System Administration

I may be a developer by trade, but I'm one of those annoying ones who loves fiddling with Unix. Shell scripting, sed, awk, firewalls, networking, filesystems, system config files, maintaing SMTP servers and DNS servers; I love it all.

This section of the blog is full of short scripts, and notes on how to do stuff that isn't necessarily as obvious as they should be.

Articles on System Administration

  1. Securing Instiki with an SSH tunnel

    Wikis are unrivalled for recording your notes, research and relationships between your ideas. If you maintain a private one for your business you'll want to make sure nobody else can get access. I use Instiki, which is only accessible via an SSH tunnel.

    Continue reading

  2. Downgrading MySQL on Mac OS X

    The MySQL installation packages for Mac OS X (on prevent you from downgrading MySQL. They keep track of which versions have been previously installed, and then make the brain dead assumption that you will only ever need to upgrade. It's farcical; even if you remove all copies of MySQL the installer still prevents you from installing an earlier version, unless you know where the silly buggers squirrelled away their nuts.

    Read on if you want to poke MySQL with a pointy stick...

  3. Installing Merb, DataMapper and Postgres on Ubuntu

    This isn't particularly difficult, but if you're not familiar with Postgres on Ubuntu it could take you ten minutes to work it out:

    $ sudo apt-get install postgresql-8.2 postgresql-server-dev-8.2 -y
    $ sudo apt-get install libsqlite3-dev -y
    $ sudo gem install merb do_postgres

    The merb gem depends on the do_sqlite3 DataMapper database driver, so we need the libsqlite3-dev package in order to compile it. You can remove it afterwards if you like.

  4. Monitoring BackgrounDRb with God

    God is a very neat piece of software, frequently used by Rails developers to monitor mongrel servers, and restart them if/when they crash or use up too many system resources.

    Its use isn't limited purely to monitoring web servers though; you can monitor pretty much anything you like. Read on to see how to configure it to monitor the Ruby job processing daemon, BackgrounDRb.

    Continue reading

  5. Automate your sysadmin with adl

    I used to work for a company that was in the business of deploying laptops running Linux into hospitals. We automated the installation of these laptops to such a degree that all we had to do build a new laptop was unwrap it, plug it into an ethernet network and turn it on. We used PXE boot and our own bespoke deployment system to achieve it. It even supported deploying automatic configuration updates over a mobile phone connection, while the laptops were in a different country.

    It never seems to be worth going to the effort to setup a tool like puppet when configuring a new desktop computer, a virtual server to run your blog, or a VPS for a small client who is keen to keep the budget down. But why should automation be expensive?

    If you like the idea of an automated server build on the cheap, read on...

    Continue reading