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(OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)

by deprecated (Priest)
on Jan 16, 2002 at 22:42 UTC ( #139276=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Recently, my primary machine suffered a severe distributed denial of service attack, and I was forced to move it behind a more competent firewall (from OSX to OpenBSD. I knew roughly what I needed to do: set up additional interfaces and aliases, get NAT and ipf working, and so on. And in fact I've been employed in the past as a Unix admin.

But for the last year, instead of doing some perl and some unix, I've been doing hard core perl. Haaaaaaaard core perl. I'm averaging roughly 150-200 lines of code a day. When I sat down to go and make my firewall, I realized I no longer had the tools necessary. I'd read all the books, all of the manpages, and knew all the theories, but I had completely forgotten how such things work.

So my question is, since I work in a 100% POSIX environment (well, okay, so my "outlook" machine runs windows, but I really despise it and dont use it), it shouldn't be so hard to incorporate some Unixy stuff; What can I do to "get back to my roots" and re-learn all this stuff?

Lately, my focus has been databases and file munging (hey, isnt that what we all do these days?). But I want to defocus some, and get back into unix.

What resources are there out there that are both needing capable Unix people (I dont count myself among the incompetent yet) and stimulating enough to keep my attention when work is pressing... and still perlish?

Things I've been thinking about are psh (the perl shell), the mythical perl kernel (I saw this mentioned in TPJ quite a while ago, does it still exist, has anyone worked on it?), and stuff like giFT, which is a unix program (written in C) that needs some perl help. All of these projects have the added benefit of being perly, being interesting, and being unixy.

I've thought that perhaps I could send in some patches for various things in perl5 that were irritating me, but I've got two main objections. First, I've been reading toke.c lately, and, well, it kind of turns my stomach. Second, I want to get back into knowing and using stuff like NFS, NIS, DNS, cvs, and sendmail. (All these are things I've used and known in the past but escape me now for various reasons)

We're a broadly multitalented group, so I am positive others here have run into a similar problem. What have you done when you realized that your Unix (or insert other skill here) skills were suffering at the expense of your Perl getting better?

brother dep.

Laziness, Impatience, Hubris, and Generosity.

  • Comment on (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)

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Re: (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)
by mirod (Canon) on Jan 17, 2002 at 00:01 UTC

    The best way is probably to get a broadband connection and to setup a home network.

    Since I work from home I had to learn so much stuff about firewalls and the various services you can run on a machine that it is not even funny!

    Just start small, set-up a firewall that allows nothing, then add a web server (and an https one). Later you can add ssh, smtp, squid, samba, ftp...

    This will take you some time that won't be spent doing Perl stuff but it is fun in its own right! Plus nothing prevents you from writing admin scripts in Perl, thus learning how to use a bunch of new modules.

    That said the main result for me is a new respect for sysadmins. It is a real job, just keeping those !@#$%^&* computers running properly and securely!

Re: (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on Jan 16, 2002 at 22:58 UTC

    What I've been meaning to do (although I haven't yet... misinterpretation of the virtue of Laziness) is mix the skills in a project. For instance, to keep my Perl up to date and improve my Unix and DB skills, write a script to parse syslog, insert entries in an appropriate database, and generate reports. (The syslog parser would run as an hourly cron job, the report generator as a daily one.) This keeps me practicing my Perl and DBI skills, gets me more into schema design, and involves me in such things as syslogd(8), ipfw(8), and so on. If I decide to make pretty-printable reports, this project could get me into PostScript, and so on.

    So the basic idea, for me at least, is to work on things that involve a broad range of skills. This is a bit difficult to do at work, since I usually get handed the Perl part of a given problem, but for personal projects it tends to be pretty easy. I haven't run into too many problems that are particularly narrow in their focus.

Re: (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)
by RedDog (Pilgrim) on Jan 17, 2002 at 00:15 UTC
    You might want to check out the January issue of SysAdmin Magazine. They had an interesting article on running a firewall using ipchains on Redhat Linux.

    ...We will have peace, when you and all your works have perished -- and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men's hearts. -- Theoden in The Two Towers --
Re: (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)
by coreolyn (Parson) on Jan 17, 2002 at 01:30 UTC

    Actually I'm finding that it is my Perl skills that are suffering at the expense of other persuits -- primarily J2EE. Besides stopping in here daily to get a shot of Perl at its best I find that my home network, Perl, and all other skills are falling far to the wayside.

    If the home site/network didn't regularly force me to babysit it on a regular basis I would be hard pressed to keep any of the skills you mentioned up to snuff.

Re: (OT) defocusing a bit to re-learn and re-evaluate other aspects of one's skillset (discussion)
by metadoktor (Hermit) on Jan 17, 2002 at 04:39 UTC
    While I can't think of a project off the bat that you might like in order to sharpen your Unix/Perl skills, I think that if you want to relearn these things (Sendmail, DNS, etc) then you should either get a book, download the software packages and read the READMEs, or read the Solaris docs at

    Still I think that Sendmail, NFS, and DNS are poorly written insecure packages and you might consider looking at some alternatives at

    Considering that you were expert at using these technologies it should be no problem for you to refresh yourself.


    "The doktor is in."

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