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July 2014 Archives

Honest Life Hacks

I usually don't blog about "funny web pages" I found but this is relevant to the blog. People often forward me these "amazing life hacks that will blow your mind" articles because of the Time Management Book.

First of all, I shouldn't have to tell you that these are linkbait (warning: autoplay).

Secondly, here's a great response to all of these: Honest Life Hacks.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

This being System Administrator Appreciation Day, I'd like to give a shout out to all the people of the community.

If you aren't a system administrator, but have technical questions that you want to bring to your system administrator, this is the place for you. Do you feel bad that you keep interrupting your office IT person with questions? Maybe you should try SuperUser first. You might get your answers faster.

Whether it is a question about your home cable modem, or the mysteries of having to reboot after uninstalling software (this discussion will surprise you); this community will probably reduce the number of times each week that you interrupt your IT person.

If you are a system administrator, and like to help people, consider poking around the unanswered questions page!

Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day!


P.S. "The Practice of System and Network Administration" is InformIT's "eBook deal of the day" and can be purchased at an extreme discount for 24 hours.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

This being System Administrator Appreciation Day, I'd like to give a shout out to all the people on who help system administrators find the answers to their questions. If you are patient, understanding, and looking to help fellow system administrators, this is a worthy community to join.

I like to click on the "Unanswered" button and see what questions are most in need of a little love.

Sometimes I click on the "hot this week" tab and see what has been answered recently. I always learn a lot. Today I learned:

ServerFault also has a chatroom Chatroom which is a useful place to hang out and meet the other members.

Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day!


P.S. "The Practice of System and Network Administration" is InformIT's "eBook deal of the day" and can be purchased at an extreme discount for 24 hours.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Many years ago I was working at a company and our department's administrative assistant was very strict about not letting people call her a "secretary". She made one exception, however, on "Secretary Appreciation Day".

I'm an SRE at That's a Site Reliability Engineer. We try to hold to the ideals of what a SRE as set forth by Ben Treynor's keynote at SRECon.

My job title is "SRE". Except one day each year. Since today is System Administrator Appreciation Day, I'm definitely a system administrator... today.

Sysadmins go by many job titles. The company I work for provides Question and Answer communities on over 120 topics. Many of them are technical and appeal to the many things that are system administrators.

We also have fun sites of interest to sysadmins like Video Games and Skeptics.

All these sites are fun places to poke around and read random answers. Of course, contributing answers is fun too.

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day!

P.S. "The Practice of System and Network Administration" is InformIT's "eBook deal of the day" and can be purchased at an extreme discount for 24 hours.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

O'Reilly is running a special deal for Celebrate SysAdmin Day. For one day only, SAVE 50% on a wide range of system administration ebooks and training videos from If you scroll down to page 18, you'll find Time Management for System Administrators is included.

50% off is pretty astounding. Considering that the book is cheaper than most ($19.99 for the eBook) there's practically no excuse to not have a copy. Finding the time to read it... that may be another situation entirely. I hate to say "you owe it to yourself" but, seriously, if you are stressed out, overworked, and under appreciated this might be a good time to take a break and read the first chapter or two.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Today is Sysadmin Appreciation Day! We appreciate all of you! The Practice of System and Network Administration is today's InformIT eBook Deal of the Day. Click on the link to get a special discount.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I'll be the September speaker at the CloudAustin Meetup. I'll be talking about our new book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration.

For more info:

Thanks to the organizers for moving their meeting date to adjust for my travel schedule. I'd also like to thank the Austin DevOps Meetup for jointly hosting this meeting.

I'll be giving the Tuesday closing talk about what enterprise IT can learn from cloud or "distributed computing."

I've just been booked to speak at PLUG/Central in October. I'll be speaking about our newest book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration.

For a list of all upcoming speaking engagements, visit our appearances page:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Book News

Do you live near Austin? I'll be speaking at the Austin Cloud Meetup in September. They're moving their meeting to coincide with my trip there to speak at the SpiceWorld conference. More info here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Did you catch Vint Cerf on The Colbert Report last night?

He talks about Al Gore's involvement in funding the NSFNET, and the need for IPv6 deployments.

Vint handles handles Cobert brilliantly. He literally blows Cobert out of the water in a few places.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in IPv6

I'll be the speaker at the July PuppetNYC MeetUp. See you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

[This article first appeared in the SAGE-AU newsletter.]

Have you heard about the New York City broadway show Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark? It should have been a big success. The music was written by Bono and the Edge from U2. It was directed by Julie Taymor, who had previously created many successful shows including The Lion King. Sadly, before it opened, the show was already making headlines due to six actors getting seriously injured and other issues.

The show opened late, but it did finally open. It ran from June 2011 to January 2014.

When the show closed Taymor said that one of the biggest problems with bringing the show to production was that they were using new technology that was difficult to work with. Many of the scenes involved choreography that was highly dependent on pre-programmed robotics. Any changes that involved the robotics required a 5 hour wait.

A 5 hour wait?

Normally directors and choreographers can attempt dozens of changes in a day of rehearsal to get a scene or dance number "just right." Imagine finding yourself in a situation where you can only attempt a new change once or twice a day.

The ability to confidently make changes at will is key to being able to innovate. Innovation means trying new things and keeping what works, throwing away what doesn't. If you can't make changes, then you can't innovate.

Consider the opposite of innovation. We've all been at a company that resists change or has calcified to the point where they are unable to make change. Nothing can get better if you can't change policies, procedures, or technology. Since entropy means things slowly get worse over time, an organization that is unable to change, by definition, is an organization that is spiraling towards doom.

I'm reminded of this recently due to the Heartbleed security issue. Like most system administrators, the Heartbleed bug meant I had to spend a lot of time upgrading the software and firmware of nearly every system in their organization. For many of us it meant discovering systems that hadn't been upgraded in so long that the implications were unknown. As sysadmins we wanted to protect ourselves against this security flaw, but we also had to face our own fear of change.

We need to create a world where we are able to change, or "change-able".

There are many factors that enable us to be "change-able". One factor is frequency: we can make change, one after the next, in rapid succession.

Software upgrades: Every 1-3 years there is a new Microsoft Windows operating system and upgrading requires much care and planning. Systems are wiped and reloaded because we are often re-inventing the world from scratch with each upgrade. On the other hand, software that is upgraded frequently requires less testing each time because the change is less of a "quantum leap". In addition, we get better at the process because we do it often. We automate the testing, the upgrade process itself, we design systems that are field-upgradable or hot-upgradable because we have to... otherwise these frequent upgrades would be impossible.

Procedures: Someone recently told me he doesn't document his process for doing something because it only happens once a year and by then the process has changed. Since he has to reinvent the procedure each time the best he can do is keep notes about how the process worked last time. Contrast this to a procedure that is done weekly or daily. You can probably document it well enough that, barring major changes, you can delegate the process to a more junior person.

Software releases: If you collaborate with developers who put out releases infrequently, each release contains thousands of changes. A bug could be in any of those changes. Continuous Delivery systems compile and test the software after every source code change. Any new bugs discovered are likely to be found in the very small change that was recently checked in.

Another factor in being "change-able" is the how difficult it is to make a change.

I've been at companies where making a DNS change required editing 5 different files on two different systems, manually running a series of tests and then saying a prayer. I've been at others where one typed a command to insert to delete the record, and the rest just happened for me.

When it is difficult to make a change, we make them less often. We are tempted to avoid any action that requires that kind of change. This has a domino effect that slows and delays other projects. Or, it means we make the decision to live with a bad situation rather than fix it. You settle for less.

When we make changes less frequently, we get worse at doing them. Therefore they become more risky to do. Because they are more risky, we do them even less. It becomes a downward spiral.

DevOps is, if anything, about making operations more "change-able". Everyone has their own definition of DevOps, but what they all have in common is that DevOps makes operations better able to change: change more frequently and change more easily. The result is confidence in our ability to make changes. In that way, confidence is a precondition to being able to innovate.

Which brings us back to Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. How much innovation could really happen if each change took 5 hours? Imagine paying a hundred dancers, actors, and technicians to do nothing for 5 hours waiting for the next iteration. You can't send them home. You can't tell them "come in for a few minutes every 5 hours". You would, instead, avoid change and settle for less. You would settle for what you have instead of fixing the problems.

Would DevOps have saved Spiderman? Would a more change-able world make me less fearful of the next Heartbleed


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in DevOpsWriting is up and online! This is our new website dedicated to promoting The Practice of Cloud System Administration. It has a few incomplete pages, but we've decided to start spreading the word now.

Check it out!

I'll be giving a tutorial called "Time Management for Busy DevOps" as part of the tutorial track, Monday at 3:30pm. Details here.

I'll be speaking at the July NYC Puppet Meetup meeting about the Puppet BlackBox project. If you missed this talk at PuppetCamp NYC, don't miss it here!

  • Tuesday, July 22, 2014
  • 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
  • The Ladders, 137 Varick St. 3rd Floor, New York, NY

Full details are available at meetup.

See you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

I'll be the inaugural speaker at the new meetup for people interested in DevOps and Automation in New Jersey, Monday, August 18, 2014, in Clifton, NJ

We moved our NYC datacenter to a new colo facility last month. We hired a moving company that specializes in moving racks of equipment. They did a great job. Here's a timelapse recording of them packing everything up.

These are the computers that run Q&A websites like (system administration questions) as well as 125 others! Check 'em out!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Safari Books Online now has all chapters of The Practice of Cloud Administration. "Rough Cuts" are pre-editing drafts. You get to see the book with all the typos and misspelled words... but 2-3 months before the real book is available:

If you want to get some fan-only details about the book and other inside information. Join our mailing list

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