February 6, 2010 | Productivity Tips

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Dreamhost Moves from Network-Booted OS to Local OS’s

As you may or may not know, Digitivity.org is hosted on Dreamhost. Anyway, they used to boot the operating system (which in Dreamhost’s case is Debian etch 4.0) from the network to allow for centralized configuration.

Now, they’re moving to local OS’s, which requires rebooting their servers. This means a few minutes of downtime per website as the OS reboots.

This mirrors the way that Dreamhost used to have NFS (network file system)-based home directories, but now has local directories, which increase performance.

Server Reboot

They gave advance notice of the reboots at Dreamhoststatus.com.

Unfortunately, it caught me a little off-guard. I had just finished editing and publishing a WordPress post, and when I went to the Tracewatch statistics module, it gave a PHP error. When I refreshed the page, PHP wasn’t even there!

I logged in to the server without a password through SSH, but it didn’t work since it wanted a password. This, to me, indicated that the public key file had been deleted. So I logged in using a password. I was floored when I didn’t see my own files, but rather the operating system files:

me@server:/$ ls
MegaSAS.log  cdrom  dev   etc	  lib	 lost+found  opt   sbin     sys  var
bin	     core   dh	  home	  lib32  media	     proc  selinux  tmp
boot	     data   emul  initrd  lib64  mnt	     root  srv	    usr

I put in a request to Dreamhost support, but by the time they got back to me 10 minutes or so later, the reboot had already completed, and everything was OK.

Note: the original shell I was logged in to didn’t reflect the changed files. I logged in to another shell to see my files again. This is a feature of Unix/Linux operating systems.

Although I was afraid for a few minutes the site was gone, in retospect, even if I were administrating my own server, I’d have to reboot it as well occasionally.

Dreamhost Backup

Dreamhost, of course, has a backup system, and you can request old files back through Support. There’s also a hidden .snapshot directory that contains a snapshot of your files as they were before. Finally, you can download your entire account backup to your local computer in a single file from the Panel.

Dreamhost Problems Custom Status RSS

One thing you can do to keep on top of status changes at Dreamhost is to put a custom RSS feed of just the things that affect the servers you’re on into your RSS feed reader.

I have this feed along with my FeedBurner custom status feed in a folder called Alerts:

Dreamhost Custom Status Feed in RSS Reader

Dreamhost Custom Status Feed in RSS Reader

It’s possible other hosts like 1&1 or Hostgator also have custom RSS status feeds, but I don’t know for certain. FeedBurner does, so you should grab that.

Dreamhost Custom Status RSS Location

To get the address for your particular server, go to the Support section of the Dreamhost Panel, which is at this address:


The RSS address is with the orange RSS icon:

Dreamhost Custom Status Feed in Dreamhost Support

Dreamhost Custom Status Feed in Dreamhost Support

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