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Jan 29, 2010

Using rsync with an Amazon EC2 Fedora 8 image

by Eric Smith — last modified Jan 30, 2010 07:10 AM

Amazon provides a number of Fedora 8 images. Unfortunately the provided kernels cause a problem with rsync. Find out how to resolve the problem.

We've recently started investigating Amazon EC2 for some of our computing needs. So far our progress has been excellent. I've been focusing on using the Amazon-supplied Fedora 8 (F8) images, in particular ami-48aa4921, although the problem I describe here applies to all of the F8 AMIs that Amazon provides.

One significant roadblock has been a problem with rsync. In particular, we use the excellent dirvish for our online backups. Unfortunately, Amazon uses the 2.6.21 kernel in its F8 images and this version does not support the lutimes system call. The version of rsync that comes with F8 uses lutimes to set the modification time on directories. lutimes isn't available until the 2.6.22 kernels. For more information on the issue with rsync and lutimes, see the rsync bug entry.

The symptom is errors in the dirvish rsync_error log files of the form:

rsync: failed to set times on "<directory-name>": Function not implemented (38)

Dirvish sees these as fatal errors and marks the images as failed. This prevents dirvish from performing its incremental backups.

Because rsync does not have a runtime switch to ignore lutimes, the easiest way to solve this is to produce a version of rsync that doesn't use the call at all. Unfortunately rsync does not have an autoconf switch to turn off lutimes, so I had to patch and rebuild. The change is simple, here's the diff I use:

--- rsync-2.6.9/        2010-01-29 15:37:35.000000000 -0500
+++ rsync-2.6.9/    2010-01-29 15:38:07.000000000 -0500
@@ -528,7 +528,7 @@
 AC_CHECK_FUNCS(waitpid wait4 getcwd strdup chown chmod lchmod mknod mkfifo \
-    fchmod fstat ftruncate strchr readlink link utime utimes lutimes strftime \
+    fchmod fstat ftruncate strchr readlink link utime utimes strftime \
     memmove lchown vsnprintf snprintf vasprintf asprintf setsid glob strpbrk \
     strlcat strlcpy strtol mallinfo getgroups setgroups geteuid getegid \
     setlocale setmode open64 lseek64 mkstemp64 mtrace va_copy __va_copy \

I created a new RPM for rsync. Here's the diff for the .spec file:

--- rsync.spec.orig     2008-04-09 10:36:56.000000000 -0400
+++ rsync.spec  2010-01-29 22:21:13.000000000 -0500
@@ -1,7 +1,7 @@
 Summary: A program for synchronizing files over a network.
 Name: rsync
 Version: 2.6.9
-Release: 5%{?dist}
+Release: 5%{?dist}.trueblade.0
 Group: Applications/Internet
 # TAG: for pre versions use
@@ -10,6 +10,7 @@
 Patch1: rsync-2.6.9-acl-xattr-delete-bug.patch
 Patch2: rsync-2.6.9-hlink-segv.patch
 Patch3: rsync-3.0.1-xattr-alloc.diff
+Patch4: rsync-2.6.9-disable-lutimes.patch
 BuildRequires: libacl-devel, libattr-devel, autoconf, make, gcc, popt-devel
 Prefix: %{_prefix}
 BuildRoot: /var/tmp/%{name}-root
@@ -33,6 +34,7 @@
 %patch1 -p1 -b .acl_xattrs_bug
 %patch2 -p1 -b .hlink_segv
 %patch3 -p1 -b .xattr-alloc
+%patch4 -p1 -b .lutimes
 rm -fr autom4te.cache
@@ -62,6 +64,10 @@
+* Fri Jan 29 2010 Eric V. Smith <> 2.6.9-5.fc8.trueblade.0
+- Added patch4 to remove lutimes, since the EC2 kernel in ami-48aa4921 does
+  not support it.
 * Tue Apr  8 2008 Simo Sorce <> 2.6.9-5.fc8
 - Security release: 

Once I had the new RPM, I signed it and added it to our local RPM repository. Because it has a newer version than the one supplied with F8, it will automatically be picked up by "yum update".

The only remaining complication is that the AMI I'm using supplies its own copy of rsync in /usr/local/bin, in addition to the one supplied by default in /usr/bin. I'm not sure why Amazon did this, because the /usr/local/bin version has the same problem as the /usr/bin one. The /usr/local/bin version does not come from an RPM, so I just delete it using our automated server configuration tool. The files to delete are:


Once the new RPM updates rsync and the unneeded /usr/local files are deleted, rsync and dirvish are again working correctly.

I'd rather solve this problem by upgrading the kernel to 2.6.22 or newer, but upgrading the kernel is a non-trivial task with AWS. I'd rather let Amazon handle that issue and instead focus on using the provided images. This way we can more easily upgrade when Amazon produces newer AMIs.

For a number of other approaches (but with fewer specifics), see this thread.

Jan 19, 2010

A Superb, Low-Noise, Inexpensive Headset for PC Use

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jan 20, 2010 12:40 AM
Filed Under:

Are you disappointed with the audio quality of analog PC headsets? I'm quite picky about sound quality and always looking for something better. I've used many different PC headsets over the years, and today I have a new favorite headset for audio clarity — and it's only $35!


Recently I read an article that advocated using USB headsets (not analog) for improved audio clarity and lower background noise levels during Skype calls, WebEx, recording audio directly to the PC, etc. The idea makes sense — it's difficult to remove all the electrical white noise generated by a PC if you use an analog microphone, so use a USB based headphone instead to improve the audio quality and reduce noise. 

My headset search brought me to the Plantronics MX500i headset, currently ~$35 from A photo of the headset and a photo of its USB interface are shown below. 

As is True Blade's custom, we first bought a single headset for testing. My partner Eric verified that the headset was good and had clear audio. I then bought my own MX500i and it arrived today. 

Once I set up my MX500i tonight, I promptly made a Skype call to Asia (from New York City) and it was the clearest PC based audio I've ever experienced. The sound was really that good. 

This headset's design is a bit unusual, with the bulk of the headset resting under the ear, not on top of your ear. That seems odd, but so be it. I can't say it's the most comfortable headset I've ever used, but as of now, I own a new headset with the clearest PC based audio I've ever experienced. Recommended. 

Bravo, Plantronics and NewEgg!

Photos of the Plantronics MX500i USB Headset and its USB Adapter

Jan 05, 2010

How To Properly Implement Pop-Up (Interstitial) Webpages in Plone

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jan 06, 2010 06:00 PM
Filed Under:

True Blade Systems is the founder of the Plone New York City Users group. We meet monthly to discuss and present on topics of interest to the Plone community.


The January, 2010 meetup will be about implementing interstitial web pages in Plone.

Interstitial web pages are web pages that display prior to anticipated content. Common usages are:

* Agreement to a Website's Terms of Service
* Disclaimers
* Advertisements or Special Offers or Information
* Capturing User Information

In addition, website login pages and introductory pages which precede and explain subsequent content are other suitable uses for interstitial web pages.

At the January, 2010 PloneNYC meetup, Eric V. Smith and J. Robert Burgoyne will explain the path we chose for implementing interstitial pages in Plone using jquery. jquery is the de facto javascript library for AJAX applications and according to Eric Smith: "I think it's worth spending a few hours with it [jquery]."

For a terrific example of an interstitial web page that uses jquery, see this website:

We plan to host the meeting in our office in the Graybar Building and we will also deliver the presentation online via WebEx, for those who cannot attend but would still like to learn the information.

If you will attend in person, please RSVP now.

If you plan to attend via WebEx, please Contact Us and let us know you need the WebEx credentials for the meeting. Online attendance is limited to 20 participants.

Read more about interstitial webpages on Wikipedia:

2010-01-20 — Here's a link to Eric Smith's presentation.