Awesome Conferences

August 2009 Archives

As I mentioned previously, I'll be presenting two tutorials at LISA 2009. Both are new.

The one on Time Management is a total re-write. That's why it is subtitled "a new approach". I've been teaching time management to system administrators for long enough that I've discovered that what people really need is a new way to think about their entire day. By thinking about their day ahead of schedule we can make adjustments to how we operate that day. The result is more satisfaction at the end of the day. People that have taken my class before should find it interesting and new; plus a good refresher on things they may have forgotten, or wasn't relevant until the more basic stuff had "sunk in".

The other class is totally new: Design Patterns for System Administrators . A design pattern is "a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem." That is, this class is going to be all the rules of thumb and tips that I find I get asked about, plus a lot of tips I wish people would ask me about! (Yes, there will be rants!)

I'm taking a break from working on my slides to post this. I should get back to work!

Read all about it! Spread the word so all your friends and co-workers know to nominate that great person that runs their systems! :-)

Follow the event on on Twitter as @SysAdRockstar09, Facebook group, and LinkedIn group. For full information on the contest visit

As I said  in TM4SA, the ideal time management system keeps many months in the future with you at all time, fits in your pocket, and can be with you 24/7. Moleskine makes a book small enough to fit in your pocket but has a "page per day" and lined paper.The date is pre-printed at the top of each page.

I was going to write about it last year when someone showed me theirs but the web site was sold out for 2009.  Luckily the 2010 model is now available.

The secret is that the paper is very thin, but not so thin to be fragile.

See their 2010 daily planners on their web site:

For other tips on PDAs, PAAs, and software, I've recently updated the TM4SA wiki:

(This is an unpaid endorsement, by the way.)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Sysadmins have a love-hate relationship with shared libraries. They save space, they make upgrades easier, and so on.  However, they also cause many problems.  Sometimes they cause versioning problems (Windows DLLs), security problems, and (at least when they were new) performance problems.  I won't go into detail, just mention them on a technical email list and you'll get an earful.

Here's one example that hits me a lot. On my Linux box, if I run an update of Firefox, my current Firefox browser keeps running. However, the next time it needs to load a shared library, it is now loading the upgraded version which is incompatible and my Firefox goes bonkers and/or crashes. On the Mac and Windows this doesn't happen because the installer waits for you to close any Firefox instances before continuing.

Google Chrome browser does its updates in the background while you use it. The user doesn't have to wait for any painful upgrade notification. Instead, the next time they run Chrome they are simply told that they are now running the newest release. I call this a "parent-friendly" feature because the last time I visited my mom much of her software had been asking to be upgraded for months.  I wish it could have just upgraded itself and kept my mom's computer more secure. ACM has an article by the Chrome authors about why automatic upgrades are a key security issue. (with graphs of security attacks vs. upgrade statistics)

However, if Google Chrome upgrades itself in place, how does it keep running without crashing? Well, it turns out, they use a technique called the LinuxZygote.  The libraries they need are loaded at startup into a process which then fork()s any time they need, for example, a renderer. The Zygote pattern is usually done for systems that have a slow startup time. However, they claim that in their testing there was no performance improvement. They do this to make the system more stable.

Read the (brief) article for more info: LinuxZygote

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

Hugh MacLeod's new book Ignore Everbody (and 39 other keys to creativity) reminds me of something that helped Christine and I write the first edition of The Practice of System and Network Administration: we picked the right people to ignore.

We ignored the conventional wisdom of the day that "soft skills" was unimportant or uninteresting, we ignored the people that said senior sysadmins know this stuff already and junior sysadmins don't care, we ignored people that said that "most of what you propose to write about can't be put into words", and we ignored one particularly vehement person who felt that system administration is dead and all that matters is web-based apps.

It was a leap of faith to ignore these people since in many cases it was just a gut feeling that they were incorrect. In hindsight we know that soft skills wasn't being talked about meant that there was a huge market void seeking to be filled. Junior sysadmins bought the book because they wanted to become senior. Senior sysadmins bought the book in bulk to give to their more junior co-workers (At a book signing I was handed a stack of 20 books and a list of 20 names; an IT manager at MIT wanted everyone in his group to have a personalized autograph copy).  It was a struggle to put some concepts into words, but very satisfying when we did. And that thing about web-apps? Well, someone has to maintain those web servers.

Some people got together and created a 3-minute video summary of Huge's book.  They aren't connected to the book, they didn't ask permission, they just did it because they were inspired. How cool is that?

Check it out.

P.S.  Also check out his blog, Gaping Void especially if you like awesome cartoons written on the back of business cards that express awesome and terrible truths.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Book News

Quote of the week

Last week I visited the Chicago Tribune Tower which has many quotes inscribed in the wall of the lobby. This one moved me and I thought it had a lot of good ideas for system administrators:
"Therefore when we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such Work as our descendants will thank us for and let us think as we lay Stone on Stone that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them and that men will say as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, 'See this our fathers did for us.' " --John Ruskin

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Quotes

As a "heads up", it looks like I'll be the speaker at LOPSA-NJ on September 3th.  If you are in New Jersey (or the area) you might want to save this date.  More info as soon as it is official.


Update: Original post had the wrong date.  The meeting is Thursday, Sept 3rd, 2009.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

This year's LISA will be on the east coast!  I can't wait!  Baltimore, MD, here I come!

November 1-6, 2009.   Follow LISAConference on twitter for future updates.

I will be teaching two classes: I've revamped my Time Management for Sysadmins class and I have an entirely new class on Design Patterns for Sysadmins

Adam Moskowitz and I will be co-presenting a "Guru" session on Interviewing and Job Hunting Skills.

Register today!  Avoid the rush!

(Tip:  Book your hotel room THEN tell your friends thus making sure you get a room in the main hotel.  Unethical?  Nah.)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli