Things to learn about Linux

Julia Evans has this amazing list of things to learn about Linux.  I think, it doesn’t matter how new or experienced you are with the operating system, you’ll find a few points in this list that you either know nothing about or know very little.

Personally, I’ve been using and administrating Linux systems for almost two decades now, and my own knowledge of the things on that list is either very limited or not existing.  Sure, I know about pipes and signals, but even with basic things like permissions there are some tricky questions that I’m not sure I can get right on the first go.

Some of the topics mentioned are simple and straight-forward and will only need a few minutes or a couple of hours to get up to speed with.  Others – are huge areas which might take years, if not decades (like networking, for example).

I look forward to Julia’s drawings covering some of these.

 

Amazon Lightsail – virtual private servers made easy

Amazon announced a new service – Amazon Lightsail – virtual private servers made easy, starting at $5 per month.

pricing

This is basically a much simplified setup of a few of their services, such as Amazon EC2, Amazon EIP, Amazon AIM, Amazon EBS, Amazon Route 53, and a few others.  For those, who don’t want to figure out all the intricacies of the infrastructure setup, just pick a VPC, click a few buttons and be ready to go, whether you want a plain operating system, or an application (like WordPress) already installed.

It’s an interesting move into the lower level web and VPS hosting.  I don’t think all the hosting companies will survive this, but for those that will do, the changes are coming, I think.

5 Why’s

Here is something new I learned today.  While reading the blog post on “Why You Need a Postmortem Process” over sysadvent (yes, it’s an advent calendar for system administrators, and it just started this year’s run),  I stumbled upon the 5 Whys Wikipedia page:

5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem.

What do I think of immediately? Louis CK bit on parenting and kids’ ability to ask an infinite number of “Why?” questions:

Well, I guess, kids, much like me until today, don’t know that you only need 5.  Or 6.

WP-CLI v1.0.0 Released!

WP-CLI project – a command line interface to WordPressannounces the release of v1.0.0.  After 5 years of development, the tool is rock solid and stable (that is being affected to a degree by the frequent releases of the WordPress itself).

There are some new features and a tonne of improvements in this release, including, as the major version bump indicates, some backward compatibility breaking changes.

If you are involved with WordPress projects, this tool is an absolute must have!  Whether you are automating your deployments, doing some testing, or setting up and configuring WordPress instances on a variety of servers.  It will save you time and make you life much much easier.  Check it out!

(At work, we are using it as part of our project-template-wordpress setup,  which is our go-to repository for initializing the new WordPress-based projects.)

 

Magento database maintenance

If you are running a Magento-based website, make sure you add the database maintenance script to the cron.  For example, append this to the /etc/crontab:

# Magento log maintenance, as per
# https://docs.nexcess.net/article/how-to-perform-magento-database-maintenance.html
0 23 * * 0 root (cd /var/www/html/mysite.com && php -f shell/log.php clean)

Thanks to this page, obviously.  You’ll be surprised how much leaner your database will be, especially if you get any kind of traffic to the site.  Your database backups will also appreciate the trim.

 

Julia’s Drawings on Programming

Julia Evans, who blogs about her programming endeavors, now also draws simple, note-like sketches on a variety of the computer and programming related subjects.  Those are great as kick memory refreshers or reminders for “I wanted to learn more about that” kind of things.  Here’s her take on pipes, for example:

pipes

Worth an RSS subscription!

S3 static site with SSL

s3-static-site

S3 static site with SSL and automatic deploys using Travis” is a goldmine of all those simple technologies tied into a single knot for an impressive result.  It has a bit of everything:

  • Jekyll – simple, blog-aware, static sites engine, for managing content.
  • GitHub – for version control of the site’s content and for triggering the deployment chain.
  • Travis CI – for testing changes, building and deploying a new version.
  • Amazon S3 – simple, cheap, web-enabled storage of static content.
  • Amazon CloudFront – simple, cheap, geographically-distributed content delivery network (CDN).
  • Amazon Route 53 – simple and cheap DNS hosting and domain management.
  • Amazon IAM – identity and access management for the Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Let’s Encrypt – free SSL/TLS certificate provider.

When put altogether, these bits allow one to have a fast (static content combined with HTTP 2 and top-level networking) and cheap (Jekyll, GitHub, Travis and Let’s Encrypt are free, with the rest of the services costing a few cents here and there) static website, with SSL and HTTP 2.

This is a classic example of how accessible and available is modern technology, if (and only if) you know what you are doing.

Don’t Build Private Clouds

Subbu Allamaraju says “Don’t Build Private Clouds“.  I agree with his rational.

need-for-private-cloud

There are very few enterprises in the planet right now that need to own, operate and automate data centers. Unless you’ve at least 200,000 servers in multiple locations, or you’re in specific technology industries like communications, networking, media delivery, power, etc, you shouldn’t be in the data center and private cloud business. If you’re below this threshold, you should be spending most of your time and effort in getting out of the data center and not on automating and improving your on-premise data center footprint.

His main three points are:

  1. Private cloud makes you procrastinate doings the right things.
  2. Private cloud cost models are misleading.
  3. Don’t underestimate on-premise data center influence on your organization’s culture.

 

Never judge a programmer by their commit history

In a comment to another post, Andrey sent in a link to this blog post, titled “Never judge a programmer by their commit history”.  It’s very similar to something that I wanted to write for quite some time now.

It’s been a very long time since I judged any programmer based on their commit history and I believe if you think you can judge a programmer’s ability by reading his/her code YOU ARE WRONG.

As technical folk, we are often fast to judge an implementation purely on its technical merits, forgetting, that there are other factors often at play.  Mehdi Khalili, the author of the post, goes over just some of them, including:

  • Abiding by bad coding standards
  • Bad leader and project manager
  • Junior devs
  • Business reality
  • Brain fart
  • Personal issues
  • Synergy or lack thereof
  • Physical issues (which is similar to the Personal issues above)
  • Imposters! (which is funny and, something I didn’t think about)

I’ve seen (and done) almost all of these.  Business reality and junior devs are the two I’ve come across the most.

Fedora 25

I’ve just upgraded my laptop to Fedora 25.  The upgrade process was a breeze (as per instructions from this article):

sudo su -
dnf upgrade --refresh
dnf install dnf-plugin-system-upgrade
dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=25
dnf system-upgrade reboot

About 2,500 packages (1 GB and some) were downloaded in about 40 minutes (yeah, our Internet connection could use a boost). Then rebooted and the upgraded kicked in. It took about another 40 minutes to run the process (I should get myself an SSD-based laptop next time).

The only thing I had to fix after the upgrade was the kmod-wl package, which provides the drivers for my wireless interface. Another reboot later all was good.

There were no major visual changes (I’m using MATE Desktop), but something felt a bit different.  After focusing on the differences for a few minutes, I think it’s the fonts.  Something is better, sharper, more polished.

Other than that, all is pretty much the same.  I’ll need to use it for a while to see if I can spot any changes.  Hopefully, at least a flickering issue that I got after some upgrade during the Fedora 24 life span is fixed now.  It was weird.  A particular application window would start to flick and refresh until clicked again.  Never figured out what it was. :)