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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

MrNemesis Re:Nonsense (289 comments)

This. Absolutely, 100% this.

As I've alluded to in my other posts, as soon as I graduated from cowboy sysadmin to a "proper" sysadmin that files change requests and writes project documentation, I've come to love change managers for precisely the reasons above. Change managers are under continual bombardment from non-technical project managers and developers that might well have deep, deep insight into a certain area but can't see past the end of their nose. A good change manager will often trot up to us sysadmins and say "So-and-so has submitted this change but doesn't think it needs approvals from you guys, can you take a gander?" to be met with either a "yeah that's fine" or a "Holy crappingon what-the-fuck in a god-buggered handbasket NO!". Good sysadmins in a constructive environment see a bigger picture than the project managers and the developers and, as far as CAB is concerned, submit better change requests as a result - because risk analysis is such an innate part of our job that most of us don't even realise we're doing it. But change managers see a bigger picture still because they're exposed to the sysadmins, network admins, security admins, user admins, mail admins, storage admins, admin admins, admin users, sysadmin networks, bread, eggs and breaded eggs.

Change managers exist to protect the business. Sysadmins exist to run the business' IT. Change managers realise that sysadmins are often asked to do dangerous or even outright impossible things by powerful people with only an inkling of what consequences such an action might have; it's a change manager's job to communicate with and understand the sysadmin (and everyone else) in such repsects, just as it's the sysadmins' responsibility to communicate to the business why change X is crucial or dangerous. In a properly functioning IT dept, sysadmins and change managers protect both each other and the business from stupidity, mis-co-ordination and lack of oversight. As a sysadmin, change managers are almost always on your side - either pushing for that change that's so essential, or holding you back where there's a risk. They're a highly valuable ally. When something goes to shit, they're the first people to step in and say "no, the sysadmins had nothing to do with this incident".

I'm MrNemesis and in the last three years I've learned to love my change managers.

2 days ago
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SSD-HDD Price Gap Won't Go Away Anytime Soon

MrNemesis Re:RAID? (253 comments)

It depends how you measure "speed". If you measure speed by things like sequential read or write speed like so many people do, it's possible to match SSD speed with as few as two platter-based hard drives.

But in the real word (of servers at least) there's not really any such thing as sequential reads/writes any more, and when you throw a VM-backended-on-a-SAN into the mix it's safe to say that there is no such thing as a sequential transfer - all I/O, by the time it hits the SAN controller, will look random simply because it's the aggregated reads and writes of dozens or hundreds or thousands of different servers.

So going back to the original premise - if you in fact measure speed in IOPS rather than throughput, you'll need something approaching at least twenty spindles (probably with a bunch of expensive battery-backed RAM as cache sitting in front of it) in order to even get close - platter-based drives basically just suck at random IO and it's not unusual for them to be an order of magntitude slower in throughput when doing 4kB random as opposed to 4kB sequential; I've seen drives that can do >150MB/s sequential drop to doing less than 1MB/s random (something you can easily try out yourself with iometer if you so wish). It's why so many SAN technologies now use tiering, where incoming writes first get written to RAM, then the SAN controller does some IO coalescing, and then sends it down to the fifty or so spindles directly - or increasingly these days to an intermediate NAND layer. This way you can serialise requests so that whilst the data hitting the SAN is inherently random, your SAN controller has the smarts to get it to write to the spindles in as sequential a manner as it can.

If it's IOPS you're after and you don't have a fancypants SAN, it's now frequently cheaper to shell out for a limited amount of NAND than it is to buy enough spindles to support a peak IO load, even if you shell out on the big bucks of FusionIO or those ludicrously pricey SAS SSDs. If you need speed and capacity, you can now buy "application accelerators" or suchlike that will automatically promote hot blocks into a local NAND cache rather than going straight to the platters (although I don't know how well these work in practive). If you do have a fancypants SAN you can make it an even more fancypants SAN by plugging a layer of NAND in between the controller cache and the spindles themselves and still have oodles of relatively cheap platter capacity.

Of course at home I still use an SSD for the OS and programs and I keep my static media on platters, because that's one environment where I do know accesses will be mostly sequential and I need the capacity-per-quid that only platters can give at present. But I've just added an SSD writeback cache to my NAS and it's noticeably faster already.

TLDR: Throughput and capacity aren't the only measures of storage, and an SSD can improve performance massively whilst costing less than the equivalent platters as long as you're aware of your IO workload.

2 days ago
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Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

MrNemesis Re:Open both eyes, and quit squinting! (310 comments)

Same here - standing gets very uncomfortable very quickly for me, but I can happily walk up hill and down dale until the cows come home.

I no longer smoke, but I still take fag breaks at work just to give me a reason to stretch my legs and have some mental downtime once every hour or two. Pacing around is great for thinking, but for doing I need to be sat down.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

MrNemesis Re:Patching.... (289 comments)

I depends very much on the makeup of CAB and the company culture surrounding it. I've already mentioned in my other post the "fun" I had with a CAB in previous employment who were always obstructive about everything until we'd had a long string of changes that went exactly as planned (including some changes that were approved against our wishes and broke things exactly like we said they would) - if there's an adversarial relationship then even with excellent diligence it takes a long, long time to build up a sufficient amount of trust.

CAB at my current employer is brilliant. You submit your request along with your technical risk analysis and the people on the CAB are techy enough to understand those risks and how they relate to business risks. Submit, say, a zero-day and not only will they welcome it with open arms but they'll literally ask how fast-tracked you want it. Yes there's technically red tape as T's need to be dotted and I's need to be crossed, but it's not a hindrance. A good CAB should know when they need to be slow and especially when they need to be fast; anything else runs against the idea of having a CAB in the first place.

3 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

MrNemesis Re:Nonsense (289 comments)

So refusing to comply with an order that's in direct violation of your contract is acting like an arsehole now? And you're happy for the rule you're being routinely forced to violate in the course of your professional duties to be left on the books to trip up the next person who doesn't have the guts to stand up and say "no, I won't shoot myself in the foot"? Will HR even remember you have a signed waiver before marching you out of the building for knowingly violating company policy?

Sorry, but no. If you're stuck in a Kafkaesque situation like the GP was, the only professional thing you can do is give them exactly what they want. Especially when you've explained to them why giving them exactly what they want will be bad and they've given a written response that amounts to "we don't care, do it anyway".

If you act like something that badly needs fixing doesn't need fixing and you're happy to see people and companies ruined over it, but all means keep thrusting ones cranium into the pulverised silicon dioxide. Some people might say you're acting like an arsehole however.

3 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

MrNemesis Change Management is good (289 comments)

...and necessary* but that doesn't stop some change management boards being needlessly obstructive.

Years back, I was working at a company where all of our servers got patched at build and then never patched again "in case it broke something". Myself and the rest of the ops team begged and pleaded for the business to allow us maintenance windows, allowed to reboot the OS outside of business hours, install patches... all to no avail.

Until the company lost a bidding on a contract because they had no maintenance or patch management policy in place so the business comes running at us screaming why we don't patch our servers (they would listen to their potential clients about computer security and whatnot, but not to their own staff). Cue us showing them the dozen or so draft maintenance policies that we'd submitted over the years, all of which were rejected by the directors. Red faces all round in that meeting :)

So the latest draft gets pushed into force by a wheelbarrow full of cash and we go out and buy Shavlik, a really rather nice patch management solution... and then our change management board goes nuts when they see our report. Lots of w2k and w2k3 boxes had literally hundreds of service packs and patches oustanding before, and like the OP wanted an individual change raised for each patch going on each server. We then set up an email direct to the change board that gave them Shavlik's automated PDF thingy which gives a list of all the patches outstanding on a server along with a hyperlink to the MS KB or similar... but that wasn't good enough. They wanted a report on what each patch did, which files it altered, all the usual stuff. Now as another poster had pointed out, under ITIL this should all have been "standard change" without needing so much paperwork (seriously, they should be at least aware of ITIL even if they're not going to follow it to the letter) but we could sympathise with them that, even with our planned dependency-based staggered rollout over a 4 week period, this was both a radical shift in company culture and posed a significant opportunity for breakage... but still. Filing about 20,000 change requests it was to be.

So obviously, since we were dealing with obstructive officials, we did exactly that. Did a few dozen hacky shell scripts that took the PDFs that Shavlik made, CURLed down the contents of the link to the KB page and then posted it off into the change management system - one request per patch per machine. After about twenty minutes of this we'd submitted about 400 requests and the change management system (an in-house pile o' shite that wasn't so much written as congealed out of various bits of sharepoint and was universally hated) had slowed to a crawl enough that it took 10mins to open the page. It used funky whizz-bang ajax to load *all* of the pending change requests in the background ("who needs a LIMIT on this SQL parameter?! We're never going to have more than fifty open change requests!" The developer in question also seemed to think that using a LIMIT statement was akin to taking the go-fasta stripes off your car. Wonder if he's doing webscale development now). After some brief arguing where they actually suggested we should open a change request to submit changes - at which point we cackled at the prospect of submitting another 20,000 pre-change-request changes - and after finding their ITIL manual down the back of the sofa they finally agreed that yes, actually, they didn't need quite such a detailed report, and were prepared to accept our risk assessment report as a single change for the first weekend's rollout.

So about 20,000 patches/service packs were staged and installed over the next two months, and luckily we didn't have a single failure due to the patches (yes, I also thought this was miraculous considering the crufty applications). From then on, every patch cycle needed just four changes, one for each week. That's how it should be done.

* Yes, necessary! I've done more than my fair share of JFDI but that just doesn't scale when you're working in teams of more than a few people - and completely falls apart when you scale up to multiple teams. Perhaps most important, aside from scheduling potentially conflicting changes ("what do you mean the routers are down for an hours' maintenance whilst we're uploading the new data?!") is making sure we admins document our changes and document a rollback plan. Version control for config files and the like... once you're used to it, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

FWIW, I'm still a sysadmin and I still hate the paperwork of doing change management - why do I need to do this? It's never going to go wrong! But I've seen (and perpetrated in) so many changes going wrong that I can see its value; you never actually miss it until it's gone.

3 days ago
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Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support

MrNemesis Re:u wot m8 (574 comments)

So let me get this straight...

Microsoft upped 8 to 8.1 and again to Update 1? And now Microsoft ate point one and the 8.1 Update 1 update won? When does 8.1 Update 1 update to 2?

5 days ago
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Private Keys Stolen Within Hours From Heartbleed OpenSSL Site

MrNemesis Re:And the cry goes up from ten thousand admins, (151 comments)

As an atypically profane Brit, there's much to love even about the simple* word "fuck".

"You know, Minister, I believe that in the long view of history, the British Empire will be remembered only for two things... The game of soccer. And the expression 'fuck off'."
- The last Governor of South Yemen, in conversation with then-Defence Minister Denis Healey on the eve of South Yemen's independence.

Personally, members of my team are fond of variations along the lines of "Fuck, the fucking fucker's fucked!" since one gets to use the word fuck as an exclamation, a verb, an article and an adjective; concise, immensely satisfying to say yet still grammatically correct.

* Not a simple word at all really since, handled correctly, it can convey pretty much any meaning. It's frequently spotted as a metasyntactic variable in particularly hairy functions, wibblefuck being a common variation/combination. My favourite spot of this was "fuckwomble**" in some in-house LDAP code which entered company lexicon as an abbreviation for someone in compliance with Tucker's Law.

** A Womble is of course one of the inhabitants of Wimbledon Common who make a living by picking up rubbish. The coder in question had assigned variables named after all of the wombles, and after running out of names once he hit Bulgaria, started using a variety of swearwords rather than proceeding somewhat-logically through other countries of eastern europe. Given the nature of the code, it was a decision I could only applaud.

5 days ago
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The GNOME Foundation Is Running Out of Money

MrNemesis Re:maybe KDE will be next (689 comments)

I wish Kyle would stop pulling his punches and tell us what he really thinks! That quote was far too shrouded in metaphor for me to understand what his stance is. ;)

FWIW, I've been a Debian user since about 2002, RHEL at work since about 2005... maybe it's because I use the desktop very little (GNOME became an increasingly user-hostile disaster even during its v2 reign and KDE shot their killer app of their superb Kontact/Kmail suite in the foot with KDE4 IMHO) but I still don't see what advantages systemd brings to the table other than the inability to grep/tail/cat/syslog and all the rest of it... socket-based daemon activation is all well and good but it appears to be insisting that babies and bathwater are mutually incompatible for reasons that are never clearly defined. systemd to me appears to be another one of those projects with a high-handed "I'm always right and therefore anything you say that disagrees with me is wrong, QED" attitude that I really can't comprehend, much less agree with. Makes sense that GNOME made it a hard dependency I guess.

about a week ago
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Data Storage Pioneer Wins Millennium Technology Prize

MrNemesis Re:Them Brits is smart (40 comments)

I know, don't feed... but you're wrong :)

http://www.economist.com/node/...

Brits have some of the healthiest teeth in the world, but it's a different culture here than in the US. In the US, if you're poor, you don't get your teeth done because it's expensive. Here it's free-for-all due to the NHS, but the NHS budget is such that it would be considered a waste to spend taxpayers money on the cosmetic treatments such as the capping and polishing and whitening that are so common in the states. Straightening is normally only done when there's a medical need for it. Obviously, all the same cosmetic treatments are available privately but most people balk at the cost even without the cultural bias - free private dentistry is a perk of my job but still no-one goes for american-style white gnashers.

Haven't had a cavity or anything in fifteen years but by american standards my teeth might well be considered horrible since they're not pearly white (thanks, tea, coffee and fags!); personally, I don't like perfectly even white teeth since to me they look like a horse just jumped out of a toothpaste advert.

Now, if you'd have brought marmite into the conversation you'd have had a point.

about two weeks ago
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UK Government Pays Microsoft £5.5M For Extended Support of Windows XP

MrNemesis Re:Microsoft: Support XP users (341 comments)

But the updates will only be created for EN_GB and there'll be no way to translate that into american english. Commonwealth nations will be able to install them, although all of those XP machines in australia and new zealand will need to be turned upside down in order for the bits to line up properly.

about two weeks ago
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Xbox One Reputation System Penalizes Gamers Who Behave Badly

MrNemesis Re:No way soar losers will abuse his... (183 comments)

I can't believe you could write this sentence without mentioning the quite exquisitely baroque profanity of The Thick Of It.

US viewers can get a glimpse of the new Doctor Who espousing Tucker's Law here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

about three weeks ago
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Malware Attack Infected 25,000 Linux/UNIX Servers

MrNemesis Re:Obvious "nerds suck" troll is not a joke (220 comments)

This has become incredibly meta. Your histrionics at the perceived personal slight from a 15-year old troll post has become more trollish than the original post itself, only without any perceivable sense of humour or irony. You are Nathan Poe and I claim my five pounds.

about a month ago
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Malware Attack Infected 25,000 Linux/UNIX Servers

MrNemesis Re:The big problem with Linux security. (220 comments)

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you may be confusing file permissions with ACLs; the two are not the same thing. ACLs only started appearing in common filesystems in the 90's and to use them in the early days of linux you'd frequently have to force the enabling of xattr (if your filesystem supported it); the first reference I can find to POSIX 1E ACLs in either FreeBSD or Linux is round about 2000 and I started using them myself in 2002, they're still far from common.

about a month ago
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Malware Attack Infected 25,000 Linux/UNIX Servers

MrNemesis Re:Obvious "nerds suck" troll is not a joke (220 comments)

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. They see dbIII sitting inside with a pint of bitter and a baleful look in his eyes and immediately decide to leave and have fun elsewhere.

about a month ago
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Firefox 28 Arrives With VP9 Video Decoding, HTML5 Volume Controls

MrNemesis Re:150 tabs? (142 comments)

Different people respond better to different ways of working. Frankly, looking something up and then closing it drivers me utterly crazy - since I'm the kind of person that forgets about something once they can't see it. Doorway amnesia, out of sight, out of mind and all that. Please don't assume that because you find the "having lots of tabs" approach not your cup of tea that everyone is like that.

I suspect that much like the GP I've got a highly spatial memory, so I'll know pretty instinctively that the web GUI for the SAN was opened about 15 tabs to the left of where I am now. I'll know that cluster of about ten tabs over yonder is where I'm keeping some pages open for the IRPStackSize issue I'm looking at - stuff I might have had a fix applied but will want to keep my reference docs on hand after the users get back to me with testing reports in 48hrs time - because not all problems are things where I can go "there, I've fixed it, don't need to think about it again now". Going to the lengths of categorising it as a bookmark for something that you might only need once is a lot of overhead, and relying on page content search in the address bar doesn't give me context of whether it was a page I had open that had useful information on it, or whether it was useless fluff that happened to have a particular term in it. So keeping some windows/tabs open for comparatively long periods of time is what works best for me.

I don't like to use tree-style tabs or tab grouping as I find them visually cluttered.

Unlike the GP however, personally I haven't had any significant problems with FF27 and ninety hojillion tabs. I used to be one of those FF users who would continually bitch and moan about resource usage (because my FF would hit the 1.8GB ceiling every 24-48hrs and either slow to a crawl or crash) but since about version 20 or 24 or something, memory utilisation has dropped - both in the amount of memory used for particular dataset and the amount at which the memory bloats/leaks/fragments over time. Commit rarely goes over 1GB now (although when it does it usually means FF will soon need to be restarted). my biggest problems with FF now are its inherently single-threaded nature; load a set of tabs for certain websites and you'll often see a core pegged at 100% for 30s or more. Annoying.

All the above is YMMV, my 2 pence, etc.

about a month ago
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A Call For Rollbacks To Previous Versions of Software

MrNemesis Re:Shades of WinAmp 3 ? (199 comments)

Users should have the ability to roll back any upgrade

When the curators of your device/app store/whatever take an X% cut of whatever moolah you spend on the application or attached subscription services, surely there's a vested interest from both parties for you not to have the ability to keep reinstalling the appallingly stone aged one that still works just fine but doesn't make them any money...? Rent seeking then becomes more profitable for both the creator and the curator, so as long as you ignore the whims of your consumers it's a win/win.

about a month ago
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Malware Attack Infected 25,000 Linux/UNIX Servers

MrNemesis Re:To be an obvious joke it needs to be funny (220 comments)

Your UID suggests you should have seen this style of troll back when it first came around - a quick google returns dozens of hits for slashdot alone. It's intended as a joke, and is mocking the mindset (less present now than it was then) about UNIX/linux being seen by people who never got fired for buying IBM/Microsoft/Oracle as both too basic for business but yet still somehow intractably complicated.

So... whoosh. You might not find it funny but it's certainly not deadly serious and certainly isn't going "ha ha, they use LUNIX!".

Next bombshell: Linyos Torovoltos not actually a real person.

about a month ago

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MrNemesis hasn't submitted any stories.

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WTF has happened to all my comments?

MrNemesis MrNemesis writes  |  about 6 years ago

You've messed up my comments again! Now I get a stupid bounding box around every comment, and I can't actually SEE any other comments unless I manually raise or lower the threshold for the WHOLE FUCKING PAGE. Where's my nice clickable "There are X replies beneath your current threshold"?

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