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Two meetings this month. Both at different times and locations. Be sure to show up at the right time and place!


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityNYC

This month's NYCDevOps meeting (hosted at the HQ) has special guest speakers Bridget Kromhout and Casey West talking about running Docker images in Cloud Foundry's Elastic Runtime and orchestrating containerized workloads on Lattice.

  • Date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015
  • Time: 6:30 PM
  • Place: The Stack Overflow HQ (near Wall St.)
  • You must RSVP and bring an ID to get into the building.

You should join me at this Meetup. Check it out and RSVP!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityDevOps

I hope you are fully appreciated today and every day.

For more info about SysAdmin Day, visit

If you are in the NYC area, please come to SysDrink's SysAd Day event tonight at 6pm at The Gingerman in mid-town Manhatten. There will be an open bar. This year's event is sponsored by Digital Ocean.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunitySysAdminDay

If you are in NYC, there is a SysAdmin Appreciation day event at The Gingerman, 11 E 36th Ave, New York City, NY, on Friday, July 31, 2015, 6:00 PM. This event usually has a big turn-out and is a great way to meet and network with local admins.

RSVP here:

Thanks to Digital Ocean for sponsoring this event, and Justin, Jay, Nathan and the other organizers for putting this together every year.

Hope to see you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

I literally never thought I'd see this day arrive.

In 1991/1992 I was involved in passing the LGB anti-discrimination law in New Jersey. When it passed in January 1992, I remember a reporter quoting one of our leaders that marriage was next. At the time I thought Marriage Equality would be an impossible dream, something that wouldn't happen in my lifetime. Well, less than quarter-century later, it has finally happened.

In the last few years more than 50% of the states approved marriage equality and soon it became a foregone conclusion. States are the "laboratory of democracy" and with 26 states (IIRC) having marriage equality, its about time to declare that the experiment is a success.

There were always predictions that marriage equality would somehow "ruin marriage" but in the last decade of individual states having marriage equality not a single example has come forward. What has come forward has been example after example of problems from not having marriage equality. The Oscar winning documentary "Freeheld" is about one such example. Having different laws in different states don't just create confusion, it hurts families.

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable", wrote Martin Luther King Jr. It is not automatic: it doesn't "just happen", it requires thousands of little steps.

This day only happened because of thousands of activists working for many years, plus hundreds of thousands of supporters, donors, and millions of "like" buttons clicked.

A lot of people make jokes about lawyers but I never do. No civil rights law or court decision ever happens without a lawyer writing legislation or arguing before a court. The legal presentations given in Obergefell v. Hodges were top notch. Implementing the decision requires operational changes that will require policy makers, legal experts, and community activists to work together.

This is really an amazing day.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityPolitics

On Tuesday, Oct 21st, I'll be speaking at the Denver DevOps Meetup. It is short notice, but if you happen to be in the area, please come! I'll be talking about the new book and how DevOps principles can make the world a better place. I'll have a copy or two to give away, and special discount codes for everyone.

The meeting is at the Craftsy Offices, 999 18th St., Suite 240, Denver, CO. For more information and to RSVP, please go to

Concerning PICC

Today, Wednesday, October 8, 2014, we, Matt Simmons and Thomas Limoncelli, resigned from the board of Professional IT Community Conferences, Inc. also known as "PICC". PICC is the New Jersey non-profit business entity that has backed LOPSA-East and Cascadia since 2011. Those two conferences should be unaffected as it was already agreed that they would find new organization(s) to work with for their 2015 conferences.

As of June 10, 2014, PICC, Inc. had voted to and was in the process of being dissolved. However we feel this process has become impossible due to the remaining board member's foot-dragging and at times outright deceptive actions. We can not be on a board of an organization that conducts business in that way. We feel that the community deserves better and should request transparency from PICC, Inc. during its dissolution process.

We look forward to the future success of the organizations and events with which PICC has been affiliated.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

As you know, I live in New Jersey. I'm excited to announce that some fine fellow New Jerseyians have started a DevOps Meetup. The first meeting will be on Monday, Aug 18, 2014 in Clifton, NJ. I'm honored to be their first speaker.

More info at their MeetUp Page:

DevOps and Automation NJ Group

Hope to see you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityDevOps

LOPSA NJ's February meeting is at two different restaurants, Northern NJ and Southern-ish NJ. The planned discussion topic is "What are some of the most challenging problems that have come up in the last 24 months?"

In the past these "cluster meetings" have been really fun, full of interesting war stories as well as technical info.

If you are in the area, I hope see see you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

You know Black Friday and Cyber Monday... did you know that tomorrow (Dec 3) is "Giving Tuesday"? Many charities receive most of their donations in December as people rush to donate before the tax year is over. These donations determine if in 2014 they'll be able to grow or will they have to cut back.

I'd like to highlight three charities that I think are having a huge impact on our world and encourage you to donate too:

  1. USENIX Annual Fund. You probably think of USENIX as the organization that hosts the LISA conference. It is so much more. However what I'd like to point out is that they are on the cutting edge of keeping academic publications "open access". Academic papers should be published and made as widely available; not hidden behind a paywall. Making that happen is expensive and they need your support. Donate today.

  2. The FreeBSD Foundation. Many of the innovations that spread out the all Unix and Unix-like systems start in FreeBSD. The Foundation's fund-raising efforts are essential to keeping FreeBSD free. As the Project grows, so do the costs. By donating to the foundation, you are helping us fund and manage projects, sponsor FreeBSD events, and provide travel grants to FreeBSD developers. You are also helping us represent the Project in executing contracts, license agreements, copyrights, trademarks, and other legal arrangements that require a recognized legal entity. Donate today.

  3. Lyon-Martin Health Services. By making a donation today, you are making sure that Lyon-Martin can continue its life-saving mission of caring for women, lesbian, and transgender people, regardless of their ability to pay. I appreciate that so many of my readers support LGBT rights and when I post something related to that on Facebook I am impressed by the number of "likes" I get from people I don't even know. Well here's an organization that is in the trenches doing the hard work of providing services that transform lives. Donate today.

Please consider donating to these causes. Even a minimum donation goes a long way! For example the FreeBSD Foundation is trying to increase the number of donors (a requirement by some grant-making organizations), so donating the minimum will not cost you much but will help them greatly!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

You want to innovate: deploy new technologies such as configuration management (CfEngine, Puppet, Chef), a wiki, or standardized configurations. Your coworkers don't want change. They like it the way things are. Therefore, they consider you evil. However you aren't evil, you just want to make things better.

Learn how to:

  • Brainwash your coworkers into thinking the big change was "their idea".
  • Program people like you program computers: a flowchart for every personality type.
  • How to fix that your "Stormtroopers can't shoot straight".
  • Help your coworkers understand and agree to your awesome ideas.
  • Convince your manager about anything. Really.
  • Turn the most stubborn user into your biggest fan.
  • Get others to trust you so they are more easily convinced.
  • Deciding which projects to do when you have more projects than time.
  • Make decisions based on data and evidence.
  • Drive improvements based on a methodology and planning instead of guessing and luck.

LOPSA-East is May 3-4, 2013 in beautiful New Brunswick, NJ. Register for my class and other great presentations today!

The Early Bird Registration Deadline ends today! Save up to $197 by registering early!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Over at the Mozilla IT blog is a new post by Sheeri Cabral that every sysadmin in our community should read.

Blog post: When I Moved Abroad

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Would you like to do a lightning talk at the next BBLISA meeting?

[ This message comes from Matt Simmons at the Standalone Sysadmin blog. ]

Do you love lightning talks? Because I love lightning talks.

When I found out that the DC DevOps group had an entire meeting dedicated to lightning talks, I was jealous. I mentioned the idea to John, Adam, and crew of BBLISA, and they liked it. Of course, when you volunteer an idea, you volunteer /for/ that idea, too, so if you look at the BBLISA Calendar (, you'll see my name organizing the April meeting. Fun, right?

OK, so here's the plan.

For the April 10, 2013 meeting, I want somewhere between 9 and 12 five-minute lightning talks, which you'll know is around an hour if you're good at quick math. After the lightning talks are over, I want do a "round table" type discussion, where we talk about the interesting things that we heard, and we can get more information on some of the topics. I think it's the best part of lightning talks (being exposed to crazy new ideas) and what always happens after lightning talks (people crowding around the presenters they saw so they can ask questions and learn more). But this way, we all get to learn more.

Here's what I need, though. Lightning talks (obviously?). I need you (yes, you the person reading this message) to give a lightning talk. It's super easy. It's literally five minutes or less of you geeking out about something that you love. If you would come up to your friends and geek out for five minutes about something, then that's all I'm asking you to do now. It's just that your friends are BBLISA, in this case. It's also really great practice if you signed up for a lightning talk at LOPSA-East (

To make this easier, I created a Google Form:

Just fill out the form. I'll get it, and I'll be in touch to answer any questions or concerns.

The meeting is scheduled for April 10th, and socialization starts at 7pm. We're in MIT E-51, Room 315 ( or, if you want directions,

Please take a second to figure out what you'd like to present on, fill out the form, and come present. I'd love to hear about your idea, and I know everyone else would, too.


Matt Simmons

-- BBLISA was founded in July 1992 to provide a forum for meetings and presentations of interest to system and network administrators in Boston, MA, and the surrounding areas.

Attendance at meetings is free, and everyone is welcome.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Find out at LOPSA-East (formerly PICC) May 3-4, 2013, New Brunswick, NJ

(Early Bird Registration ends April 1st! Space is limited!)

In late October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc on the east coast. It was the second costliest hurricane in US history causing widespread power and service disruptions. George Beech, a System Aministrator at Stack Overflow, will be presenting a talk at LOPSA-East 2013 about their successful failover to a backup datacenter and what it took to keep their primary New York City datacenter operational while implementing the Disaster Recovery plan.

This talk will focus mostly on Disaster Recovery and migration for a primarily windows based shop. Including:

  • SQL 2012 failover
  • DNS Migration
  • Dealing with long term shutdown of AD DC's
  • How their DR Plan survived it's encounter with reality
  • The 'Bucket Brigade'
  • 24/7 Staffing rotations
  • How three companies worked together (SquareSpace, Fog Creek, and Stack Exchange) to keep the lights on, and services running.

He will also spend a little bit of time talking about what happened at the 75 Broad st. facility - and the efforts of all involved to keep that datacenter up and running.

Early Bird Registration ends April 1st for the 2013 LOPSA-East conference, May 3-4, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in New Brunswick, NJ. IT professionals from the tri-state area and the entire east coast will be joining us for the most talked about community-driven IT conference of the year. You can find out more at

LOPSA-East begins Friday with an entire day of training offered by world class instructors. We have half day sessions on Team Efficiency, Configuration Management, Basic and Advanced PowerShell, IPV6 migration, and much more! The conference continues on Saturday, with more half day training sessions along with 45 minute presentations from invited speakers, 5 minute lightning talks, and 'birds of a feather' discussions on participant selected topics. (The entire training schedule can be found at

Register now! Save up to $197 by registering during the Early Bird pricing! Even larger discounts are available for students.

For more information and to register visit

LOPSA-East ( is produced by The New Jersey chapter of the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) ( This will be the 4th annual conference, being held May 3-4, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in New Brunswick, NJ.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

You do not want to miss this conference!

  • You will learn how to automate the configuration of all your systems when Nathen Harvey teaches you Chef or Garrett Honeycutt teaches you Puppet.
  • You'll stay one step ahead of the game by learning IPv6 from Owen DeLong, the man that teaches IPv6 so well you'll thank him 128 times.
  • The wizard of PowerShell himself, Steven Murawski will teach you how to automate anything in Windows.
  • You'll fix things once and they'll stay fixed after Stuart Kendrick teaches you how to do Root Cause Analysis.
  • You'll learn how to translate "geek" to "manager-speak" and other tips in Navigating the Business World by the internationally recognized experts Nicole Forsgren Velasquez and Carolyn Rowland.
  • Don Crawley will teach you so many secrets of Customer Service that you'll be able to say "no" to users and they'll thank you.
  • Last but not least, David N. Blank-Edelman (who happens to be this year's keynote speaker) will surprise and delight you (and make music play out your printer queue) in his tutorial "Over the Edge System Administration". He'll also help make it easier to try out new technologies in his tutorial "Build A SysAdmin Sandbox".

But most of all: Go to Cascadia because the attendee you meet while waiting on line at lunch has a suggestion on how to fix that thing your boss was complaining about that is so awesome you'll get a promotion. It's called "networking" and I don't mean TCP/IP.

Sign up today! Click on the big, friendly "Register Now" button on the home page.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

You do not want to miss this conference!

  • You will learn how to automate the configuration of all your systems when Nathen Harvey teaches you Chef or Garrett Honeycutt teaches you Puppet.
  • You'll stay one step ahead of the game by learning IPv6 from Owen DeLong, the man that teaches IPv6 so well you'll thank him 128 times.
  • The wizard of PowerShell himself, Steven Murawski will teach you how to automate anything in Windows.
  • You'll fix things once and they'll stay fixed after Stuart Kendrick teaches you how to do Root Cause Analysis.
  • You'll learn how to translate "geek" to "manager-speak" and other tips in Navigating the Business World by the internationally recognized experts Nicole Forsgren Velasquez and Carolyn Rowland.
  • Don Crawley will teach you so many secrets of Customer Service that you'll be able to say "no" to users and they'll thank you.
  • Last but not least, David N. Blank-Edelman (who happens to be this year's keynote speaker) will surprise and delight you (and make music play out your printer queue) in his tutorial "Over the Edge System Administration". He'll also help make it easier to try out new technologies in his tutorial "Build A SysAdmin Sandbox".

But most of all: Go to Cascadia because the attendee you meet while waiting on line at lunch has a suggestion on how to fix that thing your boss was complaining about that is so awesome you'll get a promotion. It's called "networking" and I don't mean TCP/IP.

Sign up today! Click on the big, friendly "Register Now" button on the home page.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

This month the NJ chapter of LOPSA's meeting will be something special. Rather than meeting at a library near Princeton, there will be two meetings on the same day: one north and one south. Each meeting will be held at a diner and there will be a suggested discussion topic. Generally someone takes notes at each diner and posts them online. It is interesting to see what each group does with the topic. We've done this a few times before and the discussion is always quite lively.

This time the topic is: What's the best new tool you've started using in the last 24 months? It doesn't have to be new, just new to you.

The "northern" meeting is at the Park Wood Diner in Maplewood, NJ.

The "southern" meeting is at the Princetonian Diner in Princeton, NJ.

Both meet on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 7pm.

For info and to RSVP go to

I'll be at the northern meeting. I hope to see you there!


P.S. Rush-hour traffic can be a bear in Maplewood. I suggest people leave early or do what I do: take the train!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Cascadia IT Conference 2013 has announced their tutorial lineup and it looks great! If you are in the Seattle area, or can travel there, this is a can't miss conference!

Here are some of the tutorial titles:

  • Root Cause analysis -- Intermediate
  • PowerShell Fundamentals
  • Building Your Powershell Toolkit
  • Resolv the World with Chef: An Introduction to Chef for Sysadmins
  • Build A SysAdmin Sandbox
  • An Introduction to Puppet
  • Navigating the Business World for Sysadmins: The Trusted Adviser
  • Navigating the Business World for Sysadmins: Methods
  • IPv6 -- An Introduction
  • The Compassionate Geek: Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals
  • Over the Edge System Administration

The technical sessions will be announced in a few days followed by registration.

For more info go to

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

LISA is coming to San Diego, CA, December 9-14, 2012 and, as always, the committee has put together an amazing schedule of programs. Come for a few days of training, 2-days of technical sessions, or spend an entire week immersed in sysadmin geekery!

Take anywhere from 1 to 6 full days of training and create the curriculum that meets your needs.

Take advantage of 47 half- and full-day training sessions from industry leaders, including my highly rated "Intro to Time Management" and "Team Efficiency" tutorials.

Take the all-new training class "Build your own cloud with Ganeti Virtual Cluster Manager" co-taught by Guido Trotter and myself.

I'll be doing a "Guru session" (open Q&A) "Ask Me Anything about Time Management" on Thursday morning plus a book-signing at the O'Reilly booth later that day.

And don't miss:

  • Vint Cerf's Keynote Address on "The Internet of Things and Sensors and Actuators!"
  • Matt Blaze's plenary "NSA on the Cheap"
  • Selena Deckelmann's Plenary on "Education vs. Training"
  • Geoff Halprin's closing talk on "15 Years of DevOps"

As most of my readers know, LISA is my favorite conference. As a policy I don't endorse products but without hesitation I recommend attending the Usenix LISA conference as *the best way to help your career, *become a better system administrator, and be involved in the larger community of system administrators.

Learn more at

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

We're 3 years old and as we have finally gotten our foothold it seems like a good time to pick a name that more accurately depicts who we are and what we do. Changing the name of the conference is a very serious matter. It is not something we take lightly. At the current growth rate this is likely to be our last opportunity to change the name (our registration numbers for the first three years were 81, 98 and 127. We hope to grow to 150-200 which is a good size for a regional conference).

At the end of PICC '12 we surveyed the audience about possibly changing the name of the conference. We asked for a show of hands and nobody liked one of our first idea. Literally nobody raised their hand. However when we suggested "LOPSA-East" people actually cheered.

We've been asking for suggestions for the last few months but not have had such a great reaction as "LOPSA-East".

After discussion with the board and other stakeholders we've decided to make it official. Starting in 2013 the conference will be known as "LOPSA-East (formerly PICC)". Our old URL will always work but the new URL will be

The conference chair for LOPSA-East '13 is Adam Moskowitz! You may know him from BBLISA or other fine events and organizations. LOPSA-East '13 will be held May 3-4, 2013 in New Brunswick, NJ.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

"Taming Information Technology: Lessons from Studies of System Administrators" by Eser Kandogan, Paul Maglio, Eben Haber and John Bailey

Scientists video tape sysadmins at work then analyse the footage, making interesting observations about what we do, how we do it, and why.

  • For every CEO that thinks sysadmins just lay about all day, this book shows what risky, dangerous work we do.
  • For the parent that doesn't quite understand what their son or daughter the system administrator does, this book spells it out in plain language stories of what we do.
  • For the person that thinks sysadmins just sit around fixing computers with a screw driver and CD-ROM, this book shows real situations where outages cost millions and teams of technical people battle clueless (and not so clueless managers).

If you, as a sysadmin, think our community would do better if more people understood what we actually do, you should promote this book.

I was lucky enough to read a draft copy. It goes on sale July 14th or August 14th depending on which website you believe. My request, dear readers, is that you pre-order your copy NOW. Pre-order statistics are watched by publishers to help them decide which books are worth their marketing efforts. A lot of pre-orders would help justify spreading the word about this book further.

You can pre-order it at many fine book sellers including Amazon here:

Some chapters read like the opening scene of Indiana Jones, others like Gorillas in the Mist. This ground-breaking, in-depth look at the real lives of system administrators is an exciting read whether you are a CEO wondering what your IT department does, a user wondering why your "IT person" is always stressed out, or a parent wondering what they heck your child does for a living. Kandogan, Maglio, Haber and Bailey are the Diane Fossey of the computer world!

Soon there will be a "live chat" with the candidates. At that time I plan on asking this question:

"I'd like to know about your experience with community-based projects. Please tell us about a project that you took responsibility for seeing through to completion (i.e. did most of the work). Please, only projects that are "done" or have reached a self-sustaining mode only. One or two sentences is fine. It doesn't have to be a project where you thought of the idea, just one where you assured it reached the finish line."

I look forward to reading their answers.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Congrats to Ralph Loura for being named one Computer World's Premier 100 IT Leaders.

Premier 100 IT Leader profile: Ralph Loura

Ralph Loura was my second manager at Bell Labs. I can't tell you which of the anonymized stories in The Practice of System and Network Administration are secretly about him, but I can say that he was the manager that encouraged me to start writing papers for conferences like Usenix LISA, which lead me to being noticed by Addison-Wesley, which got me my book deals, and the rest is history.

Congrats, Ralph!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

25 days of sysadmin articles from all sorts of people.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

We have three keynotes this year: Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and the closing keynote Friday afternoon.

Our closing keynote speaker is Michael P. Perrone, Manager, Multicore Computing, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

I've been a sysadmin for long enough that not much impresses me any more. Watching IBM's "Watson" computer play Jeopardy! and beat the human contestants was, in a word, flabbergasting. Doug and I immediately began a quest to find someone from IBM that could talk about this amazing accomplishment at LISA. His talk, "What is Watson?" will be the final presentation of the conference.

The talk will be 50 minutes long followed by 10 minutes of A&Q.

Usenix LISA 2011 is Dec 4-9 in Boston. You can register any time, but you get a discount if you register by Nov 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityLISA11

CHIMIT Workshop

I am fascinated by the fact that there are researchers that study system administrators and how to make their work easier/better/etc. The #1 thing they tell me is "we need more interaction with more sysadmins to help guide our research!"

The "CHIMIT workshop" at Usenix LISA 2011 is an opportunity to interact with these researchers.

Read about it here and register to attend!

Due to traveling, I won't be there. However, John Wagner will be giving an excellent talk called "The !# site is down! Again!?"

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Update: I won't be able to attend. John Wagner, however, will still be speaking.

If you are in the area, please attend! (free pizza!)

Info about the event: On the LOPSA-NJ Website

Info about LOPSA-NJ:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Matt Simmons wrote me to let me know that the LOPSA Board has approved the creation of a Columbus, Ohio chapter!

Times, places, and topics are still be worked on. It you are interested, join the mailing list at

Congrats and good luck to everyone in Columbus!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

If you are in the Princeton, NJ area I hope you come out to join us! If you've never come to our meeting, this is a good event for first timers!

I'll be talking about ways for sysadmins and developers to work better together. It will be a rehearsal for a larger talk I'll be giving at PPW.

Oh, and this month we have a sponsor supplying pizza and soda. So, come for the pizza, stay for the Limoncelli. :-)

More info on the LOPSA-NJ website!


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

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 mentioned previously Mark Burgess, creator of CFEngine, will be speaking at the NYC DevOps MeetUp tonight

  • When: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 7:00 PM
  • Topic: Mark Burgess presents DevOps and The Future of Configuration Management
  • Where: New York... exact location revealed when you RSVP to the MeetUp

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityDevOps

This month's NYC DevOps meetup has a special speaker: Mark Burgess, inventor of CFEngine, talking on the future of configuration management.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 7:00 PM

Topic: Mark Burgess presents DevOps and The Future of Configuration Management

Mark Burgess is the founder, chairman, CTO and principal author of Cfengine. He is Professor of Network and System Administration at Oslo University College and has led the way in theory and practice of automation and policy based management for 20 years. In the 1990s he underlined the importance of idempotent, autonomous desired state management ("convergence") and formalised cooperative systems in the 2000s ("promise theory"). He is the author of numerous books and papers on Network and System Administration and has won several prizes for his work.

Check out his blog here:

Check out Cfengine here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityDevOpsNYC

LOPSA's Cascadia IT Conference starts today (the training portion started yesterday). Reviewing the program grid it looks like it is going to be a fantastic day. I wish I could be there! Congrats to the committee that put the conference together, especially Lee Damon the conference chair. I love to see community-based, volunteer-only conferences springing up.

You can follow the conference on Twitter hashtag #casitconf

(If you are on the east-coast and jealous of Cascadia, you'll be happy to know that LOPSA's PICC conference in NJ is just 6 weeks away! Register today!)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

If you are in the NYC area, come check it out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

IBM, 590 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022

I will present his "Top 5" time management tips for better time management, and take Q&A about time management, system administration, and what it's like to work at Google.

NOTE: You have to pre-register.

You can attend my new class "Advanced Time Management: Team Efficiency" there.

The more of the schedule PICC announces the better it looks. Save April 29-30 on your calendar. Better yet, register today!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

  1. On a Mac, if you SHIFT-CLICK the green dot on a window it opens it as wide and tall as possible (instead of the application-defined behavior)

  2. Even though "ls -l" displays a files permissions as "-rw-r--r--", you can't use "-rw-r--r--" in a chmod command. This is probably one of the most obvious but overlooked UI inconsistencies in Unix that nobody has fixed after all these years. Instead we force people to learn octal and type 0644. Meanwhile every book on Unix/Linux spends pages explaining octal just for this purpose. Time would have been better spent contributing a patch to chmod.

  3. If a network problem always happens 300 seconds after an event (like a VPN coming up or a machine connecting to the network) the problem is ARP, which has to renew every 300 seconds. Similarly, if it times out after exactly 2 hours, the problem is your routing system which typically expires routes after 2 hours of not hearing them advertised.

  4. Git rocks. I should have converted from SubVersion to Git years ago. Sadly I like the name SubVersion better. I hear Hg / Mercurial is better than Git, but Git had better marketing.

  5. Keep all your Unix "dot files" in sync with (and I'm not just saying that because my boss wrote it).

  6. People that use advanced Python-isms should not complain when I use features that have been in bash forever and, in fact, were in /bin/sh before most of us knew how to read.

  7. Years ago IETF started telling protocol inventors to avoid using broadcasts and use "local multicast" instead because it will help LAN equipment vendors scale to larger and larger LANs. If your LAN network vendor makes equipment that goes south when there is a lot of multicast traffic because it is "slow path'ed" through the CPU, remind them that They're Doing It Wrong.

  8. The best debugging tool in the world is "diff". Save the output /tmp/old. As you edit your code, write the output to /tmp/new then do "diff /tmp/old /tmp/new". When you see the change you want, you know you are done. Alternatively edit /tmp/old to look like the output you want. You've fixed the bug when diff has no output.

  9. Attend your local sysadmin conference. Regional conferences are your most cost effective career accelerator. You will learn technical stuff that will help you retain your job, do your job better, get promoted, or find a new job. Plus, you'll make local friends and contacts that will help you more than your average call to a vendor tech support line. There are some great ones in the Seattle and NJ/NY/Philly area all listed here.

The Cascadia IT Conference wants to remind you that this is the last week you'll be able to save money on registration by getting the Early Bird discount!

Each half day tutorial is $125, and each half day tech session is $100, but with the Early Bird discount, they're only $105 and $80, respectively. You can save even more money by purchasing a bulk pack of 2 days of tutorials for $399 (or one day of training, one day of tech sessions for only $359!).

The Early Bird discount ends on February 16th, which is this coming Wednesday. Register now so you don't forget!

This conference is the premier opportunity to meet Information Technology experts and professionals and get the inside track on one of the hottest regions for IT in the world. Talks, presentations, poster sessions, lightning talks, and DIY unconference sessions will be available. Exchange ideas, learn, and enjoy the all-important "Hallway Track" networking with other conference attendees and world-renown speakers.

Get more information at

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

Thanks to everyone that participated in the fundraising for Lyon-Martin Health Services (LM). We exceeded the goal of raising $1000 from readers of this blog. I received email from Dr. Harbatkin calling this effort "Amazing!"

Blog readers have donated $1365. I matched the first $1000. Since we made the goal before Thursday, I donated an additional $500 as promised. That's a total of $2865!

Wait... there's more!

Many of the people that donated work for employers with a "gift match" program, which doubles their donations. If my math is right, this will increase the total to more than $4500!

Dr. Harbatkin asked me to remind people that there is a "Save Lyon-Martin" page on Facebook, fundraisers and other events on listed on, and to check out their web site for periodic announcements.

I'm really proud of the readers of this blog for participating. It is fantastic what we can do when we all chip in a little. This is yet another reason I am so proud to be involved in the system administration community.

Hopefully this and other fundraisers will enable Lyon-Martin to reorganize and keep their doors open.

Thanks again!


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

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

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

Please let the world know... The registration system for the 2011 Cascadia IT Conference is online now at:

Congrats to the conference planning committee for reaching this goal. A lot of stuff has to happen before you can start selling tickets. This is a fantastic milestone! I'm sure this is going to be an awesome conference!

If you are within a 10-hour drive of Seattle I expect you to attend this conference, damn it! Tell your boss I told them you have to go to this so that your company remains competitive. Regional conferences are the most economical way to get cutting-edge training. This kind of training pays for itself in weeks if not days.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

New Brunswick, NJ, December 7, 2010 - The New Jersey Chapter of the League of Professional System Administrators has announced the Call for Participation for the 2011 Professional IT Community Conference (PICC).

This is the second year for the conference, which caters to system administrations in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York region. Last year's conference was attended by over eighty administrators representing an array of organizations.

The backbone of any conference is its technical program, and the PICC organizers are announcing that the conference's Call for Participation is open. This is an open invitation to all interested parties to email an overview of content that they are interested in presenting at the conference to the address [email protected] before the deadline of January 28th, 2011.

The conference program committee encourages interested people to submit proposals for experience reports, posters, panels, and papers. In order to be considered, the email should contain 2-3 paragraphs describing the content, format, and length of the proposed presentation (either short, at 30 minutes, or long, at 60 minutes).

PICC Chair Matt Simmons spoke about the increased availability of lengths and formats, saying, "This is a community conference, and we're trying to encourage more members of the community to participate. By being open to presentations of varying time and content, we're really hoping to get a wide array of people presenting for the first time. We want to know what people are doing, and to learn from their failures and successes. Only by sharing our experiences can we all learn from each other."

Brian K Jones, co-author of "Linux Server Hacks, Volume 2" recalled participating in last year's conference, remarking, "As rewarding as it is to participate in any conference, being able to do it in front of your local community makes it that much better. It's always fun to present technical information, and I'm looking forward to the coming conference in April."

The conference itself will take place from Friday, April 29th to Saturday, April 30th, and more information can be found online on the conference homepage,

Matt Simmons
PICC Conference Chair
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +1 (740) 403-9997

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

SysAdvent has started!

25 days of sysadmin articles from all sorts of people.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

If you read ACM Queue Magazine you'll notice a lot more articles relevant to system administrators these next few months.

ACM Queue Magazine is known for being a great magazine for the computer science practitioner has decided to reach out to system administrators by adding articles about sysadmin topics. (I've helped curate the first set of articles you'll see.) There is an increasing trend where software developers need to know more and more about the systems their code runs on. System administrators increasingly strive to automate as much as possible.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is widely recognized as the premier membership organization for computing professionals. If you are a computer scientist, you are probably a member already. ACM used to be very stuffy and academic. Over the last 10 years their magazine has changed dramatically to be readable by most practitioners. I find their coverage of cutting edge topics to be excellent. Their industry news is more useful to me since it is less influenced by vendors.

Also, you'll see some articles that are for software developers but explain to them, well, the things that sysadmins wish they'd know. For example, this issue has an article called "Virtualization: Blessing or Curse?" by Evangelos Kotsovinos.

Check it out here:

(excellent reading for the long weekend)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

I can't believe it has been 5 years already! LOPSA runs 5 years old this week. The New Jersey chapter (which is not yet 5 years old) is having a party on Thursday to celebrate.

Everyone is invited. There will be pizza and I may have some prizes to give away.


  • Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library
  • 2751 US Highway 1
  • Lawrenceville, NJ, 08648-4132
  • See map: Google Maps

  • Date: Thursday November 4th, 2010

  • Time: 7:00 PM - 7:20 PM - Social Time

  • 7:20 PM - 7:30 PM - LOPSA-NJ Business and Announcements
  • 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM - Main Presentation

PLEASE RSVP so we know how much food to bring. RSVP info is here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

The Cascadia IT Conference will be Friday and Saturday, March 11th and 12th, 2011 in Seattle, WA.

They've published their "Call For Participation". If you are looking to present a paper, talk, or a tutorial, this is a great venue.

I'm impressed by the makeup of the committee. WIth the likes of Lee Daemon, this is going to be a "can't miss" conference for anyone in the Pacific North West. It is being produced by The League of Professional System Administrators and the Seattle Area System Administrators Guild, both organizations have excellent track records.

The full CfP is here:

For more information, follow #CITC11 on Twitter!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

I predicted something like DevOps would happen but not when or how.

Years ago I said that system administration would bifurcate into lower-level workers and higher-level workers, each group adopting different names, training regiments, and professional expectations. The analogy (which I first heard from Adam Moskowitz) was that in electrical work you have engineers that are highly educated and design complex systems; meanwhile you also have electricians who have less education but do their work by following the building codes written for them. System administration, I predicted, would make a similar split.

Now we see this happening. DevOps is, essentially, people that are working at a very high level (architect, engineer, designer) and highly skilled (automation rather than brute force). Choosing a new name enables them to break away from all the baggage that system administration carries with it. It's a fresh start. The term "system administration" has a confusing list of conflicting definitions that have accumulated over 3 decades: DevOps leaves that behind and starts with a definition that is more focused (albiet one that is still evolving). System adminstrators have a terrible reputation, just look at how we are portrayed on TV and film ("Nick Burns: Your Company's Computer Guy"): DevOps is starting with a clean slate and is making their own destiny.

I expected some kind of bifurcation but I didn't expect it to be so focused on SRE-like responsibilities. (SRE is the Google-invented term "Site Reliability Engineer". An SRE is a sysadmin that focuses on production systems and collaborates with the developers of the code being run, rather than the old waterfall or antagonistic/non-collaborative relationship that is traditional.) I guess that since I am an SRE I was too close to the situation to see it. Thinking back to my Invited Talks at LISA 2006 and LISA 2008 the seeds were there, I just didn't connect the dots.

Ok, now you know the background for what I really wanted to say. I was inspired recently because a mailing list I'm on people were mocking DevOps as "nothing new". The people on this list are all in the top 10th percentile of system administrators; the cutting edge that other IT teams hope to emulate. I felt compelled to remind them that when the other 90 percentiles catch up, we shoudn't mock them, we should say "welcome to the club!"

Alas, we (and by "we" I mean "me") have a history of not doing so.

  • We'd been using Unix on expensive hardware for so long that when Linux brought POSIX goodness to the masses we mocked it, calling it 'Unix for kids'.
  • We'd been using the pre-web internet for so long that when the web made it easy for everyone else to benefit from communicating electronically, developing communities and sharing knowledge, we complained that our clubhouse was no longer elite. We invented terms like "Eternal September".
  • We've always had more bandwidth than we knew what to do with, but when the term "broadband" was coined to refer to high-speed internet access at home, we complained that the term wasn't technically accurate/specific enough.
  • We'd been running our services out of remote datacenters for so long that when it got a name ("Cloud Computing"), we, well, we're still giggling when executives use that term.

I like to think of people on the cutting edge as the "advance team" that runs ahead of the crowd and clears the way.

When everyone else follows our lead we shouldn't mock them, we should declare victory.

So congratulations, DevOps folks! I'm glad that you are popularizing what some of us have been doing for years. I, for one, am a bit tired and ready to pass the torch.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Conferences aren't cheap. However, if you are a student be sure to read all the way to the end of the registration page where the student discounts are listed. Students make out like bandits... and that's a good thing.

My first Usenix was, um, well, it was a long time ago (most students today weren't born then). As a student I was able to get in for little money, I think my department chair chipped in a little, and I crashed on the couch of a local friend's parents.

That first Usenix conference changed my life. It was the first time I had real interaction with the Unix community and I learned more in those brief few days than I had in my past year of school. I also got to meet many of the open source gurus that I had only read about. The interesting thing about Usenix conferences is that the celebrities are available to talk with; they aren't roped off in some "green room" and unavailable.

I encourage all students to attend LISA. It helped me get my start, and it can really help you too.

Usenix LISA is in San Jose, CA from November 7-12, 2010. There are many discounts available. Early registration (for non-students) ends Monday, October 18.

See you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Anne Dickison from Usenix will interview me today at 11am Pacific time, 2pm US/Eastern. We'll be talking about a variety of topics. Twitter your questions on hash tag #lisa10

You can watch the interview live thanks for UStream.

Tune in here:

To calculate the time in your timezone:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Someone reached out to me today and asks me to walk him through registering for LISA. I did walk them through the process (via IM). I hadn't realized how complicated it is to the first time attendee!

I walked him through the process like this...

Step 1. Get a piece of paper (yes, paper) and make headings across the top for Sunday through Saturday. Under each heading leave room for "morning", "afternoon" and "night". We won't be filling in the "night" row, but I thought I'd mention that there is a LOT of stuff happening at night. When I went to my first Usenix conference I spent the night visiting local friends and had no idea what I was missing.

Step 2. Start at the Training tab. Read though the list of tutorials and circle the ones you want to attend. You can take any number of tutorials. They cost $350 each, with discounts for registering by October 18th or taking more than one. Write the ones you want to take on your sheet of paper. You can't be in two places at once, so eliminate the dups.

Step 3. There are "technical sessions" on Wed, Thu and Friday. These are the paper presentations, invited talks, guru (Q&A) sessions and so on. Ah, now you see the problem: The tutorials are every day but the "tech sessions" are just Wed, Thu, Fri. If you are considering any tutorials on Wed, Thu or Fri, take a look what technical sessions you would miss and decide what is more important to you.

Speaking of which... Wednesday morning is the keynote. I think this session is very important. It isn't just the keynote, it is the awards for best paper, the community awards, and so on. Now I'm friends with many of the people teaching tutorials on Wednesday morning so Marc, Strata and Theo, please forgive me but... my recommendation is to go for the keynote unless the tutorial is really really important.

Step 4. Now look at the "Workshops" section. Workshops are sort of like 1-day mini-conferences. So, if you are a person that teaches system administration and want to spend a day with others in that field, sign up for that one (it conflicts with my tutorial, but my feelings won't be hurt).

Step 5. Ok, now your grid should be fairly full. Any gaps on Wed, Thu, Fri should be filled with the Tech Sessions. Any gaps on Sunday through Tuesday means either you have free time or an opportunity to fly to the conference a day or two late.

A long time ago I was registering for LISA and I told my boss, "To be economical, I'm only signing up for 2 tutorials". He had the opposite philosophy: since he was paying all this $$ for airfare, the best way to be economical was to take as many tutorials as possible. Check with your manager about budget and whether or not he subscribes to this philosophy.

Step 6. Why did I have you leave space on your grid for "night"? Because there are some great things happening at night.

Thursday night is always the reception. This is basically a party put on by Usenix for the attendees. It is a great way to meet people. Monday through Thursday nights there are "Birds of a Feather" sessions (BoFs), which are community meetings of various types. All of this is free for attendees, and you don't have to decide which you are going to now, but I thought I'd mention it all.

Wednesday and Thursday early evening are the poster sessions. This is where "not ready for prime time" research is presented. It is a great way to see what's coming in the near future.

Saturday evening there is a session for first-timers and people new to the area called Welcome Get-Together and Conference Orientation. It is a great way to get orientated to the conference, learn where the good restaurants are, and so on. I try to attend every year.

Ok, enough of that. Let's move on.

Step 7. Now it is time to register. The number of tutorials you are taking will determine which registration package you should start with. Or, go "custom" and make your own package. Either way, the system calculates the maximum discount it can.

My intention was to help make the registration process easier but a 7-step process is hardly simple. I guess this is an indication of how much interesting stuff is going on at LISA. It might sound intimidating for first-timers, but really I'm just being extra detailed because I want you to know about all the parts of the conference so you don't miss anything. LISA is a very friendly and inviting conference. Everyone there is approachable. Unlike some conferences where the speakers hang out in "the green room" and are protected from talking to anyone, LISA is the kind of conference where the speakers mingle with everyone and want to be approached.

Full information about the conference is here:

Register soon! There are plenty of discounts available, the easiest one to qualify for is to register by October 18!

See you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Scott Walters: Compliance, what's the hubbub, bub? - Thursday October 7th @ 7pm

Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library 2751 US Highway 1 Lawrenceville, NJ, 08648-4132

Time: 7:00 PM - 7:20 PM - Social Time 7:20 PM - 7:30 PM - LOPSA-NJ Business and Announcements 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM - Main Presentation

The nearest train station is the Hamilton station on NJ Transit. See you there!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

The October 2010 issue of Usenix's magazine should be arriving in your mailbox this week. I just got mine today. (In a month or so non-members will be able read select articles at this address)

The title is "A system administration parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass"

Take a moment to read it. In a week I'm going to ask people a question but I want people to have read it first.

Update: The URL is now live (and corrected).

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

LOPSA members save $45 when they register at to attend Usenix LISA, in San Jose, CA, November 7-12, 2010. I'm a member of LOPSA and I hope you join too. To find out about this discount you have to have to be a LOPSA member, and to become a LOPSA member you need to set up a free account first.

Step 1: Register for a free account on the LOPSA website:

Step 2: Become a LOPSA member:

Step 3: Paid members will see the discount code on (Non-members see different text. Sneaky, eh?)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

It is trite to say that society is more than ever dependent on technology.

But consider this...

I work in New York City. Experts claim NYC has a 3-day food supply. That is, if all the bridges and tunnels were closed on Monday, 8 million people would be without food by Wednesday night. Scary, right?

The food that comes to NYC is brought by trucks that are scheduled using big IT systems that manage logistics. In fact, from the farm to the table, logistics and supply chain technology is required at the huge scale we do things now a days.

While NYC might be an extreme case, the same technology-dependent food system is probably what you rely on too.

This dependency is true for the delivery of nearly all services: healthcare, governance, media, security and defense.

If you want to make the world a better place, if you want to "save the world", wouldn't it be impactful to make all of those services run more efficiently? Scaled ahead of demand? Detected problems, routed around them automatically, and repaired them quickly?

That's what system administrators do.

We don't do it alone. System administration is a team sport. We are the pivot point between customers of technology and people. As "technician brokers we often find ourselves with "responsibility without authority"". Our work is highly collaborative even though the tools we use come from vendors that assume we work alone.

Our work is risky and stressful. I don't think non-sysadmins realize how risky and how stressful it is.

Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day. I feel a little weird celebrating a day that we created to ask for appreciation. Secretaries didn't invent Secretary's Day (thought I think Hallmark did). On the other hand, I do firmly believe that it is important for sysadmins to create their own positive visibility. When we do our job well we are invisible. When you have a job like that, you need to do your own PR.

And with a job as important as system administration, we should be doing that every day.

Tom Limoncelli

P.S. I'll be doing my Time Management training (and other classes too!) a lot in the next 6 months: August (Tasmania, SAGE-AU), November (Los Angles, MacTechConf), November (San Jose, Usenix LISA), January (San Francisco, TBD). I hope to be at the Sept meeting of my local sysadmin users group LOPSA-NJ.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Matt at the Standalone-Sysadmin Blog announced that Etsy has offered to buy the first $x of beer at the NYC Sysadmin Appreciation Day event on Friday (tomorrow). "x" is a lot. We need your help to drink it all.

At last year's event a number of people told me they wished they had brought copies of my books so they could get autographs. I'll be bringing a pen this year to help facilitate this. Please get to me before too much beer

More info about the event in NYC here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

At PICC I may have sounded like I thought there was an urgent need to create a sysadmin certification program. While I did talk about what I thought it would/could/should look like, I don't think this is a good time to create such a thing. A long-winded version of this paragraph is below.

An open letter:

I wish to clarify a statement I made at the PICC conference and point those of us that think about the future of system administration in a particular direction.

It has become apparent to me that a certification program cannot exist until the educational standards that it measures are generally accepted. That is, a certification should measure conformance to an pre-existing educational standard.

At the PICC conference, part of my keynote made the case for another attempt at creating a certification for system administrators. In the last few months I've thought a lot about the issue of certification. I've also had the chance to talk with with people that are familiar with how the AMA created its certifications for doctors. While I was not advocating for the immediate creation of a certification program, I may have given that impression. Let me be clear that I do not think that the industry has reached sufficient maturity to warrant a certification program as I described. The AMA's now pervasive certification program came after they worked with universities to develop curricula and other educational programs.

It would be prudent to focus on creating educational standards for the profession of system administration. We, the wider professional system administration community, need to work with academic institutions to create curriculum standards for system administration programs. While there have been attempts in the past, I do not feel this has gotten traction because the profession is not taken seriously in academia. This is changing. A number of factors are leading academia to take notice of the importance of operational excellence in IT. I would be glad to discuss strategy and opportunities with interested parties.

Every movement needs to be, at its heart, an attempt to save the world. It is trite to say that society is more and more dependent on computers. Yet our dependence is staggering even to me. From the logistics of getting food from farms to tables, to providing services related to healthcare, governance, media, security and defense; all of these things are reliant on IT such that they can no longer exists without it. And yet I feel that the digitization of society is still in its earliest of stages.

What could be more a more important way to save the world than making sure that society's underlying IT infrastructures are professionally designed, maintained, secured, and operated? We can not leave these things to amateurs and hobbyists, nor bureaucrats and lobbyists.

Sincerely, Thomas Limoncelli

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

I don't have a lot of time to post today, so this will be short.

Come to MacTech.  Not just because I'll be teaching my time management stuff, but because its gonna be awesome.

"MacTech Conference for IT Pros and Apple developers is November 3-5, 2010, in Los Angeles at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City. The three-day, packed event will have sessions and activities throughout the day and evening giving attendees the opportunity to not only learn from the best, but to also get to know others in the industry."

I'll write more about it soon.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

Sadly I can't attend this because I have plans already, but I'm really excited that my home state is opening a hackspace!

Info about the kickoff party:

Where: 403 Cleveland Ave, Highland Park, NJ
When: June 5th 1pm-6pm

New Jersey's Only Hackerspace finally has....well.....a space! Stop by our new location, check out what we're working on, find out what FUBAR Labs is all about. We will be demonstrating our 3D printer, and showcasing member projects. Drop in any time between 1pm and 6pm.

Following the Open house will be our move in Celebration at 8pm. We've finally moved in to our new location! Come help us celebrate. Enjoy drinks served by our bartending robot and request your favorite songs from our artificially intelligent DJ. Suggested donation is $10


I wish this project great success! It sounds awesome!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Nominations are being collected for the 2010 SysAdmin of the Year Award. This year the primary sponsor is OpenDNS.

Yes, you can self-nominate.

This year there are individual categories:
  • Best Disaster Response Award
  • Neat Freak Award
  • Shoestring Budget Award
  • Flying Solo Award
  • Large-Scale Deployment Award
  • DevOps Award

"Winners in each category will receive a prize of $50, and from all entries the judging committee will choose one winner that stands out among the rest as the official OpenDNS SysAdmin of the Year."

Read more about it here.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Emacs can do everything, it can even manage your todo list. Org-Mode is "for keeping notes, maintaining ToDo lists, doing project planning, and authoring with a fast and effective plain-text system."

I have seen demos of Org-Mode and was very impressed by it. It certainly has all the features needed for doing The Cycle, the system I recommend in Time Management for System Administrators

If you are in the Philadelphia area, tonight PLUG presents Paul Snyder speaking on Org-Mode. Check it out!

LOPSA PICC 2010 was a big success. Thanks to everyone that attended.

I was surprised when William asked people to raise their hand if they owned Time Management for System Administrators and nearly the entire room raised their hand.  Wow!

One project that was inspired by the conference was a new mentoring program. It is still being formulated, but people that are interested should sign up to receive more information by visiting

I look forward to seeing you next year!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

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

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 CommunityConferences

I've mentioned the Professional IT Community Conference (PICC) before, but now the fun has really started.

Registration is open and the speakers have been announced!

The cost is low, and the benefits are huge. I know from Google Analytics that this site receives hits from over 500 unique users in the region of this conference, every month. We don't have that kind of space at the conference. It's going to sell out at some point, so make sure that you talk to your boss now about attending. We've even drafted a letter to help convince them that it's worth your time and their money.

It isn't often that you get a local conference with internationally known speakers like David Blank-Edelman (O'Reilly's "Automating System Administration with Perl") as well as Eben M Haber from the IBM research lab in Almaden, CA! This conference is going to get you the biggest bang for your buck out there.

(Oh, and I'll be speaking too. I've reworked 2 of my half-day tutorials ("Time Management" and "Help! Everyone hates our IT department!") plus, I've been asked to give the Saturday morning keynote, which I'll be using to premiere material from my yet-unannounced new book! But the book is a secret still, so hush!)

What I'd like you to do is to help me get the word out. Please. Not everyone reading this is in the NJ/NY/PA/CT/DE/RI/MA area. For those of you who aren't, please tell other people. Follow us on twitter at @picconf, email the site ( to anyone you know in the area who might be interested, tell user groups about it, heck, we've even got a facebook page that you can become a fan of.

This is absolutely a grass-roots kind of effort. We have a very small advertising budget, so I want to use that as intelligently as possible. That means getting your help for the initial waves, and to spread it by word of mouth, by email, link, tweet, IM, and whatever else you've got.

A very big thank you to every one of you out there who reads this blog and supports me. I appreciate all of you.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

New Jersey (and nearby) sysadmins, network engineers, DBAs, and anyone that considers themselves part of the "IT industry" should check out the LOPSA New Jersey Professional IT Community Conference.

The conference will be Fri/Sat, May 7-8, 2010 in sunny New Brunswick, NJ. I'll be speaking both days.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

I'm doing research about professionalism in our industry. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Please take 5 minutes to answer this simple survey.

Please spread this survey around to your friends, email lists, and twitters. I'll be collecting data for one week.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

Save this date: May 7-8, 2010 (Fri/Sat)

My local (New Jersey) LOPSA chapter has decided to have their own local mini-conference. There will be speakers, talks, training and "unconference" tracks. We want to have people there that come from all backgrounds: Windows admins, Linux/Unix sysadmins, network admins, storage gurus, and so on.

Interested? Live and/or work in/near New Jersey? Active in a User Group that would like to be involved?

Want to be involved in planning this conference? It is a great way to meet people and network. Our next planning meeting is Monday night (Dec 14, 7pm). Email me (tal at everything sysadmin dot com) for more info.

Update: Original post listed the date wrong... oops! I'm an idiot.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

SysAdvent has begun!

SysAdvent has started its second year.  SysAdvent is a project to count down the 24 days leading to Christmas with a sysadmin tip each day.  Last year Jordan Sissel wrote all 24 days (amazing job, dude!). This year he has enlisted guest bloggers to help out. You might see a post of mine one of these days.

While I don't celebrate the holiday that the event is named after, I'm glad to participate.

Check out this and last year's postings on the SysAdvent Blog:

I am MC of the "Google Vendor BoF" at LISA09.

Here's how the planning meeting went:

"Ice cream?"
"Raffle prizes?"
"Ok, we're ready!"

See you there! Thursday, November 5, 9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m., Essex A, B, & C.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

[ This is a draft, but it's good enough to publish. Please post feedback. ]

Someone recently asked me for my advice about planning a conference.

First, I want to say that conferences are really important to the open source community. Conferences build community. Conferences build community. Repeat that over and over. It is so true it can't be underestimated. From the early Usenix conferences which bolstered Unix, to MacWorld which gave the Mac developer community "a home", to modern Linux and other conferences: If you want to build a community, have an annual conference. A well-run conference has the side effect of building your local community. First, the conference is great PR for your organization. Every planning meeting is an excuse to tell the world that you exist. Second, a conference is "special" and that brings out people that might normally ignore a monthly meeting. Third, if you do the planning right and spread the work around, you will find volunteers come out of the woodwork. The person that was intimidated to run an entire conference is certainly willing to do a small task like reaching out to a potential speaker or coordinating the catering vendor that provides lunch. That grooms people for bigger jobs. By the end of your conference you will have found the next generation of leadership that your organization needs.

So here's my advice.

A successful conference is created by having a logical plan that will carry you from the start all the way to the end.

1. Work from a timeline. I have run or been involved in about a dozen conferences. The most important thing that I learned was to build a timeline. Do this in person. Get everyone in a room for a kick-off meeting. Put huge sheets of paper on the walls marked with the months or weeks leading up to the conference. Mark 'today' and 'conference' as end-points. Now discuss the various aspects of the conference and mark them on the timeline.

Suppose you start with the program: Mark the day you'll announce the "call for papers", mark when the deadline will be for submissions, mark when the program committee will have their selections done, confirmations will go out, when replies are accepted, and so on. Next let's hear from the registration committee. Mark the last day people can pre-register, mark the last day you offer a discount for early registration (which is a lie. Mark 1 week early, but use that day to announce "the discount is extended 1 week!" and have the real deadline 1 week later). PR is important. How often will you send out press releases? Monthly? Mark the first of each month. Magazines have a 4-month lead time, and people make travel plans 6 months in advance: Mark 10 months early that you will have contacted magazines. Keep doing this with every committee... even if you don't have your committees set up. Most of it will be guesses. That's ok. A lot of it will need to be coordinated: The moment you have the keynote speaker, send a press release. People don't register for a conference until they know the entire (draft) program, so be fore that your have a (draft) program early, and that registration deadlines are coordinated around that. etc. etc. Mark the days of the planning conference calls (once per month, then once per week when you are closer to the event).

If you can get all this into a timeline in a single day-long meeting the rest of the story "just writes itself". Each week/month have a conference call where you figure out who is going to do the tasks in the next week/month of the timeline. It lets volunteers feel like no task is too intimidating (they only look a week/month ahead), and leaders don't micromange because they are setting goals. It keeps everyone "on the same page" and removes a lot of the chaos. (Note: If you want to encourage new volunteers, have the meetings in person and announce them publicly. Newbies are intimidated by phone calls.)

2. End the "timeline meeting" with a commitment. The next thing I recommend also takes place at the "timeline" meeting. At the end of the meeting, gather everyone in a circle and ask them all to commit to making sure the "timeline" happens. Go around the circle and have each person saying that they are agreeing to this commitment. I know it sounds really hippy-dippy, but the conferences that I've done this have been the ones where all the volunteers stayed on to the end. The ones were I chickened out and didn't do this were the ones that everyone was fighting, volunteers dropped out, and by the conference date 1-2 people were doing all the work (and hated it). I call this my "good luck ritual". There is magic in this ritual.

3. Get a signed contract for the location as soon as you can. Most volunteers won't volunteer until the date/place are certain. They don't want to put effort into something that they can't attend.

The few volunteers that you do get before you've booked a place... use them to find and book a place.

Once you've booked a place, have the timeline meeting.

4. One more thing... Here are some things to add to the timeline because they are often forgotten.
  • Before the conference starts, write "thank you" notes to all the speakers. (Send them 1 day after the event).
  • Send rejection letters AND confirmation letters. Many times conferences forget to send rejection letters. Don't leave people hanging.
  • Have the "post-conference" party immediately after the conference is done. Don't wait a day... people won't be around for it. Use the party to thank everyone, give them space to relax and celebrate, and make notes for next year. Rather than a formal "what will we improve next year" meeting, just put a big sheet of paper on the wall and let people write. Have another sheet for people to list "Great things about this year's conference!"

Setting up a timeline early on gives the entire process structure. Structure is comforting to volunteers that may be otherwise unsure and, quite possibly, scared. Scared, confused, people are more likely to be stressed, get into arguments, and drop out. Giving people some structure, but not so much as to be micro-managing them, helps build their confidence, makes sure that everyone understands their job and the jobs of everyone else, and that all helps people work better together.

Have a great conference!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

John Graham-Cumming wrote an excellent article about how Alan Turing, father of computer science, deserves an apology.  His explanation blew me away because of the beautiful symmetry (or maybe we should say "recursion") in the unfairness of how Turing was prosecuted when seen through the light of how Turing constructed his famous "Turing Test".

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

(Note: this post is not about you.  I swear.)

Someone once asked me what improvements they could make to their Linux Users Group (LUG).  New people came but never returned.

Two things I observed.

1.  New people didn't feel welcome.  Suggestion: Go out of your way to make new people feel welcome.  Have a designated person show up early and just say "hi" to everyone that walks in. (If you are the leader, don't do this yourself.  Delegate. Look around, find the person with the biggest smile, and ask them to do it.  Not all geeks are... how do you say... "camera friendly".)  Most of us are introverts and would be turned off by someone that tries to make small-talk, but just hearing someone say "hi" is great.  Have good signs on the doors so people know where to go.  Nothing makes new people feel unwanted like a lack of being told where your meeting is.  I once went to a meeting (not a LUG, but the issue is the same) only to discover that the web site listed the address, but not the specific room... or which building.  There were no signs telling me where to go.  Ugh.

2.  If you have a Q&A session, the moderator should never answer the questions.  People come to share and everyone wants their turn to show off.  A big mistake I see is that the moderator will answer each question then look around and say, "Does anyone else have anything to add?"  Nobody answers.  Gee, I wonder why.  Well, the moderator just expressed their dominance and anything else would be an affront to the leader.  Folks, this is an open source movement.  We all have power and knowledge and good stuff to day.  If you are the moderator, be the last person to speak. Sure you know the perfect answer, in fact I bet you have 5 points you'd like to make.  However, so do other people in the audience.  Get them to say the answer.  Let a couple people speak.  After 3-4 people speak it is likely that 4 of the 5 points you wanted to make have been made already.  Now you can chime in with your 5th point.  Everyone else got their chance to shine and your 5 points were made.  You'll still look brilliant for having a 5th point that nobody else thought of, but you won't look overbearing.

Those are the top 2 problems I've seen.

The #3 issue is "Where to advertise?"    Please post a comment if you have suggestions.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community