This post is about Munin and the custom theme I built for it, Raven.
What is Munin and why am I bothering with it?
Munin is a program you install on servers to track their resource usage and application performance on a minute-by-minute basis and present you with graphs giving tons of detail about it’s status over time (each report can be viewed for daily, weekly, etc.) It has lots of core and community-built plugins to track different server applications and different aspects of a server’s health.
The basic idea is that you install a ‘node’ on each server you want to keep track of, then one ‘master’ that queries the nodes and generates the graphs for you. I’ve had it recommended to me by pro sysadmins a few times in the past but was intimidated by the complexity of installation and the inscrutability of the resulting graphs, which depend on you having pre-existing knowledge of the command-line tools who’s output they aggregate. Oh, my iostat is up… um… what do I do about that?
The best guide to understanding and installing Munin I found was this great set of articles on the Slicehost blog. They are intended for Slicehost customers, but seem to apply pretty well to anyone using the Linux distrubutions they cover.
The problem with Munin and it’s Theme ecosystem
So I got it running and am trying to figure out how to read the information it presents but there’s a problem: It’s woefully, sinfully and abysmally ugly. The web pages output by munin are not just composed on 90’s style tables, they are ugly tables, with tiny text and wasteful spacing.
FWIW I don’t even know how to refer to this. The files themselves are called ‘templates’ in various places on the Munin site, but IMHO the package as a whole should be called a “theme”, at least that’s how we do things in WordPress land. I tried to use both in this post so people find this post, but I’ll call it ‘theme’ from now on.
My Munin Theme: Raven
Screenshot of Raven. Click to enlarge. Compare with screenshot of alt-default theme.
Features of Raven compared to the default theme:
- Larger text all over to actually use up all the empty space created by the unavoidably-large graph images.
- Reduced unneeded spacing and <hr> tags that just added noise.
- Calm light-grey colors and rounded corners to soothe your mind while you toil over server performance.
- Readme/installation instructions in the .zip file.
Download Raven theme
If I get good feedback about this I’ll post it on the official Munin Wiki, but for now you can grab the zip file above. Please take a look at the contents and read the README-INSTRUCTIONS.txt file before installing the theme.
The README-INSTRUCTIONS.txt file contains all the information you need to use Raven, including detailed instructions with background information about the locations you need to upload files to. Here is the summarized instructions so you can get a sense of how simple installation is:
- Upload the “templates_raven” directory from this zip file into your Munin config directory (i.e. same directory that munin.conf is in, probably /etc/munin/)
- Upload the ‘raven-htmldir-files’ directory from this zip file into your Munin HTML directory (where the public HTML is served from).
- Edit your “munin.conf” file on the master and change the “tmpldir” property to reference the new “templates_raven” directory in your Munin config directory instead of the default “templates”.
- Wait 5 minutes for the Munin master to refresh itself and reload.
Feedback? Thanks? Bugfixes?
Obviously this is my first attempt at a Munin theme and there is not a lot of other examples to emulate, so I may have done something horribly wrong. If you have questions or comments please use the comment form below to let me know about them.
I will try to get back to you ASAP but be warned: I am not going to support your Munin problems for you. I am sharing this theme to give back to the community, but if your problem is complicated I may not be able to help.
Thanks in advance to anyone brave enough to try out the theme and leave feedback!