Friday, May 30, 2014

32-bit Enterprise Linux Still Matters

I've been testing the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Release Candidate. One thing that stuck out right away was the lack of a 32-bit x86 build. In last week's DistroWatch Weekly Jesse Smith questioned the need for such a build, which is only useful on legacy hardware, in the enterprise. He wrote:
"Something which caught my attention while reading this question was the requirement for a 32-bit operating system with newer software than Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 offers. It seems unusual that someone would want new software versions, enterprise support and a 32-bit operating system. New software and legacy hardware (or new software and enterprise environments) rarely go together and it might be worth looking into whether these criteria are really necessary."
While I certainly understand Jesse's point about 32-bit being legacy hardware, there are still many use cases where 32-bit and current enterprise quality software and OS are necessary. Many current Linux apps are still very light and can run very well on rather old hardware, both in the server room and on the desktop.

I've done a lot of support of government servers and they run for about forever, as in until they serve no further use. Even retired, old servers are often repurposed and put back into service due to budget restrictions and/or long lead times to order new equipment under the required procedures for government procurement. In the United States this is especially true at the state level. When a server is repurposed it is usually reloaded with the current enterprise standard Linux distrubution release and applications, not legacy releases. That's one common use case.

Non-profits and small businesses often get by with older equipment as well, and in the case of non-profits it may even be donated second hand equipment that was no longer useful in it's former commercial enterprise home. Once again, a 32-bit OS and current software makes sense in cases like this.

My personal hope is that the free enterprise Linux clones will take Red Hat's 64-bit sources and create a 32-bit version. It isn't hard to do but it is time consuming. CentOS has already made clear they will release a 32-bit build(see comment by developer Johnny Hughes below), which leaves Scientific Linux and Springdale Linux.

[Note: This article was expanded from my comments on DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 560.]

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Lucrative Linux Job Offer I Turned Down

I haven't written about sexism in the Information Technology field in six and a half years. Any time I have ever written about gender issues, sexism or discrimination in IT, and particularly when I wrote for O'Reilly, there would be many comments by men who would get all defensive, tell me it's all in my pretty little head or if I would just get tougher and ignore it it would all go away. Others would fall back on sexist stereotypes, claiming women are just not interested in computing or are simply not as good at anything related to math, science and engineering than their male counterparts. Those who inevitably argue that the problem doesn't exist demonstrate just how pervasive the problem is with their comments. Never mind that IT is still dominated by young, white men plus a smattering of young Asian men. Other minorities and women are grossly underrepresented. Never mind that women have left IT in droves over the past 14 years and when interviewed they cite the hostile workplace that is the reality of many if not most IT shops. Nope, there's nothing wrong at all.

Last month I went through an interview process with a large company in a nearby state. I turned down what would have been the highest rate of my career as a Senior Linux Engineer. It paid about $10K more than I earned in a contract in Texas last year. Why did I walk away from an offer like that? I was told there are 400 people in IT, all male. I would have been woman #1 in 2014. When I asked about whether I might have problems in that environment the gentleman who would have been my boss said, "I'm the manager. I'm in a position to make sure you have no problems." That's when I knew that I had to walk away. If he had said, "I know my people. You won't have problems." I might still have taken the job. To think he can dictate attitudes and corporate culture told me that a lot more was wrong than even I saw in my interview process, and I had a bad feeling about this position pretty early on.

It's 2014, isn't it? I've been in IT since 1980. I have never seen an all male IT department before. Even worse: I worked for one of this company's direct competitors years ago and the ratio of men to women in my group was 60/40. Sexism in IT hasn't gotten better in recent years. It's gotten far, far worse. Still, I expect lots of comments from people, mostly men, in denial about this. After all, things are just fine for them.

I have pretty much decided to continue to build my consulting business even if it means less money in the short run than a corporate or government position. At least in my own business I have some control of the environment, even if I have to work a lot harder for every dollar.