The Magic Incantation

If you’re a system administrator, please don’t read this article. It contains highly sensitive and technical information of general use only to software engineers. Also, please note that when I say “software engineer,” I mean individuals who actually develop software.

Um, and by “developing software,” I mean individuals who actually write code. So, basically, this article is for the roughly 10% of software engineers and system engineers that actually build things (I’m not actually being snarky; this is the rough percentage that I’m seeing in government contracting).

All right. Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to talk about government contracting for a moment.

The first thing that happened when I entered government contracting — “they” handed me a paperweight. Well, actually it was a Dell laptop PC, but it had been locked down to the point that software development was impossible. (What was equally disconcerting of course, was that I had hitherto been used to Macs; so not only did I get a PC, but I got laughed at when I mentioned Macs).

And, really, to be honest, it wasn’t the first thing that happened, because it was actually a couple of days before I got the laptop. And, since it was so locked down, it was about three weeks before I could do anything with it. (Not to worry though, I was still billable, so all was well).

It turned out that the standard laptop (in a company that specialized in software development) didn’t come with Local Admin Access. I had to put in an online request for Local Admin Access, justifying why I needed this privilege level to a chain of people that went to, well, let’s just say, rarified heights.

I was turned down. Multiple times. Until, finally, one of my friends, a long-time veteran of the company, looked at the text of my request, and told me that I was doing it all wrong. This helpful wizard crafted a “magic incantation” that saved the day.

Thanks to this magic incantation, I was able to secure the access that I need to actually perform the software duties for which I was being paid. I passed it on to my teammates and they, too, were able to get their jobs done.

Without further ado, here’s the magic incantation:

User is a developer on the <program name> program. This host is his primary development workstation. He requires local admin rights to be able to add entries to the HOSTS file and install virtual machines (with VMware and/or Virtualbox), development tools (IDEs like Eclipse, Visual Studio, Cygwin, Ruby/Rails) and servers (e.g. Tomcat). He needs to be able to apply patches and updates to these things as needed.

The incantation subtly makes two main points to the system admins: 1) the individual really does need this level of access, and 2) you’ll be doing a bunch of work if you don’t give it to them. This is necessary in order for them too approve your request and then pass it on to upper management. To managers, the incantation makes an important third point — hey, this person is going to actually do work.

It’s worked without fail for several years now. I’m distributing this incantation to the technical community as a public service. May it serve you as well as it has served me.