The Rattlesnakes of Unix Administration

My Monday night class, UNIX Administration II, was the first computer class that I’ve taken in three semesters that wasn’t cancelled due to low enrollment. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the two classes I need for graduation. The instructor lives out in Redding, CA, a four-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, and stays at motel from Monday through Thursday. He told us stories about the rattlesnakes on his property before the first class got started last week.

He scooted one rattler off his porch with the tip of his shotgun before blowing its head off into the flower bed. His wife told him to bury the snake head in the ground to avoid having the bees get into the venom that makes the stinger more toxic. That’s an old wives’ tale. As for the snake head, there was anything left to bury. The shotgun was two inches away when he fired. One student got up to leave because he thought he was in the wrong class. The instructor reassured him that UNIX Administration II wasn’t a rattlesnake hunting class.

This week’s class was interesting. I had the joy of installing Red Hat 7.3 Linux (released in 2002) on my class computer from the two-disc set provided in the Thompson textbook. Everything was fine until 25 minutes into the installation when the installer asked for a third disc that the textbook didn’t have. No one else in class had a third disc, but they were able to finish installing. I rebooted, tried to recover, and was so out of luck. The hard drive partition table got hosed.

I haven’t had that much fun since 1997 when installing Linux was more complicated than it is today. I later read on the Internet that some Thompson textbooks carry a sticker saying that the discs don’t work and had instructions for downloading the latest version. Next week I’m bringing a copy of Ubuntu to install. I’m starting to like this particular Linux distribution enough that I might make a switch from OpenSuSE on my file server.