JC Web Concepts

Dotfiles

Setting up a new computer can be a tedious and tiresome process. I am not the person that has an exact image of my machine, so when things go wrong I just load that image. I would never have something like that because when I am ready to re-install, I want to start as clean as possible.

At some point I went ahead and starting backing up my dotfiles in Github. This starting to make things easier but it was still a problem. I still had to install all the apps I needed to do things. Then the problem was, what and how do I install these things again. So then I watched a video by another developer by the name of Nick Nisi. He built a script to not only get his dotfiles but also it started moving things to where they need to be. Take a look at the video below where I talk a little more about this topic. You can view my current dotfiles here.

Spotlight for Windows and Linux

One of the nice features in MacOSX is the use of Spotlight. I hardly use icons anymore and just hit command+space and type what I need. While I am in Gentoo or Windows XP, I sorely miss this functionality. Well today I started to look and found a nice tool called Launchy .

This tool supports skinning and plugins to enhance the already nice tool. What is nice is by default I can do math in it like I can do in spotlight. When I want to call the tool I hit alt+space and it comes up. I will continue to play with this tool but so far I love it.

Bluefish IDE Editor

Well as a PHP, HTML, CSS, and jQuery designer one of the things I have been looking for is a good lightweight text editor. I have used many different types of editors and not found the right one. When I programmed in Windows I loved Notepad++, but there is no Mac/Linux equivalent. The editors that I have used in the past are as follows:

  • NVU
  • Dreamweaver
  • VIM
  • Eclipse
  • Bluefish

    The last editor I was and still will use is VIM. There is times I just want to click somewhere to move my cursor, I.E. Being lazy. I really like bluefish cause it is very lightweight and fast. Eclipse and Dreamweaver just are too slow for me. Bluefish will work in Mac, Linux, and Windows. The best thing I like about it, is it is free. So take a look at them, post some comments about what you think is the best. Maybe you have one that I just have not seen.

Hosts File

As a web developer one of the tools that I love to use is built right into the operating system. I have come across some jobs where the coder has coded everything in absolute paths. Well if you are like me and like to test stuff on a local server first, then you will run into some issues. If your page calls an file it will call it from the remote server and not the local one. There are other examples but I will spare you of them. Lets get to this hosts file. The hosts file exists in modern day operating systems. You can find it in Linux, Mac, Unix, and or Windows. Let me show you where these files exist.

On Mac or Linux

/etc/hosts

On Windows

C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

So now let me show you some magic. So now on your testing box I would add a new entry. It can be added anywhere you want. So add this line

127.0.0.1    jcwebconcepts.net

Of course you could substitute with any domain. So now when you test your files/scripts and the point to the absolute path you will pointing to your local box. Of course when you are done I like to comment that out. Just in case I forget that I have that and I want to look at the remote site. Now if you want to see the test environment on another computer the line you add to the host file will be different. First get your IP of the test box. Mine is 192.168.2.120

192.168.2.120    jcwebconcepts.net

So you can start to see the things you can do with the hosts file that can help you. Instead of recoding all those absolute paths to relative you can edit the hosts file and test it that way.

Here is a video that explains some of this

1Password

One of the things that people talk about in the computer world is password strength. They talk about how you should not use the same passwords for everything. They say you should not use your kids names, date of birth, social security number, etc… Some people I know make 2 passwords. They make a real tough one for important sites like banking and credit cards. They use the other one for sites they do not care about like forums.

I came across this nice piece of software called 1Password. What this software does is it makes an encrypted database to store all your passwords. It then will integrate itself into Safari and Firefox. When you install the software you make a master password. This password is something that you want to make pretty difficult so nobody can guess it. Now I will not go into more detailed since there are already a bunch of videos and stuff about this. Below is a video from the company that developed the software. Watch it and I think you might like the software as well.

Zenoss Local Templates

One of the coolest things I learned today was about creating local templates for specific devices. So lets say you have 5 Linux boxes and and only 2 are running apache. I do not need to graph apache stuff on my 3 other boxes. So I go into the device that I want to have its own version of the template and click on the down arrow and go to more. Then click on templates. You will now see all the templates that are bound to the device class. The one that you want to change to the specific device click on Create local copy. Now you can edit that template and it will only make changes for that device. I am telling you that Zenoss is just a great piece of software.

Zenoss Training

Today I went to a Zenoss training in Baltimore MD. This is a training that usually costs around $1500 USD to attend. They are offering this one day training session for free. As soon as I heard this I said where do you sign me up. Of course I have a 2 hour drive in rush hour to get to inner harbor but I will tell you it is worth it. So I thought I would share some highlights and my thoughts about how this training went.

Traveling
Well according to Google Maps , it would take me about an hour and half. With traffic believe it or not it only took about 2 hours. The hotel was easy to find and parking was not expensive at all.

Training Itself
Well lets get to the reason why you are reading this blog post. I really liked this training. The slide show presentation was done well. It started off by explaining the backend and how Zenoss works. Then they got into each section and explain how they work. I did feel it went a little fast but we only had so many things to cover is such a little time. There were a few questions which kinda took us off course, but the trainers got it back on track really fast.
The only con I had from the whole thing was the amount of time we had. Due to this we really could not drill down on certain things. The trainers did a great job in explaining the basic to give you the idea on how it works. I am very interested in possibly taken the paid training. Honestly if you have an opportunity to attend one of these you should. It is worth the traveling time and any feels involved.

Gifts
When I got there they had a bag of gifts to give everyone. I got a 4GB pen drive, a pen, Zenoss sticker, Zebra stress toy, and a Zenoss shirt. They also provided a great lunch. Thanks again to Zenoss team. Take a look at their website for more information on the product.

Zenoss

Zenoss is a monitoring tool that everyone should start to look at. In the past when you mention system monitoring software, people would say Nagios . Now do not get my wrong there is nothing really wrong with Nagios but it lacks somethings for my taste. Now I could continue on with comparing Nagios to Zenoss but this is not what I am looking to do in this blog post. I want to share with you the features that have attracted me to start using Zenoss.
First thing I like is the support for getting help with Zenoss. On freenode via IRC, the #zenoss room is filled with people who are will to help you with your struggles. I would mention some names but I will leave that for the reader to decide if they every have to visit there. The next thing I really like is that when you are setting it up for the first time you can put in your subnet or IP range and it will scan for all available devices. I got my devices added within 5 minutes of getting into the interface. GUI administration is something also that I really like. Now I know there are a ton of command line guys out there but sometimes is makes it easier. It also helps if some people you work with do not like the command line. I really like the Google map API interface that will let you map out your servers and see them on a map of the world. If you were like me and have some older servers that finding packages for are just a little bit hard; Then you are in luck. With Zenoss you can run commands via SSH. Now the cool thing is that you can specify your username and password so there is no copying your RSA keys or anything like that. Now I am starting to catch on to the SNMP protocol which I use for my newer machines. SNMP will give you more data than the SSH commands will. You can also connect to Windows computers with the username and password from that box as well. Another big thing I like is that you can get graphs from one application. So no need to run Nagios and Cacti.

There are tons more features that could make this into a novel to post about. Zenoss has already done this with their PDF manuals. Go ahead and download them here . Trust me you will love this system monitoring tool.