cron.weekly issue #5: PHP 7, Swift, Let’s Encrypt, Zipnish, Sysadvent and many more

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Mattias Geniar, December 05, 2015

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Welcome to yet another cron.weekly edition for December 5th, 2015. A lot of exciting things happened last week, let’s dive right in.


Let’s Encrypt enters public beta

From now on, you can request and install TLS certificates on your server via the public beta of Let’s Encrypt. All it takes is the letsencrypt CLI tool and a look at their documentation on how it works.

Swift now Open Source

If you hear Swift, you may be thinking about iOS mobile development on iPhones or iPads. The Swift programming language, open sourced and developed by Apple, can also run on your Linux servers and has been completely open sourced. In fact, the entire git commit history can be reviewed on github, from the very first commit to Swift. This is a surprisingly open move for an otherwise closed company.

Sysadvent 2015

Sysadvent is a yearly tradition where “famous” community members write a blogpost each day of December. So far, we’ve had interesting posts on automating OpenStackexamining new DevOps toolsdesign thinkingdeploying with PowerShell on Azure and Elasticsearch, Kibana and Logstash administration. Sysadvent is one of those yearly traditions where seasoned sysadmins share knowledge and come together to bring you something bigger. Worth a read.

Advent of Code

This is also a “December only” project, but it comes in a different form. Advent of Code is a series of small programming puzzles for a variety of skill levels. They are self-contained and are just as appropriate for an expert who wants to stay sharp as they are for a beginner who is just learning to code. Each puzzle calls upon different skills and has two parts that build on a theme.

PHP 7 released

After several years of development, PHP 7 has been released. This new version includes an improved Zend Engine with up to 2x speed improvements, several language extensions and new functions. If you’re looking for a quick summary of what’s new, I recently gave a presentation titled What’s new in PHP 7? you may find interesting.

Microsoft Edge’s JavaScript engine to go open-source

The new JavaScript engine that powers the news Microsoft Edge browser is going open source. The last time a company open sourced their JavaScript engine we got the nodejs programming language, which is (partly) based on Google’s V8 engine. I’m curious what can come of Microsoft’s JavaScript engine called Chakra.

Tools & Projects


Several years ago, Twitter announced a distributed systems tracing tool called zipkin. Varnish has taken those ideas and implemented them on top of the Varnish caching daemon in a new tool called zipnish. Zipnish takes the varnishlog as input and shows you a GUI with those parsed logs: which calls are slow? Which calls depend on each other? The screenshots of Zipnish show how this might look. This seems like a tool that can shed a lot of insights into microservice applications.

Top Open-Source Static Site Generators

If you’re thinking about starting a blog or a new website, you can consider using a static site generator instead of a CMS like WordPress or Drupal. If your site is entirely static, it can even run on free services like Github Pages, so your hosting is free of charge. This website has a comprehensive overview of the most popular static site generators being used, with Jekyll as the current winner.

Demo: Vault by Hashicorp

Vault is a tool by Hashicorp, the company behind Vagrant, for managing and sharing secrets. This online demo shows how the v_ault_ command works at the command line. This is an interactive way of exploring Vault and its many uses and gives you a practical feel of the tool.

notty: A new kind of terminal

notty is a virtual terminal like xterm, gnome-vte, sh, or rxvt. Unlike these programs, notty is not intended to emulate a DEC VT-series physical video terminal, or any other physical device. Instead, notty is an experimental project to bring new features to the command-line which would not have been possible for the physical terminals other terminals emulate.

Hashcat: brute force password recovery

This is a new tool for brute forcing different password hashes. The political correct term for these kind of tools is “password recovery”.

Guides & Tutorials

Linux Performance Analysis in 60,000 Milliseconds

Yet another fine guide by the Netflix team on “what to do in the first 60 seconds of analysing a server performance issue“. A nice reminder on tools like sar, iostat, vmstat, pidstat, …

Learning git

Codecademy is an amazing initiative with free resources to learn to code, in an interactive way. One of their latest guides is an interactive tutorial that lets you explore git, the version control tool, with some practical examples and challenges.

Changing the default nice value for a user or group

This blogpost shows you how you can change the default nice value on a Linux box. This is a very useful method to lower the impact individual users can have on your server.

NixOS 15.09 and the Nix package manager

This review covers the NixOS Operating System. NixOS is a Linux distribution with a unique approach to package and configuration management. NixOS has a completely declarative approach to configuration management: you write a specification of the desired configuration of your system in NixOS’s modular language, and NixOS takes care of making it happen.

Using SSH Through A Bastion Host Transparently

This post goes into detail on using SSH Agent Forwarding and jumphosts and offers some example SSH configuration files to make the examples more clear.

OpenSSL 1.0.2 benchmarked

This benchmark is done by Intel and the results favor intel processors, but the test is remarkable nonetheless. It shows how OpenSSL 1.0.2 outperforms OpenSSL 1.0.1 by factor 2x. This is yet another reason to consider upgrading to the latest OpenSSL release.

Run your Minecraft server in Docker

This is an interesting 4-part series that gives you a practical challenge for when you want to experiment with Docker: use it to run your Minecraft server. It covers persistent storage, Kubernetes and all practical challenges you’ll face when first exploring Docker.

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