2001 06 14

                    LINUX NEWS
             Thursday, June 14, 2001
       Read By 6,000 Linux Enthusiasts Weekly!


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

The Joy of Linux
Maximum Linux Security
Reduce your Premiums, run Unix
Magic Passage VPN Appliance

3) Linux Resources

Portscanning -- an Introduction
Getting a GNOME Session with VNC
More on Linux Device Drivers
Free Chapter from LPI book
Linux Cryptography

4) App o’ the week

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1) Sean's Notes
One of the most common frustrations people have with
installing Linux has to do with partitioning the hard drive.
In the Windows world, we're used to having C:, and maybe D:
when we add a new drive.  Swap runs right on the same
partition as your data, so you don't have to plan that out

In UNIX, everything is one big filesystem--there are no
drive letters.  However, in the install, you're prompted to
partition the drive and assign mount points.  What gives?

I'm going to make things simple for you: only two partitions
are really needed.  Swap, and the root (/).  Swap is the
space that is used to temporarily store memory in order to
make room for other programs or data (thus, to swap it out).
Like its Windows counterpart, it lets your computer act as
if it has more memory than is actually installed.

I generally make my swap partition 1-2 times my physical
memory, but never less than 128M, on the low side for
workstations, and on the high side for servers.  Others might
say differently, but this is just one guy's opinion.  You
can always add swap later (even temporarily), and experience
will guide you into the future. Some of the confusion with
swap comes from older versions of Linux, where swap partitions
were limited to 128M.  This limitation has since been overcome.

The root filesystem can then take up the rest of your hard
disk space.  This is where all your data, utilities,
applications, and kernels go.

That was too easy... so why does everyone complain?  UNIX is
set up so that the filesystem can span multiple devices, by
assigning parts of the tree (ie /home) to specific devices.
It's all transparent to the user; when they are in /home/foo/,
they don't care if they are on the primary master drive, the
fifth drive on a SCSI chain, or even another computer.  There
are some places that administrators tend to break up the
filesystem, though.

/boot is a special partition used to overcome limitations of
PCs.  LILO, the software used to boot Linux, relies on BIOS
routines to access the hard drive.  Thus, it is limited to
the first 1024 cylinders.  By creating a small partition
called /boot, the installation can ensure that this resides
under the 1024 limit, and then temporarily use it to boot
the system until the kernel takes over.  16M is all that is
needed for this partition, since it only stores kernels.

This three partition setup, swap, root (/), and /boot is
what you'll get if you select a workstation installation
under RedHat.  It has some advantages in that you don't have
to manage your space.  If you have a drive under 2 gigs, you
may wish to leave it at this, because breaking up the
partitions any further will require some good estimations
as to growth and usage.

The first partition you might want to break off is /home.
This is where all your users will have home directories
(even if the only user is you).  There are a few big
advantages to this.

 - If you re-install your system, you can opt to keep this
   partition for the new install.  Voila, you never lose
   data between installations!

 - The fewer files on the partition, the less chance of
   corruption.  If your other filesystems had problems,
   your data will be saved.  On the same token, if /home
   gets corrupt, you'll at least still have the system.

 - Running one partition out of space (the /var and /tmp
   directories are notorious) will still allow you to save
   data to /home.

 - It's easier to select files for backup

The size of this partition varies...with drives being as
big as they are nowadays, a couple of gigs is a good idea.
Depending on how else everything goes, I sometimes just
check the "assign unused space to this partition" option.

/usr is where you store most of your binaries and libraries,
and is also a good candidate for its own partition.  I try
to give this one at least a gig, if not two, since I tend to
install a lot of stuff.  (Staroffice currently takes up 243M
...Ouch!)  Once again, this is a trade off between what space
you have and future growth.  Besides the advantages listed
above, if you have multiple servers you could set them up to
share the same /usr partition over NFS (Networked File
System).  Upgrade one computer, they all get the upgrades.

/var is where all the variable files (ie logs) go.  Your RPM
database is here, and so is any mail if your machine is set
up properly.  Depending on the use of the machine, this
partition could be 100M and up.  If you plan on serving mail,
collecting logs, or running a database or web server, you'll
want to up this number.

swap, /, /boot, /home, /usr, and /var make up the basic
partitions you'll want to look at separating.  Most anything
is a candidate, but /bin, /dev, /etc, /lib, /sbin, and /tmp
should always remain on the root partition, because critical
files needed to boot up the system (and by extension, the other
partitions) are there.  You'll want to make sure that you've
got about 250M for these directories, plus whatever else you
keep on the root partition.

Once again, experience will be your guide.  Using the three
basic partitions (swap, /, and /boot) is a good way to get
a feel for what goes where.

Long live the Penguin,


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2) Linux News

The Joy of Linux
This might be the perfect book to get your significant other
who doesn't quite understand all this Linux jazz that keeps
you up until the wee hours. The book is all about the Linux
culture, though it manages to introduce some basic technical
concepts in a friendly way.


Maximum Linux Security
If you have any machines exposed to the Internet, you know
what kind of stuff is out there. Take a look at your system
from the viewpoint of a hacker. The included CD will also
keep you entertained for weeks with cool software toys.


Reduce your Premiums, Run Unix
One insurance firm has decided to charge a 5-15% premium on
hacker insurance for those companies running NT. It was
"...found that system administrators working on open source
systems tend to be better trained and stay with their
employers longer than those at firms using Windows software..."


Magic Passage VPN Appliance
Magic Passage is a relatively new VPN box that runs Linux,
and is wrapped up into a nice little package. The price
looks great, around the $400 US mark. Looks like a nice
solution for those that need some easy VPN services.


3) Linux Resources

Portscanning - An Introduction
Confused as to what portscanning is? Know what it is, but
don't know what your system has open? This article covers
all the basics, plus some of the portscanning tools out
there. It's best if you scan yourself and know what's open,
before someone does it to you!


Getting a GNOME Session with VNC
If you've ever used VNC (much like PC Anywhere), you know
that it brings up a really sparse desktop when you're
connecting to a Unix box. This How-To explains the
procedure to turn that boring desktop into a full featured
GNOME session.


More on Linux Device Drivers
One of the more interesting things going on in kernel
development is in the driver arena, because they are the
pieces that end up doing the productive work. One of the
developers, and co-author of the O'Reilly device driver book
takes some time out to make some comments on what the future
holds for 2.5, and thus 2.6.


Free Chapter From LPI Book
In more news from O'Reilly, they've just released a book
covering the LPI certification exams 101 and 102. Along with
this release, they've published the chapter on Linux
Installation and Package Management on their web site.


Linux Cryptography
This presentation by Michael Warfield of Internet Security
Systems is a great introduction to cryptography, and some of
the services available for Linux that support it.


4) App o' the week
The web is a great place to put data, since it's easily
accessible from anywhere. I've always had the need to put a
few simple forms on the web, nothing fancy, but I just
didn't want to code the backend database stuff for each
form.  Phormation is a set of PHP scripts that allow you to
describe the form elements, and then it will build both the
input and edit screens, along with an index page that lets
you sort and browse all your forms.


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