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Pool Linux - Management

Overview

The Pool Linux computers are all managed by the Puppet infrastructure. This means that several things that were done manually are now automated:

  • application of software updates (e.g. security updates),
  • ensuring the list of installed software is consistent within a research group,
  • the configuration of software,
  • deployment of bug fixes, and
  • monitoring of the computers' health.

While these are very convenient for administration, caution needs to be taken that this level of automation doesn't get in the way of letting research students and staff get their jobs done. Fortunately, many of the bullet points above help everybody, but the list of software packages and their configuration may be troublesome if you wish them to differ. (The following text only applies if you have admin rights to a computer - if you do not, please email the Computing Pool at support@pool.phy.cam.ac.uk and we'd be happy to help.)

Configuration files

All of the configuration files managed by Puppet have a warning notice at the top, such as the following:

#
# --- CAUTION ---
#
# This file is managed by Puppet. Local changes will be overwritten. Email
# support@pool.phy.cam.ac.uk if you need to make any changes to this file.
#

The Computing Pool only manage those files necessary for bug fixing and essential configuration to take place, so the configuration file you'd like to modify may not be managed by Puppet yet. Files that are managed by Puppet get updated roughly every half-hour, which may give you enough time to test your changes before they are overwritten. As in the warning notice, please let the Computing Pool know if you'd like to update a file. Even if you are making changes to a file that isn't managed by Puppet, the changes may be useful for more than just your computer, so we'd certainly like to hear from you if you do make changes.

Software packages

A very similar story goes for the list of installed software: Puppet synchronises the installed packages with what they “should” be at around 0300 each morning. For testing, please feel free to install packages and use them, but to make changes permanent please email the Computing Pool. Your suggestions for software packages are likely to be useful to your whole research group (perhaps even Pool-wide), so please do email: we're only likely to reject a suggestion if it compromises the security of the system or irrecoverably breaks something already installed.