COSI/ITL for Credit

Adam Kimball

Enrolled in MP151 for 1 credit and MP152 for 0 credits.

Since this is my very first semester at Clarkson, I didn't actually adopt a 'project' for credit. Instead I mostly hung around the labs, and learned as much as I could about how they were run. This way, I found myself picking up on a lot of tidbits of information related to linux -- for example, it's actually pretty common to hear people talking about server administration when you're in the room enough, and there are often discussions about OIT and their usage of their traffic shaper.

I also attended several workshops over the course of the semester, one of which was the KVM workshop. It walked students through setting up a virtual machine on linux over the course of several weeks, and was headed by Christan Mesh. While it was a failure in the sense of actually getting a permanant virtual machine up and running on the COSI servers, it did prove to be an extremely useful process for getting notation on actually setting up the various OS's. I personally worked with trying to get Debian running, which proved to be somewhat problematic because we weren't a mirror for the distribution. Ultimately though, optimizing the operating system by removing unnecessary packages (such as a laptop battery monitor package) proved to be the most time-consuming process. I'm glad we managed to get notation on it, so people won't have to browse through the massive list in the future looking for what to remove. While the notes we took aren't online just yet, Christian has said that they will eventually be available on the COSI wiki.

I think the most valuable thing to realize is that when I started the year, I had zero knowledge about linux. Now, thanks to having been within the labs, I can actually navigate and use Debian-based distributions without running X, which is a huge leap coming from someone who hasn't used a command line since DOS 6. If you're using a Debian-based distribution of Linux, google and the Ubuntu Community Forums will be your best friends when it comes to looking up terminal commands. Even if you aren't using a computer running Ubuntu, most debian-based distributions will use the same terminal commands -- and since Ubuntu is a very newbie-friendly distribution, people tend to ask the most questions there. I also indirectly learned a bit more about the utility of the SSH protocol whilst transferring assignments and personal files within the lab, and while I can't claim to be extremely competent with my knowledge of it, I can transfer files remotely across computers through the terminal.

I've also been working on a simple script for the Windows portion of the ITL machines, to wipe the documents and downloads folders on boot. It would be nice to be able to run the script when the computer turns off, but I've yet to find an easy way to execute .BAT files on shutdown. The commands for this were pulled from PC Support's Command Line Reference Guide. It's a simple RMDIR command, with a /s tag to run silently. An important note: if you are used to older versions of Windows, 7 will most definitely use different commands.

I was, however, advised not to attempt to implement the script I had written on the computer until next semester, so that no-one would lose a project so close to the end of the year. Hopefully by next semester I'll have worked out shut-down execution.

Also of note is that, thanks to the people from the COSI labs, I did attempt to participate in IBM's Master of the Mainframe coding competition. It didn't pan out very well, however, due to the fact that my knowledge of coding and working with external servers thus far is pretty limited. I would sugget to any first-year student that they brush up on their Java skills before taking it on, and that they have a firm grasp on how the SSH protocol itself works. Participating in the first step of the challenge is fairly simple because it's essentially just signing onto a server, but beyond that it's all codework that someone with as little experience as I could not hope to accomplish.

Links:

the COSI wiki

The Ubuntu Community Forums

Command Line Reference Guide by PC Support

Master of the Mainframe