Cameron Laird's personal notes on system administration

Table of contents


Jon Udell wrote
Automation and remote access are the keys to effective system management. Unix shines in both departments.
He's right, of course. There are two points to make about this:


SAGE code of ethics


Books and magazines

My current big-favorite printed text for system-administration matters is Nemeth et al.'s Unix System Administration Handbook. A number of friends and acquaintances prefer Essential System Administration.

Every issue I've seen of System Administration magazine has valuable articles.

On-line references

Personal pages of links

A wealth of material is available on-line, including Celeste Stokely's Unix Sysadm Resources, and Frank Fiamingo's excellent Introduction to UNIX System Administration, and more tangentially, his Introduction to Unix.

Our WebAdmin column for WebServer Online covers topics of interest to system administrators, as do several of our other articles.

Network management is often a big part of system administration.


Don Libes wrote the definitive late-twentieth century guide to naming hosts.

Online Single Unix reference

Kenton Lee on X things.

People often ask for archives of already-generated binaries.


One happy trend is that vendors are making their manuals URLable. SGI (alternatively, here) and now Sun and SCO (including ODT3, OpenServer and UnixWare) have been the leaders in this, and DEC has plans for the same.

Things hard for me to remember



Quick networking

I've got two Ethernet-equipped Unix boxes, and I want them to play together (via FTP or telnet or such) nicely: what do I do? Let one be, the other, suppose the cards are called "ed", and command
ifconfig ed0 inet netmask up
ifconfig ed0 inet netmask up
respectively, to the two of them. For greater convenience, season /etc/hosts to taste. If necessary,
route add default
route add default

Telephonic paging

Sendpage; tpage, ixobeeper, and the alpha-pager expect script that's part of the expect contribution. There's an immense market of products to work with pagers, and I don't begin to keep up with it.


Tuning for performance is a biiiiig topic. Here are sensible guidelines that I know: Queuing costs. [Recommend ora's System Performance Tuning]

Physical memory

How can I tell how much memory is available on a particular Unix host? There's no standard answer, as near as I can tell. Sometimes /dev/kmem is intelligible. Other keywords which sometimes give useful results:





hostid is hosted at,, and


swatch is a Perl script which monitors log files. Its range of action includes e-mail, paging, and SNMP traps.
Cameron Laird's notes on system administration/
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