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Being Enron's SysAdmin

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the big-time dept.

Unix 94

CowboyRobot writes "FreeBSD's Kirk McKusick has a long interview with Enron's former SysAdmin, Jarod Jenson, where he describes the nuts and bolts of working in and managing such a large-scale operation." From the article: "EnronOnline was a Web-based trading application. We had several hundred, even thousands of commodities that we would price in realtime, the same way that equities are priced. We were trying to push realtime pricing information out to clients who could do instantaneous transactions on them. People who are familiar with financial markets--the commodity markets--would recognize EnronOnline as sort of the same thing. We had a lot of the same issues that the markets had trying to push out realtime data--not only within our local network but also to the customers--as quickly as we could globally, and trying to make sure that what every trader saw on the screen matched what every company in the world had on theirs."

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Word up to the GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695470)

First post.

Must have been a big headache (1)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695471)

Must have been a big headache to manage something that big.

SUck-a (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695491)

Yeh, FIrst Post to you too... Idiot.

Re:Must have been a big headache (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695534)

>Must have been a big headache to manage something that big.

...only if you as the manager are incompetent, I must add.

Kirk McKusick & Jarod Jenson (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695473)

Kirk McKusick has a long interview with Enron's former SysAdmin, Jarod Jenson

These can't be real names ;-)

Re:Kirk McKusick & Jarod Jenson (1)

mknewman (557587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696320)

Jarod Jenson is real, I worked with him at Baylor. Quite a talented person, as his achivements show.

Re:Kirk McKusick & Jarod Jenson (2, Funny)

thinbits (904652) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697208)

These can't be real names ;-)

No. That's their porn names.

Re:Kirk McKusick & Jarod Jenson (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698431)

I wonder if this [blogspot.com] is him...?

Realtime performance (5, Funny)

NightWulf (672561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695498)

I wonder if EnronOnline had realtime showing of the stockholders assets flying out the window.

Re:Realtime performance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695556)

I guess Microsoft has a patent on all stuff flying out of the windows!

Re:Realtime performance (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697761)

Nope, they only patented chairs so far.

Re:Realtime performance (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695578)

No, that's what the scandal was about, remember?

Re:Realtime performance (1)

Kaptain_Korolev (848551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695744)

I wonder if they have x10 enabled paper shredders for when the auditors come calling. One click web enabled shredding.... I think I'll patent it!

Re:Realtime performance (0, Redundant)

leathered (780018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695780)

I imagine instead of the 'flying windows' screensaver they had a stockholders assets flying out of windows one.

Re:Realtime performance (1)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14700735)

"Our new system runs over 800 GigScams a second!"

Setting Good Goals (1)

fa_king (952336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695504)

I think the Sysadmin had allot on his plate setting a goal like that. But it is a possible and probable goal to attempt and well worth it.

Re:Setting Good Goals (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695718)

"allot"? What's an "allot"? Like a shallot? That might be yummy. I can't say that I've ever heard of an allot on someone's plate before, though.

Or do you mean that he had a distribution [answers.com] on his plate? Hell, that's even more confusing.

Please do enlighten us as to your intended meaning of an "allot", assuming of course that it wasn't a blatant misspelling of the two separate words "a lot".

Re:Setting Good Goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696021)

I'm going to have to stop reading slashdot soon. My spelling and grammar used to be great and felt natural before, but constantly reading the same mistakes is causing me to make some of them.

I really, honestly, don't give a shit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695517)

I really don't care.

You might be feeling down on the fact that your former employer is no longer with us, and that you are out of a job, but your former employer manipulated the energy market, which lead to the economic collapse of late 2000/early 2001 - and because of the organization you were a part of, many many people have lost a lot.

So please, STFU and go away.

Would you trust someone... (1, Insightful)

xmedar (55856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695543)

... whos "printer freindly" webpage ends as -

KM

In terms of performance mistakes, the operations guy says it's the developer's fault, the developer says it's the operations guy's fault. Whose fault is it?

JJ


whereas the non-"printer freindly" version continues with the interview, this is why I don't join the ACM, they can't even take 9 seperate pages and format them to be printed, I now re-christen the ACM - ABM, Association of Broken Minds.

Mod parent up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695644)

Wtf?

Re:Would you trust someone... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695703)

No kidding. It looks like the printer friendly version goes to the first question of page 7 of the regular version. If you change the 'page=1' part of the URL to 2 or some other number, you get that page of the article, but in the non-adridden semi-printer friendly style. I can't find a way to get pages 7-9 to show up in a single printer friendly page, though.

Enron didn't hurt him (1, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695557)

Since I know a lot of you aren't going to RTFA
After the collapse of Enron, Jenson worked briefly for UBS Warburg Energy before setting up his own consulting company.
It's good to see that his life didn't get fscked up by the Enron blowout.

Enron the company was doing lots of good and innovative things in the marketplace as TFA shows. It was certain groups of people that drove the company into the ground.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (-1, Flamebait)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695598)

And Mussolini got the trains to run on time.

Running a trading application hardly qualifies as innovative or groundbreaking. This guy is capitalizing on publicity generated by people who found it palatable to rip off millions (remember the California energy crisis?), tank the economy, mortgage their employees pensions while maintaining their salaries and golden parachutes, bribe high-ranking government officals (#1 contributor to the Bush campaign ... Martha Stewart goes to jail, Ken Lay doesn't?) and relax comfortably on their estates while other people work to pay for their troubles. This guy's a snake. If he had any shame, he'd keep his mouth shut.

Anything associated with Enron is evil.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695659)

I'm sure the evil people working at the low levels of the company just doing their jobs had nefarious thing in mind. It didn't work very well either since they got screwed over. Simply working for a huge company doesn't make you evil when the execs did the wrong.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14697423)

Just read most of "TallMatthew's" slashdot comments and you'll see quite a few arrogant comments. Do you ever say anything positive?

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698918)

Just read most of "TallMatthew's" slashdot comments and you'll see quite a few arrogant comments. Do you ever say anything positive?

About religion, neocons, rich people who screw over poor people, nationalism and other forms of senseless faith, ignorance and hypocrisy?

No. Never.

You can always tell it's a Christian when they use the word "arrogant".

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14700462)

Religion? I would bet that you only dislike it when someone does not have your own religion

Neocons? An imaginary force. There are few, if any, in power, and they are not making policy.

Rich people who screw over poor people? It happens sometimes, but for the most part the rich are rich through their own effort. The real danger that screws over both rich and poor is a greedy, oppressive (i.e. socialistic) government.

Nationalism? Nothing wrong with it as-such.

"other forms of senseless faith, ignorance and hypocrisy?"

What do you mean "other"? You haven't really named any. Unless you are pointing out your own "Senselessness".

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

hivemind_mvgc (823238) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713642)

And you can always tell when someone's new to Slashdot because they bother to respond to trolls spewing personal attacks.

Tool.

one suggestion (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698402)

One difference: Enron's employees willingly dumped their pension plan funds into Enron stock. The management or anyone from management NEVER asked them to do that.

Read "Conspiracy of Fools".

Besides that i agree with all others.
Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow's asses should be lubed before being sent to high-security prison for Blacks in California.

Wish they would show their screams and travails as Realtime TV.

Man imagine the rush to watch This !!!
Would surely beat the socks of Grammy, American Idol, and BSG combined.
Heck, people would PAY money to watch these two assholes get their lubed asses pounded by 15" coc*s for 12 hours.

Ask why, as$h*le (1, Troll)

BoxCar_h (841159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695656)

"Enron the company was doing lots of good and innovative things in the marketplace as TFA shows."

I don't know about that. You should watch an excellent documentary by the title 'Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room'. The impression I get is that almost everyone at Enron knew that something shady was going on. For example, a lot of the power outages in California were due to traders calling up power plants and asking them to shut down in order to drive the price of energy up.

The entire operation was extremely corrupt and a lot of innocent people not involved with the commodity trading (employees of utility companies that Enron bought, custodians, etc..) lost their life savings. Not to mention that they dabbled a bit too much in politics (they were partially responsible for Arnold becoming governor of California, only so he could keep Energy prices deregulated). The only reason this scam went on so long is because Enron the company was doing lots of evil things in the marketplace. Enron, as a corporation, was able to garner special status with the SEC and this allowed them to use a different kind of book keeping which essentially let them claim profits on monies not yet received.

Re:Ask why, as$h*le (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14697661)

Do not be so quick to discount the enron IT group. While the management was certainly suspect, the infrastructure guys were some of the very most top notch professionsals you could ever hope to work for.

Consider the follwing recipe:

1) Unlimited budget, not being unusual to have "100 million dollar days" from the tradefloor. In fact, a busy tradefloor might do that before 11am noms are in.

2) A strong incentive to excell. Bonus's were based on who performed. No politics, no BS, if you were solid, you got ahead. The review process was designed to reward excellence and punish those who only toed the line.

3) Excellent recruiting, at one time, Enron was *the* place to work. They recrutied the best from universities and got them.

The cream rose, the chaff fell. You can alot about enron, but the EOL IT people deserve your respect. ...

Re:Ask why, as$h*le (1)

CharlesEGrant (465919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697736)

Enron the company was doing lots of evil things in the marketplace

I'm a classic bleeding heart liberal, and old enough that I should have known better, but I always thought that folks like Ken Lay were sincere in their beliefs about the virtues of free markets. Then I read The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Den of Theives and finally twigged to the fact that folks like Lay, Skilling, Milken, and Boesky, speak publicly about the miracle of free markets, then go back to their boardrooms and do their damndest to put the markets in their pocket and make sure they are not free. Now I'm re-reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and finding gems like:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
The rate of profit... is naturally low in rich and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.


Re:Ask why, as$h*le (1)

spells (203251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14710616)

that folks like Lay, Skilling, Milken, and Boesky, speak publicly about the miracle of free markets, then go back to their boardrooms and do their damndest to put the markets in their pocket

I also just finished The Smartest Guys in the Room, and I was left with impression that Lay is an idiot, definitely not smart enough or driven enough to control the market. It seemed to me that Andy Fastow (former Enron CFO) was the dirtiest of them all, and Skilling set up the environment for Fastow to flourish. Lay's just a wannabe politician who couldn't control the monster he created.

Bad companies (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696043)



Problem with your statement is that a company is only as good as its people. A company isnt a free-willed creature.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him- Insightful??? (4, Informative)

ralf1 (718128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696263)

This was modded insightful? Bah. You statement shows a complete lack of understanding of the impact of the Enron collapse on many of its employees. The fact that he got another job is a simplistic, and quite frankly juvenile view of a major financial event in many peoples lives. Almost everyone who worked for Enron got another job. The Houston job market is pretty good, and particularly good for people with solid IT credentials. There was very little stigma associated with having Enron on your resume unless you were in the inner circle of Lay/Skilling/Fastauw.

The real impact was that many people at Enron had the vast majority of their personal savings in Enron stock or other Enron securities. The company management strongly pushed employees to do that, and there was significant corporate cultural pressure to invest ALL of your 401K in Enron stock. When the company tanked, people who had worked for years for Enron or one of the companies Enron had acquired suddenly went from having accumulated enough wealth to be close to retirement to having to start over. Plenty of stories of folks who at age 50 suddenly found themselves going from being worth millions on paper to having no life savings and no fiscal security. This happened to folks in a matter of weeks, and while it was happening compnay management was encouraging those employees to stay the course - hold the stock - as it would come back. It changed the lives of tens of thousands of people. I have one acquaintance who went from having 85,000 in a 401K, who got a settlement check for 43.00 from the bankruptcy court. Fourtunately he had other monies and the Enron investments really didn't change much for him long term, but I mention it to give you a sense of the scale of the collapse for folks.

The 'he got a job' comment may resonate with you folks who are young, have no long term obligations like a family, and are living paycheck to paycheck with no view of your future beyond how fast can I save up for a new Athlon dual core, but for those of us whose lives are a bit more established, it stinks.

Disclaimer - don't work for Enron, never did, no one in my family or close circle of friends did/does. But I do live in Houston and have seen what its done to good, honest people who did nothing wrong but believe the propaganda delivered by the people for which they worked.

Morons have 100% in ANY company. (1, Flamebait)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696429)

That was nobodys fault but theirs.

Fuck the greedy bastards. They can always flip burgers.

Re:Morons have 100% in ANY company. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14700394)

I second that. Mod parent insightful since this is NOT flamebait.
ALL investments are inherintly risky. Those people took a huge risk and lost. They thought they could make a lot of money wihout putting in the effort of learning how stuff works. It didn't work out. I wouldn't call them morons, though. More like unresponsible....ok morons then. :-)

Re:Enron didn't hurt him- Insightful??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14697072)

You said: "This was modded insightful? Bah. You statement shows a complete lack of understanding of the impact of the Enron collapse on many of its employees. The fact that he got another job is a simplistic, and quite frankly juvenile view of a major financial event in many peoples lives."

I say to you: "This was modded as 2? Bah. Your statement shows a complete lack of understanding of personal finance strategies most people with a higher education consider to be common sense. The fact that your example tells of people succumbing to pressure of others on how to invest their money is a simplistic, and quite frankly juvenile view of a major financial event in many peoples lives."

Re:Enron didn't hurt him- Insightful??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698006)

Just goes to show how intelligent people will still consider stock in some database exactly the same as cash in hand.

Sorry, but little sympathy. (0, Troll)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14701674)

If people worth millions (paper money or not) can't be arsed to buy "Investment 101" or "Savings for Dummies" they are setting themselves for failure.

And don't bring the "they were forced to buy Enron" bullshit. I am pretty sure that nobody put a gun to the head of anybody to force them to risk all their saving eggs in one basket only.

The bad luck of a fool is always regrettable and certainly one can feel a degree of pity for the fool, but the fool has to take responsibility for his own actions if he or she is a normal functioning grown up adult.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (4, Interesting)

GodBlessTexas (737029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696951)

I also worked at Enron, and we were trying to get money and hardware resources pumped into several open source projects, namely the OpenBSD project, because we were one of the companies trying to use it in our production environment. Unfortunately my layoff came before we could get anything signed, at which point there was nothing left to give.

Enron and its subsidiaries had a lot of great people working for them, and it was one of the few places where bright minds/tech people could get promoted for being great at what they did, and it didn't matter if you were some fresh-faced college graduate recruited for our analyst program or a guy who dropped out of high school but was brilliant at programming. It also left a lot of those bright people in a financial and professional lurch. What was worse than the sudden loss of employment was the loss of professional stature. I had prospective employers, even those in the energy trading business, actually deny me employment because I worked at Enron, as if I had something to do with their downfall as an upper level tech person. A lot of people thought we were part of some vast conspiracy, when many of us were the ones who got screwed in the process of Enron's downfall just like the other stock shareholders. The only difference between us and them is it was significantly more perseonal.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14697143)

Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you.

The truth is out there...

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

CharlesEGrant (465919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697945)

A lot of people thought we were part of some vast conspiracy, when many of us were the ones who got screwed in the process of Enron's downfall just like the other stock shareholders.

I'm sure you, and most of the employees at Enron, were upstanding and decent folk, but didn't you have any inkling that things might be amiss? I mean the guys on the energy trading desk are a long way from the boardroom, but from their taped converstations they knew they were engaging in un-ethical, and perhaps illegal, behavior.

Many years ago I was working for a large, publicly traded, company. At a company meeting someone asked if they should put all their 401k into the company stock. The spokesperson replied that while they believed the company stock would do very well, diversification was an important consideration, and if disaster struck you wouldn't want to loose your job and have your 401k go in the toilet simultaneously. As I understand it, Enron not only suggested, but required, that Enron stock go into your 401k. This didn't raise any flags for you?

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

GodBlessTexas (737029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14715349)

Enron never required publicly, privately, or explicitly that employees were required to purchase and keep Enron stock in their retirement portfolios. It was certainly part of the culture, but it was part of the culture that came from middle management as best I could tell. The only thing that involved money that made you visible to the upper level management types was time spent on community/charity work and donations to charities, especially United Way, as Enron matched dollar for dollar and actively encouraged involvement in the community. It was an established fact, if never spoken officially by management, that you had to give enough to the United Way to be part of their Make a Difference club to get promoted.

So, no, we were not required to have all of our retirement savings in Enron stock. But because the stock had done so well and was continuing to go up, many people lumped all of their money into Enron stock hoping to grow their savings quickly in a way that seemed safe.

As far as knowing what was going on, many of us had an idea that something was wrong going back to Q4 2000. My manager at the time quit in November and told us that he didn't know what was going on, but something wasn't right and he didn't want to be a part of it anymore. He resigned, cashed out his stock options, and moved to Hollywood where he took a position dealing with the security of streaming content. The rest of us tried to find other jobs, but by this time the bubble was already bursting and jobs were starting to get scarce. I don't think anyone, except those higher up, knew exactly what was going on.

You have to understand that Enron had a culture similar to Microsoft, in that almost everyone who worked there loved it. Everyone was treated and compensated well, and it showed in the attitudes of the people who worked there. The benefits package for all employees was the best I've ever seen. I never drank the "Ra Ra Kool-Aid," but I never felt bad about working there until it all went downhill. Members of management up to the C-level were approachable and friendly. I rode in an elevator with Ken Lay a couple of times and he was always pleasant and listened to what I had to say. You got the feeling he cared about the business from the ground up and wanted to know what was going on, and he wanted to hear it from those who were doing it instead of having it filtered up through the chain of command. The business hated a scandal more than anything, which is ironic in the context of how the company fell from grace. The slightest hint of scandal or controversy would see you resigned from your position and escourted from the building. My director was forced to resign after allegations of sexual harassment.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

Daniel Rutter (126873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698381)

> I had prospective employers, even those in the energy trading business,
> actually deny me employment because I worked at Enron, as if I had something
> to do with their downfall as an upper level tech person.

It occurs to me that the best response to such suspicions would be to point out that if you were one of the swindlers, you wouldn't need to look for another job.

Re:Enron didn't hurt him (1)

hicksw (716194) | more than 8 years ago | (#14701706)

Remember the Alamo, and God Bless Texas...

Don't forget Goliad, either....

I agree (1)

mattcasters (67972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695564)

>and trying to make sure that what every trader saw on the screen matched what every company in the world had on theirs

Keeping it honest is indeed very important!

New tech to come from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695584)

Many new technologies to come out of his IT shop including:

  - File cabinets that perform on-demand document shredding and disposal
  - Scripted generation of plausible deniability when you log off from your terminal
(Such as search and replace sed script that removes your name from all financial documents and replaces it with that of a random employee name, and a reverse script that puts your name back in when you log back on)

Enron this, Enron that. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695586)

Why is it that we suddenly care about everything Enron? So this guy was a SysAdmin for a divison that had nothing to do with what Lay and his pals did. What's next, an interview with the security guards? Custodial staff?

*BSD is Dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695592)

It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. Like Enron, *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save either Enron or *BSD at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying

Email (2, Informative)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695628)

There is a large collection of email from Enron vailable online. It has been usefull for research in natural language processing, text classification, and data mining. Check it out here: http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~enron/.http://www-2.cs.cm u.edu/~enron/ [cmu.edu]

Re:Email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695682)

You're url got mangled somehow. Here's a working version =)

http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~enron/ [cmu.edu]

Re:Email (2, Interesting)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695694)

I'm not sure what happened there. Lets try it again: http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~enron/ [cmu.edu]

Helps if you know what the prices are going to be: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695637)

...
  trying to make sure that what every trader saw on the screen matched what every company in the world had on theirs ...

It helps when your company falsely manipulates the prices ;-)

Bye karma...

Lessons from the Grave (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695645)

What We Can Learn From BSD
By Chinese Karma Whore [slashdot.org] , Version 1.0

Everyone knows about BSD's failure and imminent demise. As we pore over the history of BSD, we'll uncover a story of fatal mistakes, poor priorities, and personal rivalry, and we'll learn what mistakes to avoid so as to save Linux from a similarly grisly fate.

Let's not be overly morbid and give BSD credit for its early successes. In the 1970s, Ken Thompson and Bill Joy both made significant contributions to the computing world on the BSD platform. In the 80s, DARPA saw BSD as the premiere open platform, and, after initial successes with the 4.1BSD product, gave the BSD company a 2 year contract.

These early triumphs would soon be forgotten in a series of internal conflicts that would mar BSD's progress. In 1992, AT&T filed suit against Berkeley Software, claiming that proprietary code agreements had been haphazardly violated. In the same year, BSD filed countersuit, reciprocating bad intentions and fueling internal rivalry. While AT&T and Berkeley Software lawyers battled in court, lead developers of various BSD distributions quarreled on Usenet. In 1995, Theo de Raadt, one of the founders of the NetBSD project, formed his own rival distribution, OpenBSD, as the result of a quarrel that he documents [theos.com] on his website. Mr. de Raadt's stubborn arrogance was later seen in his clash with Darren Reed, which resulted in the expulsion of IPF from the OpenBSD distribution.

As personal rivalries took precedence over a quality product, BSD's codebase became worse and worse. As we all know, incompatibilities between each BSD distribution make code sharing an arduous task. Research conducted at MIT [mit.edu] found BSD's filesystem implementation to be "very poorly performing." Even BSD's acclaimed TCP/IP stack has lagged behind, according to this study. [rice.edu]

Problems with BSD's codebase were compounded by fundamental flaws in the BSD design approach. As argued by Eric Raymond in his watershed essay, The Cathedral and the Bazaar [catb.org] , rapid, decentralized development models are inherently superior to slow, centralized ones in software development. BSD developers never heeded Mr. Raymond's lesson and insisted that centralized models lead to 'cleaner code.' Don't believe their hype - BSD's development model has significantly impaired its progress. Any achievements that BSD managed to make were nullified by the BSD license, which allows corporations and coders alike to reap profits without reciprocating the goodwill of open-source. Fortunately, Linux is not prone to this exploitation, as it is licensed under the GPL.

The failure of BSD culminated in the resignation of Jordan Hubbard and Michael Smith from the FreeBSD core team. They both believed that FreeBSD had long lost its earlier vitality. Like an empire in decline, BSD had become bureaucratic and stagnant. As Linux gains market share and as BSD sinks deeper into the mire of decay, their parting addresses will resound as fitting eulogies to BSD's demise.

As interesting as this article is... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695662)

I'd rather spend my time dreaming about The spicy italian sandwich from Subway. 2 layers of salami and Pepperoni topped off with 4 slices of american cheese. Put a little mayo on there, some lettuce, tomatoes, and black olives, and you've almost got yourself a sandwich. Next, have them cover the sandwich in salt and pepper, then spray some oil and vinegar over the top, wrap it up and there's dinner. I think we can all give thanks for a sandwich that good. mmmmm mmmmm

Re:As interesting as this article is... (1)

BoxCar_h (841159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695709)

Are you high? That sandwhich does sound tasty but seriously, who thinks about sandwhiches when reading about Enron?

Re:As interesting as this article is... (1)

Chiisu (462604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695798)

Would you like me to make you some sandwiches?

/Bad Santa

Re:As interesting as this article is... (1)

RiotXIX (230569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695745)

Could you post a vegetarian alternative please?

Re:As interesting as this article is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695907)

No. Posting a vegetarian alternative would mean that the social pariahs win.

Just two words... (2, Funny)

ValentineMSmith (670074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695753)

man shred(1)

I bet he had an easy job.. (5, Funny)

alfrin (858861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695766)

"rm -rf /" on everyone's machines.

Developers vs Admins... (5, Interesting)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695784)

Very interesting discussion about the relationship between developers and admins in TFA. My own take is that it's basically the only useful thing that team leads or managers can do anything about by setting the incentive structure for both to be somewhat similar.

Essentially, if a developer's job relies on the same thing that an admin's job relies on (that is, stable, secure and reliable operations) then you have the foundation for harmony. If a developer's job relies on features and new functionality at the expense of stability, security and reliability, you have a recipe for hostility.

You can tell the priorities at a company by how cranky its admins are.

On the other hand, admins need to be open and available to developers, offering advice on OS, hardware, infrastructure, etc. and be able to clearly define the requirements for SSR so that any new designs or requirements can be supported from day 1.

Oh, and a great way to get documentation from developers: give all their cell#s to the admins, so when something breaks at 3am on a sunday and there's no documentation, the admin has a little company. A few calls like that and developers can write some pretty handy documentation!

Cranky good or cranky bad? (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696816)

>>> You can tell the priorities at a company by how cranky its admins are.

Is cranky good or is cranky bad? My guess is cranky is bad.

The best developers I've worked with know how to create both features and stability. What makes sysadmins cranky is, to take an example, getting into an argument with a developer who has just noticed that all the soft links have permissions 777 and thinks it's a security problem.

Actually the bigger the organization the less variation in crankiness. It may seem overly bureaucratic, but having that bureaucracy keeps people from rolling out bad code thirty minutes before the market opens. I think TFA was a pretty typical description of work at a large company (except this company turned out to be crooked.)

The big point TFA missed (this being a late 90s kind of project) was how these days, Java makes programmers lazy or stupid by abstracting system internals. Why should a developer worry about mmap() vs malloc() when he can blame all performance problems on the sysadmins' inability to twiddle JVM and system parameters properly? Again, in the largest organizations, there actually are some Java programmers who understand performance, because they actually are more likely to have a training budget, as opposed to smaller organizations where training is random.

And From The Developers Perspective... (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696854)

Stupid ass admin's who do shit like mount application log files on the root filesystem... and stupid ass admins who don't have scripts to alert them when a file system is 99% full... or stupid ass admins who wait until a disaster strikes at 3am in the morning to do anything about it!

Re:And From The Developers Perspective... (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697225)

gdb into any live production code to unwedge something lately?

And an admin is more likely to get shitcanned for that kind of incompetence than a developer is for writing shoddy/incomplete/nonexistent documentation or slamming an untested bit of code into production without telling anyone.

I've seen admins fired for that kind of nonsense. I rarely see developers fired for shoddy workmanship, lax code management or other egregious crap.

Re:And From The Developers Perspective... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14697790)

As a developer who started on the help desk, had admin jobs, and done pretty much everything else in-between, I can't say that I see any difference between the talent levels of sysadmins as compared to developers. In most large organizations, one usually needs to have a series of high-profile screw-ups before getting fired. Mediocrity and quiet incompetence generally fly under the radar. The admins at my current employer are several dozen Windows security patches behind, have badly misconfigured our high-priced SAN, and can't tell you what hardware is installed in any particular server without opening it up, but their jobs are completely safe. We have some subpar developers as well, but one of them has been fired during my tenure. Of course, the developer in question repeatedly deleted data out of active testing databases (causing days of rework in each instance) before the axe fell.

We can play that game as well. (2)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14701648)

99% full: we have scripts thank you. We have tried many different policies to clean up once we are alerted: asking nicely (they ignore us), asking harshly (they complain), being draconian (removing older, bigger files) people get sarcastic at you (here, I give you 100 bucks, buy a new disk), imposing limits (everybody has a good reason to need more than their colleagues), doing careful audits (discovering all the porn, movies, pictures, unauthorized software, etc., people, kid you not, complain about their privacy being violated.)

So after a while we just turn the damn 99% script off. Once the filesystem gets full we send an email to all the parties involved to sort it out. Say what you may, this works better than all the approaches above. We could try group quotas or smaller volumes assigned to smaller teams, but live is too short and I am sure people would still find problems with this or any other solution.

Disasters at 3am: you know, shit really happens, I know Mr Rumsfeld has discredited this very true notion, but shit does happen. You can have full redundancy, careful considerations to avoid downtime even people working to cover on site 24x7. Shit still will happen. So get over yourself and be grateful that there are people out there interested on this kind of job, which we can see form your post, get no recognition at all in spite of the users being stupid asses.

Enron Wasn't Innovative In IT (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695788)

I had two encounters with Enron during it's peak years:

IT Job Offer From Enron:In the first I was offered a trading systems developer position. They used PowerBuilder on Windows for their trading systems - nothing wrong with that. But the IT Director kept talking about how quickly the laws changed that concerned their energy trading. I enquired as to how they maintained their business rules. He replied roughly that "it's all in code; when the laws change we rewrite the code." I asked what they would do if there were an audit say, 6 months later after they'd gone through 4 versions of code. He replied that they would set up a standalone network, load the old software and restore snapshots of the database and rerun the old data.

Naturally I asked if he had heard of rule-based systems and hinted that, if they had a dynamic rulebase architecture, they could avoid the recoding and versioning. Instead they could have a much simpler system and better controls. He said he had never heard of such a thing and couldn't see how it could be done in their environment. But he was interested.

Seeing that their viewpoint was extremely short-term and unenlightened, I turned down Enron's offer. Many of my cohorts at the time said I was a fool, but the IT situation at Enron seemed to be impoverished in thought although rich in resources. In time I realized my hunches were correct.

Encounter With Enron Broadband:Flash forward to 2 years later. I've gone completely over to WWW development and to FOSS. I'm attending a Microsoft event on IIS mostly out of curiosity. Next to me is an outspoken individual who works for Enron Broadband. He speaks endlessly of the benefits of IE and ActiveX. I ask if Enron uses ActiveX much; he replies that they are tied to IE and that ActiveX is a necessary part of their architecture. I ask about Apache, Netscape, and FOSS; he replies that they have no capability in those areas to his knowledge. I once again decide that Enron has somehow missed the boat.

Enron never carried significant loads on their web servers. Their limit was the number of energy traders in the U.S., which is a relatively small number. Today, small sites do much more than Enron did with fewere resources. There are few useful lessons to be learned from Enron's IT group or their BroadBand division fiascoes.

Re:Enron Wasn't Innovative In IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696032)

LOL! Go to http://www.enron.com/ [enron.com] using Firefox or Mozilla and click on "Jobs at Enron".... it won't let you view the page unless you're using IE!

Re:Enron Wasn't Innovative In IT (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696151)

Considering I work in a highly regulated industry (lending), our developers learned from the previously design system in terms of rule-based systems.

In our case we call it a "product". Each product has an associated set of rules such as interest rates, loan term and more. When we face regulatory changes, we modify the "product" but the original loan terms are stored at the time the were done so we can always go back and show you the state of a loan at any point and time.

It also helps that we actually have a data warehouse that contains the same information.

Ad (1, Insightful)

killerdark (922011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696070)

The article sounds like a consultant who is in dire need of work and does the ultimate desperate action, getting free ad time on /. His story sounds like a fairy tale. Not like the life of a system administrator.

Re:Ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696374)

If he were doing it for ad time, he would have put his name.

Re:Ad (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14707135)

i've met the guy, i've sat through a class on Solaris that he was teaching, and i've been here as we've discussed getting him to take a look at our systems. i know that the last time we had him in, we had to schedule him some time in advance. i'm fairly certain that he's not hurting for work, based on my interactions...

Re:Ad (1)

killerdark (922011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14713734)

I might have been a bit to pessimistic to be honest. I dont know the guy after all. Thanks for pointing out that he seemed to have plenty to do.

BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696204)

On a TV show I saw a year or so ago, one of the former traders they interviewed said they faked most their trading activity: Whenever a visitor would come through they'd gather up secretaries and anyone else they could find and sit them at a terminal & have them act like they were trading. Doesn't sound like a huge system load to me.

Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (3, Insightful)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696223)

Frankly, all of my contact with Enron has shaped my opinion as such that if I had worked at Enron, I'd be reluctant to put it on my resume. I'd rather have a sabattical in Tibet, stay in rehab, or time in the peace core on there instead. Much of the criminal activity at Enron was IT-based. When your accouting system is an application, your IT had to know that the books were being cooked. The fact of the matter is that they chose not to report it. Instead,a lowly bean counter blew the whistle on all of them. Now that I know that this man has come out and proudly announced that he was part of such an organization, I would seriously recommend that he not be hired for any kind of a position of trust. I don't see a lot here to be proud of, ethically or morally.

Anyone who's been an SA for any length of time knows that being an SA carries an ethical and moral burden. Just because you accidentally read an email while trying to fix something on the mail server doesn't mean you can go gossip about it. If you happen to see a file that has private contents on someone's desktop, you don't go gossip about it. If you happen to find kiddie porn, you inform the FBI. There are rules to this business. Annoucing that you've violated the most important ones doesn't exactly make you a desirable candidate.

How can anyone, who claims to be providing web services for "the public", tie themselves to an IE/Windows/Active X architecture? I work for a university and, while our web traffic is quite atypical, IE accounts for only 1/2 of our traffic and has for some time. Windows only accounts for about 60% of our operating systems. Since we seem to "lead the curve" on rest of the net, I would suspect that in the next year or two most sites, at least ones that take international traffic, will start seeing a similar shift in their traffic.

The whole paradigm of web services is that it's supposed to work on any OS, any browser, etc. without the need for any specific client software. If you're web application isn't browser/OS agnostic, you've totally missed the boat. Frankly that's not anything to be bragging about technically either.

So, to sum it all up. He's bragging about being part of an ethically corrput and technically deficient company and wondering why he's not got a job.

2 cents,

Queen B

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696297)

This is probably my biggest concern when interviewing people for System Admin positions. Ethics that is.

We end up having power over everything. We have the ability to read everyone's email, look at everyone's personal files and in some cases screw the company out of millions of dollars. And we know the ways to cover our tracks because we know the environment better than anyone.

I know that I would never abuse that position but it's tough trying to decide based on interviews if someone else would. It's the thing that keeps me up at night when we bring a new person on board.

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1)

daverabbitz (468967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697182)

>I know that I would never abuse that position but it's tough trying to decide based on interviews if someone else >would. It's the thing that keeps me up at night when we bring a new person on board.

This is a good reason for auditing. All actions taken by sysop's should be accounted for, both for security and maintainablility. Systems should be logged to a log box that only the senior sysop/CIO/HOD/whatever has access to, and the logs should be audited and any logins that aren't documented should be investigated.

Not to say that you shouldn't first hire trust-worthy staff, but you still need to mitigate risks, and auditing is also a very important tool to track compromises from external parties.

I practise the same techniques at home, I don't have a dedicated log box (waste of power), but I cross log every machine, so there is four copies of every syslog. I also document every change I make, so that I can keep track of why things are such.

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (4, Insightful)

XorNand (517466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696541)

Much of the criminal activity at Enron was IT-based. When your accouting system is an application, your IT had to know that the books were being cooked.
That's a pretty ignorant assumption. I dunno about everyone else, but as a systems dude, I don't even know how to use some of the applications I support. The network support guys are even further removed. Is a drunk's car mechanic liable if after a bender, he runs down a few kids?

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1, Troll)

Kafka_Canada (106443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698180)

Yes, but not if you used correct grammar... ;)

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1)

engagebot (941678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14709583)

Agreed. I was thinking the same thing.

I work IT in a hospital. I'll admit i have no idea what's *actually* going on in the pathology or cardio systems.

I'm not a cardiologist. Enron IT guys weren't accountants.

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14722432)

If you're doing what you should be, as a sys admin, which means checking logs, checking time stamps, etc. then you KNOW that the data is being edited. If audit data is being tinkered with that should be sending up all kinds of red flags, flares, bells, whistles, and maybe even a couple of roman candles.

If you're running the right kind of an IT shop, this gets reported up the food chain that "Hey, this audit data is being messed with." until it gets to someone who can do something about it. Since he's in charge, it's his shop. It's his job to set the tone and the expectations for the entire shop.

Since you say that he didn't do that, now he's ethically unsound, techncially unsound, and a crappy manager. Wow! What a good recommendation.

2 more cents,

Queen B

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1)

AnotherDaveB (912424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696590)

So, to sum it all up. He's bragging about being part of an ethically corrput and technically deficient company and wondering why he's not got a job.

The impression I got from the article was was that he was pointing out the benefits you get from team work, and the usefulness of dtrace [theregister.co.uk] .

Re:Enron - lessons in what NOT to do (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698504)

Very ignorant comment...

As an SA for a very large telecom -- we support such a wide variety of systems that I couldn't even begin to tell you what the data on the systems actually holds.

The guy was an SA for a VERY large company, and their IT systems were NOT their downfall...

Good mercy. The real world doesn't like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726550)

How can you even begin to comment on this when you don't have even the slightest clue how the system works, or is structured?

In reality, even the folks who support and maintain an IT system usually have no idea how it works internally.
(The average Apache user can admin, manage and maintain their server, but do they have any idea how it works
internally?)

Most sysadmins and systems folks support infrastructure whose data is not transparent to them.
A rough example would be, say, the sysadmin for a large webhosting joint.

Said sysadmin is only managing the disks, directories and databases that contain all the web
content for all customers, not viewing each and every single web page, script or atom of info
within.

In much the same way, the systems support staff for some large ERP or accounting system is only managing
the backend for that system. He/she will only be dealing with how to keep it up and running, available,
and resilient against disaster. Said support person or staff is NOT going be perusing each and
every atom of information that the end user entered. (Usually, the data stored in such a system isn't
transparent via the backend, but usually only comprehensive when viewed through its frontend.)

It is the job of the end users (the accountants and management) of said tool to ensure that the data
being entered is correct, not the sysadmin or the systems support staff. Your electric utility provides
you with electricity, but if you use it to power a chainsaw to attack some poor soul, it isn't their fault.
Their job is to make sure you get your energy. Not to tell you how to use it. Like it or not, believe it
or not, most large scale systems support operates in much the same fashion.

Your comment:
Much of the criminal activity at Enron was IT-based. When your accouting system is an application, your IT had to know that the books were being cooked.
....is in reality not the way (at all, usually) that the real world works.

On a day to day basis in most places, IT usually isn't even aware of the company's accounting or financial state. So how are you expecting them to know what are the correct numbers, and what aren't?

Thanks Mr. Enron Admin... (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696325)

For taking such good care of your servers! We picked up a bunch of them when the company went bust, and they're still running fine today. Hell... We even left the Enron asset tags on them for kicks.

Surely Enron had more than one SysAdmin! (1)

belrick (31159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696712)

I can't believe how little effort some people put into writing grammatically correct prose.

Re:Surely Enron had more than one SysAdmin! (1)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14697727)

I can't believe how little effort some people put into writing grammatically correct prose.
caught
With a 5 digit Slashdot ID, you should have become immune to it by now...

Respect for DTrace! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698405)

Quoting the article...

The other cases were real applications. One was an XML parser We found a very easy change that he could make in his code that yielded a performance improvement in the 60 percent range. We did that one in about 10 minutes. It was kind of stressful, but it was fun.

KM

What tools did you have at your disposal there?

JJ

The number one tool was DTrace. We had just recently created a Java agent for DTrace, called DVM, that allowed us to correlate events in native code and on the system. If it weren't for DTrace, there is no way we could have done this challenge. What I've been doing for the past two years now is helping mostly Sun customers with performance problems, and DTrace is my tool of choice. Of the customers we've helped, we have been able to get them all an improvement, ranging from 12 percent to almost 5,000 percent performance gains. The observability with DTrace is really unmatched. When I used to schedule work to go solve performance problems, the standard length of time was two weeks to a month. I can literally schedule three customers a day now. That is because with DTrace, we have the tool that we need.

EOL (2, Funny)

superflytnt (105865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14700279)

Is anybody else seeing the humor in an application called "EOL"? (end-of-life) ?

An old story: You have to know what to measure (3, Insightful)

rfc1394 (155777) | more than 8 years ago | (#14700291)

Some of his comments about benchmarks and measuring performance bottlenecks go back decades to some comments I've seen time and time again. You have to know what you are measuring in order to know how to measure your performance. If you don't know what you are measuring, you're not going to get useful information.

His points about 'taking ownership' of the problem appear to be spot-on right, when people take ownership of a problem it provides a better chance to solve the problem. This comes straight out of the book In Search of Excellence as a method of building a better company. Difficulties and loss of effort happen when the general environment is one of "it's not my problem." When one takes ownership of problems in order to fix them no matter where the actual problem is you can produce excellent results. But again, if you're not looking in the right place to find the solution, chances are you won't find it.

Enron sysadmin (1)

AnnaSaru (661993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14702435)

I read the article, and it has some useful ideas, not necessarily new. Jared is a skilled performance tuner and its a good discussion to read. What is disappointing is the flambait on this slashdot discussion board.
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