ClonePanel on MS Windows XP

August 14th, 2006

I just installed the latest version of Cygwin and tried it out. The developers have done a truly great job with that because to my surprise it worked!

There was one small glitch – the IP address used on the remote server had some strange characters added, which initially killed the automated remote login. It turned out that I had an escape code entered in front of the IP address of the local server. On further experiment, when entering data at a prompt on the Cygwin terminal, using the cursor keys (up, down, left, right arrows) enters an escape sequence which is invisible but is read by the script. (The same thing happens using PuTTY connecting to a Linux server except that the characters are visible, so are easily deleted.)

So the fix is not to use the arrow keys when prompted for input (backspace seems ok). If you do have problems then check the config file carefully for extra characters – edit the file (eg. clonepanel/hosts/HOSTNAME/config) don’t just print it out, since these characters don’t display!

I’ve now successfully tested backup and sync, get and set dns zone on Cygwin. I’ll take this further when I get the time, unless anyone else would like to continue…?

If you’re interested in using Cygwin for ClonePanel you will need rsync, OpenSSH, openssl, openssl-devel and cron installed in addition to the defaults – just select these from the list during setup. rsync and OpenSSH are under “Net”, cron is under “Admin”, openssl and openssl-devel under “Libs”. Nano / pico fans and anyone wanting a simple easy-to-use editor should also select nano from the “Editors” section.

Edit 1: Added openssl and openssl-devel to list of required modules after testing get_dns and set_dns scripts (these are libraries required by the Net::DNS perl modules).

Edit 2: Changed glitch explanation in the light of further investigation (original below).

I’ll try to work out a fix for this but in the meantime the work-around is to set up the new account with ./account add as in the standard instructions. It will set up the remote key, attempt to test it and fail. Then go into the account on the host server and edit the .ssh/authorized_keys file. On the last line you should see something like:

from=”172.31.255.0″,command=”/home/username/cp0.30/scripts/sync_r” ssh-dss AAA…

Where the IP address and username would be whatever you just entered. This is followed by a long string of characters that make up the key.

If you see other characters between the from=” and your IP address, delete them and save the file.

Then back on the cygwin computer, type:

./sync_remote -u username -H HOSTNAME

to complete the setting up of the remote system (interrupted earlier by the error). If you get no errors this time you should be good to go!

Hosts: Other

August 13th, 2006

If you have any recommendations for other suitable hosts please share them here.

CPAN modules to load

August 13th, 2006

Based on a standard Centos 4.3 distribution, the backup and sync functions of ClonePanel work immediately. However for manipulation of zone files and connecting to hosts to update nameservers using the WHM remote access key the following perl modules also need to be installed:

  • Net::DNS
  • Net::DNS::ZoneFile::Fast
  • HTML::TreeBuilder

The best way to do this, ensuring that all dependencies are satisfied, is to use CPAN – as root, type cpan and follow the prompts. Once cpan itself is installed and you have the cpan> prompt, the command “install modulename” will take care of everything!

Edit: This also applies to a Cygwin install, although in this case I had some tests fail that required a “force install Net::DNS::SEC” (a dependency of Net::DNS::ZoneFile::Fast).

Hosting category rules

August 13th, 2006

Just in case this section should become popular I thought I’d set out some rules for posting comments.

I welcome comments specifically about implementing ClonePanel on a host or generally about the hosts themselves. Spammy topics such as porn, gambling and medication will never make it past moderation. Any other topics will be assessed on their merits.

All comments will be subject to moderation – I apologise for the delay this causes but with the number of spam-bots filling blogs all over the web with their garbage it’s simply a necessity.

Users are encouraged to post comments on their hosts, but in some cases I may ask for verification before publishing the comment (eg. a web site at the host).

Hosts are encouraged to post comments about their service, provided this is done openly under their own name and only if the hosting is relevant to this site (generally Linux hosting with SSH enabled).

Maximum one link per comment. No affiliate links.

These rules may be changed in future as the need arises.

Thanks

Hosts: VPSLand.com

August 13th, 2006

VPSLand offer a range of Linux and Windows virtual private servers based in Atlanta. The Linux servers are Xen based and at the lower end of the range very reasonably priced ($10 per month with annual payments on the smallest one).

Initial impression of a small one for backup purposes is that it’s good value with excellent performance. Reliability and support so far untested. To be continued…

Update April 11, 2007

Apologies for the delayed update! I kept the VPSLand account for 6 months until the end of January, used as the ClonePanel backup server. The server was extremely reliable and always responsive but there were some intermittent problems with the network. Responses to support tickets were a little slower than I would have liked, and predictably informed me that these problems were caused by DOS attacks on the server.

Overall, a pretty good little VPS for a bargain price. I closed the account because there are now several other low-cost VPS available, of which more shortly…

Hosts: NetLogistics.com.au

August 13th, 2006

Shared, reseller, VPS and dedicated hosting using WHM / CPanel or Plesk. (Windows servers also available.) Servers based in many DCs in the USA (ThePlanet, Fastservers, Liquidweb and Fortress ITX) and Australia (TransACT Canberra, Global Switch and AAPT/Connect Sydney, PIPE Brisbane). Prices at the low end of the range for quality Au-based hosting, expensive by US-based hosting standards.

Reseller accounts include SSH access.


Extreme quality hardware and very knowledgable support – recommended particularly for their Australian servers.

Hosts: Dotable.com

August 13th, 2006

Multi-domain and reseller hosting using WHM and CPanel. Servers based in LA, giving reasonable latency from Australia (under 200ms) and internationally. The business is relatively new but the owner, Aussie Bob, has many years experience and a stellar reputation for customer service.

SSH access is enabled on request for the main account, but is not offered on resellers’ client accounts. This means that as a reseller you would not be able to use ClonePanel to back up your clients’ accounts. Fortunately an exception is made for designer-developer resellers who fully manage their client accounts.

My experience so far has been near perfect – they use good hardware (dual Xeon and now dual Opteron) run low load averages (below 1 most of the time), keep all software bang up to date and react fast to any problems. Support, when required, is quick and friendly – good for beginner or expert alike.

Overall conclusion: Professional quality hosting – highly recommended.

Hosts: Dreamhost.com

August 13th, 2006

So why is Dreamhost included here? Their reputation over at WHT is dreadful! They oversell to an extraordinary degree; in fact they offer such ridiculous amounts of disk space and transfer that if just a few percent of their clients were to actually use what they’ve bought they’d be out of business within weeks.

Well, all of that is probably true, but look more closely at the reviews. First ignore about 80% of the posts – those from rival hosts expressing their outrage at the overselling (in some cases you have to suspect sour grapes – because they themselves aren’t big enough to oversell the same way!). Then take out the complaints from users unable to run their busy forum on the $10 Dreamhost account – a site that really needs a dedicated server won’t be tolerated on any shared account. What’s left (perhaps 10% of the total) is feedback from non-abusive Dreamhost clients, and it’s generally rather favourable. Clearly it’s not unusual for some clients to push hundreds of Gb per month of mainly static traffic. So far at least, Dreamhost seems to be managing their overselling without imposing unreasonable restrictions.

And for developers what they offer is indeed rather attractive – 20Gb of storage, 1Tb per month of data transfer, full bash shell for 75 SSH users, unlimited web sites, PHP4 and 5, MySQL 5, Subversion etc. All for $10 per month…

Reselling is also permitted, although clients will not get their own control panel so this will mainly suit the designer-developer who manages web sites for clients. Or any reseller wanting a backup server.

Also possibly of interest to anyone interested in search engine optimization (SEO) – different domains on your Dreamhost account often appear on different IP addresses…

The control panel is not CPanel but Dreamhost’s own clustered system – takes a little getting used to but it’s ok. It can be made to work with ClonePanel but requires a little tweaking in addition to the standard setup for CPanel accounts – more instructions coming soon.

Overall verdict – I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone looking for maximum uptime, super-fast servers or beginner-friendly service. But the bang-per-buck is impressive and overall performance is acceptable for most sites. With reselling permitted and multiple full shell user accounts it’s very capable – ideal for a hot-spare backup server.

The following section on Dreamhost discount codes has been edited in light of the new affiliate limits introduced December 11, 2007.

Dreamhost also offers introductory discounts that make trialling their service for a year fairly cheap. First came their famous 777 code (released for a “limited time” on their seventh birthday and offering up to $110 discount!) which gave users their basic plan at under $10 for the first year. Other generous offers have followed at intervals, such as 888 and 999 (original, huh!) and if you can find one of Dreamhost’s own codes still current at the time you’re ready to sign up it will probably offer the best possible price.

If that fails then you’ll find many coupon codes from affiliates offering of up to $97 off the first payment, which until recently was the maximum discount affiliates could offer. But be warned: Dreamhost now limits the maximum discount affiliates can offer to $50. So you’ll still find $97 coupons but when you try to use them they’ll only give you $50 off…

So, having made the money situation clear (in the interests of complete honesty!) ClonePanel.com is happy to offer its readers an introductory discount of up to $50 if you wish to try out Dreamhost. Just use the coupon code CLONEPANEL at the checkout.

All money earned through commissions on this code will be used to develop ClonePanel, or possibly to buy beer…

Backup / monitoring system on a VPS

August 13th, 2006

I just moved the main clonepanel system (for backup and monitoring) to a small Xen VPS from VPSLand.com – 96Mb memory, 192Mb swap and 4Gb disk space (2Gb usable space with the operating system taking up the rest). A tiny package at a very reasonable price (US$12 per month), yet it’s performing brilliantly!

The biggest client account (a little over 500Mb in total) was syncronized – a complete download – the first time in 9.5 minutes (effectively around 900kB/s). Syncing a second time required 4 small databases dumped and downloaded plus checking all files (although none had changed) – all done in 9 seconds.

It’s early days yet but I really like the Xen system with dedicated memory that cannot be given away to other virtual servers on the same node – I’ve seen no trace of that little lag that seems so common on all Virtuozzo systems I’ve tried.

More reviews in the hosting category, coming shortly.