VMWare Server 2.0

Now that the time has come to upgrade shion‘s hardware, and now that I’m running a x86 based platform (well, it’s the 64 bit server install of Ubuntu Gutsy), I guessed it was time to have a look at my current bittorrent solution.

Of all the torrent clients out there, so far, I had the most painless experience with uTorrent: Acceptable download speeds, a very nice web interface and a nice looking user interface. The only drawback is that it requires Windows to run and I had no constant-running Windows-PC at home.

In fact, I didn’t even have a Windows-PC at all. VMWare Fusion came to the rescue as it allowed me to install Windows on a virtual machine and run that on my main mac at home. I chose fusion as opposed to parallels because I always knew that I was going to update shion sooner or later, so I wanted the portability of the VMWare virtual machines (they run everywhere VMWare runs on – no conversion, no nothing).

And now that I did replace shion, I’ve installed the latest beta version of VMWare Server 2.0 and moved the virtual machine over to the newly born shion 2.0 which means that I now have a constantly running “Windows-PC” at home.

The move was painless as expected, but the whole process of installing VMWare server or the web interface was not as painless. VMWare Server feels exactly like every other proprietary Unix application I ever had to deal with. Problems with shared libraries (PAM, Gentoo, 32bit emulation and vmware server 1.0 is pure hell), problems with init-scripts not working, problems with incomprehensible error messages, you name it.

And once I actually got the thing to run, the first thing I had to do was to configure a whole bunch of iptables-rules because it seems impossible to bind all the 7 ports the web interface opens to localhost only (shion also is my access router, so I certainly don’t want the vmware-stuff exposed on eth1).

And actually using the web interface means forwarding all the 7 ports. In VMWare Server 1, it sufficed to forward the one port the console application used.

All this to finally end up without a working console access – the browser plugin they use for this seems not to work with Mac OS X and adding all the 7 ports to putty in my client windows VM, frankly, was more complicated than what I could get out of it.

Before this goes final with the expectation of being as useful as version 1 was, they need to give us back a native client and a smaller number of ports to forward.

shion died

After so many years of continued usage, shion (not the character from Xenosaga, my Mac Mini) died.

The few times it’s actually capable of detecting its hard-drive at boot-time, it loses contact to it shortly after loading the kernel. And the hard drive makes an awful kind of noise which is a very good pointer at what’s wrong.

Now, I could probably just replace the hard drive, but that old G4 processor, the 512 Megs of RAM and the two single USB-ports forcing me to cascade hub after hub all are good reasons to upgrade the hardware itself.

And thus, Shion 2.0 was born.

I grabbed an unused Mac Mini from the office and tried installing Ubuntu Gutsy on it, which worked well, but Leopard’s “Startup Disk” preference pane didn’t list the partition I installed Ubuntu on as a bootable partition. Booting Linux via pressing alt during pre-boot worked, but, hey, it’s a server and I don’t have a keyboard ready where shion is going to stand.

So I did it the brute-force way and just installed Ubuntu using the whole drive. It takes a hell of a lot of time for the EFI firmware to start missing the original GUID partition scheme and the original EFI parition, but when it does, it starts GRUB in the MBR partition, so I’m fine.

This does mean that I will be unable to install later firmware upgrades (due to the lack of a working OS X), but at least it means that I can reboot shion when needed without having to grab a keyboard.

This, provided that Domi will be able to solder me a display adaptor making the EFI BIOS emulation think that a display is connected.

All in all, I’m not totally happy with the next generation of shion. Not booting without a display attached, long boot times, non-working bios updates and, especially, no eSATA, but it’s free, so I’ll take it. I guess the old shion just chose a terribly inconvenient time to die.