Magnus Hedemark : I Kanban. So Kanyou.

September 02, 2014 03:29 PM

“We’re using a modified Kanban process.”

I admit, I cringe when people say things like this. It normally says to me “I haven’t put much thought into my process or my workflow, but we’ve got a board with some columns on it and the work goes there.”

In its simplest form, a Kanban gives you tools for two things:

  1. visualizing your workflow
  2. setting limits on each step (column limits) to maximize the completed units of work vs. the appearance of being busy

This all came from the Toyota Production System, though, and they have set a higher standard:

  1. Customer (downstream) processes withdraw items in the precise amounts specified by the Kanban.
  2. Supplier (upstream) produces items in the precise amounts and sequences specified by the Kanban.
  3. No items are made or moved without a Kanban.
  4. A Kanban should accompany each item, every time.
  5. Defects and incorrect amounts are never sent to the next downstream process.
  6. The number of Kanbans is reduced carefully to lower inventories and to reveal problems.

It’s important to note, though, that Toyota has been at this an awfully long time. And the success of the Toyota Production System is not a result of simply having the Kanbans and the processes behind them. Behind it all is a strong supportive culture backed by an alignment on values. I stress this, because it is at least as important to foment the culture you want and aligning on values as it is to “do Kanban” or “do DevOps” (whatever that is supposed to mean).

Begin Here

If you’re in middle management, or higher, you’ve got a lot of work to do. I’ll write some more about fomenting a DevOps Culture in another post. I’ll also write some more about Values, and why they are so important. So hang tight, I’ll get back to you in another post.

If you’re in a development team or an ops team (or, better yet, a cross-functional team) or you’re the direct manager of such a team, this is aimed at you. Let’s get started.

1. Identify the main types of work your team handles. This is a crucial step. Don’t skip it. Common examples include:

  • New Feature
  • Research Spike
  • Defect

Notice I didn’t put “write tests” or “test feature” or even “document feature”. Is the feature complete without a test or without documentation? I’d argue probably not. These are certainly valid subtasks when breaking down your work, but ultimately that new feature is the end product that your customer is expecting and represents the Story (in Agile terms) or Card (in Kanban terms).

2. Identify the main steps you follow from the point the work enters the team (upstream) to the point it leaves the team (downstream). Make note of each of the milestones along the way and what order they fall in. Don’t forget to include the intake/triage steps, task grooming, pre-scheduling steps, testing, documentation, etc.

3. Create a table of rows & columns for each type of work. You’ll need a column for each of the main steps identified in Step 2. Work will move from left to right across this board. If it ever moves backwards (right-to-left), you’ve probably derped something. It’s not crazy to have 10+ columns for a new software feature!

4. Set column limits on each step. If work sits in one place for too long, that represents one kind of costly waste. It’s best when using a Kanban to set strict limits on each column, even the backlog, and enforce them. If a downstream column is full (has reached its column limit) nothing else can move forward until that column has been drained by advancing its cards forward. This is painful at first, but what you’ll begin to see is less work in flight and more work getting done. The reduced context switching helps with the engagement of your workers, and brings the quality level up. They will soon realize they are getting more work done in less time, and without working any harder than they did before.

Next up?

Next I’ll talk a little bit about how you measure the success of a Kanban team, what the maturation process looks like, and what not to measure (which is just as important).


Tarus Balog : Ten Years On …

September 02, 2014 02:31 PM

There are a number of significant dates in the history of OpenNMS. I wasn’t around when the project was started, but I’ve been told it began some time in the summer of 1999, most likely in July.

We do know, however, that the project and first bits of code were posted on Sourceforge on 29 March, 2000, so we have used that as the official birth date for the OpenNMS project.

My personal involvement with OpenNMS started on Monday, 10 September 2001, when I joined Oculan. For obvious reasons it is an easy date to remember. I decided that I was going to take over the OpenNMS project when Oculan decided to stop working on it on 7 May 2002, which happens to be my mother’s birthday.

But probably the most important date in the history of the project is 1 September 2004, which was the first day of business for the OpenNMS Group, Inc., the company I started with David Hustace and Matt Brozowski. It’s been a wild ride this last decade, but we’ve managed to survive if not prosper when a lot of other companies, including Oculan, are no longer around. The office in which I write this was the first office for the company, when all three of us squeezed into its 120 square feet.

I meant to write something yesterday, but I was off on my usual Labor Day retreat in the mountains where there is no electricity and no mobile phone coverage. I spent most of the day climbing a mountain, and so it seems appropriate to end with this song.

To paraphrase Mr. Shatner, why do I work on OpenNMS? Because I’m in love.

Mark Turner : Ford’s Theater

September 02, 2014 02:53 AM

We spent the weekend with Kelly’s parents and took the opportunity to visit downtown DC and Ford’s Theater. What a profound experience that turned out to be for me and I’m not really sure why. The building has a somber reverence to it, too, not simply sadness but one of anguish. I felt compelled to remove my hat before I entered. No other museum has ever prompted me to do that.

This is no ordinary museum, though, since it is the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. I tingled the whole time I was in there, feeling an unseen energy. At one point touring the basement exhibits, I turned to Hallie and whispered “I feel ghosts are here.” She looked at me curiously and grinned. As I walked among the exhibit displays, I wondered if I might be sensing the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, yet that didn’t seem like the right identification. Thinking about it later, I surmised that the energy I was feeling did not belong to Lincoln but to John Wilkes Booth.

Searching the Internets once I got home, I found this UPI story from 1972 which reported rumors that Booth’s ghost still walks the theater floor. It would not surprise me in the least.

Times Standard, The (Newspaper) – December 20, 1972, Eureka, California

Some Blame Booth’s Ghost For Bad ‘Vibes’ at Ford’s
Wednesday, December 20, 1972 Page 23

WASHINGTON (UP1) For theater people there have always been “bad vibes” before that curses, hexes, shadows on stage followed by bad reviews the next day.

But at Ford’s Theater, the place where Abraham Lincoln was shot, it’s not only the actors who think the ghost of John Wilkes Booth inhabits the premises. Workmen and guards, one spooked so thoroughly he took to the street without trousers, say the booted assassin haunts the scene of his crime. So far no one claims to have seen Booth, but some say he can be both heard and felt in the old building in downtown Washington.

Ford’s is a living theater, restored to use in 1968 after a century of standing idle as a place of horror where a great president was murdered. For this purpose, there is a Ford’s Theater Society, a mustering of box office, backstage and publicity employees. Some of these have tendencies towards the occult.

It is also a museum, run by the government, a repository for the dry mementos of April 4, 1805, when the comely actor-brother of Shakespearean Edwin Booth entered the presidential box and fired a derringer into the head of the 16th President. The museum-keepers are more wary.

There is a growing confederacy about the idea that the shade of Booth walks restlessly about. He doesn’t float, he clumps.

Bootsteps have been heard by the electrician in the theater building, and at least on spooked guard across the street at Petersen House, where the dying Lincoln was carried, has run out into 1Oth Street clad only in his shorts.

Tales are told of actors mid-scene getting their line upended and scrambled. Apparently this only happens when the lines are being delivered from points on the stage along Booth’s approximate escape route from Lincoln’s box to the wings.

There was Hal Holbrook in a one-man Mark Twain variety and there was Jack Aranson in a Herman Melville package both getting chills as the; wafted soliloquies from position near the cursed path.

Two years ago on Halloween according to the theater society’s resident numerologist, the portrait of George Washington inside Lincoln’s flag-draped box leaned over 45 degrees. Jill Carlson, who hands out number readings as though they were souvenirs, is convinced the soul of Booth wants forgiveness, and that he got bad press.

“He hasn’t been exorcised yet,” Mrs. Carlson said recently. “John Wilkes seems to be a very sweet lad. He’s very sad. I wish somebody would come and let him go. He wants exonerating.”

Indeed, Booth is still gelling a bad press. Courtesy of the government, the assassination recreated every day in a sound and light show in the theater and Booth, given a voice by actor Stacey Keach, emerges a veritable fiend.

Accepted historical accounts and clips pasted up in the museum both set the assassin down as a maniacal villain.

The most impressive evidence of Booth’s ectoplasm around Ford’s Theater is a couple of photographs by famed, Lincoln-era photographer Matthew Brady, reprinted in the government report on restoration of Ford’s, published upon its completion in 1968. Skeptics have suggested that the photos, on pages 40 and 42 (one is an enlargement of the other), were clumsy mixes of Brady’s shadow amid the explosive powder needed in those days for interior shots. But Brady usually was more skillful with his tools, primitive as they were.

The photos show a transparent disproportionate figure standing in an empty Ford’s Theater the day after the assassination, close by the dead president’s box in the dress circle, or first balcony.

Magnus Hedemark : long weekend in the homelab

September 01, 2014 05:02 PM

I’d been neglecting opportunities to work in my homelab for awhile so that I might take advantage of a bit of a creative streak and shoot some photography. That’s probably been satisfied, for a little while anyway, so I’ve spent much of this long weekend tinkering in the homelab.

A few things I’ve learned along the way include:

  • tmux is pretty awesome. I’m using it now instead of screen. I also switched from to iTerm2 over the weekend and I’m digging it so far. Though the much vaunted tmux integration isn’t there yet.
  • My respect for Ansible continues to grow. I was able to pretty quickly hack together a playbook to help me get several new virtual machines up to speed.
  • My respect for The Foreman wanes. It seems particularly fragile. The error messages aren’t as clear as they could be, so troubleshooting issues is not as intuitive as it could or should be. Things started going downhill when I installed the foreman_discovery gem. I’ve since tossed Foreman out of my homelab infrastructure. I can’t help but wonder if there is a quick and dirty mentality in the Ruby on Rails community, or if the fragility is inherent to the framework itself.
  • Similarly, Docker isn’t quite there yet. I got bit by #4036 and #5684. I’ll continue to tinker with Docker but I immediately moved the workload from Docker into Virtual Machines.
  • To that end, I stood up Jenkins in a VM along with one build slave. This is a tool I’d like to learn more deeply for unit testing of operations tooling. Just to get the hang of things, I picked a simple to build project (Tor) and set up a simple job to watch the git repo and compile it from source. I’ll start building out a delivery pipeline to test builds on multiple platforms, run unit tests, etc. for the academic exercise.
  • I’ve been throwing virtual machines at my HP Proliant DL160 G6 (12 cores from 2x Intel Xeon X5650‘s, 72GB RAM, 2TB guest storage). Load average stays well below 2.0 most of the time. I like this box.
  • I have another server, a Dell PowerEdge 1950 III,  in the cabinet right now that’s a “utility class” machine. No virtual machines. Right now it’s hosting DNS, and I expect to add dhcp once I can deprecate the Apple Airport Extreme from routing duties. There’s some wiring I have to do in the house to facilitate this, and I have to rethink my wireless & VLAN strategy a bit. This box is nowhere near as decked out but it should be more than enough to handle basic services. I’m thinking I might jack up the RAM, though, and move the basic functions off into virtual machines there. The original plan was to use Docker containers, but I don’t think the technology is quite mature enough yet.
  • I’ve prototyped a Tor-only VLAN with the idea that I’m going to open it up for WiFi access. Hosts on this VLAN can only exit the subnet through a transparent Tor proxy. With the nearly complete loss of privacy in the United States, I think it’s important for us engineers to spend some of our time extricating the world from the horrible quandary we’ve had a part in creating.

What are some of the things coming soon?

  • Monitoring. I hate monitoring. It’s a necessary evil, but my peers have held on to awful tools for far too long (see #monitoringsucks). I’m looking squarely at Nagios and check_mk here as prime examples.  I’m going to take Sensu for a spin.
  • Measurement. Measure all the things. Will almost certainly use graphite and grafana. Going back to what I said about awful tools, I definitely won’t be using Cacti. Why won’t these old school tools just roll over and die already?
  • Log aggregation. Dumping everything to one syslog server is easy but that’s not enough. Lots of shops use Splunk but I’m going to use an Open Source solution. Probably some combination of logstash, elasticsearch, and kibana.
  • Authorization/Authentication. I still have to get LDAP and Kerberos up and running.
  • Beefing up Jenkins. A big part of why I have a homelab is to learn more deeply the technologies that I barely get to touch at work. This ends up helping me to make better decisions at work. I’d really like to take the time to make fuller use of Jenkins and get it dancing a jig for me.

And further out?

  • Storage. I’d like to get some kind of redundant storage service going, providing both a block store and an object store. This is going to require some hardware upgrades, first of all. Software-wise, I’d like to try ceph. I do have a somewhat more immediate need to get something like gluster going for a shared filesystem.
  • Home Entertainment. I’ve bought hundreds of DVD’s over the years, maybe over a thousand. I’ve bought oh so many music CD’s. And I’ve got access to both a great array of shows on cable TV and over-the-air broadcast. Using the AppleTV for large media libraries is a really clumsy experience. Also, it’s not at all useful for accessing shows in a DVR. Once I have storage worked out, I might like to see if I’m in a better position to replace the AppleTV and the DVR’s around the house with something more appropriate.
  • UPS. Right now these servers are plugged into a surge protector (eek, yeah, I know). I need to invest in a proper UPS for them.
  • Switch. My desktop and server cabinet are sharing a Cisco SG300-10 switch. I’d like to get a more serious switch into the cabinet and leave the SG300-10 just for my random collection of desktop/deskside systems.
  • Another hypervisor. Once storage is worked out, I’d like to get another one of these DL160 G6’s so VM’s can be live migrated and I can do maintenance on hardware without taking things down.
  • Backups. Right now it’s all so manual and clunky and not very DevOpsy. (The cobbler’s children have no shoes.) I’m going to set up some regularly automated off-site backups and a rotation. But I need to throw a little bit of hardware at this.

Mark Turner : John A. Walker Jr who spied for Soviet Union dies in prison | Mail Online

August 30, 2014 09:21 AM

John Walker happily sold out the United States to the Soviets for a few bucks. Had there been a conflict with the USSR, we would have been toast, with all of our forces exposed thanks to his treason.

I’m a peace-loving guy but if John Walker had gotten shanked while in prison you wouldn’t have seen my cry. He was the worst shipmate you can imagine, a buddy-fucker who gleefully stabbed his shipmates in the back all for a few bucks.

And, yes, I see a huge difference in the actions of Walker and Snowden. I believe Snowden loves his country and rightfully called it out for training its sights on ordinary Americans. Walker, on the other hand, was a cheap intelligence whore with no apparent morals whatsoever. Prison was too good for him.

A former American sailor convicted during the Cold War of leading a family spy ring for the Soviet Union has died in a prison hospital in North Carolina.Retired Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr. died Thursday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.The cause of death was not immediately released. He was 77.

via John A. Walker Jr who spied for Soviet Union dies in prison | Mail Online.

Mark Turner : Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone – Vox

August 28, 2014 11:45 AM


If you’re feeling sleepy and want to wake yourself up — and have 20 minutes or so to spare before you need to be fully alert — there’s something you should try. It’s more effective than drinking a cup of coffee or taking a quick nap.It’s drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a quick nap. This is called a coffee nap.It might sound crazy: conventional wisdom is that caffeine interferes with sleep. But if you caffeinate immediately before napping and sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness. Here’s the science behind the idea.

via Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone – Vox.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Listening to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (…

August 28, 2014 11:09 AM

Listening to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (The Skeptics Guide #476 – Aug 23 2014)…

Mark Turner : My FCC petition supporting Wilson’s challenge

August 28, 2014 08:04 AM

Here’s the comment I just filed with the FCC.

As a tech-savvy, concerned citizen, I watched with incredulity over the years as Time Warner Cable and AT&T worked the N.C. General Assembly in an effort to stymie real broadband competition in North Carolina. Telecom lobbyists sent bills to state representatives without the representatives ever reading the bills. My jaw dropped in a committee meeting as a state senator questioned whether wireless Internet would make fiber Internet obsolete.

The level of falsehoods and fear mongering spread by the telecoms was staggering. Eventually their lobbyists found willing co-consiprators in state representatives and rammed their anti-municipal-broadband bill through the legislature with little or no public comment. North Carolinians got railroaded.

There is no question in my mind that Time Warner Cable, AT&T, CenturyLink greatly fear municipal broadband. There is also no question in my mind that broadband is as vital in today’s economy as roads or electricity. Time Warner Cable’s massive, nationwide Internet outage drove that point home, causing untold financial losses to the economy.

Cities have over a century of experience selling services to their citizens. This is nothing new. Most sell water. Some also sell electricity. The City of Wilson sells water, electricity, phone, and Internet and from what I hear folks are happy with this service. The only risk is the one posed by Big Telecom moving the legislative goal posts whenever it pours money into the political process.

It’s time the FCC steps in and levels the broadband playing field. Please grant other North Carolina municipalities the right to decide for themselves whether to provide their citizens a true 21st century broadband infrastructure, without meddling from the for-profit telecoms. North Carolina needs your help.

Mark Turner
1108 Tonsler Dr
Raleigh, NC, 27604

Mark Turner : Wilson asks FCC to override NC law it says shields Time Warner, Comcast | Technology |

August 28, 2014 08:03 AM

the N&O’s John Murawski covers Wilson’s petition to the FCC to overturnNorth Carolina’s draconian municipal broadband conditions that were bought and paid for by Big Telecom.

Wilson, one of the few towns in the state that offer high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses, has stewed for three years since the North Carolina legislature put restrictions on municipal broadband.

The Eastern North Carolina town’s officials say they can’t expand their data service, called Greenlight, to nearby communities that have requested the high-speed connection. Greenlight offers residential Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit – or 20 times faster than Time Warner Cable’s fastest household Internet speed.

Now the former tobacco center about an hour east of Raleigh is asking the Federal Communications Commission to override North Carolina’s telecommunications law. The city’s unusual legal claim was made possible only in the past few months, after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced, through a blog and at an industry conference, that the federal agency will consider pre-empting local laws that stifle broadband competition. Wheeler is one of three Democrats on the five-member commission.

via Wilson asks FCC to override NC law it says shields Time Warner, Comcast | Technology |

Mark Turner : Kevin O’Donnell and ALS

August 27, 2014 08:37 PM

With all the attention being paid to ALS with the Ice Bucket Challenge, tonight I thought it might make sense tonight to learn a little more about this disease. I wanted to hear straight from those who are suffering from this disease, so I turned to YouTube.

It was there that I found this series of videos from Kevin O’Donnell, who was diagnosed with ALS in November 2011 and died in June of last year. To watch him struggle as the disease quickly robs him of his speech and movement is shocking and heartbreaking. Clicking on his subsequent videos, I found myself mindlessly rooting for a happy ending, somehow not accepting that ALS is cruel, one-way downward spiral.

Kevin called his video series “Living with ALS,” but it should have been called “Dying with ALS.” What a horrible, horrible disease ALS is. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Warren Myers : strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter – law 42 – #48laws by robert greene

August 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 42

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoner of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Zechariah 13:7b

Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered

Mark Turner : 80 percent of Time Warner Cable subscribers woke up without Internet this morning. Here’s why. – The Washington Post

August 27, 2014 11:34 AM


Time Warner Cable is recovering from a major Internet blackout after network problems led to a sudden disruption of service for all of its broadband subscribers nationwide, the company said Wednesday.

The outage occurred at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time, according to company spokesman Bobby Amirshahi, and knocked out access to the Web for TWC’s 11.4 million residential customers who buy Internet service. That’s nearly 80 percent of Time Warner Cable’s entire residential customer base of 14.4 million.

via 80 percent of Time Warner Cable subscribers woke up without Internet this morning. Here’s why. – The Washington Post.

Update 9:31 PM: TWC says an erroneous IP configuration rollout caused the outage.

Mark Hinkle : Preso: Things I Learned about Open Source…The Hard Way

August 27, 2014 12:33 AM

My presentation at the Bay Area Open Source Meet-Up - OS in Big Organizations: Failures, Success Stories & Best Practices on August 13, 2014.

Mark Hinkle runs the Citrix Open Source Business Office and has spent 20 years working with open source communities and delivering open source software. Topics covered in this presentation will include the benefit of his mistakes and successes both in evaluating open source ad an end-user and in delivering enterprise solutions based on open source software.

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Magnus Hedemark : the book list is up… kind of…

August 25, 2014 03:42 AM

I opened up a preview of the Book List that I’d promised earlier. It’s still super thin, but there are a few solid titles in there.

I’m not pleased with writing the table code for this list manually. I don’t think there’s a native way in WordPress for me to do this programmatically, so I may move the book list to my own server where I can more easily (and automatically) generate the code around the list.

Mark Turner : Hold the ice

August 24, 2014 07:56 AM

I’ve of course seen many Facebook postings of friends and family doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Our family was even tagged by some to participate. ALS is a good cause and I know my friends and family mean well. We were tagged by them while we were in Jamaica, though, and that got me thinking.

Kelly thought it would be fun to accept the challenge while on the beach but I kept thinking back to what our taxi driver told us the first day we arrived: Jamaica is in the midst of a serious drought. Not only that, I learned that Jamaican electricty cost is over four times what we pay for electricity. What’s worse, that electricity is generated one of the dirtiest way possible: diesel fuel. Did it really make sense to take scarce fresh water, chilled into ice using expensive and dirty fuel, and blithely dump it over our heads?

My eyes were first opened to the problem when I read former Raleigh resident Charles Fishman’s book The Big Thirst, an excellent look at how water scarcity is affecting the planet. We have some of that right here in America, of course, with California getting hard hit. At breakfast yesterday my dad was noting the steep rise in the cost of avocados. Over 90% of avocados consumed in the United States are grown in California. My recent read of all that the Colorado River supports brought home the danger that water shortages bear on our food supply.

I can’t help but think that, while ALS is indeed a worthy cause, so is problem of lack of clean water that’s plaguing the planet. Please forgive me, friends, if I politely decline your challenge.

Here’s a scary gallery of pics that illustrate the extent California drought:

Californians have been feeling the effects of drought for quite some time, with officials ordering water restrictions and pleading for residents to conserve water in all ways possible. Hell, even the "Ice Bucket Challenge" is viewed as controversial in California because it wastes water.Below the fold are some stunning photos that depict just how bad the drought has become in some areas

via Shocking photos: This is what drought looks like.

Eric Christensen : Okay, this is a neat attack…

August 22, 2014 01:44 PM

This morning I received an email from my “administrator” saying that I needed to validate my email address within the next 48 hours or my email account would be suspended.  Seeing as how I’m my own email administrator, I couldn’t remember sending out such a message, I decided that this was likely spam.  I’m always interested in seeing how these attacks are actually going to be played out so I clicked on the link.

OWA Verify Screen

OWA Verify Screen

Neat, Microsoft-y looking screen!  And it looks like the backend is WordPress!  It looks like the attacker is using the account system in WordPress to collect the information.  When you submit your information for validation you get this response:

Your information was successfully submitted, please ensure that you entered your email details correctly; to enable us complete your security updates. If you have entered your details wrongly kindly click back and refill in details correctly.

N.B Please be informed that filling in the wrong details will be resulting to the deactivation of your email address.

I’m guessing my address will not be closed down, since I did not provide my correct email information.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll disable my own email… you know, just for the weekend.

Tarus Balog : Keep Austin Weird

August 22, 2014 11:48 AM

I got to spend a few days down in Austin this week. I like this town, and as most people know it has become a bit of a hotbed for tech with a lot of companies either moving here or opening offices (I just found out that Atlassian, makers of Jira and Bamboo, among other things, is opening an office in Austin).

Usually when I come to town I get to see Eric Evans. Eric, the guy who coined the modern usage of the term “NoSQL“, lives an hour away in San Antonio and outside of the daily scrum call I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like. However, he just had rotator cuff surgery and when I sent him a text about meeting for dinner his reply was “I’m not yet wearing pants and can’t tie my shoes so the answer is probably no.”

Yeah, there is a “no pants” theme to this post.

On a whim I decided to see if my friend, favorite mad scientist and evil genius William Hurley (aka whurley) was around. As luck would have it, he was.

Speaking of people I don’t get to see very often, whurley is one of them. I think it would be a full time job just to keep up with his projects, and we haven’t had a chance to spend any time together for several years so we tried to cram a lot of catching up into a short evening.

When we drove up to his house the first thing I noticed was a candy apple red Cadillac ELR parked out front. whurley has a large Twitter following, so Cadillac gave him the car to drive and tweet about. This is Cadillac’s entry into the luxury electric hybrid market. It has pretty aggressive styling for a Cadillac, but it is more of what we old folks used to call a “2+2” instead of a true four seat car. It took some acrobatics to get three full sized adults into it for a short trip to grab some Chinese takeout.

Another pleasant surprise was to find out that he is now married, and I got to meet his bride Pamela. As might be expected with anyone associated with whurley, she is exceptional, and welcomed us into her home with short notice.

William + Pamela // Kauai Wedding from John Hoel on Vimeo.

whurley knows that I am a privacy advocate, so he showed me a TED talk he did on the issue, but instead of leading with, say, references to 1984, he goes back in time to talk about the Jacquard loom. This loom was one of the first programmable machines, a forerunner of computers, and it was used to manufacture cloth for clothing. If you think about it, clothing could be considered the earliest form of privacy, so it is a bit ironic that this ur-computer was used to create privacy whereas modern computers are now used to decrease it.

One of the reasons I like being around him is he makes me think. As an old guy, I am constantly amazed at how the younger generation seems to be so eager to give up privacy by sharing pretty much all details of their lives on-line. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be less concern about nudity. I’m not saying that all twenty year olds are running around naked, but compared to 30 years ago when I was in high school, the socially accepted norms for modesty have changed greatly.

But now this seems to make sense. If clothing is the primal form of privacy, one would expect this from a culture in which privacy is less important. And I’m not sure this is a bad thing, as I don’t believe anyone should be ashamed of their bodies, plus it helps me toward earning my “Dirty Old Man” merit badge.


In David Brin’s book Earth he envisions a world without privacy, and there are a lot of positive aspects to it. Recently Scott Adams has blogged about the subject, and he makes a number of valid points. The issue I have is that the world we are creating isn’t a utopian transparent society but instead one in which an oligarchy controls the majority of information to use however they see fit, and to me that is dangerous.

So I plan to strive to increase my privacy and, with few exceptions, I’ll keep my pants on.

Magnus Hedemark : Reading List

August 21, 2014 05:23 PM

I’m not dead. :) Though I have been blogging a little for Bronto Engineering Blog.

I’ve been working on compiling a reading list page here. This will be a curated list of books that I’ve read and find to be foundational to running a good business of any kind, especially a software company or any other kind of technology-heavy venture.

Also, I’ll be speaking at Triangle DevOps again on September 17th. The talk will be aimed at line managers and executives who’ve bought into the idea of DevOps but don’t know where to start or how to measure success.

Mark Turner : Back from Jamaica

August 21, 2014 03:04 PM

We got back from our Jamaican vacation late Tuesday night. Since then been too busy to write about it.

I hope to post some thoughts about our trip (and other things) tonight.

Warren Myers : 7 things employees wish they could tell their boss about salaries

August 17, 2014 04:43 PM

LinkedIn had an interesting article Friday whose title I snagged for this blog post.

The 7 items are:

  1. We don’t care about pay scales
  2. Forget policies. We talk.
  3. We think about our pay a lot.
  4. We will sometimes let you take advantage.
  5. When we have to negotiate … we both lose.
  6. No matter how much we earn, it’s not enough.
  7. Still, reasonable pay is ok.

Several of the points resonated with me – especially in light of things I have written previously.

“If the company can’t afford to pay an employee more, smart bosses say so. If they think a certain percentage raise is fair, they explain why. Smart bosses use pay scales to build their budgets, and use reason and logic - and empathy - to explain pay decisions to employees.”

Can’t agree more: if you don’t treat your employees like rational, smart human beings, but rather like mere resources – you create and/or perpetuate a culture of dehumanization.

“Many companies actively discourage staff from talking to each other about their salaries. I know a few companies that require employees to sign agreements stipulating they won’t disclose pay, benefits, etc to other employees.

Doesn’t matter. Employees talk. I did, both when I was “labor” and when I was “management.” Generally speaking, the only employees who don’t share details about their pay are the ones who are embarrassed by how much or how little they make.”

Yes, yes, a million times yes! In my blog post “publicizing compensation – why not?“, I point-out that forcing people to not talk about their compensation makes folks more likely to try to find out, and can lead to discontent.

“Employees think about pay all the time. Every time they deposit their paychecks they think about their pay. To a boss their pay is a line item; to employees, pay is the most important number in their family’s budget.”

Funny thing is: managers get paid, too – but rarely think about that when it comes to their employees.

“Occasionally the job market is a seller’s market, but many new employees are just really happy to land a new job. And since business owners are born cost cutters, it’s natural to hire every new employee for as low a wage as possible.”

This is related to the next point …

“Great employees are worth a lot more than their pay. You get what you pay for, so smart bosses pay whatever they can to get and keep the best employees they can.

When smart bosses find great employees they always make their best offer, knowing that if their best offer is too low, there is nothing they could have done.”

If you want to be the best possible employer ever, you need to start with your best offer to candidates. If you start with anything less than your best, you’re implying that you don’t really value their time, expertise, or potential contributions to your organization. It has been said that “everything is negotiable” – but if you don’t start with your best offer, you’re telling your current/future employee they have to make you want them more. It may turn out that your “best offer” is $120,000 per year with 3 weeks of vacation. And maybe that employee really wants 4 weeks of vacation – and is willing to accept a somewhat lower salary for that perk. Start with your best, and then massage it into what is best for both of you.

“We all want more. It’s natural. Unfortunately no boss can always give more. And that’s okay.”

Wanting more is not inherently wrong (though wanting more for merely the sake of more is probably unhealthy) – and that’s why the last point in this article is so smart:

“People are smart. They understand market conditions, financial constraints, revenue shortfalls, and increased competition. They understand when a company can’t pay top-of-market salaries. What they don’t understand is when they don’t feel fairly compensated compared to other employees in similar positions, both inside and outside the company.”

“Fair is a concept that only exists in economic theories not based on effort.”* When you look at services like Glassdoor, you can quickly see that salary is only a single facet of employee compensation (and important one, and [generally] a large one, but only one). And it’s easy to get caught-up in the mindset of keeping up with the Joneses. While it is nice to have “more”, it’s important that honesty and transparency flow from management to employees as well as the other way around.

* publicizing compensation – why not?

Tarus Balog : Time Warner, Really?

August 15, 2014 04:42 PM

Once again I find myself jumping back into the fray and helping a friend get Internet/phone/TV from Time Warner. Here is the offer:

So, $89.99 per month for the first year. Not bad, right? Unfortunately, it comes to nearly $150 with equipment and taxes, but what can you do.

What bothers me is this bit at the bottom:

Do you want to guess what the reverse of the letter looks like?

In the interest in transparency, would it have been too much trouble to use a larger font? I know there is probably some kind of design constraint that includes phrases like “negative space” that made you put the terms in teeny, tiny letters at the bottom of a mainly blank page, but it makes you look like you are hiding something.

Tarus Balog : Review: Question Bedtime by MC Frontalot

August 15, 2014 03:04 PM

The best perk of my job is that I get to meet some truly amazing people. From the people I work with, to others in the open source world, to people like Damian Hess, my life has definitely been enriched by the people in it.

I was able to sponsor Damian, aka MC Frontalot, to perform at the Southeast Linuxfest (SELF) last year in Charlotte, and it was a great weekend. One evening ended up with a group of us in a hotel room, and Damian played some of the raw tracks from what would become his sixth studio album, Question Bedtime.

When he told me that he was doing an album based on bedtime stories, I was like “Wha?”. It didn’t seem to fit in with his “nerd” focus, but now that the album is out I can see why it works. First, while classics like “Goldilocks” and “Little Red Riding Hood are represented, most of the songs reference more obscure tales. Fairy tales are, by definition, fantastical, in much the same way as comic books or other geek friendly literature, so it isn’t as much of a stretch as I originally thought.

One of the tracks I heard that night at SELF was called “Devil in the Attic”. It is based on an obscure Japanese fairy tale called “The Ugly Son“. Such was their vanity, the parents of a very beautiful girl send out notice that she should only be wed to the fairest youth in all the land. Some grifters with a deformed (but intelligent) son think up a plan to wed him to her. They claim he is the fairest in the land and a courtship ensues, but based on tradition they do not see each other at first. On the night of the wedding, the boy’s father goes up into the attic of this grand house and starts claiming to be a demon who will visit a curse on the boy for daring to wed the girl, which the demon claims for himself. The curse turns out to be to deform the features of the boy – thus explaining his looks once they are revealed.

Front puts his own spin on the tale, turning it into a story of the oppression when women were considered property, as well as a lesson on conceit. In the chorus the father of the girl brags “Anything you could have, we have it. Even got a devil in the attic.”

Well, more than a year later, the CD Question Bedtime is now available for pre-order and immediate download. I’ve been listening to it for several weeks now and just got the final copy when it released this week.

The “his own spin” theme flows throughout the album. In “Gold Locks” the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story is retold from the bear’s point of view, portraying Goldilocks as the boogie man, creeping into your house to chop you up and eat you. The opening track “Start Over” is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” as told by Front to a group of children who, in the chorus, exclaim “That ain’t how it happened”.

Just like in Solved, the album is laid out with tracks separated by little interstitial skits, this time with the theme that Front is a babysitter talking to his charges. Only they are all adults. In the opening one Front is trying to get “Li’l Kyle” (comedian Kyle Kinane) to go to sleep, and Kyle questions the arbitrary nature of a “bed time” – hence the name. It’s funny just to hear the arguments presented by the “children” in the skits – I wish I could have thought up some of those when I was younger.

I like every track on the album, but as can be expected I like some more than others. Almost all of them have a hook that will give you more earworms than the victims in The Strain. This morning I was walking around getting ready for work with “Gold Locks, gets in through your open door” on repeat in my brain.

My favorite track is “Two Dreamers” which is based on a tale from 1001 Arabian Nights. What has always attracted me to Front’s work has been the quality of the music. Too much of nerdcore rap tends to focus on the lyrics. While the lyrics are important, and Front excels at them, it is the music that takes it past novelty act and into valid art. In “Two Dreamers” there is even a bit of auto-tune, which I usually shun, but in this case it works. Quite frequently while listening to the album I switch over to Banshee and put that track on repeat.

Of course the track that is bound to be talked about the most is Wakjąkága. It is based on a tale from the native American Ho-chunk (Winnebago) tribe. Let’s just say that when I was learning how classical mythology explains things like why the sun rises and sets and why we have winter and summer, my instructors skipped over this little origin story.

If you are an MC Frontalot fan, you’ll like this album, and if you haven’t been exposed to him before, this album is his most accessible CD for non-geeks. It showcases his progression as a musician, and while my favorite tracks from Solved (“Critical Hit”, “Stoop Sale”, “Victorian Space Prostitute”) resonate with me more than the tracks on this album, they are offset by a couple of tracks I either don’t care for or actively dislike, such as “Invasion of the Not Quite Dead”. Overall, I like the album Question Bedtime the most, and tend to listen to it straight through.

As a bonus if you are an audio nerd, the download includes an 88.2kHz FLAC version which is as close as you can get to the music exactly as he mixed it. Be sure to read the README that comes with it though – if your audio card doesn’t support it he also ships a mastered 44.1kHz FLAC version that will sound better than if your media player is forced to downsample the 88.2kHz one.

Warren Myers : avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes – law 41 – #48laws by robert greene

August 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 41

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Scott Schulz : Tweet: 2.36 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday evening….

August 13, 2014 11:02 AM

2.36 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday evening. And we were in the lighter area. #NCwx

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Insane Model Railroading…

August 09, 2014 01:12 PM

Blog: Insane Model Railroading

Mark Turner : Neighborhood kudos

August 07, 2014 11:47 AM

Got this from a neighbor yesterday, thanking me for keeping my neighborhood informed about a rare but troubling string of recent larcenies from cars:

I surely do appreciate all the informative messages lately about the cars getting broken in to. It has made me check mine every night to be sure it’s locked and I keep my porch light turned on now too. Also, I called several neighbors who do not use email and let them know what has been going on. Many many thanks to you.

This makes it all worthwhile.

Mark Turner : Coyote snatches cat from porch

August 07, 2014 12:24 AM

I heard last week of a startling incident that a neighborhood friend witnessed in nearby Belvidere Park. Apparently a coyote helped itself to his next door neighbor’s cat. His wife relays the story:

“He pulled up in the driveway late in the evening after going back to work to check a few things after the kids were in bed.

He said he saw something moving through the bushes on the front porch of our neighbor’s house. Looking at our house from the street, the house to the left of ours.

After he got out of the car, he saw it scamper off the porch. Once it was in the street, he could see it better under the street light. There was definitely something furry and cat-size in its mouth.

We have TONS, and I mean TONS of cats around our side of the street. I’d say anywhere from 10-12 on the regular. A few I know are pets. Others, I haven’t a clue.”

We’ve had occasional reports of coyote-like critters in my neighborhood, some as far back as 2010. This is the first time I’ve heard of one in my area running off with a cat, though. Keep your pets safe and indoors!

Tarus Balog : OSCON 2014: Is Open Source Dead?

August 06, 2014 05:14 PM

After visiting OSCON this year, I have to ask myself: is open source dead?

I don’t mean open source software. Software published under licenses approved by the OSI is booming. What I mean is the ideal of open source software, that people would get together to build collaborative applications that would be given away for free.

I’ve never been a fan of software in an of itself. I’ve always looked toward software for what it can allow me to do. I don’t care about spreadsheets unless they help me manage my company. I don’t care about word processors beyond their ability to allow me to express my thoughts. Even games can be judged on how well they allow me to escape into them. So I don’t see “software” as a product – it’s the thing that helps me make the product.

It seems that open source applications have all but disappeared. What’s doing very well are open source libraries and languages that allow people to build proprietary products. Take a look at the biggest sponsors of OSCON. There’s Bluehost, a hosting provider “built on open source technologies”. There’s Paypal, “using open source foundations in their technology stacks”. The list continues: Citrix, Google, HP, Github, Microsoft and Rackspace. Of all of those, only Github strikes me as an open source company. The others are using open source technologies but to build closed products. The “open” has come to mean “open protocols” more than “open source”.

Is this a bad thing? I really don’t know.

If you look at the sponsor page, you’ll see “We’re Hiring” banners next to the names of many of the companies. Being fluent in open source technologies is a good way to get a job, and seems to be the primary reason many of the companies were there in the first place.

The only large truly open source company I know of, Red Hat, was there, but in a little bitty booth. There are still a lot of “open core” companies represented: those companies that provide a feature limited version of their products under an open source license but charge for the full featured one. While I think this is a bad thing, they seem to be doing well.

Is it because no one cares anymore? This saddens me.

There seems to be a lack of concern about the lock-in that comes with proprietary software, even more so than in years past. There is a huge gold rush to provide software as a service (SaaS) offerings, but no one is caring about security or portability. A lot of the business models of these SaaS companies directly involves analytics of their users. Was anyone in the tech world really surprised when it was revealed that Facebook was experimenting on its user base? Yet people seem to be in a rush to turn over their most important information to third parties. Even at OSCON, the premier open source conference, most of the people wandered around with Macbooks and iPhones.

So, open source is really succeeding in core technologies such as libraries and languages but fails at the end user application level. I think part of it is the lack of a good business model. People are more than willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for software licenses but are loathe to pay for an open source support contract. I also think that it fails when it comes to usability. Without the business model, there just aren’t the resources available to make a lot of the software accessible to the casual technical user and much less to the Muggles. Heck, even Apple, which did such a good job with Time Machine, has pretty much moved backup from the user space to iCloud.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on open source. I still use a Linux Mint desktop and an Android phone running OmniROM. Almost all of the software I use is open source, but even I have to admit that in many cases the stuff I use isn’t ready for the basic user. But I may have to rethink my relationship to the term “open source”.

This post may sound like I’m really down, but I’m not. I’m actually kind of upbeat overall. And I really enjoyed the short amount of time I spent at OSCON. While not as open source-y as I might like, this is one of the few times a year I can be assured of running into a lot of cool people I’ve met over the years. When I arrived at the exhibit hall, I made a beeline for the unfashionable booths in the back and toward the left known as the “Nonprofit Pavilion” or as I like to call it, the “Geek Ghetto”. It’s pretty cool that some commercial shows like this offer free booths, but one must realize that they don’t include things like carpet padding, power or Internet access. I know a couple of projects that got booths next to each other so they could share.

The first booth I stopped at was the Software Freedom Conservancy booth where I got to see Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler for the first time in over a year, and I got to meet Marc Delisle, the maintainer of phpMyAdmin. They seem to be doing well and the list of Conservancy projects keeps growing. While I was there, open source guru Stormy Peters stopped by, as well as Deb Nicholson from the Open Invention Network.

I also was happy to see the LibreOffice booth. That is one project that really does try to do a fully open source application and they seem to be succeeding (I use it every day). Back when I was a Mac user I started using Keynote and Pages until I realized that the stuff I was creating was going to be tied to Apple forever. To my knowledge none of the Microsoft Office or iWork stuff support an open format, but maybe that will change now that the UK government has formally adopted ODF as their standard.

While interest in open source applications is waning, it is fun to see the open source spirit is still alive in projects other than software. I met Kevin from Free Geek, a non-profit that started in Portland but has grown to over ten other cities. Free Geek recycles technology and provides training for a variety of disciplines including computer hardware, software and even lock picking (who knows when you’ll get locked out of the server closet).

Something I don’t believe they had at OSCON last time was an “open hardware” section. I got to play with a beagleboard which is used by Prof. Thomas Bewley in his robotics classes as UCSD. I’m kind of jealous at all the new toys college students get to play with these days, for credit even.

One project is to create a balancing, two-wheeled robot. The one I played with was managed with a radio controller, and it was quite robust, even when I purposely drove it into other things (people, other robots).

On the opposite corner of the hall from the Geek Ghetto were the booths of some of the smaller open source projects with more commercial backing. The Red Hat booth was over there, and it was nice to run into Greg DeKoenigsberg at the Anisible booth. I met Greg when he was at Red Hat and it was also nice to see a local face (he’s nearby in Durham). Anisible seems to be a pretty cool project and I loved the tweet from an emphatic user who said “If a vegan, Crossfit, Anisible enthusiast meets you, what do they talk about first?”.

Speaking of meeting people, I got to chat with Erica Brescia over at the Bitnami booth, and later on ran into Jono Bacon and Stephen Walli. We ended up at Baileys along with Chris Aniszczyk from Twitter and some others, but as they say, what happens in Portland stays in Portland, so no pictures.

Plus, you really, really don’t want to know about that evening’s particular discussion. Ah, good times.

Joseph Tate : Moving a Paravirtualized EC2 legacy instance to a modern HVM one

August 05, 2014 02:10 PM

I had to try a few things before I could get this right, so I thought I'd write about it. These steps are what ultimately worked for me. I had tried several other things to no success, which I'll list at the end of the post.

If you have Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances on the "previous generation" paravirtualization based instance types, and want to convert them to the new/cheaper/faster "current generation", HVM instance types with SSD storage, this is what you have to do:

You'll need a donor Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume so you can copy data from it. Either shutdown the old instance and detach the EBS, or, as I did, snapshot the old system, and then create a new volume from the snapshot so that you can mess up without worrying about losing data. (I was also moving my instances to a cheaper data center, which I could only do by moving snapshots around). If you choose to create a new volume, make a note of which Availability Zone (AZ) you create it in.

Create a new EC2 instance of the desired instance type, configured with a new EBS volume set up the way you want it. Use a base image that's as similar to what you currently have as possible. Make sure you're using the same base OS version, CPU type, and that your instance is in the same AZ as your donor EBS volume. I mounted the ephemeral storage too as a way to quickly rollback if I messed up without having to recreate the instance from scratch.

Attach your donor EBS volume to your new instance as sdf/xvdf, and then mount them to a new directory I'll call /donor

mkdir /donor && mount /dev/xvdf /donor

Suggested: Mount your ephemeral storage on /mnt
mount /dev/xvdb /mnt
and rsync / to /mnt
rsync -aPx / /mnt/
If something goes wrong in the next few steps, you can reverse it by running
rsync -aPx --delete /mnt/ /
to revert to known working state. The rsync options tell rsync to copy (a)ll files, links, and directories, and all ownership/permissions/mtime/ctime/atime values; to show (P)rogress; and to not e(x)tend beyond a single file system (this leaves /proc /sys and your scratch and donor volumes alone).

Copy your /donor volume data to / by running
rsync -aPx /donor/ / --exclude /boot --exclude /etc/grub.d ...
. You can include other excludes (use paths to where they would be copied on the final volume, not the path in the donor system. The excluded paths above are for an Ubuntu system. You should replace /etc/grub.d with the path or paths where your distro keeps its bootloader configuration files. I found that copying /boot was insufficient because the files in /boot are merely linked to /etc/grub.d.

Now you should be able to reboot your instance your new upgraded system. Do so, detach the donor EBS volume, and if you used the ephemeral storage as a scratch copy, reset it as you prefer. Switch your Elastic IP, or change your DNS configuration, test your applications, and then clean up your old instance artifacts. Congratulations, you're done.

Be careful of slashes. The rsync command treats /donor/ differently from /donor.

What failed:
Converting the EBS snapshot to an AMI and setting the AMI virtualization type as HVM, then launching a new instance with this AMI actually failed to boot (I've had trouble with this with PV instances too with the Ubuntu base image unless I specified a specific kernel, so I'm not sure whether to blame HVM or the Ubuntu base images.
Connecting a copy of the PV ebs volume to a running HVM system and copying /boot to the donor, then replacing sda1 with the donor volume also failed to boot, though I think if I'd copied /etc/grub.d too it might have worked. This might not get you an SSD backed EBS volume though, if that's desirable.

Mark Turner : Mark Turner: Core continuity | Letters to the Editor |

August 05, 2014 10:26 AM

The N&O printed my letter to the editor today about Common Core. It was something I’d been meaning to write for months but only got around to finishing about the time the decision was made. Too bad.

IBM employees joke that IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” Growing up in an IBM family, I experienced this firsthand.

When someone is educated in five states, continuity can become a real issue. Our state welcomes new residents and businesses every day. Military families come and go in what we like to call the “nation’s most military-friendly state.”

”Yet our state legislators are about to undo the one sure way our young new residents can hit the ground running with their education: the Common Core. Rejecting Common Core will hurt our new residents, both civilian and military.

Think about that the next time our state leaders crow about North Carolina being business- or military-friendly.

Mark Turner

By the way, the editor did a little tweaking to it, changing the format. Here’s the way I submitted it:

IBM employees joke that IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” Growing up in an IBM family, I experienced this firsthand. When someone is educated in five states, continuity can become a real issue.

Our state welcomes new residents and businesses every day. Military families come and go in what we like to call the “nation’s most military-friendly state.” Yet our state legislators are about to undo the one sure way our young new residents can hit the ground running with their education: the Common Core.

Rejecting Common Core will hurt our new residents, both civilian and military. Think about that the next time our state leaders crow about North Carolina being business- or military-friendly.

(Yes, I was educated in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.)

via Mark Turner: Core continuity | Letters to the Editor |

Warren Myers : bglug presentation – 04 aug 2014 – basics of initial centos/rhel 6.x server configuration

August 04, 2014 10:15 PM

Attached is the presentation for my talk on initial CentOS/RHEL 6.x server configuring.


Tarus Balog : Order of the Blue Polo – Southway Housing Trust

August 04, 2014 08:36 PM

I’m back a few posts, but since I always enjoy hearing from our users I thought I’d post this latest Order of the Blue Polo submission from Keith Spragg of the Southway Housing Trust in the UK.

I work for Southway Housing Trust – a Didsbury (Manchester, UK) based, Not-for-profit Housing Association, looking after approximately 5,900 properties throughout the South Manchester region.

Southway Housing Trust operates a small ICT team, split between business applications and just two people on Support and Infrastructure.

When I started at Southway, there were several paper based methods of looking after the assorted systems and the only way we knew something was wrong was when users piped up to report a problem. I went looking for a free solution to my problems, and came across OpenNMS. I was very impressed with what I saw, and because of the size of our network (approximately 120 nodes) was able to take one of our old servers and repurpose it for this application.

Installation was quick and simple – I didn’t have to learn much more than I already knew, and because the system is very extensible, I was able to add bespoke monitors very quickly.

As soon as I had got OpenNMS set up, I was rapidly able to ditch the paper based systems, and trust that not only was OpenNMS going to record the history of this information, but that if there was a problem, my team would know before the users did. I equate it to putting a whole extra member of staff in the ICT team, as it’s always got its eyes on the systems on my behalf.

The only money we’ve spent on this project is my time – but we’ve lost count of the amount of money we’ve saved because our systems are not going wrong as often because we’re pro-actively monitoring them.

I love using OpenNMS, and would recommend it for any sized business – even a small network can benefit from an extra pair of eyes.

Warren Myers : how cold is it?

August 04, 2014 06:58 PM

an oldy, but a goody

An annotated thermometer (degrees Fahrenheit)

New York tenants turn on the heat
Minnesotans plant gardens

Californians shiver uncontrollably
Minnesotans sunbathe

Italian cars don’t start

Distilled water freezes

You can see your breath
You plan a vacation in Florida
Politicians begin to worry about the homeless
Minnesotans eat ice cream

Boston water freezes
Californians weep pitiably
Cat insists on sleeping on your bed with you

Cleveland water freezes
San Franciscans start thinking favorably of LA
Minnesota Vikings fans put on T-shirts—-YEAH!!!

You plan a vacation in CANCUN!!!!!
Minnesotans go swimming

Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
Too cold to snow
You need jumper cables to get the car going

New York landlords turn on the heat

You can hear your breath
You plan a vacation in Hawaii

American cars don’t start
Too cold to skate

You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
Miamians cease to exist
Minnesotans lick flagpoles

Cat insists on sleeping in your pajamas with you
Politicians actually do something about the homeless
People in Duluth think about taking down screens

Too cold to kiss
You need jumper cables to get the driver going
Japanese cars don’t start
Minnesota Twins head for spring training

You plan a two-week hot bath
Minnesotans shovel snow off roof

Mercury freezes
Too cold to think
Minnesotans button top button

Californians disappear
Car insists on sleeping in your bed with you
Minnesotans put on sweaters

Congressional hot air freezes
Alaskans close the bathroom window
Two Harbors Minnesota Agates practice indoors

Walruses abandon Aleutians
Minnesotans put gloves away, take out mittens
Boy Scouts in Two Harbors Minnesota start Klondike Derby

Minneapolis residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
Ridgeway snowmobilers organize trans-river race to Buffalo,WI
Lackore Boys start to complain while working on snowmobiles

Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
Girl Scouts in Two Harbors Minnesota start Klondike Derby

Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
Wisconsinites migrate to Minnesota thinking it MUST be warmer

Santa Claus abandons North Pole
Minnesotans pull down earflaps

Ethyl alcohol freezes
The University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus) closes

Lackore Boys quit working on snowmobiles.

Helium becomes a liquid

Hell freezes over

Illinois drivers drop below 85 MPH on I-90

Incumbent politician renounces a campaign contribution

-460 (Absolute Zero)
All atomic motion ceases
The University of Minnesota-Duluth is closed
Minnesotans alert us as to how it’s getting a mite nippy

refound here

Mark Turner : US company signs $1.175 billion Iran energy deal

August 02, 2014 04:45 PM

This is almost certainly a sham. Much is unknown about this World Eco Energy company.

TEHRAN – A US company has signed a preliminary agreement to invest $1.175 billion 864 million euros in Iran, in a rare joint commercial project to turn rubbish and human waste into electricity.

California-based World Eco Energy said it plans to produce 250 megawatts daily by burning trash and by processing algae and salt and waste water into power.

Iran will match the US investment, the company said.

via US company signs $1.175 billion Iran energy deal.

Mark Turner : American aid worker stricken with Ebola arrives in U.S. for treatment | Reuters

August 02, 2014 04:43 PM

I jumped into a Facebook debate today about the wisdom of bringing Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly to Atlanta to be treated at Emory University. While I once gave into the hysteria surrounding infectious diseases, I know what I don’t know – in essence, that infectious disease is most certainly not by bailiwick.

I am now unconcerned about Dr. Brantly and the other American Ebola victim, Nancy Writebol, being brought to the United States by trained disease professionals. It’s really the unescorted average Joes that get infected and then board a flight that scare the daylights out of me.

An American aid worker infected with the deadly Ebola virus while in Liberia was flown from West Africa to the United States on Saturday and taken to an Atlanta hospital for treatment in a special isolation unit.

A chartered medical aircraft carrying Dr. Kent Brantly touched down at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia shortly before noon.Brantly was driven by ambulance, with police escort, to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where he will be treated in a specially equipped room.

via American aid worker stricken with Ebola arrives in U.S. for treatment | Reuters.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: In @LastPass IOS why doesn’t the add new site have…

August 02, 2014 03:23 PM

In @LastPass IOS why doesn’t the add new site have a generate password option & why doesn’t the Save in Generate open the new site dialog?

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Toying with Tabitop

August 02, 2014 02:10 PM

Blog: Toying with Tabitop

Eric Christensen : Answering questions regarding the Fedora Security Team

August 01, 2014 12:26 AM

Wow, I had no idea that people would care about the start of this project.  There seems to be a few questions out there that I’d like to address here to clarify what we are doing and why.

OMG!  Fedora is just getting a security team?  Does this mean Fedora has been insecure this entire time?!?

Umm, no, it doesn’t mean that Fedora has been insecure this entire time.  In all actuality Fedora is in pretty good shape overall.  There is always room for improvement and so we’re organizing a team to help facilitate that improvement.

What exactly is the security team responsible for?

We here to help packagers get the patches or new releases that fix vulnerabilities into the Fedora repositories faster.  Most of our packagers are very good at shipping fixes for bugs when upstream rolls a new version of their software.  Bug fixes can usually wait a few days, though, as most aren’t critical.  Security vulnerabilities are a bit different and fixes should be made available as soon as possible.  A little helping hand is never a bad thing and that’s what we’re here to do… help.

Can the security team audit package x?

No.  This may become a service a different team (also falling under the Security SIG) can provide but I/we haven’t gotten there yet.

I read where Fedora has 566 vulnerabilities!  How can you say that Fedora isn’t insecure?

Well, it’s actually 573 right this second.  That’s down from 577 last week.  566 was Monday’s number.  It’s important to not get caught up in the numbers cause they are, well, just numbers.  The numbers only deal specifically with the number of tickets open.  Many of the tickets are duplicates in that the same vulnerability might have several tickets opened for it if the finding is in only certain Fedora versions and EPEL versions.  Since the same packager is likely responsible for all versions and the same fix can be made we can likely close several bugs at a time with minimal work.

I should also point out that the majority of these bugs fall well below the “world is on fire” level of Critical and the “this isn’t good” level of Important.  This doesn’t mean we should just ignore these lower vulnerabilities but rather we should understand that they aren’t something that is likely to be exploited without many other bad things happening.  Should they be fixed?  Yes, but we should probably be more concerned with the Critical and Important vulnerabilities first.  If you’d like to know more about the process for coming up with the severity rating my friend Vincent wrote an excellent article that you should read.

“6. Close bug when vulnerability is shipped in Fedora repos.”

Yeah, that isn’t correct.  This is what happens when I try to multi-task.  Glad I don’t get paid to write….  err… never mind.  Luckily it’s a wiki and someone fixed it for me.  Whew!

(We try to not deliberately release a package with a vulnerability.  It seems people don’t appreciate vulnerabilities in the same way they like other features.  Who would have thought?)

I’d like to help!  How can I join up?

Go to the Security Team wiki page and look for the link to the mailing list and IRC channels, sign up, join up, and use the work flow to start digging in.  Questions?  Feel free to ask in the IRC channel or on the mailing list.  You can also contact me directly if can’t otherwise find the answer to your question.

Mark Turner : Mystery tower a micro-cell tower

July 31, 2014 02:09 PM

Looks like the mystery cell tower may actually be a distributed antenna system, otherwise known as a mini cell tower site. The idea is to fill in the weak coverage spots with smaller towers.

A Pennsylvania-based company called Crown Castle has been installing these micro cell sites on utility poles around the US. A few Google searches reveal that the company is currently hiring project staff here in Raleigh.

So there ya go.

Mark Turner : Is this a Stingray site?

July 31, 2014 10:00 AM

Mystery tower site

Mystery tower site

Update: Mystery solved? I believe this is a micro-site cell tower.

A few weeks ago when I went with Travis to a birthday party held at Adventure Landing on Capital Boulevard, the radio geek in me was drawn to an unusual device mounted on a utility pole outside.

Located on the corner of the parking lot next to a sword-shaped, pirate-themed sign that reads “Parking” is a newly-planted utility pole. Mounted on the pole is a locker-sized utility box, meter box, antenna feedline, and a cell tower-shaped antenna on top. All of these were painted brown to match the nearby light poles in Adventure Landing’s parking lot.

It appears to me to be a mini cell tower of some sort but it does raise some questions. Capital Boulevard is arguably the busiest street in the city and this spot is near its intersection with I-440. This would hardly be considered a cell phone service “dead zone.” Why would a single-node booster tower be here?

The paint matching the parking lot light towers strongly associates it with Adventure Landing. Tower owners get a cut of revenue from each call they carry. Is this an extra source of revenue for the amusement park? If so, why would the antenna be in the back of the property, shaded by the building from the 50,000+ cars that pass by each day in front of it? That’s a lot of revenue given up.

Closeup of utility box

Closeup of utility box

If it’s simply a boost for the park patrons, why not put the tower on the top of the building where it is not only taller but more centrally-located on the property? Then again, though, this is Capital Boulevard – thinking this area is a dead zone is ludicrous. And if you have a perfectly-good building to mount your tower on – one that’s actually taller than a utility pole – who would go to the trouble and expense of planting a separate pole? It’s possible that RF considerations means you have to have it a certain height above the population, I suppose, but you could easily reduce your power and still cover a four-acre park, right?

What’s interesting is that the pole is actually on the city right of way (ROW) and not private property. I don’t see how the city would give the nod to any old fool who wants to plant his or her own utility pole in the public right of way. It’s my understanding that such approval would have to be approved by the city council as all ROW encroachments are. So, either there’s a record of this pole being approved to be planted here or the pole in violation of something or another. This is provided that Pine Knoll Drive is in fact a public street but a look at the site in the city’s IMAPs system seems to show that it is and that the pole is indeed in the public ROW.

This hardline and the antenna on top show this is a cell tower site.

This hardline and the antenna on top show this is a cell tower site.

I sort of forgot about this interesting tower until I read this week’s WRAL story that the Raleigh Police Department owns a Stingray – a mini-cell phone tower that is used to intercept cell phone calls. Police departments that use it assure the public that their use of Stingray is lawful, yet the manufacturer, Harris, slaps a draconian non-disclosure agreement on its customers. This can’t help but make me wonder just how legal its use my be considered. Is this an attempt to keep judges in the dark? Perhaps to avoid having this question answered in a court of law?

So is this a Stingray site? Possibly. I imagine if the PD sinks $200k into a law enforcement tool, though, they’re not going to want to have it anchored (arrrr!) to a particular place. It’s possible that the box on the pole sits empty most of the time and only gets a Stingray when an investigation warrants it. (Did I just use “Stingray” and “warrant” in the same sentence?)

On the other hand, it could simply be a poorly-sited cell phone booster tower. Either way, the site is unusual and clearly designed to collect cell phone calls – the question is who is doing the collecting?

Eric Christensen : “You’re not allowed to join this video call.”

July 31, 2014 01:40 AM

“You’re not allowed to join this video call.” was the greeting I found while trying to log into my astronomy class tonight.  Thanks to Google and their Hangout app I’ve missed my last night of classes.  Fantastic.

I blame Google for this, honestly, but I wonder if they are really the problem.  They provide a service that has complex relationships with their other “products” and they provide this all for “free” to anyone that is willing to sign up (and allow them to track your every move).  I’m sure they never said the thing would have certain availability (how could they, they are utilizing the Internet as a transport layer) so I have no expectation of this thing working… ever.  And this is what happens when, as a society, we continue to embrace proprietary services that are completely out of our control.  Even if there was some sort of agreement that this stuff would work all the time I would still be sitting here unable to join my class.  Even from my FOSS software-running computer I am at the mercy of our proprietary overlords.  It’s sad.

Tarus Balog : Portlandia

July 30, 2014 06:13 PM

Last week I was delighted to return to Portland, Oregon, for the annual OSCON conference. While I had a fun time at OSCON, I was only there for Wednesday and this post is about Tuesday. I’ll talk about the conference itself next. So this post contains little OpenNMS content but might be interesting to those of my three readers who like travel.

I got to PDX around noon and took the MAX into the city. My plan was to drop some stuff off at the hotel and then head to the conference, but as usual my life was overtaken by events. By the time I dealt with my various e-mails and other obligations, it was fairly late in the afternoon so I opted for a nap before dinner instead of trekking over to the Convention Center.

Dinner included me, our OpenNMS guru extraordinaire Ken who was up from Salem, and Greg. Greg used to be an OpenNMS client before he changed jobs to work for a non-profit, but like all OpenNMS users he is super intelligent and amazing to be around. I never miss a chance to spend some time with him.

Ken showed up in his cool, new BMW diesel wagon and drove us across the river. A friend of mine who is also a chef recommended we try a place called Pok Pok and Greg seconded the recommendation. He was worried that it might be crowded, but it being a Tuesday night we figured we’d take our chances. It was also a little earlier than I usually eat dinner, but even then our wait for a table was an hour.

In the meantime we went across the street to the Whiskey Soda Lounge. Greg told us that when Pok Pok started to get popular, people would migrate to nearby bars to wait for their table. Sensing a business opportunity, when a building close to the restaurant became available, they opened up the Lounge.

While we didn’t order much food, we did have a couple of drinks waiting for our table. I really enjoyed the Tamarind Whiskey Sour, which is something of a signature drink. They also had some decent drink specials. The only food we got was a bowl of peanuts, but in keeping with the Thai style cuisine of Pok Pok, the peanuts came mixed in with mild chilis. While the Lounge was nothing out of the ordinary, it was nice to unwind before dinner and catch up.

Our table was ready in an hour as promised, and the wait staff in the Lounge were the ones to tell us about it (which I thought was pretty convenient). Now Pok Pok is one of those places that seems to have grown organically, and our table was in a section that was basically outdoors with a covered roof. Considering how nice the evening was, I preferred our table to the ones downstairs in the main restaurant which struck me as a little claustrophobic.

The food was good and unusual. Greg and I are pretty much “pescatarians” so we stuck with fish. We had catfish (Cha Ca La Vong)

as well as whole tilapia, which was a special.

Afterward, for dessert Greg suggested that we go to an ice cream shop called Salt and Straw.

Now I am an ice cream nut. I make it at home. I go to classes to learn how to make better ice cream. And my favorite ice cream is Jeni’s from Ohio which is simply fantastic.

How do you describe something that is nearly an order of magnitude better than fantastic?

I’m not sure if it is the creaminess, the wonderful flavor combinations or just high quality ingredients, but this stuff is good.

Greg told me that the long line was actually pretty short for this place but I still I felt bad when I got up to the front and wanted to try every single flavor as the line got longer behind me. I limited myself to five, and received a heaping tablespoon of each one to taste.

The first was the signature Sea Salt with Caramel. Wonderful. I’ve just been introduced to salted caramel as a flavor and I’m quite fond of it.

Since I couldn’t just stop on the first one, I also tried their Double Fold Vanilla and Chocolate Gooey Brownie. Both were superlative.

The fourth flavor was Lavender and Honey. When we walked in another customer was walking out with a big purple scoop, so I just had to try it and this was almost my choice but I had to try one last flavor: Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper.

As the youths like to say: OMG.

I love strawberries and this flavor combination just caught my eye. One of the issues with making great ice cream is to limit water. Water forms ice crystals which ruin the texture on the tongue. This makes working with fruit difficult due to its high water content. Usually when I make strawberry ice cream, I roast the fruit to get rid of some of the water, and then I puree it and mix it in with the cream. You don’t want chunks because they screw up the texture when they freeze.

Salt and Straw gets around this by not only pureeing and mixing in the fruit, they have made a type of jam that they swirl into the ice cream. So you get amazing amounts of fruit flavor without sacrificing the texture. This was a softer ice cream than the others but it was so, so, good.

Both Ken and Greg thought the ice cream as good as well. Greg pulled a “native” by also purchasing a pint to go. You can skip the line and head straight to the to go freezer, but I wanted to get back in line to try some more flavors so I doubt I could do that.

Anyway, it was a great “soft landing” for my trip. I also got a few laughs when talking to the locals. I’d tell them, in my deepest southern drawl, that I knew all about Portland from watching that documentary on the city: Portlandia.

What makes that show funny is the deeper truths it parodies, but that’s one of the things I love about that town.

Mark Turner : Man-made ‘breathing’ leaf is an oxygen factory for space travel – CNET

July 30, 2014 12:18 AM

A scientist has devised an oxygen-producing fabric.

One of the persistent challenges of manned space exploration is that pesky lack of oxygen throughout much of the universe. Here on Earth, trees and other plant life do us a real solid by taking in our bad breath and changing it back to clean, sweet O2.

So what if we could take those biological oxygen factories into space with us, but without all the land, sun, water, soil, and gravity that forests tend to require? This is the point where NASA and Elon Musk should probably start paying attention.

via Man-made 'breathing' leaf is an oxygen factory for space travel – CNET.

Mark Turner : RALEIGH: New Raleigh neighborhoods won’t get individual mailboxes | Raleigh |

July 29, 2014 01:16 PM

As I left the home this morning, I drove through the new Oakwood North neighborhood and something caught my eye. Workers have installed a concrete pedestal near the front of the subdivision to house the community mailboxes that the neighborhood is now required to have.

I beat up on Colin yesterday about his targeting of certain councilmembers (and I will have more to say about this soon) but he is capable of writing stories that deserve kudos. This one about the Postal Service discontinuing home delivery for new subdivisions was interesting and newsworthy. It’s something that apparently even caught giant homebuilder KB Home by surprise. Suddenly their ultimate home for retirees is much less attractive if living there requires daily trips to the mailbox. Or perhaps homeowners will be the fittest in Raleigh?

RALEIGH — At the model home for the newest neighborhood inside the Beltline, an ornate black mailbox sits atop a post at the curb.

But homebuyers in the Oakwood North subdivision won’t be getting one of their own. After developers started work on the community, the U.S. Postal Service pulled the plug on what’s been a standard amenity: curbside mail delivery.

via RALEIGH: New Raleigh neighborhoods won’t get individual mailboxes | Raleigh |

Mark Turner : N&O’s Colin Campbell writes hit piece on Crowder

July 28, 2014 10:56 AM

Well, that was predictable.

Days after Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder defended against the recent attack on planning documents our city and citizenry spent millions of dollars and many years crafting, News and Observer reporter Colin Campbell writes a hit piece on Crowder’s pursuit of parking lawbreakers.

Objectivity does not appear to be Campbell’s strong suit. He needs a new beat, pronto. And shame on the News and Observer editors for condoning this tripe.

On a related note, I have been doing some research on Campbell’s reporting that is providing some interesting insights. Stay tuned.

RALEIGH — Two years ago, Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder spearheaded an effort to ban front-yard parking in his district. These days, he’s filing dozens of complaints to make sure parking scofflaws are held accountable.Crowder has asked city zoning staffers via email to investigate 26 possible front-yard parking violations – many within blocks of his house – in his Southwest Raleigh district during the past year. Crowder’s complaints represent nearly 30 percent of the parking ordinance reports received in Raleigh since July 2013, according to city records.

“I have complaints regarding the above referenced property,” Crowder says in many of the emails, sometimes including a photo of the offense. “Please investigate and notify me of your findings and action taken.”

via RALEIGH: Raleigh councilman turns in neighbors under controversial parking ban | Wake County |

Mark Turner : Vladimir Putin’s circle of fear

July 27, 2014 03:48 PM

I enjoyed this account of the current state of Russia’s political opposition.

The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has brought the conflict between Russia and Ukraine back into the headlines. This crisis, and the accompanying crackdown on domestic dissent in Russia, represents a new and frightening phase in a process that began 15 years ago: Vladimir Putin’s reversal of the freedoms Russia gained after the fall of communism in 1991 and the creation of a new authoritarian Kremlin regime.

Consider it a predictive metaphor for recent events in Russia, a quarter century after the country’s awakening from communism. The neo-authoritarian Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin is squeezing the air out of the remaining pockets of dissent, cranking up the propaganda machine to Soviet levels, and setting up the conditions for a new Iron Curtain.

The spring of 2014 featured a high-water mark for Putin’s post-Soviet restoration, with its belligerent rejection of ‘‘Western values,’’ its confrontational stance toward NATO, and its aggressive claims towards former Soviet territories. As Komsomolskaya Pravda columnist Ulyana Skoibeda rhapsodised after the mostly unchallenged Russian annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, ‘‘It’s not about the Crimea coming back to us. It’s we who have come back. Home, to the USSR.’’

via Vladimir Putin's circle of fear.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Looks like we are about to get hammered with some…

July 27, 2014 02:22 PM

Looks like we are about to get hammered with some rain/wind #ncwx


Warren Myers : despise the free lunch – law 40 – #48laws by robert greene

July 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 40

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Um earnest, park much?

July 26, 2014 10:29 PM

Um earnest, park much?


Mark Turner : BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine

July 26, 2014 12:35 PM

While the United States government has been investing billions of dollars so it can listen to Grandma’s phone calls, Russia has been busy boosting its military and invading neighboring countries.

Hey, DoD, the threat is over THERE.

The US says it has evidence that Russia has fired artillery across the border targeting Ukrainian military positions.

Russia also intends "to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the state department said.

Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.

The US comment comes a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, with the rebels widely accused of shooting it down.

via BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine.