Canonical Voices


The Internet has been alive with doom saying since the IPv4 global address pool was parcelled out.  Now I do not subscribe to the view that the Internet is going to end imminently, but I do feel that if the technical people out there do not start playing with IPv6 soon then what hope is there for the masses?

In the UK getting native IPv6 is not a trivial task, only one ISP I can find seems to offer it and of course it is not the one I am with.  So what options do I have?  Well there are a number of different types of IPv4 tunnelling techniques such as 6to4 but these seem to require the ability to handle the transition on your NAT router, not an option here.  The other is a proper 6in4 tunnel to a tunnel broker but this needs an end-point.

As I have a local server that makes a sensible anchor for such a tunnel.  Talking round with those in the know I settled on getting a tunnel from Hurricane Electric (HE), a company which gives out tunnels to individuals for free and seems to have local presence for their tunnel hosts.  HE even supply you with tools to cope with your endpoint having a dynamic address, handy.  So with an HE tunnel configuration in hand I set about making my backup server into my IPv6 gateway.

First I had to ensure that protocol 41 (the tunnelling protocol) was being forwarded to the appropriate host.  This is a little tricky as this required me to talk to the configurator for my wireless router.  With that passed on to my server I was able to start configuring the tunnel.

Following the instructions on my HE tunnel broker page, a simple cut-n-paste into /etc/network/interfaces added the new tunnel network device, a quick ifup and my server started using IPv6.  Interestingly my apt-cacher-ng immediately switched backhaul of its incoming IPv4 requests to IPv6 no configuration needed.

Enabling IPv6 for the rest of the network was surprisingly easy.  I had to install and configure radv with my assigned prefix.  It also passed out information on the HE DNS servers, prioritising IPv6 in DNS lookup results.  No changes were required for any of the client systems; well other than enabling firewalls.  Win.

Overall IPv6 is still not simple as it is hard to obtain native IPv6 support, but if you can get it onto your network the client side is working very well indeed.

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After 39 2.6.x releases Linus Torvalds has chosen to revisit the upstream kernel version.  The plan is to release what would have been 2.6.40 instead as version 3.0:

"I decided to just bite the bullet, and call the next version 3.0. It
will get released close enough to the 20-year mark, which is excuse
enough for me, although honestly, the real reason is just that I can
no longe rcomfortably count as high as 40."
When 3.0-rc1 was released the Kernel Team had to decide what version to use for it in Ubuntu.  We typically upload every -rcN release within a couple of days of its release so the pressure was on.  We could simply call it 3.0.0 knowing that all the current scripting would cope, or as 3.0 better matching its official name knowing this would not be plain sailing.  This was not a decision we could delay as in Debian versioning 3.0 < 3.0.0 so we were likely to be committed for Oneiric if we uploaded using 3.0.0.  It is also not clear from upstream discussion what version number the final release will carry, as 3.0 clearly will cause breakage on older userspace.

After much discussion we decided we bite the bullet and upload a 3.0 kernel.  At least we get a chance  to identify problematic applications, while still keeping our options open to move to a 3.0.0 kernel for release should that be prudent.  As expected this was not smooth sailing, not least for the kernel packaging which needed much love to even correctly build this version.  Plus we had to hack the meta packages to allow that to be reversioned later too.

Once successfully uploaded the problem applications started to crawl out of the woodwork:
  • depmod -- the depmod incantion to create the module dependancies identifies the kernel version in its command line but was assuming that a version contained three digits, this lead it to miss the version entirely and rebuild the wrong dependancies;
  • libc6 -- both the runtime and the installation control scripts manipulate the kernel version number, in both cases assuming the version was three digits, enormous fun getting the pending updates installed;
  • ps/top -- when starting the kernel version was checked, and miss decoded triggering a rather nasty sounding version warning whenever they are started;
  • nfs-utils -- when attempting to read and identify the kernel version the nfs-utils would trigger a SIGSEGV and die, triggering boot failures on machines with NFS roots; and
  • lm-sensors-3 -- this package is only compatible with 2.6.5 and above, failed version detection lead to this test failing and sensors being unconfigured.
Those are the ones we have found so far, I am sure there will be more.  If you do find one please file a bug against the failing package but tag it kernel-3.0 then we can find them.

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During the early part of the Maverick cycle we once again revisited out Union Mount solution.  At that time VFS union-mounts was the hit of the day, set to finally to produce something which might get into the kernel.  Since then the complexity of changing every filesystem to support whiteouts, its invasiveness, and its affects on Posix semantics have lead to it falling by the wayside.  In its place has sprung overlayfs.

overlayfs is a small patch set which is a hybrid of the VFS union-mount approach and that of aufs/unionfs in that it also provides a filesystem.  This greatly reduces the complexity of the patch set, reducing its invasiveness and thus increasing its chances of ever being merged.  So much so simpler is it that your author is actually able to understand and debug it.  Win.

We have been tickling overlayfs for most of the Natty cycle, but with Natty in the can I have had had some time to catch up with its development and help out a little, both with testing and bug fixing.  Culminating today in my being able to inject a kernel containing overlayfs support into an Ubuntu LiveCD and boot it, then update it to the latest Natty, all without error.

overlayfs may shortly be in a mergable state, nirvana for all union mount lovers.  Only time and testing will tell.

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