Tag Archives: learning

Future Tech I want to try out

In the near future, I may be allowed to have a little more quality time with my infrastructure, so when that happens, I want to be able to hit the ground running. To that end, I wanted to enumerate some of the technologies I want to be trying, since I know lots of you really like cool projects.

  1. Desktop/Laptop Management
  2. I want to work on centrally managing my users’ machines. I already mentioned rolling out machine upgrades in flights. That way all I can distribute all machines pre-configured, domain authenticated, really take advantage of some microsoft-y technologies like Group Policy object to install any additional software on the fly. I want to do network-mapped home directories, as well, which I can only do on those users who have machines which have been added to the domain. I’d also like a little more full-featured computer management solution. I’m really sort of leaning towards (at least) trying Admin Arsenal, who did a guest blog spot last week. I’ll have to do some more evaluating and try some test runs to see how it goes.

  3. DRBD
  4. DRBD just sounds like a cool technology. Essentially you create a clustered filesystem, even though both machines aren’t connected by anything other than a network. The scheme is called “shared nothing”, and from what I have read, the filesystem is synced on a block level over the network. I can definitely see how it would be valuable, but I have lots of questions about what happens during network outages and the like. Ideally I would be able to setup a lab and go at it.

  5. Puppet
  6. Puppet was the darling of the configuration management world for a long time. According to the webpage, it translates IT policy into configurations. It sounds like alchemy, but I’m willing to give it a shot, since so many people recommend it so highly. Speaking of people recommending something highly….

  7. ZFS
  8. Somewhere on the hierarchy of great things, this is reputedly somewhere between sliced bread and..well, pretty much whatever is better than ZFS. That’s a long list, no doubt, but reports are fuzzy on where bacon stands on the scale. In any event, if you’ve recently asked a Solaris user what filesystem is best for…pretty much anything, chances are good that they’ve recommended ZFS. If you’ve offered any resistance at all, you’ve probably heard echoes of “But….snapshots! Copy on write! 16 exibytes!”. I suspect that its allure would probably lessen if it were actually available on Linux instead of being implemented in FUSE, but that’s probably sour grapes. And in order to actually try it, I’m going to need to try…

  9. OpenSolaris
  10. All the fun of old school Unix without any of the crappy gnu software making us soft and weak. OpenSolaris became available when Sun released the source to Solaris, and a community sprung up around it. Learning (Open)Solaris is actually pretty handy since it runs some pretty large scale hardware and apparently there’s some really nice filesystem for it or something that everyone is talking about. I don’t know, but I’d like to give it a shot.

How about you? If you had the time, what would you want to spend some time learning?

Finally, I have a Safari subscription!

After months and months (and months) of asking, FINALLY, my work got me a bookshelf subscription to O’Reilly’s Safari Online. If you’re unacquainted with this site, click the previous link. It’s an online library of IT books from pretty much every major publisher. With my bookshelf subscription, I can “check out” 10 books a month and put them on my “bookshelf”, so that they’re available to me. With the even cooler “library” subscription, you just go read whatever you want. Your bookshelf doesn’t have limits, and it just goes.


A few months ago, I know exactly what I would have checked out first, however I now own the most excellent tome The Practice of Systems and Network Administration. Let me just say that if you don’t have it yet, I give it my highest recommendation.

So my question is, what books do you recommend that I get first?

Systems Administration: Synonymous with Autodidactism?

Autodidactism is a word that you (or at least I) don’t hear often. Ironically, do I hear people talk about it a lot, however. To put it simply, an autodidact learns on their own, rather than take coursework or study under a professor. I feel that the simple definition leaves something to be desired.

Learning is, for everyone, a process. A transition from emptiness to rough ideas, and from rough ideas, details emerge. In description, it is a lot like painting. The canvas of our minds are drawn upon, and then filled in to complete a picture of an idea.

Scholarship under a professor, or attending classes on a subject is sort of like paint-by-numbers. The picture is laid out for you, and your goal is to fill in the blanks with the information they present to you. If you are first learning to paint, this isn’t undesirable. The structure of the pre-drawn painting guides you and gives you repetition that solidifies good habits. Do it for long enough, and it also constrains you.

Being an autodidact means using a blank canvas, and discovering the picture on your own. You draw the outline, then fill in the open spaces using your own research. How excellent the picture turns out is a direct reflection on your efforts, not the given coursework.

If you are to learn a subject thoroughly, great effort must be made. With the paint-by-numbers course, it’s easy to see when you haven’t filled in an area, but if you’re painting on the fly, it can be much harder to tell that you are missing something.

It seems that no man (or woman) is an island. Until you reach very far in your career as an autodidact, you will be learning from the previous work of someone, whether the the author of a book or an artist on display in a museum. There is no shame in this, though, just as there is no shame in a formal education. Learning is the goal AND the process, so how it is best accomplished depends upon the person.

I am curious what methods you use to research new topics. As for me, I hear of something that interests me, and immediately do internet searches (or write down the subject if I am away from a computer), and go through the various internet sites (invariably wikipedia is included, despite the ill reputation it has among those who only prefer to read about so-called “facts”). I look for e-books, go to the library, and maybe stop by a bookstore or three. Sadly, that is where my progress typically ends. I don’t have enough time to research, learn, and acquire every subject that interests me, so I bounce around a lot to various topics. My trip to the Mediterranean was actually the logical continuation of a large segment of my life’s learning. I’ve been interested in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history since I was in elementary school. Going there and being at the sites, experiencing things I’ve only seen in pictures before, was absolutely the next level of learning, and it renewed my interest in the subject ten-fold.

I am interested in learning more about how you learn, also. Please, share your methods. If you’ve never thought about your methods of learning before, take this time to do it. Others will read and gain from your experience, as will you from theirs. Improve yourself by sharing what you know.

I should also state that I started thinking about this post a week or so ago, when I read this blog entry, which absolutely fascinated me. Check it out when you get a chance.

New resource for IT Administrators is being built

I just got some exciting news yesterday. My editor, Michael Francis, just let me know about a project that he has apparently been spending a lot of time on.

The Sysadmin Network is a new social networking site designed specifically for systems administrators and the like to discuss not just technical subjects, but to really concentrate on the social aspect of being an admin.

It might sound hokey, but this is an aspect to IT administration that hasn’t been touched on nearly enough. People out there feel pressure. They take abuse. Nearly everyone feels unappreciated and taken for granted, and because of the nature of our positions and personalities, we go through it in relative silence. I touched on this in my burnout post, and there aren’t many days that go by that someone doesn’t hit that blog entry from a google search about being tired of doing their job.

Of course, that is not to say that we are all just martyrs for our cause. There is a lot of joy in being a sysadmin, too. The feeling of accomplishment as you bring order from chaos. When you build something new and it works, and people enjoy using it, that’s a tremendous feeling, and very important. I also think we all get that sort of exhilaration from learning new things, too. Learning, implementing, relearning, and reimplementing is so much of our job, and so rewarding that it probably releases endorphin in our brains like eating hot chili peppers.

I am hoping that this will be an excellent site for sysadmins to discuss topics relevant to our lives. I’ve already signed up to join, and I think you should too.

Sharing information is what this blog is about, and it speaks to me that the sub-title of The Sysadmin Network is “No more hiding in the server room”. Band together for mutual improvement and you will grow more than you thought possible.