Thursday, October 2, 2008

Linux Vs. Unix: The Sins Of The Father?

Hey There,

If you're a regular reader ( or even a slightly irregular reader ) of this blog, you may have noted that from time to time I'll, tongue in cheek, make reference to, one day, eventually writing a post that basically says nothing, goes nowhere and ends flat, leaving you feeling like you bought another pet rock. For some reason, there is overwhelming interest in my actually going through with this and making a complete mockery of my blog (although I've felt, at some times, that I was achieving that end quite admirably ;) by writing just such a post. Since I pride myself, somewhat, in doing what I say I'm going to do (no matter how stupid or harmful ;) today has become the day that I put digits to keyboard and hammer out that post.

PLEASE NOTE: I'm not kidding. While this post may be somewhat amusing, you will probably walk away, after reading it, realizing only that you'll never ever get that time back. Without further ado, fanfare and/or circumstantial pomp, here comes that post. Please Stop Reading Now if you don't want to read a few paragraphs that will ultimately pose no problem, resolve nothing and leave without paying the check. You've been notified. This post is meaningless. It will also be written without emoticons from this point on. The whole thing's a joke. I just can't type that many winks in one post. The last time I attempted to, my keyboard got conjunctivitis and I had to have it deloused at the Rustler Steak House down the street from my Pet Psychic's favorite Organic Food outlet.

Unix and Linux are two keywords I like to use a lot in post bodies, and post titles, for this blog. It goes mainly to the fact that this blog is about lots of things Unix and Linux related. And, since it's next to impossible to do good SEO with a blog where the content on the front page changes entirely every day, falling back on those two words (and a few choice other ones) helps keep this cyber-rag in Google's goggles. You may have noticed that I used them in my title today and have, thus far, used the words Linux and Unix a total of 6 times (3 each) within a relatively brief chunk of text. I have no sense of direction and also can't calculate keyword density on the fly, but, if my offhand calculations are correct, I'd say we're looking at about a 100% saturation level, at the very most.

I'm a huge fan of Solaris and RedHat, which makes it hard for me to talk to plants, even though my wife insists that they're listening and I may actually be helping them grow. Still, when it comes down to a choice between using either Linux or Unix to complete a particular task, I tend to lean toward the wall in the office with the most stable furniture. I've been studying Feng Shui for some time now, and I can honestly tell you that nothing is where it's supposed to be. One of the underlying principles of that ancient practice (or is it just the only philosophy that involves heavy lifting?) is the assertion that where you put things can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life. For instance, if you stick a fork in your eye, you will be blind, bleeding, in severe pain and making a mess of your living area in no time. Luckily, the color red attracts good energy. The kind that will help you muster up the strength to either pull that fork back out of your eye or, at the very least, put your @ss in a car that (depending upon the severity of your wound) is either going to end up in the emergency room parking lot or wrapped around a tree on your neighbors lawn. If you release enough good energy, you may even attract the attention of strangers who will call 911 as soon as they've run out of video tape.

Fortunately, the solution to every problem is almost as simple as the problem itself. All you need to do is follow these 3 simple steps, and you'll be able to troubleshoot any Linux or Unix problem that comes your way. This is a tried-and-true method that is virtually 100% guaranteed...

1. Be sure that you understand the language in which the problem is being described to you. More pointless meetings have been adjourned due to poor communication than for any other reason. Understanding is key when you're dealing with someone who is completely paralyzed by irrational fear. If, after exhausting all options, you find that you still cannot make any headway, pretend to understand. Nodding, squeezing of the chin between thumb and forefinger and vague (yet distant) rolling of the eyes, coupled with comforting sounds like mmm-hmmm, can go a long way toward getting you to step 2 as quickly as possible.

2. Email the only supervisor you have who, for some reason, refuses to answer direct questions via any recordable medium. While he (or she) can be extremely irritating under most circumstances, you have an ally in this management-type who will provide you with absolutely bullet-proof @ss-cover if anyone ever comes around asking questions. Just be sure you send the original email and keep multiple copies (at multiple locations) of the response requesting that you get together to discuss the issue in person at an off-site location.

3. Using the information you've barely gleaned, and the brush off you've cleanly pocketed, during the execution of steps 1 and 2, manufacture an incident that trumps both with respect to both immediacy and length-of-engagement. If you have to get to work on something "mission-critical" right away and you might be going at it for days, without sleep, so that your company can hang on to some hope of staunching the flow of imaginary life-blood-cash, your problem should be reassigned soon enough.

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING STEP 3: Be sure that your "emergency" requires you to be off-site (i.e. out of the office and, preferably, out of the data center. Shoot for a non-extradition country, if possible) in order to fix it. Maintain communication only via pay-phone. Never turn on your computer or your cell phone. Be sure that everyone understands that they "are" talking to you on your company cell's speaker-phone (even though they aren't) and use a public terminal at the library to occasionally bounce a mail through a VPN connected to your organization's backup network. Make sure you manually edit the headers just enough to make them confusing to a human and completely sensible to a mail agent. If you maintain frequency-silence by leaving your cell phone and computer off, you can avoid suspicion to a better degree. Even the more paranoid among your masters will be somewhat comforted by the fact that all the systems are bad "and" the GPS devices they've weighed you down with aren't indicating where in the world you are. If you own a car, take a bus. You probably have Tom-Tom in there or some form of LoJack. If at all possible, find a place in the mountains (near a National Park or Wildlife Preserve) to do your heavy troubleshooting, live off of berries and kill your own food. If you're reasonably intelligent, after a week or so, you'll never want to come back.

That being said, given Solaris' and RedHat's solid track records, I think you'll find that, utilizing a proper steam-powered vacuum cleaner, you can make almost any stain look worse. If you do nothing else for the rest of your life, constantly berate yourself for buying white carpets. And don't go easy on your self. Be really mean. You deserve every moment of the grief you're going to endure. What were you thinking? That'll teach you to use Linux, when Unix is a perfectly acceptable alternative OS that is also entirely biodegradable, so you can feel superior while you're busy raping and pillaging the environment in some other way.

It goes without saying that...

, Mike

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