Feeling terribly inadequate

What's the value of my long cherished nitpicker knowledge advantage over the competition if it can be so casually crushed by advancing technology?
Written by Paul Murphy, Contributor
Last week was a horrible week in a self revelatory sort of way.

Zdnet has been running a series of Spyware Horror Stories and these things are obviously an important part of the community experience. Consider, for examples, this snippet from the second of 45 reader contributed cries of anguish currently on that site:


Almost instantaneously I received an alert from Norton 2005, and jumped back to view the desktop. A new icon for the software package I had just rejected had appeared. I'd been hit by a drive-by download. Every time I uninstalled the package and rebooted, the icon reappeared, again and again. I contacted a representative at Symantec, who told me to update Norton and scan again, and to disable System Restore. Nothing worked. I was surprised Norton's firewall let spyware onto my machine. After a week of Symantec offering various solutions that didn't work, I decided to reformat and reinstall.

Five hours of reinstalling software later, I thought my troubles were over. I was wrong. When I visited Google, pornographic images covered my browser page. I still don't know how the reformat didn't rid my computer of "Trojan.Downloader.IInstall".

According to the story his only solution was to buy a new hard drive and take a sledge to the old one - and apparently this isn't as unusual as sane people might expect.

But I've never experienced anything like this; I mean, I don't even have a registry or an x86 processor and can't begin to imagine putting up with this kind of thing - so how can I pretend to work in IT when I haven't shared what must surely be the formative experience in the community?

And, speaking of formative experiences, I've been looking at the business implications that go with ZFS and now it turns out that switching the database host to Solaris with ZFS is often cheaper, faster, and more permanent than educating systems and database admins to NAT risks, switch effects, and things like the dubious joys of dsync and vstart (for Sybase/AIX), using ODM (Oracle/HP-UX), or silently deleting Oracle's Automatic Storage [mis]Manager.

(One of the counter-intuitive gotcha's here is that ZFS isn't as fast as Solaris/UFS for applications requiring many small, more or less randomly located, writes to lots of partitioned disks - i.e. typical RDBMS loads. However, it gets relatively faster with large dedicated disks, faster yet if you sync RDBMS and ZFS block sizes, and fastest if you can arrange to keep per controller request queues short. i.e. don't run logs over the same controller as DBMS writes or reads and always populate your pool from whole disks. On net you get rough parity with UFS on the same hardware/Solaris combination, but no hassle, fewer accessible "tunables" for people to mess up, and serious improvement relative to something like HP-UX with VxVM on year old hardware - particularly if that older system has benefited from several go-rounds with tuning expertise.)

It used to be that I worried about the morality of billing clients for undoing the RDBMS tuning expertise inflicted on them by their own staff and Oracle's consultants, when buying more memory generally offered a cheaper, longer lasting, performance gain - and now it's often actually cheaper for them to switch hardware than to educate their own people or hire me to help them. Great for them, but what's the value of my long cherished nitpicker knowledge advantage over the competition if it can be so casually crushed by advancing technology?

Of course when it comes to technology, there's crushed and there's crushed. In one of those inflictive coincidences, I happened to be reading this bit from David Frum's NRO blog when my wife called about a kernel panic caused by Cisco's VPN client on her Mactel:


Do any of NRO's readers have a close knowledge of Microsoft's Foldershare program? It's a mostly excellent program that synchs files across different computers, but it is prone to erratic misconduct and Microsoft provides no technical support. I've had some weird glitches in its interactions with my Mac computers and am hoping that one of you might have some bright ideas as to how to solve the problem. Sorry to impose my personal woes, but I have learned that NRO's readers collectively know everything.

The right answer for both: uninstall, and quickly - but that raises a disturbing question: these people are extremely bright and competent; yet they keep setting aside all the evidence they have from years of contrary experience and trusting stuff that generally doesn't work to work for them.

Why do they do this? and, more to the point, what's wrong with me? Why am I seemingly immune to whatever mental illness it is that afflicts them?

And then there's identity management - more like a deformative experience than a formative one, I think. As regular readers know I tend to prefer Solaris/SPARC solutions as generally simpler and more reliable than others, but identity management is a glaring exception. Sun's identity management stuff looks to me like, well, to put it nicely, a half dozen first drafts slung together by an angry drunk hyped on java -meaning that to make it work at a realistic scale you need to first train yourself to herd rutting cats during a snowstorm.

After pawing at this stuff for some time I've come to the humiliating conclusion that it will take me months to learn to get this working in a hour or two - and then it will last only until the next time Microsoft decides to update a few randomly chosen clients.

What's truly upsetting, however, is that I've gradually come to believe that Novell has the goods here - and nobody else does. Who knew? not me, anyway.

Oh well, the corner gas station has a hiring sign out, maybe I'll apply.

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