Spicing up desktop management with social networking
Bringing it all together
Sysadmin Blog Social networking, at least that which involves computers, has evolved greatly over the past few decades. The internet has allowed many new forms of self expression and interpersonal communication to flourish. By today’s modern standards of social networking, I’m positively a luddite. I simply don’t do social networking.
I still hang out on IRC, and believe it or not I can still be found on Usenet. I have a couple of instant messenger accounts, and I am often found on the forums of technology sites. These are all forms of 'social networking', but they are not the first things most people think of when they hear the term.
Back towards the turn of the century, when these 'blog' things were popping up all over the place like weeds, I could never see myself having one. What could I possibly have to say that anyone would actually want to read? Even if I could produce useful content, would I want to associate myself with the rest of the pap that you generally find on blogs? Thanks to prejudices formed in the early years of these technologies, that I am now penning blogs both here on The Register and my own personal website is a reality that I am still digesting.
Not long after the first web browsers introduced the internet to mainstream users, the first of what would be considered modern social network sites and applications started popping up. Social networking started with sites like Six Degrees, and few of them ever truly caught on.
Someone then took the ideas behind these sites and married them to the concept of blogging. This begat horrors of the internet such as Myspace. Soon we had Facebook and Twitter. If Facebook didn’t kill the likes of Myspace then Twitter surely did. Facebook, shockingly, seems to have become a legitimate communications medium. The percentage of people who use it regularly still boggles my mind. People are using Facebook as a webpage for their business, a political tool, interpersonal communications and more.
If Facebook attracted the bulk of modern “legitimate” social networking usage, Twitter got the pap. While there is some signal on Twitter, the unfortunate majority of it is simply noise. What neither Facebook nor Twitter offer much of is useful content. The nearest thing until very recently that could be considered a form of social networking and actually produced some form of usable content are the old throwbacks: Usenet, forums and blogs.
So why exactly am I giving everyone a lesson on social networking when I am supposed to be producing something close to usable content here on this blog? Amazingly, the evolution of social networking has become directly related to my current IT project. This is the third article in my quest to find decent desktop management software that would allow me to do lights out management (LOM) of my network without costing me a significant fraction of my yearly budget.
That LOM setup would allow me to reduce my power usage and with it my cooling requirements. This would buy me time until the new air conditioner arrives, and lower long-term running costs to boot. Where it all ties together is with an application I have rediscovered called Spiceworks. The connection may seem tenuous at first, but the instant you sit down and take Spiceworks for a spin you will understand. In addition to being a network management tool of exceptional use to small and medium enterprise (SME) systems administrators, it may be one of the only modern social networking sites (other than LinkedIn - perhaps) to actually contain useful information about something.
From a technical standpoint it is an amazing program. You add in appropriate credentials and run a scan of your network. It will identify virtually everything on your network. Port scans, logging into basic services or using supplied credentials to gather all sorts of information. It will count installed applications, free space, warranty information, parse logs for errors and much more. It will even probe your active directory to make itself aware of systems not part of the scan range you gave it, and periodically re-run scans on a schedule you provide. After every scan, it will report any and every abnormality it discovers back to you.
The review wasn't written just for you. Good job stroking your operating-system dick there though.
Actually, I had played with netXMS. The problem with it was that it was...massively powerful for monitoring. And nothing else. Much like Nagios, monitoring was pretty much all it did. Oh, it had a few minor triggers, if you scripted hard enough. From a network management application standpoint however, it was just not helping me out.
And while netXMS is still awesome, (and admittedly fairly easy to use,) from a functionality standpoint, Nagios absolutely takes it to school. (Admittedly netXMS is slightly easier to use than Nagios, but I chalk this up to Nagios simply being that much more complex.)
A windows license isn't that expensive, and even on fully Mac or Linux networks, it is certainly possible to toss a Windows VM somewhere running this software. Remember that you don't need a full Windows domain structure to run Spiceworks; you just need is as a host.
Given that no domain requirements exist, a copy of even XP hobo, (sorry XP home,) would probably work. OEM stickers for those can be had for under $100, which if you are looking for a tool to actually help you manage an entire network of computers is fairly cheap.
To be honest, given Spiceworks’ integration with things like Nagios, I found it was great for monitoring and managing both Linux and Mac systems.
That said, if anyone from Spiceworks ever reads this comment; I too would really like to be installing this on CentOS rather than Windows. RPM please!