Unix users and administrators will be familiar with the cron, unix’s built in job scheduler. It is a good way of running regular jobs eg backups, system monitoring programs or housekeeping scripts. The configuration of cron is quite particular and care is needed when setting up a new job. Your well tested script can behave differently when it is called from cron. Sometimes the differences won’t matter. But sometimes they do, and finding the cause can be tricky.
This brief article describes how many such problems can be tracked down simply by capturing the standard error output properly. In short, make sure your troublesome cron job is not quietly discarding the very information you need to fix it. Continue reading →
Debian 8 (jessie) was released in April 2015, ten months ago at the time of writing. Some sites will have upgraded by now, and others might be considering the move. This article provides a list of issues encountered after upgrading several servers from Debian 7 (wheezy) to Debian 8. These are system administration issues in the most part, though some might also be of interest to application support staff. Continue reading →
Backups on a LAMP server were much smaller than expected, and the cause was excessively large log files. This post explains the apparent paradox and the steps taken to trace and fix the problem.
The server in question runs the usual set of grandfather-father-son backups. Before each backup, the software prints the expected size of the backup into a log file. On other servers the estimate is usually bang-on. On this server, the backup turned out to be about 12 times smaller than the estimate. Not a problem in itself, but puzzling and indicative of something untoward on the system. Continue reading →