All posts by ITGuyEric

The Origin of Eric the IT Guy

I was recently asked, “Why call yourself the IT Guy? Why not just use your name?” Great question! In the professional world, we are encouraged to “build a professional brand,” I just took it to an entirely different level.

There were a few minor reasons. One of which is privacy. I initially didn’t want my full name publicized all over the Internet. However, I eventually realized that anyone that wanted to figure out who I was badly enough could follow the breadcrumbs to LinkedIn. 

Logo - Linux Unplugged
Linux Unplugged

Another more humorous reason was that I used to hang out regularly on Linux Unplugged, a live podcast that features a Mumble room for guests to jump on and be a part of the hosts’ discussion. When I first joined, I was “erich1527”. Little did I know that there was an Erich who worked with an open-source project and frequently came to hang out on the show as well. Having two Eric’s made it confusing for the host!

When the IT Guy was born, I worked full-time as a Systems Administrator and part-time trying to start my own IT Consulting company in the Kansas City area. Granted, the consulting business withered away as life changed, kids came into the picture, and priorities shifted. However, it gave me the branding I wanted to create!

I had a client at the time who had me handling an office move. When I walked in the day of the move, the lady behind the front desk leaned into the main conference room and, to her boss, said, “Hey the IT Guy is here.” I was hooked!

I loved how simple the name was: “Eric the IT Guy”. It was generic but appropriate. The IT Guy could be any of us who deal a lot with technology and trying to get it to work. (Obviously, some of you might have to be the IT Gal…but I digress.)

I had colleagues in the technology space who helped me find a voice. I borrowed equipment from them, recorded sample episodes, started appearing on podcasts as The IT Guy. It stuck. It felt right!

When I realized that the brand was working, I was at a DevOps conference here in Kansas City. I introduced myself as Eric, sporting my GitLab work t-shirt at the time. The dude I was chatting with said, “Wait. Eric…Eric…The IT Guy?” My response was a huge smile and “The one and only!”

Previous Recording Space

Some of you may laugh at the name Eric the IT Guy, but hey, it works. As the IT Guy, I try to help educate my fellow technologists. I try to bring exciting technologies to the forefront. I try to teach methodologies and techniques that can save you time and trouble that I dealt with as a Systems Administrator.

Do you need to give yourself some cool nickname or create a personal logo? Probably not. Do you need to network, build connections, and share your knowledge? Most definitely!

If you aren’t sure how to grow your network, you can start by adding me! I am just about everywhere as @itguyeric. Find me, let’s chat; that’s all it takes to get started! One person, one conversation.

Laying a Productive Foundation with Todoist

Where do you get your tasks from?

For me, it’s meetings, household chores, ongoing projects, random lists, IMs, Emails, forum posts, social media (yeah, believe it!), whew. For years, I tried different tools and methods for tracking my to-dos. I was pretty good at it… Most of the time. It seemed like now and then, though, I would hit a breaking point and all the plates I had been juggling would fall to the floor, and I’d have to start over again.

Todoist Logo

Enter Todoist, a product which boasts you can “regain clarity and calmness by getting all those tasks out of your head and onto your to-do list (no matter where you are or what device you use).” To say that Todoist is a to-do list or even a project management application would be a gross understatement. Over the past few years, I have managed to shift from an anxious task tracker to a productivity power user.

I work a demanding job in a challenging field, host a podcast, a live stream, have a wife, four wonderful kids, and a few hobbies. Add on top of that the need to sleep, work out, and get things done around our house. I don’t say that to impress you. We are all busy. It’s a challenge. What I plan to unleash into your minds is a series of tools and methods I use every day to get everything done. We’ll cover Todoist, email management, ways to focus on tasks (like me trying to write this blog post), and much, much more.

Grab your caffeine and hold on tight. Here we go!

Why use a to-do list?

“I don’t need a to-do list. I have that list in my head.”

Pleeeaaase. No you don’t! We live in a world of CRAZY connectivity! Everything is always on all the time. Tweets, news, sports, YouTube, podcasts…and that’s just a short list only from the digital world! Many of us have multiple devices within a few feet of our favorite chair that spend their time lighting up, dinging, buzzing, and ringing. Attention spans and deep work are at an all-time low.

“So what, I can multitask.”

Sorry, Charlie! That’s a common misconception. What you are really doing is context switching. The more alike tasks are, the easier it is to switch between the two in a short space of time and with little productivity penalty. However, if you go from following a lively instant messaging thread about plastic versus metal dice for tabletop games to working on a 3-year business plan, you aren’t giving either your full attention.

(Besides, we all know metal dice are better!)

Shattered plate
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Not only are you not giving either task your full attention, but you are also draining your limited energies for the day. You’re shifting gears between two very different tasks. That comes with a tax and lowers the quality of the finished product. We try to compensate for this by starting several tasks at once, then getting nothing done. Then, as inevitably happens to me, your youngest daughter bursts into your room and grabs your iPad off your desk! By the time you get her setup with her afternoon activity and get back to work, those 3 or 4 or 5 tasks have all fallen and shattered all over the floor. Now, you have to spend wasted time trying to pick up where you left off with each task!

“Eric, tell me there is a better way!”

Fear not, my young apprentices. There is a better way! To-do lists. Ta-da! That’s it. You’re welcome.

Oh, wait… You want to know which one? Okay, I got you. Sorry, I dropped the mic too soon.

How I found Todoist

Screenshot: Outlook 2003 Planner

I used to be stuck on Microsoft Outlook 2003. It had a decent task tracker… You could schedule tasks, set reminders, and eventually could even set tasks to repeat. It was okay. Eventually, I moved to Apple Tasks. It wasn’t as feature rich as it is today, but it got the job done and as a bonus synced to my mobile device. I’d also tried out Trello, but at the time couldn’t quite get a handle on how to use a task board (stay tuned, wink wink!). I also tried organizing projects into MS Project in college (yeah, I was that nerd), eventually projects moved into Evernote, and later Joplin.

Tasks and projects though are two different beasts entirely, but they are also connected! What I found I needed was a way to do both, preferably in the same tool. I needed to be able to do scheduling, track progress, and and and… My list of needs seemed to keep getting longer, how could any tool stand up to that!?

A friend of mine told me about this tool with a weird sounding name: Todoist. To-Do List without the L, clever, huh?

I had my doubts and, if I am being honest, was just looking for excuses not to use it. Strike 1 it’s not open source, strike 2 it’s a paid, cloud service. I told my friend this wasn’t looking good.

Todoist: Create Task
UI Screenshot,

However, I begrudgingly created an account, and what I found surprised me. It had a simple-yet-beautiful user interface (UI), incredibly intuitive layout, and many of the features I felt I needed out of a task management tool. I can remember setting aside my work for the rest of the afternoon; I needed to give this tool a proper test drive. A few hours later, I was sold, literally, I signed up for the Pro subscription right then and there.

I could set reminders, recurring tasks, could set labels or organize by project. I had a Today view, that really helped, so I didn’t see EVERYTHING I needed to do, just wanted I wanted to get through that day. Not only that, but I had multiple levels of tasks (projects, sections, tasks, sub-tasks, and priorities).

It didn’t stop there, though! Since becoming a Todoist customer, they have introduced Kanban boards. Now, instead of sections just being a “subproject”, I could use Agile practices to track my work across their typical life cycle, say from idea to outline, draft, edit, and ready to publish. I could set up email aliases for each of my projects, that way, when someone emailed me a task to complete, I could hit forward, add in some metadata, and hit send. Within a couple of minutes, that task was also captured by my Todoist.

Todoist released Calendar integration. This made it much easier to judge how much work I had to get done. The average work day for me ranges from 30 minutes of meetings, up to 6 hours some days. (Yeah, tell me about it! That’s a lot of meetings.) The problem was, those meeting heavy days I may try to schedule my usual 8-10 tasks and get only a couple of them done. Well, I don’t want meetings to break my streak!! No way! So, I started creating tasks for meetings. Attend a meeting, mark off a task. It kept the streak alive, but also helped me plan better – more meetings, fewer tasks scheduled that day.

Getting Tasks Organized

Like many, many human beings, I sat there that first afternoon, staring at this blank canvas. Now what? I can create anything, schedule it any time, what do I do!?

Screenshot: Eric's Project List
Eric’s Project List

After a brief battle with the void, I started out by creating projects for each major area of my life and color-coding them similar to my different calendar accounts I was already using: Personal (Blue), Work (Red), and General Tech (Green). For the most part, several years later, I still use roughly that same layout, though I have added a couple more top-level projects. For instance, I eventually added my content creation efforts like the Sudo Show and this blog to their own project.

The next easiest thing to do was to go into Apple Tasks and grab all the tasks I had stashed away in there. Take out the trash, submit a time sheet, etc. Short, recurring tasks were the first to come over. Put them in the right project, give them a due date, and move on to the next task.

The harder migration (at first) was how do I break up the projects on my plate and put them into Todoist? Fortunately, Todoist had me covered. Each project has sections. So, underneath my work project, I have a section for general tasks, for each of the engineering teams I support, meetings, and one for the live stream I host every other week.

I could then add my old projects as tasks inside each of these sections. From there, I learned how to break up a large task (like a podcast episode) into sub-tasks from researching the topic, writing the outline, following up with the guest, and eventually releasing the episode. This made it easy to break off bite-sized chunks of a task and get a little progress done each day! (Incredibly beneficial when you release a new episode every two weeks!)

While I was able to migrate a LOT of my ideas, tasks, and projects in the first couple of days, my approach to project planning, task execution, and idea tracking have evolved over the years. I’ll share more on that in a later post. Nowadays, I get between 10-15 tasks done a day. I have my paper notebook open every meeting to jot down thoughts or ideas, but I also have Todoist open somewhere (phone, tablet, web, or app) to make sure I grab any action items that I need to address. I constantly filter through my emails, ensuring nothing gets asked of me there. Anytime I get an IM with a request, into Todoist it goes!

Why Choose Todoist Brake Down (Graphic provided by Crazy Egg)

Want to get started?

I would highly encourage you to get started with Todoist. It’s an amazing tool fueled by a company of folks who are passionate about helping you get more done. They have frequent releases that improve performance, squash bugs, and are still adding new features! They’re used by Apple, NASA, and folks from all different walks of life.

Go sign up for free today:

Disclaimer: This link is an affiliate link. If you purchase a Todoist subscription, I get a small percentage. That being said, I would be greatly appreciative of you using my link as anything I make from it is set aside to be reinvested into my content creation efforts (gear, hosting, etc.).

My Reading List

Before you go, I wanted to drop one more idea into your lap: From the screenshots, you’ll notice an orange project called Reading List. Todoist is a great place to drop books, blogs, and white papers!

I have a recurring task to check my RSS feed for any articles that have been published from my list of sources. I probably get about 40+ articles delivered to my RSS reader every day and read probably 25% of them from top to bottom. That can stack up if I don’t keep up with it.

I also do a TON of research between work, the podcast, and my own curiosity. White papers, data sheets, etc. are a hugely popular way to share content these days. Fortunately, Todoist has me covered there too. Todoist supports attachments! If I have a market research report to review, I’ll download it out of my email and drop it in a task and assign a date, that way I am certain I get to it.

Finally, there is my backlog of 60-some-odd books that has been accumulating over the years, from fiction to marketing to parenting. Todoist has even helped me knock that list down from 90 to 60 in the past year or so. When someone recommends me a book, I grab the link from the Kindle website and create a task for it. When I start a new book, I create a sub-task for every chapter. Then, I schedule one chapter a day each workday until that book is complete. The last chapter marks the book task complete, and I move on to the next book!

To keep things interesting, I usually pull a book from each category in my list, then start back at the top. I hope one day to only have a handful of books in this project, but considering my appetite for learning, I doubt it!

Wrap Up

Over the past couple of years, my productivity has skyrocketed! I feel confident I can manage a wide array of tasks on a wide range of projects and still keep my sanity.

Todoist now has a hand in: meeting tracking, household chores, my reading list, podcast and content planning, social media scheduling, and learning. I track tasks from keeping my daily food log to changing the water filter every 2 months, to reminding me to renew that one subscription each year that requires manually requesting a renewal. I haven’t even begun working with a lot of the integrations available in Todoist!

One thing I hope to implement soon is ensuring that recreation and disconnect time become scheduled, recurring tasks in my Todoist so that I can keep the momentum going. Whether that is a day to turn off all my notifications and rest or take the kids to the park. It’s easy to get caught up in all the demands of this world and forget what is truly important: love, joy, fun, family.

Take this journey with me. If you are struggling, learn from my mistakes and my victories. I highly recommend Todoist, but it’s not the only tool out there. Find one that works for you, and let it help you make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you!

Game Sphere 13: Terminator Resistance

I have loved video games my entire life. I got started on a Super Nintendo playing Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Kart. That was the start of my #nerdlife. Haha!

It was great to sit down with Matt and talk D&D and play Terminator as part of my prep for a podcast. Not very often can you say leveling up is part of your show prep.

On this episode of Game Sphere I get the chance to talk with Eric from the Sudo Show. We talk a bit of DND and then we get into talking about Terminator Salvation and our first impressions of it after playing for a few hours.

Sudo Vulnerability Discovered: How to Protect Your System From Baron Samedi

We tend to associate free with good. That’s not the case though when what is free is unauthorized root-level access to your Linux systems! On January 26, 2021, a vulnerability, CVE-2021-3156, was disclosed that affects just about every Linux or Unix distribution that utilizes the sudo functionality.

TLDR: You need to update your operating system as soon as possible to ensure you have the patch.

Now that you have scheduled emergency patching windows for all your impacted systems . . . you did right? Let’s get into how this vulnerability works and what the potential impact is.

On a healthy system, you have to run a su command and provide the root password or have your account authorized in the /etc/sudoers file to gain administrative level access to a Linux system. The Baron Samedit bug, however, utilizes a buffer overflow in the Sudo logic to allow a non-privileged account to bypass this security mechanism and run commands with root-level privileges.

While running a sudo command in shell mode (either with the -s or -i argument), special characters must be escaped with a backslash / character. With this vulnerability, however, you can add an extra backslash to any command. This will cause sudo to skip the policy review step where it reads /etc/sudoers to ensure the executing account has sudo privileges. Now with ill-gotten access to root-level privileges, a bad actor could do anything to a compromised system.

You can test this for yourself by logging into a Linux system with a non-privileged account and running:

$ sudoedit -s /

If the prompt returns sudoedit: your system is vulnerable and needs to be patched. However, if your system returns a usage description, your system has been patched and is no longer susceptible to this attack.

demonstration of what it would look like if your system is patched
sudoedit returns useage on patched system

This vulnerability was discovered by independent testing by Qualys Inc. an information security and compliance company. Their research found that Baron Samedit was actually introduced in version 1.8.2 released, get this, 10 years ago! This bug has been in the wild for almost a decade! It impacts legacy versions 1.8

Rarely do we see a bug with such a wide pool of targets. Sudo is utilized in Unix and Linux systems everywhere. This impacts popular distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, Fedora, and so on. Even BSD and other Unix derivatives are not immune to CVE-2021-3145. The risk of any bad actor gaining root-level rights to your systems cannot be overstated. Once running as root, your system can become a slave to botnets, used for crypto-mining, or exploited to retrieve sensitive data.

DistributionFixed VersionMore Details
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 81.8.29-6.el8_3.1Advisory
SUSE Enterprise Linux 151.8.22-4.15.1Advisory
openSUSE Leap
Fedora 331.9.5p2-1.fc33Advisory
Debian 101.8.27-1+deb10u3Advisory
Arch Linux1.9.5.p2-1Advisory
the above table lists the packages containing the patch in the most popular distributions

If you would like to read more about Baron Samedit and the deeper, technical explanation of how this vulnerability was found and how it works, Qualys published an in-depth blog on their findings: CVE-2021-3156: Heap-Based Buffer Overflow in Sudo

You maybe wondering the same thing I was . . . Where in the world did Qualys get the name Baron Samedit? Turns out, it’s a play on sudoedit and Baron Samedi. According to Voodoo mythology, Baron Samedi is the Loa (god) of the Dead. He is a chaotic spirit who spends his time smoking, drinking, and well possessing others. This ‘spirit’ even attempts to ensnare everyone’s favorite secret agent, James Bond.

Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die
Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die

Just like 007, we need to overcome this new foe, Baron Samedit. Patch your systems…

Additional Reading:
CVE.Mitre.Org: 2021-3156 Buffer overflow in command line unescaping
ZDNet: 10-year-old Sudo Bug lets Linux users gain root-level access

This post originally appeared here and is used with permission.

Interview on Linux Spotlight 55

Rocco was one of the people I instantly connected with in the open source community. His values and his love of the people in open source really resonated with me. Rocco really helped encourage me while finding my own voice.

We talked a LOT on this episode! We covered things from gaming to conferences to announcing the launch of the Sudo Show podcast!

In today’s episode of Linux Spotlight, I get to sit down with my friend Eric The IT Guy. Eric has been in the IT field for awhile and currently works for RedHat. We talk about his history in Linux, his job, Linux conferences and his new podcast called the “Sudo Show”.

Launching the IT Guy

I have some very exciting news to share with you all!

My name is Eric The IT Guy and I am a recovering Systems Administrator! I have over 11 years of IT experience ranging from Systems Administration and Engineering to technical sales and community advocacy, most recently, as a Sales Solutions Architect at Red Hat.

My mission as the IT Guy is to fight against burnout and poor work life balance. My goal is to promote methodologies and communities around DevOps and Open Source as well asn an endless supply of fun gibberish along the way.
I have worked under all the cliche’d IT cultures – from nightmare on-calls to constant firefighting to teams that are as closed minded as the software they use. I’ve learned a lot from my more-than-a-decade of experience. I hope to share those stories and the lessons I learned with all of you to help make your lives and your organizations better.

Now with that said, here’s the news:

I am very excited to announce that I have joined the Destination Linux Network! If you’ve not heard of DLN . . . where have you been? It’s okay, I’ll just tell you. The Destination Linux Network is a media network powered by Linux and Open Source with a focus on bringing quality content to our audience to help you learn and enjoy the awesome technologies that we all have available.

On DLN, I’ll be one of the hosts of the Sudo Show podcast which will be your place for all things enterprise open source. As I said, I’ll be ONE of the hosts and joining me is Brandon Johnson, a fellow Red Hatter . . . oh did I mention I work at Red Hat?
The Sudo Show is going to be an awesome podcast covering careers in IT, productivity, and enterprise technology. If you are just getting started or a seasoned veteran looking to “keep up” then you will certainly want to subscribe to the show! You can get our content on the DLN YouTube Channel or subscribe to the audio version wherever you get your podcasts.

In addition to the Sudo Show, I’m joining the team at Front Page Linux. I will be writing articles at Front Page Linux Dot Com; these will cover topics like avoiding burnout, ways to boost productivity, and how to impact your companies’ culture for the better.

Last but not least, we get to my Youtube Channel. I will be releasing periodic Vlogs there for more random content like an inside look at my experiences as a Solutions Architect.

I am excited to be joining such an awesome community. If you’d like to get in touch, just shoot an email over to Contact@Sudo.Show. You can follow me @ITGuyEric on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mastodon…just to name a few.

I can’t wait to get started, our first release is June 25th. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and especially getting your feedback!

Vision for the IT Guy

I spent over seven years in IT before I really started to understand the breadth of the industry. Technology gets a bad rap for being such a deep field but not necessarily a broad one. In fact, when I was attending college in 2009… Hold the phone… I graduated from DeVry University A DECADE ago! When did that happen!? Ugh, nothing like a personal revelation in the middle of a blog post. Any-who…the career advice I was given was there were two paths in front of me, eventually they would lead to: 1) becoming an architect, the system-designing ninja guru of a major enterprise or 2) becoming CIO of a major enterprise. Said another way, either you go the technical track or the manager track. It wasn’t ever really explained to me there were forks in those roads. Quite a few of them really! (In fact, a funny aside was that my the advisor for the first college I attended told me I wouldn’t ever be successful in IT because my higher math grades like Calculus, Trigonometry, etc. weren’t good enough. Jokes on them!)

While I am making light of a couple situations, these illustrate some very big issues in our culture, the corporate world, and our education system. (Disclaimer, I am not calling out DeVry in any sense. I loved my education and it set me up for great success. In fact, I was even crazy enough to go back and get a Masters from their graduate program.) In fact, any one person should only be limited by their own imagination or to quote the great philosopher, (Captain) Jack Sparrow: “The only rules that matter are these: what a man can do and what he can’t do.” Our rum-loving friend had a great insight. The more I learn about my career the more I realize I didn’t have a clue when I started out.

So, here’s the deal, I have been around the industry long enough to watch the shift from hardware to virtual machines to now cloud hosted workloads. I have worked within IT operations long enough to go from carrying a pager to two phones to an app-based on call rotation. I have seen the Internet go from a dial-up access to email and AIM to an essential element for virtually every industry. I have learned a thing or two along that journey and I really feel like I would be doing the industry a disservice to keep those lessons to myself. Heck, even writing that out made me think, “Hhmm, maybe I do know a couple of things!”

So, here is what I plan to bring your way. I want to address some issues that weigh on my mind: work/life balance, operational priorities, marketing buzzwords, career pathing, just to name a few. I want to share my experiences, make a few jokes, and deliver relevant news, content, and maybe a few tutorials along the way. I want to make my content available via blogs, vlogs, podcasts, conferences, whatever medium I need to use to help my fellow technologists find out where their passion and skills could best take them.

So…How about it? You ready?

DevOps KC: Communication in an Open Company

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Kansas City DevOps Meetup in downtown Kansas City! It was kind of like a coming home party. KC DevOps Days is where I got my start at GitLab and set me on a path towards a career I never imagined possible. This event, in the vault of the downtown library was my chance to share GitLab’s story to my local meetup. It was well received and even led to an impromptu demo of the GitLab product!

In the IT Industry, many incidents have been misunderstood or blown out of proportion due to poor handling of communications during and right after a crisis arises. The how, when, and how much communication can be the difference between a media frenzy and an outage that people work through and forget about. Ever since a database outage in January of 2017, companies and contributors have received timely and effective communication from Gitlab.

SELF2019: Busting Open Source Security Myths

I gave my Busting Open Source Security Myths talk at DevSecOps Days Denver to a packed out auditorium. If was so well received, I decided to bring it back for Day 2 of SELF 2019!

Developers are constantly being asked to make more and more powerful applications. The more feature-rich the application, though, the more prone to risk it becomes. Many have thought the solution is to keep the code base locked up tight, that open source is undesirable. The truth, however, is quite the opposite! More eyes on code has proven to increase the quality and security of the modern application.

SELF2019: Getting Started with Open Source

This talk defined the voice of the IT Guy for me. This was the moment when the Sudo Show got its wings, when I realized that I was on the right track towards re-inventing my career. I had people in the room I respected a great deal nodding along in agreement. This was where it REALLY started for me.

So, you are interested in technology, you want to contribute to something bigger than yourself, you can’t wait to join a global community…but where do you start? Is coding the only way in? Let’s take a practical look at how to go from consumer to contributor!

SELF2019: GitLab Takes you from Idea to Production

South East Linux Fest 2019 was an amazing test of the IT Guy…not as a brand but as the person I wanted to be in my career. I gave 3 talks in 3 days and spent a lot of time chatting with different folks, sharing stories, answering questions. It challenged my introverted nature and my public speaking skills.

The entire conference was an amazing experience that I will always cherish!

Now more than ever, developers have more tools to pick from than hours in the day. It is so easy to spend more time maintaining the development pipeline than it is actually developing. What if the planning, coding, building, testing, and deployment could all be handled from one tool in one interface? Well it can! Gitlab can cut down on tool chain bloat and decrease cycle times!

DevOps Days Des Moines: Communication in an Open Company

Getting started in my career, I never imagined I would work in sales or go speak at conferences! I was very nervous and I think that showed. What was worse is I had the first breakout after lunch and the next room was a dive into chaos engineering! I learned a LOT from this event and later revamped my talk to present to the DevOps meetup in Kansas City.

In the IT Industry, many incidents have been misunderstood or blown out of proportion due to poor handling of communications during and right after a crisis arises. The how, when, and how much communication can be the difference between a media frenzy and an outage that people work through and forget about. Ever since a database outage in January of 2017, companies and contributors have received timely and effective communication from Gitlab.

Return of the First Attempt

We got a single test episode before going back to the drawing board. After months of networking, planning, seeing what else is out there, we settled on a great approach that we feel will be unique and can make a difference in IT and how technologists do work.

Ask Noah Show Debut

Waaaaay back on Episode 26 of the Ask Noah Show, The IT Guy was being formed an molded. Now, a little over a year later, we are getting ready to launch our brand, our podcast, and our efforts to help shape how the open source community does work!

The Big Interview

Sometimes, a dream just comes together. Sometimes its a dream that you didn’t even know you had!

I have spent 10 years in the IT industry and I have struggled off and on to really find fulfillment in what I have accomplished thus far, at least until the past 4 months. If you know me at all, you know that I hit the ground running when I entered the open source community. When I started listening to podcasts over 2 years ago, I was an Apple die-hard: Macbook, iPad, iPhone, AppleTV, Apple Watch, iTunes…Yeah, it was bad! What I found through listening to Jupiter Broadcasting though was a passionate community of people willing to work hard to create something of their own.

Over the past two years, I have listened intently, idled in Telegram, and even provided a small donation every month as a Patron. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I really started to find my stride on how I fit into this mess. Enter the “IT Guy”. The online identity came about because when joining the Mumble room for Linux Unplugged, there were two Eric’s: myself and Erich, a respected member of the Ubuntu Studio project. That can be confusing during a live show or even just during chat. As the occasional IT consultant, I tended to hear, “Hey, the IT guy is here…” and the name just stuck! Moving forward, I hope the IT Guy will be able to be a platform for open source projects who need a hand getting some attention. I am working with an open-source graphic design company, FreeHive, to create some branding around the identity and start producing more blog entries, a podcast, and to even speak at conferences one day.

Over the past 4 months, that vision has really started to take shape! Along came Peertube, an open-source project working to create a federated video platform powered by torrent technology (think a self-hosted YouTube). I volunteered and started helping Jupiter Broadcasting to setup, a peertube instance focused on official Jupiter Broadcasting content and Linux Rocks Online (a community driven instance). I have been hanging out on Linux Unplugged more often and even been a guest on the Ask Noah show a couple of times…

But NONE of that compares to what I experienced today. Today, I was flown out to Dallas, TX to complete the interview process with Red Hat! Yeah…that $2.4 billion company that sells free software. Talk about an inspiration. This company is filled to the brim with talent, passion, and creativity. While I can’t say much about the process itself, it has been unlike any interview process I have ever been apart of. You talk about a group of people focused on their mission!

It’ll be a few days before I hear for sure, but I am very hopeful! My new role would be as a Senior Cloud Infrastructure Consultant. My new best friend would be Open Shift, Red Hat’s offering built around Kubernetes! For me, it would be more than setting up Open Shift for customers, it would be a chance to provide customers, specifically other Systems Engineers like myself, a new way to do work: focus on automation and orchestration instead of fighting through the same fires over and over again. Get to the point where deployments during business hours are common place and reclaim a work-life balance, recover their nights and weekends. That is a role I could make a difference in.

I hope my next entry will be to announce a shift in my employment, but regardless of what happens with Red Hat, I will continue to work to build a platform where open source projects can come be heard and provide great information and insight into the IT world!

Thank you for reading!

LAS2018: Day 4

The conference now seems like SO long ago! It was 4 crazy-packed days (plus 2 on the road) but it would not be overstating anything to say it has forever changed the course of my career.

The morning was meetings surrounding GNOME Engagement and getting thoughts and lessons learned ready for LAS2019! Being someone who has Linux, IT support, LED lighting design, live audio, photography and videography basics all crammed into my head, I could be a huge asset to conferences all over the country! It would seem to be time to get myself onto committees for more conferences.

The other realization I had was this conference is going to cost me a lot more money than just the travel expenses! I fell in love with talks about Purism’s Librem 5 phone and the whole of System76 and their efforts to manufacture the laptops and desktops in house to better support their products. I am sure in the next couple of years, as budget allows, both companies have already earned my business.

After a tour of System 76 and another cook-out, it was time to pack up and get ready for the 9 hour drive home to Kansas City the next day. I am looking forward to the upcoming changes I hope to make to my career: develop more in depth content on this blog, start a podcast/YouTube channel, become involved with projects too small to really promote themselves, attend conferences, and help others discover the passion and community behind open source!

LAS2018: Day 3

Oops! The downside to staying up pretty much all night talking about FOSS, life, and everything else under the sun is that the next morning comes WAY to quickly!

So, after going to one of the local malls to buy a long sleeve shirt and picking up some food, I finally managed to get to the venue. As I alluded to in my previous post, I spent more time thinking about people and community than the technology that drew me to the conference in the first place. Probably the biggest example of this was a talk by Britt Yazel surrounding Scientists and open source.

What could be better than a Linux-powered science computer? Its more secure, more stable, faster than the other platforms…but the problem? Lack of packages and supporting libraries to carry out complex scientific analysis! What’s worse is that universities, research facilities, and science labs and stuck running Windows and a few proprietary applications that charge thousands of dollars per license per year!!! That is literally millions of US Dollars…tax payer money… being paid to a couple of businesses that have a corner on the scientific market! Now that bugs me on a number of levels!

We as an open source community need to branch out. We need to shake this nerd in their parent’s basement stigma we have carried for so many years, get out there, find needs, and build solutions to fix those needs! Instead of idling in IRC rooms waiting for some project we can bash, we should be out there fixing problems in our world!

After a though-provoking afternoon, we all met up for pizza and celebrated the release of GNOME 3.30 and followed that up with some vintage arcade games 🙂

LAS2018: Day 2

I know, I know this is a lot later than I promised.

That is what happens when you go to a conference then come back to the real world…It seems to take a week of preparation before you leave and a week of preparation after you get back from any break to really get back in the swing of everything. Anyway, I digress…

So, its Day 2 of the conference. After an overwhelmingly awesome first day, everything sort of settled into a rhythm. We got the technical bugs worked out and started adding in lightning talks! (I think next conference I will have to sign up for one.)

The talks were amazing. We heard from KDE about their application deployment strategy and their application ecosystem. However, the not-as-technical talks is what really grabbed my attention. I was really surprised to be honest, I expected I would dive deep into technology on this trip… Not so much! Instead, I found myself drawn towards a few talks in particular:

The first was a pair of talks from Ryan Gorley, owner of FreeHive an open source graphics design agency. He talked about the need for innovation beyond Adobe Cloud and the needs of creatives from Desktop Linux and the accompanying application ecosystem. There were a pair of talks from Elementary as well discussing their attempts to monetize open source to allow developers to actually make money off their work!

However, I think the talk that I engaged with more than any of Day 2 was a talk about making open source attractive to students. Heidi Ellis and Gregory Hislop are working to integrate open source into the college curriculum at large but more than that help students fall in love with the FOSS community. Having dealt with the dumpster fire that is /r/Linux (Reddit) and seeing some of the venom of a small minority of the FOSS community, it played back into my thinking about how to introduce students, creatives, and non-technical folks into what the true intent of the open source community really is…

The night continued with Game Night, trivia led by System76’s own Emma Marshal and dinner with different people from the conference. Talks went late into the night…but it was all worth it!

Hello World

Hey ya’ll! This has been a long time coming!

This IT Guy has a lot on his plate and figured it would be beneficial to chronicle some of my journey! Stay tuned because with a big conference this week and some big decisions upcoming for myself, there could be some great stuff here!

LAS2018: Day 1

IT IS HERE! Libre Application Summit 2018. This is the first IT conference I have attended since a VMware Summit in 2012.

Not only do I get to listen to some really cool talks…okay, let’s be real. A lot of this is at the edge of my understanding. After all, I am in a room filled with some of the brightest developers from all across the globe. I am just a dumb Sysadmin, haha. It is amazing material non-the-less. I even doubled-down on my usage of Flatpaks.

The venue, Parkside Mansion, is beautiful and the staff have been nothing but accommodating. I fully expected to use my skills and an outgoing personality and as a IT Guy at this conference, however, the one set of skills I didn’t give much thought to was my knowledge of live production. I have been helping get lighting levels right, troubleshooting audio feedback, and helping plan for the future of GNOME conference technological offerings.

While the talks have been interesting, the real call of events like this is to be able to meet and interact with people from all over the world. Within the first 30 minutes of the doors opening, I was able to guide a developer to guys from Elementary OS; the developer was looking to put a mechanism into Flatpak that would allow for end users to donate money back to the developer. Who better for him to talk to than the project that is already trying to do that with their app store?!

I have interacted with people from Red Hat, Endless, KDE, and others. We have discussed American history, Steam gaming on Linux, and solved all of the worlds problems…maybe we’ll tell the world, maybe we won’t.
This conference is starting to sway my opinions on the future of my career. Maybe my time in the deep weeds of code and terminals is coming to a close in the near future to give way towards a focus on people – organizing events, making connections between people, providing a spotlight on growing projects making a difference or in need of help… now that…that sounds like a career to be proud of!

The ladies headed off to a nice dinner up on a rooftop, meanwhile, the guys headed over to the Code Think Air BnB for some grilling, card games, and some amazing conversations: The need for funding the foundations, some history of KDE, and bug tracking horror stories!

Day 2 looks like it’ll be EVEN better!

LAS2018: Travel Day

Kansas City, Missouri to Denver Colorado, 1 Interstate, 609 miles, 8 hours of podcasts… Nothing but rain! However, the nice thing about this road trip was it gave me time to consider a few things about my home lab, my career, you know big things.

I have spent the majority of my career deep in the weeds as a Linux Systems Engineer. I have worked with Red Hat, CentOS, and Ubuntu. The operating system has been my domain for a long time. The problem is, in the past couple of years, the area I have been deriving the most energy from has been the community. This summer, I have been working social media for the GNOME Foundation, made appearances on the Linux Unplugged podcast, helped manage Peer Tube and Gitlab instances. Now here I am on the eve of my first FOSS conference.

Another big decision I made while dodging visibility-killing downpours was how to rebuild my home computer lab. I have been using Digital Ocean to manage services like Quassel and Nextcloud. Part of my responsibilities as a Systems Engineer is to stay on top of trends. Well, for projects to survive the velocity of development these days containers and automation need to be at the heart of all their efforts. To be a responsible Sysadmin, I need to be prepared for that shift. So, I plan on setting up a Kubernetes cluster and running all my home services out of a Gitlab instances into containers!

The last big thought I spent time on was the next step in my education. I am a huge fan of Linux Academy. Learning from their courses is great, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into something industry recognized: IE a certification. The only cert I hold at this point is a RHCSA (Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator) in RHEL6. After this road trip, I hope within the next 3 years to hold my RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect)!

After a drink and some tacos, its time to hit the sack and get ready for LAS2018 tomorrow!

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