Awesome Conferences

I'll be giving a talk "Fail Better: Radical Ideas from the Practice of Cloud Computing" as part of the ACM Learning Series at at 2pm EST on Friday, February 26, 2016. Pre-registration is required.

In this talk I explain 3 of the most important points from our newest book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration. The talk applies to everyone, whether or not you are "in the cloud".

"See" you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Speaking

I write a 3-times-a-year column in ACM Queue Magazine. This issue I cover 2 unrelated topics. "How Sysadmins Devalue Themselves" and "And how to track on-call coverage". Enjoy!

Q: Dear Tom, How can I devalue my work? Lately I've felt like everyone appreciates me, and, in fact, I'm overpaid and underutilized. Could you help me devalue myself at work?

A: Dear Reader, Absolutely! I know what a pain it is to lug home those big paychecks. It's so distracting to have people constantly patting you on the back. Ouch! Plus, popularity leads to dates with famous musicians and movie stars. (Just ask someone like Taylor Swift or Leonardo DiCaprio.) Who wants that kind of distraction when there's a perfectly good video game to be played?

Here are some time-tested techniques that everyone should know.

Click here to read the entire article...

Note: This article can be viewed for free, however I encourage you to subscribe to ACM Queue Magazine. ACM members can access it online for fee, or a small fee gets you access to it online or via an app.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ACM Queue Column

A feast of analogies

A few years ago a coworker noticed that all my analogies seemed to involve food. He asked if this was intentional.

I explained to him that my analogies contain many unique layers, but if you pay attention you'll see a lot of repetition... like a lasagna.

By the way...

I've scheduled this blog post to appear on the morning of Wednesday, Feb 10. At that time I'll be getting gum surgery. As part of recovery I won't be able to bite into any food for 4-6 months. I'll have to chew with my back teeth only.

Remember, folks, brushing and flossing is important. Don't ignore your teeth. You'll regret it later.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

I'm excited to announce that I've been interviewed as part of the ACM Interviews series. Listen to the 1-hour interview or read the summary via this link

ACM Interviews are part of the ACM Learning Center (click on Podcasts).

Over the last 20+ years Stephen Ibaraki's interviews have included famous computer scientists and innovators like Vint Cerf, Eric Schmidt, Leslie Lamport, and more. (Complete list here.) Stephen is involved in many professional organizations, he frequently addresses the United Nations, and has received numerous honors including being the first and only recipient of the Computing Canada IT Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award.

I was quite honored to be asked. (Actually I was confused... when approached at an ACM event last year I assumed Stephen was asking me to nominate people worth interviewing, not asking me to be interviewed!)

I consider this a major career milestone. I am grateful to all those that have helped me get to where I am today.

Background on the ACM:

The Association of Computing Machinery (the US representative to the United-Nations(UNESCO)-founded IFIP, International Federation for Information Processing):

The ACM reach is 3.4 million, with 1.5 million users of the digital library and is the largest and most prestigious international professional organization in computing science, education, research, innovation, professional practice (200 events and conferences, 78 newsletters/publications, 37 special interest groups such as SIGGRAPH, the top awards in computing science such as the ACM Turing Award -- the Turing is considered the Nobel Prize of Computing with a 1 Million USD prize.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Publications

In this episode we talked with Alice Goldfuss about the changes you need to make when growing a DevOps or sysadmin team. Alice also talked about dealing with remote workers, her experience at film school, plus she shares insights about giving your first presentation at a conference.

You don't want to miss this!

For the complete list of LISA Conversations, visit our homepage.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

Today (Feb 2) at 3:30PM PST we'll be recording this month's episode of LISA Conversations.

Our guest will be Alice Goldfuss. We'll be discussing her LISA '15 talk about growing a devops team: Scalable Meatfrastructure: Building Stable DevOps Teams

You won't want to miss this!

(NOTE: This recording was rescheduled; our usual time/date is the last Tuesday of the month.)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

In my previous blog post, "SHA-1 Deprecation: Pro, Con, or Extend?", I was a bit sarcastic about an anonymous company wanting to keep producing SHA-1 out of lazy greed rather than helping customers.

Here's an update by Symantec about their latest actions.

Basically, the proposal to extend SHA-1 certs was withdrawn because during the ballot debate, so many new attacks against SHA-1 were revealed that.... oh the embarrassment.

So now companies can request SHA-1 certs as long as they expire on Dec 31, 2016. Luckily one good thing happened: non-legacy browsers are removing their trust for the SHA-1 root certs, which will make them more secure and will serve as a canary in the coalmine.

In other words, if you are still using SHA-1 certs, you will start to get warnings from you non-mobile users (easy to fix) now, giving you an indication that you need to start fixing your mobile users (you have until December 2016).

However I don't think that's enough of a "signal". It is still possible for companies to be oblivious to the situation. I'm no crypto expert, but I think people should consider two things to "raise awareness":

  • SHA-1 certs should expire much sooner. Imagine if people had to renew them every month. That would keep the issue visible. If you get a cert that is good for 12 months, it is easy to forget about the issue because there are bigger fires to put out. Monthly (or 60-day) renewals would keep the issue in the forefront of people's minds.
  • SHA-1 certs should cost $10,000. This would introduce economic pressure to stop supporting legacy devices, which would put pressure on legacy devices to upgrade.

The real problem, however, is vendors making systems that are stuck with old software and can't be fixed. I wish there was something we could do to make it economically infeasible for vendors to make such devices. Right now it is cheaper to produce a product with no upgrade mechanism, which means that device is going to make like difficult for everyone else in a few years (or in a few minutes if that's when the next Heartbleed or ShellShock arrives). Wouldn't it be great if, instead, any time a vendor was about to create a non-upgradable system the C++ compiler would detect this and refuse to compile. Or maybe it should compile but output a warning that in n days it will erase the developer's hard disk instead.

I can dream, can't I?

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond our control, this episode will be recorded Feb 2 at 3:30PM PST.

This weekend is a good time to watch the video we'll be discussing on Usenix LISA conversations.

Our guest will be Alice Goldfuss. We'll be discussing her LISA '15 talk about growing a devops team: Scalable Meatfrastructure: Building Stable DevOps Teams

You won't want to miss this!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond our control, this episode will be recorded Feb 2 at 3:30PM PST.

On the next episode of LISA Conversations...

Our guest will be Alice Goldfuss. We'll be discussing her LISA '15 talk about growing a devops team: Scalable Meatfrastructure: Building Stable DevOps Teams

You won't want to miss this!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

BNF meets Bowie

This is floating around teh interwebz and I normally don't post this kind of thing, but since this blog recently discussed the death of Peter Naur, and since David Bowie passed away recently, I thought this was appropriate.


This song, Modern Love, was a big hit around the time that I was first getting interested in Bowie. At that time he'd already had more fame and success in the music industry than most could even hope for. As a result, I learned his music in a strange order. First his hits of the day, then going back to his back catalog and learning about his early career and music.

David Bowie, RIP, 2016.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli