Archive for February, 2011

Seven Firefox plug-in for online privacy

I came across this CSO Online article again, after seeing it last year.  It is still valid, and has a good list of plugins for Firefox to enhance your privacy.

These days, I wouldn’t think of browsing without NoScript, and I use AdBlock Plus regularly, although not 100% of the time.

I think that these days I’d add LastPass to the list for password management.  When I started my conversion to LastPass, I had over 370 account/password pairs in my home-brew password database.



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Does anyone care about Elliptical Curve Cryptography (in SSH)?

I just saw this blog post by the Grumpy Troll:

I’ve been waiting for ECC to go “mainstream”, and I guess that it’s finally (mostly?) here.

How about you?  Is ECC revolutionary, just for tinfoil hats, or no value at all?  I’ve put together a quick Survey Monkey survey to gauge interest in ECC in SSH:

I’m cheap (free account), so only the first 100 responses will be counted.  I’ll summarize in a week or so.

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Linux Boot Process

The Linux boot process has gotten progressively more complicated, although with more options and more capabilities over the years.  I have to admit that the last time I really dove into the boot process was at least 10 years ago.

I recently needed to dive in, to debug what I thought was a USB problem, and found myself pretty lost.

Then, I found this great summary over at SysAdmin1138 Expounds.

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What can sysadmins learn from opening airport terminals?

You should really read this.  It’s long, but full of insight into the way we create and launch large new systems.

“Those of us in the software industry have heard this story before: the time runs out for system testing, but a big-bang cut-over to a mission critical new system proceeds anyway, because the planned date just can’t be delayed. The result is predictable: wishful thinking gives way to various degrees of disaster.”

In the System Administration game, we see the same problem.  In fact, since we are often at the end of the software supply chain, or the last milestone in the project, it usually our schedules and testing that are compressed or eliminated.  When all the earlier phases of the project have all slipped, and the “go live” date can’t be changed, we’re the ones who most often lose our testing time.

More importantly, though, how many of our projects are creating or support “socio-technical systems”, but are treated as pure technology projects?  I bet that you can all think of a project that was supposed to be only about technology (a systems upgrade), but turned out to have strong linkages into the social side of your operation, such as poor notification to users, missing training, or some other negative impact to your users.

So, how do we as System Administrators move from being pure technologists to more holistic creators of real systems, that include consideration of the social (and other non-technical) aspects of our projects and systems?

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Essential Blogs for System Administrators (LOPSA Members)

You may have noticed a new feature on this blog:  there’s now an RSS feed (with previews) to blogs created by LOPSA members over in the right-side column.  For those who don’t know, LOPSA is an international professional society for system administrators.

(For LOPSA, “system administrator” includes anyone who manages computer systems, storage, networks, databases, security, web sites, etc.  We’re a very inclusive bunch!)

There are many person-centuries of system administration experience in their collective consciousnesses, so I’m glad that so many members are blogging.  You’ll find posts on everything from backups, IPv6, Linux, Windows, BSD, to security and all manner of information needed to successfully deal with computers, storage software and networking.

One nice thing is that so many people who might be responsible for hundreds (or thousands) of computers are their work, are also writing about their home networks and systems, where they bring all that experience to bear.

Creating a unified, well-recognized set of Best Practices is hard, so until then, or until there’s a unified “SABoK” (System Adminstration Body of Knowledge), I’d recommend that you check out and follow some of those blogs.

Oh, and go buy a copy of TPOSNA, too!

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an interview with Fred Lloyd (AA7BQ), publisher of

This interview was prompted by‘s recent move into “the cloud”.   QRZ means “Who is calling me?” or “You are being called by ___”, which is very appropriate for what is widely considered to be the largest online community for amateur (“ham”) radio in the world.  Moving this resource from traditional hosting into the cloud is an interesting comment on the readiness of the cloud to actually deliver for a community that has come to depend on this resource.

The computer and ham communities have a long history together. The original “hacker” community originally had quite a few ties to ham radio and computers, as all were involved with experimenting, especially with electronics. In fact, one possible origin for the term “hacker” its use by the amateur radio community from the 1950s to mean “creative tinkering to improve performance”.  This continuing curiosity and desire to build and improve is a hallmark of these communities.

I’ve encountered a few system and network administrators who are hams, and vice versa.  QRZ’s founder and publisher, Fred Lloyd, is no exception.  Fred spent much of his career on the cutting edge of Internet adoption, working for Sun and other companies in Silicon Valley and other locations.  As it turns out, he’s been a ham radio operator about as long.

Fred was kind enough to do an email interview with me earlier this week to discuss system administration, QRZ, ham radio, the Internet and his experiences in moving to the cloud.

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