All this week there are Ubuntu Developer IRC workshops. While I don’t actually use Ubuntu at work it’s always a good idea to keep up with the new and shiny, and as an extra incentive a lot of the technical details mentioned also apply to Debian, which I do have to admin on a daily basis. While the IRC logs don’t go in to huge details the two sessions I’ve looked at (getting started and packaging perl modules) each contain enough useful links to make them worth my time.

Pay very close attention to them. Nothing marks a trouble spot in quite the same way. Either they’re being picked on and something needs to be done or they are the first people you should be helping to pursue new opportunities. Very far away. Either way you need to know. Leaving incompetent people in place destroys morale for the good staff and encourages them to look elsewhere. When there’s a bad apple or two lowering the teams value, and the quality of their output, pure professional pride only gets you so far. Read on →

With all the hype and misdirection around the cloud it’s always good to find a little bit of concrete information. If you’re interested in the general principles of how the cloud (and Amazon Webservices in particular) could replace some of your existing infrastructure then Cloud Application Architectures isn’t a bad place to start. The book is a slim tome, it’s easy to read in a couple of sittings and covers all the basics. Read on →

When it comes to sysadmin buzzwords Project California: a Data Center Virtualization Server ticks a lot of the boxes, which is a little misleading as half the book is about solid hardware level details that are actually rarely covered. While this makes the first half more than a little dry it does introduce concepts that many of us take for granted, such as why DDR3 is faster than DDR2. The second half takes you through the Cisco UCS stack and where the benefits are. Read on →

Last weekend I joined the hordes and worked my way from London to Seigburg for FrOSCon 2009. Along the way I experienced an airport evacuation due to fire alarm, a delayed flight, four trains (one in the wrong direction) and numerous kindly old German ladies that took pity on me and gradually got me in the right direction. And it was worth every second. I’d never really considered going to FrOSCon before, the percentage of talks given in German is quite high and I don’t speak a word of the language but this year there was an excellent line up of speakers (all presenting in English) in the OpenSQLCamp room. Read on →

We’ve recently been searching for a junior sysadmin to join the team (and I’m very happy to say we’ve now succeeded) so as part of my day to day tasks I had to come up with a dozen simple questions to weed out the people that have never used anything but webmin (and there is a surprising number of them out there). One of the questions seemed to cause a lot of trouble in the general sense and tripped up the few who even made an attempt - “How would you change all occurrences of to in a text file? Read on →

In a conversation with Stuart the subject of cron timings came up, and after a brief discussion the ugly head of @reboot reared. While most people know that you can use the special ‘event’ syntax to trigger cronjobs at specific times I’d guess a very small number of them actually know how it works. For example does cron rerun @reboot jobs when the service is restarted? (hint - no it doesn’t.) After a quick discussion on how cron knew the machine hadn’t really rebooted we had a short list on how it was doing it - tracking uptime, watching run level states, calling the init script only on certain levels… the only problem is that all of those had obvious issues that stopped them being a good choice. Read on →

When it comes to the list of problems ‘our uptimes are too high’ isn’t normally in the top five that sysadmins dread. While having a lengthy uptime used to be a boasting point it can also hide technical issues - such as kernel upgrades you’ve applied but not enabled (unless you’re running something special like ksplice), confidence gaps in high availability systems (when was the last time you did a fail over?) and a general worry that what’s running on a host now may not be when it comes back up. Read on →

I recently headed up to the August NWRug in Manchester, firstly because it’s been a while since I’ve seen Will Jessop, the organiser (and more importantly a mate) and secondly because I was interested in Capistrano. While we use puppet at work for the more strategic stuff, such as ensuring machines start off with a well-defined configuration, I’ve been in need of something to perform sets of tasks against defined groups of servers. Read on →

If you’ve not seen or read much in the way of Scifi then Moon may be an innovative movie that surprises you with its plot twists, (a film with a plot? Quick, change screens, Transformers is on next door) surprises and human/machine interaction. If you’re reading this blog then I’m guessing you’ll find it slow, predictable and a bit meandering. 5⁄10. Very average.