After reading about Zabbix again in Linux Server Hacks, Vol. 2 I decided to take another stab at installing it. I had given it a shot a few months ago on an older Fedora box, and because of dependancy hell, gave up without getting it installed. So I figured I’d try again on my Ubuntu box.
The installation instructions on the Zabbix web site worked, but only after I installed some pre-requisites. Assuming you don’t yet have Apache2, PHP, and MySQL installed (which I did), you’d do the following:
sudo apt-get install apache2 php5 mysql-server mysql-common mysql-client
But we’re not quite ready to configure Zabbix yet. These are the obvious re-requisites. The ones that you can’t find so easily with the error messages you get back from running the configure command are installed with the following:
sudo apt-get install libsnmp9-dev net-snmp-devel libc6-dev libmysqlclient12-dev
These include libraries needed for snmp and MySQL connectivity. Once I put these in place, I was able to configure Zabbix with the following command:
/configure --enable-server --with-mysql --with-net-snmp
After reading last week’s letter to the editor regarding Bethel’s roads in the Herald of Randolph, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who is maintaining a sense of humor about the state of the roads here in Bethel. Great job, Bill! You are a master of satire!
On the other hand, I see that the Bethel town road crew has been putting in ditches along River Road. Bravo! I wonder if this is because the town’s road budget just got a sudden influx of cash? (We’ve been told the roads won’t get better without the town spending more money on them.)
Is it just coincidence? (There is no such thing as coincidence.)
Or is it because a number of the town’s residents have complained about the condition of the roads? (Despite the fact that all I ever do is bring up “negative” things to the Selectboard.)
Now, before anyone else comes out and accuses me of attacking the road crew, let me be quite clear: I am pointing out a problem. The problem is with the roads. The Selectboard has admitted that there is a problem in my presence. (Note that we agreed on this.)
What we have disagreed on is the cause of the problem and its solution. I have pointed evidence that would indicate what we call “operator error” in my line of work. But… what if the road crew is supremely talented, and they’re being mismanaged? Maybe they’ve been given their marching orders in such a way as to result in them running every which way on little projects, never getting time to focus on the big picture? (I’m not saying this is the case, I’m just observing that it’s a possibility.)
On the other hand, maybe the secret to having a well-maintained road is just leaving a “gift” out at the bottom of your driveway. (Nah. That sounds too much like bribery or a protection racket.)
If my clients are any indication, most people think that the purpose of a password is one of the following:
- a way for their consultant/system administrator to make their system harder to use,
- an inconvenience,
- their name,
- their birthday
- the word “password.”
Let me set the record straight. The purpose of a password is to keep your computer, and the information on it, secure.
Yes, passwords are somewhat inconvenient. That’s the point. A wise person once said “security and convenience are inversely proportional.” Given that, the cost of security is a little convenience. I am consistently amazed at people who resist having any passwords whatsoever on their systems because they are “hard to remember.”
Yet they somehow manage to remember scores of seemingly random 10-digit numbers. If you doubt me, ask yourself what your home phone number, work phone number, cell phone number, and significant other’s phone numbers are and tell me I’m wrong.
The purpose of a password is to also keep out viruses and worms. Many malware programs take advantage of systems with blank passwords and use these as a way to gain access to systems. These can usually be thwarted by any password.
But a cracker (or hacker, to use the more popular terminology) needs something a little tougher than that. This is why we recommend that all business computer systems have a strong password. What is a strong password? I define it as:
- Being at least 8 characters long.
- Consisting of a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and at least one NON-numeric, NON-alpha character, such as !@#$%^&*(). (Think “cartoon swearing”).
When I say this, most people immediately respond by saying “how are you supposed to remember that?!?” Well, despite those requirements, it does not have to be difficult. Just get a little creative. For example, “2TrainTracks!” meets the requirements. It’s longer than 8 characters, has upper-case and lower-case letters, a number, and a non-alpha character. It’s not that hard to remember two train tracks, is it? No. Just remember the two is a number, capitalize the T’s, and put an exclamation mark at the end and you’re all set. If you have trouble remembering it, use it to log on to your computer, then log off. Repeat this process five times in a row and I guarantee you’ll have the password memorized by the last logon.
Then, approximately 42 days later, you can pick a new one.
If you reply to an email, only include the portion of the message to which you are replying. If someone sends you a message that is a page long, and you are only replying to things said in the first paragraph, delete the rest of the message. This is not difficult! Just spend 10 to 20 seconds and clear out stuff that is not necessary. For example, if I reply to you, there’s no need for me to include your signature file in my reply because I’m pretty sure you already know how to contact yourself. Continue reading “How to Use Email, Part 4: How to Reply to an Email Message (part A)”
I purchased a Mac Mini a few months ago to act as my “media hub” (read “DVD player”) a while ago.? Unfortunately, I still have an old Sony Wega (with a tube) and I’d forgotten how low the resolution is on old style televisions.? It was so bad that I couldn’t even use my Mini with it because I couldn’t read the menus.? So I quickly gave up on that idea and put the Mini on my desktop, nestled under my flat panel displays, where I occasionally would switch over to it via a KVM switch.? Unfortunately, since the mini only supports one display, and my Dell has four, it’s really hard to make the switch in any serious fashion.? As a result, the Mini has gotten very little use.
Plus, despite the fact that I upgraded it from 512MB to 2GB of RAM (using the putty knife technique that you can read about), it is still occasionally very painfully slow.? With no other apps running, Thunderbird was taking something to the tune of 16 bounces on the dock to load, whereas it would load in just three on my 800MHz PowerBook.? Not having a lot of time to troubleshoot things, I pretty much just let it sit and would fire it up to record the occasional podcast or whatnot.
Last night I decided to try to install Ubuntu Linux on it.? After all, I’d put it on all of my other machines, so why not, right?? Unfortunately, I didn’t bother reading any howtos or suggested procedures first – I just slapped the CD in, booted from it, nuked my Boot Camp partition, and dedicated it to Ubuntu. Unfortunately the installer crashed and that was the end of that.
When I attempted a reboot, the Mac wouldn’t load into OS X.? Furthermore, it would not boot from my installation CD! Now I was starting to get concerned.? I called Apple tech support, and they advised me to press and hold the C key to boot from CD (tried, failed).? I also tried the Alt (Option) key (failed).? One time I was able to hold down the mouse to get it to eject the CD, but subsequent attempts failed.
Finally, I figured there may be a problem with my KVM and the PC keyboard I was using.? Remembering that you can use the remote control to select? your boot drive, I held down the Menu button while booting.? Presto!? I was given the option to boot from the CD again.? Not having any data on the drive which wasn’t already backed up, I simply repartitioned the drive and continued on my merry way reinstalling.
I’m going to give Ubuntu on the mini another shot, but I may use an external drive this time instead.
Use a descriptive subject line. What may be even worse than a blank subject is a wrong subject. A subject line of “hi,” “question,” “problem,” or “help” is practically useless. Be descriptive. If you write someone about next week’s board meeting time being changed, then an apporpriate subject line would be “Next week’s board meeting time has changed.” See how quickly that helps convey your message? Sure, you could have said “board meeting,” but what does that really say? Not much. Continue reading “How to Use Email, Part 2: Better Subject lines”
I’ve decided to publish some notes that I’ve been accumulating for a long time on the do’s and don’ts of email. Since it may get a bit long, I’ve decided that I’ll put them out here one at a time, and it will consist of at least five parts. (That way I can be lazy and not have to think up new topics for a while!)
So here’s the first thing that you can do to make yourself a more effective emailer: Always use the subject line. Continue reading “How to Use Email, Part 1: Subject lines”
I highly recommend that anyone who purchased Norton Internet Security or a computer that came with it preinstalled, uninstall it immediately and get something else. The firewall that comes with NIS is completely brain-dead, and to date EVERY computer that we have worked on which has NIS installed has had issues where the firewall keeps the user from doing anything network-related.
The idea behind a software firewall is that it keeps the bad guys out of your computer. The problem is that Norton Internet Security seems to take this a step further by keeping you from getting on the Internet or even your local area network! I suppose that the truly draconian network administrator could argue that this is more secure, but the far cheaper and simpler method would be to simply disconnect your Ethernet card from the network.
If you need a firewall, Windows XP comes with one built in, for free, and it works well. There are also plenty of other firewall, anti-virus, and spyware prevention products out there. I’ll list a few for your reference:
Windows XP’s Built In Firewall – Microsoft – Free
Kerio – Sunbelt Software – $20
ZoneAlarm – Zone Labs – $50
Norton Antivirus – Symantec – $40 (yes, this product is okay)
AVG – Grisoft – $39
AVGFree – Grisoft – Free to NON-business users for ONE computer only.
Windows Defender – Microsoft – Free
Spybot Search and Destroy – Free
AdAware Personal – Lavasoft – Free for personal use
SpySweeper – Webroot – $30/year
Alternately, just buy a Mac.
Since I’ve been doing more biking on the road lately, I decided it was time for a road bike.? So I went to my pals at Green Mountain Bikes today and tested out a few, finally settling on a new Kona Jake. It has a nice balance of mountain bike features and road bike features. I can’t wait to try it!