Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Very Sad News...

When I got to the office this morning and checked my e-mail, I got a bit of a shock. It seems that our main systems administrator, James, died over the weekend. This makes me very sad indeed.

When it came to hacking the school Unix systems, James was a God. As I am quite a frequent user of various facilities that run on these systems, I would interact with James once or twice a week. In fact, he was one of the people I have known longest on our campus. Thus, apart from the technical loss, it is also quite a personal loss.

He was someone who was kind and patient. He was also very funny. If I ever got myself 'into the weeds' with one of my own systems, James would often be able to help me out of the bind. He was also very talented at keeping the diverse range of machines that we have, some of which are none too new or fast, running. He was the kind of guy who would do deals. For example, there was some software I needed to be running on our main systems. He agreed to install it and maintain it, provided I agreed to handle the technical support for other users. As this was software I have wrestled with for years, this was an excellent practical solution for all concerned. This kind of flexibility and vision is a rare commodity in this day and age.

There is now a very interesting question of what will happen next. James' second in command is out of the town at the moment, but has been logging in remotely to lend a hand. Everyone in the computer building is doing their level best, but it is quite a shock to everyone's system. Probably nobody knew the ins and outs and quirks of all the systems the way that James did. We just have to hope that nothing major breaks in the near future.

In the meantime, everyone is sad. Arrangements have yet to be made. I feel a tremendous sense of loss. For this was the man who taught me more about Unix/Linux systems than probably anyone else. Now, I will no longer have a guru for arcane, but useful tricks. I will also no longer have that laconic voice on the phone, with whom to discuss technical matters and swap war stories. I am not alone in this, I know for sure. Everyone has lost an important friend.

The CP

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