The title is a quote from Joseph Addison, according to the good folks at the Richmond Public Schools. Addison was a 17th and 18th century poet, but were he around today, he might have said it is a basic tool in being a good sysadmin. If you don’t spend a good portion of your work week reading, you’re either doing it wrong or you’re overworked. So what should you read? Why, a little bit of everything, of course.
Each morning, I read through my log reports. I get a lot of important information from a LogWatch report generated by my central log server. I can see who logged in from where, and where failed logins (read: SSH attacks) came from. A list of packages that got updated is given, as well as miscellaneous messages that I might want to know about. Of course, I could look at the report for each individual host, but a centralized server makes life much easier.
Keeping up on the news is important, too. Technology news is important too, but general news of the world. Why? Well, because I like to know what’s going on. I guess you could do without it, but why? Fark.com, Slashdot, and Reddit are all good places to get both nerdy and non-nerdy information, as well as discussion by people who (sometimes!) can bring more information to the table than the article itself will provide.
Since this is a blog, I am morally required to mention that blogs are absolutely necessary for sysadmins. There’s probably a blog or several from the vendor of your OS of choice, as well as your critical applications. Plenty of other sites have blogs, too, but what may be the most interesting are the personal blogs of your peers. When you’re a new sysadmin, you probably don’t know much outside of your own environment. Reading what others are doing is a quick and easy way to help expand your horizons. I have to mention specifically Matt Simmons’ Standalone Sysadmin blog. I found it by accident a few weeks ago, and have since become an avid reader. Having worked in academia all of my professional life, I often don’t see things from the perspective of someone working in the private sector.
There’s another source of information that can be very helpful. There’s probably a building in your county that your taxes fund and it’s full of dead trees. That’s right: your public library. I’ve been visiting the library fairly regularly to check out books for recreational reading. Today I had a sudden revelation: the library has technical books, too! So I’ve decided to check out a technical book when I visit. I’d like to read at least two per month, in order to expand and deepen my knowledge.
So what’s the point of all this? READ!