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Achievement Get: Upgrade Server - A writeup of my experiences

An open and a closed box.

The upgrade is complete! I've managed to move practically everything over to the new server, apart from a few automated cleanup tasks here and there. There are still a few issues floating around, but they shouldn't affect this website, and I should have them cleared up soon. Although the migration went smoother than I expected, I did encounter some issues and learnt a few things that I thought I'd share here.

The first thing I found was that starting a todo list isn't a rather good idea. It sounds simple, but it's actually really useful. I found that I had a lot of small tasks I needed to complete, and I kept thinking of more things that needed doing at regular intervals. If I didn't write them down I'd never get anything done because I'd never be able to remember what needed doing first!

It also helps to do your research before you move. Make sure that you're properly reaquainted with all the software running on the system that you're going to migrate from, and that you're familiar with all the ins and outs of your particular situation. If you aren't, then you risk stumbling across some rather nasty, complicated, and time consuming problems mid-migration.

It also helps to do as much of the migration as possible without taking the old system offline. Install the software, Move the configuration files. Set up the firewall. Set up your new monitoring tools. This allows you to minimise the downtime that you have to subject your users to, which is always a good thing.

Lastly, testing is incredibly important. test everything. Make sure that every little feature after you migrate. You'd be surprised at how many issues can crop up after migration.

Server migration!

The Kimsufi logo

I've been watching Kimsufi's server page for what feels like absolutely ages now, waiting to get my hands on an ultra-cheap €4.99 per month (excluding VAT of course) KS-1 dedicated server. Unfortunately I've never been quite fast enough, so yesterday I decided that enough was enough and went ahead and bought a KS-2B at €9.99 per month (again excluding VAT). After all is said and done it works out to about £8.39 per month, which, for 2 cores / 4 threads, 4GB RAM, and a 40GB SSD, is an absolute bargain in my eyes.

I've been busy moving things across and it's going well, but I haven't finished yet - I still have the web server and the mail server to set up. I'm also looking at using the Hiawatha webserver instead of Nginx. Hiawatha is a security-first and easy to configure web server. Apparently it's also lightweight, but we'll see about that...! Nginx's config files have been annoying me for a while now, so I think that it's high time I tried something different.

3 Things to do before you upgrade to Ubuntu 16

Since Ubuntu 16.04 long term support has been released, I naturally have been wanting to upgrade to it. However, due to one thing or another, it hasn't been going so well. I decided to put this post together so that you don't make the same mistakes I did. Most of these tips I'm going to share with you in this post can be applied to be major upgrade process, although I found them useful when upgrading my Laptop to Ubuntu 16.04.

Make a backup. Seriously. I can't stress this enough. If the upgrade process gets interrupted or any reason, you'll be left with an unstable system - and a restore will be practically your only option.

Personally I use Timeshift to keep snapshots of my operating system files, and the default Déjà Dup backup program to backup my files. That way I can restore my OS to an earlier state without touching my files at all. Similarly, I can search though the history of my files without the clutter of a bunch of system files getting in the way.

Run the upgrader in either screen or tmux. Screen or Tmux let you run commands in a virtual window, and reattach to that window later if you loose your connection unexpectedly. In my case, I managed to lose access to the upgrader script halfway through the upgrade process, forcing me to kill the process and start over.

Make a checklist of things to do / test after the upgrade. Whilst upgrading, you'll find you start building up a long list of things you want to do and test after the upgrade is finished, such as reactivating extra PPAs, or merging config files. I recommend you write them all down somewhere so that you don't forget something.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. What upgrade are you in the process of doing? Do you have any tips to share? Write a comment below!

Resources

Upgrading to Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet

Hello!

Yesterday you probably noticed some downtime. This is because I was upgradting this server's operating system from Ubuntu 14.10 to Ubuntu 15.04! Since I noticed a few things that you should watch out for when upgrading, I thought that I would make a post about it.

For the most part the upgrade went smoothly, but I did hit a few snags. Firstly, if you have got any custom ppas set up for apt-get, you will want to make a list of them (they are located in /etc/apt/sources.list.d) because the upgrade will annoyingly disable them all :( It's not too much trouble to fix but it is annoying.

Secondly, there are two new mime types that have been added /etc/mime.types. If you have made any customisations to this file (I have added text/x-markdown), then you will want to make a note of them and re-add them afterwards. Don't forget to restart your http servers after changing it!

There are some changes that require the ssh daemon to be stopped, so make sure you don't do the upgrade over ssh.

You will get asked which interfaces DCHPv6 should listen on / send requests to. If you use your linux box as a router and have it handing out IP addresses, then you will need to take note of which interfaces you have on your box and which one is which.

By far the biggest problem for me though was the switch from upstart to systemd. This server is hosted by OVH under one of their VPS hosting plans (which are great by the way!), which means that it is virtualised using OpenVZ. It also means that I can't choose my kernel :( I suspect that this is the reason that I can't use systemd, though if anyone has any other ideas, I would love to hears them - leave them in the comments below. When it has finished the upgrade, it couldn't reboot, instead telling me that it couldn't find an alternative telinit implementation to spawn. The solution to this is simple though (don't forget to run as root):

apt-get install upstart
apt-get remove systemd
apt-get install upstart-sysv

The last package in the above (upstart-sysv) should be install automatically, but you should make sure that it is installed - it is the package that prevents it from automatically trying to switch you back to systemd at the next available opportunity.

I hope this post is useful! If you do find it helpful, please leave a comment. If people seem to like it I might start posting full upgrade guides.

Art by Mythdael