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Unix+clones X Window Manager Benchmarks (E17 on Top)
Post date: June 9, 2005, 10:06 Category: Benchmarks Views: 130
Tutorial quote: I've been focusing on some stability issues of late in E17, but more importantly - speed. I've been doing a little profiling and shaving off cycles where I can find readily optimizable code. I have E17 starting in 0.52 seconds (from execute to usable desktop). Considering that involves loading and rendering and scaling a complex multi-leayered desktop background, loading multiple useful modules (pager, ibar, start, dropshadow, cpufreq handler, clock, etc.), then that's not too bad.

Now I'm a numbers man. I like numbers. I don't like vague "it's faster than X" or "that's slower than this" statements without numbers to back it up. I also like to play fair. Also given there are no "performance suites" i know of that measure window manager performance, I wrote a quick and dirty one.
BSD Firewalling with OpenBSD's PF packet filter
Post date: April 18, 2005, 22:04 Category: Network Views: 101
Tutorial quote: PF operates in a world which consists of packets, protocols, connections and ports.

Based on where a packet is coming from or where it's going, which protocol, connection of port it is designated for, PF is able to determine where to lead the packet, or decide if it is to be let through at all.

It's equally possible to direct network traffic based on packet contents, usually referred to as application level filtering, but this is not the kind of thing PF does. We will come back later to some cases where PF will hand off these kinds of tasks to other software, but first let us deal with some basics.

We've already mentioned the firewall concept. One important feature of PF and similar software, perhaps the most important feature, is that it is able to identify and block traffic which is you do not want to let into your local network or let out to the world outside. At some point the term 'firewall' was coined.
Linux Today's Linux screen capture technology
Post date: April 12, 2005, 14:04 Category: Miscellaneous Views: 42
Tutorial quote: "I'd like you to help me find out about video screen captures," said one of my editors a while back. "Sure, let me see what's available," I replied. He pointed me to a couple of Web sites to get me started, and here I am a few weeks later ready to share my findings. I'll discuss ways that you can make video clips in Linux, talk about their applications and shortcomings. I'll also cover suitable ways to view your masterpieces once they're recorded.

Video screen captures are useful for jobs like application training, computer instruction, or product demos. An example would be the little one-minute video I set up for my wife. She kept forgetting how to start up Mozilla Mail on her Windows 98 machine. I captured the mouse clicks and screen changes (in real time) as I ran through the process, saving it to a Macromedia Flash file. I then created a little Web page on one of my Apache servers, that described how to start Mozilla Mail and included a link to the Flash file. Instead of asking me how to do it, she can now just click on the video tutorial.
Linux Building a Linux video jukebox for an anime convention
Post date: November 25, 2005, 16:11 Category: Miscellaneous Views: 125
Tutorial quote: I wrote this little whitepaper a while back for Amy Zunk to document the function of the VideoKeg/VideoJukebox boxes. Documented here for posterity. The primary goal of the video keg was to build a reliable video box that was easy to transport with enough space to store 3 days worth of Anime fan-subs.

The secondary goal of the video keg was to make a home PVR system for video playback and time-shifting, along with a video arcade and perhaps a web browser. The tertiary goal of the video keg was to find an affordable hardware platform so that we could buy 4 of them immmediately to service the primary goal's need for 4 separate video rooms.

For a PVR, the machine neeed to be small, quiet, low-heat, and still fast enough to run the software video player and arcade games. For portability, we decided to go with a smaller mini-ITX style cube box.
Linux Grub From the Ground Up
Post date: April 12, 2005, 13:04 Category: Software Views: 39
Tutorial quote: Grub is a world-class boot loader with insufficient documentation. In many ways it blows the doors of LILO. For instance, it's MUCH easier to use Knoppix to rebuild a grub boot loader than to rebuild a LILO boot loader. However, until you're comfortable with grub, it might seem just the opposite. All too often grub dumps you at a grub> prompt with no hint of what you should do. You might have heard that a successful reboot is just three commands away, but which commands? The state of grub's documentation is such that you can't figure it out unless you already know grub.

That catch 22 is the very purpose of this document. This document will to give you enough grub expertise that you can create a grub boot floppy on a working machine with grub installed (not necessarily as the bootloader, just installed), and use that floppy to bust back into a Linux machine with a blown bootloader, and then use that floppy to actually install grub as the bootloader.

This document does not discuss using grub to boot or dual boot Windows, mach, BSD, or other non-Linux operating systems. I might write on that subject later. But in the meantime, once you're familiar with the principles and practices of grub, given some study of existing documentation you'll probably be able to use grub to boot non-Linux operating systems.
Unix+clones Easy Automated Snapshot-Style Backups with Linux and Rsync
Post date: January 31, 2006, 19:01 Category: Software Views: 27
Tutorial quote: This document describes a method for generating automatic rotating "snapshot"-style backups on a Unix-based system, with specific examples drawn from the author's GNU/Linux experience. Snapshot backups are a feature of some high-end industrial file servers; they create the illusion of multiple, full backups per day without the space or processing overhead. All of the snapshots are read-only, and are accessible directly by users as special system directories. It is often possible to store several hours, days, and even weeks' worth of snapshots with slightly more than 2x storage. This method, while not as space-efficient as some of the proprietary technologies (which, using special copy-on-write filesystems, can operate on slightly more than 1x storage), makes use of only standard file utilities and the common rsync program, which is installed by default on most Linux distributions. Properly configured, the method can also protect against hard disk failure, root compromises, or even back up a network of heterogeneous desktops automatically.
Linux The Serial Console
Post date: April 14, 2005, 09:04 Category: Hardware Views: 71
Tutorial quote: In these modern times, a hardworking admin might be tempted to turn her back on the Old Ways, and indulge in increasingly exotic methods of interfacing with servers: SSH over ethernet, USB, Firewire, wireless, infrared, KVM switches, VNC, VPN... next stop: direct neural implants.

There's one old timer that still has useful place in the admin's tool kit: the serial console. Sure, it's slow and funky. But there are times it can be a real lifesaver. When nothing else works, it's a direct pipeline into your system. It's simple and cheap. You don't need to install drivers or expansion cards, it's just there.

Administration via serial console is common in data centers. Just imagine the nightmare of trying to connect all those rack units to keyboards and displays. The cabling can be extended to a nice comfortable ops center (well, an ops center, anyway). (This Lantronix Console Manager is an example of the type of device used to administer these.)

There are a number of ways to make the physical connection. You can connect an external modem--the kind us old timers fondly refer to as "real" modems--and do remote administration via dialup. It couldn't be any simpler, just dial direct. Or grab a null modem cable, connect to a laptop or a nearby workstation, and you have an instant terminal.
FreeBSD Lightweight Web Serving with thttpd
Post date: November 30, 2005, 19:11 Category: Software Views: 79
Tutorial quote: The Apache HTTP Server is the most popular web server due to its functionality, stability, and maturity. However, this does not make it suitable for all uses: slow machines and embedded systems may have serious problems running it because of its size. Here is where lightweight HTTP servers come into play, as their low-memory footprints deliver decent results without having to swap data back to disk.

Similarly, these small HTTP servers are suitable to serve static content efficiently so as to allow Apache, mod_perl, mod_python, or even servlet containers to handle dynamic requests without tying up memory-hungry children to serve small images. In other words, these applications can serve as a complement to your existing full-featured web server, not as a replacement.

One of these servers is thttpd, a simple, small, portable, fast, and secure HTTP server. Among its features are support for the HTTP/1.1 standard, CGIs, virtual hosts, and IPv6. This article shows how to install and configure this software under NetBSD. I chose NetBSD not only because it is my preferred OS, but also because it has the ability to run on the most disparate old hardware, where thttpd shows its strengths. I had a Macintosh Performa 630 (a 68LC040 chip at 33MHz) running NetBSD/mac68k 2.0 with thttpd on top of it, serving pages to my home network nicely.
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