“SNMP Mastery” leaking out

Bit by bit, site by site, SNMP Mastery is escaping into the world. I’ll keep the SNMP Mastery entry on my web page updated as it appears in more stores.

The various store databases are still synching everything up. You can get both paperback and Kindle on Amazon, but the entries aren’t connected. IngramSpark, the non-Amazon paper distributor and the sole source for hardcovers, is still processing. It’ll appear in other stores soon.

Now to go do my taxes, and get more work on git sync murder.

Sponsoring a “git commit murder” sequel

With my travels over the next couple of months, I’m not getting much done on my next tech book. I haven’t even definitively chosen what’s next; writing SNMP Mastery burned out a few critical nonfiction brain cells, and who knows when I’ll find fresh replacements at Dollar General. (I shoulda sprung for an IKEA brain.)

So I’m writing a sequel to git commit murder.

After some highly informal and scientifically bogus polling, I’ve decided to offer sponsorships on this book.

The first time I tried a sponsorship for a nonfiction book, I thought it was a daft idea. It worked. I’m still shocked, but it seems that the financial bucket I call “Give Lucas Money For No Good Reason” is now a substantial part of my income.

I think sponsoring a novel is a daft idea. It’ll probably be pointless. But what the heck, it’s no more absurcd than writing a book about the Standard Unix Text Editor.

If you are so inclined, you can sponsor git sync murder in print or ebook.

My stretch goal is to have this book ready for Penguicon 2020. If that fails, it’ll be a month or two after. I know what the book is; all I need to do is sit down like a proper pulp author and type the blasted thing out.

The MWL 2020 Asia Tour

Yep, I’m a big star now, touring Asia and everything! Sort of. Two countries. Two cities. The world’s most minimal tour. I’m a big star, in a really really tiny universe.

19-22 March 2020, I’ll be at AsiaBSDCon. I’m presenting a four hour tutorial on FreeBSD jails, as well as attending the conference.

The fine folks at HasGeek are sponsoring me on an accompanying trip to Bangalore, India, for three events. (Cool fact of the day: they’re not conferences in India, they’re events, because a “conference” apparently involves the Indian government and this isn’t a government thing.)

25 March, I’m offering a public lecture on Where is the Sysadmin Today at Juspay’s offices. I have rants thoughts. Oh, do I have rants thoughts.

27 March, I’m attending Netconf. This is an Unconference (Unevent?), so the program won’t be set until it starts. I’ll be proposing my new SNMP talk. I could also give any talk I’ve given before. If you’re attending and want me to give a specific talk, please comment or use the contact form to ask me to submit it.

28 March, I’m doing a reading of git commit murder at Champaca Bookstore, as well as a Q&A with Swapneel Patneka and anyone else who opens their mouth.

Why do this trip, when I loathe travel? Over the last twenty years, I’ve promised several folks that I would one day attend AsiaBSDCon. I keep my promises. I’m looking forward to being there, but not to getting there. The Bangalore trip is serendipitous. Presenting technology is how I built my career. Bangalore is a technology center and obviously a place I should present in. HasGeek asked if I would be interested, I said “if you could put an event by AsiaBSDCon,” and those folks actually went and did it. I’m simultaneously amazed and honored that they’ve gone to such trouble.

Plus, HasGeek opened discussions by promising gelato. They did their research.

I’ll have a couple free days in each place, yes, and I’ll take advantage of them. I’d rather like to attend a few classes at the Hombu Dojo, but… Fly across the world, teach crowds of strangers to whom English is a second language, talk to folks about areas I’m an expert in? Sure. Set foot on Ueshiba’s tatami? I’ve only practiced martial arts for eighteen years, there’s absolutely no way I’m worthy.

And India’s history is thousands of years deep, plus there’s elephants and tigers and… and… everything. I can’t decide what to see.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m cutting down my traveling. This trip will cost me at least a week of writing time before the trip, and probably two weeks of writing time afterwards as I recover. It’s at least a month of proper writing, all told, and probably more. I can’t authoritatively say that this is my final trip to Asia, no matter what. I can say that I’m not planning to travel so far again. If you’re on that side of the world and want to meet me, this is your best opportunity.

I will do Penguicon and BSDCan in 2020, but otherwise, I’ll be home making words.

A different sort of interview, on tabletop RPGs

Obscure MWL historical trivia: I got my start writing tabletop role playing games. It seems they have greater staying power than I ever thought they would.

The Plus Or Minus podcast interviewed me about my TTRPG Gatecrasher, which came out in 1995. A good time was had by all.

Also: 1995 was a quarter of a century ago. Not quite half my lifetime. Dang. I’m old. When did that happen?

Me, talking SNMP at Semibug: 21 January 2020

The headline pretty much covers it. I’ll be talking SNMP at the semibug.org meeting next Tuesday. 7 PM, Altair Engineering.

I use the semibug presentations to dry-run talks that I’ll be presenting elsewhere. The next place I’ll give it will be at HasGeek in Bangalore. So, if you’re in North America and want to see it, I highly encourage you to attend.

Also, semibug encourages heckling. Creative heckling, that is.

“SNMP Mastery” cover reveal

I’ve been working like a maniac to complete “SNMP Mastery” before AsiaBSDCon. This means I haven’t had time to do my usual year-end roundup, the book cover reveal, or any of my usual beginning-of-year crud. The book went to copyedit today. At 60,000 words, it’s the biggest Mastery title yet. It’s bigger than I wanted, but SNMP is bigger than I want it to be, so I guess it evens out.

This means I have time to show the cover, done after Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day.

SNMP Mastery wraparound cover

Why’s Beastie the one holding the umbrella? Because he’s a bloody gentleman. Also: hands.

(Purists will note that the ISBN sticker is not right. That’s because it’s not the final ISBN. I just assigned ISBNs today. I won’t have the real barcode until close to completion. You don’t have to email me about the inaccuracy, I remember from last time. Seriously.)

2019 Income Sources

I occasionally see authors arguing about what channels to sell through and how to structure their business. I frequently say that I don’t consult. I don’t rely on affiliate or speaking fees. My whole career is built on writing books and getting them in front of readers.

Accomplishing that means making the books available in all possible channels.

Here’s where my money comes from.

2019 income sources

For those who want a little more details, here’s the breakdown. (Numbers not exactly 100% due to rounding.)

  • 33.7% – Amazon KDP
  • 29.2% – Traditional Publishing
  • 12.32% – Direct Sales at tiltedwindmillpress.com
  • 7.0% – Patreon
  • 6.6% – Nonfiction Book Sponsorships
  • 5.1% – IngramSpark print distribution
  • 2.5% – Gumroad
  • 1.2% – direct sales at cons
  • 0.9% – Apple iBooks
  • 0.6% – Kobo
  • 0.4% – tip jar
  • 0.3% – draft2digital
  • 0.05% – Barnes & Noble

A couple minor sources of income aren’t included–I made about $200 on Amazon affiliate links from my site, and a whopping $6 on Kobo affiliate links. But here’s some rough conclusions.

Amazon is the Big Beast, but it’s not inviolate. It’s not even the majority.

Trad pub certainly sells a bunch through Amazon. Traditional publishers put even more effort into diversification than I do. I’m going to assume that they’re at least as successful as I am, and roughly one-third of my trad pub income comes through Amazon. This means Amazon backs roughly 42% of my income.

I use both IngramSpark and Amazon for print distribution, because IS reaches places Amazon can’t. Last December, someone in China bought both Prohibition Orcs stories via IS. I sell titles in countries I’d never heard of before, thanks to IS.

Direct ebook sales via my web site, Patreon, and book sponsorships combined make up about a quarter of my income. These are clearly worth continuing.

And yes, if you see me at a con, and you want a book, I’ll sell it to you. The income is negligible, but I use direct contact with folks to help build my readership.

You might look at Apple, Kobo, and draft2digital and say “Why bother?” That’s a fair question. The answer is, I want readers. When a reader is intrigued by an author, they go to their favorite bookstore and check out their titles. I want that reader to find my books when the whim hits them, because thirty seconds later they’ll have forgotten about me.

The tip jar is negligible, but costs me nothing to run, so I’ll keep it. It doesn’t encourage me to set up a kofi account, though.

What’s more effective than the tip jar is the “name your price” feature on tiltedwindmillpress.com, which allows folks to pay more than minimum price for a book. Sadly, the NYP plugin I use doesn’t have a feature to separate out how many buyers include extra, but I can say that I frequently see folks offer an extra few bucks. I appreciate every one of you.

Dear Barnes & Noble: please develop life signs. Thank you.

The general summary is: if I was to lose any one income source, I would survive. Losing a big one would be hard. My family relies on my income to pay bills. (My wife works, but if I don’t bring in real money I need to go find a job.)

I find these numbers reassuring. After five years as a full-time writer, I am completely unsuitable for employment.

“SNMP Mastery” tech reviewers wanted

I’ve just finished the first draft of SNMP Mastery, and I’m looking for folks interested in pointing out my mistakes and misunderstandings.

If you’ve got the time to read the book and comment, please drop me an email at mwl at mwl dot io saying:

  • your degree of SNMP expertise
  • that you won’t share the draft manuscript. (I don’t need piracy of unproofed manuscripts to ruin my reputation, the finished books do enough harm, thank you.)

I would need all comments back before Monday, 13 January 2020. All comments need to be in plain text with enough context that I can find the bit you’re talking about, or annotations on the PDF. While I appreciate the madman who took the time send me PostScript diffs, I am insufficiently geeky to cope with them in the time allotted. With luck I’ll have it in time for AsiaBSDCon and HasGeek in March.

This book is written with a Lovecraftian cosmic horror motif. Because

We’re left with a protocol that’s incredibly powerful and flexible, but bears all the scars of its history. SNMP lets you invoke ancient standards from the void. It grants you incredible system-changing power, and can destroy everything you’ve worked for. SNMP exposes the secrets of your servers, and—if you’re thoughtless—reconfigures them into unspeakable nightmares. It’s like something out of an HP Lovecraft tale, without the rampant xenophobia but with all the alien system topologies.1

1The topologies were there all along. Your shallow human mind was blissfully incapable of perceiving them.
This whole analogy is disturbingly apropos.

Here’s the Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • SNMP Essentials
  • Authentication
  • Queries
  • The Management Information Base
  • The Net-SNMP Agent
  • Logging
  • SET
  • Proxies, SMUX, and AgentX
  • Access Control
  • Extending snmpd(8)
  • Monitoring
  • Traps
  • Afterword

What comes next? I’ve been writing twelve hours a day for the past two weeks to finish this book on time. What comes next is a heartfelt faceplant. Hopefully onto the couch, but if I hit the bed of nails that’s okay.

Proof I Am a Monster

One of the high points of the annual BSDCan tech conference is the charity auction in the closing session. We habitually support the Ottawa Mission, right down the street from the venue. After walking past the mission every day to find breakfast, the attendees are highly motivated to donate. The auction is especially amusing because the contents of the lost and found get auctioned off. More than once auctioneer Dan Langille has announced “I have here a power supply for an Apple laptop” only to have an audience member groan. It’s become a point of honor that people buy their stuff back, and folks delight in running up the price to twice what a replacement costs. We auction off everything from “the last cookie from the lunch buffet” to novelty pens to entire servers that dealers don’t want to take back to the States. (git commit murder’s auction scene is stolen wholesale from BSDCan.) Really, it’s an excuse to collect charity cash from well-paid IT workers.

In early 2019, I declared that I’d auction off the mostly complete manuscript of Terrapin Sky Tango at BSDCan. This was mainly to give me a deadline to finish writing the dang book.

I made it with thirty hours to spare.

Time in the auction is tight, so I elected to do a silent auction for the “mostly complete Terrapin Sky Tango” manuscript at my table. Competition quickly narrowed down to two people, Bob Beck and Kristof Provost. But at 4 PM Saturday, an hour before the closing session, my bid sheet disappeared. I couldn’t end the auction.

The closing session ends at 6 PM, and Bob had a flight out at 7PM. He’s in the closing session with his suitcase, coat over his arm, ready to charge out the door the moment the session ends. (You can do this when flying in a civilized country.)

You can see what happened on the video and skip ahead to my pics for the coda, or just read on.

What should turn up in the main auction but my silent auction bid sheet? It went for $40.

Turns out the last bid was Bob’s, for $189. Kristof runs him up to $200. A good laugh is had by all. Bob throws money at the secretary and bolts for the door.

Dan announces the next auction item: the last 27 pages of TST.

Bob freezes in place.

That bit where I said the manuscript was mostly complete? It sounds like it just needs editing, right?

Yeah. I suck. Stealing the last 27 pages of a thriller is downright mean.

That person on the video screaming LUCAS? Bob’s got a real good set of lungs on him.

Bob remains to bid on those last pages. He’d blown his wad on the main manuscript, though, so Kristof handily outbids him. Kristof tucks the envelope containing those last pages under Bob’s arm as he heads out the door. Kristof gets a well-deserved round of applause for his good sportsmanship. I’m told that the flight attendants didn’t actually bruise Bob’s butt slamming the airplane door behind him, but it was a close thing.

Time passed. Visualize those calendar pages flipping past as TST goes through copyediting, into production, and hits the bookstores. I sent Bob and Kristof ebook copies as soon as they were available. It really was the least I could do. The very least. Seeing as they paid hundreds of dollars for parts of an unedited manuscript, though, I decided I should ship them a signed print copy.

For reference: here is a photograph of the hardcover edition cover. The paperback edition is the same, but more difficult to photograph.

Here’s the paperback I shipped Bob and Kristof.

TST, Beck Edition

Both put it on the shelf, or in the recycle bin, and sent me a nice thank you note. Neither noticed the blank back cover, or thought anything was amiss with the book.

Two weeks later, I sent this.

TST Provost Edition

Each had a sticky note on the front that said “OOPS, MY BAD ==ml”

Yes, the first book they received was missing the last 27 pages.

Four copies of the Beck Edition and the Provost Edition exist. Bob and Kristof each got one. I’m keeping one. The fourth will be auctioned off at BSDCan 2020.

I love being a monster.

The Six Prequels to “FreeBSD Mastery: Jails”

I’ve said a few times that I needed to write six books before I could write FreeBSD Mastery: Jails. Some were for the reader, because I didn’t want to take a break from the jails content to explain a seemingly unrelated topic. Some were for me, because I didn’t know everything I needed about a topic to effectively cover jails.

I thought which six books those were was obvious. I have heard from more than one person that it’s not. I chose to not put a title-by-title course of study in the front of the jails book. Seems I was wrong about that as well.

So: without further ado, here are the six prequels to FreeBSD Mastery: Jails.

  • Networking for Systems Administrators

    People want to bridge their jails, or VNET them, or NAT them, or otherwise play tricks with their network. You can’t set up a virtual switch if you don’t understand what a switch is. You can’t network your jails if you don’t understand netmasks. Every time your first virtual network grows, you have to troubleshoot everything.

  • FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials

    Jails are all about storage. You can implement one or two jails without knowing what you’re doing, but eventually they’ll ruin your day.

  • FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS
    FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS

    ZFS is incredibly jail-friendly. It doesn’t suit all deployments, but if you want to implement jails at scale you’re almost certainly exploiting ZFS.

  • FreeBSD Mastery: Specialty Filesystems

    Any non-trivial jail implementation requires understanding devfs, nullfs, and memory filesystems. Many use iSCSI, NFS, and/or autofs. By the time I put all that in a book, I might as well add in namespace filesystems and HAST and completely cover special-purpose filesystems.

  • Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd Edition

    By the time I wrote all of the above, FreeBSD had changed enough that the second edition wouldn’t suffice.

Yes, I planned this. Every book I write is ordered internally in much the same way. I look at the material for each chapter and say “What must the reader understand before reading this?” I often revisit my chapters as needed, or even split them. Chapters 17 and 19 of AF3e were originally part of early chapters, but I had to split those chapters and put parts of them later because the reader would lack the context to understand the material.

Mind you, this is only what you need to get jails working. Managing jails is the pinnacle of systems administration practice, so I’d certainly recommend you learn about SSH, PAM, and sudo. Really, though, I’d suggest get a job at the gelato shop. You’ll be happier.