An amazing Novella by Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing: When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth ~ Ask The Admin

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

An amazing Novella by Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing: When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth is an amazing story that I could not put down and would like to recomend it to you on this holiday ( i was going to say weekend but its not). And any one into technology will feel the same way. It is an inspiration to the author in all of us! Check out the full version here

Great story - and its even greater that he made it available on the net for free! Check it out here is a piece of it:

He piloted the carinto the data-center lot, badging in and peeling up a blearyeyelid to let the retinal scanner get a good look at hissleep-depped eyeball.
He stopped at the machine to get himself a guarana/modafinilpower-bar and a cup of lethal robot-coffee in a spill-proofclean-room sippy-cup. He wolfed down the bar and sipped thecoffee, then let the inner door read his hand-geometry and sizehim up for a moment. It sighed open and gusted the airlock’s loadof positively pressurized air over him as he passed finally tothe inner sanctum.

When Felix's special phone rang at two in the morning, Kelly rolled over and punched him in the shoulder and hissed, "Why didn't you turn that fucking thing off before bed?"
"Because I'm on call," he said.
"You're not a fucking doctor," she said, kicking him as he sat on the bed's edge, pulling on the pants he'd left on the floor before turning in. "You're a goddamned systems administrator."
"It's my job," he said.
"They work you like a government mule," she said. "You know I'm right. For Christ's sake, you're a father now, you can't go running off in the middle of the night every time someone's porn supply goes down. Don't answer that phone."
He knew she was right. He answered the phone.
"Main routers not responding. BGP not responding." The mechanical voice of the systems monitor didn't care if he cursed at it, so he did, and it made him feel a little better.
"Maybe I can fix it from here," he said. He could login to the UPS for the cage and reboot the routers. The UPS was in a different netblock, with its own independent routers on their own uninterruptible power-supplies.
Kelly was sitting up in bed now, an indistinct shape against the headboard. "In five years of marriage, you have never once been able to fix anything from here." This time she was wrong—he fixed stuff from home all the time, but he did it discreetly and didn't make a fuss, so she didn't remember it. And she was right, too—he had logs that showed that after 1AM, nothing could ever be fixed without driving out to the cage. Law of Infinite Universal Perversity—AKA Felix's Law.
Five minutes later Felix was behind the wheel. He hadn't been able to fix it from home. The independent router's netblock was offline, too. The last time that had happened, some dumbfuck construction worker had driven a ditch-witch through the main conduit into the data-center and Felix had joined a cadre of fifty enraged sysadmins who'd stood atop the resulting pit for a week, screaming abuse at the poor bastards who labored 24-7 to splice ten thousand wires back together.
His phone went off twice more in the car and he let it override the stereo and play the mechanical status reports through the big, bassy speakers of more critical network infrastructure offline. Then Kelly called.
"Hi," he said.
"Don't cringe, I can hear the cringe in your voice."
He smiled involuntarily. "Check, no cringing."
"I love you, Felix," she said.
"I'm totally bonkers for you, Kelly. Go back to bed."
"2.0's awake," she said. The baby had been Beta Test when he was in her womb, and when her water broke, he got the call and dashed out of the office, shouting, 'The Gold Master just shipped!' They'd started calling him 2.0 before he'd finished his first cry. "This little bastard was born to suck tit."
"I'm sorry I woke you," he said. He was almost at the data center. No traffic at 2AM. He slowed down and pulled over before the entrance to the garage. He didn't want to lose Kelly's call underground.
"It's not waking me," she said. "You've been there for seven years. You have three juniors reporting to you. Give them the phone. You've paid your dues."
"I don't like asking my reports to do anything I wouldn't do," he said.
"You've done it," she said. "Please? I hate waking up alone in the night. I miss you most at night."
"I'm over being angry. I just miss you is all. You give me sweet dreams."
"OK," he said.
"Simple as that?"
"Exactly. Simple as that. Can't have you having bad dreams, and I've paid my dues. From now on, I'm only going on night call to cover holidays."
She laughed. "Sysadmins don't take holidays."
"This one will," he said. "Promise."
"You're wonderful," she said. "Oh, gross. 2.0 just dumped core all over my bathrobe."
"That's my boy," he said.
"Oh that he is," she said. She hung up, and he piloted the car into the data-center lot, badging in and peeling up a bleary eyelid to let the retinal scanner get a good look at his sleep-depped eyeball.
He stopped at the machine to get himself a guarana/medafonil power-bar and a cup of lethal robot-coffee in a spill-proof clean-room sippy-cup. He wolfed down the bar and sipped the coffee, then let the inner door read his hand-geometry and size him up for a moment. It sighed open and gusted the airlock's load of positively pressurized air over him as he passed finally to the inner sanctum.
It was bedlam. The cages were designed to let two or three sysadmins maneuver around them at a time. Every other inch of cubic space was given over to humming racks of servers and routers and drives. Jammed among them were no fewer than twenty other sysadmins. It was a regular convention of black tee-shirts with inexplicable slogans, bellies overlapping belts with phones and multitools.
Normally it was practically freezing in the cage, but all those bodies were overheating the small, enclosed space. Five or six looked up and grimaced when he came through. Two greeted him by name. He threaded his belly through the press and the cages, toward the Ardent racks in the back of the room.
"Felix." It was Van, who wasn't on call that night.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. "No need for both of us to be wrecked tomorrow."
"What? Oh. My personal box is over there. It went down around 1:30 and I got woken up by my process-monitor. I should have called you and told you I was coming down—spared you the trip."
Felix's own server—a box he shared with five other friends—was in a rack one floor down. He wondered if it was offline too.
"What's the story?"
"Massive flashworm attack. Some jackass with a zero-day exploit has got every Windows box on the net running Monte Carlo probes on every IP block, including IPv6. The big Ciscos all run administrative interfaces over v6, and they all fall over if they get more than ten simultaneous probes, which means that just about every interchange has gone down. DNS is screwy, too—like maybe someone poisoned the zone transfer last night. Oh, and there's an email and IM component that sends pretty lifelike messages to everyone in your address book, barfing up Eliza-dialog that keys off of your logged email and messages to get you to open a Trojan."
"Yeah." Van was a type-two sysadmin, over six feet tall, long pony-tail, bobbing Adam's apple. Over his toast-rack chest, his tee said CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON and featured a row of polyhedral RPG dice.
Felix was a type-one admin, with an extra seventy or eighty pounds all around the middle, and a neat but full beard that he wore over his extra chins. His tee said HELLO CTHULHU and featured a cute, mouthless, Hello-Kitty-style Cthulhu. They'd known each other for fifteen years, having met on Usenet, then f2f at Toronto Freenet beer-sessions, a Star Trek convention or two, and eventually Felix had hired Van to work under him at Ardent. Van was reliable and methodical. Trained as an electrical engineer, he kept a procession of spiral notebooks filled with the details of every step he'd ever taken, with time and date.
"Not even PEBKAC this time," Van said. Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. Email trojans fell into that category—if people were smart enough not to open suspect attachments, email trojans would be a thing of the past. But worms that ate Cisco routers weren't a problem with the lusers—they were the fault of incompetent engineers.
"No, it's Microsoft's fault," Felix said. "Any time I'm at work at 2AM, it's either PEBKAC or Microsloth."

Thanks Cory!

Karl L. Gechlik