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Upgrade a Debian web server to the next version

I’ve tended to shy away from upgrading Debian web servers in place, and I’m not sure why. Here’s how to upgrade to a newer distribution safely. I’m running the LAMP stack. The process will differ slightly with Nginx. My experience is all with Apache.

It takes around 5 minutes to upgrade a Debian LAMP server from an older version to the current version. Plan on running about eight commands; five to upgrade and three to enable the new PHP version.

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What does backported mean?

This is the question I just can’t shake in my career. Maybe if I answer it in writing, it’ll save me one conversation. What does backported mean, and do I need to be concerned about it?

Backporting is the process of applying bugfixes, especially security fixes, from new software to older, discontinued versions of the same software. This allows businesses to run older software securely while maintaining compatibility that the newer version may lack. This practice is most common on open-source software on Linux systems, so don’t get any ideas about using backporting to make it safe to run Adobe Acrobat 1.0 on Windows 98. That isn’t happening.

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reboot vs init 6

Unix and Unix-like operating systems have a command called reboot. Like the name says, it reboots the system. Veteran Unix administrators insist the correct way to reboot a Unix system is to use a cryptic command called init 6. Are they just showing off, or is there a good reason for this? It turns out there is indeed a reason why one should worry about reboot vs init 6, and using the init 6 command can protect your system.

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ifdown: Interface eth0 not configured – the solution

After I imaged the disks from a failing Debian server to newer hardware, I got the error message ifdown: Interface eth0 not configured after issuing the command ifdown eth0. There’s not a lot of documentation out there about this so hopefully this writeup will help you if you’re getting this puzzling message.

This should be the same in Ubuntu, for what it’s worth.

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I fought the white screen, and I won!

WordPress occasionally suffers from the dreaded “white screen of death,” where you visit an admin page and, instead of being able to do what you want to do, you get a blank white screen. Meanwhile, the blog continues to function. If you have scheduled posts, they keep going. But with no admin access, the blog essentially becomes a ghost ship.

Several of the causes are pretty well documented, so I’ll talk about mine instead of rehashing old advice you can easily find elsewhere.Read More »I fought the white screen, and I won!

Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

Corporations are in business to make money. That’s the premise of the classic business book The Goal, and the point of The Goal is that a lot of companies forget that.

That also means they’re not exactly happy to spend money unless there’s an obvious reason why spending that money is going to help them make more money. So that’s why you see 30-year-old minicomputers in data centers. That old system is still making the company money and with no clear financial benefit to replacing it, most businesses are perfectly happy to run the machine until the minute before it will no longer power up anymore.

That’s what makes quitting Windows XP so difficult for businesses. At this point, Windows XP and that 30-year-old minicomputer are both about as sexy as a Plymouth Volare station wagon. But they get the job done, and they’re much better than what they replaced, so the business leaders are content to just keep right on using what’s already paid for.Read More »Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

Upgrading an HP Mini 110 to Linux Mint 17

Over the Labor Day weekend I decided to upgrade my HP Mini 110 netbook to Linux Mint 17. The Mini 110 can handle Windows 7, but Linux Mint doesn’t cost any money and I figure a Linux box is more useful to me than yet another Windows box. There are some things I do that are easier to accomplish in Linux than in Windows. Plus, I’m curious how my two young sons will react to Linux.

Linux Mint, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Ubuntu derivative that includes a lot of consumer-friendly features, like including drivers and codecs and other common software that aren’t completely open source. It’s not a Linux distribution for the Free Software purist, but having options is one of the nice things about Linux in 2014.

Linux Mint includes a lot of useful software, so once you get it installed, you’re up and running with a useful computer with minimal effort.

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Linux is unrelated to extremism

The NSA’s spying on Linux Journal readers is precisely what’s wrong with NSA spying. Why? It paints with an overly broad brush.

Eric Raymond’s views on many things are on the fringes of what’s considered mainstream, but he’s not the kind of person who blows up buildings to try to get his point across.

And here’s the other problem. Does Eric Raymond even represent the typical Linux Journal reader? Odds are a sizable percentage of Linux Journal readers are system administrators making $50,000-ish a year, or aspiring system administrators who want to make $50,000-ish a year, who see knowing Linux as a means to that end.

It’s no different from targeting Popular Mechanics readers because someone could use information it publishes in ways you don’t agree with.Read More »Linux is unrelated to extremism