Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) provides a variety of services to UC San Diego to enhance teaching and learning. The foundation for many of these services is the network of servers and hardware that is overseen and maintained by the Computing Infrastructure group. One of the programmers who ensures the smooth operation of ACMS’s services is Brian Parent.
Brian’s team is responsible for systems administration for many of ACMS servers. “We take care of the LINUX and Solaris machines and keep their systems patched and up-to-date,” Brian said. These servers support services like student email, centralized file services, and perform tasks such as logging and monitoring. Brian’s team maintains servers used for various disciplines (including engineering, programming, and social sciences among others) to write and compile programs. The team also maintains data backups and supports student printing. Brian’s hard work behind the scenes prevents disruptions in service through planned maintenance and minimizes downtime when problems arise.
One of the best parts of Brian’s job is that he gets to solve problems as he administers systems. “Being stumped presents a challenge and it’s like a puzzle,” Brian said. “If you like to do puzzles, then you like to do this kind of work.” Brian added that, “we pretty much always know there’s a solution. There’s some way to fix [the issue at hand] or do it differently.”
Brian’s expertise comes in part from his long history working for ACMS. He has worked for the department for over 30 years, starting as a student worker with the department when he was an undergraduate at UC San Diego. “I saw some other students using fancy typewriters that would type everything for them. They were using word processors, which were new to me at the time,” Brian said. “I found the people at the Computing Center, which [would become ACMS], and I asked them questions. ‘How do I get an account? How do I do this word processing thing? Where do I get the paper?’ And on and on. I guess I asked enough questions that eventually they said, ‘Why don’t you come and work for us?’” When Brian graduated, he accepted an offer of full-time employment with the department. “I thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot. I’ll put in two or three years here and then I’ll get a “real job.”’’ And here I am, 29 years later, still at it,” Brian said with a smile.
“LightRider” – Photo by Chuck Rose
Brian is an avid bicyclist, commuting to UC San Diego daily on his bike. “It’s good exercise and I get the best parking place on campus: my office. It’s the way to go,” Brian said. He encourages others to try biking, saying, “Anybody can do it who wants to.” Brian strongly recommends that people take a bike safety class, even though it may not seem like it may be unnecessary. “There are very specific behaviors that cyclists can use to improve their safety that are not intuitive and are against, in some cases, existing culture,” Brian explained. In the past, Brian has done his part to help promote bike safety, serving as a class instructor.
The next time you log onto your UC San Diego email or use a LINUX or Solaris machine, think of Brian and his team and the hard work they do keeping the servers that support these services running smoothly. Thanks Brian!
ACMS Aces is a series of articles that highlights the dedicated employees of Academic Computing & Media Services at UC San Diego. Keep checking back to find out more about the people behind the magic at ACMS!