Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day and thank you for keeping the servers up and running, the network traffic flowing, and the databases backed up. To celebrate this year, we’ve gathered a few things to honor the thankless work done by System Administrators. We’ve rounded up gift ideas, book recommendations, tools, and career advice. Enjoy!
Gift recommendations for sysadmins
We asked sysadmins from all over what they recommend for gifts. (Or, is that what they would like to receive?) Here are their answers.
Sysadmins, like gamers, spend a great deal of time at our keyboards. Each of us has a different touch and keyboards can be as important to productivity as keeping the Pointy-Haired Boss at bay while fixing a critical problem.
Having tried a large number of keyboards over the years, I decided that the Corsair LUX 70 RGB MX Blue mechanical keyboard will keep me happily pounding away, and entertained as well. For around $150, this keyboard has a fine touch with its MX Blue keys, which are not as sensitive as the MX Fast keys (they trigger at the slightest touch). There is also an open source Linux version of the software needed to create and manage the RGB lighting.
Corsair has a wide range of keyboards with a touch to suit the most discriminating sysadmin.
How about a drone? Nothing says enjoy some time away from keyboard then the latest flying gadget.
A comfier chair.
Stylish socks with a cool tech logo, Amazon gift cards, or a mechanical keyboard.
Lauren Pritchett, Pete Savage, Chris Short, and Jim Hall
See Gift ideas for Sysadmin Appreciation Day for what some felt were the best sysadmin gifts they ever received.
Book recommendations for sysadmins
Here are books that inspired these admins enough to recommend them to others.
When someone voluntarily writes a book review, you know the book made an impact:
Book review: Site Reliability Engineering.
Daniel had a number of recommendations for us:
- The DevOps Handbook - More than ever, hybrid and multicloud platform management is a critical capability for DevOps success. This handbook teaches sysadmins how to collaborate effectively with dev, QA, and security teams through the practices of many enterprises. These sysadmins will also take a shorter path to becoming a DevOps engineer via learning from the failure, pitfalls, and mistakes in real use cases.
- Database Reliability Engineering - Cloud-native microservice application architecture is impacting database management. This practical book helps system administrators learn how to manage the craft of database architecture, and eventually become the site reliability engineer (SRE) in hybrid cloud platforms.
- The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins - Linux is the most powerful, stable, and popular operating system for enterprise production. As Linux system administrators, there are many ways to manage, observe, and improve their systems. This book gives system administrators a common sense guide on how to configure, operate, and secure Linux systems.
As a sysadmin, how often do you open a secure shell (SSH) connection into a remote system? Once a week? Once a day? Multiple times a day? If you are anything like me, you almost always have an SSH connection open to a Linux server somewhere, whether that server is a Raspberry Pi sitting on your desk or a virtual machine running in a data center halfway around the world.
SSH is the Swiss Army Knife in a system administrator’s toolbox, great for everything from remotely logging into a server and editing a config file to copying logs back to your laptop for further analysis; or from tunnelling into a private network via a secure bastion to using Red Hat Ansible for automating the configuration of hundreds of systems under your control.
SSH is a core sysadmin tool, and every skilled master should know how their tools work! If you, like me, want to deep dive into all things SSH, then I highly recommend picking up Michael W. Lucas’ SSH Mastery. Now in a recently updated second edition, SSH Mastery gives practical examples of what the secure shell can do to make your life easier, ways you can secure remote access into your servers, and how the SSH protocol works under the hood.
Michael W. Lucas has written books on many other core Unix tools, including Ed, PAM, Sudo, and OpenPGP. Most of his Mastery book series can be purchased for less than $25 each. So this is a great opportunity to put a few in your wishlist for the next time a family member asks what gift you want for your birthday. Alternatively, if you are looking for a fantasy or crime page-turner for a good vacation read instead, then you could try one of Michael Warren Lucas’ novels loosely based on his life as a sysadmin, such as
$ git commit murder!
Visit Michael W./Warren Lucas’ website for more about his life as a writer, his sysadmin mastery books, and his fictional novels.
Tools for the sysadmin in a hurry
Sysadmins have so many things to do that they need to be as efficient as possible. Here are some favorite tools.
It's not about having all of the resources, it's about having the right ones. A sysadmin might find exactly what they need in 10 resources every sysadmin should know about.
Kedar Vijay Kurlarni
Does your sysadmin need to know what’s different or not between two repos? Check out the article Repodiff - Savior for comparing Repos
dirdiff, a GUI for
diff which unfortunately is not available in Red Hat repositories. This tool is available as an RPM package from the openSUSE (Leap 42.3) repositories, though.
dirdiff you can sync up to five directories. It is reliable and works blazingly fast. Having used this tool for many years, I can say: "It has never let me down."
Daniel offers four recommendations:
Buildah facilitates building OCI container images.
WireShark is a widely-used network protocol analyzer.
Zabbix is an open source monitoring tool for diverse IT components, including cloud services, networks, and servers.
Prometheus is an open source monitoring system with a dimensional data model, a flexible query language, and alerting.
Advice for the up-and-coming sysadmin
Everyone can use some good advice, whether it’s about improving career prospects, raising their sysadmin game, or the quietly mocked but necessary thing called self-care. Here are some excellent suggestions.
System administration is a fast-moving field. Point your sysadmins to 9 people for sysadmins to follow on Twitter to help them keep up not just with technology, but also with ways to improve their sysadmin mojo.
Help your sysadmin build their career by pointing them to Why learning to network is key for sysadmins.
There is a price for letting work completely take over your life. Point your sysadmin to 7 tips for avoiding burnout to help them recognize the signs of potential burnout, recover if they do burn out, and avoid burnout in the future.
Help your sysadmin get their career back on track with Why the lone wolf mentality is a sysadmin mistake.
More and more enterprises need to operate a hybrid cloud infrastructure for accelerating their business innovation and transformation faster than competitors. DevOps engineers should be the most valuable resources for these companies, and if you’re working as the system admin, this role would be your next journey. Prepare relevant skills, knowledge, and practices using popular open source projects.
It’s easy to get lost in all of the little things a sysadmin is asked to do. System administrator responsibilities: 9 critical tasks can help your sysadmin prioritize and focus.
Happy Sysadmin Day!
We hope that you enjoy your Sysadmin Day. If nothing else, know that you have our heartfelt appreciation, and we hope that you found some gifts for yourself in these recommendations.