The Null Device

Veteran vs. modern UNIX administration

Nine Traits of the Veteran UNIX Admin, a quasi-humorous list of grizzled-neckbeard stereotypes:
1: We don't use sudo
2: We use vi, not emacs, and definitely not pico or nano
9: Rebooting is almost never an option
And in reply, Nine traits of a modern UNIX admin (first draft), by Justin Dugger, illustrating how things have changed in the age of cheap virtualisation and git everywhere:
1. Sudo is mandatory. Not because we make mistakes but because it's easier to audit. And because you shouldn't need to poke around as root, since you have a functioning configuration management tool.
2. Vim, emacs, Eclipse, it's all fine, because your job involves making changes to a git repository from your local workstation and pushing to configuration management.
9. When in doubt, reformat. Servers should be cattle, not pets. They don't have special names, and when one gets sick, you take it out back and shoot it!
(I agree with the vi thing, and still use it for things which are too small to fire up SublimeText for. Or which have to be done through a ssh connection or text console. There is often a terminal running vi open on my MacBook.)

There are 7 comments on "Veteran vs. modern UNIX administration":

Posted by: unixdj Fri Jul 19 18:15:58 2013

Says the modern admin:

> 9. When in doubt, reformat. Servers should be cattle, not pets. They don't have special names, and when one gets sick, you take it out back and shoot it!

As a city boy I'm mostly clueless about husbandry, but it seems to me that if that's all you do, you may miss an epidemy. And this attitude bothers me. If a programmer who says things like

> I'm not a real programmer. I throw together things until it works then I move on. The real programmers will say "yeah it works but you're leaking memory everywhere. Perhaps we should fix that." I'll just restart apache every 10 requests.

goes on to create a programming language, you can be sure it will be virtually impossible to write secure and reliable program in that language.

Posted by: kstop Fri Jul 19 18:56:23 2013

You might be reading too much into a glib statement. Having the ability to fire up a new server in a known state and apply a minimal set of changes for its intended purpose makes a lot of problems easier. If you have a production system that's b0rked and you don't know why, replacing it with one in a known good state gives you time to troubleshoot the problem. If said busted server is sick because of, say, an OS update gone awry, there might be no point of keeping it around past the diagnosis, and replacing it is probably going to be faster than rolling it back.

Posted by: unixdj Fri Jul 19 20:23:55 2013

Having such ability is surely important, whether you have a pet or two, or a multitude of cattle (although in case of a pet it may look like restoring from a backup), and sometimes it's the right solution, but rarely. I'd rather side with the veteran admin, who said "Rebooting is almost never an option". Not knowing why a server became borked makes me uneasy -- I just don't trust it anymore, even after reincarnation.

I surely might read too much into it, as he didn't say "and don't investigate the cause", but by responding to the item that ends with "We'd rather fix the problem than simply pull the plug and wait for the next time" he kinda seemed to imply it.

P.S. I'm an ex-admin, these days I only have my own boxes.

Posted by: Greg Sat Jul 20 13:58:54 2013

I just want to second your comments about vi. I also use ST by choice and only use vi when I have to telnet to the server. But I really enjoy it (for small tasks). And it amazes me that I remember the commands after learning them in CS several decades ago. When using a GUI I like hotkeys - vi feels like just hotkeys.

Posted by: datakid Sun Jul 21 11:43:22 2013

ST is really worth learning? What's the attraction? I'm still vi everywhere - quite happily.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Sun Jul 21 18:23:20 2013

SublimeText is good for when you have a directory tree of files (i.e., a web app, or a big project divided into modules), and also has plug-ins (written in Python) for doing language-specific tasks, such as syntax highlighting, commenting/uncommenting, and so on. It undoubtedly has more features, but I haven't used those yet.

For me, the main use case is having a project made up of multiple files.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Sun Jul 21 18:26:40 2013

The fact that it runs on OSX and Linux (and Windows, though I don't use that) and a single licence will cover as many platforms as you need to run it on, is also nice. And, when running it on Linux, it's nicer than gedit or whatever. (The whole niche of editors outside the vi/emacs dichotomy seems to be regarded with disdain among the penguinista community.)

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