[colug-432] the /etc test

tom thomas.w.cranston at gmail.com
Mon Jul 21 17:21:17 EDT 2014

On 07/21/2014 03:34 PM, Rick Troth wrote:
> Pronounced "the etsy test".
> On 07/21/2014 12:26 PM, Scott Merrill wrote:
>> I recently learned that someone who I consider to be a competent Linux
>> sysadmin had never personally installed Linux.  In his professional
>> life, that was a task always performed by a different team.
> Most shocking for me was to find at one shop that "systems 
> programmers" in one group did not know programming. To be specific, 
> they did not know the primary developmental language of that system. 
> This knowledge was historically a requirement. (True, one can go far 
> with Linux and not know C from the alphabet. But here was almost like 
> not knowing command entry.)
> There's a spectrum of capability ... along several axis. Point taken, 
> Scott. There's also a problem of elitism, even snobbery.
> But
> the need to bring people up to speed is real and serious. (Crypto 
> crises are just the low hanging fruit for opportunistic journalists. 
> Other forms of system security follow closely, and RAS (reliability, 
> availability, serviceability) aspects will become critical.)
> In job A, I learned about the /etc test.
> In job B, I tried to apply it. Didn't go well.
> In job A, the Unix team hired a PhD student who was ostensibly a Unix 
> heavy. Guy's working on a doctorate so he's not suffering from lack of 
> basic brains, and he'd been *on* the Unix systems for months. But they 
> had to let him go after just a week. It was embarrassing and painful. 
> Somehow he passed the interview only to fall flat with real work. What 
> happened?
> Looking for a sharper edge, someone on that team hit upon "the /etc 
> test". The idea was ...
>     cd /etc
>     ls
>     "tell me what each of these is used for"
> It's a Kobayashi Maru. You're going to fail. Something in the range of 
> files will be outside your domain of knowledge. But the intent (of the 
> interviewers) was to see how far you get. (And maybe also see how you 
> handle the unknowns.)
> In job B, I was allowed to be part of the interviewing panel. As if 
> candidates were not intimidated enough, I threw in the /etc test. 
> Once. We hired that candidate, and she was terrific, an excellent 
> engineer/admin. But she let us know with certainty (after joining the 
> team) that "the /etc test" was a bad idea (in her not so humble opinion).
> I've mentioned the /etc test a few times since then.
> -- R; <><
> _______________________________________________
> colug-432 mailing list
> colug-432 at colug.net
> http://lists.colug.net/mailman/listinfo/colug-432
I'm not system admin material, but am curious:

acpi                    dictionaries-common    iproute2 
networks          selinux
adduser.conf            dkms                   issue newt              
adjtime                 dm                     issue.net 
nsswitch.conf     sensors.d
alternatives            dnsmasq.d              java-7-openjdk 
obex-data-server  services
anacrontab              doc-base               kbd openal            sgml
apg.conf                dpkg                   kernel opt               
apm                     drirc                  kernel-img.conf 
os-release        shadow-
apparmor                emacs                  kerneloops.conf 
pam.conf          shells
apparmor.d              environment            ldap pam.d             
apport                  firefox                ld.so.cache 
papersize         skel
apt                     firefox-3.0            ld.so.conf 
passwd            sound
at-spi2                 firefox-3.5            ld.so.conf.d 
passwd-           speech-dispatcher
avahi                   fonts                  legal pcmcia            ssh
bash.bashrc             fstab                  libao.conf 
perl              ssl
bash_completion         fstab.d                libaudit.conf 
pki               subgid
bash_completion.d       fuse.conf              libnl-3 pm                
bindresvport.blacklist  gai.conf               libpaper.d 
pnm2ppa.conf      subuid
blkid.conf              gconf                  libreoffice 
polkit-1          subuid-
blkid.tab               gdb                    lintianrc 
ppp               sudoers
bluetooth               ghostscript            linuxmint 
profile           sudoers.d
bonobo-activation       gimp                   locale.alias 
profile.d         sysctl.conf
brlapi.key              gnome                  localtime 
protocols         sysctl.d
brltty                  gnome-settings-daemon  logcheck 
pulse             systemd
brltty.conf             gnome-vfs-2.0          login.defs 
purple            terminfo
ca-certificates         groff                  logrotate.conf 
python            thunderbird
ca-certificates.conf    group                  logrotate.d 
python2.7         timezone
calendar                group-                 lsb-release 
python3           ts.conf
casper.conf             grub.d                 ltrace.conf 
python3.4         ucf.conf
chatscripts             gshadow                lvm rc0.d             udev
chromium-browser        gshadow-               magic rc1.d             
colord.conf             gtk-2.0                magic.mime 
rc2.d             ufw
ConsoleKit              gtk-3.0                mailcap rc3.d             
console-setup           hddtemp.db             mailcap.order 
rc4.d             update-motd.d
cracklib                hdparm.conf            manpath.config 
rc5.d             UPower
cron.d                  host.conf              mdm rc6.d             
cron.daily              hostname               mime.types 
rc.local          upstream-release
cron.hourly             hosts                  mke2fs.conf 
rcS.d             usb_modeswitch.conf
cron.monthly            hosts.allow            modprobe.d 
request-key.conf  usb_modeswitch.d
crontab                 hosts.deny             modules request-key.d     vim
cron.weekly             hp                     modules-load.d 
resolvconf        vtrgb
cups                    icedtea-web            mono resolv.conf       wgetrc
cupshelpers             ifplugd                mtab rmt               
dbus-1                  init                   mtab.fuselock 
rpc               wodim.conf
debconf.conf            init.d                 mtools.conf 
rsyslog.conf      wpa_supplicant
debian_version          initramfs-tools        nanorc rsyslog.d         X11
default                 inputrc                ndiswrapper 
samba             xdg
deluser.conf            insserv                netscsid.conf 
sane.d            xml
depmod.d                insserv.conf           network securetty         
dhcp                    insserv.conf.d         NetworkManager security

How much of the above should an average user know? How about a serious user?

This is from a fresh install of LinuxMint 17

I know the feeling about Job A. Human Resources usually hire the person 
that's best at jumping thru hoops. (not me) I knew a lady that ran a 
Human Resources company. She said it was really hard to determine who 
could actually do the job. I usually got the best jobs (in another 
field) by hiring on as a temp, and then the engineer had to have me 
hired. One time after that happened, the woman that ran Human Resources 
came and told me she would never had hired me. I told her that she was 
incompetent and that if it was my company I would fire her.


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