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January 2011 Archives

[For the next week or so I'll be posting the techniques I use to help me remember things. I'll be covering topics like memorizing short lists, oddball things, and names.]

The human brain isn't good at remembering lists. Our brain didn't evolve to be good at that. Instead we evolved to be good at making tools and inventing things. One of the things we invented is paper, which is much better at storing lists than our brain. We also invented PDAs and cell phones. If I don't have paper, I can TXT the list to myself.

However, we don't need those tools for short lists.

For very short lists remembering the quantity is often good enough. Suppose I have 5 errands to run. If I get distracted I forget the last errand. I find that if I count the number of errands before I begin, I know I'm done when I count the errands I've run. If I don't count ahead of time I may forget one. Worse, once I am done I have a nagging feeling that I've forgotten something. By using this technique I don't have that nagging feeling afterwords.

For lists of 4-6 items it helps me to remember the first letter of each object. Suppose I need to buy milk, tissues, yogurt, and soap. I remember M, T, Y, S. For some reason it is easier for me to remember the letters and associate them back to the words. I can memorize a list like M-T-Y-S by just saying it out loud a few times.

I still prefer to use a written/electronic TODO list for these kind of things, but now that you understand the technique let me give an example of where a TODO list doesn't work.

This technique is much more appropriate for situations where you can't use a list, like speaking to a group of people. Suppose I'm having a discussion with a few people and while someone else is talking I think of 5 things I need to bring up. I want to make sure I cover them all, and I don't want to waste people's time by standing there saying, "ummm. ummm... was there something else I wanted to talk about?? ummm.... uummm".

Instead I assign a word to each of the topics. Those words might be Virtualization, Latency, Budget, Bug (the particular bugid is not something I need to memorize), and 50Gig (what that refers to is a long story, but remembering "50Gig" is enough to jog my memory). I can stand and speak about those 5 items, in order, authoritatively, without fidgeting around trying to remember what is next, or be worried that I've forgotten something. All I need to remember is VLBBF.

Using this when speaking helps make you look confident and prepared.

[Next tip will be posted Wednesday: "Two ways socks help you remember things"]

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Soft Skills

Would you please help me and help thousands of women in San Francisco?

We are so close to the goal of raising $1,000 for Lyon-Martin! Thanks to everyone that has donated so far! The response has been very impressive.

LM has made is very easy to donate. Click here.

$10 or $5 will really help. I'm matching the first $1000 and if we reach $1000 I'll donate another $500. Hopefully one of my books has saved you much more than $20, why not "pay it forward"?

To a syadmin $10-$20 is chump change. Donate today and help save this clinic!

LM has made is very easy to donate. Click here.

Once you have made your donation, email the paypal receipt to [email protected] or paste your confirmation code into this form and I'll count it towards the matching program.

NEXT WEEK: Next week I'll be posting a series of tips on how to improve your memory, starting with how to remember names. Look for it!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

I'm matching the first $1000 and if we make it there, I'll donate another $500. Please help us get there. Thanks to Nathan, Michael, Lee, Jennifer, David, Gabe and Dave so far!

We've accumulated $670 so far. Maybe we should set the goal to $2000?

Paypal makes it easy to donate.

Best quote so far, "I figure the dude's helped me save AT LEAST $10 worth of wasted effort over the years, if he seems to dig Lyon-Martin Women's Health, then I do too."

If my books have helped you, please donate. If for some reason you don't like me and/or want revent, donate a LOT so that we hit the $1,000 mark and I'm forced to donate another $500. :-)

How's that for motivation?

Paypal makes it easy to donate.

$10 would be awesome. More is better-er.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Thanks to the people that have donated $120 so far, we have reached 12% of the goal of raising $1,000 to help keep Lyon-Martin Health Services open. This clinic served 2500 patients last year and will close if they can not raise $250,000 very soon. Remember that if we reach $1,000 by Feb 3th I'll chip in another $500.

Wouldn't you love to know you forced Tom give up $500 more than he originally planned?

As mentioned yesterday, I am matching the first $1,000 donated by my friends, readers, and fellow geeks.

To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed that only $120 has been raised so far but the campaign is still young. There are 6 more days left.

There are about 3,000 people that regularly read this blog. If everyone donates $1 that would triple the goal. If a third of you skipped one $5-$10 visit to Starbucks and donate the money instead, it would make me very happy.

$10 is very little to the typical sysadmin reading this. However by all working together we can meet this goal and help a lot of women in the bay area.

LM has made is very easy to donate via Paypal. Click here.

If you haven't donated, please post a comment and tell me what I could do to encourage you! You ever know, I might do it!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

This is going to be one of my rare non-sysadmin/non-technology posts on If you have a problem with that, please skip this post.

Lyon-Martin Health Services (LM) needs your help. LM is a great institution in San Francisco that provides compassionate, respectful health care to women and transgender people at a sliding scale. They've done this for 30 years but yesterday they announced they will be closing their doors. If they can raise $250,000 soon they may be able to reorganize and stay open.

I'm setting up a matching donation challenge: I'm asking readers of this blog to chip in $10-20 to help them reach their goal. I'll match the first $1,000. If we reach this goal in less than 1 week, I'll donate another $500.

I'm not asking because I was moved by their press release. I'm doing this because I've been on a tour of their clinic and seen how they do so much with so little. Their clinic isn't fancy yet the see 2,500 patients each year. The services they provide are very important to the SF community. I have friends that have used their services, many work in IT. Even though I'm an east-coaster, I think LM is worth saving!

Let's face it. We're sysadmin. We have high employment, above average salaries, and usually have excellent healthcare provided by our employer. For many of us, the time we take to think, "Hmm... should I donate $10?" we've probably earned $10.

My specific request is that people donate one hour of their salary. Take your annual salary, divide by 2000 (There are about 2000 hours in the work-year. Did you know that?) and that's about how much you make in an hour.

LM has made is very easy to donate. Click here.

Without Lyon-Martin:

  • 7 women would have had their breast cancer advance undiagnosed.
  • 20 patients would have had their HIV viral load increase, risking advancement to AIDS and spread of HIV to others.
  • Nearly 100 patients would have had their diabetes go out of control, risking blindness, limb loss and kidney failure.
  • 150 people would have had their abnormal pap smears progress to cervical cancer.
  • More than 400 transgender patients would have had to buy black market hormones.
  • Nearly 2,500 people would not have had the necessary information to answer the question, "How are you?"

LM has made is very easy to donate. Click here.

Once you have made your donation, email the paypal receipt to [email protected] or paste your confirmation code into this form (Note: Form finally works!) and I'll count it towards the matching program.

More information at:


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

As I edit the videos from my "time management" collection I see that some of them came out better than others. This is one of my favorites.

Episode 27: How to say 'Go Away' to a user and still be polite?

When a user interrupts us with a question and we are busy there are ways to say "go away" without sounding like a jerk. (1) make sure they feel heard. If they don't feel heard, anything you say will sound like a jerk. (2) re-enforce good behavior: teach them the right way to get help (file a ticket, etc.), (3) use the "record - delegate - do" technique for deciding which technique to use.

A little bit of organization (i.e. maintaining a todo list) can go a long way in these situations. Having a written definition of "what is an emergency" can help rebuff people that claim everything is an emergency.

This video has advice about how to handle requests from your boss and how to make yourself look good to your boss, so that you get better raises and promotions.

If you found this video helpful please check out my book "Time Management for System Administrators" available on Amazon, Ebook, or read it online!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

The PICC Conference is looking for Windows Trainers. If you have experience training people on PowerShell, ActiveDirectory, or Windows 7 (or know someone who does) please read Matt's blog post.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

We're happy to announce The Practice of System and Network Administration is now available on Kindle!

Thanks to everyone at Addison-Wesley and Amazon for making this happen. Thanks to all the fans that clicked on the link on Amazon asking for a Kindle edition.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Book News

As I edit the videos from my "time management" collection I see that some of them came out better than others. This is one of my favorites.

Episode 18: "Get Into That Old Boring Routine"

In this video I passionately describe the importance of routines and how they can be used to eliminate "the bad kind of excitement" and instead emphasize "the good kind of excitement" we deserve. He lists examples related to planning meetings, buying gasoline for his car, and preventing a very wet, messy, situation at work. These routines create a "domino effect" of benefits.

If you found this video helpful please check out my book "Time Management for System Administrators" available on Amazon, Ebook, or read it online!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Do your developers do unit testing, system testing, or even worse the so called "continuous test"? Just tell them this redundancy will not be tolerated. It is a waste of time. If you skip those tests then the customers will find those bugs for free! Don't be foolish and turn down this free labor!

(The owners of apologize for the above message. Tom was replaced by an evil pointy haired boss Tom. Evil Tom was wrestled to the ground and the real Tom has taken back control of the keyboard. Please disregard the above message.)

You might want to read this instead:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

True story:

My first job out of college we made our own patch cables. Usually we'd make them "on demand" as needed for a new server or workstation. My (then) boss didn't want to buy patch cables even though we knew that we weren't doing a perfect job (we were software people, eh?). Any time we had a flaky server problem it would turn out to be the cable... usually one made by my (then) boss. When he left the company the first policy change we made was to start buying pre-made cables.

That was during the days of Category 3 cables. You can make a Category 3 cable by hand without much skill. With Category 5 and 6 the tolerances are so tight that just unwinding a pair too far (for example, to make it easier to crimp) will result in enough interference that you'll see errors. It isn't just "having the right tools". An Ohm Meter isn't the right testing tool. You need to do a series of tests that are well beyond simple electrical connectivity.

That's why it is so important to make sure the cables are certified. It isn't enough to use the right parts, you need to test it to verify that it will really work. There are people that will install cable in your walls and not do certification. Some will tell you they certified it but they really just plug a computer at each end; that's not good enough. I found the best way to know the certification was really done is have them produce a book of printouts, one from each cable analysis. Put it in the contract: No book, no payment. (and as a fun trick... the next time you do have a flaky network connection, check the book and often you'll find it just barely passed. You might not know how to read the graph, but you'll see the line dip closer to the "pass" line than on the other graphs.)

If your boss isn't convinced, do the math. Calculate how much you are paid in 10 minutes and compare that to the price of the pre-made cable.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

[Update 2015-10-18: Now that Perl6 has shipped, this article is less relevant. The point, however, is that shipping "good enough" is better than not having anything available. That's always true.]

In all the time I've been waiting for Perl6 I learned Python and, guess what? I like Python better.

I'm a big fan of Perl. I have been since 1991, Perl 4.032. That was 19.5 years ago. Back then learning perl was "radical" and "fringe". Backk then it wasn't acceptable at most companies to use Perl. Since then perl was gone from being revolutionary to accepted broadly. Initially it was mostly used by sysadmins but the invention of the web (and therefore CGI scripts), saved it. Prior to this there wasn't much need for heavy string processing (awk was sufficient) or database connectivity (who could afford $50,000 for Oracle?). However with Perl's CGI module and MySQL integration using Perl became "obvious". Heck, you might say that "CGI saved Perl from irrelevance". I was proud to be an early adopter of Perl. Like the apes that learned to use tools before the other primates, it gave me an evolutionary advantage that was undeniable.

Perl4 was good. Perl5 was great. There were 3 things I wanted in Perl6: Cleaner OO support, cleaner grammar, and the third thing? Well, I wanted it to ship.

I'd like to say, "I gave up waiting and learned Python instead" but the truth is that I took a job that was Python-centric, not Perl-centric. At Google we have one official compiled language, one official scripting language, and one official UI language. Yes, other languages are supported in some way or another, but sticking with "the big three" meant support libraries, tools, and an easier way to find collaborators. Sadly the scripting language of choice was Python, not Perl. So I learned Python.

Python has a very clean object model. It has a consistant grammar. And that third thing I wanted? Yes, it's shipping.

Being a Perl Patriot meant resisting Python at first. However now I have to admit that in the last 2 years (and mostly the last year) I've written a lot of Python. In my entire career I've written more perl "quick scripts" (1 to 5 line single-purpose or single-use scripts) but I've now written more lines of "big programs" in Python than in all my Perl experience. (that's more of a comment about how few large programs I'd written in Perl, I guess :-) ).

What I like about Python is:

  1. There's one way to do things. Code becomes a lot cleaner when there is one obvious way to do things. In Perl there are many ways to do things... having some ability to be creative is nice; have too much is stifling. Imagine being at a doughnut shop with 10,000 choices. It's confusing. Now go to a doughnut shop that specializes in chocolate cream filled. Sure, they have others in case you really want a cruller, but you know that the obvious choice (their speciality) is the way to go.

  2. It is readable. It is so readable that often guessing how something might be done is the right way to do things. Here are some examples:

    • Does an element exist in a hash (Python calls them 'dicts'): myelement in myhash
    • Does a substring exist in a string: 'substring' in string_variable
    • Having actual boolean values True and False means I can type "x = True", which is much more readable than "x = 1" (which could mean I want the integer that comes after zero and before two).
  3. Parameter passing is awesome. You can easily set default parameters, names parameters, etc. Yes, Perl can do that now but it is cleaner in Python. Also if someone passes 2 named parameters and 2 unnamed parameters there is a clear order to where those unnamed parameters should go.

  4. I'm in love with None. Yes, Perl has "undef" but it isn't used much. In Python a variable can be equal to None, which is different than zero or not defined. I can default a parameter to None, and take action "if x is None". (that's valid Python. "is" is like equals, only better)

  5. "Batteries included". CPAN is nice but it is stifling to have to decide between 3 different modules that do the same thing. Python has one awesome library for URL manipulation, for one awesome library for file handling, and so on. I'm enjoying how the web framework Django has enabled me to write some really nice, simple, web apps without a lot of code. (I hear Ruby-On-Rails is better but both Rails and Django seem to be better than anything I saw in Perl).

  6. The object model is very easy to work with. With Perl I was confident in using other people's object-oriented modules but fretted about writing my own. With Python it is much clearer to me how things work and why. Since everything is an attribute, I can even monkeypatch objects with confidence.

  7. No interpolation of strings. If you want to format something, there is a great formatting system which is highly optimized.

  8. The "Perl datastructures cookbook" is awesome. You know what's more awesome? Not needing it. In Python data structures make sense so you don't need a secret decoder ring to use them.

  9. Unicode support is really good, and in Python3 is the default (want an old-style string? use a bytearray).

  10. Immutable data types. At first I was confused. "What do you mean I can't edit a string? I have to change it while copying it?" Oh, now I understand! This simplifies so many other things and permits optimizers to really dig into your code. Cool.

What do I dislike about Python? I don't like that to use regular expressions I first have to "import re", but then the regular expression stuff has a lot of useful features. I don't like that I can't write one-liners, especially since I use to use Perl's "-a" and "-n" options a lot. I don't like Python3's ".format()" system, and hate that they are deprecating "%".

When I've made this points in conversations people often think I mean that "Python is what Perl6 should have been". I don't mean that at all. Python is very different than Perl. However, I'm more happy with Python than I am with Perl at this point, and by the time Perl6 is shipping and (hold your breath) main stream I'll have many years of using a language that gives me the benefits I was looking for.

And just to reiterate... my favorite feature is: it's shipping.

Update: 1pm: Fixed some typos.

Update2: 1:01pm: Devdas Bhagat tweeted: "Most of the Perl gripes appear to be a few years old. Perl has backported most of the stuff you want from P6 to P5." I reply: Many fine features have been backported. I'm more concerned with unfixable things like readability other things from my list.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

I just finished uploading and editing the descriptions of 10 new videos on

It's about a weekend's worth of viewing. Get started now! :-)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I love the new(ish) bank automatic teller machines (ATMs in the US or "CashPoints" in the UK) that scans checks and cash and makes them available for immediate deposit. Imagine recognition for the win! (Should I mention that Bell Labs was showing demos of this to NCR in 1997? What took you so long?)



Here's a nitpick that I have with the user interface: The prompt is for "Cash or Checks" but the slots are in the reverse order, Checks on the left, cash on the right. (original photo is here)

Does anyone else find this annoying?

Anyone reading this blog know how to reach the developers at BoA to see if it can be fixed? This isn't the kind of thing I would report at their customer service phone number because it is my experience that there is no line of communication from customer support to the bugtracking/feature request system. Customer support people are usually trained to write down the suggestions just to be polite, they don't actually get submitted.

It would be amazing if companies could expose their bugtracking systems to the world. I'm used to this in the open source movement and would like to see it elsewhere too. The tech industry usually has a parallel bugtracking system that is exposed to the world, done this way to hide confidential information. I wonder how long before this kind of business practice works its way to other industries.

If someone could figure out a way to help companies provide an external view of their bugtracking system I'd be very happy. I'm very optimistic about the trend that Satisfaction has started, trying to re-invent customer support. Customer support is ripe for innovation.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Misc

"Dear Tom, I'm a junior sysadmin and want to be more knowledgeable about the operating systems I administer. I get the feeling that a lot of my co-workers run on myth, superstitions, and folklore when it comes to their job and I want to be better. Sincerely, The Truth Is In There"

Dear Truth,

I applaud your quest to avoid superstition in your role as system administrator. Every time I fix a problem by rebooting (rather than knowing the real cause and fixing it) I feel a little bit of me dies inside. It hurts our industry and our profession when we develop bad habits like guessing instead of knowing.

There are three topic areas that are complicated, misunderstood, and therefore prone to folklore: memory subsystem, the file subsystem, and processes. If I had to add a third it would be the security subsystem, but often understanding the first three is a prerequisite to fully understanding security.

Memory is complicated. Virtual memory, swapping, and so on make this a complicated topic. To tune a system without understanding how these really work (vs. what we were taught in school) is the difference between success and failure. Understanding how modern memory systems work can result in a 9x performance improvement.

Knowing how the filesystem works is as important to a sysadmin as knowing anatomy is to a doctor. Knowing the filesystem begins with understanding how data is laid out on the disk (blocks and tracks), how files and directories are organized (what's stored in the directory structure, for example), and how the file system is buffered and how it interacts with the memory system. Ever since the OS concept of "unified memory and file systems", good performance comes from a tight integration of the memory and file system. Also, the file system dictates the namespace of the OS, which affects every thing else. Do you know what kind of access is slow in your operating system's namespace? You should.

A deep knowledge of how processes work is important syadmins are often required to debug problems that happen at the "edge cases" of processes: Some weird scheduling mishap because there isn't enough memory for all processes and the "wrong" process gets swapped out, developers come to you unsure why their new software release creates zombie processes, and so on.

Here are my suggestions on the best books in this category:

While you may not be a FreeBSD user, that book is excellent to read no matter what operating system you use. It it used as a textbook in many schools because it teaches the fundamental underpinnings of operating system design. If you use an POSIX system, consider reading it.

"TCP IP Illustrated" because, while not an operating system, is my favorite book for learning how TCP/IP works: from ARP and ping, to telnet, to all those funny TCP sliding window issues. This book (and the 2 sequels) is an amazing tour of how the protocols you use every day work.

Hope that helps,

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Career Advice

Let's review.

I hope your 2010 was as productive, fun, and satisfying. Best wishes on a great 2011!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Here is a month-by-month list of highlights from the blog:



Mostly ranting and promoting the PICC conference, plus a few google articles about improving your memory and Katherine Hepburn.


Grumpy post about Quicken 2010, more encouragement to write papers for Usenix LISA, the full schedule for LOPSA PICC, and how new thinking on pain management should change how you do customer support.


Very few blog posts. I was super busy elsewhere.


Another Ganeti success story, my annual warning that your computer room is about to overheat. And of course, posts about LOPSA PICC happening.








Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

[Note: I had a very productive year at work but sadly I haven't gotten permission to talk about it externally yet. It isn't anything earth-shattering but I hope to turn it into a few papers eventually.]

January: Spent nearly 3 weeks in the SF/Bay area for training and...

February: Spoke at MacWorld on Time Management.

March: Started a collaboration with ACM to help them find sysadmin-related articles for their Queue magazine. After some brain-storming (at 2 meetings, 2 months apart) we collected 6-7 topics matched with authors around the world.

They've been well-received. The one I wrote on "A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins -- 10 Do's and Don'ts" (published in December) got mentioned on Slashdot and helped push their web site to break 1 million visits for 2010. I'm rather proud of that.

While my article has a attention-getting title, I think the most innovative article to come out of the series so far isn't getting the publicity it deserves: Collaboration in System Administration. (Eben gave a similar talk at PICC (video here) and at LISA (slides here).

We have a few more article in the hopper, so keep watching ACM Queue. Please write to me if you have ideas for articles, whether or not you want to write the article to have suggestions of who we should approach.


PICC: In November 2009 some people in New Jersey thought it would be a good idea to have a small, regional conference for people in IT. We called it PICC. I think I spent all my free time in April working on the keynote I was presenting. The topic is the 3 biggest threats of system administration as a profession. I highlight one that is on the personal level, one that is on the organization/enterprise level, and one that is at the level of our professional IT society.

Which brings us to...


PICC conference a major success. 80 people (big for a regional conference's first year) and we made enough money to have seed money for next year.

My keynote was on the 3 threats to system administration: Personal: health (especially diabeties) Organization: the lack of dissemination of info (some orgs do great IT, others suck at things that are "solved problems" elsewhere) As a career: lack of respect (we need better PR and representation in D.C.) What do these three problems have in common? That no one person can solve any of them. They require community effort, and that is why organizations like PICC, LOPSA, Usenix, ACM and so on are so important.

Inspired by PICC, people in Seattle have decided to have a regional conference. People from all over the Pacific North West are expected to attend. If you are within reach, check out Cascadia IT Conference.

At this point I was also thinking about writing a new book. I had sort of a half-formed idea. I wrote 3 chapters as a test. I read them and a publisher farmed them out to a number of people in the industry. No dice. I didn't even think I'd read such a book. However, I did have an idea on how to reformulate it. I took one of the chapters, re-worked it, and published it in Usenix :login; as a test. (see September)

On a personal career level, this is when I started learning Django, a web framework for Python. I'm really enjoying it.


June, July, August and September there were relatively few blog posts because I was "heads down" focused on two projects at work. I created two web-based apps for use by my coworkers. I hadn't written serious code in a while and was enjoying it so much I was working nearly every waking moment because I was having so much fun!


Went to Disney/Florida. My SO and I had an awesome, relaxing, vacation this year. Something we've discovered? By having our "big trip" immediately when her break begins (Chris has summers off) we are more relaxed the rest of the break. We feel like we've accomplished something, so to speak, even though that "thing" is relaxation. If we have our big trip at the end of the summer then there is pressure to "do it right" because there's no do-over. (P.S. July 4th at Epcot is awesome).

Geek BBQ at my place. I have a house with a nice backyard and yet I rarely use it. I decided to fix that by having at least two cookouts this year. One of which I deemed the "Geek BBQ" and invited LOPSA-NJ and other geeky friends to attend. About 20 people showed up, which was the perfect size. We had a great time and I'm definitely doing it again next year.


I often teach a half-day time management class at conferences. With the help of my friend Pam, we video taped this class and chopped it into 5-10 minute segments. Around August I finally put them up on a new web site called The videos are free to watch, the site is advertisement supported (and of course, promotes the book).

I gave a keynote at the SAGE-AU conference. My talk was similar to the keynote at PICC, but customized for the audience. This was my second time giving a keynote in Tazmania, and the 5th time I had been to Australia to speak at a conference. I can't believe I'm saying that! (For those that aren't sure, yes, Tasmania is a state of Australia.)


Wrote a "Open Letter to people teaching system administration" prior to the workshop on that topic at LISA. (due to be re-printed in MacTech magazine soon). I'm unhappy with the sad state of how we train future system administrators. I think this is an important issue. It isn't just that "computers play a bigger role in our lives every day", today society can't survive without well-run IT systems. It isn't that computers are involved in getting food from the farm to our plate, we, as a society, no longer know how to do it manually.

Usenix article: A System Administration Parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass. I'm really happy with how this article turned out. I'd like to write 12-15 parables and publish it as a book. This would be a good project for me after the Usenix LISA 2011 conference is done.

October: LISA 2010 in San Jose. Big success. I agreed to co-chair the Program Committee with Doug Hughes in 2011.


This month began with my laptop being stolen 22 hours before I was scheduled to give a full-day Time Management class at Usenix LISA. The most painful part was that a friend's car window was smashed open to get to my laptop. Ugh. Well, I paid for the new windows. Luckily my entire presentation was 'in the cloud' (thank you, Dropbox!) but I had to get a new Mac and the latest Keynote software. Luckily I could go to one of my employer's many offices and get it taken care of. The presentation went on without a hitch.

After Usenix LISA and I was pretty much exhausted the rest of the month, though I got a lot of work done at work, there was not much blog activity.


Not a lot of posting. Again, busy at work. In all, it was a good year.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Python: I really love python. This is the year I really got into it. Thanks to a project that was all python, and some very helpful coworkers that answered all my dumb questions. There will be a post about my new-found love of Python on my blog soon.

Django: This web framework for Python is full-featured, well documented (OMG getting started was as easy as following a simple tutorial), and makes light work of any web development I have to do. Thank you, Django authors!

Ganeti: Still using Ganeti for virtualization. Saves tons of money over, say, VMWare.

FreeBSD + ZFS: My personal (physical hardware) server was running FreeBSD 5.4 (for those of you not familiar with FreeBSD releases, that's so old that not only do they no longer do security patches, but half the new package management utilities started to break). I finally upgraded it to FreeBSD 8.1 and enabled ZFS. Wow, I love ZFS. I wish I could use it everywhere.

Television: This year I upgraded to HDTV, still use my Tivo more than ever, and can't miss an episode of "The Big Bang Theory". If you don't watch this show, set your DVR to record it now.

Favorite web sites: I now get all my technical news from, my political news from and my geek-i-tude from Recently I have discovered the joy that is and I'm becoming addicted.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

DevOps: Giving a name to what the Usenix LISA crowd has always done: automate the shit out of everything. Sadly, LISA isn't getting any credit, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm starting to think of system administration as divided into two things: customer support and computer support. DevOps is the future of computer support. Customer support is, well, I'm ok with it trending towards being done by non-sysadmin people (i.e. highly technical but not sysadmins). The problem is that most shops are too small to justify seperate teams and therefore most people I talk with do both and can't imagine a world where the two groups seperate or divorce or, well, are about as related as any two departments of the same company that need to collaborate. On the other hand, when I bring this up with people that are at larger companies or companies that are primarily web operations it seems obvious.

The fall-out from Oracle buying Sun: Open source people leaving Oracle in droves. Oracle un-open sourcing products like ZFS. The last open source release of products like ZFS being forked and communities developing around them (in particular, ZFS). I upgraded one of my FreeBSD boxes just to run ZFS and I love love love it. This kind of simplicity and power really is the future. I hope a company sprouts up to drive the open source fork of ZFS and is more successful than the closed-source version. While they are forking it they should pick a new name. Establish a new brand identity (I wonder if the licence permits that?). Anyway... the mass exodus from Oracle seems like doom for Oracle but deep down I feel like it is what Oracle wants. In open source you get fame from submitting code. Sun is full of famous people doing great things, and people becoming famous for the great things they've done. Oracle isn't like that. The only person allowed to be famous at Oracle is the CEO, and he doesn't like to share the spotlight. While (insert list of people here) leaving Oracle looks like doom for [ZFS/Dtrace/insert product here] my guess is that Oracle likes this: the product managers can take over and drive the feature selection... no more messy community-implements-what-it-values shenanigans.

Everyone sues everyone: How many mobile and mobile-related companies can sue each other at the same time before my brain expodes? Non-mobile law suits also seem to be piling up.

Regional is "in": In the last 12 months we've seen two regional sysadmin conferences start up. One has had a successful conference in New Jersey and is planning one for 2011 and the other is up to speed and on track to have a successful first conference in a few months (Cascadia IT Conference (Seattle). LOPSA is behind both of these. (I should plug the new NYC chapter of LOPSA!). Speaking of LOPSA...

LOPSA making a come-back: Three big things happened at LOPSA: the lawsuit was finally settled (thanks to Trey for doing a bang-up job of seeing LOPSA through this), a new president brought in new energy, LOPSA's mentoring program is amazing: both in that it serves the community and has gotten more people to volunteer for LOPSA than in ages. The new LOPSA website is a breath of fresh air. Oh, and all those regional conferences (mentioned above) are awesome.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements


  • Feb: BayLISA (usergroup in california) Part 1: Time Management, Part 2: Ganeti
  • Feb: MacWorld (tutorial on Time Management)
  • May: PICC (keynote, 2 tutorials, and a talk)
  • Aug: SAGE-AU (keynote, 3 tutorials)
  • Oct: Usenix LISA (2 tutorials, 1 invited talk, 1 "guru" session)

While I repeat a lot of my material, there were two very original things this year that I'm proud of. (1) The 'Datastructures from the Future' talk at LISA (which you can see slides and video online. (2) my new "time management for teams" half-day tutorial; I put a lot lot lot of effort into this. It is mostly material that has never appeared before in my books, blogs, or articles. I'm glad I was able to premier it at Usenix LISA and hope to repeat it at LOPSA PICC in 2011.


  • December: ACM Queue magazine: "A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins -- 10 Do's and Don'ts"
  • November: "Open Letter to people teaching system administration" (will be reprinted in MacTech magazine soon)
  • October: "A System Administration Parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass"


How many blogposts did I write? A lot!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
11 10 16 5 5 11 11 18 22 32 8 12

According to Google Analytics, the most visitors I got were when I wrote the "Your Computer Room Will Overhead This Weekend" article, which I post every other year, but this time covered it and that drew a lot of attention. I get about 2,000 vists on weeks that I am consistent about posting new articles and I got 6,500 visits when that article got mentioned.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements