Student Publications

Author: Harold A. Dawkins
Title: Linux Operating System

Country: United States
Avialable for Download: Yes

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General Analysis

  • Topics
  • Planning the Implementation
  • Installation
  • Configuration
  • Administration
  • System Maintenance
  • Troubleshooting

Actualization (case study)



Linux is a UNIX-based open source operating system that was originally developed for the Intel compatible computers. It is a 32 bit open source operating system that runs on multiple hardware platforms ranging from PDA to main frames. There are many versions of Linux including Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake, Ubuntu and SUSE. Linux server administration includes the troubleshooting, backing up files, installations, security, logging, performance monitoring and analysis.  

The major benefits of the Linux include configurability, open source, scalability, convenience and security. The security model is based on the UNIX security, which is known as a robust and of proven quality. A Linux based operating system possesses all the common features including networking, file system, printing, Send mail, text editor, entertainment, diagnostic utilities, security features, DNS, web server and many others.

Linux also supports the full implementations of the TCP/IP protocols. Many of the networking and other services are enabled in most of the flavors of Linux. It is the responsibility of the network administrators to keep the system running in a satisfactory manner.

  General Analysis

What is an Operating System?

An operating system consists primarily of three things:

1. A file system - All the files that run and support an operating system along with other files must reside on a file system. When an operating system is installed, one of the first things done is to set the hard drive storage space up. This usually consists of setting up partitions and formatting the hard drive. During this process the file system that the particular system can use is created.

2. One or more core programs - The program that provides all the basic support is included here. Sometimes an operating system is split into programs performing various uses. For example there may be parts of the program that provide various system interfaces to devices, or provide interfaces to the user.

3. Other support programs - In the DOS operating system, there were various support programs that enhanced a users ability to perform tasks, but they were fundamentally important for the use and versatility of the operating system. One of these programs included a disk format program.

Beyond this, other specific programs would provide additional functionality to the operating system. For example, I would not consider Internet Explorer from Microsoft to be a part of the operating system. (Although it is packaged with the OS - but that is another issue left for editorials.) Internet Explorer adds the functionality to be able to use the web. You aren't required to use Internet Explorer, but can use any other web surfing program. Linux is an operating system which is built from various packages. The various packages provide various functions to the system. Sometimes these functions are critical to the ability of the operating system to run, and sometimes they are not. Also a Linux operating system due to its extreme flexibility can be configured in a variety of ways. For example, normally it is required that a user logs in to run Linux. A Linux expert can set a Linux operating system up that requires no login. Linux software basically consists of:

  1. A kernel - This is the central or core program of the operating system. It provides support for interfacing to all devices such as the keyboard, monitor, network devices, and other devices. Sometimes the support for these devices is included as loadable modules.
  2. Support programs for the kernel - These programs allow the system or user to manage the kernel and allows the loading and unloading of modules in the kernel
  3. The shell program - This the program that interprets user commands and acts on them. Linux provides choices of several shell programs. Each shell program may be a separate "Linux package".
  4. Programs that support and add enhancements to the operating system with regard to functions like logging in. For example the shadow password suite of programs adds many useful features to the system that increases system security and allows the administrator manage the system better.
  5. Server programs - Programs that provide specific network services, either on the client and/or the server side and miscellaneous utility programs.

Planning the Implementation

Linux Uses
Linux is a pretty flexible operating system. Although it has got a lot of credibility over the years as a stable server platform, it is also an excellent desktop platform. Databases, mail servers as well as many appliances can be installed. Choosing the right hardware and applications is important as many different solutions are often available to resolve a same issue. Using the more conventional solutions is often advisable as updates and support will tend to be available.

Hardware Compatibility
Linux supports most hardware on the market, with the increasing popularity of the operating system, more manufacturers are bundling their hardware with Linux drivers. Still, the vast majority of drivers available are coded by Linux users so the more popular your hardware is, the more likely you are to find a driver for it. It is a common idea that recently released hardware will tend to have less Linux compatibility since most users will code their drivers on their spare time.

File System and partitioning
Most distributions today have an option to automatically configure file system. However, you should know how to configure the file system because server platforms work better with customized file partitioning.

First, there are two major tools to configure system partitions: Disk Druid and FDISK (this is the Linux FDISK not the DOS/Win version). Disk Druid is probably the easier tool to use but FDISK offers performance and power.

Using these tools, you know have to partition the drives and assign the proper file system to each partition.

System partitioning will follow different patterns depending on the system you are implementing. It is common sense to plan this accurately in order to get maximum performance. In a way, Linux partitioning is easier than windows because it doesn’t rely on letters (A: C: etc). Instead, partitions have names. This allows for better expandability. In theory, you could only have two partitions: the root partition (represented by a “/”) and the Swap partition. Linux loves Swap space and so it performs better on its own partition. Here is an explanation of the different types of partitions:

  • /boot: Minimum 16m, place for the kernels
  • Swap: Minimum 128m, place for virtual memory. This should be increased up to the double of ram you have. This is especially important if you are building a database server as those are hungry for swap space. Graphic artist workstations will also appreciate a nice wide Swap partition.
  • / : (root) Minimum 250m, place for the basic core of Linux. It includes libraries, system utilities, some programs and the configuration files.
  • /Var : Minimum 250m, place for the files that change a lot (logs, mail server components and print server spool files are examples). This should be increased if you are using a server that handles a lot of entries. Mail servers or computers with a lot of security auditing are examples here.
  • /usr : Minimum 500m (should be more than 500m), more or less the equivalent of Program Files, programs and applications come here. An application server should have a lot of space here.
  • /home : Minimum 500m (should be more than 500m), again, more or less the equivalent of “My Documents” this is the place where the users have their files and specific configurations. File servers should be putting a lot of space here since most users tend to fill up their home folders.

These partitions should be using one of the following file systems:

  • Ext2: this is the most common file system for Linux. It offers stability, file permission and speed although it is very sensible to power failures or improper shutdowns. The reason is that it caches data before writing it to disk. In the event of a blackout, the data in the cache might get corrupted. This forces the system to run FSCK on the next boot to detect corruption.
  • Linux Swap: As its name says, this is the preferred file system for the swap partition.
  • ReiserFS: This is a “newer” Linux file system. It is a journaling file system which basically means that every new entry to the drive gets a corresponding entry in a log (journal) file. In the event of a power failure, the file system can rebuild the missing entries instead of going into extensive integrity checking.
  • Ext3: This is supposed to be the next Linux Journaling file system. It is currently still under development and may never be adopted since ReiserFS is growing in popularity.

Popular Applications and Services
The following are key applications and services used in the Linux world. You should understand what they are used for.

  • Apache: This is the number one web server for Linux.
  • BIND: (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) is the most used DNS server on the internet. It is built on a strong architecture, it is secure and reliable.
  • Ipchains: This is used as a firewall, router, gateway, etc. It supports IP masquerading, port filtering and transparent proxy.
  • KDE: This is a graphical user interface based on the Xwindows system like Gnome
  • Postfix: A Send mail alternative with many other options (see also Qmail)
  • Qmail: A Send mail alternative with many other options (see also postfix)
  • SAMBA: SAMBA is a SMB client/server application (just as any windows server) that provides smb file and print services. In other words it enables a Linux server to become a file server for a Microsoft based network.
  • Send mail: This is a mail transfer agent. Despite what it is called, it doesn’t just send mail. It is a very complete mail tool that can handle most mail server operations.
  • Squid: This is used as a proxy server. Its main function is to cache frequently accessed and to control access to web content.
  • Xwindows or Xfree86: This is a graphical user interface just like Gnome and KDE

Software Availability
As you might have seen from the previous sections, most software for Linux is freely available on the internet. Most distributions will be also available in stores near you and will usually carry more goodies than the downloadable versions (often including tech support).


Linux installation can be done using a variety of different media. Each installation method has different pros and cons depending on the environment you have. Here are some examples:

Boot disk: The boot disk or boot floppy is generally not an installation technique by itself. You will use a Linux boot disk in order to launch setup using one of the other media types. These disks are usually provided as floppy images on the cd-rom itself along with the proper software to copy them on floppies.

CD-Rom: This is the most common type of installation. To do this, you need to have a system that allows for cd-rom booting. You also need a Linux distribution on cd. To start setup, you simply need to insert the cd-rom and start the computer. The setup should start automatically. If your system does not allow for Cd-rom start up, you can launch the system using a Linux boot setup disk.

Other methods including Http, FTP, NFS and SMB are generally used as an enterprise solution to deploy servers or workstations. All of these methods are network based and are not necessarily common.

Installation modes
Originally, Linux installation was a painful process which could only be done by a small elite group of users. Now, some distributions are even easier to install than other commercial operating systems.

Once you have launched setup using one media or another, you will be faced with the option to use either a “simple” mode or an “advanced - expert” mode. What this really refers to whether you are going to use a “graphical user interface” mode or a “text” mode. The GUI mode is a more straight forward process, it is a wizard like experience featuring point and click menus. On the other side, the text mode will often give you the opportunity to make a more personalized installation. The downside of a text installation is its harsh nature.

expert mode

Whichever mode you are going to use, keep in mind that the best instructions are always the ones that come with your specific distribution. Common elements to every distribution generally include:

Setting up the language

Choosing your language


Setting up the Keyboard and mouse

Keyboard Setup
Configuring the keyboard

You will then get to choose which kind of system you want to build. Depending on your choices, the rest of setup will differ. A workstation setup is generally straightforward and automatic. On some distributions, a workstation installation will generate automatic partitioning and will be easier than a server or custom installation.

installation type
Choosing what kind of installation should be done

Then, you will get the chance to choose what partitioning scheme you are to use. Automatic partition is the easiest way to go but not the preferred way of doing it. If you remember section 2 (planning the implementation), you might want to customize your partitions for your specific needs.

partition method
Choosing the partitioning method

Using Fdisk to make partitions

The next step is to configure network settings. The ethx on the top is the Ethernet adapter. If your network has a DHCP server, you may want to let the setup to be automatically configured.

network settings
Configuring Network settings in GUI mode

During setup, you will be prompted to give the root account a password. I suggest you give a strong password as this is the most important account on the system, the one with all the privileges. It is also recommended to create at least one user account.

creating a new user account
Creating a user account

If you went through the server or custom setup, you will need to configure the packages you want in order to personalize your installation.

configuring your packages
Configuring the packages for a Web Server

Depending on your installation, you may have to configure the Xfree86 engine. To do this you will have to choose a monitor and configure its vertical and horizontal refresh rate. Choosing a brand name screen will generally ease this step as most manufacturers will be listed.

Configuring a monitor
Configuring a custom monitor with its respected refresh rates

If you chose to install your machine as a workstation, you will most likely need to choose a desktop environment such as KDE or GNOME.

Configuring a monitor
Choosing your desktop environment

Graphical Interface Startup
In a lot of distributions nowadays, you might be asked during setup to directly boot into the graphical interface. It is strongly recommended not to do so for security and stability reasons.

Post-Installation tasks
Once the interactive portion of setup is done, the packages will be installed and the kernel will be compiled. Speaking of kernel compilation, it is important that you understand that the Linux Kernel can be compiled at any point after the installation and the reasons for that.

Although the kernel shipped with your distribution is probably very good and stable, you have to understand that it is built to work with most hardware and systems available on the market thus making it full of code that you will probably never use. Therefore recompiling your kernel will enable you to optimize it by picking only what needs to be in it. Other reasons to recompile a kernel will generally include: upgrading your system, doing hardware changes, adding or removing features, etc.

After setup is done, you might also want to take a look at the installation logs to make sure everything went fine. Most distributions will have the following logs:




Location of most application logs


Hardware information


Most system initialization, startup and shutdown logs


This file contains the name and location of your system log files

Installing more applications
The way that you install additional applications depends on their format. A .gz application format can be installed using the gunzip .gz command. A .tar application can be installed using the tar –xvf .tar..tar command. These two commands will uncompress the files required for installation. You are likely to go through compilation before the applications work. An .rpm file can be installed using the rpm command. For more information on installing and compiling software, check out

Configuring a monitor
Man rpm output

The rpm command has a wide variety of parameters and options. Make sure you know how they work before taking the test!

Now that your Linux installation is done and verified, let’s take a look at further customization.

Configuring your Xwindows
No matter what desktop environment you chose, it is most likely that it will use the Xwindows architecture. This is why you should know how to reconfigure your Xwindows using automated utilities such as Xconfigurator and XF86Setup.

Xconfigurator under RedHat

Configuring Networking
Networking, remote access and network clients can be configured using the Linuxconf utility. (Simply enter linuxconf at the command shell). Specific distributions have optional commands available like RedHat’s Netconfig.

Using Linuxconf in GUI mode

Using Linuxconf, you can do most basic configurations, not only networking, including network server related tasks. For example, you can use Linuxconf to do basic NFS configurations like in figure 4.3.

linuxconf and NFS
Configuring NFS with Linuxconf

Depending on your distribution and the version of Linuxconf you have, you should be aware that limited configuration of the following can be accomplished: X, Samba, NIS , NFS, Apache, SMTP, POP, SNMP, FTP, etc. This includes access rights for each of those services.

Configuring the Boot Sector
Linuxconf will also let you modify the way your system boots by changing LILO (the Linux loader)

Changing Lilo with Linuxconf
Changing Lilo with Linuxconf

Configuring Swap Space
In order to work properly, your Linux machine needs some hard disk space to work with. When your system gets heavily loaded, it may become necessary to increase this space. When you add memory, you will need to increase your swap space too. The recommended size of your swap space is the double of the amount of ram memory you have. In order to keep things clean, Linux dedicates a partition for this disk space. It is called the Swap partition. To view your Swap partition, use the cfdisk command.

Viewing Swap space with cfdisk

You can then use cfdisk to delete and create a bigger swap partition. Once this is done, activate it using mkswap.

Configuring printers
Configuring printers used to be a real problem in Linux as the printing industry had no real standard before Postscript came. Today, simple tools exist. Specific tools exist for specific distributions but in many cases, the printtool utility tends to be a winner. You can also use Linuxconf to configure some printers.

To configure a printer, simply launch the printtool command in your desktop environment (from a shell).

Looking at printer queues with printtool

Installing other Hardware
When it comes to hardware installation, you should always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. While Linux is becoming an easier system to configure, you will generally have to refer to specific recommendations in order to make sure not too damage your new hardware. The boot process contains a phase where it will try to auto-detect new hardware and Linuxconf can help you configure new monitors and others.

Editing Configuration Files
Linux is mainly configured using simple text files. Interfaces like Linuxconf simplify this kind of configuration but also limits the possibilities. This is why you are expected to identify and edit the configuration files. Here are the files and their paths:

Configuration file


Red Hat’s config directory


System initialization file


Suse linux config file


Config file for custom commands


Kernel module initialization file


To edit a text file, simply use VI. You should have a good understanding of the /etc/initab file before taking the exam. This file enables you to set most environment variables. These are default values for specific parameters in your Linux system (default language, type of shell you are using, etc). It is a very important file! To see your environment variables, you can enter the env command.

env command
Listing the environment variables with env

Playing with Modules
Modules are a part of the operating system that resemble a cross between device drivers and small kernels (sort of). Large parts of the kernel itself could be divided into modules. This would enable you to have a lighter kernel. However, having too many modules would also bring performance problems. Modules take charge of specific functions, generally peripherals (the USB module, for example, has long been separate from the kernel for stability reasons). To list the currently used modules, you use the lsmod command.

lsmod command
- Listing installed modules with lsmod

To install a module, you can use either the insmod or modprobe command. To unload a module from the kernel, you will use the rmmod command.

As with any other operating system, administration efforts are necessary for any linux system. These include the following tasks:

User Management
Linux is a multi user environment which means it is optimized to receive multiple user sessions at the same time (many people can connect and interact with the system at the same time). Therefore, carefully adding, deleting, and modifying users is necessary. You can add and delete users using Linuxconf.

add/delete users
Adding and deleting users with Linuxconf

Adding users can also be done using the add user shell command.

adduser command
User management using the shell

Linuxconf will also let you modify each of your user accounts.

user management
User management using the GUI

If you want to modify a user's password using the shell, simply type passwd <accountname>.

user management
User management using the shell

Group management is also possible using Linuxconf

group management
Group management using the GUI

Surfing the File System
Before giving out permissions to files, you need to be able to navigate through the file system. The first command you might want to use is the pwd command. This will tell you the folder in which you are currently working in.

pwd command
Figure 5.6

To list a folder's contents type the ls command. Typing ls -l will display additional attributes about each file and directory including permissions, file type, size, owner, date and date last modified. For more information on the LS command, type man ls.

ls command
Figure 5.7

The mv command renames and moves files.

mv command

The rm command removes files

rm command

To move from a directory to another use the cd command. This command, like many others in Linux, is not far from the ones found in MS-DOS. However it is a bit pickier on syntax. To jump back to the root of the file system, type the cd / command. To move up a directory, type cd .. (make sure to put a space between cd and ..). To move to a specific directory, type cd <path/directoryname>.

Using the Super User command
Before you can change file permissions, you need to understand that Linux is a very secure environment. It is recommended to avoid logging in as the root user. Using a regular account you can do most administrative tasks. Whenever privileged use is necessary, simply type the su command. You will then be prompted for the root password and voila! The moment you are done with your tasks, type the exit command to stop being a super user.

su command
Man su output

Managing File Permissions
Because Linux is a multi-user environment (it allows multiple user to connect to one machine in order to access resources), it is important to secure its resources. To view the different permissions associated to files, type the ls –l command.


ls -l

It is absolutely vital that you understand how the permissions work. The permissions are identified by the first column of characters. Every letter has a specific meaning. The rights column can be interpreted the following way:


Object type

Group rights

Owner of file rights

Others' rights

Character 1

Characters 2-4

Characters 5-7

Characters 8-10

d = directory
l = link
- = file

r = read
w = write
x = execute

r = read
w = write
x = execute

r = read
w = write
x = execute

A missing permission is represented by a dash (-).

Permissions are given values.

Read = 4

Write = 2

Execute = 1

The command used to give those values is chmod. To give read write and execute to an owner, read and execute to groups and others for a specific file you would type chmod 755 <filename>. If you need further help with permissions, check out this CHMOD Calculator.

 - Changing test file’s permission with chmod

You can also use chown to change the owner of a file and chgrp to change a file’s group.

Accessing file systems and related devices
In order to use a disk device, it needs to be active or “mounted”. The mount or df command will enable you to see which disks are mounted.

The Mount command gives you the mount points and device status


df command
The df command gives you physical disk information

This indicates which disks are currently active. The mount command activates on startup. You can access most devices starting with the root. Removable devices will be placed under the /mnt folder. However, if you want to mount a different cd drive without rebooting the system, you will need to mount it.

To unmount a device, use the umount command.

Managing Remote Systems
Linux is a great system when it comes to doing remote administration. You can connect to a remote system using many different techniques. Here are the most common ones:

  • Telnet: This command will enable you to connect to another computer and establish a shell session. You will then be able to enter commands just as if you were directly in front of the remote computer.
  • Ssh: ssh is more or less the same thing as telnet except it is a more secure way of doing it. Telnet uses clear text authentication and no encryption. Ssh is using a more secure authentication mechanism that can even use security public certificates and it then encrypts the whole session.
  • Ftp: The ftp command enables you to connect to a ftp server enabled machine and manage files. This is a very common technique on the internet and most people don’t really know about its potential. Ftp stands for File Transfer Protocol and can move files from one computer to another. It contains many commands that you should have basic knowledge of.
  • You can also redirect an Xwindows session or use a remote desktop software like AT&T’s VNC.

Runlevels and init
Think of runlevels as different modes in which linux can operate (just as windows can start in safe mode or regular mode). A runlevel is defined when the computer starts up. When it boots, Linux starts the kernel which loads a first process called init. This process monitors the system run state and then consults the init table (located at /etc/inittab) to start daemons and the other processes. The init table file contains information on the runlevel. There are 7 levels:


And as you can see, the default is set to 3. Setting the level to halt or reboot will force the computer to shutdown or reboot upon startup (which is not a very good idea unless you want to make a bad prank).

Text Editors
To edit the different Linux configuration files, a simple text editor will do the job. Linux includes many of these. You should know the most popular of them and their basic functions. VI and EMACS are amongst the most widely used of these tools. To start either of them simply type vi or emacs at the shell.

Using the VI text editor
A very important aspect of the Linux file system is to create, edit and save system configuration files. One way to do this is to use the VI text editor. To edit a file, type vi <filename>. To create a file, type vi <new_filename>.

Either VI or VIM will be invoked by the VI command. Both are good text editors

To learn more about VI, I recommend reading the man vi output or reading Using the VI Text Editor

Using the Graphical User Interface
To start the graphical user interface from the shell, type the startx command. Navigating through the GUI is much like Windows nowadays. You will encounter specific functions depending on the distribution and desktop environment you’ve chosen.

customized desktop
A nicely customized KDE desktop in action. Picture courtesy of Sean Parsons.

I recommend you practice using the KDE and Gnome environments before taking the test.

Basic Shell Scripting
The most powerful feature of Linux is its scripting possibilities. It is assumed that you have reasonable knowledge of common script commands in order to pass the Linux+ exam. Here are the main scripting commands that you can use:

  • Find : As its name implies, the find command is used to locate different files, folders, etc.
  • grep: This command is useful to search for text contained within files. The output can be put into files, etc. This can be very useful to automate log scavenging and inspection.
  • cut: This is used to be more specific within your searches, to filter the elements you are looking for, etc.
  • if: The if command is also used to screen out information by providing conditions.


System Maintenance
In order to keep your Linux system running smoothly, it is vital to maintain it properly.

Disk Maintenance
To create partitions, you use fdisk or mkfs. To verify disk integrity, use the fsck command.

Scheduling jobs
You use the cron command to schedule tasks. Make sure you know how it works before passing the test. The man cron output will tell you all you need to know about it.


Network Maintenance
To view network statistics and configuration, use the ifconfig command.


System Maintenance and Updates
Most Linux distributions like RedHat have automatic update systems now. However, you should know how to use the rpm or tgz command to install downloaded packages in case of a problem. The patches are generally available from your distribution’s website.

Process Maintenance
To view which processes are running, use the ps command. Generally you will type ps –A (capital A - remember that Linux is case sensitive!)

ps command

To kill a process, enter the kill command followed by the process ID (or PID). Use killall to kill all processes.

Backup and Restore
Backing up a Linux machine is vital. A lot of third party software exists and can make this process easier. Building a backup script is possible but not always recommended since it can represent a lot of work. Maintenance Good Practices
As with any other operating system, you should always develop good habits while doing maintenance. More specifically, you should look at the following:

  • Document the work performed on your Linux system
  • Regularly monitor the log files. Verify errors and any unusual behavior.
  • Verify backups and do restore tests.
  • Perform and check security best practices: change passwords, disable unused resources and accounts, verify file permissions, isolate important files and lock them down with minimal permissions, do security audits if possible.



In order to make troubleshooting as easy as possible, you should always use an organized methodology. Using simple best practices will do just that.

Best practices
The best tip when it comes to troubleshooting best practices is to document all of your operations. This will prove helpful in critical situation as you will be able to find out about service dependencies, permission issues, etc. Start with quick fixes: if a problem sounds familiar, try using a couple of quick tricks. This often addresses the issue. Do not act randomly: use a proper order to find a problem. E.g. beginning by looking at hardware, then software, looking at recent changes, looking at logs, asking the user about the nature of the problem (sometimes the problem can be the user), etc. If all symptoms seem to point at a certain service or process, you can kill and restart it.

You are expected to be able to inspect and determine cause of errors from system log files using such commands as locate, find, grep, ? , <, >, >>, cat, tail.

A lot of error messages in linux come from different versions of software and the dependencies associated with them. If you change or update a php package for example, a php based program might stop working. You should use the rpm command to view proper dependencies, document any changes and verify dependencies before making any changes.

Troubleshooting the file system
To verify and repair a file system, you can use the mount command to enumerate the different partitions on the system and the fsck command to repair them.

You can use the DF command to see the space used on each disk. Problems can occur when a disk is full.

Troubleshooting the boot process
Even with the strongest file systems, failure will happen. You may encounter situations where the system boots in single user mode. This is an operating mode that doesn’t start all daemons and is useful for troubleshooting. In this mode you will be given the opportunity to use different troubleshooting tools including file system integrity using fsck. In the case where a system won't boot, it is a good idea to boot from a floppy and inspect the filesystem and boot sector. A boot disk should always contain fsck as it will enable you to repair and rescue a damaged file system.

Troubleshooting backup and restore errors
Backups can fail for many reasons. The most common causes are media and drive related issues. Most media requires proper maintenance and cleaning. Tape corruption, low device space or write failures are common problems. Proprietary software will have specific error messages and you should refer to your software provider to verify them. Backups should always be handled with care. You should do a regular restore test as it is not uncommon to see successful backups that cannot be successfully restored.

Troubleshooting Networking
Linux, being based on one of the oldest network operating systems (UNIX), is loaded with standard troubleshooting tools. Some of these tools are:

  • Ping : the ping utility enables you to verify basic connectivity between two machines.



  • Route: the route utility helps you take a look at the various routes defined within the Kernels routing table. You will be able to add, delete, and modify routing information here. This is very helpful when using your Linux box as a router or firewall.



  • Traceroute: this utility enables you to see every router between your Linux machine and a given host. This way it is possible to see any failing point between you and this host.



  • Netstat: this utility helps you see your network interfaces statistics.



  • Lsof: this utility lets you see any open files.



  • Ifconfig: this utility lets you see your network interfaces and modify certain settings.





Advantages of Choosing Linux
One of the most noticeable features of Linux is it’s free nature. With the high cost of licenses associated with commercial operating systems, a small priced OS is often more than welcomed by many management staff. However, the most important feature of Linux is its open nature. The fact that the code is available to everybody makes sure that any bug can be resolved by anyone with the proper skills. Note that Linux has also a reputation for having excellent performance and reliability, sometimes; buying a diskless Linux computer will be cheaper than building. These companies do mass production of Linux Diskless computers selling millions of units and thereby reducing the cost per unit. Each and every fortune 1000 companies in USA will be replacing the MS Windows PCs with diskless computers in near future as diskless Linux computers can run both Linux and MS Windows 95 programs (via VMWare BIOS software). VMWare is NOT an emulator but has BIOS which allows you to install Windows 98/NT as guest OS to Linux. You can use the 'xhost' command and DISPLAY environment from diskless node to run Windows95/Linux programs. See 'man xhost' on Linux. You can also use Virtual Network Computing (VNC) to run Windows95/NT programs on Linux diskless nodes. Get VNC from

Diskless Linux computer will become immensely popular and will be the product of this century and in the next century. The diskless Linux computers will be very successful because of the availability of very high-speed network cards at very low prices. Today 100 Megabit per second (12.5 MB per sec transfer rate) network cards are common and in about 1 to 2 years 1000 MBit (125 MB per sec transfer rate) network cards will become very cheap and will be the standard. In near future, Monitor manufacturers will place the CPU, NIC, RAM right inside the monitor to form a diskless computer!! This eliminates the diskless computer box and saves space. The monitor will have outlet for mouse, keyboard, network RJ45 and power supply.

The following are benefits of using diskless computers -

  • Diskless Linux computers can run BOTH MS Windows 95/NT and Linux programs.
  • Total cost of ownership is very low in case of Diskless computers. Total cost of ownership is cost of initial purchasing + cost of maintenance. The cost of maintenance is usually 3 to 5 times the cost of initial computer purchase and this cost is recurring year after year. In case of Diskless computers, the cost of maintenance is completely eliminated!!
  • All the backups are centralized at one single main server.
  • More security of data as it is located at server.
  • No need of UPS battery, air-conditioning, dust proof environment for diskless clients, only server needs UPS battery, A/C and dust proof environment.
  • Noise is completely eliminated since diskless computer does not have Fan motor, and local hard disk. Only server makes lots of noise but it is enclosed in a server room.
  • Protection from Virus attack - Computer virus cannot attack diskless computers as they do not have any hard disk. Virus cannot do any damage to diskless computers. Only one single server box need to be protected against virus attack. This saves millions of dollars for the company by avoiding installation of vaccines and cleaning the hard disks!!
  • Server can have large powerful/high performance hard disks, can optimize the usage of disk space via sharing by many diskless computer users. Fault tolerance of hard disk failure is possible by using RAID on main server.
  • Server can have 64 bit CPU SMP box having many CPUs or even Linux super-computers. CPU power can be shared by many diskless computer users
  • Sharing of central server RAM memory by many diskless computer users. For example, if many users are using web browser than at server RAM there will be only one copy of web browser in the RAM. In case Windows 95 PCs, many users need to have individual copy of web browser in local RAM and hence there is wastage of RAM space.
  • Diskless Linux computers can run programs on multiple servers using the "xhost" and DISPLAY environment.
  • Very few system administrators required to maintain central server unlike Windows 95 PC clients which need many administrators.
  • Zero administration at diskless client side. Diskless computers are absolutely maintenance free and trouble free.
  • Long life of diskless clients - more than 300 years without any hardware or software upgrades.
  • Eliminates install/upgrade of hardware, software on diskless client side.
  • Eliminates cost of cdrom, floppy, tape drive, modem, UPS battery, Printer parallel ports, serial ports etc..
  • Prevents pilferage of hardware components as diskless node has very little RAM and low-cost CPU. The server has lots of memory and many powerful CPUs.
  • Can operate in places like factory floor where a hard disk might be too fragile.  



Given the free nature of the Linux software and its modest hardware requirements, small and non-profit businesses, schools, libraries, etc. can have all of the computing capabilities and Internet services of big, for-profit corporations with very little financial investment. And Linux is not just for the little guy. Big businesses can save big dollars with Linux because they don't have to pay for all those expensive client access or "seat" licenses (see the server comparison diagram below).

The other benefit to the modest hardware requirements of Linux is that if you do have a fairly powerful machine, you can run numerous applications (such as Web and e-mail and FTP and Telnet and DNS) all on one system reducing your overall hardware requirements. (While it is certainly possible for a single server to handle both internal LAN and external Internet functions, it isn't wise to put both functions on one server for security reasons.)


A lot of times the hardest thing about learning to use Linux is getting to use Linux on a daily basis. Many organizations are entrenched in Windows or Novell platforms and opportunities to work with Linux simply don't exist.

If you're a network or systems administrator in one of these entrenched environments, one possible solution is to suggest setting up Linux on one or two older PCs to be used in two capacities:

As a network monitoring and troubleshooting tool

As a security monitoring and testing tool (especially if you have Internet-connected systems)




A Conceptual Guide to 2
Author(s): R. Gabriel GurleyPublisher: Concise Concepts, Inc.Date Published: March 1 2007
Format: Paperback: 280 pages

Comer, DE & Stevens DDL, Internetworking with TCP/IP Volume III Client Server Programming and Applications, Prentice Hall 2006
Srever, E, Linux in a nutshell (3rd edition) O’Reilly and Associates 2004
Tanenbaum, AS, Modern Operating Systems, Prentice Hall 2004




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