Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


An OS Inside An OS

Filed under: About The Author,Better Living Through Technology,GUI Center,Linux,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, I’m a geek. In fact, I’m actually a professional geek. Rumor has it, being a geek is cool now. I’ll get back to you on that.
In any case, one of the ways my geek has expressed itself is in early support for Linux.  I’ve used Linux, one way or another, for more than twenty years.  It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  What’s more, I’ve been Linux certified for more than ten years!  Strange but true!  I don’t use Linux as my main operating system, though, because I live in the real world, not a Techno-Libertarian Utopia.  And, yes, that means, I use Windows.  At home, it’s Windows 10, because that’s what came installed on the laptops I got for my wife and I while I was a highly-paid contractor in 2016 and we were refreshing all our electronics.  But, much to my surprise, there’s a way to run both Windows and Linux, together on the same machine!  Without having a dual-boot system!  Thanks to an article from the Linux Journal, which almost went the way of the dinosaurs last year, I have activated Windows Subsystem for Linux, which is ONLY available on Windows 10, and then installed Ubuntu, which is free, from the Microsoft Store.  The little screen-shot at the top of this post is Ubuntu, running in its own, little window, on my Windows 10 laptop.

This is exciting!
Now, I can brush up my bash scripting by setting up a series of rsync jobs to keep my two Western Digital MyCloud drives in sync, essentially backing one up to the other.  From the literature, I had thought that was built into the models I got, but it wasn’t.  I tried to use SSH to get that setup directly on the MyCloud devices, since they’re running some limited *nix kernel, but something about the way they were configured made connecting one directly to the other and running rsync from working “as expected”.  This, though, should get me around all that.
Now, all I have to do sort out the syntax for properly mounting the Windows shares I’ve set up in the Ubuntu virtual machine app.  So, I’m not 100% there yet, but this is a great start!



Ulitmate Free Linux Software Collection

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

That’s a long title for something only a few of my hardcore readers will be interested in.

I used to blog about a lot of hardcore geeky things, professional geeky things and personal geeky things both. But, for a while now, I’ve drifted away from some of the geekier stuff. It’s not that I have less interest, because I assure you I’m still a pretty hardcore geek. For instance, the other day, I rooted an old Android phone so I could install Kali Linux on it for some mobile penetration testing. Except, I wasn’t happy with the rooting tool I had used and how the whole thing turned out, so I wiped it and, when thing settle down a bit from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I’ll take another crack it, if you’ll pardon the pun.
I’m still an IT professional, and have gotten more technical again in my most current several positions. Which really means that I have spent more time managing systems than people, which is just fine with me. And, as I just mentioned, I’ve spent some time thinking about security, which for me always includes Linux in some form or flavor. Of course, it helps that I’m an old Novell guy and picked up my CompTIA Linux+ back before they changed the requirements to include regular recertification. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t work to keep my Linux skills sharp, just that I’m not required to for the certification.
And, that’s what inspired me to bring my fellow geeks this week’s link; The Awesome Linux Software repository at Github!
If you’re interested in Linux, this is a fantastic collection links to four of the most popular distros (Arch Linux, CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu), and dozens of programs for your every Linux-based need. The maintainer, Lewis Vo, has links to Linux software for Audio, Chat Clients, Data Backup and Recovery, Desktop Customization, Development, E-Book Utilities, Editors, Email Utilities, File Managers, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Productivity, Security, Sharing Files, Terminal, Utilities, and Video, as well as Command Line Utilities, Desktop Environments, Display Managers, and Window Managers. I mean, there are links to EVERYTHING a Linux geek could want.

If you’ve never tried Linux, I highly recommend you do, or talk to a geek friend about it. We’re happy to talk about it for hours!
And, next week, something for a wider audience, I promise!



Filed under: Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

A screensaver that monitors your server.Systemometer

This may not seem like much of a “tool”, since it’s pretty passive, but when you have a server that’s getting old and failing, being able to quickly glance at what its performance is like can be a real benefit.  And, for the past eight months, I’ve been running a server that, to be honest, was a little too old to be in production.  People would complain about it pretty much constantly, even, I suspect, when it may not have been the actual problem they were suffering from.  I’ve since replaced the server, but I kept running Systemometer on both the old server, which now serves as strictly a backup server, and the new, shiny, Windows 2012 server, just so everyone can see the difference.

But, let me be really specific about this; Systemometer is a configurable monitoring tool that shows system performance and resources in a spider chart. Seeing the varying shapes of displayed polygon, representing a visual pattern drawn based on normal, or critical, system states. Once you get used to it, this snapshot view helps to read the overall system status at a glance. Just looking at the screenshot in this post, which will enlarge if you click on it, you can see that a lot of information is displayed.  Notice, for instance, that there are 12 “CPU”s listed.  Since this is a modern, multi-core server, those are really just all the cores being displayed, with the current processor time in yellow and the average processor time in green.  If I wanted to, I can also set Systemometer to display the maximal processor usage, but as this is a new server, I haven’t bothered to set that.  The same goes for the number of processes the server is handling, as well as the number of threads.  Also displayed is the physical and virtual memory usage, total drive space used and the hard drive seek time.  Notice how almost everything falls well within that red circle on the display?  That’s because the server is new and being used well below it’s capacity, by design.  This is the second server upgrade I’ve done since I’ve been at this company, and I’d like to not have to do one again soon.  That’s also why the number of threads is reading like it’s in the red, even though it’s not.  The new server is so new that not all metrics have been calibrated to display correctly.
Also, notice that the two performance polygons are yellow and green.  The yellow is the current usage while the green is the average usage.  It may be hard to tell the difference between the two because I took this screen shot on a Sunday afternoon with minimal usage.  Of course, the server being primarily a file server and an Active Directory server, the average usage is pretty constant in any case.

It may not be obvious from the screen shot, but I’m running this as a screen saver, which is only one option for using Systemometer.  It can also be used as a kind of replacement performance monitor instead of using the built-in Task Manager for that function.  Actually, one way I validated the results I was seeing from Systemometer was to run it next to Task Manager and compare the displayed performance information.
Personally, I like running it as a screen saver because I can quickly check on my server as I walk past the screen into or out of my office.  Also, it seems to impress people who see it and can’t make heads or tails of what they’re seeing.  It’s not big, fancy monitoring system, but unless you really know what you’re looking at, the average person isn’t going to figure that out!

Finally, the other reason I use Systemometer is that it’s free!
Yep, that’s right, absolutely free.  Of course, it may not ever get updated again, but I’m okay with that, as long as it still works as it has been so far.


Free Installers

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Let’s start the year slow.

So, I’m sure a lot of you got new PCs or laptops, or upgraded your old ones, this holiday season.  Maybe it was a Christmas gift.  Maybe a Christmas gift to yourself.  Maybe you just took advantage of the post-holiday sales.  Whatever it was or how ever you got it, you probably are feeling the pain of reinstalling all those “essential” programs that you use on a regular basis.  Things like Firefox and Mozilla or Chrome and Skype or Winamp or Flash or .Net or iTunes or LibreOffice or any number of similar little things.  You’ll be feeling the pain of having to go to all those individual websites to collect the various install files to run.

Well, I have the solution to the problem you didn’t realize you had.  It’s a little site called “Ninite” and they call themselves “…the fastest way to install, reinstall or upgrade free software”.
You go to the site, check the different bits of software and click the “Get Installer” button and the site will serve up a downloadable installer file that will install the free software you checked on the form.  You run the file and your software gets installed.  That simple.  Oh, and the basic service itself is free.
Now, if you want to maintain that free software and keep it updated, they have a very reasonable service for that, too.  For the personal edition for a single computer, it’s just $9.99 a year, at the moment, but, of course, that may change.

Both the free and pay services are available for Windows or Linux, which I think is pretty damn extra cool.

Anyway, there’s your first fun/cool/useful link for the new year.  I think it bridges the fun, the free and the very geeky stuff that this blog is, I hope, known and appreciated for sharing.
Happy New Year everyone!


The Worst Kind of Cross-Platform Porting

Filed under: Apple,Linux,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Hackers are porting Linux viruses (virii ?) to OS X.

Last week Monday, ZDNet reported that hackers have ported code for a trojan from Linux to Apple’s OS X.  For those of my readers who don’t know what a trojan is I’m referring to a malicious program that opens the door for other, usually even worse, programs to come into the infected operating system, like the Greeks did in the classic stratagem known as the Trojan Horse.  It hasn’t been seen in the wild yet, but apparently the C source code for this has been available for quite some time.

Frankly, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often than it does.  In the old days, virus writers had to really know something because they used assembly to create them.  Now, with Windows and all the other object-oriented programming languages filled with bloated libraries of programming calls, along with the availability of existing code on the internet, they hardly have to know anything to write fairly nasty malware.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, as Apple laptops become more popular, more malware will start to show up there.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to infect iPads and iPhones, too, if they haven’t already.

I hate people like this.
I spent most of my day today cleaning a malware infection off a machine.  This little bugger had not only disabled the Windows Task Manager, which is pretty common these days, but it also cleaned out the Start Menu, including all the built-in things like the link to Control Panel and My Documents and all those things on the right side of the Windows XP default Start Menu.  But, it also flagged most of the drive as Hidden and System, making it even more difficult to load the software I used to clean it.  I had to go into Safe Mode just to get the system clean enough to restart into Safe Mode with Networking so I could update Malwarebytes, which is what I eventually used to get rid of the beastie.   (I used Spybot Search and Destroy to keep the malware from loading to make the machine useable with networking support so I could update Malwarebytes, incidentally.)
So, yeah, these slimeballs keep me in a job, but, really, I’d appreciate it if they stopped helping me stay employed.  I promise I can find plenty of other things to do!

So, look lively out there people!  Be suspicious of what you download and click on!

UPDATE:  Apparently, this has been found out in the wild now.  And, according to TechWorld, it has a purpose; to use your system to generate BitCoins for it’s evil masters.  Very clever.  Nasty, but, still, very clever.


Mac Malware News Update

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:26 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Good news!

First, there are things you can do to protect yourself from this new Mac malware:
Start by disabling the automatic opening of downloaded files.  The world has changed for you Mac users and you simply can’t trust just any download any more.  Welcome to the world that Windows users have lived in for years and years.
Also, don’t let things install on your machine unless you’ve gone out looking for them!  Again, don’t trust anything that looks like an automatic update or a “free” program that wants to install automatically, especially if you haven’t been searching for any thing!
Seriously, you can’t trust people on the Internet.  I know this may come as a shock to the Hippie, “free-love” sort of people Mac users think themselves to generally be, but, yeah, not everyone on the Internet has your best interests at heart.  Well, except me.  You can trust me.  Honest.

Secondly, in a “few days” Apple will allegedly put out an update to make you safe again.
At least, that’s what they’re saying.  No definite deadline on that, though, so be careful and make sure to check your updates regularly!  Staying up to date on patches is one of the better ways to help prevent an infection.  Also, if you haven’t already, please, consider getting an anti-virus program for your Mac.  OS X is a growing target for hackers as the installed user-base grows, so, sooner or later, you’ll see more of these little nasties coming your way.  Your platform’s growing popularity will make it a growing target!  So, before it’s too late and you’re asking your friendly, neighborhood network geek for help in cleaning up the mess, install an anti-virus to prevent the mess in the first place.  The computer you save may be your own!


Some Collected Advice for Network Admins

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:33 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I promised you more technical stuff here, right?

Well, stop yer grinin’ and grab yer linen, ’cause here come a fist full of links with some great advice for network administrators, all from TechRepublic:
First, if you’re a real network admin, you’ve dealt with traffic issues on file servers.  Issues that have hidden sources.  Unknown processes that jam up your network connections until your users scream for your head.  So, how do you deal with that when you’re on a budget and don’t have a lot of tools?  Well, one way is to use “netstat” to look at what process is running on what port and sending what volume of data.  If you’re on Unix, you probably already know about this tool, but if you’re on Windows, check out “Netstat tips and tricks for Windows admins“.  It may save your bacon one day.

Second, you probably have wireless in your network now, too, right?  But, it may not always work quite the way you want.  Once again, users will scream bloody murder if they can’t read their blogs on their iPhone, so, how do you find out what’s jamming up your WIFI network so that no one can connect?  Read through “Troubleshooting for wireless connectivity issues” to get you started on running down the problem.

Thirdly, if you’re a REAL network administrator, you probably have at least one Linux box in your network.  Something that runs an open source network inventory or monitoring tool or, maybe even, an actual Linux file server.  In any case, sooner or later, even that sad, little, neglected Linux box will have disk space issues, so here are “10 things you can do when the drive on your Linux box is full“.

And, finally, my personal favorite.  You hear a lot of buzzwords floating around these days in IT shops, but “the cloud” is the most common magic cure for all ills.  Personally, I’m not so sure.  I worry about things like, oh, you know, security and auditing and connectivity issues and little details like that which seem like they might be an issue for the magic cloud computing panacea.  Turns out, I’m not the only one.  So, go see why Patrick Gray says “The cloud doesn’t matter“.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Everyone deserves to be happy, but not if that happiness is dependent on imprisoning or enslaving another human being."
   --Unintentionally ironic comment left on a blog

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