August 2016 LOPSAgram: Specialization

09 Aug 2016 10:59 AM | Anonymous

1. President's Corner - The Specialization of System Administration

2. Call for Nominations for Yerkes Award

3. Start and Run a Local Chapter

4. Upcoming Events of Interest

5. Member Tech Blog Highlight

6. Locals

7. Thank you to our sponsors

8. Comments or suggestions?

August 2016 LOPSAgram: Specialization

1. President's Corner: The Specialization of System Administration

Like many careers, system administration has become a collection of specialized jobs all under the umbrella of system administration.  Back when I started in the career many years ago, a system admin was the person who did everything in support of computer systems.  This included understanding the requirements, choosing all the parts of the system, ordering, unpacking, installing, configuring, and maintaining the computers, networks, applications and their supporting power and cooling systems.  We were the folks that 'got things done'.

While some of us still are generalists like this, many of us have specialized into one aspect of system administration.  This is an ongoing trend that was noted by Thomas Malone, et. al. in their article "The Big Idea: The Age of Hyperspecialization" (  For system admins this mean you may end up as a storage, network, configuration, monitoring, virtualization, forensic, security, Windows, UNIX, etc. and rarely if ever do any other kind of system admin work.

Some of the advantages to specialization is that you become an expert in your area of specialization which will tend to increase your value and pay.  You will be more productive and may have more job security.  For example, Cobol programmers are in high demand now because there are very few people willing to work maintaining these legacy systems.

However, there are many downsides to specialization that you need to be aware of.  You may become bored doing the same thing day after day.  You career opportunities may be less because companies are paying you for your existing knowledge, not to learn something else.  Your job may disappear as technology changes or be replaced by a computer (this happened to my cousin when Microsoft implemented network switch configuration management).  After years of doing one thing very well, you may have problems learning something else.

So while specialization will probably make you more valuable in the workplace and increase your pay, be careful to make sure you are not trapped.  Make sure you keep earning new technologies even though they may not directly apply to your area.

2.Call for Nominations for Yerkes Award

The Chuck Yerkes Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding individual contributions in online forums over the past year. It was created after Chuck Yerkes' untimely death in 2004 to memorialize the mentorship he provided countless system administrators through his helpful and accurate posts to system administration mailing lists. Each year, an awards committee selects someone who followed Chuck's example in the prior year in their contributions to system administration online forums—whether mailing lists, web forums, or chat rooms. From 2005–2008, the USENIX Association presented this award. Beginning in 2009, the Chuck Yerkes Award is presented by LOPSA.

Help us find individuals deserving of this award by sending your submissions to:

Please share the name, nick/handle and the forum(s) in which the individual has made their contributions.

3. Start and Run a Local Chapter

Starting or running a LOPSA Chapter near you may seem like a daunting prospect, but it is much easier than you think. Of course LOPSA will support you as a distributed remote team via email, phone, IRC/Slack etc. We have a great deal of collective expertise on running successful local chapter meetings to share.

Some of the work can only be done in person, here are the top needs:
  1. Meeting Location: Find a reliable, recurring meeting location, ideally for free, ideally with someone-not-you (delgation!) who is the point person responsible for ensure it is booked, available etc every month. By far the easiest solution is a member's workplace with a sufficiently large conference room, but other options include libraries and community centers, which can be free if the meeting is open to the public.
  2. Speakers: Speakers are by far the biggest draw for attendance. There are other options such as watching LISA videos, or round table discussions but attendance is always better with a scheduled speaker. A queue of people willing to speak, and scheduled for some months out, and listed on a website in advance boosts attendance a great deal. Coordinating speakers is another job that can be smoothly delegated to spread the work.
  3. Food Sponsor: With a free venue, food is the only thing that costs money, and a regular food sponsor can make coordination easy, and managing money can be avoided if the sponsor actually places the order themselves. Of course, food isn't a requirement but it is a big draw for attendance, particularly for a weeknight meeting starting approximately at dinner time! The best candidate for a food sponsor is a local technology vendor from which attendees are likely to make purchases. A mutually beneficial arrangement like this is quite affordable under the sponsor's marketing budget.

4. Upcoming Events of Interest

Just because it is summer doesn't mean everyone is on vacation. There are many events of interest to LOPSA members coming up.

And it is never too early to mention USENIX LISA, December 4 - 9, Boston, MA. Early bird registration ends Thursday, November 10.

5. Member Tech Blog Highlight - John Boris

LOPSA Board member John Boris blogs regularly at

A recent entry discusses RAID:


To some of you this may be a trivial thing but for me it is like finding that extra money in your wallet or even hitting the lottery. Some of you may know I am a single sysadmin shop. I do have other sysdmins in my Department but I am actually on my own to handle my legacy SCO Boxes as well as my LINUX boxes. My experience with RAID systems has not been favorable. The first one I ever dealt with was a RAID 5 system that had a drive go bad and when I replaced the drive (after a long search to find an exact replacement) found that it was never setup properly and did not automatically repair itself. So the next system I setup came in with the RAID system setup and two weeks after it was setup I had a Drive go south. I got a replacement the next morning, did the Hot Swap and the rebuild process kicked off. WOOT! that was great. Until recently when a Synology NAS unit decided to go belly up. I was struggling to quickly find a replacement as this device was not under any major support contract. The unit drove me nuts and I figured all was lost. It gave all signs the Motherboard was gone. Anyway I found a replacement drive and installed it. I expected the system to see it and kick off the repair but that wasn’t happening. All I saw was a Degraded notification and a constant beeping sound. If anyone has used a Synology they will know that documentation is not this company’s strong point. So as i fumbled through the many screens in the Manager I find that one little button that says to repair. I clicked it and it started doing its thing. Sad part it took almost 20 hours to rebuild a 2TB Raid system under Synology’s SHR Raid system. I wasn’t sure if I was going to even see my data. I was like a kid on Christmas that got that BB gun when I logged in this morning and saw all of my data restored.

As a lesson learned I made sure I ordered a spare drive for a new system we spun up which means that by the time I need that drive as a replacement I will be replacing the unit due to age.

I guess the moral to this story is that RAID will work but with the large amount of Data we store today you have to be very patient when rebuilding a system

Do you have a technical blog you'd like featured in the LOPSAgram? Email:

Don't have a blog yet? You can use your LOPSA blog at Choose sysadmin-news as the category if it is recent news item for the front page.

6. Locals

SASAG: Seattle Area System Administrators Guild

On Thursday August 11th we'll hear from Brian Kraft on "Introduction to Ansible"

Dinner will be sponsored by Silicon Mechanics.

LOPSA-LA / UUASC: Los Angeles to get a copy of our catalog. \"The balance between theoretical and practical knowledge is just\nperfect. No bullshit.\" --Bernard Brandl, Administrateur Syst\u00e8me Linux"}" data-sheets-userformat="{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}" data-sheets-note="Responder updated this value.">LOPSA LA held a social dinner to celebrate Sysadmin Day on July 29th and met again on Thursday August 4, Joyent Sr. Cloud Operations Engineer Brian Bennett presented "Running Containers in Production, no really".  Keep up with the LOPSA community through

LOPSA-NJ: New if you have a topic for the meeting.\n"}" data-sheets-userformat="{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}"> if you have a topic for the meeting.\n"}" data-sheets-userformat="{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}">LOPSA-NJ will be coming back from vacation on September 1st.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library
2751 Brunswick Pike
Lawrenceville, 08648-4132

Meeting time is 7 PM (Social time) 7:30 pm (discussion)

The talk should be 45 -60 minutes in length which will allow time for discussion. The meeting ends at 9 PM.

Please reply to if you have a topic for the meeting.

7. Thank You To Our Sponsors

We'd like to thank our sponsors. We're deeply grateful for their continuing support of LOPSA. More information on how to become a sponsor.

Thanks to our individual sponsors:

Platinum: Jennine Townsend, Dan Rich 
Gold: Ski Kacoroski
Silver: Matt Disney, Lee Damon, Scott Murphy, Ian Viemeister
Bronze: Gary Studwell

Gold Sponsor Paessler AG

Bronze Sponsor Edgestream Partners is a small group of scientists and engineers with a unique approach to trading in the financial markets. Our company designs, builds and runs a global trading software platform. We take pride in our software craftsmanship and use Python, Cython and C on Linux to run our global trading operations. We also use open-source tools as much as possible - Python, PostgreSQL, numpy, git, Cobbler, Puppet and Ansible are all crucial to our business.

Bronze Sponsor O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism. Check them out.

Some of LOPSA's web content is hosted by ServerBeach.

8. Comments or suggestions?

As we close out this month's LOPSAgram, we want to make sure we're giving you the information you want or need. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to send them to 

Office: +1 (202) 567-7201, Fax: 609-219-6787, Address: PO Box 5161, Trenton, NJ 08638-0161

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