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Sysadmin Toolbox Top Ten 304

Linux.com is running a user writeup of several handy tools by an up-and-coming Linux user. It is always interesting to see how newer users are approaching system customization. What have some of the more seasoned Linux power-users and sys admins put in their "toolbox top 10", and why?
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Sysadmin Toolbox Top Ten

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  • Top 10? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:02PM (#14988758) Homepage
    I only counted 6.

    http://torsmo.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    http://imagemagick.org/ [imagemagick.org]

    http://aterm.sourceforget.net/ [sourceforget.net]

    http://www.goof.com/pcg/marc/root-tail.html [goof.com]

    Quod Libet
    http://sacredchao.net/quodlibet [sacredchao.net]

    http://transmission.m0k.org/ [m0k.org]

    • Re:Top 10? (Score:5, Funny)

      by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:34PM (#14989538) Homepage Journal
      #7 is the cellphone number of a linux nerd (I almost wrote "with no life who can help you at any hour" but that would have been redundant :-) )
    • Re:Top 10? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mateito ( 746185 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @04:21PM (#14990407) Homepage
      Leatherman supertool.

      Yeah, its hardware, but given that plenty of things go wrong with hardware, its a great thing to have.

      I used to carry it in my pocket, but that's now illegal in Aus without "good reason". Trying to explain to a street-cop that i need it to pull open servers, remove stuck ribbon cables and strips oxidized power cables is not worth the headache.

    • If anybody at /. could read, you would see that this is a long running series and that there is no requirement that there be ten tools specified. If they publish your list, you get $100.

      I've learned about quite a few interesting tools from this series. Some of the authors cite the old standbys - grep, and the like. But some of them have discovered some interesting tools I've never seen referenced before.

  • by ximenes ( 10 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:02PM (#14988763)
    As the author even says in the first paragraph of the article, this is totally not a systems administrator's toolbox. BitTorrent clients, music players and tail aren't super helpful in making disk quotas or setting up DNS.
    • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:12PM (#14989378) Journal
      this is totally not a systems administrator's toolbox

      Seriously, this is a list compiled by a 17 year old kid. He is a hobby user. While I grant that he has been a user for 6 years, an 11 year old has much different priorities than someone responsible for multiple users in a large LAN environment. Promoting this does nothing to aid the legitimacy of Linux.

      • by spxero ( 782496 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:50PM (#14990183) Journal

        Which ligitimacy are we talking about? I agree that these don't have much to do with administrative tasks, but bittorrent clients and media apps aid in trying to make Linux a legitimate alternative to Windows for desktop users. Linux is already established to be good for sysadmin uses.

        I don't think the goal of Linux is to be Windows-like(or OSX-like). I don't think the goal of Windows is even to be Windows-like. I think the goal is to effectivly perform a variety of tasks for as many people as possible. For sysadmins, they won't neccessarily use media tools. But for my Mom who may want the occational torrent of a show she missed or to watch a home movie clip I send her, these apps make or break the legitimacy. It all depends on who we(Linux users) are trying to convince. Yes, the title is decieving, but the underlying message isn't. Linux has many great tools, and letting people know that should be the focus.

      • This is one of an ongoing series of such articles, not the only one. So, yes, it is desirable for a certain class of reader to hear from someone who administers a large network, but since many people who ar enot professional sysadmins do in fact administer a machine or two (their own and sometimes others), it is quite reasonable to hear from people in other situations as well.

    • tail(1) is one of the most important tools available to the Unix systems administrator. It continues to be the best way to view plain-text logs as they are written. It's also the best way to get the last N lines from a log so you can view them.
    • No kidding. These are workstation desktop wigdets, not system administration tools. Tools for remote monitoring? Hello ...
    • Linux.com is running a user writeup of several handy tools by an up-and-coming Linux user. It is always interesting to see how newer users are approaching system customization. What have some of the more seasoned Linux power-users and sys admins put in their "toolbox top 10", and why?

      I don't think that anyone claimed that it was. From the blurb on Slashdot, it's pretty clear that this is a user's list of tools and utilities, but that they are asking for a list of power user and sysadmin tools in the res
  • Ethereal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:03PM (#14988771) Homepage
    Not sure how useful Ethereal would be for everyone, but I know i've found it useful in debugging network issues.
    • Ehtereal is great and has saved me many hours diagnosing anything from network issues to application layer problems. Here are a few more I use constantly...

      Netcat - In the original netcat readme he describes it as one of those tools that should have become a standard tool for Unix admins. Well, as of 2006, its basically achieved that status. It's one of the most useful network tools ever and nowadays most BSD and Linux distros come with it in a standard install.

      Grep, cut, sed, awk, tar, gzip, sort, un
    • You know what I found even better than Etheral: Nethack.

      Yep, a user complains, I monitor the situation in Nethack for a while. Call the
      user back, ask if the problem has resolved itself and 9 times out of 10, it has.

      Nethack has gotten me out of some pretty tight spots. Just, a word of advice, don't eat your pet.
  • My Top Ten (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrDitto ( 962751 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:05PM (#14988799)
    1. /bin/ls
    2. /bin/cp
    3. /bin/mv
    4. /bin/mkdir
    5. /bin/sh
    6. /bin/sed
    7. /bin/awk
    8. /bin/grep
    9. /bin/kill
    10. /bin/vi
    • and for those who admin multiple systems...

      • ssh
      • less
      • tail
      • ps
      • man
      • du
      • tar
      • rsync
      • Re:My Top Ten (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rcpitt ( 711863 )
        Add to this to round out to 10:
        • xload
        • xosview
        and for all the EXIM systems (Sendmail? bah - Qmail - double bah):
        • eximon
      • Re:My Top Ten (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 )
        I would add /usr/bin/sort to that list. I don't think I would be able to live without being able to do:
        du -ks * | sort -nr
        to find out how much each sub-directory is taking up.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ls? You n00b. In my day, we had echo * and we were grateful for it.

    • Aside from distro-specific tools (apt-get/emerge/etc) for package management, the above ten are the first things you should learn to use in a Linux environment.

      Not necessarily in that order, though.
    • Re:My Top Ten (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sootman ( 158191 )
      Last time this topic came up, [slashdot.org] I put out the idea of making a one-line script to make your own top ten list [slashdot.org], and some other slashdotters chimed in to perfect it.

      cat .bash_history | awk '{print $1}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr | head -10

      Results from my home box:
      98 cd
      96 ls
      57 pico
      40 curl
      17 sudo
      15 locate
      14 cat
      13 mkdir
      12 ps
      11 du

      The only reason 'ssh' isn't on there is because I have short scripts for each server I ssh to (like '~/bin/sshweb') that save time in general and, as a bonus, they color-code the Terminal [newbox.org]
  • Torsmo is dead (Score:4, Informative)

    by g-to-the-o-to-the-g ( 705721 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:06PM (#14988807) Homepage Journal
    Torsmo is dead and has been for some time. I'm the main dev for Conky, a continuation of torsmo with all its features plus other goodies. See for yourself @ http://conky.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
  • by maddskillz ( 207500 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:07PM (#14988815)
    I find it one of my favourite tools for working on computers...linux or other
    • I love my ratcheting screw driver for admin work... but for those days where exacting precision is necessary, NOTHING beats duct tape.
      • I love my ratcheting screw driver for admin work... but for those days where exacting precision is necessary, NOTHING beats duct tape.

        Just make sure to avoid wrinkles and smooth the edges down, otherwise that would just be sloppy work.

    • Good one! I keep all my tools in a toolbox (the ones that fit, anyway), except for the appropriatelky-sized Phillips screwdriver. That one sits on my desk next to my monitor.
  • by yuretz ( 934955 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:10PM (#14988838)
    ls /usr/sbin/ | head -n 10
  • Lies about Azureus (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mprx ( 82435 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:14PM (#14988869)
    Unlike Azureus, it has the ability to run all of the torrents on a single port, removing the need to allow entire port ranges through a firewall in order to use the program.
    Since version, Azureus also works with multiple torrents on a single port.
    Transmission is perfect for users who occasionally need to download a torrent. While Azureus uses Java to draw its interface, Transmission uses GTK+, helping it fit in perfectly with a GNOME desktop.
    Azureus can also use GTK+ for its interface.
    • but can it stop using so damn much memory?

      i stopped using it long ago because it would eat 100MB of memory just for one torrent. add in my usual downloading practices and it balloons to over 600MB.

      at least rtorrent keeps itself down to 35MB even with two dozen torrents running....

  • aterm? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_greywolf ( 311406 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:15PM (#14988872) Homepage

    i only use rxvt-unicode. it's the only thing that will properly display the unicode text in the filenames of my Japanese music collection. :)

    also, rxvt has another cool feature. aside from its shockingly minimalistic memory usage, run urxvtd and then urxvtc for every term you need open and it uses even less memory. what could possibly be better than that?

  • Most of these utilities have little to nothing to do with system administration. There's a BT client, an MP3 player, ImageMagick (?), and a terminal app that he lists as just being "Faster." I realize he's just a kid but these utilities are silly and have little to do with sysadminning.

    A Curmudgeon
  • by Universal Nerd ( 579391 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:18PM (#14988910)
    Netcat [sourceforge.net] - I use it for almost everything network related and I'm not a networking guru.
  • ren-regexp (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Michael.Forman ( 169981 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:20PM (#14988926) Homepage Journal
    My absolute must-have tool is a perl script I wrote to rename files using a series of regular expressions. Because it's implemented in perl, the command-line regular expressions can be just as complex as a perl regular expressions. I use it as much as or more than as I use "mv" to rename files.

    If it sounds interesting, you can find it here [michael-forman.com].

    Michael. [michael-forman.com]
    • Re:ren-regexp (Score:5, Informative)

      by Corgha ( 60478 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:40PM (#14989123)
      a perl script I wrote to rename files using a series of regular expressions.

      You realize that Larry Wall already wrote that a long time (14 years) ago and bundled it with the Perl sources, and it's installed on pretty much any Debian-based system (including Ubuntu), right?

      $ head `which rename`
      #!/usr/bin/perl -w
      # This script was developed by Robin Barker (Robin.Barker@npl.co.uk),
      # from Larry Wall's original script eg/rename from the perl source.
      # This script is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
      # under the same terms as Perl itself.
      # Larry(?)'s RCS header:
      # RCSfile: rename,v Revision: 4.1 Date: 92/08/07 17:20:30

      $ tar ztf perl_5.6.1.orig.tar.gz | grep rename

      • Re:ren-regexp (Score:4, Informative)

        by Michael.Forman ( 169981 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:51PM (#14990191) Homepage Journal
        Of course I know that, silly monkey. I've been a sysadmin and perl coder for eons. It was the limitations in those existing ren scripts that led me to create one with an expanded feature set (such as the ability to chain multiple regexps serially on the command line). :)

        Try out my version and compare it if you'd like. I only offer it to share resources with fellow sysadmins. :)

  • The author mentions tools such as Image Majick. What do those have to do with being a sys-admin?

    Has the term become so polluted as to mean anyone who runs a linux box? If this is the case then the term 'sys-admin' has become meaningless.
  • Probably not 10, but here are my top tools (linux based)...


  • Toolbox? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:27PM (#14988999) Homepage Journal
    Let's see... *rummage* *rummage* *rummage*
    • Cluestick, for lightweight attitude readjustment
    • Clue-by-four, when the above doesn't work
    • Baseball Bat of Obviousness, last resort
    Top three, really.
  • Having extra cables on hand helps. But you need to keep them hidden if you got people walking in asking to "borrow" a cable. I been in situations where I needed a 3' network cable but had to use a 100' network cable because the smaller cables were gone. Now I wish I could shoot all the twits asking for an extra laptop power supply.
  • What the hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arjuna Theban ( 143564 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:32PM (#14989046)
    This is hands down, by far, the most useless article I've read on Slashdot. And that includes the April 1st articles.

    Imagemagick? ATerm? A fucking bittorrent client? What is the definition of sysadmin?

    Some guy decides to list apps he likes and it gets on /. as the "sys-admin top 10".

  • Media player, Aterm, desktop tail viewer? Where are the CLI tools I was expecting? Some that are on my short list

    • screen
    • mutlitail
    • wget
    • grep, sed, awk, find
    • vim
  • Imagemagick, music players and BitTorrent clients? What kind of system administration is going on here?
  • by commonchaos ( 309500 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:44PM (#14989164) Homepage Journal
    • emacs
    • grep
    • perl
    • sed
    • svn
    • xml [sourceforge.net] (manipulate XML from the command line)
    • tar
    • ssh (this one is fun: "ssh server tar -cf - directory | tar -xv")
    • for (built-in bash command, one-line scripts from the command line are very useful)
    • lsof (what processes have open network ports? why can't I unmount that disk?)
    • wget
    • ping
    • telnet (test SMTP, HTTP, etc servers by hand)
    • nmap
    See also: Commonly used commands [kegel.com]
  • by algae ( 2196 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:44PM (#14989165)
    The stuff posted in the article was alright, and given the guy is 17, I'll cut him some slack. However, as a professional sysadmin for the last 10 years, I think I can whip up a good list of my favorite tools.

    Bash. If you don't know how to write a for-loop in bash to connect to all your hosts and make some changes, you don't know what you're missing.

    SSH, with an agent and keys. If you get asked for the password every time you connect to a host with the above bash loop, you're missing on a very powerful tool. Passwords are a once-daily thing for me now, and that's only because my screen lock also kills my ssh agent.

    Osiris. Because you should know what's happening on the computers you maintain. File integrity monitoring is a Good Thing. File integrity monitoring with a client/server architecture is a Very Good Thing.

    Snort. Use snort. You have no idea what's happening on your network until you use snort. If you have desktop users, load up the bleeding-snort rulesets and be prepared to panic in horror as you see all the crapware flowing over your network.

    Perl. With bash-fu. Like this: $ perl -i.BAK -pe 's/(http://192/ [192]\.168\.0)\.2/$1.3/' `find . -iname "*.htm"` You'll never look at sed again ;)

    Finally, if you've got a boss who will let you, rip out those expensive proprietary firewalls and replace them with OpenBSD on a Soekris solid-state computer. OpenBSD pf is a joy to work with, and for VPNs, ipsecctl can't be beat. You can literally VPN two remote networks together in about five minutes.
  • Yes, he's young, but he's been using Linux for 6 years -- longer than a lot of slashdotters have probably managed. I learned about some packages that I wasn't aware of, and it's obvious he doesn't limit himself to the normal teenage computer interests.

    My favorites:

    • sudo
    • gvim
    • tenshi
    • snort
    • live cds
    • are you sure he's not limited to "normal teenage computer interests"? P2P, check. Meeja player, check. Eye candy desktop customisation a la ricer, check.

      • But.. but... he has a system monitor thingie. Sure, the system monitor thingie doesn't do any logging, trend analysis, or alerting when things get out of bounds, but it makes pretty graphs! It's a sysadmin tool! And aterm, why, just think of the benefits it offers over the xterm which comes with X. It has, umm, transparency. Yay, transparency! Oh, and it's been dead for 5 years (ignoring the spurt of activity early in 2005 since, looking at the changelog, all they did between 0.4 in 2001 and 1.0 in 20
  • fanout and fanterm [stearns.org]

    We use fanout to run wsadmin.sh and deploy apps across our WebSphere App servers. We were using the NDM but found custom scripts to be much more reliable. It's really handy for JspBatchCompile.sh as well.

    Fanterm is just FUN. run fanterm against a list of servers and see how much.
  • by Syberghost ( 10557 ) <syberghost@sybCO ... st.com minus cat> on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:15PM (#14989407) Homepage
    Gui bittorrent clients. MP3 players. This isn't a sysadmin toolkit; this is a catalog of the links on his GNOME desktop.

    My sysadmin toolkit is vi and man. If I need to download an ISO and it's available on bittorrent you know what I'll use? BITTORRENT. WTF do you need a gui for to download a file?

    Things I wouldn't want to live without:

    bash or ksh; I don't care which
    sed and awk (I'm old, I should be using perl more, sue me)
    ncftp (I know, it's practically gold-plated effemininity, but I like it)
    GNU grep

    Everything else, I'm good with whatever the OS provides.
    • If I never have to use awk again it'll be too soon, but sed is still useful. It's much lighter-weight than perl. And ncftp is my hero. Just having tab completion All that other stuff goes without saying. I also insist on gnu tar and the shell has to be bash, I don't like trying to remember more than one shell's special escape behaviors.
  • Multitail! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by anonieuweling ( 536832 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:27PM (#14989480)
    Why wasn't multitail [vanheusden.com] mentioned? MultiTail lets you view one or multiple files like the original tail program. The difference is that it creates multiple windows on your console (with ncurses). It can also monitor wildcards: if another file matching the wildcard has a more recent modification date, it will automatically switch to that file. That way you can, for example, monitor a complete directory of files. Merging of 2 or even more logfiles is possible. It can also use colors while displaying the logfiles (through regular expressions), for faster recognition of what is important and what not. It can also filter lines (again with regular expressions). It has interactive menus for editing given regular expressions and deleting and adding windows. One can also have windows with the output of shell scripts and other software. When viewing the output of external software, MultiTail can mimic the functionality of tools like 'watch' and such.
  • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:27PM (#14989482) Homepage Journal
    (in no particular order)
    • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:50PM (#14989686) Homepage Journal
      oops, forgot nmap [insecure.org] and poke.

      poke is a shell function I wrote, as I needed to test network capability in a place that blocked ICMP traffic. It returns true when it can make a connection, or false otherwise. You may wish to add reporting; just uncomment the second line.

      poke() {
      echo X |telnet -e X $1 80 >/dev/null 2>&1
      #[ $? = 0 ] && echo connected to $1 || echo failed to connect to $1 >&2|false
      Also please note that I purposefully left anything that is in standard installs (yes, Redhat fails to install cvs and vim-enhanced in its "server" config).
  • Managing windows with a Virtual desktop is the only way to play.

    By using Virtual desktops, having multiple tail windows open to view an appliation is not so bad.

    Personally, I create a folder for each application with startup, shutdown shortcuts and tail execution shortcuts to each significant log file for the application I am testing.

    This methodology works with x11 or win32 hacking / administration.

    Now that I virtual desktop, I have don't know how I managed without them :]

  • that's all I'd add,
    in addition to what was already said.
    Not really sysadmin-related.

    (gqmpeg's the world's finest mp3 player :)

      - Hubert
  • Mine (Score:5, Informative)

    by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:26PM (#14989980) Journal
    1) strace (Program stalling or not working with ambiguous error messages?)
    2) nmap
    3) sysstat utilities (sar, iostat, vmstat, etc)
    4) python (my automation tool of choice)
    5) grep/awk/sed (filtering output etc)
    6) Nagios
    7) DenyHost (log watcher that blocks hosts via deny.hosts file)
    8) snort
    9) screen
    10) lsof (list open file discriptors (sockets, streams, and actual files))

    As for those who keep saying "ImageMagick? What kind admin uses ImageMagick!" Well, I used to work for a e-commerice bookseller. We delt with millions of bookcover images and ImageMagick was a golden for mass manipulation of images. As for MP3 tools, I like my music why I work! Whats wrong with that? It's not essential for the job, but it is for my happiness.
    • Re:Mine (Score:3, Informative)

      by rossz ( 67331 )

      I used to work for a e-commerice bookseller. We delt with millions of bookcover images and ImageMagick was a golden for mass manipulation of images.

      For ecommerce image manipulation, I found a handy tool called 'phpThumb'. It generates resized images on the fly and caches the results for performance. I worked for an online musical instrument shop and found it to be an incredible timesaver, not just for me, but for the data entry people, too. When a page design required yet another size image for produ

  • I hate to flame, but what exactly does this have to do with system administration? This is more like 'a teenage (nothing wrong with that) linux user's desktop eye candy and mp3 playing tools'. Why exactly, is this a story?

    In any case, here is my sysadmin tools (and this is somebody with four years system administration experience, but no means an "aged expert" but no neophyte):
    1. Perl. The Swiss army knife of most *any* UNIX task. Self explanatory. (Most useful Perl modules for a sysadmin would be Net:: any
  • by glas_gow ( 961896 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @05:21PM (#14990871)
    Disk Defrag
    Hard Reset
    Reinstall Windows

    My neice swears by the above
  • My top nine are all perl. The tenth is a sledge hammer.

    Hard liquor would have made the list, but I use that for more than sysadminning.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith