Originally Published: Sunday, 2 July 2000 Author: Jeff White
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux, A Full-time Job

It doesn't matter how many books you have read, or how many times you have installed applications and Linux distributions. The fact is that you are becoming more and more outdated every second you do not spend immersed in Linux and the Linux-related fields.

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Now that the 2.4 kernels are close to being distributed, I can't help but realize how demanding Linux can be when it comes to keeping relatively current with the news, applications, security and projects that seem to show face every day.

I like to think that I keep as current as the next Linux user. Surfing and reading sites such as Freshmeat, Linux.com, and a few others, I know that I am nowhere close to being current. It doesn't matter how many books you have read, or how many times you have installed applications and Linux distributions. The fact is that you are becoming more and more outdated every second you do not spend immersed in Linux and the Linux-related fields.

Hours upon hours build up over the days, weeks and even months as I have found myself becoming more and more susceptible to the electronic disease. After time, I had developed a better immune system and find myself once again enjoying the outdoors, finally being able to be unplugged for more than a few minutes. Still, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my e-mail (at least crond still emails me).

Linux is certainly not a skill that can be retained over time. If you let Linux slide in your life you will end up knowing outdated Linux features. No matter how fluent and knowledgeable you were in Red Hat 4.x, the relevance of just that knowledge, most likely, has no meaning to today's standards; the likelihood of someone wanting an exploitable and outdated Linux server is slim.

I used to be one of those Linux hackers spending 98% of my waking hours, when I did sleep that is, on my Linux machine. Hacking code, reading RFCs, chatting about computers, downloading the latest applications, showing off Linux skills to friends, cracking RC5 blocks and trying to get the longest uptime have certainly paid off, but now I probably spend less than half my waking hours on my machine. I feel that reading, skateboarding, fresh air, suntanning, partying, and everything else not related to computers helps me appreciate and understand why I had spent a lot of time on my Linux machine.

One recent incident I recall is when I read about the local Sendmail exploit. Of course, trying to keep somewhat current in the security advisory area, I am on the bugtraq mailing list. Anyhow, I compiled the exploit and tested it on my Linux machines and, of course, it worked with each one. After about an hour's research and more bugtraq reading, I decided that the easiest way to fix the compromisable problem was to upgrade both sendmail and the kernel on all three of the machines. Two of the machines are multiuser servers and the other is my workstation. The entire ordeal took about five hours and by the time I had finished, I was exhausted from trying to beat my users to the compromisable servers. You have to love users; they're always keeping an administrator on his or her toes.

Has someone ever had a conversation with you for a few minutes while you were on your Linux machine only to have you turn around and say "what did you say?" Linux is, indeed, a full-time job and should be treated as such if your goal is to be one of the elite in your area of computing.

Jeff enjoys Linux so much and wants people to know it so he took his whiteout pen and wrote "Linux" on the grip tape of his skateboard. Happy Canada Day to all the Canadian readers and be sure to hack yourself up a beer or two!





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