Since late 2018, I had been a full-time Arch Linux user. At that time, it was worth it for me to spend the extra time dealing with Arch’s quirks, meticulously updating my AUR software, fiddling with all-manual configuration, and manually migrating any software between major versions whenever Pacman updated them. It was both a great learning experience, and… well… A bit of a waste of time ;) Needless to say, things have changed in my life since then, and I now place a much larger emphasis on ‘boring’ stuff.
I have an odd fascination with radiation… Not to the point that I’m buying “Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials” (or NORMs for short) on eBay, but certainly to the point that I own a digital geiger counter and regularly measure… things… Recently, I discovered https://radmon.org, a site where users can connect a counter to their API and send data to the network of scientists that study background radiation in real time.
Log aggregation systems are fantastic. As are time-series metrics databases. But that’s not what this post is about. These methods aren’t a replacement for those systems at all, but a basic way to implement the core basics of monitoring and alerting. You see, the strength of a SIEM or log aggregation system is its numbers. It correlates data from hundreds or thousands of sources, giving very important insights about overall system usage patterns, login activity, audit trails, and more.
I recently installed Debian Bullseye on an old Intel NUCCAY6H mini PC I had lying around. It’s a great little device for a home server, as it’s very cheap, fits 16G of memory, and with 4 mini-cores it’s no slouch. The first install attempt didn’t go well, with missing firmware for the NIC causing hanging for a couple minutes during boot. This happens quite a bit with Debian’s hard-line stance on binary blobs, so I re-installed with the non-free install media.
There are lots of “very correct” ways to make your server “very secure.” Most of them rely on paid services, complicated agent-manager topologies, and cool buzzwords like “zero trust”. However, as they say, perfection is the enemy of progress. Many are discouraged by this absolutist approach to server safety, and forget the very basics. Obviously, the expensive and complex solutions exist for a reason, but at the same time a little goes a long way.