The Sanskrit word mantra- (m. मन्त्रः, also n. मन्त्रं) consists of the root man- “to think” (also in manas “mind”) and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”. The Chinese translation is zhenyan 眞言, 真言, literally “true words”, the Japanese on’yomi reading of the Chinese being shingon.

My Sysadmin Mantra

Keep it simple (stupid)

When solving problems, people sometimes tend towards complicated solutions that are harder to deal with than the problem, or ostensibly ‘clever’ solutions that do not actually work for all possible forms of the problem. Instruction creep and function creep are related phenomena, and the Rube Goldberg machine is an extreme example of this.

According to KISS, the method used should be as simple and straightforward as possible. KISS is simply Occam’s Razor applied to engineering and other fields involving problem solving.

Backup, Backup, Backup (or Save Early, Save Often)

Who hasn’t heard this one? Probably the person who needs to take heed of this mantra.

A good sysadmin is a lazy sysadmin

Why is it that so many system administrators do the same routine things day in and day out? They probably aren’t thinking like a good sysadmin. The majority of routine (and some would argue that the less-frequent, error-prone) tasks can should be automated. Think like a programmer.

When you’re a successfully lazy (meaning productive while also not overworked) system administrator, you’re doing your job right.

There is more than one way to do it (TIMTOWTDI)

There is more than one way to do it (TIMTOWTDI, usually pronounced “Tim Toady”) is a Perl motto. The language was designed with this idea in mind, so that it “doesn’t try to tell the programmer how to program”. This makes it easy to write extremely messy programs, but, as proponents of this motto argue, it also makes it easy to write beautiful and concise ones.

The Zen of Python has a principle which is the exact opposite: “There should be one—and preferably only one—obvious way to do it.”

Perl, the first postmodern computer language. by Larry Wall