March 2016 Issue of Linux Journal

Now We're the Cool Kids!

I wish I could go back and tell eight-year-old me that someday it would be a point of pride that I wrote BASIC programs on a TI-99/4A connected to a black-and-white TV. Back then, even playing video games was looked down on, and if you actually typed out a 100-line program to make a worm wiggle across the screen, you were a straight-up nerd. Oh, how the times have changed. Now all those years of nerdery have paid off, and I'm the guy everyone asks tech questions. I've turned that nerd badge of shame into one of honor. Dear eight-year-old me: you'll turn out fine. PS: Learn to code while you're young; you'll regret it later if you don't!

This month, we have columns and articles written by a bunch of nerds. Awesome, right? We start out with Reuven M. Lerner, who talks about analyzing data—specifically, analyzing Apache Web server logfiles. Python turns out to be a great tool for analyzing this sort of data, and Reuven shows how to use some awesome Python tools to do so. Dave Taylor follows up with bconvert, which is a great program for converting base numbers in a script. If you are a fan of that "There are only 10 types of people in the world" shirt, you'll want to read Dave's column.

Kyle Rankin describes how to tweak GRUB2 so that you easily can boot from an ISO file. Although it's still possible to extract an ISO and create a bootable filesystem to boot from a USB drive, GRUB2 allows booting from an ISO file itself. I add my nerdiness to the mix this month by showing multiple ways to back up your files—specifically, backing them up off-site. As someone who has had my house burn down, I can tell you firsthand how important it is to back up your data somewhere geographically different from where you create it. Thankfully with the cloud, there are lots of options, and many of them are free or cheap.

If you've booted Linux in the past decade, you've used an initrd in order to load the system. Using an init ramdisk (or initram filesystem) is a great way to load a temporary, stripped-down root filesystem during bootup. Eduardo Arcusa Les explains the nuances of initrd and shows how to take advantage of the brilliant concept that makes booting Linux so easy. Using a real-world example, he describes how initrd has been incredibly useful for him and can be for others as well.

Finally, my friend Charles Thomas covers how to use tmux to split your terminal window into multiple window panes and rearrange them on the fly. I have to admit, I'm so used to using screen that I haven't really tried tmux. Part of my hesitation is that screen works, and tmux seems a bit confusing. Charles takes away one of my complaints this month by explaining how powerful (and usable) tmux can be. You might even find tmux to be better than screen depending on your situation.

We have all the same product announcements, tech tips and cool upfront pieces this month as well. Plus, you might notice we've switched to a single-column format, which should make reading on digital devices much easier—especially reading code snippets! We enjoy being nerds, and we enjoyed putting this nerdy issue together for you. We hope you enjoy it as well!

Available to Subscribers: March 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.