Nagios Checker – Firefox Plugin

Ran across a very handy Firefox plugin for Nagios users – Nagios Checker 0.14.4. Super fast install and minimal setup to get going.

Running View

Expanded View

Options include audio alerting, specific alerts to view, display settings, update timer and others. Once installed all you have to do is move the mouse over the status bar to get the expanded view. Clicking on an alert takes you to that specific alert in Nagios. There is a handy update link included in the settings dialog box as well.
This is a must have for Nagios users that can’t have the Nagios Dashboard open all the time.

Check it out now!

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3607

Open Source for Schools

Why Linux and open source matters for small businesses and schools Hans Knobloch, Philadelphia Information technology Examiner

This blog was shared with me last night and I think the points made for using open source (linux) are right on target. The general public may or may not choose to accept this but business use of open source products continues to rise. Especially in this economic climate. (the reason this blog was started!) A quick Google search will reveal that there is an open source tool for just about any business need. This means freedom from initial software purchase, recurring license fees, etc.

Rockin’ on without Microsoft David Becker, Staff Writer, CNET News

This post is from 2003 and shows that even six years ago it was possible to convert to open source and continue as a successful business. It is easier today.
Linux is no longer relegated to the dark recesses of IT Geekdom. Major hardware vendors sell desktops and laptops pre-loaded with various distributions of Linux. A non-technical co-worker recently bought a mini-notebook loaded with Linux “because it was cheaper” and learned how to use it.
As virtualization projects grow in the SMB and education markets, there is often a natural progression towards open source related tools. Advanced configuration and troubleshooting of VMware ESX or Citrix XenServer hosts requires understanding and use of SSH and linux-based file systems.

Quoted from the blog post:

” Here are some facts about free and open source software and Linux:

  • A typical Linux and free open source software equipped PC will cost up to 60 – 70% less to operate over a typical three year write off time.
  • A typical PC hardware suited for Linux does not need to be as expensive as a typical Windows or Mac OS X PC. Linux requires much less resources. As a result, Linux PCs have an extended average lifetime.
  • Linux with typically installed quality programs, used for graphics, office, music, and Internet, are freely available as downloads from the Internet.
  • Linux versions, like Ubuntu, come with a host of no charge business software.
  • Pre-configured Linux versions, like the Ubuntu derivate Edubuntu, come with a host of no charge educational software, including teacher and student administration programs.
  • Linux installations can be upgraded and maintained without additional costs – ever.
  • Linux is much more stable and usually safer than its proprietary alternatives.
  • Linux is much less virus endangered than Windows or Apple OS X.
  • Linux is easy to learn and behaves in many ways just like Windows or Mac OS X.
  • Company specific software solutions are available where needed from commercial vendors.
  • Vendor supplied or vendor independent support programs are available if the need for professional support arises.
  • Hundreds of Linux end user and administrator forums on the Internet provide cost free support, configuration and installation how-to information, and help desk services.
  • Linux, with its open source character, is ideally suited to teach students the working of a modern computing system, better then any of its proprietary competitors. “

Open Source Everyday – Firefox

One open source tool I use everyday is Firefox web browser from Mozilla. Currently on version 3.5, Firefox is perhaps the main alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer. Now with the release of IE8 and the significant resources impact on many machines, there is an even stronger demand for a stable, easy-to-use web browser.
The open source security process that Mozilla implements for Firefox results in faster bug-fix and a quicker response to network wide threats. This is real security for the user. According to the Brian Krebs, Washington Post, 1/4/2007 blog post “Internet Explorer users Unsafe for 284 Days in 2006″, Firefox users only had nine days of risk. This is a huge difference! Security is the top priority for Firefox coders.
Comparisons such as installation file size show that Firefox i smuch more compact as well. Firefox 3.5 is a 7.7MB download, while IE8 for Windows XP weighs in at 16.1MB, more than twice the size. Firefox will also run in a portable mode from a thumb drive or other removable storage. This is excellent for travelers who like to carry favorites lists with them. All data is stored on the thumb drive when browsing, which also increases user privacy and security.

As a Network Manager I use Firefox for managing Cisco networking devices, as I have often experienced errors using IE in the past. Firefox connects to the device every time.

Firefox Resources:
Firefox Tweak Guides
Download Firefox
8 Easy Firefox Tweaks for Super Fast Web Browsing

TrueCrypt – Drive Encryption

I recently replaced my laptop and decided to encrypt the hard drive. I use Absolute Computrace for system recovery if lost or stolen, but this does not protect the data. Security experts recommend using encryption with recovery tools. The point of this is that if the hard drive is removed from the system with the recovery tool installed, the data can be accessed without activation the recovery features when reported missing.
After checking out several proposals for enterprise encryption packages, I remembered I had used TrueCrypt to encrypt a thumb drive. It worked great for that purpose so I gave it a shot on my new laptop.
Version 6.2a download is very quick (3.04MB) for Windows Vista/XP/2000. There are also options for Mac OS X and OpenSUSE and Ubuntu Linux distros. As with most open source tools, source code is easily obtained from the website as well.
Installation was painless and I was quickly ready for encryption. There are a couple of options at this point: encrypt entire drive including system partions, etc. or create and encrypted folder on the drive for critical data. This option will show a file on the directory listing that cannot be accessed without the password key that you generate. (NOTE: without the key (or Rescue Disk) the company website claims that there is no way to access data.) For key generation, I used a random tool I found on a Google search. Link is at the bottom. I created a recommended twenty character key. I chose to encrypt the entire hard drive. I followed all of the instructions, including backing up my few data files and proceeded with encryption. This took approximately five hours for a 160GB drive that is 30% full. Make sure you have plenty of power available and don’t need to use the system. Power failure during encryption will lead to data loss. The encryption completed, I rebooted, entered my key and XP loaded right up.
So far I have noticed two performance hits; system hibernate, XP completely locked up on recovery and I had to power cycle. I had the same issue copying 30GB of data to the laptop from a network share. Twice XP completely locked up. Other than that, normal operations seems to be fine.

So once again, an open source tool fits the need!

http://www.truecrypt.org
http://www.thebitmill.com/tools/password.html(Random Password Generator)

Openfiler – Symantec CPS Destination

I have been testing Openfiler 2.3 iSCSI as a Backup Destination for Symantec CPS 12.5 using Microsoft software iSCSI initiator as the connector. It is working great! I am using Cisco Gigabit switchports with jumbo frames enabled and the performance seems to be fine. Getting ready to add some additional servers to really test the load.

Key Point: in the MS iSCSI config, MAKE SURE the auto-connect on reboot box is checked.

http://www.openfiler.com

Spiceworks 4.0 Network Management Tool

Spiceworks launched 4.0 last month and yesterday released the first patch. This new version really opens up the possibilites of Spiceworks
4.0 highlights include: Exchange 2007 support, updated IT User Portal (think IT Intranet), Network Mapping (still in beta), Windows Event ID Collaboration, Twitter Integration, cc other Users or Staff on Help Desk tickets.

We loaded the final beta on the production server and it went smoothly. Loaded the general release a few days later and everything is great. Installation (or upgrade) takes no more than 15 minutes.

Cool Feature Alert: Dell users, get the script for auto-populating the Purchase Date and Warranty Date of your Dell servers, desktops and laptops. It works great and will save lots of manual data entry.

Anyone using Spiceworks already will appreciate the new features. If you are not using Spiceworks, PLEASE check it out! It is STILL FREE.

Spiceworks