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Lots and lots of free time...

After my last contract finished, and things being the way they are, I grabbed the first tech job I could find - Sys Admining a couple of Unix machines.

Now, during the interview I was told that this would be a dead job. Nothing to do all day, they didn't had any problems and they weren't predicting any. So, in the words of the recruiter, "apart from the ocasional hickup on the network, you can do whatever you want during the day, as long as you don't leave the building".

This is suppose to be a 1 year contract. What the hell am I going to do with all this free time?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Don't you have some pet project you're working on at home for fun?  If you don't, what kind of programmer are you anyway?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Start a business.

Interaction Architect
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

(1) Start your own business
(2) sleep off the night before

...and last but not least ...

(3) Post to this forum

a cynic writes...
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

"So, in the words of the recruiter"

Therein lies the rub...

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Look for a job where you can learn more?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

get a real job?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Migrate the Unix servers to Windows.  Once you are done your free time problem will be solved.  You'll be busy putting out fires and patching holes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Many sysadmins get themselves a "bat-cave" to hide away in. (Important since psychologically, people often don't understand that your job is about responding to crises, and will come to resent your apparently laid-back schedule.)

Once you're confident you can easily take care of problems and write some code which monitors for weird occurrences, you can
- write software (doesn't have to be released)
- write guides for software you like
- learn anything from a book or net sites
- hit targets with playing cards, learn to twirl pens

Of course, I'm sure you can also gain responsibilities unless all they really have is the two machines.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

This is perfect.

You have all this time to learn whatever takes your fancy. Writing monitoring, control and bug systems for the unix machines. Checking things out like keeping config files under cvs, and having a central server(s) where changecontrol is done.

You can teach yourself some languages, get into low level o/s tuning etc...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I had a phone support job early in my career that involved a day and a half of real work a week.

I spent the other days teaching myself C from books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

There used to be a Doom interface for managing Unix processes - I'd say your first priority is to get that implemented, then work on getting management to sign a document that makes it the required interface (the social engineering on that should be good for 6-8 weeks of work)

I'd say use a chunk of your free time to become a real expert on the systems - learn all the intricacies and details of Unix and its utilities. Set up pet projects (in-house NNTP server, stock quote server, etc) - anything to let you learn stuff while providing value (however marginal) to the company.

Organize everything if it's not. Diagram everything, label all the wires, etc.

Generally, spend a year building a reputation that can (hopefully) catapult you into your next job.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Avoid the temptation of 'improving' the network.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

>>Avoid the temptation of 'improving' the network.

I second that.

Write proper documentation for it. Good exercize. You learn how the system is built and it looks good on the resume. It will probably make the PHBs like you too.

Eric Debois
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Use the time to write the next great novel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

> Use the time to write the next great novel.

"I call it 'Billy and the Cloneasaurus'!"

Sorry, just can't resist a good Simpsons reference.

Anyway, back on topic.  I second the call for leaving the network alone.  Use the time to learn something.  When I interview people and they tell me they are leaving their current job because they don't have enough to keep them busy, I always ask what they do with their free time. 

One guy we just interviewed has been at a job for an entire year without doing ANY programming work.  When I asked what he taught himself during that time, the answer was 'nothing'.  PASS. 

Joe Blandy
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Man where do you sign up for that job? 

christopher baus (
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Do you really want to know?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I think it might be a tactic to argue for lower wages.. what do you think?

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

They are definitely going to push that one on me. Oh, yes they are. But like I said, if I stay there, what do I do?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Register yourself on , sit by the phone. Not that I ever tried that service :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Swap places with me. I can do my part-time Master's and still have my evenings free.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

> You have all this time to learn whatever takes your fancy. Writing monitoring, control and bug systems for the unix machines. Checking things out like keeping config files under cvs, and having a central server(s) where changecontrol is done.

I agree that you should try some pet-projects that are somehow related to your dayjob.  It can make you look very good, (above and beyond), and might lead to more work.  (vs. coding a doom game, which makes you look like a slacker) 

I also like the idea about documenting the existing network.  Will be good practice, and again, will justify your expense, AND will make you look great. 

Remember, it's all about referrals and contacts.  Don't be a slacker just b/c you are alllowed to be. 

Expand the job role, and gain real experience too.  When you leave, you can say you did more.  not just "sat and responded to fires, and posted to JOS 10x a day"

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Use this plan to become a service-monster:

1.  Bring another system online, and get it connected to the outside world (xDSL line, perhaps).

2.  Call your recruiter, and ask her to find another contract providing remote support services.

3.  Using the additional system, connect to the other client via VPN.

4.  Bill each client for 100% of their current contracts for four weeks.

5.  If those four weeks are uneventful, then bill each subsequent week at 25% off their negotiated rates, citing the rebate due low work levels.

6.  Bring another system online, using the same VPN.

7.  Begin writing/testing/improving a new set of service offerings for both clients (syslog, cvs, whatever)...

8.  Package the deal.

9.  Get your recruiter to start marketing the additional services to other clients.

10.  Select/train/support new UNIX admins to do the same things at these new contracts/positions.  Figure out how much they are capable of taking on.  Always remember to bill a few weeks ahead, before rebates are doled out to customers.  No sense in losing a customer and a good admin on the same day...

11.  Share the rewards with your recruiter, and make sure she shares the rewards with you.  You should keep the "what" and the "how" to yourself, as long as possible.

(No, not that "what" and "how."  The other "what" and "how," which is really the "when" and "why."  Ask me privately (that makes me the "who.  Although I'm not sure how.  Or why.).).

Best case scenario:  New revenue streams, mountains of learning and experience for you, gainful employment for you and your new team of trainees, and happy customers with rebates for work and budgets they already had to fight for.

Worst case scenario:  Slightly less bored and rotting than you are right now.

Alternative goal:

1.  Help Peter M. convert website templates at to CityDesk templates.  He still has another 6- or 7- thousand to go.

(That was a selfish request.  I actually like and appreciate Peter's work on those templates, since I suck at CityScript, and I can't afford VANTAA (yet).).


Joe (no, not that Joe. The other one.)
Thursday, May 20, 2004

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