Skip to content

Tag: Work

On Being Busy

It’s been too long; I’ve been so busy.  I guess I’ll recap what I’ve done in these two years plus.


  1. Fixed over 100 incorrectly configured linux boxes so that they would actually send their admin the output of the logwatch command.
  2. Reconfigured the same to use ClamAV correctly and with consistent settings instead of the hodge-podge that they were.
  3. Built a custom monitor for a series of servers that allowed non-techs to determine if the servers in question were up or down.  I’d come back to this
  4. Built a scripted installer for a 21 server farm, taking a 10-20 minute process down to a single command line. I’d come back to this too.
  5. Fixed the log backup system that had been in place for months.  It’s still there now, but it needs to change.
  6. Got really into replacing complex manual functions with Bash scripts.
  7. Built the data import system for a whole client.  SUPER complex and modular, didn’t use most of the code anywhere else save for the functions method.
  8. Got to know cron really well.
  9. Got to know ssh -t “command” really well
  10. Got lost in the weeds of random apps for random functions, the environment was becoming to large and entrenched to be managed remotely via a central console.
  11. Built an extensible console for managing the environment in part.
  12. Build Cache flushing tools
  13. Learned how to compile bash apps at the command line using shc
  14. This gave birth to a number of cool tools, remote fail-over tools that interacted with Cisco devices for example.
  15. The Web Console built earlier evolved and got better and better.
  16. Built automated localized monitors that could restart hung applications before remote monitors could catch the outage.
  17. Built automated localized monitors that could restart hung applications and NOT cause two systems to restart simultaneously.
  18. Installed DD-WRT a few times, lots of fun.
  19. Gave up some weekends
  20. Gave up some sleep
  21. Gave up Family Time
  22. Gave up Long Weekends
  23. Built a custom log handler for Apache logs, produced delightful daily csv from an environment, imported this into MySQL and created views to deal with that.
  24. Tried to hit the gym
  25. Got too busy for the gym.
  26. Trained up a replacement.
  27. Left things running okay.


What the hell is going on here?

When all else Fails, play Blondie

What else can this guy do?

I make it a point not to whine here on the blog about work; it slips out on the twitter feed here and there; but it’s taking a real heavy load of intestinal fortitude to keep from going all LiveJournal over some static at work.

When I was at my last employer it seemed every day that I was under the gun of probable unemployment; that feeling may have been engendered by my first manager telling his entire team in no uncertain terms that our jobs were about as solid as tech stocks in 2000.  This was 1997, we had just fired 23 people from my team (23 of the 25 that where hired along with me oddly enough)

I saw people get dismissed over and over, whole sections of the firm vanishing in the name of keeping the business trim.  I suppose at the upper levels; this was the way to do it.  After what six major layoffs (rifs) and so on I never shook the “I’m next” feeling.  It pervades my work even now.

Why don’t others feel this way?  Shouldn’t we feel this way?  This, THIS is what I fear, losing the chance to get back in there and doing stuff that I can do.  Not unemployment, losing the ability to make it all work.  Today I was spending some of my Sunday working out how to deploy Puppet to improve system configuration management; this is after working out some rescue functions, which leads down a rabbit hole that I don’t want to follow…

[Image credit to Jamie Mckelvie, from Phonogram Singles Club]

It’s been a busy couple of weeks

I haven’t written or created anything of worth (for the blog) in ages.  I’ve been busting out code at work like it’s nobodies business but my own, some great some not so much.  I think I’ve finally gotten the first major importer I wrote into shape (it displays things correctly and isn’t susceptible to bad client behavior).

However,  my latest test code has proven to be very difficult to deal with, an automated PGP decrypter with file management and file history.  Without going into detail… oh why descend into deep nerd land here?  Essentially the problem I’m having is that the script puts up text on the screen and I don’t want it to.  This annoys me.  That’s about it.

It’s been so busy around here that even playing games on the new spiffy computer hasn’t really been on the cards (even though I’ve dropped about 100 bucks on cut price games from steam and direct2drive to fill it with couldnt-run-this-with-all-the bells-on before goodies.  The only game I’ve played through on it was Saint’s Row 2 (bueno) so I could see how it all came down.

I’ve watched a few movies here and there, but I’m so busy… you know what it’s like.  I get to the PC at night and I’m sick of the screen and can’t be arsed.

I’m re-reading Transmetropolitan again, I can’t get enough of Spider Jerusalem I guess.


Old Posts and Stolen Art


I’m not big on the DMCA and copyright claims in general; but I don’t like people making money off of me or my work without saying “Thanks to Kevin, here it is” unless of course I sign something that says they don’t have to attibute me for the work.  Students for Bhopal and the rest of you, you didn’t ask for permission to use “Dead Peasant Insurance” and I want credit for my work!

Busy Days, Sleepy Evenings

Sleeping Cats

Sleepy Cats – By NiteMayr

I started a new Job last week and am finding the transition to a work day that is mostly full to be exciting especially after the past few weeks of fairly empty days.  As a result my evenings feel kind of unfulfilled as I don’t get anything done (save cooking dinner or watching a movie).  Additionally; the blog has been getting some work done, but no actual writing.

We’ll see how things come out after I start working late nights in a few weeks.

Some Advice for IT Types

“IT is at the heart of business these days and there are real opportunities now to have a career in IT which will ultimately lead to a position on the board.”

If this is the case, why are so many IT jobs filled with people who have no idea what they are doing? I spoke to my share of IT reps from firms all over the Fortune 1000 and Fortune 50 that had no clue what they were doing, nor did they have any idea where they were going with their mandates.  Often they had no plan or action plan.

One example really sticks out for me; a hardware changeover plan that had no “buffer”  the IT rep wanted to replace an important firewall with another one.  He felt assured that he could just replace the current device with a new and wholly different one if the new devide was configured correctly.

This was a bad plan for two reasons:

1) There was no fallback beyond dropping the old hardware in place.

2) The router was the MAIN ingress to their websites and mail systems.  There were no external fallbacks or alternate sites for users to visit during the downtime.  If the transition went BAD (new hardware fails and old device breaks during transition) there was no fallback.

I know, you’re thinking: Kevin, what would you have done?
I would have published a new set of DNS records with a TTL of about 15 minutes.  I would publish them a week before I made the transition and made sure my DNS server was not inside the new router.  Once in place you would have 15 minutes of downtime while you performed the transiton to a new host for your website if something went wrong during the switch.  That’s fairly easy to deal with.

I like the idea of planning for downtime like that; you could even change the TTL on the DNS records back to 24 hours when you are done.

Here are some tips for outage planning

  1. Have a fallback plan for total failure:

    If it is an internet enabled service that users need access to, publish DNS records that point to a “Server is down” page on the net (for web services)  when the primary record(s) is/are down.

    Keep offsite hard copies (by hard copies I mean stored on Hard disk or Tape)

    Keep enough cash in the IT budget to buy server time on multiple hosts should short-term downtime become extended overtime.

    Any server that is important enough to serve all your needs should have a clone on hand with all the same data, backed up every 6 to 12 hours (or less) so that if your primary server(s) go down a clone can go online in seconds.

  2. Announce the outage in as many ways possible.  Email is never enough for big outages.  Warn users in cloud writing if you think they will read it.
  3. When the outage is going to take a machine out of service forever, contact any old admins and/or users and determine if they have stored anything important on the box.  You never know.
  4. Treat every outage as a potential crisis and be ready for complaints regardless of success or shortness of time.
  5. Confirm that all parts and plans are in order before the outage in underway, if at all possible create a schedule and checklist for the outage that creates a series of milestones and ETAs that can be delivered to end users and managers.

After all, you are the heart of the business when you are in IT, right?

Non-IT Grads don't want IT Jobs

Just read this passage and wonder at it:

Non-IT graduates think a job in IT would be “boring,” despite its good career prospects, according to the Career Development Organisation (CDO).

Read it again, I’ll wait.

Okay, got it?  It opens with “Non-IT Graduates” as if to say someone who went through school to get their MBA or Masters in Psychology would be interested or even qualified to fill an IT position.  I think the article is grasping for the why not IT in the first place kind of feeling, but instead comes to a screeching halt right up front with that first line.  I read it as “people who were never interested in IT think that IT jobs are boring” and you know what, they should not get into IT if they feel that way.

I’m fairly certain that there are a number of people in IT these days who got into it for the money; and through sheer personality have excelled.  Good for them.  It’s kept down a few really smart people in the ranks because they don’t have the social skills to impress the uppers, but maybe those types will be weeded out and the more focused geeks will rise to prominence.

Time will tell I guess.

The Stacks of Beer

The Stacks of Beer, originally uploaded by NiteMayr.

Yeah, this is what I see on my way into work every day, the stacks, not the clouds. It’s nice and sunny outside right now, also very green.

I was worried that I would be giving up all the green when I came down here to the City; I’m no nature lover, but I do like the trees and grass the come with nature. London has proven to be very green, excessively so. But like Kubla Khan, I find wisdom in excess and think that the tree lined streets are awesome and I go out of my way to drive down the back streets to stay among said streets.