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Life in the Trenches: a Sysadmin Speaks 219

Anonymous Coward writes "A senior systems administrator at a big ISP in Australia offers a no-nonsense view about his line of work, the pros and the cons, ths ups and the downs."
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Life in the Trenches: a Sysadmin Speaks

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Pros: Cheese Doodles
    Cons: Users
  • then be a system.... As heard on simpsons: "I maybe a hobo, but you are a nobo..."
  • by ( 562495 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:09AM (#4993465) Homepage
    I didn't see the "problem solving skills" as a requirement for being a sys admin, mentioned anywhere in the article.

    I think problem solving skill are a must for the sys admin job, especially if you don't want to be a Jr. Sys Admin and perform backups all your life.

    I worked for a relatively large institution, in the capacity of a Sys Admin, and I know for a fact that you need some serious problem solving skills.
    • What sorts of problems? Like knowing where the fucking toner cartridges are stored?

      Admins are the janitors of IT. If they're lucky they're allowed to write a few perl scripts and run them in a 'production' setting. If they're unlucky, the best they are allowed is to push around little users for power trips. Kinda like the janitor and his floor sweeper. You'd better get out of the way when he goes through with that floor sweeper at 7PM each night...
    • by bitflip ( 49188 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @11:57AM (#4993704)
      I don't see "hands" as a requirement for being a sys admin, mentioned anywhere in the article.

      I think hands are a must for the sys admin job, especially if you don't want to be a Jr. Sys Admin and perform backups (with your teeth!) all your life.

      I worked for a relatively large institution, in the capacity of a Sys Admin, and I know for a fact that you need some serious hands.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:06PM (#4993724)
      I agree. I think problem solving skills, and the ability to learn and adapt are really the two things that make a good technology admin (system or network). If you have those skills, which are almost impossable to measure in test form, you really have all you need. All the technology knowledge and such can be gained later.

      I know that I personally would much rather work with someone who was an ace problem solver and a quick learner, but who had little technology knowledge, than someone who had memorised every certification book, but was unable to apply that knowledge to real-world problems.
    • The article I read said,

      I think that having a good understanding of how something works is far more valuable than having a specific rote procedure to follow. If you understand it, you can deal with situations that haven't been pre-scripted i.e. you can deal with unplanned emergencies. If all you know is a set of rote procedures then you're in serious trouble when something crops up for which you don't have a set procedure.

      As another poster mentioned here, his number one quality for the job is aptitude. If that's not problem solving, I'm not sure what is. So it seems that you and the article agree, except that the author expects his juniors to get it and would not keep them around long if they did not.

      • Methinks it's much better to arrange things so you do not have problems to be solved. When you do have problems, it's probably much more important to understand what the problem is than the skill at solving a problem. Solving the problem you don't have isn't going to help very much.
    • It's like the paper MCSE's and other similar cert holders. They were good at memorizing answers, some were good at memorizing the books they read, but real world situation never seem to match the books. These people don't know how to think on their feet. They don't know how to combined the things they've read to address a real problem.

      These people tend to make good admins creating accounts, setting permissions, things that involve following the rules. The SA's good at problem sovling tend to get boring with rote work like this and make simple mistakes. But the paper-cert people are good at learning and following procedures.

      The trouble is the good SysAdmin usually like their work and not interested in becoming managers. The paper-cert people its their only way to make more money so you get these idiots trying to manage creative people. Not good.
    • Aptitude... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aquarian ( 134728 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @03:35PM (#4994473)
      Problem solving ability would probably be included in "aptitude."
  • by CharonX ( 522492 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:11AM (#4993467) Journal
    Good read - I think its important to recieve an impression on what your future jobs might turn into once you have been on the line for a couple of years.
    Of course, its important to try your dreamsjobs during during university, but you never know if your dream wont turn into a nightmare after a few years but just working a few weeks there...
    • I liked this article. In fact, I'm going to hand it to my managers as quickly as possible! I'll bet many of you /.'ers have to deal with management who doesn't understand [our] role in the company and/or the technical issues...

      Sometimes you have to make your own dream job by forging ahead and molding the management team around you by helping them understand your team.

  • Crap... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:16AM (#4993480)
    This guy basically has the "bastard operator from hell" mentality, he's just a little more polite about it.

    Any sysadmin that has to log into a system while on holiday in *India* is a bad one. If you don't have enough redundancy built into your system that your junior admins/engineers can't hold down the fort for a week or two, something is wrong.

    Second, "strong experienced based opinions" is crap. Open your eyes to new concepts and ideas. Like me trying to explain to two 10+ year network engineers that having a flat, layer 2 network across an entire Air Force base with 8000 users is a Bad Idea, and that adding layer 3 switching capability at the distribution points wouldn't slow down the network, and it would, in fact, be faster. Sure, hold on to your opinions, but understand things change, and if you don't change with them, you're a gorram dinosaur.
    • Re:Crap... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rde ( 17364 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:29AM (#4993500)
      You're being a little harsh, methinks. For a start, he didn't say he was logging in to fix anything; he may just have been keeping an eye on the system. Irrespective of the number of minions one has, this can only be a good thing.
      Having said that, logging in from a cyber cafe? Speaking as a former sysadmin of one of those self-same cafes, this made me shudder. Even if he's using something secure, I've often found keystroke loggers on machines (amongst other stuff), and he's risking some serious compromising.

      "strong experienced based opinions" is crap
      That's your strong, experience-based opinion, is it?
      • Re:Crap... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Corgha ( 60478 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:42PM (#4993834)
        I've often found keystroke loggers on machines (amongst other stuff), and he's risking some serious compromising.

        Good point, and always one worth keeping in mind. It's always good to treat systems and networks like bags at the airport (have they been under your control since the time they were packed?). However, perhaps he was using:

        1) his laptop, or

        2) OPIE, S/Key, or some other one-time-password solution (and checking the SSH key of the remote end).
    • Re:Crap... (Score:5, Funny)

      by portwojc ( 201398 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:32AM (#4993511) Homepage
      > Any sysadmin that has to log into a system while on holiday in *India* is a bad one

      I wouldn't say that. He probably missed the machines...

      • Re:Crap... (Score:2, Informative)

        by ArmedGeek ( 562115 )

        I wouldn't say that. He probably missed the machines...

        I agree. I've got a couple of small pentiums at home that run a webserver, email, ftp, etc. They are never under any serious load and there aren't very many users, so the machines pretty well take care of themselves. That said, I still routinely ssh into them from work Just to make sure my babies are OK.

    • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:40AM (#4993534) Homepage
      Second, "strong experienced based opinions" is crap.

      It's better than just 'strong opinions'. Anyone logical enough to realize that you should normally have opinions based on experiences is normally logical enough to be reasoned with regarding how those experiences may differ from other experiences, and how 'new' approaches may in fact be better.

      In your Air Force situation, it sounds like the people you were dealing with had had little or no experience with the type of topology you were recommending.
    • Not necessarily. I'd say that he has an appropriate level of paranoia for the job if he's logging in whilst on holiday - to spy on lusers^W^W^Wcheck up on things.
      • Re:Crap... (Score:5, Funny)

        by odaiwai ( 31983 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @03:20PM (#4994426) Homepage
        He could just have been indulging in a little office politics:

        From: Sysadmin
        To: Management
        Subject: Everything's OK!

        I just logged in from sunny Goa here to check up on things. Everything's going ok! My well trained junior admins are keeping everything ship-shape.

        Must go back to the beach now.

        See you in two weeks!
    • by MarkMac ( 13774 )
      > This guy basically has the "bastard operator from
      > hell" mentality, he's just a little more polite about it.

      Too true and still an unfortunate stereotype of all too many self-annointed sysadmins, or at least those who can get away with this attitude. Unfortunately, many inexperienced management types still think that this is acceptable behavior - but that is changing.

      He sounds like he works at a relatively small and fairly autonomous site without too much interaction with other groups/departments using the systems on a day-to-day basis. His management also doesn't appear to know what is going on - but it probably doesn't matter and they don't care given the circumstances of this particular site.

      Any one involved in system admininstration or interested in this type of job should consider the recent book "The Practice of System and Network Administration" (by Thomas A. Limoncelli and Christine Hogan) a must read. This is a far more realistic description of contemporary practices in system administration than the comments made in this article.

    • I can see your point but somewhat disagree. I have seen wishy-washy sysadmins who do not have strong opinions. It does not inspire confidence. I think strong experience-based opinions are very important. But you *also* need to be open minded to other possibilities and give them fair consideration. I don't see that as being a conflict. Cuz that's the way I am (as a network admin).
      • True. But I have also seen sysadmins with more then just strong opinions - couple of them were the closest I've ever met to ressemble what's thought to be a 'guru' - who were very unfortunate to first work under clever and clueful management and then get completely changed management team, filled with monkeys.

        Good part of the system had to be re-engineered to accommodate particular vendor's solution with no aparent benefit. Extensive and very well argumented analisys of why this wouldn't be a good move did not help. Those two guys got sacked, there is always something that needs to be fixed on the new system producing unnecesarry downtime, company has spent a fortune on crap, users are bitching (with a good reason) all the time and new management have collected their EOY bonuses, so they're spending well deserved holidays on exotic islands.

        So you see, it's all very relative and depends on all sorts of other circumstances. Common sense aproach to real world problems is often not possible, due to deviations caused mostly by the behind the scenes happenings that always seem to be beyond the logic.

        And yes, I sound bitter because I am affected with the change, trying to sysadmin this new system. Gotta feed the family though, so there isn't much choice for me here.

    • Re:Crap... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by renehollan ( 138013 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:11PM (#4993949) Homepage Journal
      Second, "strong experienced based opinions" is crap

      I take exception to this. After all, that is supposed to be the basis of "experience" for which it is worth paying a premium. Maybe they don't pay for experience anymore, though (sure looks that way sometimes).

      Yes, things change, and in this industry at a sometimes-painful rate. However, a good problem solver (and a SysAdmin better be one when "strange, impossible" things happen) should be able to look at a problem or requirement, weigh the available options, and choose the best one.

      While the options available may change, when the problem or requirement falls into a catagory that is not materially affected by new technology, experience is gold. This does not meen that conventional wisdom shouldn't be challenged when a better idea seams appropriate (and, if it isn't, it should be possible to show why), but it shouldn't be totally ignored either. The good SysAdmin will choose wisely.

      From a developer's perspective, I have encountered SysAdmin "control freaks" that got in the way of me doing my job (as in, "I don't care if the product your department is developing is Linux-based, you must run Windows," where the real issue was integration with LAN-resources). I have also encountered those who did things differently than I would, but with damn good reason, usually because any perceived extra "bang" I might get would not justify the complexity "buck" he or she would have to face, and add overhead overall.

      The best SysAdmins provide a service, make sure it is available, support it, and will bend somewhat to accomodate slightly different or unusual needs, with commensurately less support (i.e. "yes, you can connect that Linux box to the 'net, just don't do ...., and don't expect support beyond IP assignment, NFS filesystem exports, server identifications (DNS, NTP, etc.)).

  • Aptitude!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HelbaSluice ( 634789 )
    What qualities do you rate as essential for a good sysadmin?

    In rough order of importance:


    Is it just me, or is that a somewhat circular choice for first on the list? What IS aptitude, but the qualities essential for the purpose?
    • by moyix ( 412254 )

      No, you missed the part where it says he's a Debian developer. He's actually referring to the software package, "aptitude". Damn useful little tool. Don't know if I would put it above communication skills et al, though...

  • Spot On (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:39AM (#4993531)
    Having been in the IT field for 10 years, of which I've been a UNIX sysadmin for about 5, I must say this is one of the better articles/interviews I've read on the subject (not that I've seen that many). Not to over emphasize the importance of the job, or to inflate my own ego, but in all honesty I believe the job of the system administrator in IT to be one of the most important, if not the most important. System administrators must design, implement, and maintain computer systems. This is obviously one gigantic chunk of what makes up the information technology field as a whole.

    It has often been my experience that the sysadmin(s) for an organization is/are the best informed resources from an IT perspective (at least if you're a good one). Who else do you talk to when needing to discuss any significant change to an organization's computing infrastructure?

    To the person who commented that there was no mention of good troubleshooting skills as qualification for a good sysadmin....I believe that fell under the comment that a component of the sysadmin's job was to keep the systems running. To be able to troubleshoot and solve problems is a prerequisite to keeping systems running.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @11:43AM (#4993675)
      troubleshooting often has nothing whatsover to do with the system at all.

      The primary difference between a really good admin and a BOFH is the realization that "lusers" are *part of the system.* A really, *really* good admin has to be that apparently rarest of geeks, the person with outrageously good technical *and* people skills.

      After all, the admin isn't just responsible for the machines, he is also the primary interface between the machines and the people.

      How do you know if your company has a really talented admin? If he kills all of a user's processes and deletes all of his files, and the user is so greatful the treats the admin to lunch.

      Now *that* is evidence of an admin who has figured out what his job is and how to do it. Which is, unfortunately, rare.

      • Tact is the art of telling someone to go to hell, and having them look forward to the trip.
      • > After all, the admin isn't just responsible for the machines, he is also the primary interface
        > between the machines and the people.

        In larger installations users usually don't contact sysadmins directly. Instead, they call a "helpdesk" person who uses uses tools (mostly written by the sysadmins) to fix routine issues. Unresolvable issues are escalated upto the sysadmin.

        It's usually like this with ISPs (where the sysadmin mentioned in this article works). Users (i.e. subscribers) calling about technical issues usually speak to a tech-support/helpdesk person; and not a system administator.
        • hired out are a special case. Certainly an ISP is the most obvious example, and one where the indirection is so great most users don't even realize they're users.

          I'd only point out that help desk people are themselves users of the system, and generally rank only a smidgeon above subscribers on the "luse-O-meter."

          My point stands.

      • If he kills all of a user's processes and deletes all of his files, and the user is so grateful he treats the admin to lunch.
        I got a chuckle of of that one. The sysadmin just succeeded in turning a major disaster in something rather humdrum.
        The "system" is the users and the corporate infrastructure as much as the hardware and software. It doesn't matter how good the system is if it isn't being used that way.

    • Admin flamebait... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:09PM (#4993728) Homepage
      in all honesty I believe the job of the system administrator in IT to be one of the most important, if not the most important. System administrators must design, implement, and maintain computer systems.

      Why did you buy the computer? To run programs. And so step forward the programmer...

      Why did the programmer write the program? Because it performed the task needed. And so step forward the analyst...

      Who needed the task performed? And so step forward the end-user...

      I've always thought Syadmins to have an over-inflated importance in the world. As I show above, I put them third or fourth in the pecking order (depending on whether the end-user and the analyst are not the same people). Many admins forget that the point isn't to have lots of wonderfully run locked-down computers that don't do anything (damned users! get in the way of my policies...). A computer is a tool - a beautifully polished tool that doesn't do anything is worthless.


      • by MKalus ( 72765 ) <`mkalus' `at' `'> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:00PM (#4993908) Homepage
        >>I've always thought Syadmins to have an over-inflated importance in the world. [...] Many admins forget that the point isn't to have lots of wonderfully run locked-down computers that don't do anything (damned users! get in the way of my policies...). A computer is a tool - a beautifully polished tool that doesn't do anything is worthless.

        Granted the job of a Sysadmin is to keep the machines running so that the user can do their job, but to say they are "unimportant" is absolutly stupid.

        The job is more like a janitor, you "own" the house, you make sure that everything is clean, that the kids are not running in then hallways and that the bathrooms are clean.

        Having said that, that also means that I am going to restrict of what a user can and cannot do, in order to make the system work for EVERYBODY.

        The problem is mostly not the endusers, they are EASY to deal with, the problem in my own experience are all those wonderful programmers who think because they can write some code they should have all the rights, all the power and oh yeah, root because "Well, the program can only do what it is supposed to do when it is run as root." Right, permissions are for wimps.

        I never had a real problem with an enduser that couldn't be solved after some facetime, on the other hand I had Programmers who activly tried to root production boxes because they NEEDED to testrun a program that had failed on the dev AND test box (he later claimed they were broken, yeah right), never heard of permissions, it sometimes amazes me how little of an understanding programmers have about System Architecture and security.

        Sorry, but face it, if you ARE on my System *I* am the one who tells you what you can do and can't do. I AM the cop on that system and if you don't behave I make sure you can't do much damage.

        Sounds "God like"? No, I never kill processes without first knowing what they are doing or why unless they jepardize the system.

        Oh, and for the guy who tried to root the box: He got a warning from the manager and I am sure he thinks about me the same way you think about Sysadmins.

        • by mccalli ( 323026 )
          Granted the job of a Sysadmin is to keep the machines running so that the user can do their job, but to say they are "unimportant" is absolutly stupid

          I didn't. I said I rated them fourth in importance, behind the user, the analyst and the developer.

          I had Programmers who activly tried to root production boxes

          The more technically accurate term for these people is 'cretins'. You have cretins in all jobs and all walks of life.

          Sorry, but face it, if you ARE on my System...

          And here we run into the over-inflated opinion problem again. I am not on your system. I am on the end-user's system. You are to help me do whatever the end-user requires.


          • Hrm it sounds like your complaining about the fact that the system is owned by the COMPANY admins are there to keep those systems well fed and cared for generaly along with implementing new features and systems performing upgrades etc. Programmers if things are done right NEVER touch the production system unless things have gone terribly wrong, granted they should have read only rights to anything that pertains to there sphere but I say read only on the honor system untill things prove otherwise. Now why do I say this because my #1 problem with programmers is documentation and training if the programmer needs to do the install or the upgrade then there product isn't finished sys admins do installs and upgrades and support the system Teir 2 support is generaly inside the sys admin land with tier 3 with the programmer that currently owns that product. Now I may have a biased view I have worked as a programmer and a sys admin and have managed each of the fields and lets sum up the generalaties as I see them:


            Allways think the hardware or system is broken and they can fix it aka I'm a better sys admin than the sys admin syndrome.

            Need superuser privlages on any machine they touch including there own aka I am god you can not be god because I am the one and only god because I can program.

            Allways think the best way to increase application performance besides easy things is to make the system faster aka ROI be damned it's just easy to spend more to make it work.

            Sys admins

            The machine is my responcibility thus the machine is mine all mine it's my sandbox and nobody else can play with it unless they ask realy nicly aka king of the hill.

            Nobody else knows all the little things that I have done to make the system work aka undocumented bailing wire and bubblegum.

            Users are stupid why because they ask me questions that I allready know aka if your not an admin you are dirt.

            Now either side has there issues but guess what all that realy matters is that the system stay up for most companies it dosent matter that you make 3 times the salerie of the average users when they are affected by your bad programming or inability to trend and premtivly fix issues the users suffer. Admins deserve there sandbox to a point as they are the ones who get canned if things go realy bad. Programmers need the rights that they request sometimes so then can get there work done more expidiciously.

            BTW yes my spelling and grammer is horid so dont complain. If you dont agree with my oppinions thats fine to they are mine and not nessicarly anybody elses.
            • Hrm it sounds like your complaining about the fact that the system is owned by the COMPANY admins

              It is not owned by the company admins. It is owned by the company. Admins are just people doing a job which the company requires.

              We agree on most of the rest of the post.


              • >> It is not owned by the company admins. It is owned by the company. Admins are just people doing a job which the company requires.

                The company buys the machine and then what? The company is not a person it might own the physical box but it is not it's responsibility. Owning == Responsiblity and at the end of the day it is a SysAdmins responsibility. I have never heard a user complain about the "fucked up job the company did" with a server, have you?

          • >>And here we run into the over-inflated opinion problem again. I am not on your system. I am on the end-user's system. You are to help me do whatever the end-user requires.

            Okay, how does this usually go?

            The System is bought because someone (reads enduser) has a requirement for the system. The programmers than write the application (or we just install something stock like say Oracle), then the SysAdmins take over the daily tasks, monitor the thing, patch it, make sure it runs. In my book that means it is MY system. I am on the line for it.

            Not convinced? Fine, let's see how a project should work out:

            Enduser defines requirement. Software Architect and System Architect sit down and design the system and everything else that is necessary.

            Then the SysAdmins start building the system and the programmers start programming their piece, everything is tested, and then the user gets access to the application.

            Sounds simple, right?

            By your account the next step would be that the programmers hand over the program sourcecode to the enduser because the enduser owns the program and the sysadmins hand over the root password to the enduser because (again according to you) they own the system.

            Now, if something goes wrong (let's say enduser made changes to the code and broke it) it's the endusers responsibility? Or who is?

            Do you get my point? Own == responsibility and the ENDUSER is NOT responsible for the system. They "own" the box and they have a stake in what is done to it (it is called change managment) but the responsibility for the System is in the hand of the SysAdmin and the responsibility for the application is in the hand of the programmer.

            About the rest I agree with the other post, there is definetly an attitude problem with some people in the business.
  • Thankless Job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony.Tang ( 164961 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:43AM (#4993544) Homepage Journal
    Like a lot of us, my family and friends have come to rely on me as the "IT-Guy". I hate this designation because I hate IT stuff. I think this statement from the article sums it up:

    Systems Administration is the kind of job that nobody notices if you're doing it well. People only take notice of their systems when they're not working, And they tend to forget that a lot of work and expertise goes into making sure that they continue working.

    You only ever talk about IT when things go wrong. In my mind, that's a thankless job. I am SO thankful that there are people that don't mind that... And this guy is a professional through and through:

    But that's as it should be - computer networks are infrastructure that you should be able to rely on, to take for granted, just like telephones and electricity. If you can't do that, then there's something wrong, something that can and should be fixed.

    I like how he takes responsibility. This is unbelievable. I want him as my IT guy now.

    • Quote I hate IT stuff unquote
      Maybe you shouldn't work in IT then. Leave it to those of us who enjoy tinkering, and playing with new technologies.
      • Re:Thankless Job (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sbjornda ( 199447 )
        Maybe you shouldn't work in IT then. Leave it to those of us who enjoy tinkering, and playing with new technologies.
        You're lucky then. Most SysAdmins in big shops don't get to play with new technologies, since most companies don't adopt new technologies. They wait until they become established technologies. Lots of Microsoft-oriented shops, for example, are still running Windows NT 4 servers, and some still have Windows NT 3.51. There are still Linux boxen running pre-2.0 kernels in production. It's a matter of Total Cost of Ownership and Return On Investment. If someone's paying you to "tinker" and "play" then you are indeed blessed. But not at all typical.


      • Re:Thankless Job (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Corgha ( 60478 )
        Maybe you shouldn't work in IT then.
        seems to me that he was pretty explicit in stating that "family and friends have come to rely on me".

        Doesn't sound much like a job in IT to me, or that he has much of a choice about it. What's he supposed to do? Request a transfer to a new family? Tell them to hire a professional IT guy?
        Leave it to those of us who enjoy tinkering, and playing with new technologies.
        I take it you're volunteering to go over to my mom's house and help her the next time she has a problem? Thanks. She can pay you in comments about how you're not sitting up straight enough or alternate forms of nagging currency. :)
    • Re:Thankless Job (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tony Shepps ( 333 )
      Nobody notices if you're doing it well.

      To me that's the biggest problem with being a sysadmin professionally. Old-style, less competent managers don't believe that you're worthwhile because you appear idle while nothing ever seems to actually happen.

      Once, a combination of a bad spot on tape and a very unusual ice storm combined to result in three days' worth of data. (This was before the advent of cheap and readily-available RAID.) I was called in to a vice-president's office and read a list of backup strategies that the guy had torn out of a Novell magazine, about half of which applied to the SVR3 we were running.

      Thankless job, exactly.
    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:18PM (#4993961)
      The reason why it's not a thankless job for Craig Sanders is because he is in a worthwhile position within his company, able to control and hence take pride in the running of complete systems, not employed as a mere grease monkey without input yet always blamed when the systems are down.

      I think many sysadmins on this forum will find that the following rings a bell. You begin with total control in a startup IT team, decide on and bring into operation all aspects of a solution and keep it all running perfectly for years, with near-zero downtime and great job satisfaction. Then the corporate machine takes over, basically overturns everything you've done and creates an absolute disaster, and despite ignoring utterly all your input, you are to blame since you're the sysadmin. Needless to say, job satisfaction is, let's just say, less. This ring a bell?

      Craig Sanders has managed to avoid stage 2 so far. He deserves only praise, in my book.
  • Don't forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:43AM (#4993545)
    a sysadmin has to be _ethical_. They're in a position to witness alot of people's private information, especially in a place like an ISP - not even Echelon can monitor people online like the sysadmin can.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:45AM (#4993551)
    I have to agree with some other posters that maybe the over-the-top attitude ("strong experience-based opininos") is a little annoying. Having dealt with my share of jerk-sysadmins over the years, and then rising to Sr. Sysadmin on my own, I don't lord a sh*tty attitude over everybody. I sometimes feel the exception in that regard.

    I also fully agree that when you're on vacation, if your underlings can't keep the ship together, you're not doing a very good job.

    What he doesn't hit on very well in his preachy missive is the importance of diplomacy. I work in a big enough operation that I don't even deal with the end-customers, we have an application support team for that. This means that (a) the problems are reduced, since I only have to worry about a handful of real "users" who can damage the systems and (b) the problems are greater, because those guys are vastly better at really kicking the legs out from under my boxes! So it's mightily important to always touch base with the application support teams, and keep a continuous stream of communication up. It's easy to lose that, especially in a giant operation, especially when your specialty is copping an attitude.

    And finally: Why do so many sysadmins dedicate their lives to looking like freaks? Find a shower, a razor, a comb, and use them, people!

  • He's dead-on with his observation that personality type and aptitude are the most important qualities in a sysadmin. I am fighting a battle with a boss who actually thinks you can train someone (anyone) to be a sysadmin. Unfortunately when these people fail miserably I get accused of poor training. Oh well, I can always work for a service provider in my next life.
    • I have to agree with this. I am the Sr. Sysadmin where I work (and the only one for my region). I had to train someone to do my job while I was out getting a tumor removed. I covered only the most basic tasks: using our (very simple) backup software, adding users etc. and told him "Call Support for anything else ..."

      Well, he lapsed in many of his tasks and others he did not do correctly. I feel the training was adequate since I had done it before with someone who has a very different *personality*.

      On a side note, I also liked how he disregarded certifications. Most people I have met with these always seem to have an answer looking for a problem instead of spending time actually fixing stuff and making it run better.
  • Dream Sysadmin Job? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @11:13AM (#4993613) Homepage Journal
    What's your biggest complaint about the profession?
    I don't have much to complain about

    HUH!? I'm gonna go out on a limb here using my expereince and the people I know and say this is the exception and not the norm... Is this guy for real? Every sysadmin professional I know complains about the users, the hours, the pay and their job security. And what's this Telecommuniting BS? 70% of the time he was able to stay at home? Am I missing something here? This does NOT sound like the average Sysadmin Job I've come to know. Most employers are too damn anal for that to occure, even if you could effectively...

    Jeez... I must be missing something here... Talk about a raw deal...
    • I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be comfortable complaining about my job in that manner unless the interview was anonymous.

      But I think you are right: as a network admin I complain about management, users, etc. And who doesn't complain about pay or job security?
    • Yes, you are. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FreeLinux ( 555387 )
      Yes, you are missing out. A good sysadmin at a decent company can have a very good life. I have had sysadmin positions with small, medium and very large companies where I telecommuted 90% of the time. In one job I telecommuted 100% of the time for a year, before I felt a bit lonely and started frequenting the coorporate campus for a few hours a week. It's amazing what a difference there is when people can put a face with the voice at the other end of the phone.

      I was a good sysadmin and I have greater aspirations than this guy does so, I have moved up and beyond these older jobs but, they were very good jobs while I was there.

      You're missing out. The question you must ask is, why? Are you really as good at your job as you think you are? Are you able to relate to management or are you constantly trying to win pissing contests with them? Do the users like you, or do the fear or view you with disdane? Honest answers to these questions are harder to get than you might think. You may want to ask a peer or higher-up engineer type for brutally honest answers to these questions. Engineer types will usually oblige, provided they aren't close friends or subordinates. Once you have these answers, accepting them and working to truely address potential shortcomings could completely turn things around for you. Good luck.
    • To go out on a limb here, sys-admins who complain about how tough their job is are invariably bad at it.

      If you're a good admin, you know your OS(es), you know your apps. You get along with your users because you take the time to understand what it is that they want to do, so you are able to help them do it. For this reason I don't think telecommuting is a good way to be a sys-admin, much as I'd like it to be.

      To be a good admin you have the people skills to pretty much disregard most of the half-baked ideas you get from management and users whilst making them think you're going out of your way to accomodate them.

      The best admins I've worked with have always been smart, friendly people with a wide range of interests. The worst have always been small minded, power crazed Linux bores with chips on their shoulders.
  • Personally, I think the role of sysadmin suffers from having so many different facets: supporting people/applications, installing software, adding/removing users, deploying applications/troubleshooting/dealing with security etc.

    Because most people can do some of these things, they can end up doing sysadmin work. Does that make someone a sysadmin? I have interviewed for sysadmin roles before and always been amazed at the people who have used an application, or watched and install, and then applied for the sysadmin job. It's not enough.

    The problem is, lots of people doing this kind of work without the training and experience (and often, no mentor either - nontechnical boss) give the profession a bad name - hence the whole BOFH subculture.

    This link [] describes some of the issues related to this job that isn't very mature at all ...

  • A good article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gunzour ( 79584 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:10PM (#4993737) Homepage Journal
    I will agree with someone else who posted that this guys comments about personality types are right on. You do not *have* to have a particular personality type to be a good sysadmin, but you need to at least have the self-awareness to know what your personality is and how it affects your job performance.

    Of course people on slashdot are always looking for something to disagree with, so a few of you have already lashed out at the "strong experience-based opinions" quote. Experience is the number one most important part of being good at *any* job. If you don't agree, then you probably don't have enough experience.

    I'll also say this: You don't have to agree with everything someone says to learn from them. (In fact, if you only listen to people who you are in complete agreement with, you will never learn much of anything.) There are a lot of good points in this article, and even if you are somehow offended by the experience-based opinions remark or something else, you can still gain something from it.

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:31PM (#4993797) Homepage Journal

    Here's a positive comment.

    I thought that was an insightful article. System administration is the process of keeping together an organization's information infrastructure. People often find this job to be non-human oriented, but it is in fact completely human oriented. The good sys admin is constantly thinking of, and even torturing themselves over how the users will be affected by anything he/she ever does and how it can make their lives easier.

    The really good sys admins will unfortunately be perceived as adversaries because they would rather disagree and cause a political stir than develop a system that they believe is going to harm the users more in a long run.

    Most intelligent people can figure this out, and will respect their sys admin's position in the company. The sys admins who stay quiet during meetings when they see the company making a wrong move are the ones who don't care, and IMO better fit the profile of BOfH.

    At the heart of the matter, our profession is to increase the quality of life through information technology. Anyone who doesn't see their IT profession this way is in the wrong career.

  • by sbjornda ( 199447 ) <sbjornda@hotmai l . c om> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:33PM (#4993804)
    I would have liked to see the article talk more about the processes SysAdmins should be following. If he's really working for a major service provider then where are his hooks into:
    • Change control?
    • Incident management?
    • Problem management?
    • Change window?
    • Service level negotiations?
    • Capacity management?
    • Security management?

    As long as all the SysAdmins seem to be making it up as they go along, we will continue to be marginalized and geek-ified by management. Try on for size:

    Heck, even Microsoft [] is trying to get into the picture with its Microsoft Operational Framework, a kind of embrace-and-extend on ITIL, though I don't know of many places that are actually using it.

    It's not that the SysAdmin necessarily has to manage these processes - though in a small shop no one else will - but he/she/it needs at least to be able to talk the language and understand the processes that the IT Manager has set up. And if you are managing the shop, then this is your job. You must know this stuff as a matter of professional responsibility and "keeping up" in your field.

    A 20 min. presentation to the other managers on Best Practices and Processes in IT Management will gain you a lot of credibility and help lift you out of the geek gutter. There are decades worth of lessons that have been learned the hard way and documented into these processes. When you can demonstrate to management that you are drawing on a substantial body of knowledge that is geared towards improving service and reducing total cost of ownership, you will gain their respect (assuming that you care about their respect).

    Beyond this, I want to emphasize an excellent point that Sanders makes in the article. The SysAdmin job is one that is invisible if you're doing it right. A good day at work is a boring day. Excitement is a sign that something has gone wrong. You should structure your environment to be as boring and reliable as possible.

    Too many SysAdmins live off the adrenaline rush of fixing a broken server while everyone else in the organization sits on their thumbs waiting. That's costly for the organization, but ironically is the easy way out for the SysAdmin - you don't need to be disciplined or structure your time or do any planning or thinking, just jump from crisis to crisis. It's much more challenging to turn it into a boring desk job where most of your work is pushing paper and the machines pretty much take care of themselves. But guess which option is better for the organization's mission?

    Once you do get to that Nirvana state of boring life, you can strategize how to produce some measurables so you can blow your department's horn at the monthly managers meeting. Because if you do your job well, with the result that your work is invisible, they'll cut your funding unless you keep in their face on a regular basis.


    • Processes?

      o Change control?
      o Incident management?
      o Problem management?
      o Change window?
      o Service level negotiations?
      o Capacity management?
      o Security management?

      All of these points are needed for sysadmin, but you don't really need a process for them. use common sense and knowledge of the big picture to manage systems. Real good sysadmins doesn't need processes for how to insert a floppy or how to eject a tape from a DLT drive.

      Processes are for McDonalds employees (remember section A.6.2 and say "Do you want fries with that?" if customer has only ordered a burger).

      A good mentoring system with experienced sysadmins is what you need. Then the IT systems/infrastructure can be blackboxed from a management perspective.
      • I do see you point but I don't agree. In a shop w/ more than one sysadmin processes are a necessity. heck, even w/ only one you need them. How many people have set up something reasonable complex and not documented it. It runs w/o a hitch for a year or two and you have to build it again. you haven't thought about this in so long that you only have a dim recollection of how to do it. so you spend a couple of days relearning it. had you documented (had a process) you could have saved the second learning curve. That is just one example.

        what about when you have dozens or more machines. everything needs to be done exactly the same. I can't get on each machine and spend time figuring out if the apache root is in /var/www or /home/www or /usr/local/apache or /random/dir. is named in /usr or /var? all should have been built w/ teh same process.

        which version are we on? when you get to have some machines where uptime is really essential you can't necessarily upgrade all the machines at the same time. Did you upgrade this one yet? where is your configuration database? where is the process that keeps it updated?

        If you are working w/ another company you have to have processes. Everything has to be documented so when I say build me a new web server, I know exactly which options are going to be set.

        If you have more than one sysadmin, i need to know that each machine is built the same way, has the same naming conventions etc. all of these are processes.

        as you move to more than a couple machines you need processes to keep things in line.
      • Processes are for McDonalds employees (remember section A.6.2 and say "Do you want fries with that?" if customer has only ordered a burger).

        Standard Processes let you interface with management / customers / the owners of the system, in terms they understand.

        Note that Processes are NOT procedures. The process defines who is repsonsible for what - a Problem Resolution process describes who takes the call, how it gets escalated, how the fix gets tested (depending on the type of problem, the system, the impact of the change etc), and how it gets implemented. In our company, these a fairly high-level, and apply in variuous degrees to applications development, network management, O/S Admin, application administration, process control,....

        The procedure is how your team implement your part of the process. The nett effect is demonstarted by the Macca's analogy. One of the few (only ?) virtues of a McD burger is you know what you're getting. Management like answers / solutions they can trust.

        Likewise, me and my team look after aprox 19 SAP landscapes. When a customer says "I want xxx", we either say no (and tell them why) or say yes (and tell them how long / much). this has two advantages -
        1) Because we have standard procedures, we are accurate (to +/- 10%) 99% of the time.
        2) Becauee we've proven ourselves, people believe us.

  • by kien ( 571074 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:06PM (#4993928) Journal
    My favorite bit from the interview:
    "I have noticed that until the Internet became popular in the mid-90s it was social death to admit to any interest in computers, and it was certainly not acceptable to talk about them at parties. That's changed now. It's still considered "geeky" but it's not the unforgivable social crime that it once was. You still have to pretend not to know much about computers, but these days it's so you don't waste the entire party solving someone's computer problems for them."

    Ye gods, how true! :)

  • by killbill ( 10058 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:32PM (#4994007) Homepage
    I have been administering systems for over a decade now. I do many of the technical interviews for the company I work for... or at least I did when we were hiring :( . Dismiss me if you want, I don't particularly care, but be aware it may be me or somebody much like me, on the other end of the phone the next time you try and get a job.

    For everyone whining about the fact that he says a good sysadmin should have strong opinions based on experience... If you think that every problem is going to be so clear cut and so clean that you can just bang out an optimal solution and provide a clean and mathmatical defense for it, all you have done are home or academic excercises.

    The problem domain for solutions is so incredibly broad, and so incredibly rich, that if you are not depending on collection of good solid abstract rules of thumb and effective practices, you will never get to a good solution. You have to use intuition to narrow down the problem domain to a few concrete approaches, and then apply logic and experience to decide which of them to implement and how.

    These are not opinions like "NT Sucks, Linux rules", these are opinions like "I don't want to hinge my business case on an operating system controlled by a single vendor". I don't want an enterprise IT infrastructure that depends on technology that only runs on non-scalable hardware". "I don't want an operating system that I cannot remotely administer". "I want an operating system that allows me to update and maintian, stop, and start some subsystems without effecting other subsystems". "I want an operating system where I can apply security patches without being forced to install operating system updates". You get the idea.

    Having an open mind is important, but at some point you have to get off your ass and decide something, and act upon that decision. The older I get, the more important I have realized this becomes.

    A group of people with "strong opinions based on experience" can get together and hammer out a list of pro's and cons, and come up with an excellent solution to a problem, fully aware of what the solution does well and where it will be weak. It will be a stressfull meeting, and tempers may occasionally flare, but when you finally grind through it you will end up on solid ground, and everyone will likely be on board.

    A bunch of people with "open minds and no strong opinions" are going to dither about endlessly and end up with an unfocused, innefective, designed by committe monstrosity.

    Acedemia is all about exploration and investigation. Work is about getting things done. Note though that even the academia people typically won't get much "exploration" done if their home made router is down because it is an old Linux box built around a $20 commodity power supply that just went up in smoke, and the only guy that knew how to set up the IPTables to get the routing right left to go to grad school 3 months ago.

    I am with this guy... a lack of a strong opinion and the ability to defend it, suggests to me a lack of experience. How on earth can you do something day in and day out, sweat over it, bleed over it, live and die by it, day by day and year by year, and not form an opinion?
  • by Mr_Icon ( 124425 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @01:41PM (#4994046) Homepage

    I've been a sysadmin for the past 5 years, two of them at a large department in a very big educational institution. I have to say that of all jobs I've had in the past, this is the most personally unrewarding.

    Sure, the pay is good, and the benefits are nice, and you get to sit in your comfy chair most of the time punching buttons and not really doing anything in particular. However, this "bliss" comes with the following drawbacks:

    Nobody appreciates what you do. Or, rather, extremely few people do. If you are good at your job, your name is only uttered when things don't work, and even then coupled with expletives. You can be a top-notch sysadmin, the best of the best, but people will still hate you when their "thingy" can't get to Yahoo. When you're doing a great job, it is taken for granted.

    Your better is your users' worse. Any changes you make that are visible to end-users -- even if you have to do it due to the system growth -- are greeted with incredible resistance. People will complain both to you and your boss if they can no longer "click that picture and have it done." No matter if the changes you've implemented are extremely beneficial overall, and you've explained it to them time and over again: people will bitch and moan, and loathe you for any change in their routine.

    Scheduled downtime is your fault. Occasional scheduled downtime is inevitable. Even if you had warned about this a month, two weeks, a week, two days, and a day ahead of the downtime, there will be people who will show up at your door and demand that you bring back their files at once because they have an important conference call to make. When you try to say that "I've WARNED everyone FIVE times!" they will claim that it's the first time they are hearing about it. Just doing your job seems to be a great way to piss people off.

    You are on the job 24/7. I don't have a pager, and my home phone number is unlisted, so I have it better than most sysadmins. Yet, if I meet a coworker anywhere, I am instantly on the job the moment they see me. "Oh, good thing I ran into you! My computer has been making weird noises, and I was wondering..." Don't think about having lunch anywhere near where you work, either, or do it behind the locked doors of your office.

    Computers won't love you back. You may pour your best into your cluster, but it won't answer with the same. Your tidy rack of dual athlons won't show you affection, greet you by wagging its tail, or be saddened when you leave for the weekend. It's just a lifeless hunk of iron, and the only time it gets hot feelings for you is when your air-conditioning goes offline.

    I was an education major in college, and during one of the classes our professor told us: "when you start teaching, there will be rich schools and poor schools. If you work in one of the rich schools you will have a good salary, good budget, nice classrooms, and decent lunches. If you work in a poor school, you will have none of that, plus drugs, violence, and complete lack of parental involvement. Believe it or not, some people prefer to work in poor schools simply because if they are doing their job well, there will be people who will stop them every day in the hallway and tell them how much they admire their work. Not only that, but people working in poor schools are able to see with their own eyes how much difference they are making in the lives of the children they teach."

    That seemed weird to me then, but now I think I understand. It all comes down to what one thinks to be a good reward for their work. If it is good pay, quick career path, and a Porshe by the time you're 30, then being a sysadmin is your dream job (granted, of course, that you're good at it). However, if you are looking for something that is personally rewarding, something you want to feel good about doing... You might want to pick a different carreer. Or at least do it only until you start feeling burnt-out.

    Me? Oh, I'm quitting as soon as I can afford it. :)

    • First of all, educational institutions are some of the worst places for IT people.. generally, they are run by suits and not techs. Your users are often young adults or children and professors that don't really know anything.

      I'm on contract (system administration and programming) with a small internet service provider.. very organized group. Generally, clients of this ISP are very friendly and some-what knowledgable, dispite not being system admins. When I fix a problem, or even if we are unfortunate enough to not be able to fix it (corrupted backups, etc), they are very thankful and give us lots of praise.

      I have been on contract and employed by other internet service providers, but none have ever had the customer satisfaction and praise that this one gets. The cause of this is quite simple, fast results. If someone emails you, reply within 10 minutes.. even if that reply is just to inform them that you're examining the problem.

      Telephone support is a bad idea, especially if your user's native languages don't match your native language. Many users will refuse to stop talking about unrelated topics, others will take 10 minutes to try and tell you their password. Telephone contact for contracts, especially for programming projects isn't bad.. but it is very difficult for many kinds of technical support.

      Some of my contracts are scheduled or 'on my own time', others are 'on call'. Most ISPs don't require 'on call' unless you have some special skill that the others don't have, or if they are under-staffed.

      Users can't blame you for not notifying them if you're organized enough. Make a webpage with notifications and then send emails to the users notifying them of the downtime. If they complain, point them to the webpage..

      I do understand the 'changes in routine' example you gave, but this is again part of organization. DO NOT make user-interface changes in 'stable' software. Prepare a new 'major' release and then make notifications of a 'major' upgrade.. and then have a meeting discussing the changes. Of course, this may seem silly if it is only a small change... but the users are less likely to complain about an 'upgrade' than 'jim playing with our software'. Users complain less about upgrades than they complain about random, unannounced changes in their configuraiton... especially if the upgrade has been properly 'hyped' (Users pay to 'upgrade' to WindowsXP from Windows98.. they are not only willing to see change, but also pay for it!)

      It can be a very rewarding occupation. If you're not rewarded, then you're either in the wrong field or the wrong company.
  • I agree to a point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Genady ( 27988 ) <[] [at] []> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @02:06PM (#4994152)
    Most of what this guy says I've said from time to time. One of my bosses even said he didn't want to see me doing much beyond drinking coffee and surfing the net, because if he saw me doing something otherwise something was wrong.

    That said, I don't see uptime as the holy grail of SysAdmining. Uptime and Availability have to be measured from a user's perspective, can the users use the system (the way that they want to)? You can have a system that is always up that no user uses because you've made it too hard to use. High uptime, low availability. A good SysAdmin is looking for ways to make the usage experience easier for their users.

    This guy claims that a good sysadmin is the best informed in a company about IT. I'd add that a really good admin is the best informed about IT, and about the user's attitudes. A really good SysAdmin will take any problems with a system from a user's point of view to management. It's so easy for SysAdmins to miss the point. IT isn't about machines, IT is about enabeling other departments to do their jobs better. Anything you can do to maximize the bennefits to others affects their (and your) bottom line.

    A dash of modesty never hurts either. When people ask me what I do I always pick a modest responce. I'm a virtual wrench turner just trying to keep things working. That gives people an easy mental image that isn't so far off from the truth really.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >IT is about enabling other departments to do their jobs better.


      If you truly understand this point and take it to heart then you will do well as a system administrator.

      Toss in some enlightened modesty and knowledge that you will never be the IT authority on all topics therefore needing to work with users to jointly solve problems then you will never be without a job. Get to a position where you are acting pro-actively to prevent potential problems, stay in communication with your users and offer them solutions they hadn't yet thought of - rather than constantly running around reacting to problems (and cursing the "lusers" for creating them). Doing all of this, you will become visible, respected, and considered to be an integral part of IT (versus being mostly invisible, associated with problems, and generally considered to be an obstacle to getting things done). Consider yourself to be a professional and act accordingly (which means not dialing in from India to check up on your systems - how inane ...)

  • Now, I know that we here at Slashdot are just DYING to see how "the other half" lives...that being those who live in the world of technology, IT, and all that other techy stuff that we have no real experience with. I personally found it very gratifying to see what it's like to be a sysadmin, seeing as I've never done it myself. I'm sure that the overwhelming majority of Slashdot readers agree with me as well. Perhaps now that I know what it's like to be "in the trenches," I'll be a bit more polite when I am left clueless as to why I shouldn't have clicked on that attachment and have to ask for help cleaning up the mess.
  • Small-timer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @02:42PM (#4994263) Homepage
    This guy is not a senior systems adminstrator at a big ISP. He's a systems administrator at a small ISP. There's a difference.

    The big shops have to be organized. They need automated everything, not people running around fixing stuff. They have to have an organized strategy for growth and replacement. (Some of those strategies are unusual. At one large service provider, machines are installed in clusters of 100 and never serviced thereafter. Dead machines are switched off remotely. When 20% of the machines in a cluster have died, the entire cluster is replaced.) They need written procedures and manuals. They need physical layout standards. They need three-shift coverage. Most importantly, they need overall architectures that limit the consequences of failures and make it easy to find out what failed.

  • I have been a Unix Sys Admin myself for about almost 7 years. It has been a satisfying job with some pros and cons.

    First, the cons.

    The biggest con is working with management such as micromanaging your job such as dictating the directory name. An example is a software package is installed called Test Expert. Mgt decrees the path name is "/opt/testexpert" and I want to use the path name "/opt/texp" which makes it easier for the users to type

    Having to deal with paperwork related to inventory, ordering software, budgets which that should be dealt with by managment.

    Having to do Configuration Mgt which means a lot of reports which is not technical but in the language understood by accountants and marketing

    Now, the pro's

    Instant gratification. When you make a change, you know immediately if it works or not.

    Working independently

    As long as the machines work and there is no outstanding work, there is time to surf the 'Net :)

    Possibility to telecommute but the company I work for, telecommuting has been taken away due to the downturn of the economy

    Experimenting with different setups which eventually gets used by the company

    • > Instant gratification. When you make a change, you know immediately if it works or not.

      Not always true and even if it were, there's nothing gratifying about a change that immediately makes everything not work. ;-)

  • The worst disaster I can recall was when a rack shelf fell apart (the builder put it together the wrong way) and dropped a few servers on the floor from about two metres high. One of our Web servers died, the disk heads crashed. I had to build a replacement from spare parts and restore the data from backup. It was back up and running the same day, and we only lost a few hours worth of Web server log files.

    He must be a sysadmin... When asked about the worst thing that ever happened, he didn't say: ``Chinese government super-ninja hackers, bent on info-terrorism, and ruining our credit ratings, doing so by defacing web sites with `I ownz j00'."

    Hmm, perhaps the rack builder should be held in jail for several years without a trial as the government trys to build a multi-million dollar case against him....
  • One benefit of being a sysadmin is it's much harder to move to India or China or Eastern Europe than a programmer. I've been a sysadmin and have had a lot of experience with datacenters, small companies, Fortune 100 companies and so forth, and this is very apparent to me. Of course, it's possible India or somewhere could become a big worldwide server hub, but it would take years to implement and we would be forewarned.

    Of course, this makes the H1-B problem [] even worse for us. "If H1-Bs don't come in, the job will be shipped elsewhere" is not really true of us, or at least the bar is much higher. So it's more in the admin's (network and system) intereste to be against high H1-B caps.

    • Re:Steady job (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
      One benefit of being a sysadmin is it's much harder to move to India or China or Eastern Europe than a programmer. I've been a sysadmin and have had a lot of experience with datacenters, small companies, Fortune 100 companies and so forth, and this is very apparent to me. Of course, it's possible India or somewhere could become a big worldwide server hub, but it would take years to implement and we would be forewarned.

      If by sysadmin you mean desktop support, then yeah, it's kinda hard to replace a toner cartridge from a few thousand miles away.

      If, like most sysadmins, you don't need to physically touch your servers every day, then it's trivial to move your job overseas. Programmers are more secure because at least they need to speak to the end users frequently to gather requirements and reproduce bugs.
  • by grantdh ( 72401 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:00PM (#4994848) Homepage Journal
    After reading the article, I scooted over to The Age's home page [] to do my daily review of what's considered newsworthy here in Melbourne, Australia. While scrolling down, I noted that in the "Most Viewed Articles" section (way down the bottom on the right hand side of the page) the SysAdmin article was proudly at the top. Usually the top 5 articles are typical indicators of the topics that the "reality TV" loving masses would view.

    At last, a beneficial use of the /. Effect :)
  • I guess this job was inevitable for me since I discovered computers at the age of 11.

    He says that as if that's a particularly early age to screw around with computers!

  • by Kiwi ( 5214 ) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:07AM (#4997026) Homepage Journal
    If anyone has been paying attention to the Debian Linux ISP mailing list, people may recall that Craig recently got in to a nasty flame war with Dan Bernstein about the importance of a DNS server supporting the legacy BIND Zone file format.

    To make a long story short (and the flame war got ugly), Craig feels that a DNS server needs to support the legacy BIND zone file format. Dan, obviously, does not; he feels that it only matters that one can transfer the zone file over to the new format (losing all comments in the zone file in the process).

    Now, I will side with Dan here. Keep in mind that my viewpoint is rather biased, being the person responsible for the MaraDNS server [], a server which Craig uses but feels is "poorly written code". Now, the only specific that Craig went in to when pointing out that he did not like my DNS server is that fact that, like Dan's TinyDNS, MaraDNS has no support for BIND's zone file format.

    Now, with all due respect for Dan, I think he should not knock a gift horse in the mouth. The fact of the matter is that the code for MaraDNS is open; if support for BIND-style zone files is important to Craig, I suggest that he start coding it himself. I will gladly accept code which can read BIND-style zone files and make it part of MaraDNS.

    I am not saying that BIND style zone file support is unimportant. However, I think Craig should be a little more courtious in requesting this feature than badmouthing MaraDNS on the Debian ISP mailing list.

    I am sure he is an excellent system administrator; I really wish that he would start up a serious open-source project so that he understands how we OSS coders feel. I think it would make him interact with us in a more mature fashion; and save both him and the developers he flames some grief.

    - Sam

    P.S. I know Craig already knows this, but there is a non-BIND DNS server which supports BIND style zone files called NSI. It is on the list of DNS servers [] on my web page.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard