Thursday, July 8, 2010

Locked down!

So I started at the new company today. I was supposed to start Tuesday but there was some delay in my on-boarding. 
But that's neither here nor there.Here's the interesting thing. The company is a publicly traded financial services company. It's not enough to be publicly traded but to also be in financial services is like taking that giant cake of government scrutiny and slapping on another layer for fun.

Did I mention they're also international?

Anyway, I get my laptop and get logged in. This thing is locked down TIGHT. The kicker is that it's running Windows XP. Because of corporate policy, the only tools I'm allowed to install are cygwin, putty and winscp3. If I want to use an IDE, it's got to be eclipse. Nothing else is approved. Boot-level disk encryption. OS level disk encryption. Locked....down.

So I pretty much spent my entire afternoon trying to get cygwin running in something resembling usefulness. Mind you I haven't used Cygwin in AGES. I haven't used a windows machine for work in at least 6+ years. I've been fortunate enough to work for companies that allowed me to wipe the corporate install and run Linux as long as I didn't bother to ask for help with it. Where I ran into the next problem was with dealing with random cygwin issues.

So I hit google and start searching. Click the first result:

KA-BLOCK as Kevin Smith is fond of saying on twitter.

Blocked because it's a blog. Next result. Same thing. Finally I get a mailing list archive that isn't blocked and get most of the issues resolved. Meanwhile I've set off probably 20 alerts not because of any malicious activity but because I couldn't be sure if the search result would be a proxy violation or not. Hell, half the mirrors for cygwin I tried were blocked in the category of "Software Downloads". Really frustrating.

I finally get some semblance of a working system but I find myself wondering how I'm going to manage my standard workflow with this machine. It's going to be a challenge to say the least. In talking with my peers, it's pretty clear that they all have the same concerns and issues. Most of the time they work entirely in windowed screen sessions on one of the internal servers. This is fine by me but it's a big change in my workflow. I've been using the same keybinds for the past 6 years or so. I pretty much have to unlearn ALL of them because I can't use them on Windows.  The upshot is that I got gnome-terminator installed via cygwin ports. The hardest part was the fact that the homepage for gnome-terminator was blocked, you got it, because it was a "blog".

The point of this post is not to disparage the company in any way, shape, form or fashion. It got me wondering though how in the world people accomplish anything in environments like this? 

Forget the standard employee who uses email and the standard MS Office suite. What about developers who are developing code that runs on an entirely different OS. How many bugs and delays have companies had because the developer was unable to use an OS that mirrors that of the production environment. This particular company is a java shop. Java is a little more lax in this area but you still have oddities like "c:/path/to/file" that are entirely different on the server side. More so how many steps had to be injected in the workflow to get around that kind of issue. 

While I really HATE working on OSX at least it's more posix compliant than windows. My biggest headaches are how services are managed differently and the fact that it's not quite unix-alike for my tastes. It's like the uncanny valley.

I guess I'm feeling some trepidation because in addition to having to learn a new workflow - and a slower one at that - I'm also going to be working in Python. I'm excited about the work I'll be doing (DevOps - see my previous post about DevOps as a title) and the impact it will have but I also feel like I'm doubly behind - new workflow and a new language. The only thing that could make me more nervous is if the entire backend were Solaris - my weakest unix ;)

Anyway, I'll be fine. One upshot is that I AM allowed (as far as I was told) to run VirtualBox in host-only mode. Using some guest/host shared folder magic, I should be able to minimize the impact of the slower workflow.

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