The Syseng

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

When to leave your job... Take 2

I just read the most amazingly true and insightful article... found here: http://www.christopherwilson.net/soapbox/

and I think it doesn't just apply to you developers... but to all of us in IT (the Systems Engineers as well!)

As a prime example... I came out of a well-paid large 8 week contract just 2 weeks back. I took some work for a 'friend' intending it to be short-term... i.e. whilst I was waiting for my application to progress somewhere else...

This 'friend's' company - to be named later... have many of the classic signs mentioned here... lets begin.

1. 'We all hoped to have company cars, top-notch health care, company cell phones, and tons of other wonderful perks; all just slightly out of reach '

They offered me $90,000 A step down from what I usually recieve but my altruistic nature said - 'hey... they need a real Senior Systems Engineer/ Systems Designer to come in and show them how real-world IT is done. I can take it for a little while.

No... BAD IDEA!

When they finally startied paying my wage they told me that $14,000 of it would be made up by the provision of a really crap, smelly, gutless red car which had been the previous Systems Engineers wheels. ugghhh And if I didn't like the car (which when most of you know I drive a luxury car made by Daimler Benz Chrysler, then of course I wouldn't) that I would get $5000 compensation on my salary for 'using my own wheels'. Instantly $90,000 turned into $81,000.

Quote: If you're not happy with the amount of money that you're making, do a reality check. Find out what you're worth. If you are confident your compensation is inadequate, extend your superior the opportunity to rectify this mistake, and then start looking for jobs where you will be valued.

2. Just How Dumb is Management, Anyway?

The management at this firm fit every one of the three criteria for stupidity that Chris Wilson mentions in his article...

A. Thinks they know too much:
When I pointed out yesterday that their method for managing jobs (using Excel spreadsheets that they email to engineers who CANT get them out on the road because none of them have the luxury of something I take for granted... a PDA Phone with Activesync...) I found out how correct Chris was...

QUOTE: Questioning the methodology at work will often result with a "this is how we did it in the old days, and I don't see anything wrong with that!"

Management at this firm pay lipservice to the need to upscale business proceedures... but at the same time they keep coming back to the whole... 'We think we are 95% there... and we just need you to help us get the other 5%'

WRONG: they are about 5% there and I believe will never get the other 95%. As I said to them yesterday... go out... take a look at what the McLeans, Computerlands, and Infinities of this market are doing... how they manage jobs (Heat, Jobtracker etc) and how they manage staff in doing those jobs. You are not there... you are not close. The differences between their systems and yours is why they are making 8 figures this year in sales and you will make 6 if you are lucky.

This firm I speak of are an Education IT provider who are having fantasies that they actually know something about Corporate IT, and are wanting to break into the corporate market (competing against the likes of McLean, Origin Business Solutions etc) They are fooling themselves. I have been to 12 sites thus far that they were responsible for building... the Technical Manager gives his 'Systems Administrators' bad, incorrect and in some cases illegal advice.

EXAMPLE: Don't install Small Business Server from the SBS cd... install OLP windows, then install OLP Exchange, then install OLP Sharepoint and SQL... then it is basically a SBS Server.

WRONG: This method breaches the whole idea of SBS, reduces the functionality (by removing the build interfaces, and management interfaces) and breaks the copyright law by installing 'OPEN' products in place of a 50-seat MAX product. The main problem is that they expose their clients (schools, AND corporate alike) to these sorts of illegal practices... with willful disregard. And even when someone senior like myself points out that it is bad practice... I got 'shhhh... Darren's in the next room. He has been teaching the Sys Admins and he sets policy. You don't want to upset him'.

B. Relies on, but disregards your technical advice:
Again, as Chris writes... the management are impressed by my technical and business practice advice... but persist in the ' This is how we do it and we think we are so good at it that we don't need to change - mentality'.


This is company who promise their engineers and administrators training... then expect them to buy their own books and do it at night in their own time. Even Computerland allowed engineers to take time for training if there was no project/ reactive work on that day or if it was in a new product they wanted to bring to market. All during paid hours. That is what a responsible company does. Not this nonsense of telling the engineers they will get training and then perhaps one guy hands out some ExamCram sheets he go from the internet for you to take home and study in your own time.

Oh... and I left out the cubicles...

This is the second only IT company I have ever been that has cubicles... the first was Computerland. Computerland however made their desk/cubicle arrangement low, so you could see over them and still converse with the neighbour in the next desk... but the firm I have been speaking of above have cubicles that explicitly inhibit this process... meaning that a lot of the guys end up sitting on the desk to talk to each other... ducking back into their seats when 'mommy comes in from her office'.

Well... suffice to say I am glad I only intended this job as a temporary 'time-filler' whilst waiting to get into the interview process for somewhere FAR better. 2 weeks has been 14 days too long.

Ciao

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Another Day... aaargggghhh

HI...

Long time no see?!?

Well... here we are on another monday morning... in another week... and here I am with 5 mins to actually port on this blog. (the chance to get here keeps escaping me lately...)

What takes up my time....

My job: 40-60 hours a week lately
My health: which still sucks but is improving

Playing with new tech:

Aftermail
(find here: www.aftermail.com) (really kool add-on for exchange server... Man I wish they'd give me their Senior TechnicalConsultant's job hint hint)
I am still coming to grips with what their software is/has done to my Virtualised Exchange Server, but man... my storage is down from 7.8gb to less than 1gb... but I can still find stuff... stuff I deleted ages ago! I never quite loose a thing! (great when I think I will never be on a client site ever again and they call me back 4 months later... I can ask the system to search for the client name and recover all of the email I dumped!

Cisco Toys
I have been sent a few cisco toys so I can update my CCNA. The cisco 877 adsl router was one... man... the IDS system they have added to this makes the $600 upgrade from my 827 really worth it... so much stuff that used to get through the 827 to my linux firewall just doesn't get close now...

and

the latest model Cisco 3750 28 port gigabit switch. I was sent one of these to program up as the core switch for a private school... some of the features in the latest IOS made vLaning this switch a BREEZE! (compared to the older 12.0 and 12.1 versions)

Norton SAV Server 10
Meh... not much changes with each release of Norton... except the services bloat... uggghhh

and lastly

The latest version of VMware Workstation (5.5)
The first workstation to support SMP (although most of the systems people run it on dont... so it's a waste of time!)

People need to remember... in order to run VMware SMP... you have to have more than one PHYSICAL processor... (Hyperthreading IS NOT SMP!) Man I have had two guys this week who should have known better ring me and ask me why SMP performance in Workstation 5.5 sux... theres your clue guys!

VMware are also introducing 4-way SMP into the next version of ESX (3.0). Not a bad idea but also remember... in order for a virtual machine to run 4-way (or even 2-way) it must be able to see as many physical processor time slices as there are virtual processors in the client (virtualised) system. i.e. if you are running a 4-processor client then every time that client wants to use the physical processors it has to wait until 4 physical processors become available... processor contention can really affect performance if you get that wrong!.


Anyway... thats my techie rant...

here's a laugh for you:

Phone call from a techie last week... let's call him... umm... Dallas!

Me: 'HI?'
Dallas: ' Hi. One of the machines on the network since you vLaned wont RIS'
Me: 'Which one?'
Dallas:' um... dunno'
Me: ' Well.. which local switch is it plugged in to?' (me thinking I can track it back from a
room/switch to the core network)
Dallas: 'um... I think it's the 2950sx'
Me: 'Which one... there are 3?'
Dallas: ' Um... All of them?'
Me: '... so the same computer is connected to the 2950sx in the Arts, ILC and Library... and it cant RIS?... ' (there's his problem.. the computer is a Quantum system which hasn't been invented yet hehehe)
Dallas: 'yeah um....'

You can see where this is going... cant you...

Too many engineers today get their MCSA/MCSE and don't know a) how to fault find and troubleshoot and b) how to record, report and escalate that problem successfully.

Needless to say when I reported this, and two other calls back to the boss of the company he suddenly authorised for me to give his engineers about $10k worth of skills based technical training. Another contract win...!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why idiots and cheapskates should not be allowed in IT

Ah gee... another day spent dealing with the LCD of IT (no... that's not Luquid Crystal Display... thats Lowest Common Denominator).

Let me draw you a picture folks...

*** dreamy ripples pervade across the screen... that strange eerie music plays... we fade into a picture of green hills... a little girl skips down a yello-brick road with her doggie in a cane basket...*****


CompanyA... lets call them... 'Wishful Thinkers Ltd'... hire you as an employee to design, re-design or manage an existing infrastructure...

You design a very robust infrastructure to support their internal and external network needs.... everything taken care of... Centralised storage... redundant storage, redundant servers, redundant routes etc etc etc...
You negotiate significant discounts with appropriate vendors (let's call them HP or Apple... shall we?) so that the total outlay for the solution... including labour and server management for 2 whole years on this solution will only cost $170k (that means you own the servers, and included in the $170k is enough money to pay for up to two people to part-time manage the servers and network for you... complete end-to-end solution) You get two senior architects/ engineers from two different IT firms to sign off on peer review of your solution... they love it.

ResponseA: Oh no... we can't afford that... we make 6 figure sums from our clients but we can't afford such an outlay...

ResponseB: (well... this guy hails himself as an IT guru but he just writes on your slide presentation... 'why do we need redundancy?' Now doesn't THAT just say it all?!)

These two respondants then give you a budget of less than one tenth... and ask you to just build them a couple of servers and rebuild their network on their already ageing pentium 4 home-brew workstations that they have been using as servers. (like 1.6ghz ageing!)

You build them all that they can afford... and they are so financially well-off that when it comes time for them to pay some of the license fees... their credit cards can't 'seem' to be accepted by the software vendor in the USA.

You put up with the emotional abuse from their so-called manager guy... to the point where you just throw your hands up in disgust. Your health is suffering ... your options are leave and try to get better... or stay and probably die from an ulcer/ tumour. You leave.

They then try it on... claiming they are going to sue you because what they got you to build basically doesn't have all the mature fundamental components of the solution you originally designed... well duh! naturally... if you imagine the original solution as a multi-storey building built on solid foundations... and then you imagine these people eroding that solution (i.e. we cant afford to put motar between the bricks... lets use foam bricks instead of cement ones because it's cheaper etc etc) then of course it's not the same... People like this expect the Rolls Royce on the used 1996 Holden Barina budget... and we all know THAT WON'T WORK! How much money did they allocate to their $170,000 dream?... try $6500 if you are lucky... and they argued... oh... sorry... 'debated' every step of the way for that!


Fundamentaly boys and girls... what does this little fable tell us???

Dont work for these little guys? yeah, probably
Dont comprimise your solution, even when the customer demands it? again, a good philisophy moving forward
Keep good documentation? definitely. This is what will bring the downfall of the CompanyA's in the story above
Some people need a good biyatchslap? For SURE!!!!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back Again

After a few days of not being well... and some work in Hamilton... I am back online hehehehe

Lovely day here at the moment (not!) the sky is raining, the car WAS clean... (sorry... for all the parent's reading... reference from Finding Nemo)

I have had a fairly good week. The new contract is going well... involves Virtualising 200 servers for New Zealand's pretty much Largest Company... and shuffling them to either AKL or WGT over the wire.

The guy who I blame for encouraging my starting a blog lives here: http://www.fastchicken.co.nz/blog/
Please visit his site and view his blog. He centres a lot around his life in the wilds of WellyWood, and his passion... development for mobile software and devices. (NB ADDED LATER: He is NOT the SysAdmin of whom I speak... he is a nice guy who used to manage the infrastructure BEFORE I took it over... send him a hello, he's good value and a font of information about lots of things...)

Todays funny:

SysAdmin: I have problem. Am trying to set up RPC over HTTP for UserA... but when I go to accounts there is no option for setting up.

SysEng: you haven't installed SP2 for WinXP then

SysAdmin: Can you show me how? (OMG!!!)

So I spent 35 mins this morning taking him through how to use Windows Update... mass excitement!... Another task that a Systems Admin should already know by heart!

I then get a call from him about 4 hours later:
SysAdmin: I have been trying to log in as UserA (name ommitted to protect the innocent user) in Outlook but it wont work. I know I have his password right, but it says authentication failed.

SysEng: are you entering Domain\Username like it says on the screen... or just Username?

SysAdmin: just the username.

SysEng: Okay... thats a PIBCAK error. You need to make sure that whenever it says; Domain\Username you actually enter the domain name, then a slash, then the username. It won't work unless you follow the directions on the screen...

SysAdmin: What's a PIBCAK?

I hung up and went to the nearest wall. I banged my forehead against the wall in sheer frustration...

he is probably still listening to the beeep... beeeppp... beeeppp... of the phone, waiting for me to come back on the line :-)

Someone PLEASE save me!!!....

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

SysEng dealing with SysAdmin - Take 3!

Hi all... another fine and sunny day here... only about four hundred thousand parts per million of smog...

Just had a great email... SysAdmin strikes again...

SysAdmin: "Need to print something out. Do you know the names and the servers they are located on?"

Now.. the first thing I was taught way back in the dark ages of IT was: "Diagnostic Skills 101: How to find shit" Any system admin should be able to at least find a printer... ESPECIALLY when they are all published in Active Directory for crying out loud.

I decide to be kind... I actually replied...

----------------
" the printer in our area is the brother laser around where the developers sit

it is known in dns as 'cat'.

ping cat, get it's ip address and then install it on your laptop as a network printer (tcp/ip port) with that ip address.

the drivers are located at: \\servername\Install\Printer_Drivers
----------------

Now every SysAdmin and SysEng I talk to here thinks that there is enough info there for them to know what to do... after all, setting up client printers is one of the first things you should be proficient in doing... IF you are a real SysAdmin...

SysAdmin (5 mins later) "I can’t ping cat nor find it when I search for computers"

Oh brother... do I need to tell him just how wrong that sounds?!? Especially when I am remote connected to the site and I cant ping 'cat' and recieve a valid ip address response (and 4 nice little ping replies) It is going to be another of those days!

Back to Diagnostics 101... " Go to another computer that can print, open it's printer properties and see what IP address they are using to connect"

I haven't heard back from him in 20 mins... either he finally 'got a clue'... or he has sent the file out to an online printing company for sub60 courier delivery heheehe(sic!)

On a lighter note: I have been offered my next contract... working for a major NZ company for 3 months Architecting and Managing their update of 140 servers in a datacentre in Hamilton... will mean HEAPS of back and forth travelling but the pay is stupendously ridiculous... so it's all worth while. I'll make three times the pay I get from the company where the (hic) SysAdmin Pedro has 'taken over' (or rather blundered over)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

SysEng dealing with SysAdmin - Take 2

SysAdmin: 'can you please give me copy of the base win2k3 vm for so I can have a look you build and see how it works?'

SysEng(me): hmmmm now, should I give it to him... or play along?
I decided for the sake of peace, harmony... and not pissing of the german guy (well... Germans are known for going red and blood vessels bursting... I didn't want to kill him... yet!) ' I'll connect to your hard drive and dump a copy'... 5 mins later 'Done'.

He fires it up... then comes to me for a Serial code to get through the SysPrep process... I give him one ' it doesn't work'... I give him another... 'It doesn't work'... I go over to his machine and type in the first code I gave him straight from the same piece of papaer... it works (miracle eh?) I figure that maybe in german all the letters in the alphabet are reversed or something?... so I don't say anything.

He rolls through sysprep... then logs in and changes the admin password to his new shiny VM Server... then shuts it down. He comes back to his desk 30 mins later, fires it back up and tries to log in...

SysAdmin: 'I changed the password in the vm and now I cant get back in... I think that maybe I am stupid and forget the password... can you help?'

Okay... I am thinking 'this dipshit needs a brain transplant'. I contemplate offering him a hacksaw special and decide against it.

I go over... try the original password he entered when he sysprep'ed it... doesn't work. I ask him what password he thought he entered (again figuring maybe he got his letters mixed up)... that doesn't work.

SysEng: ' just copy back the original image and go through the sysprep login process again'.

SysAdmin: 'but I used the one you copy over... I did not keep copy'.

Oh brother...

I think I'll go spend some time reading Wil Wheaton's Blog to clear my mind... BYE!!!

SysEng dealing with SysAdmin - Take 1

"I need to log on to the virtual machine cluster. I cant log on. My username and password don't work'

Email from the new German speaking SysAdmin to me... let's just call him... SysAdmin Pedro;-)

Reply from SysEng: 'You need to use the normal server Administrator Account and password... The VM cluster are servers, therefore a workstation account won't work'

SysAdmin: ' but what is the normal administrator username and password. I enter my username and it doesn't work'

SysEng: 'You have to enter the Administrator username and it's password. You know ... the one you were given on your first day...' (bear in mind that his first day was only 2 days ago... if he has lost it already we are up creek without control implement)

SysAdmin: 'How?'

Now with most peope by this time I have usually gotten very impatient and taken a chunk of baseball bat to the persons occipital region.. so I just ROFLMAO and showed every syseng I was working with that day

If he can't enter Administrator, and type his password... then the company in question have some real serious problems... right about 5 mins after I leave. I just KNOW I will get shedloads of these sorts of emails or phone calls... and they will ALL go here!!!

Why?

Why have I finally created a blog?

Well... I have been prompted to finally 'stop ranting in email' to my mates (thanks N!), and start putting it somewhere relevant. I am sure that the amateur psychiatrists amongst you will end up tearing my screwy mind appart, but I would have to tell you... you would be wrong!.

I work as a Systems Architect/ Senior Network and Systems Engineer. Basically... an overpaid computer geek. A guy who gets paid for doing what he would only do in his basement at home anyway...

I have just finished a rollout project for a company. The company involved are a small development firm. Traditionally they had a developer who knew enough to keep their few little servers running, but once they realised that he was resigning to go work for another firm, they decided to employ me, pulling me from the contract I was just finishing at christmas last year for another company... to here (again thanks N... I think).

This rollout basically turned the way things are done here not so much on its head... as sideways, on it's belly and backwards all in one step. We separated the corporate network requirements from the dev network, got rid of the servers that were running both internal test websites, and external live websites... AND EMAIL... AND OTHER SERVICES (like vpn) and segregated the dev requirements onto seperate boxes (i.e. sep. VSS, sep SPP, sep mail servers and web servers etc). The rollout is pretty much a success and the mopping up is almost completed.

so... what does any self respecting company do who need to support their 9 new infrastructure servers, and Virtual Machine (VMware) hosting clusters?... they employ a german who can hardly speak english.. and who is making for very funny times whenever I am on that client site!!!

In the beginning

In the beginning was 'The Blog'
The blog beget all that came before it...
The blog became all that was to come after it.

This is The Blog