Linux Training : 5. Preparing for IT Work

After completing the beginning Linux training, we can set you up to begin working with the servers.  However, there is some additional information you need to cover before you can start.


Students should be familiar with ITWeb, including:

  • Adding a new computer (and when a computer gets a new entry versus uses an existing entry)
  • Adding an interface and IP
  • Adding CNames (Comma separated) and Hostname (Only 1!!)
    • Why this is important and how it affects DHCP/DNS
  • Adding components, creating new components
  • Searching existing computers
  • Equipment checkout


Configure your RT account to manage tickets. RT Instructions


Add the student's email to Nagios and configure him to receive alerts.

Have the student create an email filter for Nagios alerts, but explain the importance of actually reading the alerts.

Show the student the Nagios web page and how to

  • Schedule Downtime
  • Disable alerts
  • Add new alert

General Knowledge

Know what is contained under General and Policies and Procedures so that you can refer back to them when you have questions.

Things you should know about the IT Lab:

  • When boxes come in put the packing slips in the bin
  • People aren't supposed to stop you in the hallway to ask you stuff.  If they do, ask them to put in an RT ticket.  If you're in the hallway you're probably doing something else.  If they come by the office you can put an RT ticket in on their behalf.

There are only 3 rules to the IT lab.

  1. No open computers in the office.  That's why we have the workroom.  If this situation changes and we have a combined workroom-office, don't keep open computers at your desk.
  2. Put your toys away.  Boxes that come in should be dealt with immediately and when you leave the datacenter your miscellaneous tools should be put back so other people can find them.  Generally leave the area cleaned up enough that your mother wouldn't be afraid to see it.
  3. Keep our infrastructure racks locked at all times when you're not actively working on them.


Ask questions!  If you're not asking questions you're doing it wrong.  The other members of the IT staff can provide longer explanations than what is contained in the WIKI pages and are a wealth of informal knowledge.

For simple questions, try looking it up first.  If you can't find it, we should consider adding it to the wiki.


Tips from people who have worked here longer than you have.

  1. Shadow people.  When someone with more technical knowledge leaves to fix a ticket, follow him.  You'll probably learn something good, even if it's informal knowledge.
  2. Remind us to let you drive.  Sometimes we do tasks because it's faster to do it ourselves but that's not right and you won't learn anything from that.
  3. Question what we do.  For many things we made a design decision in the past that may not be in line with current standards.  The reasons behind that may not exist now, or may not have ever existed.  If you think there's a better way to do it or if you just want to know why we did it that way, ASK!
  4. Call for help.  Don't be afraid to tell a user you don't know something and you have to check.  Don't try to fiddle too much when you know you're out of your league.  Recognize your limits.  You can use the pager system to contact Steven or Harris if they're inside and no one else is around.  Most of us also check our work email even if we're part-time.
  5. Try looking it up.  If you have what you feel is a fairly ordinary task but you don't know how to do it, make a note to document it.  This keeps our documentation up to date and lets you refer back to it later if you forget.  We used to have personal wiki pages for this but that's a bad spot for other people to search for.
  6. Ask for tasks.  For the first semester we'll task you most of the time, but there's still going to be times when we're too busy to notice you're out of work.  Ask for work; don't surf the net.
  7. Find work.  In the event that you don't ask, you can take initiative!
    1. RTs are a very good place for tasks.  If you ask us for a task we'd probably refer you to RT if we can't think of something quickly. Don't bite off something more than you can chew, but the tasks of moderate difficulty is where you can learn things.  You're getting paid to learn whereas next semester you'll be paying to learn.
    2. Service improvements are what we spend the majority of our time on.  If you think of something cool that we can offer, or a better way of managing something we do now (e.g. automation) ask us!  We'll probably say yes (time/cost not prohibiting) and you can do cool stuff.  The majority of your resume experience is going to be based off the cool stuff you figure out that you want to do.  Examples of previous "cool things": DRBD, VMWare, BackupPC, Sysprep for Mac.
    3. Technical Reading. That's how we pick up new technologies for (b).  There is a wealth of technical information online in journals and publications and even consumer blogs.  Recommendations: AnandtechBit-techHPCWire, Linux journals, etc.  FOOBAR INC can also purchase technical books on topics related to what you're doing.  If you're configuring a new service and there's a book out about it, we can buy it for the IT lab.