The 28 Year Old Rookie

Twice the last two weeks I’ve made the big rookie mistake of train-riding. I’m currently seated on the wrong side of the train, so I either get a delightful glare from the monitor or a face full of sun. By the time I realized (about five seconds) all the correct seats were already gone.

I ended up getting a reasonable amount accomplished today. Nutanix is one staged patch away from being ready, and we have a migration plan ready for tomorrow morning. I’m working on some of those carrots that are viable now, like a new backup target for some hosted web servers. Joining a Linux machine to an AD domain is easier than ever in CentOS 7, and I left off at a good point. Tomorrow I’ll have logons restricted to a security group and sudo restricted to a different one.

I spent my lunch break remoted home, organizing my storage, moving files around to more logical locations, cleaning up names with Filebot, and generally setting this new array up for success. I also downloaded some 250 games between Steam and Origin, and boy am I happy we’re not doing data caps on residential internet yet because that was about a terabyte of data right there.

I’m going to be really happy to have the system back in a usable state. This has been quite the homework project but it was a lot of fun, too. I’m happy I’m going to be able to game again tonight. I’ve got an odd juxtaposition of game styles I want to play. I want to keep playing FIFA 15, I’ve really been enjoying it. But I also want to play something very difficult like an XCOM or Dark Souls. The thing is, they are difficult through entirely different mechanisms. XCOM uses a lot of uncertainty in dice rolls and random enemy placement; the former keeps metagaming low and the latter keeps the game feeling fresh. It can be called out as “artificial difficulty,” but it’s also more adjustable. Dark Souls is “tough, but fair.” When you die in Dark Souls, it’s your own fault 95% of the time. You mistimed an attack, you overextended yourself, you failed to plan. I find myself less rage-prone with Dark Souls than XCOM. If XCOM doesn’t make you mutter “fucking bullshit” at least once or twice a session, it’s not living up to its ancestry. Most deaths in Dark Souls are learning experiences.

In the middle of those difficulty extremes is FTL. There is a little luck involved in terms of drops, missions, hit chance, and so on. But it’s also a game made much easier with a great plan. Honestly the Borderlands franchise can end up here too. There’s luck involved in most of the drops and critical chance, but understanding how to play your character, when to be defensive and when to blitz the enemy, is critical to advancing in True & Ultimate Vault Hunter Modes.

Maybe I’m wanting to play Rogue Legacy, or the new addition to my Steam library, Nuclear Throne. I think I’m just excited to be able to game again and everything sounds good.

I don’t understand why or how you still get the taste of coffee in a thermos after washing the shit out of it like five times, but it’s crap. I want water to taste like water. Maybe I’ll switch to decaf on the way home. If you can’t solve the problems, change the parameters, you know?

It’s like 802.1p for your innards.

So I have titles again now, I ran through my countdown (or countup, I suppose) of ten days. No nicotine and I’m over that mental hurdle now of ten days. Truth be told, everything after that jittery first day was easy. I threw away all my remaining gear over the weekend. At this point I’m ready to enter that “I used to” phase of my life and be more selective, if only a little, about what’s coming into my body.

The hard drive saga appears to be laid to rest. The final topology is 4x5TB drives in a RAID 10, with the 128GB SSD still to be swapped out for a larger model. Those replace 2x3TB in a RAID 1 and 2x1TB in a RAID 0. So my usable space has doubled, but it’s all resilient storage. I took one of the 3TB drives and put it in one of the enclosures that the 5TB drives came in, and connected it to the PC over USB 3.0. With write caching enabled, it’s fast enough to be the data store for Steam, even NBA 2K16 didn’t see a change in load times and it’s probably the biggest game I have in terms of shit to load. I took the 1TB drives and fed them to the PowerEdge server, to bring me up to 8x1TB drives which I’m reconfiguring to an 8-drive RAID 10. That leaves one 3TB drive that I’m unsure what to do with. All my Steam and Origin games fit fine on one 3TB drive. And these drives have a 94% failure rate? Nothing important’s going on it, anyway. I’ll think it over.

We also bought a Keurig and a water filter/dispenser deal over the weekend. I didn’t grasp how much I disliked our tap water until we got the filter. The water is incredibly hard, what with it being the desert, and there’s a ton of sediment. We bought the filter thinking that if it didn’t do anything we’re only out 30 bucks. It’s exceeded expectations.

This all goes to a larger quality-of-life improvement that’s going on. I’m not doing the 25-cent ramen any more, I’m making and bringing lunch instead, fresh sandwiches and fruits and vegetables. The Keurig means I can bring coffee on the train, which is exactly what I’m doing now. So better food, better water, no nicotine. It feels like a natural evolution in my life. Money is a “can’t take it with you” sort of thing, and I have some immediate health concerns that should be greatly helped by making these changes.

For example, since cutting out the nicotine the one thing I noticed is that I’ve been hungrier than I’ve been in years, maybe since I was a teen. Whether that’s because the nicotine was suppressing my appetite or lowering my metabolism, or both, I don’t know. But it wasn’t doing enough to stop me from gaining weight (go figure, you have to attempt some semblance of work), so to hell with it. But I’ve had a lot of GI issues recently. I became lactose intolerant, and I was diagnosed with IBS which is a hell of a thing, as I’ve touched on before. If I simplify some of the equation on what’s going into me, it’s only going to help. I think it’s going to do a lot. It’s small sample sizes at play, but I’ve only needed to take an anti-spasmodic once in the last ten days, where prior to that it was every other day or so.

Nutanix is coming along nicely, it’s been the carrot on the stick for quite a while for quite a few people, so it’s on us to get it to a usable state quickly. Today being Wednesday we may actually get to make some uninterrupted progress. Yesterday was three-fourths meetings. Today is zero meetings. I have high hopes.

What I tend to have to do on days like this where my boss is out of town, and I have all day with nothing scheduled, to keep myself from goofing off, I’ve got a Chrome extension that will block sites that I specify. While I have total control over whether or not that runs, it’s sufficient because more often than not, checking /r/sysadmin is almost muscle memory.

Wednesdays are for action.

146/240

The one day since I started this job that I don’t bring a jacket and it rains. Heh.

Lots of planning on this Read-Only Friday left me with no time for a weekly review. Gotta take care of that now so it doesn’t pile up.

137/240

So we actually decided “drink more” had some merit. I’m pretty sure I still smell like Texas Roadhouse, but it was a bit of necessary food and booze therapy.

There’s something highly important about a big, sincere laugh. There’s some sort of biochemical thing happening that is needed to re-center yourself. I think so, anyway. And this is not connected to the overly-sappy “Live, Laugh, Love” thing that’s overdone by people that “hate drama.”

Despite a hangover, I feel better than I did the day before, like a clock has been reset, a deadline pushed back just a little bit. It leaves me feeling like I’ll be more able to enjoy Friday and the weekend rather than stagger into it gasping for air.

Nonetheless, I should’ve hydrated a bit better. Oof.

I’ve been feeling like I should switch up my projects on the train, like I should get back into web development. Honestly though, there’s not much I really feel like doing right now. I think it might be more of a general purpose skill improvement I want, to be a better professional. I do have some new books to finish, and the Surface is powerful enough to virtualize a test lab. I have videos to watch, I have a lot of options. I think it might be a desire to not have some skills go stale for lack of use. Web development would be up there, C# and PowerShell are a duo I need to spend more time committing to memory.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to read for a little bit.

122/240

It felt like a day for action. No reason not to get stuff done today. Turns out, we spent the day waiting on Nutanix to hit us with a fix for our license. They finally delivered 5 minutes before 5:00.

It turned into a day of meetings and planning. Not really what I was going for, but so it goes.

I did take the 9:00 train in to work because last night was one of the most historic nights in NBA history, saying goodbye to an all-timer and closing out a season for the ages. Sports historians will look back on the Warriors offense and conclude that Steph Curry facilitated a style of play as much as any one player has ever done so, outside of Shaq and Wilt.

I spent the morning ride collating and organizing data from a couple of surveys I did at the start of the season. Over/unders for wins and aggregated power rankings. Plenty of people will say the Bulls had the most disappointing season this year, but by the numbers, it’s the Pelicans by a huge margin. They ended up 17.5 games below their Vegas projection. The overachiever was, of course, Portland, at 17.5 games above their projection. And let’s be honest, they have the Clippers in the first round and I wouldn’t laugh you out of the room for saying Portland has a chance to win that series. C.J. McCollum has been a revelation, Damian Lillard is in the conversation for 3rd team All NBA, and the whole team is generally punching above their weight. Just the same, I really liked the makeup of last year’s team, it seemed like such a good blend of people with Batum, Lopez, Matthews, Lillard and Aldridge.

The Spurs ended up with the least lauded 67-win season of all time. 67 wins and you still don’t have the best record in the league? That’s some shit. There’s an interesting dyamic with the top 3 seeds in the West, sort of a rock-paper-scissors thing. The Thunder match up well against the Spurs, who match up well against the Warriors, who match up well against the Thunder. The Thunder simply can’t stand up and trade punches with the Warriors and hope to win.

Last night was also one of the most titanic choke acts in recent memory, with the Heat up 26 on the Celtics before losing and endangering their chance at the 3 seed. I didn’t get to watch it but I caught most of it on the radio. I’m wondering if there will be some mental baggage tied to that. I’m really hoping for Heat and Cavs in the East, and Spurs and Warriors in the West. It’s not even that outlandish. The Raptors have everything to prove in the first round against a Pacer team that’s better than their 45 wins indicate.

Don’t assume the 8th-seed Pistons will lay down for the Cavs, either. They’re ready for the fight. The future looks bright for these young teams, you know? Milwaukee, Detroit, and Minnesota all have promising rosters.

I’m so very ready for Friday. I don’t even have anything planned, I just feel a bit stressed, like I’m carrying a lot of tension in my head. Maybe I’m just squinting and need to start bringing my sunglasses.

I didn’t even bother bringing my e-cig with me to work today, and we’re about halfway into the timeframe where I’m concerned about any sort of repercussions.

I feel like time has been flying by in that little 2.5 hour window of time when I’m home after work. I’m kinda pissed about that, because I don’t know what to do to make it feel like more time. Start drinking?

98/240

Imagine my surprise when the Dell guy said he wouldn’t be back tomorrow.

Apparently, when Dell’s project manager told us that he’d be available for three days, it was mostly for if something went absolutely wrong like a show-stopping hardware failure.

Imagine my relief when I don’t need the Dell guy here tomorrow because we’re done.

We got three machines migrated over with vMotion and could’ve snuck in a 4th before the end of the day. I was hoping for one.

I will say, Nutanix and Dell made this really painless, if slightly vague on some particulars. Like, you can’t mix deduplication and compression on a storage container. It’s one or the other. We’re taking dedupe because we work with data that’s largely already compressed, and we run a lot of the same OS. We also ran into a snag with their license server not being able to validate our purchase, which locks us out of RF3 redundancy (RF3 being something like RAID 60 as far as I can tell). It’ll get fixed in a day or so and then we’ll be able to start building a timeline for moving production machines. And the hot vMotion we were hoping for won’t happen because of a CPU architecture mismatch, so it’s gotta be cold. Which is fine, that’s some comp time for later anyway.

I’m like 85% of the way done with a very important slide deck. It needs a few more slides and some decisions answered, and now that we are out of the planning phase and into the doing phase I think we’re going to have a better understanding of our wants versus reality.

Some weeks fly by and some crawl. To get “over the hump” of this particular week feels like an accomplishment. It’s not often you deploy six figures worth of gear and have it go flawlessly. I kinda want more than a two-day weekend for that. But I’m banking those hours now, if I intend to take a proper vacation any time soon (or get properly sick any time soon) I need to not be taking these days off here and there. I might settle for coming in at 9 tomorrow.

I saw a former customer today, in fact I still see him as I write this as he’s across from me on the train. I do feel good knowing that I left on good terms with those customers, knowing that many of them considered me a friend in addition to being a trusted expert. There’s definitely an IT equivalent to the “bedside manner” that doctors have, the ability to put people at ease with words, demeanor and attitude, and it’s lacking in a lot of places. Customers will feel like their IT guy isn’t even listening to them. They’ll be afraid to ask for help because they’ll be met with a demeaning patronization. They will endure awkward silence due to underdeveloped social skills.

Soft skills are a big deal if you ever want to escape the helpdesk.

74/240

We got Nutanix racked and stacked, powered up, networked, and updating. It’s also the most I’ve walked since I started here by 40% over the next highest day according to my Fitbit. It didn’t seem like that much in the moment, but by 3:30 I was feeling it. It’s about 5 miles of walking, all between two adjacent buildings.

So, a number of things to be thankful for. All the gear is working well. The Dell tech, so far, has been quite good and works well with us. I bought lunch for the team and that went over quite well. No dead drives out of 38 to get started.

Good chance that tomorrow we’ll be out of the setup phase and ready to vMotion some test machines, and seeing if we’ll be able to use Nutanix’s in-built backup utility. The details we got initially aren’t promising on that front, and we may need to spring for Veeam B&R. If we have a VM living on the cluster tomorrow I’ll consider us well ahead of schedule.

I can already tell this week is going to fly by.

I had to put in a change request for a new Software Restriction Policy. The last SRPs I had to deploy were to block CryptoWall. This one is to block Windows 10. Despite a Group Policy named “Do not upgrade to latest versions of Windows”, a registry key named “DisableGWX” (Get Windows X), and a registry key named “DisableOSUpgrades,” I’m still somehow not being clear enough to Microsoft, because new updates are pushing the GWX app anyway.

Our users can’t perform the upgrade themselves anyway, they lack local admin rights to do so. But it still nags the user and basically asks them why their sysadmins are horrible security-haters.

It’s hard to believe that they’re being this pushy about it. They’re so disconnected from the actual enterprise and business world from a compatibility standpoint. They only have to worry about Microsoft software, so once it’s all working with the latest OS, they have no reason not to move up to it. That’s totally reasonable, if you’re Microsoft! But that’s one company that it makes sense for, and the rest of us that need to carefully test the third-party software we use, and wait for compatibility to come to us. You see, the thought is that since we paid six figures for Windows 7 licensing, we get to use it for as long as we deem suitable, not to exceed the extended support end date in 2020. We upgrade on our terms, when we feel we have done thorough testing of all software being used by a dozen different bureaus in different lines of work, and we find that all the software works and that our users are comfortable with the transition plan. See a trend in that sentence, Microsoft? This isn’t your fucking decision to make. It’s bad enough that you broke your own support cycle on 7, saying that new Intel gear isn’t supported by Windows 7. That’s a fucking joke.

Are they still going to be this pushy when Windows 10 switches to a paid product in a few months? That’ll be some shit.

Diana sent me a picture mid-deployment, my wired Xbox One controller arrived. It’ll finally be time to retire the 360 controller that’s served me well for…lord, I don’t know how long. I think I got it in 2010. It’s time for a viking funeral. The left analog stick has been worn totally smooth, and the right stick has a significant deadzone that’ll result in a lot of drifting to the right. It’s also had six years of oils from my hands get transferred to it. Net result: Texture. Not a desired place for Texture. The reviews for the One controller is that it’s a general improvement in pretty much every aspect, so I’m willing to try it. I also ordered some Klein screwdrivers to replace some Kleins that grew legs at my last job. The Klein 10-in-1 is a better presidential candidate than most of the field.

63/240

I strongly considered another 45 minutes of sleep this morning, which would’ve left me driving up to work instead of relaxing on the train. I don’t know where this responsible side of me came from but it’s a rather welcome addition.

I only just now found out that the Surface Pro 3 has a default scaling of 150%, when I set that to 100% the blog is tiny as fuck. I think I’ll work on that for the rest of the trip up. I’m going to let this new theme ride for a while and see what I think of it.

I would be more internet-productive if there was any mobile signal out here. I feel like it’s more correct to blame the USB modem here than Verizon, because my phone has signal for 90% of the ride whereas the modem has signal for…maybe 20%. It’s disappointing to say the least. It’s also free, so I can’t complain too loudly.

Nutanix begins about four hours from now. I’ve gotta figure out how Dell is going to get all the gear from my office to the datacenter. Hopefully we can jack a rolling cart or two or three from somewhere.

I have a couple of “soft skills” pieces I’ve been meaning to write for bluesoul.me and /r/sysadmin, including one about GTD. I think I’m going to hold off until I finish reading Time Management for System Administrators and see what can be adapted there. I’m a couple chapters in and it seems to be rather heavily inspired by GTD. But, maybe there’ll be something good in here just the same.

The other bluesoul.me piece is on the new file server infrastructure, which I might see if CSO Magazine is interested in since this is being built with security in mind first.

50/240

I really dislike this business of moving offices in the middle of the biggest server implementation in the last five years. Neither us nor the people in the room we’re headed to want to do this right now.

I did manage to snag a pretty sweet 30″ monitor along the way, but I can’t get the full resolution out of it without an adapter. This irritates the piss out of me. The monitor is DVI-D Dual Link. The docking station is also pinned out for DVI-D Dual Link. However, it actually runs as single link, halving the throughput and leaving me with 1/4 of the maximum resolution, so Lenovo could save a quarter on a dock they sell for 300 fucking dollars. This leaves me to have to buy an active DVI-to-DisplayPort adapter for like $125. That’s some shit.

I was pleasantly surprised that I went all day without even the 0mg juice. I might go through a fair amount of chewing gum at this rate, though. Might have to figure out how to buy Doublemint in bulk. Did you notice they stopped the fat packs of gum? Everything’s these slim packs of 15 now, and I swear to god there’s less gum to a stick now, it’s either thinner or smaller, maybe both. I double up on the gum, I’m not a part of your system.

I tuned in to DI today for the first time in ages. They’ve grown up so much, it’s incredible. They also have a lot, and I mean a lot, of advertisements. Pandora seems to have hit on the appropriate price to go ad-free and the number and duration of ads to endure if you’re not a paid subscriber. DI is 40% more, and the ads per hour time is probably six times what Pandora is. Three times as long, twice as often. Obviously, they have a niche but it feels a little like taking advantage of your dominant market share. Is there revenue sharing going on with the artists? I hope so.

There’s been less of an internal focus with these pieces lately, less getting stuff off my chest. My mind’s an odd thing, whatever expiation it was looking for it seems to have found. I’m not stressing out over things, I’m in an overall better mood. I had a conversation with Diana the weekend before last on what could be simplified as a desire for things. It was a conversation I was very nervous to have because I was afraid of the potential for it to be taken the wrong way. I was bothered by the fact that she had several thousand dollars of home improvement purchases lined up after buying the house, and I’ve been working the new job for four months, making great money, but hadn’t bought any number of things that represented a quality of life improvement during that little sliver of time off. And to her credit, she was very understanding. I think there had been a bit of growing resentment there, having what amounted to the next year’s purchases mapped out when I hadn’t felt like I was seeing any rewards for my labor. But it’s better now, and I’m going to buy some of those things I’ve been mentally keeping track of; it particularly makes sense when we’re not planning on picking up the house hunt again until November.

I’m hoping that doesn’t boil down the cause and effect to “I feel good when I buy things.” I’d much prefer that if it were something in that vein, it be “I feel good when I have something tangible to show for my skilled labor.”

I got bad news. The coffee maker does not follow us to the new office. We’re gonna all kick in and get a new one.

I was told that we’re going to take the plans for the new file server infrastructure and wrap them into an “initiative” which basically adds more bureaucratic overhead but also provides more logistical and transitional support. Seems like a reasonable tradeoff, or we’d end up having to be Tiers 1-3 for this project. It also makes for more writing, and I’m debating whether it would be worthwhile content for bluesoul.me or not. I think it would, if for no other reason it gives me opportunity to sanity-check myself.

Transmission Level: Pitino

Yes, a few things got done here and there today, but overall today went beyond mailing it in, towards something like faxing it in. Never really felt 100%, and there just wasn’t much terribly important going on today anyway. Read-only Friday is especially sacred when you’re shorthanded.

We’re moving offices, by all accounts. Going down two floors, getting the entire ops team in one place is a plus, and it puts us right by a little side-door to get in and out quickly. What I don’t get is that this went from concept to “get your shit and get out” in two days. State government is agonizingly slow in so many other ways, why the rush here? I will be more than mildly inconvenienced here; I have a half-dozen servers and some 10GbE switches in my office to be deployed next week. I’m going to try and stall so they only have to get moved once.

Nutanix is about 12 business hours away from reality. I know the team has been fighting for a hyperconverged solution well before I got here, but it’s going to be crazy to finally have it all come together. I hope my systems guy doesn’t think I’m micromanaging by wanting to be in the datacenter when this goes live. Won’t get another chance at a game-changing deployment for five years, I want to be right in the middle of it.

I don’t know if it’s just from lack of sleep but I’ve had this tic in my eye for days. I’m gonna see if I can catch a half hour nap.