System administration – Wed, 02 Mar 2016 16:33:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Linux Backup Solutions Mon, 27 Feb 2012 09:18:03 +0000 Thanks to its ubiquity on servers, there are a couple excellent physical Linux backup solutions on the market. Cloud computing has also gotten a fair amount of attention recently, bringing with it several Linux backup solutions.

rsync and luckyBackup: Ultimate Backup Flexibility

This terminal-based program is the gold standard of Linux backup solutions, allowing users to clone files and directories between different devices in just about every way imaginable. Most servers in use today are backed up using shell scripts to control this program. luckyBackup is a frontend that makes rsync’s functionality more accessible, while adding features like email notifications.

DejaDup: The Easiest of the Physical Linux Backup Solutions

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Gnome-based DejaDup. This program uses wizards to guide users through the backup process to make it as painless as possible. Once set up, the window has just two buttons: “backup” and “restore.”

Dropbox: The Leader in Cloud-based Linux Backup Solutions

One of the first cloud-based Linux backup services, this service has a simple file manager-based interface, letting users specify which folders should automatically be backed up on their servers. Packages for the installer are available for Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora, while the source code is also available to compile for other distros. 2GB of storage is free, and more can be added for a fee.

Ubuntu One: Easy to Use, Hard to Install

Functionally, Canonical’s own Linux Backup Solution is nearly identical to Dropbox, and is already installed in most forks of Ubuntu. It integrates seamlessly with Nautilus, letting users sync folders with the service with a couple clicks. It can also work in tandem with Ubuntu’s music store, letting users keep their audio files on hand anywhere.

Unfortunately, clients aren’t readily available: Outside Ubuntu, there are clients for Windows, Android, and iDevices. The underlying client software is open source, permitting other distributions to port it to their own platforms, but for now no one else provides official support.

SpiderOak: The Most Secure of the Linux Backup Solutions

Another Dropbox-like service, it doesn’t have an open source client, but unlike the other Linux backup solutions, it has native support for Slackware and OpenSUSE. Data going to and from the service is encrypted, making it unviewable even to SpiderOak’s own employees.

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Linux Firewalls Thu, 23 Feb 2012 21:57:39 +0000 Linux is a widely-available, flexible and popular open source operating system with as many uses as its proponents can think of. With this in mind, it’s no wonder there are so many Linux distributions (“distros”) aimed at creating a Linux firewall. Some of the more popular Linux firewall specific distros include ClearOS, Gibraltar and LEAF Project. These and other Linux firewall distros are great alternatives to both Windows based firewalls and dedicated firewall appliances.

Linux Firewall versus Windows Firewall

Resource usage: just like in server and desktop editions, a Linux firewall can get by with far less in system resources than its Windows based brethren. Since there is no bloated OS to run, a Linux firewall will do more with less.

Stability and Uptime: again, this is very similar to the pros and cons of using desktop and server Linux. Because Windows machines have a resource-intensive operating system on top of their intended functions, a Windows firewall will be more prone to crashes and downtime than a Linux firewall.

Cost: More hardware is required to build a Windows based firewall. Add to that the cost of OS licensing and fees for dedicated software like Microsoft Forefront and a Windows firewall becomes an expensive proposition. In the meantime, most Linux firewall distros are free. On top of that, a Linux box can be built at a far hardware lower cost.

Linux Firewall versus Dedicated Hardware

Device Flexibility: Dedicated firewall hardware providers are careful to lock down their products to the core features they’re selling. There is usually no other interesting functionality built in to a hardware firewall. Unless you pay extra, that is. Since firewall on Linux is open source, its functionality is always being expanded. Want to alter your firewall for greater intrusion detection or traffic shaping? You can do that with Linux.

Security: Buying a hardware firewall model means buying the same fireall that thousands of other companies may have. This means any exploits discovered on that model suddenly become everyone’s problem. Using a Linux based firewall means you can customize every option, including security, for a unique and hard to hack firewall.

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Understanding and Working With the Linux Kernel Wed, 22 Feb 2012 09:40:51 +0000 The Linux kernel‘s open source nature lets everyday users modify it to their needs. Some users may need to add in driver support for a new piece of hardware, while others may want to strip out extraneous options.

How does the Linux kernel work?

Linux is a monolithic kernel, encompassing hardware drivers, file systems, system calls, and inter-process communications. Hardware and file systems essentially have super user access to the system. This can be modified by turning on and off internal options, as well as loading kernel modules which add additional driver support.

The Linux kernel file name begins with “vmlinuz,” showing it was compressed with Zlib and supports virtual memory. At the end of the file name will be a string of numbers showing the version and patches. For example, “3.0.0-12-generic” is Linux 3.0.0 version 12 with no patches. There will also be a file starting with “config” that lists which options should be enabled when the Linux kernel is compiled. Kernel module files end in “.ko,” and are typically stored in the /lib/modules directory.

Why would someone want to modify their system’s Linux kernel?

With Linux’s massive driver and platform support, there are bound to be several things enabled in the kernel by default that aren’t necessary for a particular system. Many distributions disable non-free drives by default, while brand new devices may not have had drivers added to the kernel yet. These can be enabled by patching.

How can the Linux kernel be patched?

Each distro will have its own idiosyncrasies when it comes to compiling a new kernel, but there are a few basic steps shared by all distributions:

  • Download the Linux kernel source code
  • Use a utility to tweak the settings of the config file. Nconfig and menuconfig are the most common, and are usually included with the kernel source code package.
  • Compile the kernel
  • Change the boot loader settings to use the newly-patched Linux kernel

If driver support is built into the kernel, how can video and printer drivers be enabled and disabled without recompiling?

Linux is based around the terminal, which only requires text output. Graphics are handled by an X Windows system, usually or XFree86. When changing driver settings, it’s altering the configuration of X, not the kernel. Likewise, printer support is handled externally by CUPS.

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XAMPP Linux is free server technology Wed, 22 Feb 2012 08:09:55 +0000 XAMPP Linux is a common solution to the problem of setting up a server for a website. Maintained by the “Apache Friends”, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting the Apache server technology and making installations as user-friendly as possible, it consists of a number of programs that, in true free software fashion, come together to make a coherent solution. The “XAMPP” in XAMPP Linux is an acronym, made up of the first letters of these programs.

The A in the XAMPP Linux package stands for the Apache server itself. The Apache server is a free, open-source web server that was key in the growth of the World Wide Web and still consistently tops the charts at NetCraft, a site that records what software is employed in web servers. The M in the package denotes MySQL, a language that’s used to define, construct, and search within databases. The two Ps stand for two useful web languages, PHP and Perl. Both are used in scripting to make dynamic web pages, though that’s not the only extent of their capability – Perl in particular has been noted to be extremely powerful and flexible, and it has found use in the script-happy world of Linux distributions.

So far, XAMPP Linux has given us a server and three languages to complement it, but what does the X stand for? The X is pronounced “cross”, as in “cross-platform”. That’s right, the phrase “XAMPP Linux” turns out to be a bit misleading, or at least redundant! XAMPP Linux brings to mind an older acronym, LAMP, which stood for “Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP”, a previous software combination used to make a functional web server. Now, the Apache Server, MySQL, PHP and Perl aren’t simply limited to the Linux platform, and this bundle of software can be employed on Windows and Mac OS X – however, the especial emphasis in XAMPP Linux describes a united free software solution, free as in beer, free as in liberty, open for all, offering a powerful, no-cost, and – thanks to the Apache friends – easy solution to building your own web site.

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Advantages of using a Linux FTP server/client Wed, 22 Feb 2012 07:38:49 +0000 FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a common way to move files from one computer to another over the internet. Linux FTP is the most secure method, surpassing other operating system’s FTP options. The ease of use found with a Linux FTP is also noteworthy, requiring little training time.

Using FTP to transfer files requires an FTP server software to be running on the host computer in order to send and receive files as requested. Also you will need client software installed and running on your local machine for you to be able to send and receive from the Linux FTP server.

There are several options for software to utilize when using a Linux FTP as a client. Filezilla, GFTP, and Kasablanca are all good FTP clients for sending and receiving files. Using the command line to transfer files is also possible when utilizing Linux for your FTP client but no as easy as those programs just mentioned. Simply download and install the package, enter the FTP server information (IP, port, username, and password) then connect to see a list of the files and directories present on the server available for download. It’s that easy!

Setting up a Linux FTP server is slightly more complicated. You’ll need to download the package vsftpd from one of the Linux software repositories via the terminal command “sudo apt-get install vsftpd”. It will ask you for your password, which you must enter, and afterward some editing of the configuration file is necessary to get the Linux FTP server set up. You can find more about this in the documentation for the vsftpd software.

The security of a Linux FTP is leaps and bounds ahead of the other major operating systems. This is because of regular security updates to the FTP software and Linux operating system by the developers. These constant updates make Linux FTP the most secure platform for FTP in the world. Most servers you encounter online are using a form of Linux for their FTP needs. For many, security is a top priority when storing important data online. Which is why Linux FTP is the first choice for FTP software on the internet.

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Linux Software Tue, 21 Feb 2012 09:39:24 +0000 As Linux gains more popularity and acceptance, the list of available applications and Linux software keeps growing. Like the OS itself, Linux software is typically less resource-intensive than its Windows counterparts and it’s also usually free. Here are some of the most popular and useful Linux software packages across a variety of areas, including desktops, security and productivity applications.

Office Apps

The most well-known piece of Linux software for office applications is Open Office. Consider this the free Linux counterpart to Microsoft Office. In Open Office, Linux users will find all the necessary productivity apps, including word processing, spreadsheets and presentation programs. Work can be saved in a variety of formats, ensuring compatibility with Office.


Launchy is an easy-to-use program launcher desktop app. It requires far less memory then Windows Explorer and can be used not just as a desktop, but as a media player and a web bookmark app, too.


Linux software users really don’t rely on antivirus as much as proponents of Windows do, but it’s still helpful to have an antivirus application, especially when trading files with Windows friends. Like a lot of Linux software, Clam is lightweight, easy to use and free.


Firestarter is a useful all-in-one firewall app that can be as simple or as complex as needed. It is set up with a simple wizard but it also allows Linux software users to open and close specific ports at will, view traffic in real time, configure whitelist and blacklist rules and much more.

Web Browsing

Everyone will mention Firefox, and with good reason. Since that’s the case, we’ll go with Opera here, instead. Opera is free and extremely useful. It comes with a very effective RSS reader, clients for email and newsgroups and even an IRC client. Combine all that with cutting edge features like tab stacking and Firefox definitely has some competition in the “non-IE” sector.


Owning a computer isn’t just about productivity, security and browsing. There’s a wide variety of games for fans of Linux software to try, including BillardGL for fans of pool, Gnome Hearts and even First person shooter Urban Terror. When it’s time to put down the spreadsheets and have fun, Linux software offers a lot of options.

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Evaluating Linux Server Sun, 19 Feb 2012 20:21:11 +0000 As Linux gains acceptance as a desktop operating system, IT professionals in growing numbers are evaluating Linux server applications. How does Linux measure up to Windows server platforms? Is Linux server ready for the data center? Here are seven key areas of comparison between the two that should help the evaluation process.

Performance: Linux server platforms are far less resource-intensive than their Windows counterparts. With the operating system making fewer demands on processor and memory, servers running on Linux typically show a higher level of performance for the crucial apps they host.

Cost: Linux is essentially a free operating system. Even Red Hat, the primary commercial Linux server distro, is comparatively inexpensive. This is especially true when contrasted to Windows server platforms, with expensive per-server and per-seat licensing and costly software assurance packages.

Security: Both Windows and Linux server have their security drawbacks. Most hacks and exploits are written to target Windows servers. On the other hand, Windows server platforms have better user access control right out of the box, while Linux platforms require a separate application to gain a finer level of control over permissions.

Uptime: Everyone who has ever used Windows at home or in the server room has disaster stories. Services hang, apps crash and then there’s the infamous “blue screen of death.” Microsoft has improved Windows’ uptime, but it can’t compare to the lightweight stability offered by Linux server.

Updates: Depending on the choice of Linux server distro, Linux updates may be right on schedule and dependable or they could be spotty and untested. Since Microsoft is the only source of Windows updates, their monthly server OS updates are typically more timely and reliable on the whole.

Skill: Linux server skills are far more specialized, especially with the ability to alter the system kernel inherent in Linux but unavailable in Windows. It may be tougher to find Linux server admins or at least more expensive.

Vmware: Virtualization in the data center is a booming industry and Linux is a big part of it. Linux is so integral to Vmware that a flavor of Linux is packaged with the Vmware server installer. There is simply no reason at all to use Windows server to host a Vmware environment.

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