A Confession and Some Ramblings

by Phil Hughes

Where is “Stop the Presses”? Well, that's the confession. When we begin layout of an issue of LJ, we reserve a page for “Stop the Presses”. Although we usually have some ideas, the news for STP has to happen in that one week between our regular deadline and the STP deadline—this month it just didn't happen. Unlike the supermarket tabloids, we decided to confess instead of just making something up and printing it. Hence this editorial.

Last month I talked about Linux going mainstream. This morning I received my ballot to vote for the Board of Directors of UniForum, a Unix trade association. There are five members on the Board and ten candidates. Two of those candidates are Linux people: Jon Hall and Bob Young. I voted for both. Having two members on the board is another good way to get Linux integrated into the greater Unix community.

As I write this, the Linux community is preparing for the Comdex show in Las Vegas. Our own Carlie Fairchild is in charge of working with Linux International members and the Linux community as a whole to have a serious Linux presence at the show. At this point the Linux pavilion includes twelve vendors. With an expected attendance of 250,000, this show will definitely be a great opportunity to get the word out about Linux.

On to Systems Administration

The focus of this issue is Systems Administration. In the traditional Unix community, systems administration is generally done by an elite group of individuals. This isn't necessarily bad as the average user shouldn't have to be concerned with hard drives, processor interrupts and Ethernet cables. After all, computers are just tools.

There are two reasons that systems administration is more integrated into the domain of the average user in the Linux community. First, many of the community members are running stand-alone computers with PPP connections to the Internet or work in small companies where there is no full-time systems administration talent.

The second reason is that many Linux systems are customized to fit the requirements of a particular company or even embedded into a product. For example, Schlumberger is using Linux in a point-of-sale system [“Highway POS System” by Marc L. Allen, November 1997]. The user of this system is a convenience store clerk, but the people who have worked on developing the applications software are also involved in the operating system.

The result of this integration is that there are more people working on systems administration tools and issues with Linux than in traditional Unix environments. Thus, more issues are raised, and more tools are created.

If you look at the Usenet newsgroups that cover Linux you will continue to see posts discussing configuration issues, selection of the best installation methods and other systems administration issues. This open discussion is what has made distributions like Caldera, Craftworks, Debian and Red Hat evolve. The developers get a chance to see real systems administration issues raised and then create solutions they consider to be the best way of dealing with them.

The features in this issue address setting up Linux as a proxy server, user administration, dealing with pluggable authentication modules and systems information retrieval. Other articles focus on RAID disks, tracking system disk usage and an article on teaching systems administration. Whether you are that person at home with a Linux system or a systems administrator at a huge multi-national corporation, there should be something here to interest you—you may even learn something new.

Jump in, take a look and then let us know what you want to see next year, as we intend to offer an annual systems administration issue.

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