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Three people from the SRE team took over this week's Stack Overflow Podcast. You can hear myself, Mark Henderson and Jason Harvey rant about important topics such as how we got our start, USB Condoms, and my opinionated interpretation of the "First Day Database Destruction" discussion on Reddit.

The podcast episode is announced here: (link)

You can skip all that and go directly to SoundCloud here: (link)


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in MediaSpeaking

My "4 Unix commands I abuse every day" blog post has been published in this month's Hacker News Monthly!

Check it out:

Interestingly enough that post got more hits than any other that I posted last year. It got mentioned on HN (quite an honor) and then the print edition (Hacker News Monthly) contacted me about reprinting it.

HNM is a pretty nice deal. If you don't have time to read HN every day, they pick out the best articles of the month and print them as an ebook (multiple formats) and an actual dead-trees printed version too! It is a great time-saver!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Media

Self-driving cars

Standford's team (which won the DARPA contest) is doing some great stuff.

When jet engines were new jet airplanes had to have 3 pilots. The third pilot did nothing but run the jet engines: constantly adjusting the settings, tuning them, and keeping them running manually. Eventually electronics were developed to the point that such controls could be automated, thus eliminating the third pilot. The electronic control system is not just less expensive, but it produces better fuel efficiency.

Cars today require a driver. The driver requires good health, must be rested and sober. Humans are not very good at optimizing fuel efficiency. Humans don't communicate very well between cars. Imagine a world where cars drove themselves. The computers could optimize for better fuel performance, people could relax during their commute, and the cars could network to get better performance. For example, if 10 cars were all driving to the same destination they could get into a line and drive like a 'train' eliminating wind resistance for each other. Who knows what other optimizations will be discovered: the lead car could take on different computational responsibilities than the other cars.

One problem with our current highway system is that we equate "safety" with "speed". What we want is a "safety limit" but that is hard to quantify so we make due with a reasonable approximation: the speed limit. Computer controlled cars could enable a true safety limit and be permitted to drive at any speed as long as their metric is maintained (super fast on straight roads, slowing down for curved roads or during rain). Wouldn't you prefer a driver that had a mathematical model of friction ratios based off of sensors on the tires?

Of course, as the "driver" we humans could select from a wide menu of maneuvers that are humanly impossible. Like, parking a car James Bond style.

Eventually the cost and safety issues will be worked out. At that point, autonomous cars may be a big time management win. In the meanwhile, the bar association should advocate for more research in this area. I don't mean the legal organization, I mean the association of bar owners!

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Posted by Tom Limoncelli in MediaTime Management

I'm the guest on the StackOverflow podcast with Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.  w00t!

We talk about everything from early internet history, to IPv6, to how to scale a really really really large web site. Here's the episode page and link to the audio. (Tons of links on the episode page).

Check out their website for sysadmins Q&As at

Thanks to Joel and Jeff for having me on the show!  I listen every week!

I'll be the the keynote at Linux.Conf.Au in 2 weeks so ComputerWorld rang me up for an interview. They asked me about what I'd be speaking about, the challenges of system administration, and my political activism.
Interview with Tom Limoncelli in ComputerWorld: The sysadmin's mantra: Manage time, think 'abundance' and softly does it. Author and system administrator guru Tom Limoncelli offers his insights into a range of sysadmin topics ahead of his keynote speech this month at
Just between me and the readers of this blog, during the interview I had a disquieting realization that the interviewer came from a perspective that open source wasn't the obvious default for everything. Oh yeah, we open source users are still, ya know, cutting edge! What a reality check that was! (Think about that the next time you apt-get!)
Ben Rockwood interviewed Tom for his blog's podcast.  We talk about time management, the history and future of system administration, and a lot more.  Links to the podcast are on his blog
I'm quoted in this article in about a study that finds that younger IT employees are feel greatly distracted by office negativity:
In days when people rarely changed jobs it was easier for a team to get to the high performance level. "But today. more often than not, your team always has at least one new person and is trying to get back to that high performing team mode."
Most of my quotes are in page 2 and 3 of the article.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Media

Christine in the news

Yahoo Sports had an article about Christine Hogan (now Lear) and her new career in the F1 Racing world: Christine Lear, aerodynamicist at Sauber

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Media