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  Unix: Modern operating system carefully crafted to prevent administrators from shooting themselves in the foot[1].

[1] Interestingly, most utilities have a command line option which will cause the system to rip the user's legs off and beat them to death with the soggy ends. This is often the default behaviour.

Bruce Murphy

The consequences of any action are never be fully understood until after it's too late to do anything about it.

Eric The Read

If all you have is an axe, every problem looks like hours of fun.

Frossie

"Unix for Dummies" is surely a single page pull out with "don't" printed on it.

Unknown

First of all, rephrasing Oscar Wilde, stupidity is rarely pure and never simple. Reasons for disastrous blunders vary but in many cases they are more like a result of unique confluence of circumstances then purely voluntary blunder of sysadmin.

Sometime trying to meet tight deadline  (and being exhausted), or in the situation when "nothing works" ( and being frustrated) people mechanically (on "autopilot") type wrong, but similar command as if part of the brain functions autonomously from the rest ( for example mkfs.ext3 instead of fsck.ext3; or /etc instead of etc) and instantly recognize the blunder, but after hitting Enter key. One  simple recommendation is to make hitting Enter key providing a prompt in "fishy" circumstances but writing wrappers for such commands as rm, chown, reboot and like.; Another typical source of blunders is using find -exec option without sufficient testing under time pressure. Hurry slowly is one of the saying that are very true for sysadmin. Sometimes your emotional state contribute to the problems: you didn’t have much sleep or your mind was distracted by your personal life problems. In such days it is important to slow down and be extra cautious.

Often some stupid mistake is complicated by the subsequent attempt of  cover-up as it is too embarrassing to admit the real cause of the problem.  Users and fellow sysadmins are usually good at breaking stuff by ''changing nothing'', ''touching nothing'' or even "doing nothing'"...  Commands like rm -rf, chown -r, chmod -r, kill -9, and shutdown/reboot/halt  troika often play nasty tricks with people only peripherally acquainted with Unix but for some reason who are given root access. 

If I had to hire a Unix sysadmin, the first thing I'd look for is experience.  Nothing can substitute for real-life experience in this field and often the way to acquire it are living through some really nasty situations. In Army jargon  a bad situation, mistake, or cause of trouble often is called SNAFU.  Here is one interesting example:

... My friend was forced to work with some sysadmins who didn't have their act together.  One day, one of them was "cleaning" the filesystem and saw a file called "vmunix" in /. "Hmm, this is taking up a lot of space - let's delete it".  "rm /vmunix".

My friend had to reinstall the entire OS on that machine after his coworker did this "cleanup".  Ahh, the hazards of working with sysadmins who really shouldn't be sysadmins in the first place.

Few more examples from the Unofficial Unix Administration Horror Story Summary:

Typos in the commands with disastrous consequences are rare, but pressing Enter before checking the command can lead to a real SNAFU:

 

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News

[Jul 08, 2010] OT SysAdmin Stories

Under the category of "learn from the mistake of others..."

About eight years ago, I was working on a program with tight deadlines. I'd worked through the night, only catching an hour or two of sleep in the office.

The next morning, one of the servers remounted it's file systems read-only. Being a small shop, I decided to just take the server down to run a quick fsck.ext2. In my sleepiness though, I typed 'mkfs.ext2'.

When people say that "root" is god, well, no one asks god "Are you sure?".

===

All nighters are bad news, mistakes are easily made at these times as
we have all learnt the hard way ;)

*cough* erased the backups and spent the night re-backing up data so
nothing actually got done *cough*

I do remember spending a few days putting together some systems check
for my self and my colleague to use such as daily, weekly and monthly
systems checks for all IT aspects (physical, virtual, power,
redundancy, connectivity etc...) only to have something fail the next
day (so it really paid off!) and then nothing has broken since?...Just
goes to show you never know!

Also recently upgraded my personal Ubuntu server to a RAID 6 from a
RAID 5 (about a week ago) and now it looks like one of the drives is
dying, again, just in time!

--
Regards,
James.

http://www.jamesbensley.co.cc/

There are 10 kinds of people in the world; Those who understand
Vigesimal, and 9 others...?

===

Does this go to show the value of preparedness? Or does it illustrate the
power of luck? Or some intersection? I've often been lucky about when and
how stuff breaks down. And I've known people with what looked like real
computer jinxes. On the one hand, you never want to just trust your luck. On
the other, if luck can be involved, could it be that the profession selects
for those who have it?

Whit

===

I think Whit you have raised some deeper questions maybe about
probability, sod's law, the uncertanty principle, karma, etc
etc...Maybe a venn diagram covering luck and preparedness is in order,
who knows, we/I am digressing....

I would like to point out that at home I'm pretty sure I'm jinxed; my
ubuntu server has decided X ins't going to work any more, nor the
sound (may be related) and the raid is dying, all on the same
day?!?!?!

--
Regards,
James.

http://www.jamesbensley.co.cc/

There are 10 kinds of people in the world; Those who understand
Vigesimal, and 9 others...?

===

Way back in the stone age, I was a sys admin at my university, working the graveyard (i.e., backup) shift two days a week and an occasional Sunday. On Sundays, we did the full backup and restore, but we switched out the disk packs (I said this was a long time ago) so we never lost more than a week's worth of data at the time. Well, almost never....

My last Sunday there, I accidentally reinitialized all the disks after the backup but before I had switched them. Then, I realized what I did, switched them anyway, and reinitialized them again, then did a full restore.

Everything would have been fine if the file system hadn't crashed that Friday afternoon....

This was on a Xerox Sigma 7 (I'm dating myself).

UNIX horror story: 24 years ago, I was working on a development system (i.e., nothing critical on it) and my latest build didn't work the way I expected, so I erased it with an 'rm -rf *' - except that I was in the root directory at the time, not my build directory. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too far gone to recover, so I wound up reinstalling the whole system.

No harm done (I did things like that sometimes on purpose, when it was *my* machine involved), but I don't do 'rm -rf' of anything any more without double-checking where I am FIRST, even if the default "-v" is set.

(unsigned confession) ===

I had quite simmilar experience, but I typed `chown -R user:group' /
(instead of ./). Now I'm also checking it for few times and I learned to
use `.' instead of `./', :)

--
Dominik Zyla

[Jun 26, 2010] Non-sysadmin related but pretty amusing story about some wrong assumptions ;-)

A carpet layer had just finished installing carpet for a lady. He stepped out for a smoke, only to realize he’d lost his cigarettes. He went back in and in the middle of the room, under the carpet, was a bump. “No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” he said to himself. He got out his hammer and flattened the hump.

As he was cleaning up, the lady came in. “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway.”

“Now,” she said, “If only I could find my parakeet.”

[Jun 21, 2010] Memorable Quotes from Alt.Sysadmin.Recovery

Markus



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