Quick question: Best way to learn Solaris... By tomorrow

After a frustrating year of fruitless job hunting I recently started ‘embellishing’ my resume, mostly as an experiment to see if people were actually reading it. Apparently they were. So I have a job interview tomorrow for a technical support position (mostly support for Windows OSes) but “the applicant needs to be familiar with UNIX”. Specifically Sun’s Solaris.

So without dwelling on the morality of not being completely honest with a perspective employer, what do I NEED to know in order to avoid looking like a complete idiot (a herculean task even when I actually know what I’m doing.)

I have a little experience with Linux, and I found a list of common commands here.
Is there anything else that I should absolutely know?


In your position, I would claim some ancient familiarity with SunOS 4.6 so they can’t ask you specific questions about a modern Solaris and assure them that you can get up to speed and knock the rust off your Solaris skillz quickly. You did say it was a tech support position so that will probably help, “Tech Support” seems to be a code word for shit jobs held by underqualified folks.

Actually, I wouldn’t be in your position because I wouldn’t lie on a resume. Really, it’s not that hard to dedicate a few nights a week to studying and mastering new technical skills. There’s nothing like that special confident feeling of walking into a job interview and knowing there will be no technical questions that you can’t answer.

There’s nothing like that special confident feeling of walking into a job interview and knowing there will be no technical questions that you can’t answer.

True, but can that really compare to the rush of adrenalin one gets knowing that at any second you might be asked a question that will expose you for the fraud you are? Thought not :D

Seriously though, I actually did start learning Linux a week ago just to help give me an edge. I sent my resume in never expecting a call back.
So lying on my resume isn’t something I do often. I just thought “What the hell, let’s see what happens”.

Luckily, that page is really outdated.

If they ask you about telnet or FTP, say you use neither; you use SSH and SCP, respectively, because they don’t send all your data (including password) cleartext.

You should get to know some of the environment variables, and how to change them given a particular shell. Shells you should know about include sh (the basic shell), csh, tcsh, and bash. Shells that have made their mark and (hopefully) passed on are KORN and Bourne shells; the coolest shell that few people actually use is zsh. (Do a search for “solaris unix shell commands” or something similar.) Environment variables you should know how to set include HOME, PATH, DISPLAY.

Good luck, man.

In a day? With no prior *ux experience to fall back on? You’re out of luck. Next time don’t lie.

Even if you get the job, it’ll come out pretty quickly that you lied on the resume and your ass will be canned. That used to happen all the time with our DBAs, particularly the indian ones… now I ask them a few telling questions about literally everything on their CV in every interview.

For example, one “telling” question about solaris administration aimed at liars with linux experience might be “what does the killall command do?” Another could be “how do you install packages?” And so on. If they ask the questions, you won’t get them… at least you won’t guess with the linux answers if you don’t know linux, I suppose.

If I catch someone in a clear lie in their resume, I never, ever recommend hiring them.

If you want to get a non-mcjob in IT, get a cheap dell and install redhat ES3 and oracle 9iR2 on it. Get a couple of books about linux and oracle administration and read them. Write shell scripts to automate tasks. Maybe get your OCP. This stuff doesn’t cost a lot of money and it makes you much more marketable. I’ve been trying to hire an american DBA for my NYC office for the past nine months, literally doing 3-4 interviews per week, with a full-time recruiter on staff feeding me candidates, and I can’t find anyone worthwhile. At all.

Don’t waste time continuously sending out your resume for a shitty yet highly sought-after (since they all went to india) helpdesk job that a monkey wouldn’t enjoy. Just IMO.

No unix experience at all? Man, you’re fucked. If you want to try, though, steal a copy of Solaris & install it (do they have an x86 version?) Failing that, overnight linux cramming I guess.

What did your resume say you know?

Yes both solaris 9 and 10 for x86 are free now. Not that I’d want to learn unix on solaris; there’s so much more on the web to help new linux users.

What did your resume say you know?

Quote my resume:
“Some UNIX experience”

Which is true, I know how to use the command line and some useful commands (su root.) I even know a bit about CDE. I certainly didn’t say something like Certified UNIX Administrator with 10+ years exp. or anything. I’m hoping to get a read on what they expect me to know to effectively do my job and learn it before I start working.

“Some UNIX experience” isn’t bad. It means you know how to navigate around and won’t throw up your hands in a panic when they ask you what a tarball is or what kind of viruses UNIX is succeptible to. :)

I would make sure you could navigate the filesystem, use symbolic links, mount network drives, mount removable media and succesfully link and compile multi-file C programs (or know why you can’t and be able to bitch about it convincingly.) Make sure you can use basic things like <, >, | and more. Choose a shell and know how to set your environment in it, you only need to know one shell.

You could also bring a reference book to the interview and tell them if they ask something technical that’s it’s been a long time since you really used UNIX, but you know how to look it up. That’s something I might do, but I’m an arrogant bastard, so I’m not sure I can recommend it.




stusser, what DBA are you looking for? I know some damn good ones in VA, and I would suspect that finding one in the NYC area wouldn’t be too hard (unless its for a somewhat obscure DB setup).

As for the general post. they call it Slowaris for a reason :) Even for a nix n00b like I was, I got it compiled and running on a x86 platform in less than half a day. It’s been awhile, but I think I still could probably feel my way around it

*I’m an Windows sysadmin by trade, but it never hurts to keep up with stuff I might have to work with. Linux keeps attracting me, but my job is kinda caught in a Windows situation ATM.

File permissions and process control are important. You should be familiar with how ‘ls’, ‘chmod’, ‘ps’, and ‘kill’ work.

  • Alan

Knowing perl is huge as well. By itself it practically qualifies you as a Unix guru. :P

Maybe this instructional video will help.

If the interviewer is even half-competent at technical interviews, they will be able to spot a fraud after a couple of questions easily. Following through with the interview will only waste your time and theirs.

Listing “some UNIX experience” probably won’t get you in trouble as long as you can make set the interviewers’ expectations properly. Technical competance is certainly important, but don’t underestimate the impact of personality in the hiring process. Technical skill can be learned, while motivation cannot.

I once had the misfortune to work with a knowledgable but incredibly reluctant DBA. He would only ever do things if we asked him specifically to do them, at which point we decided it was more effective to fire him and just maintain the database ourselves.

  • Alan

We’re looking for high-end oracle DBAs, with experience in databroker, RAC, veritas clustering, performance tuning using wait states, extensive RMAN, and so on in a critical production environment. Also we’re looking for at least some sysadmin experience in solaris and linux.

Lastly, candidates should be fully fluent in american english and comfortable talking to clients on both the technical and executive levels and preparing both technical and executive reports.

Sybase, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, OAS, and DB2 experience is a plus. Actually we’re looking for a sybase DBA too, separately.

If you know anybody in the NYC metro area, please PM me a link to their resume.

It’s harder than you think. Your friends may well be good-- but thats why they’re not looking for a job. The really good ones, in my experience, either already have a job or want a ridiculous ($150k+) amount of money.