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March 2010 Archives

Quicken 2010

Gentlemen, set phasers on "grumpy rant".

I've been using Quicken since around 1995ish.

For the first time since my finances got complicated (10 years?) the "one step update" now smoothly updates all my accounts, downloading entries from all my various financial institutions. (Well, almost.  My low-tech mortgage company doesn't offer the ability to download updates. Why should they? They're too big to fail.)

All it took was spending an entire afternoon calling each and every institution's support number to find out what was wrong and how to fix it.

Truly the mark of high quality software.

I tried and it does all the updates for me. Sadly, it doesn't do the things I currently do with Quicken.  Now that Intuit (the maker of Quicken) has bought, let's see how quickly they can fuck it up.  No offense, Intuit, but the history of the software industry is rife with stories of mergers that sink both the buyer and buyee.

Update: Someone else said it very well here

When I last mentioned LISA, I forgot to mention the big news! This year submitting papers is a lot easier! Less work for the authors!

Rather than having to submit the entire, nearly finished, draft in advance, you can submit a briefer summary. If it gets accepted, then you have to write the entire thing. This saves a lot of time in case your submission is not accepted (how would that happen?). It also lowers the bar to submitting, which is important. I think more submissions is better. If this is your first time submitting a paper, this is a good opportunity to go for it.

There are three things you might consider proposing:

  • Refereed papers: Did you invent something? Prove a new theory? Create a new tool or software system? Submit a paper. Submissions are simply extended abstracts, 500-1500 words plus an outline of what the final paper will look like. (Details here.)
  • Practice and Experiences Reports: NEW! This is a new category. It's a bit different. This is a story telling category. Have you completed a major project and would like to share what experience they gained? I think of it as "Here's what we wish we had known before we started." Very useful. (Details here.)
  • Invited Talks: A lot of people don't realize this, but some (not all) invited talks are proposed by the people that give them. Hey, the Invited Talk chairs don't have ESP nor are the omnipotent. So if you have a hot topic that you are an expert at, or would like to put together a panel of debating debutants, propose it as an I.T. or a "Guru Session". (Details here.)
  • (Other things you can submit)

The deadline is May 17, 2010 (The 2011 deadline is June 9, 2011.). Less than 2 months away!

This year I'm on the committee that will be judging the papers. I thought it would be useful to tell people my personal process for evaluating papers.

I've been on the Usenix LISA program committee a few times. People ask me for advice about submitting papers a lot. Usually I tell them to read the CfP, pay attention to the deadlines, etc. But the real important advice is what I'm about reveal below.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

We asked the first people that registered for PICC why they are coming and got some surprises! Read them here.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

(Registration price goes up $75 on Monday night.  Sign up now!)

    Presentations, education, and fun.
    IT and syadmin (Linux/Unix, Windows, Networking & storage).
    2 days, 1 night, conference.
    Low price/high value.  Community-based, non-profit.
    May 7-8, 2010 @ Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, New Jersey.

David Blank-Edelman, "How SysAdmins Are Portrayed in Pop
Thomas A. Limoncelli, "Smooth Operations: Stopping the
    spiral of Emergency System Administration"
Eben Haber, IBM, "System Administrators in the Wild: What
    we've learned from watching you!"

* "Automating System Administration with Perl",
    David N. Blank-Edelman
* "Essential IPv6 for Linux Administrators",
    Owen DeLong
* "Help! Everyone hates our IT department",
    Thomas A. Limoncelli
* "IT Policies: Why IT Policies are needed and how to develop them",
    David Parter
* "In Search of "Senior"",
    Brian Jones
* "Intro to Powershell: Automate like a Wizard",
    Joseph Kern
* "Introduction to Virtualized Storage Management",
    Jesse Trucks
* "Next Generation Storage Networking: Beyond Conventional SAN and NAS",
    Jacob Farmer
* "Time Management for System Administrators: A New Approach",
    Thomas A. Limoncelli
* "What's New in IIS 7.0/7.5?",
    Steve Heckler

* An overview of Google's technologies: GFS, MapReduce, etc.
Budgeting for System Administrators 
Drupal On-Demand
High Performance Computing across the WAN at NOAA
* How to stop hating MySQL: Fixing common MySQL myths
    and mistakes
Job-Hunting Skills for System Administrators 
* Keeping Nagios Sane
Mentoring: It's for everyone!
* Panel: Tech Women Rule! Creative Solutions for being
    a (or working with a) female technologist
* Technical Community Response for the Haitian Earthquake
* Using Hierarchical Protection Domains for Network Security

* 12 timeslots where YOU pick the topic! ("unconference")

PLUS all attendees receive:
* a 12-month LOPSA membership/renewal
* a licence for Admin Arsenal (a $1000 value)
* the awesome conference bag 

Friday night banquet and movie festival!
* All meals!  (Friday lunch only for people attending training classes)

$249 without half-day tutorials (all meals except Friday lunch)
$475 with half-day tutorials and all meals ($399 until March 22!  Register now!)

Where else can you find a regional conference with national speakers,
hot topics that will help you advance your career, all meals included,
and not have to travel 3,000 miles to get there?

Find out more and register:

Twitter: @picconf

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

New review of TM4SA

Josh Brower blogged a highly complimentary review of Time Management for System Administrators.

Thanks, Josh! I'm glad the book helped you!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

It is a fact of modern life that you can't unsend email. The problem is that to really unsend email you need a time travel device.

It's a shame, really.

MS-Exchange has the ability to send a request that will hide the email, but most non-Exchange providers don't support the protocol. Besides, the horse has left the barn. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Gmail has the ability to unsend an email if you sent it in the last 10 seconds. Useful and cute, but not awesome. (Awesomer is their "prove you are sober before sending a message" feature.)

One way to mitigate this risk of wishing you had an "undo" is to send out a first paragraph plus a URL to the entire message. This way you can rewrite, refine, and update the body of the email as much as you want.

We use this technique at work. Suppose we want to tell people that the printing system will be down on Thursday evening so that we can upgrade the print server software. We put the basic message in a 1-paragraph email, and list a link to a document with more info. The link might be to a ticket # that tracks the issue, or a blog post (yes, we have internal blogs), a web page, or a document. We can constantly update the document over time.

Maybe we should extend this. All email should be a subject line plus a URL to the actual message. Made a typo? Correct it. Regretted what you said? Delete it. Called your boss an asshole? Change it to be a loverletter.

You still need to get the subject right, but the message can change. Maybe we could invent a way for the email to be "frozen" once the person reads it (one way would be for the email client to cache the message once it is downloaded). Spammers would have a harder time spamming us, since we'd be able to track their message back to their web site and therefore identifying them would be, well, if not easier, differently harder.

Or maybe we shouldn't even send email. The user interface would still look the same. Behind the scenes it would just be sending URLs.

Usenet made this transition. Usenet was replaced by RSS feeds, which are just lists of URLs. Maybe email should make the same change.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Ideas

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

If you were waiting to register until the complete schedule was revealed, get that credit card out!

LOPSA PICC last night published the final slate of papers and speakers (if you didn't get your accept/sorry email, please let us know). now contains the complete schedule.

You can attend for as little as $249, or $99 for students. The training program is extra.

If you aren't sure how to ask your boss for permission, we have some advice.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

Tom will be the Saturday opening keynote, plus he will be teaching his two most popular half-day classes: Time Management for System Administrators, and "Help! Everyone hates our IT department!". LOPSA NJ PICC is in New Brunswick, NJ, May 7-8, 2010. It is a regional conference, everyone is invited. For more information:

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Tom's is teaching tutorials and giving two talks during Usenix LISA 2010, San Jose, CA, Nov 7-12, 2010.

Register early! Space in my tutorials is limited!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Speaking

Click the cartoon for more information!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

Tonight's topic is "What's the biggest problem in system administration?" 

his month's meeting will be less technical, more philosophical.

What's the biggest problem facing system administrators? Is it the vendors? The managers? The tools? Is it us? (nah, it couldn't be us! Must be the tools). Scaling? The inconsistant syntax of Perl? It probably isn't any one thing.

I will be facilitating  group discussion. Hopefully we'll learn something about our technology and ourselves.

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Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Funny

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

(PICC is a regional sysadmin conference to be held in central NJ on May
7-8, 2010. I'm on the planning committee.

Today is the deadline for proposals for papers, talks, and such.

We're a little low on submissions so I'd like to make one more "beg". We'd love to have a talk about PHP for sysadmins, something fun you've done with Arduino, your favorite JS
library, a walk-through on setting up Google Apps. Demo your favorite open source project, or propose a panel of people to talk about something you find interesting (I can help find others for your panel). It is an excellent way to spread the word about a project you are involved with.

We've tried to make the proposal process really easy. Just send your
contact info and topic plus a 1-2 paragraph description to
[email protected]

For more info IM me and/or view:


P.S. Today is the deadline but we can grant extensions to anyone that writes and asks.

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Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences