Sorting out a system update failure for FreeBSD

With my tendency to apply Linux updates using the command, I was happy to see that something similar was possible in FreeBSD too. The first step is to fire up a terminal session and drop into root using the su command. That needs the root superuser password in order to continue and the next step is to update the local repositories using the following command:

pkg update

After that, it is time download updated packages and install these by issuing this command:

pkg upgrade

Most of the time, that is sufficient but I discovered that there are times when the above fails and additional interventions are needed. What I had uncovered were dependency error messages and I set to looking around the web for remedies to this. One forum question that was similar to what I had met with the suggestion of consulting the file called UPDATING in /usr/ports/. An answer like that looks unhelpful but for the inclusion of advice where extra actions were needed. Also, there is a useful article on updating FreeBSD ports that gives more in the way of background knowledge so you understand the more about what needs doing.

Following both that and the UPDATING  file resulted in my taking the following sequence of steps. The first act was to download and initialise the Ports Collection, a set of build instructions.

portsnap fetch extract

The above is a one time only action so future updates are done as follows:

portsnap fetch update

With an up to date Ports Collection in place, it was time to install portman:

pkg install portman

A look through /usr/ports/UPDTAING revealed the commands I needed for updating Python and Perl to address the dependency problem that I was having:

portmaster -o devel/py-setuptools27 devel/py-setuptools
portmaster -r py\*setuptools

With those completed, I re-ran pkg update again and all was well. The extra actions needed to get that result will not get forgotten and I am sharing them on here so I know where they are. If anyone else has use for them, that would be even better.

Running Internet Explorer on Linux

MSIE 6 running on Ubuntu

On first sight, this probably sounds daft given how good Firefox is but you cannot ignore those surf the web using the ever pervasive Internet Explorer when doing some web development. Using virtualisation is a solution to the need but it can mean that you need to set up a web server with Perl, PHP, MySQL and the like in a virtual machine, all for a little offline testing and then there’s the potential for a lot of file copying too. Otherwise, you are trying to sneak things online and catch the glitches before anyone else does, never a good plan.

Therefore, having the ability to run IE to test your offline LAMPP set up is a boon and IES4Linux allows you to do what’s really needed. Naturally, WINE is involved so some flakiness may be experienced, even after the ever useful API library’s reaching version 1. Otherwise, all usually runs well once you work you way through the very helpful instructions on the IES4Linux website. I did get a misplaced message about the version of WINE that I was using and Python errors made a worrying appearance but neither compromised the end result: a working IE6 installation on my main Ubuntu box.

IE5 and IE5.5 are also on offer if you’re interested but, after looking at my visitor statistics, I think that I can discount these. IE7 and the work-in-progress IE8 make no appearance on the availability list. The absence of IE7 is not a big problem as it might appear because coding for IE6 sufficiently suffices for IE7, even now; IE8 may not be the same in this regard but we shall see. Even so, a later browser release does mean a more secure version and I reckon that including IE7 should be next on the project’s to do list. Saying that, what we have now is far better than nothing at all.

Open source CMS options

After reading an article in the latest issue of PC Plus, I got curious about the world of content management systems again. I went over to OpenSourceCMS to sample the CMS demos that they have got on there. Mambo and Joomla! are fully fledged CMS’s and look impressive too, though how they would fit into my online presence is something of an open question. I spied that PHP-Nuke uses themes so that is an attraction; I am already used to that mindset thanks to WordPress. Drupal seems to be less slick than the others but that could be an attraction of itself; it does offer themes but no rich text editing is available.

All of the above are base upon PHP/MySQL but I ignored them for some reason when I last took a look at open source CMS’s. That does seem a strange thing to do but this was a while ago and the moderate cost of adding database functionality to my website was not something that I was willing to pay, though I have done so since for HennessyBlog. I therefore ended up taking a look at Plone (built on Zope and using the Python programming language). What I was had in mind at the time was a replacement for Perl-powered photo gallery and a CMS was never going to fit the bit; it still doesn’t. In any case, I like coexistence of website components on a single server and Plone left me with the impression that it was an all or nothing affair. Things may have changed since so giving it another go remains an option.

I have now decided to take a look at Drupal but the emphasis this time is not on using it as a photo gallery platform; if I wanted that, I’d go with the API for something like Flickr or Zooomr. This time, the emphasis on using a CMS to manage the visitor information directories on my website. It does coexist with the other website components, including WordPress and the aforementioned bespoke built photo gallery. Interestingly, Drupal does offer blogging functionality if I wanted it.

Set up involved a spot of work with mySQL before moving onto other things:

mysql -u adminuserid -p /* logging in*/

create database drupal; /*creating new database*/

grant ALL on drupal.* to adminuser identified by “**********” /* granting access to new database */

quit; /* exiting */

I prefer command line working with mySQL; it is easier to see what’s going on (not wrong, hopefully). For some reason, Drupal comes only in tar.gz archives but I extracted this into the web server directory and opened up the site in Firefox. Installation only requires set up of database access and is very quick. A few things turned up in the status report that needed attention: cron, this can be run manually; activation of PHP Unicode and GD library (PHP’s gd_info function is a real help in testing this) extensions, editing of php.ini to remove commenting semicolons activated them and restarting Apache made them available; having a place to store uploads, the directory files was created.

I have since set about bending it to my will, not always an easy thing to do with software. The first thing to do was to give it a static home page. By default, Drupal places tasters for any nominated pages and stories on its home page and shows configuration instructions until you allow some content to filter through. However, adding the Front Page module allows you to override this behaviour and have something more static. It was an entry on Kehan’s Blog that set me heading in the right direction.

The next steps are be to persuade the thing to allow external links to exist in menus (patches exist but I have yet to learn how to apply them other than finding the nefarious piece of code and replacing, a considerable challenge that makes me wonder if there is not a better way to do it: with a module, perhaps?) and carry on the theme editing until it ties in with the rest of my site. Then, I’ll make the decision as to whether to replace my current work flow (Perl-powered pre-processing of XML into PHP/XHTML using XSLT and the Saxon parser followed by FTP upload to the web server) with this one. The automation of the former argues in its favour. We’ll see how things pan out…