Ubuntu Annoyances

I’ve always been a RedHat man myself. Since around RedHat 3 I’ve run with that, and then Fedora, on my laptop and RedHat/CentOS on my servers.

At work Ubuntu is the choice and so that’s what I’m using there. I have recently found a few annoyances though, that I’ve not come across with RedHat/Fedora.

/boot fills up

It seems that with the default installation of both 12.04 LTS and 14.04 LTS versions the boot partition fills up over time (less than twelve months). The system installs updated versions of the kernel and related files. This continues until the partition is out of space.

I had to Google to find the fix, as root on the command line:

  • determine which kernel version is running with uname -r
  • delete the unused files from /boot
  • prevent this from happening in future with apt-get autoremove
  • you’ll probably need to run apt-get -f install to clean things up

I’ll be checking back on the servers to make sure that I really have fixed the problem.

Upgrade requires interaction

Yesterday/last night I decided to take the plunge and update my desktop machine from Ubuntu 12 to 14. I set it going and it warns that it can take hours. I expect that. When I checked back after a while there was a dialog asking if a file should be replace. Such prompts popped up a few times during the process. This sucks!

With Fedora you set the process running, come back in the morning and it’s done.

VM HD Resize

vm-setupI had a small virtual machine (Ubuntu 12, Virtual Box) being hosted on a headless server. It had an 8Gb drive which I needed to resize.It’s done now, but took more googling than it should have done. Here’s a summary.

  1. Stop the virtual machine
  2. Copy the .vmdk to the workstation
  3. Copy the .vmdk to a .vdi
  4. Resize the .vdi
  5. Attach the .vdi (in place of the .vmdk)
  6. Boot to gparted
  7. Create a swap partition
  8. Extend sda2 to fill the unallocated space
  9. Extend sda5 to fill the partition
  10. Reboot
  11. Extend the logical volume
  12. Resize the filing system
  13. Move the swap partition
  14. Shutdown the machine (test)
  15. Copy the .vdi back to the host server
  16. Detach the existing drive
  17. Attach the new drive
  18. Restart the virtual machine

Steps 1 to 4

As the host server is headless I wanted to do as much of the work as possible on my workstation. I originally created the vm on my machine and copied it over to the host, so only needed to copy the disk image back over. You might need to copy the whole machine (folder) over to your workstation. To stop the vm ssh on to it and sudo shutdown -h now.

Once the .vmdk is copied back to the workstation you can use the graphical VM VirtualBox Manager to copy the drive image to a .vdi. I then resized it on the command line with

VBoxManage modifyhd vm-disk1.vdi --resize 51200

Then using the manager app I detached the .vmdk and attached the .vdi drive. I also set the optical drive to my gparted iso.

Steps 5 to 9

Now start the vm. It should boot to gparted. I went to the command line and then ran startx. I found that trying to boot to X didn’t work. Start the gparted app. Start be deactivating the active drives. I then added an 8Gb swap partition (sda3) at the end of the space before resizing the extended partition (sda2). (A dedicated swap partition is not necessary. Ubuntu seems to use a file on the drive. I’m used to CentOS and I’ve always seen swap on it’s own partition. For a vm I can’t see that it makes any difference.)

I applied the changes after the extended partition had been extended. Then deactivate the drives again and extend the LVM partition (sda5) to fill the now available space. Apply changes. Then shutdown the machine and unmount the gparted iso.

Steps 10 to 15

Now reboot the vm and working it’s command line first extend the logical volume

lvextend -l +100%FREE vm-vg/root

then the filing system

resize2fs /dev/vm-vg/root

If you have taken the opportunity to move the swap partition then turn off swap and mark the new partition as swap

swapoff -a
mkswap /dev/sda3

At this point edit (sudo) /etc/fstab and tell it that swap is now /dev/sda3. Then turn swap back on with

swapon /dev/sda3

Now shutdown the machine. At this point you might want to ensure that it starts okay. I suffered kernel panics a few times; not sure why, perhaps swap was misconfigured). Once you’re happy copy the .vdi drive image back over to the host server.

Steps 16 to 18

Now ssh on to the host server and detach/attach drives. (Not sure about the portcount switch; this worked but gave a slightly different configuration from the original.)

VBoxManage storagectl vm --name vm-disk1.vdmk --detach
VBoxManage storagectl vm --name SATA --add sata --controller IntelAhci --portcount 30 --bootable on
VBoxManage storageattach vm --storagectl SATA --medium vg-disk1a.vdi --port 1 --nonrotational on --type hdd

Finally restart the vm

VBoxManage startvm vm --type headless

Job done.

flatten()

I post this because, as I continue to learn Goovy/Grails, I keep getting stuck on stupid problems that should be simple.

I needed to count the number of items in a nested collection. I thought that the Groovy spread operator would give me the solution, but it didn’t. At work I just went for the easy option of nested each construction incrementing a counter. Messy, but I really don’t have time to dick around and it gave me a working solution.

So this evening I spent some time on the problem and discovered this, perhaps obvious, easy solution. The unit test below illustrates this.

import spock.lang.*
import grails.test.mixin.*

@Mock([Employee, Company, CompanyGroup])
class CompanyGroupSpec extends Specification {

	void "Test spread"() {
		
		when: "We have a group of companies with employees"
		
		Employee alice = new Employee(employeeName: 'Alice')
		Employee bob = new Employee(employeeName: 'Bob')
		Company acme = new Company(companyName: 'Acme')
		acme.addToEmployees(alice)
		acme.addToEmployees(bob)
		
		Employee claire = new Employee(employeeName: 'Claire')
		Employee dave = new Employee(employeeName: 'Dave')
		Company bravo = new Company(companyName: 'Bravo')
		bravo.addToEmployees(claire)
		bravo.addToEmployees(dave)
		
		CompanyGroup group = new CompanyGroup(groupName: 'Super Group')
		group.addToCompanies(acme)
		group.addToCompanies(bravo)
		
		then: "spread gives unexpected results"
		
		acme.employees.size() == 2
		bravo.employees.size() == 2
		
		group*.companies*.employees.size() == 1
		
		group*.companies*.employees.flatten().size() == 4
		
	}
	
}

As you can see, I want a count of the number of employees in all companies in the group. I expected four. If the map isn’t flattened then I end up with a count of outer container, which is always one.

I hope this snippet has saved you enough time to treat yourself to a coffee :-)

Music

One would hope that playing/managing music on an Android device would be easy, but it’s broken. Here’s why…

I have a lovely HTC One (M8). For those that don’t know, it has forward facing speakers and can play music really loud. I’ve found that it’s now the main way that I listen to music. It also features a micro SD card. When I got it I copied my music collection to the card so I could listen to anything anywhere. But then I started to discover failings; artificial barriers put in place by Amazon and Google.

Amazon

I usually buy my music from Amazon. With my previous phone I didn’t much care where it stored the music. It only had internal phone storage. With this phone I want to keep all of my music together on the SD Card. Well, you can’t to that. The Amazon app will only store music to the phone memory. It’s also stored in protected folders, so moving it isn’t an option.

You can though download the music on you laptop and then move it to the SD Card. Amazon used to limit downloads to track at a time on the (Linux) desktop. They seem to have recently increased this to 24 tracks at a time, but that didn’t seem to work. Must recently I found that I had to download each track to the Downloads folder then create folders/move files in my Music folder. Good work Amazon!

(A warning about the Amazon MP3 Android app; it chews up loads of mobile data even if you don’t use it. Last month it was around 50Mb, which pushed me over my monthly allowance. I’ve disabled the app now.)

Google Play Music

So yesterday I thought I’d try buying music from Google’s Play Music store. I’d noted that the Play app does allow you to set the SD card as the storage device. However, much to my annoyance I found that it’s not stored in the Music folder. It’s stashed away in a folder that Google’s app can access but others can’t. Not only that, the tracks are stored in a flat folder with numeric names. Thanks Google, that’s pretty mean spirited of you.

Now, I could just use the Play Music app to play my music but it niggles me. It insists on opening to the Instant Mix screen and, I imagine, it probably reports everything that I listen to back to Google. (I don’t mind sharing data with Google, but even I have limits.)

As with music purchased from Amazon, I can download the music from Google to my laptop. This does work quite well under Linux, there’s a program that does a proper job of downloading to my Music folder.

So I’ve now downloaded recent purchases to my laptop and copied them to the micro SD card. I’ve also deleted the Amazon downloads from the internal phone storage and deleted the Google downloads from the secret “Google only” folder. The result is that I can now use HTC’s music player for everything.