Unless you’re a wet-behind-the-ears IT administrator or you’ve just been living under a RoQ, you know of the Sun Cobalt line of servers. These servers work like champs for ISPs, ASPs, and small to midsize businesses. Of course, even champs like the Los Angeles Lakers eventually succumb to one thing or another and come crumbling down. The Lakers don’t generally need an instruction manual and a CD to get back on their feet, but the RaQ administrator does.

If you have a RaQ on your network that’s gone belly-up, this Daily Feature is going to help you get it back up and running to factory defaults and then, using the RaQ’s own backup utility, restore the server to where it was before it died.

Recovering from disaster
Once the RaQ unit has come down (due to hacker attack, user error, or a lost administrator password), there’s only one way to get it back up. It requires the OS Restore CD, a Pentium-class x86 desktop PC with a working 10/100 Base-T PCI or ISA Ethernet adapter, and an isolated 10/100 autosensing Ethernet connection (or a crossover cable) between the RaQ server and the desktop PC.

If you can’t find your OS Restore CD, you have two options. The first option is to zip on over to Sun Cobalt’s OS Restore CD download page and download the proper .iso image to be burned onto CD. For this recovery, download the RaQ3-050901.iso image and burn it. If you opt for this method, make sure you take a look at the README file first. The second option is to call 1-800-526-0484 (U.S.), or 1-801-431-1495 (outside the U.S.) and purchase the OS Restore CD for $29.95 U.S.

When I performed this recovery, the method I chose was a straight shot using a crossover cable from a Compaq Armada 1750 laptop to the RaQ 3 server. Once the machines were connected, I simply had to pop the OS Restore CD into the laptop and boot it. I was greeted with a boot: prompt and pressed [Enter]. The Restore CD booted a special version of Linux that doesn’t affect the hard drive of the desktop PC. After booting, I scrolled through the license agreement. (The on-screen license is a Cobalt Networks, Inc. License Agreement, which is accompanied by both a BSD Copyright and a GNU General Public License in the manual.) Once I accepted the license, the Restore CD finished booting and displayed a simple five-step how-to list on restoring the RaQ, which I followed. The (paraphrased) steps are:

  1. Connect a category 5 crossover cable from the server to the Ethernet port of this machine (the desktop PC).
  2. Press and hold the [Select] button of the Cobalt server while turning on the power. Release the [Select] button when prompted with Select Option.
  3. Press the [Select] button until the option Boot From Net appears.
  4. Press [Enter]. (During these beginning stages of the restore, the LCD screen showed the Loading Kernel… message for a few minutes.)
  5. Follow the LCD prompts to restore your hard drive.

Eventually, I was asked to select the model of RaQ I was restoring. I was restoring a RaQ 3i, so I selected that model and pressed [Enter]. I was asked to confirm the installation; I selected Yes, using the Left/Right Arrow keys to move the cursor, and the hard drive began the formatting process.

Once the formatting and installation were complete, the RaQ rebooted, checked the disk, started the clock, started the network, checked disk quotas, set up storage, set up Web service, ran MFG tests, and finally asked for the server to be powered off.

The next step was to restore power to the RaQ by, you guessed it, flipping the power switch. After the boot, I entered the primary IP address when prompted. The display showed, and I used the Up/Down Arrow keys to advance the numbers and the Left/Right Arrow keys to move to the next numeric slot. The other configurations needed were Subnetmask and Gateway. After these configurations were complete, I used the Left Arrow key to move the cursor to Save and pressed [Enter] to save and verify. The server finished booting and finally came to rest with the LCD screen displaying the RaQ’s IP address.

When my RaQ was up and running to factory defaults, it was time to get it back to where it was before its most untimely death.

You have a backup, right?

Before I actually explain the restoration process, I want to take a moment to touch on the backup process that you should have used before your RaQ died. If your RaQ died before you took this measure, read on and make sure you implement this step soon after you have the server up and running to your satisfaction.

The backup process for the RaQ server is very simple. I logged in to the RaQ from a client machine and logged onto the RaQ from within a Web browser (the URL was http://ip.address.of.raq/admin). Then I clicked on the Maintenance button, which brought up the backup window. The backup window allowed me to very easily back up All Server Configuration, E-mail, And User Files; All Server Configurations; or Files And E-mail for a selected user. After I selected the type of backup I wanted, I clicked Start Backup and eventually the browser asked me whether I wanted to save the file to disk. The file to be saved was in this form:


In my case, I saved the file:


The transfer of the file was fairly quick but will depend on the connection speed and the speed of the client machine. Backups can also be scheduled by clicking the Scheduled Backup button. From the Scheduled Backup section, you can configure the following:

  • Frequency
  • Type of backup
  • Age of files to be backed up
  • Backup method (NFS, FTP, Windows Share)
  • Location (of destination server)
  • Password (This can be ignored when using NFS or anonymous FTP.)

In my scheduled backup, I configured it like so:

  • Frequency: Daily
  • Type of backup: All server configuration, e-mail, and user files
  • Backup files modified in the last: 31 days
  • Backup method: FTP
  • Location:
  • Password: jack.wallen@cnet.com

Once the configuration was entered, I clicked Save and was returned to the Maintenance screen.

First, I located the .raq file that was downloaded to the backup server. Then, I logged onto the RaQ server from the machine that housed the backup file and clicked the Maintenance button on the vertical navigation bar (highlighted in Figure A) to open the Maintenance window.

Figure A
Select the aspect of the RaQ you want to administer.

In the Maintenance window, I clicked the Restore button (highlighted in Figure B).

Figure B
You can select from a number of possible administration tasks.

When the Restore window opened, I selected the file I wanted to restore to my RaQ server (highlighted in Figure C). The other available option is to choose a Selective Restore, which would allow me to browse the contents of the archived file and select specific files to restore.

Figure C
I chose the file I wanted to restore to the server.

After making my selection, I clicked Restore A Backup File, and the restoration process began. Depending on how much data has been stored on the RaQ, this process could take quite a while. To avoid possible corruption of data, it is best not to attempt to log in to the RaQ (via telnet or any other method) while the restoration process is working.

I did a little test by recursively removing all the data (as well as the directory itself) from the /home/sites/home/users/jwallen directory. After removing this directory, I ran a restore. When the restore was complete, the jwallen directory was restored, as was all the data within it.

It’s not as easy as slapping in a CD, rebooting, and reinstalling, but restoring a Sun Cobalt RaQ is painless and quick. If you would like more information on these machines, read Ed Engelking’s In a nutshell: Cobalt’s RaQ 3i and Linux 101: Installing programs on your Cobalt Qube and RaQ.