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Author: Seth McCombs

Hard Drive Fixed? And Accidental Email Fix?

Hard Drive Fixed? And Accidental Email Fix?

So after an uneventful afternoon, after my fsck that left my laptop up and running, I shut down my laptop, and made my way home. With no need to fire up my laptop that night, while triaging my emails and Slack messages from my phone, I fired up my laptop the next day for the first time in a while….and initramfs. Well, shit.

So having realized that my Dropbox, Google Drive and email inbox contained most of the things that I needed on this machine, I decided a re-image was the route. Why? Not entirely sure, but I figured, blow it all away, and reinstall the OS and se where that leaves us. I had been running Ubuntu 17.04, and hadn’t had many issues, at least many issues that I couldn’t figure out, but I decided that the LTS was the best for me. If I was using this in production, I wanted it to be stable and stable for the foreseeable future.

Having started a reinstall, I made it about 60% through the install of the OS and we locked up. The installer actually threw an error, and crashed. Well, such is Linux? Maybe? Another failed OS install and I began to think this was hardware related. Since this was a corporate Dell, I knew I was warrantied against hardware failures, but really? A hardware failure this early into the life of the machine? Then it hit me, this was a 7450…the last model laptop that we deployed in the company that might have had a spinning platter hard drive. And that was the culprit.

Well Dell would send me a replacement, but I really didn’t want to replace a dead HDD with another, so I bit the bullet, bought a 256GB SSD and installed. Yes, I only got 256 GB, as I’ve said before, I don’t keep much on my hard drive, so save some money, don’t but extra space!

I decided to keep going with the 16.04 LTS install, and was back up and running in 20 minutes after install. I started installing all my programs again, when it came time to choose an email client. I installed Geary, and just for fun…I decided to install Nylas N1 again. I let it sync, and sync, annnnnnd sync. Then something surprising happened…it finished. AND I was receiving emails.

So rolling back to 16.04, something about Ubuntu 17.04 and N1 didn’t get along, but now, I can happily say that for about 2 weeks or so, I’ve been using Nylas N1 without any issues, aside from some blips with assigning labels/moving to folders, which in the grand scheme of things, I can tolerate. Now…is there a calendar manager available..?

Hard Drive Failures Make Me Sad Pt1

Hard Drive Failures Make Me Sad Pt1

It’s the first rule of computers. Back up. 2 is 1 and 1 is none. So what does that mean if you have no backups? That’s right, I said it. I, IT Manager by trade, did NOT have any backups on my main work laptop. No before I’m strung up by the collective IT workers of the world, let me try and “explain” (if I can), the reasons for my choices.

My former main laptop was a MacBook Pro, 15″, 2015 model. And that was using an offsite backup through Mozy. My work provide’s Mozy accounts, it’s not my favorite offsite backup software, but it’s not the worst. The Mac client leaves a little to be desired, but as a company of mostly Windows machines, it suffices. Since switching to Ubuntu 17.04 I decided I didn’t need a backup, since this was only meant to be temporary.

In addition to using Mozy to backup documents, I have a 100GB inbox in Exchange Online for one email, and a GSuite account for another email address. That means emails can live in my inbox folders, and I don’t need to deal with the wonderful file format that is PSTs. GSuite also includes unlimited Google Drive, and I also have a TB of Dropbox storage, so, cloud/someone else’s computer for the win? With that said, setting up a new computer is rather easy. Log into my password manager, sync Dropbox/Google Drive and I have most of what I need.

Well, there’s another twist to this story. And this also involves my stupidity. Last week my laptop decided that crawling was the new high speed, and running sudo apt-get update started failing. Not the standard, error “couldn’t lock file” message that I’ve received with an incomplete update or install/uninstall. Random error messages that I wasn’t quite sure of. When in doubt, reboot!

After a restart, I was presented with…initramfs. That was it. Maybe…one more reboot? No, no luck. We were stuck at init, and that was it. Did I mention I was in the middle of a weekday, in the midst of a vendor meeting no less? Great. So, hard drive issues maybe? An hour of fsck later and I was back, maybe a little sluggish but up and running none the less. I’ll get through the day and figure it out tomorrow, right?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Well it’s been a few weeks. My daily Linux use continues, so far, Ubuntu has been friendly on the Dell E7450, although I did bump the stock 8GB of RAM to 12GB (1 4GB and 1 8GB stick). I’ve been able to solve most of my problems. In a Windows environment, it’s taken some tricks, but I’m getting there.

  • Windows PC in my LAN room + RDP (Remmina Remote Desktop Client) for Active Directory management
  • Chrome/Firefox/Chromium for browsing
  • Sky – Skype for Business on Linux – (I think this is the most pleasant surprise of my switch to full time Linux. I was using the web based SfB client in Office 365 but it’s ok at best, Sky has been a breath of fresh air, I have some complaints, but it seems good overall.)
  • LibreOffice – Office…duh.

There’s still one unfilled need. Email clients. I can hear everyone now…and yes, I’ve tried using webmail, but with 4 email accounts, (2 work, 1 professional, 1 personal/social) it’s pretty shitty tabbing through those in a browser. (Yes I could only focus on the 2 work emails, but still not ideal).

In the last article, I mentioned Thunderbird’s runaway memory use, I haven’t tried it again with the extra 4GB of RAM, but with it being responsible for full system lock ups, I’m wary.  I seemed to have settled on to Geary. It served a need, it showed me my email, and let me send messages, great, barebones but effective. Then I heard Nylas Mail mentioned on Linux Unplugged. I think I came across Nylas in the past, when it was just the email service, not the application, but when I went to the website, I saw there was a free email client. It seemed to fit the needs of what I needed, so I downloaded it and got moving.

Well it seemed too good to be true. The interface was pleasant, I spent some time fiddling with the themes, browsing all the settings, it had great keyboard shortcut support and it just worked! It synced with my exchange account, 2 Gmail accounts and a FastMail account. So far so good. I could files emails in folders, I could send emails, this is good right? But then the problems popped up. It start with my exchange account, it was still syncing my folders for my exchange account DAYS later.

folderlistinNylasMailNow I have a lot of folders in my inbox, around 150, with a 100GB available inbox, everything I have is in my inbox. I’m only using <4GB of total space, but other apps allow me to set only 2 weeks of mail to sync, etc. Maybe I’ve found the practical limit for folders in Nylas, the other accounts were syncing fine, but not my exchange. And now, I wasn’t getting emails in my inbox, maybe the syncing folders was taking all of Nylas’ resources? I could deal with a lack of some synced folders, but no email in my inbox? That’s a basic need of email clients, show me my inbox. There is no way to manually sync email in Nylas, like a “Send/Receive” button or “Refresh”. (There is a “reload”, but it looks like that just refreshes the interface). I found myself needing to quit the app, kill any residual processes, and then relaunch to see new mail. No thanks.

Contacting support lead to an “uninstall/reinstall” for a fix, I’m an IT manager, that’s where I started. So after another uninstall, clearing the local email cache, and all that, I’ve started the sync OVER and now I’ll wait another few days and see what happens. Until then, I still don’t have an email client, I guess I’ll install Geary again.

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

Docker Logo
Docker Logo

So in the recent Dockercon announcements, a little dated by the time I wrote this (I move slow it seems), I was very intrigued to hear about Linuxkit. In the blog post announcing LinuxKit, Engineer Justin Cormack said that LinuxKit came about because “users wanted Linuxcontainer support but the platform itself did not ship with Linux included.” Docker was released on Mac OS and Windows, but the need was still there to have a Linux subystem as part of the container system.

What does that mean? Well Docker runs on Linux, configure your Docker containers on your Linux system, and get going. But not everyone in the world uses Linux, and to bring Docker to the Windows and Mac platform, Docker had to build a system to allow them to run the Linux subsystem parts they needed on the non-Linux platforms. That is, if you’re running Docker on Windows or Mac, you’re still running on Linux. Thus, LinuxKit was born. Swapnil Bhartiya said in is CIO Article – “LinuxKit…allows organizations to build their own containerized operating systems that are secure, lean, modular and portable.”

Docker partnered with some big names to make this happen, companies like HPE, Intel, IBM and Microsoft, and of course the Linux Foundation. It’s as architecture compatible as possible, bare metal, Virtual Machine, x86, ARM, LinuxKit allows you to run the subsystem you need for your containers wherever you need.

With LinuxKit, here’s the ability to build a custom subsystem, with only the needs in place that the run time needs, with sizedown to 35MB with the minimal boot-time, and of course, it’s OpenSource. Docker started with the barest of the bare essentials to get this down in size, the kernel, the system libraries, it’s all as small as it can be.

Docker was security minded about this, and in today’s fast paced world, security is paramount. With a read only root filesystem, among other features, container specific OSes remove points of attack, instead of a general purpose OS. Cormack says –  “All system services are containers, which means that everything can be removed or replaced.” This means that services are sandboxed, only given the permissions they need.

Best Laid Plans…

Best Laid Plans…

Seems like my MO these days has been to publish one blog post and promise a series.

Buy a laptop? Let’s do a series of reviews. Nope.

AWS Summit Announcements? Let’s review all the pieces. No.

So I’ve made a mental note that I’ll ignore to post here more. Let’s see what happens!