Let me start by saying, I really love Microsoft Azure and my brain is currently flooded with plenty of Azure goodness after earning my Azure Admin certification. Therefore I was surprised to find myself working on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) platform less than a week after passing the AZ-104. I find that my professional life is focused on Microsoft, Windows Server, Hyper-V, Powershell, IIS, Storage Spaces, etc. but the technical tinkerer in me is always working in the world of Linux. Additionally, my personal pet projects have personal pet budgets. So that means Apache, MySQL, PHP, BASH, Drupal, and WordPress.

I also delight in most things open-source. The first time I SSH’d into my hacked Western Digital “WDTV” media player well over a decade ago I was enchanted by the incredible things that can be done with Linux on not-so-incredible hardware and non-existent budgets.

Had you told me a month ago this blog would be running on Oracle hosted infrastructure supported by hardware released within the last three years I believe I would have laughed. First, I am familiar with Azure and genuinely like the platform. Second, “Oracle” and “Budget” are typically diametrically opposed concepts. And yet… here we (literally) are.
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The current state of the world has caused some unique stresses on IT infrastructure. For IT departments servicing internal teams, remote access infrastructure in particular has felt the brunt of the blow. To that end, I spent a couple of weeks testing out enterprise VPN solutions.
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If you use linux and have never come across this statement (or just realized this in the course of working with the OS), then let me be the first to tell you this critical truth…

Everything is a bloody file.”

While this holistic statement isn’t quite 100% true, it’s close enough that if you adopt it as your life verse and it becomes your “modus operandi” for working in Linux, you will go farther faster.

It is so ubiquitous there is a wikipedia page devoted to it.

This opens up some novel concepts… for example, because everything is represented by a file, it means almost anything can be easily scripted… hence part of the fun of Linux…

For all of you out there like me who came from the Windows world, “Everything is a File” can also be a keen point of frustration if no one has ever made this statement to you and explained some of the implications. I have done my service and made the statement, I will leave it up to you to research and discover the implications. Go forth and research and then come back and keep reading.

Now, I am going to move on and start my first article in the new “Everything is a File” series in which I am going to attempt to tackle some of the most common files found on Debian Linux variants and explain their usage. To kick things off, I am going to document a file that I have to look up commonly; FSTAB. (the whole point of my blog is to create a place that I can just search my own notes rather than Googling (and re-Googling 6 months later) for other peoples’ notes)
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If you run linux desktops (virtual, containerized, physical… or other?) then you may have come across the term VNC which is shorthand for “Virtual Network Computing” which is so ambiguous it means practically nothing. If you come from the windows world you are probably familiar with the term RDP which is shorthand for “Remote Desktop Protocol” which is vastly more descriptive.

VNC and RDP are both technologies used for used for interacting with an operating system from a distance, over the network, typically with the GUI. If you just need CLI access then most (all?) versions of Linux support SSH (secure shell) and Microsoft has remote powershell. But hitting up a GUI from afar is a more difficult affair, particularly on Linux.

In the monolithic world of Microsoft, RDP is dead simple and I will applaud Microsoft on a phenomenal application that has evolved well over the years, is simple, and honestly works fantastically well.

In the not-at-all monolithic world of linux however we are left with VNC… and there are many many VNC clients, most of which don’t work well in my experience and none-of-which are nearly as efficient as RDP… which means slow network links (like connecting to systems on the other side of the world) are a killer.

In my search for a good VNC server/client combo I finally stumbled across TigerVNC. I am delighted to say that it is stupid-simple to use and while perhaps not as fast as RDP, it does seem to perform better than the bulk of other VNC options out there. (more…)

I have decided to give Ubuntu 17.04 LTS Desktop a go. On a whim I installed it on a laptop I had lying about (being an IT person they tend to proliferate over a given period of time in my office… older units becoming doorstops, newer units lovely “Jenga” blocks and maybe the occasional Proxmox cluster…) Since this seems to be the final days of Unity (which I actually don’t mind as a Desktop all that much), I figured now was a good time to take another poke at it as a daily personal driver. I was happy to come across an option for full disk encryption during the install process and wanted to pass my few thoughts on it along. (more…)