Sunday, August 08, 2010

Zimbra Part II

I mentioned a while ago that I will be rolling out a Zimbra mail server. It's been a hard slog but I think I've got it together enough to roll out into production.

I had some grief with bad sectors showing up on the system disk I used. They showed up in the swap partition. When bad sectors show up here applications that are using that virtual memory will show behaviour akin to faulty memory. This meant that when I was migrating e-mail from the old mail server to the Zimbra server it would cause Zimbra to use a bit of swap memory for various things and come across these bad sectors in turn causing it to crash.

Having pinpointed the fault to bad sectors (using dmesg to see the disk errors) I went about imaging from the old disk to a new one. The system disk isn't mirrored, Zimbra lives on a mirror but the system disk stands alone - you can call it a compromise of costs if you like. However the cheap onboard RAID controller is either set to all SATA ports as RAID or none. I have to set up single disk stripes in order to add a single disk. This means that I have to contend with the obscure device mapping between the BIOS, RAID BIOS and the linux device mapper. Juggling all these around I managed to get the new disk in and booting without failed mounts and what not.

I decided after all this to clear the user accounts and aliases and refresh them. The reasons for doing this is that I modified the zmprov script for converting the passwd file to a zmprov command list to include UID and GIDs plus the SambaID. I could have created another script that simply modified each user however I felt it better to run thought the process of clearing and restoring users again just to be sure.

I also updated Zimbra to the latest 6.0.7 release. I also tested the shared calendaring and resource scheduling a bit further to make sure it fits the requirements - all works quite well and I like the different permission levels for managing resources.

I think it would be possible to make a Zimbra appliance of sorts so I wouldn't mind having a go at scripting the installation and packaging it up into a small power efficient server that can be easily used by small businesses or as departmental mail servers. Could be something to add to my consulting work on the side along with cheap and efficient network consulting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One Of The Situations I Find Myself In

The other day at work reception called and said that they had an Ian from Summerville High School on the phone wanting to know about what kind of software packages were in use by the Zoo. Straight away I had my doubts because we receive many calls from sales people wanting to get a foot in the door which is made easier by developing an understanding of our IT environment. Since it was still a doubt I decided to take the call.

Speaking to Ian on the phone he said that he would like to know more about the database systems in use by the Zoo. He said that he would be bringing in about 16 girls from Summerville High in Brisbane and part of their current education is about databases. It was strange because I would consider the zoo to be the last place to go on an excursion to learn about databases. Unless he had the foresight of knowing that we use databases to track our animals?

I compromised - I told him that he could call me and I would go out and talk about how the zoo uses various software packages with a database back-end.

The day came and I didn't receive a call at 9am when he said he would. I put it down to a failed sales guy and went on with my usual tasks. However at about midday I receive a call from him and it turned out that he was there but with only six girls. So I had to give an impromptu talk about database systems in the Zoo environment to six high school girls. It's not something I had expected to do while working as a IT guy in a zoo.

I think I taught them something. I haven't given a talk to a group about IT topics for sometime so I forgot to do things like gauge their existing knowledge or try to obtain more feedback from them in the form of questions and revisions. It did remind me how much I liked talking about the subject to others and I miss the training side of what I do.

It was but a small break from the mundane.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Zimbra, once more

I remember playing around with the Zimbra Collaboration Suite when it first came into public existence sometime ago. I was working for a different company back then and was looking at it from an ISPs perspective, it was good but wasn't exactly there yet but development was well underway in that regard. I played around with it a bit and stuck it on the 'neat tech to check out later' pile.

Later on and a change of jobs I looked at it again, this time from a medium enterprise perspective. This time I was looking specifically at the per user licensing for use of the Outlook Connector. The costs were okay but the limited testing in our environment proved it to be a bit hit and miss, although I contribute a large portion of the blame towards the lack of any formal directory service or structure.

Now that I'm presented with a rapid upgrade requirement to save our e-mail services (due to shortsightedness of management) I'm having to jump straight into rolling out Zimbra with limited testing. So I blew away a idle Win2k3 SBS server and installed Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server and tossed on Zimbra 6.0.6.1. I did do some testing beforehand on a xen vm just to make sure it would install and operate okay before I wasted a good 2k3 install.

Currently I'm impressed with how far ZCS has come along. There's plenty of documentation available in the wiki and forums and the 'zmprov' provisioning utility is working wonders with shifting user accounts over from the Sendmail/Dovecot/PAM setup on the old mail server. I am using imapsync to copy the 143GB of email over thanks to the handy scripts provided by the ZCS community.

One thing I like in particular is the ability to dump the {crypt} passwords straight from the shadow file into Zimbra's LDAP - no need to have everyone change their passwords. Although it is recommended and I will get them to do so after I'm satisfied that Zimbra is working okay.

I will update this post with a run down on the scripts I used with any modifications I made.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Simultaneous TV Output

Why can't current graphic adapters support simultaneous TV-Output these days? What changed for them to disable this feature which was common on older chipsets/cards?

Currently suffering from a problem where one of our Audio Visual PCs has died and required a new mainboard etc. Stick in a current PCI-E nVidia something a rather with it's TV out only to discover that it can not run both displays at once. We use the TV-Output to send video to a monitor which in turn feeds a visual mixing desk and outputs to the big screen in the Crocosium.

Now we're trying to track down a card that allows this which isn't as easy as we had hoped.