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April 2016 Archives

The March/April issue of acmqueue - the magazine written for and by software engineers that leaves no corner of the development world unturned - is now available for download.

This issue contains a preview of a chapter from our next book, the 3rd edition of TPOSANA. This issue contains a preview of a chapter from our next book, the 3rd edition of TPOSANA. The chapter is called "The Small Batches Principle". We are very excited to be able to bring you this preview and hope you find the chapter fun and educational. The book won't be out until Oct 7, 2016, so don't miss this opportunity to read it early!

The bimonthly issues of acmqueue are free to ACM Professional members. (One-year subscription cost is $19.99 for non-ACM members.) You can also buy a single issue. For more information.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ACM Queue Column

[This is a rant. Take it with a grain of salt.]

You know what's great about "the cloud"? I don't have you deal with [insert server vendor's name] support process that is so complex and broken that it makes me want to die. If a machine in AWS/GCP/Azure dies I don't have to load a f***ing flash-based web page that breaks on .... oh my god... every browser except one that is 10 years old and runs on an OS that I don't use... and .... god damn it what do you mean my account isn't cleared for that product and... F***!!! what do you mean I'm required to lie to get the service I need??? and... no.. don't ship it to "me" ship it to the datacenter and.... AAAAAHHHHRRRRGHHH!!!

Here's a clue: if your support process requires your customers to lie, it is broken.

Oh, and every vendor has a different process that takes months to learn. If we have many vendors, it is an entirely different set of frustrating and illogical processes that must be learned for each one. If we only have incidents occasionally, we'll never actually learn the process.

[Insert vendor name here]... you're competition isn't [other hardware company]. It is switching to AWS/GCP/Azure so that I don't have to f'ing deal with you and your broken processes any more.

The same goes for [other hardware company]. ..and [that other one too]. You're all terrible and deserve to go out of business.

You will, of course, as everyone moves to the cloud. The cloud providers make their own hardware. Everyone that "moves to the cloud" is a customer you'e lost. A knife in your back. The more popular cloud providers become, the less need there is for Dell/HP/etc. to exist.

Eventually a time will come where the only people that aren't using AWS/GCP/Azure/DigitalOcean/Rackspace are people that can't for regulatory reasons. The market for on-prem hardware will be so small that the industry will have to consolidate. You'll have the cloud providers that make their own hardware plus "Bob's house of server hardware that I sell to the sorry lot that can't use the cloud". BHOSH will be like dealing with Roz from Monster's Inc. You don't want to deal with her if it can be avoided, but she can't be avoided.

It will be so terrible that industries lobby to change the regulations to permit use of cloud providers.

If they succeed then the market for on-prem hardware will shrink more and the only people that will actually need server hardware won't have any vendors to buy from. That sorry lot will have to buy desktop hardware and iPads and retrofit them with Linux to run their local services. Maybe ARM and IoT devices will become powerful enough that they can run [insert ironic service for comic effect] for on-prem computation.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Rants

CU-Boulder will be hosting an event on April 26, 2016, to celebrate the life of Evi Nemeth who passed away three years ago. You may remember Evi from her many books on system administration, her tutorials at Usenix LISA, or many of her other projects that influenced system administration as it exists today.

... we will celebrate the life of retired professor Evi Nemeth, an accomplished sailor who was lost at sea in June 2013. Evi joined the department in 1980 and was one its foundational figures for 20 years. She is best remembered for her rigorous data structures class and for providing a safe haven and confidence-building experiences for a generation of students who didn't fit the typical academic mold.

All parents, alumni and friends of the Department of Computer Science and of Evi Nemeth are invited to attend the expo. Alumni, parents and friends are asked to RSVP at

(from this article at CU-Boulder's website)

If anyone that reads this blog is able to attend, please send a report about the event. I'd be glad to post it here on this blog.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Evi Nemeth

A program I wrote that worked for quite some time started failing. It turns out someone tried to use it to process a file with text encoded as UTF16. The file came from a Windows system and, considering things like UoW, this situation is just going to start happening more frequently.

Golang has a great package for dealing with various UTF encodings. That said, it still took me a few hours to figure out how to make an equivalent of ioutil.ReadFile(). I wrapped up what I learned and made it into a module. Everything should just work like magic.

  • Instead of using os.Open(), use utfutil.OpenFile().
  • Instead of ioutil.ReadFile(), use utfutil.ReadFile().

The module is available on Github:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Tips

Our next guest will be kc claffy. We'll be discussing her talk from LISA '15 titled Named Data Networking.

Watch live! We'll be recording the episode on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 3:30-4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Particpate in the live Q&A by submitting your questions during the broadcast. Pre-registration is recommended but not required. Register and/or watch via this link.

The recorded episode will be available shortly afterwards on YouTube.

You won't want to miss this!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

Episode 8 of LISA Conversations is Caskey Dickson, who presented Why Your Manager LOVES Technical Debt and What to Do About It at LISA '15.

You won't want to miss this!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in LISA Conversations

Velocity Santa Clara is June 20-23, 2016. Sadly I can't attend this year due to a pre-existing commitment. However you can still register. Do it before the early discount evaporates!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Velocity

There are two things you can do if you want to understand the future of system administration.

First, if you want to see what DevOps will be like 5-10 years out, you can read the amazing new book, Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems. I read a preview copy and it was excellent. Many different Google SRE teams got together to produce a very well-rounded book that covers all aspects of Google's SRE program, which is easily 5-10 years ahead of the industry. (Pre-order from O'Reilly or Amazon Kindle or Paper) Congrats to the editors Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Jennifer Petoff, and Niall Richard Murphy on a great addition to the IT cannon.

Second, if you want to see what SRE will look like in 30-50 years, you should watch the 2009 movie "Moon" staring Sam Rockwell. Anything I say would be a spoiler, so you'll just have to trust me. (BTW, the trailer is full of spoilers. Don't watch it!)

Congrats to all of Google SRE on the publication of the new O'Reilly book! I predict it will be a big hit! (and thanks for letting me blurb the back cover!)

[P.S. I apologize in advance for the very link-bait'y title. What I mean to say is that Google SRE is devops at an incredible scale.]

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in DevOps

Whether or not you are in a DevOps environment, please take this survey. The data is useful for helping improve the situation for system administrators of all kinds.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in DevOps