Older blog entries for gwolf (starting at number 2)

Why do system administrators exist? Well, this last Sysadmin Appreciation Day (July 26), I found out: Too keep stupid users from doing stupid stuff, even if they should be allowed to do it.

I set up a small PostNuke system at my work for a small project that will be headed by students (for Biology, Nursing, Medicine, Odontology, Psychology and Optometry careers). We decided that my boss (a psychologist) would be the administrator for the site, at least temporarily, together with me and with a strangely skilled psychologist who also runs another blog at my faculty. This is the first time I played with PostNuke, and while it is a GREAT piece of work... I found out some bits in it quite exasperating for newcomers.

One such newcomer is my boss. He started playing around with the administration interface, and had been pretty happy with the site.

Friday morning: "Gunnar, the blog's broken". Shit.

Fact is, once again, I'm a newcomer to PostNuke too. It took me several hours to fix it. I went back to the three-day-old backup of my database, and diff'ed it... Interesting reading, I learnt a lot while doing this. And what was it in the end? He moved the start page from 'News' to 'Permissions', without even noticing it. He says it must have been the scrollwheel of his mouse.

Of course, no wonder it failed over and over.

But anyway, I'd love to see people writing more robust code. Why did it take me so long to find out the problem? Because the program simply died, the error was not trapped. I just got a message explaining that a file (html/modules/NS-something/index.php) did not exist, and the program was trying to include it. Why not testing for existence before including something? Or why to display such an important configuration option for something that should never be done - even more in programs such as this one, made to be user-friendly, manageable by even inexpert people?

Wow... This is one of those days I wish I never had.

As usual for Monday mornings, I got started with my real work about 3 hours after getting here - mail processing and trivial but necessary sysadmin activities, such as reading three days worth of logfiles (although nicely parsed with Logcheck (wow... The folks at Psionic renamed it to Logsentry. Differences? None, at first sight, same version number, and logsentry-1.1.1.tar.gz uncompresses to logcheck-1.1.1/)>, they are still a lot of work), processing messages/spam to my mailing lists, helping Joe Loser and his endless amount of clones...

Ok, I start working. I'm doing a little system for speakers to register their talks for a local symposium... Two hours worth of work, then off to lunch - Quite nice. Mixiotes are always welcome. I get back from lunch, try to stomp on a few bugs on a Postnuke installation I just did for a group of clueless students (and I would not expect them to know much about computers anyway - in the campus I work at they have only health-related and biology careers)... Seems I'll get to work nicely...

...Until I get an ICQ message from my boss: Remember we have to be at this meeting...

Hell... I really love working at this University, the largest and most important in my country. I have great freedom on how to work and what to do... When I joined it, I thought I would have much more meetings than what I really do... After all, this is a state-run University, and in Mexico this can only mean unbearable bureaucracy (sp?). But... Today I sat for over 90 minutes listening to... Well, next to nothing. The same arguments back and forth since a terrible 10-month-long student strike came and went. I don't know if our authorities are up to something evil (as the students say), and I can't believe they are really democratic and plural (as the authorities say)... But please, let me work!

...Well... Back to my programming. I don't even have very interesting stuff to do, it's mainly what Mexicans call talacha - Boring, repetitive stuff, that, were I really a programmer, would be in a nice library since a long time ago. I must pay for my lack of methodology - I hope I learn someday...

Thanks for listening.

I released some days ago Tepatche 0.75 - An automatic OpenBSD system patcher... I have been getting very good feedback on this, and I expect to be able to work on it more.

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