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Puppet Cookbook author interview

You can read an in-depth interview with me about the Puppet 2.7 Cookbook and the writing process over on Packt Publishing’s website. It gives a bit of background about me, some information about what’s in the book, and I describe some tips and advice for other people contemplating writing technical books.

If just one person is helped and inspired by this book… then I’m not giving refunds to the others.”

I tried to make it a bit more interesting than the usual author interview. You will be the judge of whether I’ve succeeded.

Interview with John Arundel, author of Puppet 2.7 Cookbook.

Review: Test-driven Infrastructure with Chef

Test-Driven Infrastructure with Chef by Stephen Nelson-Smith

This slim volume is a good introduction to Chef, with sufficient worked examples to get you up and running with a Chef-powered server fairly quickly. However, the author wants to do more than just teach you Chef: he wants to introduce you to a particular way of thinking about infrastructure, “Infrastructure as Code”.

If services are provisioned by programs, then we can - and should - test those programs. Further, we can write them in a test-driven style: start with the description of how the service should behave, and write a test that expresses this. Then write code that makes that test pass.

Nelson-Smith argues that this and other techniques from the school of Agile software development are of great benefit to systems administrators building modern automated infrastructures. He not only makes a convincing case for test-driven infrastructure development, but has provided a helpful tool for doing it, cucumber-chef, which is introduced in the book with a detailed example.

There is a great deal of debate over which is the best configuration management tool. However, it doesn’t matter which tools you use to build a house if the house subsequently falls down. Nelson-Smith gets this point - the book isn’t called “Chef-Driven Infrastructure with Tests”. His message, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that we should apply to infrastructure code the lessons learned from the last decade of progress in software development. To that end, his book is both timely and important. Test-Driven Infrastructure with Chef

The Puppet 2.7 Cookbook

Brand new edition for Puppet 3 available now!

Buy the Puppet 2.7 Cookbook now on Amazon UK or

Why this book?

A revolution is coming to IT operations. Configuration management tools can build servers in seconds, and automate your entire network. Tools like Puppet are essential to taking full advantage of the power of cloud computing, and building reliable, scalable, secure, high-performance systems.

The Puppet 2.7 Cookbook takes you beyond the basics to explore the full power of Puppet, showing you in detail how to tackle a variety of real-world problems and applications. At every step it shows you exactly what commands you need to type, and includes full code samples for every recipe.

What they said

“The book that I wanted ‘Pro Puppet’ to be.”
“Very good insights… really has value. Well written, easy and fun to read.”
“Practical, handy, and useful… well organized.”

What’s in it?

  • Shows you how to use 100 powerful advanced features of Puppet, with detailed step-by-step instructions
  • Includes the latest features and updates in Puppet 2.7
  • Packed with tips and inspiring ideas for using Puppet to automate server builds, deployments, and workflows.
  • Covers all the popular tools and frameworks used with Puppet: Dashboard, Foreman, MCollective, and more
  • Written in a simple, practical style by a professional systems administrator and Puppet expert, every recipe has detailed step-by-step instructions showing you the exact commands and configuration settings you need.

The book takes the reader from a basic knowledge of Puppet to a complete and expert understanding of Puppet’s latest and most advanced features, community best practices, writing great manifests, scaling and performance, and how to extend Puppet by adding your own providers and resources. It starts with help on how to set up and expand your Puppet infrastructure, progresses through detailed information on the language and features, external tools, reporting, monitoring, and troubleshooting, and concludes with many specific recipes for managing popular applications.

What you’ll learn

  • Making Puppet reliable, performant, and scalable
  • Producing eye-catching reports and information for management
  • Understanding common error messages and troubleshooting common problems
  • Managing large networks with tools like Foreman and MCollective
  • Using classes and inheritance to write powerful Puppet code
  • Deploying configuration files and templates for lightning-fast installations
  • Using virtual machines to build test and staging environments, and production systems on cloud platforms such as EC2
  • Automating every aspect of your systems including provisioning, deployment and change management

Real-world examples from production

The book includes real examples from production systems and techniques that are in use in some of the world’s largest Puppet installations, including a distributed Puppet architecture and a high-performance Puppetmaster solution using Apache and Passenger. It shows you how to manage Puppet with a web interface and produce attractive, informative graphical reports and charts. It covers common problems and errors and shows you how to troubleshoot your Puppet manifests. You’ll be introduced to powerful tools that work with Puppet such as MCollective and Foreman. You’ll learn how to use object-orientation and classes to write powerful, reusable manifests, and how to embed Ruby code in templates. You’ll find out how to extend Puppet with custom resource types and providers. The book also explains managing Rails applications and databases, CMS systems such as Drupal, building web servers, load balancers, high-availability systems with Heartbeat, and many other state-of-the-art techniques.

  • Managing virtual machines with Vagrant
  • Building a Nagios monitoring server
  • Scaling Puppet using Passenger
  • Using cucumber-nagios to write behaviour-driven tests for your infrastructure
  • Using Augeas to edit config files
  • Managing users with virtual resources
  • Managing Rails applications
  • Managing firewalls with iptables
  • Building high-availability servers with Heartbeat
  • Using HAProxy for load-balancing
  • Using tools such as MCollective, Dashboard, and Foreman

What you’ll need

The book assumes that the reader already has a working Puppet installation and perhaps has written some basic manifests or adapted some published modules. It also requires some experience of Linux systems administration, including familiarity with the command line, file system, and text editing. No programming experience is required.

Why you should buy it

More and more systems administration and IT jobs require some knowledge of configuration management, and specifically Puppet. The Puppet 2.7 Cookbook not only gives you everything you need to become a Puppet expert, but includes powerful code samples and techniques developed over many years of production experience. With it, you’ll save time and effort by automating tedious manual processes, impress your boss by delivering better business value from IT, and future-proof your career by getting to grips with the new technologies revolutionizing the industry.

Read an interview with John Arundel, author of The Puppet Cookbook.

Notational Velocity / nvALT: 10 power user tips & tricks

Notational Velocity (NV) is a “modeless, mouseless Mac OS X note-taking application”, as the author describes it, which is elegant, attractive, and powerful. The original application has inspired various forks, of which nvALT is perhaps the best, and adds some very useful new features. In this article I’ll show you 10 power user tips and tricks to get the most out of nvALT.

1. Use NV as a knowledge organiser

NV is a great place to keep text of any kind:

  • tips
  • ideas
  • reminders
  • notes
  • meeting agendas and minutes
  • checklists and workflows
  • recipes
  • procedures and howtos
  • draft writings
  • cheat sheets

You can use it as a kind of external brain pack or databank: anything you think you might need again, stick it into NV. You never need to save; everything you type in is saved automatically.

It’s easy to find notes: just start typing in the title area and NV searches as you type, listing all matching notes.

If no note matches what you’ve typed, just press Enter to create a new note with that title. Simple, but brilliant!

NV works best with lots of short notes: for example, instead of one big note called ‘Recipes’, make separate notes: one for bolognaise, one for shepherd’s pie, one for cheesecake, and so on. If you put the word ‘recipe’ in the title, typing that will instantly find all your recipes.

Read more »

London DevOps Curry Night - Thursday 25 November 2010

Bringing together developers, sysadmins, and poppadoms

A social evening for sysadmins, developers, and the women who love them. (Or men obviously.) If you work in IT, love Unix or Macs, write code, enjoy open source products, or even if you just used to own a Spectrum when you were a kid. It’s the London DevOps Curry Night, Thursday 25th November 2010, at Ragam in Cleveland Street (near Goodge St or Warren St tube):

We will meet at the restaurant around 8.30pm, though we’ll be assembling in the nearby Grafton Arms in Grafton Way (nearest tube Warren St) from 7pm if you want to drink up an appetite!

Unfortunately this time we’ve got to limit the numbers - Ragam is a small restaurant and usually heavily booked up, so it’s first come first served. Email if you’d like to come. We usually have a diverse and interesting array of guests so all are welcome, whether you self-identify as dev, ops or allied trades and miscellaneous.

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