Ubuntu Server – How to Sync Files Between Multiple Web Servers

Another installment in our How to Set up an Ubuntu Server Series:

Synchronizing multiple servers – You have more than one web server in your host configuration. What’s the easiest way to synch files among the multiple web servers?
Solution – rsync does the trick efficiently and easily.

This tutorial assumes you are comfortable on the linux command line.

Steps to Set up rsync for multiple servers synchronization:

Step One

First make sure rsync is installed on each server that you’ll be working with.  By typing rsync from a command prompt, you should get the rsync response asking you for parameters.  If rsync isn’t found, then install it.

sudo apt-get install rsync

Step Two

Test synchronizing files.  From a command prompt on your 2nd server, type in an rsync command to retrieve files from the 1st server.  Let’s assume you have a directory /var/www/ set up on both servers and you wish to synchronize the files from the first server to the 2nd. The first server acts as the master.  Any new files or changes to existing files on the master will overwrite existing files on the 2nd server.  Type in from the command prompt on server 2

sudo rsync -ra user@FirstServerIP:/var/www/ /var/www/

The first server in this example sends all the files in /var/www/ along with the (-r) recursive subdirectories. You can also sync only specific files, etc…
If this works, you are ready to move on to step 3. If not, check your connectivity with the FirstServer. Generally, if you can ssh to another server, you should be able to rsync with it as well. AWS EC2 Users If you are using AWS Amazon’s ec2 servers, which require a passkey, the rsync command will look like this:

rsync -rave “ssh -i /home/ubuntu/.ssh/passkey.pem” ubuntu@EC2ServerIP:/var/www/ /var/www/

Note that for AWS EC2, you will first need to copy your passkey over to your .ssh directory

Step Three

Next, let’s set this up to synchronize all the time automatically. We accomplish this with a cron job. Here again, we’re assuming you are familiar with how to set up and edit crons. From your root user (sudo su) edit your crontab

crontab -e

Then, add a line to the crontab that tells it to run the rsync command every minute (or any frequency that suits you).

* * * * * rsync -ar FirstServerIP:/var/www/* /var/www/

Test your configuration!  Go to your first server and make a change or add a file to the synchronized directory. Then go back to the 2nd server and see if the file is there. You can replicate this process to as many servers as you need, but keep in mind that frequency of sync and amount of data passing on your internal network can get costly and cause a hit on performance.

I hope this little tutorial was helpful.  Please drop me a note if you have any questions or comments.

 

Increase Contrast VIM editor color scheme

Problem:  Low contrast VIM on SSH and Telnet

If you work over SSH or telnet on VIM (VI) text editor, then you are probably experiencing a low contrast page that’s very hard on the eyes.  I searched all over the net and VIM’s wiki but didn’t find a fix.

Solution: Change setting in VIM’s config file

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Puppy Linux – Puppy Arcade 5 Super Fast Game Emulator

Puppy Arcade – Have your Puppy Linux and Play Games too (with awesome speed)!
We’ve been singing the praises of Puppy Linux (Review) for some time now. We love to hear about applications and new ways to use this great and fast linux distribution.

Scott Jarvis sent us info on his just released Puppy Arcade 5, a Puppy Linux flavor with a retro video game emulation based on TurboPup Xtreme (arguably the fastest Puppy derivative). Thanks to Scott, you can now download the Puppy distro along with a ton of game emulators. These tiny game emulators, such as Amiga, Atari, Nintendo, and many others, are very suitable for a compact distro like Puppy. Many of the emulators were written over 20 years ago, but they still serve up a good time. This is an especially great experience for those of us who lived through the “Frogger” days.

Download & Installation
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Parted Magic 4.8 – Linux Partitioning Recovery Tool. Screenshots & Review

Overview
Ever need a quick and free tool for accessing a non-responsive computer?   Have you wanted an easy way to partition multiple drives with a simple graphical tool?  Do you like running Linux from RAM? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’ll want to give this nifty tool a closer look.
Parted Magic has an extensive (but not exhaustive) collection of file system tools. The top features set on their website includes:
Format internal and external hard drives. Move, copy, create, delete, expand & shrink hard drive partitions. Clone your hard drive, to create a full backup. Test hard drives for impending failure. Test memory for bad sectors. Benchmark your computer for a performace rating. Securely erase your entire hard drive, wiping it clean from all data. Gives access to non-booting systems allowing you to rescue important data.

Installation
Parted Magic is available on Source Forge which is linked from their website Download Page.
This handy tool comes in several flavors and can be installed from a CD, USB drive, PXE, and as a Grub tool. We took the iso file and installed it on a Live CD. The filesize was ~72MB and downloaded very quickly (from Sourceforge).

Parted Magic
Parted Magic Desktop

First Impressions
Parted Magic booted without a hitch and almost instantly.  The welcome screen offers several choices, including (our selected method) running the entire tool in RAM. The RAM load took about 20 seconds and the CD was ejected. Our Linux machine was now running in RAM and was super-de-duper fast. It felt like sitting in a Porsche. You know something good is going to happen.

The desktop is clean and spartan. There are no applications installed other than what you’ll need for file and disk management. The desktop does include a menu with quick access to all the available tools, and a terminal shell for command line queries.

We tested some disk management and format tasks, and even checked the installed memory on the host computer.  Parted Magic was fast and worked flawlessly.

Installed Applications

Parted Magic includes an assortment of tools to make your disk partitioning and file management go as painlessly as possible.  Installed tools include the partitions editor, and a smart control utility that really takes out the guesswork in salvaging or partitioning drives.  I liked the nice mounted devices display window for easy control of which drives should be mounted in any session.  Check out the gallery of screenshots below for a recap of all the installed tools.  The main menu includes these sub menu categories:  graphics, internet, system tools, and accessories.  Parted Magic also includes GPic View, for quick graphics and images viewing.

Screenshot Gallery


Conclusion

As we say for all our best distro reviews, unless you have the marketing muscle of RedHat or Novel, or the grass roots popularity of Ubuntu, if you want to stand out among the many dozens of available distros, you really need to have a niche.  Parted Magic serves a niche, and it does it’s stated job marvelously.  The installation and running of Parted Magic worked flawlessly, and super-fast.  If you have disk formatting or testing tasks and you can’t accomplish them from your already installed OS, Parted Magic is the way to go.

Windows 7 Has Bigger Market Share Than All Linux Flavors Combined

Face it, we live in a Windows world.  The Windows 7 OS has been on shelves for nearly two weeks, and according to various reports, it already has taken a 2% market share of all installed OS in the world.

By comparison, Linux OS, in all its flavors and variations, holds less than a 2% market share of installed OS.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better…

Read our review of Windows 7 Ultimate and see why we think it is a lot like Linux OS.

CrunchBang Linux 9.04 (OpenBox with Ubuntu) Review and Screenshots

CrunchBang – Fast Linux with Many Customization Options

CrunchBang Linux 9.04 is an Open-Box distro based on Ubuntu with Gnome packages.  CrunchBang promises performance and ultimate customization options. Version 9.04.01 was released a couple weeks ago, and we decided to give it a test drive.

CrunchBang Standard vs. Lite

CrunchBang is offered in standard and lite packages for both 32 and 64 bit machines.

The CrunchBang Standard iso files are approximately 620 -675MB, and downloaded quickly from their download mirror pages.  The Lite files are ~420MB in size.  The major difference between these two versions is the number of packages installed.  We tested the Standard version.

Installation and First Impressions

The Live CD loads rather quickly and the screen you are brought to is reminiscent of a warehouse or old hangar that needs a good coat of paint.

Desktop
Desktop

Who says looks are everything?  We Linux users have become too accustomed to flashy backgrounds, 3-D and animated objects.  At the end of the day, how much do we really need them, and don’t they sometimes just get in the way?

CrunchBang takes the minimalist approach to graphics.  After a short period of adjustment (like walking into a dark room from the outdoors), things seem to fall in to place and CrunchBang shows just how efficient it really is.   All your favorite programs are a keystroke or two away.  Simplicity can be very efficient, especially when the desktop is in order.  Your main menu is opened with a mouse click, where you’ll find the full assortment of menu items and important system functions.  There’s even a handy ‘map’ of quick access functions on the right top side, which you can memorize before changing the desktop background to your favorite Penguin photo.

Super Key – Huh?

In case you are wondering what the heck is the ‘super key’ used for quick access to many programs and functions, they are referring to the “Windows” key found on most modern keyboards, usually next to the Ctrl button.

Packages Installed

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of packages included in the Standard version.  Instead of Open Office, you get Gnumeric and Abi Word.  You can always add Open Office later.

Sound and Video is fortified with VLC, Audactiy, and Rythym Box, all which are missing from the standard Ubuntu lineup, but are welcome additions.  They’ve also included a bunch of video and sound editors, something for everyone.

For internet browsing and email, you get Firefox and Claws Mail (we’re seeing this lineup in more and more distros these days).

Graphics packages include Gimp and a host of other design tools.

The package selection is quite extensive for a live CD installation.

Speed and Performance

As promised, CrunchBang is fast.  There’s little graphics to get in the way, and that’s fine for most people.  You have quick access to your tools with the handy-dandy menu popup.  The default desktop displays memory and CPU usage, so you can easily keep tabs on your PC’s performance.

Flexible Configuration – OpenBox

Here’s where CrunchBang shines.  OpenBox is like taking an easel and paint and being given carte blanche to define your desktop configuration.  OpenBox is not for folks who want an easy configuration tool.  If you do want complete control and options to change just about how everything looks and functions on your desktop, then OpenBox is for you.

openbox_config

Ubuntu Base

CrunchBang was wise to use Ubuntu’s repository.  There’s (just about) everything you need under the sun waiting to be installed from the handy package manager.

Gallery of Screenshots

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Xubuntu 9.04 Linux – Official Ubuntu Lite Review, Screenshots & Comparisons

Xubuntu is Ubuntu’s official “Lite” version.  Their tagline “Linux for human beings” sort of makes me chuckle – as if the other flavors of unix are for monkees and aliens?  Xubuntu has set out to do what a number of comparable distros are also vying for, ‘the minimalist’ side of Linux.  They claim that Xubuntu is  “that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, document and spreadsheet editing software, instant messaging and much more.”  We set out to see for ourselves.

Being that Ubuntu is a big organization, the download mirrors for Xubuntu are quite vast. Xubuntu 9.04 is a ~600 MB file and downloads rather quickly assuming you choose a nearby mirror.

Installation

For a lite distro, I was hoping for a much faster installation.  From start to finish, the install took nearly 45 minutes.  There may have been specific hardware factors that slowed it down, but the installer never complained, it just took a lot of time.

Our reviews of other “lite” distros have proven to be much quicker to install.  The amount of install screens and questions to be answered is the same for Xubuntu than for example, Mepis, and Vector, yet both of those distros installed in a fraction of the time that Xubuntu required.

First Impressions

The Xfce desktop is neat and clean.  There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but the things you need are readily available.  Xubuntu is meant to be a “lite” version of Linux, and on that promise they deliver.

desktop
Desktop

Installed Packages

You’re a click away from the Firefox browser and your file manager.  The folks at Xubuntu settled on Mozilla’s Thunderbird for your email client.  This is an interesting selection since although Thunderbird is quick and competent, and there are plenty of plug-ins to choose from, it is lacking the off-the-shelf integration with calendar and other desktop tools.

Xubuntu has a sparce smattering of installed apps.  The heavy tools like Open Office and Gimp are missing, but what you are left with is just enough to get your work (and some play) done.  By comparison, other lite-linux versions, like Puppy Linux, have foregone Firefox prefering the less-memory hogging Sea.  Xubuntu lacks a comprehensive multi-media app, such as VLC Player, which is included with Vector Linux.

Competition

Vector Linux is a fair comparison to Xubuntu since it is targeting a similar user audience, and both distros have chosen the Xfce desktop.  We liked the speed and power of Vector very much.  Vector is built on the Slackware frame, whereas Xubuntu takes its roots from Debian.  Vector’s installation went quicker, but it was bit less fool-proof than Xubuntu.  Vector includes the useful VASM, for powerful configuration options in an easy format.  The Vector landscape is filled with useful tools, while Xubuntu has only a few.

Puppy Linux is also a good distro to compare with Xubuntu.  The Puppy runs exceptionally fast as the entire OS is loaded into the computer’s RAM at bootup.  Puppy Linux manages to get everything done in only a 100MB download.  The installation from a live CD is a cynch that any non-techie could easily accomplish.  First-time Puppy users may get spoiled with the speed of their OS and never want to try another lite distro.

It boils down to user preference.  There are many flavors of ice cream at the shop too, and they all seem to get eaten.  There is a whole sub-category now of Linux distros for older machines and lite installations.  Xubuntu is less of an invention in its own right, and more of an adaptation of Ubuntu.

Xubuntu Screenshots Gallery

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Mepis 8.0 Linux – Review and Screenshots

Mepis 8.0 Linux is a Linux distro designed for ease of use and suitable even for beginners.

Mepis is built on Debian 5.0 stable core with the 2.6.27 Linux kernel and comes in a 32bit and 64bit version.

You can download from the Mepis mirror sites here.

Their motto is “SimplyMEPIS just works!”   We decided to give it a try.

The installation disk includes a Live CD so you can try out Mepis before installing it to your hard drive.

KDE 3.5 vs. 4.1

Mepis has chosen to stay with the KDE Desktop 3.5 instead of moving up to the plasma-based 4.x that is already available on many KDE distros.  The differences between 3.5 and 4.1 are major enough in function that Linux really looks and acts differently with each of them.  I have written about my disappointment with the current KDE 4.x desktop in earlier posts, but some of our viewers have commented that the plasma desktop is a major improvement.

The makers of Mepis have probably stuck with 3.5 since it is ostensibly easier to use than the newer version, and Mepis has stated that it is dedicated to ease of use and simplicity.  I think it was a good decision.

Desktop – First Impressions

The desktop is standard KDE 3.5.  The bottom bar has a nice assortment of quick links and system tray information.  It has a clean and pleasant display of menus and easy access to most-used elements.  Nothing shouted out to differentiate Mepis from other simple distros.

Desktop
Desktop

Installed Packages

The menus show software items by function with the package name in parentheses.  For example, Ksnapshot is “Screen Capture Program (Ksnapshot)”.

Internet browsers include Firefox & Konquerer.  The KDE Kmail program is installed along with Kontakt and Korganizer.  For multimedia, Amarok is installed, as you’d expect in a KDE distro.  Mepis also includes the Open Office tools for spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation.

User Manual

As you’d expect for a beginner user-friendly distro, Mepis comes with its very own user manual.  It’s actually quite useful.  Some may consider this a gimmick since popular distros like Ubuntu have so much written documentation online and user forums, that you’re never far from an answer to any question even without a ‘manual’.

User Manual
User Manual

Gallery of Screenshots

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WattOS – A Fast Energy-Saving Linux Based on Ubuntu – Review & Screenshots

WattOS Beta 3 is a lightweight Linux Distro geared towards running on less energy and for recycled or low power computers without compromising on features or performance that you’d expect from a full power system.

Their motto “Light, Fast, Now” seeks to provide a low-energy full featured Linux distro.

Beta 3 released this week, which includes a live CD version. Download the ISO file, burn the image to a CD, and reboot your PC to try a live version of WattOS before fully installing.  The Live CD Beta 3 file was 527 MB and downloaded rather quickly.

The default user for the Live CD is “guest” and the password is Blank.

Ubuntu Light With Customizations

WattOS is based on Ubuntu 8.10 with Gnome Desktop.  They claim to have remastered the OS to run quicker than standard Ubuntu and to require less memory.  Therefore, WattOS would be a good candidate for older machines that want the benefits of Ubuntu but without the bulk.

First Impressions

The Live CD boots rather quickly.  The LXDE Desktop  looks quite spartan on WattOS.  True, the download was only 527 MB, but there are some peculiar package choices, and others are missing or replaced with lesser known ones.

When running this distro, you have to keep in mind that it is still in beta.  The look and feel is fine, but there are some rough edges.

desktop

Installed Packages

They’ve clumped together browser tools and email into a Network section which includes Firefox browser and Claws Mail.  Where’s Evolution?  You’ll find Pidgin for instant messaging and Bit Torrent. There’s also a lightweight XSMBrowser.

The graphics menu includes Gimp, the Photoshop like graphics tool.  The audio and video menu includes Movie Player, Brasero, and Exaile.  The office section has Gnumeric spreadsheet and Abiword.  You can add Open Office later if you’d like, but I’ve always found Gnumeric to run faster on older machines.

Missing were some basics such as a Snapshot tool, Okular for PDF, and calculator.

WattOS vs. Xubuntu

If you are looking for a lighter Ubuntu why not try out Canonical’s official distro for lightweight machines, Xubuntu?

WattOS promises to run with lower energy requirements.  There are no tools aparent on the desktop or on the live CD that would validate the wattage output of the machine so that it could be compared with the standard Ubuntu or other Linux distros.

Gallery of Screenshots

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Vector Linux 6.0 Gold – Review and Screenshots

Vector Linux is a popular Linux Distro whose motto is “speed, performance, stability”.

Version 6.0 was released in February 2009.  Their stated goal is to “Keep it simple, keep it small and let the end user decide.”  Having said that, this end user decided to see what was cooking at Vector.

Xfce Desktop – GNOME packages

The modest but pleasant Xfce Desktop is complemented with a nice array of GNOME packages.

Download

The 700 MB ISO download directly from their website http://vectorlinux.com/downloads was fast and without incident.

Vector also offers a deluxe version, which includes installation support and costs $22.99, available for purchase online at their website  (Note: We are not associated with Vector in any way).

Vector also comes in a KDE version.  The Xfce version reviewed here is targeted at the power user and at users with older hardware looking for a fast Linux that will work without bells and whistles.

Tricky Installation

There is no live CD, so you’ll have to install Vector Linux to begin testing its capabilities.  The installation screens are pretty straight forward for active linux users.  First-timers and users new to Linux may find the installation a bit daunting.  Vector has been around for about 10 years, and the process is polished, however, it’s roots are in Slackware (A Linux distro for advanced users), and it sometimes shows.

Install 3

Most of the questions should be familiar to users who have installed Windows, such as configuring your time zone and language.  You will have to configure a Linux partition on which to install the OS.  There is an automatic configuration option for those who find it too confusing to configure it manually.

Pleasant Desktop, Nice Selection of Installed Apps

Desktop
Desktop

Installed internet browsers include Sea Monkey, Opera, and Firefox.

Open Office is not installed on the basic version (it is included in the Deluxe edition). Instead you’ll have Gnumeric Spreadsheet, Abiword, and Calendar.

Multimedia includes the great VLC player, Mplayer, Xine, XMMS, and others.

Configure your system with the VASM Control Center.

Gallery of Screenshots

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