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Top Ten Linux Configuration Tools?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the what-no-admin-should-be-without dept.

Software 651

jman251 asks: "I am presenting at a conference in September on a couple of Linux-centric topics. One of these is a collection of tips, tricks, and tools for configuring, securing, and maintaining a Linux-based server. I have a short list of tools I use, but would like some community input on the subject. What tools do you use that make your admin responsibilities easier or more automated on the Linux platform?"

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651 comments

They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (3, Interesting)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 9 years ago | (#9699990)

vim (0, Flamebait)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700003)

Fuck you, vim 4 lyfe.

Hey, I could have started with, "One word: EMACS" (1, Interesting)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700114)

:D
But that's would be too easy. Seriously, I had to tell the truth (nano is awesome, so is vim, but then so is nano).
And I don't think anyone can fill a top ten list with configuration tools... people use rarely more than one, if any. I know I don't.

Re:They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (1)

Pillager (6026) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700009)

Don't you mean 'vi /etc/'?

Re:They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700033)

No, vim.

Re:They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700079)

$ which vi /bin/vi
$ ls -l /bin/vi
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 20 Jan 28 2003 /bin/vi -> /etc/alternatives/vi*
$ ls -l /etc/alternatives/vi
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 9 Jan 28 2003 /etc/alternatives/vi -> /bin/vim*

Re:They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700178)

you should update your .sig
It's now :Results 1 - 10 of about 370,000,000 for b [definition]. (0.23 seconds)

Re:They all start with "nano -wiR /etc/" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700040)

What kind of crappy editor requires extra flags to be able to edit long lines?

Xconfigurator (2, Interesting)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#9699996)

Xconfigurator used to be the key thing if you had any graphical needs. But the KDE GUI makes all that graphical tweaking as transparent as windows desktop nowadays.

Re:Xconfigurator (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700080)

Does KDE actually write new X config files now? Because if it doesn't, changing resolutions is dependent on the config files.

Re:Xconfigurator (2, Insightful)

fore1337 (573128) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700117)

I like using XConfigurator
You're right about not needing it lately. However it's been useful for notebook displays of uncommon resolution. (my 14" 1400x1050) Xconfigurator is the only way I know how to get it working properly.

Interesting, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Ass, Ltd. Ho! (714400) | more than 9 years ago | (#9699998)

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Webmin is nice (3, Informative)

arfonrg (81735) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700004)

I use it on several of my servers to do basic configuration.

Re:Webmin is nice (1, Informative)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700038)

I like webmin as well. Much less overhead than KDE or X... Definately gets the job done for most server management needs.

Re:Webmin is nice (1)

Terragen (727874) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700063)

I'll second that - Webmin is a great tool.

Re:Webmin is nice (1, Funny)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700180)

Remember that SCO has contributed [caldera.com] to webmin. Using webmin obviously means that you are violating their IP rights and will be sued for $1b per day of infringement. Of course you likely were already violating their IP rights by using the Linux kernel, java, and if you use RedHat, rpm.

Re:Webmin is nice (4, Informative)

John Hurliman (152784) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700112)

I'd put Webmin on my #1 list for best Linux admin tools. phpmysql is probably second (or the postgresql equivalent), and all the necessary toolkit apps like nmap, ethereal, netcat, etc.

Re:Webmin is nice (0)

nharmon (97591) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700124)

Webmin is a good "bandaid" for people learning server administration and need to do something quickly. However, it does come with some inherit security problems. Most notably there have been exploits in the past that allow free shell access. Also, it requires you to run httpd, which on many servers is not worth the security risk.

Dave Lettermans Top 10 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700006)

su
df
du
ls
rm
passwd
chown
vi
more
bash

Hey, you asked for it - No clicky links to read.

Re:Dave Lettermans Top 10 (2, Insightful)

vicviper (140480) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700128)

su
df
du
ls
rm
passwd
chown
vi
more
bash

s/more/less/

Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 3.6).

The one true Text Editor! (1, Troll)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700007)

Pico! All bow before it!

Re:The one true Text Editor! (1)

mishan (146987) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700113)

cat is the only "one true" text editor, but emacs is the "one true" text-editing, interactive lisp environment. pico is simply the "one true" piece of crap which doesn't even have a "Goto Line" function; use nano instead.

Re:The one true Text Editor! (5, Funny)

alexborges (313924) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700146)

Vi user 1: KILL THE TROLL

Vi user 2: Mesmerize this so-called-pico-mesiah

Slashdot winfiend1: I for one....

Slashdot winfiend2: Imagine a ....

Emacs user 1: Damn, the vimers beat us to the hangin!... we cant say kill him, they already did...

Emacs user 2: Its Gnu-Pic.... oh wait...

Doom... (4, Interesting)

lordbry (46768) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700020)

As admin tool.

http://www.cs.unm.edu/~dlchao/flake/doom/

Re:Doom... (1)

lordbry (46768) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700094)

Perhaps I should have explained myself better...

Someone took the code for doom and wrote the above mentioned admin tool with doom as the interface.

Try checking out the link before modding something down.

An important message for you and your loved ones. (1)

YourMissionForToday (556292) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700021)

"It's true; until they took action over people fellating baboons in the childrens area of Burger King restaurants, I just couldn't stop myself from joining in."

mc (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700023)

most configuration takes place in config files, in /etc , etc... sometimes you can never find the right tool for configuration, so i just stick to editing them manually

i like using 'mc' as a good editor and file manager, helps me setup and configure my system very quickly

Webmin (1)

Gramie2 (411713) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700024)

I find Webmin indispensable. There are plugins for almost any application/daemon imaginable!

In a word (4, Interesting)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700027)

"What tools do you use that make your admin responsibilities easier or more automated on the Linux platform"

Perl is your friend

Hmm.. (5, Funny)

wbav (223901) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700028)

Most of the pc's I see are windows, so I'd have to say my most used tool is fdisk.

Knoppix is a nice solution too when I don't have time.

Re:Hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700211)

Using fdisk is a great start to making a Linux box more easily maintained! What's the next step - are you sticking with Windows 2000, or have you jumped to 2003? :)

Computer Management.. (5, Funny)

bdigit (132070) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700030)

I use Computer Management. It's located under Administrative Tools in the Control Panel. It's really great for... wait a minute... looks around... wrong site...

takes a couple steps back...

Webmin (1)

PhoenixIce (706254) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700047)

The key tool for me (besides manually editing the files) is without a doubt webmin (http://www.webmin.com/).

-Brint
http://bekit.net

Has to be said... (1, Offtopic)

Alphanos (596595) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700054)

Portage [gentoo.org] ;).

(For any who don't know, portage is Gentoo's awesome application distribution system, which makes it very easy to keep software up to date.)

Re:Has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700121)

when it doesn't install a "unistd.h" with syntax errors.

It also has to be said... (2, Insightful)

hndrcks (39873) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700159)

...when you have portaged the very latest version and compiled it from source for your processor and architecture... it still isn't configured.

...which I believe is what this poll is about. Top Ten Configuration Tools.

Shouldn't you be asking (1, Offtopic)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700057)

"What's your favorite text editor?" Seems more accurate, but you definately do not want to re-open that can of worms.

P.S.: Jed.

Re:Shouldn't you be asking (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700143)

there is nothing wrong with that question.
The real problem is when someone asks:"What is the best text editor?"

Silly question, cause the answer is edlin.

Re:Shouldn't you be asking (4, Funny)

Sivar (316343) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700195)

"Ed is the standard text editor." [gnu.org]

And ed doesn't waste space on my Timex Sinclair. Just look:

-rwxr-xr-x 1 root 24 Oct 29 1929 /bin/ed
-rwxr-xr-t 4 root 1310720 Jan 1 1970 /usr/ucb/vi
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root 5.89824e37 Oct 22 1990 /usr/bin/emacs

Of course, on the system *I* administrate, vi is symlinked to ed.
Emacs has been replaced by a shell script which 1) Generates a syslog
message at level LOG_EMERG; 2) reduces the user's disk quota by 100K;
and 3) RUNS ED!!!!!!

"Ed is the standard text editor."

Let's look at a typical novice's session with the mighty ed:

golem$ ed

?
help
?
?
?
quit
?
exit
?
bye
?
hell o?
?
eat flaming death
?
^C
?
^C
?
^D
?

---
Note the consistent user interface and error reportage. Ed is
generous enough to flag errors, yet prudent enough not to overwhelm
the novice with verbosity.

"Ed is the standard text editor."

Ed, the greatest WYGIWYG editor of all.

CVS (or insert your favorite alternative here) (5, Insightful)

-dsr- (6188) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700058)

CVS or your favorite equivalent is vital in any multi-sysadmin environment. Operating without your configurations in CVS is like juggling priceless eggs in variable gravity.

Re:CVS (or insert your favorite alternative here) (4, Informative)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700224)

Also, it kills me to see *NIX people still using passwords all the damn time. CVS + ssh keys = godlike.

Things I do. syslog to a common place. I have cloning scripts to dup a machine to a basic setup (poor mans jumpstart but faster and easier).

Perl and sed come in handy. Rsync (again with ssh keys) is good.

Oh yeah, /usr/local over nfs is good too. The only issue is that you may have to configure some packages to use a local filesystem for configuration files, keys, etc.

With these tips and tricks I can do whatever I need to do over a dialup connection anywhere in the world (I've only tested this from coast to coast in the US thought, but I believe it will scale worlwide :)

grep -sir foobar /etc/rc.d (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700074)

What else could you want? I sup[pose you could pipe the found filenames into `vim` and get it to open on the regex.

Tripwire (5, Informative)

nharmon (97591) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700075)

Tripwire is a very easy to use intrustion detection system. If you follow the documentation, and implement it properly (storing the statically linked binary + database files on read-only media), it will make things very hard on a potential hacker.

BIND (2, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700085)

I would really love a nice BIND configuration utility. Something where a whole package like webmin isnt necessary, but it makes life a whole lot easier. Redhats bindconf/redhat-bind-config was nice once upon a time, but getting it to run on anything but redhat requires about 2 gigs worth of obscure dependancies... I want something I can throw on say, a slackware machine, and it just go.

Even better would be something that also tied into dhcpd (these are the ISC daemons Im talking about, folks), that would serve to configuring them both, even on working together in a ddns/dhcp setup.

Bastille and Chkrootkit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700088)

The Bastille project can be a bit of a pain to install sometimes (usually when I'm tired and not reading :) but it does help tighten up a server in a hurry. It's not complete or all encompasing but it does the easy (and tedious) things fast.

chkrootkit is nice for maintenance provided you don't leave it installed in a manner that can be trojaned. It's not fool-proof either, but can detect the script kiddies in a lot of cases.

Cfengine: It's all you need (5, Informative)

kognate (322256) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700092)

cfengine (http://www.cfengine.org) is
the best automation tool for unix and unix-like
environments. Hands down.

It's a little hard to configure sometimes, but
worth the effort.

pateNTdead eyecon0meter kode helps filter (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700093)

corepirate nazi payper liesense hypenosys stock markup FraUD marketeering scams.

it's also unbreakable, & wwworks on several (more than 3) dimensions.

lookout bullow.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators.... designers/providers of all the tools we need to survive/flourish vs. unprecedented evile, since/until forever. see you there?

Tim. (5, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700103)

It's easy to use, I just pick up the phone, ask Tim to fix this Linux thing.
Easy-peasy.
Or I just do what Vigor [sourceforge.net] tells me to do.

RCS and Bastille-Linux (3, Interesting)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700105)

Bastille after I have the server built. The interactive mode also provides a great security tutorial.

RCS to provide rollback and change control.

No professionally administered Linux box should be without it.

TweakUI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9700106)

TweakUI, I use it all the time!

I've been using Ruby for little utilities... (2, Interesting)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700131)

...to help maintain various GForge [rubyforge.org] systems.

Nothing fancy, just twiddling configuration files (httpd.conf, etc), pushing data into a PostgreSQL database, automating StatCVS runs, etc. I keep them in CVS, of course, here [rubyforge.org] .

ifconfig (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700134)

ifconfig

Getting a working TCP/IP connection is typically the first step in properly configuring my systems. ifconfig is also handy when figuring out network configuration errors.

Several points of view.... (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700144)

... the most important tool is the brain :) As an admin, whatever you do, if you don't think enough on it you deserve what could happen.

As "admin suite", i.e. a single program to do a lot of administrative tasks, maybe YaST could be a good start. I'm not use webmin, tried it some years ago and don't liked the idea, but could be useful for a lot of people too.

And about individual tools, well, bash, vi, perl, mc, awk, the gnu text/file/shell utilities (cat, grep, ls, cut, chmod, etc) are essential.

Last but not least, a "tool" is also something that help you to use what you have available already. Man pages, the HOWTO collection, a lot of O'Reilly books, and Google are examples of that kind of tools.

sudo, screen (3, Informative)

raddan (519638) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700156)

sudo!

Learn it in detail. If you work with other people on the same machine, it will make your life a lot easier.

screen is pretty handy, too. Being able to detach sessions is also nice for when you've started sprouting icycles from your nostrils from the cold, cold server room.

admin tools (1)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700158)

for monitoring/paging and secure intersite data exchange:

fetchmail (say what you want, it works for what i do)
nc
gpg
base64
curl and wget
good old cron, or self-referencing shell scripts

these tools can get you alot, using only SMTP as a transfer protocol. avoid asking the NOC to turn the firewall into swiss cheese.

free shell if you want it...

My Top 10: (4, Informative)

Punk Walrus (582794) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700166)

Your needs may vary...
  • vi - Yeah, yeah... vi and emacs wars. I started with vi on a Sun system in 1989, and so it's what I like.
  • ifconfig - Without it, you're kind of lost, at least on the network.
  • testparm - I use a lot of Samba at work, and this is a great tool for checking what I screwed up in my smb.conf in vi!
  • man -k - Okay, what I want to do starts with...?
  • grep - Great trying to find that paramenter you want to change in httpd. or squid.conf. Even better, "grep -v '#'" to weed out all those comments...
  • tail -f - Great for keeping track of logs realtime in a vtty or xterm window. Like tail -f /var/log/messages
  • crontab -e - For keeping stuff on schedule.

That's all I can think of now. I'll think of others later.

Dang! (5, Informative)

itwerx (165526) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700168)

I can't believe with all these posts that the only one(s) that actually respond to the question are about Webmin!
Don't get me wrong, Webmin is great, it's at the top of my list fer shure, but that's not the be-all and end-all of systems management!! What about actual convenient tools like MRTG, Novell's eDirectory, RedCarpet, etc. etc.?
Heck, I'm reading this article hoping to pick up a few tips myself and all I'm seeing are scripting languages and text-editor flame wars, (all of which can/should be moderated Off-topic or Funny).
So, anybody actually got anything useful to contribute besides Webmin?

Linux Specific (1)

jasoncc (754385) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700181)

These are 10 of my most commonly used utilities... iptables netstat top find ps ifconfig bash diff who cron

Cluster SSH (the gui version)... (1)

olympus_coder (471587) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700183)

Lets you open a set of terminals and input the same to all in an interactive manner. Extremly handy on farms, clusters and labs.

Cluster SSH [sourceforge.net]

Lets see... (1)

slimyrubber (791109) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700184)

In no random order.. Webmin/usermin linuxconf netconf cfengine Saint Nessus vim :) make menuconfig (cause my knowledge is failing me) 2 more :-/ COAS Yast

sme server (1)

coolguy81 (322371) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700186)

I would suggest checking out SME Server [contribs.org] . Although it a complete OS rather than a config tool, it has a really simple web interface that can be used to administer the most common tasks of the server. Almost any non-linux user can have a stable web/intranet/mail/ftp server in a fraction of the time and there is almost no learning required :)

The coolest tool: (1)

john_anderson_ii (786633) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700190)

screen Start a process, detach the process from you tty, log out, goof around, go to work, login remotely, reattach said process to your pty. Very useful.

google's getupdates (1)

bogolisk (18818) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700193)

http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;13062 81842;fp;16;fpid;0

it's good for google's giant farm, it should be good for any lab.

bash/sed/awk (1)

Mateito (746185) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700210)

Yeah... I never learned perl, so sue me :) Almost anything that needs to be done more than once can be done via: for i in `cat list.txt` do # something funky with awk and sed done

Same as other UNIX servers (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700214)

I do the same thing on Linux servers that I do on most UNIX servers.

The first thing I do is security - if any programs are running on any ports that I don't need, I shut it down. The only port open will be ssh, plus whatever the server is doing. I also unSUID any SUID programs I don't plan on using. Plus getting security updates.

Then I get programs I like to have on my servers if they're not there already. Like ntp, which I set up so that the clock will not drift. GNU findutils is another one - I run updatedb regularly and can locate filename, which is much quicker than find / -name filename. I also like the screen program, so I can have multiple sessions from one terminal. I like to use BASH.

I also do customizations - my shell prompt is usually hostname:/file/system$ I put PATHs I need in my PATH. And so forth.

Another thing I do on many systems is log at debug according to facility for syslog. Everything gets logged, according to its facility. If too much is being logged, I can lower it from debug. You usually don't have to, as only mail usually fills it up, but you usually want to log that.

All of this makes my life easier. I am logged into a host and know if I am me or root, what host it is, what directory I am in, where a file is located if I need to know, and the clock and all of the log files are logged normally. And with screen I can have multiple sessions on that host or multiple hosts in that one window.

The ultimate server admin tool (2, Interesting)

lspd (566786) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700225)

netstat -nlp

Turn off all the services you don't need.

There's lots. (1)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 9 years ago | (#9700229)

Powertweak [freshmeat.net] , which provides basically a user interface for lots of fun /proc entries that most of us would have never otherwise taken the time to play with. Webmin is pretty damned useful. But the vast majority of all system maintenance comes by way of bash, perl, cron, and mysql. ALL of my configuration files are in a MySQL db that's rewritten every 5 minutes if the 'dirty' flag is set to 'y'. Extremely useful for writing your own front-ends for system configuration.
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