Linux Journal December 2016

My Sysadmin Is a FOR/NEXT Loop

Technology always has promised to save us time by doing the things we can do more accurately and with greater efficiency. It has proven to live up to the details, but it completely missed the spirit of the concept. Rather than letting a Bash script do 12 hours of data entry in 20 seconds and then eating ice cream for two days, we've just crammed more work into the time that technology freed up. I realize it was inevitable, but at times, I still feel that as a generation, we were bamboozled. This month, we just give in to the inevitable and learn to do more and more things thanks to the "help" of technology.

We start off the issue with Reuven M. Lerner, who teaches us that computers even can replace the need for humans to judge burrito quality. Your burrito-tasting skills are not irreplaceable, and Reuven sadly proves it. Dave Taylor follows with a complex look at determining the phase of the moon. In ancient times, it took giant stone monuments and complicated stick alignment to determine the next lunar phase. Dave shows how a few lines of admittedly complicated code can figure it out in seconds. Thanks, Dave. I'll blame the next werewolf uprising on your script.

Kyle Rankin takes us a step beyond Puppet this month with a look at MCollective. Automating the setup of servers is a real time-saver, but sometimes managing them takes a bit more than configuration managers can handle. MCollective goes to the next step, and "orchestrates" server administration tasks. You'll want to check it out if you manage more than a couple servers.

Even if you manage only a couple servers in your own home, however, you'll want to read my column this month on how to create a PHP dashboard. I've covered PHP in my column before, but this time, I add input to the scripting in order to provide feedback and accomplish tasks. This article teaches how to do some powerful and dangerous things with PHP, but in the right situation, that power can be very useful.

In a move reminiscent of Reese's adding peanut butter to chocolate, Todd A. Jacobs shows how to take Docker and Puppet, and integrate them for even more automation. During the past few years, we've learned just how powerful container systems like Docker can be for spinning up single-purpose servers. Todd walks through provisioning those containers with Puppet. It's fascinating to see tasks that we used to do manually not only become automated, but also to evolve into something that can be managed with programmatic commands instead of elbow grease. If you want to take your automation to the next step, check out Todd's article.

And finally, Jan Newmarch continues his series on low power wireless, which sounds like a step backward, but is really a huge advancement for near field communication. There are so many wirelessly connected devices in my house, the idea of efficient communication between them, using open standards, is incredible. If you are remotely interested in the Internet of Things, you'll want to read his series.

We also have tech tips, product announcements, kernel updates and all the other things you expect in an issue of Linux Journal. Even though our magazine is digital, we still get to read it with our human eyes. But who knows, next month, we might have an article on a new AI that reads magazines for you and implants the learned information directly into your brain. That thought both excites and terrifies me!

Available to Subscribers: December 1

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.