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Know your System Administrator

Submitted by Durval Menezes.

Know your Unix System Administrator

                                               (a field guide)

There are four major species of Unix sysad:

 1.The TECHNICAL THUG. Usually a systems programmer who has been forced
into system administration; writes scripts in a polyglot of the Bourne shell,
sed, C, awk, perl, and APL.
 2.The ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST. Usually a retentive drone (or rarely, a
harridan ex-secretary) who has been forced into system administration.
 3.The MANIAC. Usually an aging cracker who discovered that neither the
Mossad nor Cuba are willing to pay a living wage for computer 
espionage. Fell into system administration; occasionally approaches 
major competitors with indesp schemes.
 4.The IDIOT. Usually a cretin, morpohodite, or old COBOL programmer
selected to be the system administrator by a committee of cretins, 
morphodites, and old COBOL programmers.


                                     SITUATION: Low disk space.

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes a suite of scripts to monitor disk usage,
maintain a database of historic disk usage, predict future disk 
usage via least squares regression analysis, identify users
who are more than a standard deviation over the mean, and send mail to
the offending parties.  Places script in cron. Disk usage does not 
change, since disk-hogs, by nature, either ignore
script-generated mail, or file it away in triplicate.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts disk usage policy in motd. Uses disk
quotas. Allows no exceptions, thus crippling development work. 
Locks accounts that go over quota.


        # cd /home
        # rm -rf `du -s * | sort -rn | head -1 | awk '{print $2}'`;


        # cd /home
        # cat `du -s * | sort -rn | head -1 | awk '{ printf "%s/*\n", $2}'` | compress

                                  SITUATION: Excessive CPU usage

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes a suite of scripts to monitor processes, maintain
a database of CPU usage, identify processes more than a standard 
deviation over the norm, and renice offending
processes. Places script in cron. Ends up renicing the production
database into oblivion, bringing operations to a grinding halt, 
much to the delight of the xtrek freaks.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts CPU usage policy in motd. Uses CPU quotas.
Locks accounts that go over quota. Allows no exceptions, thus crippling
development work, much to the delight of the xtrek freaks.


        # kill -9 `ps -augxww | sort -rn +8 -9  | head -1 | awk '{print $2}'`


        # compress -f `ps -augxww | sort -rn +8 -9  | head -1 | awk '{print $2}'`

                                 SITUATION: New account creation.

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes perl script that creates home directory, copies
in incomprehensible default environment, and places entries in 
/etc/passwd, /etc/shadow, and /etc/group. (By hand,
NOT with passmgmt.) Slaps on setuid bit; tells a nearby secretary to
handle new accounts. Usually, said secretary is still dithering over 
the difference between 'enter' and 'return'; and so, no new
accounts are ever created.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts new account policy in motd. Since people
without accounts cannot read the motd, nobody ever fulfills the 
bureaucratic requirements; and so, no new accounts are ever created.

MANIAC: "If you're too stupid to break in and create your own account, I
don't want you on the system. We've got too many goddamn sh*t-for-brains 
a**holes on this box anyway."


    # cd /home; mkdir "Bob's home directory"
    # echo "Bob Simon:gandalf:0:0::/dev/tty:compress -f" > /etc/passwd

                                     SITUATION: Root disk fails

TECHNICAL THUG: Repairs drive. Usually is able to repair filesystem from
boot monitor. Failing that, front-panel toggles microkernel in and 
starts script on neighboring machine to load binary
boot code into broken machine, reformat and reinstall OS. Lets it run
over the weekend while he goes mountain climbing.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Begins investigation to determine who broke the
drive. Refuses to fix system until culprit is identified and charged 
for the equipment.

MANIAC, LARGE SYSTEM: Rips drive from system, uses sledgehammer to smash
same to flinders. Calls manufacturer, threatens pets. Abuses field 
engineer while they put in a new drive and reinstall the OS.

MANIAC, SMALL SYSTEM: Rips drive from system, uses ball-peen hammer to
smash same to flinders. Calls Requisitions, threatens pets. Abuses 
bystanders while putting in new drive and reinstalling OS.

IDIOT: Doesn't notice anything wrong.

                                SITUATION: Poor network response.

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes scripts to monitor network, then rewires entire
machine room, improving response time by 2%. Shrugs shoulders, says, 
"I've done all I can do," and goes mountain climbing.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts network usage policy in motd. Calls up
Berkeley and AT&T, badgers whoever answers for network quotas. Tries 
to get xtrek freaks fired.

MANIAC: Every two hours, pulls ethernet cable from wall and waits for
connections to time out.


    # compress -f /dev/en0

                                     SITUATION: User questions

TECHNICAL THUG: Hacks the code of emacs' doctor-mode to answer new users
questions.  Doesn't bother to tell people how to start the new 
"guru-mode", or for that matter, emacs.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts user support policy in motd. Maintains
queue of questions.  Answers them when he gets a chance, often 
within two weeks of receipt of the proper form.

MANIAC: Screams at users until they go away. Sometimes barters knowledge
for powerful drink and/or sycophantic adulation.

IDIOT: Answers all questions to best of his knowledge until the user
realizes few UNIX systems support punched cards or JCL.

                                          Stupid user questions

TECHNICAL THUG: Answers question in hex, binary, postfix, and/or French
until user gives up and goes away.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Locks user's account until user can present
documentation demonstrating their qualification to use the machine.


    # cat > > ~luser/.cshrc
    alias vi 'rm \!*;unalias vi;grep -v BoZo ~/.cshrc > ~/.z; mv -f ~/.z ~/.cshrc'

IDIOT: Answers all questions to best of his knowledge. Recruits user to
system administration team.

                           SITUATION: Process accounting management

TECHNICAL THUG: Ignores packaged accounting software; trusts scripts to
sniff out any problems & compute charges.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Devotes 75% of disk space to accounting records
owned by root and chmod'ed 000.

MANIAC: Laughs fool head off at very mention of accounting.


    # lpr /etc/wtmp /usr/adm/paact

                           SITUATION: Religious war, BSD vs. System V

TECHNICAL THUG: BSD. Crippled on System V boxes.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: System V. Horrified by the people who use BSD.
Places frequent calls to DEA.

MANIAC: Prefers BSD, but doesn't care as long as HIS processes run


    # cd c:

                           SITUATION: Religious war, System V vs. AIX


ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: AIX-- doesn't much care for the OS, but loves
the jackboots.

MANIAC: System V, but keeps AIX skills up, knowing full well how much
Big Financial Institutions love IBM...


                                SITUATION: Balky printer daemons.

TECHNICAL THUG: Rewrites lpd in FORTH.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts printer use policy in motd. Calls customer
support every time the printer freezes. Tries to get user who submitted 
the most recent job fired.

MANIAC: Writes script that kills all the daemons, clears all the print
queues, and maybe restarts the daemons. Runs it once a hour from cron.


    # kill -9 /dev/lp ; /dev/lp &

                                       SITUATION: OS upgrade

TECHNICAL THUG: Reads source code of new release, takes only what he

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Instigates lawsuit against the vendor for having
shipped a product with bugs in it in the first place.


    # uptime
    1:33pm  up 19 days, 22:49,  167 users,  load average: 6.49, 6.45,
    # wall
    Well, it's upgrade time.  Should take a few hours.  And good luck on
that 5:00 deadline, guys!  We're all pulling for you!


    # dd if=/dev/rmt8 of=/vmunix

                                        SITUATION: Balky mail

TECHNICAL THUG: Rewrites sendmail.cf from scratch. Rewrites sendmail in
SNOBOL. Hacks kernel to implement file locking. Hacks kernel to 
implement "better" semaphores. Rewrites sendmail in assembly. Hacks 
kernel to . . .

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Puts mail use policy in motd. Locks accounts
that go over mail use quota. Keeps quota low enough that people go 
back to interoffice mail, thus solving problem.


    # kill -9 `ps -augxww | grep sendmail | awk '{print $2}'`
    # rm -f /usr/spool/mail/*
    # wall
    Mail is down.  Please use interoffice mail until we have it back up.

    # write max
    I've got my boots and backpack.  Ready to leave for Mount Tam?


    # echo "HELP!" | mail

                          SITUATION: Users want phone list application

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes RDBMS in perl and Smalltalk. Users give up and go
back to post-it notes.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Oracle. Users give up and go back to post-it

MANIAC: Tells the users to use flat files and grep, the way God meant
man to keep track of phone numbers. Users give up and go back to 
post-it notes.


    % dd ibs=80 if=/dev/rdisk001s7 | grep "Fred"

                                        OTHER GUIDELINES

                                    TYPICAL ROOT .cshrc FILE:

TECHNICAL THUG: Longer than eight kilobytes. Sources the output of a
perl script, rewrites itself.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Typical lines include:

    umask 777
    alias cd 'cd \!*; rm -rf ching *hack mille omega rogue xtrek > /dev/null &'

MANIAC: Typical lines include:

    alias rm 'rm -rf \!*'
    alias hose kill -9 '`ps -augxww | grep \!* | awk \'{print $2}\'`'
    alias kill 'kill -9 \!* ; kill -9 \!* ; kill -9 \!*'
    alias renice 'echo Renice\?  You must mean kill -9.; kill -9 \!*'

IDIOT: Typical lines include:

    alias dir ls
    alias era rm
    alias kitty cat
    alias process_table ps
    setenv DISPLAY vt100

                                       HOBBIES, TECHNICAL:

TECHNICAL THUG: Writes entries for Obsfuscated C contest. Optimizes
INTERCAL scripts.  Maintains ENIAC emulator. Virtual reality .

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Bugs office. Audits card-key logs. Modifies old
TVs to listen in on cellular phone conversations. Listens to police band.

MANIAC: Volunteers at Survival Research Labs. Bugs office. Edits
card-key logs. Modifies old TVs to listen in on cellular phone 
conversations. Jams police band.

IDIOT: Ties shoes. Maintains COBOL decimal to roman numeral converter.
Rereads flowcharts from his salad days at Rand.

                                    HOBBIES, NONTECHNICAL:

TECHNICAL THUG: Drinks "Smart Drinks." Attends raves. Hangs out at
poetry readings and Whole Earth Review events and tries to pick up 
Birkenstock MOTAS.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Reads Readers Digest and Mein Kampf. Sometimes
turns up car radio and sings along to John Denver. Golfs. Drinks gin 
martinis. Hangs out in yuppie bars and tries to pick up dominatrixes.

MANIAC: Reads Utne Reader and Mein Kampf. Faithfully attends Dickies and
Ramones concerts.  Punches out people who say "virtual reality." Drinks 
damn near anything, but favors Wild Turkey, Black Bush, and grain alcohol.
Hangs out in neighborhood bars and tries to pick up MOTAS by drinking 
longshoremen under the table .

IDIOT: Reads Time and Newsweek -- and *believes* them. Drinks
Jagermeister. Tries to pick up close blood relations-- often succeeds, 
producting next generation of idiots.

                                 1992 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:

TECHNICAL THUG: Clinton, but only because he liked Gore's book.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST: Bush. Possibly Clinton, but only because he
liked Tipper.

MANIAC: Frank Zappa.

IDIOT: Perot.

                                 1996 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:

TECHNICAL THUG: Richard Stallman - Larry Wall.


MANIAC: Frank Zappa.

IDIOT: Quayle.

                           COMPOUND SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS:

TECHNICAL FASCIST: Hacks kernel & writes a horde of scripts to prevent
folk from ever using more than their fair share of system resources. 
Resulting overhead and load brings system to its knees.

TECHNICAL MANIAC: Writes scripts that SEEM to be monitoring the system,
but are actually encrypting large lists of passwords. Uses nearby nodes 
as beta test sites for worms.

TECHNICAL IDIOT: Writes superuser-run scripts that sooner or later do an
"rm -rf /".

FASCISTIC MANIAC: At first hint of cracker incursions, whether real or
imagined, shuts down system by triggering water-on-the-brain detectors 
and Halon system.


    # cp /dev/null /etc/passwd


Stephan Zielinski

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Updated: 8 Apr 2000 tower