Filling the Gaps in My Knowledge

I started working as a sysadmin just as cloud really took off. I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of the networking minutiae. That was over 9 years ago. I never had to deal with something complicated in the world of networking. I stuck in my Linux lane and never wandered over to the networking lane. I knew some of the basics, but nothing further. It’s been 8 years and I’ve realized that it’s held me back a bit. One of the changes I’ve made ever since I read the Google SRE book is how I approach technical problems. I’m no longer happy to stop at, “Look, I got it working” or “The bug is not in my code, it’s in the library or a layer above”. I want to figure out the root cause.

Recently, I read Julia Evans’ post abut learning skills and it reminded me that networking is something I don’t know very well yet. I’ve looked at books that explain some basics, but I haven’t really gone in depth to understand how the pieces fit together. I don’t have the pressure of learning to pass a competitive exam. I just want to learn so I can fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Just in time, LinkedIn had offered me free premium for a month which also gives me access to LinkedIn Learning. I spent some time looking for a reasonably good course on networking. It’s been a great watch! The course is actually for CompTIA’s Network+ exam, which I have no intention of writing at the moment. However, it presented a good explanation of networking and TCP/IP. I knew some of the topics individually, but I couldn’t tie all of my knowledge together yet. The few days of watching Networking videos has been great. I don’t understand everything in great depth, but I know most of it and I know where to look for more details.

I’ve been reading and listening a great deal about growth mindset and deliberate practice. I’ve been in the tech industry for the last 9 years. I don’t have a degree yet, and even when I finish my current degree, it will not be in computers. It was humbling at first to sit down and learn something from scratch. At the same time, it’s very relieving. I’m more confident that I can understand networks better. I had most of the networking debugging skills I needed, but now I understand the theory better as I debug problems. Similarly, as a python programmer, I’ve barely ever looked deeply into the Unix kernel. However, as a sysadmin, when I debug problems, I would need a more in-depth grasp of what goes on behind the scenes. In the later year, I spent some time reading Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment. I don’t have it committed to memory, but I’ve read it broadly enough to understand where to look. I’ve understood a lot about what happens for IO/Networking/Process Management in Unixes. It helps me appreciate what goes on in Gluster better. It also helps debug some of the more weirder errors that I might run into.

I write this out as a note to myself. There is no shame in sitting down to learn something that you don’t know. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to be grateful for it.

Welp, I ran out of passport pages

In 2007, when my first passport expired, I didn’t bother applying for a new one. I don’t really travel all that much, what’s the point of doing a whole bunch of

In 2007, when my first passport expired, I didn’t bother applying for a new one. I don’t really travel all that much, what’s the point of doing a whole bunch of paperwork for nothing. Fast-forward a few years, I couldn’t apply to travel to a UDS because I didn’t have a passport. That’s when I applied for a new passport. When I got the passport, I really just wanted to go to UDS. I believe the first visa I applied with this passport got denied as well 🙂 It’s been 8 years or so since I got this passport. I’m now out of pages. All of my empty pages have been taken up by visas and passport stamps. I have a few pages left but not enough continuous pages to get a new visa.

Flipping through the pages, I’ve traveled to Hungary, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, Kenya, Tanzania, Germany, USA, and Czech Republic, and Ireland. There are stories about a few of the visas and the trouble I went through to get them. In fact, every single visa involves, on average, at least 16 hours of paperwork that I’ve done per visa. Some countries require more and some countries less. The visa that I’ve often been most nervous about getting on time has been UK. The visa that I found easiest to get was Kenya. Kenya is among the few countries that has visa on arrival for Indian citizens.

It’s been a ride for the last few years. I’m hoping that the next passport doesn’t fill up before 10 years 🙂

2017 Year in Review

Another year has flown away and we’ve moved cities again. I don’t think Delhi has ever felt as much at home as it does right now. I somehow missed living in Delhi quite a lot. It has a lot of problems, but it still remains my favorite…

Another year has flown away and we’ve moved cities again. I don’t think Delhi has ever felt as much at home as it does right now. I somehow missed living in Delhi quite a lot. It has a lot of problems, but it still remains my favorite city.

Studies: This year, I’m going to aim to finish my BSc coursework. I really really want to finish the coursework by Dec 2018. This is going to take priority over everything else. I’ll be doing less racing and less traveling this year.

Accounting: Last year, I paid for YNAB and that’s been the best decision ever. I’ve managed to set apart more money for real expenses and save more money. It’s worth every penny I paid for the software.

Speaking: I spoke at even more conferences this year. Looking back I spoke at 4 conferences this year. I’m unhappy with all but one. I’m traveling less this year, so I’ll be aiming for writing talks for local events.

Learn C and Javascript: I’m better at C than I used to be. I can now debug some simpler pieces of code. I haven’t yet written anything that I expect to be in production. I’m contemplating playing with GTK to produce something for fun. I’m needing JS less these days. Golang and Groovy look like things I’ll use on a more regular basis.

Cutting Down Servers: I’m down to killing my oldest two servers. They both run Ubuntu 12.04 so it’s about time I changed them. They run a few apps in production, so it’s going to take me some time to get there. This time I’ve got a migration plan like I would for a work server migration 🙂

Writing: I’ve been trying to write 750 words for the last year on and off. If I miss out a day, then I tend to lapse into laziness and not continue for the rest of the month. This month, I finally finished an entire month. I wrote 750 words every day in December, totaling to 23,684 words this month. It’s helped me rant about frustrating topics and write a few blog posts in advance. I often use my daily writing as a rough drafts for future blog posts.

Reading: I wanted to read more books this year, but that hasn’t happened, because I keep looking at it as a big goal. This year, I learned to look at it as reading about 20 to 30 pages every day. That means I finish at least one book every 2 weeks.

Fitness: This year has been pretty bad for my running. I’m currently at my worst fitness levels since I started running. It’s going to be a slow and painful few months of training. I’ve discovered the joys of afternoon runs for winter months. I work from home, it makes sense to run in the afternoon. Most public parks are closed at that time, so I’m stuck running inside the gated area where we live.

I got my cycle serviced the other day. It now runs pretty smoothly and I’ve been riding a bit. I want to be riding about 100 km to 200 km a month. It’s a trivial amount of distance for most people. But for me, that means taking a weekend out to do long rides and a few mid-week rides too. I plan to cross train along with running.

I want to get fit enough for hiking and go on at least one hike this year. I want to do one hike that’s a few hours long and then a longer few-days worth hike. Those both should give me more kickstart into getting into a better shape.

I’m using my shopping instinct to control my habits. I’m only going to get a new shoe for long-distance running if I hit 500 km on my regular ones by 1st May 2018. I’ll give it a margin of error of about 10 km. That’s actually not a big goal. I need to be consistent at my training. I’m only going to buy any sort of cycling equipment if I manage to cycle 500 km in 2018. I’m not going to buy new books until I finish the short list I’ve made for the next year. I can read any of them in any order though. As soon as that’s done, the flood gates are open for new books.

Coffee!

One of the first things I did when I started working from home was to stop having coffee at home. Coffee tends to hit me when I have it and it has me jumping around all night if I have a cup a little too late in the evening.

One of the first things I did when I started working from home was to stop having coffee at home. Coffee tends to hit me when I have it and it has me jumping around all night if I have a cup a little too late in the evening.

After 4 years of barely drinking coffee, I’ve finally given in. I got myself a south indian coffee filter. It takes a few hours to get me a cup of coffee. This is intentional so that I can only have one cup of coffee in the morning. I don’t intend to have more than a cup of coffee every morning. I’m now trying out different types of coffees to see which one I prefer to drink on a daily basis. As I write this, I realize that the coffee I had at 5 pm wasn’t the best idea.

PS: I ended up going to bed at 1 am compared to my normal 10:30 pm or so.

Year in Review 2016

As the memes go, 2016 sucked. Personally, I’m not so sure. It’s been a fun and happening year. I moved yet again, this time to Mumbai. Now, I’ve lived in 2 of 4…

As the memes go, 2016 sucked. Personally, I’m not so sure. It’s been a fun and happening year. I moved yet again, this time to Mumbai. Now, I’ve lived in 2 of 4 metro cities. Two more to go!

2016 Goals

Running and Cycling: Not only did I not meet my fairly ambitious goals, I did even worse than last year. Travel, moving cities, family emergencies, and pure laziness played their part here.

Learn C and JavaScript: Nope, no luck. I’ve barely had the time. I’m refining this goal as finishing “Learning C the Hard Way” book and its exercises.

Cut down servers: I cut down most of the unwanted servers I was running. I have one more round of cutting down to do and I should just have 1 server.

Studies: Finished one MOOC course finally. It’s called Learning how to Learn. It’s actually quite a brilliant course and I’d totally recommend it for everyone. I’ve had to unlearn my learning style quite a bit.

Accounting: Slightly better than last year, but still terrible. Mostly thanks to my life keeping me busy in terms of travel and life events.

Cooking: I’ve definitely become more confident at trying new things, but still not great at day-to-day cooking. I could do better.

Android Development: Thanks to lots of changes in my time, I’ve had to cut down things I’m doing simultaneously, so this had to go. As a lesson from this year, I’m taking this off my goals for now.

Mumbai Skyline by Carol Mitchell

What did go well?

  • I got married!
  • I’ve stopped freelancing and I’ve started working at Red Hat on Gluster. It’s been the most amazing few months working with some great people.
  • Ran two marathons. Did not hit my timing goals on either attempts, but I’m not too disappointed considering how much my performance went down and how I’ve brought it back up. I traveled to Berlin in Oct and I’m totally jealous of everyone who lives there. The city is such a gorgeous place to run. I learned how to run when I’m traveling!
  • Spoke at a conference after a long time. After speaking at one of the HasGeek Conferences, this it the first time I spoke at any event.
  • Met old friends and made new ones. During the trip to Berlin, I met old ex-colleagues after a long time and I made new ones after our move to Mumbai and during the trip to Berlin.
  • I’ve read more non-fiction this year than in the past. I hope to continue this streak with recommendations from The Farnam Street Blog

Image credit: Carol Mitchell Mumbai Skyline (license)