Questy.org

Tech musings and other things...

System Administration, Part II

| Comments

(originally posted 1/5/2005)

So things are better…

I think.

It’s so hard to come off your favorite job ever and do something else.

So I continue…

We had a conversation on [ALE] today (http://www.ale.org) regarding sysadmins and their salaries. Some folks out there are swooning over $20/hr gigs, and I just don’t get it.

The professional demands of the sysadmin range from technologist to politician to therapist.

Sometimes I think yearly medals should be awarded.

Anyhow….

A recruiter contacted me regarding a position in Oregon @ $20/hr. I counted that an insult. I related that fact to the LUG, and found all sorts of ballyhooing about started. Now, don’t call me a prude or high-and-mighty, but I’ve been doing this stuff for 15 years as of this month. Everything from PC’s on DOS 3.3 to watching Windows come out and then NT3… you get the picture. Let’s just say I got wise and got out of the Windows market…It’s doomed anyway.

So, I started to get interesting comments such as:

C’mon $20.. You could live like a king…
Hey, I phone-interviewed with a place in NC that wanted to pay $45K for a do-everything IT manager. I politely informed the gentlemen that I was making over $60K when I was already doing many of the specific things they said they needed done (and that was Government!) and that I know a Windows admin in Norcross who’s making ~48K without a degree. They wouldn’t budge. Get used to it.
Seems like I mentioned something along these lines last week during the H1B debate. Artificially driving salaries up based on pure unbridled greed is exactly what leads to periods of unemployment and the flood of immigrant workers. Feel free to take your shots at these companies, but understand that one day they might swing back and send you and half your peers to the unemployment line. Then that 40k will look pretty good. I’m not speculating on any one person’s worth. That obviously varies from person to person. But sometimes a position is only worth so much money to a given employer. You can either accept it, or move on to other things. Bashing the company in question and suggesting a pseudo mutiny witin the industry is not going to change things. If anything, it helps to perpetuate the growing feeling that “computer people” are over paid prima donnas. Next thing you know, you’ll be calling for a damn union.

I think that’s enough. The last quoted suggests “psuedo-mutiny” and all that, and I think that is quite laughable. There’s piles of documentation out there regarding what a UNIX administrator is, what each level of experience is worth, and what the criteria are to measure an admin’s quality. (The Systems Administrator’s Guild maintains most of this information at http://www.sage.org) There’s even a certification track and everything. You’d think someone would use it.

Anyhow, the advocating of paying what someone is worth for (here’s the reference to the previous article) measurable, quantifiable work is a VERY old concept. I believe the original quote goes something like:

After all, the worker deserves to have his needs met.

Let’s look into the fact that there is a serious need for good talent. Not just book talent…not just kids with degrees, but folks with a serious dedication to their work for whatever motivation…whether just geekiness, or pride in one’s work, or a personal technical itch to be scratched. I find more people in my line of work that come from three camps:

I just got into this because there was money in it

This is pretty common right now, because we’re in the first generation of geeks that got trained right around the bust, and found themselves in a career in decline….or so they were told.

During the bust, I was working alongside folks that thought they could copy/paste perl scripts into a UNIX box, and voila! they were perl programmers. I also had a UNIX admin I worked with that thought he was God’s gift to systems folk when he could use that there “vi” editor. (pronounced it ‘veye’…some do, I’ve always found it quaint)

These will be disappointed to a degree, but will eventually get the experience and seasoning they need…in another 5 years or so. It all depends on their day of realization that this is going to be real work, and not copy/pasting other people’s work.

Can you believe I’m a sysadmin and I get PAID!!!

The perennial geek. Glad to be here, and glad to be working. Usually overworks themselves because they enjoy it. These folks progress and grow at a much faster rate than just about any other. These will be the ones taking my job considerably faster than it took me to replace the guy before me. They are in the tech for the love of it.

I got into this, and It’s a job I feel sorry for these sometimes. They don’t really have any serious joy in their gig, and are waiting for retirement. I hope it was worth it.

I just really think it’s important you have to dig what you do. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get there with this one. I’ll try , though. In the meantime, all offers in Atlanta welcome.

System Administration, Part I

| Comments

(originally posted 1/1/2005)

Ever get a new gig?

Get a new gig when you were really in need? (i.e. laid off) Only to find out the organization was hopelessly broken in more ways than you can count?

Welcome to my daily life right now. I can’t guarantee I won’t be somewere else in a few months (or weeks)

The company I work for right now (just started on 12/27) is a huge company. (read, Fortune 20) The workflow is somewhat broken. I don’t have a permanent desk, phone, or computer. The management seems smitten with me, but I haven’t done anything yet to deserve the sentiment. In fact, I can’t see where my personal work ethic is going to fit in here at all. Lemme explain.

I love to work. Actually, I like to work hard. I’m not happy unless I’m busting my ass, in fact. [1]

Herein lies the rub.

Statement that needs supporting arguments #1:Corporate America doesn’t lend itself well to highly-motivated individuals in the technical field.

Now, find me a marketing or high-power sales guy, and they are always moving, always pushing. They’re reading all the sucess and sales tomes from the local Border’s, and doing something new nearly daily to get better and eek out one more sale or another busniess relationship. They’re usually on some commission basis, so the more they push and shove, the more money they make. It requires a continual personal reinvention.

Warning: Strong personal opinion aheadf this reinvention, however, is not one of substance, yet of appearance.

Let me elaborate.

It’s been said that perception is 99% of the truth. In that vein, many marketing and management types are driven to present the appropriate visage to their customer base. In fact, you’ll find “7 habits”, “Fish”, and “How to Win Friends…” on many managers desks. Alongside these perennial tomes (did I really use “tome* twice today?) of corporate enlightenment, you’ll see reports about nothing, statistics that inaccurately reference false figures deemed important, and employee records filled with inaccuracies and untruths.

(Wow. Is that cynical or what? The ideas are coming so terribly fast that I can’t keep up. Bear with the schizo post for a minute, will ya?)

For instance, In a recent contract I went to a site that did printing. Large-scale printing. The site seemed very well laid out. Apples on the desktops, big computer room. Heavy internet presence, and a freakin’ sweet Xserve implementation. (don’t kill me, John. I know it isn’t your fault, but your predecessor’s)

This computer room is in the most horrid shape one could imagine. The network area has been cleaned up a bit, but could still use about 192 hours of straight attention, re-racking, mapping, etc. And that’s just the physical side. One can only imagine the networking disarray. (If their admin is as good as he seems, the networking part is in much better shape, to be sure). (this doesn’t even begin to touch the computers…)

This machine room has a window into it, and a very nicely racked series of Dell servers and disk arrays are properly lined up right in front of the window. It really looks beautiful, but it obscures the evil disarray immediately behind it. Such is the corporate world.

My meaning here, to synthesze the opinion + anecdote, is not that you actually learnthe precepts presented in these books and such, but to have enough familiarity to convnce your customer that you have it all together. (or your boss, or your friends, or your parents, etc.)

I firmly believe that there is enough of a disconnect that the country spends all its time doing its best to try and fool their target into not hassling them instead of actually putting in the man-hours and completing the job in the first place. Similarly, the managment of this country has found a way to think damned near everything is more important than actual productivity. (weekly three-hour productivity meeting to discuss why you’re not productive, anyone?)

Technical folks find themselves dragged into this world of deceit in varying degrees. The disconnect between actual, technical, measurable work and having to give the semblance of actual, tecnical, measurable work is humorous at best. In fact, I’ve found in my personal experience that management has been so sold their new set of ideals that when you enumerate your workload, their incredulity is almost comical…their numbers don’t reflect that you’re busy during that time.

I think that the key to the futre of corporate America (and the technical world in particular) will be to eliminate the ridiculous amounts of middle management, while increasing actual technical bodies. Next, those people need to be assured 80 hours of direct classroom training yearly. (there’s more of them now, remember? they can handle one guy being out for a week at a time) Finally, machine-produced statistics and reports should be acceptable to those managers that reman and they need tohave the skill to read them, or they don’t need to be tecnical managers.

Statement that needs supporting arguments #2: The high number of bad techies in high-paying jobs is a crime

If the people I’ve come into contact with thus far are any indication, I have a bit of reason to be VERY upset.

I’ve spent a lot of years trying to learn to be better at what I do. I have spent THOUSANDS of my own money to have the latest books and documentation on topics that I have had to work on. I may never work on them again, but I keep the documents around just to have that resource for my company. I spend time going to Linux shows and join professional organizations just to be better. Just to be worthy of the title “Senior” in Sr. UNIX Systems Administrator.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve met people who couldn’t work their way out of a system down if their lives depended on it. In fact, in a company of thousands, I’ve met one guy that has demonstrated and level of qantifiable skill. He is a greatUNIX admin. Consequently, all the work in the organization gets filtered (somehow, magically) to his work queue.

Now, in seeming opposition to my former statement, should I work somewhere where I will get quite a bit of transferred work from people who don’t want (or are unable to)to do the work themselves?

I think not

…more to come…

In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

| Comments

We’re at a new server out on the ‘net. I’ve moved all the websites I host out onto a data-center based server, and am removing all the extra hardware out of my home.

Why, you might ask?

Well, we’re selling our home and moving into town. As such, I might be able to find the home I want. If not, I will wind up in an apartment for a time. Usually, an apartment doesn’t have the room for the scale of server I have here at the house.

So, I’ve got a few things for sale.

My house is a 3 Bedroom ranch home in suburban Atlanta, GA. You can see the pictures of my home from before I bought it in 4/04 here: Our House We’re asking $159k. If you have any questions, contact me at jerald.sheets@gmail.com.

Also, I’ve got some servers hanging around. Since I’ve really gotten into the whole Dave Ramsey thing, I', selling them to apply toward my debt. My hope is to pay off nearly half of my remaining debt balance with the sale of my home and these servers.

I have :

VA Linux Full On Dual Pentium3 800MHz, 80G HDD, 1GB Ram VA Linux Full On Dual Pentium3 500MHz, 80G HDD, 1GB Ram VA Linux Full On Single Pentium3 500MHz, 40G HDD, 1GB Ram VA Linux Full On Chassis to use for parts. Has extra fans, power supplies, mobo. Linksys WAP54G Wireless Access Point SMC 24 Port 10/100 EZ Hub 5616DS (See pictures at end of article)

In addition, I have about 6 white boxes from varying generations, including P2, P3, and some earlier stuff. There’s a few 3D Graphics cards in there, and a ton of disk space among them all. Mix & Match whatever you like.

I’ve got one crappy old monitor, and a bunch of cables, computer supplies, some CAT-5 and just ods and ends I’ve collected over a 15-year IT career.

I hope to sell it all together for $2000.00US. Buyer pays shipping. If I can’t sell it all together for 2K, I’ll have to ask more for each individual part.

Well, if anyone can help I’d appreciate it. If you need a server class machine, let me know!

(image grabbed from Ebay)

Let’s See if We Can Resurrect This…

| Comments

A good friend of mine had a statement recently in his blog…

"If you're going to blog, then do it!"

I don’t recall in particular what he was referring to, nor can i find it on his site any more.  But ever sice reading it, I have had that phrase tickling the back of my mind.  I can’t get it out of my head at the moment, and it has prompted me to do just that.  Here we go:

I’ve found myself in at a myriad of crossroads, resembling the spokes on a wheel…a very LARGE wheel.  There’s dozens of directions to go, and I’m torn between what I think I need to do, and what I want to do.  I’m torn between my preference and God’s best.  I’m torn between churches.  I’m torn between dwellings.  I’m torn between  career paths. I’m torn betwen marching and not marching.  good grief. Today The marching season is already underway, and I’ve already made that commitment for the duration of the season…  At least that’s decided.  However, I think that I must begin to seek out how to go about what is next.  Understanding that, for me at least, the marching days are going to end relatively soon. Maybe not this season, or even the next (I’d like to finish my 5 years), but “soon”.

Leanings

I’m seeing a trend pretty much everywhere.  Among people in the ministry I have respected and loved, among friends and acquaintences…men and women of God that have my utmost respect.  They’re leaving the traditional “brick and mortar” paradigm of the church and starting churches in the home.  As hard as I look, the reason God has really spoken to me regarding some of this escapes me, but I know that very soon I will be VERY involved at this level…perhaps even by creating one myself…

I find that every church I visit is concerned with programs and policies, methods of garnering as much financial support of the people as possible, “cocooning into their own little world” and doing as much as is humanly possible to segregate every part of their lives from the world.  Some of you will say, “Well, yeah!  You should be separate from the world!"  This is different, though.  There’s no interaction with the hurting…  There’s no eye to the things Jesus Himself requested of us.

Over the next several weeks and months, I’m going to be wondering aloud here, starting with the very basics of the faith, and working my way through just what a church is and should be.  WHat it should look like in our society, what it’s mission is and how we are to effect the works of Christ in the Earth today.

I have the sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t look a thing like what we have in front of us, and that God is calling people to bring things back to the beginning…to the place that first called us to Him.  And for those that never quite knew Him (because the church had failed them by being too full of itself to see that they were hurting and needed rescue from “this place” we call the world) to have an opportunity to know a God that is relevant.  One that is intimately familiar with their hurts, desires, hopes, fears, and faults but chooses to know them anyway due to the immense love He has. Come along for this ride with me…Add your two cents.  Let’s all work through this together, and perhaps…just perhaps we will find God at the end of the conversation, and will all be better for the journey.

A Call From the Wilderness

| Comments

Yeah, yeah… It’s been nearly 6 months… I know.

Busy, busy is the best way to explain it. Heavy, full season… kids in-between, got us a dog… bought a new car.. Life in general.

Since I last typed, I also found that elusive new job. The job with a clue, I call it. I work for The Weather Channel now in the operations department, and love every minute of it. The staff, management, development, administrative teams… ALL of them with a clue. The hiring process had a clue. The evaluations have a clue. The company is just GREAT! Kudos to Landmark (the parent company) and TWCi for being bold enough to do things right, and not be lumped in with the seething mass of clueless employers out there.

Katrina hit, and I had some family down in La. that disappeared for a few days… They showed up and their home was unharmed. Another friend lost apartment and job, moved here and lives with us…just got a new job, too. Good for him.

Started specializing in Apache/Tomcat here at the Channel. Learned a lot of stuff about garbage collection I intend on sharing real soon as well as a comparison of the SUN & BEA JVM. Interesting items there if I do say so myself.

God’s still good, and watching out for us. Couldn’t be happier.

More to come on the Linux & Java thing real soon.

Howdy Do.

| Comments

Well, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve gotten over here to say much, but I haven’t had much to say.

Things are going so well for our corps this year, there’s no way I can express it. The staff, management, direction, focus, theme…all amazing. We got out to the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend to work concessions, and had a great return for our efforts. I hope we can do more of those in the future…it was great family time for the corps as well as a great money-maker.

Dan’s school band went to festival, and they brought home all “1’s”. Great stuff. Good reward for hard work.

Starting drill in two weeks. Looking forward to it.

more later…

New Look…

| Comments

I decided to have a look at some new themes and play around with the look and feel of the site… I hope you like it.

I’ve been VERY busy of late, as I work 3rd shift, and the season is starting to heat up wiith the CorpsVets.

More to come, I promise!

An Open Letter to Matrix Resources

| Comments

Update: To their credit, Matrix found this letter, and acted on it nearly immediately. I spoke with them, they were very contrite, and I found them serious about righting the situation. Kudos to a company that can admit when they're wrong, and try to make things right.

Folks: Pardon this exercise in catharsis…I absolutely have to get this off my chest…

Greetings Gentlemen,

As a job seeker in the 21st century, many tasks and challenges present themselves to us each and every day. A continuing search in the field of information technology is fraught with frustration: Ignored telephone calls, emails, resume submittals, and a serious lack of qualified recruiting talent in the IT field add to the stress of the job search to a great degree.

I am sure that in 1983, you gentlemen understood this and took steps to found a company that was “not like the rest”. It is in the text of your charter that I have chosen to communicate with you.

Your charter promises several items I would like to consider with you.

INTEGRITY “We pledge to do the right thing in all circumstances”

I live in the Atlanta area, and as such fall under the purveyance of the Perimeter Center Place office. I have contacted this office via email, your website, and response to posted job advertisements for over THREE YEARS with never a reply from your organization.

In society, a bsuiness contact from an unemployed or an employed individual looking for a change deserves respect and consideration from a personal contact… A human being who cares and is there to help an individual seek their new position…a contact of INTEGRITY.

There is NO WAY your personnel can possibly know the suitability of a candidate without SPEAKING to them personally. You are in the PEOPLE business. You owe it to yourselves and your clients to contact candidates. You are selling yourselves and your clients short and treating the candidates like objects…a distinct lack of INTEGRITY.

EXCELLENCE “We exceed expectations by providing superior service and unsurpassed quality and value.”

Again, having been one to try and contact Matrix resources over the last several years, and having never been contacted, excellence (and your adherence to it) is not being served. Furthermore, the efforts of your personnel deserve discussion.

I have no problem that your staff chooses not to contact me. However, on a daily basis I have to sift through HUNDREDS of Matrix entries on the large Internet Job boards such as Monster, Dice, Computerjobs, Careerbuilder, etc. Recently, your firm has even begun placing their ads in our local paper, only to drive visitors to your website, and then be summarily ignored.

EXCELLENT personnel service organizations contact their candidates, interview them, obtain quality characteristics of the candidate, and pitch them to your clients. You can never be sure that you have found the best candidates. You have not performed your job with EXCELLENCE.

RESPECT “We show care and compassion for all individuals because of our inherent trust and belief in people.”

How can you show compassion when you don’t even contact A) those who are out of work and B) those who are looking for a change. If you believed in people, you would spend time contacting each and every candidate that showed promise for a potential position. You Atlanta office REFUSES telephone calls, and will not speak to you. Not only does this not show RESPECT for the individual, it shows disdain for them and their person. It could be nothing further from RESPECT.

INNOVATION “We promote creativity and possess the courage to embrace change.”

While I cannot speak for your internal processes (as I have never even SPOKEN to a Matrix employee) I can speak from your activities as an organization on the web. It is not INNOVATIVE, CREATIVE, or COURAGEOUS.

A Simple search reveals the following:

Computerjobs.com has 260 jobs with Matrix Resources listed. You have reposted the same 22 jobs in the Atlanta area for 17 days consecutively, yet refuse telephone calls.

Dice.com has 182 Matrix Resources entries for Atlanta. You have reposted the same 24 jobs for 26 days consecurively, yet refuse telephone calls.

I could continue…

As you can see, There is not only a public visage of LACK of INNOVATION, but the statistics seem to support that fact strongly. You have on staff a large group of website surfers that know how to post jobs.

FUN “We strive to make MATRIX an irresistible place to work,where fun and professionalism coexist.”

Since I can neither confirm nor deny that there are actual living, breathing human beings working at the Atlanta MATRIX office, I cannot speak to the validity of this goal’s execution.

RESULTS-DRIVEN “We believe that our success is ultimately measured by the results we deliver to our customers.”

I am one potential customer that has not been served. I have not been spoken to, called, asked in for an interview, or given a rejection. I have been accosted by auto-responders, denials of contact attempts by phone (The receptionist actually said “I am sorry, but we do not take telephone calls unless we have contacted you already…correct me if I’m wrong…you are in a people business, right?) and offers of visits to seminars to teach me how to look for a job. (we could start with you contacting me so I can sell myself to you for RESPECTful consideration in INTEGRITY by an EXCELLENT team member that uses INNOVATIVE methods of RESULTS-DRIVEN recruiting practice to obtain ME a job, and YOU an income.)

In regards to your Vision, you should actually speak with your candidates. When a candidate contacts you by phone, is it really impossible to take 15 minutes with this person to treat them with integrity? To respect their position, and to try and help them find that next position? I don’t think so.

Do yourselves and the technical community a favor: Operate by your foundational values and vision.

Work, Work, Work…

| Comments

Just got up and getting ready for work.

Another bleary wall-staring evening. For all my newbieness in HP/UX, I hope to see some action tonight.

Check It Out…

| Comments

Here I sit, bleary-eyed at 3:30 in the morning.

the calls come in far too seldom to keep any semblance of rational thought, so I have to bring occupying pursuits with me to keep me awake. Sure, the occasional alert comes in, and I investigate, but not much here. To be truthful, I could script most of what’s being done here, and be getting a good night’s sleep.

I got a combination of XP + Solaris 10 + Fedora Core 3 on the laptop now…enjoying the geekery. Solaris is just so incredibly primitive in comparison to Linux…I don’t see what McNealy thinks he’s talking about.

Hear this, and hear it good: Solaris, Sun, and the Sparc platform will all succumb to the Linux juggernaut in the next 5 years. Unless Sun seriously revamps and becomes a Linux company, they’re sunk.

HP/UX falls into the same category. While I’m sure Carly Florina is doing everything in her power to make it seem as though she’s in complete control, I think that most everyone in the UNIX business that is not a UNIX contender is scared to death of what Linux might bring their way.