Lead Image © Thomas Detert, Fotolia.com

Lead Image © Thomas Detert, Fotolia.com

A smoke-jumping admin's best friend

TUI Tools

Article from ADMIN 50/2019
Sys admins are like smokejumpers who parachute into fires, fighting them until they are out or at least under control. When you jump into the fire, you only have the tools you brought with you.

The Supercomputing Conference always causes me to reflect on the tools I use for system administration and the tools I would love to have. The most difficult situations I encounter as an admin occur when I can't get the display server to work on a remote system, with no easy way to plug in to a crash cart. Usually, I can SSH to the system and poke around to see what is happening: I'm definitely going to want to test the node to see whether my corrections work. This combination of searching, debugging, and testing over a simple login with SSH is not always easy. Sometimes I miss graphical tools, particularly, if I'm looking at the node's time histories. (My favorite is users swapping the node to death or invoking the dreaded out-of-memory – OOM – error, which is sometimes difficult to find.)

For situations like these, I reach for text-based user interface (TUI) tools. They give me some reasonable graphics while not requiring a display server on the system. TUIs are extremely useful but underrated admin tools, of which I've used many over the years. In this article, I review a few TUI-based admin tools and applications and point out some tools you can use to create your own TUIs to meet your needs.

User Interface

About everyone in the world uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to access their desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The interface's icons and visual indicators, with some text as a secondary form of input, were developed because command-line interfaces (CLIs) were perceived to be slow and inefficient and could not present graphical images and volumetric data easily. Pretty much every operating system on any device uses a GUI: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, ATM machines, and so on. They are the number one way for people to interact with computer systems with a mouse, finger, or stylus.

To utilize a GUI, you need to have some

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