Rackspace Breakfix Challenge 2009

Rackspace held a System Administration breakfix contest at the 2009 Red Hat Summit in Chicago pitting the top Red Hat Certified professionals against each other for the chance to win prizes and win bragging rights. During the two day contest, forty-seven participants worked to solve the four identified “breaks” within the fifteen minutes allotted. The problems, listed below, were chosen as representative of issues Sys Admins in a hosting environment must be able to resolve on a daily basis. The contestants who resolved the most problems in the shortest times respectively won first, second and third place.

With encouragement from @devrandy, Randy Russell, the Director of Certification for Red Hat, there was quite a heated competition among the contestants for the top three spots. The winners respectively won one of three prizes: 1st Place, an Acer Aspire 5155; 2nd Place, $100 ThinkGeek gift certificate; 3rd Place, 8GB USB drive. Our winners were:

1st Place – Alex Davies (also a Red Hat 2009 RHCE of the Year!) – 4 correct solutions in 12 minutes

2nd Place – Hai Wu – 3 correct solutions in 15 minutes

3rd Place – Dave Johnson – 3 correct solutions in 15 minutes

Of the forty-seven contestants, only Alex successfully solved all four problems in the allotted time. Thirty-two correctly solved Problem One. Eleven solved Problem Two. Three solved Problem Three and four contestants solved Problem Four. Congratulations to our winners!

Rackspace Trainer Mike Roberts (@soopurman on Twitter) provides a multi-part screen cast of the four challenge questions and provides insight in troubleshooting and solving each. Below, Mike’s screen cast is broken into segments for each problem in the challenge. These are interspersed with the actual questions from the breakfix challenge for reference. Mike begins with a brief introduction to the breakfix:

Rackspace Breakfix Challenge Instructions

This exercise is meant to approximate the types of problems that Rackers solve for our customers with Fanatical Support every day.  As such, the idea is that you should attempt to detect and correct any possible misconfigurations, but not drastically alter the basic setup, nor replace the actual services being used.

We will give you up to 15 minutes to complete the following problems. When you are finished, ask a Racker to record your name, the problems you fixed, and your completion time.  On Friday we will award prizes for the fastest successful completion of all challenge problems.  Good Luck!

1. The IP address is accessible by others on the network, but this machine cannot succesfully ‘ping’ it.  Figure out why and fix it.

2. This machine is supposed to offer both anonymous vsftpd and anonymous rsync services, but clients are complaining they cannot connect to either one.  For example, the command “rsync rsync://localhost” should display a share called “challenge” but it does not.  Figure out why and fix it.

3. The default page of the web site running on this machine is supposed to simply display the word “success” but it does not. Figure out why and fix it.

4. The password for the user named “rack” is correctly set to “rackspace” but this user still cannot login.  Figure out why and fix it.

Mike concludes the presentation of the solution to the breakfix challenge with a special invitation to System Administrators who may want to pursue this kind of activity on a regular basis:

For more information about Rackspace and available careers  please visit our Career portal: http://RackspaceCareers.com.

Rack Blogger is our catchall blog byline, subbed in when a Racker author moves on, or used when we publish a guest post. You can email Rack Blogger at blog@rackspace.com.


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