Looking ahead

Now that I have finished the final proofs for The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins, I am looking ahead to what might be next. Although I plan to be active with Apress in promoting “the Philosophy,” I have some things in mind for what comes next. I am currently talking with Apress about a couple more Linux books. I can’t say anything more at this time but I am excited about the prospects for this new project. I will keep you informed as much as possible about this. 

Apparently finishing one book leaves one thinking about what to do next. And here I thought that being retired would put an end to deadlines. Hah! Silly me.

Final book proofs finished

Today I finished a second round of proofs for my book. There were just a few things that needed more correction on the first set of proofs that I could not do with the web-based proofing system that my publisher is using. So the production team made the changes very quickly and sent me a complete PDF of the book to verify the corrections that they made. Everything looks good so things are now completely in the hands of production.

The Apress folks have been very easy to work with. Quite a pleasure to say the least.

Now I just get to wait until the book is published. September 21 is the target date.

Site problem solved

Due to some apparent data corruption in the MySQL database that stores the page and post content for this web site, the static pages were temporarily unable to be viewed. The data appeared to be there but it could not be displayed.

I was able to fix this problem by restoring the MySQL database files for this web site from backups that were three days old. Newer backups that I tried were also corrupted. After copying the data from the backups I make every day with a script I wrote that uses the rsync command, I restarted the MySQL database daemon and everything was back to normal. Unfortunately I did lose a couple posts but everything else including all of the static pages was there again. And no reboot was necessary!

The content of the missing posts was short and basically stated that I have finished revising the proofs of my book, “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins.” Other than that nothing is missing.

My forthcoming book has a chapter entitled, “Back up Everything – Frequently,” which covers backups in some detail and includes a link to a GitHub repository with a copy of my backup script. I was able to recover from this problem – and prevent it from being a complete disaster – because I followed the tenets of the Philosophy that I write about in my book.

I hope you will read it when it comes out this September 21.

Working on book proofs

The Apress production team has sent me the link to the on-line proofing site for my book. I started working on these proofs today and they look very good with only a few very minor changes to be made. The schedule calls for the proofing to be done by Friday and I do not think I will have any problem with making that deadline.

Real SysAdmins don’t sudo – Book excerpt

I was just reading a very interesting article that contained some good information about a Linux feature that I want to learn about. I won’t tell you the name of the article, what it was about, or even the web site on which I read it, but the article just made me shudder.

The reason I found this article so cringe-worthy is that it prefaced every command with the sudo command. The issue I have with this is that the article is allegedly for SysAdmins and real SysAdmins don’t use sudo in front of every command they issue. This is a gross misuse of the sudo command and I have written about this type of misuse in my new book, “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins,” which is due out this September. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 19 of my book.


sudo or not sudo

I think that part of being a System Administrator and using your favorite tools is to use the tools we have correctly and to have them available without any restrictions. In this case I find that the sudo command is used in a manner for which it was never intended. I have a particular dislike for how the sudo facility is being used in some distributions, especially because it is employed to limit and restrict access by people doing the work of system administration to the tools they need to perform their duties.

“[SysAdmins] don’t use sudo.”
– Paul Venezia

Venezia explains in his InfoWorld article that sudo is used as a crutch for SysAdmins. He does not spend a lot of time defending this position or explaining it. He just states this as a fact. And I agree with him – for SysAdmins. We don’t need the training wheels in order to do our jobs. In fact they get in the way.

Some distros, such as Ubuntu, use the sudo command in a manner that is intended to make the use of commands that require elevated (root) privileges a little more difficult. In these distros it is not possible to login directly as the root user so the sudo command is used to allow non-root users temporary access to root privileges. This is supposed to make the person a little more careful about issuing commands that need elevated privileges such as adding and deleting users, deleting files that don’t belong to them, installing new software, and generally all of the tasks that are required to administer a modern Linux host. Forcing SysAdmins to use the sudo command as a preface to other commands is supposed to make working with Linux safer.

Using sudo in the manner it is by these distros is, in my opinion, a horrible and ineffective attempt to provide novice SysAdmins with a false sense of security. It is completely ineffective at providing any level of protection. I can issue commands that are just as incorrect or damaging using sudo as I can when not using it. The distros that use sudo to anesthetize the sense of fear that we might issue an incorrect command are doing SysAdmins a great disservice. There is no limit or restriction imposed by these distros on the commands that one might use with the sudo facility. There is no attempt to actually limit the damage that might be done by actually protecting the system from the users and the possibility that they might do something harmful – nor should there be.

So let’s be clear about this – these distributions expect the user to perform all of the tasks of system administration. They lull the users – who are really System Administrators if you remember my list from Chapter 1 – into thinking that they are somehow protected from the effects of doing anything bad because they must take this restrictive extra step to enter their own password in order to run the commands.

Bypass sudo

Distributions that work like this usually lock the password for the root user and Ubuntu is one of these distros. This way no one can login to root and start working unencumbered. …

Note: I have deleted experiment 19-1 to save space. 

Please do not misunderstand me. Distributions like Ubuntu and their up- and down-stream relatives are perfectly fine and I have used several of them over the years. When using Ubuntu and related distros, one of the first things I do is set a root password so that I can login directly as root.

Valid uses for sudo

The sudo facility does have its uses. The real intent of sudo is to enable the root user to delegate to one or two non-root users, access to one or two specific privileged commands that they need on a regular basis. The reasoning behind this is that of the lazy sysadmin; allowing the users access to a command or two that requires elevated privileges and that they use constantly, many times per day, saves the SysAdmin a lot of requests from the users and eliminates the wait time that the users would otherwise experience. But most non-root users should never have full root access, just to the few commands that they need.

I sometimes need non-root users to run programs that require root privileges. In cases like this I set up one or two non-root users and authorize them to run that single command. The sudo facility also keeps a log of the user ID of each user that uses it. This might enable me to track down who made an error. That’s all it does; it is not a magical protector.

The sudo facility was never intended to be used as a gateway for commands issued by a SysAdmin. It cannot check the validity of the command. It does not check to see if the user is doing something stupid. It does not make the system safe from users who have access to all of the commands on the system even if it is through a gateway that forces them to say “please” – That was never its intended purpose.

“Unix never says please.”
– Rob Pike

This quote about Unix is just as true about Linux as it is about Unix. We SysAdmins login as root when we need to do work as root and we log out of our root sessions when we are done. Some days we stay logged in as root all day long but we always work as root when we need to. We never use sudo because it forces us to type more than necessary in order to run the commands we need to do our jobs. Neither Unix nor Linux asks us if we really want to do something, that is, it does not say “Please verify that you want to do this.”
Yes, I dislike the way some distros use the sudo command.

 

Book availability dates revised

The availability dates for my book, “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins,” has been revised. Both the hardcopy (paperback) and the ebook versions are now scheduled to be available on September 21, 2018. This means that they will be on the shelf in time for All Things Open (ATO) here in Raleigh on October 21 – 23.

Look for some additional announcements soon.

About my Book – “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins”

Cover of Linux Philosophy for SysAdminsThe Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins

ISBN 978-1-4842-3729-8

Apress
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Availability dates revised.
Expected hardcopy availability, September 21, 2018
Expected ebook availability, September 21, 2018

Apress, my publisher, has sent pre-release information about my new book, The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins“, to book stores and on-line sellers around the world. 

The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins” is the book I wish I had when I was starting life as a SysAdmin and before I found my mentors. 

The Linux Philosophy for System Administrators is not about learning new commands, processes, or procedures. Rather it is about becoming a better SysAdmin through understanding the power of Linux as a function of the philosophies that built it. SysAdmins will learn how to unleash that power with the knowledge enabled by a philosophical approach that targets their unique needs.

This book uses a relatively few common Linux commands to illustrate practical, usable aspects of the philosophy. Readers will learn a philosophical approach to system administration that will unlock the power of the knowledge they already have. This book will enable SysAdmins and others to more fully understand and access the vast power of the command line using commands and tools that they already know and use.

This book takes place on the Linux command line, but it is not about the commands themselves. The commands are only the tools through which the beauty of the underlying structure of Linux is revealed. This book will help you learn how to do that using the philosophy contained in its pages.

Take the link below for a more complete description of this book and a chapter listing.

Book description of “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins“.

 

“The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins” has been sent to production

My new book, “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins” has been sent to production. The next step for me is reading the proofs to verify that everything has been translated onto the page as I intended. I am especially interested to see how some of my illustrations turn out.

Stay tuned!  I will have availability dates as soon as possible.

First draft complete

I have completed the first draft of my book and all of my 26 chapters have been submitted to my publisher. Of those chapters, 24 have already been  reviewed by Ben Cotton, my technical reviewer, and revised as necessary. I have also made significant progress on producing a bibliography and a list of keywords for indexing. Fortunately I do not need to do the actual indexing because my list is very long.

I received the proof for the cover and it looks very good. It is actually pretty amazing to see a book cover with my name on it. I contributed a couple chapters to the book “Inside OS/2” about 30 years ago, and although my biography was inside as an author, my name was not on the cover. So this is quite special for me. I hope it won’t be the last because I already have an idea for my next Linux book. More on that as my thoughts on that begin to solidify.

I am still well ahead of schedule and expect this book to be available earlier than the original estimates. I will post the availability dates here as soon as I know what they are expected to be. There is still a lot of work to do, such as reviewing the galley proofs.

 

Book progress

I have been making good progress on my book. I am still ahead of schedule and expect to finish well ahead of the deadline. This project has been a lot of work, but the results will be well worth it. I will continue to post messages here to keep you informed of my progress and when we have availability dates set for the electronic and hard copy versions.

Book thoughts

As I started working on my book this morning, I looked at the total word count for the chapters I have already completed and the number is just over 95,000 words. I know that many books are longer but I am not yet finished.

What I really started thinking about was back in high school when my teachers would give us writing assignments of 500 or 1,000 words and I thought that was huge. It always seemed like I was adding serial adjectives to try to stretch my word count. Now it seems I can’t say anything in less than a few thousand words and more is better.

How things change.

Book status

I continue to make good progress on my book, The Linux Philosophy for System Administrators. I have now completed 15 chapters and technical reviews have been completed on 13 of those. I am currently working on chapters 16, 17, and 18.

I find that writing this book has been very interesting. The research required to write a book of this nature has allowed me to learn a considerable amount.

More to come.

Book Deal Signed

I recently signed a contract for a book deal with Apress publishing. My book is tentatively titled, “The Linux Philosophy for System Administrators.” My intention is for it to be the book that I wish I had when I started as a System Administrator (SysAdmin) many years ago.

Apress specializes in books for IT professionals, developers, and technical communities around the world. I am pleased to be associated with them in this effort.

I will post more information over the coming weeks and months in order to let you know more about the book itself and to keep you abreast of our progress. I do not currently have a publication date but I think it will be sometime in the second half of 2018.

 

Welcome to my renovated blog

I have just renovated my personal blog – yes, this one – because I have some interesting news coming up soon. I will share it as soon as I can, and I am very excited. All of the old stuff you used to find here is no longer available so don’t bother looking for it.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available.