Hate to say it, but thats hard!

Posted on September 11, 2007

When we understand to our satisfaction how something works and we can do it quickly we say “Thats easy.” It may or not be easy for anyone else, but in your mind it is. The converse is true, when something just doesn’t make sense or seems to take more work than you think it should we say “Thats hard.” As SysAdmin’s we are eager to say the the former and embarrassed to say the latter. General this embarrassement gives way to frustration and anger, and if we didn’t like whatever it is in the first place we just say that its stupid or poorly designed. Given that, theoretically, a sysadmins job is to use and implement technology, not to re-engineer it, our frustrations usually have more merit than vendors give us credit. The reality is that our jobs are too often about decrypting technology and there are two parties to blame: engineering (for not making it simpler in the first place) and techpubs (for not explaining plainly how to use the damn thing).

Within Solaris this epic struggle between engineering and techpubs is easy to see. My favorite example is network configuration in Solaris… its actually very elegant and well designed, but its counter-intuitive to most people, so bad bad tech pubs. Another example is ndd, its just crap, its difficult to use and easy to make mistakes, so bad bad engineering. Sometimes it comes down in the middle, such as Resource Control… different commands, funky syntax, no way to just dump out “here are my settings!” without digging through piles of man pages and mailing lists.

Given the option of re-engineering it or writing better docs, the latter is much easier to do and less time consuming. And thus, I ask….

What do you feel is “hard” in Solaris? What are those things you think you should understand but never really have?

I’ll admit that I struggled heavily with RBAC, with resource control, with auditing, and honestly I still can’t make any sense out of extended accounting. Even those of us who are called “guru’s” have plenty of weak spots, and that shouldn’t be supprising to anyone, Solaris is a really, really big operating system, as is any UNIX system.

So, have at it… what is too hard? With a good list those of us in the OpenSolaris Docs community can target our efforts to make the world a slightly better place to live and work in.