LJ Archive


The Customer Is Always Right

Shawn Powers

Issue #212, December 2011

This is the time of year when the Linux Journal staff turns to you, our readers, for insight on the best programs in the Linux world. I love this time of year. No, not because you all do most of the work, but rather because I get to see how my preferences compare to those of our readership. You get to do the same. Whether you're looking for validation with your software choices or hoping to fill a gap in your digital repertoire, this issue should please.

Along with the Readers' Choice winners, we have an issue full of “choice” articles we've picked to go along with this month's theme. Reuven M. Lerner shows us an easy way to scale Web applications with Amazon's Simple Queue Service (SQS). Amazon makes scaling services simple, and Web applications are no exception. Dave Taylor describes how to make a scale of our own for rating Twitter accounts. Using scripting (Dave's specialty), extracting data about a Twitter account is pretty simple. Come up with your own formulas for what makes tweets terrific, and you can make a script that is judge and jury all in one.

Our other command-line guru, Kyle Rankin, teaches us to laugh in the face of E Ink and scoff at the Kindles of Amazon. In the same way Kyle chats with Irssi, e-mails with Mutt and system-administers from an xterm, this month he shows how to read Linux Journal with his e-reader of choice: a terminal window. If you're a minimalist like Kyle or just like to out-geek the person next to you, you'll want to read Kyle's article. At the very least, it will make you thankful for your digital e-reader!

Michael Nugent addresses a problem this month that is near and dear to me. Every sysadmin should have a monitoring system, but what happens when that monitoring system is more annoying than helpful? I get daily e-mail messages from several of my systems with reports on their success or failure. After 20–30 days of “all normal”, the messages tend to slip past my radar. Then one day when they stop arriving, their absence goes unnoticed. The opposite can be true though as well. How may times have you been woken up by your pager beeping incessantly over a false positive? At 3 o'clock in the morning? Michael discusses some best practices for making your monitoring system effective at doing its job while not driving you insane in the process.

If you're a software developer, you will want to check out Daniel Bartholomew's article on databases. Sure, databases aren't the most exciting things in the world, but if you're a programmer, interfacing with them is important. Add to that Joey Bernard's article on Mercurial for revision control, and it's like soup for the programmer's soul.

We realize not everyone is into programming though, and for you hardware hackers, we have a couple exciting articles as well. James Tandon shows us the open-source processor OpenRISC and teaches us some tricks for utilizing it. As a community that historically has struggled with working with proprietary hardware, the open-source hardware idea is very attractive. Roderick W. Smith helps us stay ahead of the hardware transition game this month too. He describes the new EFI boot mechanism that is slowly taking over the role of BIOS in computers. Since hardware manufacturers will be moving more and more toward EFI, it's important for us to understand. After all, “booting up” is a pretty important part of any operating system—even if it is only once every few years for Linux users.

Networking folks haven't been left out this month either. Paul Amaranth shows us a pretty neat method of fixing broken NAT protocols using NF_QUEUE. NAT works so well anymore, most of us take it for granted. Sometimes it doesn't work as magically as we expect, however, and Paul shows us how to do some magic of our own. Bill Childers and Kyle Rankin close off the issue with a scary, but educational, story about wiping out their data center—over and over. It's scary the damage we can do accidentally when we work on production servers. Bill and Kyle are two people I turn to when I have issues I can't solve, and as you'll read this month, they've learned much of their knowledge at the school of hard knocks.

We'd like to thank you, our readers, for making this issue fun for us. It's great to hear from you regarding what software and hardware you prefer. It not only helps us produce a magazine that will fit your needs, it also gives us a chance to learn from you. So sit back with your Kindle, prop up an iPad or flip through digital pages with your Android. This month, you get to see how you line up with other Linux Journal readers. We hope you enjoy.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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