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mika’s advent calendar – day 24: zsh globbing

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

The advent calendar started with a Zsh tip, let’s end the advent calendar session with a Zsh tip: globbing. Globbing is like pattern matching. When running ‘ls *.txt’ you’re using globbing. But the globbing feature inside Zsh is much more powerful. Quoting the H-Glob function (“help globbing”) of grml’s Zsh configuration: % H-Glob / directories […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 23: nagios

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Nagios is a well known and established Open Source Monitoring System. It’s flexible, easy to deploy and a tool every sysadmin should know how to deal with. I guess most readers of my blog use or at least know Nagios so I’ll keep this blog entry short. But one tip for sysadmins managing Debian systems: […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 22: patterns in mutt

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The console mail client mutt has some nice features and I noticed that even some long time users of mutt don’t use some of the most rocking features. What’s definitely worth knowing: patterns. Want to display only mails sent from Select the limit command to show only messages matching a pattern (bound to ‘l’ […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 21: grml-debootstrap

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I wrote about FAI for deploying systems a few days ago – but FAI might be too much overhead if you want to install just some few Debian systems and prefer to use a configuration system like puppet instead. Then using grml-debootstrap might be an option for you. As you might know grml is a […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 20: lazy typing

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I blogged about some tips for optimizing the workflow on the command line in my advent calendar already (like irssi backlog completion, Zsh keybindings and hashes in the zsh). When optimizing your workflow you should be aware of what exactly is eating up your time. Start with evaluating your top 10 shell commands, in Zsh […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 19: zsh completion

Friday, December 19th, 2008

One of the reasons why Zsh rocks so much is its completion system. Tab, tab, tab…. Using default Zsh without an useful configuration? Then start with loading the completion system: autoload -U compinit && compinit Now check out the completion system with tools that provide lots of options, like for example gpg and rsync. Then […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 18: grml-live

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

grml-live is a buildsystem for generating a grml and Debian based Linux live system (CD/ISO). It’s based on FAI (I mentioned FAI a few days ago already) because its class concept provides a flexible infrastructure for building custom systems. grml-live uses squashfs-tools for building a compressed file (so you can get >2GB on a 700MB […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 17: ldapvi

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

ldapvi is an interactive LDAP client for Unix terminals. Using it, you can update LDAP entries with a text editor. Start exploring it running: ldapvi –discover –host $SERVER If you have to deal with LDAP on the command line and want to use $EDITOR for editing: ldapvi is for you. :)

mika’s advent calendar – day 16: puppet

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Configuration management tools provide the ability to abstract your requirements. For example you might be running your own (procedural) scripts – which could be even platform specific (igitt) – to add new users. Instead when using a configuration management tool you instruct the system in a (declarative) specification language to do so. This provides much […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 15: zsh vcs_info

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Frank Terbeck, a grml developer, implemented vcs_info for the Zsh. vcs_info is a nice and flexible system for providing version control information information within the Zsh prompt. It provides support for bzr, cdv, cvs, darcs, git, hg, mtn, p4, svk, svn and tla. vcs_info is available since zsh-beta, version 4.3.6-dev-0+20080929-1 or later and using the […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 14: gnu screen / tscreen

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Seriously, if you don’t know GNU screen yet: where are you living? 8-) Screen is a full-screen window manager that multiplexes a physical terminal between several processes, typically interactive shells. If you want to leave (not exit) your current shell session(s) and re-attach them later again: GNU screen is the answer. If you don’t use […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 13: lesspipe

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Displaying more with less: is an input filter for the pager less as described in its man page. The script runs under a ksh compliant shell (ksh, bash, zsh) and allows to view files with binary content, compressed files, archives and files contained in archives. A large and growing number of formats are supported […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 12: IPython

Friday, December 12th, 2008

IPython is an enhanced interactive Python shell. It provides some nifty features the usual python console doesn’t provide. Check out the Quick IPython tutorial, the IPython cookbook, IPython as a system shell and the IPython reference for more information.

mika’s advent calendar – day 11: FAI

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

FAI is an automated installation tool to install or deploy Debian GNU/Linux and other distributions on a bunch of different hosts or a Cluster. It’s more flexible than other tools like kickstart for Red Hat, autoyast and alice for SuSE or Jumpstart for SUN Solaris. FAI can also be used for configuration management of a […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 10: grml-terminalserver

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I assume you already know grml, the Debian based Linux Live-CD for sysadmins and texttool users. Besides booting via CD and USB there’s one further method worth knowing: booting via network. That’s where grml-terminalserver is showing up. Using grml-terminalserver you can boot grml via network. If your computer(s) is/are able to boot via PXE all […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 9: at(1)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

One of the tools you probably already have on your system but might not be aware of: at. at(1) reads commands from standard input or a specified file which are to be executed at a later time. Some usage examples (notice: you’ll get the <EOT> by pressing ctrl-d, you know): Download something at a given […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 8:

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Not a software tool but something for sysadmins to think about: The Admin Zen. The goal of this cheat sheet is to provide ~100 concise ideas, concepts and rules for sysadmins. Reading them takes a few minutes. Practicing them takes forever. Grab the PDF printout from, send it to the printer and think about […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 7: irssi backlog completion

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

If you are using Irssi, the terminal based IRC client, you might be interested in a nice script by Florian Ragwitz: backlog completion. Quoting from the script: backlog completion: enter a word prefix and press TAB – and the prefix will be expanded from all the words on the current channel on everything that was […]

mika’s advent calendar – day 6: clive

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

clive is an open source command line tool to extract videos and to bypass the need to use Adobe Flash in order to view user-generated content available on video-sharing websites. It supports Youtube, Google Video, Dailymotion, Guba, Metacafe, Sevenload and Break. Its usage is as easy as: % clive ‘’

mika’s advent calendar – day 5: moreutils

Friday, December 5th, 2008

moreutils by Joey Hess is a collection of the unix tools that nobody thought to write thirty years ago. These tools are part of the moreutils suite: combine: combine the lines in two files using boolean operations ifdata: get network interface info without parsing ifconfig output isutf8: check if a file or standard input is […]