TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Creation

Volume Number: 25 (2009)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Editorial

Creation

Go make something - it'll make you a better tech, no matter your specialty

by Edward Marczak

Introduction

What is MacTech Magazine? There are certainly deeper questions in the universe, but this one is certainly pertinent to me and the readers of this magazine (you!). MacTech is certainly unique in that it straddles a fair range of disciplines; from interested techie, to system administrator to developer: we don't discriminate. Why is this question so pressing? Perhaps it is now more than ever.

Today, MacTech online and in print is read by 150,000 readers in 175 countries. Unfortunately, we rarely hear from the bulk of you. When we do, though, it's often about wanting a certain topic covered, or, to tell us that the content is starting to lean in a direction that feels skewed to "not me." Let's overcome that.

In the beginning...

A little background: I'm currently 38 years of age. So, I'm not the oldest technologist around, but in the computer field, I'm certainly aged. I'm fine with that, as I have experience and a perspective that people just getting into the field often do not. I also consider myself fortunate for being in the right place at the right time. I got to ride a very unique wave in watching computers develop. Yes, I've used punch cards and TTY based machines, modems with acoustic couplers and 300-baud "direct" modems. I've dialed into BBSes, surfed BitNet, telnetted into MUDs, retrieved files via gopher and shoved packets over protocols other than TCP/IP and mediums that were not twisted pair Ethernet. What good memories.

Attending university, I didn't really have much choice in a program to take, as computers were still relatively new and being fleshed out. If you were interested in computers, you took Computer Science, rife with math, assembly, Pascal and C. C++, Python, Ruby and Java either didn't exist or simply were not taught at the time, and System Administration was not a formalized discipline.

Here's where these stories come together: in my first job(s) out of school, IT (called "MIS," or, Management Information Systems, at the time), was still evolving. No matter your title, you were pretty much a techie. You wore many hats, from system and database administration to hardware guru to developer. I'll admit that, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the scope of all those functions was certainly much smaller and more knowable. However, thanks to the evolution of Unix, System Administrators knew how to code; In C, typically. In the late 1990s, I worked with a gentleman that was the system administrator for a lab of SGI IRIX workstations used for graphics production. He also wrote custom shaders and effects for the custom 3D software they were using. Show of hands: how many of us do that today? OK, perhaps we don't need to go quite that far.

After reading over that, however, you should ask yourself what practical ways there are to increase your value. If you're a developer, learn a new API, better understand the low-level hardware that your code runs on or, better yet, learn how to package your final product in a way that makes it easy for end users and system administrators to install. If you're a system administrator, setting up a server, adding users and setting permissions are all fine activities. But when you have 100 (or more) users, have you thought about automating this process? What is your answer to "can we drop file X in each user's home directory?" If it's "really? That will take so much time!" you can be doing better.

And really, that is why MacTech is here. We like talking about all of these issues. We enjoy the practical and the esoteric (which, when it comes to OS X, admittedly are sometimes the same). Sys Admins: you're better when you can script (in any language). You're better when you understand the file system structure, and you're better when you understand a problem due to a log entry you found that makes sense because you've been studying Cocoa. Developers: you're better when you understand how all of the parts outside of your application interact with the systems of end users (can you say, "FileVault" and "network home directories?"). You're better when you sit with the person responsible for installing your software on hundreds of machines and then watching it run.

MacTech is here to make you better. If you are interested in a particular topic, but haven't seen it, let us know! But very often, a solution comes from what we now consider to be a separate discipline. To check my beliefs, I started this very conversation with some of the top developers and system administrators today.

Nigel Kersten, Mac Operations Tech lead at Google summed up this philosophy more succinctly by saying, "sysadmins should learn more from software engineering principles. No script is too small to benefit from functional/unit tests, peer review, version control, release cycles and bug reporting systems. This all holds true for pretty much everything sysadmins do." So, when MacTech publishes an article on version control systems (git, subversion, and so on), it's not just for developers. Really!

Reinforcing this point was Dave Schroeder, Senior Systems Engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "There's a lot of crossover between many tools and techniques that have value in both developer and sys admin circles. Apple has taken this same approach with WWDC, combining developer and sys admin content into one conference. Some argue these should fundamentally be separated - but that can be costly, especially for a platform that is still in its relative infancy in the enterprise realm. There's more benefit at present in keeping such content together because of the overlap that often exists: a lot of highly technical topics on the Mac OS X platform have common roots."

When asking Marcus Zarra, Owner of Zarra Studios and blogger for Cocoa is my Girlfriend, he stated, "[f]rom my point of view, Mac Tech needs to cover the entire gambit of the Macintosh now. It is getting bigger and I am starting to see it in companies more often. Getting into companies means that we need sys admin content to help teach the new sys admins. The Macintosh is no longer just about the artist or the independent developer." Yes! It's a great time to be a part of the Mac scene. Market share for Apple products increases daily. OS X shows up in more and more places- expected and unexpected. There are more switchers- business and personal- every day. MacTech is interested in providing technologists the knowledge to contribute meaningfully to this new ecosystem.

Thomas A. Limoncelli, author of "Time Management for System Administrators," (O'Reilly and Associates) says, "The #1 thing people can learn is to automate processes. Whether that means learning AppleScript, Perl, Python, or Puppet. People often think of automation as a way to save time, but automation also prevents errors and/or adds consistency, which is more valuable."

Finally, Mark Dalrymple, Software Engineer and author, generalizes what to learn this way: "[Learn] everything :-) If you're not learning something new, you're stagnating, which is no fun. Eventually you get left behind, and everyone else gets to play with the new toys."

Get Involved

Getting involved can mean several things. First, go create. Choose the itch, then scratch it. Second, have the conversation. Which conversation? Any. Blog about your experiences, get involved on mailing lists, in forums and meet your peers at events large and small. There is also one more way: send us at MacTech an e-mail, and let us know what you'd like to see. letters@mactech.com is read by all editors; we're listening. MacTech has been in print in one form or another since the first Macintosh shipped (1984). We realize that times and trends change, and we're all in the midst of a sea change, right now. There's some great content already lined up for upcoming issues, but let us know how all of this is affecting you, and it will be reflected in our content. We're looking to fuel your knowledge, which creates more value for you.


Ed Marczak knew even from the punch card and TTY days that technology was in his future. He finds all technology interesting, but chooses OS X when possible. When not computing, he spends time with his wife and two daughters.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Is there cross-platform play in slither....
So you've sunken plenty of hours into crawling around in slither.io on your iPhone or iPad. You've got your stories of tragedy and triumph, the times you coiled four snakes at one time balanced out by the others when you had a length of more than... | Read more »
Rodeo Stampede guide to running a better...
In Rodeo Stampede, honing your skills so you can jump from animal to animal and outrun the herd as long as possible is only half the fun. Once you've tamed a few animals, you can bring them home with you. [Read more] | Read more »
VoxSyn (Music)
VoxSyn 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: VoxSyn turns your voice into the most flexible vocal sound generator ever. Instantly following even subtle modulations of pitch and... | Read more »
Catch Battleplans on Google Play from Ju...
Real-time strategy title Battleplans is due for release on Google Play on June 30th, following its release for iOS systems last month. With its simple interface and pretty graphics, the crowd-pleaser brings a formerly overlooked genre out for the... | Read more »
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sh...
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Books Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Special Release Price $1.99 (Normally $3.99) | Read more »
Five popular free apps to help you slim...
Thanks to retail and advertising, we're used to thinking one season ahead. Here we are just a week into the summer and we're conditioned to start thinking about the fall. [Read more] | Read more »
How to ride longer and tame more animals...
It's hard to accurately describe Rodeo Stampede to people who haven't seen it yet. It's like if someone took Crossy Roadand Disco Zoo and put them in a blender, yet with a unique game mechanic that's still simple and fun for anyone. [Read more] | Read more »
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure...
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure Battling Game 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Teeny Titans, GO! Join Robin for a figure battling RPG of epic proportions! TEENY... | Read more »
NinjAwesome: Tips and tricks to be a mor...
Sorry about that headline, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that GameResort would not have named its game NinjAwesome without expecting some of that. It is, in fact, pretty awesome the way it combines an endless runner and old school arcade... | Read more »
Into Mirror (Games)
Into Mirror 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"- Edgar Allan Poe New game by Lemon Jam Studio, the team behind Pursuit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1179 $120 off MSRP - 13″ 2.7GHz/... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200-...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $300 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799.... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
ABBYY TextGrabber: 1,000,000 Installs in 5 Da...
ABBYY, an international OCR technologies provider, has announced that their image-to-text application TextGrabber, got installed 1,000,000 times in just five days while being featured by the App... Read more
New SkinIt Waterproof Case For iPhone 6
With its impact and waterproof design, the Skinit Waterproof case provides security and protection to guarantee your phone will get you through even the most demanding outdoor conditions. The impact-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & *Apple*...
…Music Marketing Lead is responsible for developing robust marketing campaigns and programs for Apple Music and iTunes across the whole of Apple ecosystem. This Read more
*Apple* Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring - AP...
Apple Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring! Apple Valley Medical Clinic is an independently owned practice operating a Family Medicine Clinic, a 24/7 Urgent Care, Read more
*Apple* New Products Testers Needed - Apple...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.