Archive for the ‘work’ Category

It’s NOT Telecommuting!


OK, so it is telecommuting – but hear me out for just a second..

I have been involved in a job search as a Linux admin for a few months now and one of the barriers I keep running in to is (get this) physical location, or company location. WHY? Business owners, let me reason with you for a moment here.

Your servers are “in the cloud”:
There are a LOT of companies these days who are using cloud servers and services. Buzz words like Paas, Saas and Iaas are all the rage now, along with their providers AWS, Rackspace, Azure, Google and the like. These services that you use locally for your business are not actually located at your business. Likely, they are not even in the same time zone, and, in some cases, country. Every time one of your server administrators or users access those services and systems, they are doing so remotely, even if they are sitting at a desk next to you in your corporate headquarters.

You have “datacenters”:
For those of you who have your own datacenters for your machines, you have the same issue. Most companies have at least two such facilities for redundancy and either one or both of them are typically located away from your corporate campus. This, again, means that when you are working on them in any capacity, you are doing so remotely, or “telecommuting”, whether it be from your corporate campus, from, home or across the world.

So you see, in almost every scenario in these modern times, you are already telecommuting to use your own resources. I am here to implore you to consider expanding your employment pool by letting computer workers do their jobs remotely. Save yourself some real estate space. Use conference calls, instant messaging, emails and video chats (free) for your office communications. Dramatically lower your corporate utility bills and *paper costs*. And give someone like myself a shot. You’ll be happy you did!

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Linux Recruting

I get a LOT of emails from headhunters, many asking me to come work for them doing every-damn-thing for no money as a “consultant” on (only) a 6 month contract 🙂 I am sure all tech people do. Occasionally I get email from a recruiter who is actually asking me for help looking for a decent Linux person. I got one of those this afternoon. In summary, the email went like this:

I am looking for (Linux Admin) and you probably aren’t looking but I am having a hard time and could you help point me somewhere I can find one?

I always respond to those emails, and, for posterity and for any recruiters watching, here’s the answer:

Not necessarily true. I am always looking 😉
I get a lot of requests and offers and I’ll tell you what turns me off and that may help you find someone. Linux guys with any experience are in really short supply and they are a unique breed of techie. Most are driven to Linux by the premise of free software and/or open source ideals, and as such they do not necessarily have (current) windows skills and are even more likely to not be interested in using any that they do have. I fit into that category. Also, not every Linux guy is a java programmer/desktop technician/helpdesk/printer mechanic/insert other required skill set jumble here. I see a lot of those. “We need a Linux guy that will fix our windows desktop, program new device drivers, fix our mainframe and telephone system, sweep floors and wash cars” kind of things. Those kind of people do not exist 🙂 Lastly is the compensation. Most companies have dealt with the influx of paper certed, dime a dozen MCSE’s for their technical needs and they truly believe that anyone out of grade school can “do tech” for them. It has greatly devalued the industry as a whole. They do not understand the real high skilled people are rare and expensive and can *easily* find work, which is why most Linux/Unix people have not been effected by the technical recession.

So I guess in short,
Linux guys are almost always staunch Linux guys (and if they are not, be suspicious).
Be specific in what you need but remember that These kinds of tech guys are quick at catching on to related technologies so try and be general where you can. For example, there are a bunch of scripting languages and all of them are capable of getting the job done, so say you need a scripter instead of you need a perl scripter.
Be prepared to offer more compensation for a rarer Linux tech than you would an unemployed Windows tech.
Advertise in the right circles. When I get offers, I often send them out to some of the mailing lists of Linux techs I am on, and there are some great Linux groups on Facebook and Google Plus. There are also websites like Linuxquestions.org where Linux geeks hang out.
Lastly, if all else fails, try a few less experienced Linux guys.

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment 3/ed

Good gracious this is a big book! What’s funny is I KNOW I have read and reviewed a previous edition of this book and I spent a half an hour looking for it this morning, but it must have been before I moved and on my old Blog. That being the case, well it’s high time you heard about this monster!

This book, Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, by Stevens and Rago, is the 3rd edition of what is, essentially, the Unix Programming Bible. In fact, so much so that I cannot imagine any serious Unix/Linux/**ux contributor that doesn’t own a copy or at least know what it is.

This is *not* light reading. It is a reference book. This is the stuff geek dreams are coded in and you are going to want to be familiar with the C language to get a lot of this.

All the internal workings and ideas about this kind of operating system, how it works, or is supposed to work and code examples are included here. The least technical chapter in here is the 1st, which is the overview chapter. This goes over things like input/output, files/directories, processes, error handling, and system calls. From there, the chapters narrow in more on specific subjects like Process control, Daemons, Signals, Threading, etc.. Like I said, there is a LOT of very specific information in here. That being said, if you are developing anything more than some scripting, this has what you want to know. This is not to say that those are the only folks that can get anything out of this book, though. Even without understanding the code examples, a person could get a good understanding and overview of how this fantastic type of operating system works, and why. This is the category I find myself in more than any other. Although I have done some C programming, I find myself using this book to help me conceptualize how things are working the background.

No self respecting Unix/Linux geek should be without this book in one format or another. The hard copy I have was sent to me by Pearson Education for the purpose of review. They sell this in book in dead tree format for $70 and $45 for the electronic version. That may sound like a far bit of money, however, remember this is not a story book you read once, this is going to be something you turn to for the right information when you need it. I almost always give away my review books after I read through them, but this one is sticking around. In fact, I am just going to take it to work with me so I can have it handy where I would normally need the information anyway.

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Knock Knock…

Is anyone in there?
Well, admittedly I thought it was time to get in here and blow the virtual dust off. It has been a while and once again, RL has gotten in the way of VL. I have been carrying a bit more burden at work with some issues and projects of late and I have been volunteering my digital skillz lately to help some friends out with their website in the miniscule amount of free time I do have. That left precious little time for anything else. Many of those projects have come to some sort of culmination or at least leveling off a bit, so here I am 🙂

I know a lot of you like my reviews and I do have some lined up with (I hope) more on the way:
On the Techie end of things I have several new books released by Pearson Ed that are currently staring me down. I am also planning on going to the Ohio Linux Fest for some much needed geeking out and R&R in a little over a week. That should provide some content here as well.
You E-Cig junkies won’t have to wait long either. There are a bunch of things I have purchased in the past couple months that I have some strong opinions on and I am happy to share. If I am lucky, I will also be able to do a nice review on a really high end mod shortly as well. Stay tuned for that stuff.

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

BackTrack 5 Cookbook: Quick answers to common problems

BackTrack 5 Cookbook

BackTrack 5 Cookbook

You know, sometimes, just sometimes something fortuitous happens to me. This was one of those times.

I was contacted by my friends over at Pakt Publishing to review their new book on BackTrack. Of course I said sure. Hey, I am a Linux junkie after all! It had actually been quite a while since I had played with BackTrack and this gave me *just* the incentive I needed, but let me tell you a bit about the book…

The book is a “cookbook” style book which gives you “recipes” or guided examples of common problems/scenarios and their fixes. The book is well written, a good reference for a pro, and a great tutorial for the beginner, and by beginner I am assuming that the person *does* have Linux experience, just not BackTrack experience as some command line comfort is pretty much a necessity for this kind of work. The first 2 chapters start you out exactly the way they should, by installing and customizing the distribution. What they don’t tell you is it takes a good while to actually download the distro, but that is beside the point.

Once you actually get things running well, you can follow the book through some really decent examples from Information Gathering all the way through Forensics. The book covers all matter of subject matter and applications in between such as using NMAP, Nessus, Metaspolit, UCSniff and more. I mentioned that this was fortuitous for me and that was because one of the things the book covered was the Hydra program, and, as it turns out, that was the perfect tool for me to use in remediating some password synchronization issues across several hundred servers.

Anyone using a computer should have at least a basic understanding about keeping their valuable data safe, whether that data is for a multi-million dollar company or your own invaluable family photographs. This book goes to great efforts to not only explain how to detect, analyze and remedy such issues, but also gives important background about just how systems become vulnerable to begin with. If only for that reason alone, it’s worth the read. If you are actually a sysadmin, this information is a must. For $23 for the ebook version, it’s a no brainer. Good book. It helped me out and I’ll wager that if you give it a read it’ll do the same for you!

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Multi-threaded scripts using screen


Recently I had to do some more email migrations, and I wanted to script them. But how do you take hundreds of migrations and run, say, 15 at a time, scripted, so you don’t beat up your mail server? Good question!

What I settled on was writing a bash script to call a certain number of background screen processes. I figured that way I could be sure that disconnecting from my session didn’t kill my processes, AND I could always jump into any screened process easily to see what was going on. It wasn’t as hard to get going as you might think and it worked brilliantly!

#!/bin/bash

while read command
do
if [ $(cat totalthreads.txt) -gt $(screen -ls | grep Socket | tail -n1 | cut -d’ ‘ -f1 | sed -e ‘s/No/0/g’) ]
then
echo $command
screen -d -m $command &
fi
while [ $(cat totalthreads.txt) -eq $(screen -ls | grep Socket | tail -n1 | cut -d’ ‘ -f1 | sed -e ‘s/No/0/g’) ]
do
sleep 60
done
while [ $(cat totalthreads.txt) -lt $(screen -ls | grep Socket | tail -n1 | cut -d’ ‘ -f1 | sed -e ‘s/No/0/g’) ]
do
sleep 60
done
done < commandlist.txt

So, what you see here is the entire shebang. What’s happening is all the commands I want to run, which in my case are imap copies but you could do anything really, are listed in a file called “commandlist.txt” individually, each on their own line. It looks like this:

copy this file to that file
copy file 2 to anotherfile 2
copy file 3 to anotherfile 3
copy file 4 to anotherfile 4

The script grabs the commands you want to run and checks a file called “totalthreads.txt”, which simply contains a number. This is the number of threads you want running at any given time. So, say I have 100 commands (copys in the example) I want to run, but only 20 at a time so I don’t eat up all my I.O. I would put all the commands in the commandlist.txt file and a “20” in the totalthreads.txt file, then execute the script itself, which I called “threads.sh” (get it HERE). This script starts up 20 of the commands in the commandlist.txt file, each in their own screen session. When one of your processes ends, another will be started, maintaining that limit listed in the totalthreads.txt file, as long as their are enough commands in the commandlist.txt file to do so.

The nice part about this is it is the thread count is somewhat interactive. This means that if you notice you want more threads running, simply increase the number in the totalthreads.txt file and after a minute or two, you will see them increase. Conversely, if you want less, decrease the number and as processes finish, new threads will not be started until the number running is lower than the number in the totalthreads.txt file.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

GeChic On-Lap 13.3″ LCD

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor


You would think that my lack of posts here lately meant I had simply dropped of the face of the earth, but that isn’t really so. I have just been extremely busy with the day to day problems facing me in RL, including how to squeeze >that< much more work into my overly busy day. This particular recent purchase, the GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor, has helped me do just that.

One of the things all high-end computer workers need to enable them to multitask better is more screen space. This has been researched and documented in a variety of different places. Well, what are you to do with your mobile workstation? You can buy one of those external USB screens, that’s what. Almost a no-brainer, right? The problem with that for a Linux user is the drivers. Most of these types of screens push video through USB, which means you have to have a working usb to video driver, not to mention video over usb is a little slow. Enter the GeChic!

The GeChic solves these problems by NOT usung usb for video, it actually has both a vga and a dvi input along with being usb powered. That’s right, no extra power cord, just plug in the usb cable and pick your input method and you are rockin’ and rollin’. This means it will work with literally ANY laptop or desktop which supports those types of video output, regardless of operating system or driver issues.

The unit itself is a little pricey at $200, however, it makes up for it’s few downsides by giving me my much needed screen space, in an attractive, easy and mobile form. I did say few downsides, and there are a couple other than the price. The first is the color. It just doesn’t want to color match my laptop’s LCD no matter how I seem to adjust it. The second is that using vga input the picture quality lacks a little. To be fair, dvi input is far superior to vga anyhow, and the vga problems could just as easily stem from my machine than from the monitor and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time messing with the settings on vga before just trying out dvi. Ymmv.

What I do like is that this is an attractive little lcd screen with a nice resolution of 1366×768. You can use it while physically attached to your laptop or it can sit standalone next to it in several positions with its included stand. To connect it to your laptop it has surprisingly strong suction cups that attach it’s swing-base to the top of your laptop and it can simply fold up or swing out for use. This allows you to also do neat things like show a presentation on the back of your laptop while you watch the front, etc..

No matter how you slice it, this little thing is mighty handy to have around and everyone who has seen it in action immediately wants one of their own. Boy, I wonder if I could get a kickback from NewEgg on this? Even at that price, I think we have a winner.

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Mint 11 / Ubuntu 11.04 – vpnc+ssh issue

Linux Mint


Yes, I know.. Long time since a post, but I have been waiting ’till I had something interesting to comment on 🙂

You should all know by now that Ubuntu 11.04 and Mint 11 are now out in the wild, and both are very nice IMHO. I have been a “Minty” guy now for quite sometime but I thought it would behoove me to at least try the new Ubuntu 11.04 and it’s Unity interface, so I stuck it on a netbook to test it out and I can say this: It doesn’t suck at all! In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Compared to Gnome 3 (more on that later), Unity is quite usable.

That brings me to Mint 11. A beautiful distribution as I have come to expect. Not too much to say about it for those familiar with Mint except it’s a worthy successor in a long line of great releases. If you haven’t yet tried Mint, you are really doing yourself a disservice.

There are of course problems with everything. Mine was with my vpn connection. I use vpnc to connect to my works’ cisco vpn, and I have been doing so successfully now for many years. In fact, vpnc is my preferred method of connecting over any other client including the cisco client itself. It just works. It’s very easy to configure and use and it stays out of my way. That is until recently.

After I installed Mint 11 on my daily carry, I eventually needed to vpn into work and fix something. Well, I immediately noticed that ssh through vpnc would not connect. I could ping, http, rdesktop, whathaveyou, but no ssh. I looked at the routes, I looked at the tunnel, I looked at the verbose messages from vpnc. Nothing worked. If, however, I walked over to my other laptop that is running Mint 10 with the very same vpnc config, I got right through. This was quite perplexing. I eventually tried connecting with the Ubuntu 11.04 install, and I got the exact same results. I was grasping at straws. Maybe all new distributions were broken in this manner? The horror actually forced me to install Fedora 15 (sorry Fedora folks) and test that. To my surprise, F15’s vpnc+ssh worked just fine. This also gave me an opportunity to find out how dysfunctional and horrible an interface Gnome 3 is (KDE and Unity are gonna become big real soon I guarantee it).

As a last ditch effort to narrow things down, I decided to try a different ssh client. I tried both putty and dropbear. THEY WORKED! YAY! This meant I could go back to running the new Mint on my netbook. I fully intend to just try my own compile of ssh sometime in the future, or perhaps the package maintainers will catch wind of this and fix it (I did send some emails to Clem). Until then, I am happy that I can still use my beloved Mint and I can live temporarily with dropbear and / or putty for ssh through my vpn when I need it. I just hope this post gets around a bit so the other guy that uses vpnc+ssh to connect to his cisco vpn doesn’t think he’s going crazy like I did 🙂

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

The New Xoom Review, Comin’ Right At You!

xoom


OK, I am dating myself here but there used to be this show on when I was a kid, called the New Zoo Review, and for some reason the theme song was playing in repeat in my head while I was thinking about writing this review. That’s how the title comes about, and it’s been a wickedly long week, so that’s about as clever as I can muster right now.

I bought the Motorola Xoom wifi only tablet the day it came out because I have been wanting / looking for / dreaming of a device that *could* be android powered that would be a respectable netbook replacement for me. I wanted something with at least a 10 inch display, fast processor speed, decent storage and memory and significantly thinner and lighter than my netbook that I could use as a daily carry. What goes without saying, there, is that there needs to be functionality with all that I do.

Unfortunately, with the Xoom, this was not to be…

The Xoom is a very appealing looking device which appears to meet many of my basic needs quite well. It is thin and light. It has a beautiful and very functional touch display. The battery lasts quite long at around 2 days of use. It’s only everything after that that is a disappointment.

Let’s start with the price. This was $600 + tax for the wifi only version. I believe this to be a bit excessive, even if the device actually *did* deliver. That being said, I did, and would pay it again to the company that does it right, but there are a lot of disappointments with this tablet:

This tablet does not act as a usb mass storage device. You heard it right. When you jack this into your computer, you have to fumble around and try to find a utility program and/or drivers that do Media Transfer Protocol. I DO NOT understand why they would do this unless they are intentionally trying to irritate their customers. My Moto Droid (the original) could connect as usb mass storage, why can’t this??

This tablet will not charge via the usb cable. Again, what were they thinking. You have to use a needle thin charger plug that has every appearance of wanting to snap off at the slightest bump. Once I finally got the majority of my power and data needs consigned to a single USB cable, Xoom makes sure you have to carry another proprietary wall-wort.

Honeycomb is NOT ready for general use / release. As pretty as it is, the new android OS has lots of bugs. I cannot tell you how many times apps like facebook, gmail, email and the browser crashed on me in the week I used this tablet. The apps are beautiful when they work, but also lack important functionality. For instance, the email app doesn’t do filters. Also, I was particularly thrown back when I could not get my pandora app to run at all!! Ack!

I think the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me is lack of a cisco vpn client. Granted, this is not really the Xoom’s fault, but I need to be able to do some real work with my tablet and this is a HUGE hindrance for me. This one thing means I have to carry a netbook with me anyhow which was the point of getting a tablet in the first place.

Bottom line is if you are looking for some cool tech and do NOT neet to do work with it and / or can wait until they fix a bunch of things AND you have a spare $600 to shell out for said broken product, then run to your nearest store and buy one of these. If you are like me and need a small, slim, lightweight. functional tablet with more stable software and a decent vpn client to replace your netbook, then wait ’till the iPad 2’s are back in stock. Sorry android and Motorola, you lose on this one.

Friday, April 1st, 2011

RHEL 5 quick and dirty samba primer

samba

samba


A friend asked me for a quick primer on how to set up a windows accessible share under RHEL 5, so I thought I would include it here for the benefit of anyone interested.

  • sudo yum -y install samba
  • sudo vim /etc/samba/smb.conf
  • replace the file with something like so:

[global]
workgroup = SOMEWORKGROUPNAME
server string = SERVERHOSTNAME Samba Server Version %v
security = user
netbios name = CALLMESOMETHING
[data]
comment = my data share
path = /data
read only = no
writable = yes
guest ok = no
available = yes
valid users = USERNAME

  • add a local user to the box: sudo useradd USERNAME
  • add the local user to samba and give password: sudo smbpaswd -a USERNAME
  • restart samba service: sudo service smb restart
  • make sure samba starts at boot: sudo chkconfig smb on
  • adjust your firewall settings if necessary

At this point you should be able to access the share at //servername/data.
Have fun!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011