Compare and contrast: your favorite *NIX

I seem to find myself attempting to find good, quality answers to questions that usually invite flamewars. I usually manage to do alright.

I’ve discussed the merits of Linux and BSD in recent days. Why does it matter? Who cares if Linux is better than BSD – or if Solaris is better than Linux?

It is important, especially in the corporate data center, because we must justify the use and support of whatever system we want to use. It is not enough to say it’s better – we must justify our choices to people who don’t care which one looks better or which has the better development model.

What do executives care about? Stability and reliability. Twenty-four hour phone support. On-call support. Security against hacks. User base. These are some of the things that executives (like CIOs and CEOs) want to know about. Even for open source desktops, these same qualities are of importance to them.

If you know the ins and outs of all of the systems that are available, then you can better judge which may be good and can explain your choices (or prefered choices!) to your CIO or other management. Better still – can you back it up with examples and details? If you’re going to pitch FreeBSD (or a FreeBSD-based desktop) you’ll have to.

This is also why many times the systems that are installed are not the most reliable (they are the most well-supported) or the most technologically capable (they are the most widely known). This is truly unfortunate – it is the oft-reported “barrier to entry” (in this case, it is the network effect) – but it’s the way it is until you find management willing to take a chance.

BarCamp Chicago 2008: In Progress

Earlier there was a discussion on how to get open source communities started and active. This was an interesting discussion with lots of audience participation.

Then there was a talk about open source and intellectual property law (including copyright mainly, as well as patents – almost no talk about trademarks). There was talk about software licensing and commercialization of software.

In progress is a delightful talk about user interface design (particularly web design).

There’s lots of soda, pizza, sharing, discussion, and so forth.

More to come. Pictures (phone pictures – sigh) to come.

Presentations (and Life and Creativity)

It’s time I put these links up and let you see some very (in my opinion) thoughtful and delightful lectures – and on topics that are very relevant to our lives today.

The first has been around for quite a while (a week or so) – and it is quite possible you know of it already. This is a lecture in a series that was once called the Last Lecture Series (but is now called Journeys), and was given at Carnegie-Mellon University. While the series was renamed, the concept remains the same – and in this specific lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch, it was no hypothetical lecture – it was very likely his last lecture. The lecture was not just poignant, but excellent in delivery, presentation, and in content.

Do yourself a favor – listen to Randy Pausch’s lecture. Listen to the entire thing. The entire thing.

You won’t regret it – and you may find things to use in your work – and your life – and your presentations. Listen to what he says – and watch how he uses the slides. Watch how he handles “The Elephant in the Room.”

The second lecturer, Tony Buzan, is a lecturer and researcher on the mind and on creativity and learning. He speaks earnestly and deeply about the importance of creativity in the young student, attempting to encourage the audience of teachers to develop creativity in their students. Listen, too, to what he says – and how he says it. He doesn’t have the flair of Steven Jobs or the high impact delivery of Randy Pausch, but he does it well.

No ums, ahhs, or ya’know from these speakers.

I have taken to watching presentations of late, looking for and watching for quality speakers. These two educators are, while very different, with different styles and different messages, are nonetheless quality speakers.

Want to learn more? Join with the local Toastmasters.

Presentations using PDFs

Since I will be presenting soon (a talk on GNU Screen at the Chicago Linux User’s Group) I am once again considering how to present a slide show. I created the slide presentation in NeoOffice, and saved it to several presentation formats.

However, I was introduced to one presentation format which I was not aware of before: PDF. I had never thought of using a PDF for a presentation. That is, create a PDF from your slide show, and use a viewer such as Evince to present it. I think even the current Adobe Acrobat will support this, as do several others – I think Skim (for MacOS X) also supports a full-screen mode for presentations, as does KPDF for KDE.

In the past, I’ve used full-screen as a way to read the selected PDF; however, it looks like the full-screen mode was designed for presentations entirely – and this is true of all of these PDF readers.

Give it a try today!

New Ways to Present Information

Bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, plots – is there any new way to present information? Over at Smashing Magazine, there is an article that describes a vast array of ways to present data described across the web. Bookmark this site, then go and visit the sites and articles that it lists. This list is fantastic, although creating such charts may be a challenge (or perhaps not).

How might you use such charts and so on? How about a graphical display of the traffic in the network on a typical day? How about a graphical display of the utilization of a host over time or by some other quantity? How about disk space growth analyzed according to some other quantity (such as time of day)?

It has been written elsewhere how using statistical tools such as R can assist in analyzing data; perhaps they also have the ability to create some of these unique displays.

Some of the tools listed in the article are also online tools; try them out!

New Ways to Present Information

Bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, plots – is there any new way to present information? Over at Smashing Magazine, there is an article that describes a vast array of ways to present data described across the web. Bookmark this site, then go and visit the sites and articles that it lists. This list is fantastic, although creating such charts may be a challenge (or perhaps not).

How might you use such charts and so on? How about a graphical display of the traffic in the network on a typical day? How about a graphical display of the utilization of a host over time or by some other quantity? How about disk space growth analyzed according to some other quantity (such as time of day)?

It has been written elsewhere how using statistical tools such as R can assist in analyzing data; perhaps they also have the ability to create some of these unique displays.

Some of the tools listed in the article are also online tools; try them out!

Tips on Improving Your Public Speaking

Every system administrator should hone their public speaking skills for those times when you have to present your projects to the higher ups or train the staff on the new software.

Today, there are a variety of excellent sources of how to improve your public speaking – several from Guy Kawasaki. Guy has some tips that he received from his buddy Doug Lawrence. One he titled “Speaking as a Performing Art“, and a week later “Bite Your Tongue: Eight More Ways to Improve Your Presentations“.

Some tips that stood out to me (not in any particular order) are:

Don’t overwhelm the audience. Be entertaining but use moments of silence, soft speech, and slow cadence.

Skip the tea. Tea is an astringent and will close your voice down.

Use your eyes all the time. Hand gestures, pacing around the platform can all be useful tools in presentation, but the eyes…ah, the eyes have it!

Move away from center to make your point. When you come to a place in your presentation where you really want people’s attention, move to the left or right of your primary speaking position.

If those 15+8 tips from Guy Kawasaki weren’t enough, from Ian’s Messy Desk, Ian McKenzie has 10 ways to improve your public speaking.

As always, the ultimate place to practice public speaking is with your local Toastmasters organization. Why not join today?

Slide Presentations

Any system administrator will have to make a presentation at one time or another – or should at least know how to. There are some very good sources for ideas on how to make slide presentations (sometimes called PowerPoint presentations).

First off, you don’t have to use PowerPoint – this should be obvious but isn’t to a lot of people. Macintosh users of recent vintage can use Keynote; also available for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux is OpenOffice (or its Macintosh-specific spinoff, NeoOffice). Note, too, that you don’t need to use slides at all. Use them only if they add something to your presentation.

Secondly, when creating a slide presentation, remember this rule: don’t read the slides. While this is a rule of presentation, it is important because this can be found directly in how the slides are created. Think of it this way: there should be things you say that are not in the slide.

Thirdly, be creative. This can be hard – and overdone. As a very interesting and dynamic presentation, consider this presentation given by Dick Hardt from the O’Reilly OSCON 2005.

Here are some excellent resources about presentations: