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Category Archives: Open Technology

Security: it’s hella important, yo.

I’m not going to try to get into all the technical details of Heartbleed–the OpenSSL team covers it a lot better than I probably ever could.  I’ll just say this: if you run a web server, and if you deal in any secure traffic, then do yourself and your users a favor and check to see if your version of OpenSSL is vulnerable to this MASSIVE security hole.  Various script-kiddies flocking together under the name of “Anonymous” are already gleefully distributing versions of the exploit code (which I have lots of opinions about, but now is a time for action, not for yelling about punks), but the exploit has been in the wild for two years now.

You can run your own tests on your servers, but the easiest way to get a little peace of mind is to run tests from here.

Do the responsible thing.  Keep the web safe for everyone.

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Oh, yeah!  Pie charts, baby!

Oh, yeah! Pie charts, baby!

While I still haven’t gotten many chances to really put it through its paces, I really love a lot of aspects of the MR12 Meraki sent me.  One of my favorite features is the ability to get a lot of granular detail on the network traffic clients are getting through the AP.  There are places where raw data is fine, but a lot of the time, I want a nice visual representation just so I can get a quick idea of what I’m working with.  This is especially true when we have weird hiccups or slowdowns on our network in certain areas.  Unfortunately, I don’t have Meraki APs everywhere, so I can’t just pull up a lot of sexy data and quickly figure out what’s up.  I’d really love to be able to do that, though.

So what does a sysadmin do when there’s a need but not a solution he knows?  Google, duh.

And what does google give me?  It gives me ntop.  If you are a knowledgeable user and not just a luser, you have probably used top before to find out what processes are using the most of your memory and processor at any given time.  Well, ntop is something like that, only for networks.  But, more than that, it can give you nice graphical representations of your data through a web interface.

Having just run across ntop this very hour, I haven’t dived into the man pages for it yet, but I have written a long command chain so that I can read the things without standing in front of my Linux terminal, and, because sometimes I just want to write a long command, here’s what I did:

man -t ntop > ntop_man.ps && ps2pdf ntop_man.ps && rm ntop_man.ps && scp -P 22 ~/ntop_man.pdf [user]@[lappy]:/Users/[me]/Documents

So there.

(Of course you can expect me to post more about ntop as I dive in and find out what it can do for me and, by extension, what it might be able to do for you.)

Happy Document Freedom Day, everyone!  I can stand at my desk all day and proselytize, and I’m sure I sometimes do, but today, I’d rather offer an anecdote that I hope better demonstrates the case for open formats and document freedom than any sermon could.

The other day, I was working at my desk when a panicked student came in to our office with a USB drive in hand, asking if we had a copy of iWork ’09.  This student was supposed to be in class right then giving a presentation, but they had created their presentation in iWork ’09 but couldn’t open it on the computer in their classroom because we only have iWork ’08 on all of our classroom and teacher Macs.  Luckily for this student, we have a machine in our office with iWork ’09 on it and were able to open the presentation and save it in iWork ’08 format, but they would not have been so lucky if we hadn’t encountered this problem once before and made sure that we had a copy of iWork ’09 installed against such an eventuality.

With the converted copy safe on their USB drive, the student ran off to give their presentation, but I hope that this made some impression on them–at least that student will hopefully check for compatibility in advance next time.  It may be a bit much to expect that this will be their rallying cry to switch to open formats, but I can always hope.  All of our campus computers have Open-Office or another FOSS office suite installed for those people who are already converted, but I have no usage statistics; my guess would be that they’re not used that often, though.

Free your documents, free yourself!