My Favorite Computer Games

I’ve played a lot of computer games over the years. They’re what got me into computers in the ’90s, and several of them are responsible for me getting into Linux, programming, and system administration.

Just FYI: these contain affiliate links to the humble bundle store.

 

Deus Ex (the original 1999 masterpiece)

Easily my favorite game of all time. Got me interested in hacking and computer systems.

Buy it on Steam (usually around $6)

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

A worthy follow-up to the original. The first one of the sequels to recreate a lot of the atmosphere that I loved in Deus Ex 1999. Buy Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on Steam.

 

More coming…

Thoughts Worth Thinking About

I was just chatting with a friend about software, infrastructure, modern architectures and methodologies, and just sysadmin stuff in general. After getting up for a few minutes to grab a drink, here’s what I found waiting for me in the chat room. I’m sharing it, with his permission:

 


I find it funny. Everyone is like, “my servers are cattle, not pets”, “no snowflakes” and “use Docker,” with the result that the infrastrcture and host systems are the worst form of this. xD

But to be honest, I am realizing that the cattle/pet thing is wrong. I want my server to be a shepherd dog and my processes/services to be cattle. I want my dog to be smart and take care of things and be reliable, exactly because my cattle isn’t.

I want it to do the right thing at the right moment and in the right way. I want to improve my servers every time something goes wrong and not have them be as dumb as the first time it happened.

And the snowflake. No, I don’t want my system to be like every other. In that case I would just make a distro that is like that and just install it. No architecture/design of system/infrastructure required.

It’s like.. just using WordPress instead of starting your own thing. “But that way it’s easier, and you don’t have your snowflake web app.”

Oh and you can google stack traces.

Why program at all?

It’s also a bit like when people thought it was a good idea to use Microsoft Office (or early versions of Frontpage) to make web pages. xD

The WP comparison probably also works with OSs. “Why not just use Ubuntu” is like “why not just use WP?” Big community, widely used language.


 

It’s worth considering. Thinking carefully about fads and hype, before going along with them, is a good thing. And even if a lot of these technologies and approaches have merit, they are not a ‘one size fits all’ answer. If something doesn’t make sense to you, always ask more questions, do more research, and try things out yourself. That’s what makes us better than machines :-).

System Administration Careers: Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re wondering whether or not a System Administration career is right for you, this article might help. Someone just sent me some questions about what a career in System Administration is like, and asked some questions that I hadn’t thought to answer on YouTube or here on the tutorialinux blog. Since I’ve been working in various IT Operations and Software Development disciplines professionally for the last 7 years, I love talking about this stuff. Here are my two cents:

 

What are the Responsibilities a Linux / Unix System Administrator?

Architecting, Building, and Troubleshooting/Maintaining the technical infrastructure for a company or software product. At a high level, you’re responsible for figuring out what the technical requirements are and using existing software/products/tools to provide those requirements (or occasionally writing your own). Early-career focuses on implementing predefined task-chunks:

  • Figure out why this server is doing XYZ
  • Fix a problem with our software deployment automation code
  • Increase storage size for one of the database clusters
  • Replace failed disks at a datacenter
  • Create a web server configuration file for a new project that Dev is working on

Senior-level positions often have more design/architecture:

  • Deep introspection of the OS and the software product you’re supporting
  • Design a new deployment pipeline
  • Build a technical team for a new project
  • Evaluate new software that would change how we run our infrastructure (e.g. containers + scheduler vs. VMs + config management)
  • Troubleshoot tough problems (OS-level issues, bugs arising from a confluence of several edge cases across the stack, etc.)

 

What education/experience/credentials are required to do this job?

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How to Record Your Work on the Command Line with the script(1) Command

Most Unix-like operating systems feature a script command. You can find its manual in script(1) (type man 1 script to access it). script records a transcript (“typescript,” not to be confused with the language TypeScript) of your current session in the command line.

The script command can be used as a way to log what you are doing in a shell session. It’s often used during troubleshooting, documentation, PCI compliance audits, security/remediation work, penetration tests, and other situations where it’s useful to record a play-by-play log of what you’re doing on the machine.

 

Practical Demonstration

 

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Amazon AWS Basics Tutorial: Setting Up a Load-Balanced, Auto-Scaling Webserver

This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to build load-balanced, highly available, self-healing infrastructure on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.

If you’ve been wondering how to get started with “DevOps,” “Cloud” System Administration, and public cloud providers in general, this is the series for you.

Amazon’s Cloud Services are vast — there are an enormous amount of things you can use:

  • services that replicate traditional Virtual Machines in a datacenter (EC2, RDS, Elasticache)
  • services that give you insane amounts of availability and durability, along with an innovative API (S3 for storage)
  • replacements for other solutions in brand new industries (ECS)
  • plenty of unique services that no one else is offering

 

If you really want to learn this stuff, you want to start with simple, practical examples that slowly walk you through the huge amount of new concepts that you’ll need to learn. You need something practical that you can use in real life, so that navigating Amazon’s immensely complex graphical user interface becomes second-nature.

Once you’ve got a grasp on the basic concepts and the most important services, we can dive into building more realistic, more complex infrastructure that uses specific AWS features to get the job done.

We’ll also explore the AWS API, which allows you to use a command-line client or bindings for your favorite programming language to work with infrastructure. This is the preferred way that professionals use to interact with AWS.

 

Video #1: Intro and EC2 Instance Creation

In the first video, you’ll learn the basics of working in the Amazon AWS Console (their graphical user interface) and set up an EC2 instance with a webserver on it. You’ll create your first security group (AWS network firewall rules), set up SSH keys, and connect to your ‘development’ instance for the first time.

Once you’re ready for launch, you’ll learn how to create a new Amazon Machine Image (AMI) from your EC2 instance, which we can use to spin up clones of that instance later on.

 

Video #2: Auto-Scaling Groups and Launch Configurations

In the second video, I’ll show you how to set up an Auto-Scaling Group (ASG) which uses a Launch Configuration to spin up new EC2 instances (clones of your development instance). We’ll talk a bit about scaling and how you’d set it up in a real project.

 

Video #3: Tying it together with an Elastic Load Balancer

In the third video, you’ll be setting up an Amazon Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) to balance traffic across the instances in your Auto-Scaling Group. I’ll show you how to add health checks and hook up the Application Load Balancer to your ASG, so it automatically balances across healthy instances in your ASG, even as they’re added and removed.

 

There’s more coming, so stay tuned!

New Books Added to the Sysadmin Reading List!

I’ve just added some more amazing books to the sysadmin reading list page. These are books that I’ve read over the last year which are so spectacular that I think every sysadmin (or aspiring sysadmin) needs to read and digest them.

Some standouts from the list above:

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

I watched a project manager with no hands-on technical experience go through this book. After about a week, he was comfortable moving around on the command line, (git) pulling down the latest version of the code that his team was working on, running shell scripts, and doing other basic Linux/Unix tasks. I think it’s fair to say that this book put him on track for becoming a savage beast (for a PM).

 

The Practice of Cloud System Administration: DevOps and SRE Practices for Web Services, Volume 2

This is one of the greatest system administration / infrastructure / DevOps / System Reliability Engineering (SRE) / Platform Engineering books I’ve ever read.

Do you remember how the UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, 4th Edition taught you how Unix and Linux work in a deep and practical way, and how it showed you what it takes to administrate a single server or a small group of servers?

That’s what this book does, except for modern large-scale infrastructure (hundreds/thousands of servers). It will show you how to design infrastructure properly. It will teach you how to think about reliability. It will show you how to take (most of) the pain out of monitoring and alerting.

I can’t say enough good things about it. Seriously, if you want to be a Google/Amazon/<insert-enormous-tech-company-here>-level Admin, this book will introduce you to the skills you need.

Buy it, now!

 

 

Okay, I’m ending this post here because I need to get to work — a place where I will undoubtedly use the skills you can learn from these books.

So read these books, and then get out there and start doing this stuff!

Advice to an Aspiring Sysadmin

I get a *lot* of e-mails and YouTube messages asking me how to become a system administrator. Usually I just point people at the blog or YouTube channel, but yesterday I decided to write up something a bit more complete. Here’s a slightly modified version for easy reading.

 

 

Asking Questions, doing Research, and getting Help

This is worth its virtual weight in gold: http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

Subreddits are great. Check out /r/linux, /r/sysadmin, /r/networking, /r/programming, and others. Long story short, find communities that are doing things you’re interested in.

No one will sign up to mentor you, but if you show interest and effort, work on practical projects, and ask well-prepared questions, people will generally treat you well and help you out.

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Cron Jobs

Cron jobs allow you to repeatedly run commands. They can be run both in a timed manner, but also on bootup. While cron may seem a bit confusing in the beginning, it’s actually very simple to use once you know how it works.

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man man – What does the 1 in ls(1) mean?

man pages – many people would have loved to have known earlier about them. This article could be summed up as “just read man-pages(7)”. But what does that mean and why should you care?

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Git: Setting up a low-requirements, personal Git repository

In this tutorial you will learn how to  how to quickly set up a simple, low-requirements, no-database, no-webserver Git repository. All you need is (unprivileged) SSH access and the git program itself.

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