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Original Anatoly Ivasyuk collection of Sysadmin Horror Stories

National System Administrator Appreciation Day on the last Friday in July recognizes the IT professionals who keep organizations of all sizes up and running.  If complex technical issues arise, the system administrator answers the call. and sometimes makes the situation worse ;-)

News Enterprise Unix System Administration Recommended Links Defensive programming Creative uses of rm Mistakes made because of the differences between various Unix/Linux flavors Missing backup horror stories Reboot Blunders Side effects of patching
Accidental Shutdowns/Reboot Blunders  Performing the operation on a wrong server Pure stupidity Abrupt loss of power horror stories Typos in the commands with disastrous consequences Multiple sysadmin working on the same box Side effects of performing infrequent or poorly understood  operations Lack of testing of complex, potentially destructive, commands before execution of production box  
Recovery of LVM partitions Dot-star-errors and regular expressions blunders Premature or misguided optimization Ownership changing blunders Locking yourself out Excessive zeal in improving security of the system Unintended consequences Workagolism and Burnout Executing command in a wrong directory
Saferm -- wrapper for rm command Safe-rm An observation about corporate security departments Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment The Unix Haterís Handbook Tips Original Anatoly Ivasyuk collection of Sysadmin Horror Stories Humor Larry Wall - Wikiquote

Anatoly Ivasyuk created " The Unofficial Unix Administration Horror Story Summary" summarizing emails to the Usenet forum that were submitted as reply to Arne Asplem, who asked for contributions  of actual horror stories.  The email to Usenet forum that started it all was sent on Oct 7, 1992:

[email protected] (Arne Asplem) wrote:

> I'm the program chair for a one day conference on Unix system
> administration in Oslo in 3 weeks, including topics like network
> management, system admininistration tools, integration, print/file-servers,
> securitym, etc.

> I'm looking for actual horror stories of what have gone wrong because
> of bad system administration, as an early morning wakeup.

> I'll summarise to the net if there is any interest.

This list exists several versions: 

Version 1.1. contein the table of content the list the following twelve sections:

Table of Contents:

Section 1) Creative uses of rm(1)
2) How not to free up space on your drive
3) Dealing with /dev files
4) Making backups
5) Blaming it on the hardware
6) Partitioning the drives
7) Configuring the system
8) Upgrading the system
9) All about file permissions
10) Machine dependencies
11) Miscellaneous stories (a.k.a. 'oops')
12) What we have learned

What is interesting that Anatoly Ivasyuk  at this time was just a student at Rochester Institute of Technology and later his career was revolving almost exclusively around Windows platform:


Anatoly Ivasyuk

With over 10 years of professional WindowsTM software development experience, Mr. Ivasyuk designs and develops the award winning software products that comprise the desktop side of the DTLink business.

Prior to founding DTLink, Mr. Ivasyuk established himself as an internationally recognized developer with the release of his Personal Stock Monitor product, which has gone on to become one of the most highly regarded stock market portfolio management applications available on the Net. Consistently rated at the top of its class, Personal Stock Monitor has been featured in every edition of Investing Online for Dummies, has been covered in Barrons' Online and has won countless awards from virtually every major software site.

Prior to that, Mr. Ivasyuk was Chief Windows Architect at WebThreads, LLC, a Vienna Virginia based internet technology startup where he was responsible for the Windows version of company's 1-to-1 marketing communications solution.

Mr. Ivasyuk was also responsible for development of Windows-based Network Management Software (NMS) for Telogy, Inc., a developer of satellite modem software and technology.

The set of pages on this side can be viewed as version 2.0 of Anatoly Ivasyuk list and his initial  contribution is gladly acknowledged.

Some of this horror stories that were collected by Anatoly survived the test of the time and look as fresh and relevant today as they were in 1992 or 27 years ago

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov

Oct 04, 2019


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Old News ;-)

Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day 2016

Few people ever saw such IBM drives. They were used almost exclusively on mainframes. While they were physically large, the capacity was minuscule by today's standards ( 7MB for IBM 2311 and 29MB for IBM 2314 I think; IBM 3330 mentioned below has capacity 100MB)

It seems that this company had hired a new night operator who had been on the job for only a couple weeks. He was following the instructions in the run book to the letter while running payroll and loaded the payroll diskpack on one of the large IBM disk drives, probably an IBM 3350, and started it up. At that point the newly minted operator heard a very loud screeching sound and the disk failed to come on line.

As a more experienced operator would have known, the drive had suffered a head crash, or what IBM called Head-Disk Interference (HDI). This meant that both the heads and the disk itself were damaged.

The new operator then placed the same disk pack on a different drive unit with exactly the same result. He knew that was not good, but he had been told where the backup payroll disk pack was located, so he proceeded to load that onto the first, already damaged drive unit. When he tried to load it, that combination also resulted in the same bone-chilling screech. He now figured that he should call the lead operator who immediately rushed on-site and, after hearing what had happened, fired the poor newbie on the spot.

It only took the IBM field engineer a few hours to rebuild the two damaged drive units, but it took the company weeks to recover all of the lost data by hand. Sometimes a single backup is not enough, and complete operator training is of paramount importance.

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