The LXer Interview: Jesse Trucks of LOPSA

Posted by Scott_Ruecker on Feb 4, 2009 1:28 PM
LXer Linux News; By Scott Ruecker (Phoenix, U.S.)

LXer Feature: 04-Feb-2009

I interview Jesse Trucks a Director of LOPSA, who along with Chris St. Pierre will be teaching several classes guaranteed to make you a better System Admin at their SCALE University for the second year in a row at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) 20th to 22nd of February in Los Angeles.

For those who may not have heard, just what is LOPSA?

The League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) was formed in 2005 after the originally elected members of the Board. For details about how that all came about, there is a detailed history on the site, as well as information in meeting minutes going back to that era. The brief version is that the people who used to be involved in managing SAGE, which was an organization within Usenix. SAGE's exact status within the Usenix organization has changed over the years, so please refer to Usenix's site for details and background on SAGE.

They decided they wanted to provide certain services and benefits that were not in line with Usenix's mission and goals. Those people then formed LOPSA to serve the system administration community in the ways they thought were the most needed. LOPSA's mission (quoted directly from the web site at is: " advance the practice of system administration; to support, recognize, educate, and encourage its practitioners; and to serve the public through education and outreach on system administration issues."

LOPSA is a nonprofit organization incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation in the United States, but we are an international organization with members spanning the entire globe. We strive to bring awareness of the importance and professional nature of system administration work to people both in our field and those that work with system administrators - which is, essentially, everyone that works in an office or near automated equipment or computerized systems. We are a professional association for system administrators; much like the AMA for doctors (but without the licensing aspects - it's just a roughly similar analogy).

Could you give our readers a little background on you and your involvement with LOPSA.

I currently live in south-central Wisconsin, in the United States, on a small hobby farm with about 30 animals and my wife, who is a professor, journalist, writer, and web designer. I've been working as a system administrator for about 12 years in a variety of situations. I do some consulting for small projects - usually cleaning up after a security breach or catastrophic failure of some sort for small or mid-size organizations. I've worked with many OS and hardware platforms including, but not limited to, Windows, Solaris, MacOS, HP-UX, and a number of Linux and BSD distributions.

A number of years ago I was attending a local group meeting of system admins, and when LOPSA was just being founded and David Parter recruited me to help out. I started by hosting the elections for what became the first LOPSA Board of Directors, then was recruited to the LOPSA Tech Team, which handles all the technical infrastructure required to support LOPSA and its programs. I was asked by the Board to help plan a two-day training event back in 2006, so I joined what would later be named the LOPSA Education Committee. The Education Committee talked me into doing all four class slots for the inaugural LOPSA Sysadmin Days training event in Phoenix - a performance I repeated at the second LOPSA Sysadmin Days the following year in New Jersey.

In between the two events the LOPSA Leadership Committee asked me to run for the LOPSA Board elections for the 2007 - 2009 term. I got on the ballot and won a seat on the Board, and now it's nearly election time again for the next two year term. As a member of the LOPSA Board, I have championed a number of advances in our technical infrastructure, and we are in the process of planning a major overhaul of the web site. I am dedicated to spreading the word about LOPSA, and I am trying to increase our membership, which will increase the quality and quantity of tangible member benefits as well because we will be more attractive to sponsors and partners for events as we grow.

What will be the subjects of the classes being given at SCALE?

We are teaching four classes at SCALE. Chris St. Pierre is teaching a course on documentation for system administrators on how SAs can create effective documentation without spending all their time doing it and a brand new course on Fedora Directory Server (FDS) that I wish I could attend myself. Chris gets great reviews for his teaching and he's a great communicator. His classes are filled with useful information delivered with great humor and he makes it fun for topics that would normally be dry and tedious.

I am teaching a very popular course on disaster recovery, which has been on the roster for nearly every event I've taught at and a reprise of my virtualized storage course from the Ohio Linux Festival in 2007. Both classes are for covering the basic concepts and implementation for the topic at hand.

The DR course, for instance, talks about the definitions of disasters and disaster recovery, and goes into how to think through risk analysis and disaster recovery plans as part of business continuity. It doesn't matter what size your operation is, the class will get you started on a disaster strategy immediately. It's a fun class because everyone's operation is different, and we all learn from one another's perspective on how to approach a particular risk profile.

The storage class is great because it really gets into the meat of how virtualized storage works conceptually and in practical implementation. It is littered with examples of how to implement something for a real world solution. Again, the course is about teaching the foundation and basic skills for people to take back to the office and make a real world difference immediately.

So I take it SCALE isn't the only Expo that LOPSA does this?

No, LOPSA has done two of its own training events called Sysadmin Days in 2006 and 2007, and we've been at the Ohio Linux Festival (OLF) two years in a row and we did SCALE last year too. David Parter and I taught a two day System Administration Master Class at last year's Yet Another Perl Conference North America (YAPC::NA) in Chicago, which was a lot of fun. We've had a booth presence in a few other places, including a small Microsoft Windows platform conference in the New England states region called TECHbash.

We plan on expanding our program slowly over time to include more of these one or two day training events, mostly partnered with other conferences. Working with groups like OLF and SCALE has been very rewarding as they are great conferences run by dedicated and smart people. I missed SCALE last year and I very much look forward to being there this year.

The Chairman of my local Linux User Group called PLUG, pardon the blatant plug (and my world class pun) Hans is a LOPSA member as well, with you in Wisconsin and he in Arizona for an example, how do you keep an organization that is international in size from grinding to a halt or splintering into a thousand pieces?

We make heavy use of mailing lists and IRC channels for various projects and committees. The Technical Services Committee Tech Team, Education Committee, Board of Directors, and some other projects all have their own mailing list and secured IRC channel for the committee or project team members.

Also, we utilize 37 signals Basecamp service for project management, event scheduling, and work coordination. Some projects or committees, such as the Education Committee or Board of Directors have regularly scheduled meetings either in IRC or on conference calls, too. We have several wikis for tracking meeting minutes, documentation, or project data, but those aren't used for every project or committee.

For those System Administrators out there who might want to join LOPSA, how would they?

Joining LOPSA is quite easy. Log into the LOPSA web site or register for a free web site account by visiting the registration page at, and then go to to become a LOPSA member. It's that simple!

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