Beonard’s Losers — 2010, Week 9

Howdy, football fans!  This is the part where I’d make a few humorous remarks about the previous week, but the Smart Pill Machine is on the fritz this week, and I can’t get much out of it.  Before I waste what I do have, let’s take a look at this week’s games.

Northwestern at Indiana

The purple kittens head into Basketballtown with the intention of breaking a two-game losing streak.  Bill Lynch’s squad will be defending their hopes of becoming bowl-eligible later this season in addition to defending the rock.  Unfortunately for the home team, defending is not something they’ve done much of this year.  It should be offense-versus-offense, and I think the felines are a bit more offensive.  Beonard’s loser? In a close one, Indiana

Purdue at Illinois

Danny Hope may have to start his fourth-string quarterback in Champaign on Saturday, which gives the tribe’s tomahawks an extra glint.  Ron Zook’s squad has allowed less than thirteen points per game against unranked opponents, and they should have no problem derailing the iron horse.  Beonard’s loser? Purdue

Tulsa at Notre Dame

The Indiana Vatican turns into the Golden Corral this weekend when the Golden Hurricane sweeps in to take on the golden domers.  After a tough loss to Navy, Brian Kelly finds himself going to confession for the fourth time this season.  The typhoon’s offense may be cause for alarm, but even the mediocre Notre Dame offense can score against the cyclones.  Beonard’s loser? Tulsa

Michigan State at Iowa

After blowing last week’s game, Kirk Ferentz and his eglets look to remain in the hunt for the Big Ten title.  To remain relevant, they’ll have to break the spears of the Spartans.  This is the last game standing between Mark Dantonio and an easy road to Pasadena, so don’t expect the visitors to be spending too much time on tourism.  The Hawkeyes have a stout defense, but they won’t be able to contain the rushing soldiers.  Beonard’s loser? Iowa

Missouri at Nebraska

The Columbia cats silenced their critics last weekend by upsetting Oklahoma, and they’ll try to cement the Big XII North with a win over the shuckers on Saturday.  Of course, the home team wouldn’t mine one last title before they jump to the Big Twen next year.  Neither team has been very stingy against ranked teams, but the Mizzou defense is a little bit ahead of the Land of Lincoln.  Beonard’s loser? In a close one, Missouri

Oregon at USC

The Ducks may be number one in the hearts of the voters, but the computers keep them in the silver medal spot.  A convincing win in the Los Angeles Coliseum just might fix that problem.  Lane Kiffin’s defense is going to need their best performance if they’re going to stop a team that hasn’t scored less than 40 points in a game this season.  On Saturday, we’ll witness the fall of Troy.  Beonard’s loser? USC

Ohio State at Minnesota

After blowing off some steam against Purdue, Jim Tressel takes his nuts to TCF Bank Stadium to take on the tarnished rodents.  This hardly seems like a fair fight, and if the Gophers have any dignity intact at the end of the game, I’ll eat my britches.  Beonard’s loser? Minnesota

Michigan at Penn State

Last year, Michigan started 5-0 before ending with 7-game losing streak.  This year, Michigan started 5-0 and is on a 2-game losing streak that they desperately need to snap in Beaver Stadium.  Happy Valley isn’t very happy these days, with grumbles about whether or not it’s time for JoePa to retire.  If he wants to stick around another year, he’ll have to make sure he defense tightens up to contain the Michigan offense, but the Penn State offense needs some work too.  Beonard’s loser? Penn State

Well, friends, that’s all I’ve got for you this week.  Come back again next week for more losers!

Beonard’s Losers main page

Beonard’s Losers — 2010, Week 8

Listen here!

Howdy, football fans!  The football world is starting to come into sharper focus.  Except nobody has any clue who the top team in the country really is.  Fortunately, I’m here to help you sort through the confusion, so let’s take a look at this week’s games.

Michigan State at Northwestern

Sparty finds itself at the top of the Big Televen this week, and will keep that in mind on Saturday.  The purple kittens have had a week off to recover from their unexpected loss to Purdue, and they’ll need all eight of their remaining lives to survive this game.  Michigan State is due for a stumble, but they’ll make it out of Evanston unharmed.  Beonard’s loser? Northwestern

Purdue at Ohio State

The West Lafayette locomotive has picked up a head of steam, and Danny Hope will need the fire going full blast as he tries to clear the tracks of some Ohio trees.  After a punishing loss in Madison, Jim Tressel’s nuts need to avoid getting kicked in a repeat of last year’s “Purdue Harbor” upset.  Don’t count the bartenders out of this game, but I wouldn’t put much money on them either.  Beonard’s loser? Purdue

Penn State at Minnesota

With the Valley less Happy these days, Joe Pa probably welcomes the chance to go on the road against a team that his kittens can use as a scratching post.  With a mid-season dismissal of Tim Brewster, the Gopher leadership has shown that they’ve given up on this season.  Don’t expect to see much heart from the players either.  Beonard’s loser? Minnesota

Indiana at Illinois

After three straight weeks of playing “State” teams, Ron Zook heads back to the Chambana campground for the easier portion of the conference schedule.  Up first is an Indiana team that struggled to beat Arkansas State at home last weekend.  The tribe have been tough defensively, and could prove problematic for the basketballers’ potent passing attack.  Bill Lynch needs two more wins to get the Hoosiers to their second bowl game this millennium, but that won’t happen this week.  Beonard’s loser? Indiana

Notre Dame vs Navy

After 43 straight losses, the Midshipmen are 2-1 against the Domers in the past three years.  Brian Kelly hopes to even the score in East Rutherford Saturday afternoon and extend the longest winning streak in his Notre Dame career.  Although neither team has been offensively potent, expect the Navy rushing attack to run all over the Pope’s boys.  Beonard’s loser? In a close one, Notre Dame

LSU at Auburn

It’s Tiger-on-Tiger action as two unbeatens fight for control of the SEC West in Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Auburn has allowed at least 27 points in conference games against teams not named “Mississippi State”, so they’ll need to put their 40.7 points-per-game offense to good use.  Unfortunately, LSU boasts the nation’s 11th best scoring defense.  On the other hand, Les Miles has had some remarkably bad clock management practices, and I still expect LSU’s luck to break at any time.  Beonard’s loser? LSU

Wisconsin at Iowa

After uprooting the Buckeyes, Bret Bielma’s Badger boys head into Iowa City to try to ground Kirk Ferentz’s flock.  This game should be a slugfest, but it will be hard to knock the Hawkeyes out of their nest.  Beonard’s loser?  In a close one, Wisconsin

Nebraska at Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have ridden to a 6-0 record on the backs of their trusty steed “Passing Offense”.  On Saturday, they’ll welcome their first ranked opponent into Boone Pickens Stadium.  The shuckers have an an easy start themselves, which has allowed them to reel off over 300 yards per game on the ground.  This game comes down to defense, then, and the cowpokes haven’t exactly been the best of shots.  Beonard’s loser? Oklahoma State

Oklahoma at Missouri

Thanks to Wisconsin, the Sooners find themselves at the top of the BCS rankings this week, and they’ll try to hold on to that position when they head into Columbia Saturday night.  Gary Pinkel’s squad has some good stats through the first half of the season, but their resume is pretty weak.  Expect Bob Stoops to expose a few flaws in the Tigers.  Beonard’s loser?  Missouri

That’s all we’ve got time for this week.  Tune in again next week to catch more losers.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes (part 2)

I recently announced a major change in my life — being accepted to graduate school.  I’m now ready to announce another big change — fatherhood.

With school and a newborn on the horizon, I’m going to have a lot less time to do things like blog.  I’ve considered my options, and come up with a plan to redistribute my effort.  I’ll continue writing twice-weekly posts on my Journal and Courier weather blog (although that may end up dropping to once-weekly).  Blog Fiasco will no longer have twice-weekly updates, but instead will be updated as I come up with posts.  The Beonard’s Losers feature during college football season will probably not happen again next year.  It’s fun, but it takes a lot of time and effort to write and record in the appropriate manner.

By making these changes, I can hopefully continue to meet my responsibilities at home, at work, and in school, as well as my commitment to the Fedora project.

All of this, of course, is subject to change.

Building dial information for the radar page

I thought building the dial (adjacent radar sites) data for my mobile radar site would be a tedious and entirely painful process.  As it turns out, it really wasn’t that difficult.  I knew the data was out there in some form, if you visit any of the radar sites on the NWS website, you get a nice dial in the upper-left part of the screen, but I couldn’t find a good text file with that information.  Just when I was about to stat copying it by hand, I thought “maybe this is parseable”.

It turns out that the page is parseable, but it gets ugly at times.  To get a list of all the sites, I grabbed a file from Unisys.  I could extract the site, city, and state from there, so then all I needed was to grab the 8 (or fewer surrounding sites) and dump them all into a Perl hash.  So I wrote a bit of code to do just that.  It’s ugly, but it’s an example of what you can do when you really, really don’t want to do something by hand: Continue reading

Beonard’s Losers — 2010, Week 7

Howdy, football fans!  If there’s anything worse than a loser, it’s a sore winner.  Last week, when Wisconsin went for two with a 25-point lead, the rest of the football world looked unkindly at Madison.  But we’re going to take a kind look at this week’s games.

Illinois at Michigan State

After leaving Happy Valley with a new fur coat, Ron Zook leads his tribe into East Lansing to take on the undefeated spear toters.  The Chambanites gave up 13 points to a struggling Penn State offense, so they’ll have a tough time against the potent rushing attack that Mark Dantonio’s squad brings.  Sparty will lose at some point this season, but not this weekend.  Beonard’s loser? Illinois

Arkansas State at Indiana

After losing the last two games, Bill Lynch will be glad to defend the rock against a Sun Belt Conference opponent.  The Red Wolves are thoroughly ungood and should prove a good practice for the Basketballtown boys.  Beonard’s loser? Arkansas State

Minnesota at Purdue

After an upset in Evanston, Danny Hope’s locomotive looks to clear the tracks of the invading rodents.  The northern visitors look to snap a five-game skid.  It’s a movable object versus a stoppable force in West Lafayette, but if the bartenders can move the football, they should roll.  Beonard’s loser?  In a close one, Minnesota

Western Michigan at Notre Dame

Brian Kelly is 0-2 against the state of Michigan this year, but he hopes to improve that when the Broncos ride into the Indiana Vatican on Saturday.  The horsies haven’t been very impressive so far, and the Dome will stay holy.  Beonard’s loser? Western Michigan

Arkansas at Auburn

SEC West powerhouses face off in Jordan-Hare Stadium when the pigs try to take on the Alabama cats.  The Razorbacks may not be as prolific at scoring as their hosts, but they’ve got a stouter defense.  Gene Chizik hasn’t faced a loss yet this year, but I think that ends this week.  Beonard’s loser? In an upset, Arkansas

Iowa at Michigan

After a manhandling by Sparty last weekend, the Ann Arbor faithful remembers last years 5-1 start that preceded a second-half collapse.  RichRod’s job depends on avoiding a repeat of 2009, and that’ll require a good showing against the Hawkeyes.  The Iowa flock lead the nation in scoring defense and they now have a blueprint for shutting down the blue.  With a lackluster defense, the Big House will be a sad house on Saturday.  Beonard’s loser? Michigan

Ohio State at Wisconsin

Jim Tressel takes his nuts into the Great White North to defend their number-one ranking against the cheeseheads.  The Badgers rush attack will challenge the Bucs, but they may not have an answer when the roles are reversed.  One things for sure, though.  This week if Bret Bielma chooses to go for the two-point conversion, it’ll be because he needs it.  Beonard’s loser? Wisconsin

Well, everyone, that’s all I’ve got for you this week.  Come back here next week when we’ll have more losers, and hopefully no sore winners.

To the Beonard’s losers main page

LISA ’10 Interview: Tom Limoncelli

This post was originally posted to the Usenix blog.

Anyone who has attended LISA in the past few years is undoubtedly familiar with Tom Limoncelli.  Tom’s not just a LISA fixture, he’s also a widely-respected author of two books (Time Management for System Administrators and The Practice of System and Network Administration) and a contributor to the Everything Sysadmin blog.  Over the weekend, he sat down with me for a few minutes to share his thoughts about LISA ’10.

Ben Cotton: You are, quite truly, an expert on everything sysadmin.  How did you reach that status?

Tom Limoncelli:  I’m honored by the question but the name “” comes from my co-author (Christine Hogan) and I trying to come up with a domain name that was related to our book, but wasn’t really long.  Since the book tried to touch on a little of everything, we came up with

BC:  So would you consider yourself a generalist or do you have a few fields that you feel you’re truly an expert in?

TL:  I do consider myself a generalist.  I think that’s because when I got started in system administration you had to be.  Now things are different.  Now people tend to specialize in storage, backups, networking, particular operating systems, and so on.  Remember that The Practice of System and Network Administration has three authors; we only know “everything” when all three of us put our brains together.  I guess you’d have to say that my specialty is in always knowing someone that can find an answer for me.

BC:  That’s an excellent lesson.  You’re scheduled to conduct several training sessions on time management during LISA ’10.  What would you say is the biggest lesson to be learned from them?

TL: The biggest lesson is that humans are bad at time management, and that’s OK.  The great thing about being human is that we can build tools that let us overcome our problems.  The class that I teach has very little theory. It’s mostly a list of techniques people can use to solve specific problems. Use the ones you like, ignore the rest.  The one that most people end up using is finding a good way to manage their to-do list.

BC: If someone’s taken your time management training before, what do you have new for them this year?

TL: I have an entirely new class this year.  It’s a “part 2” kind of thing, though you don’t have to have taken part 1 to take it.  In the morning I’ll be teaching “Time Management for System Administrators” which is basically the same half-day class I usually teach.  The afternoon, however, is all new.  It is “Time Management: Team Efficiency”.

The thing about Teams is that there are certain things you do that waste time for everyone else.  You might not even realize it.  In this class, I’m going to cover a number of techniques for eliminating those things.  You save time for others, they save time for you.  It’s like “time management karma”.  What goes around comes around.  For example, meetings are often a terrible waste of time.  I’ll talk about some red flags to help you figure out which meetings to skip, and if you run meetings you can figure out if you are creating these red flags.  If you can’t fix a badly run meeting, I have some tips on how to negotiate so that you don’t have to attend. For example, why send your entire team to someone else’s boring meeting?  Send one person to take notes and report back to your team.  If you can’t get out of a meeting, I have techniques for avoiding them. For example, when you enter the room tell the facilitator, “I have a conflict for the second half of the meeting.  Can my agenda items be first on the list?” After your item is covered, stand up and leave.  It isn’t unethical or dishonest: the “conflict” you had was your urgent need to escape badly run meetings.

BC: You’ve been a regular fixture at  LISA.  What keeps you coming back?

TL: LISA is like telescope that lets me see into the future.  Every year there are presentations that describe things that the majority of all system administrators won’t be exposed to for 2-3 years.  When I come back to work I have more of a “big picture” than my coworkers that didn’t attend.  For example, it was at LISA that I first heard of CFEngine, Puppet and other “Configuration Management” (CM) tools.  Lately people talk CM as if it was new.  It’s certainly much more popular now, but people that have been attending LISA conferences have been benefitting from CM tools for more than a decade.

90% of what is interesting in system administration relates to scaling: More machines, more RAM, more storage, more speed, more web hits.  Many years ago there was a presentation by a web site that was managing 1 million web hits per day. At the time this was huge achievement.  People that saw that presentation were in a great position a few years later when all big sites scaled to be that big.

BC: What are the big scaling challenges?

TL: Everything we used to know is about to change because of SSD.  Everything I know about designing and scaling systems is based on the fact that CPU caches are about 10x faster than RAM, which is 10x faster than disk, which is about 10x faster than networks.  Over the years this has been basically true: Even as RAM got faster, so did disk.  SSD is about to change that.  The price curve of SSD makes it pretty easy to predict that we’re not going to be using spinning magnetic disks to store data soon.  All the old assumptions are going away.  At the same time, CPUs with 16+ and soon 100+ cores make other assumptions change.  Things get worse in some ways.  These are the hot topics that you hear about at a conference like LISA.

Just the other day a very smart coworker said something to me that implied that with the new generation of 100+ core machines we could “just run more processes” and not have to change the way we design things.  I was floored.  That’s like saying, “Basketball players seem to be able to jump higher every year.  Why can’t we jump to the moon?”

BC: As an avid basketball fan, I find that idea intriguing.   It’s obvious attending LISA can be very beneficial. As an experienced attendee, what advice do you have for people who may be going to their first LISA conference?

TL: First: Talk to random people.  When you are on line, introduce yourself to the people next to you.  A big chunk of the learning opportunity is from talking with fellow attendees.  Sysadmins are often introverts, so it is a bit difficult.  Someone once told me that it’s always ok to start a conversation with a stranger by sticking out your hand and saying, “Hi!  My name is Joe.” (if your name is Joe).  Unlike some conferences where the speakers are corralled into a “green room” and never talk with attendees, at Usenix conferences you can talk to anyone.  At my first Usenix experiences I met Dennis Ritchie, one of the inventors of Unix.

Second: plan your days.  There are activities from 9am until midnight every day.  Read the schedule beforehand and make a grid of what you want to attend.  Saturday night is a session for “first timers” which is a great way to get an overview of the conference.  During the day there are usually 3-4 things going on at any time.  At night there is an entire schedule community-driven events.  You don’t want to be picking what to do next at the end of each session.  Also, plan some down-time.  Take breaks. Get plenty of fluids.  It is a full week.

BC: Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

TL: There’s also a lot of great security talks, and an entire track of Q&A sessions with experts answering questions about everything from storage to disaster recovery to consulting.  The last thing I’d like to say is, “see you there!”

Registration for LISA ’10 is still open at  You can find Tom’s training courses on the training page.  He’ll also be presenting two technical sessions.

Log file myopia

I like to consider myself an enlightened sysadmin. I know I’m supposed to think outside the box from 30,000 feet. Still, every so often, my blinders come back on and I tend to be a bit myopic. This is most common when looking at log files in search of clues to an unknown problem.  A recent example was when I was trying to figure out why the Condor startd wasn’t running on a CentOS VM I had set up.

Since I didn’t want to have hundreds of ‘localhost.localdomain’s in the pool, I needed a way to give each VM a unique-ish and relevant name.  The easiest way seemed to be to check against a web server and use the output of a CGI script to set the host name.  Sounds simple enough, but after I put that in place the startd would immediately segfault.

I had no idea why, so I started peeking through the log file for the startd.  Lots of information there, but nothing particularly helpful.  After several hours of cross-eyed log reading and fruitless Googling, I thought I’d give strace a try.  I don’t know much about system-level programming, but I thought something might provide a clue.  Alas, it was not to be.

Eventually, I remembered that there’s a master log for Condor as well, and I decided to look in there.  Well, actually, I had looked in there earlier in the day and hadn’t seen anything that I thought was helpful.  This time I took a closer look and realized that it couldn’t resolve its host name and that’s why it was failing.

A few minutes later and I had changed the network setup to add the hostname to /etc/hosts so that Condor could resolve it’s host name.  A whole day’s worth of effort because I got too focused in on the wrong log file.

Mobile radar page updated

After some effort, I’ve completed my to-do list for the mobile radar page and decided to call it version 1.0.  It is now available from the Mobile Weather page (  A mostly complete list of changes is below:

  • Bugfix: Fixed problem with selecting alternate products. An update in the previous version caused the site variable to not be set correctly when an alternate product was selected at the bottom of the page.  This has been fixed.
  • Added adjacent site dial. Toward the bottom of the display page, there is now a dial to select the same product from an adjacent site (if it exists).  This is really handy for times when the area of interest is right on the edge of a site’s coverage.
  • Images now have a file extension. Previously, images were saved without an extension.  This wasn’t really a problem unless you wanted to right-click on the image.  All images are now displayed with a .gif extension, even though some of the static images are actually PNG files.  This does not appear to have any adverse effects.
  • Site name now in the headline. The name of the site, as well as the ID is now given in the headline along with the product type.


It’s been a busy time for me lately.  Between work, writing two blogs (this one and my weather blog for the local paper), contributing to the Fedora Documentation effort, preparing for LISA ’10, and trying to have a life outside that, I’ve been in a fairly constant state of busy. It’s about to get worse, too.

I found out today that I’ve been accepted into the graduate program at Purdue.  Beginning in January, I’ll be pursuing a Masters Degree in IT Project Management.  While this is a great opportunity for me, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to take it on without re-balancing my load a bit.  What this means isn’t entirely clear yet, but be forewarned that posts may become less frequent or more frazzled in the next few months.

Beonard’s Losers — 2010, Week 6

Listen here!

Howdy, football fans!  It’s hard to believe we’re at Week 6 already.  Is the season shaping up the way you thought it would?  I’m sure Brian Kelly expected to have more than two wins at this point, and very few people expected an undefeated Michigan.  Mark Dantonio probably didn’t anticipate being hospitalized twice, but Danny Hope may have foreseen Purdue’s injury woes based on the play-calling we’ve seen so far.  But the past is behind us, so let’s take a look at this week’s games.

Indiana at Ohio State

Bill Lynch’s basketball stars have proven that they can score points — they rank 13th in points for, and 4th in passing yards — but they’ll have a tough time against a Buckeye squad that only allows 14 points per game.  Jim Tressel’s nuts have seen the end zone a few times themselves, ranking 8th in points scored, which could prove to be a challenge for the mediocre Hoosier defense.  This is proving to be a good year for the Hoosiers, but they won’t like what happens in the Horseshoe.  Beonard’s loser? Indiana

Minnesota at Wisconsin

The gilded rodents tunnel into Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday to try to get their paws on Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003.  Their best hope is to catch the cheese eaters still licking their wounds from last week’s loss to Sparty, but Tim Brewster’s squad hasn’t shown themselves to be much good at anything. Bret Bielma’s Badger boys have been outscoring their opponents pretty well so far, and the axe will likely stay in Madison another year.  Beonard’s loser? Minnesota

Illinois at Penn State

Ron Zook’s tribe prepare for battle in Happy Valley on Saturday, looking better than they have in the past few years.  They hope to get the pelt of a sleeping kitty, but Joe Pa sleeps very lightly.  Although the Lion offense has sputtered, the defense has held unranked opponents to 9 points per game — just what you’d expect from Linebacker U.  This may be a rebuilding year for the Pennsylvania pussycats, but they’ll have no problem chasing away the Indians.  Beonard’s loser? Illinois

Alabama at South Carolina

The Tide continue to roll thanks to their nation-best defense and high-scoring offense.  This weekend, they’ll try to flood the Gamecocks out of Williams-Brice Stadium.  Steve Spurrier needs this win to keep the Gainesville reptiles within pecking distance.  This should be a fine SEC matchup, but I don’t think the home team can stop the rising waters.  Beonard’s loser? South Carolina

Michigan State at Michigan

Separated by one spot in both polls, these in-state rivals prepare for season-defining battle in the Big House.  RichRod has leaned heavily on his rabid quarterback to make up for the anemic Wolverine defense, so you can bet Sparty’s game plan revolves around stopping one particular player.  The spear toters haven’t exactly been the model defense so far, but they’ve done well enough to let the balanced offensive attack work.  Normally, a big rivalry game favors the home team, but with Mark Dantonio’s recent health woes, you know the green and white will be playing extra hard for him.  Beonard’s loser? In a close one, Michigan

LSU at Florida

It’s a matchup between the two SEC division leaders when the Bayou Bengals head into the swamp to take on Urban Meyer and his crocs.  After winning the last two games by a touchdown or less, Les Miles would love to run up the score in Gainesville.  That could be a tough mission, since the Gators haven’t given up more than 17 points in a home game.  With the offense declawed, the visiting felines will have to rely on their ferocious defense.  This could be a low-scoring game, and I’m not sure how much more distance Miles can get in these close ones.  Beonard’s loser?  In an upset, LSU

Purdue at Northwestern

Danny Hope is said to be taking his squad into Evanston on an ambulance, since they’re likely to need one by the end of the game.  The offense has been plagued by injuries and they’re not likely to get very far against Pat Fitzgerald’s 18 points-per-game defense.  The Cats have had Purdue’s number in the past few years, and it’s hard to see any way that they don’t derail the locomotive.  Fortunately, there are likely a few future doctors in the house.  Beonard’s loser?  Purdue

Well, my friends, that covers it for this week.  Come back here next week when we’ll have more losers!

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