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5 ways to ruin a sysadmin's day

Here are five sure-fire ways to ruin your favorite sysadmin's day.
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5 ways to ruin a sysadmin's day

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I don't subscribe to the notion that there's a "sysadmin brain," but there are a few things that really get under a sysadmin's skin. Sysadmins are generally very busy people and might appear to be curt, less-than-amused, or even rude at times. If you've ever heard the old saying, "Don't poke the bear," you should take heed. You have been warned.

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And, let me prepare you, should you commit one of these heinous violations, you should expect retribution in the subtlest of ways, such as having the offended sysadmin set a very short expiration time for your passwords, misspelling your home directory name, or directing all system spam to your email account. Revenge is a dish best served electronically. And sysadmins do it best.

Here are five things you might do to ruin your sysadmin's day that annoys them but are mostly harmless. Proceed with caution.

Start a Linux vs other operating systems discussion

Linux sysadmins are passionate about Linux. And, why shouldn't they be passionate about it? It is, after all, the best operating system ever created. See what I did there? If you want to ruin a sysadmin's day, say the opposite of that or disparage Linux in any way. Not only will you receive a litany of insults, rants, and passionate movie and song references, but you might also get a plateful of stale pizza bones* thrown at you.

Linux sysadmins are Linux sysadmins because they love Linux and probably not for any other reason. There are easier, less stressful jobs to have. Air Traffic Controller often comes to mind as one option. Seriously, ruining a sysadmin's day with anti-Linux dialogue is perhaps the best way to end your friendly relationship and to place you at the bottom of the service request queue.

Move their action figures

OK, so not every sysadmin on the planet has action figures cluttering, I mean enhancing, their cubicles, but a few certainly do. I hope you realize the absurdity of that last statement. Of course, every sysadmin on the planet does indeed have action figures carefully placed around their cubicles. It's a requirement. If there were ever a sysadmin who didn't have action figures, then they would quickly be escorted to the nearest exit.

There's a method to the placement of each figure too. Even housekeeping knows that nothing on a sysadmin's desk should ever be touched, no matter how much it looks like trash to everyone else. To truly gaslight your favorite sysadmin, switch any two action figures' locations. Or, switch some accessories such as a lightsaber, sword, magic potion bag, or other adornments from one figure to another. When the atomic expletive explosions begin, don't let them hear you laughing. The best method of deflecting blame from yourself is to immediately go to the farthest break room and return several minutes later to a panting, disheveled sysadmin who'll ask if you know anything about the criminal act that took place. It's possible that the ranting will continue for some time, perhaps even laced with threats of retribution if the culprit's identity is revealed.

Deplete the supply of their favorite beverage

It's no secret that sysadmins are hooked on caffeinated beverages. The occasional sysadmin will shun a totally caffeinated lifestyle for ice water, but that's certainly not normal. Whether it's fizzy lifting drinks or those horrible, trendy, and almost tasteless canned "healthy" French-sounding sparkling waters, you'd better not take the last one, or your favorite sysadmin will raise every entity out of Valhalla to torture the insolent perpetrator.

Should you appear within the offended sysadmin's periphery with the purloined beverage of interest, you'll no doubt hear a sullen and accusatory, "Where did you get that?" Your response should never be, "Oh, it was in the break room. I think it was the last one." And if you use a flippant, sing-songy voice when delivering that bad news, your friendly, neighborhood sysadmin might dissolve into a billion thirsty pixels.

Complain about something you can fix yourself

It's never too early in the week (I suggest Monday morning) for a dedicated sysadmin to hear about those little annoyances such as receiving email spam, experiencing a jammed printer, or creating a subdirectory in your home directory. Sysadmins love this kind of stuff, so go and explore their unlimited tolerance and perennial cheery attitudes by emailing, messaging, and texting your local sysadmin. Additionally, you should leave some sticky notes around their cubicles or on their computer screens to really drive home the point that you need assistance with something mundane.

Complain about something no one can fix

Once you've driven your sysadmin to the brink with your list of personal grievances, follow that with a volley of unsolvable issues that plague everyone and that no one can fix. For example, complain about your closed source, proprietary content management system that everyone hates. Tell the sysadmin that you wish you had something better, and then list all of the things that are broken in the software that they must support but have no control over. 

You can add a little spice to your complaints by also complaining about your support. When your sysadmin appears to be offended by your comments, assure them that you're not referring to them but to the other support personnel, even if there aren't any.

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Wrap up

This is not an exhaustive list of ways to ruin your sysadmin's day. There are many others to explore. Be creative and come up with some of your own. 

*Pizza bones are the non-eaten pizza crust bits left behind from the last overnight patching event.

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Ken Hess

Ken Hess is an Enable SysAdmin Community Manager and an Enable SysAdmin contributor. Ken has used Red Hat Linux since 1996 and has written ebooks, whitepapers, actual books, thousands of exam review questions, and hundreds of articles on open source and other topics. More about me

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