Using schroot instead of LXC containers

So, I have been using LXC to host my server services for a period of time, with a view to keeping things portable should I need to change provider. It’s very good in that it’s integrated into the Linux kernel and in Ubuntu at least it’s not too difficult to setup, however there are a number of problems with it.

First and foremost, every time the container operating system upgrades anything to do with init scripts, it won’t boot any more, so you are forced to hold back packages with varying amounts of success. Secondly, there does seem to be some overhead running things in an LXC container, and thirdly it isn’t as portable as it could be i.e. there is no live migration. and you will have to change config files if you move hoster to reflect you new IP address.

As I’m not selling containers as VPS, I only need to run 1 server instance, and therefore don’t really need containerisation at all, enter schroot. Schroot is like chroot without the hassle and with added flexibility, in a nutshell it will mount and start everything correctly for you to the point where you can automate startup and running of services in the chroot, it doesn’t suffer from init script borkage since the init system isn’t used at all, and it’s more portable as networking is irrelevant to a chroot (it simply uses the hosts networking).

Ok so where to start, well if you are already using LXC you can use the directory your container is stored in. I opted to move mine to a sane location before starting, in the interests of convention and easy administration. So, I created a “schroot” directory in the /home directory i.e.

mkdir /home/schroot

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Saorview and Freesat

In a departure from the norm I am going to write today about something not necessarily computer related. Given the “current economic climate” (please remember to adopt serious tone) I would like to tell you how to save a few quid on your monthly TV bill in Ireland with the minimum outlay.

Until the Saorview trial started in October last the only way to receive the Irish channels i.e. RTE1, 2, TV3, TG4 and 3e without a monthly subscription was using a good ole fashioned UHF aerial and analog signal. The quality of this both for picture and sound leaves a lot to be desired. Digital reception is much better, Saorview was officially launched 26/05/11, it is the Irish equivalent of Freeview, and similarly allows digital reception of TV through an aerial. Most people in Ireland are also used to receiving the “British” channels e.g. BBC1, ITV, Channel 4, etc, etc. The best way to receive those without subscription is via a Freesat (or equivalent) box linked up to your old Sky dish, if you have one, or a new dish which comes as part of the kit.

Saorview can be received through a standard wide-band UHF aerial, there will be an accompanying satellite service for people who are unable to receive the terrestrial signal but it hasn’t even launched in trial form yet and will require the purchase of more equipment in the form of a special satellite dish and receiver. The reason for this is that RTE et al can’t afford to purchase enough rights to broadcast across Europe as the BBC can, using the same Astra satellite Sky does. Therefore they have to use a satellite which has a small enough foot print to cover Ireland and only Ireland, hence the need for the equipment. Saorview will not be available through Sky.

You can either spend a little or a lot of money on this. My goal was to get any HD channels available and have PVR functionality into the bargain, whilst spending as little as possible. So I will tell you what I plumped for. For the Saorview I purchased a Fortek kit from tvtrade.ie for €121 including VAT and delivery, which included the aerial and mounting (as I didn’t already have one). On the Freesat front I went for the ROSS kit from B&Q at €70, not a true Freesat receiver, in that it won’t automatically pick up channel frequency changes. Both boxes are HD capable and both have PVR functionality if you plug external USB storage in.

Official Saorview compatible boxes can be found at http://www.saorview.ie/products-retailers/saorview-approved-product-listings/

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Converting to GPT in Ubuntu

GPT stands for “GUID Partition Table” and it refers to a relatively new format for disk partition tables. It was designed to get around the limitations of the MBR format, namely that you can have more than 4 primary partitions and partitions can be more than 2.2 terabytes in size. GPT is part of the EFI standard but it can also be used on standard BIOS only machines i.e. most non-MAC PCs. Converting to GPT will allow you to future proof your partitions. 2 TB disks are becoming common and it won’t be long before the 2.2TB limit of MBR will stop people using all their disk space in one partition, so in the name of usability and flexibility GPT is the way forward.

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