Saturday, October 27, 2007

Taxonomy is dead, long live taxonomy

No, not taxonomy the discipline (although I've given a talk asking this question), but, my long-running web server hosting such venerable software projects as TreeView, NDE, and GeneTree, along with my home page.

A series of power cuts in my building while I was away finally did for my ancient Sun Sparcstation5, running the CERN web server (yes, it's that old). I can remember the thrill (mixed with mild terror) of taking delivery of the Sparcstation and having to manually assemble it (the CD ROM and floppy drives came separately), and the painful introduction to the Unix command line. The joy of getting a web server to run (way back in late 1995), followed by Samba, AppleTalk, and CVS.

For the time being a backup copy of the documents and software hosted on the Sparcstation are being served from a Mac. The only tricky thing was setting up the CVS server that I use for version control for my projects. Yes, I know CVS is also ancient, and that Linus Torvalds will think me a moron, but for now it's what I use. CVS comes with Apple's developer tools, but I wanted to set up remote access. I found the articles by Daniel Côté Setting up a CVS server on Mac OS X and on Mac OSX Hints Enable CVS pserver on 10.2 to be helpful. Basically I initialised a new CVS repository, then copied across the backed repository from a DVD. I then replaced some files in CVSROOT that listed things like the modules in the repository and notifications sent when code is comitted. Getting the pserver up and running required some work. I created a file called cvspserver inside /etc/xinetd.d/, with the following contents.

service cvspserver
disable = no
socket_type = stream
wait = no
user = root
server = /usr/bin/cvs
server_args = -f --allow-root=/usr/local/CVS pserver
groups = yes
flags = REUSE

Then I started the service:
sudo /sbin/service cvspserver start

So far, so good, but I couldn't log in to CVS. Discovered that this is because Mac OS X uses ShadowHash authentication_authority. Hence, on a Mac CVS won't use the system user names and passwords (probably a good thing). Therefore, we uncomment the line
# Set this to "no" if pserver shouldn't check system users/passwords

in the file CVSROOT/config, then create a file CVSROOT/passwd. This file contains the username, hash password, and the actual Mac OS X username (nicely explained in Daniel Côté's article). To generate a hash password, do this:

darwin: openssl passwd
Password: 123
Verifying - Password: 123

At last it all seems to work, and I can get back to coding. This is about as geeky as this blog gets, but if you want a real geek overload, spend some time listening to this talk by Linus Torvalds.


Recovering Algebraist said...

Ah, Rod... You don't know what the Joy of Sun really was (pun intended). In 1983, I powered up a Sun 1, Serial Number 75, running Unix V7 on a 1 MHz Motorola 68000. The network was uucp running on 9600 serial lines. The laser printer was a wet toner beast from Canon, the LBP-10 that was about 1 m. on a side and weighed several hundred pounds if I recall.

You young whippersnappers don't know how easy your life was growing up. :-)

Roderic Page said...

Luxury! When I were a lad, we had audio cassette tapes, and I learnt to program recursive tree traversal in BASIC on a Spectravideo. We used to dream of networks. Try telling that to young folks today...