2003 01 02

                    Linux News
           January 2, 2003 - Issue #113


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

The Life of a Sysadmin
HP to Support Mandrake
NT and VMS, the Story
Interview with Bob Toxen

3) Linux Resources

Hacking SQL Server
Dell Servers and Linux
Mozilla Key Bindings
Rsync Tutorial
Autofs Tutorial

4) App o’ the Week

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1) Sean's Notes

I've always found that the beginning of the new year is fairly
slow at work. Maybe it's the people on vacation, or that
everyone is still stuffed from the holiday eating. Regardless,
there never seems to be much going on, meaning that it's the
perfect time to do some year end housecleaning.

Linux boxes, as reliable as they are, require some periodic
maintenance to extend their life and prevent problems. Once a
year, though, it's a good idea to do some more thorough work,
and to get it all out of the way at one time.

First off is to make sure you've still got an accurate list of
your machines. Are the boxes that should be on warranty still on
warranty? Cables (especially network) labeled clearly? Great.
Inspect the fans as best you can, make a note of any that aren't
running smoothly. While you're walking around, run tests on your
UPSes, if applicable. It's shocking to find out how many people
just plug in a UPS and are later surprised when there is a power
outage, and the dead battery did nothing to keep the systems

Next, have a look at your cron jobs. Cron is the daemon that
takes care of running jobs at specified times. Like UPSes, cron
jobs are often put in and forgotten. Often, the jobs outlive
their purpose, and either fill logs with noise, or waste
resources since their output is never used. Cron logs to syslog,
so records of jobs should be in /var/log/cron. If you don't
know what a particular job does, or can't explain the choice of
time to run, then that's a candidate for further investigation.
While you're checking into your cron jobs, make sure the email
output is going to a human's mailbox! Usually, if a cron job
has any output, then that's a sign of an error, or a
misconfigured job.  Either way, it deserves some looking at.

Even though there are scripts that rotate logs for you, it's
good to check in on them. Are you keeping enough (or too many)
logs? Are the monthly logs building up too quickly, requiring a
change to weekly rotation? Should you stop logging something
entirely? These are all good questions to ask yourself as you
look through your logging system.

While you're looking at all your machines, make note of
operating system versions. Maybe it's time to upgrade that Red
Hat 6.2 box? Limiting the number of variants that you have to
work with means less overall work. Often, vendors drop support
for older versions. Now is a good time to list all the systems
that need upgrading, or will need it within the next 12 months.

Now that the yearly work for your boxes themselves is done,
it's time to take a look at how you do your job. How do you
monitor services? Control access? Maintain configurations?
While each of these are major undertakings, now is a good time
to identify where your shortfalls are, and start planning to
fix them.

Also look at yourself. Where do you want to be next year? What
skills do you want to improve? Now might be the time to set some
goals, such as "improve my shell programming", or "become
familiar with the kernel". Maybe this goal might involve taking
a course, or taking some certification exams. Part of this might
involve talking to your manager to ask for funding, so think
about what information you'll need.

We're probably used to watching over disk and CPU, but there are
often some little things that go by the wayside. Once a year,
while it's slow, is a good time to get all those tasks out of
the way. It's also a good time to review the way we do things,
and set some goals for the upcoming year.

Long live the Penguin,


2) Linux News

The Life of a Sysadmin

The article that this Slashdot story refers to is an interview
with a system administrator from an ISP, who gives his views on
the job. Not only is the article interesting and informative,
but the comments from Slashdot readers offer extra insight into
the profession.


HP to Support Mandrake

"France's MandrakeSoft has teamed up with Hewlett-Packard in the
open source camp's latest foray into the desktop PC market. The
agreement, announced on Tuesday ahead of the LinuxWorld Expo,
will see HP build and promote Mandrake Linux-based desktop PCs
for European and North American businesses."


NT and VMS, the Story

This news item is more of a history lesson about the evolution
of Microsoft Windows NT and its VMS roots. Unix and VMS also
share a history. It's interesting to see where various OSes draw
some of their features from.


Interview with Bob Toxen

Bob Toxen wrote an excellent book on Linux security, called
"Real World Linux Security". Here is an interview with him.


3) Linux Resources

Hacking SQL Server

While this article is more geared towards Microsoft SQL Server,
the principles apply to all SQL platforms. Unless you inspect
your input before you send it off to the server, you might be
opening yourself up to some serious attacks.


Dell Servers and Linux

Though Dell claims support for Red Hat, there really isn't a
whole lot of information on their web site. This page,
maintained by one of the lead people on Dell's Linux team, has
links and resources to help you get your Dell PowerEdge (which
really are sweet boxes) up to speed.


Mozilla Key Bindings

My efficiency with Mozilla shot through the roof after reading
this page. Included are all the key bindings for the various
platforms, which will save you some time instead of having to
constantly use the mouse.


Rsync Tutorial

Rsync is an excellent tool for keeping files up to date between
multiple machines. It can be a bear to use, especially if you're
new to the whole Unix thing. This tutorial walks you through the
setting up of an rsync server, and the basic usage of the client.


Autofs Tutorial

If you're new to the whole Unix thing, the concept of having to
mount and unmount floppies and CDs might strike you as odd.
There are ways around that, namely the use of "autofs". This
tutorial walks you through setting it up.


4) App o' the Week

Tired of running IOS on your Cisco 2500 routers? How about
giving Linux a shot?


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