Here are my random notes to myself regarding that panel participation... ( Read more... )
I just spotted a call on the lopsa-tech list for contributors for this year. *ponders writing an excerpt of my How To Move A University Data Center document and contributing it*
I found myself in a strange situation a couple weeks ago, of needing to define the term “sysadmin” for a new friend who is not computer-inclined. I’ve surrounded myself too much over the past few years with people who exclusively live, eat and breathe IT buzzword and acronym bingo, a situation I intend to bring to a close as quickly as is convenient.
Here’s how I explained what I do for a living to an interested, intelligent, non-computer-inclined person:
You were curious about my work…
When I say “IT” I mean “information technology” — computers, networks, databases, and software programs.
Since nowadays much of IT is perceived to be like city power, water or sewer by end-user customers (email and the network to the internet is Just Supposed To Work, you know?), much of the IT project management work I do with the IT teams at USC is way, way, way behind the scenes of the university. But every now and then, I and the teams I work with are a tiny piece of some larger university-wide initiative that has a significant dependency on IT and the services we provide… and sometimes, there’s a really huge initiative.
Lots of my extended family members have no real clue what I do in my job.
I sometimes tell people that I make my living “herding computer geeks”. I’m an IT project manager, and offering the shorthand humor is easier and faster than providing a real explanation, which they might not be interested in anyway. I try not to offer too much technobabble unless someone intentionally asks for it!
A big company (that has since gone out of business) made a commercial to run during the Superbowl one year to advertise their IT project management and integration services. They used to offer (on a very large scale for very big companies) what I do on the scale of the university… their commercial kind of sums up what I do: EDS Cat Herders
The word “sysadmin” or “systems administrator” may be unfamiliar to you. That was my job title before one of my very savvy bosses here at USC figured out I could manage really complex projects with grace and aplomb, could give fairly polished presentations to high-powered committees and wear a suit comfortably, and also could still get technical enough to befriend the geeks and get them to work together to help get our projects done on time. (I hand out a lot of cookies in my internal meetings… you probably wouldn’t believe how much work most geeks will do if you just appreciate our work and then give out cookies!)
Here’s a site explaining what sysadmins do, and the little holiday they’ve tried to get started; they’re the unsung heroes of the internet, and the digital effects and animation that Hollywood depends on nowadays all runs on computer servers run by sysadmins, too: www.sysadminday.com
And yeah, sysadmins are geeks, and that’s kind of cool, in a geeky way: www.sysadminday.com/people.html
Sysadmins maintain the big computer servers in special facilities called data centers: www.sysadminday.com/hardware.html
One of the first big projects I managed at USC a couple years ago was the relocation of about 200 Unix servers from our old data center to our new data center, without breaking the services that our customers depend on (like email, or the calendar, or the software Blackboard that professors use to teach their classes, or the www.usc.edu website server) — my project team on that relocation project was about a dozen sysadmins plus a half-dozen hardware specialists. Contrary to expectations prior to my assignment on the project, there was only one complaint from a customer during the entire Unix team’s data center relocation.
Before that, at Caltech, I organized a data center move of about 65 Unix servers, with a team of about three. That project also turned out OK, but I have to recommend scheduling server moves to avoid rainy days unless you have a lot of plastic sheeting to spare.
Good sysadmins bring order from chaos; bad sysadmins make huge messes that give good sysadmins headaches and nightmares like you wouldn’t believe: www.sysadminday.com/horrors.html
If you want more nitty-gritty info on the profession, check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Even though I’m now a project manager and am slowly building my connections in that professional PM community, I’m still active in the professional community of sysadmins, and I’ve got some friends across the globe in an organization called LOPSA (the League of Professional System Administrators) that I see once or twice a year at technical conferences.
LOPSA teams up every year with various conferences, including the sizable one put together by the open-source computing community in Los Angeles called SCaLE (Southern California Linux Expo)… that’s the conference I’m volunteering at on the weekend of February 20-22. My friends Jesse and Chris are teaching classes for LOPSA at the conference.
Your home computer is probably running Windows, or is a Mac. Do you know what Linux is? It’s a computer operating system (sometimes called an “OS”), like Windows or MacOS (one of which is the operating system that your home computer runs). Linux is an open-source variant of Unix, which is yet another operating system. Most of the really big computer servers that make up the internet are running a variant of Unix or Linux, and to a lesser degree, Windows.
I know that Pixar, the movie studio so famous now for so many gorgeous computer-animated films, runs mostly Linux for their animation computers; they seem to always be looking to hire Linux-specialist sysadmins.
Oh, you probably haven’t encountered the term “open-source” before, either. “Open-source” is a design philosophy that emphasizes technical and programming standards available to scrutiny by all, and a communal development environment… basically, it’s geeks designing and programming cool software in full public view of other geeks, so that the entire geeky technical community can contribute, and which will hopefully result in better products for everyone, and give the programmers more of an opportunity to learn from each other for the betterment of all. More info is at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source.
I hope I haven’t lost you in all this technobabble… it’s really not all that complicated, but IT does include a lot of specialized vocabulary that can sound very daunting. I’m happy to translate (from computer geek to English) if anything at all of this is confusing. If you want to know more… just ask.
In exchange, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions about your chosen profession at various points… I likely don’t know any of the specialized vocabulary that you use in your daily work activities, since I don’t work in your industry.
SCaLE 6x also just added two LOPSA training classes for Friday! Open-Source Email Systems: One Approach to Spam Fighting, and Introduction to Virtualization on Linux. I adore LOPSA.
My posts about last year's SCaLE are here and here and here.
I'll be helping out with the Women's miniconf on Friday, and I'll be working the registration desk on Saturday. Come on by and say hello!
If I weren't attending and helping out with the SCaLE conference, I'd be attending the 24/7 DIY Media Summit that is happening this weekend. There are a bunch of different academic panel and workshop tracks, but there are also screenings open to the public.
Political commentary, activist media, independent arts, machinima, US media vidding, video blogging, anime music videos... and some of the most fabulous people presenting, curating, and discussing and receptioning about emerging patterns as well as the history of these new media... what's not to love?
http://www.video24-7.org/ has complete info.
I'll probably also wind up prowling around diyvideo later, which has information on some of the webcasts associated with that conference.
And if I ever get more free time (ahahaha, shut up) this note is to remind myself to prowl around in the videos on In Media Res.
I wish I could be in two places at once.
(Oh, and I joined twitter.com last night -- username naturedance.)
( This got a bit long... )
The System Administrators Guild (a special interest group within USENIX)... I suspect I need to renew my membership. This is all-OS-inclusive.
"LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux and Free Software, and for women and men who want to support women in computing. The membership ranges from novices to experienced users, and includes professional and amateur programmers, system administrators and technical writers." http://www.linuxchix.org/
The Systers mailing list is rather more... venerable, and it's all-OS-inclusive. I joined as a member of the mailing list back in February... I only lurk, reading and soaking up information and conversation like a little sea-sponge. :-)
There are local computing user groups (LUGs) in the LA area, they're an excellent place to network among local sysadmins, especially Unix ones; I don't know what resources each group has to offer, but I collected links to many of the local Unix/Linux ones in a blogpost after I helped out at the SCALE 5X conference back in February: http://shakal.livejournal.com/91747.
There are local Mac groups which might be handy for OSX sysadmins, too:
I'm still rather clueless about Windows-specific sysadmin professional resources. I asked a friend of mine to send me some links a couple years ago, and they're buried in my to-do email box, I suspect. When I get a moment, I'll find them and post them here, too.
In addition to jobs lists and boards at those organizations, aside from http://www.monster.com/ two other big techie jobs sites seem to be http://www.dice.com/ and http://www.techcareers.com/
These books are must-haves (and must-reads):
Time Management for System Administrators by Tom Limoncelli
The Practice of System and Network Administration (2nd Edition) by Tom Limoncelli, Christina Hogan, and Strata Chalup
For Unix, "the purple book" aka UNIX System Administration Handbook (3rd Edition) by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Scott Seebass, and Trent Hein
For Linux, "the pink book" aka Linux Administration Handbook (2nd Edition) by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent Hein
plus whatever O'Reilly, Peachpit, and No Starch Press books are appropriate to your immediate job and/or sanity needs.
Do you know of more good ones? Please enlighten me!
It's two days of project management meets quality assurance, apparently, and sponsored by three of the local PMI chapters, along with other local IT and QA professional organizations.
In other news, I'm really looking forward to the new second edition of yesthattom's (and Strata's and Christine's!) sysadmin book. I've ordered it, and now can't wait for it to reach my grabby hands! *obsessively refreshes shipping tracking site*
And now a personal forehead-smack-worthy moment: Why I didn't figure this out until now kind of baffles me, but most of the local "Linux User Groups" are actually Linux-tinged Open Source enthusiast groups, not just all-Linux-all-the-time, as I have been assuming for years and years. Color me dopey for not reading past the titles and acronyms....
Yeah, I lived in a very Solaris-colored world when I worked at Caltech, that's what the group I was part of specialized in, so I didn't twig on to the idea that a local Linux user group might be for me. Sigh. Should have figured this out a lot sooner... but then again, I don't think many of the Linux sysadmins I worked near at Caltech are members of these groups either, and I'm not sure why that is... lack of time, lack of the group's visibility or outreach or something? One of them even meets on campus! I have no clue why more of my sysadmin former co-workers aren't already participating in this sort of professional development, social networking and general commiseration and enthusiasm (or were and never mentioned it to me, although I'm a vocal proponent of USENIX/SAGE and LOPSA and evangelize about joining professional organizations and mailing lists and such fairly frequently). Anyway... that's all water under the bridge. Onward and upward!
I need to seek out local Mac user groups, too... but that's a post for another day.
Many of the local user groups' websites have mailing lists and IRC channels, too, and all sorts of other useful stuff. Here are some of the local meetings happening around the Los Angeles area of groups who had a presence at SCALE this weekend.
What: Cerritos Linux Users Group (CLUG) (seems to have merged with the Linux Users at LAX group Lilax recently)
Where: California State University Dominguez Hills venues
When: second Saturday of each month from ~10:00am to 2:00pm
What: LAMPSIG, "the Los Angeles LAMP Special Interest Group (LAMPsig) is an off-shoot of the Linux Users of Los Angeles (LULA) group. LAMPsig is focused on web development and end user web interfaces. The LAMP environment (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) is the SIG's starting point."
Where: Tom Bradley Center, 5213 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019
When: third Saturday of each month
What: LA Perl Mongers, the Perl Users Group of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (note that they also link to some affiliated groups via their website: Orange County Perl Mongers, San Diego Perl Mongers, and Thousand Oaks Perl Mongers)
Where: Ticketmaster Corporate Headquarters, 8800 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
When: as scheduled, check the website
What: Santa Barbara Linux Users Group (SBLUG)
Where: Santa Barbara somewhere
When: every 2 weeks, more details can be found at http://www.sblug.com but the website seems to be down currently
What: San Gabriel Valley Linux Users Group (SGVLUG)
Where: 107 Downs on the Caltech Campus in Pasadena
When: 2nd Thursday of every month from 7pm to 9pm
What: San Fernando Valley Linux Users Group (SFVLUG)
Where: location varies (but seems to include Van Nuys and Northridge), check the website
When: every two weeks, on Saturday once a month, and a Monday or Tuesday once a month
What: Unix Users Association of Southern California (UUASC)
Where: Los Angeles County chapter, check the website
Where and When: Orange County Chapter, second Monday of each month from 7 to 9 pm
And I just found the lovely helpful listing of other local user groups and techgeek meetings at http://www.lalugs.org/ :-)
But by far the most interesting for me personally, among the local user group booths...
LinuxChixLA, the local chapter of LinuxChix -- "Primary communiction between members is via email lists and include lists for New Chix, those new to Linux, developers on the Tech Talk, Programming, and Kernel Chix lists, gender issue focused lists on the Grrls Only and Grrltalk lists, and a welcoming learning environment on the Courses list."
Also, there are number of wikis springing up which focus on the volume and visibility of women participating in open source. Some neat items from one of the LinuxChixLA booth handouts:
ETA: There's an excellent writeup of the women in open source miniconf at http://www.thejemreport.com/mambo/
Did I mention that I had an absolute blast volunteering at SCALE 5x this weekend?
Off the top of my head, I can think of more than a few packages based on open source that I absolutely depend on, at home and at work on my MacOSX laptops and work tower, and to connect from them to Solaris and Linux servers: Firefox web browser, Thunderbird email client, LiveJournal, TWiki, MediaWiki, GIMPshop image editing software, Cyberduck file transfer software (FTP and SFTP), MPlayerOSX media player, VLC media player, Audacity for sound recording, and (less frequently) I use Jomic comics viewer, and of course, I use Wikipedia frequently for looking up random factoids. I also installed Adium for chat a while back, though I often use iChat instead.
Back when my work computer was a WinXPpro tower, I used Thunderbird, Firefox and Putty daily...
And in hunting down some of those links, I've just stumbled across these two handy pages listing lovely open source MacOSX software, and oooh, some of that looks very shiny...
So yeah, I may not be in as deep as some folks who muck about up to their elbows (or necks) in the Linux kernel, and I may never want to spend time doing that, but I'm an open source enthusiast, in my own ways. And it was great to be around near-kindred spirits this weekend.
And now I'm eyeing my old Dell WinXPpro tower, pondering various choices for rebuilding it into something more interesting... don't know when I'll get to that project, of course, but still... :-)
Turns out this is a fabulous open-source conference... the exhibit floor has lots of local user groups representing, as well as USENIX/SAGE and LOPSA, and plenty of shiny vendor booths.
It sounds like the workshops and talks are going very well, though I haven't had time to attend them, and the Birds of a Feather sessions last night seem to have been a hit, too.
I'm sorry to have missed the Women in Open-Source miniconference that took place here on Friday, but I'm going to be sure to arrange to attend the next one.
Volunteering has been much fun, and the hallway track schmoozing and random conversations about life, the universe and everything has been fascinating and, frankly, rather intellectually energizing though physically tiring... I was pretty exhausted by the time I finished fighting traffic on the 405 to get home last night.
I think I'll try a different route home this afternoon...
I've been collecting URLs for the local user groups, and will put together a comprehensive post once I've had more time to sort through and organize all the info I carted home. :-)
Yay for SCALE 5x!!
I'm volunteering with the Southern California Linux Expo weekend after next. Looks like it should be a fun time for Linux geeks. If anyone from the Pasadena, Glendale or Burbank area wants to carpool, my Sentra's going that way... SCALE 5x is Saturday and Sunday, February 10-11, 2007 at The Westin Los Angeles Airport.
If you are a sysadmin on any platform, any OS, in the Los Angeles area, consider signing up for the LOPSA regional Los Angeles mailing list (I'm one of the mods, and the list is new). The League of Professional System Administrators is wonderful.
SoCal LOPSA members:
There's going to be a LOPSA booth at SCALE, so if you're a local LOPSA member and have time to help out with the booth, that'd be cool... Mario Obejas posted info to the lopsa-discuss mailing list asking for volunteers, with further details (booth volunteers get free admission).
And now I am home, and exhausted, but also very enthused, creatively brain-stormy, and really looking forward to going to work tomorrow.
Sleep now. Fun worky stuff tomorrow. Right!
The lovely contract sysadmin documentation job I began last spring has metamorphosed into a "real job"... I'm now part of USC's ITS department.
This has meant that I just couldn't manage the commute and time required to stay with the MSIS program at Claremont, though. I can't decide whether to think of this as a hiatus, a sabbatical, or a leave of absence from grad school.
Being laid off from Caltech formerly-ITS-now-IMSS last October sucked in a lot of ways, and removed certain possible paths from my life, but it did open others. It's hard to believe it's been almost a year.
It's a little bit of broken deja vu to be surrounded by Trojan iconography in cardinal and gold these days, since my high school mascot was a Trojan in red and white, followed by over a decade of being surrounded by Caltech hazard-orange and white.
It's autumn, which always means facing transitions and saying farewell to the past for me, but I seem to be in the midst of a soul-deep Must Simplify, Must Actively Transition With Intent phase than usual for the time of year.
I had an amazing, amazing time in July vacationing with my parents and backpacking with my father. I'm still in the process of organizing umptymillion photos and writing up a trip report from my handwritten journal entries. Gosh, the wild spaces of the Pacific Northwest are incredible. Southern California is far too dry and doesn't have enough trees by comparison.
My last remaining grandparent passed away this summer. It feels odd how family dynamics change and don't change as we all face these milestones in our lives. I was able to make it to rural Wisconsin for the family gathering for Gramma's funeral, and though it was a difficult time, it was wonderful to see everyone. Distances make everything so much harder.
I may be attending my 15th high school reunion in Indiana near Thanksgiving.
There's a possibility that I may be attending the LISA 2006 sysadmin conference in Washington, D.C., during the first week of December.
Every day is filled with so many little things, and big things masquerading as little things, and little things masquerading as big things... and still the wheel turns. It's been a doozie of a year.
Unrelated geeky question: is anyone using http://www.librarything.com/ and/or http://lib.rario.us/ and if so, are you in any way unhappy/dissatisfied with either one?
the X11 utilities from the first Apple install DVD/CD
Firefox and its add-ons, including the del.icio.us Firefox extension
CoreDuoTemp to monitor the heat and CPU speed (this thing is definitely not a laptop... it gets far too hot to put on one's lap!)
GIMPshop image editor
Audacity sound editor and the LAME library to encode MP3s
the Cisco VPN client
a folder of some of my favorite hiking photos for the desktop and screensaver to use
If I'm going to need Visio (which I may depending on how involved I end up being with the impending machine room move*), I'll need to run Windows on the Mac, so I'll need to decide between Apple Boot Camp or Parallels, but for now, I'm using an install of OmniGraffle Pro instead of Visio. I like OmniGraffle.
Hmmm. What else am I forgetting?
* - Second verse, same as the first... the machine room move at my old workplace started about a year and a half ago. The new workplace has about an order of magnitude more servers and more staff whose responsibilities are organized differently, so it's very interesting to see how this group is tackling the challenge we're facing here.
Thanks to everyone who read my posts here about being downsized and gave me such encouraging support and suggestions!
And OK, here's what's really on my mind this morning: a collection of my system administration documentation resources. I've been refreshing my brain, and focusing using these:
The SAGE Short Topics Booklets Series, specifically #11, Documentation Writing for System Administrators by Mark C. Langston. Also handy for thinking about what to think about when walking into a new and different environment is #6: A System Administrator's Guide to Auditing by Geoff Halprin. Also of specific interest for certain types of documentation efforts is #2: A Guide to Developing Computing Policy Documents, edited by Barbara L. Dijker.
The section on documentation from yesthattom's Time Management For Sysadmins book.
Also Tom's Turning the Corner: Upgrading Yourself from 'System Clerk' to 'System Advocate' paper from 1997 (that's a pdf version).
That reminds me, I need to have these links at my fingertips, too: http://www.everythingsysadmin.com/ and http://www.lopsa.org/ and http://www.sage.org/ and http://sagewire.sage.org/ and http://www.usenix.org/
My LISA conference tutorial notes from Mike Ciavarella's "Documentation Techniques for Sysadmins" (I have the 2000 and the 2004 versions), and Tom Limoncelli's "Time Management for System Administrators: Getting It All Done And Not Going (More) Crazy!" and "Help! Everyone Hates Our IT Department!" from 2004 and 2005 respectively.
The bits about documentation in Tom Limoncelli and Christine Hogan's The Practice of System and Network Administration.
The bits about documentation in The Purple Book aka Unix System Administration Handbook by Nemeth, Snyder, Seebas, Hein and others.
Scott Barman's Writing Information Security Policies.
Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.
Jakob Neilsen's website at http://www.useit.com/ and Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity.
Oh, it's been a while since I hopped over to Don Norman's http://www.jnd.org/ website... should check that out again, too.
Oh, that reminds me, I want to get a copy of Kurt Ament's Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation and make time one evening this week to do a good solid websearch to get a feel for how much things have changed on that front during the past two years.
And dang, I need to talk to I to see where's he's stashing his useful weblinks on related subjects these days, if they're anywhere public.
Plus random HTML, XHTML, and CSS reference books. One of these days I'm somehow going to squish all of these dead trees into an eBook tablet thingie so my personal library won't be so heavy.
Oh, another thing I want to prowl the web for the latest greatest trends in: different Wiki-based technology for keyword meta tagging pages to allow for improved search functionalities.
But right now, I'm going to finish my cup of Dragonwell tea (mmmmmm...) and scamper to work. It was so very oddly wonderful this morning, as the sunrise streamed in my window and I cracked one eye open, well before my alarms went off, to have one of my first coherent thoughts be, "Oh! That's the solution to that sewing project problem I was thinking about last weekend... I can move ahead with that now... oh, wait, no... I get to go to work today!"
If you are a systems administrator, no matter what platform you specialize on or your level of experience, please consider joining LOPSA, the League of Professional System Administrators.
If you haven't heard of LOPSA, you won't know that it's the new organization which in an alternate world than this would have been a reborn SAGE, the Systems Administrator's Guild, a gently-spun-off special subgroup of the USENIX organization. Instead, in this world, it's a newly-formed organization just getting off the ground with few monetary resources and a bunch of really wonderful, amazing people.
Here are some very quick summaries/explanations of some very complex, painful and time-consuming politics and organizational discussions:
SAGE? LOPSA? WTF? from Derek Balling (found via the LOPSA blogs)
USENIX, SAGE & LOPSA: Fate of the SAs Union from Ben Rockwood (found via the LOPSA blogs)
Personally, I'm a member of both USENIX and LOPSA. I was a member of SAGE while it was a specific entity within USENIX, but that doesn't seem to be the case now. I'm contemplating joining BayLISA as well.
It's been a while since I first encountered the pumas on hoverbikes analogy for managing sysadmins, and I happened to find it again this morning. Herding cats? No... "leading a neighborhood gang of neurotic pumas on jet-powered hoverbikes with nasty smack habits and opposable thumbs." From Benjy Feen. (found via the LOPSA blogs)
Another neat IT read this morning:
Managing Meetings from Jessetrucks' LOPSA blog
And a random book link:
I believe this book isn't available until January, but it did catch my attention last week sometime. Adventures from the Technology Underground: Catapults, Pulsejets, Rail Guns, Flamethrowers, Tesla Coils, Air Cannons, and the Garage Warriors Who Love Them by William Gurstelle.
I drove down from Los Angeles to San Diego early early this morning. Unfortunately I still hit lots of traffic. But I'm at the LISA system administration conference right now! Sitting in yesthattom's tutorial, actually, which is (as expected) completely cool.
I may not be as nuts-and-bolts as some system administrators, and they may not be as process and project management enthused as I am, but ahhhhhhh... these are my people. It's so great to be here!
Links o' the day:
Adele's Resume (Yes, I am seeking work! I am living in Burbank, CA, now and am willing to relocate. I'm staying in room 3658, and am checking the message board regularly. Let's talk!)