At some point, I may get a chance to look back on 2011, weigh it up, work out whether it was largely good or bad. That sounds like a lot of hard work. It’s almost like a history essay.
Instead, I’m going to think about my plans for 2012; not “New Year’s Resolutions” just some vague goals on my own.
- Do more offbeat, adventurous, unexpected, unusual things.
- More travel. It largely doesn’t matter where, just more of it.
- Find some new ways to take myself out of my depth
- Work out boring things in my life, and work out strange new ways to liven them up.
- Example: work out a way to make shopping for boring things, fun
- Do more pirate party politics
- Stand in May council elections
- Do more education-specific work
- Develop public speaking skills
- Find some new things to parody and satirise.
- Take small steps in lifestyle healthier directions
- Perhaps start swimming again?
- Learn to cook more adventurously
- Blog more
- Maintain old friendships and keep in contact with old friends and family.
- Listen to some new styles of music
- Work out some more inspiring and interesting goals, because these ones are pretty much just “try to do mo reof the same”.
Ok, I hear you: I work with computers and the Internet – you understand that.
But what exactly does a “Systems Administrator” at a “hosting company” do? Indeed… what’s a “hosting company”? What do you mean by “Systems Administrator”?
These are frequent questions I encounter when explaining to friends and family how I’m gainfully employed. Actually, that’s a lie. I wish they were frequent questions.
More realistic conversations go like this:
> So Tim, what is it that you do?
> I work with computers.
> Oh, I’m sorry. I guess someone has to.
> So Tim, what is it that you do?
> I work in IT.
> Ahh, perhaps you can help me: I’ve been having this problem where my work emails don’t seem to be displayed how they used to be, can you help?
> So Tim, what is it that you do?
> I help people over the phone fix problems on their webserver computers.
> You’re one of those fucking patronising arseholes I have speak to on the phone?! Why don’t you ever listen? Why does nothing ever work? I hate you and your whole life!
As you can tell, people have many misconceptions about my job. Largely they’re just ignorant about how technology works, and have memories of computers and business IT systems breaking down.
But frequently, the problem isn’t preconceptions, but the absence of a frame of reference. To many, websites are things that ‘occur’ on your screen when you ‘have the internet.’ Explaining that there is a computer behind them usually conjures ideas of a desktop computer somewhere (complete with mouse, speakers and screen) somehow ‘broadcasting a website’. Until this morning, I think this was a problem for my parents.
My parents are intellectually curious: they’re interested in knowing things simply because knowing them is interesting. They’re happy debating about politics, linguistics, science, history, botany and pretty much everything else. They’re (apparently!) very proud of their son, but they had limited comprehension of anything beyond ‘he works with computers, Linux and the internet.’ Clearly, I needed to straighten a few things out.
So I arranged to take a day’s leave and spend it in the office with my parents, explaining to them what I do, giving them a datacentre tour and filling in their knowledge so that they would feel they fully understand what I do, what the company does, and why people pay us money.
That day was today. I went through and explained:
- Vaguely ‘how websites work’
- What important terminology means (and a test!)
- What a client-server relationship refers to
- What happens when a server is overloaded
- A simplified explanation of the process from the web browser to database server and back
- A simple explanation of how you can split services out onto different physical servers to scale a website up
- The difference between dynamic and static websites
- What clustering means and a few advantages of it
- Where a hosting company comes in
- Websites need servers
- Servers need network, power and a stable environment.
- We have all those things
- We rent servers to people
- People put their websites on our servers
- We help people if they have issues
- What a datacentre provides servers
- Stable environment (cooling, fire suppression, physical security, etc.)
- Subtleties of different types of hosting
- Dedicated servers (traditionally more powerful)
- Virtual servers (easy scaling up and down)
- “Cloud servers”
- Why the company is great
- Because I work there!
- Honesty and professional integrity
- Friendly, knowledgeable colleagues
- Technical “no nonsense” approach
- How things work behind the scenes
- How we can use text chat to communicate
- How we interact with customers (CRM and phone)
- How we know if things break (monitoring systems)
- How I can (in theory at least) work from home/anywhere in the world
- Where I come in
- Pretty face and general awesomeness
- Amazing sense of modesty
- Helping people with technical issues
- Giving extra help and support to those who want to pay for it (managed hosting)
- Attempting to explain things to parents
I’ve spent most of the day showing them what I mean by ‘hosting’, answering questions, giving them a datacentre tour, and basically explaining simply what we do.
And that took a whole day, and I’m still fearful I’ll get a call along the lines of
“Tim, what is a server?”
So I’m still at a loss of how to explain what I do to friends and family. My current favourite explanation is courtesy of Rich Quick, but frankly, I’m not really sure I’ll ever be able to explain my work easily to nontechnical people:
> So Tim, what is it that you do?
> You know in Formula One, you have engineers in the pits who change the car’s tires, put fuel in it, fix things, give the driver advice and generally make the car go faster?
> Yeah, of course.
> Well, I do that, but for websites!
Thanks to David Kendal, Psychedelic Squid and Matthew Bloch for proofreading.
For those of you that don’t know, Megaupload is an American web service that lets you send large files across the internet
Why do these services exist? XKCD explains:
Sadly, but not unusually, XKCD is spot on – and that’s the reason that over the past few years Megaupload has gained a large following – racking up more registered users than the population of Russia.
Recently, in the United States, big media lobbying organisations have been trying to paint the company in a bad light; the company is frequently vilified by the RIAA and MPAA as a rogue site “dedicated to destroying their business models”.
It was therefore an incredibly PR coup for Megaupload when they released a track last night where P Diddy, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West sang their support to the site – #megaupload was even trending on twitter for a while.
Now you might have thought this blog post would end here. Megaupload score massive PR coup. Lobbying organisations back down briefly, and then continued sustained attack. But no, it was much more entertaining.
In response to the video, Universal Music Group (UMG) issued a DMCA Takedown request to Youtube – claiming the video contained copyrighted content that they owned.
Megaupload has filed a counterclaim with Youtube pointing out they “own everything in this video. And we have signed agreements with every featured artist for this campaign”, but the video still remains offline and Megaupload accuses the lobbyists of using “dirty tricks”.
Several things are certainly clear:
- Megaupload have scored a PR Coup
- UMG have secured the campaigns success by invoking the Streisand effect
- I suspect the story will not end here
Anyhow, what is this video that’s causing all the controversy?
Back when I was at school, I was exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity to visit Russia several times.
Whilst I was there I made friends with a number of Russian young people.
I remember in 2005 or so, having just had a tour round the Kremlin, meeting some students and talking to them in English, (my Russian has never been as good as I wanted it to be). I clearly remember one of them saying that they didn’t really like the government here and indicated the Kremlin. I felt a bit uncomfortable, certainly not wanting to be seen to take any moral high ground, and let the subject drop.
As Vkontakte – the Russian clone of Facebook was just starting up, I got an account on there and friended them… and then promptly stopped studying Russian and all but forgot about it all.
Now there is an important point before I go on:
Anecdotes are not Data.
At no point do I think the opinions of some people represent everybody and there are various reasons why I may be seeing bias. Again, anecdotes are not data. This is not a scientific study.
During the South Ossetia crisis when traditional western blocs were saying fighting words to traditional eastern blocs I talked to some of my Russian friends again. Not to try and change anyone’s opinion, but to try and understand their opinions. Media outlets always spin news stories in some way or other. Sometimes predictably, sometimes less so. Talking to random Russians went some way to understanding things from a point of view, other than the one put across by local or foreign media services.
what do you think of all the politics which is going on at the moment?
georgia, poland etc?
I find it quite worrying, but i’m intersted to know what you think,
I think it is provocation of Russia from USA…
I drifted away again for a few years…
I read the Russian election results on the BBC/Guardian/Google news saw a lot of bias about unfair elections (something we’re known to make loud diplomatic noises about) and went and read the Xinhua article for an extra perspective (Xinhua is highly unlikely to take a critical point of view of a Government which has friendly relations with the PRC.
I thought nothing more of it – another election that our government makes unhappy noises about – another day. There’s no chance of anything our government says having any effect on the Russian government (hey, this is what we spent the whole of the cold war trying (and failing!) to do, remember?!). I just assumed the status quo would remain.
Well here’s the interesting bit. Yesterday I noticed on reddit that things seemed to be happening in Moscow. Reports were being posted of large demonstrations taking place, riot police calling in the army… Sensationalist reporting started talking about a “civil war”.
Then Vkontakte exploded (translated via Google translate):
Posts such as:
“If you ever get up in the life of a choice-to do by law or by conscience, to act according to conscience, the laws can always be changed”
Of the 983 people who came to the polls in 1365 voted for United Russia
Election candidates are all worthy of an honest politician with PEOPLE GOOD GOOD FELLOWS PROGRAM AREA RAISE FOR ALL SORRY CAN NOT VOTE.
Dear members of the media!
Please note that all detainees before during an unsanctioned rally near the metro station Seating yard are still in police stations.
During detention, the police announced that all members of the shares will be delivered to the police departments to draw up protocols on administrative violations, but from people who still are in the departments come down to us the information that all detainees will soon have to send in municipal courts in order to make the charges under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (calling for the overthrow of government).
We urge you to give publicity to this fact and try to keep the information practices of another fact of tyranny and police authorities.
repost is welcome!
My view is estimated that we need a new election with the exception of the United Russia electoral list in connection with numerous violations.
…began to crop up on my friends’ and their friends’ walls.
What I think of the election result is irrelevant. What matters is what the Russian people think.
I continue to watch my Russian friend’s reactions with interest…
Feel free to add me on Vkontakte