Computers Information Technology Linux

PCLinuxOS 2007 Install Notes


If you have taken a look at the popularity rankings on Distrowatch, you’ll see that the top 10 have really mixed themselves around a bit in the last couple of months. If you select past 3 months or more recent in their rankings list, you’ll find that PCLinuxOS 2007 has surpassed Ubuntu and is in the number one spot. So long story short – download and install!

It looks good, especially since I’ve enabled Beryl on the system (a clone system with 2.66GHz Celeron and 1 GB of RAM). I won’t go into further detail on its looks, since plenty of others have already done so. I will bring up a couple of things though I think folks should take note of.

When I did my first go around with installing, I had booted the live CD to obtain an IP address from DHCP. After install, as expected, it was configured to obtain an IP by DHCP. By the way, the install – other than having to reboot once to the live CD again to finalize the partitions, was a very simple (almost to a fault) “next, next, done” exercise. This particular box I like to have configured for a static IP, so I went into the Control Center and did so… and I lost name resolution. So I reconfigured to use DHCP and tested with nslookup. This is where I discovered that nslookup is not installed by default. Odd, but a little quick research revealed to install bind-utils to get your nslookup. Simply use Synaptic, or from a terminal as root, execute apt-get install bind-utils. I don’t know why they would not have it installed by default, but there it is – a quick fix.

I then remembered that the install did not ask about the network config, something I usually have to do when installing Linux. However, it did ask me when the live CD booted up. So I rebooted again to the live CD, and configured my settings as I wanted for a static IP, DNS servers, etc. Lo and behold, when this install completed, the system was configured for the static IP, etc. I had configured for the live CD. Pretty slick, despite that it does take a bit getting used to. Usually one thinks of the live CD environment isolated from what the installed environment will be.

So to sum up, I am pretty impressed with this distribution. I tweaked the desktop some from the default (see screenshots below). This post is actually being written from this box using Writer 2.2. Most folks would be installing this distro as a desktop system obtaining its IP from DHCP, so there would be no need to go through the reboot of the live CD like I did. This distro’s goal is to be a Windows replacement, so the average user would also not likely notice the absence of the nslookup, but I still feel it should be there by default, as it is in Windows, Mac OS, and other Linux distros – just in case you get that call from your friend or relative saying they can’t get to the internet.



Fun Information Technology

IT at Hogwarts: And We Thought We Had It Tough


In celebration of a new Harry Potter book and movie…

(Published in Network World, 23 July 2007)

To: Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster

Re: My resignation


I regret that I must resign my position, effective two weeks ago, at least.

It is simply impossible under these conditions to create a modern, integrated, flexible IT architecture aligned with the school’s educational mission and objectives.

Deployment of the OC-3 fiber backbone met insuperable difficulties, as you know, when the cabling crew was attacked repeatedly by Dementors. Cabling staff rarely are effervescent people in the best of times, and having their life force sucked through their faces by cloaked, shadowy horrors as they lay paralyzed in icy terror is a serious de-motivator.

I may say that your presumably jocular suggestion that the Cisco Certified Network Professional training be modified to include instruction in casting the Patronus Charm was not well received.

As you know, it was considered impractical to deploy CAT5 cable in most areas because of the prevalence of solid granite walls, floors and ceilings and your adamant refusal to consider installing drop-down ceilings – not to mention the difficulties imposed by randomly moving staircases.

But attempts to deploy a wireless LAN have been frustrated by first-form students removing the antennas from the access points, in the conviction that these make superior wands. A conviction that proved immune to a very rigorous, indeed educational, outreach program by the school’s able caretaker, Argus Filch.

Of course, this obstacle was dwarfed by the so-called magical-interference problem. Reluctantly, at your request, I did raise this issue in a series of phone calls with Cisco Technical Support.

It quickly became clear that magic was not an issue with which Cisco Tech Support was familiar, even when escalated to the highest level. I patiently explained that, of course it was not magical spells per se that were causing interference, but the transmission of the wizard’s (or witch’s) energy, via the wand, occasioned by the spells. This explanation was met, variously, by expressions of confusion and outright disbelief and not infrequently, by ridicule.

“This sounds like a spectrum-regulation issue for the FCC,” said one Cisco employee, nearly choking in laughter at his own leaden attempt at humor.

A supervisor finally confirmed that Cisco had no plans to modify its radio-frequency management software to detect and compensate for magic, but that I could file a request for change through my Cisco account representative. In retrospect, I believe this, too, was intended as humor.

Even usually mundane issues proved burdensome. Just one example will suffice. One of the main wiring closets was to be the rarely used second-floor girls’ bathroom, which when renovated would be an ideal location. Except, of course, for the ghost. Moaning Myrtle’s initial flooding of the bathroom resulted in the loss of switches and associated equipment worth in excess of 18,000 galleons. Negotiations proved fruitless in the face of her unceasing moaning and crying, and the project was abandoned.

Also abandoned was a plan to create a wireless mesh network to cover the outlying Quidditch pitch, when beaters on both teams repeatedly used the mesh nodes as practice targets for their bludgers.

Despite all this, one could have persevered (IT professionals are uncommonly stubborn, which is often mistaken for thickheadness), but for the quite unexpected and even more stubborn resistance by Hogwarts faculty to the introduction of modern technology into the classroom.

I made a thorough and elaborate PowerPoint presentation on the benefits that an online learning management system would deliver for faculty and students (Professor Snape’s contemptuous dismissal of it as the work of a “PowerPoint wizard” was uncalled for).

In vain did I describe how online courses could increase the school’s revenue stream and achieve profitability goals; the greater flexibility, not to mention safety, of using 3-D online simulations of boggarts instead of the shape-shifters themselves; the desirability of an online potions catalog, cross-referenced with the Ministry of Magic’s database of potential side effects; an interactive, voice-automated Parseltongue translation system; a Defense Against the Dark Arts curriculum based on next-generation gaming software; a digital library to replace the heavy, often musty tomes of incantations; and an information security infrastructure to block access by He Who Must Not Named.

Yet when Professor of Divination Sybill Trelawney said the proposed IT architecture was “insensitive to the Inner Eye,” I realized my efforts were hopeless.

I have done all I can, Headmaster. I’m afraid that despite my best efforts, Hogwarts’ IT communications infrastructure will remain dependent on owls, talking letters, the use of Floo powder and a fireplace network, and of course, divinations, dreams and visions.

I am returning (once the full moon is past) to the Muggle world of cellular data services and high-tech IPOs. They at least, appreciate the true magic of information technology.

Your obedient servant,


IT director, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Fun Information Technology Science Thoughts

Keep It Simple

labbench.jpgMy good friend over at the Aedificium has a great post on storage, and more generally speaking, the benefits of keeping things simple and organized. We all know the person at work with the incredibly messy desk, or the one with a really neat one (by the way, this is one of the principles in Six Sigma, for those that may have been exposed to this training). Or for those of us in IT, how it makes our job much easier to have a clearly defined and organized fileshare structure, naming conventions for servers & workstations, and data rooms and datacenters with organized wiring and layouts, as well as switchport descriptions in the configs. Or despite the depictions in the “mad scientist” movies, how real world labs are pretty much organized (at least in my experience working onsite at biotech customer sites).

Why not carry these concepts home? Of course, I’m guilty of having a garage that needs neatening up, but the idea is to take small increments at a time. My wife is a fan of the FlyLady website, which deals with exactly these things. In short, pick a room, make it a family fun affair if you have a family, and keep what you need/really want, and donate/get rid of those things you don’t. The idea is to NOT make it overwhelming – one room, or one shelf even, at a time.

And for some inspirational music while you do so…

Cisco Information Technology Networking

Dude… It’s Like Totally Stubby, Man!


I know I haven’t posted much lately, with studying for the Cisco BSCI and working on my kitchen floor, but I always get a bit of a kick when reviewing OSPF routing protocol, specifically when talking about stub areas. This is because of the naming of these various types of stub areas:

Stub Area
Totally Stubby Area
Not So Stubby Area (NSSA)
Totally Stubby Not So Stubby Area (sounds kinda contradictory, doesn’t it)

That’s a lot of subbiness going on here. What is it all about, anyway? In a nutshell, the various stub areas in OSPF are configured as such to limit the types of LSA (link-state advertisements) that the router receives, reducing its routing table size. The particulars of each type are a lot to get into in a post, but visit Cisco’s site on the topic to learn more.

Luckily the configuration itself is fairly straightforward. All commands are within the OSPF router config mode.

For a stub area:

area area-id stub (where area-id is the number label of the area in question)

For a Totally Stubby Area:

area area-id stub no-summary (no-summary only required if it is on an Area Border Router, or ABR)

For the Not So Subby Area

area area-id nssa

And for Totally Stubby Not So Stubby Area

area area-id nssa no-summary (again, no-summary only required on an ABR)

Of course, as stated, there’s a bit more to it, but Cisco generally does a good job with information on various topics on their web site. The article also mentions Virtual Links. All areas in an OSPF network are required to be connected to Area 0 (the backbone area). Virtual links are a sort of “band-aid” you can use when an OSPF area cannot be physically connected to Area 0.

Cisco Information Technology Networking

It’s Cisco Study Time

cisco_logo.gifsamplenetwork.jpgSo you’re probably wondering why I haven’t posted on my Kubuntu install yet. Well, it’s because I’ve been spending most nights studying for the CCNP BSCI exam (BCSI – Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks, essentially the routing exam). My CCNA expires in June, so I’ve set out to try and pass one at the CCNP level to keep current. I’ve gone through the EIGRP and part of OSPF modules (I’m most familiar with OSPF, as that is the routing protocol of the last two customers I have done work for). My question, for anyone reading this: Is there a practice exam software that you recommend? In the past I’ve tried Boson and Self Test, but just wanted to get everyone’s thoughts on what is out there today that they find are good. I find the practice tests a good way to find out what I know, and what I need to focus on…

By the way, Kubuntu is indeed installed. I’m working out the kinks in the VMWare piece. Once that’s done, I’ll post my experiences.