Notes on Mythical Beasts for Junior Developers: “Shell Environment Script”

A Condensed Treatment From The Complete Bestiary For Systems Administrators

The tech lead that you work under has invited you off the path that the rest of the team is following. While the senior developer is distracted with grains of technical debt that they have personal vendetta for, you are going on a little field trip. The organization does inter-departmental events periodically, and Tech Lead knows a systems administrator who is game for pretending that everyone makes nice.

While the sysadmin dungeon isn’t quite as damp as the network admin dungeon, it does have its own strange aura. There’s a constant humming noise coming from somewhere, but you have a solid memory of being told that the actual data center is miles south of here, so it couldn’t be servers. Could it? You start sweating a little in the dry warmth, the hearth where employee hardware is provisioned is lit and there is a T1 laboring at it, hammering away at a bank of laptops. Each is spaced out perfectly on the long gilded anvil, which you can see the golden image version stamped on the back facing the walkway.

Eventually, the cloud of steam and tickets begins to thin, and your tech lead greets a figure surrounded by larger, higher tier tickets. Some of these have ties to other departments, like cybersec and networking. Many of them do, actually.

Sysadmin is conducting a herding dog snapping at the heels of a reply-all storm, herding mails back into the confused maw of the mail exchange server. At her command, the mails stop duplicating, vacation replies cease after a single response, and people are removed from this correspondence. Another T1 is taking notes, and at Sysadmin’s nod a T2 puts his hands together and spins his own herding dog, at the ready to catch more jokes that are bringing down the Exchange server.

The T2 approaches the Exchange server, which is getting up with a groan, and begins brushing out its coat and looking it over. The T1 follows, but Sysadmin stays. “Hi Tech Lead! Did you hear about the holiday party?”
“Nah, I think I need another reminder. I block all emails sent to techlead@organization, it needs to go to everyone@organization to reach me.”

You’re about to pay attention to the technical details of what the mail server is chewing on now, but you notice that Sysadmin has small animals coming from her pockets and hopping into tickets, whispering things in her ears, racing in and around her terminal. You haven’t customized your command line environment at all, and you weren’t planning to since you try to avoid it as much as possible. But it seems like Sysadmin barely needs to breathe a thought before her terminal has just the tool at hand for the job.

Sysadmin sees you looking, and plucks a particularly handsome mouse from a pocket in her hat and presents it to you.

“You remind me so much of when Tech Lead was a junior! You don’t have to make your shell crammed with scripts to get a bit more use of the tool. Check this out – make a little home for him by editing ~/.bash_rc or ~/.zshrc to include a directory where he’ll sleep and play. ~/bin/ is popular due to the self-filling water bottle so everyone uses it, but you can be unique if you want.

# Add bin for custom scripts
export PATH="$PATH:$HOME/bin"

“Or you can keep him in your pocket all the time if he’s an alias like this other little guy!” She exclaims, showing you a perfectly round, tiny little bird.

#custom aliases
alias berake="bundle exec rake"

The mouse sits perfectly still in your hand, as if a beautiful flocked figure. “Remember to make him executable with chmod +x,” Tech Lead says. Your mouse twitches its little nose and races around your fingers.

bundle install && rails db:migrate db:seed

It is cute, and really quite convenient to not have to write so many commands at once anymore. Maybe the holiday party won’t be so overwhelming after all.

For more funny and fantastical stories about technology, please see the “Mythical Beasts” series here on my website. Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any mythical beasts you’d like me to write about in the comments!

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