Archive for June 16th, 2008

Keith’s SysAdmin Meme

Associations, Career, Geek Stuff, General Interest, Scripting, Special Topics June 16th, 2008

OK, here it goes.

How old were you when you started using computers?

I was around 12 or 13 when I started playing with computers. I saw them in Popular Science and was fascinated with them. I then pestered my parents for my first PC for Christmas and my dad finally took me to K-Mart where I had to choose between the Texas Instruments TI/99-4A, the Timex Sinclair 1000, and either the Commodore Vic-20 or C-64.

What was your first machine?

My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. I remember my friend getting a Commodore and being jealous of the color graphics. My second and real springboard PC was a Radio Shack/Tandy TRS-80 Model 4 with 64 kb RAM and dual 5.25 floppy drives (360k each!) We had Tandy TRS-80 Model II and 3’s in my school district so I went with what I knew. My dad had IBM PC’s at work and showed me an ad for an IBM (Peanut, I think) and I decided to stick to the Radio Shack brand. I still have both of these units somewhere in my parents attic….along with all the other old stuff I’ve talked about on the show. My first x86 PC was a Bondwell B210 286 laptop with a 40 MB hard drive.

What was the first real script you wrote?

Hello World loop in Basic on the Timex Sinclair 1000……Isn’t that what everyone writes? I went on to write an inventory control system in BASIC for the company my dad worked for. I coded on the TRS-80 and then printed it out. A typist transcribed my code onto an IBM PC and then I came in to troubleshoot the problems. No reading floppies cross-platform in those days. There were subtle differences in the BASIC compilers back than for disk I/O and file handling. Sadly, this old geek can still remember that BASIC stood for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.

What scripting languages have you used?

Basic (No, not visual), Pascal, COBOL, and Fortran. Pascal will always be my favorite. Top down design rocks. If you haven’t declared it….you can’t freakin’ call it. That’s probably why I’ve had so much trouble grasping the object-oriented languages. Later on into today, it’s been DOS batch file scripts, SQL, Kixtart, and the occasional dabble into PowerShell.

What was your first professional sysadmin gig?I took a part-time job in 1987 doing data entry for free magazine subscriptions (International Computer Network) while going to community college for Comp Sci. When they found I had a tech bent, they started using me to do after-hours system tasks on the two mainframes we had (Tandem System I and Tandem System II). Load tapes for backups, load printers for labels or other print jobs, etc. The one thing I remember is the wide carriage printers in the data center. Before each type of print job, I had to run a paper tape with a series of holes punched in it through a reader on the printer. This would set up the printer for the type of job to be printed.

If you knew then what you know now, would have started in IT?

Definitely. During my college years, after I gave up on programming as a major, I focused on being in the financial markets. After a couple of years, however, things changed and I took on MIS as a second major and veered back towards IT. Mostly the change was in the industry. I wasn’t cut out to be a programmer locked in a hermetically sealed mainframe room, but that was the only college curriculum at that time. Once MIS and broader IS/IT curriculums came around it fit me better.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new sysadmins, what would it be?

Everybody knows something you don’t. Talking to them and asking them is the only way to find out what it is. In return, share everything you know. Nothing is more counterproductive than having knowledge and not sharing it.

If I could add a second item, it would be; Nobody knows everything. If you think you do, it is time to get out of this field. You need to enjoy constantly learning new things because this is an ever changing field.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had scripting?

I guess the scripts I am most proud of are the ones I did for Y2K at my old job. They had these old scripts using this Novell Netware add-on pack that allowed them to transfer files between a Novell NetWare server and a SCO Unix server. The Add-on pack was not Y2K compliant, so I replicated the scripts using FTP and DOS batch files. There are only one or two facilities still using these scripts, but thy are still there 10 years later.

Who am I calling out?

Paul Rj Muller at the Caffination Podcast

Justo Morales at the Pepe Show Podcast

Rick Savoia of the The Force Field Podcast

UPDATE: Paul and Rick have both responded. I’ll have to reach out to Justo and kick him in the asterisk. You can find Paul and Rick’s responses at the following links:

Paul’s Response

Rick’s Response