My pets are cattle.

To be more accurate, I’ve really just replaced my pets with cattle.

You see, I’ve always been enamoured with the idea of keeping unixy systems as pets, by which I mean linux (though I’ve dabbled with the freer BSDs, they never really caught on with me). I thoroughly enjoyed giving them names, unique personalities, and individual tasks.

How fun it was, to learn how to operate systems leveraging free software to deliver common web services like email, dns, http…

And I learned a lot. I learned enough that I could get paid to do it.

Then it stopped being nearly as fun.

Over the years, I found that I didn’t want to have to care for pets. They require constant walking ( read: administration ) and feeding ( read: paying bills for scanty internet access ). They got sick ( read: outdated ) and I had to heal ( read: fix ) them. If I didn’t, they’d become so ill that it was very difficult to heal them. Then, I had to euphanize ( read: reinstall ).

So now, I’ve replaced them with cattle.

I do miss the days when it seemed romantic to have ones own little network, with fun quirkly little names for the hosts based on some overly-carefully considered naming convention. At one point I had several, perhaps over a dozen, little diskless servers ( hard disks were expensive or very old and slow and prone to failure - but the motherboards tended to be stable ) all running Folding at Home or what have you. I even went so far as to diskless boot my router ( which, in retrospect, would have been less painful if it wasn’t also doing DHCP and DNS for the network). I can still remember the joy with which I watched my first diskless, PXE-booting kernel come to live without panicking.

They were good days, and productive. I was able to aquire not just the specific appied knowledge of the vairous systems ( now mostly outdated, of course ), but also the _meta_knowledge of how to aquire the knowledge one needs to install and configure systems one’s not seen before.

But all good things must come to an end. To me, it was a sad end, with a few remaining decreped servers faithfully carrying out their old, decreped tasks, and a big old heap of junk for the heavy metals reclamation folks ( I’d guess the old motherboards were worth about as much money as it cost to drive them to the recycling center, but maybe I came out ahead ). I had found my skills to be valuable to others, and when I had thier problems to solve, and the prospect of inventing my own was a lot less appealing. Slowly, my servers were consolidated, and all but a few, summarily decommissioned.

These days, I prefer to minimize special snowflakes, prefering the consistency of raindrops instead. They’re a lot less pretty , but they have a tendency to be easy to create, and therefore easy to maintain. I find that decent automation makes generating the servers I need painless, and I strive to consume services that are both cost effective and maintenance free.

For example, this website runs on S3. I generate it using a docker container ( so that I can descirbe how to install and execute jekyll in a reliable, repeatable fashon ) and then run it on an S3-hosted website for pennies a month.

Pets are fun, but cattle are economical in terms of both time and money. After a point, that’s what’s important.