Monthly Archives: March 2008

Subversion as a Distributed file system

The majority of my private data are storied in subversion repositories. This is not because I write a lot of code, which I don’t. Neither do I have any special need to control different versions of the pictures in my photo gallery. No, in my case it’s simply an attempt to gain the effects of a distributed file system.

While I’ve previously been using SSHFS with pretty good results, it’s no doubt nice having a local cache (working directory) available. You never know when you’ll end up offline or on a slow connection.

Of course, there are lots of different software available if you merely want to sync files back and forth. The benefit of using a version control system is that you really don’t have to worry about unknowingly overwriting files. Besides, I do like the clean server-client model which Subversion provides.

Still, this isn’t exactly what Subversion was made for and, no doubt, there are caveats to be aware of. Myself I’ve had problems handling filenames containing “funny” characters (such as the swedish letters å, ä and ö). Just to be on the safe side I now try to stay in the lower ascii. There’s also the pristine copy, which might give you an unpleasant surprise if you for some reason would ask Subversion to handle something like your multimedia library.

By now I’ve been keeping my documents, etc in Subversion for a couple of months and as a whole I’m more than satisfied with the solution. Besides, it’s a lot easier to setup than your own AFS environment.

SystemRescueCd

One of my more useful tools, personally as well as professionally, is the LiveCD SystemRescueCd. Below you’ll find some of the reasons why I really like this rescue CD.

  • It’s complete. SystemRescueCD containing pretty much everything you need to do diagnostics, rescue data, scan for viruses, etc. While none of the tools may be unique in any way, it’s nice to have them all conveniently gathered at your fingertips.
  • It’s active. Currently SystemRescueCD is very actively developed. The part which I really like about that is the continues growth of supported hardware. After all, you never know what kind of computer you’ll have to rescue.
  • It’s flexible. Not only does SystemRescueCD contain tools which makes it easy to modify the core squashfs image and to generate a new iso file. There’s also quite a lot of magic which can be done with boot options and various autorun scripts.

Of course, an actual CD is by no means the only way to start SystemRescueCD. Myself I usually boot it from either an usb-stick (syslinux) or from the network (pxelinux).

Annoying Adobe

If there is a software manufacturer which I really dislike then there is no doubt about that manufactures being Adobe. While their products might be pleasant to use, it’s far from an enjoyable experience actually having to maintain them.

First there is the issue of (security) updates. How hard would it be for Adobe to provide us with updates in the format of separately downloadable executables? True, for a lot of users it might be preferable to download their updates from within the application itself. That is not an approach which executes well remotely in a larger environment thought. The part about security updates is especially critical when it comes to Adobe Acrobat. For those users only running the Reader version we can always download the latest version and do an automatic reinstall, but for those running the full version we have to wait for Adobe to give us the new version. Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if we simply could have downloaded and ran an updater?

Then there is the silent install of their CS3. That is mostly likely one of the least intuitive silent installers I’ve ever come across. Why must I use multiple xml-files in different locations? How come it won’t work to do a silent install from a network share until it’s given a drive letter? What about not using Error number seven for all kinds of unrelated errors? While this might not be any large problems; they do cost (unnecessary) time and frustration.

Adobe really makes some remarkable software. I just wished they would put at least some resources in making the processes of installation and upgrading smother.

A secure operating system?

It’s becoming quite common to see OS X or different versions of GNU/Linux being marketed and recommended as secure operating systems. While this might be a valid point I sometimes wish people would be somewhat more careful about the way they talk regarding security.

The statement which concerns me the most is when people say that there hardly exist any viruses for OS X or GNU/Linux. This is technically true, but still somewhat misleading since it doesn’t take into account trojans and other kind of malicious software, or what’s to come. When it comes to writing trojans for example, different operating systems are basically equally vulnerable. How is the computer to know what a program is actually supposed to do? How is the computer to distinguish between when you actually want to run a certain program and when you have been tricked into running it?

All to often do I hear people who have recently started using one of above mentioned operating systems talk about their computer as if it’s pretty much totally secure and invincible. Equally often can you see how these people, while looking for support in web forums, download software from unknown sources based on the recommendations of complete strangers. This worries me because, like I wrote earlier, GNU/Linux and OS X are equally vulnerable as any other operating system when you yourself have decided to download and install a piece of software. So far, said operating systems might not be a big target for people who write malicious software, but I ‘ve got a feeling it’s only a matter of time before that changes. When that happens I’m afraid a lot of users will run into trouble simply because they’ve gotten the wrong impression of what the operating system can, and should, protect them from.

My point is that while it’s certainly important to choose a secure operating system it’s even more important to use it safely. Can we please try to remind new users of that?

My new blog

This is my new blog. I know it will be written in English and that it will deal with topics more or less related to system administration. The rest, we will simply have to see.

A static copy of my old blog can be found at http://blogg0607.andreasolsson.se/