs list -t all rpool/ROOT/openindiana-4 | tail -5 and picking the latest snapshot which I believe is from before pkg messed it all up. I ended up going an hour back just to make sure.
  3. Revert the BE. beadm rollback openindiana-4@zfs-auto-snap_hourly-2011-10-25-19h11
  4. Reboot back into openindiana-4.

After the final reboot, everything worked just fine. (Since the home directories are on a different dataset, they were left untouched.)

Total downtime: 5 minutes
Ease of repair: trivial

Your Turn

Do you have a corrupt package manager war story? Did you just restore from backup? Let me know in a comment.

OpenIndiana The What and Why

You have seen me publish two posts about OpenIndiana, but neither of them really says what it is and why you should use it.

The What

OpenIndiana started off as a fork of OpenSolaris. At first, its aim was to provide an alternative to Oracle’s soon-to-be-released Solaris 11, but lately its aim shifted to “an enterprise-quality OS alternative to Linux.”

OpenIndiana is much like a distro in the Linux world. It relies on the Illumos project for the kernel and basic userspace utilities (the shell, etc.). In September 2010, Illumos forked the OpenSolaris kernel and utilities, and OpenIndiana forked the surrounding userspace (the build system for all the packages that make the system usable).

The Why

It is the technology that is the reason I started using OI. Here are some of the features that either drew me in to try OI, or made me stay.

Crossbow was the name of the project that consisted of a major revamp of the network stack. With this revamp (which was available in OpenSolaris), you can create virtual network interfaces, vlans, bridges, switches (called etherstubs), as well as aggregate links with simple commands — quickly, and all the configuration is persistent. You can dedicate both physical and virtual links to zones (see below) to create entire network topologies within one computer. (see dladm(1M) and ipdam(1M))
These days, everyone is happily setting up virtual machines whenever they need an environment they can tweak without affecting stability of other services. Solaris zones are a great virtualization technology. They allow you to set up multiple Solaris instances (called zones) that have a separate root filesystem (much like chroot). Unlike chrooted environments, having root access in a zone does not give you unrestricted access to the kernel. Zones combined with crossbow is a great combination to consolidate separate systems onto a single Solaris host. (I am currently writing a post about using zones and crossbow on a home server/router.)
Boot Environments (BE) & IPS
Long story short, if the package manager (IPS) detects that a potentially major change is going to occur during an update (e.g., a driver or kernel upgrade), it clones the current root filesystem (easy to do thanks to ZFS) and applies the updates there. It then adds a menu entry to grub to boot into this new environment. The current environment is unchanged. At your leisure, you just reboot into the new environment. If everything works — great. If, however, things break, you can just reboot into the previous BE, and mount the new BE’s root and fix things up. This means that the only downtime the system sees is the reboot or two.
There’s plenty of ZFS discussion elsewhere. My favorite features about it are (in no particular order): snapshots, deduplication, integrated volume management, and checksumming.

So there you have it. Sure, many of Solaris’s features are available in some shape or form on Linux, but they tend to be either horribly crippled, or if you are “lucky,” lacking sane management interface.

If you want to see what all this fuss is about, I suggest you grab the Live DVD (or Live USB) image on the download page and give it a try.

Powered by blahgd