22.6.09

the curve, or why i'm glad i'm not dead

seems like the learning curve for your first research job is pretty steep, especially one where you're expected to be almost completely independent - here, i've just been given an overarching task ("see if this cool clustered Linux workstation idea is viable for what we want to use it for") and a lab full of hardware to set it up in, plus a knowledgeable superior to ask questions of if i need it. this is my third week now, and in two weeks i've learnt:

- better bash scripting
- the structure, merits and disadvantages of cluster systems Kerrighed and openMosix
- how to use Debian-based systems, especially Ubuntu and the NERC's BioLinux
- practical (i.e. kludge) networking
- Beowulf cluster theory and architecture
- how to patch and recompile the Linux kernel
- how to use vi
- not to fear machines without a monitor or keyboard
- all about PXE booting
- how to SSH into remote machines without being a floundering idiot
- not to fear setting up your own servers
- way too much about NFS, GlusterFS, and XtreemOS/XtreemFS
- how to get around a crappily-written government wiki and edit it without the European professors who contribute to it kicking your ass for being retarded
- how to use skype (yeah, i didn't know how before.)
- how to build machines from scratch without shorting anything out or electrocuting my part-metallic ass
- the difference between IDE and SATA drives (yeah, that's another fucking duh thing i shoulda already known)
- how to network printers under Linux

...and how to use a filter coffee machine that's older than i am.

my head is so full of new stuff, i'm fairly sure i'm gonna lose a language or something to make space, like all the Japanese or Python is gonna drain out of my brain because it's full of init.d commands. this has got to be the steepest learning curve i've ever encountered, and it's fucking brilliant - i have never learned this much in two weeks, ever. the best thing is that there's so much more to go - i've got another two and a half months of this, and next week a cluster guru from Milan arrives so i can pester him with questions he'd expect from his seven-year-old kid rather than his twenty-year-old colleague. and as if all that wasn't enough, i might get to go to Milan myself to go see said guru's research institute and help him build a cluster like my prototype - Linux and hardware and a chance to practice my Italian and my favourite summer food in the whole Union,delicious chocolate semifreddo!

the downside is that i've been getting up at six and going to bed at one, so i look... frightening. i'm as white as my coffee mug and the shadows under my eyes are getting frankly Gothtacular - like i've said before, i look a bit like Bela Lugosi dressed up for an all-night rave. (i'm gonna look even worse after i shave my head for Cancer Research again.) i'm pretty much permanently exhausted, but it's so utterly worth it that i wouldn't mind surviving on four or even three hours a night indefinitely if it meant this kind of knowledge access.

knowledge, people, software, freedom and fun - man, i am so fucking glad to be alive.

L

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...and how to use a filter coffee machine that's older than i am"
I LOL'd!