Gift ideas for you and the other sysadmins in your life

I meant to post this on Friday, but I was busy recovering from standing in line for a couple of hours to buy a new TV for $400.

Every Christmas people ask me what I want, and I always give the kneejerk response, “I don’t know, nothing?”. I usually can’t come up with something that I genuinely need or want typically, though there are lots of things I’d be pleasantly surprised by. I’m really not hard to shop for, but I think that people think I am. I’d be happy getting nothing, or even just a card.

Anyway, I set out this year to try to compile a list of things that they can get without worrying whether I will like it. I found some neat stuff online, and thought that you might be interested in the same things I am, so I’ve compiled a list of stuff, or more like a list of lists. If someone wants to know what to get a geek, just hand them this page.

First, since I just got my brand new HDTV:

I’m a Browncoat and not ashamed of it. I’ve got the series on DVD and I watch it pretty often. Watching it on Blueray will be pretty sweet, and if that special geek in your life digs SciFi, you can’t go wrong with Firefly. (click the box to go to the Fox store)


If there’s anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with ThinkGeek, you should click the logo and check it out. It’s Geek nirvana. Everything is great there, and at one point most of my wardrobe was from their T-shirt section. I was going to give a couple of categories, but really, if it’s on that site, there’s a good chance your geek will like it.

Sysadmins as a general rule really like to learn. A lot. To that end, here’s a link to every product on Amazon with the tag of sysadmin. Lots of great books. If you find yourself getting lots of stuff from Amazon, it’s probably cost effective to subscribe to Amazon Prime, so your shipping is free or much cheaper.

Even Wired is getting into the season with this list of Geeky toys that will make you a christmas hero. Some of these are on the expensive side, but anyone who does manage to hack the triceratops gets kudos from me.

I’ll end with one of the coolest lists I found: Make’s Open Source Hardware 2008. If you’re a hardware tinkerer, then this is your list. I’m *not* a hardware hacker, and I want to get some of these. Excellent stuff.

anyway, just some Sunday fluff to fill space. Hope you’re having a good weekend.

[UPDATE]
Now with smaller inline image. Sorry!

More LVM information

I talked about Logical Volume Manager in my Intro to LVM in Linux.

Tonight I came across an article on backing up LAMP stacks with LVM snapshots.

I knew LVM could do it, but I wasn’t aware of the particulars . Justin Ellison’s article on it clarifies many off the difficulties with the process. His particular howto is geared towards LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) setups, but it is by no means limited to it.

Read through his write up and let me know what you think.

One thing I am interested in seeing is how well it scales. He mentions 500MB of data, which is around 1/600th of the size I’m dealing with. I do have to wonder how quickly I could create a snapshot of that amount of data.

Anyone have more experience with this?

Doing sysadminy things with Windows PreInstalled Environments

I was, until recently, unfamiliar with the concept of a Windows PreInstalled Environment. For those of us who are primarily Unix based, this is basically like a live CD that boots straight into Windows.

There are a few of these PE CDs available. You can use Microsoft’s Preinstallation Environment, or maybe the UBCD4WIN (Ultimate Boot CD for Windows), but the one that seems to get the lion’s share of attention is BartPE. There’s also REAtoGo, which seems to be a customized BartPE disc. To be completely honest, I haven’t used any of these yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it.

Whichever you go with, building the CD seems to be a similar process. You use your own Windows install disc and customize the software through slipstreaming.

Once you’ve got the disc setup the way you want, it becomes easy to administer your Windows server using it as a known-clean boot. Virus cleansing is risk free, you’ve got the full gamut of useful Windows recovery tools at your service, and Earnest Oporto used it to update his firmware. What a great idea. How often do you see stuff like that which requires Windows? Sure, there are ways to update that particular firmware without Windows, but for lots of hardware, there isn’t. This is a viable solution in that case.

Since I’m woefully unexperienced in this department, I’ll appeal to you. Have you ever used a Windows PreInstalled Environment? What types of things do you do with it? Any tips or tricks?

Thanks for sharing!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the United States, it’s Thanksgiving today, and I’ve I’m off on holiday to visit my wife’s family in Cincinnati.

It’s customary to reflect on the things that we’re thankful for, so I thought that I’d share some here. Hopefully you’ve got some things that you’re thankful for as well.

I’m thankful for:

My family and friends, even if I don’t get to see them all as often as I’d like
My health, while not being the best, is better than a lot of people’s
My profession, because I get to learn and grow in it

There are lots of other things that are small in comparison with those, but I really do appreciate the blessings that have allowed me to become who I am and do what I do.

Today, whether you get to spend time with the people important to you or not, reflect on what you’re thankful for, and consider those who are less fortunate.

Happy Thanksgiving!