One of the hot items this past holiday season was The Worst-Case
Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht
(Chronicle Books). I saw this hip little book stacked up for sale
in Pottery Barn stores (a sure sign of a mainstream trend), and the
bookstores in town were all sold out for holiday giving. I gave a
copy of the book to my brother, thinking he might enjoy knowing how
to perform the interesting feats described by the authors. But, of
course, I hope he'll never need to.
The authors tell how to do such things as wrestle free from an alligator (try covering its eyes or punching it in the snout) and escape from quicksand (the trick is always carry a stout pole when walking in quicksand territory). The book also provides quick instructions for winning a swordfight, doing a fast 180-degree turn in your car (I've always wanted to know how to do these things anyway), taking a punch, and leaping from a motorcycle to a moving car. I had trouble envisioning the emergency in which that last maneuver would be necessary, but that's the nature of disaster, I guess. You never know when or why it will affect you, but you have to be ready.
Sys admins understand about preparing for the worst. That's why you store your backup tapes off site, right? And that's why you not only employ complex security measures, but also possess a plan of action to deal with break-ins. In this issue, some of the articles provide tips for using various security tools. Gary Bahadur looks at some freeware Linux tools administrators can use to secure a Web server. Adam Olson discusses the Security Administrator's Integrated Network Tool (SAINT), which can probe hosts across a network for common configuration errors and other problems, and Anthony Cinelli describes the use of PortSentry and LogCheck. Also in this issue, Carlos Ramirez shows how to make sure important messages get through to your user community, and Brian Wilson explains how VMWare can be used to test new software before committing changes to a production system. The articles may not help you fend off a shark attack (jab it repeatedly in the eyes or gills), but they might help you strengthen your system against intruders. I hope you find them useful.
Editor in Chief