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Monitoring User/Application Activity with psacct

One of the big advantages of using psacct on your server is that it provides excellent logging for activities of applications and users. When you are running scripts one of the important aspects of that script is how much resources it may be using and are there any resource limitations that may exist with the application. In addition, there may be times when you run a script as a user. In other words, you create a user with specific rights, maybe even using visudo. You will likely use this to reduce the security risks of a user who must issue a command with root privileges.

Monitoring User/Application Activity with psacct.

Categories: Server Admin Tags: , ,

Nagios V-Shell Review and Mike Guthrie Interview

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Nagios V-Shell Review and InterviewThe V-Shell offers Nagios users an interface with simplicity and tactical focus. Mike Weber from BeginLinux.com has reviewed the Nagios Virtual Shell and interviewed Mike Guthrie who is the lead developer of the Nagios Virtual Shell (V-Shell) project. Mike’s review touches on some first impressions and important visual points while the interview digs deep into the functions, advantages, and future plans Nagios has for the new PHP interface.

Read the Nagios V-Shell Review and Interview.

Categories: Server Admin

Making Sense of DNS

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

DNS or Domain Name Service is the tool that you use to locate web sites, collect mail and generally find stuff on the Internet. In the beginning, users of the Internet, when it was still known as ARPAnet, were forced to use a hosts file called HOSTS.TXT which did the conversion of the IP Address (like 192.168.2.34) to a host (like mail.example.org) by downloading a large file from a central location that listed all of the hosts on the Internet and their IP Addresses. As the network grew, this soon became a situation that could not continue based on the sheer size and the rapid growth of the Internet.

This article will help you figure out how it all works so that you can use this tool effectively.

Making Sense of DNS Tutorial.

Categories: Server Admin Tags: ,

Where to Find and Post Linux News

May 22, 2009 29 comments

Two things I do every morning no matter what are drink my morning coffee and read the latest Linux news. A day without either of them would be a disaster. Because getting Linux news is so important to me I’ve kept track of several Linux news sites and tested the value and focus of their articles. I’ve also participated in many of these sites and have noted significant traffic changes as we move deeper into the age of social media. As things change it may be time to re-evaluate where your reading and submitting your Linux news.

If you’re just a Linux user looking to brush up on today’s latest Linux news, you’re in luck. You have a ton of options and more every day. Sites like Lxer, LinuxToday, OSNews, Digg, FSdaily and Linux.com will all likely carry the big stories of the day as many of them share the same users. The question is more about how you want your news displayed. Some sites choose to run large ads, small ads, and even full page ads. Other sites offer full communities, article point systems, and an intricate friend networks.

1) LinuxToday has been around for awhile but pushes an aggressive ad campaign and doesn’t offer the community and discussions I’ve enjoyed on other news sites. Still, LinuxToday features top articles related to Linux and is a vet in the news game.

2) OSNews features a community approach to news and offers registered users a chance to comment on articles, make friends, “star” stories, and more. This site is a great resource for users looking for computing articles but my focus is a little narrower.

3) FSDaily is a community type open-source news site that features articles from around the net. This site includes popular this week, popular today and popular upcoming sections that have proven an effective way to display recent articles. I’m unsure of the voting system and how it effects the stories order. I’ve often wondered, “what’s that doing up there”.

4) Digg includes the top articles from Linux, open-source and everything else you’re curious about. You can also take advantage of photo and video diggs as well as the extremely active digg community with many assets including the recently integrated Facebook features. Digg would be my choice for finding news for users that enjoy the friends, the community and the comments. Digg is a little too political for me sometimes but has an unmatched selection of articles.

5) Lxer, has a great mix of it all. Lxer is simple and produces a consistent flow of news worthy Linux and open-source articles. This dependable news press also includes featured, daily story, and weekly round-up articles which I enjoy very much. The smaller community of Lxer is pleasant, helpful and knowledgeable.

6) LinuxFeeds.org is a WordPress site that has indexed hundreds of Linux feeds, although the site is still in its early stages I suspect many visitor hungry Linux sites will be submitting their RSS feeds there soon. If you’re after news, you can find almost all Linux feeds located here including Youtube feeds and podcasts focused on Linux.

7) After being acquired by the LinuxFoundation, Linux.com has been recently re-designed based on a heavily modified version of Joomla. The site includes state of the art features that allow users to interact, participate and even build up Linux guru status. It’s a little too early to asses the quality and dependability of Linux.com news articles, I think they’re on the right track integrating third party applications like Twitter with their community. More on Linux.com in June.

If you’re an article submitter or depend on Linux news sites for traffic you may be interested to know all of these sites will accept article submissions and potentially send some traffic your way. Traffic from these sources is dwindling as social media networks expand however you may be more likely to find a return visitor from a news site than from your Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace page. I’ve also found that bounce rates are higher and time on site is lower when visitors come from social media sites. Another advantage the news site still has is Google’s response when receiving links from high ranked news sites. So before you count out top news sites remember that few places can offer the targeted traffic and other benefits of good old fashion Linux news sites.

WINNER
If you’re after a site that has all the Linux news you want, friendly staff, and few advertisements, head over to Lxer.com. Lxer is my pick for viewing news because of its consistency and article quality. The site is simple and straight forward while offering all the necessary features for me to enjoy my daily dose of Linux news.

For submitting Linux news articles few sites are as dependable, fair and non-political as Lxer. Traffic and article impressions are often the first thing thought about when submitting articles however as traffic drops on all Linux news sites what would you prefer? A news site lined with more and more Microsoft ads or an honest up front place to submit your articles and meet some new friends?

Mandriva 2009.1: Administration Advantages/Disadvantages

May 9, 2009 8 comments

I train administrators every day. I often work with administrators who are moving from a Windows server background to Linux. One of the most often asked questions is, “Is there a graphical interface to administer the server with?” One of the solutions, though it be a partial solution, is using Mandriva 2009.1. Mandriva offers an administrative option under Administration/Configure Your Computer. This provides intuitive access to much of server administration. “Intuitive” is a key word here. By “intuitive” I mean, you can look at something, click on it and just by viewing the information you get an idea on where or what you should do next. For example with a graphical tool for adding users when you want to add a user and you see the button “Add User” you know what to do and it gets you there for the most part.

I think one of the issues that many distros are missing as far as administration, is the huge fear of the command line. Having used the command line for 12 years, I am all for it..faster, more efficient, etc. But, many in the new generation of Linux administrators are coming from Windows administration, are required to produce Linux projects for their company with little sympathy for the difficulties of learning from the Linux command line. Mandriva and Suse are two distros trying to help in that direction, both have merit. Note that both have server models that cost for support but provide more administrative options. All that said, let’s face it Linux was designed to be administered from the command line and it is very important to be heading in that direction. Mandriva, may provide an option to fill the transition to the command line.

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As you review the graphical tools it is easy to see that each leads you down the path that you are looking to work with. The tools are easy to work with and each option is mostly laid out for you.

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Networking today can be a nightmere with all of the options. Mandriva helps you work through those with the interface options. You still need to know a few terms, like are you using a DSL connection, Ethernet …wireless? But it is straightforward and can be usefull for almost all users.

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Under “Security” one very nice feature is the easy to use firewall configuration, Ubuntu could take a lesson here. Click the options you want, save and you are set. You also have “Parental Controls” which allows a time restriction and Blacklist/Whitelist options. It is very basic and not going to be as useful as could be, but it is a start for a parent.

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Having tried several with easy solutions I decided to use the graphical tools to create quotas on the /home directory. This is a good test as that task is always a little challenging from the command line. Go to Local Disks/Manage disk partitions and choose Continue…they do warn you about making mistakes here, Click on the /home directory and then “Toggle to expert mode” so you can see additional options. Choose “Options”.

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Once you open the Options you will see a check box to initiate User Quotas. Save and restart the system, at least that was logical to do for the system to detect and load quotas.

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The bad news was that after a restart userquota was installed in the /etc/fstab but it did not work. This is a disaster for an new administrator trying to work with graphical tools. To make it even worse the default install does not install the text tools for quota so you are completely stuck with a mess to fix. This is certainly not what an administrator who is trying to find a easier solution needs, it is a show stopper.

Summary:
Though I did not work with every tool for this article, I will say that most tools worked fine. I will also say that the hardware management with Mandriva is excellent which means easier work with hardware devices. The tools that are a part of the Control Center are basic tools and seem to be fine for someone who is doing basic administration, but not up to speed for more advanced options.

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