Category Archives: Ubuntu Linux

Unit 11: Course Retrospective

This (SIRLS 672) was my first course in the DigIn certificate program, so I did not quite know what to expect of myself or of the program, especially because I do not have professional experience in a library or with collections, except as a frequent user. Although I have a technical background, I had not worked as a programmer or database administrator in years. I discovered that although the course was more technical than I had anticipated, it was still within my capabilities. The examples of digital collections and the library-specific assignments were enlightening as to the scope of the kinds of projects involved and the kinds of skills needed to manage digital collections in a library or archival environment. 

I have learned new technical concepts and skills in this course that will form the basis of a new and expanded conceptualization of digital collections. For example, I knew little about the inner workings of the internet before taking this class; now I understand the various data protocols and standards used, and the procedures used to get data from one node to another. I also did not know anything about the component parts underlying a digital collection (except a little about databases): now I understand, using the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack as an example, the basic relations between the operating system, the web server, the database management system, and the scripting language underlying a digital collection. I already knew some HTML but I learned a little more, and I learned about XML as a way of describing and structuring data, which was completely new to me. I had professional experience with the concepts underlying relational databases and database design, but it was a good review; and I was introduced to the specifics of MySQL and the scripting language PHP.

In addition to the technical aspects of the course, I learned about the controversies and issues surrounding digital information, such as the argument for open-source software, and the advantages/disadvantages of various system interfaces, such as the CLI  (command line) versus a GUI (graphical user interface). I especially appreciated the opportunity to try tasks using a variety of methods and interfaces so that I could come to my own conclusions about my preferences.  I also learned skills and methods related to project management, the importance of a technology plan, and a little about how technology projects are funded, especially through the e-rate program.  Through the examples and the discussions, I learned about how all of these issues affect libraries, and the issues surrounding the creation and maintenance of digital collections in a library or archival setting. I have also learned about some of the initiatives in the digital humanities.

I especially have a new appreciation for the technical aspects underlying digital collections, and the prodigious amount of work that goes into designing, creating, and maintaining such collections. This knowledge gives a counterweight to the arguments in favor of free access for digital collections: while I agree that access should be as free as possible, I realize that digital collections do not come into being without a large price tag in terms of people-hours and expertise. I think that librarians will have a increasingly large role to play in creating and maintaining these collections, especially in this era of financial constraints.

As I write this I am impressed with how much I have learned, yet I feel a little trepidation because I’m afraid I may have learned just enough to be dangerous.  I realize how far I am from being really proficient in any of these areas; but since the course description states that “this is not a course in network administration, web development or programming!” I feel a little better. I feel that I have achieved the stated goal, which is to learn “about server technology supporting digital collections in libraries, archives, cultural heritage organizations and other institutions.”  I think I have indeed “gain[ed] confidence in [my] ability to learn new technologies as they are developed” and I have come to “understand basic information management architecture.”  I hope and expect that this course will prove to be a firm foundation to build upon as I pursue my future in the digital humanities.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, LAMP architecture, Library science, Project Management, SIRLS 672, Ubuntu Linux

Unit 6 – Learning HTML and practice system update

Discuss briefly how you went about learning HTML and which resources you used. Comment briefly on how helpful they were (or not), and indicate any intermediate or advanced modules or sections you reviewed. Provide a brief status report on installation of your practice system, if you have elected to try to bring one up.

LEARNING HTML: I used the recommended tutorial
I had previous exposure to HTML, but it was long ago, so I did all of the HTML basic sections. I found the tutorial very useful. I especially like how it allows you to test the HTML you are writing and see the result immediately in a split screen. I intend to go on and do the more advanced sections. I see that this site also has a CSS tutorial. So I guess that’s next!

PRACTICE SYSTEM: I elected to install another virtual machine on my computer rather than to use another physical machine. I followed the standard install instructions, and everything worked as described. I was then successful in assigning static IP addresses to each of my two VMs, and ping each of them as well as access the Apache web server on each of them. I also tried to access webmin, and could not for the new VM, so I had to go back to the Unit 4 instructions and install webmin on the new VM. That worked fine, and then everything tested OK. I then edited the HOSTS file, and now each VM has a name in the file. I was able to access each VM by using the host name in the browser address bar.

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Unit 5 – networking

This week, you might reflect on the variety of presentations for this material – the lecture, the links (especially to Wikipedia entries), videos and podcasts. Which work best (or worst) for you, and why? How do these different kinds of presentations complement your own learning style (refer to any readings you did this week on learning styles)?

I read the Felder and Solomon article “Learning Styles and Strategies” that Bruce linked for us. I think my preferred learning modes are that I am a reflective, intuitive, verbal and sequential learner for the most part.

Reflective: I like to have time to process what I’m learning, and I need to review/summarize periodically for new material to stick. I have learned that I reflect best in writing, so these blog/discussion entries are helpful. I will probably use the blog more now to help summarize and reflect upon the week’s lessons even if that is not assigned.

Intuitive: As an intuitor, I definitely dislike rote memorization, and need to make connections/abstractions to understand material. I find that analogies and metaphors help me to do that, and I am always faster at grasping concepts than details.

Verbal: I tend to be more verbal than visual – I like to learn by reading, although sometimes visuals help me get the overall concept if it is very detailed. In my own studies I need to use visual aides if I am to remember details like dates (timelines, etc); so I have learned to use visuals to supplement my preferred verbal mode. I also tend to be an auditory learner, so I read aloud at times or use a text to speech mode to help me remember details. I definitely like the lectures the best, and find videos tedious mostly (although I do use them to reinforce material I have read first).

Sequential/Global?: I am able to think globally and often do, especially since I like to understand relationships and concepts rather than details. When I read texts with hyperlinks, I do tend to read (or skim) the entire document over first and then go back and click on links. I’m not sure if that is global or sequential. However, a disorganized lecture bugs me, and I tend to only click through to one level since I lose the overall thread of the discussion if I have to click through too many levels before I get back to the main lecture.

When I learn, I like to analyze, then synthesize. That means I like to look at the big picture, take it down to its component parts, analyze the relationships between them, then put things back together in new ways. So I tend to read first for the big picture, then look at details, then read all the detailed info, then put it back together by actually doing what I’ve read about. That is why I think I don’t have trouble with the assignments — by the time I get around to doing them I have already conceptualized them in my head.

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Unit 4 – adding users

We were instructed to add a user to the system in three different ways, so we could compare the methods to each other. Here is a summary of what each method entailed in my experience:

Assignment 2: Adding a user at the command line with adduser

This went as described. The plethora of different switches available for the commands was a little intimidating; I needed to go back and review them and to have the .pdf files open in front of me to make sure I understood what I was doing.  And of course I had to use sudo in order to make these changes because I needed superuser powers!

  1. The order of commands made sense: I had to use groupadd to create a new group before I could add a user, since each user needs to be assigned to a group when created, and the group needs to exist first.  I named the group the same as the new user, which I named userme.
  2. Then I used useraddto add the new user. The switch –g defines the user’s initial login group; this was the group I created previously with groupadd. The switch –G defines additional groups that the user belongs to; the command line we were instructed to use indicated that my new user also belonged to a group named users. The switch –m makes the user’s home directory if it doesn’t already exist.
  3. Then I used the passwd command to give the new user a password.
  4. As the assignment suggested, after I logged out and then logged in again as the new user (userme) , I found I could not use the sudo command because my new user was not listed in the group sudoers, which meant I did not have administrator privileges.
  5. So I logged out and back in as mebell.  I used the grep command to do a string search of the /var/log/auth.log file for the string “userme” and I found an entry in the auth.log file that showed I tried to execute a command using sudo privileges from an unauthorized account.

I found using the command line easy and powerful, since I could tell it exactly what I wanted. But I had to know what I wanted, and I had to understand all the switches in order to use it properly, and had to understand the order of commands (for example, that I had to create the group first before I created the user. Also, when there is an error message, I have to know where to look to fix the problem (like the auth.log file).  Fortunately one can use the usermod command to change settings later for a user.

 Adding a user with Webmin

I had no trouble logging into Webmin. Finding the correct menu items was also easy and fairly intuitive. I found it easy to create a group and a user (which I named useryou), and the default settings made it fast, but powerful. I like that the settings on the groups and users tabs had default values but also gave me drop-down menus so I could see the available choices. This would be handy if I had to configure several users and groups; I especially liked that you could create a user and have webmin create a group for you, so that you didn’t have to know the order of the commands like you do with the command line.  It seems that it would be easier to do the tasks without making a mistake, especially if you had several tasks to do, or if you had many users and groups; it would help avoid making typos as one could at the command line.  Also, although we didn’t do this in the assignment, from the reading it seems that the webmin batch commands could also be very powerful, if I wanted to create multiple users and groups and execute commands before/after creating new users.

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Unit 3 – texteditors, VMWare

Use the blog this week to describe your experience with the text editors and the hands-on assignments. Include some of the commands you have tried and the results you achieved. What kind of configuration have you done previously on your primary computer and how did the process differ from configuring the Linux files you looked at this week?

I had no difficulty logging in to VMWare and verifying connectivity.  The VIM tutorial was also pretty straightforward, although it took me about two hours to complete rather than the half hour that Bruce predicted. I tried all the commands listed in the tutorial, and they worked as described. I forgot that I was supposed to report some of the results, so I didn’t take any screenshots. I have GOT to remember to start doing that!

I also completed the practice configuration of the .bashrc file as described, including creating the aliases; I also imported the various repositories by configuring the sources.list file and then executing the aptitude command to import and upgrade the packages.  My screen looked exactly like the screens in the examples. In the past, I vaguely remember changing config.sys and boot.ini when I was running MS-DOS, but I don’t remember what those changes were for. Of course, when I use a GUI on a windows machine or a mac, I guess the equivalent operation is to chose options during the install; and then also to change the way certain applications work by changing the settings under the settings tab.

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Unit 2 – continued. Installation of Ubuntu through VM Fusion

Okay, thanks to Bruce I think I have the difference between the two virtual machines sorted out. The one we run through VPN Client is an Ubuntu Desktop virtual machine installed on the SIRLS Sandbox Server that we access through a remote desktop.  Because it is a desktop version of Ubuntu (i.e. a GUI-like interface) we have to find the terminal window to use the command line.

The Ubuntu Virtual Machine we have installed on our own computers is run through VM Fusion (for a Mac).  This is a server version of Ubuntu, so it just runs from a CLI, not a desktop GUI like the virtual machine on the Sandbox server.

My installation of the Ubuntu 10.04 server on my machine went fine, after a few snafus. I was able to access VMware Fusion just fine and it ran just fine. Fortunately, I had followed Bruce’s advice to watch the installation videos in their entirety before I tried the installation, because when I tried to run the videos in another window so I could follow them step by step, it worked until I had to press the start button. At first it seemed as if it wasn’t doing anything; I pressed the start/pause toggle repeatedly, but didn’t get the screen with the big play button on it like in the video. I tried to click in the window, but it wouldn’t let me. I finally went to the menu at the top of the screen and decided to change the view to full-screen. Once I did that, I got the window with the big play button—but then I couldn’t see the videos anymore, nor the menu! And I couldn’t escape from the full-screen view, although I tried the escape key and other alternatives (although I didn’t try ctrl-C or ctrl-Z because I didn’t want to abort the install). So I just went on with the installation, and I remembered most of the steps in the videos.  There were a couple of spots where I did not remember what options the videos said to choose, so I chose the default in those cases. I did install the LAMP server, the SSH server, and I also installed the database server, because I used to work as a database specialist and I wanted to play with that.  The install seemed to complete correctly, and I eventually got the command line!  Later, after I exited the system, I noticed the VMware icon in my taskbar and clicked on it, and behold the play window came up! I wonder if it had been there all along? The whole process took about two hours.

I know this description sounds vague, but I didn’t think to take a screen shot of the problem I was having. And once I got stuck in full-screen mode, I wouldn’t have been able to anyway!

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