If you have ever wondered how to get a Linux EC2 node down to the bare minimum this post is for you. I have been wanting to do this for a long time but it wasn't possible until pv-grub support that was added recently. To make this even more exciting Amazon now offers EC2 micro instances that will go well with this type of bare bones system.
You may wonder why you would want to do this. I'll give you at least two reasons. First there is speed. The configuration I ended up with will boot in about 14 seconds. Almost all of that time is spent waiting on the AWS DHCP server for an IP address. The second reason is security. There is little on this system that you don't need. The majority of what you need is provided by a single application that you can easily monitor for patches. That leaves you to worry about only the tools you must have to get your job done. I'll also include a couple downsides. First this isn't going to be easy for everyone and it can be fairly complicated. The second issue you will run into is that there is nothing in this distribution. If you need something like PHP you might spend a long time building all the support you need. There isn't much to be done about the complexity if you want to do this all yourself. Selection of tools can help you lessen the impact of the bare nature of the system, more on that in a future post.
I have a long running goal that I'm trying to reach with all these pv-grub for EC2 posts. That goal is to find the smallest/tightest usable node that can be created for EC2. The next step in that path requires a custom Linux kernel. What follows is how to build the latest Linux kernel so that it works on EC2 using pv-grub.
It is important to have a recent kernel since most of what is needed to get a kernel to work on EC2 is now incorporated into the source. These instructions assume the latest kernel is 126.96.36.199 and I've used them with 2.6.35 as well but keep that in mind since the one patch that is required could eventually be merged in. Before getting started it may help to read over how to compile the Linux kernel normally and then my post on running CentOS 5.5 on EC2 using pv-grub.
Every once in a while I run into something I need to debug from the network up. Most of the time I can do this using Wireshark but there are a few instances where what I'm really looking for is a man in the middle proxy. I usually find an alternative way to debug what I'm working on but recently I decided to find a combination that worked so the next time I can use it.
Most of the time what I'm working on when I need a proxy has something to do with SOAP and there is actually a MITM proxy in SoapUI but it doesn't have support for HTTPS. If you are working with SOAP and can use HTTP then SoapUI is a great tool. If that doesn't fit the bill then Paros proxy does a good job.