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Why am i still a luser?

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 7:05 am
by Calum
well i've been using linux for years now, and yet i still feel like i know nothing about setting it up and fixing problems. I pay attention to all the discussions about DNS servers, NFS, and all the other acronyms that come up on boards such as this one, but do i really understand them? not really. most of the time these things aren't relevant to me, and so i sensibly ignore them for all practical purposes.

Still, i would like to be able to think i know what i am talking about. I would like to think that, in the dim future once i have finished my Computing degree, that i would actually have some skills to get some sort of professional position, and to be frank, i am halfway through the equivalent of my second year (it's open learning) and while i have picked up a lot of general background, the most i have really "learned" is the basics of html, javascript and java.

so i suppose i really am just thinking, why am i not learning about what i am interested in and what i think is relevant?

and really my question to you guys is, do any of you find yourself thinking similar things? do you feel like a power user, or just a home user? Do you have professional computing job or not, and if so, what skills do you have and where did you get them? It's just funny for me to think that a lot of people, even though using "techie" linux, will still remain users forever, possibly myself included! am i in danger of becoming the linux equivalent of a windoid?

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 7:57 am
by Jenda
I wouldn't worry about it too much. One should know enough to cover his own personal needs. If you need to make a living through computers, it's a lot more than if the computer is your tool, not the object of your work, as it will be for most of us.

The windoid is so hated because they do _not_ know enough to cater to their basic needs, because they don't limit their needs to what they know. It's like those people who join a forum and ask 'Hi guyz gimme a good website I wanna learn to hack', and in the next two posts it becomes obvious they don't know what an IP address is.

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 8:31 am
by Void Main
It is my experience that you will learn very few computer skills in school, even if that is what you are majoring in. I pick most of it up through the jobs I have had. Actually I pick most of it up "because" of my jobs, not thanks to my job. That is, I am not one to learn things from taking classes but from learning things on my own and that ultimately helps me with my jobs. For instance, I started out as a programmer where I did have some formal training but soon after got more interested in system administration/engineering. I had no formal training in this area but I had already had t he basic skills because of what I had learned on my own just out of my interest. By the time I was able to get into any formal administration class I could have actually taught the class. The last few years I have been working in the network security area and in order to do well in that area you really have to have a deep understanding of all the network technologies.

I do have to say that early on (15 years back when I got my first UNIX administration gig) I did find the O'Reilly books to be a very good source of information. I haven't bought a book in years because I find the Internet to have all the information I could possibly want as long as I know how to sift out the good information from the bad. I would still suggest O'Reilly books as a good reference. I used to have an entire shelf full of O'Reilly books, probably around 40 or 50 of them. Some of them I remember being particularly useful were DNS & BIND, TCP/IP Network Administration, Sendmail (the bat book), Essential System Administration, and a few good Perl books. They have thousands of good books if you want to spend money:

There isn't anything in those books that you can't find on the net as I said but they do a good job at getting a lot of good information between two covers. Then of course applying all of that information in the real world makes it all stick in your head and lets you know that you do actually understand it.

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 9:55 am
by Calum
i used to work in a bookshop and i remember the o'reilly ones being the best books about computing out of a lot of different ones we had (based on readers' comments and on thumbing through the book)

so really, so long as a person has the interest and ability (a potential framework of understanding) in something, then they should be able to pick up the practicalities on the job? sounds reasonable, but then of course, it's a case of trying to get a job where one doesn't necessarily have any experience, yet!

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:34 am
by worker201
You pick up something here, you pick up something there, you read a Wikipedia article that sounds interesting, you Google about a command flag you don't understand. Learning what you need to know is not that big a deal. Sounds like your main problem is going to be convincing people that you are "elite". You might have years of experience running Linux systems, configuring apps, and networking, but it's hard to explain that in 4 lines at the bottom of a resume/CV. The easiest way around this is to go work for someone who knows you and what you can do for awhile. The next best thing is to take whatever job you can get, and then impress the hell out of them in the first week.

I heard once that someone interviewed the wealthiest businessmen in America, and asked them how they got started. You'd think the stock answer would be "well, I got a good education, and then I worked really hard", but that ain't it. Nearly every one of them admits to being in the right place at the right time. A friendly conversation at the pub could mean more in terms of opportunities than a whole week of interviews and resume faxes.

While that may not improve your image of the Titans of Industry, it will definitely ease your mind when you hit the streets in search of your own dare-to-be-great opportunity.

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:42 am
by Void Main
Well, there is no reason you can't learn any of this stuff at home. If you are interviewing for a job and you appear to know what you are talking about and appear to have a deep interest then I believe your chances of getting hired are better. Once hired you will surely be able to enhance your knowlege because you'll be working on a much larger scale and have bigger problems to solve. I think the best thing you can do is have a few machines at home to set all of these technologies up and really learn them based on books and information found on the Internet.

I have around 8 machines at home, most of them are old junkers but more than enough for learning TCP/IP, Switching/Routing, DHCP/DNS, Sendmail/SMTP/POP/IMAP, NFS, LDAP, HTTP/FTP/Proxy, IPSEC/SSL VPN, 802.11, etc, etc. You can also do a lot with Virtual machines. If you have one fairly beefy machine you can set up several virtual machines on it and they all can be networked as if they are separate real computers on your network. You can use Xen or download VMware server which is now a free to download and use. You can learn a lot just on a home network. The only thing you don't really get on a home network are scaling issues like you will run into if you work for a large corp. For instance, we have over 50,000 clients on our corporate network and under that we have over 16,000 routers and switches. So in addition to this we run a lot of clusters, have a lot of firewalls, a large number of VPNs, and a lot of load balancing equipment.

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:36 pm
by worker201
[offtopic]Regarding that, I once set up Apache so that I could run a webserver from my computer. Using virtual hosts, I was able to actually create like 4 different web addresses that could all be accessed from the browser by name. For example, I created a duplicate of my site at and accessed it via Firefox at . Whenever I entered that name into my browser, it reflected back ... you get the picture.

Anyway, I assume that Apache told Firefox to resolve that name back to or whatever. Is there a way to make up a bunch of different virtual web servers on one computer, and then have your browser resolve them? How would you do that? Could I set up a private little network, with a DNS server and remote clients on just one computer? Cuz that would be cool. And useful/educational as well.[/offtopic]

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:08 pm
by cdhgold
that is actually 2 different questions if I'm following you correctly .. as far as setting up multiple web servers yes just do what you already did which is virtual hosts. As far as setting up a LAN in a box you can do that via vmware's free version of vmware server.


Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:13 am
by JoeDude
VMware server which is now free

That should be it's new name. Everywhere you go in the net, when you see people say VMWare, they immediately follow it up with which is now free...

Just a humorous thing I noticed. Carry on, interesting conversation.

Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:19 am
by worker201
cdhgold wrote:that is actually 2 different questions if I'm following you correctly .. as far as setting up multiple web servers yes just do what you already did which is virtual hosts. As far as setting up a LAN in a box you can do that via vmware's free version of vmware server.
I'm pretty sure the virtual hosts resolve back to home. So you can't mess around with DHCP and DNS with them, because they all have the same IP address. Right? So VMWare will allow me to give them all different IP addresses?

Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 4:10 am
by caveman
I have lotsa ideas around this - some good - some bad :oops:
Cannot really say that you can beat "hands-on" experience

From when I started in '78 - IBM System 3 model 15 B -
thru Texas Instruments DS990 series, Apple II etc. etc.

The one thing I think we miss in IT is the so-called "proto typing"
of systems etc.
The only way to really learn - sometimes - is to fail and break things.
Analyst and developers now-a-days spend weeks or months to try and
define systems before even before starting to design a system.
More often this leads to the eventual "design" being more important than the
result. (Please note, some intricate and or "big" systems NEED this!)

A few "resent" systems come to mind where growing a system as and when
needed comes to mind eg.
YouTube, Pay Pal and even hotmail (sic) which were mental concepts
that was put into production using "proto-typing" - then fix, fix and fix.
EVEN if this means a complete rewrite!
(Something that m$ and some of the proprietary guys abhor!)

There are still some systems, designed and developed in the "dos" days
that have grown - and the succesfull ones rewrote - that are used in
major corps and banks, and maintained thru "proto-typing".
Change is a --> fortunate part of life - Adapt or Die - FiFO!
Fit in or - go far away.

So what I am trying to say - DO NOT be afriad (sic) to break things.
Playing and brain-storming during development is a plus.
Systems grow thru people not the other way around.
Sometimes breaking something - purely to fix it - is a bigger challenge
than keeping it going.

And last but not least, I think - nobody can keep up with ALL new buzzwords
and new technology - unless you are willing to put time aside to read.
This means being in 'the know" even without being able to put it into
practise ie. at the least to understand a conversation without looking dumb
and then if it is needed to go out and play until it all makes sense.

Oh! and by the way - THERE IS never a wrong time to ask a question,
as this forum really highlights, and rather appear stupid than trying
to re-invent the wheel!

Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:13 pm
by Void Main
worker201 wrote:
cdhgold wrote:that is actually 2 different questions if I'm following you correctly .. as far as setting up multiple web servers yes just do what you already did which is virtual hosts. As far as setting up a LAN in a box you can do that via vmware's free version of vmware server.
I'm pretty sure the virtual hosts resolve back to home. So you can't mess around with DHCP and DNS with them, because they all have the same IP address. Right? So VMWare will allow me to give them all different IP addresses?
I am not really sure what you are wanting to accomplish (probably because I don't have a lot of time right at the moment as I am away from home on vacation) but Apache has two kinds of virtual hosts. "Name" based virtial hosts are where you can create several different web sites all served from the same server using one IP address. Then there are "IP" based virtual hosts. That's where you have several web sites on the same server but all using their own IP address. You can assign more than one IP address to a single interface on your server or you can have multiple interfaces using different IP addresses and configure each site to answer on their own IP address.

Personally I use name based virtual hosts for the most part because they are easy and you can use one IP address. The only bad thing about name based virtual hosts that I can think of off the top of my head is that if you want to set up SSL (https) for more than one virtual host you have to use the same SSL certificate for each of them. In order to be able to use a unique SSL certificate for each of your virtual hosts you *MUST* use IP based virtual hosts. This is something that isn't well documented.

Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 3:44 pm
by worker201
Address based virtual hosts. Hmmmm. That sounds about right.

The only real goal, of course, is to mess around. Learn about managing networks and name serving and certificates and address resolution and all that good stuff, but without having to buy a whole farm of computers.

Sometimes not enough

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 9:37 am
by kovax
I feel the same way. I have been on the job marker and some positions that I have interviewed for are looking for the Linux skill set. I can build one, use one configure one. but the experience that I have is just not enough. I started in WindoZe and learned SOME Linux. Then jumped to Solaris and AIX. To me that are a lot alike. I also think that if you know ONE really good you should be pretty comfortable in the others.
I came from a shop that was 80 Solaris and 15 VMWARE and 5 Linux.

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:26 am
by Calum
it seems to me like knowing somebody in a department, and getting some hands on experience is the way to go.

sadly i don't.

i've actually stopped doing my degree since i am disillusioned with the whole computer career thing. might just do some other courses and get a not-named degree in general stuff.