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From: Lockergnome Penguin Shell<subscriptions@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 10:19:50 -0600
Subject: [Lockergnome Penguin Shell] Shell Opinion
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Man, you all know how to write a script. I'm seeing a lot of interesting,
useful and just plain fun scripts for the upcoming series on shell
scripting. Remember that this series will be written by users. Don't
hesitate to submit you favorite, most esoteric, most useful script for
publication the week of February 4.
I'm glad that I occasionally learn a hard-headed lesson from my own
mistakes. With the return of the laptop to Torus this week, I realized
I'd need to re-configure my desktop as a dual-boot system. My wife just
doesn't like Linux, you know. Having learned from the catastrophic crash
of a month or so ago, I've been backing up my files with an attitude that
can only be described as zealous. And, it really paid off. I was able to
re-install RedHat and return the system to its formerly tweaked state
within an hour. Need I say more about the importance of backups? Alright
- be sure to read the GnomeCORE section in today's Penguin Shell for some
useful commands for creating exactly these types of incremental backups.
Just when you think it may never pay off to back up, it does.
Several of you wrote wondering about the "former employer" comments in
the previous Penguin Shell. just so you know, I have, indeed, left the
telescope company for purely economic reasons. I'm going to stay on with
them as a contractor, doing work on a project-by-project basis. That
allows me some time to focus hard on my own company, as well. Thanks to
those of you who sent me information on potential positions with your own
companies. I'm looking through them all and will be following up this
week. The departure was, by the way, and amicable one. They're still
doing important and interesting work. I hope to be able to continue to
Finally, a quick update. I did, in fact, hear from Michael Robertson, CEO
of Lindows. Unfortunately, he asked that his comments not be published.
I'll respect that request. I will say, however, that my position on
Lindows remains unchanged by those comments. By the looks of this article
and others I've seen, it looks like my opinion is not unique.
When I was building and installing telescopes, a critical element of the
RedHat installation was assuring that the system time was properly set
and maintained. That system time was the basis for many of the important
astronomical calculations for the telescopes. There are, however, many
other programs and processes in Linux that rely heavily on the system
time. Setting and maintaining the time in a Linux system is quite easy,
thanks to the ongoing refinements of the OS. Linux relies, for the most
part, on a software-based clock. The hardware clock maintains the time
while the system is down, passing its responsibilities to this software
clock at boot time. You can, however, adjust both the software and
hardware clock via tools available in most current distributions.
Dateconfig is the most recent of these tools, replacing timeconfig as the
time adjustment tool of choice in Linux.
From a console window, you'll need root access to use the dateconfig
tool. Enter the command dateconfig at the command prompt as a normal user
and you'll see a gui password prompt for the root user.
Dateconfig allows you to set the current time and date in a tabbed gui
interface. The first tab contains the date and time information for your
location. The second tab allows you to select your time zone and whether
or not the system clock should use GMT as its base. This is the standard
for Unix-based machines, but it's not a requirement for your system.
The most useful element of the dateconfig tool is it's ability to set up
automatic time adjustment for your system via the Network Time Protocol
(NTP). NTP servers exist solely for this purpose - to feed millisecond
accurate time to network-connected computers around the world. The NTP
HowTo is a useful tool for understanding how this protocol works and for
instructions on implementing it in your Linux system. The dateconfig tool
offers the option to adjust your system time automatically from the date
and time tab. By making these automatic adjustments, you'll never have to
worry about the integrity of the system time on your Linux system.
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The House Is On Fire!
Crisis Management in Linux
There's nothing in the computer world quite like backups. We all clearly
understand the necessity of creating them regularly, but few of us
actually do it. Linux is particularly well equipped for creating these
backups and doing it, for the most part, completely in the background.
These backups can be a crucial part of crisis management in Linux, as
well. If all else fails, restore the backup.
Let's start with a couple of commands that you'll find useful for
creating incremental backups - backups that pay attention to the files
that have changed since the last backup. Using cron, these backups can be
created daily, weekly or monthly. If you're especially paranoid, you
could even do them hourly or by the minute. My cron jobs include many
incremental backups that are performed weekly, and a few that are
performed monthly. We'll talk about adding those commands to cron in the
next few days. For now, take a look at a basic command for incremental
find / -mtime -1 \! -type d -print > /home/tony/backups/new.list
This should, of course, be entered on a single command line. This command
instructs the computer to [find] all files beginning from [/] that have
changed in the past 24 hours [-mtime 1], excluding [\! -type]
[d]irectories, then send the resulting output [-print >] to a file in the
/home/tony/backups directory named new.list. In other words, this command
executes a global search for files modified in the last day and lists
those files in another file. Writing these changes to a file is
especially useful, because many of the programs used to actually create
backups can take their input from files.
Suppose, now, that you want to backup these files to floppy (Yes - it
still can be done!). tar is the perfect command to use to create this
floppy backup. First, mount the floppy drive:
Then, write the backups to the disk:
tar -cv -T /home/tony/backups/new.list -f /mnt/floppy
This command, as I've mentioned, uses the new.list list we created in
/home/tony/backups/ to tar the files changed in the past 24 hours and
write them to the floppy disk.
Later, we'll take a look at creating scripts that can be called from cron
for executing these backup commands behind the scenes. For now, take this
crisis management tip away from today's Penguin Shell - backup, backup,
backup. Even though we all hate to be in a position to restore them, they
can end a crisis quickly in Linux.
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Mice [80 K]
"Mice (Mundungus Internet Connection Enhancer) is a server designed for a
home network where one machine has a modem to connect to the internet.
Clients on other machines can communicate with the server and ask it to
connect to the internet. The server keeps track of client requests and
disconnects when all clients no longer require connection. Mice server
does not connect to the internet itself - it relies on programs such as
pppd to do that. A client program for Linux is supplied but is not a
requirement - the server is designed to be used by telnet clients to
allow it to be controlled by non-Linux machines. There is also a Java GUI
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Scribbled by Sean Williams
"I've been reading the Penguin Shell since its inception, and I think
you've done a great job. I do have one nagging question about Linux,
though. What's the difference between the different distributions?
"Everyone seems to have an opinion on which one is the best, or what to
use, but I don't know why it matters. It seems that they are all built
off the same kernel and have the same desktop environments, so they look
the same and run the same. Maybe one is easier to install, but that is
(hopefully) a one-time thing, so it shouldn't be the most important
factor in determining the differences between two distributions. Also,
since they are open source, each company can see what their competitors
are doing and borrow from them, further reducing the differences. Maybe
it is the installed applications, but I am under the impression that most
of the software is freely available and can be downloaded and will run on
any distribution, as well as the fact that you can choose the programs
you want at install time. I realize the tech support and printed material
can vary greatly from company to company, but if you download a release
off the web, you don't get any of this anyway.
"Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that the different
"flavors" of Linux aren't too different, and you would be just as well
off choosing X over Y. Why should I take one over the other?"
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Linux.ie is a clean and informative site put together by ILUG - the Irish
Linux User Group. With current up-to-date articles on items of interest
to nearly any Linux user, Linux.ie is a great daily read. Currently, the
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