Friday, March 4, 2011

In Threes

I was at a meeting today where we went around the room introducing ourselves. I don't actually have a title as of yet. I grit my teeth every time I'm called a "technician".

The reason is, the students who are taught to image the computers for the Manaiakalani project are called technicians.

So when it came to introducing myself... "I'm Nevyn and I'm a legend". I accompanied this with fists raised over my head.

I haven't quite figured out what I am. Hopefully I'm going to be admin based to a certain degree - being the point of call for any problems and diagnosing them enough to figure out who should be looking after the issue. I'm an Operating Environment architect. I'm a technical writer. I'm a developer. I'm helpdesk. Putting all of these things in to the overalls wearing title of "Technician" just grates on me.

Being all of these things though and having praise showered upon me (except in the form of a title) doesn't mean that I don't make mistakes. In fact, the last couple of days have seen some real doozys.

1. Diagramming
While I was writing up a flow chart for diagnosing networking problems, there was a certain point that I just wasn't happy with. By default Ubuntu allows you to switch users really quickly. What happens though is that you don't really switch users so much as start a new X (graphical) session under a different user. So both users are logged on at exactly the same time.

The problem here is that network-manager can only be controlled by one user at any time. So the first user gets control. The second doesn't have any control. And given that the guest account on the netbooks doesn't have a password, it's REALLY easy for the students to log in as guest by mistake and switch to their own account.

So in order to fix my diagram, I suddenly realised that I could probably just turn off that functionality. Logged on as guest? Log out and then log in as yourself. Done. Dusted.

Of course, the mistake is the fact that here I am trying to educate the users about the problem instead of just fixing it. Sorted now. For any Linux geeks out there, it's under gconf - /desktop/gnome/lockdown/disable_user_switching.

2. What running Linux really means
So the Micronesia trip has been on hold for a little while. This is because I just haven't been happy. I've been really concerned about the specifications for equipment I got so I've been trying to untangle the mess.

Anyway, I came across a brand of wireless gear that runs Linux - Ubiquiti Networks running something called AirOS. However, I didn't see the connection. What does running Linux on this gear really mean?

And this is really simple. It means that it's flexible. Normally horribly expensive bits of gear can be replaced with a bit of software. And while it might not be quite as efficient as a black box solution, it will only improve.

3. I don't want to talk about it
I kind of do, but I don't :/ Needless to say I find myself talking in expletives around this.

Do what you've always done and you'll get what you've always gotten.

So that's my 3. Hopefully those are all I'm going to find. I fixed up a networking problem in order to make a diagram look better. I delayed because I didn't make the connection that I needed to make. I did something I didn't specify.

Here's hoping this month is going to be a little better - though - I've realised just how much work there is for me to do.
  • Produce learning materials (desktop recordings - possibly to become part of the desktop image - and documentation).
  • I need to come up with a more modern desktop which is fully functional and doesn't cause users to grit their teeth (avant window navigator needs some lovin').
  • I need to start fixing a few things around software such as being able to turn off "networking" from the network manager applet and removing the facebook options from just about everything.
  • I need to form a functional relationship between myself and a bunch of the teachers using the netbooks as without these relationships they don't get the technical support that they're going to need.
  • But most of all, I need to stop and take stock, have a bit of a break, get rested and stop making such stupid mistakes.
  • I really need to find some sort of work/life balance. Going out on Wednesday night had me exhausted for the rest of the week.
So - take all of those points, prioritise them, discard the ones which are unlikely (like being able to stop for a bit) and get on with it.

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