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September 2008 Archives

Today is the first day of October. If you are using The Cycle system from Time Management for System Administrators don't forget to review your life- and long-term goals and do any other monthly routines.

Being the first of the month, sites running mailing list software like Mailman will be sending you reminder notices about which mailing lists you are subscribed. Take this time to pick a few lists to remove yourself from. What high-volume list have you been filtering off to a folder and ignoring? What low-volume list did you join ages ago and aren't getting any value from? What technology mailing list are you on for sentimental reasons even though you no longer use that technology? Today is a good day to unsubscribe from these mailing lists.

Both The Practice of System and Network Administration and Time Management for System Administrators can be read on-line by subscribers of O'Reilly's Safari Books Online service.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

I'm going to LISA '08 I've registered, I've booked my hotel. Are you going to LISA 2008? On Thursday I will be doing a 90-minute open Q&A session about Time Management. Feel free to stop by and ask me anything. On Friday I will be presenting my newest talk titled, "System Administration and The Economics of Plenty". When we start to see how plentiful the world is, we think about our roles as system administrators differently. It affects everything from how we set policy to how we do our jobs. Register online today! I hope to see you there!

The Zipper Machine


As a system administrator I spend a lot of time thinking about infrastructure. Good, solid, infrastructure saves money, but is sometimes inflexible. On the other hand, flexibility makes infrastructure more useful and broadens its appeal.
I live near the Tappan Zee bridge which crosses the Hudson River (in NYC). The morning traffic is mostly westbound and the afternoon traffic is mostly eastbound. Rather than expanding the bridge they now use "the zipper machine" to move the boundary between the two sides. (the picture here is from's article about its use on I-95 near Richmond, VA)
Watching this machine work is a delight. I've been lucky enough to see it three times. It only takes 20 minutes to move a mile of barrier so seeing it in action has a low probability.
I have to imagine the person that first proposed creating this device was thought to be crazy. I suppose they had to fight their way through nay-sayers in their company until someone believed them. However, now that the machine exists it just seems like a natual thing to do.
Every time I see this machine I think it makes a great analogy for IT projects. The more audacious an IT project is, the more crazy it looks. After it is complete and people are benefitting from it everyone thinks it is obvious.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Ideas

The Linux Penguin

Until Linus starting using the Penguin as a symbol, all the images around Unix were a wizard.  This required people to explain that Unix was so completely complicated that only wizards understood it.  The perception of the "Unix Wizard" eventually became more of a hindrance than a badge of pride.  It was brilliant for Linus to adopt the Penguin, which is friendly, cute, and cuddly.  Changing the symbol from a Wizard to a Penguin may have done more for the marketing of *nix systems than years of corporate efforts by AT&T/USL, HP, Sun, and so on.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli