Sysadmin Todo List

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This is an unordered set of tasks. Detailed information on any of the tasks typically goes in related topics' pages, although usually not until the task has been filed under Completed.

Daily Check off list

Each day when you come in check the following:


  1. Check the Cacti temperatures and other indicators:
  2. Check Splunk: [1] or localhost:8000 on pumpkin.

Verify the following:

  1. Einstein (script):
    1. Up and running?
    2. Disks are at less than 90% full?
    3. Mail system OK? (spamassasin, amavisd, ...)
  2. Temperature OK?
  3. Systems up: Taro, Pepper, Pumpkin ?
  4. Backups:
    1. Did backup succeed?
    2. Does Lentil need a new disk?


Towards a stable setup

Here are some options:

  • Test VMware server (See VMWare Progress). Specifically, I would like to know:
    1. How easy is it to move a VM from one hardware to another? (Can you simply move the disks?) Yes.
    2. Specifically, if you need to service some hardware, can you move the host to other hardware with little down time? (Clearly not for large disk arrays, like pumpkin, but that is storage, not hosts). Considering portability of disks/files, the downtime is the time it takes to move the image around and start up on another machine.
    3. Do we need a RedHat license for each VM or do we only need a license for the host, as with Xen? It seems to consume a license per VM. Following this didn't work for the VMWare systems. The closes thing to an official word that I could find was this.
    4. VMware allows for "virtual appliances", but how good are these really? Are these fast enough?
  • Because not all of our systems are RHEL, we should look into some management solution like spacewalk. This should be a good use for a VMware appliance
  • Also, func looks like a nice tool to fiddle with later.
  • We can look at using cobbler to ease system installation later. Maybe another vmware appliance?
  • Bugzilla:
    • We should try and transition to a bugzilla setup for task-tracking and documentation. The wiki really isn't the right format for this sort of thing. The advantage of bugzilla is that we can use bugs as tasks, have them marked with a status (open, closed, in progress, waiting, etc.), use the "discussion" feature to document our progress with status updates, and actually have a history of who did what.
    • It should be set up on a nice, small, portable VMware image.
    • The firewall on the machine should allow VMware remote access, web access (https), and ssh.
    • It might be a good excuse for learning how to actually use SElinux properly.
    • Let's name it, since we're not using it, and it fits the farm scheme.
    • Let's make it kind of like a vmware appliance.


  • Get einstein's mirror back up.
    • LDAP is really screwed up for us. We need to clean it up, fix it up, even start over if we have to. So far, screwy things are that we can't modify netgroup entries, luseradd/luserdel don't work at all, Luma and other graphical clients don't work consistently, JXplorer only really works on macs, and even then only on Maurik's.
    • I think we should design a new, clean, fairly minimalist ldap structure. Users, groups, clients, and netgroup make sense to have, but most of the rest is garbage. If we can get this set up, we can tie backups and firewalls back in properly, so we have a single way to do a lot of the administration.
  • Webalizer is not working on roentgen, the webserver. Find out why.
  • Set up one of the dell 755 computers with a linux/XP dualboot. Use the wireless card we have set aside, and name it madamewu. (or maybe lisemeitner, since Bo's computer is benfranklin, was lisemeitner.)
  • Set up a VMWare appliance for ntop. This is functionality we're really seriously missing.
  • Look over code for wigner print control, or look into papercut
  • Get transana stuff working for Dawn/Chris.
  • Look at moving the virtual machines to VMWare on taro.
    • Get a dedicated VMWare drive working. Maybe two, so that we've got a mirror in case a drive fails we don't end up losing all our VMs?
  • Look at VMWare appliance-style monitoring solutions, like cacti or splunk, or even something else.
  • Upgrade Calarco's windows machine's RAM
  • Fix EVO webcam video on Sarah's computer.
  • Einstein gets a few hits a day to old webpages that don't exist anymore, givng 404s. Maybe we can set up redirect rules to point to the right place, or something else to remove a few daily errors from the logs.

In the einstein, add redirectmatch ^/mail$ to the end of the file /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf.

  • Fix front sound output on Sarah's computer.
  • Determine a better organization system for cables, parts, etc. Junky cardboard boxes are a bit cumbersome, and they look bad.
  • We should look into what software is necessary on what machines, for disk space concerns. I'm thinking of Pepper in particular, do we really want openoffice data taking up an eighth of the root partition?
  • Fix some of the older workstations (hobo, ennui, etc.)
  • Monitoring: I would like to see the new temp-monitor integrated with Cacti, and fix some of the cacti capabilities, i.e. tie it in with the sensors output from pepper and taro (and tomato/einstein). Setup sensors on the corn/pumpkin. Have an intelligent way in which we are warned when conditions are too hot, a drive has failed, a system is down. I'm starting to get the hang of getting this sort of data via snmp. I wrote a perl script that pulls the temperature data from the environmental monitor, as well as some nice info from einstein. We SHOULD be able to integrate a rudimentary script like this into cacti or splunk, getting a bit closer to an all-in-one monitoring solution. It's in Matt's home directory, under code/npgmon/
  • Check into smartd monitoring (and processing its output) on Pepper, Taro, Corn/Pumpkin, Einstein, Tomato (Actually, all the systems).



  • Maintain the Documentation of all systems!
    • Main function
    • Hardware
    • OS
    • Network
  • Continue homogenizing the configurations of the machines.


  • Check e-mails to root every morning
  • Check up on security [2]


  • Backup stuff: We need exclude filters on the backups. We need to plan and execute extensive tests before modifying the production backup program. Also, see if we can implement some sort of NFS user access. I've set up both filters and read-only snapshot access to backups at home. Uses what essentially amounts to a bash script version of the fancy perl thing we use now, only far less sophisticated. However, the filtering and user access uses a standard rsync exclude file (syntax in man page) and the user access is fairly obvious NFS read-only hosting. I am wondering if this is needed. The current scheme (ie the perl script) uses excludes by having a .rsync-filter is each of the directories where you want excluded contents. This has worked well. See ~maurik/tmp/.rsync-filter . The current script takes care of some important issues, like incomplete backups. Ah. So we need to get users to somehow keep that .rsync-filter file fairly updated. And to get them to use data to hold things, not home. Also, I wasn't suggesting we get rid of the perl script, I was saying that I've become familiar with a number of the things it does. [3]
  • Continue purgin NIS from ancient workstations, and replacing with files. The following remain:
    • pauli nodes -- Low priority!


  • Move pauli8 drives into pauli5 so that Heisenberg can access his data. The raid array on them has been rebuilt, but there seems to be weird behaviour with LVM or something related.
  • Get the rest of the paulis up. Looks like NIS is in the way on at least one of them. Update to LDAP will be necessary. A workaround can be to make a local jhh user on each, and point its home directory to /net/home/jhh. Not the most elegant solution, but the fact that NIS was around seems to have blocked LDAP from working properly. Do we even need the paulis anymore? Is silas giving some computational space to Jochen?


  • Set up UPS monitoring for each UPS. It works! Einstein even cleanly shuts down when the power is critically low.
  • Bohr is slow with PDFs. Maybe time to put a newer distro on bohr? He's using RHEL4. It's good enough for now, and he hasn't mentioned it again.
  • Gourd is giving smartd errors. Should we be concerned at all, since nobody uses it anymore? People do use it, just not all that often. Once Lorenzo's graduated and everyone straightens out their data, we can evaluate our data storage setup.
  • Set up signal generator software on lab computer.
  • Set up USB oscilloscope software on lab computer.
  • Get familiar with denyhosts.
  • Learn how to use cacti using a VM appliance. Now unnecessary, since we run cacti directly on roentgen.
  • Backups weren't running because the RPM cron job hung, and run-parts does stuff in alphabetical order. RPM comes before rsync, so rsync-backup never got run. To prevent this in the future, rsync-backup is now called 0rsync-backup. so it will always run right after anacron and logwatch.
  • The workstation Wilson can now print to wigner.
  • Rebuilt the npg-admins mailing list. Because of mailman's strange structure, it wasn't possible to carry over the old archives cleanly. There apparently were also version incompatibilities, so we had to start over.

Previous Months Completed

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

NovDec 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March/April/May/June 2008 (I'm doing a great job keeping track of this, eh?)

July/Aug/Sep/Oct/Nov 2008 (It was the move, but still no excuse!)

December 2008

Jan/Feb/Mar 2009