Diary of a Network Geek

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


What’s on your monitor?

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

What do you run on your monitor server?

Do you think you’re too small to run a monitoring server? Well, I have two local servers, a remote web server and a remote e-mail server that I’m in charge of worrying about and I run a monitoring server. It’s not much of a server, really, just an old workstation to which I added a bunch of spare memory and a large, clean hard drive. Naturally, I run Linux on my monitoring server, which, ironically enough, I named Monitor. Specifically, Monitor runs Red Hat Fedora.

Monitor runs Nagios, which I’ve mentioned before. With Nagios, I monitor both my main file server and my accounting SQL server. I also watch the off-site web server and the SMTP and POP3 e-mail services on the managed e-mail server we have through our ISP, just to make sure they’re up and running. (It’s a long story on why we have that, but, rather than run my own, to reduce hassle, headache and potential disaster, I let someone else worry about it.) Nagios tells me the status of drive space, the memory usage, the CPU usage and uptime on both servers. On the accounting SQL server, it verifies that the SQL service is available and that users can log into it. On the file server, it tells me the status of the Backupexec modules. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to get Nagios to tell me more than the running status of Backupexec, but, in my spare time, I still try to find a way to have it report the status of the last backup or restore job run. No joy yet, but I keep trying.

I also have a browser window open to the SolarWinds installation at our ISP. They monitor inbound and outbound traffic over the Internet connection we have. Usually, I keep a window open on the standard “interface details” reports which update regularly. Most of the time, I also open a window to the weekly history report on the min/max/average packets in and out. I have to update that manually, but it lets me quickly compare today’s traffic to network traffic for the past week. It’s nice to see those trends!
Lately, I’ve been keeping a browser window open to the national weather forecast, by hour, for our local area. In hurricane country, keeping track of the weather can be vitally important! But, if you live in snow country, the same thing would probably be true, too. I don’t recall heavy snow causing an outage during my time up North, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, I almost always have Wireshark running a packet capture, too. If I see a sudden spike in traffic, having a packet capture already running could make a big difference. I have that capture set to save files locally, too, just in case. I’ve been setting the capture to rotate nine files and to keep the files at seven megabytes each. That should give me a pretty good spread of captured network data if I ever need to go back and diagnose a traffic problem. And, since the machine is actually kind of stinky hardware and crashes on occasion, when I restart the packet capture, I rename the base file using the current date. That way, I can tell at a glance when the capture was started.

One day, I’d like to move this all to another machine that’s more stable, faster and has more drive space, but, until then, this works. It’s only on the private network, so I can’t look at it directly from the Internet, but, it still does enough for me. One of these days, I’ll look into some of Nagios’ data presentation modules and teach this old dog a few new tricks, like automated uptime reports and that kind of thing.

Hopefully, that hasn’t bored too many of my non-geek readers. And, I hope it’s given my geek readers something to think about. So, tell me in the comments, if you have a monitoring server/station/whatever, what does it run? If you don’t have one, why not?


Tempest in a Teapot

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,News and Current Events,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — 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 a Full Moon

Wow, people sure are paranoid about nothing.

Look, I’m all in favor of high-level paranoia.  In fact, there have been times that a major portion of my job has been all about being paranoid enough.  And, God knows, in this age of identity theft and on-line fraud, being a little extra paranoid is probably a pretty good idea.  (For those of you with ex-spouses, or soon-to-be ex-spouses, that goes double.  Trust me!)  But, this big noise over on Slashdot about the latest version of WordPress sending “private, user data” back to servers at WordPress.org is just going a bit too far.

First of all, the only thing it sends to the server is the url of the blog, the version of WordPress and its plugins and the basic server settings of the web server running the blog.  I mean, c’mon, that’s mostly public information in the first place!  I can collect two thirds of that data from most servers in less time than it took me to write this post!
Secondly, Matt Mullenweg, the main developer of WordPress, and a Houston native, posted about this on the developer’s mailing list, including how to install plugins to disable the code.  (If you’re paranoid, the plugins are called Disable WordPress Core Update and Disable WordPress Plugin Updates.)
Thirdly, let’s not get ahead of ourselves on blaming a free, OpenSource project like this for not being great about disclosing absolutely everything they’re doing behind the scenes.  I mean, it’s not like they’re doing silent updates without notifying paying customers or anything.

In any case, I thought I should mention the issue, and the solutions, since I’ve been so vocal in support of WordPress in the past.
So, there you have it.


Uncharted Waters

Filed under: Career Archive — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, so it’s been a while since I had an update, but there’s a good reason. One of the headhunters finally came through for me and I’ve got a new job! DT, whose real name I’m still not going to reveal, got me an interview at Kirby Marine Transport and I apparently fit their search requirements pretty darn well. When I first went to see them, I didn’t think they were going to work out, but I guess I made a pretty good impression on them, because they totally rearranged their department structure to suit me. Go figure! My “official” title will be Supervisor – Local Area Network/Desktop Support. I’m still not clear on how many people will actually be reporting to me yet, or if I’ve replace the Desktop Support Supervisor that I talked with when I was interviewing, either. But, no matter which way it goes, I’ll have a pretty sweet new job. They’ve got mostly Netware 5.x, but with at least one Netware 3.12 server, two Citrix MetaFrame servers, two AS/400’s, and at least three Solaris servers, including one that runs the web server.
Anyway, I have to pass a drug test, which should be no problem since I’ve never used drugs, and then I start on Monday, 8/21/2000. I’ve already given a week’s notice at what used to be Harbor Financial, then I’m going to take a week off to “clear my palate” as it were, before starting the new job. After all the time I’ve given to Harbor and their successors, I think a week is enough notice. It’s not what I’d normally do, but given the circumstances of the bankruptcy I think it’s actually quite fair.

After I actually start the new job, I’m going to do my best to chronicle the start of my new job. You can bet that my semiweekly updates will get more personal than they’ve been. Keep in mind that this new job is going to let me and Anne save my bonus money from Harbor for a down-payment on a house. But, before we can get a house together, she has to get he divorce finished up and then I have to get her to marry me. (Don’t worry, after living with her for 2+ years, I’m pretty sure she’ll say yes.) So things will bet pretty darn personal! Also, I hope to spend some more time on my other two web sites: www.Fantasist.net and www.HavePalmWillTravel.com When I start the new, more personal portion of the Diary of a Network Geek, I’ll archive this part. Stay tuned!

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