November 2015 Issue of Linux Journal: System Administration

Get Smart

Wanna get smart? Use Linux. (Mic drop.)

I hope you all rolled your eyes a bit, because although there's a kernel of truth there, everyone knows it takes a lot more than using Linux to be successful in IT. It takes hard work, planning, strategizing, maintaining and a thousand other things system administrators, developers and other tech folks do on a daily basis. Thankfully, Linux makes that work a little easier and a lot more fun!

Reuven M. Lerner starts off this issue continuing his pseudo-series on Web performance enhancements. The past few months he has described how to deal with bottlenecks on your systems. Here, he looks at some ways to help suss out those hard-to-find problems before they become showstoppers. Whether you're trying to test a product proactively or trying to pressure a troublesome system into showing its underlying problems, Reuven's column will be very helpful.

Dave Taylor continues his theme on making words, and this month, he shifts the focus from wooden building blocks to tinier wooden blocks—namely, Scrabble tiles. If you're stuck for a word and don't feel like a horrible cheating liar for using a script to help you, Dave's column likely will appeal to you. I'm pretty sure my Aunt Linda has been using Dave's script for years, because I just can't seem to beat her at Words With Friends.

Although he's normally the geekiest in the bunch, Kyle Rankin goes to a new level of awesome this month when he revisits Libreboot. This time, his new laptop can't be flashed using software, so instead he actually uses a second computer to flash the chip on the motherboard with wires! I'm not sure how I can get to his level of nerdery in my column, other than maybe announcing my upcoming Raspberry-Pi-powered moon rover. Seriously though, Kyle's column is a must-read.

I finish up my Wi-Fi series in this issue with an article about hardware. Understanding theory, channel width and frequency penetration is all well and good, but if you put your access points in the wrong place, your performance will still suffer. Knowledge and execution go together like peanut butter and chocolate, so using last month's theory to build this month's network infrastructure should be delicious. Even if you already have a decent Wi-Fi setup in your home or office, my article might help you tweak a little more performance out of your existing network.

David Barton helps teach us to be smarter IT professionals by giving us a detailed look at Puppet. DevOps is all the rage for a very good reason. Tools like Puppet can turn a regular system administrator into a system superhero and transform developers into solution-delivering pros. David shows how to manage your Linux servers in a way that is scalable, repeatable and far less complicated than you might think.

Managing multiple servers is great, but if those servers aren't secure, you're just scaling up a disaster waiting to happen. Greg Bledsoe walks through the process of server hardening. It's a stressful topic, because making sure your servers are secure is the hallmark of what it means to be a successful administrator. Unfortunately, it's also a moving target that can keep you up at night worrying. In his article, Greg explores some best practices along with some specific things you can do to make your already awesome Linux servers more secure and reliable. Whether you manage a simple Web server or a farm of cloud instances delivering apps, server hardening is vital.

I think Spiderman said it best: "With great power comes great responsibility." That's true in life, but also true in computing. It's easy to take Linux for granted and assume that it's so secure out of the box, you needn't worry about it, or assume that since Linux is free, there's no cost when your infrastructure grows. By being smart about how you manage computers, you can take advantage of all the awesomeness Linux has to offer without falling victim to being overwhelmed or overconfident. Want to get smart? Do smart things. That's really the only way!

Available to Subscribers: November 1

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

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