Man Vs. Machine

Man vs machine. Command Line vs GUI. It's not a new debate. In fact, when I was a little boy I watched this Paul Bunyan cartoon with the dismay of a sysadmin watching the increasing popularity of GUIs:

Cartoon: Paul Bunyan's Ax vs The Chain Saw

What Skills Do Sysadmins Need to Manage a Modern Data Center?

Video Interview with Brian Bream

When I wrote technical manuals for Oracle Solaris back in the day, I had the luxury of my very own lab. For instance, while writing the NIS+ books, I was able to discover my own procedures on a small network and, when I needed something larger, I could ask the sysadmins in Sun's bigger labs to try some experiments for me. Little did I know those were the Golden Years of technical writing.

They were also the Command Line Years. We used the command line for everything, including email, product testing and, of course, managing Solaris. The command line put the operator in control. You had a mental map of what you were doing, you were completely engaged, and if something became repetitive, you could always write a script for it. The shell was the interface, and emacs was the only tool you needed.

When GUI's first came out, we hated them on principle. They were slower than the command line, and they didn't really add any value. Plus, they weakened your skills.

Since then it's been a tossup. GUI's have gotten steadily better, but they didn't add enough value to overcome our attachment to the command line. In fact, we kinda resented them because they were used as a pretext to hire less experienced and cheaper sysadmins.

However, with the advent of vertically-integrated systems such as Oracle's Exadata and SuperCluster, the GUI may have finally come into its own. Listen to Brian Bream explain why.

Watch video interview here

Photograph of bicycle in Durango taken by Rick Ramsey in Oct 2012

- Rick

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