Tuesday, July 22, 2014

World + Dog Embrace DevOps - here are some references on how to do it right

The guys who wrote The Visible Ops Handbook - an indispensable ops book - wrote a novel called The Phoenix Project, about DevOps.
I have a hard time taking a novel about DevOps seriously - I like my fiction and IT guides in their own formats. So I haven't read Phoenix Project.

However, Gene Kim was kind enough to put out resource-guide blog posts, so I can avoid the whole ops-case-study-novelization conundrum.  And you can too.
  1. http://itrevolution.com/learn-more-about-concepts-in-phoenix-project/
  2. http://itrevolution.com/resource-guide-for-the-phoenix-project-kanbans-part-2/
  3. http://itrevolution.com/audit-101-for-devops-resource-guide-for-the-phoenix-project-part-3-correctly-scoping-it-using-gait-and-gait-r/

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Interview about Living in Somerville

My friend Lauren Shuffleton interviewed me for her project, The Somerville Connection, about why I live in Somerville, and how it's changed since 1999.  Check it out.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cross-Platform SysAdmin Tools for Windows

I was leaving one job and taking another, and thought I'd share some tool suggestions for my multi-platform-admin friends.  So I wrote this up, to present on my last day.  But I didn't want to leave it behind, so I put it here, for posterity.

This also gave me a handy reference, when setting up a new workstation in a new office.

All are free, most are open-source, and all are recommended.
  1. 7zip - 7-zip.org
    1. Multi-format archiver for Windows -- gui and command-line.  As good or better than WinZip, but it's free and open-source
  2. CCleaner and Defraggler from Piriform  - www.piriform.com
    1. Great system maintenance/cleanup tools -- paid for professional use.
  3. Cygwin64 - cygwin.com
    1. bash, x-windows, and tons of other *nix tools for Windows
    2. The x64 version is much faster than the x86 version - get that one
  4. Filezilla FTP - filezilla-project.org
    1. This was much less useful in a Linux environment than I expected - virtually everything moved over SCP.
    2. April 2016 Update: Filezilla has had some problems with "optional" add-on "offers" - adware and borderline-malware. Bad enough that SourceForge won't host their software any more. Better to use WinSCP.
  5. FLux - justgetflux.com/
    1. Not strictly for SysAdmins, but automatic screen color adjustments are allegedly good for your eyes.
  6. Google Drive
    1. Duh
  7. LastPass lastpass.com
    1. Handles almost every kind of secure credential you need to remember
  8. Nmap - nmap.org
    1. GUI and command line - fantastically useful
  9. Notepad++ - notepad-plus-plus.org
    1. Fantastic text editor, tons of plugins, free, open-source, etc.
  10. Paint.net - getpaint.net
    1. Free, dot-Net based graphics editor with tons of features
    2. Not strictly for sysadmins, but still very useful for image manipulation
    3. Far easier to justify than Photoshop
  11. PsTools - sysinternals.com
    1. a great suite of command line tools for Windows from SysInternals, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2006 (the whole SysInternals suite is great)
  12. PuTTY - www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty
    1. save yourself some headaches and set your default preferences, like tcp keepalives, username, etc.
    2. Move your settings around with registry exports/imports
  13. RVTools - www.robware.net
    1. Simple, alternative/complement to the VMWare vSphere client - great for finding problems with your VM's and hosts without navigating through a ton of screens
  14. Tera Term - en.sourceforge.jp/projects/ttssh2/
    1. Free, open source, terminal emulator - much better at serial operations than PuTTY
  15. Treesize - jam-software.de/treesize_free
    1. The paid version is super powerful, the free version is still very good.
  16. VirtViewer - spice-space.org/download.html
    1. KVM virtualization console client for Windows - tough to find, very useful
  17. WinSCP - winscp.net
    1. Just what it sounds like
  18. Wireshark - wireshark.org (fka Ethereal)
    1. Capture and analyze packets - especially useful for desktop visualization and filtering when you've got a complex tcpdump file from somewhere else
  19. April 2016 Addition: Babun zshell for Windows - https://babun.github.io/ 
    1. Slick package of Cygwin (x86) utilities, the Z shell, and a bunch of other interesting applications. 
    2. This is the first non-Cygwin package I've seen that includes Cygwin, and also lets you run Cygwin setup independently, to manage the mix of Cygwin tools.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Many Admins?

In responding to a question about planning your IT staff requirements in LinkedIn Answers today, I realized two things: 

1. This could make a good blog post.
2. I love talking about the mechanics of IT.

One of my favorite answers to this quandary is Mark Verber's "How Many Administrators Are Enough?" article from a 1991 edition of Unix Review magazine.  It's a great discussion of how to plan and control your IT staffing needs, but it's mostly about principles.  And the 24x7-site staffing model, which concludes that you need fourteen people may cause unneeded consternation if you're starting with an IT staff of, for instance, two.

One of the great challenges in IT management is keeping IT and non-IT folks in sync, and my impression is that most IT managers resort to very simple formulae, like "1 helpdesk staff per 50 employees".  I've found that this kind of formula breaks down very quickly as organizations and technologies change, so I've tried to use something slightly more involved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Campaign vs. Start-Up

After spending the past six months working in the Obama 2012 campaign's IT team, and returning to Boston, I've been thinking about the similarities between campaign IT and start-up IT.  Before moving to Chicago in April, most of my professional life has been in tech-focused, Boston-area start-ups.  And there are some real similarities.

An Incomplete List of Campaign/Start-Up Similarities:
  1. Your primary product has to be amazing.  Everything else has to be just-good-enough.  As a start-up or as a campaign, everyone knows you by their one window into the organization - like the OFA field campaign, or New Relic's performance monitoring service
  2. Everything that supports your operation - your systems and processes - should be just-good-enough-to-work.  In start-ups and campaigns, you don't have the time, money or staff to build a really beautiful process, or a really beautiful infrastructure.  That doesn't mean you can make something haphazard - you still have to contain your risks - but you can't spend too much time on evaluations, designs, redesigns, etc.
  3. Everyone contributes, everyone owns something (or many things).
  4. Your great idea is only great if you implement it.
  5. Your great critique is only useful if you provide a new solution.
  6. Tight budgets favor free software and services.
  7. Time is short - projects that aren't working get abandoned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Facebook Albums and Consumer Fraud

Facebook's photo-tagging has become a tool for unscrupulous advertisers to reach social media networks.

Anecdotally, the biggest offender seems to be streetretro dot com.  Here's a sample title of a photo album:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Security Policy Presentation In Progress

I recently presented a set of ideas about making and socializing a security policy called "Getting Your Security Policy the Love and Affection it Deserves".  It didn't quite get the cheering, clapping, adoring reception I was hoping for, perhaps because it's too boring.  And, to be fair to the audience, it was sandwiched between two much more interesting and polished presentations.

So I'm curious - what does it need?  Pictures?  Concrete examples?  Fewer words?  More words?