Monday, March 24, 2014

How the tables have turned...

In 2001, I took a UNIX class at Orange Coast College. I really enjoyed the class, having learned bash programming in the class, but nothing about UNIX system administration. I did learn a few other interesting things though. I learned how to write programs in VIM. I learned how to make a file executable. I learned how to take notes that put me in the top ten of that class.

There is one thing that I learned that turned out to be wrong. There was some discussion over whether it would be worth the effort to pursue UNIX administration as a career. After much discussion, the professor seemed to think that he had settled the issue by saying that he thought Windows would win out and that it would be a better career choice to get certified in Windows than UNIX.

I was heartbroken. Even then, I wanted out of Windows. I wanted to work with something that was not controlled by Microsoft. My first computer was an Amiga and I missed having that choice. I was actually disappointed to learn that I wasn't even using UNIX in the classroom. I was learning to program on Linux.

I left the class with an A grade and a feeling of defeat that I had wasted a semester learning something that would not support me later on.

I look around me now and find that had I talked to a few more people, I might have seen what was to come. Around 2001, Linux was just starting to go mainstream in server rooms in the biggest businesses. Many developers were finding freedom in knowing where the programming interfaces were in Linux as they were published and the source code to Linux was freely available to all who wanted to read it.

At the same time, developers became wary after learning that Microsoft lied about programming interfaces to software companies that developed software that ran in Microsoft DOS and Windows. Why? To maintain an advantage over the competition.

Also at the same time, Linux was being ported to work on x86 processors to make it work on low cost, commodity hardware while UNIX was still working well on mainframe computers. Linux received help from big companies like IBM to make it a server class operating system.

But I was supporting Windows and didn't think that Linux or UNIX was going to make it. I was wrong. I was also clueless.

Linux now runs on more than a billion devices when all Android smartphones are factored in. Linux runs on 97% of the fastest 500 supercomputers in the world. Nearly every securities market in the world runs Linux - think New York Stock Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, NASDAQ. If you use the web, chances are, you're using a web based application that runs on Linux. Linux is running in DVD players, smart TVs, tablets and other consumer devices. Linux is used in routers, switches and other network devices.

It used to be that you couldn't get fired for buying IBM. Then IBM was pushed aside for Microsoft and you couldn't get fired for buying Microsoft. The time is approaching where people can get fired for buying Microsoft because Linux can do the job better, faster, more efficiently with lower hardware resources. Less RAM. less disk space, less CPU.

A review of salaries for system administrators finds that Linux admins consistently draw higher salaries than Windows administrators. This is because Linux talent with experience is hard to find. I remember how Microsoft flooded the market with certified professionals and that was sort of depressing.

If you're planning or even thinking about a career in IT, make it a career in Linux programming or administration. The field is wider and greener than ever, and Windows administration doesn't even hold a candle to Linux in terms of opportunities. If you would like to learn how to work in Linux, consider this free course. It's online and the normal cost is $2400. This summer, you can learn Linux for free.

You might have read my previous article on how sharing information can help you to remember it. Sharing information with members of your team can help your team to succeed. When source code is shared, that leads to success for everyone who is involved. Even the users. Sharing source code means that the software can be improved on a fast, consistent basis, creating benefits for everyone that uses it. The source code of Linux shared among the programmers and the users. It is constantly evolving and improving.

If you have a job in Linux administration or programming, be grateful. If you don't, there is still time to change the road you're on. The money is nice, but the freedom is what counts with Linux work. Even ATM companies are finding freedom in Linux.

The freedom to share code is the basis of the success of Linux. Had I known about that in 2001, I would have made very different career choices. Now that I know what I know about Linux, I'm happy to share it with others in the hopes that they won't make the same mistake I made. 
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