Looking Back: 2013 Project Report Card

For the last couple of years, I’ve been sharing my annual “projects list” and then grading myself on the progress (or lack thereof) on the projects at the end of the year. For example, I shared my 2012 project list in early January 2012, then gave myself grades on my progress in early January 2013.

In this post, I’m going to grade myself on my 2013 project list. Here’s the project list I posted just under a year ago:

  1. Continue to learn German.
  2. Reinforce base Linux knowledge.
  3. Continue using Puppet for automation.
  4. Reinforce data center networking fundamentals.

So, how did I do? Here’s my assessment of my progress:

  1. Continue to learn German: I have made some progress here, though certainly not the progress that I wanted to learn. I’ve incorporated the use of Memrise, which has been helpful, but I still haven’t made the progress I’d like. If anyone has any other suggestions for additional tools, I’m open to your feedback. Grade: D (below average)

  2. Reinforce base Linux knowledge: I’ve been suggesting to VMUG attendees that they needed to learn Linux, as it’s popping up all over the place in all sorts of roles. In my original 2013 project list, I said that I was going to focus on RHEL and RHEL variants, but over the course of the year ended up focusing more on Debian and Ubuntu instead (due to more up-to-date packages and closer alignment with OpenStack). Despite that shift in focus, I think I’ve made decent progress here. There’s always room to grow, of course. Grade: B (above average)

  3. Continue using Puppet for automation: I’ve made reasonable progress here, expanding my use of Puppet to include managing Debian/Ubuntu software repositories (see here and here for examples), managing SSH keys, managing Open vSwitch (OVS) via a third-party module, and—most recently—exploring the use of Puppet with OpenStack (no blog posts—yet). There’s still quite a bit I need to learn (some of my manifests don’t work quite as well as I’d like), but I did make progress here. Grade: C (average)

  4. Reinforce data center networking fundamentals: Naturally, my role at VMware has me spending a great deal of time on how network virtualization affects DC networking, and this translated into some progress on this project. While I gained solid high-level knowledge on a number of DC networking topics, I think I was originally thinking I needed more low-level “in the weeds” knowledge. In that regard, I don’t feel like I did well; on the flip side, though, I’m not sure whether I really needed more low-level “in the weeds” knowledge. This highlights a key struggle for me personally: how to balance the deep, “in the weeds” knowledge with the high-level knowledge. Suggestions on how others have overcome this challenge are welcome. Grade: C (average)

In summary: not bad, but could have been better!

What’s not reflected in this project list is the progress I made with understanding OpenStack, or my deepened level of knowledge of OVS (just browse articles tagged OVS for an idea of what I’ve been doing in that area).

Over the next week or two, I’ll be reflecting on my progress with my 2013 projects and thinking about what projects I should be taking in 2014. In the meantime, I would love to hear any feedback, suggestions, or thoughts on projects I should consider, technologies that should be incorporated, or learning techniques I should leverage. Feel free to speak up in the comments below.

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  1. Jordan’s avatar

    Scott- have you tried Duolingo (www.duolingo.com) for learning German? Access via regular browser and also both Android and iOS apps. Best of all, its FREE.

  2. Andy H’s avatar

    have you taken a look at Duolingo for German?


  3. Matt Lydy’s avatar

    Hi Scott, I’ve often dabbled with the idea of getting a better understanding of Linux. Can you tell me or point me in the right direction to how you are learning it? I’ve installed distros before but that’s about as far as I get with it. Are you using a guide or something like that to train yourself?

  4. slowe’s avatar

    Jordan, Andy H: Thanks for the recommendation to look at Duolingo. A few folks on Twitter also suggested it. I’ll definitely give it a look!

    Matt: I don’t have a guide or anything else; it’s just been a matter of using it as extensively as I am able. Since I use OS X on the desktop, this means using Linux on the server side for web servers, DNS, DHCP, web proxy, etc. Focusing on RHEL/RHEL variants would have afforded me the opportunity to use the RHEL certification guides as a tool, but since I’ve aligned with Debian/Ubuntu that won’t work. I wish I could give you better advice, but that’s all I can offer at the moment. Hopefully it helps in some way!

  5. Rob Nelson’s avatar


    Try building a golden image of CentOS or Ubuntu, etc. Leave SELinux enabled, install some php app like mediawiki and get it right. Play with make, tar, diff and patch and create a Makefile that deploys your wiki on a new VM built from your golden image with a single command (hint: create your LocalSettings.php page, diff it, and apply the diff after installation of a fresh instance).

    Some other things to do:
    Install the SphinxSearch plugin, which has other dependencies.
    Install Puppet (you don’t even need a puppet master).
    Break your system (but not Puppet!).
    Use Puppet to fix it.
    Use Puppet to install Mediawiki and your LocalSettings.php configuration.
    Add a second NIC, enable IP forwarding, and put another network behind it generating some traffic, use tcpdump to analyze it (and maybe fix a firewall rule, or combine it with a proxy to see how packets get mangled).
    Use iptables to restrict access to AND from the host.

    That is still only a small slice of Linux, but I think it’s a good start. This won’t get you experience with things like the *stat commands, but honestly let’s hope you never need to :)

  6. Matt Lydy’s avatar

    Thanks both Scott and Rob for the replies. That gives me some great paths to take! I appreciate you both taking the time to reply.

  7. daniel’s avatar

    Your projects for 2013 were really worthwhile, i work in a seriously unstructured environment that really denies an opportunity to learn new technologies. This year i have decided to do all i can to learn new technologies especially in the area of virtualization, and i have started reading your book on mastering vmware vsphere 5.0. Thank you for the motivation.


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