Saturday, June 18 2022

Why openSUSE on the raspberry Pi servers? Oh yes, now I remember...

The latest update from Leap 15.3 to 15.4 has been fairly painless on the servers.

The new release, Leap 15.4, of openSUSE is out, and with it, the need to update the various systems we have running it.  It remains a curious blend of old and new, but its key attribute also remains - it is absolutely rock solid.  At last, Leap 15.4 ditches the much-patched Linux kernel 5.3 and jumps to 5.14. That is a relief.  But it remains on python version 3.6, which is now no longer supported upstream. This last has been a problem on our laptops, but let's concentrate on the servers at the moment.

A while ago, I documented some of the reasons to move from Raspberry Pi OS to openSUSE to run our raspberry Pi servers. I discussed openSUSE's use of btrfs, and while I think there are risks running btrfs in all its full snapshotting, multidisk glory on the Raspberry Pi, because of the constraints of USB-connected disks, nothing says you have to use btrfs like that. So I drive out all that complexity, and simply use btrfs as a well-supported file system, with one caveat - we make use of the ability btrfs has of doing on-the-fly compression.  This does two things. It saves disk space, but it also results in fewer solid-state disk reads and writes, and may well contribute to lengthening the lives of the disks.

I had a test server set up. Actually it's more like a little development server. OK, full disclosure, it's just a disk, as the joy of the Raspberry Pi is you can have as many systems as you have disks, and simply switch them when you need a particular function. So this disk, on the spare Pi, was a development server, on which I compile the latest lighttpd, test things, and generally potter.  I simply followed the excellent notes on this page, rebooted and found myself with a fully updated machine. It was so simple and painless that, when we visited a friend, for whom I administer a Pi-based Nextcloud system he uses for various purposes, I was confident that it would not break his system. And indeed, it did not.

When it came to updating our own home server, though, I was a little nervous.  This runs far more that either of the previous two, but again, I had no need to be concerned.  This contrasts strongly with a previous Raspberry Pi OS upgrade, where the advice is really to re-install to be most certain of proper operation.  Ah, yes. Now I remember why the move to openSUSE was likely to be a good one.

But, as I note in this blog post, there was one fly in the ointment. The same problem, regarding Python versions, meant that the certbot utility for renewing Lets Encrypt certificates was no longer in the repositories, and in fact, had been removed from the system. Of course, I only found out after the next renewal run had been completed, but I had enough time to find an alternative.  And thankfully, these are Linux systems, and free and open source software, one of the advantages of which is that there are pretty much always alternatives.  As it happens, I can't really fully blame openSUSE for this problem, as, inexplicably, the EFF, which develops certbot, know recommends using the snapd system to install their utility. I discuss why this is a strange requirement in the blog post.

So there we are, another painless upgrade. When it comes to servers, yes, we want recent and well maintained software, but we also want it to be boringly consistent. That's been achieved yet again.

Thursday, June 9 2022

What's the battery voltage?

morningstar_monitor.png, Jun 2022

Keeping digital records of our off-grid power inputs and outputs has long been on the to-do list.

We have long used a set of digital displays in the kitchen to keep track of battery voltage, incoming solar amperage, incoming wind amperage and battery output amperage, to keep an eye on how our system is performing. But I have long wanted to add some record-keeping to this mix.  Here is a start.


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Wednesday, June 8 2022

Letsencrypt cerficates - all change from certbot

There are times when change is forced on one, but it's possible to take this as a chance to learn new tricks.

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Monday, May 16 2022

A little alteration in the Raspberry Pi OS initramfs-tools script to include all Pi hardware

Raspberry pi OS does not make it easy to use an initrd for additional boot functionality, especially the ability to run non-ext4 filesystems as root. But the initramfs-tools script can be tweaked to be reasonably reliable.

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Saturday, April 30 2022

The cost of off-grid power

There's little point in comparing off-grid power costs against grid-provided power, but recent price increases make such a comparison tempting

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Sunday, April 10 2022

The Great Battery Replacement of 2022 - Part 2

vastenpic-142359-10042022.jpg, Apr 2022

Installing the new battery

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Friday, April 8 2022

The Great Battery Replacement of 2022 - Part 1

vastenpic-153035-07042022.jpg, Apr 2022

Preparation takes time. But in this case, it was just as well a trial run was done.

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Friday, April 1 2022

It's that time again - Battery replacement for our off-grid power system - Part 0

vastenpic-105828-01042022.jpg, Apr 2022

We may be able to get another year or so from the existing bank, but other factors are influencing our decision.

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