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[P]
High-tech grease monkeys?

By phoenyx in Op-Ed
Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:14:43 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

What is it about a network administrator or technician that puts him on a level above a low-tech mechanic. Something breaks, we fix it. Something works, we keep it working. Both are technical and specialized fields, requiring their own specific knowledge, skills, and jargon. But yet a mechanic tends to be viewed as a low class, blue-collar occupation; while someone who works with computers in a similar fashion is typically seen in a very white-collar and almost magical light because the assumption is he must be intelligent.

I've often said a trained monkey (read: idiot MCSE) could do my job (managing a relatively small segment of a network that's part of a larger enterprise environment), to which people tend to laugh, as if they think I'm just being jokingly modest. What is it about working with cards, CAT5, and operating systems that makes it different from working with pistons, manifolds, and gaskets?


Just some food for thought, and hopefully discussion.

As I was walking through a part of the plant that I'm now working in (transitioning from a corporate to industrial environment is interesting) carrying a PC that had just been repaired to its respective location, and I walked past two employees from the maintenance department who were hard at work trying to get a furnace used to heat molten aluminum back up and running. I found myself thinking about the fact that the work that they are doing I couldn't do, much in the same way that they could probably not do my job. I was struck by the similarities in our jobs: fixing things when they go down, keeping things up and running, troubleshooting problems, learning everything they can about each new piece of machinery as it comes into the plant so they can understand how it works and how to fix it, etc. I was also struck by the differences: I am salaried management, they are hourly workforce; I go to work in "business casual" attire, they wear traditional uniforms with their name prominently displayed (which is rationalized by dirt, grease, and work environment.....but there's also some class-ism there); and the list could go on, but the basics being that I'm seen as several levels above them both my management and employees.

Outside the plant in general, there are technicians and mechanics in all sorts of fields who do roughly equivalent jobs to your average network admin / support tech / MCSE sort of position (not a programmer / software engineer type position, that's a different story). What's curious is the difference in the way the public and employers view us, and how we view ourselves, compared to the "lower-tech" support and technical positions.

Perhaps this is due to computers still being somewhat new and magical, perhaps due to the fact that computer change at a more rapid pace and therefore a more complex field, or perhaps it has to do with the difference in the average intelligence and education level of someone who chooses computers over brake repair.

Something that makes this even more interesting is the number of hackers and other computer geeks who find tinkering with engines and other non-computer technical fields good for a hobby when they need to "un-plug," which would suggest that there is a parallel at least in reasoning and mindset among these fields.

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High-tech grease monkeys? | 171 comments (169 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
I agree... (2.62 / 16) (#3)
by Refrag on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:22:50 AM EST

I often think about that myself. Most recently when I took my car in for an inspection and had much time to think. Sysadmins are technical people, mechanics are technical people. They really do the same thing just with different technologies and levels of grease. :)

Refrag

Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

technology == necromancy (3.68 / 19) (#4)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:23:41 AM EST

What is it about a network administrator or technician that puts him on a level above a “low-tech” mechanic?

The popular perception that computers are magic.

In the early days of the automobile, mechanics were held in the same kind of awe. More often than not mechanics built or rebuilt their own engines, made extensive modifications, made repairs on the fly, etc. Sound familiar? s/engine/network

Give it another fifty years or so. The gloss will fade and people will be cursing network engineers just as much as they currently curse auto mechanics.

The Future (3.75 / 4) (#6)
by Refrag on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:36:19 AM EST

I often think about how in the future a lot of people that are now considered "knowledge workers" will be relegated to being "techs" and looked down upon by the business people instead of the respect that we get today. Then I think about how bad that would suck, since most technical people (even if they have a monkey job) are much more intelligent than the majority of people on the business end.

Then I often think about how a really cool cyberpunk movie could be made along those lines.

Refrag

Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

re: the future (4.00 / 2) (#40)
by cbatt on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:39:13 PM EST

That's the way of things though.

Knowledge workers invent computing, cars, writing, and language (etc...). Knowledge workers dumb things down so that average joes can use them. Things become so easy to use that average joes no longer need knowledge workers to guide them in usage. Knowledge workers become marginalized unless they try to stay ahead by continously re-inveting themselves in order to invent the "next thing".

We make. We refine. They use. We get marginalized. Rinse and repeat.

-----------
Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]

50 years minus 50 years (2.00 / 2) (#20)
by wedman on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:02:54 PM EST

Give it another fifty years or so. The gloss will fade and people will be cursing network engineers just as much as they currently curse auto mechanics.

Ha! Network engineers are cursed nearly as much today - especially if they're 'certified' with some useless MSCE. Perhaps not by pointy haired bosses, but what do they ever know.

~
DELETE FROM comments WHERE uid=9524;
[ Parent ]

The geek in all of us. (3.21 / 14) (#5)
by tweek on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:33:52 AM EST

It amazes me how everyone is really a geek in thier own right at the end of the day. If I'm not mistaken, the word geek related to the press industry anyway. My father is a mechanic and I have the utmost respect for what he does. The man knows the internal workings of a car better than I know networks et. al. Really it all boils down to not what you know but the level to which you know that area.


Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
Definition: geek (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by spaceghoti on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:39:43 AM EST

Someone who bites the heads off chickens.

Doesn't it make you proud?

No, I'm not kidding about this.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Specialization (none / 0) (#48)
by tweek on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:19:41 PM EST

Well I guess if you were to specialise in something..biting chicken's heads off is a good way to go!

Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
[ Parent ]
You are correct: Sys Admin vs. Comp Scientists (3.46 / 15) (#7)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:40:47 AM EST

This reminds me of questions on the SATs: Auto Mechanic is to Mechanical Engineer as Network Administrator is to Computer Scientist. At my school some people have developed a saying "Our students create tools while other schools train people who use tools". A network administrator simply uses prebuilt tools created by the true scientists and engineers.

A Network Administrator is similar to an auto mechanic in a large number of ways
    A sys admin has specialized knowledge of a subset of architecture and tools.
    A sys admin lacks in depth theoretical knowledge of the tools that are used by him/her ih daily life.
    As Microsoft has shown, most of the more esoteric tasks performed by a sys admin can be replaced by automation and less technically trained people. This is similar to the differences in the intricacy of knowledge possessed by mechanics a decade or two ago and now where many of them are wedded strongly to all sorts of automated tools.
    The typical sys admin cannot build the tools he is dependent on for his work nor does he/she completely completely understand their inner working.


PS: This isn't flamebait, it's an opinion/observation. If it inflames you, it's probably because it rings true.



Still in the early days (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by phoenyx on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:01:30 AM EST

A sys admin lacks in depth theoretical knowledge of the tools that are used by him/her ih daily life.

Reminds me of hackers vs. script kiddies to some extent that way. I also think though, that that's what seperates myself and other "geek" admin as opposed to MCSE admin, in that we do have a deeper knowledge, and enjoy tinkering and working at a level above or daily work-related tasks. So then, why are we admins instead of programmers? In my case it has to do with mentality, I can code, I like to code, but I can't meet a deadline and constantly tweak everything I've done, therefore I chose the admin route because I could never be a programmer in an actual production environment. This brings me to your other point, and sort of the touches on other comments, that we're still in an early age, where the "mechanics" still have an "intricacy of knowledge".

As Microsoft has shown, most of the more esoteric tasks performed by a sys admin can be replaced by automation and less technically trained people. This is similar to the differences in the intricacy of knowledge possessed by mechanics a decade or two ago and now where many of them are wedded strongly to all sorts of automated tools.

Of course, with an influx of idiot MCSEs (many of whom I compete with for new jobs), this is already changing



[ Parent ]
Automated Flame Tools (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by Devil Ducky on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:29:18 PM EST

What rung true most was the relevation that M$ is bringing about automated tools to replace the classical SysAdmin position. Much as in Auto Mechanics now could not work without their computer-driven tools. Notably auto engines have become much more complicated... before the fuel "crisis" a person could tear an engine apart and put it back together correctly in a matter of hours (if that long), now noone would dream of doing that - an engine is more wires and computer chips than anything else.

Now barring the discussion on the quality of Micro$oft Tools, in the future we may find that the much-aligned MCSEs and the like will completely replace us (the knowledgable SysAdmins) in the workforce. Perhaps to take this even further perhaps the community wide cling to old (and reliably difficult) UNIX tools is a side effect. What I am asking is: Are we using and pushing for Linux/*BSD in order to ensure our place in the world, knowing that the average user would not be able to do as much on these systems as they could on a Windows machine? I can't think of a comparison in mechanical history, but don't you feel that if the auto mechanics sensed an alternative to the newer computerized cars that they would have grasped for it, even pushed it upon the public every chance they got?

Do I believe this? I didn't before typing it, but now I don't know...

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Luddites? (none / 0) (#36)
by sugarman on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:25:58 PM EST

Are we using and pushing for Linux/*BSD in order to ensure our place in the world, knowing that the average user would not be able to do as much on these systems as they could on a Windows machine?

Interesting question, and the answer threatens to rear its head in every "GUI / UI" thread I've seen WRT linux. I think we know the truth, but don't want to admit it. I can't think of a comparison in mechanical history

As for a historical version, weren't the original Luddites following exacly this modus operandi? AIR, they didn't like the mechanized looms taking away jobs from the workers in the factories (even though those same factory conditions were deplorable), so they started sabotaging the machinery (quite literally, a "wrench in the machine") to shut down production.

So Linux Advocate == Luddite Sysadmin? ;)
(yes, this is a joke, people)


--sugarman--
[ Parent ]

sabotage (none / 0) (#66)
by aprentic on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 09:21:00 PM EST

I think sabotage comes from the word sabo (sp?). Sabo are wooden shoes or clogs. These are what were thrown into the looms to take them off line. Unfortunately my source for this information is Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, so it's less than reliable. But I did take a tour of a sabo workshop so I know that's the right word for such shoes.

[ Parent ]
Sabotage... (none / 0) (#74)
by Pig Hogger on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 01:16:23 AM EST

I think sabotage comes from the word sabo (sp?). Sabo are wooden shoes or clogs.
It is sabot, the french word for clog... Hence the word sabotage.
--

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it's idiot
[ Parent ]

comparisons? (none / 0) (#69)
by titus-g on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:29:47 PM EST

*I can't think of a comparison in mechanical history *

Hot rodders, kit car builders, classic car restorers.

Maybe a few years down the line we'll all be meeting in fields trading in obsolete hardware and old cds of distros.

Much to the amusement of the rest of the world who will have moved onto closed box systems.

Ho hum.

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

Watches (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by Luke Scharf on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 04:40:44 PM EST

I can't think of a comparison in mechanical history, but don't you feel that if the auto mechanics sensed an alternative to the newer computerized cars that they would have grasped for it, even pushed it upon the public every chance they got?

My grandfather was a watchmaker. He loved his work and one day showed me the inside of a an old watch. He said something like new quartz-crystal watches keep very good time, but they're not as much fun to work on". I'd imagine that a good mechanic would have the same response to a newfangled electronically controlled engine.

What I am asking is: Are we using and pushing for Linux/*BSD in order to ensure our place in the world, knowing that the average user would not be able to do as much on these systems as they could on a Windows machine?

I administer both WinNT and Linux boxes. Sometimes I think it is possible that I'm missing out on a set of 3rd party tools that would make Windows functional and beautiful and nimble and powerful. I usually stop wondering, when I actually have to DO something on the Windows machines.

If someone can show me that I can do my work better and with less agrivation on a Windows box, I'd use Windows.



[ Parent ]
Real Sysadmins (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by YellowBook on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:33:11 PM EST

As Microsoft has shown, most of the more esoteric tasks performed by a sys admin can be replaced by automation and less technically trained people.

The consensus on alt.sysadmin.recovery seems to be that the first thing a competent sysadmin (i.e., not a MCSE) does when tha starts a new job is write this automation (specifically for ther new environment). Then tha can spend more of ther time playing Nethack or reading Usenet instead of working.

One thing to remember is that a lot of sysadmins either have a CS background and are BOFHing because its where the jobs are, or they have another academic background but the mindset needed to grok the underlying principles of the systems the work on.



[ Parent ]
I'm not inflamed.. but... (none / 0) (#42)
by mindstrm on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:44:21 PM EST

Consider that, yes, what you say is becoming true, in many cases.

The classical sysadmin, though, may very well have engineered the system himself, and done quite a bit of acutal programign to make it work. Yes, he didn't build the computers themselves... and I'm not trying to say that computing science and network administration are the same.. they are absolutely different... but...

There is still a very wide range of sophistication and skill in the field of systems/network administration. Everything from MSCE grads (or equivalent) who are 'in charge' of a system, to extremely well rounded, knowledgable types who really *can* deal with huge networks and systems.


[ Parent ]
Good article (3.94 / 17) (#8)
by spiralx on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 10:41:17 AM EST

Thank God for a well-written, interesting article that has nothing to do with USian politics, of which I am heartily sick of now.

Anyway, the reason is nothing more than the perception of difficulty, which is in turn somewhat related to the relative novelty of the computing industry. Whilst I agree that there are other jobs out there in which the level of technical skill is equivalent, many of these are "hands on" jobs which people can at least garner an understanding of from watching. They look as though you could do them with a bit of practice, as errorneous as this assumption is.

OTOH, your average sysadmin looking after even a few *nix boxes (hell, even a few Windows boxes) is engaged in something which most people who own a computer would never think they could do. Computers still intimidate a lot of people, to the point where they believe that it's a lot harder to do things than it really is. Obscure command line interfaces and plenty of jargon flying around don't help with matters either, and nor does the media portrayal of both computers and hackers, who are invariably portrayed as sad, lonely people who have devoted a life to the study of their craft.

At university I studied theoretical physics, a subject which I very much doubt was any harder than any other if you're any good at maths. But because of the perception that physics is some arcane, difficult subject people seem impressed when you say that's what you did. My fiancee at the time did psychology, and I can honestly say that there is no way I could have done the course myself, I'm just not wired to be able to write long, critical essays and evaluate research. But because of perception again, for some reason psychology is seen as an "easier" subject than physics.

It all depends on your skills. I'm good with computers, but I suck at tricky manual work. This is (partly) the reason I'm a programmer, not a mechanic or an engineer. I'd be crap at those jobs, just because it's not what I'm good at, not because of either being more difficult or complex.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

RE: Good article (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by Fireblade on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:09:16 AM EST

OTOH, your average sysadmin looking after even a few *nix boxes (hell, even a few Windows boxes) is engaged in something which most people who own a computer would never think they could do. Computers still intimidate a lot of people, to the point where they believe that it's a lot harder to do things than it really is. Obscure command line interfaces and plenty of jargon flying around don't help with matters either, and nor does the media portrayal of both computers and hackers, who are invariably portrayed as sad, lonely people who have devoted a life to the study of their craft.

While I agree with what you are saying here, I still think the same could be applied to a mechanic. How many people would not even attempt to change the air filter in their car for the same reasons.

[ Parent ]

But (4.00 / 3) (#12)
by spiralx on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:22:07 AM EST

While I agree with what you are saying here, I still think the same could be applied to a mechanic. How many people would not even attempt to change the air filter in their car for the same reasons.

I'm not disagreeing with you on this point, but what I'm saying is that more people would be willing to pick up a book and attempt to change their air filter than would be willing to read an O'Reilly book and attempt to perform an incremental backup of user directories...

Both may be perceived as technically demanding, but one more so than the other. People are a lot more used to mechanical systems than operating systems...

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

(OT) Your sig.... (none / 0) (#84)
by dice on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 07:40:04 AM EST

Where did the quote in your sig come from?

[ Parent ]
My .sig (none / 0) (#89)
by spiralx on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 09:45:46 AM EST

If you remember the IRC chat that Taco et al did a couple of months ago, after he finished that we invited him and Timothy to #trolls on slashnet. Well I wasn't online at that time, but several of my fellow /. trolls were, and that was one of Taco's comments about us.

Strangely enough, the entire log of it is posted here on kuro5hin anyway, because Rusty wanted to read it... it's pretty funny really :)

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#97)
by Spendocrat on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 02:53:37 PM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=comments&sid=TrollTalk&cid=15#15

Is the right URL

The best thing is, I just learned stuff about scoop through blackbox testing :)

[ Parent ]

RE: Good article (4.66 / 3) (#16)
by CubeDweller on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:45:15 AM EST

Especially with today's heavily computerized and techically dense cars, a good mechanic is nothing to sneeze at. You've got to have a lot of knowledge. I've heard people say that nowadays you just plug the car into a diagnostic computer and the computer tells them what to fix or replace, but I seriously doubt that it's anywhere near this simple.

I only know one mechanic, but he gets paid pretty well. In my region a skilled Unix sysadmin can make $40-50 thousand per year, according to him a trained, certified mechanic with a few years experience is in the same range.

I think what skews peoples perceptions is the dirt and the grease. When you work with computers you tend to keep yourself and your environment pretty clean (except for your keyboard keys). I keep my hands clean because I don't want to be contaminating hardware. I don't wear loose fitting clothing because I don't want it catching on things.

A mechanic, on the other hand, is usually caked in grease, dirt, and motor oil. Their brain may be just as sharp, but so much of peoples judgement of others relies on appearance.


Just my two cents.

Seth


What do you mean vote? I've done nothing but vote all year--for my favorite song, for most exciting NFL touchdown, for whether the rabbit gets his Trix. I'm freakin' exhausted!

[ Parent ]
The smell of technology (4.00 / 3) (#49)
by tzanger on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:25:58 PM EST

I've heard people say that nowadays you just plug the car into a diagnostic computer and the computer tells them what to fix or replace, but I seriously doubt that it's anywhere near this simple.

Actually, with some problems it really is this simple. A friend of mine bought a new Snap-On handheld diagnostic computer for transmissions. Within 30 seconds of hooking it up it will say something to the effect of "Won't shift out of 2nd because rear 3rd gear valve is stuck." No shit.

Their brain may be just as sharp, but so much of peoples judgement of others relies on appearance.

True. Personally I notice the smell most. <pause for dramatic effect>

To me, there is nothing quite like the smell of metal-on-metal, thick grease and hot motor oil. I love working on my vehicles for this exact reason. Being dirty (or cut, scratched or scraped) is something that, while I don't go out and do on purpose, I "enjoy". In the same vein, the smell of a "fresh" computer case or pretty much any new piece of computer equipment is distinctive and appealing as well. Maybe it's just the smell of technology -- of the theoretical coming out of academia and doing something practical and physical which keeps me in this kind of work. Maybe this is why I don't like technical administrative work; the smell just isn't there. Walking into a server closet doesn't have that smell. Working in telco racks doesn't have that smell. Designing the hardware and builing those prototypes does though.

The "top" technical smell for me though is resin core solder. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm if it weren't toxic I could smell it for hours. :-)



[ Parent ]
and that's a bad thing? (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by vsync on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 05:36:59 PM EST

Obscure command line interfaces and plenty of jargon flying around don't help with matters either, and nor does the media portrayal of both computers and hackers, who are invariably portrayed as sad, lonely people who have devoted a life to the study of their craft.

What are you talking about? I have devoted my life to the study of my craft. Without trying to inflate my ego (any more than it already is, heh), I can safely say that I know more than pretty much anyone I've met in my age group, and more than many 30-40 year olds too. And yet, I feel totally inadequate next to those 40 year olds who have devoted their lives to the study of the craft.

I think there is definitely something to be said for specializing enough that you become an expert in your particular field. Sadly, our society seems somewhat prejudiced against people who do this, as does the job market, which tends to encourage quick learning of the language du jour, rather than a quiet, competent understanding of the history and principles of the field.



--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]
I didn't say I thought it was a *bad* thing (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by spiralx on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 04:09:00 AM EST

After all, to an extent I've done the same for a fair portion of my life. There is absolutely nothing wrong in my opinion with devoting your life to something you find worthwhile. Many (although not all) of history's great thinkers were more monomaniacal than any of us will ever be - Gauss, Euler and Erdos all devoted all their entire lives to maths for example.

But once again it's the perception of the society we live in that views this as a negative thing, as though it makes you somewhat less of a real person if you're not interested in doing the whole social whirl or pushing for career advancement. People who dedicate their lives to something are seen as strange or even mad. Just look at the portrayal of scientists in movies over the years. With a few notable exceptions, scientists are typified by the "mad scientist" archetype, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Well let's keep it quiet then...... (2.95 / 20) (#9)
by meadows_p on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:00:44 AM EST

...otherwise they'll stop paying us so much!

Is it supposed to be funny? :( (1.25 / 8) (#13)
by darthaya on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:25:47 AM EST

This kind of one-liner "Funny" comments is the reason I left slashdot.

People should take things more seriously in here.

[ Parent ]

Serious? (3.40 / 5) (#19)
by spaceghoti on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:59:37 AM EST

I'm not here to be serious. Okay, I take some things seriously. But this topic has been begging for humorous feedback, and there's nothing wrong with it so long as it doesn't get out of control.

The day this place gets too serious is the day I move on.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Something wrong with that? (2.50 / 2) (#68)
by static on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 09:45:28 PM EST

A little humour is good for leavening a discussion. Trust me; I speak from long experience at another web forum where this is almost always the case.

Wade.

[ Parent ]

The place for humour (2.50 / 2) (#79)
by meadows_p on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 03:54:58 AM EST

Oh, come on, there are no other humerous posts attached to this story, I wasn't being a troll or offensive to anyone and it did raise the point of pay disparity in a lighthearted way. I'm sorry if you didn't like it, I did.

[ Parent ]
Pay disparity (1.40 / 5) (#18)
by wedman on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:58:47 AM EST

I'm happy *you* get paid so much well.

~
DELETE FROM comments WHERE uid=9524;
[ Parent ]
The difference is simple (2.81 / 11) (#15)
by molo on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:41:15 AM EST

The difference is simple: auto mechanics get their hands dirty (oil, grease, fluids, etc.) while computer "mechanics" at most get some dust on them. Society sees auto workers as common or low class because of this. Also, cars are pretty commonly accepted as "tinkerable" while computers are seen as untouchable, nearly mystical, etc.. Give it 20 years, and computer technicians will become more like auto mechanics, but not quite. The "dirt factor" is still there.

--
Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn
It's Software Engineering... (4.00 / 36) (#17)
by costas on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:49:41 AM EST

We are as far from grease monkeys as software engineering is from real engineering.

Real Engineering has standards; it has processes; it has documentation (excellent documentation, not some thrown together man page); it designs for maintainability, robustness and fault tolerance. Software engineering designs for time-to-market.

Can you tell I am a real engineer by training? I used to be in charge of engineering maintenance for a fleet of combat helicopters. Then I switched to software engineering. I have been appalled ever since: a 19-year old, armed with some basic mechanic skills and an Army TM (Technical Manual) can fix a million-dollar piece of equipment. To fix a million-dollar piece of code it takes a freaking PhD, and sometimes more than one.

Let me tell you why I think this is:
* An aircraft is not designed to fall over and die if something goes wrong. It won't give you a "GPF" and fall to the ground. There is redundancy and fault freaking tolerance built-in.
* A machine is (usually) build from industry-standard parts. Screws have SAE codes, they got NATO codes, they are documented to hell and back. They are NOT hidden, proprietary APIs that may behave unexpectedly if you're not 100% familiar with them.
* An Army TM, or a Boeing Maintainance Manual is written for real-world conditions: they can be as superficial as possible ("turn screw until 34 psi") or go into much depth as possible ("screw is from T-6066, SAE code so-and-so, fax this number for specs") depending on the audience. Usually the documentation is written and maintained by people who maintain freaking planes too, not documentation monkeys...
* When someone finds a fault, the fix is documented like you wouldnot believe. They are Emergency Action Messages, there are Service Letters, Service Bulletins and updates to the documentation --for the SAME damn problem, with increasing detail and level of knowledge. Aircraft manufacturers don't sit on a damn critical error until they are embarassed to do something by the media.

So, your job is safe as long as Software Engineering aspires to the same unspeakably low standards as it does today. When software development actually improves in quality, IT professionals will indeed be equivalent to auto mechanics.

But I wouldn't hold my breath.


memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
Comparing the wrong end of engineering... (4.00 / 5) (#24)
by bscanl on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:30:30 PM EST

I think you should compare and contrast the "proper" engineering of a Sun E10k Cluster running HA Oracle to the
field maintenance applied to your everyday toaster.

There are fault tolerant systems out there, applied when needed, like Telco environments. People's lives don't depend on a E-Commerce server, but they may depend on a Telco system. Also, typically there's not much money lost when an internal NFS system goes down - Whereas a Telco network will lose credibility, customers and hard cash.
Airlines, if a plane crashes, loses credibilty, lawsuits, etc.

I run a few telco Unix machines, including voicemail systems and other fault tolerant machines - the architecture really is not far off your description of the airplane. SS7, GSM and SysV4 are the three standards
I come across most - I use a POSIX compliant shell, I get to track online bugs, if one half of my voicemail system explodes, it doesn't come crashing down.

I've never touched medical nor scientific hardware, nevermind super-computers - I'd reckon that the architecture is another quantum leap above Telco stuff.

Incidentally, my gut reaction when any /.er goes on about how superior Linux is to Solaris/HPUX (usually because they don't ship with gcc or something stupidly trivial like that), I'm flabbergasted - Solaris, for example, is a well _engineered_ system - Linux is only started getting the attention from field engineers, customer care reps and tech support people in a structured manner. Sun have been doing this for years, and engineering a highly available, extremely SMP-aware, UNIX98 compliant system, as have HP etc. - Examples of how things just don't get fixed in Linux would be the OOM "problem" that seemed to plague Linux for a good while. A well engineered and implemented OS just shouldn't die when Out Of Memory. This should be dealt with before adding more trivial device support, imho, but it seems they've problems delegating tasks, or implementing fixes...

[ Parent ]
QOS? (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by costas on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:31:55 PM EST

Forgive me if I am wrong, but aren't telcos bounded by law for Quality of Service? (911 lifeline, etc)? I am all for QoS guidelines on everything (granted, not as strict as 911) precisely because my phone's uptime kicks my PC's uptime but --and also my cable company's, my ISP, etc.

Also, let me tell you as an old (ex-) supercomputer guy: supercomputers are also not very stable or standardized. Usually they are administered by top-notch people, and that's what makes them work really well, but it's more like black magic than real engineering...

As for Solaris vs. Linux: I agree, it's like comparing apples to oranges. Solaris (on Sparc) is robust, well engineered and well documented. But I do think that non-enterprise level software (especially consumer and SOHO software) are usually none of the above...


memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
[ Parent ]
OOM? (none / 0) (#105)
by fvw on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 08:04:45 PM EST

_What_ oom problem? Linux doesn't crash on oom, it just kills the first next thing that tries to malloc or write to a clean page. If you don't want that, use ulimits. If you don't want $SPECIALUID's processes killed, it's a 3 line patch... (You're right of course on stating that linux and the big commercial unices can't be compared, but I don't think linux has an OOM problem.)

[ Parent ]
The other way (4.25 / 4) (#31)
by Devil Ducky on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:04:38 PM EST

I started my long college career as a CompSci, after a few years I switched to EE (dont ask). Once I switched to EE I noticed a few things.
  1. Any body in this school who knows anything about computers beyond Windows is in EE.
  2. When in actual EE classes (instead of computer classes for EEs) the documentation is ridiculously overwritten. I don't need to know the entire history of this bipolar transistor*
  3. Computer classes for EEs (there are a lot of them) are a much better combination of real-world and theory, though it's all still just theoretical (this is an engineering school after all) but that's another discussion
I've also seen much documentation from IBM and Sun (I am sure there are other companies but I have seen these). For the important stuff (anything above a web-server) the documentation from IBM and Sun is precise and concise, almost to the point of amazement. The cause of this is that when dealing with your average PC it simply doesn't matter if the computer dies. When dealing with the upper-end machines a lot of money is on the line (and sometimes lives, too)... so now the hardware is better, the documentation is better, and the training is better.

If anyone were to make a lot of money or lives rely on the average PC then they are stupid and deserve the inevitable failure.

*Especially since it will only explode when I put into the circuit. It couldn't handle the current I was giving it but I would have known that if the documentation didn't waste 5 pages getting to the amperage restrictions.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
bad cs dept? (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by molo on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:19:59 PM EST

I started my long college career as a CompSci, after a few years I switched to EE (dont ask). Once I switched to EE I noticed a few things.
  1. Any body in this school who knows anything about computers beyond Windows is in EE.
  2. When in actual EE classes (instead of computer classes for EEs) the documentation is ridiculously overwritten. I don't need to know the entire history of this bipolar transistor*
  3. Computer classes for EEs (there are a lot of them) are a much better combination of real-world and theory, though it's all still just theoretical (this is an engineering school after all) but that's another discussion

I think your school just has a bad CS department if no one there knows anything beyond windows. My CS department delves quite a bit into software engineering, software development methods/models, etc. While I do agree that engineering disciplines usually are more thorough and provide better documentation and standards for their systems, software engineering is tending to move in that direction. Granted, most software is made with time-to-market being the bottom line, but real software ENGINEERING projects are done right. e.g. space shuttle software, etc.

--
Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn
[ Parent ]

There is an explanation (4.25 / 4) (#44)
by Devil Ducky on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:46:39 PM EST

The department has very strict rules regulating what grades you need to get in. Namely (due ot the popularity of the program) you need a 3.0 or better ot get in. By the third year general engineering has offered Calculus, Physics, English, Speech, Physical Education, etc... Meanwhile EE only requires a 2.0...

Now someone who is good at general computer things is generally not very good at these things (after all these classes have little to do with CompSci, except maybe Calculs, which I did good in...). The general engineering curriculum is designed for a different type of Engineering, the MEs, the Aerospace guys etc. But the effect of this is that the people who you would want in CSE can't make it, while the people you would normally send away have the grades to get in... at the same time those people who you do want have to go to EE.

The actual cause fo the problems came when the two seperate departments CS and CE got combined into one department (CSE) with half of the admitting space.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
yuck (none / 0) (#50)
by molo on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:48:00 PM EST

Sounds like a shitty situation, but that it does result in a bad CS department. My school, RIT, actually has Software Engineering as a major. They will graduate their first BS class this year. Its a pretty damn good program, and I think I would have gone there instead of to CS if I hadn't been lazy and bombed my way out of the Comp. Eng. dept (hence being suspended from the college of engineering). If you're curious, take a look at www.se.rit.edu, if they ever fix the dns entries.

--
Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn
[ Parent ]
Software engineering can be better (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by mstevens on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:42:02 PM EST

In my experience Software Engineering *could* be much much better, and all of the techniques are there, it's just that no-one out there is willing to pay the money to develop software using these methods. They see no business incentive to do this...

[ Parent ]
Bad analogy (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by CaseyB on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 03:08:11 PM EST

...a 19-year old, armed with some basic mechanic skills and an Army TM (Technical Manual) can fix a million-dollar piece of equipment. To fix a million-dollar piece of code it takes a freaking PhD, and sometimes more than one.

Poor analogy. "Fixing" in the aircraft context means making the machine the same as it was when it left the factory. An 8 year old smart enough restore from a backup can "fix" a million dollar piece of code in the same sense. Fixing a piece of software means solving a problem inherent to the original design. You'd need several PhDs and several years to fix a design problem in a helicopter.

[ Parent ]

Responsibility (2.58 / 12) (#21)
by Rice on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:15:39 PM EST

The real view of the profession is the responsibility we incur. How many mechanics do you know are responsible of multi-million dollar cars that cost a corporation thousands of dollars (even millions) for every hour it's not functional. Even with automation replacing alot of admin functions previously performed manually, this just adds to the responsibility of the few left to perform the role.

On the technical side, I do agree fully that we as Administrators/Techs are on the same level as Mechanics et. al, but the responsibility we have elevates us to a higher level in the eyes of the uninformed.

Rice

Don't quite agree... (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by 11oh8 on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:35:37 PM EST

The real view of the profession is the responsibility we incur. How many mechanics do you know are responsible of multi-million dollar cars that cost a corporation thousands of dollars (even millions) for every hour it's not functional.

What about a mechanic working on a airplane or a nuclear plant.. one could easily argue that these mechanics have more responsibility than most sys admins and are working on more expensive equipment...

$.02,
11oh8.

[ Parent ]
neither do I (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by phoenyx on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:01:34 PM EST

The real view of the profession is the responsibility we incur. How many mechanics do you know are responsible of multi-million dollar cars that cost a corporation thousands of dollars (even millions) for every hour it's not functional.

What about a mechanic working on a airplane or a nuclear plant.. one could easily argue that these mechanics have more responsibility than most sys admins and are working on more expensive equipment...

Exactly, the responsibility level changes based on environment. In particular, the environment I work in (being the one that brought the story in the first place), the mechanics working on the furnace were more important than me, since an entire production line was absolutely down until it was back up and running. In contrast, the PC I was carrying across the plant was used for data entry on an inspection line, something they could do with pencil and paper until I fixed it.

In other settings, for example when I'm troubleshooting a problem with a server used to communicate with the automakers we provide parts with, and they're working to change a flat on one of several dozen forklifts that are interchangable, then the responsiblity shifts in my favor. These days, in an industrial environment (or an airport, etc.) it's getting to where both types of technician are of equal importance to daily operations.



[ Parent ]
I disagree. (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by mindstrm on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:37:38 PM EST

How many sysadmins are in that position alone? Not that many (though lots seem to think they are).

You might think the mechanics that work on Greyhound busses are not protecting 'millions of dollars'.. but they ARE! They are protecting LIVES. They are making sure those busses are safe and reliable, so people can get where they are going, when they need to go there, and get there safely. THAT is worth MILLIONS, easily.

What about on airplanes? Those are worth many millions!
What about trains? THey keep our freight moving! That's worth millions.

Need I go on?


[ Parent ]
lonely responsibilities (none / 0) (#75)
by h2odragon on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 01:51:47 AM EST

OK, how about the far greater number of sysadmins who are *solely* responsible in cold hard fact for their entire business' functionality? Smaller and medium sized business rely on "IT departments" as much as the bigger outfits, but many of them have taken the money saving step of consolidating all that load onto one pair of shoulders...

...reflexive response...

[ Parent ]

I know a guy that works on $Billion equipment (none / 0) (#132)
by brad3378 on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 04:12:17 PM EST

< How many mechanics do you know are responsible of multi-million dollar cars that cost a corporation thousands of dollars (even millions) for every hour it's not functional.

Although I admit that I don't know any Automobile mechanics responsible for Million Dollar pieces of Equipment, I knew a Machinist Partly responsible for Billion Dollar Pieces of Equipment. He worked machining Radio Active parts in the Navy. I may be wrong about the Billion Dollar Part, but I'm sure that Carriers aren't cheap. I can only imagine what It would cost the Navy if he screwed up a nuclear reactor.

I know a lot of guys that work on Multi Million dollar equipment. Most are Machinists for the Big Three and their suppliers. Don't underestimate the cost of a highly specialized piece of Factory equipment, and the cost of sending 1000+ Union Employee's home because the line is down.

[ Parent ]
machinery is more durable (3.37 / 8) (#22)
by Defect on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:28:54 PM EST

And is put together with more precision, thus making it more reliable. People can drive for months without having a problem with their cars and if it gets a little rattle they just have to pop the hood and jump on the engine a few times and they'll be set for another month. Because the technology is made to run without too much attention people take it for granted. But how many people can go a whole week without a computer crashing (let's just assume the people i'm talking about use windows)? Not many. So the people who can diagnose and correct problems quickly and efficiently are more valuable because computers are inherently less reliable. Cars and other large machinery also often put human lives at stake, so all the more reason for the manufacturers to put more time into ensuring that they won't break or explode.

And then when you think that most computer work (for end users, again, not networking really) is immediately apparent to the end user (faster boot, prettier colors, it doesn't eat your children) but the guy who fixes your car just makes the noise go away. You didn't really know if there was a serious problem but you know there was noise before and now there isn't. Woopty.

If some guy comes and installs a new graphics card in my sisters machine, she's going to be a lot more thrilled than if some guy goes and puts on 4 new tires on her car, even though the tires probably cost more and took more effort to put on.
defect - jso - joseth || a link
Because it's magic. (3.70 / 20) (#26)
by h0tr0d on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:35:06 PM EST

Before I decided to return to college and get an engineering degree I worked as a mechanic for nearly ten years, some of that time was spent working as a future product development technician for one of the big three. In my experiences many of the mechanics that I worked with were far more knowledgeable than the engineers who were designing the stupid things. Not just because they had such a solid understanding about the mechanical side of the vehicle but because they cared. Many of the engineers were there simply for a paycheck. They went to school, got this piece of paper that says they're smart, some big company pays them lots of money. There was nothing more to it. On the other hand, a good portion of the techs did it because they had a passion for it. They were true automobile geeks. There were, of course, the MCSE types who had been there for ten plus years and had not received a raise in the last eight years. They did not have the skill to leave and the company figured that replacing them with someone actually skilled was too expensive.

The reason that mechanics are looked down upon is because the automobile has been around for over one hundred years. Most of the baby boomers look back on their childhood and remember dad tinkering with the family car in the driveway. Their perception becomes one of "if dad could do it, it can't be that hard." Now, I'm not implying that they don't respect their fathers. It's just one of those social conditions that we're programmed with. The attitude of if my dad/brother/mother/sister can do it then it's not very hard. Granted, most of these people would never attempt to do it themselves but they perceive it as being easy anyway. Just like a haircut. I can't count how many times I've heard someone say "I'm not paying that much, it's just a hair cut." Then when they go someplace cheap, well, they get what they paid for. So the mysteriousness of the automobile has worn off and mechanics are viewed basically as laborers. Yes, there are some who are no more than glorified parts changers. There are many however, who are bright, intelligent people with troubleshooting skills beyond belief. This too, is an area that causes people to look down on mechanics. They don't mind spending several thousand dollars on medical tests even though the doctor didn't really do anything to them beyond taking blood. But when it comes time for diagnostic work to be done on their car they are irate and intolerant. They don't understand why they should have to pay $65 per hour for someone to just look at their car. However, if that person were replacing parts they would be more than happy to pay it. Just one of the many mysteries about being a mechanic that I will never understand. When I was a mechanic I often tried to relate being a mechanic to being a doctor. Yes, the doctor invests much more time in school but once finished he is set. While treatments and medications change the human body remains the same. While the mechanic must constantly update his skills since there are so many different auto manufacturers and so few standards among them. So not only do the treatments change but the subject of that treatment does as well. This makes being a mechanic a much more challenging task.

Unfortunately, I already see the downfall of the sys admin, what have you, in the computer/IT industry. IMHO, this is mostly caused by those getting into it for the money. I, personally have already taken this attitude upon myself without even realizing it. I have many friends who are great sys admins and I wish they worked for my company. Unfortunately, my company is very cheap in the IT area and since MCSE’s(even though we run Novell servers) are a dime a dozen they are hired left and right. I am at the point where calling the sys admin for anything is the absolute last thing that I will do. The sys admins that my company has employed have caused more harm than good in my office so many of us have taken matters into our own hands. This is unfortunate because they are inadvertently giving sys admins everywhere a bad name. There are probably many of you who work as sys admins that can vouch for this. I imagine that there is nothing worse than having to clean up the mess left by an MCSE.

Disclaimer: Hopefully what you have just read makes sense to you. It was written in haste and with the assitance of "Blinky." The author denies responsibility for anything that does not make sense or confuses the innocent.

-- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.

Medicine is different, though (3.50 / 4) (#33)
by rexona on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:17:06 PM EST

You are right in most of what you said, but I have to disagree when you compare skilled technicians troubleshooting encountered mechanical problems to those appearing in medical professions. Living organisms are highly more complex than any human built systems so far, with component interactions that are to a large extent beyond direct reasoning. Physicians often have to make quick decisions that may result in life or death without a chance to consult other colleagues of similar proficiency. This situation is to my knowledge not so common for mechanical engineers, who may also have the advantage of estimating nice non-chaotic behavior.

Furthermore, the patients are a versatile lot - all individuals with possibly unique response to a treatment method. Now most mass-manufactured goods are relatively similar in this sense, making the base problem set easier to grasp. Besides, the mechanisms at work in human body happen at such level that it requires highly abstract thinking, while in many mechanical problems they are visible to naked eye.

For the same reasons, medical problems are in my reasoning tougher than those in programming, although both show similarly undeterministic behavior and appear in systems that we don't understand :-)

[ Parent ]
You are making the same mistake... (3.66 / 3) (#51)
by h0tr0d on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 03:05:18 PM EST

that others make. You are assuming that it is a mechanical problem. Cars are far more electronically complicated than they are mechanically. And not all mechanical problems are as easy to diagnose as they would seem. Just some examples:
    Rear wheel bearing is going out, due to the diffusion of sound waves it sounds like a front wheel bearing or axle bearing.

    Radiator fan doesn't work, is caused by seemingly unrealated A/C control module.

I won't even begin to get into the complexities of the electrical systems. I will mention that modern braking systems are more complicated and have more possibilities for error with their electrical componenets than mechanical. And if you don't think that your mechanic makes life or death decisions, think again. When a mechanic is working on any part of your car, especially handling and braking related, your life is indeed in your mechanics hands. If the proper parts are not replaced or are replaced with cheap components or if he fails to install them properly then the results could be horrific. I have been fortunate enough to not be a party in anything so bad but have known people who were. Having a mechanic who is mentally astute, mechanically capable, and conscienciously decisive is just as important as a doctor with the same qualities.

I also want to point out that I am not saying that these two professions parallel each other but that there are vast similarities when it comes to the amount of respect that your mechanic deserves. If there is any doubt about how important these things are just look back at the Sear Automotive scandal that happened in California in the early 1990's(sorry, no linkage). This is exactly what happens when mechanics are treated as lower class citizens. I am by no means defending the actions of these people, just pointing out some of the reasons that things like this happen.

-- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.
[ Parent ]

Good points, but I still don't quite agree (3.00 / 1) (#82)
by rexona on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 04:24:28 AM EST

Maybe it's because you are talking about the amount of respect that the mechanic profession deserves compared to other expert fields, while I have been concentrating only on the complexity of the problems that they are solving. These are different thingsa, and I may fail to see the big deal because I'm (unfortunately) thinking of the situation here in Nordic countries, instead of in the US.

Both professions get paid approximately the same, after deducting the more uncomfortable working hours and higher taxation of the physicians. I'd say the salary is ca. USD 1000/mo after taxes, +50% for those who work heavily overtime. So I can't see why mechanics should be have their status leveraged any further.

And to the issue of electricity and unexpected mechanical problems:
- electronics still consists mainly of modules that are connected with wiring so with proper equipment an analysis of input and output signals can reveal malfunctioning parts
- patients often suffer from a combination of illnesses that manifest themselves in strange ways and places, and the response depends on the overall physical, mental and sociological state of the individual
- mechanics have the option of replacing parts that they think are damaged (subject to client approval, for costs); for humans, this isn't commonplace
- repairing a car or such consumer gear doesn't require immediate action, clients can pick them up later
- spare parts or established repair procedures can take the advantage of manufacturer documentation; medical literature has just probabilities, small sample sets and insufficient evidence of individual treatment methods

Anyway, for the above reasons I respect my physician friends, their devotion and expertise more than I do any of my colleagues in IT business - or any engineers or mechanics, no matter how good they are in their profession.

[ Parent ]
Re: Good points, but I still don't quite agree (3.00 / 1) (#130)
by brad3378 on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 03:51:38 PM EST

I have to agree with the other guy.

I too am a former Auto Mechanic that has eased towards the Engineering.

I would like to politely argue against most of your points.

Both professions get paid approximately the same
I think we both agree that as a whole, Doctors generally earn more money that most mechanics, although I do know of at least one Ford Mechanic that earns 6 figures. I think you are making the assumption that all Doctors work crazy hours, and that no Mechanics work more than 40 hours per week. One of my best friends works in a BodyShop by day, and fixes/paints cars in his garage at night. On the flip side, I know that my foot doctor only offers his services from 9:00 to 5:00.

I would NEVER agree that a doctor has more uncomfortable working hours. Doctors work with blood, Mechanics work with Petroleum. Ever get covered in Gasoline early in your shift and not have a change of clothes to finish out the day? Ever have a job where you get so many cuts on your your body that you don't even bother with bandages because they'll just fall off? Ever work over a 220+ Degree (Farenheit) Engine on the hottest day of the summer? Ever work under a vehicle covered in Salt/Snow/Mud, while trying to not get dripped on? I could go on and on, but I doubt I could ever agree that a Mechanic has a better working environment.

Taxes should not be an issue. If you earn more money, you pay more taxes. Period. Doctors pay more money in taxes because they earn more money.

You haven't even discovered the fact that Mechanics are REQUIRED to purchase and maintain their tools. I'm guessing that the average mechanic owns $20,000.00 U.S. in tools, while it's not uncommon to own over $50,000.00 Sure, I wouldn't expect all mechanics to purchase their own car-hoist, but I wouldn't expect a Doctor in a large hospital to purchase beds for his/her patients.

electronics still consists mainly of modules that are connected with wiring so with proper equipment an analysis of input and output signals can reveal malfunctioning parts

Yes, I agree that cars are now being created with more modules, but I would not neccessarily say that this had made vehicles any easier to fix. For Example, One Vehicle I worked on had a customer complaint that the Passenger side Lumbar support did not pump up as much as the air compressor on the Driver's seat. Well, the first thing they teach you in college (yes we go to college too), is that you need to verify the customer's complaint. There was a noticeable difference between seats. After searching the 199X Ford Explorer shop manual and finding no procedures to test the system, I noted that the Driver's side compressor pumped up to 15 PSI. Next I attached my pressure gauge to the passenger seat. Only 3 PSI. Okay, Now make sure that the 'airbag' holds air. No Problem, It's gotta be the compressor. I order an air compressor for the passenger side, put the seat back in the vehicle, and ship it out. After the vehicle came back and I replaced the Motor, I noticed no difference. Same problem still there. New Motor bad already? Did I hook something up incorrectly? Maybe there's just a leak somewhere. After hours of Searching, I came up with nothing and called the "hotline". This is a place to go when all else fails. Spend your lunch hour on a telephone while some guy behind a computer belittles you and asks you if you've followed procedure. After he consulted Proprietary Engineering Information, he assured me that This was a normal condition!!! The drivers side was supposed to pump up more! How was I supposed to know?

You learn a lot day to day as a mechanic, but lessons like that prove costly since you are not usually paid by the hour. You get paid by the job. I got paid nothing to find out there was not even a problem. Even the guy on the telephone got paid something. Doctors get paid for things like that. It's all part of the pricing scheme.

- patients often suffer from a combination of illnesses that manifest themselves in strange ways and places

This situation happens more in Auto Repair than you think. Not all problems can be diagnosed by simply connecting a scanner to a car and expect to find a voltage out of the normal range. A common Complaint that customers have is a lack of power. This is probably the most Vague problem to fix. Does it have to do with Air/Fuel/Spark ? A collapsed Muffler? (air) A clogged Fuel Filter? (Fuel) An Intermittently Wet Spark Plug wire? (spark)? One of the toughest vehcicles I've ever diagnosed had a misfire during cold starts. After days of trying to verify the problem, I deduced that it would only act up after a good 10 hour or so Cold Soak over night. Once the vehicle got warm, the problem would disappear, rendering my efforts useless. I eventually found the problem with a quick chemistry experiment. Too much water in the fuel caused the fuel injectors to frost over causing a misfire/no start. Call me dumb, but I don't think that was an obvious problem.

mechanics have the option of replacing parts that they think are damaged (subject to client approval, for costs); for humans, this isn't commonplace

This is the most frowned upon practice in the automotive repair industry.... GUESSING.
Sure, sometimes if a 2 dollar part has a chance of eliminating a problem, we might try it on a "customer pay" repair, but on a Warranty repair, it's another ballgame. I could not just try fixing my "lack of power" concern by changing sparkplugs, Air Filter, Fuel, Cylinder Heads, Mufflers etc. Warranty repairs are not a guessing game. If you decide to guess, you risk not being paid at all for the repair. That's how Warranty repairs work. If anything, I would argue that IT IS commonplace for a doctor to guess. Ever hear the old saying, "take two of these and call me in the moring?"

repairing a car or such consumer gear doesn't require immediate action, clients can pick them up later

If anybody reading this is considering becoming a mechanic, I would urge them to NEVER work in a small tourist town. I was a mechanic in Frankenmuth, Michigan. What a mistake. When a customer has a problem with their car when they are on vacation, All other work gets put on hold. We care about our customers, but they can't just live without their car for a week while parts are being shipped. They need to get home, and it's not that easy to let them borrow a car to drive back accross the country while theirs is being fixed. I guess it's not life threatening to live without a car, but it sure is inconvienient in the United States.

I won't even bother arguing that last point. It's too trivial. The main point I'm trying to make is that we shouldn't judge ANYBODY by their chosen profession. We can look at statistics and come up with Generalities, but I find them highly unfair. I've met many mechanics that were more ethical than anybody I know, but I've also seen some very unscrupulous people in other proffessions often considered prestigious.

judge people by their actions, not by their professions.

[ Parent ]
You're absolutely right (3.00 / 1) (#160)
by rexona on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 03:08:43 AM EST

You had very valid points about the working conditions, and good examples of the kind of problems that a mechanic has to face - all justified arguments. So okay, I admit that it's a difficult job that doesn't get the respect thet it deserves. And I especially agree with your last paragraph about making generalizations.

But you seem to have skipped one sentence in my previous comment: "...I may fail to see the big deal because I'm (unfortunately) thinking of the situation here in Nordic countries, instead of in the US." and I'd like to give you an idea of the environment I've grown used to.

The situation here is really different. 95% of physicians work in state-run hospitals (similar to US public hospitals, I assume) and receive salaries that are approximately equal to normal office workers. Private small enterprises are relatively few, and car repairing takes place mostly in service centers that have authorization from importers. Many mechanics are employees in these companies, or to gas stations that run minor servicing business as a source of extra revenue. Small scale workshops that are specialized in repairs are getting scarce. The taxation is progressive: it doesn't matter if you earn 1300$/mo or 2600$/mo, you get the same after taxes and lost benefits. The great majority of above mentioned professionals fall into this range with their salaries paid by the hour, not by the job.

Just a couple of remarks I have to make, stupid as it may be:

1. The comment about replacement parts was not about guessing: physicians do guess 100% of the time when figuring out treatment methods, with varying probabilities of being right. Eg. fractures are diagnosed easily wnd with 99% probability, while generic feeling of illness may point to anything between minor sleep troubles or fatal cancer. You can't replace an unfunctional and irreparably damaged arm of a patient with a spare one from the shelf (yet), even if you had plenty of cash.

2. Not having your car fixed while you wait is a nuisance and may cost youa lot if you have to reschedule your planned actions for a few days, especially if traveling. But doesn't threaten your life, and by default cause deterioration of your vehicle beyond repair during those critical couple of days without treatment.

3. I have the luxury of knowing physicians that are ethical and do their job not because of the money but because they want to cure people. And I have the feeling that this sort of physicians are more common here than in US, because only a fraction of them can beat the average income in their chosen profession. I know that ethical and altruistic people exist in every profession, but my personal acquaintances simply bias my views.

[ Parent ]
Been saying this for a while.... (2.88 / 9) (#28)
by blixco on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:39:59 PM EST

...and in fact, my team at work has team shirts that we got at a uniform supply place. They're "exxon blue" mechanic shirts, with our team initials on one patch and our names on the other. When we wear 'em, we do tend to look like the local lube and cruise.

The thing is, there is no difference. Welcome, friends, to the new blue collar work force. Just wait until we unionize.
-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
Time and standardization... (2.87 / 8) (#29)
by 11oh8 on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 12:52:20 PM EST

In the future, computers will be an integral part of everyone's life (not just us geeks)...They will be as common as TV or radio.. I don't think there are many who disagree with this...

Also, current computer technology is growing very fast... as soon as you learn one technology, a new one is out.. this makes computer related jobs, even if they are simply maintenance, more difficult. Computers, especially networking, are a much more complicated system than most mechanical systems (not flamebait, just my opinion). This is partly because computers are VERY general purpose and because very few stadards (ones used everywhere) exist.

But we are already seeing signs of these factors changing. From Network Computers to PDAs, we are seeing simpler more specialized computing devices and I expect that trend to continue.. Also, we will inevitably standardize most aspects of computers like in other industries. Eventually, the growth (of new ideas/technologies) in the computing industry will slow down (and we leave the information age and enter a biological age, but i digress).. All these factors will make computers (and networks, etc) much easier to manage and thus net/sys admins will be viewed like today's mechanics...

Another reason sys/net admins are viewed as "higher" than mechanics is the salary they get. A person's worth is determined by their salary right?!? But as the supply-demand forces turn the other way, this will inevitably change...

11oh8.

Mucking with cars is entertaining (3.12 / 8) (#32)
by xtal on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:12:56 PM EST

Slightly off topic.. but if you can put together your own PC, you can follow most repair manuals for cars nicely too - and they make a great hobby, about as expensive as PC's. I highly recommend to anyone looking for something that doesn't involve programming to look at a automotive repair course at a community college - from there you can have great fun building a tuner car. Get yourself a cheap small-block V8, and for a couple grand, you can have a really fast drag car :). Some of you might even be lucky enough to get courses in just that - hopping up cars.

Along the same lines.. industrial welding and machining are facinating hobbies, and courses at most community colleges are cheap and tax deductible (ymmv). It really helps if you know the materials theory and get to see it applied (I'm an engineer by trade). There's a lot of skill into those trades, and I don't know why they're looked down upon. That stuff is damn handy to know, I just need my own garage :).

Most of that goes along the lines I can't stand not learning new stuff, and not just stuff about computers (recently graduated, and I miss the broad-spectrum of things thrown at you in University). Plus, if the computer industry ever goes tits up.. you can make a killing as a mechanic! :)

Anyhow.. just some observations

good idea, but for emissions (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by vmarks on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:11:33 PM EST

When you do this little project, either keep the car as a non-streetable car, make sure it passes emissions for your area, or live in an area where emissions aren't tested.

Tuner cars are great fun, and a great way to learn, but there's no fun when you can't pass the yearly tests, and can't put the car on the road.

Been there, with a 1981 BMW iS 4cyl, that just wouldn't make emissions even tho it could 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.

Lesson learned: buy cars that don't have to meet emissions. sold BMW, bought 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

[ Parent ]
OT: Yearly Tests? (1.00 / 1) (#52)
by gaudior on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 03:22:11 PM EST

Pardon my ignorance, but what yearly tests are required?

[ Parent ]
Re: OT: Yearly Tests? (1.00 / 1) (#70)
by Pseudonymous Coward on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:03:45 PM EST

Pardon my ignorance, but what yearly tests are required?

It's mentioned slightly earlier on, but the "yearly tests" referred to are in respect to automotive emissions standards certification, colloqially known as "getting smogged" or "smog check."

In some areas, these tests are required annually or bianually in order to renew the roadworthiness registration of a vehicle. This insures that all legally registered vehicles meet minimum standards with respect to their emission of certain pollutants.

As an aside: I would imagine, having asked that question, that you are either not yet of driving age, or in an area where there are no vehicular emissions standards enforced through registration?

[ Parent ]

*grin* No emissions tests here :) (2.00 / 2) (#54)
by xtal on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 04:22:15 PM EST

I live in New Brunswick, Canada - no emissions here - I'm looking for a 1987 SS Monte Carlo for my little death machine. While there's no emissions, there is the problem of the rust monster (aka car cancer). :) Small block V8's are great, because you won't go broke putting superchargers and nitrous on 'em, and when they blow up, it won't mean refinancing your house to fix 'em.

But, to keep this moderatley on topic, there isn't a lot of rocket science in repairing cars. There's time, and most importantly, PATIENCE, something programmers can understand, but there isn't much brains required. Just some inginuity. Car has symptoms ABC. Look in book. Test parts ABC for defective settings, whatever. Replace ABC. Repeat. Now, if you're TUNING cars, that's another matter. You can get into all sorts of crazy stuff. Anyone who things designing an engine is simple is insane. The sheer tolerances alone make it a skill - but - nobody would agure that automotive engineering isn't a white collar occupation. FWIW I don't think that grease monkey to network admin is at all a valid comparison. Maybe grease monkey -> guy that repairs used computers in the back of the discount store. :)

[ Parent ]

Good article (3.14 / 7) (#35)
by Mantrid on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:21:45 PM EST

Basically as long as you can think in the right way, so to speak, you can probably do computers. It doesn't really matter if you use MS or Novell or Linux or whatever, you just have to be able to conceptualize things properly. Everything else is just the details. Another big factor is if you're afraid of the stuff or not- some people can learn how to write a document in Word but they're afraid to do anything other than what they've been taught, worried they'll wipe their hard drives or something. Computers do seem mystical at some times, but the people who grew up with them and can think in the right way have no problems. I've often joked that we IT techs should start wearing robes and doing incantations while rebooting or jiggling cables or whatever- keep the mystery alive and our salaries high! Moo ha ha.

I've often used that analogy. (3.42 / 7) (#38)
by mindstrm on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:34:05 PM EST

I find, to a large degree, many Jr. and Int. sysadmin positions are technically no harder than a Jr. or Int. Mechanic position. both have specialty knowledge, both fix things for people.

I find that a Sr. Sysadmin position is rather analogous to a master mechanic.. one who borders on engineering (or even is an engineer). Knows a great deal about materials, machining, etc.

And I have no less respect for these mechanics than I do for myself.

It is true, though.. most poeple tend to view mechanics as 'blue collar' and sysadmins as some kidn of 'intelligencia'.



Right on (2.42 / 7) (#43)
by nutate on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 01:44:46 PM EST

I've often referred to my job as sysadmin as 'information plumbing', making sure things go where they need to and don't clog, etc. (messed up lpd queues anyone? ) Anyway, like plumbers and auto mechanics, most computer people are well paid as well. Keeping things going. I dig it.

I can answer why mechanics are looked down upon (4.71 / 14) (#45)
by vmarks on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:03:24 PM EST

Having had the pleasure (!) of doing both jobs, I can explain why one set is looked down upon and the other has a little more respect.

Car mechanics, except for the best ones, have dirty noisy work environments that most customers fear to tread in. The mechanics have grease under their fingernails and on their faces. It's not a pretty occupation (note: really good mechanics keep an organized shop and do keep themselves relatively clean in the process of work)

Cars, while complex, have become expected to be as reliable as the telephone. When there's downtime, people take personal offense and demand it be functional immediately. (okay, this is true of networks too, but the admins are treated a little better because the network is newer, and relatively not well understood by outsiders.)

Cars have been around longer, and were up until recently, simple. Combustion still requires fuel, air, and spark. Valves must open to let gas/fuel in and exhaust out, while sealing at the proper time for combustion to take place. The large advancements in cumbustion engines have been in variable valve timing for better combustion, computer controlled spark ignition, and different fuel delivery systems, from carbeurator to throttle body-fuel injection to direct port injection.

These small advancements in engine management are all that really separate the modern auto from that of 1897.

As sysadmins, we deal with a new technology (close to magic, gets respect), can have clean appearances (okay, I grant you, the beard, t-shirt, and caffeine beverage cans could probably go) and are a necessary link in the chain of what enables the business to go on. We haven't yet reached the stability and uptime of the phone network (once you have that, you can never go back to being forgiven.)

I don't mean to diminish mechanics, god knows, I still work on my family's cars (1962 chevrolet, 1968-71 beetle (68 body on a 71 pan, I got a little crazy customizing), 1992 mitsubishi, 1995 Chevrolet, and soon to add a small 4dr, maybe a saturn or honda) and I know the grueling work it can be to get a vehicle *just right*. But I also know that on the whole, a network requires a high level of skill that's an order higher than your average monkey down at the gas stop/garage.

This post gave me a good opportunity to reflect on the merits of both skills. Thanks.


Supply versus demand (none / 0) (#120)
by strawser on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 08:30:37 AM EST

There are more auto mechanics. Finding qualified IT people is difficult. When you don't have them, you have down time and it costs a lot of money. It's not hard to find someone who can replace an alternator.

I've known people who did specialized mechanics on industrial equiptment that not everyone knows, and they were paid well. But auto mechanics is a supply vs demand issue. If IT started paying less, and auto repair started paying more I'd become a mechanic.

Just my 2cents

E

"Traveler, there is no path. You make the path as you walk." -- Antonio Machado
[ Parent ]
then wherefore supply? (2.00 / 1) (#131)
by bort13 on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 04:04:34 PM EST

Isn't the supply question then only a time factor? At this point, computer networks and systems are still relatively new (i.e. technology less than 20 years old), comparable to automobiles in the 1930s. Were mechanics back then paid/respected better? I'm not sure.

One thing I am sure of, the children of today grow up with things like Cisco routers, linux clusters and high telco service availability commonplace and not a new/innovative thing. The grasp that they will have on our 'bleeding edge' technology will be more effortless than our smartest admins today can fathom. We admins are charged with figuring out someone else's engineering that did not exist in our reality previously. These children will approach this with the same nonchalance that we approach color television or arcade games -- they've always been there, they're not terribly interesting or innovative.

Hence, I think the future of IT/network/systems administration tends more toward the mechanic-level respect & pay. It's just that right now, business is run by old people. For them, this new tech is incomprehensible and not easily surmountable, so they're stuck with us. They quickly discovered that not overpaying (yes, overpaying) a good admin results in serious downtime, etc. I don't think it will be as much of a consideration when people our age are the CEOs/corporonazis running everything.

[ Parent ]

Two way street (3.15 / 13) (#46)
by cs668 on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:05:44 PM EST

I hate the terms "blue collar" and "white collar" I think that they are very subjective.

I am the first person in my family to go to college. My family is all "blue collar" -- very rough "real men".

The funny thing is that they think that I can not possibly work. Because "white collar" people do not work. So even if I am doing computer stuff 60 hours a week they think that I have not done anything.


They have a point (3.25 / 4) (#64)
by jhagler on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 07:44:03 PM EST

Having spent my entire career in the "white collar" tech industry, I can see their point. Or more to fact feel it.

I spent a couple of miserable years doing the break-fix thing and hated it. Yes I would sometimes work 12+ hour days but at the end of them I never felt like I accomplished anything. I maintained the status quo, I kept things working.

Then I realized what was missing, I never actually made anything. Like most technical people nowadays I yearned for the feeling of creating something, I used to work in the theatre building sets and lighting designs. At the end of the day you could step back and see what you had accomplished. There is something to be said for that, you're not just maintaining, you're creating.

I believe that this is why Battlebots, Junk Yard Wars, and a half dozen other creative physical outlets are so becoming so popular. As great as the intellectual world is, sometimes you just need to create something physical. I went from sysadmin, to netadmin, to manager and have yet to be truly fulfilled by my intellectual endeavors. Personally my sense of satisfaction comes from donating my time to my local civic theatre doing what I used to love.

Working 60 hour weeks still takes effort, but I understand where your family is coming from. There is just something deep inside that makes me feel like I haven't done anything if I haven't produced something.


Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. - RAH
[ Parent ]
Re: Two way street (none / 0) (#90)
by psergiu on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 09:57:36 AM EST

> So even if I am doing computer stuff 60 hours a week they think that I have not done anything.

Been there. I have a CS degree and I work as a sysadm for 4 years now but my mom still categorizes every computer-related activity i do as "Games". :)


-- Win a FREE 66Gb VXA Tape drive !
[ Parent ]
The difference. (2.40 / 5) (#53)
by marcum on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 03:56:40 PM EST

The biggest difference between a mechanic and a sys admin is the computer field is always changing. As mentioned earliar, the car has not changed that much in 100+ years it has been around. Every month a new piece of software or hardware is introduced that forces "computer geeks" to learn about a new field of study and learn something new. I also think that the low opinion of mechanics and other "blue collar" workers is going to cause a shortage of these postions and in 10-20 years, they will be in even a bigger demand then they are now.

Au contraire! (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by rusty on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 04:43:10 PM EST

Fuel injection, low emissions exhaust systems, for God's sake, look at a modern automatic transmission. Not to even mention the "tiptronic" or hybrid type transmissions. I really respect auto mechanics, because their job takes a huge amount of technical knowledge and skill, and cars are ever-changing. Mechanics use computers these days almost as much as sysadmins do, especially to diagnose problems. I just wanted to point out that the car is a *way* different beast now than it was 100 years ago.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
hi tech grease monkeys (2.20 / 10) (#57)
by shaft on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 04:53:16 PM EST

there is a difference, and it is more than just semantic. the difference i'm talking about doesnt refer to the MCSE types, but to real "sysadmin" or "netadmins". some tasks are similar, like replacing hardware parts, but it pretty much ends there. top notch sysadmins are capable of creating solutions out of scratch... i.e. writing code, typing some lines into a text editor that basically function as something tangible. mechanics do not do this. machinists or engineers maybe, but not mechanics... they just order parts that someone else made out of scratch, and plug them together. on a good day, thats all a sysadmin will have to do, but then there are the bad days. this is were the true difference lies... creation. turning thoughts into code that works... conceptualizing new solutions to new problems. not to mention all the calculus and discrete math we CS types had to put up with. data structures, algo's, set theory, logic design, these are all abstract scientific concepts that are far removed from the garage. also, there is the responsibility factor of maintaining mission critical systems. how many mechanics work on cars that cost as much as an E-10000 and cost somebody millions of bucks when it goes breaks for a few hours? so yes, we get paid more, and WE SHOULD! comparing mechanics to computer scientists is like comparing butchers to brain surgeons. muahahahaha! i've known excellent auto mechanics who had the IQ of a horses ass, and if you get all uppity about that statement, youre simply not being honest with yourself. -shaft

uh ... dude ... (3.00 / 3) (#63)
by misterluke on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 06:18:15 PM EST

Nobody's comparing mechanics with computer scientists. The comparison is between MSCE - style sysadmin techies and auto mechanics ( or any tradespeople, really ), and I think it's a perfectly valid one. There are techies who look after million dollar systems, but I don't think they're any more common than the head mechanic who looks after a massive mining truck, for example. We'd be talking similar levels of responsibility, provided we value that in dollars. It was already mentioned at least twice before that CSc pople do work that's more in line with an engineer's job, without the ironclad accountablity clause. But, of course, being all uppity as I am, I must not be being honest with myself. Luke

[ Parent ]
your stupid respose (1.00 / 1) (#163)
by shaft on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 06:42:39 PM EST

go work on a truck, you fruitfly. as a matter of fact, you can haul your greasy ass over here and change my oil, mister "mechanics are people too". for your info, MCSE types are not what i was talking about. those are the guys that should be compared to brain dead mechanics. you don't get a computer science degree by taking a 2 week after-hours course at your local "career college", the way you get an MCSE certificate or an auto-mechanic certificate (or whatever junk they give those fools). just because you know how to stuff some sawdust into a camshaft doesnt mean youre a scientist, you damn fool. you must have an MCSE yourself, and maybe even a refrigerator repair certificate too!!! but, please, dont try to say changing oil and writing systems code are the same thing... it only shows off your foolishness. you must be a communist. whats wrong with a little classification??? for your transgressions, i must say "kiss my ass you stupid grease-monky!!!"

[ Parent ]
My stupid response (1.00 / 1) (#170)
by misterluke on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 07:12:23 PM EST

Let's review:

1 - You can draw a comparison between MCSEs and mechanics.

2 - We both seem to agree on this.

3 - You can't draw a comparison between MCSEs and engineers or mechanics and CSc grads.

4 - See point 2.

5 - Either I'm missing your point or you're missing mine.

6 - Whatever education you have has obviously given you much more information than mine about determining someone's occupation and level of education based on a paragraph posted on an online discussion board.

7 - I'm not going to let you know how accurate that information is. I'm either a 35 year old heavy duty mechanic with more years experience than you can count without machine assistance ( not to mention a better command of the english language than you, even if you're not a "grease-monky" ), or a 24 year old programmer with a BSc in computer science and a solid hate on for arrogant, judgemental pricks in the tech sector.

8 - I will tell you that the communist thing is fairly accurate, but with an anarchist bent as well. That's off topic, though.

9 - Pretty soon we're both going to get smacked for indulging in a pre - teen BBS style flame war, so if you have something to say, say it and lay off the inflammatory chest thumping bullshit.

10 - Unless you have something new to say, this is the last time I'll respond to any of your comments. As for any further opinions you might have about anything other than the high tech grease monkey thing ( also sometimes referred to as the "topic" ), you can safely stow them up your not soon to be kissed ass.

11 - Apologies to any other K5 readers subjected to the above - mentioned pre - teen BBS style flame war.

Luke

[ Parent ]

your sheer ignorance (1.00 / 1) (#171)
by shaft on Thu Nov 16, 2000 at 08:31:00 PM EST

luke, why dont you , mathew, mark , and john, do us all a favor and go walk into a burning building. your obviously a silly little boy. a communist indeed. an anarchist... hah! your idea of anarchy is breaking your empty soda bottles in a parking lot while listening to the sex pistols full blast on your 20-watt hyundai excel factory radio. also, youre dad is probably a drunken layed-off mechanic himself (let me guess, he called the number he saw on tv and learned how to work on diesel trucks, right?) so you took a couple classes down at your local tech "school" with the idea of putting some bread on the table since your dad is always passed out and your mom is a whore. now, you found this website, and decided to let us all know that youre perfectly capable of contributing to the discussions therein. problem is... you clearly have no idea what youre talking about. go put some grease on my axle, you fucking mollusk! -c

[ Parent ]
Top notch mechanics build things too... (3.50 / 2) (#88)
by mandomania on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 09:25:28 AM EST

90% of the sysadmins I know would not be able to write a patch to fix a bug or completely write a new kernal module to implement a new feature. The few that are able to are in the "Ghod" category, along with Jesus and guy who invented Cheese-in-a-Can (Mmm...).

In the same vein, most mechanics are unable to fix a problem that 1) is undocumented or 2) so broken that tools don't exist to fix it. Again, the few that are able to have a machine shop and some machinists(sp?) on staff to crank out whatever they need. Unfortunately, most of these work for NASCAR teams, so we'll never fully appreciate their genius :)

--
Mando
The Code is Sound.
[ Parent ]
Everyone vs. Business (1.60 / 5) (#58)
by m0dus on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 05:00:04 PM EST

IMHO, Only 2 things separate an auto mechanic from a sysadmin in terms of work labels. 1) Sysadmins are more business oriented than auto mechanics. Every business has at least one computer and maybe a network (the bigger ones anyway). 2) Mechanics' clientele encompass the masses (almost everyone and their mother). Sysadmins clientele are still limited to businesses and people with computers.

More layers (3.83 / 6) (#59)
by Maniac on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 05:05:25 PM EST

I can argue there are more layers than strictly "blue collar" and "white collar". At my previous facility [and to a lesser extent here], the "IT" organization was much less skilled and paid far less than the "software engineers" who put together our products for sale. Long ago (early 80's) I saw a promotion chart for the IT group that looked like this...

Programmer -> Sr Programmer -> Manager

Technician -> Sr Technician

Operator -> Sr Operator

There was no growth path from either the technician nor operator sequence to management, even though there were three managers, one for each group! This is especially disturbing when you consider the technical skills of a programmer do not prepare you for management.

At that same facility, we would hire student engineers and pay them more than those same operators and technicians. The good ones would be hired full time & get paid at the entry level at higher wages than the programmers I listed above. Again - working for a line organization was "better" than a "support" one.

Now to put a different perspective on the comparisons. I own two older cars - an '81 Datsun 280zx w/ almost 300,000 miles on it and an '89 Ford Aerostar w/ about 160,000 miles on it. As a result, I am quite familiar with going into auto repair places to fix them. I am also quite familiar with things I can fix myself - though I find myself less willing to do so recently. The van is about to get replaced.

Just a perception - I believe the mechanics that work on my cars make more than the operators and technicians at my current facility (they sure charge enough for that labor...). So, perhaps there is a general perception that computer related work is "better" than being a mechanic, but the pay may not match.

Can't afford to be elitist (3.20 / 5) (#60)
by BlyndFreddy on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 05:34:30 PM EST

I think we sometimes overlook the big picture. There are some mechanics, albeit few, who are like specialist Doctors...only paid more. I have a friend who volunteers for a drag race team, and the data collection systems they use to monitor the car performance would challenge most net monkeys.

Any field has a hierarchy of specialization that, at stratospheric levels, gets recognition. Dollars or fame. Now or posthumously. You get the idea. The most important thing is: Are you happy doing what you are doing today? If not, it's time for some heathly self assessment.

Mechanics are looked down upon? (3.60 / 5) (#62)
by paulerdos on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 05:40:35 PM EST

I disagree with the premise that mechanics (car mechanics, etc.) are looked down upon. I (and most people I know) don't view mechanics as being somehow "lower" than a sysadmin. Of course, this doesn't mean that I respect ALL mechanics, just like I don't respect ALL sysadmins: for each field, I respect them in proportion to their skills. Is it really true that society looks down on car mechanics as compared to sysadmins? If so, that's news to me...

Funny you should mention this... (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by Mija Cat on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 09:30:21 PM EST

My human has a brother who's a mechanic. My human is a programmer. Wanna guess who got looked down on at family functions? My human. His brother makes more $$$$, drives a nicer car, etc. It's kinda sad.
Meow.
[ Parent ]
Computer Janitor... (3.70 / 10) (#65)
by erotus on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 08:56:39 PM EST

...at least that's what a friend of mine calls it. His older brother wanted him to get an MCSE so he could get a techie job. My friend looks at sysadmin/computer techie jobs the same way he looks at janitors/maintenance or car mechanics. He feels that system administration is beneath his status somehow. He works as a technical support person now only because he has gained enough knowledge to do so, not because he really likes it. I've tried my best to get him interested in computers/technology and I've tried to get him interested enough to do it as a hobby, but to no avail.

Computers for me are a hobby, passion, and a career. I guess the "geek" spirit has to be within you. He feels that going into this field is dead end and that he should be doing something "great" with his life. My argument is, "what more do you want from life?" Unlike him, I am never bored and I see computers/IT/networking as a field where I can constantly learn and progress, hence I see no dead end here. Somehow still, he views sysadmin jobs as no different than a grease monkey. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

My only real complaint about my field of choice would be the lack of respect, at times, by individuals outside the workplace who don't respect my time. This would be best explained by an earlier post titled Yes, I do work with computers. It would appear to me that some do, in fact, treat us less than professionally. I would never ask someone to fix my car for free and yet people have no problem asking me to help them re-install winblows or troubleshoot their modem. This says to me that people may not respect my profession as they do a car mechanic. Why? Maybe because one requires much physical labor/knowledge and the other requires just knowledge and little to no physical labor. They see me pecking away at the keyboard and they don't view this as labor probably.

All in all, I think that the majority of people do see computers as "new and magical." This is slowly changing however. The younger generation is growing up around computers and that will take the "magic" out of it. In ten or fifteen years time we'll see a very different perception of computer professions from the perspective of the average joe. Only time will tell.

I don't think it's so much that... (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by MightyE on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 12:25:42 AM EST

A lot of these people are at the end of their ropes. They simply have no idea where else to turn. With your car, you may tinker with it, and general knowledge of Physics helps with other areas (It's usually quite simple to dissasemble something, and having done that, you have at least some idea of how to reassemble it), but this isn't the case with computers. With computers, there are many magical controls that use jargon that they can't understand, and they have no means of grokking what's going on in there. There are also a lot of magical controls that you can only know about if you are told about them, since a lot of them are undocumented. With a car, you can see all the controls. Then too, there's the fact that although computer repair companies exist out there, they're really not that commonly thought about. Many people are unaware that such services exist. I've found that most of the people who ask me for advice are desperate. These are people who have already devoted 40 hours or more to solving a problem by simply guess and check. That usually leads to a worse situation. Fortunately, in the mean time they've learned what a format does. Once I've provided help, I usually get a very enthusiastic and sincere thanks. If the same person begins to make themselves a nuisance about it though, I start having less and less time in my schedule to help them. I'll also blatantly tell some people "no" depending on how well I know them, or at least tell them what I make an hour at my job, and would they still like me to come help them (they usually get the hint, and I've made a couple of bucks). Problem with the charging them thing is that sometimes I feel guilty when I realize that this is a person with out a lot of money (it's a campus, so there's plenty of them around).
here's my sig
[ Parent ]
My Sentiments Exactly! (2.91 / 12) (#71)
by rabitd on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 11:49:49 PM EST

I'm a programmer for an e-commerce company and I've felt this way about my job for awhile now. I've even gone so far as to get my job title officially changed to "Chief Turing Mechanic", and printed on my business cards.

I get a much more favorable reception from the inlaws when I'm introduced as something benign like a mechanic vs. the room and conversation deadening effect of being introduced as a *gasp* "Computer Programmer".

"This is my son in law, he's a <mumble mumble>"
"Pardon."
"He's a..." leans closer and whispers "computer programmer"
Conversation stops as they look knowingly into each others eyes, exchanging the briefest of nods...

So that's what one of those looks like

Mechanics Tools (3.45 / 11) (#72)
by fishbowl on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 12:00:56 AM EST

One of my friends is a professional mechanic.
He owns something in the range of $80,000 worth
of tools.

Relatively few computer pros have even $25,000 invested in their computers, and most will be getting by with a
$5,000 PC.

This was a significnt awakening for me -- my mechanic
friend makes about a third what I make developing business software.

It's also an inspiration; since I want to dabble in
hardware hacking. I had considered the costs of things
like logic analyzers, scopes, and so on, to be wildly prohibitive. Now that I've seen what pro automotive tools cost, I realize it does not seem so outrageous.

A home use might only have £5000 invested but... (2.00 / 1) (#77)
by FeersumAsura on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 03:36:54 AM EST

Yes a home user might only have a few K invested but that is not a business. When we were last buying scopes the only ones that fitted our requirements (ultra fast 4 chanel) cost £8000 pounds each and we needed 2. In a company of only 35 people we have 50 £1500 computers and about £65000 worth of scopes. To do tech properly a huge amount of money is needed. BTW we design sonars. This is a good H/W and software mix. There's 5 programmers 5 electronics gurus, a pcb designer. 10 CAD jockeys and host of people in moulding and machining. That's real expense when a CAM machine will buy you a small house.

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
[ Parent ]
Depreciation (none / 0) (#127)
by Sax Maniac on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 12:51:16 PM EST

$80K of quality, stainless steel tools in ten years will likely still be worth as much.

Any software geek who spends $80K, or even $25K in computer equipment is silly because, in ten years, it will be worth as much as a pile of dead leaves.

That's why software geeks must invest in their brains: good books, magazines, courses, and time for experimental hacking.


Stop screwing around with printf and gdb and get a debugger that doesn't suck.
[ Parent ]

Why respect mechanics? They don't deserve it. (1.25 / 8) (#76)
by mattc on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 02:57:50 AM EST

Maybe people don't respect mechanics because they are always trying to rip people off!! Seriously, every mechanic who I've ever been to has either: lied to me, sold me substandard parts, overcharged me, or did not complete the job correctly. (or all of the above!)

Fortunately I know a little about autos so I can fix most of their screw-ups, but if I pay them to do the job why should I have to be the one to fix their mistakes!! I can't even get a god damn oil change without being screwed over -- don't even get me started on that!

Why do you think 60-minutes and all the other "news magazine"-type shows are constantly doing exposes on auto mechanics scamming people.

I guess it is like everything else in life: If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.

And Computer shops don't rip people off? (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by nevyn on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 08:03:46 AM EST

A good mechanic is a good mechanic

A auto shop that rips customers off is bad.

But what is the difference between that and a pc shop that rips people off. Changes a hard drive and looses all their data etc.

[ Parent ]

I've seen much worse than this (2.50 / 2) (#91)
by smmurph on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 11:15:26 AM EST

I used to work for a company that would sell used hard drives as new. Sell people way more computer than they ever needed, overcharge people for repair time. One of my coworkers used to make 7.50/hr and they charged $120/hr for repairs. Just seems to be the nature of business in general to try to screw the customer.


[ Parent ]
Deplorable. (4.00 / 3) (#93)
by Narcischizm on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 11:35:00 AM EST

If you have been screwed, it is by no means a real sample on the ethics of mechanics, as a profession. Even 60 minutes can't do a real sampling on all the mechanics inthe country, and notice how they never show the majority of shops that are reputable? Why do you think that is? No one wants to know that things sometimes work the way they are intended, bad ratings numbers. I have been working on my own cars since I bought my first one at 14, but I still go to the shop when I don't know what to do. The job of a mechanic is not an easy job. And not all are rip-off artists. Computer/TV/appliance repair shops CAN also screw the customer, but not always. One of the PC magazines did a shop to shop comparison of computer repair, including the biggies like Circuit City and Best Buy. The only problem with the test computer was that a wire on one of the ribbon cables was cut on a crease. 15 out of 18 claimed it to be some other problem ranging from bad hard drive to bad motherboard. I do my own repair, but at work we shopped around for the right people for the job, instead of just grabbing AAAA computer repair because it was the first one in the Yellow Pages.

And how the hell do you get scammed on an oil change, do you just listen to the folks at Jiffy Lube when they tell you you have to replace your air filter and flush your cooling system every 2k miles? I've been screwed by repair shops of all types, and the lesson I have learned is find a good shop. Don't just trust that they know what they are talking about. Do some research and do a quick quiz of the mechanic.

My father taught me the most important part of service is your relationship with the shop. I know all the mechanics at my shop of choice, as do many of their customers. It is not unusual to see people just hanging out in the waiting room talking to the people that work there. Hell, its an hour into the suburbs to get there, while there are probably 100 repair shops between my home and there, but proper care of my car is worth the trip, and to know that Mechanic Bob who worked on your car, owns a Camry and a HotRodded 1st generation 1968 Camaro, and that mechanic Mike owns a Jeep and a Subaru.

[ Parent ]
That's because... (2.00 / 1) (#126)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 11:47:01 AM EST

Maybe people don't respect mechanics because they are always trying to rip people off!! Seriously, every mechanic who I've ever been to has either: lied to me, sold me substandard parts, overcharged me, or did not complete the job correctly. (or all of the above!)

That's probably because you don't respect mechanics. You need to talk to the guy, not piss him off. If you can't talk to someone who's going to work on the machine which is most likely to mangle you, then you should find someone else.

When I was doing computer repair, I found that it's a LOT easier to do a great job for someone who deals fairly and whom you like than for some asshole who isn't going to pay anyway.



[ Parent ]
Poor MCSEs :) (2.36 / 11) (#78)
by matman on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 03:53:08 AM EST

It's too bad that MCSEs get such a bad reputation. I'm afraid of this, because I'm a new MCSE. Personally, I can't stand using MS stuff... but companies like to use it, so I might have to; it's good to be able to show that you know something - and besides, without having had the MCSE goal, I'd have had less inclination to learn the details of Windows, since I dont like it. I just moved, and am about to have to find my first job with an MCSE certification. I'm afraid that I'm going to get looked down upon for the certification. I really am a 'geek at heart' and love learning, so I think that those things should help me stay afloat and moving forward. My impression, is that you need to keep moving forward, and not accept ANY level of knowledge as 'enough', in order to be meaningful. I hope that my theory is correct, and that I can prove it to employers :) I do agree that in order to get an MCSE certification, you don't have to know a lot - but it doesn't mean that all people with MCSE certifications are total dolts.

the difference between MCSEs (4.00 / 4) (#86)
by phoenyx on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 08:50:34 AM EST

It's too bad that MCSEs get such a bad reputation. I'm afraid of this, because I'm a new MCSE.

I should point out that there's nothing inherently bad about MCSEs, in fact, thanks to my employer I'm about to become one (it's required for my next promotion, but they're paying for the exams). The MS Certification is just a slip of paper, in and of itself it says nothing about the person who's name is on it, except that they passed the exams.

But what I mean by "idiot MCSE" is the kind of person who isn't a computer person, or at least not in the way most of the people who visit this site are. They typically are coming into computers because they've heard there is money here, because they failed out of pre-med or got tired of working at a grocery store, or whatever, there's a wide range of backgrounds. But what it comes down to is the fact that they went out to get the certification and crammed just for the exam, which is so easy that they can pass it. The tend to know little beyond what was in the books (Microsoft's often impractical party line) and often begin to forget that information after getting the slip of paper, they also lack troubleshooting skills and ingenuity borne out of messing with stuff because you simply enjoy it.

Among employers, the MCSE doesn't have the bad rep it does with the geeks, because they see it as a way to measure someone's skills (some know it's flawed, some don't) in a field where it can be hard to do that from one or two interviews. In fact that's sort of the root of why I'm required to get mine, a corporate requirement for MCSEs that was bent to let me in because they knew I could do the job better than three MCSEs that I beat to the postion; but, thanks to that requirement, they could only higher me at a technically lower position and then help me get the certification so I could get the proper job title.



[ Parent ]
They key phrase... (1.00 / 1) (#125)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 11:41:37 AM EST

I just moved, and am about to have to find my first job with an MCSE certification. I'm afraid that I'm going to get looked down upon for the certification.

Whenever someone that I run into during the course of my work says "it worked on my computer at home", I see a red flag pop up. He/she is probably geek and I should make an effort to talk with them again. This especially goes for tech support people.



[ Parent ]
MCSE's looked down on (3.00 / 1) (#167)
by Armaphine on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 10:25:43 AM EST

Well, they weren't always looked down upon. There used to be a time when being MCSE certified was something that got a lot of people to raise an eyebrow... even the UNIX zaelots. *GRIN* The main problem with it came when the MCSE became a bit more accesible. More people got into it, including some people who simply parroted back to the instructors whatever was said. In a nutshell, the market simply became flooded. But, that doesn't make the MCSE a bad thing. It still si a good thing to have on the resume, and assuming it's not the only thing you have going for you, you should do OK. After all, anyone who has been doing the job for even a year, maybe less, can recognize who got into computers because it "sounds cool and pays good," and who does the job because they are good at it and enjoy doing it. Trust me, the good ones shine through.

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.
[ Parent ]

Some people aren't so bad (2.45 / 11) (#80)
by 0xA on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 04:03:33 AM EST

I get requests like this all the time but I don't usually mind. I think its' just probably my personality, i like to be helpful. Some people however do anoy the hell out of me.

I absolutely hate it when someone has recived conflicting advice from someone else. You know, they ask you a question and you try your damndest to answer it but all you get back is my cousin/brother/the guy next door said... I always try my best to reply nicely, something like "Well, I don't really see it that way but maybe there is something like that going on". I NEVER just say, "that guy is obviously a complete idiot, keep him away from you and your children". Even if its' what I'm thinking. Its' almost impossible to convince someone that their favorite armchair expert has their head totally up their ass.

The other one that gets me is when people ask what computer should I buy? I usually reply Dell or HP or something. The response? "But Crazy Jim's Discount Byte Shack sells the same computer for $500 less". It never fails. How do you make them understand:

a)Its' a piece of crap.
b)When it breaks they are going to screw it up 5 times before they fix it.
c)With Dell you get an 800 number to call not my number.
d)Its' a piece of crap.

If I actually do decide to help someone and they start asking me the big questions like "What kind of sound card should I get?" that's always a mess too.

A friend of my mother's bought a system last year from some hole in the wall. I told her exatly what she needed, what did she get?

A 200 dollar sound card, with 20 dollar speakers, a Vooddo XYZ 5000000 for another $150, so the preschool educational type games ran "faster", and the worst monitor I have ever seen (I couldn't look at it for 5 minutes without getting a headache).

I think the trick is being able to figure out who's worth the time and who will end up being a pain in the ass.

I mean seriously, has anyone ever said to a mechanic, "I didn't buy the BMW you told me too, I got a Hyandai chepaer but its' not as nice. Can you fix it"?

Off topic? (1.50 / 2) (#83)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 05:56:45 AM EST

Is it my imagination, or is this compleatly off topic? If someone clears this up, I'll adjust my moderation. Thad
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Different expectations (2.71 / 7) (#87)
by BOredAtWork on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 09:24:41 AM EST

This is an easy one. To most people, the 'natural state' of a car is running perfectly. So to them, a good mechanic just puts things back to normal. Computers, on the other hand, are expected to crash two or three times a day, lose data, blue screen, etc, yadda, etc, etc, yadda. Remember, to the masses, "computer" means PC running Windows. Having to reboot twice a day is perfectly acceptable to them. Inconvenient, but acceptable. When they see someone who can make a computer run well, or keep a server working 24/7, they think that person has done something special, and squeezed some additional level of performace out of it, or worked some kind of magic on it.

If a car were to stall twice a day, or a wheel suddenly stopped turning, a mechanic would be expected to have it working again in a short amount of time. To the masses, a mechanic who can't fix it is inept.

If a computer needs rebooted twice a day, or Exchange suddenly stopped working, the masses accept this as a normal chain of events for the day. A computer tech who can take a look and say "well, I'm not sure" is the normal expectation. One who can FIX the problem is considered by the masses to be very talented. And the same logic applies for one who keeps a network running, or maintains a server. By most people's logic, that's like herding cats, and being able to do it well makes them seem like some sort of diety.

God help the MSCE's when the masses start to expect the same level of performance from their computers as they do from their cars.

one slight snag... (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by itarget on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 05:22:52 PM EST

Computers crash and malfunction all the time because they are extremely complex and more often than not, are built with some faulty parts and/or software.

The fault here lies with the manufacturers and software houses because they are not held to the same standards as car manufacturers (in fact, the DMCA and UCITA only encourage sloth in the software field).

I would be DAMN impressed with a mechanic if he or she could keep my car running well while faulty parts and poor construction were the norm.

[ Parent ]
You have a point, but... (none / 0) (#169)
by interiot on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 05:43:02 PM EST

Yeah, you have a point. Computer technology still seems to be in its early stages. You can't trust fixes from the well-known manufacturer (MS Service Packs)... that's a pretty good indication we still have some ways to go.

But it seems like the same skills are still involved in both fields. Someone comes to you with a problem, you have to spend a significant percentage of the effort in just tracking down the problem, you fix it, and test it. In both fields, there are problems that a user presents to several pros, and nobody knows what the cause is. (or maybe that just happens a lot on Car Talk)

[ Parent ]

Purity rules (2.75 / 4) (#92)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 11:33:17 AM EST

I think the reason equivalent software and mechanical jobs have different social status is really quite primitive. Software jobs are clean, whereas mechanical jobs are thought of as dirty, even when they are not, thus the software jobs carry higher social status. Much the same reasoning explains why women can work in factories making PCBs without raising an eyebrow, but only men can work in factories making cars without comment. In our society women are expected to keep themselves clean, and only men are expected to do "dirty jobs".

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
The difference is... (2.28 / 7) (#94)
by xepherys on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 11:42:05 AM EST

Perhaps this will sound elitist or even down-right cocky, but I believe the simple difference is that I find that, when I put my mind to it, I can do damned near anything that a mechanic, electrician, et cetera can do. I've rewired the electrical in my house, repaired and replaced plumbing, "upgraded" my heating/cooling, installed auto customizations and so on. With proper instruction, none of these things are difficult because, as they are based in a mechanical world, they function or don't function, and there is generally little doubt as to the cause of non-functionality. In the IT world, using "high-tech" computers and networks, implementation is a bit more invovled. And troubleshooting problems is even moreso. When a workstation, server or network goes down, even with the best trouble monitoring in place, the cause can often be elusive. For this reason, IT professionals with the nessecary skills to accomplish needed tasks are harder to come by, more valuable and revered in a higher light.

re: the difference is (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by fjackie on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 02:11:28 PM EST

I think that every one of your points apply equally well when you reverse the comparisons. Cars are much more complicated now than ever, requiring as much specialized training to repair as you fixing any hardware/software failure. It is not about being difficult or simple, but having good problem solving skills. I think if you look at "mechanics" like the ones working on F1 teams, I think that their engineering skills working on "cars" would blow away 95% of the hacks working in so-called IT professional positions.

[ Parent ]
Get the answer (3.00 / 1) (#99)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 03:50:28 PM EST

I think if you look at "mechanics" like the ones working on F1 teams, I think that their engineering skills working on "cars" would blow away 95% of the hacks working in so-called IT professional positions.
Here is where the analogy needs to be expanded. A formula 1 mechanic working on a racing vehicle requires levels of education, experience, and problem-solving skills that far exceed the mechanics that work on your $TYPICAL_AUTO at your local garage.

I would agree that an F1 mechanic could probably make a service tech look like an idiot. However, your average auto mechanic doesn't stand up to your average computer tech. If we stay at that level, I think the reasons are clear:

Vehicles accomplish the same task (moving objects), in the same manner (i.e. combustion engine) for each field of specialization. An auto mechanic usually knows very little about deisel engines, for example. Computer systems accomplish the same basic task (processing data), but in a wide variety of ways, requiring more knowledge to attain competency.

A given class of vehicle (car, pickup, SUV, etc) will be configured in basically the same manner as every other vehicle in that class. All gas-engine cars have spark plugs, and either a carb or injectors. The chance for variation is greatly less than configurations of computing systems.

People also don't muck around in thier vehicles as often -- you usually won't get an office secretary who "upgraded" her steering column and broke things in the process. Computers, however, are routinely mucked about with by their users -- anyone who has worked tech support knows the headaches created when people "upgrade" hardware or software.

Interaction between parts of a vehicle is also much more predictable (and documented) than interaction between, say, pieces of software (or even seemingly benign hardware). If I had $50 for every time two very necessary drivers caused confilct issues...

I could go on, but I think you'll see my point - computing is complex, as evidenced by the difficulty in finding good techs.
--
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

Learning... (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by Joshua on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 04:45:08 PM EST

Perhaps this will sound elitist or even down-right cocky, but I believe the simple difference is that I find that, when I put my mind to it, I can do damned near anything that a mechanic, electrician, et cetera can do.

Okay, I work as a network admin, and my job is also very very undemanding. I fix little problems, and deal with the fact that none of the people using my network have any idea how to use a computer.

Of course anyone can learn to do the things you mention, but I know that with my current state of knowledge, I can't. I don't know anything about plumbing, electronics themselves, cars, etc. I could of course learn these things if wanted to, but it would take quite a bit of learning. I think the same is true for the mechanic who wants to troubleshoot a PC, or read K5, or figure out where the network is having problems. They probably couldn't do these things with their current skills, but they could very well learn those the skills necessary.

I'd like to make another comment about the comparison between techies and mechanics. Mechanics generally have a very bad reputation, I mean, people will quickly agree that it's "hard to find a good mechanic." Hell, Jerry Seinfield(sp?) said that! The same is not often spoken of techies, but it is every bit as true. There are a lot of really incompitent people in the tech industry out there.

Joshua

[ Parent ]
Sociology 101 (4.07 / 13) (#95)
by Giant Space Hamster on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 12:18:44 PM EST

Pretty funny, coming across this as I am "studying" for my Sociology 101 midterm. The course text has a lot to say on occupations and prestige:

"Why do people give some jobs more prestige than others?...You will notice that the jobs at the top share four elements.

  1. They pay more.
  2. They require more education.
  3. They entail more abstract thought.
  4. They offer greater autonomy

If we turn this around, we can see that people give less [sic] prestige to jobs that are low-paying, require less preparation or education, involve more physical labor, and are closely supervised."[1]

From this perspective, admins are perceived to need more abstract thought (and potentially more education). In addition, mechanical jobs are perceived to involve more physical labor. These are the reasons for the differing amounts of prestige attached to the different jobs.

[1] James M. Henslin and Adie Nelson, "Prestige", Sociology: a down-to-earth approach., Allyn & Bacon Canada, 1996, pp. 257 - 259.

-------------------------------------------
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell

That's exactly right (2.50 / 2) (#108)
by gauntlet on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 12:54:33 AM EST

First of all, they do pay more. Supply and demand, probably, but there you have it.

Secondly, it does require more abstract thought. A computer has a motherboard. A car has an engine. The motherboard has a procesor. Let's say (for argument), that the engine's equivalent is a fuel injector. A processor runs programs which are composed of threads which are composed of individeual instructions. Each instruction is translated by the processor into a particular result, which sometimes refers to other instructions. (Not technically accurate, but it's for argument) Where's the abstract equivalent for a mechanic? There isn't one.

They require education? Yes. My dad learned how to be a mechanic by becoming an apprentice, and doing what the guy told him. Those parts of it that he has to abstract, he learned to abstract for himself in his own way. I couldn't have learned the abstract idea of a current or transistor or instruction or memory location without someone actually sitting down and explaining to me how it works. They couldn't show me. It requires more education because it is more abstract.

As for autonomy... well, I don't know about you, but no one lets me do anything. :)

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

What of liability? (2.00 / 5) (#101)
by dzimmerm on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 04:59:08 PM EST

If a computer malfunctions money is the only thing that is likely to be at risk.

If a car malfunctions it can cause death or disablement of people.

By this criteria the mechanic is responsible for far more than the equivilent computer person.

To throw another angle on this line of thought. How would you perceive the status of an aircraft mechanic? These people are even more liable in that the mere stopping of an engine can mean death or disablement.

If we gave status to people based on how they effect our lives then we have obviously voted that money and the ability to play games and socialize is much more important than a persons life or body.

I used the above examples to show that status means nothing when you get logical about it. My advice is to be happy doing what you love and let the members of the various armed services worry about things like status and rank.

DaveZ

Mechanics make bank. (1.33 / 3) (#102)
by Ndog on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 06:24:36 PM EST

My parents and I helped put my mechanic's kid through medical school. I think of him as a successful business man, not a blue-collar grunt.



Hah. (2.00 / 4) (#103)
by simmons75 on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 07:01:58 PM EST

I've often said it. Glad to see someone else thinking along those lines.

That being said, shush! Don't let those in charge know! =)
poot!
So there.

Mhhh pay attention Phoenyx (1.60 / 5) (#104)
by elpapacito on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 08:01:06 PM EST

I'm not really sure Phoenyx was exposed to enough public and employers opinion to say that they perceive "geeks" as different and better then other mechanics.

They currently "like" geeks, but mostly because we are working in an exciting market with a lot of money going around.

It is true that the current internet mania has a positive effect on geeks, but mostly because of the media introducement "excitement" about everything that is related to a computer.

As soon as the frenzy is gone, consolidation will begin and something new will be in the spotlight as "the next best thing". Geeks could be forgotten as easily as rock start :)

Yet, there are many important differences between various kinds of technicians that should be know and understood, expecially by employers ...

... and the MAIN difference is that GEEKS ARE NOT MECHANICS.

It is TRUE that geeks are many times required to assemble computers , but they don't spend all their time assembling because nobody else could make something useful with these computers, but them.

Geeks are also an important company resource because they deliver very complex and highly valuable products like fully configured and ready to run computers.

Geeks are usually much more flexible then many employees, because many of them are used to studying loads of books before actually delivering any working product ; that's a task for flexible minds. Not a white collar because he hates bureocracy, not a blue collar because he does more then simply placing piece A in slot B, geek is the most desiderable kind of worker.

Many geeks are involved into programming ; unfortunately not as many employers or average Joes understand how complex programming is and they usually think programming is just another simple task like opening Windows ; so far I haven't see any other kind of technician as mentally flexible as a programmer.

Last but not least, we must not confuse people who does routine low-level maintenance on some machine with people who evolve and learn about many different kinds of machines in order to keep up with the market and provide very complex solutions to different problems

This is the real "proof" of geekness : hunger for knowledge and practical solutions to problems.



Ego Trip. (3.66 / 3) (#107)
by Miniluv on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 09:13:42 PM EST

Get off the ego trip. Geeks are not inherently better educated, skiller, or brainier than anybody else. I've seen plenty of small engine mechanics who had as broad a field of knowledge within their work environment as some mighty wizardly admins or coders. Computers are not any "harder" to learn than engines or HVAC. If you don't believe me, go tear apart the engine on your car...just don't come crying to me when you can't get it back together without the assistance of a paid professional.
The differences comes in people who merely do their jobs, and people who love them. You see this in your neighborhood mechanic who has a waiting list three weeks long because he's just THAT GOOD. He loves engines, cars, etc so much he made a career of it. That love shows in the work he does, he's not satisfied with giving your car back to you running, he gives it back purring. The same is true of people who truly love the computer work they do. They don't just configure that router, they plug it into the network ready to optimally transmit EVERY packet. They configure the server to do more on less memory and processor power than their predecessor thought possible.
Neither one is "better" than the other, just in two different fields requiring specific skills. This is really true in any career path you can specify..even those sales weenies or the marketdroids. The saying "selling ice to eskimos" didn't come about for no reason, and most people could never hope to have it applied to them, but those people that fit it really deserve it and the bring a lot of value to their employers. How about the guy(girl?) who came up with the Absolut ads...EVERYbody remembers those ads. That's not the sort of brilliance just any marketing major can pull off, it takes a special sort of ingenuity at the field. The same sort of ingenuity that prompted Khan and Cerf to write TCP/IP from scratch and make it work.
Extolling the virtue of geeks over any specific other field is nothing more than egotism. It's egotism of the worst kind too, because it's based in ignorance and falsehood rather than any sort of accomplishment.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Please consider that... (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by elpapacito on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 07:52:44 AM EST

I strongly agree with you when you says that the presence or absence of "love" for a job makes a tangible difference that can be experienced in any field of knowledge. I surely respect anybody who wants to do more then simply following the instructions on a manual without even considering why and how the thing he's building is working.

Maybe I should have specified that I don't consider geeks as a computer-only kind of workers ; geeks are in every field of knowledge, from farming to space stations. My fault that I didn't make this clear.

It is true that , quoting from your reply,<<Computers are not any "harder" to learn than engines or HVAC>> but unfortunately it requires a lot more studying and a lot more practice to deliver working products with computers.

I'm not talking about a simple html document , that's a very easy work compared to installing,running and mantaining a WAN ; but of course even the simple work of doing an HTML page becomes hard when're you're not skilled in HTML and HTML is not trivial at all.

Installing an air conditioning system for an industry is surely as not easy as installing a standard AC system in a house. But when you learn to install AC for industry you have quite a good job, when you learn HTML you're only one fraction worth of a geek AC installer. Then a computer geek, in order to have a good job must learn a lot more then other people in many industries.

That doesn't mean people that work in other industry don't work or don't study ; but computer geeks are many times exposed to tremendous amount of pressure because of incredibly fast industry changes and they're asked to learn A LOT in short times, because otherwise nobody else could deliver products. In many other fields of technology, you're not exposed to these stress levels.

That's why I still believe computer geeks are extremily skilled and intelligent workers, with respect going to many other geeks in other fields of work.

[ Parent ]
Well said... (2.00 / 1) (#114)
by Miniluv on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 03:43:04 PM EST

Alright...your explanation clears up a lot. I'm still not entirely sure I buy into your theory in it's entirety, but it makes quite a bit more sense. There are certainly industries in which this is quite true, and others where I'd put up a serious debate. I think the world of car repair is definitely one of them...you think the proliferation of Unix platforms is bad? Look at the proliferation of automotive platforms. Within a single manufacturer there can be three or four takes on the internal combustion engine, no two of which need be even remotely similar, yet we expect our mechanics to be competent with all of them. Sure they have things like the Chiltons guide and diagnostic computers...but we geeks have howto's, packet sniffers, etc.
On the whole, I'll agree that there's the "geek" segment of each industry, and these folks tend to excel above and beyond the norms for that industry. I just don't normally think of the word in that sense...perhaps it's a latent Katz aversion.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Still don't follow you. (none / 0) (#144)
by tzanger on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 02:56:55 PM EST

It is true that , quoting from your reply, "Computers are not any "harder" to learn than engines or HVAC" but unfortunately it requires a lot more studying and a lot more practice to deliver working products with computers.

I disagree. Any fucking code monkey with a pirate copy of DevStudio or BCPPB can crank out a working product with a computer. Just look at winfiles.com for thousands upon thousands of examples. Anyone with half a brain and a penchant for Perl can crank out modules. Now there are some really awesome programs and Perl modules which don't deserve to be classed this way but the amount of utter shite is amazing. Just try to build a half-assed internal combustion engine. There is much more skill and brainwork than you imagine.

Code monkeys are no different than grease monkeys. Programmers are often in line with mechanics. And true software <cough> "engineers" rank closely with the master mechanics and mechanical engineers. Just as there are different levels of mechanic, there are similar levels of engineer. To think otherwise is folly.



[ Parent ]
Uhm you're right..and.. (none / 0) (#165)
by elpapacito on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 09:48:55 AM EST

Ok I agree with you that making an half-assed internal combustion engine is no easy job at all while making a simple but "working" software it's probably easier, also because (as you correctly noted) there're powerful tools avaiable for this kind of job, while only a few lucky ones can prepare the steel needed for the body of an engine (I'll try smelting iron ores on my CPU, it's so hot :) )

--- Some reasoning, you can skip to CONCLUSION if you like to ----


Now let's consider another level; operating systems.

The amount of variable one needs to take in consideration to make a working OS and the amount of possible errors is quite enormous, so that no single person can develope his own OS AND hope it will work on 80% of all reasonably possible combinations of hardware and software. Linus Torvald didn't wrote 100% of Linux, as you probably know.

That's why any OS made for wide commercialization is usually made by a number of programmers.

I'll assume, because I'm no internal combustion engines engineer, that this is true for engines too, but I still have a doubt...

Usually big car makers like Ford / GM / Mercedes etc develope a set of engines for their cars (which I repeat it's no trivial task) and use them for a few years while developing new engines.

You can't wait a few years in the computer industry for a new "engine" ; if the OS doesn't work you must fix the bugs ASAP of the customer will be unhappy (see the number of unhappy Microsoft customers) or at least try to.

On the other hand, once you had developed an engine and sent it to production , you probably can't do much because engines production process is much less flexbile (i think) then software one.

So the geek engine engineer may be skilled as Albert Einstein but doesn't deals with the enormous pressure of constant, almost real-time, updating.

--- END OF REASONING

So considering your correct argument, we could say that there are different level of geeks dealing with different level of complexity.

1) Geek PC Assembler / Geek Car Amateur

Almost the same complexity , they just pull and push pieces around. One puts a CPU, the other puts new tires.

2) Geek PC Troubleshooter / Geek Car Mechanic

Both subjects of great pressure from costumers. The first one has more data to remember then the second one.

3) Geek PC Programmer / Geek Engines Developer
The first one needs to study a lot of before making a non-trivial program. Same applies for the second one. Both work on a pre-definied framework of common technical rules a.k.a. "the basics" of their job.

4) Geek PC engineer / Geek Engines Engineer ???
I don't really know how to compare them because I don't
know what an engine engineer does. But on WILD guess I suspect the PC one is way more stressed then the second one.

I'm looking forward receving your additional inputs, as this topic is very interesting and far from being considered closed.

(sorry for any grammatical errors, english isn't my motherlanguage)



[ Parent ]
Interesting (1.80 / 5) (#106)
by refugee14 on Fri Nov 10, 2000 at 08:45:15 PM EST

I'm a combo admin - network/systems/email/security - and I do web design and admin as well. Not as complicated as it might sound since we are a small company and my server load is limited to 4 - Sun box, Linux box, Exchange box and Novell box, with a DMZ monitor (Trinux rulz :) thrown in. If we didn't have a turn-key CheckPoint FW-1 setup, I'd do that one as well. But, I always think of my job in terms of plumbing - knowing what all the network stuff is doing at any given time and why - and explaining this to the end users - while making sure I'm up on the latest and greatest issues that might fsck-up the water-flow to the company. So I kind of look at myself as a glorified electronic plumber. Kind of weird, but there it is. I also have to do pc configs - sometimes from the empty-case-no-mobo stage to end-user-sits-down-and-points-and-clicks stage - so that kind of maintenance worker thing is also present. I look at my position as a skilled technician-type. OTOH, I'm pretty hopeless around the house. Go figure. Nice article for thought; thanks!

My views (2.80 / 5) (#109)
by strlen on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 01:50:11 AM EST

Earlier I've been told by many programmers that my current choice of occupation (sys admin) is somewhat of an Artisan occupation: it requires skill, but most of the work is documented and requires simply doing what the book says, not going your own way. In this I could see how an IT is like a mechanic; but I do not agree fully with that. Most sys admins, unless they are MCSE's clicking on "OK" and "Cancel" are at least once required to construct their own scripts, and make a creative solution to whatever their problem is, rather then going by the book. Also sys admins need to fully understand how their system works, while a mechanic can simply be trained monkey. However, I still respect car mechanics. I'd rather be a car mechanic then a clerk or store manager or some other job which does not require me to work with the actual products, but use the "people skills". Also system administration brings you full view of the operating system, of the network etc.. Some sys admins I've known have later become kernel hackers and most I know are also great coders. I don't really know any mechanics who are also automotive engineers. As for general public, they view sys admins and anything else remotely using a computer as some sort of magical programmer, and especially in America do not really respect them, seeing their work as a function of some sort of intelligence gift, and Americans as shown, do not truly respect intelligence: I've never heard of kids being teased because of their good grades and high intelligence at school in Soviet Union, or even worse looked down by the teachers; in fact I've only seen the opposite. Intelligence is developed, sure talent plays a large part, but it can also be neglected and forgotten and hard work and dilligence can achieve impressive results -- and that is what Americans need to understand.



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
Programmers and Sysadmins... (none / 0) (#124)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 11:26:42 AM EST

Earlier I've been told by many programmers that my current choice of occupation (sys admin) is somewhat of an Artisan occupation: it requires skill, but most of the work is documented and requires simply doing what the book says, not going your own way.

I've been in many discussions with people developing software or hardware in which they're trying to figure out how to do something and I'm like "I bet we can me such-and-such part of such-and-such an OS help you a LOT." We set it up, try it, and often it works.

My job is to help them get their work done and my area of responsiblity is the machines and network. I'm a support person, just like a mechanic who works on a fleet of vehicles for his employer.

I can argue this one both ways. :-)



[ Parent ]
I would say it's a matter of perception. (2.20 / 5) (#110)
by Denjiro on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 04:22:37 AM EST

The average person knows a lot more about how to operate a car and at least a vague idea of how one works. That's alot more than the average person knows about computers in general and even more so when it comes to networks and whatnot.

Geeks are overrated (1.40 / 5) (#112)
by maketo on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 10:54:58 AM EST

You are right when thinking about comparing mechanics to network/computer slaveforce. However, this is where the validity of the comparison stops. Producing, designing and coding software is a different activity and it requires more education, thought and love than fixing a car. Designing and producing a car is comparable again though. The problem with comparing a network admin and a mechanic is in the inherent difference in the complexity of their environments. A car has a well defined interface to the environment and its interaction with other cars and objects around is restricted (and is expressable through the laws of physics). Network software and boxes, however, inherit a wide number of different equipment that supposedly complies to a somewhat larger number of interfaces. A local network is a distributed system with many possible interfaces to many other distributed systems (note that I use the word distributed only to point out the locality of the car system) - there are many different points of failure, and these are distributed as well. A network administrator can choose to treat his network as he would treat any system with a number of well defined entry/exit points (this is how a mechanic would treat a car) - this approach fails miserably in a great number of cases simply because there are so many points to cover. Also note that there is a variety of different routes to the same (usualy problematic) behavior a piece of network equipment or software can exhibit. Finally, a car part either works or it doesnt (this is usualy very easy to determine) - a piece of software might work for any case except for that one that gives you a headache and opens up your network to unwarranted access. Not being able to put software into the realm of "well tested and complies to specifications" products puts everything built on top of it out of that same realm. This applies both to a single function built in e.g. C or a whole system built to produce input to another system. Someone below drew a parallel between software engineering practices and military or civil aircraft building - the problem with this is that he has approached the question from the "end side" - the aircraft usually has a set of laws and characteristics that are in the set of "describable", computer software does not (revisit the topic of wicked problems here) - a software designer has a fundamental problem of narrowing down and describing what it is he or she will produce. Then comes the problem of building it. And then verifying it. If you look at it this way - geeks have nothing to be proud of - of all the sciences, computer science is the one with least proper and correct tools and theories and the one on top of which a whole industry of uncertainty is built.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
The Difference Between Mechanics and Admins (3.60 / 5) (#113)
by commandant on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 11:31:05 AM EST

Well, first off is the obvious visual difference: mechanics are often dirty, wear ragged uniforms, and typically don't have the best grammar or vocabulary. Few have even been to college, let alone graduated.

Admins, however, typically did there time at a respectable institution, wear clean close, don't get greasy, and talk better than mechanics.

Furthermore, there are the respective positions: mechanics spend much time on their backs, or with hands jammed elbow-deep into an engine, which is subconsciously a less-than-graceful image. An admin, though, does most of his work sitting or standing.

You also need to consider the horror stories people tell about mechanics who rip them off. It's on the news all the time. However, in my life, I've only seen one story about computer repair fraud, and it was in a Best Buy, which you would expect (since it's a bunch of teenagers, not respectable admins).

I'm no big deal admin, at least not professionally. The biggest job I've undertaken is configuring Linux to be a masquerading server for a home LAN. I know my way around Windows and Linux, and could be an admin if I were interested. What you say is true; that for the most part, it is just mechanics' work to keep a network going. But the fact is, people who work with cars are less educated than people who work with computers. Public perception does not depend on what could be done--it depends solely on what is done.

I, for one, would love to understand cars the way I understand computers. I can't imagine anything more fulfilling than being able to repair my own automobile, just like it's fulfilling to repair my PC. I take pride in knowing that I'll never have to call in the so-called "computer expert" to tell me what I've done.

The problem is, an engine is immensely more complex than a computer (at least in terms of user-serviceable parts). The complexity of a computer is tied up in processors, not card-swapping and software installation. You can't overhaul a Pentium III without having a clean room and serious CPU design expertise! However, anyone with knowledge of an engine can completely dismantle it, and replace individual parts at will. I will probably never find the time to learn about all those parts. I don't have time to learn about the layout of a Pentium, either, but that information is irrelevant. I'm not going to be swapping capacitors or FETs on my PIII.

Get a clue (none / 0) (#115)
by maketo on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 07:03:26 PM EST

Mechanics and fraud eh? What do you call selling faulty software full of bugs to people? Good will? Blah.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
[ Parent ]
Hello... (none / 0) (#134)
by simmons75 on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 08:44:26 PM EST

/*
Admins, however, typically did there time at a respectable institution, wear clean close, don't get greasy,
and talk better than mechanics.
*/

You didn't even manage to spell "clothes" right.

What the hell? Mechanics are dirty. No shit. I'd like to meet someone who can work on a car, wearing an expensive suit, and not ruin the suit. God, you're stupid.

My father works in a factory, and many of the mechanics he works around have *at least* a Baccelor's degree, usually in engineering. What do they do? Repair machines, get dirty, swear, etc. Some of them have Master's degrees. WTF? What the hell are you talking about?

And really, if you think the computer industry is any more reputable than the automotive industry, you truly are deluded.
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
multi-post reply (none / 0) (#153)
by luethke on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:38:28 PM EST

whoa, both of you need to re-read the post. I don't think the guy was really dissing mechanics. at the end he said he wished he knew about engines and how complex they were (that at least implies that mechanics didn't fall off the turnip truck). More or less education does not imply intelligence, in my experiance what he said is true, but the good mechanics I know were very intelligent people, just not well educated. Your experiance may be different. My family are land surveyors - this is also considered a blue collar worker. The three most defining aspects that I would see are required education (though this one is not universal), amount of dirt/grime on you in the end of the day, and amount of physical work required (by that I mean how hard is it - pulling a card, running cable, or configuring a network don't usually make a person break a sweat). Again this does not imply worth or intelligence, but is only a definition of white collar vs blue collar. also spelling in this forum is sure to be off, complaining about it detracts from the impact you were trying to make and makes a person in these types of forums seem petty.

[ Parent ]
should I be insulted? (1.88 / 9) (#116)
by xhypertensionx on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 07:11:25 PM EST

As an aspiring network engineer, I found this article to be interesting. Nevertheless, I still disagree with it.

Currently, I am a Certified Netware Administrator. To get here, I had to learn all about network technology (from analog and digital encodeing to the specifics of asyncronous transfer mode) and Netware Administration. I am quite confident that if I was thrown into a Novell network, that I could do any administrative task that was required of me. However, the industry's expectations of its network technicians is so high, that with five other certifications, I barely qualify for a jr. network admin position. From where I am now, it doesn't look as if I will work on a client/server network until I am a CNE, MCSE, and a CCNA. That's right.. I won't qualify for a network administrator position until I am a cerified network engineer!!!

What does a certified engineer know? From what I will learn in my Novell curriculum, I will know how to repair workstations, design the hardware layout of my network, design the software directory services, design efficient and effective rights in the file system for all users, create login scripts, and to impliment Novell functionality in a NT network -- all according to theory.

And what does an auto mechanic do? He repairs cars.. maybe the engine. The better ones know a few more facts, and might be able to paint a car as well. A few of the best ones may even be able to design a car. However, to become a damn administrator, I have to be able to design a network from the ground up, hardware and software, and know the advantages and disadvantages of all of the different parts and methods that I could use.

An auto mechanic may use a computer to find a problem, replace a part, then find some way to screw over the customer. This is the job of a lowly Fry's/Best Buy tech, minus the screwing part.

All I know is that I have studied my ass off, dedicating myself to the brute memorization of facts to get where I want to go. When I'm done studying, I'll know how to repair/replace/create every part of a computer network. I would be insulted beyond belief to have my profession equated with that of a dimwitted auto mechanic that makes his living replacing parts, reading instructions, and screwing over anyone that he can.

Auto mechanics vs. IT tech certification (3.50 / 4) (#119)
by dmr on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 02:03:54 AM EST

First of all, it's obvious you don't own a car. A good mechanic who won't rip you off is worth several hundred dollars a year, at least. I'm not sure you really understand what you should understand, when you ask about working on a client/server network.

Second, you need a serious attitude adjustment. You won't be hired as a god to administer to mere mortals, you will be hired to help people get their work done. They don't care if you have certificates up the ying-yang, they want their program to work. If you are hired and don't realize that the reason their macros don't work is because they inadvertently changed the directory where macros are stored, your network credentials are worth nothing. If you continue with the attitude you show here, you will never find the answer.

Finally, you may hold all of these certificates, but obviously you have never worked in the field. The mechanics you criticize don't get credit for courses they take because they have dirty fingernails and they get oil and grease on their clothes. I guarantee I can teach a mechanic how to use a computer faster than he could teach you how to make most common vehicle repairs.

I hope you realize soon that your personality, not your knowledge, is important in being hired.

[ Parent ]
ha (1.00 / 1) (#129)
by xhypertensionx on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 03:16:31 PM EST

obvious I don't own a car huh? lol. I think what is obvious is that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Trust me, I understand what I need to understand. The school I attend has hired me to prepare other students for these exams. I teach them what they need to know, and they pass. I don't have a problem "understanding" what I have been trained to know.

I've even worked on motor vehicles before. I've stripped motors down to the crank, and I know without a doubt that network engineering is much more complex.

Do you feel that yor job is important, and that it has a certain amount of dignity and respect attached to it? How would you feel having it equated with the job of a street mime or a janitor?

What are you trying to prove here? That I have a bad attitude? I guess I'm supposed to be happy that the goals I am working hard toward are being equated with the HS kids at Oil Can Henry's that change oil filters for $7 an hour.

I'm sure you can point out some master mechanics that know their stuff, but in that case, they earn around the same (or more).. and that is a completely different story from the asshole at the tire shop that tries to sell me 4 new tires and an alignment when I just have one flat.

I'm sure that you would be mad too if you had a position you worked hard toward being equated with that.

[ Parent ]

I'll bite... (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by Phil the Canuck on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 01:01:51 PM EST

...despite the sinking feeling that I have been successfully trolled.

I have no problem having my job compared to that of a mechanic. The article raises some interesting points, although I disagree that Network Admins are (in general) high-tech grease monkeys. I know that I handle lots of things that are out of the scope of a typical mechanic's job. That said, your lack of respect for another profession is disturbing. Q-Lube monkeys aside, mechanics require a great deal of specialised knowledge.

One thought to leave you with. A CNA most certainly does *not* qualify you for most Network Administrator positions. In a given day, I spend much more time on "CNE" issues. Best of luck in your new career.

------

I don't think being an idiot comes with a pension plan though. Unless you're management of course. - hulver
[ Parent ]

thank you (none / 0) (#150)
by xhypertensionx on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:25:43 PM EST

I don't understand why we had problems. You seem like a smart guy.

Therefore, I'm sure you can understand my lack of respect for Wal-Mart mechanics. I have been fucked over by a mechanic who sold me a car (he didn't put oil in the car he sold me and drove over to my house, and i trusted him enough to do so and of course, the car died when I tried to start it up) , and in all but one of the oil changes and brake jobs I have gotten, they have tried to sell me something I know i didn't need (new power steering pumps, etc), basically trying to fuck me over.

So, I think you can understand that I don't like being equated with these people =) I wish you luck too.

[ Parent ]

Last time, I promise. (4.00 / 1) (#158)
by Phil the Canuck on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 10:00:25 PM EST

What problems? I'm capable of disagreeing with someone without disliking them. I'm also capable of agreeing with people I can't stand. Those will be important skills in your chosen profession. At least it will be if you ever want to be more than the "grease monkeys" that the article talks about.

No one is trying to compare you to Wal-mart mechanics. RTFA. We're talking about skilled, certified tradesmen. I'd no more take my car to Wal-mart for repairs than take my computer to Radio Shack. I call that Common Sense(TM).

Even if they were, your hostility seems to stem at least partially from an incident where a mechanic fooled you. Are you saying that if you were selling computers, you wouldn't be capable of screwing a customer? I know I would. The question raised by the article has nothing to do with ethics. The ability of the mechanic to screw you was, at least in part, a result of your lack of automotive knowledge. Your apparent assertion that they are somehow intellectually inferior therefore withers.

...and yes, I'm willing to admit it. IHBT.


------

I don't think being an idiot comes with a pension plan though. Unless you're management of course. - hulver
[ Parent ]

Certifications might not be the issue (none / 0) (#121)
by scoof on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 10:05:26 AM EST

Are you sure that the reason you won't be hired is that you don't really have the people skills?
It would seem so.

[ Parent ]
Your high horse... (3.00 / 2) (#133)
by Zaediex on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 05:42:31 PM EST

Man, you need to come down from on top of that high horse of yours!

Perhaps you're talking about your local oil and lube guy, but the mechanics I know are extremely mechanically and technically gifted. Many of them have moved far beyond the menial tasks that you chastize so much in your tirade. How could you honestly be insulted? Give me a break!

What strikes me as very funny is the paragraph:

And what does an auto mechanic do? He repairs cars.. maybe the engine. The better ones know a few more facts, and might be able to paint a car as well. A few of the best ones may even be able to design a car. However, to become a damn administrator, I have to be able to design a network from the ground up, hardware and software, and know the advantages and disadvantages of all of the different parts and methods that I could use.

It could easily be rephrased as:

And what does an network admin do? He repairs networks .. maybe the pulls some cable. The better ones know a few more facts, and might be able to architech the network as well. A few of the best ones may even be able to write login scripts or even properly set up the access rights. However, to become a damn mechanic, I have to be able to diagnose complex electrical problems from very few symptoms, and know the advantages and disadvantages of all of the different tools that I could use.

I feel the analogy is quite good, much like that of a software developer and an author. Different tasks, but each extremely skilled in their own right. Honestly, learn some humility before going out into the work force. If you don't learn it now, you're sure to learn it later, and I know the lesson won't be a nice one.

Zaediex...

[ Parent ]
Come on.. (1.00 / 2) (#138)
by xhypertensionx on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 02:55:11 AM EST

Perhaps you would feel agitated if someone equated your job with something more lowly.

First of all, we're not talking about "expert automotive care professionals", we're talking about the white-trash mechanics that work at Wal-Mart for $6 an hour. That's what this article was about. Quit changing the subject.

Actually, your analogy sucks. How much do you know about computer networking? As I stated in my "tirade", to even qualify for a $40000 a year "bonehead" network admin position, I will probably need certifications, the earning of which requires the knowledge of every aspect of a computer network, and how to create one from the ground up. How many guys at Wal-Mart's auto shop can build a car? These "intelligent professionals" can't even build a decent education for themselves; why else would they work at Wal-Mart?

Your defense of these guys sucks too. Firstly, diagnosing "complex" problems usually is done by plugging the car into a computer. And the tool choice? Usually either a wrench or a socket set. Of course, these are so much harder than "time-domain reflectometers" that network admins use, right?

How would most doctors react after having their profession compared to that of the white-trash, HS dropout, cheating dirtballs that make $7 an hour changing oil? After all, doctors basically just diagnose and repair people, right? Are you going to tell me that doctors are over-rated too?

Face it, how often does a doctor give you a checkup and say "Hey man, your uh.. kidney is leaking. You need a new one.. and its going to cost $20000.."? Never. Only the scumbags you're defending do that.

Maybe the reason you're trying to equate network admins with oil-changers is because you don't understand either and you're scared of both.

[ Parent ]

Oh really now. (5.00 / 2) (#139)
by gromm on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 03:46:45 AM EST

Okay. Let's play a little game.

You: First of all, we're not talking about "expert automotive care professionals", we're talking about the white-trash mechanics that work at Wal-Mart for $6 an hour. That's what this article was about. Quit changing the subject.

The article to which you reply: I walked past two employees from the maintenance department who were hard at work trying to get a furnace used to heat molten aluminum back up and running.

These two employees were probably millrights. Millrights are people that fix big, complicated mills, if you didn't already know that, but you probably did, since you know everything. It is their job to know everything there is to know about big, complicated mills. They are also the only people actually qualified to fix such things as furnaces used to heat molten aluminum. If I recall correctly, they are typically paid somewhere between $50 - $70K a year. They also have more education than you ever will, judging by your post. (by the way, if you haven't touched that which you are learning to use, you haven't learned to use it. I think it would be fun to watch you touch your first Novell network.)

And regular, run of the mill auto mechanics are also worth a whole shitload more than $6 an hour. Sure, changing your oil isn't rocket science, but then, they're only charging you $30 for something you could have easily done yourself in ten minutes with a crescent wrench and a bucket. I too would charge you the same amount for essentially wasting my time.
Deus ex frigerifero
[ Parent ]

You're so smart (1.00 / 1) (#149)
by xhypertensionx on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:01:39 PM EST

Yeah. Ha.

Read the fucking article, idiot. The author clearly refers to these people as "wage-earners". That is what this article is about, not about the "rocket-scientists" you refer to in order to make network admins look stupid. Your time obviously isn't worth anything because you can't fucking read. I wouldn't pay you 4 cents to lick my asshole after I took a juicy shit.

Learn to read, then read your stupid post. Its fucking bullshit. I made the fucking Novell network at my school, and it works extremely well. I educate people on Novell Netware administration well enough for them to earn certification. You would probably be better at trying to suck your 2" dick than even describing what computer networking is.

I am still waiting for someone to prove to me that Wal-Mart mechanics are equivilant to network admins. I would like to see you try to do so.

P.S.- Just so you know, I know how to change my own fucking oil.. but if I did it myself, I'd deal with pricks like you giving me shit for dumping it into a storm drain...

[ Parent ]

You are an idiot. (1.00 / 1) (#159)
by lazerus on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 02:32:54 AM EST

The certifications you are "aiming" to get are not what they're cracked up to be. Get a degree. A Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Technology, possibly a Doctor of Technology too. Then you will have earned the right to talk like you are talking. Until then, please, don't make yourself look more stupid than you already do.

[ Parent ]
Doctors.... (none / 0) (#142)
by lazerus on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 01:44:44 PM EST

What kind of Doctors? Doctors of Technology? Doctors of Science? Doctors of Medicine? Doctors of Philosophy? Doctors of Commerce? Doctors of Music?

[ Parent ]
can you read? (none / 0) (#148)
by xhypertensionx on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 05:36:49 PM EST

I said doctors that repair people.

[ Parent ]
Give it up dude, you're not all that (3.00 / 2) (#145)
by tzanger on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 03:14:38 PM EST

As I stated in my "tirade", to even qualify for a $40000 a year "bonehead" network admin position, I will probably need certifications, the earning of which requires the knowledge of every aspect of a computer network, and how to create one from the ground up. How many guys at Wal-Mart's auto shop can build a car?

Dude, that is not a fair analogy. Building networks is no more difficult than assembling basic blocks. Router A, cable Y, snap, snap. I know this because I've designed a few networks. From dozen-company VPNd WANs to voice and data ATM networks. It's not that difficult unless you're starting to get into the Gigabit networks and doing some really tricky encapsulation and integration (voice/data/video).

Now building an engine or a full automobile... that would be more akin to engineering the PHY layer of a new network based on ethernet but with a burstable wire speed of 10Gbps. Yeah the 1Gbps is tricky but it's been done. You want to actually make something better. Oh yeah and it has to work with your standard Cat5 or Cat6 cabling and be installed by people such as yourself who don't worry about binding the cables with a tie wrap or bending 90 degrees in 1". Not so easy now is it? Your run-of-the-mill mechanic won't know how to do this but you wouldn't know how to do their jobs (the millwrights mentioned in the article) without a bit of a learning curve. Metal that gets too hot loses some of its desireable properties. Metal that gets too cold does other funky shit.

How do I know all this? I don't design 10Gbps network hardware but I do design industrial motion control hardware. As mentioned above, I've architected a few nontrivial networks in my day. I also work on cars but am nowhere near a master mechanic or even a decent mechanic. Your spouting off sounds like that of a pizza faced 15 year old who thinks he knows everything about everything and he's just the best thing since sliced bread and nobody can do his job. So before you get to big for your britches let me tell you that you are replaceable, son. Everyone is. And if you really do think you're that smart, go take a CCNE exam and watch your ass get whupped from one end of the building to the other.



[ Parent ]
so.. (1.00 / 1) (#147)
by xhypertensionx on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 05:35:11 PM EST

So are you trying to prove that network admins are no better than Wal-Mart auto "professionals?"? Because that's what this article is saying. Quit trying to make me look bad because I'm trying to defend my goals.

[ Parent ]
I'm trying to prove that you don't know everything (none / 0) (#154)
by tzanger on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:43:05 PM EST

So are you trying to prove that network admins are no better than Wal-Mart auto "professionals?"?

No. I'm trying to show you that just because you string Cat5 all over a facility and can make a box talk on the network you don't necessarily have the skills, experience nor perspective to bash another profession.

Because that's what this article is saying.

Again, no. The article (and I read it again just to make sure) is asking this question: What is it about working with cards, CAT5, and operating systems that makes it different from working with pistons, manifolds, and gaskets?

Quit trying to make me look bad because I'm trying to defend my goals.

How exactly are you trying to defend your goals? You're bashing a profession which has been around longer than most of us have lived and encompasses more technology than you are prepared to admit to. While it doesn't take a rocket scientist to change the oil in your car, it does take a signficant amount of education, experience and smarts to do extensive engine repair or modifications, rebuild a transmission or design any of the components I just mentioned. Almost every system in an automobile is fail safe which, while only a lightly-loaded term in almost every aspect of IT, is a life and death situation when used in the context of almost any kind of heavy machinery or electronic component. I am pointing out that just because you can make the technology work and fix it when it breaks doesn't make you some kind of 31337 gh0d who can now bad-mouth a profession because they get their hands dirty. Who the hell do you think maintains the equipment which is used to do the following?

  • Mine ore? (crushers, heavy movers, drills, fans, conveyors, elevators)
  • Smelt ore (all the above plus furnaces, etc.)
  • Roll the steel
  • Fold the steel
  • Finish the steel
In your system's case?! The fucking mechanics you're bashing to try and boost your own ego and "defend your goals"! You'd be fucked if they weren't around, let alone the similar mechanic and engineering positions required to dig copper out of the ground or grow silicon wafers and dope them up into the working electronic systems you merely snap together and pitch when they don't work.

This is starting to get offtopic but to bring it back to center: the article questions what it is that we as the people who do the grunt (service) work of the information industry do which makes what we do seem more "important" than a mechanic, the grunt or service crew of the mechanical world? The article specifically mentions millwrights which while they may not look the brightest have an enormous amount of real-world experience which most of us don't have clue one about. Just because they can't sit in a cube or an office (if you're lucky enough) and play Quake or surf the web doesn't make them any dumber or their job any less important than yours or mine. It's attitude like yours which causes rifts in the professions and if taken to a more general state, even to the race rifts. There are many things they can do that we can't because of our experiences, training and interests, just the same as there are tons of things we can do that they wouldn't be able to for precisely the same reasons. Get that into your head.

And one final thing: Since when do you have to bust someone else's balls in order to make yourself feel more important? Chances are if you have to put someone else down in order to bring yourself up then you aren't really all that important or knowledgeable to begin with. It's been my experience that the smartest ones are generally the ones who aren't going around tooting their own horns and bragging about how great they are. That they leave to the ones struggling to become Alpha Wolf but who have yet to find the secret.



[ Parent ]
Re: Come on... (none / 0) (#155)
by Zaediex on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:45:58 PM EST

Perhaps you would feel agitated if someone equated your job with something more lowly.

Personally, I would not, but then again I also understand the value that everyone plays with their job.

First of all, we're not talking about "expert automotive care professionals", we're talking about the white-trash mechanics that work at Wal-Mart for $6 an hour. That's what this article was about. Quit changing the subject.

Well, if you actually read the <A HREF=http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2000/11/9/101843/369>article it uses millrights as an example, and the only other mention is that of "hourly wages" as opposed to "salaried". You ask how much I know about networking? Well, I've personally been involved in architecting a number of 1000+ node networks. Currently I'm employed as a software developer, and my major responsibilities include writing server software. Let me tell you that it takes a lot more than certifications to get a decent job these days. Any kid with 8 months can get a number of certifications and have little or prior computer experience. These people have their place, but they're by no means experts in anything other than reading manuals, and writing exams. Furthermore, if you had read my previous comment, I simply rephrased what you had said to point out how ludicrious your paragraph was.

Your defense of these guys sucks too. Firstly, diagnosing "complex" problems usually is done by plugging the car into a computer. And the tool choice? Usually either a wrench or a socket set. Of course, these are so much harder than "time-domain reflectometers" that network admins use, right?

I find this paragraph particualrily amusing. You come down on the fact that mechanics just "[plug] the car into a computer" then you use a "time-domain reflectometer" as a something that is "much harder [to use]". You've obviously never used one because all you're doing is plugging a cable into the reflectometer, sending a pulse down the wire, and reading the result. How is that any different from plugging a car into an instrument, and reading the result? I won't even bother examining how you think a network admin job is on par with that of a doctor.

Let me assure you, I have more experience with networks than you've gleaned in your short time studying and I'm not afraid to admit it. ;)


Zaediex...

[ Parent ]
Re: Come on... (2.00 / 1) (#156)
by Zaediex on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:47:53 PM EST

Perhaps you would feel agitated if someone equated your job with something more lowly.

Personally, I would not, but then again I also understand the value that everyone plays with their job.

First of all, we're not talking about "expert automotive care professionals", we're talking about the white-trash mechanics that work at Wal-Mart for $6 an hour. That's what this article was about. Quit changing the subject.

Well, if you actually read the article it uses millrights as an example, and the only other mention is that of "hourly wages" as opposed to "salaried". You ask how much I know about networking? Well, I've personally been involved in architecting a number of 1000+ node networks. Currently I'm employed as a software developer, and my major responsibilities include writing server software. Let me tell you that it takes a lot more than certifications to get a decent job these days. Any kid with 8 months can get a number of certifications and have little or prior computer experience. These people have their place, but they're by no means experts in anything other than reading manuals, and writing exams. Furthermore, if you had read my previous comment, I simply rephrased what you had said to point out how ludicrious your paragraph was.

Your defense of these guys sucks too. Firstly, diagnosing "complex" problems usually is done by plugging the car into a computer. And the tool choice? Usually either a wrench or a socket set. Of course, these are so much harder than "time-domain reflectometers" that network admins use, right?

I find this paragraph particualrily amusing. You come down on the fact that mechanics just "[plug] the car into a computer" then you use a "time-domain reflectometer" as a something that is "much harder [to use]". You've obviously never used one because all you're doing is plugging a cable into the reflectometer, sending a pulse down the wire, and reading the result. How is that any different from plugging a car into an instrument, and reading the result? I won't even bother examining how you think a network admin job is on par with that of a doctor.

Let me assure you, I have more experience with networks than you've gleaned in your short time studying and I'm not afraid to admit it. ;)


Zaediex...

[ Parent ]
It's not that hard (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by Peeteriz on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 09:13:01 AM EST

I work in a company that has around 100 comps as a programmer. However, when our admin is on a sick leave or something, I am expected to replace him - and I can, although i don't know anything special about networks - just what C/S programming requires, a bit of common sense about popular protocols and playing with hardware and small net at home. A trained monkey can do this, as I was able to fix all problems with a quick leafing through the appropriate manuals.
Knowledge of how to design systems is a huge plus, but to MAINTAIN a network, you don't need this. A smart engineer is needed to create the network in the first place, and to know what and how to add when neccessary, but if it is done correctly, networks then need supervision from a lot of trained monkeys to repair hardware, they themselves might need to be supervised by a REAL network engineer.
Summary : If you get good people to design your network, then you can keep one of them to supervise, and hire trained monkeys in sufficient quantity to administrate the network.

[ Parent ]
yes, you should be insulted (3.00 / 2) (#151)
by luethke on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:26:40 PM EST

ok, on to the insulting....

>>When I'm done studying, I'll know how to
>>repair/replace/create every part of a computer network.

you will? ok, how do you make fibre optics. I give you a big chunk of copper and some rubber can you produce cat 5 cabling? how about some silcon wafers and the etching chemicals, design me a fast ether card then etch it. Write me a tcp/ip stack, how about VIA network drivers. there goes creating every part of a computer network.

repairing? a chip goes bad, can you desolder it and then replace the chip? How about a bad processor, can you remanufacture it to working condition? a cable gets broken can you find the break and then repair the break? I bet the answer is no on most of these.

can you replace, sure, but I could when I was in high school. You troubleshoot a network (using a computer to probe the hardware) and then replace the bad part - just like a mechanic. As a full network engeneer you also have to design, still not that hard. You mostly follow a set of rules (unless you are designing some funny type of network or are working on a large enough network).

The certifications are all well and nice (many people that get them are very intelligent) but as you yourself said you are memorizing facts for the tests. While this has it's use it does not prove that you understand the facts being proven (don't get me wrong here, I do not mean that the certifications are worthless, just not a strong as this person beleives). That is what will get you hired. I don't have any of the certifications but I can get hired as a network engineer. A certification does not prove that you
learn all about network technology (from analog and digital encodeing to the specifics of asyncronous transfer mode) and Netware Administration
If you think that your knowlege is that all ancompasing you will have a great shock when you start working. A cerification is a good place to start, but it is not the end. I would be very surprised if you really understood all the ins and outs of asynchronous communication, there is a probably a Ph.d. in knowing most of it.

also I would be honored to be equated to some mechanics I know. They understand both what and why the engine works, can completely take one apart and put it back together in a better state than it was before (more powerfull). This requires a good understanding of thier domain (which is not as small as you seem to think it is) and in what ways they can replace or change the parts out to get the most performance. This sounds like a good description of what many network engineer's do.

another point is that the two are very different domains also. I know programmers, network administrators, and engineers who were mechanically very bad. They had trouble building bread boxes. I have also know mechanics that have set up private networks of 5 or six computers in thier house. Many of the qualities that one would look for in each is similar (knowlege, professionalism, good work ethic, good people skills), and neither one is necassarilly smarter than the other. I, personally, am happy to be compared to any person that is good at doing thier chosen profession.



[ Parent ]
auto-geeks (3.33 / 6) (#117)
by beertopia on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 08:41:09 PM EST

I think there're more parallels between car-geeks and computer-geeks than people realize. I knew a couple of guys,twin brothers, who were serious car-mechanical wizards. They could do that instant-diagnosis thing- listen to the engine for 20 seconds, tell you what the problem was, & almost always be right about it. You don't get that from reading manuals, you get it from spending thousands of hours doing it, & caring about it.

I mean, these guys were _geeky_. If nothing on their car needed fixing(it was a twisted sleeper of a ford fiesta, with a 4 barrel carb & racing clutch & gods knows what all else; don't ask me why) they'd start taking the engine apart to figure out what was _about_ to wear out.

If there's anything qualitatively different there, from trying out new operating systems for 'fun', I don't know what it is exactly. But, there's different kinds of inteligence involved. You can be a mechanical genius, & not necessarily be even adequate at abstact thinking, much less at tasks that involve emotional or social intelligence, asthetics, kinesthetics, music, etc. I don't understand the socially percieved values of all these various abilities are so different, but it sure doesn't seem to have anything to do with the amount of skill involved.

But, yeah... cars & computers- not so different. I've thought for a while, that a lot of the noise on some online forums is on the level of the ford-vs-chevy debate. So, I figure that if someone would just print up some of those Calvin-pissing-on-a-ford-logo stickers, but with Windows or Apple or Red Hat logos, he cd make a mint from zealous geeks, who could then just put up the sticker somewhere & STFU. Just a thought.

Caste (2.83 / 6) (#118)
by redelm on Sat Nov 11, 2000 at 11:31:28 PM EST

It all boils down to how society stratifies itself. Nobles vs commoners, officers vs men, blue-collar vs white collar, doctors vs nurses, engineers vs technicians, college-degreed vs not, ad nauseam.

Anglo-saxon cultures seem to have a two-caste split, while India has five, perhaps because it is _much_ older. No matter. Us-vs-them may be genetic [how else did H.sapiens eradicate H.neanderthalis in 40 ky?] and in any case is utterly intractable. More important to ensure mobility (both directions), decent rights and treatment of the lower castes.



When I did computer repair... (none / 0) (#123)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 11:08:21 AM EST

It all boils down to how society stratifies itself. Nobles vs commoners, officers vs men, blue-collar vs white collar, doctors vs nurses, engineers vs technicians, college-degreed vs not, ad nauseam.

When I did computer repair work, I often wore a suit. Myself and my coworkers took it as a matter of pride that we would crawl under anyone's desk and get dirty, especially when we were wearing suits. :-)

Maybe I'm just "blue-collar" at heart, but in a "white-collar" profession? In my experience, people have traditions, but society doesn't have castes. Also, in my experience, "white-collar" and "blue-collar" aren't very useful classifications when they're tested in the real world.



[ Parent ]
More than basic rapair-work (2.25 / 4) (#122)
by scoof on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 10:09:50 AM EST

In my job (senior network engineer/architect for a major ISP), I see a lot of work not really comparable to the work a mechanic do.
Actually I think that the network engineer's finest task is to be a damn good diplomat wrt upper management, so he'll be able to deliver the best damn product, and that is not really "getting your hands dirty".

persecption (2.80 / 5) (#128)
by radar bunny on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 01:43:18 PM EST

as with so many things in the world -- it all boils down to perception, and people see IT techs and mechanics on the following light (true or not, its how they seem them)
1. mechanics have no college experience and may not even have a high school degree.
2. it techs have at least 4 years of college (maybe more)
3. meachinics are greasy unshaven slobs.
4. IT techs are neat and wear suits (or at lease dress cloths)

im not saying this is how it is, but this is how society sees the two. Also, most poeple have at least some basic understanding of how a car works. You ask the average person how many pistons their car has, and they will probably say "4 or 6" and be right within 2. You ask this same person how much ram their computer has and they are likely to say either "500 megahertz" or quote you the harddrive specs and say "30 gigs". That same person can rememeber when to have the oil changed but has no idea why they need a password more complicated than their last name. Of course they are goign to have more respect for the guy who understants all that "computer mumbo jumbo" than the mechanic who they suspect is probably ripping them off.

a change in perseptions usually grants you a change in attitude. (or as jimmy buffet put it, "changes in latitude, changes in attitude")

Speaking of cars...websites? (3.00 / 4) (#135)
by Rylian on Sun Nov 12, 2000 at 11:35:36 PM EST

This topic got me thinking about how I've been meaning to learn about cars and mechanics for a while now. Since I'm buying a car in the near future, I want to actually know how it works. To me, this means buying a slightly older vehicle that doesn't have computers everywhere and a 'bonnet welded shut' philosophy (where have I heard that before? :-) )

But, this means I need sources of information. I've been looking around the web, but I haven't found any good sites that bridge the gap between the "it has four wheels and goes" buyers' guides and the sites that assume I have a degree in automotive engineering (or modification, or something).

Anyone know of any good sites? There must be heaps around somewhere. There's a lot of overlap between computer-interest and car-interest, as many posts in this topic has shown.

Car sites (none / 0) (#136)
by k5er on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 12:05:59 AM EST

I just finished buying a '96 Mazda Mx6. Sites I found helpful were www.chariots.com , www.edmunds.com , www.carreview.com , and www.autotrader.com . I can't remember the other ones, but there are a few more. Hope this helps.
Long live k5, down with CNN.
[ Parent ]
Virtual is Hard (3.33 / 3) (#137)
by 31: on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 02:41:27 AM EST

I was thinking about this today, and that's what i came up with... virtual stuff is harder to deal with. I don't drive, don't know a thing about cars (sorta sad at 20 in the US, but oh well), but i have a feeling that with enough time and good instructions, i could do basic auto stuff. Not on the level of good mechanic, but if someone told me to change the crankshaft, i might be able to do it.

But... what about doing that on a computer? Imagine simulating a car in software... it's done, but to do it so it works like a real car, it ain't easy, just look at how bad the physics alone are on most car games... and that's just dealing with an interface to the car with the outside world, not even the interactions that're going on inside...

And that's what i think the real difference is... you do work like a mechanic, and you're following basic rules of the world, that even if you don't know physics, it's an intuitive feel that pretty much everyone has... turn it till it gets tight, pry this off, and so on, whereas now the only parts to computers that most people intuitively know are their favorite window manager, and even most of the people who i know who do programming/sys admining don't have it down to intuition yet...

Until many people have constant interaction with the intricacies of how computers work, it will be a 'special' thing, and the few people that do have insticts for it will be regarded in a higher caste than almost all mechanics.

-Patrick
Good admins do more than just fix (3.00 / 2) (#143)
by Lars Clausen on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 01:48:59 PM EST

I agree that there is more difference than possibly warranted, but then again, so is there between office workers and management:)

Anyway, consider this:
A good admin (not just Joe Random MSCE) will not only fix things that break, he'll also make it less likely to break and easier to fix/upgrade by adding little scripts and stuff. Thus one good admin may be worth more than three mediocre, and therefore can get more pay.

-Lars


Cars / Geeks / iCars (3.33 / 3) (#146)
by Autumn on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 03:15:35 PM EST

Greetings..

First of all, I have absolutely no knowledge in the mechanics field. None. To give a basic idea of my ignorance on this subject -- I could probably learn how to change my oil, but at this point in time -- I'd be lost.

1. It seems as though cars themselves stay pretty static. There's the fairly large possibility that I'm wrong, but I don't think cars really change *that* much -- the basics of the automobile stay the same. I'm going to guess that if someone was a mechanic five years ago, they could likely be a mechanic today (with a day or so to update their knowledge). Such isn't the case with the computer industry. Things change daily. Many things we saw five years ago would be completely obsolete today. Mechanics don't need to spend time daily looking through things like bugtraq to ensure the car they're repairing is up-to-date security wise.

2. In some cases, computers hold important information. Information that's sometimes highly sensitive, needs to be protected, and absolutely can't be lost. Your car breaks down, well.. yes, it's a bad thing, but your company probably won't crumble as a result. Whereas if your computer network went down, you lost all your information, etc -- things could be pretty disasterous.

It'll be curious to see what happens when cars and technology start (continue.. ) to blend together. I'm sure we'll see the "iCar" soon enough.

-Autumn

Ability to learn (none / 0) (#162)
by cameldrv on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 03:12:14 PM EST

I think it's fair to say that cars have changed a fair bit in say the last twenty years -- airbags, ABS, fuel injection, new types of transmissions, front wheel drive, etc. However, computers typically change much faster and thus a system administrator has to learn about these new things. However, there certainly is a path which can be followed that reduces the need for change -- the Unix die-hard path. From an administration standpoint, Linux for example really hasn't changed that much since 1995. Further, I see great evidence that in an industry which is supposed to be undergoing constant change, Unix administrators are typically opposed to change unless it falls into a pretty narrow class of changes. These are typically incremental improvements without a great conceptual difference. For example, many Unix people still program in C and reject object-oriented programming even though both Windows and Mac programmers switched long ago. Thus I would say if anyone deserves the title of "high tech grease monkey", it's Unix admins.

[ Parent ]
Semantics (3.00 / 2) (#152)
by adric on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 06:29:05 PM EST

I think part of the trouble is semantical in nature, reinforced by a heaping scoop of sterotype.

A repairman can fix most problems with Foo, provided he has access to shop tools and resources (manuals, etc).

A mechanic can make tools, and then use them to fix Foo.

With respect to the field of computing:

A tech can put back together a broken system with available tools (or take one down, script kiddie style).

A hacker can create tools and a system from (nearly) scratch, and then keep it running.

The main points seem to be: Dirt and Social attitudes about technology. If the average idiot ever figures out that the computer business is ripping him off even more effectively than the auto dealership, it's going to get ugly.
-adric


Trade vs. profession? (4.00 / 2) (#157)
by Belly on Mon Nov 13, 2000 at 09:58:16 PM EST

I've had an experience sort of like this...quite a few years back, when I was working for a little computer repair company, I did a job at a small office, fixing some problems on their PC (this was back in MS-DOS days..). Upon giving the customer the invoice, they looked at the hourly rate, and said they were surprised it was so high, basically saying that they expected it to be something like what they would pay for any other trade repairer like an electrician or plumber. In their minds, the computer was just another bit of equipment in the office, and I was just another repairman, so why the high price..

Which brings up an interesting comparison - what is considered a 'trade' generally seems to imply blue-collar, like electrician or plumber. Computer stuff has managed to come under 'profession' since a lot of computer people call themselves some kind of 'engineer'. Also, most computer jobs require, or the preference is for, some kind of degree-level qualification such as computer science or electronic engineering. The funny thing is, there still isn't any real 'official' tertiary qualification for the sort of training/study that a system admin or network engineer needs (probably partly because the technology moves so fast) Most people in this area that I know either are comp. sci. people who find that they like the network or sysadmin stuff better than plain old programming, or engineering types who also felt that way. Also, there are few 'rules' in terms of what job titles describe what jobs. For example, if a guy says he's a mechanic, 9/10 times you can probably say he works on cars and stuff. but if you say you're a 'systems engineer', most people even in the computer industry will have different ideas of what you do.

One other point - has anyone considered how PC hardware these days as a hobby is almost like what doing up a car used to be(maybe still is) like? ie, car hobbyists spend heaps getting specialised suspension, engine parts, exhaust etc, tuning it, nice paint jobs etc. PC upgrading now is almost the same - there are lots of people who spend lots upgrading stuff in their PC, tuning to get those few extra FPS in quakeIII, even painting their case..



Historical Perspective (3.50 / 4) (#161)
by phecda on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 01:59:25 PM EST

I'm a third generation engineer, although my grandfather was officially a mechanic. However back in the early part of the 20th century, Mechanics had the same status as we computer experts hold today. Cars, aeroplanes and other mechanical devices were new mysterious technology, and mechanical technology was advancing rapidly, much like electronic technology is today. My Grandfather would buy a new car, then immediately diassemble the engine and rebuild it, removing filings and other garbage from the engine. He became involved with high end automotive -- building Formula One cars and even the car that held the land speed record prior to World War II. Because of his skill set he had opportunities and offers to travel all over the world, much like today's consultants.

But, as cars (and mechanical technology in general) became more commoditized and less mysterious, the job status fell, and my grandfather would be considered just another grease monkey.

My father, in turn, designed both machines and electronics as a design engineer (a technically able draughtsman). Drafting is not considered as premier a career as it used to be twenty years ago, after the advent of CAD systems.

Marginalization is already occuring in the computer professions. A technician replaces entire boards instead of debugging individual components. The answer to fixing most PC's is to reload all the software rather than debug the actual problem. Techs are given decision trees instead of using their own hard earned knowledge. My chosen career of administration is becoming more and more automated, and now I spec systems as a pre-sales engineer. I'm still using my knowledge, but I'm getting further and further from using the equipment on a daily basis.

So, even though we don't get dirty and greasy, we will suffer the same fate as the mechanic. So, enjoy riding the crest of the wave while you can. Things *will* change, and your hypothetical hacker children will ride the next technology wave, whatever it may be.

you guys must suck! (1.00 / 5) (#164)
by shaft on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 06:45:10 PM EST

go work on a truck, you fruitfly. as a matter of fact, you can haul your greasy ass over here and change my oil, mister "mechanics are people too". for your info, MCSE types are not what i'm talking about. those are the guys that should be compared to brain dead mechanics. you don't get a computer science degree by taking a 2 week after-hours course at your local "career college", the way you get an MCSE certificate or an auto-mechanic certificate (or whatever junk they give those fools). just because you know how to stuff some sawdust into a camshaft doesnt mean youre a scientist, you damn fool. you must have an MCSE yourself, and maybe even a refrigerator repair certificate too!!! but, please, dont try to say changing oil and writing systems code are the same thing... it only shows off your foolishness. you must be a communist. whats wrong with a little classification??? for your transgressions, i must say "kiss my ass you stupid grease-monky!!!"

Computer Techs & Mechanics (3.50 / 2) (#166)
by Armaphine on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 10:10:26 AM EST

Speaking as a son of a mechanic, working in a power plant, I must say that there really isn't that much difference between the two, other than possibly the culture surrounding them. Assume for a moment that you don't know a minimal amount about computers. Now, this thing that you have to have to do your job comes up with some error, listing a general fault, then lists what looks to you like hieroglyphics. You have to call up this person to come down and take a look at it. They press some buttons, go into screens you've never seen before, and basically doing things that you were instructed not to do. Maybe they take the computer away for a few hours, maybe a few days, maybe they fix it right there. All you know is that somehow, this person came up and performed, for all you know, magic. It's the same way with someone who knows nothing about cars. You bring it in, this big burly guy that's covered in grease pops the hood, listens to it making strange sounds, and comes back saying that the head gasket is blown, or your fan belt is slipping, or something else you don't understand. The only difference I see is that one job is cleaner than the other. Both jobs tend to pay fairly well. (Although IT definitely goes higher) Both involve tinkering and tweaking the respective systems. (Ever see a true gearhead's car? Either it's a classic rebuilt with loving care, or it's an old beater that somehow still runs after 350K miles) And both involve things that most people at this point do not understand completely. Stepping back even further, people who fix ANYTHING are often treated with respect. Be it computers, copiers, plumbing, cars, houses, people (Doctors fix stuff too), anything. If they are not treated with respect normally, you can bet your ass that they get respect when what they fix breaks.

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.

High-tech grease monkeys? | 171 comments (169 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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