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#1 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 12:59 AM

It's been covered numerous times for programming as to projects to do to learn and keep you on your toes, but what about system administration?

Does anyone have some exercises or other such projects that would be beneficial to going down this path?

I've been teaching myself Unix systems for a fair amount of time now and have patched together several personal projects, just looking for more ideas of what to do to learn.

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#2 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 01:15 AM

For my webserver, I try to automate as many processes as I can. Using cron-tabs & shell script, I prepare reports for customers, archive files & directories, & other tedious tasks. Then I try to build a web interface that allows me the ability to not only fire off the task on command, but also create access to the output, or payload.

It helps me learn about the system, & provide instant gratification for customers.
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#3 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 02:21 PM

It just seems to be impossible to get any form of a valid answer as to what people actually do as a sysadmin. It goes in so many different directions I'm starting to be surprised that there's a distinction in the first place.

For those of you who are reading to find out projects, to be fair I'll cover what I've done so far to get a good feel for things.

Install OpenBSD, fight the urge to install a GUI. I know it's hard but you'll be better for it in the end.

Set up and configure a web server in Apache, add in support for commonly used languages.

Learn Perl or Python. These two are used for a lot of automation and configuration. I myself prefer python but my friend has described perl as the unix swiss army chainsaw for getting things done. I believe it comes down to a preference on this one.

Set up web mail.

Buy a domain name and use A-Records to forward it to your server (or other such methods.)

Set up SSH and install VNC on other network computers. Use the server as a hop box to gain GUI access to any other computer in the network.

Set up a transparent proxy using squid.

Use your machine as a firewall by bridging it between your router and your modem using two ethernet cards. Filter out certain types of traffic using the pf system.

At least that's what I can think of at the moment, I'll edit in more later.
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#4 GWatt  Icon User is online

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 03:15 PM

This is something we do at my house:
There are a fair amount of computers running centos. One of them is running a squid proxy that caches the updates. All other computers use that one as a proxy for getting updates, and thus packages are downloaded only once.
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#5 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 03:46 PM

Sysadmin is mostly application and user management.

Now, some application configuration can be a language unto itself. BIND, iptables, many many others. You can't really appreciate the annoyance of such things until you actually have to set them up yourself. As an Oracle DBA, a significant amount of my job is just messing with one giant, complex, application.

When you have to ask oddball questions of a system, you put on the programmer hat. What user is taking up the most space? Find all the log entries that meet a certain criteria, etc. You can do this with piped commands. Some times you use something light weight like a shell script or awk. Other times, big guns like Perl or Python.

I used Perl fifteen years ago, today I use Python. Perl is messy but will get the job done; it appeals to someone who reaches for shell scripts first. Python has more programmer appeal.

Here's a project: File Server. I do these a lot. Any server you set up should start with SSHD. A file server, depending on purpose, can use just that. However, for full coverage, FTP is usually a given. Samba. NFS. For read only file access, I really like an HTTP server; just allow directory browsing and you're good to go. You might also want to consider the file system; some do interesting things like versioning. There are software RAIDs. LVM is similar at this point. You'll probably want NTP. Once you get started, there are many things you'll find you want to add.

And I guess that's why you don't see sysadmin "projects." You simply don't have to find them in the real world, they find you. If your home network doesn't have a custom loaded router, you're not trying hard enough. DHCP server, DNS, static routes, QoS, bandwidth monitoring, web caching, the works.
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#6 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 09:02 PM

I just setup a freebsd home server running a ZFS based storage array which is pretty exciting although it was stupid easy.
If you haven't worked with ZFS and you're considering building some home storage devices you should look into it!
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#7 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 10 August 2011 - 10:10 PM

I'll have to look into both of those. I have a few older computers I put OpenBSD on and pretty well fell in love with them. Always up for a nice few tweaks for fun.
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#8 NotarySojac  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 13 August 2011 - 09:25 AM

I've started a blog on some of the stuff I've been doing on unix lately (debian ftw). It's mostly got to do with ruby on rails, but since you have web design/css exp, you may find it an enjoyable list. My lame staffers have caused me to need to setup windows authentication against a samba server which will store clones of their hard drives. That way the next time they do something really stupid (imminent) I just have to re-clone their hard drive and all their files SHOULD be saved on the samba server.

This requires that I upgrade to a new server. I just recently shopped one out, but funds won't be around for a couple months. In the mean time, I'm going to clone the most remarkable employee's drive (after I wipe it and reinstall for the second time in three months) and hope I have enough room on my test machine to store it.


Anyway, the blog is here at Notary Sojac's Debian Career. I suggest you keep a web log too so you can at least review all the stuff you've learned on linux in the future. My latest post (on samba) is incomplete and I'll be working on it for most of today.
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#9 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Unix Sysadmin Projects?

Posted 13 August 2011 - 02:01 PM

Sounds like fun. I'm going through a pretty high leveled Unix class this semester, so I'll be posting tutorials as I go on my blog (blog.baweaver.com)

I find that writing tutorials helps me learn more efficiently, demonstrates knowledge, and helps other students out (that actually have a chance at normally completing the class and just need a push.)
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