Welcome!

Linux Authors: Pat Romanski, Andreas Grabner, Sematext Blog, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

The IT Professional's Industry Almanac

Industry commentary from the IT trenches

The IT Professional's Industry Almanac by Eathen Anderson takes no prisoners. A 10-year veteran of the IT industry, Anderson has written an honest and critical commentary from the trenches. His audience: the fearful and unemployed IT workers. His main preoccupation: the dysfunctional interface between technology and business. Neither is spared, but his analysis leads him to an unexpected conclusion.

First he explains why IT pays so well - because it's boring, and Americans have "itty-bitty" attention spans while needing everything now. Technology, even as it develops rapidly, requires patience to understand and use correctly. Anderson suggests that the dot-com boom/bust of the late '90s led directly to the outsourcing fad favored by corporations today. Somehow we IT folks overpriced ourselves and are now paying with fear and redundancy. This is fair enough, and many fortunes were made during the boom, but I remember it was business that started the gold rush and the biz dev guys were the first to get fired.

Now, it's true that programming and support services are going overseas - nominally because it is cheaper, but really because corporate executives do not have to interact with foreign geeks or worry about five years down the line. Anderson is particularly scathing about the poor treatment of the help desk, which is most concerned with human management of technology. The problem with American business is that it is more interested in making money than saving it - homework for the first chapter will bring a smile to most IT faces.

It's not just business philosophy, but marketing and the media that overhype products. Anderson claims that 50% of software and hardware products do not work to the manufacturer's specifications. He has much experience with Microsoft OS's; if you buy a new PC loaded with Windows 2000 it will need 27 critical updates and service packs.

There's a brief commentary about boot camps and certification. Anderson explains why MCSAs are more popular than MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator and Engineer, respectively). He also mentions both the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Linux+ certifications, but I suspect without knowing much about them, and there is the dire warning, repeated several times throughout the book, that Unix is cryptic. The chapter "Hackers, Viruses and Security" is weak - the bottom line is that the hackers (or should that be crackers?) have better tools - most of the top five hacker tools seem to specialize in Windows OS's, which figures, I suppose. But the idea of a global Internet cop shop is just silly; the U.S. Government seems to be doing a sterling job making e-commerce safe for the rest of us.

Enter Our Hero - the network admin, a role that bridges the gaps between software and hardware, end users and geeks, and ultimately business and tech. It should come as no surprise that this is the author's speciality, and Chapter 4 - "The Strategy Chapter" - is an illuminating and detailed case study of the trials and tribulations of one such person.

In the final chapter Anderson features some survival cases, one of which depicts the rather enigmatic fate of a certain network admin. There is a novel in here somewhere. The book is self-described as "a computer novel with a serious attitude," but it really is what its title suggests, an almanac full of lists and laws, useful tables, and sage advice. I hope it gets upated annually.

The lists get better as the book progresses. My favorites are the six end-user personalities (Grinch, Flower Child, Engineer, Annoyer, Savvy Annoyer, Uber Talker) and "A List of Common Childhood Values That Should Be Rethought Before Entering a Corporate Environment." The laws vary from the obvious - The Law of Finality, whereby an expensive solution/product is bought and has to be used, however horrible - to the esoteric, such as Eathen's Equation, actually several equations and a spreadsheet based more on experience than theory and all the better for that.

Anderson expounds at length on his preferred management method, a combination of R&D and ROI analyses. The R&D aspect is particularly important in such a rapidly changing environment as tech: one must avoid "redundant and frivolous tech reading, seminar hopping, or exuberant gadget play" and be able to calculate both the necessity and severity of need for new tech. The example he uses is the installation of a Lindows environment in a 35-person company. This has to be a reaction to years of frustration with the Microsoft OS's - ME and XP both make it into his Top 10 Over-Hyped Technological Inventions of the Nineties list, while Red Hat Linux (no version) makes it into the Top 11 Technological Inventions of the Last Ten Years list (along with Windows NT 4.0 SP6A and Novell 5.0).

Anderson's not a true believer in Linux and open source. Perhaps he's just not tried installing, say, a recent Novell SUSE LINUX distribution, which detects peripherals better than XP and defaults to an eminently usable GUI. Having said that, it is important to separate his legitimate concerns from his Microsoft-marketing-will-prevail cyncism. In fact, his concerns seem to boil down to three:

  1. Unix is a rigid system that does not play well with proprietary software (try telling that to Pixar).
  2. It's not really a GUI so simple stuff takes longer and is not user friendly (first is not true - Command Line Rool! - and the second is, well, not true either).
  3. The open source OS is not immune from viruses, which is true, but as a Perl hacker once said, a closed door is preferable to a locked one.
If you're down in the trenches, slapping your fellow grunt's back is okay, but you shouldn't be afraid to look over the parapet or maybe just up at the wind blowing the clouds. Happy minds create beautiful (and useful) things...back to cynical reality. There are some contradictions in this book, stemming from the author's desire both to give survival advice to IT folks - "Let managers manage" - and his critique of existing business practice. He concludes correctly that the MBAs, which lead to CXO (CEO, CIO, COO, etc.) roles and high incomes, should not displace the real business experience that we mortals understand and practice every day. Of course, unfortunately they do.

In the final chapter, "The National IT Dilemma," Anderson details corporate wages from the front desk to the CEO. He is not so much against the pay differentials for different roles (when the company is making money) and in fact feels it necessary to deny he is a socialist (why are Americans so worried about this label?). However, he ends with a final theory - Passive Unionism - and two recommended URLs: www.techsunite.org and www.cwa-union.org. Anderson sees himself as a cop, an aggressive linebacker worried about national security and waste. But I think ultimately he'd like to be part of the Union.

More Stories By Tony Kirman

Tony Kirman discovered Linux at the same time as the Internet, and has never looked back. He has worked as an itinerant programmer in the content management field for many years, watching as expensive solutions come and go. He is a firm believer in open standards and free software, free beer too when it's available. He has a website - www.Los.org - untouched for a while, and can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.