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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2010
DOI: 10.5062/F4B56GNH

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

[Refereed]

Science and Technology Resources on the Internet

The Frustrated Nerds Project -- Resources for Systems Administrators in Higher Education: A Resource Webliography

Jessamyn Henninger
MLS Candidate
jhenning@eagles.nccu.edu

Susan Ward Aber
Distance Education Instructor
saber@nccu.edu

School of Library and Information Sciences
North Carolina Central University
Durham, North Carolina

Copyright 2010, Jessamyn Henninger and Susan Ward Aber. Used with permission.

Abstract

Systems Architects and Information Technology administrators working in higher education help faculty, staff, and student computer users. Yet, who helps them? What resources do these professionals value? A case study was conducted using purposeful sampling and data collection through electronic interview to gather the preferred information-seeking methods and resources used by experienced computer systems professionals. Findings were consolidated and organized into a list of their recommended resources for researching solutions to the complex logistical problems that arise in the day-to-day support and administration of information technology at higher education institutions. This webliography is designed to aid systems administrators as well as librarians who serve an information-seeking, technology-savvy clientele.

Introduction

Disclaimer: The word nerd is not used here in the pejorative sense. Instead, it is used in the spirit of cultural re-appropriation and in a collegial and supportive manner of frustrated systems architects and administrators everywhere. All users of computers in higher education environments can relate to the feeling of frustration when that error message appears on the screen: The service is unavailable. Contact your system administrator. Computer users rely on systems administrators, colloquially known as "sysadmins," for assistance in situations like the one described above. Sysadmins also keep institutional systems such as e-mail, shared calendars, web sites and applications, file storage, the campus directory, and online courseware both operational and accessible. Sysadmins are the people who users contact when they run into problems with these electronic systems. If it's broken, users know their sysadmins will fix it.

Computer users rarely see how convoluted the path to an appropriate fix might be. Sysadmins must constantly work around and adapt to computer part failures, software bugs, system incompatibilities, network outages, and so on. What resources do sysadmins consult when they encounter frustrating obstacles during the process of resolving complex technical problems? Because of the unrelenting pace of change in the field of information technology, in order to stay on top of things, sysadmins must be resourceful, keeping an eye out for the most current and readily available technical information that might help them resolve the never-ending stream of computer problems. How much do librarians know about this community of information users and how can librarians help? The purpose of this case study was to discover and disseminate resources sysadmins find most useful when systems problems occur.

Scope and Methods

We conducted a case study using purposeful sampling and data collection through semi-structured electronic interviews. The qualitative research design was guided by (Creswell 1994). We chose to provide insight into participants' preferred information-seeking methods and resources rather than producing findings via statistical procedures. Because the research goal was to describe a particular group in depth, we selected a homogeneous sampling for the study's population. Experienced computer systems professionals were purposefully selected to best answer these questions, and an initial interview with a key informant suggested other likely participants.

We chose to focus on "very high research" universities (RU/VH) (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 2010) in the southeastern United States. Fifty-one systems administrators were contacted and 34 responded for a 67% return rate. All respondents have ten years or more experience with information technology support and administration at a higher education institution, though their individual areas of expertise vary widely.

In general, systems administrators participating in this study preferred to confer with experienced colleagues, or those who one respondent referred to as "other frustrated nerds" (Informant 31, personal communication, June 1, 2010) before they consulted any other source of information. The wealth of information returned from a Google search engine query was a close second among study participants. Overall, participants valued information currency, accuracy and rapidity of return more than the authority of the content creator.

If experienced systems administrators reported they consulted resources regularly to assist with problem solving and/or systems engineering in their daily work, then those resources are included in this document. The sysadmins themselves have created some of the resources in this list, but many are web sites available publicly on the Internet.

Organization and Significance

Resources are organized topically, according to the types of work sysadmins reported they performed. One resource category of suggested vendor web sites is shown as well. Category titles were chosen in order to make sense to an audience in these technical fields. Specifically, titles were created based on responses from participants and also through experience. Henninger has membership and access to this group through her expertise as a Technical Documentation and Information Technology Project Manager for an Information Technology Support group at a large U.S. university.

This case study is significant because many of the resource categories and types sysadmins reported included additional sources and formats to those reported in the literature. While everyone will recognize dictionaries as secondary sources, those outside the context of systems administration may be less aware of "crowdsourcing," a category of secondary sources shown below. Mount and Kovacs (1991) conceded that for the science and technology dictionary format, they "...cover only a small portion of the words that might need defining" (p. 80). The closest field of study to sysadmins in Hurt's (1998) book, Information Sources in Science and Technology, was computer and information technology, which he referred to as a genesis mix of mathematics and electrical engineering and a "...difficult area to place within the pantheon of science and technology" (p 235). In this third edition, Hurt organized these resources under topics including history, bibliographies, abstracts and indexes, encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, directories, and web sites (p. 236-248). None of the three web sites and 66 other computer and information technology resources listed in the Hurt book was mentioned by participants in this study.

Strutin (2008) suggested that well-used science resource guides in a university setting were interactive and online, course-specific, and recommended by course instructors. Our findings are consistent in that the resources are online, sysadmin-specific, and recommended by a community of sysadmins. Reported below are findings from this case study detailing needed and trusted resources used by sysadmins. Although this qualitative research study cannot be extended to a generalized population of computer systems professionals, the results will serve as a baseline for examining this information user population of self-described "frustrated nerds."

Crowdsourcing

Jeff Howe, a writer for the popular technology magazine Wired, coined the term "crowdsourcing" just four years ago (Howe 2006). The term combines the meanings of the words "crowd" and "outsourcing." Howe originally used the word to refer to the recent phenomenon in which groups complete large-scale projects collaboratively by means of the Internet. The end products of these tasks are the result of the collective intelligences of their individual members.

In the context of information technology in higher education, as one respondent put it, crowdsourcing provides "the ability for large groups to contribute to [a] body of knowledge" (Informant 26, personal communication, June 21, 2010). The resources listed below are online bodies of knowledge that our sysadmin respondents have "crowdsourced" and refer to often when solving technical problems.

BMC Software, Inc. (1992-2010). Remedy Action Request System [Computer software]. Houston, TX: BMC Software.
http://www.bmc.com/products/product-listing/22735072-106757-2391.html
For universities, the Remedy Action Request System software allows call centers to log and track help requests from users. The software speeds the handling, integrates processing, archives data in real-time, and keeps everyone informed. As an example, one respondent explained that his university's computer call center had stored records of nearly 200,000 help calls in its Remedy database as of July 2010. With this software, sysadmins have the ability to search these records and look for patterns. Many respondents reported this type of resource is helpful for re-examining problems they have seen before, but cannot quite remember the solutions to. If the university's call center receives a large number of help requests about one particular issue, help-desk employees write up the procedure for a fix, known as a solution. Solutions are stored in a database, which is available for both sysadmins and computer users to search via a "Search Knowledgebase" field on the university's computer self-help web site.

North Carolina State University. (2006-2010). NCSUTechStaffDocs [Mediawiki installation].
http://techies.ncsu.edu
This site is an informal internal knowledgebase that technical support staff maintains, updates, and contributes to regularly. Those who add pages to this wiki are responsible for their own writing and editing, and the community expects that those who write and edit here will correct any errors. Though one needs a university computing account to log in and edit pages, the content of the wiki is freely available for reference.

Twitter, Inc. (2010). Twitter.
http://twitter.com
Twitter is a microblogging web site, where anyone with an account can post short messages of 140 characters or fewer that are publicly available on the poster's individual Twitter web page. Contributors add a "hashtag," or identifying keyword, to a Twitter post, to make their message easily accessible to other users who might query the Twitter search engine for that hashtag. Although a hashtag is used in a manner similar to a keyword search in an online library catalog, it can differ in that it has a "query-at-the-moment" aspect. For example, if the author was having trouble setting up an e-mail vacation rule in Gmail, she could go to twitter.com and type "gmail" in the Search box. Then she would see a feed of other Twitter users' posts about Gmail. One of these posts might even contain a link to documentation that explained how to set up an e-mail vacation rule in Gmail. Likewise, she could put a hashtag on a post in her own Twitter feed; that post might read, "How do you set up a vacation rule in Gmail? #gmail." Someone else searching Twitter at that moment for keyword "gmail" might see her recent message and post an answer in a retweet to her.

Several respondents cited Twitter as an invaluable resource for receiving quick answers to technical questions. As one respondent commented, "If I'm stumped, first I ask my colleagues for advice. If they don't know, I ask Twitter" (Informant 27, personal communication, June 22, 2010). Another respondent added, "Sometimes if I ask a question on Twitter, I'll get a helpful response from someone I don't even know" (Informant 22, personal communication, June 18, 2010).

Dictionaries of Acronyms and Terms

The sites below help sysadmins increase their technological vocabularies.

Howe, D. (Ed). (2010). Free on-line dictionary of computing (FOLDOC).
http://foldoc.org/
Understanding all the different words and acronyms sysadmins use can be confusing. FOLDOC provides insight into the meanings of "acronyms, jargon, programming languages, tools, architecture, operating systems, networking, theory, conventions, standards, mathematics, telecoms, electronics, institutions, companies, projects, products, history, in fact anything you might expect to find in a computer dictionary" (Howe 2010). Consulting this resource might help a sysadmin better understand what a colleague with a different area of expertise is talking about.

Quinstreet, Inc. (2010). Webopedia: Online computer dictionary for computer and internet terms and definitions.
http://www.webopedia.com/
Sysadmins are prone to use language in an abbreviated manner. Therefore, the information technology field is fraught with acronyms. Webopedia allows site visitors to search for these acronyms and offers clear explanations of their meanings.

E-mail Discussion Lists

An e-mail discussion list allows a person to send an e-mail message to a large number of people with similar interests. One respondent characterized the importance of e-mail discussion lists as sources of information in this way:

These are good places of reference for problems and issues others like yourself may be experiencing. For example, if you want to upgrade software, there may be other people trying to accomplish the same task or if you have a particular error message, others may have seen the same error and either have a fix for it or some form of workaround. Mailing lists are also a good place to ask questions to get input from others around the world since there may be a problem and multiple ways to solve it and one may suit your needs perfectly and the others may not (Informant 19, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

To paraphrase another respondent, many e-mail discussion lists make extensive archives of previous e-mail conversations available via a web browser (Informant 6, personal communication, June 21, 2010). Archives are good places to check before posting a question to see if the answer is available already.

Higher Education E-mail System Administrator List.
http://www.lsoft.com/scripts/wl.exe?SL1=HIED-EMAILADMIN&H=LISTSERV.ND.EDU
Register for this mailing list at this web site in order to keep in contact with others who administer e-mail systems at higher education institutions. To access the web archive interface, see https://listserv.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=hied-emailadmin

MySQL Database Administrators List.
http://lists.mysql.com/
MySQL database server administration and application support is found here. This is a comprehensive index of mailing lists that relate directly to new and existing versions of and services for MySQL, as well as a "frequently asked questions" URL. General categories include Announcements, Server, Connectors, Internals, Eventum, Community, non-English, user groups. The categories are each subdivided into further support. Within the "Server" category you can subscribe to or visit archives on: General Discussion, Cluster, Backup, MySQL on Win32, Falcon Storage Engine, InnoDB Storage Engine, Maria Storage Engine, and GUI Tools. Within "Connectors" you can subscribe to or visit archives on: MySQL and Java MySQL and ODBC, MySQL and Perl, MySQL and PHP, MySQL and .NET, Connector/C++, NDB Connectors, Message API, MySQL++. Within the "Internal" category you can subscribe to or visit archives on: General Discussion, Bugs, MySQL Documentation, Database Benchmarks, and Commits. Within the "Eventum" category you can subscribe to or visit archives on: General Discussion and Eventum Development. Within the "Community" category you can subscribe to or visit archives on: General Discussion, Certification Announcements, Packagers, and Summer of Code. Within the "Non-English" category you can subscribe to or visit general archives in German, Spanish, and Japanese. Within the "User Groups" category you can subscribe to or visit archives on: Austin MySQL Users Group, Brisbane MySQL Users Group, Denmark MySQL Users Group, Hamburg MySQL Users Group, Houston MySQL Users Group, Malta MySQL Users Group, Melbourne MySQL Users Group, Rhein-Neckar MySQL Users Group, and Sydney MySQL Users Group.

Print Server Administrators List.
http://www.cups.org/newsgroups.php/
Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is a group focused on system design with server administration and support.

Project Cyrus. E-mail System Administrators List.
{http://cyrusimap.web.cmu.edu/lists.html/}
This mailing list is to discuss e-mail system administration and support. Project Cyrus is a major infrastructure service that was employed to replace 1990s mail and bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University. Project Cyrus is a scalable mail system for independent use to a system centrally managed. The core technology is IMAP Version 4, Internet Message Access Protocol. Major universities are using various versions of IMAP (IMAPd Utilities software is freely available from SourceForge.net). Another goal of Project Cyrus is to support MIME, Multipurpose Mail Extensions, which is an internet standard message interchange, and SMTP, Simple Mail Transport Protocol, the Internet standard for transporting mail. At Project Cyrus, you can download Cyrus Software, access a Cyrus Wiki, and subscribe to or visit archives of various Cyrus lists all with a different focus.

Shibboleth-Users List Archive.
http://groups.google.com/group/shibboleth-users/
Shibboleth-Users is the archive with access to discussion identity management and security credentials. This link leads you to the list's read-only archives. If posting is desired, users should visit http://shibboleth.internet2.edu/lists.html

Windows Hied List - Windows in Higher Education.
{http://www.windows-hied.org/contact-us}
This mailing list is for support and administration of Windows computers and servers. To subscribe to this list, use the web form for the Windows in Higher Education list:
https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/windows-hied

Sysadmin Management

Resources included below assist sysadmins responsible for managing humans in addition to projects.
Rands. (2002-2010). Randsinrepose.
http://www.randsinrepose.com/
Although it expresses just one person's opinion, this blog provides insight into the process of becoming a successful information technology manager including management of both IT projects and of people in IT fields. As one respondent said, "Rands' blog is very useful for developing the right mindset for...understanding and approaching conflict, and project management" (Informant 4, personal communication, June 20, 2010).

UBM TechWeb Reader Services, Inc. InformationWeek.
http://www.informationweek.com/
While this online magazine aims to reach a corporate information technology audience, one respondent noted that it sometimes features thought-provoking articles on dealing with the personality issues that come up when managing information technology workers (Informant 11, personal communication, June 22, 2010).

Ziff Davis Enterprise Holdings, Inc. (1996-2010). IT management and project management. eWeek.
http://www.eweek.com/c/s/IT-Management/
According to one respondent, "most content [in eWeek] focuses more on technical resource management... than people management. At the same time, there is often an article or two in the print edition that focuses [on] the management of people in a technical environment" (Informant 11, personal communication, June 22, 2010).

Network Infrastructure

These resources provide reference information about the structure and function of the network that allows both servers and customer computers to connect to the Internet.

American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). (2010). ARIN Online.
https://www.arin.net/
Network administrators use the searchable WHOIS function of this web site to determine who manages a particular computer address or block of computer addresses on the Internet. According to one respondent, "If you have a question about who owns or manages a particular [Internet Protocol] IP address, you can use this web site to find out registration information" (Informant 25, personal communication, June 23, 2010).

Internet2. (2010). Internet2.edu.
http://www.internet2.edu/
Internet2 is a non-profit consortium of over 200 educational institutions as well as leading technology corporations, government agencies, and research laboratories. This high-level, national collaboration propels the development of high-performance computer networks and helps the nation plan strategically for future applications of the Internet. The site provides details on the activity of the nationwide community, as well as information on workshops, conferences and other educational opportunities designed to help technologists from all over the world engage with each other.

Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC). (2009). MCNC.org.
https://www.mcnc.org
A non-profit organization, Microelectronics Center acts as Internet service provider for educational, research, and healthcare institutions, as well as for libraries and some businesses in North Carolina. This type of resource also helps educational institutions communicate with each other on the most current information technology issues. One respondent put it this way, "[MCNC gets] our local [colleges and] universities together to collaborate on new projects" (Informant 21, personal communication, June 21, 2010). For instance, there is a current initiative to implement single sign-on, one password regardless of computer system, and identity management among North Carolina institutions. MCNC's web site clearly explains its structure and function, but it also provides web conferencing services, a suite of network connectivity troubleshooting tools, a searchable knowledgebase, and a dynamic discussion forum where sysadmins can seek support and advice on technical issues. This service is for North Carolina exclusively, yet other states could benefit from the web site as a model for possible implementation.

Network Solutions, LLC. (2010). WHOIS search for domain registration information.
http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp
This site provides a searchable directory of domain names. Here network administrators can determine who owns a particular web site on the Internet.

Network Printing

Some sysadmins maintain servers that process print jobs sent from networked printers. The resources below contain documentation on the installation, configuration, and maintenance of these servers, as well as documentation on the networked printers themselves.

Powell, P. (2009, March 17). LPRng web page.
http://lprng.org/
Those sysadmins administering network print servers under the Unix operating system will find the core documentation for open-source software that controls the processing of print jobs at this site, which is called Line Printer Next Generation (LPRng). Sysadmins who maintain Unix print servers can not only retrieve the latest version of the software here, but also can read instructional documents about its installation and troubleshooting. From this site, sysadmins may also join the lprng.org e-mail list devoted to the discussion of LPRng and its operations.

Printertechs, Inc. (2010). Printertechs.com.
http://printertechs.com/
This company repairs Hewlett Packard (HP) printers, so the site authors encourage visitors to use their services. However, the company's web site contains a valuable catalog of both alphabetical and numeric error messages that sysadmins might encounter when working with HP printers. Many of these are more difficult to locate on HP's web site.

Online Communities

Below are places to find and connect with other sysadmins who support Apple computers and use other operating systems.

AFP548. (2010). Afp548.com.
http://www.afp548.com/index.php/
This is a community technical support site offering practical advice to sysadmins who manage Apple computers and servers. Sysadmins can not only post new questions, but they can also search the site's archive for answers to past questions and discussion. One respondent remarked that he preferred using this site because it documents "issues and fixes that are not documented by the vendor" (Informant 2, personal communication, June 21, 2010). The site also includes topical multimedia content in the form of podcasts.

Canonical, Ltd. (2010). Ubuntu community.
http://www.ubuntu.com/community
At this web site, those responsible for the administration of servers or computers running the Linux operating system will find a vibrant and supportive community of other Linux sysadmins with whom to share knowledge and solve problems. One respondent believed that the sheer number of contributors to the documentation and forums on this site has led to the accumulation of "a wealth of great documentation on just about any Linux topic that will work 95% of the time with any Linux distribution" (Informant 22, personal communication, June 18, 2010).

LiveJournal, Inc. (1999-2010). LiveJournal.
http://www.livejournal.com/
At this social blogging site, a sysadmin may choose to make posts in a public Internet diary, or blog, which is open to comments by cyberspace "friends." As with many web sites, a free account must be set up in order to post, but anyone can read forums without registering. One respondent considers the advice from known individuals on personal blog postings to be a valuable source of information while working through particularly difficult technical problems (Informant 9, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

New Technology Reviews

The sites listed below allow sysadmins to compare various technological devices and ultimately to make shrewd purchasing decisions.

Anandtech, Inc. (2007-2010). AnandTech
http://www.anandtech.com/
Organized according to individual computer part or type of device, this web site offers high-resolution photographs and detailed written evaluations of computer hardware. One respondent stated that "the level of detail in this site's evaluations can be helpful for gaining insight into new and emerging technologies" (Informant 32, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

Best of Media Group, Inc. (2010). Tom's hardware.
http://www.tomshardware.com
Several respondents mentioned the unbiased reviews of computer hardware on this site. Site visitors can also participate in online forums that deal with specific computer parts and read how-to articles about incorporating particular computer hardware components into a given computer system. One participant recalled using this site when he needed to compare the specifications of two different computer processors that were to be used for intensive video editing (Informant 36, personal communication, June 22, 2010). Another respondent summarized the purpose of this site succinctly: "It's like Consumer Reports magazine for computer hardware" (Informant 22, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

CBS Interactive, Inc. (2010). CNET: Product reviews and prices, software downloads, and tech news.
http://www.cnet.com/
Sysadmins in higher education often confront the challenging task of purchasing large volumes of computer hardware with the smallest amount of money possible. The product reviews and technology news articles on this site assist sysadmins in evaluating computer hardware so that they can get the best value for their limited budgets.

CBS Interactive, Inc. (2010). TechRepublic: A resource for IT professionals.
http://techrepublic.com.com/
Yes, the URL for this online community for those in information technology careers really ends in .com.com! The articles, blogs, and forums on this site are geared toward a general professional IT audience, and deal with issues of professional development in addition to technical details and problem-solving tips. This site contains a wealth of current information that will help IT professionals in higher education know what to expect in the not-too-distant future. As one respondent related, "[TechRepublic] helps me stay abreast of what's happening in the industry so that I can be aware of things we might need to support, areas that may be trouble, etc." (Informant 9, personal communication, June 22, 2010).

Weblogs, Inc. (2010). Engadget.
http://www.engadget.com/
Several sysadmins read this blog each day to update their knowledge not only of new computer hardware, but also of new technology in general.

Ziff Davis, Inc. (1996-2010). Technology product reviews, news, prices & downloads. PC Magazine.
http://www.pcmag.com/
This is the companion web site for a popular printed publication, PC Magazine. One respondent noted this is a great site for knowing what other people who work with technology think about technology (Informant 32, personal communication, June 20, 2010).

Systems Programming

Open-source programming resources shown below might be helpful to sysadmins responsible for writing programs, or small programs called scripts, that enhance communications between large-scale computer systems. Because sysadmins in higher education must often innovate on small budgets, this list focuses heavily on resources for open-source software development. Open-source programmers produce software collaboratively and then make it available for download at no cost.

Geeknet, Inc. (2010). freshmeat.
http://freshmeat.net/
The index of open-source software products at freshmeat contains links to annotations for thousands of programs designed for use with the Unix or Linux operating systems. In addition to being able to hunt for software here, programmers and other technical enthusiasts may also participate in a supportive online community and receive news of the latest software releases. According to the site's About page, freshmeat "offers a variety of original content on technical, political, and social aspects of software and programming" (2010).

Geeknet, Inc. (2010). SourceForge.
http://sourceforge.net/
SourceForge is an online repository for open-source software development projects. Numerous open-source programs are available for download here. Registration with the site also provides open-source software developers with individual areas to store and work on their projects. Along with space, SourceForge makes available useful programming tools, such as a bug tracker. Those who use open-source software can communicate directly with its developer(s) via discussion forums on SourceForge, making it a valuable resource for help with using or fixing open-source products.

Hietaniemi, Jarkko. (1995-2010). CPAN.
http://www.cpan.org/
Cpan.org serves a triple purpose for sysadmins who program in the Perl language. First, the site is a repository for Perl's source code and its extensions, known as modules, which programmers can download and install in their own programming environments. Next, a guide explaining how to program in Perl is available. Finally, the site publishes frequently asked questions about Perl, and their answers. Site visitors also have the option to join a variety of e-mail discussion lists associated with Perl that allow them to connect with other Perl programmers worldwide.

Vendor Web Sites

Many sysadmins are responsible for troubleshooting computer hardware that has suffered some sort of mechanical breakdown. Computer hardware vendors, such as Dell Computer Inc., provide technical support sections on their company web sites. Here, sysadmins can find information on issues specific to a particular brand of hardware, or even a particular computer part, such as a hard drive, inside a particular class of computer.

Not only can sysadmins use vendor sites to communicate directly with hardware vendors about computers still under warranty, but they can also access valuable contributions from other sysadmins in the community forums, or even post a question of their own for the community to respond to. One respondent summarized the importance of these forums by stating, "I'm most likely to find someone who has already experienced the same problem I'm having, and hopefully someone else has already figured out the solution" (Informant 33, personal communication, June 22, 2010). The participants of this study work with a wide variety of computer brands, so support sites for a variety of computers are listed below.

Apple, Inc. (2010). Apple - support.
http://www.apple.com/support/

Dell, Inc. (2010). Dell support.
http://support.dell.com/support/index.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&~ck=mn

Hewlett-Packard Development Company, LP. (2010). HP customer care.
http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/siteHome?lc=en&dlc=en&cc=us

International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation. (2010). Support and downloads.
http://www.ibm.com/support/us/en/

Novell, Inc. (2007). Novell forums - SUSE Linux enterprise desktop (SLED).
{http://forums.novell.com/novell-product-support-forums/suse-linux-enterprise-desktop-sled/}

Oracle Corporation (2009). Oracle Sun forums.
http://forums.sun.com/index.jspa?tab=forums

Red Hat, Inc. (2010). Red Hat knowledgebase: Support essentials.
{https://access.redhat.com/knowledgebase/}

Web Site Administration and Web Applications Programming

Some sysadmins included in this project are responsible for writing web-based programs, maintaining web servers, or designing and publishing the web sites stored on those servers. These web-related services, when taken together, are referred to as a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP (LAMP) environment. The Linux server operating system, Apache web server software, MySQL database, and PHP scripting language are all open-source tools that contribute to the architecture of the university's web services. This university prefers to use open-source tools because they are available at no cost. We realize there are alternatives such as Microsoft's Internet Information Services, the resources listed below are taken from our participants and useful reference for sysadmins who administer and program in the LAMP web environment.

Austin, J. (2009-2010.) NCSU Web developers.
http://ncsuwebdev.ning.com/
At one North Carolina university, a social networking site was created for the purpose of bringing together those involved with designing web sites, managing web content, ensuring accessibility, or developing web applications for discussion and knowledge sharing. One respondent commented, "I would recommend this to anyone new to [the university] that is responsible for web work of any kind. Since we are very de-centralized with almost no guiding authority or policy on web development, this community is critical" (Informant 10, personal communication, June 22, 2010).

Oracle, Inc. (2010). MySQL 5.5.
http://dev.mysql.com/
Documentation and binary source code for the MySQL open-source database are found here. In addition to technical articles, the site also offers quick links to blogs that MySQL database developers refer to often. The site also provides a place for MySQL developers to connect with each other in an interactive online discussion forum.

The Apache Software Foundation, Inc. (2010). Apache.org.
http://apache.org/
This site contains the core documentation for Apache server architecture. Sysadmins who take care of web servers that run Apache software use this site as a reference manual for the installation, configuration, and maintenance of Apache web servers. However, this site also provides information about the annual Apache conference and an opportunity to connect with other Apache administrators in an extensive, dynamic and supportive online community.

The PHP Group. (2001-2010). PHP: Hypertext preprocessor [Manual].
http://www.php.net/
Programmers, who develop web-based applications using the hypertext preprocessor programming (PHP) language, will find this manual useful. Those who have not programmed with the PHP scripting language can find a wealth of instructional material here. Experienced programmers revisit this site for reference. According to one respondent, "I can easily look up the syntax of php functions without looking in a book, which I have on my desk also, but it's much easier to look at this page" (Informant 5, personal communication, June 21, 2010). Another added, "The core documentation ... is usually very helpful for most problem-solving" (Informant 6, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

Administration and Support for Large Numbers of Customers

These resources may help sysadmins who manage large numbers of customer machines, particularly in the Windows 2008 R2 operating environment.

Dell, Inc. (2010) AppDeploy.
http://www.appdeploy.com/index.asp
The collection of tools and scripts at this site help sysadmins install and manage software on multiple computers at the same time. The site's visitors contribute articles and message-board posts discussing software application packaging issues. One respondent explained the benefit of this webpage by stating, "I go here to find out how to resolve issues with software deployment, to get information on how others have deployed it, as well as to get access to tools" (Informant 9, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. (2007, November 17). WolfTech information technology. North Carolina State University (NCSU).
http://www.wolftech.ncsu.edu/support/support/WolfTech_Information_Technology
Universities and businesses can create customized information technology systems. One such example is from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NCSU. This web site is their online repository for technical documentation; it is available on the Internet for all sysadmins to use. Organized topically, the documents on this site function as a handy how-to guide for a variety of computer administration tasks. For instance, this site includes instructions for the installation and management of public computer labs, but also provides technical information for sysadmins who might be assisting faculty members to set up online courses. Sysadmins new to a university context would find this a helpful reference for gathering knowledge on university computer administration. However, even the most experienced sysadmin might consult this guide for reference.

Microsoft, Inc. (2010). TechNet.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx
Microsoft produces this multipurpose web site for sysadmins who manage and troubleshoot its Windows operating system. Not only does the site house a searchable library of technical articles from Microsoft, but it also includes an area where sysadmins can contribute content to collectively edited articles in its wiki. In the site's community component, sysadmins can ask questions of other sysadmins who confront the same problems with Windows administration. Upon registration with TechNet, a sysadmin will have access to a variety of downloadable software tools. Also included are robust tutorials on command line shell scripting in VBScript or PowerShell. One respondent uses this site frequently for "software and [operating system] related problems or driver support issues" (Informant 32, personal communication, June 21, 2010).

Microsoft, Inc. (2008). Windows Server 2008 R2 [Computer software, server operating system]. Bellevue, WA: Microsoft, Inc.
Within the server operating system in the Microsoft Active Directory environment, sysadmins have access to a management tool called the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/security-policy.aspx. The GPMC allows system administrators to view, create, and modify a repository of Group Policy Objects (GPOs), http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb310732.aspx. These GPOs, or groups of settings, dictate what computer users can and cannot do in the Active Directory environment (Microsoft, 2010). With the GPMC, a system administrator may review all the GPOs that other systems administrators in the same environment have set. Should a sysadmin find a GPO applicable to computers s/he is responsible for managing, it can be downloaded, modified and applied. According to one respondent, "Not having to create GPOs from scratch saves us from having to re-invent the wheel all the time" (Informant 22, personal communication, June 18, 2010).

Russinovich, M. (1996-2010). Sysinternals.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/default.aspx
This site includes a searchable directory of utilities for troubleshooting the Windows operating system. One can execute these utilities directly from a web browser. These utilities, coupled with the site's accompanying blogs and forums, make it a valuable resource for someone researching fixes for Windows. One sysadmin stated it this way:

"Mark Russinovich, whose company was purchased by [Microsoft] a couple years ago, wrote a number of diagnostic tools that are critical to truly understanding how Windows works internally. He also writes a number of long, detailed blog posts describing, diagnosing and solving specific problems using the tools" (Informant 4, personal communication, June 20, 2010).

The Windows in Higher Education Group. (2005-2010). Windows-Hied.org.
http://www.windows-hied.org/
This web site is a companion to the Windows in Higher Education e-mail discussion list (see above). The Windows in Higher Education Group is composed of sysadmins who manage and support Windows computers and servers in college and university settings. At this site, sysadmins may subscribe to the group's e-mail list, contribute and edit content in the group's wiki, and find information about the group's annual conference. About the spirited and active discussion list, one respondent stated, "You just e-mail the list and get back a bunch of responses from peers. I went to the conference this past year and it was awesome. I was able to run some of our plans and ideas [by] bigger/smaller universities and ask a ton of questions" (Informant 4, personal communication, June 20, 2010).

Uniblue Systems Limited, Inc. (2010) Liutilities.com.
http://www.liutilities.com/
Liutilities web site archives a free resource library with tech articles for Uniblue, a commercial software company providing products to improve computer operating systems. Although users may not be aware of them, many different processes are running concurrently on their computers at any given moment. Sometimes these processes can take up a great deal of the computer's memory, causing it to behave sluggishly. Though it is easy to view a list of these processes with tools in the computer's operating system, the processes are often esoterically named, making it a challenge to know exactly what function the process serves and what the consequences of stopping the process will be. Therefore, sysadmins will find the free library of process names and explanations on this site invaluable. The site also has a collection of downloadable device drivers, and a group of informative how-to articles. [Note: Liutilities Library is located here; do not follow any redirected address to "New Uniblue."]

References

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 2010. Classification Description. [Internet] [cited 2010 Sept 10]. Available from: http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/descriptions/basic.php/

Creswell, J.W. 1994. Research Design: Qualitative & Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks (CA): SAGE Publications, Inc. p. 12, 143-169.

Howe, D.C. 2010. Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC). [Internet]. [cited 2010 Sept 10]. Available from: http://foldoc.org

Howe, J. 2006. The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired. [Internet]. [cited 2010 Sept 10]; 14:6. Available from: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

Hurt, C.D. 1998. Information Sources in Science and Technology. 3rd ed. Englewood (CO): Libraries Unlimited. p. 235-248.

Mount, E. and Kovacs, B. 1991. Using Science and Technology Information Sources. Phoenix (AZ): Oryx Press. p. 80.

Strutin M. 2008. Making research guides more useful and more well used. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship [Internet]. [cited 2010 Sept 10]; 55. Available from: http://www.istl.org/08-fall/article5.html

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