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alt.sysadmin.recovery FAQ v0.85a

alt.sysadmin.recovery frequently asked questions
Archive-name: sysadmin-recovery
Posting-frequency: monthly
Version: 0.85a (August 2002)
URL: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/faqs/sysadmin-recovery

alt.sysadmin.recovery FAQ  v0.85a (August 2002)

This is the frequently-asked questions list for alt.sysadmin.recovery,
a newsgroup for practising and recovering system administrators.

1) ABOUT THE NEWSGROUP
1.1) What is alt.sysadmin.recovery?
1.2) Notes on posting to ASR
1.3) Who hangs out here?
1.4) Special note RE: alt.humor.best-of-usenet
1.5) What is not welcome on alt.sysadmin.recovery?
1.6) What does BOFH mean?  How about LART?  TTTSNBN?  PFY?  Cow-orker?
1.7) Official ASR mottos
1.8) If you find sysadminning to be such stress, why not find a job other than
being a sysadmin?
1.9) What is the scary devil monastery?
1.10) Is rot5 allowed in ASR?
1.11) I hate this group!  Where do I complain?
1.12) Did anyone ever notice that the FAQ has 657 lines?

2) ABOUT OUR FINE PROFESSION
2.1) I want to be a sysadmin.  What should I do?
2.2) So, I've just "volunteered" to be a sysadmin.  What do I do?
2.3) Where do sysadmins rank as a profession?
2.4) What's a typical day in the life of a sysadmin?
2.5) Do sysadmins all drink a lot?
2.6) Why can't I find my sysadmin?
2.7) What sort of music do sysadmins listen to?

3) OUR LITTLE FRIEND, THE COMPUTER
3.1) Are there any OSs that don't suck?
3.2) How about any hardware?
3.3) Just HOW MUCH does this system suck?
3.4) Where can I find clueful tech support?
3.5) What can I do to help my computers behave?

4) OUR BIG HEADACHE, THE LUSERS
4.1) I'm on tech support.  Where can I find clueful customers?
4.2) Some tips for general luser interaction
4.3) What is the best way to deal with lusers?
4.4) Revolvers, cyanide and high voltages:  The pros and cons of various luser
education strategies.
4.5) How can I clean up the mess made by a luser's brain splattered across a
monitor?
4.6) What is the penalty for murdering a luser?
4.7) How much should I charge for holding their hands?

5) DEALING WITH BEING A SYSADMIN
5.1) Caffeine and other recreational pharmaceuticals
5.2) The excuse server
5.3) The insults server
5.4) Should I slit my wrists across or downward?
5.5) Sysadmin tools
5.6) Psychiatric assistance
5.7) But seriously, should I kill myself?

6) OK, SERIOUSLY FOLKS!  HELP!!!1!
6.1) I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but I _need_ to ask a technical question.
6.2) You guys are all meanies/elitist/a bad example/corrupting/fattening
6.3) DOODZ!!!!!! W3R3 CAN 1 F1ND SUM K3WL WAREZ???????????
6.4) Does Network Solutions suck?

7) OTHER RESOURCES
7.1) Other newsgroups
7.2) Where can I read about the BOFH?
7.3) ASR mailing lists
7.4) Man pages
7.5) Songs to drink to
7.6) What does MCSE stand for?
7.7) The Coat of Arms


------------------------------

1) ABOUT THE NEWSGROUP

1.1) What is alt.sysadmin.recovery?

Alt.sysadmin.recovery is for discussion by recovered and recovering sysadmins.
It is a forum for mutual support and griping over idiot lusers, stupid
tech support, brain-dead hardware, and generally how stupid this idiotic
job is.  Think of it as a virtual pub where we can all go after hours and
gripe about our job.  Since the concept of "after hours" is unknown to your
average sysadmin, we have this instead.

1.2) Notes on posting to ASR

ASR is a fairly free-wheeling group.   Nevertheless, it is also a very
busy one.  We ask that you respect this.  Please avoid excessive quoting,
one-line "me toos", etc.  Yes, you are smart, young, old, had trouble in
school, enjoyed school, never went to college, use vi, use emacs, hate vi
or emacs, read Robert Heinlein, have a cool home page, and practice martial
and marital arts.  Please don't tell us about it.

And the "When I was a kid I had to bang two rocks together to get zeroes"
has got particularly old.  Give it a rest.  So have scotch, rental cars,
floor numbering, host naming...

Warning: If you are a user, you may well see your sysadmin posting messages
about how stupid YOU are.  You have been warned.

1.3) Who hangs out here?

We are the monks.  We have agents everywhere.  A map with just some of
us may be found at http://enumerati.org/~jvandenberg/maps/monks.html.
You had better behave, or we WILL find you.

1.4) Special note RE: alt.humor.best-of-usenet

It is prohibited to re-post alt.sysadmin.recovery messages to
alt.humor.best-of-usenet.  Most ASR denizens have nothing against that group
itself, but sometimes in the past we have averaged a few messages a day there.
This has drawn the lusers here like moths to a candle -- more unpleasant
for the moths than for the candle, but we don't care about the moths.
We strongly recommend that you put "X-No-Ahbou: yes" in your headers.

1.5) What is not welcome on alt.sysadmin.recovery?

If many people object to your articles, consider the possibility that it
might be you.  Some people are just a waste of skin.

But occasionally it will be the topic, rather than the user.
Not welcome on alt.sysadmin.recovery are:  advocacy, user questions,
users (unless you are a sysadmin in another life), amateur salespeople, or
general cluelessness.  Particularly unwelcome is ANY real sysadmin related
stuff.  Useful (to our job) information is forbidden.  It doesn't matter if
you ROT-13 it, cast it as a sonnet, or attach it as a mime-encoded mpeg,
just don't do it.  We are here to escape, and there are plenty of other
newsgroups that will be able to answer your question.

There are things that have become tedious.  Gratuitous ROT-13 (especially
going back and forth), $USE $OF $SHELL $VARIABLES, ranting about it, and
anything else the Official ASR Taste Committee deems tired.
Elitist bastards?  Us?  You bet!

Some people think that if you mention certain words, such as the Q word,
certain people will be summoned to asr and engage in long advocacy threads.
Other people have tested this hypothesis, but the results were not clear.
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=97ltlp%24s21%241%40atlas.dgp.toronto.edu

Most of all:  DO NOT mention how to post here, and don't tell them by e-mail.
It's already far too easy to work it out.  Those who belong here can figure
out how to post.  Unfortunately, so can several people who don't belong here.
Fortunately, we usually manage to make such posters leave "willingly".

By the way, don't cross-post to newsgroups with different moderation policies
(e.g. unmoderated groups).  It accomplishes nothing and annoys the pig, or
something like that.

1.6) What does BOFH mean?  How about LART?  TTTSNBN?  PFY?  Cow-orker?

BOFH:  Bastard Operator From Hell.  Our role model.
       (The Bastard Operator From Hell was originally a series of stories
       written by Simon Travaglia, s.travaglia@waikato.ac.nz.  See section 7.)

LART:  Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool.  Something large, heavy and painful.

TTTSNBN: Something to do with fucking.

PFY:   To decode this, think adolescent-sales-clerk-on-the-Simpsons.

Cow-orker: A one-time misplaced hyphen (in alt.folklore.urban, in fact)
       revealed a shameful truth here.

Copro-grammer: literally, "writer of feces"

C|N>K: C is coffee, N is nose, K is keyboard; and think unix.
       Kinda like how in less-cultured newsgroups they talk about SDPUMNAL
       (stuffing dill pickles up my nose and laughing).

1.7) Official ASR mottos

The official ASR motto, our catch phrase, is the immortal:

	"Down, not Across"

It is our mantra.  We recite it to ourselves as we deal with the day-to-day
realities of a life that is far more nasty, brutish, and short than even
Hobbes could have ever imagined.

Some other mottos include:
	*clickety-click*
	"Oh, lovely."
	"Just DON'T."
	"I need a drink."
	"Either way I'm screwed."
	AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

The official ASR position:
	Hiding in a corner, under a desk, in fetal position, arms covering
	head and quietly whimpering.

The official ASR luser position:
	6 feet under.

1.8) If you find sysadminning to be such stress, why not find a job other than
being a sysadmin?

	"Why not?  Sure, why not?  Why not just kick the heroin habit?
	 Why not just stop breathing if the air gets polluted?"

Sysadmins are driven by a desire to _make_it_work_.
We loathe non-functioning pieces of crap.  But more than that, we hate
seeing equipment working at substantially below its potential due to
moronic admin decisions.

Doesn't this mean we should shun sysadminning, then?  Well, as you will
see from discussion in ASR, we have this tendency to drift into the job.
It starts when you're given a machine on your desk which crashes every
five minutes, and you know how to make it crash only once every five days.
You get given the root/administrator password.  You end up fixing someone
else's machine too.  As word gets out, you have more and more people
calling on you for basic computer administration assistance every week.
Eventually you get told that your sysadmin work is more important than
what you were doing before.  Since you seem to be the only person in your
company who is doing any work, you have to agree.

After a while, you quit and go to work for somewhere else, where you're
promised you won't have to be a sysadmin.
But the machine on your desk crashes every five minutes...

1.9) What is the scary devil monastery?

alt sysadmin recovery
rancid mystery loaves
steady micron slavery
comedy striven salary
trendy mosaic slavery
convert already missy
scary devil monastery
misty adversary clone
discover anal mystery

1.10) Is rot5 allowed in ASR?

Yes.

1.11) I hate this group!  Where do I complain?

Probably you want the folks who run the net.  Address mail to:

    Usenet Central Administration
    1060 West Addison Street
    Chicago, Illinois
    USA 60613-4305

They should be willing to help you out.

1.12) Did anyone ever notice that the FAQ has 657 lines?

Nope. I suggest you post to the group pointing that out, so we all end
up admiring your powers of observation.


------------------------------

2) ABOUT OUR FINE PROFESSION

2.1) I want to be a sysadmin.  What should I do?

Seek professional help.

2.2) So, I've just "volunteered" to be a sysadmin.  What do I do?

See 5.4.

2.3) Where do sysadmins rank as a profession?

Apparently held in considerably lesser regard than building maintenance,
because no one goes complaining to the janitors saying that it's the janitors'
fault that they can't manage to throw garbage into their garbage bin from
across the room.

2.4) What's a typical day in the life of a sysadmin?

Perhaps Abby Franquemont summarized the life of a sysadmin the best,
when she described us as:

"disgruntled, disenchanted with things we used to really get a kick out of,
foul tempered, hard-drinking, heavy-smoking, overworked, with no real social
life to speak of."

Or perhaps she was being optimistic.

2.5) Do sysadmins all drink a lot?

Most sysadmins seem to, but there are always exceptions.
In particular, some psychotropic medication makes you react very strongly
to alcohol; if you're on such medication, you find that you can't _ever_
have dozens of drinks in an evening, and if you have five drinks in an
evening you'll feel like you used to when you occasionally had dozens.
Then as you drink less your tolerance decreases, and pretty soon one drink
will make you too drunk to go back to work after lunch.  All this is to say
that psychotropic medication (e.g. SSRIs) seems to be either software or
hardware, because it sucks.  And for some reason, a lot of sysadmins seem
to need medication.  See section 5.

2.6) Why can't I find my sysadmin?

Would you want to be found by a luser?

2.7) What sort of music do sysadmins listen to?

All different.
A survey of the readership of ASR was taken, which may be found at
http://ugrad-www.cs.colorado.edu/~crosby/asr/music


------------------------------

3) OUR LITTLE FRIEND, THE COMPUTER

3.1) Are there any OSs that don't suck?

No.  See http://www.ehlke.net/os-suck.html

3.2) How about any hardware?

The PDP-10 was pretty nice.  Pity they aren't made any more.

3.3) Just HOW MUCH does this system suck?

The ASR standard unit of suckiness is the Lovelace (Ll).
This is defined as:  One Lovelace is the amount of force (measured in dynes)
it takes to draw a round ball weighing e Troy Ounces down a tube it fits
exactly (in air) at a speed of pi attoparsecs/microfortnight.

Like Farads, this is a rather large measurement.  Thus, Plan 9 sucks a few
mLl, for instance, while your average Microsoft product achieves many Ll.

3.4) Where can I find clueful tech support?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

There is a device the telco puts on the phone that ensures that whoever is
on the other end of a service call is always a drooling moron with the IQ
of a potted plant.  Note that this applies both ways (see 4.1).

3.5) What can I do to help my computers behave?

Some go for the carrot approach, others the stick, others both.  If you
favour the carrot, try offering memory upgrades or faster processors.
For sticks, try bullwhips.  Many computers are easily fooled, so placing
a picture of yourself in front of a computer will often cause it to think
you are watching and it will be too scared to misbehave.

Remember that if computers are networked, they can talk to each other.
That is useful in that you can make an example of one and the others will
watch (and hopefully learn).

Of course, some computers require a blood sacrifice.  But you don't have to
worry about this one, because they will simply take the blood without asking.


------------------------------

4) OUR BIG HEADACHE, THE LUSERS

4.1) I'm on tech support.  Where can I find clueful customers?

See item 3.4.  A clueful luser is an oxymoron.

4.2) Some tips for general luser interaction

- lusers, bless their little hearts, have simple minds.  Even if you think
  that a lobotomized flatworm could understand your instructions, your luser
  probably won't.

- since lusers will neither read nor understand any docs you write for them,
  just don't even bother.

- NEVER anthropomorphize lusers.

- lusers are much easier to deal with if they aren't breathing.

4.3) What is the best way to deal with lusers?

240V across the heart, a revolver round through the head, or even a simple
little broadsword thrust into their abdomen will improve your interactions
wonderfully.  See next item.

4.4) Revolvers, cyanide and high voltages:  The pros and cons of various luser
education strategies.

There has been a great deal of debate on ASR about the best way of dealing
with lusers, and at this time no consensus has been reached.  What we can
suggest, however, is to be sure it is painful, clean, and doesn't harm
the computer.  That unfortunately leaves a lot of options out; you can't
just throw a grenade at them; it will hurt the machine.

4.5) How can I clean up the mess made by a luser's brain splattered across a
monitor?

Be careful.  While cluelessness is not contagious, there are some nasty
things that can be picked up from lusers, such as blood-transmitted diseases.
(Watch out for Creutzfeldt-Jacob syndrome, aka mad cow disease.  Of course,
we are all mad anyway.)  Be sure to wear latex gloves.  Otherwise, luser guts
will usually clean up with warm water and soap.  A little bleach sometimes
helps.  Be careful with the keyboards -- blood causes the keys to get very
sticky -- again, you can try gently washing it with soap and water.

To get rid of the body, people have suggested using several garbage bags
and a large quantity of duct tape.  If you have to keep it for a while,
try to remove the guts; that will keep the smell down.  Alcohol and formalin
works well as a preservative.

4.6) What is the penalty for murdering a luser?

Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, lusers are treated like humans.  We
therefore recommend you be discreet in your luser era^H^Hducation campaigns.

4.7) How much should I charge for holding their hands?

See the official ASR price list at
http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~moose/sysadmin/pricelist.html


------------------------------

5) DEALING WITH BEING A SYSADMIN

5.1) Caffeine and other recreational pharmaceuticals

Caffeine: Much information about this can be found on alt.drugs.caffeine.
See http://www.cs.unb.ca/~alopez-o/Coffee/caffaq.html

Booze: Much low-quality information around the net these days.  Perhaps try
rec.food.drink.*, alt.drunken.bastards, and/or http://www.beerinfo.com

Other: rec.drugs.*, http://www.lycaeum.org

5.2) The excuse server

This is an important net resource that lets you give the exact reason why
you can't do something yesterday.
http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ballard/bofh/
Or telnet bofh.jive.org 666

5.3) The insults server

Once you have got rid of your lusers, you will probably want to tell them
what they really are.  For this, the insults server is useful.
telnet insulthost.colorado.edu 1695

5.4) Should I slit my wrists across or downward?

Downward.  See http://ash.xanthia.com

5.5) Sysadmin tools

There are a number of tools important to system administration.  Most
important are chemical by nature; see item 5.1.  A particularly useful
tool, revered by many of ASR, is the noble chocolate-covered coffee bean.
A partial list of places where these fine things may be found is at
http://ugrad-www.cs.colorado.edu/~crosby/cceb.html

You can also make your own.  Melt some chocolate, place some coffee beans
in it, and Bjorn Stronginthearm's your uncle!

Next in line is a good LART.  A 2x4 works fine, but a real professional needs
something a little more effective.  Unfortunately, this is a very personal
thing, and no consensus has yet been reached on the group.  Everything from
a simple 7.65mm Walther (for the Bond fans only; it's not a very good gun)
to a 155mm with depleted Uranium rounds has been suggested, some even going
for exotic things like Thermite, nukes, or flamethrowers.  For further info,
look at the rec.guns home page (http://recguns.com).

You can find a lot of cool stuff at Military Surplus stores.  Sadly, they
don't sell the _really_ interesting surplus stuff like tanks or F16s.
Try US Cavalry, 1-800-777-7732, or http://www.uscav.com.

When you can't use the LART (e.g., you don't want to damage a computer),
Nerfs are excellent substitutes.  These are a range of foam weapons.
The leatherman is another useful tool.  The Perl of Swiss Army Knives,
this shouldn't be too hard to find.

Finally, there are some tools a sysadmin is forbidden from having.  Adequate
computing power is first on this list, but the most important is called a
"life".  And be warned: life is always eventually fatal.

5.6) Psychiatric assistance

If you are reading this, you need it.  Contact your family doctor.
Perhaps consider http://www.asperger-syndrome.com.

Medication for depression and/or OCD these days is often an "SSRI", a
category of drug which changes your brain chemistry not subtly.  SSRIs tend
to have a range of seemingly unrelated side effects, such as decreased
alcohol tolerance, difficulty reaching orgasm (depending upon dosage and
other factors), weight gain, intestinal changes (including defecating
better, after acclimatization).  But despite the drawbacks, some people
report advantages such as greater stability, e.g. the ability to refrain
from choking the living shit out of a luser who richly deserves it, and,
occasionally, enjoyment of life.  See a pshrink near you to determine whether
you could benefit from psychotropic medication.  Some of the checklists on
the web aren't complete bullshit, but keep in mind that Sturgeon's law was
an underestimate for anything important.

5.7) But seriously, should I kill myself?

Seriously, no.
As posted to ASR by Ed Evans:

	Ultimate recovery stalks us all, no need to succour it.  Quit or
	take a leave with or without pay (or permission), stop seeing him
	or her, recognise that the cat or dog does rule you, call in sick
	and spend the day in the big blue room, it's only money and can
	be earned again, all the pictures will be posted again, call the
	local professionals if you really feel that way...

	And if all else fails?	Lawn mowing.

If you're willing to take the severe step of killing yourself, you should
be willing to take less severe steps such as quitting your job or taking a
leave without permission.  And really, there _is_ help out there.
Maybe in here, too.

And more of us have been there than you may realize.  We're grateful
now that we didn't do it.  (Most days.)  In chess they have a saying,
"You can't win by resigning."  Keep playing; you never know.


------------------------------

6) OK, SERIOUSLY FOLKS!  HELP!!!1!

6.1) I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but I _need_ to ask a technical question.

Fuck off.  Really.  See item 1.7 above.

6.2) You guys are all meanies/elitist/a bad example/corrupting/fattening

Yep!

6.3) DOODZ!!!!!! W3R3 CAN 1 F1ND SUM K3WL WAREZ???????????

Sounds like you want the Warez-net.  Here are a list of some participating
sites:
warez.satanic.org
warez.phantom.com
warez.plethora.net
warez.terra.nu
warez.rtfm.net

These places also have a good collection of gifs.
(You need to log in with _your own_ name and password)
For more information, look at the Warez-Net home page at
http://www.bofh.net/~koos/warez.html

6.4) Does Network Solutions suck?

Yes.


------------------------------

7) OTHER RESOURCES

7.1) Other newsgroups

alt.folklore.computers
    Once a wonderful place, where great hackers strove to discuss mighty
    deeds done on real computers, this newsgroup has sadly decayed somewhat
    in recent years.  With the advent of the minions of the Dark Lord and
    the Even Darker Lord fighting over their respective toy OSs, the flames
    have overcome the real discussion.  Though the fight is still going
    on, many of the elder hackers have despaired of the net, fleeing the
    shores of AFC for good (some have come here).  Sic transit gloria mundi.
    Still worth a read; just be sure to have a hardy kill file.

The jargon file
    Not _particularly_ sysadmin related, this is rather a document about
general computer lore.  May be found at http://www.ccil.org/jargon/jargon.html

alt.fan.pratchett
    For some reason, there seems to be a large amount of synergy between the
    followers of the eternal Mr Pratchett and ourselves.  You be the judge.

alt.fan.mailer-daemon
    "a hilariously-poorly propagated newsgroup that hardly anybody is ever
    likely to read"

Various cartoons
    Many people in ASR like certain lame cartoons like User Friendly.
    I don't.  Anyway, you can find them on the net if you have the brains
    given to a small slug.  Thus even some of your users can find them...

alt.suicide.holiday
    Name says it all, really.

7.2) Where can I read about the BOFH?

http://bofh.ntk.net/Bastard.html
Newer adventures may be found at the register, http://www.theregister.co.uk

7.3) ASR mailing lists

There are a number of local ASR mailing lists dealing with organizing
local ASR gatherings.  They include:

ASR New York:
To subscribe:  danj@3skel.com

ASR Boston:
To subscribe:  lists@mathworks.com (it's a majordomo list, name is asr-boston)

ASR London:
To subscribe:  asrlon-request@bofh.org.uk

ASR Israel:
To subscribe:  asr-il-request@cs.huji.ac.il

The Twin Cities [1]:
List address:  asrmeet@winternet.com

ASR DC:
To subscribe:  majordomo@lists.netset.com
               Listname is "asr-dc"

--
[1] *Which* twin cities, you ask?  I could tell you, but then Matthew Crosby
would have to kill you.  Or perhaps me.
--

7.4) Man pages

The ASR man page collection is a comprehensive reference to many of the
things we have to deal with in our profession.
[They aren't on the web at the moment.  Sucks to be you, doesn't it.]

7.5) Songs to drink to

ASR has many talented budding creative artists who have come up with a
collection of deep, heart wrenching statements on the nihilism of this
sysadmin existence.  Including such gems as the cynical "I'm a sysadmin
and I'm OK", and the reflective "My favorite things", _The Best of ASR_
will be coming out real soon now on Sony, 14.99 CD, 7.99 Cassette.

Until this happens, you can find these songs at
http://ugrad-www.cs.colorado.edu/~crosby/asr/songs.html

7.6) What does MCSE stand for?

Lots of things.  "Must Consult Someone Experienced" is a good one.  See
http://www.onramp.ca/~adb/asr/mcse.txt for more.

7.7) The Coat of Arms

While the College of Arms are still sitting on our application (bastards...
I think a disk crash is in order), you can see the potential ASR coat of
arms at http://www.cs.umanitoba.ca/~djc/asr/




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