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How To Deal With Shortage Of UNIX / Linux Administrators

It happens all the time. Sooner or later, every organization may run out of qualified UNIX system administrator / staff because of various issues. As a single admin you may have to do lots of work because other people in accouting, sales, or programmers may not have all the skills required to run servers. Also, I don't trust new people or people with Windows background. I also don't have a time for UNIX admin training for new person.

In short, to avoid overloading yourself, I recommend sudo. It allows you to delegate authority to give certain users or groups of users the ability to run some commands as root or another user while providing an audit trail of the commands and their arguments via a log file. With sudo you don't have to share root password with anybody. Another option is Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM) under UNIX / Linux. Command tasks such can be delegated via sudo program:

  1. Start / stop / restart common services and configurations, e.g. Jboss, Tomcat, Apache, Mysql etc
  2. Shutdown / reboot server
  3. Backup data to tape
  4. Run other individuate tasks and commands as per requirements and so on.

Once you started to trust their skills sets, grant them more privileges or may be promote them as full time UNIX sys admins.

In totally unrelated news : Bill Gates, retired as chairman. Checkout the hits and misses of his leadership of Microsoft.

Howto Setup Linux Apache Web Server Cluster with Linux Virtual Server and Heartbeat

This article explains howto setup and running with the Linux Virtual Server and Linux-HA.org's Heartbeat in 5 easy steps. You can construct a highly available Apache Web server cluster that spans multiple physical or virtual Linux servers with Linux Virtual Server (LVS) and Heartbeat v2:

Spreading a workload across multiple processors, coupled with various software recovery techniques, provides a highly available environment and enhances overall RAS (Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability) of the environment. Benefits include faster recovery from unplanned outages, as well as minimal effects of planned outages on the end user.

This article illustrates the robust Apache Web server stack with 6 Apache server nodes (though 3 nodes is sufficient for following the steps outlined here) as well as 3 Linux Virtual Server (LVS) directors. We used 6 Apache server nodes to drive higher workload throughputs during testing and thereby simulate larger deployments. The architecture presented here should scale to many more directors and backend Apache servers as your resources permit, but we haven't tried anything larger ourselves. Figure 1 shows our implementation using the Linux Virtual Server and the linux-ha.org components.

Howto Setup Linux Apache Web Server Cluster with Linux Virtual Server and Heartbeat

However article failed to mention few things such as redundant networking, a cluster file system / shared storage and other stuff. Nevertheless tutorial is a good start for new Linux admin.

=> Set up a Web server cluster in 5 easy steps

How scriptkiddies turns Linux box into a Zombie

This is a good analysis and sort of demonstration for all new Linux admin. It does shows how to do forensic kind of analysis on a cracked box. A good read for everyone ~ if you want to know how Linux server is cracked and turned into a zombie ;)

How do I Use Multiple Screens on One Terminal over ssh session?

Most of the time GUI is not available on remote Linux system, you login over ssh and start to work, if you need to run two or three task at a time, you login over ssh two or three times. However, with screen windows manager utility you can run multiple terminals at the same time from single console login over ssh session (UNIX guru uses the term called multiplexing for this concept). Any seasoned Linux admin should be aware of this nifty tool :)

Install screen if it is not installed under Debian Linux

Type the following command:
# apt-get install screen

FreeBSD user can use ports to install screen

# cd /usr/ports/misc/screen
# make install clean

Login to remote server over ssh

$ ssh me@myserver.com

(C) Start screen session. You can name your window/session (1 is name of session):
$ screen -S 1

Let us start pine mail reader on first session or window.
$ pine

(D) Next you would like to download something from ftp/http site while you are reading emails. You need to create another screen window by pressing special key combination. Press CTRL + a followed by c key (first hit CTRL+a, releases both keys and press c). As soon as you hit 'c' you will get new shell prompt at console. Now use wget to download belenix.iso.bz2 (Solaris live CD) from net:
$ wget http://www.genunix.org/distributions/belenix_site/binfiles/belenix.iso.bz2

(E) But how do I switch between these two tasks?

  • Switching between windows is the specialty of screen utility. So to switch between pine and wget window (or session) press CTRL+a followed by n key (first hit CTRL+a, releases both keys and press n).
  • To list all windows use the command CTRL+a followed by " key (first hit CTRL+a, releases both keys and press " ).
  • To switch to window by number use the command CTRL+a followed by ' (first hit CTRL+a, releases both keys and press ' it will prompt for window number).

Common screen commands

screen commandTask
Ctrl+a cCreate new window
Ctrl+a kKill the current window / session
Ctrl+a wList all windows
Ctrl+a 0-9Go to a window numbered 0 9, use Ctrl+a w to see number
Ctrl+a Ctrl+aToggle / switch between the current and previous window
Ctrl+a SSplit terminal horizontally into regions and press Ctrl+a c to create new window there
Ctrl+a :resizeResize region
Ctrl+a :fitFit screen size to new terminal size. You can also hit Ctrl+a F for the the same task
Ctrl+a :removeRemove / delete region. You can also hit Ctrl+a X for the same taks
Ctrl+a tabMove to next region
Ctrl+a D (Shift-d)Power detach and logout
Ctrl+a dDetach but keep shell window open
Ctrl-a Ctrl-\Quit screen
Ctrl-a ?Display help screen i.e. display a list of commands

Suggested readings:

See screen command man page for further details:
man screen