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Old 17th October 2008
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Default College, Unix, and careers!

I have been thinking about going to college and majoring in computers. I was wondering what your thoughts are about Chicago colleges and what Degee/Program would you recommend for persuing a career as a Unix Administrator?Linux advice is welcome too but more interested in Unix. Any advise is welcome. Thanks
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Old 18th October 2008
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You probably shouldn't. AFAIK most if not all of the USA schooling system is M$ bound, even the "tech" colleges.
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Old 18th October 2008
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Most things I've seen have a requirement for XP/Vista + Office + AV + FW as part of their general course work. But a /decent/ place for such a target goal as the OP, should offer both courses in NT and Linux (or Unix) administration and NT / Unix (or Linux) / Cisco based networking.


Finding one within your desired geographic range and affording it might be problematic, depending on your area. I know down here, the only one within driving range here is purely M$ based and offers less mathematics then my high school text books know...
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Old 18th October 2008
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This is primarily a BSD related forum. The answer here should be obvious.

Leave Chicago, attend Berkeley.
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Old 18th October 2008
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In my school, if you enrol network courses, the school work is not really MS oriented . Some of network courses actually focus more on *nix. I can name a few: Unix for Communication (sure), broadband, secure network, IT/Internet security...

Thats why I still survive, though I have been using Unix for quite a while and MS is everywhere at school
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Old 18th October 2008
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Well spoken mdh ;-)
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Old 18th October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsdsys_x86 View Post
Any advise is welcome.
Be careful about what you ask...

When stating that you are considering "majoring in computers", realize that there are different directions one can take towards this goal. Given that the entire computer industry arose from mathematics & electrical engineering, you will find different programs which come at computers from different directions.

As a quick summary of 4-year programs:
  • Computer Science programs usually attempt to approach the topic from a balanced standpoint, but will stress the mathematical underpinnings to algorithms & graph theory. Understanding theory is considered important.
  • Computer Engineering programs attempt to approach the topic from more of a hardware, electrical engineering viewpoint. It is common in these programs to require students to implement hardware projects typically in their junior & senior years. Pure electrical engineering students will not typically take the number of programming courses that Computer Science students will complete. However, CE & EE students might get into device drivers where CS students typically don't.
  • Information Management (IM) or Management of Information Systems (MIS) programs typically focus on project management issues. These programs do not typically stress theory or hardware.
There are 2-year programs which will focus more on systems administration issues. While this route may be attractive, the preparation one goes through is less rigorous than 4-year programs. Maybe this matters, maybe it doesn't, but in this economy, flexibility & depth is important to getting a good job & keeping it. Being truly valuable to an organization will help buffer the up's & down's of a challenging economic environment. Value comes from experience, drive, & the ability to understand underlying factors.

As for the running commentary you will read here about about the dominance of Microsoft in academia. It's a reality. Get used to it. If your goal is to be a sysadmin, avoiding Microsoft means you will be limiting yourself to less than 10% of what jobs are available. Even if you can find (& get...) a non-Windows sysadmin gig, you will still need to contend with Windows within the organization. CEO's, marketing types, payroll people all use Windows. Rarely can they use anything else. Sometimes they don't have a choice because the applications they use in their jobs are Windows-specific.

Yes, there are Unix gigs, but they aren't as common, & pure Unix gigs are even more rare. Usually the people in these roles have a significant amount of experience. As someone coming into the industry, you may not be able to land your dream job from the beginning. Having knowledge of Microsoft can only help your perspective & worth to prospective employers.
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Old 18th October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdh View Post
This is primarily a BSD related forum. The answer here should be obvious.

Leave Chicago, attend Berkeley.

Nope... you go to Berkley or stay in Virginia. I am perfectly content here in Chicago but thanks for your input....

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocicat View Post
Be careful about what you ask...

When stating that you are considering "majoring in computers", realize that there are different directions one can take towards this goal. Given that the entire computer industry arose from mathematics & electrical engineering, you will find different programs which come at computers from different directions.

As a quick summary of 4-year programs:
  • Computer Science programs usually attempt to approach the topic from a balanced standpoint, but will stress the mathematical underpinnings to algorithms & graph theory. Understanding theory is considered important.
  • Computer Engineering programs attempt to approach the topic from more of a hardware, electrical engineering viewpoint. It is common in these programs to require students to implement hardware projects typically in their junior & senior years. Pure electrical engineering students will not typically take the number of programming courses that Computer Science students will complete. However, CE & EE students might get into device drivers where CS students typically don't.
  • Information Management (IM) or Management of Information Systems (MIS) programs typically focus on project management issues. These programs do not typically stress theory or hardware.
There are 2-year programs which will focus more on systems administration issues. While this route may be attractive, the preparation one goes through is less rigorous than 4-year programs. Maybe this matters, maybe it doesn't, but in this economy, flexibility & depth is important to getting a good job & keeping it. Being truly valuable to an organization will help buffer the up's & down's of a challenging economic environment. Value comes from experience, drive, & the ability to understand underlying factors.

As for the running commentary you will read here about about the dominance of Microsoft in academia. It's a reality. Get used to it. If your goal is to be a sysadmin, avoiding Microsoft means you will be limiting yourself to less than 10% of what jobs are available. Even if you can find (& get...) a non-Windows sysadmin gig, you will still need to contend with Windows within the organization. CEO's, marketing types, payroll people all use Windows. Rarely can they use anything else. Sometimes they don't have a choice because the applications they use in their jobs are Windows-specific.

Yes, there are Unix gigs, but they aren't as common, & pure Unix gigs are even more rare. Usually the people in these roles have a significant amount of experience. As someone coming into the industry, you may not be able to land your dream job from the beginning. Having knowledge of Microsoft can only help your perspective & worth to prospective employers.
t

Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond. I deeply appreciate it. I have considered the Engineer route but just haven't decided. You gave me some things to think about so thank you.
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Old 18th October 2008
DrJ DrJ is offline
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I'd generally agree with Ocicat. You have to understand what part of "computers" you want to get into, and then choose a good four-year school.

It used to be that it did not matter that much what you studied, but maybe that has changed. A friend who lead the Acrobat project at Adobe holds a degree in ME. Another programmer has an MS in math; a third who runs a large lease-fulfillment shop (entirely software-based) has a degree in Philosophy. The rocket scientists on Wall Street (those despised computer modelers) usually have Physics backgrounds. A friend who set up the derivatives portion of a major Wall Street firm (and who is now a managing director there) got his Ph.D. in ChE with me at Berkeley. And yet another friend who does hardware design, embedded systems, interfacing and device drivers has no degree at all.

But do get a degree. The BS (or BA) is today's high school degree. Even for outside sales you need one.

In Chicago, I'd think Northwestern, Chicago and perhaps IIT would all be fine choices. Or UIUC if you want to stay in state and attend the best public school there. A lot of this choice depends on finances (and financial aid). If you have the bucks and desire, you might also consider smaller liberal arts schools like Harvey Mudd (near LA) or Carleton (MN) or one of the MIAA schools (like Kalamazoo College) in addition to the better-known Ivies and Stanford, MIT and CalTech. There are lots of outstanding smaller schools that offer good financial aid packages. Look at the size of the endowment -- that is related directly to their ability to offer financial aid.

FWIW, I'd not recommend Berkeley for any undergrad unless that student is a bit older. Great place to be a grad student, but it is pretty brutal for undergrads. Plus you would have to pay out-of-state tuition, and that would make it cost about the same as Northwestern or Chicago. Not worth it in my eyes. Stanford would be a better choice, and they help more with finances.

The two-year terminal-degree schools (the "technical schools") seem more oriented to teaching specific bits of software, which is not that useful. Spending a couple of years at a Junior College before attending a University is fine if that works in IL. It does here in CA, where Sierra College and Santa Rosa JC (for example) both are very good.

You also will not be able to avoid Microsoft for the reasons Ocicat mentioned. For most things the range of desktop software is just so much better for a range of non-IT tasks than the BSDs or Linux. Even in my own company I use Windows on the desktop and in the lab, and use BSD only for my main personal box and for the servers.

Choice of a college is very personal. My usual advice is to attend the best school you can, take a range of things, and find out what you love and do that. It may be EECS or something else, and that's fine if you change. You will be doing whatever it is for a long time, so you may as well like it!
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