Meet the author(s) at ATO

On Monday, October 22, from 12:45 PM – 1:15 PM, my publisher, Apress, will hold a “meet the authors” session at All Things Open in Raleigh, NC. Several authors of popular Apress books, including myself, will be available for questions and discussion. We will also be happy to sign books for you.

Authors present at this session will be:

  • Mary Thengvall
  • Azat Mardan
  • Preston So
  • David Both
  • Gordon Haff
  • Waldemar Quevedo

We look forward to meeting you.

My Ohio LinuxFest presentation

I am scheduled to present my talk, “Be the Lazy SysAdmin,” at the Ohio LinuxFest Saturday, October 13 (tomorrow as I write this) at 10AM in the Franklin A room. Due to circumstances beyond my control I am unable to be there in Columbus at OLF.

However, my presentation will still take place. I have arranged to present my talk remotely from my home in Raleigh, NC. This morning we tested our remote solution, right from Franklin A, and everything seems to be working perfectly. Of course things never work perfectly on the day of, so please bear with us if we run into any snags.

I am experiencing much angst at not being able to be there in person because I am unable to interact with you all as freely as I would like. We will have Scott Merrill in the room to help by passing questions to me and letting me know when you look bored or perplexed. ;-)

I hope you will understand my distress at not being there to meet with you face to face. I promise to do my best to make this the session you were expecting.

Thank you!

Yet another book contract

I have just signed with Apress for third book about Linux. With two books now in the pipeline it looks like I will be busy for a while. I do not have definitive dates when these books will be on the shelf but my schedule calls for the writing to be completed by Summer of 2019 for the first and Autumn of 2019 for the second. These books constitute a two-book series.

As soon as I can post more information I will.

New book in the works

This morning I signed a contract to write another book for Apress. This book will also be about Linux but it will be different from my first book, The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins. I cannot divulge more about it at this time, but I am very excited about writing another book for Apress. I will post more information as soon as I am able.

Thanks!

Your computer isn’t broken – it just needs Linux

Longevity – an interesting word. I use it here to help clarify some of the statements that I hear many people make. These statements are usually along the lines of, “Linux can extend the life of existing hardware,” or “Keep old hardware out of landfills or unmonitored recycling facilities.”

The idea is that you can use your old computer longer and that by doing that you lengthen the useful life of the computer and decrease the number of computers you need to purchase in your lifetime. This both reduces demand for new computers and reduces the number of old computers being discarded.

This is all true.

Keep the hardware relevant

For one example, I have an old Lenovo ThinkPad W500 that I purchased in May of 2006. It is old, and clunky, and heavy compared to many of today’s laptops, but I like it a lot and it is still my only laptop. I take it with me on most trips and use it for training. It has enough power in its Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, and 300GB hard drive to support a couple virtual machines and be the router and firewall between a classroom network and the Internet, to connect to a projector to display my slides, and to use to demonstrate the use of Linux commands. I currently use Fedora 28 on my laptop, the very latest. That is pretty amazing considering that this laptop, that I affectionately call vgr, is a bit over 12 years old as I write this in September of 2018.

Linux can most definitely keep old hardware useful. I have several old desktop workstations that are still useful with Linux on them. Although none are as old as vgr, I have at least one workstation with an Intel motherboard from 2008, one from 2010, at least three from 2012.

Resist malware

Another reason that I can keep old hardware running longer is that Linux is very resistant to malware infections. It is not completely immune to malware but none of my systems have ever been infected. Even my laptop, which connects to all kinds of wired and wireless networks that I do not control, has never been infected.

Without the massive malware infections that cause most peoples’ computers to slow to an unbearable crawl, my Linux systems – all of them – keep running at top speed. It is this constant slowdown, even after many expensive “cleanings” at the big box stores or the strip mall computer stores, that causes most people to think that their computers are old and useless. So they throw them away and buy another.

So if Linux can keep my 12 year old laptop and other old systems running smoothly, it can surely keep many others running as well. Including yours.

Linux turns 27 today

Linux is 27 years old today. Happy birthday Linux and thank you Linus Torvalds for giving us a real operating system to use on our computers. I have used Linux for over 20 years and I cannot imagine using anything else on my computers.

I have never used Windows as a primary operating system on any of my many computers. I started with DOS, then went to OS/2, and then to Linux. To be completely honest I do have one VM with Windows on it that I use for research for articles and books. But I keep it tightly caged in that VM. ;-)

 

Speaking at Ohio LinuxFest

I will be speaking at Ohio LinuxFest this year which runs October 12-13 in Columbus, Ohio. My talk is titled, “Be the Lazy SysAdmin,” in which I discuss ways for SysAdmins to work smart not hard.

The schedule has not been posted yet so I don’t know when I will be speaking but I will post here when I get that information.

 

 

Abstract:
I am proud to be a lazy SysAdmin. I am also a very productive SysAdmin. Those two seemingly contradictory statements are not mutually exclusive. This session will show you why this is true and introduce you to some easy to implement strategies to help you achieve this advanced state of SysAdmin zen.

* Automate everything
* Use built-in Linux shortcuts such as aliases and command line editing
* Naming files for easy recognition.
* Documentation makes everything easier.
* Use your favorite editor.
* Find elegance through simplicity.
* Follow your curiosity.
* Mentor the young SysAdmins.

By the end of this session you will be able to use these strategies to get more done by working lazier.

I look forward to seeing you there.

 

Hardcopy of “The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins” now available

The author’s hard copies of my book, The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins, showed up on my front porch yesterday. The hard copy does appear to be available at Apress and on-line at Barnes & Noble but not yet at Amazon. Amazon is showing availability in February of 2019 but I think it will actually be available sooner. I need to check the local B&N store and see if they have it in stock.

This is all quite exciting for me as an author. I wrote a couple chapters for a book on OS/2 many years ago, and I have written for various publications such as Linux Journal, Linux Magazine, and Opensource.com but having my own book published is amazing.

I am looking forward to your feedback. I hope you will purchase my book, if you haven’t already, and leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. If you may email me directly at LinuxGeek46@both.org with direct feedback such as errors and typos. If I do not respond, it may be because my server has blocked your email for some reason so contact me on Twitter @LinuxGeek46 and let me know of the problem so I can whitelist you. 

Thank you!

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.