2002 07 25

                    LINUX NEWS
            July 25, 2002 -- Issue #91


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

Free Blender
Enough With The Holiday, Just Give Me Loot!
Retail Therapy
Mandrake 9.0 Beta

3) Linux Resources

BIND Views
A Brief History Of Debian
Hiding Digital Data the Stenographic Way
USB Help For Linux
USB Solid State Hard Drives

4) App o’ the Week

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1) Sean's Notes

One of the best learning experiences you can have with Linux
is to set it up as an Internet server on your high speed
connection at home. You wouldn't want to run a commercial
web site off of a cable modem, but it's great for putting up
some pictures, and perhaps running your email.

The first thing you need is a domain name. You can either
register it through a registrar, or go under someone else's
subdomain. In the first example, you'd pick a name like
example.com, and head on over to some place like
http://godaddy.com (not a paid endorsement, it's just the
one I use), pay your $9US per year, and claim your piece of
the Internet. The second option is to go under an existing
subdomain. dhs.org provides such a service, they've recently
gone to a $5US lifetime membership, where you can get

After you have a domain, you need some name servers. People
who read last week's newsletter might say "Linux makes a
great name server, I'll use that!".  From experience, I'll
tell you it'll work, but you really want a static IP address
for DNS. Pick a service like http://zoneedit.com or
http://granitecanyon.com which give you free DNS for small
domains (i.e. a handful of records, up to five domains). The
nameservers you are given when you sign up are required by
your registrar from the previous step.

Now that you have a DNS server, you'll want to point records
toward your own machine so that people can send you email,
and hit your web page. Assuming your IP address is,
the following records will direct web traffic there:

example.com.    	IN	A
www.example.com.	IN	CNAME		example.com.

The first record creates an Address record pointing
"example.com" to The second record creates an alias
from www.example.com to example.com. Thus, both "example.com"
and "www.example.com" point to your server. As a small note,
doing it the opposite way around (making www the A record and
example.com the CNAME) is illegal as far as DNS is concerned.
Since you'll also have NS (name server) records for
example.com, you can't mix CNAMEs with other record types.
A and NS records for the same item are fine, CNAME and NS
don't mix (and while you're at it, the NS and MX records
(which we'll discuss next) can never point to a record that's
a CNAME). The reasons are complex, you can read STD#13 (
ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/std/std13.txt) and the documents
it references if you're really interested (or need a cure for
insomnia), but take my word for it, you'll encounter fewer
problems if you keep your zones simple.

Speaking of the MX record, its job is to tell people where to
send the email. When an MTA (message transfer agent, such as
sendmail, the Exchange IMC, etc) sees an email address such
as "info@example.com", it looks for an MX record, then an A
record. We'll have both, but in a larger setting you might
not want your email to go to your web server.

example.com.	IN	MX	10	example.com.

So, when a mail server out there sees "info@example.com", it
strips off the stuff before the @, searches for an MX record,
and uses that host to deliver the mail. Here, we've sent it
to our web server, which is the only server for now in our
little world. Note, again, that we're pointing mail to
something that's referenced by an A record -- had we sent it
to www.example.com, we'd be committing a DNS faux pas.

And another note, there's no reason that your email has to go
to anything under example.com. If you and your friends want
to share hosting duties, you can send your email to their
host, as long as they're configured to accept it.

That "10" might be sticking out, it's the MX priority. Lower
priority wins, equal priorities are tried in round-robin
fashion. It's useful if you want to send your mail somewhere
else if you go down, which can be often on a cable modem or
DSL. Adding the following record...

example.com.	IN	MX	20	myfriend.com.

...will send your email to yourfriend.com if example.com
can't be reached. His server won't read it, instead it will
(well, should) queue it until you come back up.

Now that I've spent this column telling you how to set up
DNS to support your home server, it's up to you to set up
your services. Shut down the services you're not ready to
deal with, monitor your logs, and keep up on patches. I'd
suggest getting your feet wet with Apache before moving on
to email and FTP.

Running your own Internet services on a small scale is great
fun, but it's a lot of work. It's also great experience!

Long live the Penguin,


Note -- Where I gave you URLs to companies providing services,
either free or commercial, they're just examples of ones I've
used. There are many others (and I'd appreciate hearing about

2) Linux News

Free Blender
Blender is a 3D program that has become very popular.
Originally, it was closed source but readily available,
until the company went bankrupt. There's now a big drive by
the Open Source community to purchase the product, and to
put it under a licence that ensures that it will always be
available and Free.


Enough With The Holiday, Just Give Me Loot!
Being a systems administrator is hard work, and is rarely
noticed or appreciated. But, think of where the world would
be without us? Friday is "System Administrator Appreciation
Day". Make sure this URL finds its way to your boss's eyes
before then!


Retail Therapy
"Harry Roberts says he is not anti-Windows, he's just 'anti-
spending-money'. That's why the chief information officer at
Boscov's, a $1 billion department store chain based in
Pennsylvania, is slowly moving big chunks of its technology
operations onto Linux." Yet another great Linux case-history.


Mandrake 9.0 Beta
Some bleeding edge software in the latest Mandrake offering,
including a release candidate of the 2.2.19 kernel, updated
hardware detection, and better configuration tools.


3) Linux Resources

BIND Views
Split DNS lets one box serve two different sets of records
for the same zone, usually so that internal and external
hosts end up with a different view of the domain for
security purposes. Previously, you'd have to run two
instances of BIND, each bound to a different IP address.
With Views, introduced in BIND 9, you can set up different
views based on the IP address of the requester.


A Brief History Of Debian
Sanjay posted this link in the Linux-General forum, it's all
about the history of the Debian project. Chapter Four is of
particular interest, as it covers the detailed release history.


Hiding Digital Data the Steganographic Way
Cramsession author Deb Shinder brings you an excellent
introduction to steganography, a way of embedding data
within other data to avoid detection. One example would be
passwords or small notes hidden within digital images.


USB Help For Linux
USB can be quite the pain to configure under Linux, which is
why I've tried to stay away from it (except for the CueCat,
which took long enough to get going). Here's a great article
explaining one person's experience getting a camera, hard
drive, and mouse running on his USB bus.


USB Solid State Hard Drives
I can't remember how long ago it was that I made mention of
a USB solid state hard drive that fits on a keychain, but I
remember that it generated a few curious emails. Here's a
listing on Think Geek; there's no mention about Linux
support, but I can't see those guys sell something that
doesn't work under our favourite OS.


4) App o' the Week

I'm still on the lookout for something to help deal with all
the spam I get. The Active Spam Killer takes an interesting
approach. If you get an email from an unknown address, it
responds on your behalf asking for a confirmation. Once the
confirmation is received, that person is clear to send
forever. I'm not sure I'm ready to take such drastic action,
but some of you fed up with spam might like it...


(C) 2002 BrainBuzz.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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