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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Posts about sysadmin (old posts, page 6)

If you are a qmail user: read this

  • My most use­­ful plug­in is prob­a­bly ipthrot­tle, which you can use to make overea­ger IPs con­nect less of­ten.

  • The ver­­sion cur­ren­t­­ly in SVN will au­­to­block those IPs for a con­­fig­urable amount of time if you are us­ing ipsvd which is like tcpserver, on­­ly much bet­ter.

  • I re­al­­ly need some­one to help me test the SVN ver­­sion, which should be way, way bet­ter than the re­leas­es on the page.

  • The SVN re­po is at google­­code

Rethinking Linux Configuration: Part I

I have said Lin­ux suck­s. Here's my new pro­jec­t: Make it suck less, one bit at a time.

And I start with one of the big chunks: con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Part I in a longish se­ries (I ex­pect 5 parts at least­).

Don't let them tell you the CLI is bad

I mean, can you do this on a GUI?

grep 23/Nov/2007 /var/log/httpd/lateral-access_log |\
grep html | cut -d" " -f1 | sort |uniq |\
while read IP; do host $IP; done

Wanted: C programmer

Check­ing on my semi-dead pro­ject­s, I found that one was al­most fin­ished but I had for­got­ten about it: rater

In or­der to make it re­al­ly use­ful, how­ev­er, I need a C pro­gram­mer that can turn this python pro­gram:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

import sys
from socket import *
serverHost = 'localhost'
serverPort = 1999

s = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM)
s.connect((serverHost, serverPort))
print "Sending: ",' '.join(sys.argv[1:])
s.send(' '.join(sys.argv[1:])+"\n")
data = s.recv(1024)
sys.stderr.write(data)
sys.stderr.flush()
sys.exit(int(data.split(' ')[0]))

In­to a nice func­tion that nev­er fails and nev­er leaks mem­o­ry (of course, it should re­turn in­stead of ex­it, this is just ex­am­ple code ;-).

If that's done, I can re­lease rater as a use­ful tool, which should find a home in many qmail in­stal­la­tions (and maybe oth­er us­es).

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I ask­ing the red men­ace from the north for these item­s?

Well, they do have one thing in com­mon: Lin­ux. An­oth­er is that they are con­sumer box­es, not server­s.

For many years, one of the huge ad­van­tages win­dows had was that it came pre­loaded with most PC­s. This en­abled peo­ple to turn a blind eye to win­dows in­stal­la­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion since it was done by Some­one Else (T­M).

Since get­ting Lin­ux has be­come much eas­i­er in the last 10 years 1 this has been very frus­trat­ing. Imag­ine you had some­thing you gave away for free, but peo­ple kept us­ing some­thing more ex­pen­sive be­cause they had to pay for it any­way!

That itch­es. If Lin­ux was not cho­sen be­cause it was in­fe­ri­or for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even be­ing able to be test­ed be­cause the oth­er prod­uct was bun­dled and paid for? An­noy­ing.

Of course on servers this worked dif­fer­ent­ly. The OS was not the ex­pen­sive part, and was pre­loaded less of­ten. Cor­po­ra­tions have pre­ar­ranged li­cens­ing terms, and adding things to the mix is sim­pler.

But for con­sumer­s, preload­ing has been a huge prob­lem 2

So, if the jol­ly tres­pass­er brings me what I or­dered, I will find the fol­low­ing:

  • Asus eee: A cheap sub­­note­­book with Lin­ux and KDE pre­load­ed.

  • Ev­erex gPC: A cheap Desk­­top with Lin­ux and En­­light­en­­men­t(!?) pre­load­ed.

  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an em­bed­d­ed hy­per­vi­­sor and Lin­ux OS.

The eee is prob­a­bly the most ap­peal­ing. It's ide­al for many us­es:

  • Sales­­men who are now us­ing some un­­god­­ly Black­­ber­ry app (or worse)

  • Sys­tem and net­­work ad­min­s. Re­al­­ly. I would love to have a cheap note­­book I won't hes­­i­­tate bring­ing to a roof, a bar, the beach, what­ev­er. It would live in my bag. My cur­rent note­­book? Be­­sides weight­ing 8 pound­s, it's ex­pen­­sive and large. All I need are we­b­­pages email and SSH ses­­sion­s!

  • Kids and stu­­dents (it's cheap! You can buy a re­­place­­ment if he drops coffe on it!)

  • Ba­sic users and old peo­­ple. Re­al­­ly, an of­­fice-­­like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wher­ev­er there's wifi? Neat.

And it is go­ing to get a lot cheap­er, and it's go­ing to get a lot bet­ter. I ex­pect there will be a 32G­B, 10" mod­el by the end of next year for $350, and the cur­rent mod­el avail­able for $250 (after al­l, half the com­po­nents are cheap as dirt al­ready, on­ly flash is ex­pen­sive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus cre­ates a de­cent dock 3 and a nice rdif­f-back­up-based back­up so­lu­tion (it should be at least as nice as Ap­ple's Time Ma­chine), this box turns in­to my main com­put­er when­ev­er I am at home, and is a use­ful tool on the road. I re­al­ly can live with those spec­s.

The gPC is a bit hard­er to grasp.

First, it's even cheap­er. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slow­ish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I re­al­ly want one of those as a home serv­er. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX box­es as ac­tu­al­ly cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at al­l).

  • I have a TV cap­­ture card, I could make a PVR out of it us­ing Lin­uxM­CE? It does have enough CPU for that (s­ince I am do­ing it with a slow­er box al­ready)

  • A file server? More than good enough for that.

  • A house­­guest com­put­er?

  • A MPD server?

  • All of the above?

And do all this while be­ing qui­et and pow­er-­ef­fi­cien­t? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS sim­ply would be cool be­cause I can vir­tu­al­ize with­out jump­ing through any hoop­s. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I on­ly found out about it to­day. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these box­es mark a trend? Be­cause they are def­i­nite­ly low-end prod­uct­s. These are meant to be made by thou­sands and hun­dreds of thou­sand­s, and make small mon­ey on each.

The mak­ers are be­ing smart about pro­vid­ing as lit­tle func­tion­al­i­ty as they can and mak­ing them sim­ple, niche, con­sumer prod­ucts in­stead of mon­stru­osly pow­er­ful Lin­ux mon­sters (sor­ry for how ug­ly that sound­s).

An­oth­er fac­tor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is mak­ing the OS ir­rel­e­vant just like Net­scape hoped in 1996. If the OS is in­vis­i­ble, Lin­ux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!
1

Look, no need to cre­ate 30 flop­pies! You can add a driv­er with­out re­com­pil­ing the ker­nel! You don't need to know what a Mod­e­line is!

2

The oth­er one is prob­a­bly games, but that's a dif­fer­ent prob­lem. There are whole mar­kets where gam­ing is not an is­sue.

3

A wire­less dock with place for a IDE disk or two, an op­ti­cal drive, a pow­ered USB hub, a card read­er. Hard­ware cost­s? Maybe U$S 50 + disks?


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