A great importance of being a sysadmin is documenting how your systems work. I've never been much of a fan of the "oh I know how to do it in my mind" mentality that most sysadmins have, and I don't blame them - I do it too, sometimes.

I just learned that a "rite" of being the sysadmin of ACM is that I get to pave over everything on every system and do things my way. Being the "benevolent dictator" for the year I'm sysadmin. I don't quite agree with that, and I intend for the next sysadmin to know the ins and outs of ACM UMN's server closet.


Peg DHCP is a joke RFC describing a hilariously impractical way to hand out IP addresses using clothespins. It also works surprisingly well in describing how ACM UMN's IP block is set up. Yep, no DHCP, no dynamic allocation of IP addresses.

The spreadsheets detailing which IP is assigned to who is hilariously outdated, and the seemingly agreed-upon way of tracking IPs was "find an IP in our range, if it doesn't respond to ping, assign it." I've finally created a new spreadsheet detailing what IPs are in use, but it seems like everyone else is as clueless as me on what some IPs are being used for...

A deep dive into some of ACM UMN's systems

  1. argo: This is the main system of ACM UMN. Members, on request, can get a free VM with up to 4 cores and up to 4GB of RAM, as well as a public IP under UMN's IP range. This is a 24-core Sandy Bridge based machine with roughly 6TB of storage. It runs Rocky Linux, a downstream of RHEL.

  2. vm: Nicknamed "vehicular manslaugheter", this is a new-ish system (Broadwell IIRC?) that was supposed to be the replacement for argo, but it now just sits there being used as a NixOS build machine. Work is ongoing in migrating all active student VMs to vm, but it's going to be a while, as I need to get used to NixOS and also document everything I do and why.

  3. medusa: A machine held together with duct tape and magic. Currently runs Debian 11 and has roughly 6TB of space, which will be helpful when we start an activitypub thing as a club.

  4. garlic: Our all-purpose CUDA machine! Currently has a GTX 1080 and an RTX 3080, and has docker-nvidia for all sorts of CUDA shenanigans!

The big mess

It seems that the previous sysadmins knew their security craft well, because I can't seem to actually be able to get into the management interfaces of the various switches we use. Mind you - this is mostly a matter of communication (TL; DR I haven't actually asked how they did it.)

What I do know: A Raspberry Pi named WOPR (Wargames 👀) hosts sshuttle, a VPN-over-SSH server that allows me to transparently access most of the management IPs in the 10.99.99.X range.

What I don't know: Actually accessing the Cisco switch management interfaces. These switches have not been updated in a long time, and Chrome/Firefox refuses to work with the web interfaces of these managed switches. :\ (This is a subtle reminder for you all to update the firmware on your various networking devices.)

The TO-DOs

  1. Gaining access to the network switch management interfaces.

  2. Re-working the networking setup in the server closet such that we don't rely on Peg DHCP anymore. (This is a project in the works with multiple people on the new ACM UMN Systems Committee. Stay tuned to see how this goes.)