Happy New Year - What's Ahead?

by Tom Adelstein

Are you glad that New Year only occurs once a year? Who wants to look back and forward on the same day? It's inevitable, I suppose.

Lately, I have reflected a lot on my Linux career in contrast to other IT work and environments. Linux started in 1997 for me and encompassed about nine years. I have looked back and have looked forward to the year ahead. I certainly have plans and hope you do also. But before looking ahead at our plans, we might examine our personal history to give ourselves a context in which to view a future with full knowledge that the best laid plans often go astray.

Becoming a Linux Guy - The Past

I first fooled around with Linux in 1997 attempting to build a proxy server and firewall on a DEC Aptiva. Unfortunately, the firewall didn't work, but the team got an itch for Linux. At the time, Red Hat had a port for the Alpha 64.

Shortly afterward, I went to work as an ecommerce specialist designing and building web sites in a new practice group at an old main line firm. I came to that firm under a manager who knew little abut the web. In fact, she was attempting to have her staff learn how to build web sites.

The group built their web sites using MS servers and technologies. Luckily I found a Linux guy working in IT support and we started working on an ecommerce server. As the de facto practice manager, I had to leave after training the department and went to Cap Gemini as the ecommerce practice manager in my district.

The practice fell under the Advanced Technologies group nationally. As a PURE Microsoft shop, the IT director confiscated my Linux boxes and again I went away. On a contract for Gateway's ISP, I helped move the operation from Windows based servers to Linux and BSD under a partnership with UUNET.

My next project began as a consultant to Ericsson, a big UNIX shop with an openness to Linux. At the time, Ericsson's new CEO pushed the company from their own mainframes and email system to MS Exchange, forgetting that 30% of his user base used Solaris. Seeing the chaos created by the email switch, I saw a niche: Building a UNIX clone of Outlook for Solaris.

That's when I started a Linux shop and began developing an Outlook clone using a CDO proxy. The first potential customers included Ericsson, Boeing and to my surprise Intel. The need existed and UNIX shops wanted the email client.

Eight years later, I found myself immersed in Linux and open source technology. In fact, O'Reilly gave me the chance to write for them : Two books, articles, a blog and used me to contribute to other books including "Running Linux version 5". As of this writing, my most recent book, "Linux System Administration" (LSA) is in production and due for a March release. One motivation I had for writing LSA came from some suggestions that I could write but had little technical ability. I'm grateful to O'Reilly for letting me help power users and administrations from all walks of life learn to build and administer various Linux servers.

The Future

If you read my previous post, then you already know what's on my mind. I'm over the top with curiosity about enterprise infrastructures in the market today. I recently had an opportunity to function in a very large mixed Novell-Microsoft shop.

Back to my latest O'Reilly book. The final Linux System Administration manuscript hit the editors desk in October. As tech review commenced, I found myself with little to do, except baby sit some web sites. I wanted a challenge.

Luckily for me, Dallas has a remarkable Community College district. I chose to attend the downtown campus and take courses to re-certify as a MSP. The courses taught have very little exam cramming. In fact, they actually teach the technology. I wanted to see how far MS has gone since my NT 4.0 days.

I already have a Bachelor's from a major school and did post-graduate work, so getting an associates looked like an OK thing to do, but may or may not happen depending on how far I want to take this thing.

DCCCD has the most affordable courses I could find. The downtown facility, El Centro, has the most advanced and largest labs I have seen anywhere. I had a lot of choices as far as certifications from the IBM iSeries, Cisco, UNIX, MS and other Academies. I took advantage of the labs. The lack of knowledge about the campus downtown amused me. I often asked myself why those huge organizations in downtown Dallas hadn't flooded El Centro and its massive facilities with employees wanting to increase their skill sets.

If you attend El Centro, you can use the Dallas Area Transit System for free and I rode the train. It takes about eight minutes to go from my house to the station. My stop is less than a block from the campus.

The two instructors I had not only knew MS but were Linux guys too. One incorporated Red Hat into his practice and the other was in the middle of a Netware conversion to SUSE. They made enough comparisons to keep me interested. When the semester ended I enrolled in two additional courses and plan to attend more starting in January.

Does this mean I'm deserting the Linux world? I'm not sure. It may mean I immerse myself in some new frontiers. I have to take A+ and N+ courses to qualify for an associates. I've built dozens, maybe hundreds of my own desktops and servers since the early 1990's. Every certification I pass gives me 4 hours of credit toward another degree. That's face time I don't have to have. I don't even know if I need an associates since I already have that bachelors from a major university and post-graduate hours in courses closely aligned to Information Systems. But then, an associates might have some fun attached to it.

I'm not deserting Linux. I still have my job building and administering web sites and services. I just set up a co-hosted server running Debian. And while we shut down five Linux servers out on the Internet, we have more coming up.

So, I have planned for 2007, but then again few things go according to plans. The main thing for me involves making plans and having dreams and aspirations. I happen to have those in an area I would have criticized not too long ago. If the future is open as the O'Reilly team says, then I am open to the future.

Happy New Year!