On System Administrators

by David A. Bandel

System administration means different things to different people. Some will tell you anyone who performs any kind of administration on a system is a system administrator. But I have a hard time calling someone who can only add users via a GUI, a system administrator. To me, a system administrator is someone who understands what goes on behind the scenes. I recently interviewed several folks for a position in my company who claimed to be network administrators. Most had no idea what a netmask was or why it was needed. Or, they knew what ARP was, but had no idea how ARP and IP interrelated. One even knew the OSI model, but where ARP, IP and TCP and UDP came in he didn't know. Understanding how things work makes troubleshooting easier and defines a true system or network administrator. Here are some tools that can help and a couple of fun programs too.

reportdhcp.pl www.omar.org/opensource/reportdhcp

Take a dash of Perl, a little knowledge of where your configuration and logging files are, a little slicing, dicing and formatting, and you have a very useful tool for finding out about your DHCP leases via your web browser. The instructions are readable and simple. In two minutes time you can search IPs, MAC addresses, client names, get stats on the server and more. Requires: Perl, a web server and browser.

pgmaint sourceforge.net/projects/pgmaint

If anyone out there is using Postgres for logging Snort data (especially on a heavily trafficked site), you probably already know the importance of cleaning out your database from time to time, and vacuuming and analyzing it. If you have several of these databases, the cleanup chores can get a bit tedious. pgmaint can handle all this for you, even via cron. Requires: Perl, Perl modules DBI, Config::Simple and Getopt::Mixed.

Katoob www.arabeyes.org/project.php?proj=Katoob

This editor handles several formats well. Designed for either English or Arabic, it has menubar icons to change from left- to right-justified text and more. While a bit heavy on library and memory usage, anyone already running X won't particularly notice. Requires: libgtk-x11-2.0, libgdk-x11-2.0, libatk, libgdk_pixbuf-2.0, libm, libpangoxft, libpangox, libpango, libgobject-2.0, libgmodule-2.0, libdl, libglib-2.0, glibc, libX11, libXi, libXft, libXrender, libXext and libfreetype.

Euchre sourceforge.net/projects/euchre

If you like Euchre, this is a nice version of the game. The AI players have three configurable levels of play, and the author includes instructions for those unfamiliar with the game. Play is fast and easy. Requires: libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXi, libXext, libX11, libstdc++, libm and glibc.

A jack of the trump suit beats an ace? Not a bug, a Euchre rule.

Childsplay childsplay.sourceforge.net

I'd review more children's games if I could find them because my children are always looking for computer games. My wife thinks our seven-year-old daughter doesn't need to be playing Quake, but just how many hours of Barbie.com games can a child play until boredom sets in? Not quite up to gcompris, but unencumbered of the megs of GNOME libs gcompris requires, Childsplay is shaping up to be a good game for your little ones. Requires: Python and pygames.

DNS Sleuth atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/~mj/sleuth

This Perl script can be run either from a command line or via a web server with an included CGI script. It checks the domain name provided for compliance with the RFCs and reports errors with a reference to the appropriate RFC paragraph, so you can read what's broken and why, and hopefully fix it. Requires: Perl, Perl module Net::DNS and optionally a web server CGI. Until next month.

David A. Bandel (david@pananix.com) is a Linux/UNIX consultant currently living in the Republic of Panama. He is coauthor of Que Special Edition: Using Caldera OpenLinux.

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