Eight months have passed I’m overdue for an update on my freelancing business. A lot has transpired since my last update in October so I’ll get right to it.

Full time!

In mid January I notified Anki of my intention to begin consulting full time and wrapped everything up in mid February, having done a thorough brain dump and knowledge transfer to the other folks on the team. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the excellent folks there, I was anxious to free up more time for consulting projects. I had more than enough business with both existing and new clients to justify the transition.

I created a sole proprietor LLC called Whale Tech in order to protect my personal interests. I ended up with a California LLC, which is going to cost me $800/year just to exist.

I may eventually get around to rebranding from Ben Whaley/bwhaley.com to Whale Tech LLC, but it’s not a very high priority right now. [EDIT: I did this finally!] I’ll be interested to see if clients push back on working with an LLC as opposed to a 1099 contractor, which is how most of my contracts had been arranged previously.


I have been fortunate to work with around a dozen excellent clients at this point. I’ve acquired clients via several avenues:

  • Referrals from previous business acquaintances (thank you!)
  • Networking at meetups. There is often an opportunity to introduce yourself, and I simply state that I’m a consultant working on DevOps and automation problems
  • This very blog! I’ve had at least three new clients thanks to some of my technical articles here

Perhaps the most exciting project to date was with Coinbase, who graciously granted permission to mention my work there. Coinbase recently launched the Coinbase Exchange, a safe and secure real time Bitcoin exchange. I was hired to build the infrastructure and deployment systems running the exchange. I won’t get in to the details of the work I did there, but suffice it to say that it was a very interesting project with extreme security considerations and limitations on integrations with third parties. The team at Coinbase is unbelievably bright and excellent to work with. I learned a lot from them. That’s probably the best side effect of consulting for me: learning from my clients.

Announcement: UNIX & Linux System Administration Handbook, 5th edition

I’m pleased to announce that we (the coauthors) are officially under contract for the 5th edition of the UNIX & Linux System Administration Handbook! The 4th edition has had an overwhelmingly positive reception from readers, with 4.5 star average rating on Amazon and the #1 ranking in its category.

Writing a book of this magnitude is a massive undertaking. The final product will be in the neighborhood of 1500 pages with 25 or more chapters. The space has shifted dramatically in the 5 years since we published the 4th edition. A few of the most substantial changes:

  • The cloud has become ubiquitous. I can’t remember the last time I installed an operating system - I just start up images
  • Administration is more automated than ever before. System admins must learn to code or risk be automated (thus my favorite saying: Automate or be automated)
  • Containers are a thing that people use and care about
  • systemd exists, for better or worse

Some things haven’t changed:

  • Security is still a complete mess. Networks large and small are owned on a regular basis. Compromises are bigger than ever before
  • Deploying software and patching is still pretty difficult, as evidenced by my multiple blog posts on the topic

On a personal note, Evi Nemeth, considered the mother of system administration and one of my earliest mentors, passed in a tragic sailing accident two years ago this June. She started with USAH 1st edition and was the visionary and herder of cats for every edition since. The book will not be the same without her, no matter our best efforts. But we will try our hardest to write something that she’d be proud of.

Now, back to work. There’s a helluva lot to do.