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November 2009 Archives

I'm the guest on the StackOverflow podcast with Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.  w00t!

We talk about everything from early internet history, to IPv6, to how to scale a really really really large web site. Here's the episode page and link to the audio. (Tons of links on the episode page).

Check out their website for sysadmins Q&As at

Thanks to Joel and Jeff for having me on the show!  I listen every week!

Last week I mentioned that that if you have a service that requires a certain SLA, it can't depend on things of lesser SLA.

My networking friends balked and said that this isn't a valid rule for networks. I think that violations of this rule are so rare they are hard to imagine. Or, better stated, networking people do this so naturally that it is hard to imagine violating this rule.

However, here are 3 from my experience:

Run, run, run, dead.

I assume you have some kind of automated monitoring system that watches over your servers, networks and services. Service monitoring is important to a functioning system. It isn't a service if it isn't monitored. If there is no monitoring then you're just running software.

Monitoring "is it down?" is reactionary. It is better than no monitoring at all, but all it tells you is that there is already a problem. Monitoring is better when it predicts the future and prevents problems.

An analog radio (one with an old-fashion vacuum tube) sounds great at first, but you hear more static when the tube starts to wear out. Then the tube dies and you hear nothing. If you change the tube when it starts to degrade, you'll never have a dead radio. (Assume, of course, you change the tube when your favorite radio show isn't on.)

A transistor radio, on the other hand, is digital. It plays and plays and plays and then stops. Now, during your favorite song, you have to repair it.

At Bell Labs someone called this the "run run run dead" syndrome of digital electronics.

How can we monitor computers and networks in a way that makes it more like analog electronics? There are some simple tricks we can use when monitoring to be "more like analog."

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Time Management Wiki is my wiki for my various books. The Time Management sub-wiki has a lot of useful tools and products.

There is a link to this on the front page of my web site but nobody seems to notice it. Maybe I need someone with amazing artistic skills to design a logo. Volunteers?

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Thanks to everyone that attended my tutorials.  They were the #1 and #3 more attended tutorials, topping out at nearly 80 people each. The BOFs I held had packed rooms too. Thanks for your attention, I hope you walked away smarter and feeling better about your time management and sysadmin skills.

I'm involved in 2 more events: Tonight I am the EmCee of the Google VendorBOF (9pm), and on Friday I am co-hosting a "guru" talk on job hunting (2pm).

If you are attending CHIMIT this weekend (or are considering on-site registration), I'm facilitating a panel on Saturday afternoon.  Hope to see you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

Tom will be very busy at LISA 2009 both teaching and hosting various events:
  • Half-day Tutorial: "Time Management for System Administrators: A New Approach"
  • Half-day Tutorial: "Design Patterns for System Administrators"
  • Guru Session: Job Hunting (with Andy Lester from, author of the new book Land The Tech Job You Love
  • BoFs: I'll be hosting 3 BoFs. A 2-hour BoF on "Time Management", a BoF for the open-source project called Ganeti. And I'll be MC of this year's LGBT and Allies BoF.
  • I'll be at the Google Vendor BoF on Thursday night to answer questions about what it is like to work at Google.
  • Book signing: I hope to arrange a Book Signing during the vendor show.
With all that happening, I've also set a goal for myself to read all the papers before the conference. I promise myself that I'll do this every year, but this time I'm actually setting aside time to do the reading. Let's see how that goes. LISA is rarely in the Washington D.C. area. This gives locals an opportunity to attend LISA without having to pay for travel (I'll be taking Amtrak!). Hopefully this means there will be a lot of new faces. Hope to see you there! Registration is open.