[linux-elitists] git and a sysadmin book

Don Marti dmarti@zgp.org
Sun Jan 4 08:37:14 PST 2009

I really enjoyed the short thread about "long
round-trip-delays of getting a patch applied" and the
proposed solution, which turns out to be just to use

It seems like there's an opportunity to apply
distributed revision control thinking to computer
books, too.  A lot of Linux books seem to have a
"on the one hand, on the other hand" approach,
which makes things hard on the new administrator,
just starting to set up a mixed Linux/legacy network.
You always end up with an untested combination of
stuff instead of the solid way that an experienced
administrator would have set things up.

What the world needs is (working title) The
Opinionated Guide to Linux System Administration.
(hey, if opinionated software is good, opinionated
documentation and administration should be good too.)
The official version would be the much-tested choices
of a small group of co-authors, and that would get
frozen, checked, and turned into the printed book
every so often -- but downstream users who really
wanted Exim instead of Postfix or something would
be free to fork.  (In the long run, there might end
up being many site-specific versions of the book,
from which the core could pick changes.)  Focus on a
small office network to start with -- the kind that
seems to be the hardest for Linux to catch on in.

* Opinionated.   This book tells you what works for
the authors, and doesn't waste time on describing "on
the other hand" stuff that we set up just for the book
and then blew away.  (Don't like one of the choices?
The book is in git--fork it.)

* Linux-centric.  You will almost certainly have
legacy machines, but hang them off a network done the
Linux way instead of vice versa.  (Speak roughly to
your Windows box, and re-image it if it sneezes.)

* Simple.  Any new software we add has to pull
its weight.  Prefer a package with fewer and smaller
dependencies to one with more or larger dependencies.
And nothing can depend on one person's magic touch,
so you can take a vacation.

* Security-minded.  See "simple."  This book doesn't
throw a bunch of security products at you just for
cleverness or CYA.  But we do think about attack paths
as a naughty person would, and don't leave them any
shorter than they have to be.

* Top Line IT: Users can go elsewhere for information
services, so we run the IT organization (even if
it's an organization of one) like a service business.
We get out ahead of what they want so they don't drag
in some half-ass thing that we end up supporting.

I think about a lot of the members of this list when I
think about potential authors for a book like this --
but I know that you're not a real system administrator
unless you have a severe time crunch, so getting a
whole book from one person is asking a lot.  A chapter
or two, though?  The problem of dorking around with
word processor changesets to do a book can quickly go
away, since it could all be done in LaTeX under git.

Don Marti                                        +1 510-814-0932
http://zgp.org/~dmarti/                          +1 510-332-1587 mobile
See you at OpenSource World: August 10-13, 2009 in San Francisco

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