IN JOB OPENINGS
CHANGE IN SALARY,
Ruby on Rails (programming language)
Python (programming language)
used to the idiosyncrasies of getting it to
work, and it’s the same thing in Linux.”
For instance, Skokowski says he has
encountered discrepancies between
what the Linux command line shows
and what you see through its graphical
user interface. He once made a change
to an IP address through the GUI, but
the system didn’t reset. The problem
was apparent in the command line
but not through the GUI. “You have to
know how to navigate via the command
line really well,” he says.
In another case, servers were automatically turning off at night. The solution
turned out to be simple, but it was an
obscure problem that required research
on online forums to resolve, Skokowski
says. What’s nice about open source,
however, is that when you do encounter
a problem, you can capture a screenshot
and pop it into Google to see if other
users have a solution, he says.
Skokowski’s staff mainly learned
about open source through hands-on
training, although he enrolled himself
and a couple of others on his then-10-
person team in a couple of systems administration courses at the University of
California, Berkeley. “We set up a server
and gradually built more machines to
get more experience with it,” he says.
They also read books and visited online
forums like LinuxQuestions.org. “The
community is so good, there really
hasn’t been much we haven’t been able
to solve,” he adds.
At Media General, Miller trains new hires in-house. “The tools
themselves are good; they just take a little longer to learn than
commercial tools,” he says. For instance, you can quickly learn to
do a security scan with Nessus, but running a nonintrusive scan
rather than an intrusive one, and knowing the ramifications of
each, is a matter of using the tools in different circumstances over
time — maybe six months to a year.
Miller says vendors try to make commercial tools easy to use,
with demos, GUI wrappers and lots of help files. “That’s a big selling
point, because it makes it easy for someone who doesn’t have a lot of
experience to walk in and do what they need to,” he says.
Both Nessus and Snort offer subscriptions for a limited
amount of support. For instance, you can get help if you’re
loading a pattern file incorrectly or the scanning engine isn’t
updating, “but you’re not going to get the nitty-gritty of how to
schedule scans,” Miller says.
Although he tries to hire internal staffers who are sharp and
seem to be at ease learning new skills, one recent internal hire
happened to be an experienced Linux administrator and “a total
command-line junky” who compiled his own Linux kernels and
preferred open source to commercial tools to grow his skill set.
Nonetheless, after six months on the job, the employee was still
PHP (programming language)
Ajax (programming language)
Linux (operating system)
Perl (programming language)
Apache ( Web server)
Tomcat (application server)
Red Hat Linux (operating system)
open-source skills left the company a few years ago, Weddle did
find a replacement — but he paid for it. “I ended up paying a little
more than market value to get someone with deep knowledge and
enthusiasm for open source,” he says.
At ACP Interactive, a San Francisco-based marketing firm,
IT Director Ed Skokowski says he too has lost staffers who have
moved on after getting experience with an open-source application — in his case, Perl, which ACP uses extensively.
Continued from page 21
Building the Skills
In light of the salary premiums companies have to pay to recruit
people with open-source skills, it’s no wonder the preferred
method of acquiring such expertise seems to be training in-house
staff. In Computerworld’s March survey, 85% of the respondents
said they chose that option instead of hiring outside contractors.
To Skokowski, teaching open source is like teaching an old dog
new tricks. ACP has migrated about 80% of its Windows servers
to Linux, and while those systems are now up and running,
Skokowski says there were a few false starts over a five-year
period. “Just getting the printers to work was a two-to-three-day
chore,” he says. “If you’ve lived in Windows a long time, you get