How we do things in Academia

This is a story I head last weekend when a friend was visiting. I’ve changed some of the particulars, to preserve privacy…

Our school landed a great post-doc student – we were able to lure him away from a well known college into our program, and things were going swimmingly. Unfortunately, Princeton University had their eye on him as well, and made a better offer. The student transferred to Princeton, and we were left with a dilemma.

We sat down and pondered the situation. There was certainly a budget for luring away post-docs, but we just didn’t have enough to lure him back to our campus and give him his own lab and department.

We did, however, have enough to get him transferred to Harvard.

The Ten Commandments from IT / Sysadmins…

Thou shalt not release software to production on the eve of a weekend or a holiday.
Thou shalt not use corporate email servers to distribute full page pictures of your kitten, or your child, or your horse, or your hamster.
Thou shalt not browse porn from your work computer or laptop. Ever.
Thou shalt use corporate / IT mandated applications for corporate related work, regardless of whether you think RandomFinancialTool is better.
Thou shalt choose Microsoft products ONLY when all alternatives have been thoroughly reviewed and considered objectively, and using the criteria of “But it’s not compatible with Microsoft products” is usually a red herring.
Thou shalt not rely exclusively on the ‘genius’ or ‘vast experience’ of a single person within the company or organization. They might be wrong. How would you know?
Thou shalt consider a laptop expendable and subject to imminent destruction.
Thou shalt understand that IT and sysadmin staff are employed to HELP the users do their job. We may know what we’re talking about.
Thou shalt not page a sysadmin at 2am because you’ve forgotten your password. Next time be more careful.
And last but not least…..
Thou shalt respect us. We’re people too.

Fun with Server Uptimes

At ${dayjob}, we were doing a system audit when an alarm came up on a pair of servers we rarely had any interraction with. One of our new monitoring tools was showing these servers were not answering correctly, and should be investigated.
Investigate I did, and found… four machines in a full sized rack that were doing absolutely nothing.
It turns out these were used for 3 customers we no longer supported. The applications were still there, the appservers were running, just… no one had connected to them in almost a year and a half.
What’s more entertaining is the uptime on these boxes:

09:23:08 up 992 days, 19:15,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

The current plan is to let them roll over to 1000 days, throw a little party for them, and shut ’em down.
(For the true geeks, these are dual opteron Rackable servers with 8gig RAM running CentOS 4.4)
Update – Just found the database servers these machines have been using. Also idle, but the uptime is even more impressive:

 09:43:08 up 1304 days, 19:49,  1 user,  load average: 0.22, 0.09, 0.02

Silly net meme. Fast typing!

452 points, so you achieved position 347 of 82048 on the ranking list
You type 562 characters per minute
You have 106 correct words and
you have 0 wrong words

I ran it through twice, improving the second time (from 95 up to 106). It takes a full minute of fast typing to make it work, and I feel silly chalking off my day in one minute increments just to get a higher ranking 🙂
The silly little “past this code!” thing is:
106 words


The Language Umbrella

What happens when there’s a rampant conversation going on on a geek channel? It’s time for Umbrella Metaphors.
“If a language were used to make an umbrella, what would it look like?”
Naturally, there were several suggestions for certain languages.
– PHP umbrella is made of ragged pieces of duct tape
– VB umbrella is old and kids-size
– C++ umbrella requires a 15-digit code to open
– Java umbrella is sold with the handle and material seperately, and you need to match them up, and you have to download it from github
– Ruby umbrella is shaped like a cube, but if you stand in just the right place, it keeps you try
– ASP umbrella is large, but has big holes cut into it
– Fortran umbrella is made of iron, and is rusted shut 😉
– haskell umbrella is inside-out.
– .net umbrellas are a range of colour-matching umbrellas, but they only work with certain types of rain.
– lisp umbrella is old, but still works, and all the new umbrellas coming out look like it more and more
– lisp umbrella is incomprehensible as a functional umbrella. but pushing a button appears to keep the water off you, just have no idea how.
– lisp umbrella is patterned with a bunch of images of other lisp umbrellas on it, which are in turn..
Thanks to Avatar-x, ojacobson, the_goat, Optic, elmood, and the other happy geeks at the Toronto Hacklab

Uncomfortable Plot Summaries

When I was a kid I remember reading TV Guide in it’s glossy mini-magazine format – it was like an up to date glimpse of the future at my fingertips. (Anyone reading this who was born after 1995 – this was before the Internet).
Occasionally their summaries of movies and shows would be completely off the wall. One I remember pretty clearly was:

Wizard of Oz – Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.

Fortunately, someone has written an entire page full of them.
Thanks to Ellen for the pointer.
ETA – Well hell. That wasn’t TV guide. According to IMDB , it was written by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal. Oh well. TV Guide was still pretty cool.

Oh Apple, you guys crack me up!

Those crazy guys at Apple. Look at this wonderful April Fools joke they did.
So. So. Check this out. They modified their Apple Updater on Windows machines to pop up a window, and… I swear, I can’t stop laughing… even though I don’t even HAVE Safari or iTunes installed, they’ve put them on the updater list (as a “Software Update” *BWAH*), and automatically CHECKED them! Not only that, the highlighted button on the dialog is to “Install 3 Items”, so anyone could easily come along, see the update window “Oh yes, I need the Quicktime update” and… and… BANG! They have another 88 megs of software installed that they probably don’t even want!
I tell you, those guys have the best designs, the best platforms, and they make some great stuff, but it’s the little tweaks like this, the little jokes, that just crack me up. I mean, cmon. An updater that tried to trick you into installing software you don’t have. Hee hee hee!
Thanks Apple, for making my week!