What Are Environment Variables?

What the heck is an Environment Variable?

You may have heard someone mention setting your environment variables. Maybe you were troubleshooting getting your Python interpreter to run your script when you first started learning Python. So, what are these things called environment variables? Well, I’ll try to explain what they are in a way that makes sense.

The easiest way to think about environment variables is that it is a specific variable that can be referenced by code to get a file system location. This location may vary from one person’s file system to another. For instance, if you wanted to know the location of the myMagicApplication.exe executable, you need some way to determine where it was installed. Because you can choose where to install it during installation, you can’t just reference the default location in you program, because it will vary from one machine to another. But with an environment variable, you could reference a static variable that will always point to the installation location. This is what environment variables do.

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Virtual Machine Clone with vmWare vSphere 5.5

If you have the need to make a clone of an existing Virtual Machine on VMware Vshpere 5.5, I will walk you through the simple process. This is useful for making a full backup, performing an upgrade, creating a clone/image to start from, or just moving the VM to a new host or datastore. Let’s make a virtual machine clone.

I set up my VMware vSphere 5.5 host a few years ago and it has been humming along very well. I’ve been running both Windows and Linux virtual machines to serve a variety of different functions as wells as just being a test bed for experimentation. I have a few Linux machines that are a few LTS versions old. The best method I have found to upgrade these, while at the same time keeping the current instance running is to clone the existing instance and perform the upgrade on the clone. Once I’m happy with the upgrade on the clone, I’ll decommission the parent instance and start using the clone in production.

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Windows Remote Desktop with CopSSH

There are many services available that will allow you to remotely access your computer. Some of the popular services include Team Viewer or LogMeInRescue. While these work as intended, you can also remote into your machine using the default Windows Remote Desktop Connection and SSH by using CopSSH for Windows. By establishing an SSH connection with your local machine, an encrypted tunnel is created and all traffic that is sent back and forth between the machines are secure. In this tutorial I will explain how to set it up.

CopSSH Installation

CopSSH is installed on the machine you want to connect to. This creates a SSH service that you will be able to connect through. CopSSH is available in both a free and paid version. The paid version includes a GUI, support, 64 bit support and upgrade protection. This article will cover the paid version which I recommend.

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Build a Low Power pfSense Router

When I was setting up my home file server, I wanted to have external access to it when I was away. Simple enough, I would just open the admin panel of my wireless router, open a few ports and viola. I can now access it remotely. Then, as I wanted to start doing more things like configuring multiple public IP addresses, multiple LAN sub-nets, bandwidth allocation, it became apparent that my seemingly robust router only scratched the surface. If I was going to configure my network to handle the connections I needed, I would need something a little more sophisticated. That is where pfSense comes in.

pfsense logo

Because I’m the type of person that would prefer to build something myself than just buy something off the rack, I looked into a handle of options. One was to flash the firmware of a Linksys router with¬†http://www.dd-wrt.com/, but the reviews seemed hit and miss. I did look into commercial options, but while I was willing to spend some money, most of these were out of my price range. I then came across¬†http://www.pfsense.org/. After reading through all the documentation, reading reviews and a handful of YouTube videos it became apparent that this would do what I needed, and I could build it too.

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