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LISA14 - Day The Last

The last day of LISA14...crazy. I went to the presentation on checklists, which was great; the FIT-ACER checklist is getting printed out and taped to my desk as soon as I get back. Ben Rockwood's talk, "I Am SysAdmin (And So Can You!)" was great; I missed the first part of it, but came in as he reeled off a list of technologies you should have in your back pocket -- things to know deeply and things to be aware of -- and started scribbling. Watch for the slides and video to be posted, and start playing.

Lunch was spent discussing the firehose of knowledge from the conference ("My brain is over", said fellow-blogger Katherine), and planning our sleep schedule once we got home. But not yet -- first up was Brendan Gregg's talk on performance analysis on Linux. This was really interesting, because with Gregg the bar's pretty high: he's one of the developers of DTrace for Solaris, and has pretty much God's own view into the OS with it.

But Linux is coming along, after a long bout of (my opinion) fumbling around with incomplete attempts to duplicate DTrace functionality. Now, through a series of mostly-unpublicized tools like FTrace and perf_events, you can get a lot of visibility into the kernel. Gregg's code can be found here, his slides are here, and a very detailed run-through can be found on his website. Go grab 'em now.

The final talk was by Courtney Kissler; she's a former sysadmin who's now Vice President of E-Commerce and Store Technologies at Nordstrom. Her talk was on what it's like to shift a company from slow waterfall project management to quick, agile development. If you're like me, and you haven't heard of Nordstrom's before, it's an American "upscale fashion retailer" that's been around since 1901. And if you're like me, you wouldn't think there's a lot of software development or deployment to do at such a place...but, like me, you'd be wrong. There's the online shopping, of course, but there's also a mobile app and a ton of in-house software. And as Kissler said, their competitors decided that "digital wasn't important...and they're not around anymore. We didn't want this to happen to us."

The talk discussed methodology, of course; that's part of how you do something like this, and it's a fascinating part. But the other part is getting people to buy into this: changing their minds and getting them excited about a completely new way of doing things. I heard one bit of advice at a previous LISA that seems relevant: "10% of the job is typing at computers; the other 90% is typing at people." Getting people -- those who work underneath you, above you and your peers -- to buy in was a challenge, and a hard one. It was a fascinating talk.

And then...then it was time to say goodbye to folks, because LISA was over for another year. Sleep missed, friends made and seen again, notes scribbled, minds blown, but family and home missed and new work to do. Email addresses and hugs were exchanged, and then I met up with my family for a little bit of vacation in Seattle before going home.

Two last notes: thanks to Mark Lamourine, Matt Simmons, Katherine Daniels and Noah Meyerhans for doing an amazing job writing all these posts. And infinite thanks to the folks who put all this on: the speakers and teachers, and especially the organizers and all of the USENIX staff, who all worked really, really hard while the rest of us listened and learned and high-fived each other in the Hallway Track. The job you did was incredible.