Tag Archives: professional

So, you wanna be a photographer? →

A great illustrated explanation of what being a photographer means.

I see the word “professional” thrown around a lot when it comes to photography, and while I like getting paid for stuff I enjoy doing as much as the next guy, photography is somewhat unique in that it has enough mass appeal (and is now accessible and easy enough) for anyone to pick up a camera and start going for it.

Making money, though, and doing so sustainably, is another matter entirely.

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Das Keyboard (Model S Professional Silent)

If there’s something interesting about humanity, it’s that people want better products. Products that not only satisfy some kind of need, but do it in a way that’s better than anything else on the market. From swanky coffee machines and Herman Miller chairs, all the way through to Apple products and whatever else you care to name, these kinds of products command premium price tags and claim to offer better experiences. And now, even the humble keyboards has joined this cohort.

This desire for premium products that offer better experiences than their lesser-priced counterparts begs the question: wouldn’t you want a better typing experience, if you could have it? If you’re going to spend long hours typing things into a computer, wouldn’t you want a better input mechanism for that input?

The thing is, you can. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the loudest, most obnoxious keyboard you’ll ever use: the mechanical keyboard.

A little while ago I picked up the Das Keyboard Model S Professional Silent, a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches (more on this later). It’s a mechanical keyboard designed for PCs, even though my primary usage is with a Mac (again, more on this later), and it offers a fantastic typing experience. As well as having the distinction of the most expensive keyboard I’ve ever owned, it also carries a far more prestigious title:

It’s the best keyboard I ‘ve ever owned.

The first thing you have to understand about the Das Keyboard series of mechanical keyboards is that they are big black monoliths. They can easily take over your desk if you give them the chance, and these days even my 27″ Dell UltraSharp looks smaller by comparison. From what I can tell, most of the Das keyboards sport more or less the same design: they’re big, black, and, for the most part, have glossy surfaces with matte black keys. The Professional series of their keyboards feature the labelled, laser-etched keys, while the Ultimate series simply have blank keys.

As for physical dimensions, the Das isn’t overly huge. Generously sized, perhaps, but not overly huge. They’re a few centimetres longer than the Apple aluminium keyboard with numeric numpad, my previous keyboard, but nothing too extreme. You probably won’t notice the extra length unless you have a tiny desk, or have some kind of aversion to innuendo in seemingly innocuous keyboard reviews.

Overall, the build quality of the Das is good. It feels incredibly solid, and seeing as it weights in at 1.36 kilos, this is the kind of keyboard that would make a nice impression on someone’s head, if it were to be used in that fashion. I probably wouldn’t recommend it, though — for one, you would definitely be kissing your warranty goodbye. Alternatively, if you’re one to fall asleep at your keyboard, I’m sure the keys will make a lovely impression on your forehead.

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There are two sides to every story…

…and as such, two sides of every coin.

If you missed my post about why professional IT is going down the drain, hit it up here. It’s highly recommended for what I’m about to say, because then you’ll know what I’m actually talking about.

However, it is the length of a small essay, so I’ll provide the executive summary here:
Professional IT is going down the toilet because the “professionals” aren’t – they’re mindless, spineless robots who don’t diversify themselves into many different IT fields, choosing to instead specialise (and then even barely) in one particular field, one vendor, one solution. When faced with a challenge, they recommend their one and only solution, backing away from everything they’re unfamiliar with – even if the unknown could be a far better solution than their “tried and true” solution.

BUT! There is one problem – we’re only looking at one side of the equation, coin, story. We know that the IT professionals are becoming less and less professional – but why?

Well, I have the answer.

It’s you.

It’s probably not me, but it is the people that put huge demands on their respective IT professional.

I know a person that is an awesome guy – nice to hang with, has good morals, etc – but he does work in IT. He is also damn good at his job. Over the last couple of months though, I’ve seen that even though the quality of his work hasn’t deteriorated, his attitude towards it has.

You might be asking yourself how you’re the problem. Well, end-users are now expecting so much of people in the IT industry – to me, we’re becoming an increasingly selfish culture who only see ourselves as the centre of the universe.

Everything, all the time, is about “Me, Me Me!”, and it doesn’t matter that there is a queue for services, or that there are other matters to be attended to before people can deal with your problem. People aren’t seeing the big picture – in the grand scheme of things, you don’t matter.

Maybe this is turning into a rant, but even worse is when end-users like you complain bitterly about the service you’ve received. I mean, what the hell, man! We’re trying to help you, and the thanks we get is “I iz gonna call the [insert security organisation/complaints department of choice here] on your ass!“? Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather not serve you next time – and I’m sure my colleagues feel the same way.

Judging by the reactions of some people who have lost years of data because they [stupidly] never backed up and were “surprised” by a massive hard drive failure (it happens, trust me, it happens), then it’s no wonder professional IT is going down the drain! Seriously, calm down and while you’re thinking about your precious data that we’ve inadvertently lost, think about how it’s all your fault. These kinds of failures, while rare, can happen and are totally preventable. To this end, I’m issuing a community service announcement: back the hell up. If it’s important to you, back it up. At a bare minimum, back up anything you’ve created yourself, eg all your school documents, essays, presentations, spreadsheets. If in doubt, back it up.

I apologise. Once again, I digress. Getting back on topic, my awesome friend now has a horrible attitude towards work, and it’s all the end-users fault. I once had some other people I know consider suing some computer shop just because they lost their data – this was after they had signed a contract saying that that computer store wasn’t responsible for their data, as they shouldn’t have been. If you’re thinking of trusting your data to anyone else, even those “automated backup” software, don’t. It’s not a good idea to leave your data in someone else’ hands, much less a money grabbing company!

AH! What is with me and backups! Right, getting back on topic, again: My anonymous friend now doesn’t care. He’s completely indifferent to your continual issues with your printer, scanner, and Windows. He just doesn’t care – he’s being paid to fix your problems, but that doesn’t mean he cares.

Personally, I think that’s a rubbish attitude to have, especially in IT. Apple Genii don’t get their jobs by not wanting to help people! Sure, there is a fine difference between not caring and wanting to help. In IT, you could do your job even if you didn’t care. You could still be awesome at your job and not care. However, you wouldn’t excel at your job.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you care or not.

Comments below.

Is this me?

Probably. Maybe. It definitely could be.

This post is going to be a little long, so I’ll cut out as much of the crap as I can. That being said, read on.

I was reading an article the other day on the internet. I’ll just list it here verbatim:

I make a living as a sysadmin. What does that mean, to be a sysadmin? Well, where I come from it means knowing a lot. It means knowing how to config routers and networking equipment, it means advanced firewalling, DNAT, SNAT, it means knowing how to do traffic sniffing and deciphering packet-level information, it means knowing how to build and configure common services like SMTP/IMAP/POP/mail via a dozen different pieces of software on three different families of operating systems, it means knowing how to build clusters for high availability and high performance, it means knowing when to use CIFS, NFS, SMB, GFS and when not to and what the difference is between them all, it means knowing how to configure iSCSI, fibre channel, SANs, direct and non-direct storage, it means knowing SQL and getting information out of databases, it means knowing how to program in a dozen different languages and how to script and automate events in any OS to make life easier, it means understanding authentication and security settings, how to configure any directory service from LDAP to AD to NIS, it means understanding DNS is more than just a optional addon to look up system names occasionally, it means understanding encryption, knowing what terms like Diffie Hellman, AES, SHA1 and others mean, and what parts of the encryption process they apply to, it means being able to make everything you do completely redundant and fault tolerant, right down to you own job, and it means so much more.


Why is it that professional IT services today consist of service reps who tell you the things you are doing are untested, dangerous, unsupported, different, not usual, or a host of other words meaning they are scared shitless and unwilling to learn something new? Why is it that I spend my time building things people tell me for 6 months during build and test “will never work”, only to have them go into production and work ten times faster for one tenth the cost of the old system? Why is it that IT professionals today choose brand labels over intelligence, and post-justify it by hiding behind “board confidence” when providing a solid, working, profitable system is the best thing to boost confidence from the board?


And every time I leave, I hear the same things. Some new guy comes in to replace me. Within days/weeks he’s broken something necessary for production, lost terabytes of data, destroyed the backup/DR/recovery systems, spent hundreds of thousands replacing something that met the businesses’ every need with some proprietary/generic piece of rubbish that performs half as well when there were dozens of other things that could have been improved instead. And all because they didn’t take the time to understand the business, it’s needs, and the solutions currently in place.


The hardware is provided by a tier 1, namebrand hardware provider (number 2 worldwide in server sales, I hear). The support guys who come on site are paid absolute buckets of cash and are supposedly the best of the best. These guys come out and utterly bollocks up installs. They constantly tell you things are impossible to achieve, only to stare slack-jawed in amazement three weeks later when they are achieved and working faster than their setups were supposed to provide. They rant and spit when I build things for zero-dollar licensing cost that their multi-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollar hardware is supposed to be the only stuff that can do the job (my latest GFS/CLVM cluster outperforms their SAN snapshotting, and is free of charge compared to their pay-a-license-per-snapshot “solution”). And of course, their golden trump card is to say “well that’s fine, but we don’t support it” when you offend them. Watch the CIOs scramble when their hardware vendors threaten to not offer support! Yet ask them when they last called on the “professional” support (other than simple break/fix/replace stuff), and most can’t answer.


So when did this happen? When did “the IT guy” turn from the person who was cross trained with the breadth and depth of knowledge across a wide variety of systems and procedures turn into a drivelling half-wit who sees more value in a commercial certification than actually learning and building things, and who decides to be “the Microsoft guy” or “the UNIX guy” or “the Cisco guy” and learns nothing but one brand-name item to the ignorance of all others, and often poorly because they can’t separate concepts and ideas from brand names and marketing acronyms?


I’ve had a gut full. Something must come of this. The industry as a whole is in for a rude shock if it keeps going the way it does. We keep packing IT departments full of more people who know less. Things break constantly because unqualified people manage them, and departments stop communicating because the connecting technologies are always “somebody else’s problem”. The industry gets flooded with cowboys who have no concept of system and data integrity, who don’t take care with the systems they are put in charge of, who don’t bother securing things in a proper fashion so that data doesn’t leak everywhere. It’s almost a daily event to hear of some horrendously scary security breech that affects millions of innocent people who put their trust in these idiots.

Please not that these aren’t my words, but they do echo my thoughts. If you’re interested, and have an OCAU account, you can read the full thread here, otherwise check here for the full post.

Now, I’m not perfect when it comes to IT; my knowledge is the furthest from complete as it can possibly be.

Don’t get me wrong, I know, and have met people who are exactly like described above – those guys that say they can do “all that”, but in reality can do “none of the above”. On the other hand, there are people I know who aren’t like that. Chris is one of those people. Sure, he can be the slackest person ever when it comes to paying people back, or writing blog posts, but like any good Linux user, he lives and dies by his man pages. If there’s something he doesn’t know about, he’ll probably “wiki” it, or use the Google machine. Mark my words, he’ll become of the those people who know absolutely everything about absolutely anything – and I wish him the best of luck. Better him than me…

There was a situation at work where a UNIX jockey (or who I assume to be a UNIX jockey) came in and asked about getting a Mac. He was relieved to know about the support of X11, the BSD subsystem, the Terminal and all that, but it all started whether he could install a GNOME or KDE environment on it in place of Aqua. I was a little shocked that you would want to do that, but recovered a little by saying that I’m sure you could (or at least hack it so that it worked), but I’m not sure why you would. That was all fine and good, and being the Linux user that I once was, I was pretty confident I could handle the rest of his questions. One for one. Not bad.

His next question was comparatively easy; can I compile my own apps using the GNU C Compiler? Well, yeah, Apple include GCC as part of Xcode, and I’ve even compiled wget (not included by default on OSX) from scratch and installed it on my system. However, there are restrictions: you can’t install whatever version of GCC you like; Apple dictate what version you can and can’t install officially. I also added in that there would be nothing stopping you from installing the version of GCC provided by Apple, and then compiling your own version of GCC from scratch – however this would probably cause untold mayhem and mess. Two for two. Still going strong…

Then he threw me a curveball – he asked me which libraries X11 was built against, and which libraries that BSD subsystem of OSX shipped with. Of course, I had no idea and responded by saying that Apple generally don’t release that kind of documentation (although I’m not too sure about that) as they’re running a closed source scheme. This is where I tripped up a little – sure, the info he was asking for was a little technical, and not out of my reach, but surely I wasn’t expected to rattle off each and every single library that Apple ships with their OS? Surely not. However, I definitely could have (and was capable of) finding out this information beforehand. Why didn’t I? Primarily because I don’t want to memorise crap for the sake of memorising crap, but really – if you’re that dependent on some special library, install GCC and compile it yourself!

This is how I’ve become that “drivelling half-wit who sees more value in a commercial certification than actually learning and building things, and who decides to be” … the Mac guy … “and learns nothing but one brand-name item to the ignorance of all others.” That’s me!

As a closing thought just to make myself feel better, there was another scenario at work where I had stuffed up. Yeah, it happens. Anyways, that affected my confidence for a bit. After a few weeks of under-performance and general moping, I decided to talk to someone at work who knew his stuff. I approached him with my concerns, and he basically said that I do alright for how old I am, and it didn’t matter that I stuffed up ‘cos it was a problem that was easily fixed. After that, I felt a little better.

There’s this other guy at work who “expects brilliance, all the time” from Will and I. He’s a fantastic guy – making it clear what he expects, and what he doesn’t expect. When I don’t know how to solve something, he isn’t disappointed – he knows what I’m capable of. He’s a good guy.

The point is, if you’re thinking of going into IT, don’t be like “that UNIX guy” who know everything about UNIX and nothing about anything else, or “that Mac guy” who knows everything about Mac and nothing about anything else. Read your man pages. Study hard. Sure, worry about your final CCNA exam, but at the end of the day, it’s just a qualification that looks damned good on your resume.

Not that that’s important or anything 🙄

Comments below. Apologies for the long post, hope it was worth your time.