Awesome Conferences

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stackexlogo.pngLast week I started my new job at You may know SE as the company that runs great Q&A websites like and plus their amazing job site Careers 2.0. I know the company as Joel Spolsky's startup that has been hiring a lot of great people that I know through conferences such as like LOPSA-East, the Cascadia IT Conference, and USENIX LISA. I just joined yet I already feel like everyone is an old friend.

StackExchange encourages its employees to be active in the sysadmin community. You'll be seeing me at more events and having more time to write. I'll be doing a lot more traditional Linux system administration and Puppet, which should give me a lot to write about.

Today my coworker Steve Murawski posted to the ServerFault blog an announcement of my arrival that made me blush. Check it out!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

I'm getting reports that some RSS reading software does not see the latest posts from this list. Please be sure to use this URL for your RSS reading pleasure:

Of course, if you are using an old URL that has gone away, you'll never see this post (so tell your friends!).


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements is proud to announce our newly redesigned website!

  • New design and color scheme. After nearly 10 years this new design has a more modern feel.
  • New Feature: The sysadmin events calendar is now a tab for easier viewing. This calendar of events is a joint project with Matt Simmons' Standalone Sysadmin Blog.
  • Updated: Author biographies and book descriptions.
  • New feature: A spinning book carousel in the header!
  • New automation for the "See us live", "Awesome Conferences", and "Best of Blog" boxes.
  • Much improved navigation for older posts.
  • And much much more!

We expect to be making minor adjustments over the next few days. Please post bug reports or suggestions as comments to this post.

Thanks to Mihai Bocsaru of PRO IT Service and who was able to take my ideas sketched out on napkins and turn it into the site you see today. Great job!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

I've updated's front page to list all upcoming speaking engagements. Look for me in Pittsburgh on Oct 8-9 for the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop, and in Raleigh, NC on Oct 20 for ISSA Triangle InfoSeCon. Of course, in December I'll be speaking at LISA '11 including 1.5 full days of tutorials.

Note: The San Francisco talk in San Francisco on Oct 14 has been cancelled.

More info on the left navigation bar on

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Help me fix the "awesome sysadmin conferences" box on so it works better when the window is narrow. (or other suggestions on how to make it look better)


Update: Fixed thanks to morgan!.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Let's review.

I hope your 2010 was as productive, fun, and satisfying. Best wishes on a great 2011!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Here is a month-by-month list of highlights from the blog:



Mostly ranting and promoting the PICC conference, plus a few google articles about improving your memory and Katherine Hepburn.


Grumpy post about Quicken 2010, more encouragement to write papers for Usenix LISA, the full schedule for LOPSA PICC, and how new thinking on pain management should change how you do customer support.


Very few blog posts. I was super busy elsewhere.


Another Ganeti success story, my annual warning that your computer room is about to overheat. And of course, posts about LOPSA PICC happening.








Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

[Note: I had a very productive year at work but sadly I haven't gotten permission to talk about it externally yet. It isn't anything earth-shattering but I hope to turn it into a few papers eventually.]

January: Spent nearly 3 weeks in the SF/Bay area for training and...

February: Spoke at MacWorld on Time Management.

March: Started a collaboration with ACM to help them find sysadmin-related articles for their Queue magazine. After some brain-storming (at 2 meetings, 2 months apart) we collected 6-7 topics matched with authors around the world.

They've been well-received. The one I wrote on "A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins -- 10 Do's and Don'ts" (published in December) got mentioned on Slashdot and helped push their web site to break 1 million visits for 2010. I'm rather proud of that.

While my article has a attention-getting title, I think the most innovative article to come out of the series so far isn't getting the publicity it deserves: Collaboration in System Administration. (Eben gave a similar talk at PICC (video here) and at LISA (slides here).

We have a few more article in the hopper, so keep watching ACM Queue. Please write to me if you have ideas for articles, whether or not you want to write the article to have suggestions of who we should approach.


PICC: In November 2009 some people in New Jersey thought it would be a good idea to have a small, regional conference for people in IT. We called it PICC. I think I spent all my free time in April working on the keynote I was presenting. The topic is the 3 biggest threats of system administration as a profession. I highlight one that is on the personal level, one that is on the organization/enterprise level, and one that is at the level of our professional IT society.

Which brings us to...


PICC conference a major success. 80 people (big for a regional conference's first year) and we made enough money to have seed money for next year.

My keynote was on the 3 threats to system administration: Personal: health (especially diabeties) Organization: the lack of dissemination of info (some orgs do great IT, others suck at things that are "solved problems" elsewhere) As a career: lack of respect (we need better PR and representation in D.C.) What do these three problems have in common? That no one person can solve any of them. They require community effort, and that is why organizations like PICC, LOPSA, Usenix, ACM and so on are so important.

Inspired by PICC, people in Seattle have decided to have a regional conference. People from all over the Pacific North West are expected to attend. If you are within reach, check out Cascadia IT Conference.

At this point I was also thinking about writing a new book. I had sort of a half-formed idea. I wrote 3 chapters as a test. I read them and a publisher farmed them out to a number of people in the industry. No dice. I didn't even think I'd read such a book. However, I did have an idea on how to reformulate it. I took one of the chapters, re-worked it, and published it in Usenix :login; as a test. (see September)

On a personal career level, this is when I started learning Django, a web framework for Python. I'm really enjoying it.


June, July, August and September there were relatively few blog posts because I was "heads down" focused on two projects at work. I created two web-based apps for use by my coworkers. I hadn't written serious code in a while and was enjoying it so much I was working nearly every waking moment because I was having so much fun!


Went to Disney/Florida. My SO and I had an awesome, relaxing, vacation this year. Something we've discovered? By having our "big trip" immediately when her break begins (Chris has summers off) we are more relaxed the rest of the break. We feel like we've accomplished something, so to speak, even though that "thing" is relaxation. If we have our big trip at the end of the summer then there is pressure to "do it right" because there's no do-over. (P.S. July 4th at Epcot is awesome).

Geek BBQ at my place. I have a house with a nice backyard and yet I rarely use it. I decided to fix that by having at least two cookouts this year. One of which I deemed the "Geek BBQ" and invited LOPSA-NJ and other geeky friends to attend. About 20 people showed up, which was the perfect size. We had a great time and I'm definitely doing it again next year.


I often teach a half-day time management class at conferences. With the help of my friend Pam, we video taped this class and chopped it into 5-10 minute segments. Around August I finally put them up on a new web site called The videos are free to watch, the site is advertisement supported (and of course, promotes the book).

I gave a keynote at the SAGE-AU conference. My talk was similar to the keynote at PICC, but customized for the audience. This was my second time giving a keynote in Tazmania, and the 5th time I had been to Australia to speak at a conference. I can't believe I'm saying that! (For those that aren't sure, yes, Tasmania is a state of Australia.)


Wrote a "Open Letter to people teaching system administration" prior to the workshop on that topic at LISA. (due to be re-printed in MacTech magazine soon). I'm unhappy with the sad state of how we train future system administrators. I think this is an important issue. It isn't just that "computers play a bigger role in our lives every day", today society can't survive without well-run IT systems. It isn't that computers are involved in getting food from the farm to our plate, we, as a society, no longer know how to do it manually.

Usenix article: A System Administration Parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass. I'm really happy with how this article turned out. I'd like to write 12-15 parables and publish it as a book. This would be a good project for me after the Usenix LISA 2011 conference is done.

October: LISA 2010 in San Jose. Big success. I agreed to co-chair the Program Committee with Doug Hughes in 2011.


This month began with my laptop being stolen 22 hours before I was scheduled to give a full-day Time Management class at Usenix LISA. The most painful part was that a friend's car window was smashed open to get to my laptop. Ugh. Well, I paid for the new windows. Luckily my entire presentation was 'in the cloud' (thank you, Dropbox!) but I had to get a new Mac and the latest Keynote software. Luckily I could go to one of my employer's many offices and get it taken care of. The presentation went on without a hitch.

After Usenix LISA and I was pretty much exhausted the rest of the month, though I got a lot of work done at work, there was not much blog activity.


Not a lot of posting. Again, busy at work. In all, it was a good year.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Python: I really love python. This is the year I really got into it. Thanks to a project that was all python, and some very helpful coworkers that answered all my dumb questions. There will be a post about my new-found love of Python on my blog soon.

Django: This web framework for Python is full-featured, well documented (OMG getting started was as easy as following a simple tutorial), and makes light work of any web development I have to do. Thank you, Django authors!

Ganeti: Still using Ganeti for virtualization. Saves tons of money over, say, VMWare.

FreeBSD + ZFS: My personal (physical hardware) server was running FreeBSD 5.4 (for those of you not familiar with FreeBSD releases, that's so old that not only do they no longer do security patches, but half the new package management utilities started to break). I finally upgraded it to FreeBSD 8.1 and enabled ZFS. Wow, I love ZFS. I wish I could use it everywhere.

Television: This year I upgraded to HDTV, still use my Tivo more than ever, and can't miss an episode of "The Big Bang Theory". If you don't watch this show, set your DVR to record it now.

Favorite web sites: I now get all my technical news from, my political news from and my geek-i-tude from Recently I have discovered the joy that is and I'm becoming addicted.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

DevOps: Giving a name to what the Usenix LISA crowd has always done: automate the shit out of everything. Sadly, LISA isn't getting any credit, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm starting to think of system administration as divided into two things: customer support and computer support. DevOps is the future of computer support. Customer support is, well, I'm ok with it trending towards being done by non-sysadmin people (i.e. highly technical but not sysadmins). The problem is that most shops are too small to justify seperate teams and therefore most people I talk with do both and can't imagine a world where the two groups seperate or divorce or, well, are about as related as any two departments of the same company that need to collaborate. On the other hand, when I bring this up with people that are at larger companies or companies that are primarily web operations it seems obvious.

The fall-out from Oracle buying Sun: Open source people leaving Oracle in droves. Oracle un-open sourcing products like ZFS. The last open source release of products like ZFS being forked and communities developing around them (in particular, ZFS). I upgraded one of my FreeBSD boxes just to run ZFS and I love love love it. This kind of simplicity and power really is the future. I hope a company sprouts up to drive the open source fork of ZFS and is more successful than the closed-source version. While they are forking it they should pick a new name. Establish a new brand identity (I wonder if the licence permits that?). Anyway... the mass exodus from Oracle seems like doom for Oracle but deep down I feel like it is what Oracle wants. In open source you get fame from submitting code. Sun is full of famous people doing great things, and people becoming famous for the great things they've done. Oracle isn't like that. The only person allowed to be famous at Oracle is the CEO, and he doesn't like to share the spotlight. While (insert list of people here) leaving Oracle looks like doom for [ZFS/Dtrace/insert product here] my guess is that Oracle likes this: the product managers can take over and drive the feature selection... no more messy community-implements-what-it-values shenanigans.

Everyone sues everyone: How many mobile and mobile-related companies can sue each other at the same time before my brain expodes? Non-mobile law suits also seem to be piling up.

Regional is "in": In the last 12 months we've seen two regional sysadmin conferences start up. One has had a successful conference in New Jersey and is planning one for 2011 and the other is up to speed and on track to have a successful first conference in a few months (Cascadia IT Conference (Seattle). LOPSA is behind both of these. (I should plug the new NYC chapter of LOPSA!). Speaking of LOPSA...

LOPSA making a come-back: Three big things happened at LOPSA: the lawsuit was finally settled (thanks to Trey for doing a bang-up job of seeing LOPSA through this), a new president brought in new energy, LOPSA's mentoring program is amazing: both in that it serves the community and has gotten more people to volunteer for LOPSA than in ages. The new LOPSA website is a breath of fresh air. Oh, and all those regional conferences (mentioned above) are awesome.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements


  • Feb: BayLISA (usergroup in california) Part 1: Time Management, Part 2: Ganeti
  • Feb: MacWorld (tutorial on Time Management)
  • May: PICC (keynote, 2 tutorials, and a talk)
  • Aug: SAGE-AU (keynote, 3 tutorials)
  • Oct: Usenix LISA (2 tutorials, 1 invited talk, 1 "guru" session)

While I repeat a lot of my material, there were two very original things this year that I'm proud of. (1) The 'Datastructures from the Future' talk at LISA (which you can see slides and video online. (2) my new "time management for teams" half-day tutorial; I put a lot lot lot of effort into this. It is mostly material that has never appeared before in my books, blogs, or articles. I'm glad I was able to premier it at Usenix LISA and hope to repeat it at LOPSA PICC in 2011.


  • December: ACM Queue magazine: "A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins -- 10 Do's and Don'ts"
  • November: "Open Letter to people teaching system administration" (will be reprinted in MacTech magazine soon)
  • October: "A System Administration Parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass"


How many blogposts did I write? A lot!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
11 10 16 5 5 11 11 18 22 32 8 12

According to Google Analytics, the most visitors I got were when I wrote the "Your Computer Room Will Overhead This Weekend" article, which I post every other year, but this time covered it and that drew a lot of attention. I get about 2,000 vists on weeks that I am consistent about posting new articles and I got 6,500 visits when that article got mentioned.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

A bunch of people noticed that my article about what system administration is like at Google appeared briefly earlier this week and then the URL went dead soon after.

Before any crazy rumors spring up...

I clicked "save" when I meant to click "schedule for a future date". Sadly it got into the RSS feed before I could do anything about it. Web apps have no CTRL-C!

I tend to schedule my major posts for 10am US/Eastern on Monday and Wednesday and sometimes Friday. Tiny snippets and comments get fit in between.

For example... this article is timed to appear today about 15 minutes after 10am.

(Note: I had to change the URL to force it to enter the RSS feed. Sorry about the broken links!)

P.S. I just found a setting so my blog software will default my posts to "Scheduled" instead of "Published". That should prevent future problems.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, folks!

May all your backups be restorable, may all your packets reach their destination!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

O'Reilly is hosting my new blog that will focus on Time Management for System Administrators:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Site back up

We're back up!

Sorry for the outage. The system was down and I was traveling or busy and couldn't get to the colo to bring it back up. Ah, the joys of do-it-yourself hosting. :-)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Introducing our TWiki

We've added a TWiki to the web site. Our hope is that the many, many college instructors that are using the book will be able to use it to share notes, tips, and so on. Of course, everyone has access to it so we've put a space for people to write comments, etc. Eventually we'll start adding our own notes.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

New web site up!

Welcome to our new web site! We've modernized the format, added a blog (one that permits comments), and imported all the old content. Tell us what you think?

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Buy the bear!

They said it couldn't be done. ...or maybe they just wish we hadn't. Introducing the PoSANA teddy bear!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

Site Up

Welcome to our new site! Just in time for LISA 2001, we present our new web site. We hope it becomes a useful resource for all your sysadmin needs.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements