William H. Magill on Sat, 27 Sep 2003 13:27:06 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Geek News Sources

On Saturday, September 27, 2003, at 11:42 AM, David Kaplowitz wrote:
I'm pretty news hungry and get a lot from sites like Slashdot (They have
those cool BSD and gaming sections for updates), Wired and eWeek. I also
subscribe to a heap of mailinglist, browse newsgroups and read the
occasional Sysadmin mag, Linux mag. It gets a bit overwhelming at times
sifting through them all and I'm wondering if any other sites have been
successful at putting a lot of such stuff in one place. I've been
reading some about news aggregators, but haven't really stumbled onto
any that are worth checking out consistently. I figured some of you have
your favorite spots for such news and would love to hear about where you
go to keep current on stuff that interests you technically.

Information overload is a real problem. It's easy to spend 2-3 (minimum) hours a day "keeping current." (Or rather, trying to.)

While not particularly Linux related, I have found that Mac Surfer (www.macsurfer.com) is an excellent headline site. It gives 1 sentence headlines and then links to the particular articles. In addition to pure Mac/Apple stuff, it covers a wide range of "interesting" related industry stuff, including financial information.

Their companion site, TechNN (www.technn.com) tends to have a fair amount of "other than Mac" news, and a collection of "sector watch" summaries.

For Home Automation stuff, I prefer Bob Hetherington's "Home Toys." (www.hometoys.com). The site is an eMagazine as well as a solid collection of reference (including lots of how-tos) materials.

Other than that, I have a tendency to prefer email based lists and such. I probably belong to 20 or 30 mailing lists on specific topics from Tru64 and perl to MacOSX Server Admin and Alpha Linux. Thanks to procmail, they all sort themselves into their respective inboxes for perusal at "rational" times.

The real trick is to pick "a few" -- "a few" that you are particularly interested in; "a few" that deal with specific things you need day-to-day -- like software packages you use every; "a few" that are semi-general which contain "cool" information, like Slashdot, Macslash, PHAD or PLUG. Then you can throw in "a few" "recreational" sites/lists -- Home Automation, Computer Genealogy, Neighborhood happenings, whatever.

There are no good answers or "permanent" answers. "Good sites" come and go with the "interest" of their authors and or number of dollars expended by their "parents." Mac Central (www.maccentral.com) for example is provided by the publishers of Mac World Magazine; Forbes.com by Forbes magazine, etc.

Print magazines are ideal for those times when you "want to get away from it all" (like in the throne room or the bathtub where even laptops are "inconvenient." And while "stale" there is a surprisingly large amount of useful "survey" information to be found in any of the News Weeklies (I prefer US News and World Report) and Financial publications like Forbes or the Economist. None of these subscriptions tend to be cheap, however, especially if there is more to the content than "puff pieces" for their advertisers. Similarly, there is a lot of useful information and analysis (although usually even further out of date than in the magazines) in assorted "brokerage or analyst's reports."

It all depend on "what" you are looking for. Do you want specific, immediate-action information -- like say, the latest in security exploits? Or do you want "industry trends" and speculations -- like the fact that Dr. Who is returning to the BBC in 2005 (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/33084.html). Do you need to design and plan a new installation or simply maintain "ongoing operations?"

... and even then, you wind up "scanning" a lot to find those things you are really interested in; and even just scanning headlines of subjects takes time.

And of course, there is always the ACM if you are a Really Geekie Geek. The Association for Computing Machinery is the original "users group" for computing... seriously academic and theoretical even though it keeps trying to make itself "relevant" to day-to-day operations.

Being a generalist is hard work. Picking a "specialty" is easier. However, there is a problem with the concept of a "Unix System Administrator." It is far more that of a generalist than a specialist. ... especially if you are even vaguely close to any kind of "management" position.

Now if there was some decent Learning, "Desktop Avatar" floating around things might be easier. Like a good Administrative Assistant, they would scan "the world" for you, and give you your own list of "headlines" gleaned from "everybody else's" headlines (maybe weighted like Google does by the number of places the particular headline or story is referenced). But, like the real Virtual Reality work going on, this is "Really Geekie Geek" stuff that tends to be still very primitive. Oh, well. At least now with 64 bit processing about to become widespread, this may finally change, but it is still a hard problem.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot... Keeping up with Gaming and Home Theater technology!

William H. Magill
# Beige G3 - Rev A motherboard - 768 Meg
# Flat-panel iMac (2.1) 800MHz - Super Drive - 768 Meg
# PWS433a [Alpha 21164 Rev 7.2 (EV56)- 64 Meg]- Tru64 5.1a

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