November 2008 Archives

10,000 hours

I read an excerpt of a book a week or so ago. Always dangerous, as it lacks context. But the general principal of the book was the observation that to get really really good at something requires about 10,000 hours of practice. There are no 'naturals', just people who are naturally more pig-headed than others who can get to 10K hours.

10K hours is 2-4 hours a day for 10 years.

The studies were about things like child prodigies, or top tier athletes who get Olympic gold at age 22, and retire by 30. That sort of thing. It seems that almost all of these people started their thing by age 6, and by age 8 there was already a break between the kids who'd ultimately reach the peak of their field and those who'd merely be very good. The ones destined for peak were giving 2-3 hours a day at age 8, where the other group had cut back.

I believe this also applies to technical expertise. As anyone who has done any job searching in my field knows, there are real breaks for experience levels; 1-3 years, 4-6 years, 10+. Those of us in the 10+ area (and by now I am there with NetWare, and by the end of December I can claim that with Windows) are pretty much technical experts. We've put in the time over the years to get good.

However, we work in a field where, "Change or Die," is an accurate mantra. The IT industry of 2008 is markedly different than it was in 1998. Windows NT installs right now are laughed at. Very, very little of the operating systems and software in active use in 1998 is still able to be on a support contract. It is hard to be a 10K-hour expert in something in our field, you have to put in 8 hours a day for 5 years.

My first real exposure to NetWare was in a class I took for my CNA back in the Autumn of 1996. That was on NetWare 4.0, so at least my first experience was with NDS. In fact, my first job with NetWare was with 3.x, so I had to learn bindary on-the-job.

I consider myself to be an expert in NetWare. I've been actively administering it for 11 years now, so if I'm not across the 10K line I'm really close to it. This is only possible because the 'change or die' mantra has not applied to NetWare over the years. Lets take a look at the biggest disruptions of how things work in NetWare (kernel). This isn't incremental changes, this is fundamental re-learnings of how things work. Sort of like what all the Windows engineers had to go through when Active Directory came onto the scene.
  1. The move to TCP/IP. This by far is the biggest disruption since 1996. NetWare 5.0(?) introduced the ability to do NCP over TCP/IP natively, and not tunneled IPX-over-IP. This required replacing IPX SAP, something the routers just did, with SLP, a service that needed configuration and setup.
  2. The NSS file-system. This was a much lesser move than the TCP/IP one, as it worked on a general level (trustees, quotas, etc) the same as TFS did. Tweaking it for performance, however, was a dark art for many years and much learning was derived out of this.
  3. Protected memory. A concept familiar to anyone who has used Windows or Linux, and all NetWare admins are by now administering one or both of these OS's. While some modules can't use it for whatever reason (iPrint, NetStorage) others (GroupWise) could.
  4. Native File Access Pack. NetWare could do AFP since the NW3 days, the same for NFS. SMB was another story. It was with NetWare 5.1 that NFAP came on to the scene, and NetWare 6.0 where it came built in and performed much better. The ability to use protocols other than NCP for your Windows clients was embraced by many shops.
There were more changes, but in my mind these are the biggest four. You will note the complete lack of OES in this list. That's because this is a list of the changes to NetWare, and OES-Linux is not NetWare. OES-Linux represents the sort of "change everything you expect" that the rest of the industry does, that the Novell ecosystem hasn't had.

Over the last 12 years NetWare has remained markedly static. This has allowed enough time for people who don't do this every waking moment to achieve a high level of expertise with NetWare. While this is good for NetWare, it unfortunately shows how NetWare has lagged behind the rest of the industry.

It is my opinion that OES-Linux represents a decade of pent up change that needed to happen in NetWare but didn't. This is why old time NetWare admins are having such trouble moving to Linux, they're being asked to support an Operating System that they don't have anywhere near the same level of expertise in and that is uncomfortable. I know I'm moving from an OS that I know exceedingly well to one where there are still, "here be monsters," marked out on my mental map. I'm also having to give up, "10+ year experience with NetWare," in favor of, "2-4 years of experience with Linux," and that doesn't feel good professionally.

But... that is the nature of our field. Just when we get really good at something, it's time to throw it out and learn something new. That something may be an incremental change from what we know (Windows 2003 vs Windows 2000) or a complete break (NT Domains vs AD Tree). But, learn we must. Us NetWare wonks have just been sheltered from it for some time.

Budget 2009-11

Sounds like the last analysis, the $5.1Bn number did not include, "caseload analysis." Or, analyzing increased case-loads to state agencies due to really bad economy. It sounds like when that is factored in, the projected deficit is closer to $5.8Bn.

Why is Washington State racking up the deficits? It's simple, we're more vulnerable to economic downturns than other states. That's because Washington has no Income tax, so most of the income for the State government comes from Sales Taxes. Sales Taxes are different from Value Added Taxes in that the taxed entity is the terminal consumer rather than the whole supply chain as a whole, so it is your average citizen that bears the full responsibility for the 8.3% tax on that new car. Consumer spending is projected to drop way off, and that in turn creates a major budget shortfall for the State government.

The Washington State sales tax is 6.5%, but Counties and Cities can add to that. Here in Bellingham, the sales tax rate is 7.8%, and down in downtown Seattle the rate is 9.0%. Counties and Cities also earn income through Property Taxes, which are less vulnerable to declining economic times (i.e. dropping house prices) due to how the taxes are calculated.

Here's hoping that the projections have been overly pessimistic.

Browser stats

Some stats of who reads this blog (roughly):



And operating system:



Firefox out numbers IE, which is no surprise considering the type of search-traffic I get. I'm a bit surprised at how little Safari I see. Also interesting is that Linux edges out Mac on the OS chart, again not that surprising considering what I talk about here.

Budget numbers revised again

To $5.1Bn. That number includes the $4.6Bn for the next biennium, but the $0.5Bn deficit for THIS year. Joy.

The revised budget is out

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As predicted, $4.6Bn instead of the $3.7 they were talking about earlier. What does that mean for me and Western? In the words of two of my bosses today:
For our state, revenues are currently projected to fall around 10% short of projected state expenditures. The magnitude of the shortfall is estimated to be about $4.6 billion. Since about half the state"s budget is protected from reductions through constitutional or other means, to make up the 10% shortfall would require an average of a 20% reduction in the rest of the state agency budgets. We are in that latter category of state agencies whose budgets, on average, would have to be reduced by 20%.

Just what does that mean for Western? The 20% reduction is in the 60% of our budget that comes from state support. So, it"s 12% of our operating budget.
So, expect a 12% cut to the budget. Right. Can't we just raise tuition?
If tuition were raised to the maximum currently allowed by law (7% per year) for resident undergraduates, the additional funds would reduce the magnitude of the cut to something in the neighborhood of 8.7% of our operating budget.
Still pretty hefty. However, the Legislature still has a full session to go over the budget, and it still has to be signed. Who knows what'll change between now and when Session ends. However, the prudent fiscal planner will be looking for cuts up to 12% of operating budget.

More close to home:
Second, [the President] has asked us to prepare scenarios about how we might respond to a 2%, 3.8%, and 5% permanent reduction for the next biennium.
So it isn't terribly likely that ITS, much less Technical Services, will be asked to whack 12% of operating budget. This is a good thing to this selfish person. 12% of operating budget for Tech Services would be people, since I'm pretty sure the sum total of our non-salary expenses is less than 10% of our budget. Whew.

Still, this is going to put a major lid on purchases for the next 3 years. Within that period our blade servers fall off warranty, which is going to incur certain replacement expenses (almost definitely for new ESX cluster nodes). On the other hand, it gives me a really good line to use for cold-calling vendors...

Spam drop-off continues

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It's been a week, and they haven't replaced their lost spam capacity yet.

30 day chart showing spam drop-off

The green bars are the 'clean' messages. But look at that! Over half of our incoming spam was from the same botnet/hosting provider. Wow. But, I do expect levels to go back to normal before too long.

Signs and portents

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Last Thursday I was over on looking for an eDirectory patch. I was staging up a new NetWare box and needed to see what the latest edir levels were. I knew 8.8.3 came out in August, and we're not there yet, so I needed 8.8.2 ftf2. However, I noticed that one of the searchable versions was 8.8.4. There was nothing in the list, but it was an option. It's not there right now, but it was then.

Thus emboldened I checked around a few more places. NetWare 6.5 SP8 was in the list, and still is right now. As is Open Enterprise Server 2 SP1. Both have the public betas posted, though.

But 8.8.4 was there. I saw it. Must have been a test or something. All this tells me that OES2 SP1 (a.k.a. NW65SP8) is just around the corner. Since we were told back at BrainShare that Sp1 would be in the Q4 time-frame, it's about due.

Bad budget predictions

Quoth one news source:
Dunshee expects the state budget deficit will balloon to as much as $4.6 billion after next week’s revenue forecast.
You can guarantee that I'll be looking for next week's revenue forecast. $4.6 billion, for those keeping track, is a lot larger than the $2.7bn they were saying earlier. The measures I talked about earlier would have to be added to, if things really are as bad as that article lets on. The share of the $2.7bn WWU was allotted this year could be handled through use of reserve funds and other high finance things, or so said the President in September. A 70% larger deficit is another story, and that could lead to program cuts and/or lay-offs.

Lay-offs are a worry. I'm "professional" so there is no union behind me when the axe starts swinging, so positions like mine involve less paperwork and get more return in the case of termination. Unlike the Classified employees I don't have bump-back rights. In their case, if a, say, Fiscal Technician III gets terminated who previously held the title Fiscal Technician II, that FT-3 could bump-back into an FT-2. That bump-back is a displacement, so the FT-2 that got bumped would then exercise any bump-back rights she had, and on down the line until someone actually gets laid off. In my case, if they terminate me, I'm gone. Period. Much less paperwork.

But then, I don't know if that's how it works around here. The last really serious round of lay-offs was long enough ago that only two people in my department were around back then, and that's a lot of time for a management culture to change. However, if Technical Services gets handed an axe to apply to a position, my read of the lay of things is that I'm in the top 3. Also, we have no Classified employees in my department.

So, yeah. The budget forecast is something I'll really be paying attention to.

Very visible drop off in spam

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Thanks to this, we've seen a significant drop-off in spam. And what better way to show it than with a graph?

Graphic showing serious, close to 50%, drop-off in spam levels

Dramatic, eh?

Let's see long it takes 'em to find a new host and re-tool. This is but a brief respite, but it's fun to look at.

NetStorage, WebDav, and Vista

I figured out how to get it working! You need KB907306. This updates the Web Folders in Vista to support how Novell does WebDav through NetStorage.

In our case you'll also need to add the CA that serves the SSL certificate that's on top of NetStorage (a.k.a. MyFiles). But, it works.

No BrainShare for me

Last week I asked my new boss if getting me to BrainShare was in the cards. I also threw out the alternative of the ATT Live sessions, which are fewer days and relatively cheaper than BrainShare. I also floated the possibility of me covering the plane expenses. As it happens Provo is about as expensive a city as Spokane, and Salt Lake City during BrainShare is equivalent to Bellevue. This is important since the travel ban is for 'out of state travel'. If I cover the plane tickets, that makes the cost the equivalent to having it in Spokane/Bellevue! Thus, I can go!

Unfortunately, not really. Quoth the new boss:
I highly doubt this'll work. Even Vice-Presidents are canceling travel plans.
If the grand high muckitymucks are honoring the travel ban, then the chances of me getting permission is next to zero. And is fully zero if I don't get buy off from my boss. Drat. Considering that the budget outlook for 2010 is even more grim than it is for 2009, the next probable BrainShare I can get to is 2011. Double drat.

Alarming error notices

CommandView EVA can throw some alarming notices to the unwary.

Take this example.

Without knowing what's going on, the very first line of that is panic-inducing. However, this notice was generated after I clicked the "continue deletion" button in CV-EVA after we had a disk-failure scrozz a trio of RAID0 LUNs I had been using for pure testing purposes. So, while expected, it did cause a rush to my office to see what just went wrong.