Sysadmins: do you like answering questions?

A debate started up in our hallway over the last few days, and while I am aware that this is water under the bridge, I am curious - am I the only person that likes answering questions while installing an OS?

Before I came to Sun, I was a system administrator. I administered systems running AIX, HPUX, IRIX, Solaris, SunOS, WinNT, Win95, and Win3.1. When installing the OS or any software, I always choose "custom install" or "advanced install". I like having that choice, as the software invariably makes the wrong choices for me.  At the very least, I like being able to validate the choices the software has made before they are committed to disk. I am impressed when the software can correctly figure most things out, if it can, but no software, in my opinion, can possibly predict the correct answers for all installations.

There is a lot of lore here in Sun that system administrators and developers don't like all the questions we used to ask during installation of Solaris, which is why this has changed so drastically for OpenSolaris. My experience, though, is limited only to my own and those administrators I worked with at Intel and Amoco (BP, now), so I'm curious - what do you think? Do you abhor questions during install time of software? Or would you rather have the option to review the choices it made for you? Or make the choices yourself?


Yes. I do like answering the questions, maybe it's just us. lol

Posted by Mike La Spina on December 11, 2009 at 08:13 AM PST #

If no questions are asked during installation, that means that answering those questions is left to a different time. For example, if the installer doesn't ask me what software I want I will have to find then use another tool to customize the software selection after installation. In the extreme case, this shifts the customization from an interactive installation to a fully custom installation via AI.

In Solaris, selecting the software packages at install time is a must because doing so after the fact is next to impossible. The difficulty is largely due to the fact that there is no way to install SUNWCreq, then follow up after installation with "oh, and I need to be able to run zones and compile software too." OpenSolaris helps this situation a lot through the use of more incorporations (nee metacluster) and automatic dependency resolution.

All of that being said, I can't tell you the last time I did an interactive installation of Solaris. I either use jumpstart or live upgrade to get fresh bits on a box. I have profiles that are pretty close to what I need and know the rules file well enough to customize it when I need something special. Finish scripts (typically through JASS) tweak the things that need to be tweaked after Solaris installs. I look forward to AI being as straight forward to set up as jumpstart is.

One place where asking questions just has to go is sysidcfg. It asks questions in such a way that I am forced to random answers just so that I can get past it and configure my system the way it really needs to be configured. Does anyone in an enterprise environment ever choose only DNS as their name service? If so, they have a user management nightmare on their hands. If instead you only choose LDAP, NIS, or NIS+, you can only resolve those hosts that those services know how to resolve.

Posted by Mike Gerdts on December 11, 2009 at 08:54 AM PST #

Most sys admins want to control things. I never use the default install of an OS as shipped by the vendor. Invariably it doesn't suit my environment.

Windows gets outlook express, games, MSN, adware removed.

Solaris gets every language other then English removed. I don't need UUCP lots of other packages. I want much of the Solaris Companion software.

I change the default partition table if it's not a ZFS root install.

Linux is the same.

Posted by Tom on December 14, 2009 at 12:18 AM PST #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed

Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at


« August 2016