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In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

LISA06 - Day 5

The Last Day of LISA... we started with Black Ops 2006: Pattern Recognition by Dan Kaminsky. It was a great hi-end discussion, very theoretical, and I am excited to see if the theory makes a transition into real tools (as opposed to Dan's Code) some time down the road in the next bunch of years. Basically it was a high level discussion about using visual I.E. graphical images to represent data to allow for visual pattern matching which then leads to drilling down into that data to identity relational data over time. Very cool...

Next was the Hit the Ground Running Track, its an opportunity to Find out from the experts everything you need to know to get started on the topics covered. This session dealt with Bad Interview Questions, Mac OSX hacks, Spam, Puppet and Bcfg2.

Lunch that day was a Lunch and learn, because of this we only had a few minutes to grab lunch... the Geeks descended /mnt/geek in hordes to hit the McDonald's, which was really the only thing close enough that would provide food fast enough to let everyone get back in time for the session. I think a few more names got added to the memorial on the way back up, but those who survived attended The Future of System Administration: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Self-Managing Systems by Alva L. Couch. It was a great discussion of the future direction of the industry, where it is going and how to keep valuable, and thus employed during the changes to come.

Next System Administration: Drowning in Management Complexity by Chad Verbowski, from Microsoft was ok.. it didn't provide much new information to me personally but was a good talk... it ended early and we were able to catch the last bit of Corporate Security: A Hacker Perspective by Mark "Simple Nomad" Loveless. What I had caught of the end of this session makes me kinda wish I had gone to it.. or at least had a Time Turner so that I could have gone to both.

The Closing session was Improv for Sysadmins, it was a great session that used humor to put across a lot of important lesson about personal interaction with others, social skills, being personable and other traits that most SystemAdmin Types need to work on.

After things Wrapped Ken and I went to Diner at a Cajun resturant near by, I had the Pecan crusted chicken with andouille sausage and rice. with some Pecan Pie for desert.... mmmm pecans.....

We ascended /mnt/geek for the last time, stopping at the monument to power on some LED candles for our fallen brethren, Ken opted to go back to the room and have some more quality time with his laptop. I decided to seek out the last bastion of geeks who had not yet flown out.

I ended up in the lobby bar with some of the Google Guys and a few other geeks. Then it happend, the mortal enemy of the Geeks arrived... Frat Boys!

We found out that night that the Hotel played host to a sorority dance.. all these dumb jocks and vappid girls who couldn't walk in their high heels were parading around...

One of the Female SysAdmins who was with us... << aside >> It's true you don't see many Female SysAdmins. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, they are often mistaken for SysAdmin men. And this in turn has given rise to the belief that there are no Female SysAmdin. And that SysAmins just, spring out of old computer mainframes! Which is of course ridiculous.

Where was I, oh yes One of the Female SysAdmin's who was with us went on a rant about the sorority girls, comparing them to twinkies... Not real, no Nutritional value...

I interjected with ... and filled with white cream?

ROTFLOL was the general reaction from the geeks, we resisted the urge to escalate that thread any further...

We hung around for a bit longer The Google Guys were trying to convience the Female SysAdmin who had ranted about the sorority girls to go and yank off the strapless dress number pretty much every girl there was wearing... she said she would do it only if they had the bail money up front... The discussed ways of trying to justify expensing the act :) but ultimately they were unable to.... boo...

I had to get up at O-GOD-O`CLOCK to get the airport shuttle, and then my plane back to Toronto... again my flight was uneventful which is the way I like it....

I really want to go to LISA07, I will make sure to do everything I can to make that happen....

Canadian Zombie Number Two Signing off... doing my best to eat some Maple Syrup covered brains, and avoid the mobs on segways chasing me with their google coloured torches and pitch forks... (Yes that's a "You had to be in #lisa06 reference)

LISA06 - Day 4

The Tech Sessions on Day four were not the greatest, a little disappointing really Everything You Know About Monitoring Is Wrong
by Mazda A. Marvasti. was flat, and the consensus in the room was that it was a veiled sales pitch for his companies product.. many people just got up and left.. we didn't guess the Canadian politeness kicked in...

Next was QA and the System Administrator by Adam Haberlach of Google. It was a good talk about QA process, how and where the SysAdmin fits in etc.. he named off some QA Tools that they use which I noted to do some research on later to see if they can help us back here at my company.

Lunch was courtesy of the LISA06 Conference, niblits etc. and Ice Cream for desert... it was in the vendor hall so I had a chance to go back to a few booths to ping their technical people on the products to get a better idea of the scope of the tools I will probably never get to use at my current job.

Back to the Tech Sessions the after noon picked up with High Availability: From Luxury to Commonplace Necessity in 10 Years
Eric Hennessey from Symantec. It was a great session, as the title mentioned the gist of it was to get on the H.A. wagon now because in 10 years it will be common place. Lots of good theory etc on clustering and H.A. philosophy.

Next was The Last, Best Hope: Sysadmins and DBAs as the Last Guardians of Privacy by Danny O'Brien, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was a great talk on rights and privacy. And how we as system admins have a responsibility to protect users rights and data, that we need to start adopting polices that help our users, and for us to not slowly become "Big Brother"

Dinner that night was the LISA Carnival of fun.. it was a big social dinner.. great food and lots of games to play, door prizes and lots of talking and networking with fellow geeks.

My favorite part of the night was when the guy next to me won a book called Understanding Cisco Routers for the Desperate.... The irony, he works for Cisco, he was laughing about going back to work and having that book sitting on his desk :)

BOF's that night were RHEL, Puppet... The Google BOF for some more of the Google Kool-Aid, and then Dinner...

LISA06 - Day 3

I forgot to mention prior to this, that as well as being big, the hotel was on the top of a very steep hill... So the first question that needs to be asked about LISA is... who puts a fracking Systems Administrators conference on top of a steep hill... I personally think it was their way of weeding out the cruff, seperating the cream from the rest.. making my way up the top of /mnt/geek we passed many a sysadmin who just couldn't make it... I think there is a memorial to the fallen SysAdmin there now :)

Honestly, when your getting your conference Tshirts and the smallest size they have is XL they should know that SysAdmin's don't do mountain climbing...

The Second Question is... Who starts a Systems Administration Conference at 9:00am in the morning :) Close to a thousand bleary eyed under caffeinated systems administrators stumbled into the main hall to hear Cory's Key note address... It was a great speech, Ken will get it posted up on so I am not even going to try and recap it as I will not do it justice.

After the Key Note, Cory , Ken and I went out to Lunch, we did Sushi.. it was ok.. not at the same caliber that we're use to up here but it was still good. Getting to sit down with Cory is amazing, to hear all the things he's been up to both personally, and professionally. He is the Alpha of Alpha-Geeks, when Cory speak, people listen, he is one of the people out there who *does* make a difference... he is also one of the most humble people I know, which makes him even more awesome.

We hit the Tech Sessions, the first was on Site Reliability at Google by Tom Limoncelli. It was a great talk about High Availability, clustering mentality and architecture.. scalability etc..

The Exhibit Hall opening up with the Vendor stuff... got some swag, but I also got to check to a few products which I would love to get into.... will never happen because my company would rather reinvent the wheel then spend a few bucks to buy one, but never the less it was a fun to dream about having some of the software/hardware that was on display.

We went to the Spam Guru session later, it was great, totally focused on real work things we can do today to try and get a leg up on the spammers. It really reinforced the direction that Ken and I had decided to take with the mail server rebuild, and gave us a few new Ideas to try as well.

The Tech Sessions ended and the BOF's started (Birds of a Feather) we hit 3 Configuration management BOF's in a row, got to talk to two authors of the newer open source config management initiates. I really would love to implement one of these config management solutions here at work, it would make running the ever growing number of servers we have so much easier... we'll see if the project sees the light of day or if it gets killed on the ground... my manager is a great guy, but weird sometimes about projects etc..

The evening ended with some more geek bonding, and a late dinner..

LISA06 - Day 2

Day two began with Breakfast at the Ocean Cafe. Ken spun tails of his attempts to get food in DC at 3:00 am on a Tuesday morning, and we spoke of what we wanted to do for the day. Back at the hotel we went through the registration process, looked at a few conference things, the Training Sessions were wrapping up, Technical sessions started on Wednesday, there was some evening things to consider hitting at LISA but we did have a few hours free during the day, so we decided to hit the town. Of course being geeks the best thing we could possibly do with some unexpected free time in DC was to hit the Smithsonian. It rocked, we got to see so many things, The museum of air and space was my favorite, though we were slightly really disappointed when we found out that the hanger that had the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the SR71 Black bird and other really cool things was to far away to get to with the couple of hours of free time that we had to work with.

We did battle once again with the DC Metro (I think I reached Level 3, but we never made it to Shady Grove to get the Quest) and met Niki's Mother who brought us out to their place to have dinner.

Niki's father drove us back to the Hotel, we had a very scenic tour of DC ending up a the Washington monument a few times before we actually made it back to the hotel.

We jumped onto the LISA IRC channel and communed with our geek brethren for a while and then it was time to go to sleep... The next day was packed and started early.

Lisa06 - Part 1 - The Exodus

In an attempt to chronicle my recent journey to the US I give you LISA06 Part 1.

LISA, The Large Installation Systems Administration Conference... The name is a little dated, 20 years ago when LISA first started a "Large Installation" was considered 100MB... but that aside LISA is the ultimate meeting of the minds for my chosen profession, it is academia meets the guys in the trenches, a week for the best of the best to get together and steer the future of our industry.

I was able to go to LISA for two main reasons. First and foremost Cory Doctorow, he was the keynote speaker at LISA and ultimately was the reason I was able to attend. A very little known fact about me is that I am the backup systems admin for the servers that host among other things,,, Online Rights Canada etc.. The head SysAdmin Ken, is one of my best friends, and collegues.

The 2nd factor of course was work who agreeded to give me the time, and allow me to expense the rest of the trip.

So with tickets and reservations in hand I went through the miriad of security checks at Person, and had an uneventful trip to DC. The same cannot be said for my colleague Ken (mentioned above as uber admin number 1) I'll spare the blog the details but lets just say the 1 hour flight from Toronto to DC took ken almost 12 hours to do :(

I was met at the airport by Ken's wife Niki who was down in the DC area visiting her parents for US Thanks Giving, She got me to my hotel via the DC Metro..

The best way to explain the DC metro for anyone in Toronto who is use to the TTC is to say the DC Metro is a lot like a Quake Level.. It's dark, and when I say dark I mean little to no lighting, dirty, ugly concreate everywhere... it's about 100% opposite of the TTC which is well lit, has designated waiting areas for women (heck for anyone) has security cameras and security guards walking around... each stop has some artistic theme to the design etc...

Lets just say on the metro I was glad I teach Kung Fu...

The Hotel is big... I got checked in and soon thereafter Tom showed up, Ken was still in transit so the three of us went out for dinner. Indian food was consumed, and much catching up was done over dinner.

Ken rolled in at about 11:30 just intime to let his wife know that there was no way in hell he was going to let her go back to her parents on the Metro alone, so they suited up.. grabbed their BFG's and headed down the escalator of Doom into the depth of the Merto Quake land.... I went to bed..

Hello Everybody!

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-- The Dread Pirate Bart --
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