November 2004 Archives

Today I attended the Advanced Topics Workshop. This is a full day workshop for old timers to talk about system administration from a very high level. More and more it is becoming a management thing, because as the old timers get older, we get moved into management.

Advanced Topics Workshop -- This one-day workshop, intended for very senior administrators, provides an informal roundtable discussion of the problems facing system administrators today. Attendance is limited to 30 and based on acceptance of a position paper.
Started by John Schimmel in 1995 (?) as a "formalized hallway track" for "all the really experienced folks who show up on Tuesday before the conference and just hang around because there are no suitable tutorials," this workshop gives senior administrators a chance to meet and talk with their peers. Topics can range from difficulties hiring sysadmins to current technical problems, from managing sysadmins to exchanging notes on the latest new and interesting tools.

"An imperfect, light-weight system that people use is better than a heavy-weight system that nobody uses."
Examples:

  • TWiki vs. SharePoint
  • RT vs. Remedy
  • SubVersion+Bugzilla vs. ClearCase
  • ...

STOP THE PRESSES! I passed by two people talking about LiveJournal and when I looked at their badges I realized it was Brad (founder of LiveJournal) and Lisa (sysadmin of LiveJournal). They were prepping for Wednesday's presentation about the database/web/etc. technology of LiveJournal. I ended up talking with them for an hour or so (until about 1am). Steven walked by and joined in and we both told them a bunch of stories about how LJ has changed our lives. This was their first LISA, so we also talked about what they could expect.

That's my favorite thing about LISA and all the Usenix conferences. You meet really famous people. Well, famous in the Unix and Internet sense.

Wednesday's talk about LiveJournal was very impressive and an interesting discussion was posted on LiveJournal while they were talking about Livejournal

And the rest of the Advanced Topics Workshop? Who cares! I met Brad and Lisa!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

Today I spent the morning working on a presentation I'm making on Friday.

In the afternoon I attended Over the Edge System Administration, Volume 1 taught by David N. Blank-Edelman. The basis of the class was to each how to abuse the sysadmin tools that you already know. His first example was setting up a printqueue in lpr (the Unix print queue system) so that the files don't get sent to a printer, but get sent to your audio device. Now you can send MP3 files to this queue and they start playing one after the next. You can even use the usual lp* commands to re-arrange the play order. If you think that was an interesting abuse of a sysadmin tool, the examples only got better (or worse, depending on how you view it). It was a great tutorial. I learned a lot and was entertained. It added a lot of new tools to my mental toolbox. I hope they repeat this tutorial next year. David N. Blank-Edelman's tutorials always seem to be winners, watch this guy in the future.

Towards the end of the talk my boss contacted me by IM and asked if I could do a quick project for her while I was at the conference. I bring this up because a lot of people can't attend week-long conferences because their boss "can't live without them for a week." It is very comforting that LISA (and most conferences) have very good connectivity to the internet (I'm told four T1s this year) and excellent WiFi coverage. Not only is WiFi available in the workshop/presentation spaces, but also the "hang out" spaces where people congregate during the day and in the evenings. Yes, there is internet access in the hotel rooms ($9.99/night) but having it ubiquitously throughout the conference really makes a big difference. Tell your boss that!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

[ I'm going to try to blog one entry for every day at LISA 2004. ]

I arrived on Sunday. Though I'm not signed up for anything until Monday, I arrived early (2pm) on Sunday.

So if I'm not signed up for anything on Sunday, why did I arrive so early? There is a lot of useful and interesting stuff going on even if you aren't attending a tutorial or workshop. The benefit of a multi-day conference is the contacts that you make and the interaction with other attendees. There were plenty of ad hoc groups of people hanging out and chatting. I've been attending LISA for years, so there were also a lot of friends that I wanted to catch up with.

Dinner is an excellent way to spend "quality time" with the people you meet. At dinner last night we discussed everything from the new Cisco security features, to Solaris ZFS, to the finer points of various other system administration topics. I learned a lot, and many new ideas sprouted in my mind (or at least there were a lot of URLs mentioned that I found I need to check out.)

How to find a group of people for dinner if you are new to LISA? Usually people gather at the registration area around 6pm or 6:30pm to figure out what they're going to do for the evening. If you see a big group gathering, feel free to ask if you can join them. The worst that can happen is they'll say "no". Don't be offended, they might have a private party already arranged. However typically people will invite you to join along.

One of my goals this year is to try to meet a lot of new people. To that end, I'm introducing myself to random people, people I usually might not have met for one reason or another. If you are a regular attendee, I encourage you to do the same. If you are a first-time attendee introduce yourself to the people at tutorials, lunches, and so on. You'll get a lot more out of the conference.

Tomorrow: Review of DBE's tutorial on "Over The Edge System Administration".

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences