SysAdmin

Vagrant Simplified

I admit it, some tools confuse me. I know they must be amazing, because programs don't get popular by being dumb (well, reality TV, but that's another story). I have the same sort of confusion with Vagrant that I have with Wine, Docker, Chef and countless other amazing tools people constantly rave about. So in this article, I'm going to break down Vagrant into its simplest form.

Secure Server Deployments in Hostile Territory, Part II

In my last article, I started a series on some of the challenges related to spawning secure servers on Amazon EC2. In that column, I discussed some of the overall challenges EC2 presents for security compared to a traditional infrastructure and elaborated on how I configure security groups and manage secrets.

Using Hiera with Puppet

With Hiera, you can externalize your systems' configuration data and easily understand how those values are assigned to your servers. With that data separated from your Puppet code, you then can encrypt sensitive values, such as passwords and keys.

Infinite BusyBox with systemd

Lightweight virtual containers with PID 1. In this article, I demonstrate a method to build one Linux system within another using the latest utilities within the systemd suite of management tools. The guest OS container design focuses upon BusyBox and Dropbear for the userspace system utilities, but I also work through methods for running more general application software so the containers are actually useful.

DevOps: Better Than the Sum of Its Parts

Most of us longtime system administrators get a little nervous when people start talking about DevOps. It's an IT topic surrounded by a lot of mystery and confusion, much like the term "Cloud Computing" was a few years back. Thankfully, DevOps isn't something sysadmins need to fear.

Not So Dynamic Updates

Typically when a network is under my control, I like my servers to have static IPs. Whether the IPs are truly static (hard-coded into network configuration files on the host) or whether I configure a DHCP server to make static assignments, it's far more convenient when you know a server always will have the same IP.

Non-Linux FOSS: MenuMeters

It sounds like a "back in my day" story, but I really do miss the days when laptops had LED activity lights for hard drives and Wi-Fi. Sure, some still have them, but for the most part, the latest trend is to have no way of knowing if your application is pegging the CPU at 100%, or if it just locked up.

High-Availability Storage with HA-LVM

In recent years, there has been a trend in which data centers have been opting for commodity hardware and software over proprietary solutions. Why shouldn't they? It offers extremely low costs and the flexibility to build an ecosystem the way it is preferred. The only limitation is the extent of the administrator's imagination.

DNSMasq, the Pint-Sized Super Dæmon!

I've always been a fan of putting aftermarket firmware on consumer-grade routers. Whether it's DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT or whatever your favorite flavor of "better than stock" firmware might be, it just makes economic sense. Unfortunately, my routing needs have surpassed my trusty Linksys router.

Wondershaper—QOS in a Pinch

In past articles, I've discussed my BirdCam setup and how it automatically archives video footage from my bird feeders to YouTube every night. That's a really cool process, but unfortunately, it saturates my upstream bandwidth in the evening.

Ideal Backups with zbackup

Data is growing both in volume and importance. As time goes on, the amount of data that we need to store is growing, and the data itself is becoming more and more critical for organizations. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to back up and restore this information quickly and reliably. Using cloud-based systems spreads out the data over many servers and locations.

November 2014 Issue of Linux Journal: System Administration

Folger's Crystals Every time I write a Bash script or schedule a cron job, I worry about the day I'll star in my very own IT version of a Folger's commercial. Instead of "secretly replacing coffee with Folger's Instant Crystals", however, I worry I'll be replaced by an automation framework and a few crafty FOR loops.

Promise Theory—What Is It?

During the past 20 years, there has been a growing sense of inadequacy about the "command and control" model for managing IT systems. Years in front of the television with a remote control have left us hard pressed to think of any other way of making machines work for us.

Practical Tiny Core in the Fire Service

I'm sure many of you have at least heard of Tiny Core Linux—legends of how small it is, how little it takes it to run a system with it and even now how it's been ported to run on Raspberry Pi. It's an esoteric minimalist distribution.

Security Hardening with Ansible

Ansible is an open-source automation tool developed and released by Michael DeHaan and others in 2012. DeHaan calls it a "general-purpose automation pipeline" (see Resources for a link to the article "Ansible's Architecture: Beyond Configuration Management").

Adminer—Better Than Awesome!

I've always loved PHPMyAdmin for managing MySQL databases. It's Web-based, fairly robust and as powerful as I've ever needed. Basically, it's awesome. Today, however, I discovered something better than awesome: Adminer. Although it is conceptually identical to PHPMyAdmin, it is far simpler and far more powerful. How can it be both?