Truths for SysAdmins and Tips for users… December 20, 2005 at 5:55 pm

[ Music: The One I Love from the album “Life In Slow Motion” by David Gray ]

There are 2 good blog entries that were linked via Slashdot recently. Truths for SysAdmins and 8 End-User Troubleshooting Tips that have a lot of truth to them.

From the Sysadmin list…

#1.. yep, they lie. We all have stories, but my favorite is from a friend.. User needed keyboard to Sun workstation replaced. User swears up and down that s/he didn’t do anything, no spills of drinks, etc. Admin replaces keyboard and as he walks away with broken keyboard under arm, coffee runs down his arm. User had gone to the trouble of cleaning up all evidence of the spill, but hadn’t thought of the coffee in the keyboard itself.

Please.. just admit you spilled or broke something. We’re not going to fire you (and couldn’t even if we wanted to).

#8. This one can’t be stressed enough. You might fee superior, and where computers are concerned, you likely are, but don’t let that attitude creep into your voice. These people are likely going to have some sway in your future.. so be nice. Besides, keeping users working and happy is why we exist. As much as users can be a pain, without them, we don’t have a job.

#9… Yes, please take heed. We have a system that grew over time where I work that does all our unix system’s configuration management, and does it pretty damn well. We constantly have new vendors coming in hawking their wares for CM, that regularly leaving me feeling we’re better off with what we have. What’s worse is when a new vendor has some new whizzbang solution for doing installs all the way through CM, and the whole system is tied together. Well, they just hurt themselves as we don’t need to shell out more money for a system that often doesn’t appear to do as much as what our homegrown systems already do.

#10… Bah. Rebooting is NOT fixing a problem. Rebooting simply resets a system back to the original state, if there’s some kind of problem in hardware or in software that has to run, you’re just going to keep ending up right back at that problem state again and again. Now, the author can be somewhat excused since I gather from reading his site that he supports mostly windows hosts. Rebooting is considered a valid “fix” in that world.. but when you admin nothing but unix based OSes, you learn that a reboot is either a cop out for “I don’t know” or it’s just a time saver. The only times I reboot are when the host is non-responsive and I can’t do any troubleshooting… or, something like AFS or automounter on linux gets dorked. At that point , sure I could clear all user jobs and restart the whole subsystem, but it’s usually just quicker to reboot. Plus our auto-patching system can install any needed patches then.

We don’t reboot just because we see a problem though.

From the User tips…

#1… save as above. Especially when we’re talking unix boxes. At our company, we justified buying expensive workstations for engineers by using a job batch system to run jobs on the desktops when they’re idle. So if you rebooted your workstation, there was a good chance you killed someone else’s jobs too.

#3… Man is that true. Lost count of the number of times I’ve had people call in problems that were just loose cables.

#6.. Oh god yes. Not only would I say email if it’s not the end of the world, but if your company has support email lists you’re supposed to use.. use them!! Just because one admin helped you 3 months ago, doesn’t mean you’re now entitled to email that person directly from now on, expecting them to drop whatever it is they’re doing to help you. That goes double for calling… if your company has a help line, use it. I used to be so inundated with calls and emails directly from users that, no matter how many times I asked them nicely to use the help email/line, they kept coming directly to me that I had to start ignoring them. More then once I had people then email my boss, their boss, a VP, etc.. swearing that I was now responsible for their delays in their job. Of course, when my boss and theirs asked if they used the help address/line and if not, why… they suddenly retreated. Man, I love that.

THis ties directly into…
#8… Sending every request with a cc to tons of management is not going to make us work any harder for you. In fact, it’s apt to make us see exactly what you’re implying and cause us all to lose most interest in helping you.

This applied to oncall pages too. Don’t wake up the oncall admin because of something piddly like a printer is out of paper, or your job is running but it just doesn’t seem quite fast enough. We might counter being woken at 3am by insisting that we call (and wake up) your boss to verify that this really is important enough to warrant our time. 🙂

Anyway.. a couple of good articles at a new site I’ve stumbled upon.

One Response to “Truths for SysAdmins and Tips for users…”

  1. Number 8 is very easy to deal with 🙂 Do what AOL does, and reject the email if there are too many cc’s in the header.

    Be Seeing You,

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