Matthew Rosewarne on 9 Jan 2008 21:27:14 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] Config Files and Steam Engines

On Wednesday 09 January 2008, Brent Saner wrote:
> except one deals with inertia and another deals with interaction...
> i really don't find this analogy accurate. my opinion, but i don't.
> sysadmins are more like the people at the station, coordinating the routes
> the trains take and ensuring the maintenance of the trains only. not
> responsible for creating or "running" the train. the OPERATORS, if
> anything, would be the train engineers i'd imagine. users are, obviously,
> passengers (and sometimes you have 'em, sometimes you don't). and, granted,
> nowadays the line is blurring between users and ops.

The engineers were the guys in charge of making sure the trains could do what 
their bosses wanted them to do, much like the sysadmins make sure that the 
systems they administer can do what their bosses want them to do.  Everyone 
but the engineer/sysadmin (and support staff) just wants the functionality, 
they don't care how it happens.

> and if you really want to make the analogy go further, the CODERS and
> PROGRAMMERS, NOT the sysadmins, are the ones "designing the trains"...

Well, it has become more that way out of necessity, since as systems become 
more complex, the sysadmin cannot be expect to continue to write all the 
software needed to hold it all together.  That's why we have things like 
standards and distributions.

> to me, config files are like train tracks.
> what you're asking for and proposing are flying trains. at this point, they
> are no longer trains. they're planes. entirely different machines.
> and some of us are honestly afraid of heights (well, not me literally. i
> love flying), and would rather take the ground, where it's stable,
> convenient, and easy (not to mention a bit more natural), than go through
> the inconvenience and increased risk of flying.
> (don't go quoting actual railroad vs. airline safety stats, anyone, by the
> way. i feel i've stretched this metaphor too far already, and we could make
> an entire other thread debating the safety of various travel methods.. and
> as fun as OT threads are, planes trains and automobiles really don't
> interest me that much).

You've lost me...

> to be honest, i feel like this is just Not A Good Idea (TM) that you're
> proposing, matthew. the phrase "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" is every
> sysadmin's motto. there's a reason there's still plenty of servers out
> there still running 2.4 kernel.

I don't buy that motto.  If we followed that all the time, progress would have 
petered out with invention of the stick.

> for this reason, i wouldn't use a gentoo box as a database server. sure
> it's fun and more transparent, but the maintenance overhead's a lot more
> (NOT because it's source-based. because it's newer tech by nature).

Not sure I understand how that relates, still sort of lost...

> shall we take a poll?
> realism has to step in somewhere.

Might as well take a poll on how many (former) tollbooth workers like the 

> SURE, it'd be great if everything was perfectly documented and everything
> could use one parser. hell, while we're at it let's socialise worldwide
> capital! let's build a colony on mars! let's make an underwater colony
> inside a bubble!

Well, I don't see the desire for some progress as terribly unrealistic, 
especially since there are already efforts out there to do just this sort of 

> do you see where i'm going with this? this is not something linux (and by
> extension, BSD and other nixen) was aimed at. you're certainly welcome to
> put your own OS together that IS aimed at something you've imagined, but
> something tells me it won't see a lot of use by sysadmins. desktop users,
> maybe. MAYBE. but definitely not sysadmins.

Unix, and thus Linux, was never "aimed at" connecting to another machine over 
a network or displaying a GUI.  That was all added quite a bit later.  It's 
hardly an unfathomable dream to make a decent shared configuration interface.

> i'm sure the other sysadmins would agree with me on this.

Yes, and I'm sure the steam locomotive engineers would have told you that the 
diesel-electric engine was a waste of time/for idiots.

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