LJ Archive


Sysadmins Ain't No Fools

Shawn Powers

Issue #216, April 2012

This year, April 1st lands on a Sunday. I always enjoy it when April Fools' Day lands on a weekend, because otherwise I get about a dozen phone calls that go something like this [our stage is set with Shawn casually sipping his coffee, when suddenly the phone rings]:

Me: Hello, technology department, Shawn speaking.

Frantic User: Shawn! My computer was acting slow, then the Internet quit, and now I think I smell smoke!

Me: I see. Have you tried turning it off and back on?

Frantic User: HA HA HA HA HA! April Fools! I so got you, oh you should have heard yourself, classic Shawn. You were so worried, oh man, that was great. I can't believe you fell for it!

After the 3rd or 4th burning computer, smoking printer or melted projector, I start to wish April 1st was a national holiday so my users could all just go home. This year, we can all sit back and enjoy the day off, thankful that the April issue of Linux Journal is focused on us, the sysadmins.

Reuven M. Lerner starts off with some great information on APIs. If you want to interact with other Web sites, programs or even some devices, the API system is how to do so. Reuven shows what that means when it comes to inclusion in your own programs. If your interests are more along the lines of scripting, Dave Taylor likely will pique your interest as he continues his series on how to be a darn dirty cheater in Scrabble. Of course, I'm teasing, but Dave does explain how to use the power of scripting to come up with some pretty amazing moves. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether it's cheating or not.

Kyle Rankin and I are most comfortable this month, as system administration is right up our alley. Kyle gives a walk-through on using sar, a tool for logging system load. Sure there are other tools for monitoring system load, but sar does a great job of keeping historical records. I have a few tricks up my own sysadmin sleeve this month as well, and I continue my series on LTSP, describing how to tweak your server and clients to get the most out of them both. LTSP 5 provides great flexibility on local apps vs. server apps, and I explain how to set them up.

If you've ever been interested in the inner workings of IBM's Watson supercomputer, or if you ever wondered whether there's just some really smart person behind the curtain speaking in a computer-like voice, Aleksey Tsalolikhin's article will interest you. He takes you behind the scenes and shows off Watson's “guts”, many of which are open source. Aleksey also had the chance to interview Eddie Epstein, who was responsible for getting Watson ready to compete on Jeopardy! Watson is quite an advanced system, and although it may not be perfect, it's disturbingly close. You won't want to miss the article.

We have a trio of hard-core sysadmin articles this issue as well, all of which should be interesting whether you're a sysadmin yourself or just use a system administered by someone else. Florian Haas writes about Pacemaker, a high-availability stack for Linux. In this crazy data-dependent world, high availability is an important topic. Adam Kosmin follows that with an article on Puppet and Nagios. High availability is great, but unless you can manage your configurations, you'll have highly available junk! Finally, Stewart Walters starts off his series on configuring OpenLDAP for unified logins. Multiple servers means multiple authentication schemes, and when you add different platforms into the mix, things become complicated quickly. Stewart describes how to use one OpenLDAP to rule them all.

Don't worry if you're not a system administrator. As always, we have included tons of other things to tickle the fancy of any Linux geek. Aaron Peters reviews the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet/notebook device. If you're like me and think a tablet computer would be great if only it had a hinge and a keyboard, the Transformer might be just what you're looking for. We've also got product announcements, software spotlights and even a few cheesy jokes thrown in by yours truly. This April issue of Linux Journal has something for everyone, and I'm not fooling. Until next month, remember, if your refrigerator is running, you'd better go catch it!

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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