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June 2011 Archives

The end of MySpace

"After $35 million sale, MySpace is now an advertiser's space"

I should have linked to this article when I saw it a few months ago:

Workers inside MySpace tell me that this infrastructure, which they say has "hundreds of hacks to make it scale that no one wants to touch" is hamstringing their ability to really compete.
I seem to recall another article claiming that MySpace had no dev-test-live system; developers pushed code directly onto the live system. I can't find a this article, so maybe I dreamed it. Either way, could you imagine the fear of pushing new features if you had to work like that? Could you retain a single good developer if they were expected to work that way? (Post a comment if you can confirm this is true.)
I remember back when I worked at Microsoft that folks in the evangelism department bragged that they got MySpace to switch to Microsoft technologies like ASP.NET
I remember reading about that and thinking, "Well, at least it got them off ColdFusion."

Posted by Tom Limoncelli


In the future, the ultimate insult will be in the form: I know you can't see it, but I've added you to a Google+ circle called __.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Funny

Facebook Fatigue

I stopped using Facebook 8 months ago. CNN's article "Why some dissatisfied users are shunning Facebook" reminded me that I haven't written an article to explain why.

There were a number of reasons. Obviously, yes, as a Google employee I was kind of sick of hearing the media yammer about Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. There was an extra large amount of hype then, especially since "The Social Network" film came out. (As an aside... I enjoyed that movie immensely and recommend it to all. I love Sorkin's writing style.)

However the big reason was time management related. I had a number of big important projects on my plate, both at work and outside of work. I did, as I recommend in my time management book, pause to take a serious look at where I was spending my time and compared it to my priorities. My "time use inventory" showed I was spending 2 hours a day on Facebook. 14 hours a week? That's like having a part-time job! What was I gaining from it? Mostly knowing intimate details of the lives of people I didn't know very well. This was not as high on my priority list as those other projects.

Social networks create an "artificial intimacy". Years ago a friend pointed this out about Facebook. I hadn't met in person for 2 years and he commented that because of Livejournal he felt like we were in constant contact. He knew all about what I had been up to. He explained his concept of "artificial intimacy" and asked if I had experienced the same thing. Sadly I hadn't experienced this phenomenon... I had stopped reading his LiveJournal a long time ago.

Before I disabled my account I tried to cut down. I purged 300 people from my friends list. That was an improvement, but not as much as I had hoped. I tried "no Facebook while at work" but that just meant I spent more time on FB when I was home; and my home time is much more precious and scarce! Why was I squandering it on FB? I tried only using it while on the train (35 minutes twice a day) but the mobile experience sucked and it was less efficient than what I had been doing on the train: listening to Podcasts that inform and educate me. Mobile use was also frustrating as I couldn't write long detailed replies from my phone.

However the last straw was when I heard the term "FBHW"... "Facebook Homework". A friend referred to the need to catch up on his "FBHW". The fact that it was a burden or an obligation to stay on top of FB was the final straw. I was feeling guilty for not staying up to date and I didn't like that.

In TM4SA I write a bit about how guilt negatively effects our ability to manage our time well. I emphasize this a lot more in my in-person training. In fact, I go as far as to refer to many of the techniques combining to create "guilt-free time management system". If higher priority projects weren't getting enough time and attention because I was feeling guilty about not being up to date on my Facebook Homework, then something had to change.

As an experiment I disabled my account. FB makes that a little hard... they obscure the option and then go so far as to show you picture of your friends claiming these are the people that will miss me (more guilt!). However, one of the pictures they randomly selected is someone I actually dislike and was only not defriending him to not offend his wife (more guilt!). See that photo made it much easier to click the final button to deactivate my account.

I thought I'd disable it for a month (they make it easy to re-activate the account). However it is now 8 months later and with the added 2 hours each day, I'm getting better reviews at work, spending more time on projects that are important to me, and having more fun.

The people that I care about still stay in touch by other means. I haven't missed any important news. Reading keeps me more informed anyway.

I'm not saying that everyone should get off Facebook or social networks.

I haven't eliminated social networks from my life. I use Twitter a lot (and I gateway my Tweets to Google Buzz). I find that when I have a few minutes while waiting on line I can bring up Twitter on my phone and get a splash of news and information from both friends and traditional news sources. Filling that kind of void has a lot of utility, and maybe that's the only part of FB that I really liked. Twitter has the advantage that the stream is such a flood that I don't try to stay up to date. I expect that I'll miss a lot of messages and that's ok. No guilt.

Since I've left FB I have been shocked to see that companies no longer list the URLs in advertisements, they list their Facebook page. This worries me. It seems a lot like the RealNames scam from the early dotcom boom. I could go off on a long rant about the importance of open protocols and distributed authority but that's an article for another time. ...and I have more important things to do.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

"Today marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, a noted polymath and cryptanalyst who is regarded by many as being the grandfather of modern computing."

The link is to a great article. Worth the read.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I've been using "screen" since 1995ish. After reading "Is tmux the GNU Screen killer?" I gave tmux a try. I' a convert.

Amazingly enough, I haven't even set up a config file. I'm using the defaults and so far I'm happy.

The only changes I might make in the config file:

  • The default command key should be CTRL-] (that's just a matter of taste)
  • Cmd-SPACE should go to the next window

Color me impressed!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Your Dial Telephone

If only my cell phone was so simple!

Now You Can Dial: An Instructional Video from AT&T.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli

The journey of a thousand miles begins... with a field trial to verify assumptions.

You need to do one before you do a thousand. If you are painting a house, try the paint on a part of the house people can't see. If you are upgrading systems, do a few first before you start the mass migration.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... with doing it manually a few times, writing down the process, making sure the team agrees, then automating it.

The only way to automate something is to make sure you know how to do it manually first.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... starts with the least risk adverse customers before rolling out to other groups.

Once I was on a team that served 5 customer groups. The leader of one of those groups literally told us to upgrade them first because they want to be on the cutting edge. We told him we would but that was a lie. They were the biggest cry babies. They wanted to go first because they thought it was a status symbol. We started upgrades with a different group, one that were risk-taker and good at partnering and reporting bugs. Then a few more groups. The status-seekers were next to last. The last was the group that was definitely risk adverse and was happy to go last.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... after we forego backwards compatibility since the old system sucks but the users dont know it yet.

If you are maintaining backwards compatibility you are holding onto the past. Break compatibility when you need to. Customers will grumble but afterwords they'll thank you.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... after we promise backwards compatibilty with the previous journey.

Because other wise they'll sabatage our project. They'll find out how compatible things are when its too late.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... begins right away and asks forgiveness later.

Asking for permission shows you are looking for an excuse to procrastinate.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... never gets started if too many approvals are required.

Once you have been asked to get approvals from more than 3 managers you should just abandon the project. They're trying to tell you they don't want the project done. Or, that you should do a trial without asking and ask again once you have a working demo. The person that invented gmail was told by everyone "that's a dumb idea". When he showed a barely working demo the same people begged to use it. In theory Wikipedia can't possibly work. It only works in practice.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... is first mocked, then fought against, then considered obvious what we've always done.

Often paraphrased. Google it if you haven't heard.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... with celebrations for those that will end up doing the least amount of actual work.

Let them have their gory. You're here for the pleasure of doing good work.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... after the new budget is approved and we hear from legal.

Which means never. You go to legal if you are afraid to say "no" and want someone else to blame. Though, I've worked at some companies where legal's job was to figure out a way to get to navigate through the rough waters so that the goal can get achieved. There you and legal become partners against the real enemy: the PR department.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... if tell everyone it's 1 mile then use our success to get approval for the remainder.

See the gmail story above.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... if we claim it solves the CEO's 'emergency of the week' even though it fixes something else.

I once got approval to set up a single-signon-system for the entire 100-person company because I told the CEO that it would solve... I don't even remember but it got me the budget I needed.

The journey of a thousand miles begins... after we rephrase it using buzzwords to get political support.

Do it in the cloud, damn you!

The journey of a thousand miles begins... late at night so the manager that rejected it doesn't know we're doing it anyway.

When I was at [company name deleted to protect the innocent] the developers proposed restructuring how they would work in ways that today we'd describe as "Agile Methodology" (but before that term was coined). The the CEO not only rejected it but forbid us from doing it that way. That's what the VP of engineering said. We did it any way we just never told him. When he got 3 releases, one per month, instead of having to wait 3 months for any features at all he was so happy he stood up in front of the whole company and talked about our fantastic work. Did we point out that he had forbid us from doing what he was praising us for? Hell no.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I've stopped using the term "Cloud Computing" except when referring to the general trend. I use SaaS, IaaS and PaaS so that I say exactly what I mean. As a technical person this helps me keep my conversation succinct and focused.

  • SaaS: Software as a Service:, Google Apps, etc.
  • PaaS: Platform as a Service: Google App Engine and similar systems.
  • IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service: Amazon EC2, Eucalyptus, etc.

Or, if you want a way to remember it easier:

  • SaaS: It's a web site!
  • PaaS: It's a framework!
  • IaaS: It's a VM!

"Cloud" is what marketing and non-technical people use. I'm ok with that.

And one more thing. I've found this article is good for giving to managers and other people that need to understand the terminology and get up to speed on what's happening: Communications of the ACM: A View of Cloud Computing

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I'll be speaking at LOPSA-NYC Tuesday, June 14, 7pm. Please pre-register to speed your way through security.

Come here me speak about the Ganeti open source project. Think virtualization clusters have to cost big bucks? Think virtualization isn't useful for a small site? Come and find out why a person that usually talks about Time Management thinks virtualization is his new favorite time management trick.

Here is the official announcement.

  • Topic: Ganeti: Open source virtualization (like VMWare ESX + VMotion but open source)
  • Speaker: Tom Limoncelli, Google, Inc
  • When: Tuesday, June 14, 7pm - 9:30pm

  • Description: Ganeti is a cluster virtual server management software tool built on top of existing virtualization technologies such as Xen or KVM and other Open Source software. Ganeti takes care of disk creation, migration, OS installation, shutdown, startup, and can be used to preemptively move a virtual machine off a physical machine that is starting to get sick. It doesn't require a big expensive SAN, complicated networking, or a lot of money. The project is used around the world by many organizations; it is sponsored by Google and hosted at

  • Registration:

Please make sure to register on the page to avoid any issues with DE Shaw security and entering the building.

As previously mentioned, I'll be the speaker at LOPSA-NYC.

Come here me speak about the Ganeti open source project. Think virtualization clusters have to cost big bucks? Think virtualization isn't useful for a small site? Come and find out why a person that usually talks about Time Management thinks virtualization is his new favorite time management trick.

Hope to see you there!

(Please pre-register so you can get through security quickly.)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in GanetiLOPSANYCSpeakingTime Management

on the topic of Ganeti: More info here

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

This is too good not to share. This humor site is addicting.

These are two of my favorites:

"OSI model jokes work on so many levels"


The site is:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

PBS had, by far, the best coverage of World IPv6 Day. The piece was technically accurate, informative, picked excellent people to interview, and had no "doom" hype. The broadcast piece is here. Additional material that didn't make it into the broadcast is here.

The worst coverage? A certain network magazine that covered it as some kind of Y2K Doomsday Conspiracy Theory. I won't mention their name. F---tards.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

The official deadline is today, Thursday: June 9, 2011, 11:59 p.m. PDT or UTC/GMT -7 hours (click to see when that is in your timezone).

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I'm going to be extremely technical here. Sysadmins should really understand what World IPv6 Day is.

Does it mean the world is converting to IPv6 today? No. No, not at all. The upgrade requires technical planning and work. It can't happen without your help and without your knowing. Besides, the plan is to move to "dual stacked" IPv4+IPv6 on all hosts/networks and run that way for a good long time.

Does it mean my ISP is going to enable IPv6 on my connection? No. Not at all. (Seriously, folks, when was the last time your ISP added a feature without you having to beg for it first?)

So what does it mean?

You know that an IPv4 host as a DNS "A" record. Right?

You may know that an IPv6 host has a DNS "AAAA" record. (it is 4 times longer than IPv4, get it?)

Do a DNS lookup of and you'll get both an A record and a AAAA record.

A machine that is "IPv4-only" will ignore the AAAA record.

A machine that is "IPv6-only" will ignore the A record.

A machine that is "IPv4 and IPv6 dual stack" will try AAAA first.

Makes sense, right?

Macs, Windows, Linux boxes and a lot of other equipment comes with IPv6 enabled so that if you plug into a network that handles IPv6 it will just magically work. This is freakin' awesome.

It also causes a small problem.

Here's the problem. If you plug into a badly configured router, your machine might think there is IPv6. Maybe there is just for that subnet but not from that subnet to the ISP. What would a machine do in that situation? It would try the AAAA-record, and those packets would go nowhere. Eventually the machine will try the A-record, but that could be 30 seconds away. Not a happy experience.

The machines with this problem are about 0.05% of the internet. Not a lot, but not zero.

So what do sites do?

Google (for example) has AAAA-records for nearly all its services. However, if the DNS query comes over IPv4 it doesn't show you the AAAA-records. It only gives them to users that do their DNS queries over IPv6.

This is pretty cool if you think about it. If your DNS query could get to Google over IPv6, it must be safe for you to do your http over IPv6 too. Smart, right?

Google, Bing and tons of other sites do this trick.

Now that you know all that, I can tell you what "World IPv6 Day" is.

It is 24 hours where sites are going to give you the AAAA-record AND the A-record even if the DNS query came over IPv4.

That's it? Basically, yes, that's it.

How does this affect you?

You see, it isn't about the 0.05% of the users. It is about YOU and YOUR NETWORK which is causing one of those 0.05% to be in that 0.05%!

If you find a machine that is having problems, you can disable IPv6. However you should also fix whats wrong with that network. Disable IPv6 on the router or (much better) fix the IPv6 connectivity between the machine and "the internet".

Got it?


Here's what you can do:

Oh, and the day also raises awareness of the IPv6 issue in the media and in the technical world. That's a good thing too.

Thank you for listening.

P.S. If your machine has IPv6 enabled it will create a "link local" IP address. That isn't enough for it to think it has IPv6 connectivity.

P.P.S. People that attend LOPSA PICC had an amazing IPv6 half-day tutorial. Neener neener!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in IPv6