Note: This one’s only of interest to my fellow sysadmins.
It’s time to revive an old parody from 1997 or so. Imagine this spoken to the same music and in the same voice as Baz Luhrmann’s “Wear Sunscreen“:
Wear a Leatherman.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, having a Leatherman would be
it. The long-term benefits of a Leatherman have been proved by BOFHs, whereas
the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering
experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of root. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the
power and beauty of your root access until it’s taken away. But trust me, when
you need to kill a runaway process, you’ll think back to the scripts you had
and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and
how much you could do. You are not as powerless as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the Y2K bug. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective
as trying to mount an old chain of Exabyte tape drives by chewing bubble gum.
The real troubles on your network are apt to be things that never crossed your
worried mind, the kind that get you called in at 4 a.m. on some weekend when
you were supposed to be recovering.
Do one thing every day that scares the lusers.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s files (if it can be traced back to you).
Come down like a ton of bricks on people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on lusers’ backups. Sometimes you’re ahead on patches,
sometimes you’re behind. The race to maintain an up-to-date system is long and,
in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Log the insults in a database, cross-
referenced on date, time, reason and luser. If you succeed in doing this, tell
me how (and ftp me the binary).
Archive your lusers’ old web caches. Throw away your logs.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your old glibc
libraries. The most interesting sysadmins I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their systems. Some of the most interesting 40-year-old BOFHs
I know still don’t.
Get plenty of UPSes. Be kind to your power supplies. You’ll miss them when
Maybe you’ll recover, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have lusers, maybe you
won’t. Maybe you’ll become a PHB at 40, maybe you’ll dance on the head of your
boss on your last day before you wipe the servers. Whatever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are
half chance. So are everybody else’s. But at least you can read their email.
Enjoy your network. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what
other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own. No
matter what the PHBs think.
Compile, even if you have nowhere to do it but on your laptop.
RTFM, even if you still use ‘tar -xvf’ rather than ‘tar xvf’.
Do not read NT magazines. They will only make you feel ill.
Get to know your hardware suppliers. You never know when they’ll go out of
business. Be nice to your PFY. They’re your best link to your past and the
people most likely to play along when you kill the electrician with a power
Understand that lusers come and go, but with a precious few you should wring
their necks as soon as possible. Work hard to bridge the gaps in their
knowledge and Clue, because the older you get, the more you need the people who
knew you when you were nasty, and had a real mean temper when roused.
Live in your office once, but leave before it makes you arrive too early for
work. Live in the machine room once, but leave before you start to whistle at
28.8. Travel without moving with a line into the CCTV system.
Accept certain inalienable truths: hardware prices will rise. Lusers won’t
You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were
young, prices were reasonable, lusers were just as bad but sometimes they
respected their sysadmin.
Only respect your ass.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you when you purchase a Starfire. Maybe you
have photos of the Boss with a secretary. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy company
with more money than sense. But you never know when either one might run out,
or they’ll find out about the camera in the boardroom.
Don’t mess too much with your chair or by lunchtime you won’t be able to sleep
Be careful whose software you buy, don’t be patient with those who supply it.
Software is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the minds of
bad programmers for the ‘really neat’ ideas, wiping them off, painting over the
ugly parts and selling it for more than it’s worth.
But trust me on the Leatherman.