Links for 2013-03-24

  • KDE’s brush with git repository corruption: post-mortem

    a barely-averted disaster… phew.

    while we planned for the case of the server losing a disk or entirely biting the dust, or the total loss of the VM’s filesystem, we didn’t plan for the case of filesystem corruption, and the way the corruption affected our mirroring system triggered some very unforeseen and pathological conditions. […] the corruption was perfectly mirrored… or rather, due to its nature, imperfectly mirrored. And all data on the anongit [mirrors] was lost.
    One risk demonstrated: by trusting in mirroring, rather than a schedule of snapshot backups covering a wide time range, they nearly had a major outage. Silent data corruption, and code bugs, happen — backups protect against this, but RAID, replication, and mirrors do not. Another risk: they didn’t have a rate limit on project-deletion, which resulted in the “anongit” mirrors deleting their (safe) data copies in response to the upstream corruption. Rate limiting to sanity-check automated changes is vital. What they should have had in place was described by the fix: ‘If a new projects file is generated and is more than 1% different than the previous file, the previous file is kept intact (at 1500 repositories, that means 15 repositories would have to be created or deleted in the span of three minutes, which is extremely unlikely).’

    (tags: rate-limiting case-studies post-mortems kde git data-corruption risks mirroring replication raid bugs backups snapshots sanity-checks automation ops)

  • SpaceX software dev practices

    Metrics rule the roost — I guess there’s been a long history of telemetry in space applications.

    To make software more visible, you need to know what it is doing, he said, which means creating “metrics on everything you can think of”…. Those metrics should cover areas like performance, network utilization, CPU load, and so on. The metrics gathered, whether from testing or real-world use, should be stored as it is “incredibly valuable” to be able to go back through them, he said. For his systems, telemetry data is stored with the program metrics, as is the version of all of the code running so that everything can be reproduced if needed. SpaceX has programs to parse the metrics data and raise an alarm when “something goes bad”. It is important to automate that, Rose said, because forcing a human to do it “would suck”. The same programs run on the data whether it is generated from a developer’s test, from a run on the spacecraft, or from a mission. Any failures should be seen as an opportunity to add new metrics. It takes a while to “get into the rhythm” of doing so, but it is “very useful”. He likes to “geek out on error reporting”, using tools like libSegFault and ftrace. Automation is important, and continuous integration is “very valuable”, Rose said. He suggested building for every platform all of the time, even for “things you don’t use any more”. SpaceX does that and has found interesting problems when building unused code. Unit tests are run from the continuous integration system any time the code changes. “Everyone here has 100% unit test coverage”, he joked, but running whatever tests are available, and creating new ones is useful. When he worked on video games, they had a test to just “warp” the character to random locations in a level and had it look in the four directions, which regularly found problems. “Automate process processes”, he said. Things like coding standards, static analysis, spaces vs. tabs, or detecting the use of Emacs should be done automatically. SpaceX has a complicated process where changes cannot be made without tickets, code review, signoffs, and so forth, but all of that is checked automatically. If static analysis is part of the workflow, make it such that the code will not build unless it passes that analysis step. When the build fails, it should “fail loudly” with a “monitor that starts flashing red” and email to everyone on the team. When that happens, you should “respond immediately” to fix the problem. In his team, they have a full-size Justin Bieber cutout that gets placed facing the team member who broke the build. They found that “100% of software engineers don’t like Justin Bieber”, and will work quickly to fix the build problem.

    (tags: spacex dev coding metrics deplyment production space justin-bieber)

  • on the etymology of “Ketchup”

    ‘the story of ketchup is a story of globalization and centuries of economic domination by a world superpower. But the superpower isn’t America, and the century isn’t ours. Ketchup’s origins in the fermented sauces of China and Southeast Asia mean that those little plastic packets under the seat of your car are a direct result of Chinese and Asian domination of a single global world economy for most of the last millenium.’

    (tags: ketchup china nam-pla food etymology condiments history trade)

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