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Systems Administration

It's been a very exciting year for the dust-covered colo center denizens that comprise the Burning Man Systems Administration Team. Like the rest of the Technology Team, the SysAdmins have seen a tremendous shift in the past two years; we've watched the Burning Man technological infrastructure grow from being an assortment of simple services hosted on other people's machines to being a wide range of interdependent services hosted on several of our own servers, which are spread among two colocation centers and our new office facility. Additionally, our integration with other technical teams has been growing; on a personal level, the line between *nix-geek, Mac-o-Phile(Maker), and WinDozer has become steadily more blurry, and on a team level we're seeing improved integration with and among the Web, Database, and Extranet teams.

Among the successes of the previous year is the roll-out of "real" email account services (instead of aliases that merely forward to an ISP mail account of some sort) for some members of the Senior Staff and a limited number of the Office Staff. We're providing centralized server-side mail storage with both POP and IMAP access, as well as a webmail interface for our travel-happy users.

Another major new service that we offer is the use of CVS as a revision control and content publishing system for the Web Team. CVS is a widely used open-source version control system, and its use within Burning Man enables the talented collection of individuals who build and maintain our extensive web site to collaborate more effectively. Just putting the web site into a CVS repository is not in itself a huge task; the impressive accomplishment was to develop a tagging and publishing process that is reliable and secure and is also accessible to the myriad people of widely varying technical abilities who need to make use of the system.

This was Burning Man's first year using ticketing vendor InHouse Tickets . Their process allowed us to create the beautiful tickets for the 2002 event. The SysAdmin Team provided the support and skills needed to integrate smoothly with InHouse's online purchasing system, to receive automated order updates from them and inject them into our own databases, and to enjoy an abundance of general fuzzy-feeling-goodness.

In February of 2002 we acquired the use of a second colocation center, where we configured a machine to provide standby backup for most of the Burning Man related websites, storage for web, mail, and database backup data, and a development server for our engineering efforts. This secondary machine also serves as our primary installation of the Darwin Streaming Server, which we used to webcast sights and sounds from the event for our off-Playa family this year, including the Burn itself. Our Burn footage was shot from the top of a boom truck, and was broadcast live using Black Rock City's wireless network and satellite uplink. The results were nice indeed, and can still be seen by visiting (QuickTime player required.)

Our quest continues for a clean, secure networking system between the Gerlach and SF offices. We've made further forays into the realm of ipsec gateways, and can now reliably set up a VPN connection between the two facilities. It's proving difficult, however, to use this connection very effectively, due to Gerlach's distance from any major dial-up or broadband service provider. Strong connectivity between San Francisco and Gerlach is vital, and the Sys Admin team will continue to examine the possibilities to make this function.

2002 was filled with growth and success. The year to come is likely to see a stabilization of some services and the growth of others.

Submitted by,
Glen Mehn
Sys Admin Team Member
Rob Miller
Technology Dept Lead

Click here to read the 2001 System Administration report.