10 Things That Should be in Every SysAdmin’s Backpack, Episode 2

Posted by Wesley David in IT Professional, SysAdmin on 28-10-2010

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In my previous article, I showed you 10 Items That Should be in Every SysAdmin’s Backpack. In this list, I enumerate ten more things that a SysAdmin should carry with them if they want to earn a place in the Book of SysAdmin Legends. I hope you have a capacious backpack.

  1. Two-way radios. You will inevitably need to send a coworker to a distant part of the building, but also need to work in coordination with each other. Why not use cell phones? Because they tend not to work in some of the odd places that SysAdmins find themselves wedged into. For example, HVAC tunnels. Don’t ask.
  2. A device that aids in the opening of plastic clamshell packaging. You know the kind of packaging I’m talking about. Not-so-affectionately referred to as “man-proof packaging”. You can either get a general purpose tool like tin snips, or purchase a dedicated tool like the Pyranna Plastic Package Opener. I prefer tin snips because they can be used for multiple purposes.
  3. Head-mounted flashlight. In the first episode of this series , I mentioned the need for durable flashlights. However, upon reflection, a traditional flashlight removes one hand from use. That isn’t acceptable, especially when working on punchdown blocks in dark corners, when both hands are needed to swat off the spiders.
  4. A camera with video capabilities. In many cases this takes the form of the SysAdmin’s smartphone. If you don’t have one that can take pictures or video, then you need to get one. A picture says a thousand words, and that means a lot of documentation you don’t have to type. I’ve taken video of the boot process for various machines so that I have a reference of what screens each BIOS has available in case I ever need to walk someone through a troubleshooting task remotely. I also photograph the un-boxing of new equipment for documentation purposes. Taking a picture of cabling is invaluable too. So is evidence of your boss napping at work. Visual documentation will make you a happy SysAdmin.
  5. Extra label cartridges for your P-touch label printer. In the previous episode, I also praised hand-held labelers; they work great! However, they’re a little boring if you don’t have enough labels in them. Make sure to have a good stock of label cartridges, especially if you have an anticipated labeling spree up ahead. You can never have too many labels.
  6. An arsenal of boot discs. Oh boot discs, how do I love thee. Let me count the ways. There are forensic boot discs, data destruction boot discs, data recovery boot discs, boot discs to play games on, boot discs to run antivirus scans from, boot discs to take images of PCs with. Their uses are many and varied, and will make you a hero in no time.
  7. A multimeter. A surprising number of SysAdmins were “sparkies” in a past life. This is convenient, because a surprising number of SysAdmins are required to manage the physical power infrastructure that they use, or at least a portion of it. Keeping a multimeter nearby will protect you from those nasty mistakes of not knowing which sockets are 110V or 220V (or which wires are live and which aren’t).
  8. Food! Preferably non greasy, non crumbly, hard-to-spoil, healthful, pre-packaged food. Don’t forget water too. You will get hungry in the field, and will not be able to break to forage. Skipping meals is bad. Those Pop-Tarts in the coin machine look tempting now, but when you’re curled up and sawing logs in the hot isle you might have some dietary regrets. Always be prepared with the foods that you know work best with your body, and don’t miss a meal, even if it means eating little packages of nuts and carrots while patching kernels at 3AM.
  9. Static bags. They’re everywhere you don’t want them to be and nowhere to be found when you need one. Keeping a few nearby will help you when you need to safely store some delicate bits and bobs during an electronic surgery. Upgrading RAM for a workstation or server? wrapping old modules in paper towels is… not advisable. Especially if they’re full of crumbs from your late night snack. (See Food, above).
  10. Assorted gender blenders. VGA to DVI-I/D/A etc. USB to Firewire. Female to male USB. USB extenders. On and on and on they go, when they stop commingling, nobody knows. A drawer of common and not-so-common adapters was a regular place for me to be poking through in my previous place of employment. Keeping them in a backpack would have saved some wear on my insoles.

Keeping these items in your backpack, as well as the previous list of ten , will propel you irresistibly into the realm of legendary SysAdmins. However, you can level up from being a Legend to becoming Mythical. I hope you purchased a spacious backpack, because we’re not done yet…

Comments (6)

I about spit out my monster drink (green, of course) when I saw #3. No wonder sys admins have a tough time finding dates. Kinda hard with gravy stained shirts and a headlamp.

# 8 I remember spending 3 months working at a few banks in Vegas back in the 90′s. 17 hours days, server rooms, shortbread cookies and pepsi. I still haven’t recovered.

Wait… are you saying there’s something wrong with gravy stains? How dare you, sir!

Wait… I didn’t have a date last weekend. Or the weekend before that. Or the weekend…

By Jove, I think you’re on to something! O_O

[...] in Episode 1 of this series, you’ve come to be a Legendary SysAdmin with the tools described in the second episode. Now, in this third episode, I will help you to become Mythical in [...]

You forgot what is arguably the most critical piece of equipment in any SysAdmin’s backpack: an ethernet cable with crossover -and- console adapter kit.
Yeah, GbE does auto-detect crossover – sometimes. And we all know there’s still plenty of perfectly good 100bT out there. :)

Thanks Phil! There are still some episodes left in the queue, and if I recall, I did mention having patch cables. However I don’t think I specifically mentioned a crossover / console kit. It has been duly noted!

Do you still carry around a null modem cable these days? I think that one might be safe for most SysAdmins to leave in the closet, but you never know.

[...] 10 Things That Should be in Every SysAdmin’s Backpack, Episode 2 [...]

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