I'm a SysAdmin by trade. Also know as: the boss, network administrator, head hacker, the computer guy (my personal favorite), systems administrator, primary contact, or Dad, to name a few titles.

My job has a few functions: 1) Fix whatever computer or network system in our corporation that is broken ASAP. 2) If everything is working, go out and find other people's broken computers or network systems and fix those. 3) If everybody's computers and networks are working, then build all new things for people to play with and break.

So needless to say, I spend a lot of time at odd hours of the night, dealing with computers and networks and the users who run them.

Being a SysAdmin is a lot of work. Often 6 and 7 days a week, 8-14 hours a day. There is a lot to take care of, more than meets the eye when you jump in. There are emotional humps to get over (like dealing with your panic and other people's stress.) Many books and online articles. Realtime bug tracking via email. People who think you are a hero, and people who think you are a villian. Late nights. Early mornings. Real early mornings.... Seminars on everything you can put electricity or light through.

The Internet seems to be an especially emotional topic for people. If the network becomes unavailable through any number of unknown forces (weather, hackers, telco problems, power outages, user errors, incorrect configurations, corrupted files, Microsoft software, viruses, trojans, unpaid bills, dead modems, Packard Bells.... I could go on and on and on), many users will immediately call and gripe out the sysadmin because their Microsoft is broke. This syndrome is often a source of frustration with sysadmins whose job it is to keep all the network systems running in smooth harmony in the too short 24 hrs a day we are given to keep it going. We want it up more that anybody else, and the not so gentle reminders by users that they would like it up too is not always fun.

Fear not though, for most good sysadmins get thick skinned about such things and are able to achieve the state of sysadmin cool, where users comments are duly noted, but the emotions tied to the statements are washed away. We are able to put aside the panic of people in a network crisis or hard drive failure, and get down to the business of solving the problem at hand. This is MANDATORY to being a good sysadmin. A computer, network device, or any other kind of machine for that matter is just that: a machine. It must be treated like one. A machine does not respond to yelling, pleading, ranting, raving, or crying. You must be above all that and use logic to find the problem and solve it. In the end, this makes the users happy with you too, even if they don't understand

I think to be a good sysadmin, you've gotta love what you are doing. I love fixing things for people. They are very happy to be able to get on with their electronic lives usually. I am awed by the unbridled and still infantile power of the Internet. I am awed by the power that has been bestowed upon me over the Internet and our company's computers and networks. I am amazed by the number of servers, hard drives, PDAs, network cables, fiber optics, that are online 24/7, creating a world much larger than the beige boxes that contain them. I plug people in everyday. Some might say I am enslaving them to a chair in front of a monitor, but I feel like I am freeing people's minds. I glory in the power we have to shape our electronic future. I firmly believe we have not yet even conceived the full immensity of what we are creating today. Everything2 is a good example. This database defies definition even. It's difficult to describe how we, as people, are interacting here inside this thing that has been built to take our thoughts and database them.

Being a SysAdmin is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Seems to be full of big rewards and major crisis. I'm not bored. I drink a lot of coffee. I love my job except when I hate it.
I used to be a unix system admininstrator, and a damned good one. (I still am, but for a much smaller system, only a 60 users or so, hardly counts) Mostly Solaris and SunOS, and some HP-UX. About 60 or 70 various Sparcs, and the big honkin' Sun E5000. It was a pretty cool job. Lots of neat stuff to play with and do, never a dull moment, and always lots of interesting stuff to learn about.

If you're a beginning Unix admin, or wanting to get into it, especially SunOS or Solaris, get this book: Unix System Administration Handbook by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Scott Seebass, and Trent R. Hein. (I lent my copy to someone, and I never saw it again.)

But if you're looking into this type of job, remember, being on-call 24x7x365.25 (don't forget leap years) does get old.

And when a RAID controller decides to lose its mind and trash nearly a terabyte of critical data, requiring you to spend all night spinning backup tapes and cultivating an unhealthy paranoia, only to discover that, uh, this RAID controller's lost its mind...., well those times aren't much fun, those "except when I hate" it times. Those times can be very stressful indeed.

Now I only do system administration as a kind of side line to my regular job, which is, perhaps somewhat ironically, writing unix RAID controller drivers. (If something isn't done right, do it yourself, right!/?). This is unfortunate in some respects, that I'm no longer a full-time admin, by which I mean that the system which I'm administering deserves more attention than it gets and sometimes I cringe when I see what's heppening (or not happening) on this system. On the other hand, being a sort of part-time admin, (part-time = 1/20th of my time, not counting infrequent crises) I get to do the cool admin stuff without getting too caught up in it. and having experienced first-hand the utter horror of a bad RAID controller, I'd like to think I take the time to test the living shit out of my drivers and the controllers they deal with. I never want to have to explain why my driver's just trashed several terabytes of data.

At least my job isn't boring, there's definitely something to be said for that. (What the hell kind of node is this that I've written... I might have to come back to this anf work it over later...)

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