2001 03 22

                    LINUX NEWS
            Thursday, March 22, 2001


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

99.99% of High School Seniors can't Read PERL
Linuxgruven Still Making Headlines
Red Hat Network to Charge

IBM Targets SUN

3) Linux Resources

Building a Bridging Firewall
Introducing the Z Shell
Free PHP Code
The Moron's Guide to Kerberos
Yes, You Can Sell Free Software

4) App o’ the week

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1) Sean's Notes
One of my favourite lines is "He who laughs last probably
made a backup."  Having suffered through various crashes,
breakdowns, misfortunes, and stupid mistakes, I have to

When setting up a UNIX system, there are a few things you
can do to make your system more tolerant of problems.  The
first, and obvious one, is a tape backup.  My favourite
backup software is AMANDA:


The neat thing about AMANDA is that it eschews the
traditional full Friday backup, and daily incrementals.
While that works great, the problem is that except for the
full backup, you've got a lot of empty tape.  What AMANDA
does is rotate the full backups of various partitions with
incrementals of other partitions.  In this way, you have a
near constant tape usage, allowing you to back up much more
on a single tape.  At a previous job, we crammed a whole
bunch of workstations and servers on to one 4/8G tape.  The
interface is great--you can have it check the status of the
servers, tapes, and clients every day before you leave. When
you get into work the next morning, it can print out the
tape label.

Don't have a tape drive?  How about a burner?  There are a
lot of programs on freshmeat.net that allow controlled
backup to CD.  A CD or two a week can give you peace of mind.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a technique
that allows you to combine multiple disks into one.  In its
most basic form, RAID-0, you take two disks and make them
"mirrors" of each other.  Writes go to both drives, so if
you lose one you're still running on one good one.  Further
discussions on the various RAID levels is best left to others


Needless to say, in the absence of an expensive RAID card,
you can do it in software.  I'll cover this procedure in a
future issue but until then, have a look here:


With software RAID, you don't have to dedicate two (or more)
whole drives.  You can slice off a couple of hundred megs
off a two drive system and make it /home.  At least you'd
still have your data in the event of a crash.

The last thing I'll cover here is partitioning.  It's quite
possible to build a Linux system on one partition (two if you
need swap).  However, if you get a filesystem corruption on
one partition, you could potentially lose everything.  Not
that this happens a lot, but it is a risk...especially if
your power has a tendency to flicker.

At the minimum, put /home on its own partition.  Since it's
going to be mostly data, you're more likely to skip
corruption of that filesystem in the event of an unclean
shutdown.  Having /var on a separate partition is another
good idea, since it constantly has log files being written
to it.

Don't carry this theory too far and put every root directory
on its own!!!  /etc, /lib, /bin, /sbin, /tmp, and /dev need
to be on the root.  What I usually do is set up separate
partitions for /, /boot, /home, /usr, and /var.  In addition
to better recovery, this prevents log files, binaries, and
users from filling up the root partition.

UNIX and Linux are very stable, but accidents do happen.
Take precautions when you commission a system to ensure it
can be recovered in the event of a fault, and ensure that
your disaster recovery procedures work (ie, check your
backups!). You'll have the last laugh, I promise.


Visit The Linux Newsletter Board

2) Linux News

99.99% of High School Seniors Can't Read PERL
What is the public education system coming to? 99.99% of
surveyed seniors couldn't pass a PERL exam. "I didn't know
what the hell any of it  meant," said one Senior, "it had
lots of slashes and periods and brackets. It was so
confusing. I'm feeling rather nauseous."


Linuxgruven Still Making Headlines
This is a bit of an update on the story I posted last week.
Linuxgruven is in a bit of a transition period, to say the
least. People who paid in advance for courses, and even
employees, were greeted by a locked door when they came in
one morning. Ouch.


Red Hat Network to Charge
Red Hat's automatic update service is going to be charging
for access. Note that you'll still be able to download
patches, but this value added service will be $10/month.
Personally, I'll either continue to do it by hand, or use
Red Carpet for my limited machines, but this service will
be well suited for the corporate network trying to deploy


IBM Targets SUN
Big Blue, the big guy in the server market, is reorganizing
and shuffling around product lines to get back on its feet.
I saw a presentation on the eSeries machines, and have to
admit, it's pretty slick stuff. The reliability of mainframe
hardware, with the power and versatility of Linux.


3) Linux Resources

Building a Bridging Firewall
Most firewalls act as a router within a network. With the
powerful ip filtering and bridging capabilities of Linux,
there is no reason why you can't make the firewall act as a
bridge, thus making it even more transparent. This article
describes the process behind this device.


Introducing the Z Shell
The Z shell is an alternative to the old standbys of bash
and csh/tcsh. You may be intimidated at the prospect of
having to learn yet another shell, but as this article will
show, the Z shell is much the same but offers some


Free PHP Code
One great thing about Object Oriented Languages is the
ease of sharing code. This site has a good selection of
pre-written PHP classes for things like form validation,
popup menus, and graphics.


The Moron's Guide to Kerberos
Kerberos, a cryptographically secure authentication protocol,
is fairly complex. Out of all the documentation on it that
I've seen, this is the most friendly introduction to how
everything works, and what all the different parts are called.


Yes, You Can Sell Free Software
There is a common misconception that you can't sell free
software. You may be obligated to give it away if asked,
but nothing is stopping you from making money off of it.
This article shows how a business model can be (and is)
wrapped around free software.


4) App o' the week
If there is one Windows application that I can't live
without, it's Quicken. GNUCash is a full-featured financial
manager, with the goal of being a viable Linux alternative
to Quicken. It's not perfect yet, but with every release it
gets closer. 1.4.11 was just released, and it's very usable.
The features in the 1.5 series mean that 1.6 is going to be
a real hit. Depending on your tolerance for bugs, give one
of the two versions a shot!


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