Computer Users Manual, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Democratic Republic of East Timor
Chapter I: Hardware and Software
Chapter II: Networks and Communications
Chapter III: Operating Systems
Chapter IV: Applications
Chapter V: Basic Coding and Programming
Chapter VI: Basic Systems Administration
Introduction to Systems Administration
User, Account and Computer Management
Appendicies: Ministry Policy
Introduction to Systems Administration
The final chapter sections deal with an introduction to systems administration with particular examples from Windows 2000 and Red Hat Linux operating systems. The sections discussed here include Resource Management, User Account and Computer Management, Network Management and Security. Resource management includes determining and installation of hardware, operating systems and applications, and system failure analysis. The section on User, Account and Computer Management includes adding and deleting user accounts, creating groups, email accounts, training and technical support, developing and reviewing use policy, and computer naming. The section on Network Management discusses installation of network interface cards and connecting hosts to hubs, switches etc, connecting the hosts to routers, establishing DNS and filesharing, installing and maintaining email servers and clients, webservers and clients, newsservers and clients. Finally, the section on Security deals with developing, reviewing and implementing a security policy, installing and maintaining a firewall, ensuring virus protection, installation and review of vendor patches.
Before discussing these sections in detail, a brief discussion is required about aptitude. Whilst these sections will give you a basic and working knowledge of programming and system administration – the sort of thing that will allow you to solve minor problems and understand what is happening with major ones, or even better still, the skills to stop minor problems becoming major problems – it must be made quite clear that not everyone is well suited (yet) to becoming either a programmer or a system administrator. Perhaps surprisingly, the important feature is not technical knowledge as this can be learnt; rather it is more a matter of personality and disposition.
The first, and most important, personality characteristic is the requirement to remain logical and reasonable regardless of the circumstances. Programmers and system administrators can be sarcastic and often quite grumpy people (in fact, there's a theory that they're the best at it), but ultimately they must let reason and logic rule their emotions, because that's simply what they have to work with. People who operate by playing political or emotional games are not good programmers or system administrators. Secondly, programmers and system administrators are perfectionists who must constantly improve and fix errors; they simply cannot walk away from a problem and as such are consistent workers. Programmers must program and system administrators must administrate systems. A person who avoids problems or these jobs will not make a good programmer or system administrator – in fact, such a person is a positive danger to a computer system!
Some differences ought to be noted as well. Programmers usually work alone for lengthy periods of time with the majority of contact is with other programmers, and that's usually through email rather than face-to-face contact. A person who doesn't like being alone for long periods of time will not be a good programmer (nor will they be a good writer either!) System administrators on the other hand, being a more bureaucratic position, have the unenviable task of having to explain technical issues to non-technical people and having to manage people and technology so that the two can be integrated. Programmers tend to be computer specialists, people who through necessity have narrowed their disciplinary focus, whereas system administrators, being effectively "technically knowledgeable bureaucrats" or "bureaucratically knowledgeable technicians", tend to be generalists. Whereas specialist programming courses exist in universities all over the world, there are few courses for system administrators – the profession chooses them, rather than they've chosen the profession. As such, system administrators tend to come from a variety of seemingly unrelated fields, such as psychology, economics, business and philosophy. There are even sociologists who are system administrators (the author notes). Programmers, on the other hand, almost seem to have been born programmers, or at the very least have been doing it consciously for many years.
Finally, programmers and system administrators deal with different types of stress. Because programming work is normally project orientated, the stress period for a programmer is debugging a system as deadline approaches – which invariably means several late nights with lots of coffee, followed by several days of recovery. System administrators on the other hand deal with the sort of problems that need to be fixed straight away - as the Red Has Linux System Administration book says: "If I wanted a low-stress job, I'd become an air traffic controller." There is even a Usenet newsgroup for sysadmins (alt.sysadmin.recovery) and their erstwhile allies (alt.tech-support.recovery). There is even an official drink, The Burning Bob, (http://www.velvet.net/~fun/nile/drink.html). Several of these after work and you'll feel just fine.
Having described the two jobs in terms that would make most people want to either flee to hills, or at best investigate with a sense of bemusement, the chapter can begin discussing the topic at hand. Remember, as with all chapters in this book, this is only an introduction to the very complex world of systems administration. The following provides the barest minimum of the tasks that they engage in and without going into much detail.
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