One antipattern I’m seeing with increasing frequency is that of obese (or fat, or bloated) system provisioning. It seems as common in people that are just getting used to having an automated provisioning system and are enthusiastic about its power as it is in longer term users who have added layer on layer of cruft to their host builder. The basic problem is that of adding too much work and intelligence to the actual provisioning stage. Read on →

To me puppet has always been a major evolutionary step up on the sysadmin tool chain. I consider it important enough to be ranked alongside version control systems and virtualisation as one of those mental leaps that leads to better management and enables more flexible solutions than you could offer before understanding it. While I’m quite a long term member of the puppet community I’m no where near as active as I should be, but even I couldn’t miss the chance to attend PuppetCamp Europe, and I’m glad I didn’t! Read on →

I’ve had Hardening Apache sitting on my shelves for over five years (Sep 2004 or so Amazon tells me). While I can remember dipping in to it for the Apache chroot chapter it never seemed to progress to the top of the pile, and now I’m cleaning out a lot of my old books I decided to finally give it a chance. The book is very well written, covers a good range of subjects from building apache from source to adding extra security modules and checking its running state. Read on →

Considering the deadlines most of us have to work to it’s not surprising how much the idea of refactoring, which by continuously improving the design of code, we make it easier and easier to work with. appeals to us. But why should developers have all the ‘fun’? Databases need some love and care too! It’s easier to review this book if we look at it as two smaller books. In the first book, chapters 1 to 5, the authors take you through the details of Refactoring Databases. Read on →

While searching for a completely different piece of software I stumbled on to the pigz application, a parallel implementation of gzip for modern multi-processor, multi-core machines. As some of our backups have a gzip step to conserve some space I decided to see if pigz could be useful in speeding them up. Using remarkably unscientific means (I just wanted to know if it’s worth further investigation) I ran a couple of sample compression runs. Read on →

One of my little side projects is moving an old, configured in little steps over a long period of time, website from apache 1.3 to a much more sensible apache 2.2 server. I’ve been thinking about how to get the most out of the testing I need to do for the move and so today I decided to do some yak shaving and write some simple regression tests, play with Cucumber Nagios, rspec matchers and write a little ruby. Read on →

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you’ve seen my very basic website at some point. I learned some HTML and CSS back when Netscape 4 and HTML 3.2 roamed the earth and while some of my very front end gifted co-workers have bought bits of my knowledge up to date I still don’t understand how to properly lay out a CSS only multicolumn page without cheating. I’m not sure if it’s because i had vague expectations on what this book would cover or just if I’m not the target market for HTML & CSS The Good Parts but I’ve read the thing from cover to cover and nothing really stands out to me. Read on →

So today is Ada Lovelace day and we’re supposed to “celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.” I don’t know many women in science but I do know a few in technology and one in particular seems to go from back breaking task to another with politeness and grace I wish I could muster. So for my 2010 Lovelace day (and because she’ll need all the happy thoughts she can get now she’s president of the Perl Foundation) I’m naming Karen Pauley. Read on →

The LOSUG seems to be the user group with the least cross over of attendees that I go to. It seems to be a three part mix - Sun engineers going along to meet co-workers and get the external eye on to what’s happening in different parts of the project, Unix people with dozens of years of experience who want something technical and interesting that matters on the server and people that don’t listen to the speaker and then ask questions that, quite frankly, they should be embarrassed over. Read on →

I’d never even heard of this book until Bob used its name in the same sentence as the excellent “Cisco Routers for the Desperate”. However while that book is about hands on practical Cisco advice Network Ninja is all about the theory - from IP addressing to routing protocols. While no one’s ever going to confuse 200 easy to read pages with the Stevens books this slender volume is an excellent refresher for the experienced admin who doesn’t do too much to the network on a day-to-day basis or for the less experienced admin who wants to know some of the why instead of just the command lines. Read on →