Administrative Journals


Detailed Journals are required tools to maintain computer systems on production. This paper promotes the use of Blogs to implement Electronic Journals for this purpose, using Role Plays to illustrate their usefulness

Role Play: Royal Bank

You Are… a DBA

  • Your are the DBA at the Royal Bank
  • You are in charge of 10 databases with 3,000 tables in 200 drives on 6 super-servers
  • Your computer room is in Toronto: restricted access and appropriate cooling, of course
  • You have a support contract with IBM to help you with the hardware and software issues
  • You love your work but like to have free time: you appreciate not being really necessary sometimes

The Computer Room

  • The computer room has more lights than a Christmas tree
  • You keep a appropriate supply of beer cans under the fake floor to better use the expensive cooling environment
  • You keep a simple notebook next to console of your server: it is called The Journal
  • There is also a pencil but no eraser available
  • This setting is probably true in real life
  • This computer room is a real-life example — yep!

More Disk Needed

  • Your capacity planning process determined last year that you need an additional hard drive to store new data
  • You budgeted for this last year, of course
  • This year you sent a purchasing order to IBM to add a new hard drive to your system
  • What is next?

IBM Adds Disk

  • An IBM hardware engineer comes to your computer room and installs the 201th disk on your RAID-5 unit
  • This engineer adds a new entry into the journal: added hard disk western digital, serial number 12345, as channel 2, bus 10, scsi-id 7 on February 15, 2007
  • What is next?

The SysAdmin Comes

  • Your Unix System Administrator comes to the computer room to partition, format and mount the new drive
  • This SysAdmin adds a new entry to the journal: prepared disk /dev/scsi.2.10.7 as a XFS file system mounted on /mounts/disk201 with 500 Gb of storage available, 5:45pm on March 1st, 2007
  • What is next?

The DBA Comes

  • You come to the computer room to add the new storage to the database
  • You add a new entry into the journal: added database file /mounts/disk201/accnts234.db to store all expected 2007's transactions, March 2nd, 2007
  • Your probably prints out the executed SQL commands and staples it to the journal
  • What is next?

On Production

  • Nothing really happens during the next 18 months: your new drive works quite fine without hiccups
  • Your life is boring but you are being paid for being boring: your customers don't like surprises, so you play Solitaire at work
  • Your IBM engineer gets promoted to “Technical Sales” in the mean time
  • What could be next?

The Pain Begins

  • File /mounts/disk201/accounts234.db can not be read any more by your SQL server
  • You read the journal backwards and find out that it was installed on a western digital hard drive with serial number 12345
  • You send an email to IBM asking to change the hard drive western digital with serial number 12345 which is running as channel 2, bus 10, scsi-id 7 on your computer room
  • What is next?

IBM Replies to You

  • An IBM engineer prints out a RMA Form to return the bad hard drive back to the factory
  • He also takes a spare drive from this desk plus the RMA Form, and goes to the computer room to do the dirty work
  • He adds a new entry to the journal. Can you read what it says?
  • He puts the bad drive on an envelope plus the RMA Form and ships it to the factory, but you don't really care of this
  • What is next?

The SysAdmin Again

  • Your System Administrator gets notified of the replacement
  • He knows that he has nothing else to do, except adding a new entry to the journal: the RAID-5 unit needs 24 hours to properly reconstruct the contents of /mounts/disk201 by itself; it should be completed by 11:00am on April 16, 2007
  • What is next?

You Again

  • On 11:00am on April 16, 2007, you reactivate the database to use the file /mounts/disk201/accounts234.db normally
  • You don't forget to add an entry to the journal, of course
  • Your life is back to normality: you have time to play Solitaire again…

Hit by a Bus

  • You got hit by a bus yesterday -– you got some extra holidays to play “doctor and nurse” with your girlfriend at home
  • The SWAT team at the Royal Bank sends a temporary DBA to replace you for a few weeks
  • Your are now the new DBA that have never been before at this site
  • Can you play this new role without risking your job or your customer's data ($$$) ?


  • How do you know the exact configuration of the 10 databases with 3000 tables stored the 201 file systems?
  • Not need to reverse engineer anything!
  • How do you know the most common operational issues and their solutions?
  • How do you know the backup schedule and how to get the data back if you need to recover the database?
  • Please take some time to think about this…

Role Play: Rlando

You are Robert…

  • You had been wearing the shoes of Robert Lando for a few weeks
  • You just made a fresh Classy installation for Quick Airlines and, of course, you copy-n-paste'd all the commands that you executed to do this
  • You have a private journal for yourself because you are as well organized as Robert
  • What is next?

Vacation Time!

  • You want vacations to play golf and you know that Your Employer will need to upgrade Quick Airlines from the initial set up Classy v7.5 while your are gone
  • You use your journal to copy-n-paste the commands needed to do this, and send an email to your Team Leader with the required steps
  • You leave and have fun
  • What is next?

The Actual Upgrade

  • You are you now
  • Your Team Leader forwards you the email from Robert to upgrade Quick Airlines's Classy
  • You follow the recipe and have fun too
  • You keep your own journal of the steps that you executed and, at the end, sends a notification to Robert with the new configuration so he can update his journal
  • What is next?

Tiger Woods

  • Robert finds his true calling while he was playing golf: he is better than Tiger Woods and decides not to come back to Your Employer
  • Ooops! It hurts!
  • How can we prevent this pain?

The Royal Bank and IBM needed only a $5 to solve this problem nicely… one notebook + one pencil — no eraser

Can you do better that this?

Electronic Journals

General Requirements

  • Read-only stack of entries sorted by time stamp
  • Need to attach files with any entry
  • Need to add comments to any entry – equivalent to hand-writing clarifications and corrections
  • Need to do textual searching (Firefox CTRL-F)
  • Need to notify other parties by email each time a new entry is added to the journal
  • Need to be easily available on the Web
  • Nice to have: adding new entries by email
  • Does it sound familiar? Any ideas?

Using Blogs for Journals

Please play again previous Role Plays, but now keeping The Journal in a Blog hosted by instead of a hard copy

You can also use a wiki site, of course!

Can Rland choose to play golf like Tiger Woods now?

Does the Team Leader need to send more emails like the “Change Notification: Quick Airlines” again?

Other applications

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