Favorite IT metaphors, sayings & aphorisms

In my Linkedin Profile, I write that I’m a fan of “elaborate IT Metaphors” yet, in a very literal way, I’ve never actually written a list of my favorites.

Listing out my favorite IT metaphors, sayings, aphorisms and such is risky. Too much pithiness, and I risk not being taken seriously. Too much cynicism and no one wants to talk to you.

And yet I must take that risk, because if you’re a practitioner of the IT arts as I am, then you’re used to engaging in these sorts of thoughtful/silly/humorous reflections.

Some of the metaphors/thoughts below are funny. Some are so terrible I’m embarassed to write them. Others are good, but could be better. There’s no real organization to them, but I hope you find them useful nonetheless.

Enough. On with the metaphors, sayings & aphorisms!

Metaphor,Meaning[attr style=”width:200px” class=”someclass”],Origin/Notes
Dark side of the moon, Waiting for a host or device to reply to pings after reload/reboot, NASA obviously
Eat our own dogfood, Applying same policies/tech/experience to IT that apply to users, Not sure but heard on TWiT
DNS is like a phonebook, Computers speak in numbers humans speak in words, My own metaphor to explain DNS problems
Fat finger, A stupid mistake in perhaps an otherwise solid plan (eg IP address keyed incorrectly), Former boss/Homer Simpson?
Go FQDN or Go Home, Admonishment to correct lazy IT tendency to code/build with IP addresses rather than FQDN, My own
Garbage in Garbage Out, You get out of a system that which you put in, Unknown but s/he was brilliant
This ____ is like a princess, A server or service that is high-profile/important but prone to failure and drama without constant attention, My own
Cadillac Solution, A high-priced solution to a problem that may require only ingenuity/dilligence, My own but really…Cadillac…I’m so old
The Sun Never Sets on Infrastructure, A reference to the 24/7 nature of Infrastructure stack demand by way of the British Empire, I used this metaphor extensively in last job
Infrastructure is Roads/Applications are cars/Users are drivers, Reference to the classic split in IT departments, Former colleague
Two Houses Both Alike in Dignity, Another reference to AppDev & Infrastructure divide in IT, My own liberal abuse of Shakespeare’s opening line in R&J
Child Partition/Parent Partition, Reference to me and my son in light of Hypervisor technology, My own
Supervisor Module, Reference to wife-as-Sup7203B Linecard in 650xE chassis switch, The packets flow where she tells them to flow

Code is poetry, There is something more to technology than just making things work, Google but adapted by me for scripting and configs

Going full Fibonacci, The joy & euphoria inherent in a well-designed subnetting plan wherein octets are harmonized & everything just fits, My own abuse of the famed Fibonacci Sequence which honestly has nothing to do with IP subnetting and more to do with Dan Brown. Also applies to MAC address pools because encoding your MAC address pools is fun

Dystopian IT, A poor but descriptive term to describe dysfunctional IT departments, My own I think

When I was a Child I thought as a Child, How I defend poor technical decisions that haunt me years later, A (perhaps blasphemous) homage to St. Paul

There are three ____ and the greatest of these is ____, Another St. Paul reference, Useful in IT Purchasing decisions

IT White Whale, Highly technical problems I haven’t solved yet and obsess over, Borrowed from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick


In Which the Virtualization Guy tries to Converge & Rationalize the family TV

Last week Amazon announced a new device called a Kindle Fire TV HDX or whatnot.

Basically, it’s a little black box. With some CPU, RAM & GFX processor. And an HDMI output, remote, and a slick GUI. You plug it into your TV and with your Internet connection, you can stream things to it. It’s received mediocre reviews, and by now we can all understand why. It’s just a warmed-over Roku with some forked Android bits on it & some gaming capability. At $99 it isn’t cheap either. It’s essentially a vector for Prime into your living room, as if you couldn’t get Prime on anything else.

So I’m watching a review about this device last weekend on screen 1 of agnostic_node_1. daisettalabs.net and on screen 2, I’m writing up my Labworks post about Hyper-V converged switching and, as you would expect, I experienced acute Cognitive Dissonance Kernel Panic in which my brain simultaneously was thinking of of irrational TV systems, switching inputs from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2 manually whillst writing about Hyper-V’s fabulously converged virtual switches in which all inputs are trunked and everything just works.

And that kernel panic reminded me of an Amazon review I wrote about a remote control, Windows Media Center, and my last attempt to rationalize the TV beast in my living room. The piece is full of #TechnologyDespair and is titled “Thanks Saxony, for Ruining My Life.”

It’s a little long but thought you might like.

Continue reading “In Which the Virtualization Guy tries to Converge & Rationalize the family TV”

Pouring one out for my old adversaries : XP & Optiplex Capacitors

Last night, whilst tooling around the Daietta Lab and playing with Nexenta v 4.01, I had occasion to pause for a moment, toss a few choice shots back, and reminisce & reflect on the end of Windows XP support, which is today, April 8, 2014.

Ten to 12 years ago, I was a mid-level/tier 2 helpdesk type at a typical Small to Medium Enterprise in California. The Iraq war had just started, George Bush was in office and Palm, maker of the Treo, was king of the bulky, nerds-only smartphone segment. 802.11g was hot stuff, and your 2.4GhZ spectrum, while still a junk band in the eyes of the FCC, was actually quite usable. HDMI had just been introduced, and plasmas were all the rage, and you didn’t need a bunch of dongle adapters in the boardroom to connect a projector to a laptop. EVDO data was OMG FAST, and Apple was still called Apple Computer. In place of guest Wifi, we had guest Ethernet (“Tell him to use the Red cable. The Red cable!!” I remember shouting to junior guys. The red cable went to the guest internet switch).

At work, life was simpler in IT. I don’t think we even used VLANs at that old job.

Basically, we had physical servers, a DS3 circuit, Windows XP on the clients, and Optiplex GX280s.

Lots of them.

48285005XP, of course, was new then. Only 2-3 years old, it was Microsoft’s most successful operating system in like forever. It united at last the NT kernel & the desktop of Windows 98, but had a nice GUI front-end, soft-touch buttons, a color scheme by Crayola, and a font/typography system that still, to this day, provides fodder for the refined Mac font/typography snobs.

But you could join it to the Domain, use Group Policy against it, and mass-deploy those things like it was going out of style. This was a Big Deal in the enterprise. Ghost & RIS baby!

Hardware-wise, we didn’t worry about iPhone apps, Android vulnerabilities, or the cloud taking our jobs. No, all we had were Optiplexes. Acres of them, seemingly.

The GX280 desktop. A classic
The GX280 desktop. A classic

Small form factor & desktop-style Optiplex GX280s to be exact. Plastic and ugly, but you could open them up without tools. They were light enough you could carry them around without grabbing a bulky cart, and they offered plenty of surface area for the users to stick pictures of their cat or whatnot on them. Great little machines.

If I’m sounding nostalgic, I am. Getting a bit weepy here.

But then I recall the two straight years of pain. Three years maybe even.

The rise of XP came during the rise of the Internet in the post-dotcom bubble era. Want to get on something called the Internet and do some ecommerce shopping? Have I got an OS & Browser for you: XP + IE 6, or what one might call a Hacker’s Delight.

Oh how many hours were lost learning about, then trying to fix, then throwing up our hands collectively in frustration and saying, “Fuck it. Just RIS/Ghost the damn thing.” in reaction to horror shows like this in the pre-Service Pack 2 days of XP:

When restoring from backup tapes is less painful than fixing this, you have # ITFAIL

And then, coincidentally at the same time, the Optiplex GX280s started failing en masse. Reason? Bad or cheap motherboard capacitors. I shit you not. The capacitors around the old CPU socket just started failing en masse across Dell’s entire GX280 fleet. It was epic: years later, the Times reported some 22% of the 21 million Optiplex machines sold by Dell in 2003-2005 had failed capacitors.

The fix wasn’t difficult; just swap the motherboards. Any help desk monkey could do that. But I remember distinctly how shocked I was that we bought Dell-badged computers but got Packard Bell reliability instead. And I remember boiling resentment and rage against Michael Dell as I walked the halls of that old job, arms stuffed with replacement motherboards.

These were the first episodes of #VendorFail in my IT career. There are many stories like these in IT, but this one is mine. XP Spyware & Optiplex Capacitors were two solid years of my life in IT. I heart Microsoft, but damnnnnn those were some tough days in IT.

Of course, all that being said, today’s desktop is a lot more secure, but our back-end stuff has holes so deep & profound that even experts are shocked. Witness the new Heartbreak OpenSSL vulnerability!