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From the Frontiers of Research to the Heart of the Enterprise
O'Reilly Open Source Convention
Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina
July 22-26, 2002 -- San Diego, CA



Perl for System Administration Emergencies
David N. Blank-Edelman, Notheastern University CCS

Track: Perl
Date: Monday, July 22
Time: 8:45am - 12:15pm
Location: Sea Breeze I

Perl is an excellent language for rapid development and prototyping. Thanks to the power of the core language and the large body of additional modules, it is often possible to write quick programs to solve pressing problems. System administrators have no shortage of pressing problems, so knowing how to wield this "swiss-army chain saw" can be a lifesaver.

This tutorial teaches system administrators - with at least advanced-beginner-to-intermediate Perl skills - how to get themselves out of a jam using Perl. Centered around a set of "battle stories" and the Perl source code used to deal with them, we'll discuss different approaches to solving system administration crises using Perl. The code presented in this class will be mostly UNIX-based, though the approaches we'll talk about will not be operating system specific. You'll leave this class with new ideas for writing small Perl programs to get you out of big sysadmin pinches.

Outline (included to give an idea of the specific topics covered):
  • Introduction
    • Instructor & participant introductions
    • Understanding Hacks (knowing when to/not to use them, how to get rid of them, etc.)
    • Getting your tools together (modules: finding the appropriate ones/installation issues/pitfalls, regular expressions, databases, other resources)
  • Section 1: Filesystem Issues
    • filesystem introduction (dealing with FS differences)
    • dealing with individual files (permissions, checksums)
    • filesystem walking (bad files, signs of an intruder, filename munging)


  • Section 2: User Issues
    • dealing with anti-social processes, (resource issues, policy enforcement)
    • dealing with breakins


  • Section 3: Server Issues
    • dealing with log files
    • mail notifications
    • misbehaving daemons
  • Section 4: Network Issues
    • connectivity problems
    • network sniffing
  • Conclusion
    Instructional Material:
    • approximately 50 slides, to be handed out to participants
    • approximately 25 pages of Perl source code, to be handed out to participants

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