Warren Myers : the jetsons used cash

June 25, 2017 05:56 PM

They had flying cars. That would fold-up into a briefcase.

They had magic bubbles that’d pop out from their fingers to shroud themselves on their floaty-seats that delivered them to school or the mall.

But they used cash. Really? With all the crazy futuristic stuff they tried to wedge into that program, the creators thought we’d still be using cash in a flying-car future?

Maybe they were onto something. Cash does have the value of being tangible, and not being tracked.

Mark Turner : Cops, the public, and stereotypes

June 24, 2017 01:34 AM

A friend recently drove by a traffic stop conducted by the Raleigh Police Department and was surprised at the number of officers who responded. Four units were there and the driver, a black male, had his hands firmly and safely planted on the side of the car from his place in the driver’s seat. My friend turned around a few minutes later to see what happened and came across the driver still parked there, but now alone and doubled-over sobbing on the steering wheel. She shared her experience on social media.

I respect my friend tremendously and I take comfort that she cares so much for our neighbors. Nobody wants to see an incident in Raleigh like those that have taken place in various places in the country, where innocent black men – doing everything right – get shot to death by hotheaded cops. My black friends are understandably concerned about being pulled over and in an instant possibly losing their life.

I also know a few cops, and I’ve paid close attention to the Raleigh Police Department (RPD) since I moved here. I’ve gone on midnight ridealongs through some of the roughest neighborhoods in Raleigh, protected only by a bulletproof vest and my trust in the cop taking me along. From what I’ve seen, RPD is a professional police force. RPD’s force is one of the best-trained in the country and has the national accreditation to prove it. The officers I’ve interacted with (willingly and, on seldom occasions, unwillingly) have always been polite and treated me with respect. The interactions I witnessed on my ridealongs were also unfailingly respectful, no matter what the transgression. This was not always reciprocated, though, by those pulled over.

Why did police respond the way they did to the driver my friend saw? There could be any number of reasons but it probably wasn’t due to the driver’s race. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t ask the driver or the officers so we’re left to speculate.

And also to assume, and it’s this that can really twist things out of proportion. We think we know what happened when we don’t. The media arrives on scene, races to piece together what happened as quickly as possible and more often than not presents a distorted view. Then their audience takes the pieces they are given and they weave their own truth out of it. It’s Telephone Tag, writ large and fueled by hysteria.

The shooting of Akiel Denkins is a case in point. Media interviews of Denkins’ friends often painted a rosy picture of him. Bumper stickers urge “Remember Akiel Denkins” as if this was another case of officer overreach. In truth Denkins was a convicted drug dealer. Yeah, he may have been taking GED classes but he was skipping those classes the day an RPD officer found him out “hustling” drugs in a known drug area. Officer D.C. Twiddy noticed Denkins had a warrant for arrest and tried to arrest him. Denkins ran and then foolishly pulled a gun on the arresting officer, who shot him. Pulling a gun on an officer is a sure path to getting killed.

On the other hand, obeying Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez’s commands should not have gotten Philandro Castille killed and there is no excuse for his death. It haunts me and I feel for my friends of color who deal with this kind of profiling every day. I can’t say I know what it’s like – I’ll never know what it’s like – but I can say I understand their pain.

It is wrong to stereotype people, whether they be another race or on the other side of the badge. It’s wrong to assume we know the full story, or we know intentions, when often we don’t. I know both that many friends have been unfairly profiled and that police officers are often unfairly maligned.

And it’s okay to be against both. As Jon Stewart explained, “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.”

So I’d be happy if some police didn’t lump all black people together and some of the public didn’t lump all police officers together. Let’s get away from the stereotypes and take people for who they are. It’s not easy to do but the stakes are far too high to keep repeating the same mistakes.

Mark Turner : Washington Monthly | The Ossoff-Parnell Lesson: Stop Chasing Romney Voters

June 22, 2017 05:48 PM

The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers—perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.

The way forward for Democrats lies to the left, and with the working classes. It lies with a firm ideological commitment to progressive values, and in winning back the Obama voters Democrats lost to Trump in 2016 without giving ground on commitments to social justice. It does not lie in the wealthy suburbs that voted for Romney over Obama in 2012, or in ideological self-effacement on core economic concerns.

Source: Washington Monthly | The Ossoff-Parnell Lesson: Stop Chasing Romney Voters

Mark Turner : Biggest Credit Bubble in History – simplest way to strip cash – BMC software – most insatiable buyers leveraged-loan mutual funds

June 22, 2017 11:48 AM

BMC software borrowed $750 million via one of the riskiest forms of debt, payment-in-kind (PIK) notes, where, if push comes to shove, BMC can chose to pay interest not with cash but with more of the same debt.

The amount it owes gets larger, as its chances of survival shrivel. Instead of defaulting, the company will simply hand the lender more paper that’s increasingly worthless.BMC promptly forwarded the $750 million to its owners, a group of PE firms let by Bain Capital that had acquired BMC only seven months earlier.

Time is of the essence. Platinum Equity, which had acquired Volvo’s rental car division, waited only a week after closing the deal before sucking $262 million out that the company had obtained by issuing PIK debt.

So far this year, these already overleveraged companies have issued nearly $21 billion in junk-rated debt for the purpose of paying special dividends to the PE firms that own them — the most since the bubble of 2007, before it all blew up spectacularly.Of that, $3.5 billion were these reeking PIK notes.When a default occurs, the PE firms have the cash, and the lenders get stuck with largely worthless paper.

Source: Biggest Credit Bubble in History – simplest way to strip cash – BMC software – most insatiable buyers leveraged-loan mutual funds    

Mark Turner : Tech Mega-Buyouts Edge Toward Comeback as BMC, CA Plot Deal – Bloomberg

June 22, 2017 11:31 AM

Don’t miss this little fact: Bain and Golden Gate helped themselves to their own $750 million dividend from BMC a year after buying the company.

Four years after Blackstone Group LP and Silver Lake Management battled to take Dell Inc. private, buyout firms are back in the market for big leveraged technology deals.

BMC Software Inc., owned by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital, and CA Inc. are considering a potential deal that would see the software companies combine as part of a transaction to take CA private, according to people familiar with the process. CA shares rose as much as 16 percent Tuesday, valuing the New York-based company at more than $15 billion.

If a deal goes ahead, and if it’s structured as a leveraged buyout by the private equity firms followed by a combination with BMC, it would be the biggest LBO of a tech company since Silver Lake and Michael Dell won the fight to buy Dell in 2013 in a transaction valued at almost $25 billion.

Source: Tech Mega-Buyouts Edge Toward Comeback as BMC, CA Plot Deal – Bloomberg

Tarus Balog : A Brief History of an Open Source Company

June 21, 2017 06:26 PM

I’ve been invited to give a keynote at this year’s Ohio Linuxfest being held in Columbus, Ohio, on 29-30 September. I am both excited and humbled as this is one of my favorite conferences of the year and I know a lot of amazing people will be there to share their knowledge of free and open source software.

Ohio Linuxfest Logo

I take my presentations pretty seriously, especially keynotes, so I wanted to come up with something that was both funny and interesting. They asked me to speak on running a business around open source software, and I immediately thought I should come up with some click-bait title like “Ten Things About Open Source Business, Four of Them Will Shock You!” but it just didn’t feel right. Then I thought about Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and that seemed more fitting.

My most popular talk so far has been on starting an open source business, but that focuses mainly on the mechanics of the process. For this talk I want to trace my history with OpenNMS starting with my first day on the job and then describing how it grew to become what it is today. In those 15+ years I’ve had a lot of adventures, some good and some bad, and I’ve met a some wonderful people. It is the work of many of those people that actually make OpenNMS what it is – I act more like a “crap umbrella” with my one job being to block all of the things that might keep the team from being productive – and I want to talk how that came about. This presentation will consist almost entirely of real world examples of the problems we encountered and our decision process for solving them.

I hope it will be entertaining and useful, and look forward to seeing you there.

Mark Turner : Swarm of 464 earthquakes hits Yellowstone National Park | Daily Mail Online

June 21, 2017 03:46 PM

It’s low risk but low-risk doesn’t generate clicks. 🙂

Hundreds of earthquakes have hit Yellowstone National Park in the space of a week, according to experts.

A total of 464 quakes have been recorded over the past week at Yellowstone, which sits above one of the world’s most dangerous supervolcanoes.

This is the highest number of earthquakes at the park within a single week in the past five years.The recent activity has raised fears that the supervolcano is about to blow.

If it were to erupt, the Yellowstone supervolcano would be one thousand times as powerful as the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption, experts claim – although they say the risk is ‘low’.

Source: Swarm of 464 earthquakes hits Yellowstone National Park | Daily Mail Online

Mark Turner : A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US

June 21, 2017 03:43 PM


The Yellowstone volcano has a massive chamber the size of Mexico.

A recent scientific discovery has drastically changed our view of the global carbon cycle and identified a new significant risk. Researchers have discovered a giant lake or reservoir made up of molten carbon sitting below the western US.

The molten carbon (primarily in the form of carbonate) reservoir could drastically and immediately change the global climate for over a decade if it were to be released. Thankfully there is little risk in the near future of this happening. The carbon sits 217 miles beneath the surface of the Earth in the upper mantle and has no immediate pathway to the surface. In total the lake covers approximately 700,000 square miles, approximately the size of Mexico. This has redefined how much carbon scientists believe sits locked away in the Earth’s mantle and its interaction with surface and atmospheric carbon.

Source: A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US

Mark Turner : Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital – Rolling Stone

June 21, 2017 12:59 PM

And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America’s top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

Source: Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital – Rolling Stone

Mark Turner : Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street – The New York Times

June 20, 2017 10:12 PM

When an unlucky passenger was violently dragged off a full United Airlines flight in Chicago in April, setting off a public-relations nightmare for the company, the blame naturally fell on the cabin crew, the police and eventually airline executives.But ultimately, the episode was set in motion elsewhere — on Wall Street.Relentless pressure on corporate America is creating an increasingly Dickensian experience for many consumers as companies focus on maximizing profit. And nowhere is the trend as stark as in the airline industry, whose service is delivered in an aluminum tube packed with up to four different classes, cheek by jowl, 35,000 feet in the air.

Source: Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street – The New York Times

Tarus Balog : When Not To Start an Open Source Company

June 20, 2017 03:10 PM

Over the weekend, Chris Aniszczyk posted a link on Twitter to a very interesting article by Matt Klein about his decision not to start an open source company around his project, Envoy. I thought it raised a number of interesting points worth a few comments.

First off, Matt works for Lyft, which, in case you haven’t heard of it, is Uber without the moral decay. I abandoned Uber some time ago, despite being an early adopter, and I’ve been very happy with Lyft. One of the main differences is that Lyft allows you to tip your driver, which I almost always do with few exceptions. The fact that Lyft is able to keep and motivate people like Matt speaks volumes for their corporate culture.

It also demonstrates a wonderful trend of commercial companies starting and maintaining open source projects. I’ve been working with open source for almost two decades and I can remember when any software developed at a company was considered confidential. To this day there are a number of vendors who consider their SNMP MIB files (which, I should point out, are really only useful to people who have purchased their products) proprietary information. Companies like Lyft, Paypal and Facebook, none of which would self-identify as open source companies, have gained a lot of value for little cost by making the tools they use open source.

When talking about open source for the enterprise, I often talk about the fact that it is the processes that a company uses to serve its customers that make it unique and define its value, not the tools used by the company. So often with commercial software you have to change those process to fit how the application thinks you should work, and in the process you lose some part of what makes you special to your customers. With open source you can fit the application to those processes. It is how you use the tools and not the tools themselves that is important, and so there is a lot to gain and little to lose by making them open source.

Getting back to Matt’s article, he is a project maintainer for Envoy, which is a “high performance C++ distributed proxy and communication bus designed for large service oriented architectures.” While I don’t consider myself a coder so I don’t claim to fully understand the its advantages, I do recognize enough buzzwords in that sentence to know that it would attract some attention from investors, and Matt was approached about leaving Lyft to start a commercial business around Envoy. He decided not to, and as I read his article about his decision I realized I’d found a kindred soul, someone who was more interested in creating something of value that would last versus making a quick buck.

He had me with this paragraph:

In my opinion, the best opportunity to commercialize OSS lies with projects that can be easily turned into SaaS products. Ultimately, even if software is completely open, many customers are happy to pay for a turnkey solution that “just works” and has a defined SLA with 24/7 monitoring and support. In some sense, customers pay for the operational expertise that comes from deeply understanding and running the software, versus the software itself.

Amen.

I’ve been making a living on open source for 15 years now working with OpenNMS, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about business models. We started out with the “service and support” model, which kept the doors open but limited growth. Then our clients started asking us for features, so we added custom development, which was time intensive but allowed us to finance OpenNMS features which attracted even more customers as the platform became more powerful. When we hit the problem of trying to balance the “release early, release often” philosophy of open source with the need for stability, we adopted the Red Hat model of splitting our application into a feature-rich, rapidly developed release (which we call Horizon™, similar to Fedora) and a more stable, subscription-based release that may lag in features but is better suited production environments (which we call Meridian®, similar to RHEL). But ultimately we came to the decision that what we really wanted to do was to offer OpenNMS as a service.

One company that inspired that decision was Automattic, maintainers of WordPress. I don’t think I know of a more powerful piece of software that is easier to install. They have a famous “5 Minute Install” that is quite simple. First, you drop the software into the webroot of your web server of choice. Next, you create a database account on your database of choice with certain permissions. Then you navigate to a web page and follow the prompts.

However, for a lot of people, terms like “webroot” are gibberish, and even with WordPress you still need some minimal database skills to maintain it. So Automattic offers up WordPress as a service. For a small monthly fee they’ll do everything for you, and this has generated revenues on the order of tens of millions of dollars per year.

OpenNMS is way more complicated, thus the value of a hosted version should be greater. In order to do so we needed some way to access the client’s network in a secure fashion, so with Horizon 20 we introduced the Minion. The Minion software allows for OpenNMS functionality to be distributed. It is built on the Karaf container, so once installed all of its features can be remotely managed. For smaller networks, the Minion can be sold as an appliance and talk to a hosted version of OpenNMS. It can bring a complex and powerful tool like OpenNMS into the hands of the masses.

For larger companies it solves issues of scale as Minions can be deployed to cover even the largest networks (our goal is IoT scale). We’ve had them in production at one client for months now handling over 2 million events an hour. That translates to around 555 events per second, although the system itself can handle over 10,000 events per second so they have room to grow. If they ever hit that limit, we can simply add more Minions. They have the option of hosting all of OpenNMS in their own data center, or they could choose a hybrid model where some of the functionality is outsourced.

For pretty much the first time in the history of OpenNMS, we are seriously and actively seeking investment. There are a number of companies entering this space who have raised enormous amounts of money, and we think we can be competitive for far less money and provide a better solution. Plus, also for the first time in the history of OpenNMS, we have a reason to make it easier to use versus spending all of our resources making it more powerful.

Matt talks about investment in his post (remember Matt? As usual, I’ve made this all about me. Meeee!) It was actually his stories about dealing with investors that prompted me to write this. As Envoy started to get some traction, investors wanted him to leave and start a company. He writes:

Over the last few months I’ve been told by several investors that no OSS has become ubiquitous without having explicit commercial backing. I think this is false and is situation dependent. If anything, I would argue that if I were to leave Lyft now and start a platform company around Envoy, it will decrease the chance of Envoy becoming ubiquitous, primarily because it would negate all of the reasons laid out above.

That first sentence is interesting, since “ubiquitous” and “commercial” are a little vague. I would make the claim that the Apache web server was ubiquitous until its success spawned NGINX, and it was backed by the Apache Software Foundation which is a non-profit. Is a foundation “commercial”? The idea that for a project to become successful it needs a number of people to spend a lot of time working on it seems obvious, and the best way to achieve that is to pay those people to work on it.

He goes on to write:

It took me a lot of time to ultimately understand the previous simple point. Investors are extremely persuasive. They capitalize on “fear of missing out.” However, it’s important to realize that the opportunity cost is hugely mismatched between investor and company.

When he writes “investors” above I believe he means specifically venture capitalists. We’ve talked with a few VCs in the past and I can remember the almost “strong arm” tactics they used. If I hear “a rising tide lifts all boats” one more time, I might have to hit somebody. I’m not saying that all VCs are the same, but many of them come across as gamblers and not investors. I’m risk friendly but I don’t gamble. I’m heavily invested in wanting to build something with OpenNMS that outlasts me (it is already much bigger than me as the team I work with has way more to do with its success than I do) and I don’t want to gamble with it.

I do hope that there are some investors out there that can appreciate that aspect of our company as well as the fact that we’re profitable, have mature products and wonderful customers. Perhaps private equity or perhaps another company that shares our vision and wants to advance the project through acquisition. In any case we’re looking for them.

When I was a young man, old guys like I am now would tell me “work on something you love, not just for the money”. I always dismissed it with the thought that with enough money I can buy love. When you immerse yourself in something as personal as an open source project for ten to twelve hours a day, year after year, you really do have to love it and the satisfaction you get just can’t be bought. Matt’s thoughts are similar:

Ultimately, on a personal level I’m just having too much fun solving tough computer science problems at large scale at Lyft and building a community around Envoy. The bar to do something different is therefore extremely high, and it took a long time to realize that it’s perfectly OK to accept that and keep going down the existing path that I’m on. On another level, leaving now to start a company would feel very much like not following through on my original goal of open sourcing Envoy; the industry desperately needs a high quality and community-driven solution to microservice networking. Follow-through is something I take very seriously.

With that attitude the success of Envoy is almost assured.

Mark Turner : BBC – Capital – Why you should manage your energy, not your time

June 20, 2017 02:15 PM

Interesting approach.

Many of us will have had that sense of there just not being enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do. Tasks that should take only a few minutes can stretch into hours, all while other work mounts up.

For most, the solution is to work later into the evening or even over the weekend, which leaves many of us feeling exhausted, stressed and burned out. But what if working less were the key to getting more done?

Source: BBC – Capital – Why you should manage your energy, not your time

Mark Turner : Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics? – The New York Times

June 20, 2017 02:11 PM

Welcome to North Carolina circa 2017, where all the passions and pathologies of American politics writ large are played out writ small — and with even more intensity. Ever since 2010, when Republicans seized control of the General Assembly for the first time in a century, and especially since 2012, when they took the governor’s mansion, the state’s politics have been haywire. “There’s been a bigger and quicker shift to the right here than in any other state in the country,” says Rob Christensen, a longtime political writer for The News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh.

Source: Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics? – The New York Times

Mark Turner : Oh Columbia, you haven’t aged well

June 20, 2017 12:58 PM

2400 Bee Ridge Road, July 2016.


As an IBM Brat I moved around a lot as a kid (the inside joke is that IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved”). This made it tough for me to think of home those times I was homesick while in the Navy but it also sort of locked in a time with a place in my memories. In my head, the places I’ve lived will always have a strong association with the brief time I’ve lived there.

Such is the case with Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia was my home for my 3rd grade to 7th grade school years, or 1979 to 1983. There was an actual city with Columbia, different than coming from Spanish Fort, Alabama, though our neighborhood of Spring Valley in northeast Columbia was definitely suburban. Spring Valley is a relatively wealthy, gated community with a private security guard and country club. My brothers and I would walk together with no attending parents to elementary school at Lonnie B. Nelson and we would ride our bikes all over the sprawling neighborhood to visit friends. It was a great place to grow up and provided me with important opportunities that helped make me who I am today.

My Uncle Bill’s death last year provided me the opportunity to catch a new glimpse of my old neighborhood as my brothers and I drove through on our way to his funeral. We lingered long enough to take photos of our old home and our school before continuing on, driving out Two Notch Road to continue our journey on I-20.

During my time there Two Notch Road was the big commercial road, leading from Spring Valley to the new (in 1979) Columbia Mall. Even then it was dotted with the ubiquitous flashing-light-arrow advertising signs, fast-food joints, and the like. These business would sprout up like weeds – wherever they could and seemingly with no thought to how they all fit together.

One of the benefits of the Internet (and Facebook) is the ability to connect with like-minded folks. When I joined Facebook I joined a group called “You Know You Grew Up In Dentsville when …” where people who grew up in that part Columbia can reminiscence. It’s been sad to read how the area has really gone downhill over the years. Dentsville is not far from Columbia Mall and its shopping centers that once beckoned with shiny new goods are now run down and crime-ridden, it seems.

I was in the E.L. Wright Middle School Chorus in the early 1980s and one night after a performance we met in Dentsville at what was then one of the newest, fanciest restaurants in Columbia called Applegate’s Landing on Decker Boulevard. Just for background, in best-restaurant polls Columbia residents often give Red Lobster the top marks so fancy restaurants there are relatively rare. Applegate’s Landing couldn’t compete with Red Lobster, apparently, and after a while the restaurant folded. While I was there, though, it was high class.

It was depressing to see how untamed Two Notch Road still is, decades after I lived there. I can’t help but think the lack of strong zoning rules kept it from reaching its potential. If developers don’t focus on anything but their own little patch of land they may trade their short-term gain for a long term decline of the area as a whole. What results is a run-down area like Two Notch Road that long ago lost its shine.

At least my Spring Valley home and the subdivision still looked good (and the home looks much better than it did when we lived there).

Bonus link: Check out the Columbia Closings blog for more depressing walks down memory lane.

Mark Turner : That time I got a Florida driver’s license without knowing it

June 18, 2017 02:33 AM

One day a few weeks ago I was poking around my Facebook message inbox, looking for those messages that get stuck there when they are sent from someone who isn’t a Facebook Friend. Several messages were weeks or months old but one of them had been sent three days prior in an urgent attempt to contact me.

Reading further, the sender owned a store in western North Carolina and said she wanted to warn me of someone’s possible attempt to steal my identity. She didn’t want to discuss it online, she said, but left me her number so I could call.

Identity theft? Urgent matter? Wouldn’t discuss it online? I was quite skeptical of the whole thing; not only quite sure that my identity hadn’t been stolen, but also how and why was this woman contacting me through Facebook? Deciding I had nothing to lose, I picked up the phone the next day.

The store owner was indeed who she said she was, and mentioned that an online customer of her store had tried to order some merchandise and pay by credit card. The store owner was suspicious of this transaction for whatever reason, so she demanded the customer send her a scanned driver’s license to verify identity. She said she received an image of a Florida driver’s license with my photograph attached, but something about the drive r’s license didn’t look right to her. She put my photo into Google and the photo matched a photo I have on my blog. Now armed with my name, she found me on Facebook and reached out to me there.

I thanked her for letting me know and assured her I was in no danger of identity theft. I also congratulated her for spotting the fraud and for her amazing feat of finding me. It took some mad Google Image skills for her to do that, and I know because I pride myself on my GoogleFu. Before ending the call, I asked if she could send me the photo she had been sent and she told me she would.

About a week later I got it. As you can see, it’s a pretty amateurish forgery.

I don’t remember changing my name

As for the photo, it comes from my years-ago blog post on passport photos. For a moment, I considered maybe scrubbing the photo from my blog. Then I realized that wouldn’t do any good. I have hundreds if not a thousand photos of me on the Internet. My face is just one of millions out on the Internet – not unique and certainly not any more valuable to a crook than anyone else’s. This is more of a fluke than anything, I decided.

I thought it would be fun to put my Google Image Search skills to the test and see where else my photo might be being used. Some of the hits show that I am being advertised as a Master’s degree graduate of a South Korean diploma factory. My face is also attached to a fake English teacher at a Bangladeshi high school and a “Security Guard” at another, similar site (interesting). I had no idea these were out there and while I could probably ask for them to be taken down I don’t see much harm in them. Material on my blog is licensed via Creative Commons for anyone to use, so one complaint I could make is that I wasn’t given proper attribution.

The moral to this story? Not sure there is one. Once stuff gets out on the Internet it’s there forever? Don’t post photos if you don’t want them being stolen for other things? If you’re going to forge an ID maybe spend more than 5 minutes doing it? Or perhaps the moral is that it’s getting easier to track down the source of fake material on the Internet. What one person can uncover on the Internet others can, too.

That’s not such a bad thing, after all.

Warren Myers : it’s not a better apple tv

June 16, 2017 06:41 PM

But the HomePod is an interesting take on my suggestion of making the Apple TV better.

Mark Turner : D.C. police issue warrant for 12 on Turkish security team in May brawl – The Washington Post

June 15, 2017 07:23 PM

DC Police are looking for these thugs. With any luck they’ll never set foot in America again.

Authorities in the District said Thursday that they have criminally charged a dozen members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security team who authorities say attacked protesters outside the ambassador’s residence in May.

At a news conference, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Police Chief Peter Newsham explained the charges against the suspects, who are all believed to be in Turkey.

“I condemn this attack,” Bowser said, vowing that the city will “defend the First Amendment.”

The charges come nearly a month after the clashes at Sheridan Circle along Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row, outside the residence of the Turkish ambassador. Police and other officials say various members of the visiting Erdogan’s security team, some of them armed, attacked a group protesting his regime as police struggled to restore order and bystanders recorded the scene with phones.

Source: D.C. police issue warrant for 12 on Turkish security team in May brawl – The Washington Post

Tarus Balog : CubaConf 2017

June 15, 2017 07:22 PM

UPDATE: Today the United States administration announced tougher restrictions on travel to Cuba. While nothing has changed at the moment, there will be some changes in the next 30 days. This should not impact people attempting to go to Cuba for this conference as it should fall under the “professional” or “educational” travel categories. This may change again before November and I’ll be sure to post updates.

While tourist travel remained officially banned, Obama also allowed a broad category of “people to people” visits to Cuba. Trump’s new directive still allows individual travel in all but that category, and reverts to an earlier policy of requiring “people to people” visits only in a Treasury-licensed group.

Free and open source software is as close to a true meritocracy than anything else I’ve found. It doesn’t matter what is the color of your skin, your gender or where you live, your value is judged simply by your contributions to the project. I wrote up my favorite instance of that for opensource.com concerning my friend Alejandro who got involved with OpenNMS when he lived in Venezuela. He and his wife are now permanent residents in the US due to his work on our project.

I actually forget how I came across CubaConf, but I was immediately interested in attending. This is an annual free software conference held in Havana, Cuba.

CubaConf

It has been illegal for US Citizens to travel to Cuba since before I was born. Last year the Obama administration eased some of those restrictions, so it is now possible, under certain conditions, to travel to Cuba as well as to use US Dollars while there.

Cuba has been pretty isolated since the 1960s, and as it races to catch up with the rest of the world it will need access to modern technology, especially software. I see an opportunity for free software to play a huge role in the future of that country, and I am eager to meet the people who will help make that happen.

I want to use this post to encourage all of my free and open source software friends to come to CubaConf. This is a three-day event that follows a format similar to one we used for our OpenNMS user conferences. The first day is a normal conference, with various tracks and presentations set to a schedule. The second day is a “barcamp” style conference where the attendees will set the agenda, and the third day is a hackathon.

Presentations are welcome in both Spanish and English, so I’ve submitted two talks (both in English). One is on starting an open source business. This will be different from my usual talk as I want to focus on how someone in Cuba could both spread the use of free software while getting paid to do it, without as much focus on setting up a corporation or other formal business entity. The second talk is on OpenNMS. While business transactions are still difficult between the US and Cuba, I really want to bring the magic that is OpenNMS to their attention so that when things ease between our countries people will be familiar with it.

I plan to attend all three days, and Alejandro is coming with me to help with any language issues (my Spanish is passable but not nearly as fluent as a native speaker). Note that the Call for Papers is open until the end of August.

Since you might be hesitant to consider going to Cuba from the United States, I wanted to share with you how it works.

First, tourism to Cuba for Americans is still illegal. However, the State Department has come up with a list of 12 categories which qualify for visiting.

12 Visa Categories for Cuba

In the case of CubaConf, you will choose either number four “Professional research and professional meetings” or number five “Educational activities”. I guess number six might work “Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions” since it is kind of a workshop, but I’d stick with the first two. Since I am a free software professional, I plan to use number four, as I consider this a professional meeting.

Note that Cuba could care less about why you are there – this is a requirement of the US government.

Second, once you have a legal travel category, you’ll need a visa. In speaking with my favorite airline, American Airlines (they offer direct flights to Havana from Charlotte, NC, and Miami, FL), once you book your travel they will outsource the visa process to Cuba Travel Services who will handle the whole thing via e-mail. The visa costs $50 and it looks like there may be a $35 fee, but I’m not sure if the fee applies if you are referred via the airline and it may be built into the price of the ticket.

Speaking of things included in the price, the third thing to consider is that all Americans traveling to Cuba must have non-US health insurance. This is included as a $25 charge when you purchase your ticket.

That covers much of the “getting there” part. The fourth, and in my mind most important thing to know is that Cuba is still very much a cash-only country. American banks are still not doing business there so your credit cards won’t work, nor will the ATM, so you’ll need to bring cash. I verified this with calls to Bank of America, Chase and Citi – currently none of those banks have cards that work in that country.

There are two types of currency in use: The Cuban National Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) or “kook”. The CUC is pegged to the dollar and is the currency used by most visitors. Luckily, Havana is a pretty safe place, although I still won’t want to carry around a lot of money if I can avoid it.

I’m not sure where I will stay. Being a big Marriott fan I do have the option to stay at the Four Points Sheraton, but it seems to be pretty far away from the Colegio Universitario San Gerónimo where the conference will be held. Most people visiting stay in a “casa particular” which is a room in someone’s house, and it appears that Airbnb is also in Cuba.

I plan to use the open source way and just ask my friends organizing the conference where I should stay. It is very easy to do, as they have set up a Telegram channel for the conference. While Spanish is the main language in the channel, English is welcome, and if you are thinking about coming to CubaConf I would consider going there first.

I am very exited about the opportunity to visit Havana in November. Despite the modern history between the US and Cuba, I know I’ll make some new friends.

Software libre crea amistades inmediatas.

Mark Turner : As early as 2007, analysis demonstrated that 400-V dc distribution had advantages; Now there’s a way to implement it.

June 15, 2017 06:40 PM


Is DC power the wave of the future for computing environments?

Power distribution in data centers used to emulate the architecture of old telephone central offices. A “rectifier” would step down and rectify the ac from the power line and use it to charge banks of batteries that provided an unregulated 48 V dc, which was distributed around the facility to run the telephone equipment in the racks.

Since at least 2007, data-center engineers have been talking about distributing 400 V dc (sometimes 380 V). Data centers are bigger and use a lot more power than telco central offices. At a minimum, higher voltage distribution would mean lower I2R losses and/or thinner power-distribution cables.

Source: As early as 2007, analysis demonstrated that 400-V dc distribution had advantages; Now there’s a way to implement it.

Mark Turner : Jumpseat: It’s All About the APU | Flying Magazine

June 15, 2017 06:02 PM

I enjoyed this pilot’s story of how a broken APU on his aircraft caused a mess.

For more than 50 years of jet airliner operation, the APU has been an integral part of airplane independence. The APU is a small jet engine located within the structure of the fuselage. With today’s airliners, the unit is operable both on the ground and in flight. In flight, the APU provides both a backup source of electric power and a limited amount of air pressure at lower altitudes — usually below 20,000 feet.

On the ground, the APU is capable of being the sole source of electricity and the sole source of air pressure. Air pressure from the APU is the standard method utilized in starting the engines. When air is not available, starting becomes problematic. On this particular trip, an inoperative APU became more problematic than my copilot and I could have ever imagined.

Source: Jumpseat: It’s All About the APU | Flying Magazine

Mark Turner : Even moderate drinking can damage the brain, claim researchers | Society | The Guardian

June 14, 2017 09:48 PM

Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the brain and impair cognitive function over time, researchers have claimed.

While heavy drinking has previously been linked to memory problems and dementia, previous studies have suggested low levels of drinking could help protect the brain. But the new study pushes back against the notion of such benefits.

“We knew that drinking heavily for long periods of time was bad for brain health, but we didn’t know at these levels,” said Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Oxford and co-author of the research.

Source: Even moderate drinking can damage the brain, claim researchers | Society | The Guardian

Warren Myers : what is happening with news publishers?

June 13, 2017 06:34 PM

I think, closer to the lines of thought that Ben Thompson of Stratechery has laid-out, that news publishing is about to undergo a major nichification – the days of everyone trying to report everything is over.

“Local” (whether by geography, interest, or some other grouping mechanism) publishing in narrowly-defined niches is basically going to finish gobbling the Old Line news publishers in the next 3-5 years. And I see automated “curation” (though, if it’s automated, it’s technically not “curating”) as a clever way to cross-cut unforeseen niches from other niches (and from the handful of “major” publishers that will refuse to die – even through they’re going to dramatically shrink very soon) – think applying pivot table data anaysis concept to news and publishing, rather than mere data.

Jean-Louis Gassée wrote in February the following about Facebook, & Google, about news publishers: “If they are really willing to contribute to a sustainable news ecosystem, as they claim, both should allow publishers to sell subscriptions on their platforms (while collecting a fee, obviously).” 

And that’s certainly an interesting idea – but one that I think will only last, if it even comes to fruition, for a very short period of time. It’s the Napster of news publishing.

I see news publishing undergoing the same sea change the music industry did starting in the late 90s with the rise of #Napster. Until Napster came along, if you wanted to listen to a specific song, you had to either a) wait for it to be on the radio, b) get the vinyl/tape/CD, c) get a friend to record it for you from the radio or some media they had. Then Napster and its ilk came along with peer-to-peer file-sharing, crazy lawsuits from the #RIAA, and services like #Apple’s #iTunes charging a mere $0.99 per track (and $9.99 per digital album) made file-sharing (which became a major attack vector for malware)

Then Napster and its ilk came along with peer-to-peer file-sharing, crazy lawsuits from the #RIAA, and services like #Apple’s #iTunes charging a mere $0.99 per track (and $9.99 per digital album) made file-sharing (which became a major attack vector for malware) far far less interesting: why spend hours searching for and downloading songs (which might be lousy quality, not the “real” song, etc) when you could just go to iTunes and get what you want in a couple minutes for 99¢?

Then came Pandora. And Spotify. And probably all kinds of other services I don’t know anything about. Why? Because people wanted what they wanted when they wanted it.

The same is true for “news”. How much of an average newspaper issue does the historically-average newspaper reader actually read? 10%? 30%? 50%? I’d bet anything north of 20% is highly unlikely overall.

And what do you have to do to “read” the news in a newspaper? You need to skip past ads, you need to flip between pages (and sometimes sections), you need to physically get the paper. And on and on. Paginated websites (like diply, just to name one) try to replicate the newspaper feel (flipping pages, skipping ads, not being able to see everything until you get to the end, etc) in a move to make money by selling ads and forcing eyeballs to look at them. (To combat that, folks like me run tools like pihole and ublock origin.)

Nichifying news is going to be a huge thing very soon: somewhat akin to the idea of targeted newsletters, but for “real” news, and not just something related to a website.

Mark Turner : 50 Years Ago: NSA’s Deadliest Day | Observer

June 10, 2017 03:49 PM

June 8, 1967 was the worst day in the history of the National Security Agency. On that date, Israeli airplanes and torpedo boats mauled and nearly sank an American spy ship in international waters, killing or maiming most of its crew. This tragedy appears as a footnote to Israelis, an unpleasant sideshow of their victorious Six Day War, while official Washington preferred the embarrassing episode be forgotten. But NSA has never let the Liberty and her ill-fated crew disappear from memory altogether.

Source: 50 Years Ago: NSA’s Deadliest Day | Observer

Tarus Balog : Horizon™ Version 20 Released

June 09, 2017 06:41 PM

Just a heads up that version 20 of Horizon has been released.

Since version 20 coincides with the 20th anniversary of the film The Fifth Element, we’ve decided to use characters from that movie as codenames for this release. Version 20.0.0 is called “Leeloo”.

This release continues our commitment to rapid releases in the Horizon product line, and is mainly focused on bug fixes, small enhancements and code cleanup. We have removed all use of Castor for the parsing of XML files and replaced it with JAXB, and number of deprecated events have been removed from the system.

Probably the biggest new feature is a topology provider that can be used to create custom maps. The Asset Topology Provider generates a GraphML topology based on node metadata including asset fields.

You can read the announcement and for more information, check out the release notes.

Tarus Balog : Why the FCC’s Title II is so Important (Spectrum Rant)

June 08, 2017 06:47 PM

Here is a rant about Time Warner/Charter/Spectrum or whatever the heck they call themselves these days. It illustrates how this large company can have a huge negative impact on a small business, and why treating Internet providers as common carriers is so important.

Our company wouldn’t exist without the Internet. Outside of the fact that our products are mainly used to monitor Internet resources, we host a number of servers from our office and about half of the staff works remotely so we rely on the Internet to communicate and coordinate.

Back in 2012 I contracted with Time Warner to provide Internet access to our office. We had fiber to the building and while our service was considerably more expensive than coax, I liked the fact that it was symmetrical and expandable. We started of with 20 Mbps but soon increased that to 50 Mbps. Over five years we only had one outage, due to a misconfiguration of our Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), and they corrected it within 20 minutes. I love the fact that when you called in the person who answered the phone understood terms like “duplex” and they were always very helpful.

Note the scenario: happy customer who is happy paying a premium for enterprise-level service.

Now let me tell you why all that goodwill has gone away.

Earlier this year we decided to move our office from Pittsboro, NC to Apex, NC. The first thing I did was contact Time Warner (well, Charter at the time) to insure that they could provide fiber to the new location. They said they could, although it would take 45 to 60 days. As our new office space needed to be completed, we were targeting an April 1st move in date anyway, so on February 15th I placed the order for the new service. At best, it would be available on the 1st and at worst it would be ready by the 15th. We told the old landlord we’d be out by April 30th just in case and to give us more time to move.

Finally, Spectrum doubled our speed and cut the price in half. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

The feeling didn’t last.

As we got closer to April, things started to go wrong, most of it due to the fact that Spectrum is now such a behemoth that they have no idea what they are doing. In order to get fiber into our new building, they needed what is called a “Right of Entry”. They sent it to our landlord who promptly completed the form and sent it back. However, that person didn’t let the project manager know the form had been received, so he did absolutely nothing. Ten days (!) later I get a note that our build out had been suspended because of the lack of the ROE form. A form, I should point out, that was sent to them, twice.

At the end of March I’m told that our new date is May 11th. I’m unhappy – due to their poor processes I now have a new office that I can’t use for six weeks (remember, we took possession and started paying rent on April 1st). We also had to be out of the old office by the end of April. Luckily I work with a great team that is able to be productive when working from home, so I decided to suck it up and live with it.

On April 12th I get an update – the new date for the end of construction is now May 15th due to processes within Spectrum taking too long to finalize the work with a contractor. Now the actual date we’ll have Internet has been pushed out to the week of May 29th.

I am livid. By this point I’m ready to switch to the other option, AT&T. Unfortunately, they also need 45 to 60 days for service installation so I realize at this point I’m stuck with Spectrum.

I ask my salesperson for options and he suggests we get coax installed for a month (for a fee, of course). Since our office is right next to a large housing development they can get coax in the following week. I sign off on it.

It didn’t happen. When May arrived some of us started working in the new office mooching off the neighbor’s Wi-Fi from AT&T (with permission of course). I ended up traveling for a couple of weeks so I completely forgot about the coax option (it’s not like Spectrum was keeping me updated on anything – I’d have to reach out to them for an update). I did get a note on May 10th that all construction had been completed for the fiber and another note on May 18th that our new install date was June 2nd.

(sigh)

So, 45 days late, we have a firm install date. Wonderful.

Imagine how I felt when on the 24th of May I received a note that more construction was needed and that it would be pushed out another 30 days at least. When I get extremely angry I refer to it as going “non-linear” as that how fast my blood pressure rises. As I was ranting to pretty much everyone I’d ever interacted with at Spectrum it dawned on me that this could be for the coax order. Turns out that was the case. Apparently our crack project manager on the coax side decided to route our service from a point several miles away instead of from the one nearly across the street. This is why it was delayed and why the construction was needed. By this time we are about a week out from having fiber so I canceled the order. I did get a very apologetic call from the coax salesperson which I appreciated (under Spectrum, fiber [Enterprise] is handled by one sales team and coax [Business] is handled by another), and I made it clear that I’d be okay with everything as long as the fiber was delivered as promised on the 2nd.

It was. Around noon on June 2nd we had our 100 Mbps service and on the 3rd we moved all of our devices from the old office in Pittsboro to the new one in Apex. I informed my salesperson that they could disconnect the old service and despite all of the problems, I was happy with the new service.

So the whole process cost me two months rent and a few years off my life, but it was finally over.

Not so fast – the other shoe fell today.

I get an e-mail that I need to confirm my disconnect request. That didn’t bother me, in fact I appreciated it, but what did bother me was an additional note that it would be done within 30 days. When I replied I asked for clarification – would I be *paying* for the service I wasn’t using until they could disconnect it? The answer was “yes”.

I experienced a new word – apoplectic.

Due to the fact that the bureaucracy behind the new merged Spectrum company is so bad, I’m out nearly ten thousand dollars. That is the real money – it’s probably cost us twice that again in lost productivity from lack of network access and dealing with them throughout this process. We’re not one of those companies that is too big to fail so this really impacts us negatively. Had it been explained to me that I’d have to pay for the service until it was disconnected, I would have put the disconnect order in a month ago, but then had I used the date I was originally promised, our servers would have been off-line for over a month. That would have been catastrophic to our company.

Finally, I’ve gone from a happy customer to an extremely pissed off one who will be actively looking for options. Based on my experience I would suggest any business looking for network access look elsewhere.

Access to the Internet has become as important as other utilities such as electricity, water and sewer and just like those utilities it needs to be regulated as one. This is why the decision by the new industry-picked head of the FCC to reverse the decision to classify Internet access under Title II as a “common carrier” is so devastating to businesses like mine. Our company is small, yet we put millions of dollars into the local economy each year. You multiply that by the number of other small businesses and it can have a great impact to any community. Barriers put up by companies like Spectrum demonstrate that they can’t self-regulate and the government needs to take a firmer hand (and this is coming from a left-leaning libertarian).

I will be protesting that final bill for Internet access and I would welcome any advice on how to deal with a company like Spectrum. Let’s hope that there is a change soon so that other businesses can focus on creating value and not have to deal with the crap we had to endure.

I’m not holding my breath.

Mark Turner : Amazon kills unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive option

June 08, 2017 12:17 PM

Recently I had a scare when our home storage server went on the fritz. Years of photographs, videos, and files were suddenly in jeopardy as they appeared to vanish. Being a resourceful geek, once I caught my breath I was able to revive everything. Still, it was enough of a scare that I accelerated my quest for a good, offsite place to back up our files.

Part of this quest was getting gigabit fiber Internet at home, which I recently did when I could no longer wait for Google Fiber and signed up with AT&T Fiber. Untangling this brave new world has kept me busy recently, not leaving much time for blogging. I will have lots to say about this in the near future but suffice to say that having a fat pipe at home makes it easier to do any kind of backup to the cloud.

Enter Amazon Cloud Drive. When it was first announced in 2015, Amazon Cloud Drive (ACD) promised unlimited storage of all types of files (photos and others) for a mere $59.99 per year. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it was. This morning without any warning, Amazon killed Cloud Drive’s unlimited plan, updating its FAQ page with this blurb:

New Amazon Cloud Drive FAQ

1) What is changing?
Amazon is now providing options for customers to choose the storage plan that is right for them. Amazon will no longer offer an unlimited storage plan. Instead, we’ll offer storage plans of 100 GB for $11.99 and 1 TB for $59.99, up to 30 TB for an additional $59.99 per TB. Any customer that signs up for storage with Amazon automatically gets 5 GB for free, and Prime members receive free unlimited photo storage. You can see storage plan rates and find additional information here.

2) When will the change happen?
On June 8, 2017. Current customers will keep their existing unlimited storage plan through its expiration date. At the end of their existing subscription, customers with auto-renew turned on and 1TB or less of data stored will be renewed into the 1 TB plan for $59.99 per year. Customers with auto-renew off, or who have more than 1 TB of data stored, will need to visit their account’s Manage Storage page to opt in to one of the new plans. Prime members will continue to get unlimited photo storage, so photo storage won’t be counted against Prime members’ storage limits.

Poof! There goes my plan for cloud backup.

So what happened? Pure speculation on my part, since Amazon hasn’t really said much publicly about this significant change, but it was one infrastructure service Amazon wasn’t metering. Amazon Web Services (AWS) will let you spin up nearly unlimited virtual computers, for instance, as long as you’re willing to pay pennies for each and every CPU operation, every IO operation, and every megabyte of storage. Cloud Drive, almost certainly build on top of this AWS infrastructure, was an affordable way around these per-operation charges. Third-party applications (acd_cli, rclone, ARQBackup, etc.) with far more functionality than Amazon’s own, pathetic Cloud Drive client, made Cloud Drive much easier to use, some turning Cloud Drive into a virtual hard drive that made backups as easy as dragging-and-dropping. Automated backup tools could dump massive amounts of data into Cloud Drive with nearly the same reliability as Amazon’s AWS services. None of these were helping Jeff Bezos fuel his rockets.

So just when I finally have a speedy Internet connection with which to do cloud backups, Amazon pulls the plug on my cloud backup option. This has only me look more longingly at Google Fiber and Google’s own brand of cloud services known as Google Compute Engine. I’ve long thought that Google’s storage offerings could be the “killer app” that drives Google Fiber adoption and this could be Google’s opportunity. Unlike Google, Amazon doesn’t offer consumer Internet service. Google offers both Internet and cloud services. Google’s offering customers a blazing-fast link to cheap online storage and other cloud resources could really chip away at Amazon’s dominance in cloud services.

For now, I will draw down my Amazon Cloud Drive files and migrate them to Google Drive or some other service. I don’t necessarily need unlimited storage but I do need a long-term online storage option that’s not going to radically change after just two years.

Tarus Balog : Service Outage Tomorrow, Saturday June 3rd

June 02, 2017 10:03 PM

Wonder of wonders, Time Warner/Charter/Spectrum/whatever has finally delivered connectivity to our new office, albeit a month late.

So, we’ll be moving a number of servers from our old location to the new one, which means certain things, such as demo and Bamboo will be down for a few hours. Almost everything else is hosted elsewhere and redundant, so we shouldn’t have any other issues.

Sorry for the outage and thanks for your patience.

Tarus Balog : Monitoring? Meh.

June 01, 2017 12:17 PM

Recently, I was talking to a person in the tech industry and describing all of the cool things we are doing with OpenNMS, when he kind of cut me off and went “Oh, monitoring? Meh.”

Well, I can’t remember if there was an actual “meh” but that’s how it came across, and I’m afraid the reaction is probably more common that I would think. Monitoring isn’t sexy, but it surprises me that people can’t see how critical it will be to the future of any business.

IoT Devices Over Time

While forecasts vary, by 2020 there are expected to be over 30 billion devices on the Internet, and that figure will skyrocket to over 75 billion by 2025. Just knowing what is connected to your business network is going to become critical, as well as making sure it belongs there in the first place and, if so, is functioning properly.

Outside of the obvious security concerns, as people began to transact business more and more through devices rather than people, faults in those devices will directly impact revenue as people search for other options when faced with a bad experience.

Here are a couple of examples.

One of the greatest inventions in my lifetime is the ability to buy fuel at the pump. You just pull up, swipe your card, pump and then leave. You used to have to pay inside, and some places made you pay first which meant two trips in if you were paying by credit card. It could be cold or rainy, and not only did you have to wait in line behind people buying food or lottery tickets, you had to leave your car out by the pump possibly blocking the next customer.

The only problem I’ve experienced with this process concerns the receipt. Quite frequently I need a receipt, but it seems the pumps I choose are always out of paper. The little red indicator mark when the paper roll is almost finished isn’t visible to the cashier since there really isn’t one out by the pump. It is frustrating, but it is not like I have a choice at the moment. If there was some way to monitor the pump for a “low paper” alarm, it would improve my shopping experience.

One shopping experience that did result in my leaving the store without a purchase happened yesterday at a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. I needed some florescent lights for the new office so I went by on my way home. I picked up four bulbs (two that I needed and two spares) and went to the checkout area.

I walked past several unmanned cash registers until I got to the “Self Checkout” section, which was the only thing open. Of the four machines, two had red blinking lights on them (that are green when things are functioning normally) and the one lone, overworked cashier was doing her best to help people out. I usually don’t mind using Self Checkout and when I noticed one of the two machines was open (everyone else was waiting for the attention of the lone cashier) I went to it and started my purchase.

I scanned my “My Lowe’s” card and then the first bulb. “Eight ninety-five” piped up the voice and I placed it in a bag.

Here is where the problems started. First, I hate the fact that with these Self Checkout kiosks they don’t trust you to use a “quantity” key. I was buying four identical items but I was required to scan each one. Next, the bulb was light enough that it didn’t register as having been bagged, so the interface yelled at me and presented me with a button marked “Skip Bagging Item?”.

I sighed and, having no other option, hit the button. I then went on to scan the next three bulbs. However, as I bagged the fourth bulb, the scale must have started working since the whole unit went into some kind of alarm mode, screeching “Unidentified Object in the Bagging Area!” and the screen was locked until the cashier had time to come and fix it.

I looked around the area, and by this time all four kiosks had a flashing red light, there were at least three shoppers lined up to use them in addition to those of us already there, and our valiant cashier was busy helping a guy ring up his plumbing supply purchase which consisted of a ton of small copper fittings which most likely wouldn’t be registered by the scale.

I gave up. I picked up my bulbs and returned them to the Lighting section, passing three employees in the customer service area helping zero customers. Before I reached the car I’d ordered the same bulbs on Amazon at a fraction of the price, and they’ll be here on Friday.

Yes, I’m complaining, but how could monitoring have helped here? First, there is some sort of monitoring – those little red lights. When they all light up you would assume someone, or perhaps multiple someones, would come by to help. A monitoring system could have made sure that happened by using an additional notification system outside of the lights, and escalating it until the problem was addressed.

A more long term solution would be to collect information on the purchasing experience and the problems people encountered and to make changes to the automated kiosk software. I’m certain that Lowe’s didn’t write that software but instead bought it, and like most proprietary software solutions they now have to fit their processes to the application instead of the other way around. It probably wasn’t designed for a store that sells a lot of small, light things which is central to the issues I have using it.

With the rise of IoT devices, robotics and other forms of automation, monitoring is going to become extremely important. Lowe’s lost out on a $40 sale, but think of something like an assembly line where a problem could result in the loss of thousands of dollars a minute. Our goal at OpenNMS is to be ready for it, and to build products that make people go “Monitoring? Oh yeah!”.

Mark Turner : Singing the praises of MusicBrainz

May 30, 2017 12:26 PM

MusicBrainz


Can I tell you how much I love MusicBrainz? I have been dabbling on online radio for a few years now and the challenge is always finding interesting content. One of the most cost-effective ways to find varied content is in compilation albums or soundtracks. One-hit wonders that were one staples of radio make good radio content but buying a one-hit wonder’s shitty album just to get their only hit isn’t cost-effective. With MusicBrainz, I can look up a one-hit wonder and find out exactly what compilation albums or soundtracks it’s a part of. I can buy that compilation and not only get the song I want but most likely other good one-hit wonders along with it. Awesome!

Another good use of MusicBrainz is finding just the right mix of a song. Often, record companies will release a remixed or edited song as a single, either designed to fit on a 45 or to be more radio-friendly. For example Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride has a great break that goes on and on in the album version but is often cut short in versions played on the radio (2:55 vs. the original 4:27). This drives me nuts! MusicBrainz knows which versions are which, though! I can find the entire catalog of Steppenwolf, find their The Second album, click on Magic Carpet Ride, and see all the versions of the song that have been released. Goodbye, hacked-up, radio-edit song versions!

MusicBrainz would’ve come in handy with a recent purchase I made at the (now defunct) Ed McKay store earlier this year. I picked up what I thought was a compilation album of early 70’s hits. I expected these to be the original master recordings of the songs but that’s not what I got! The entire album was re-recordings of the hits, none of them sounding the same as the ones I know and love. I was disappointed I hadn’t noticed the small print on the CD cover, and that I hadn’t gone to MusicBrainz first!

MusicBrainz is an open source project as well as a 501c(3). It’s worthy of your time and contributions!

Mark Turner : Ramadan 2017: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox

May 30, 2017 12:03 AM

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts Friday evening, and most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims will be observing. This means there’s a good chance you might encounter someone — a friend, a co-worker, the barista making your latte at Starbucks, your child’s teacher — who is celebrating Ramadan.

But what is Ramadan, exactly? And how can I make sure I don’t accidentally offend my Muslim friends and acquaintances during Ramadan?We’ve got you covered: Here are the most basic answers to the most basic questions about Ramadan.

Source: Ramadan 2017: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox

Tarus Balog : Server Room Nightmares

May 25, 2017 07:23 PM

I’m interested in any server room nightmares people would like to share.

Here’s one of mine.

We are in the process of moving offices from Pittsboro, NC down the road to Apex. Unfortunately, we are having some issues getting Spectrum Enterprise to complete the fiber installation at the new place, so while we are out of our old building the lack of network access in the new building means we have a bunch of servers in the old location.

Today while I was working in the new office and mooching of our kind neighbor’s wi-fi, I got several notices that links had failed.

linkDown event list

These were some workstations that we use for training, but when they are not in use we use them as part of our continuous improvement Bamboo farm. I immediately hopped on our Mattermost IT channel and asked if anyone was rebooting or otherwise messing with the machines, and when the answer was “no” I started to investigate.

One suggestion was that the air conditioning may have failed and those machines shut down from overheating. It has happened in the past, but it was both rather cool today and other machines that are more sensitive to such things were still running. I checked it out anyway using our AKCP probe.

temperature graph

The temperature had increased a bit, but it wasn’t anything that should have caused problems (it was caused by the server room door being left open).

Being 30 minutes away, I decided to text my friend Donnie, who is technically gifted as well as working in our old location, and he went to investigate.

For some reason, those three machines had been disconnected from the switch.

Now just for this situation we have an Arlo camera installed in the server room, so using the time stamp on the linkDown traps I found the following video.

Note the slightly balding guy in the red shirt in the lower left corner of the video. He is busy unplugging our devices.

Why? I have no idea. These people represent the IT people for the new tenant, and I assume they had legitimate reasons for being in the server room but messing with our equipment was not one of them.

Seriously, in over 30 years of working with computers, I’ve never heard of anyone going into someone’s house, office, server room or data center and just start unplugging cables. I still have not heard an explanation, but the landlord has had a discussion with the new tenant and it shouldn’t be happening again. It is one reason the important stuff is in that locked half-rack seen in the upper left corner of the video, and the really important stuff is hosted elsewhere.

I am curious – I’m certain this pales compared to other stories out there. Do you have any whoppers to share?

Tarus Balog : New Meridian® Releases Available

May 23, 2017 03:28 PM

Just a quick note to point out that new Meridian releases are now available: 2015.1.5 and 2016.1.5

For those who aren’t aware, Meridian is a subscription-based version of OpenNMS built to complement Horizon, the cutting edge release. You can think of it as Meridian is our Red Hat Enterprise Linux to Horizon’s Fedora. There is one major Meridian release per year and each major release is supported for three years.

Before the Meridian/Horizon split it was taking us 18 months or so to do a new major release of OpenNMS. Now we do three to four Horizon major releases a year.

About half of our revenue comes from support contracts and so we had to be extra careful when doing a release, and even with that many of our customers were reluctant to upgrade because the process could be involved. This was bad for two main reasons: often they wouldn’t get bug fixes which meant an increase in support tickets, and more importantly they might miss security updates.

Updates to Meridian, within a major release, are dead simple. This is the process I used yesterday to upgrade our production instance of OpenNMS.

First, I made a backup of the /opt/opennms/etc and /opt/opennms/jetty-webapps/opennms directories. The first is out of habit since configuration files shouldn’t change between point releases, but the second is to preserve any customizations made to the webUI. I modify the main OpenNMS page to include a “weather widget” and that customization gets removed on upgrades. Most users won’t have an issue but just in case I like having a backup.

Next, I stop OpenNMS and run yum install opennms which will download and install the new release. The final step is to run /opt/opennms/bin/install -dis to insure the database is up to date.

And that’s it. In my case, I copy the index.jsp from my backup to restore the weather information, but otherwise you just restart OpenNMS. The process takes minutes and is basically as fast as your Internet connection.

If you have a Meridian subscription, be sure to upgrade as soon as you are able, and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? (grin)

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS Team Wins 5000€ Prize at TM Forum {open}:hack

May 18, 2017 06:48 PM

A group of four students from Southampton Solent University, mentored by Dr. Craig Gallen, used OpenNMS to win the top prize at the TeleManagement Forum {open}:hack competition at the TM Forum Live conference in Nice, France.

{open}:hack Winners

Now, a little background is in order. Dr. Gallen founded Entimoss, our OpenNMS partner in the UK and Ireland. He got involved with OpenNMS over a decade ago when he was working on his doctoral thesis entitled “Improving the Practice of Operations Support Systems in the Telecommunications Industry using Open Source”.

Most of his work was focused on a business solution framework called NGOSS (now Frameworx) developed by the TM Forum for creating next generation OSS/BSS software and systems. Now the TM Forum is the world’s leading trade organization for telecommunications providers and at the time was not very friendly toward open source. He demonstrated how an open source platform like OpenNMS could be used to integrate with and tie together these different interfaces to build a reference implementation for part of the framework. Open source was a new concept for the industry, and we were branded the “open source pirates” at first. But Craig persisted, and in 2011 he was awarded the TM Forum’s Outstanding Contributor Award.

In addition to his persistence and ability to deal with large organizations, Craig is also a great teacher. When the TM Forum introduced its {open}:hack program, he wanted to get involved and he found several interested students at Southampton Solent University.

The goals of {open}:hack are:

  1. Accelerate industry deployment of Forum Open APIs, metamodels and architecture across the industry
  2. Validate existing APIs and provide feedback for future iterations to technical collaboration teams
  3. Create IoT/Smart City & NFV/SDN solutions leveraging the Forum Open APIs
  4. Accelerate the incubation of new digital business opportunities in the areas of 5G Network Services & IoT/Smart City
  5. Create extensions to Forum Open APIs to be shared with industry

Participants were given access to APIs from the TM Forum, Huawei, Salesforce and Vodafone, which included things like data from drones, and tasked with creating something beneficial. Their project was called “Port-o-matic” which created an application for accessing services at shipping ports, as well as measuring environmental factors such as pollution. This was especially relevant to them since Southampton is the UK’s number one cruise port and second largest container port (the Titanic set sail from there).

{open}:hack architecture

Their solution leveraged the power of the OpenNMS platform to tie all of these APIs together and then to provide aggregated data to their web application. It can scale to almost any size using the new OpenNMS “Minion” feature which can distribute data collection and monitoring out to the edges of a network, offloading the need to have all of the functionality in a central location and positioning OpenNMS for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The hardest thing to get across to people new to OpenNMS is that it is a platform and not strictly an application. The learning curve can be steep and it is hard to see its value straight out of the box. I love the fact that solutions like the “Port-o-matic” demonstrate the power of OpenNMS.

It is also interesting to note that the second place prize went to a team from Red Hat. For an organization like the TM Forum that was wary of open source to demonstrate such a change of heart is encouraging, and I credit Dr. Gallen with a lot of that advancement.

{open}:hack Group Photo

So congratulations to Joe Appleton, Jergus Lejko, Michael Sievenpiper and Marcin Wisniewski, the winners of this latest {open}:hack competition, and I look forward to seeing more great things from you in the future.

Mark Turner : You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

May 13, 2017 05:35 PM

Can you count the FAA violations here?

You know that cool footage of the drone flying at night over downtown Raleigh’s Metropolitan Apartments fire last month? Yeah, the guy who filmed it broke all kinds of FAA rules. Kyle Snyder of N.C. State’s NextGen center tells The Virginia Pilot why.

Examples of rogue drone flying are many. A man flew one over a large fire in downtown Raleigh last month, breaking several rules including flying at night and beyond his line of sight, Snyder said. The pilot posted the footage online along with his identity.No citations are known to have been issued to drone pilots in North Carolina so far, Snyder said.

While we’re at it, footage apparently sold to another “viral media” company of the flooding on Wake Forest Road late last month also could be in violation of FAA rules if the pilot shot it and sold it without being a licensed commercial drone pilot with a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Source: You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

Tarus Balog : 2017 Red Hat Summit

May 11, 2017 02:49 PM

I had never been to a Red Hat Summit before this year. We are exploring running OpenNMS on OpenShift and so Jesse, David and I decided to head to Boston to see what all the fuss was about.

RHSummit - Airline Sign

I noticed a couple of things are different about visiting Boston in spring versus winter. First of all, the weather was quite nice, and second, Boston can be freakin’ expensive.

And Red Hat spared no expense on this conference. This is the premiere event for companies in the Red Hat ecosystem and they obviously wanted to make an impression. I’m an “old guy” and I can remember going to huge shows put on by HP and IBM and this was on par. It took place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) which takes up about a half a million square feet. Red Hat used all of it.

RHSummit - Convention Center Sign

Nothing quite demonstrated the size of this conference than the main auditorium. The centerpiece was a huge screen for the presentation flanked by two smaller screens to show the speaker. That was needed since the place was so big you could barely see the person talking.

RHSummit - Main Auditorium Screen

In addition to the general sessions, there were a large number of talks on pretty much anything related to Red Hat products, philosophy and partners. As a major player in “the cloud” there was a lot of emphasis on OpenShift and OpenStack, but the whole range of offerings was covered from Fedora and CentOS to JBoss and Gluster.

As with most tech conferences, there was an expo floor. This one was dominated by the color red.

RHSummit - Expo Floor

I spent a lot of time wandering around talking with people. Over the years a large number of my friends have been hired by Red Hat, and as I’ve curtailed my participation in a lot of the big Linux conferences, it was nice to see them again. I ran into Brian Proffitt and Ruth Suehle near the center of the expo:

RHSummit - Brian Proffitt and Ruth Suehle

It was also nice to run into the Latvian army. The Zabbix crew had a booth and it was cool to see Alexei and Alex again, although it was ironic that I missed them on my trip to Riga (they were actually driving north to Tallinn when I was heading south).

RHSummit - Zabbix Booth

Zabbix, like OpenNMS, is 100% open source and thus not only do we get along, I quite like them and look forward to chatting about the joys and challenges about running an open source business when we meet.

Speaking of meeting, I also got to meet Brian Stinson of the CentOS project.

RHSummit - Brian Stinson from CentOS

We swapped some stories and recounted the strange and funny time when Jerry Taylor, the City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma, claimed the CentOS project had hacked his city’s website. Has it been eleven years? Wow.

As part of the conference, Red Hat provided lunch. It was always a pretty hectic time since the show was packed and nothing demonstrated this more than trying to serve lunch to all those people.

RHSummit - Lunch Crowd

As far as conference lunches go, it was above average, but I did find it funny that they only served water to drink (usually there are cans of soda, etc.) I overhead one Red Hat employee say to another, you know, we can afford that gigantic screen but all we get is water?

On Wednesday night, Red Hat purchased a ton of tickets to the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. While I can’t find a reference to actual conference attendance figures, I heard the number 5000 being batted around which was a significant portion of the ballpark (it holds a little over 37,000). They gave us all red baseball caps and you could definitely see them in the crowd.

RHSummit - Fenway Park

For our annual developers conference, Dev-Jam, we have about one-one hundredth the amount of people to see the Twins play, but we also get better seats. (grin)

It was my first time at the historic Fenway Park, and the fans were almost more fun to watch than the game. I also enjoy trying to explain the game of baseball to people from outside the country, and this was made more interesting by some bad blood between the Sox and the Orioles that resulted in the ejection of the Orioles’ pitcher for hitting a batter.

Fenway is relatively close to Cambridge, so I took the opportunity to visit a friend of mine who is a professor. I decided to walk to Harvard Square along the river, where the rowing teams were practicing.

RHSummit - Rowing

Now whenever I see a movie featuring Ivy League students on the water, I’ll know where that was shot.

It was also nice to be able to spend some time with David and Jesse. While I work with David almost daily, we’re so busy that it is hard to find time to talk strategy and plan for the future of OpenNMS. Jesse, our CTO, moved back to Canada after the birth of his son to be closer to family, and it was also nice to have time to spend with him. Walking to dinner one night David took this picture

RHSummit - River and Bridge

which turned out so much better on his iPhone 6S than my Nexus 6P.

I often say that Red Hat, as a company, doesn’t get the credit it deserves since it is headquartered in North Carolina and not Silicon Valley. Our companies share a similar philosophy of taking care of customers, creating great open source software and producing steady growth, versus, say, chasing unicorns. It was wonderful to see that work demonstrated in such a large and professional conference, and I hope next year I’ll get to speak (although I doubt it will be on the big stage).

Jesse Morgan : Monoprice Maker Select Plus Upgrades

May 10, 2017 03:20 AM

Because I don’t know when to stop, I’m going to start working on upgrades for my printer.

 

1. Filament Guide

Apparently one of the common problems is that slack in the filament can cause tangles- the best way to work around this is a filament guide. The first filament guide I printed was loose- too loose to use by itself. The second style just didn’t print properly, even trying to print it 2 different ways. I ended up using a command strip to stick the first one in place, and that seems to be working for the time being. Perhaps later I can modify the model and make it a little better fit.

2.  Thumbwheels

Another common problem is that the all-metal thumbwheels will jiggle free over time, causing the bed to unlevel. The Solution is to use nylon locking nuts (nylock nuts) , but they’re so tiny you wouldn’t be able to adjust them- that’s where the 3d printed thumbwheels come in. The nylocks go on the underside of the printed thumbwheel, allowing better control and a more coarse texture than the metal thumbwheels. So far they’re working well.

3. Octoprint

While it’s not a direct mod, I printed a 3d case for a raspberry pi and loaded the pi with a custom OS called Octoprint. It controls the printer over USB so you’re not constantly inserting and removing sdcards. In addition, it gives you a nice web interface where you can upload your gcode files, track the print progress, and tweak configurations. It even lets you time-lapse control a pi camera to see the status and verify things haven’t went off the rails.

4. Allen Wrench and Scraper Hook Support

This is more of a utility modification than anything- with the 3d prints, you usually need to scrape the print off the bed when it’s complete, which means you have a standard scraper always laying around. This gives you a hook to store the scraper on, as well as slots to place the allen wrenches.

5. Fun Fan cooler

My original intention was to go with the Dii cooler, but after some investigation I came across the fun fan cooler, which looks like an earwig’s behind.  it has a few print flaws which I’m going to attempt to fix and re-release it on thingiverse. So far it’s greatly improved the quality of my prints. Update: My attempt to fix the model failed miserably. I still have a lot to learn about organic modelling.

6. Pi Cam Arm

I’ve found a decent arm/camera holster for my raspberry pi camera, which should allow me to create timelapse videos. I still don’t have a great base due to the short cable I’m working with, but that should be remedied tomorrow. In the mean time, here’s a video:  https://goo.gl/photos/AiX6PCX5Z45nR1Bu8  This was my second print of the Earwig vent/ Fun Fan Cooler.

7. Glass Bed

My glass bed has arrived, but the thermal pad won’t be here until Saturday. Between now and then I’ll have to print clips.

 

Future Plans

Right now I’m planning on the following upgrades:

  1. Z braces. I saw the tower shake a surprising amount during quick y axis movements- Z braces basically add a hypotenuse to the intersecting structure of the printer. The ones I’m looking at will have levelling feet. Update: Unfortunately, these are for the maker select, not the select plus, so they won’t fit. I’ll need to design my own.
  2. Metal Hotend with slotted block. Microswiss makes a nice hotend that supposedly works much better.
  3. Hardened steel nozzle. Another Microswiss upgrade that’ll let me work with a wider array of materials and temperatures.
  4. Machined lever and extruder plate. The existing level that holds the filament in place will warp over time- this one won’t.

Overall this has been an interesting diversion so far.

 

Tarus Balog : Fifteen Years

May 09, 2017 03:06 PM

On Sunday my mother celebrated her 75th birthday.

Although a happy occasion, why is this relevant to an open source blog? Well, it was soon after her 60th birthday in 2002 that I started my first company around OpenNMS.

I did not start OpenNMS, it began in the summer of 1999, with the first code posted on Sourceforge in March of 2000 by a company called Oculan. I started working with Oculan in September of 2001, and in May of 2002 they decided to stop contributing to OpenNMS. I saw the potential, so I asked Steve Giles, the founder and CEO, if I could have the OpenNMS project. He looked at his watch and said if I was off his payroll by Friday, he’d give me the domain names, a couple of servers, and he would sprinkle water on me and I would be the new OpenNMS maintainer.

That was actually the easy part. Explaining to my wife that I had quit my job and started a company “selling free software” was a bit harder.

sortova.com from archive.org circa May 2002

And thus Sortova Consulting Group was born. It was named after my farm. When Andrea and I decided we wanted to have a farm, we first bought raw land. In driving out from Raleigh to work on it we would pass this little farm with a barn, some cows, etc., and on the mailbox was a sign reading “Almosta Farm”. I joked that if that was “almost a farm” then what we had was just “sort of a farm”. Later, when we bought the place where we still live, the name Sortova Farm stuck.

We pronounce it “Sore-toe-va”. Only one customer ever pulled me aside and asked if it really meant “sort of a” consulting group. He laughed when I confirmed that it did.

Considering that I didn’t have any prior business experience, Java experience, or even real Internet access at my home, it is amazing that OpenNMS survived to this day. It is a wonder what you can accomplish with pure stubbornness.

Now my one true superpower is my ability to get the most fantastic people on the planet to work with me. The first group of those came from the OpenNMS community. When I was running Sortova it was the gang that later became the Order of the Green Polo that kept me going, mainly through mailing lists and IRC. In September of 2004 my good friend and business partner David Hustace and I founded the OpenNMS Group, and that corporation is still going strong. In 2009 we mortgaged our houses to buy the copyright to the Oculan OpenNMS code and thus brought all of it back under one organization, and two of the original OpenNMS team at Oculan now work for OpenNMS.

When I visit Silicon Valley I often get to meet some brilliant people, but the joy of this can be offset by the pervasive attitude of focusing on technology simply to make money. I know of a number of personally successful people who built companies, sold them, and then those products vanished into obscurity. Remember VA Linux? Their stock rose over 700% on the first day of trading, but where are they now? Did they ever deliver on their promises to the stockholders?

I want to build with OpenNMS something that will last well beyond my involvement with the project. I’ve gotten it to the point where I am not longer expressly required to make it thrive, but I am still working on its legacy. We want it to be nothing less than the de facto standard for monitoring everything, which is a high bar.

Note that I still would like to make a lot of money, but that isn’t the core driving force of the business. Our mission statement is “Help Customers – Have Fun – Make Money” in that order. If you have happy customers and happy employees, the money will come.

Fifteen years ago I made a leap of faith, in both myself, my family and my friends. I’m extremely happy I did.

Mark Turner : Cheap Thoughts: Time of Use for Water

May 08, 2017 06:44 PM

Falls Lake at the worst of drought, December 9, 2007

On Saturday my family and placed four tons of grass sod in our backyard. As I fired up a sprinkler for the first time in several years (a decade, perhaps?) I thought about how much our next water bill was going to cost us. The City of Raleigh has tiered water rates, meaning everyone gets their base allotment for the same price but the price quickly jumps beyond that amount. The idea is that economics will compel water customers to conserve which is a worthy goal.

But what about the times conservation isn’t needed? Right now Falls Lake is full. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Falls Lake at a rate of 6,000 cubic feet per second, which I’ve heard is about the most it will release at any time. This onslaught of water is causing issues downstream, flooding neighborhoods that haven’t yet recovered from last month’s initial round of heavy flooding.

It doesn’t appear that conservation is an issue at the moment, so what if our water bills could reflect this? What if Raleigh residents could give The Army Corps a hand by putting that water where it could good some good: on everyone’s lawns and gardens, not just those unfortunate few who live close to the raging river? What if the City reduced water rates on a temporarily basis while the river release was underway? I know there’s more to water use than simply supply (it has to be treated, for instance) but tying water rates to our supply might make sense.

At any rate (pun intended), it seems silly that I am paying a premium for water coming out of the lake while the Army is doing all it can to get rid of it.

Bonus: Interestingly, I only found one decent link in Google for “‘time of use’ ‘water'”. It’s this report from the California Energy Commission [PDF] that discussed a trial that was aimed not at more accurately valuing water in real-time but whether time-of-use water meters could reduce the electricity demand of the pumping infrastructure. Worth a read, regardless.

Jesse Morgan : Time to Print

May 07, 2017 06:41 PM

After finally getting my 3d printer, I thought I should start keeping track of what I’m doing.

Printer: Monoprice Maker Select Plus

Standard Filament: MP Select PLA Plus+ Premium 3D Filament (white)

After Unboxing it and getting everything aligned, I printed 1.gcode and 2.gcode from the SD card that came with it using the yellow PLA filament that came with it. The first was a small elephant, the second was a swan.

Quick Backstory

I had played a bit with FreeCAD while waiting for the print and had followed a tutorial for creating a “lego.”

As you may or may not know, There are 2 steps in designing a 3d part

  • designing the regular 3d object in 3d modeling software like 3DSM, Maya, Blender, FreeCAD, etc to create an STL file.
  • converting the STL with a slicer program like Cura into a gcode file.

The Gcode is basically a set of assembly-like instructions for controlling the printer- move 2mm, extrude, move 3mm, retract, travel 10mm, etc. What’s important to note is that Cura needs to be configured for your specific printer model.

  • The good news is that Monoprice ships with a free copy of Cura
  • The bad news is that they only include the exe version
  • The good news is you can run it with wine
  • The bad news is that it’s not only in chinese(?), but fails to install with an error (that is also not in english).

This makes it really hard to configure Cura properly. My first attempts did not go great, but after doing a bit of research, I found that the  “Prusa i3 Mk2” model was “close enough” with some minor modifications:

Monoprice Maker Select Plus Cura Settings, Mostly correct

 

Back to the Real Story

The Lego

After some tinkering and trial and error, I was able to print my self-designed lego sliced with my own copy and configured version of Cura, however somewhere along the way it became supersized. It fits roughly 3 regular lego pegs to every 2 on my block. I’m not sure where things fell apart, but I need to re-examine the FreeCad file and get the calipers out to figure out if the instructions were wrong or if I did something incorrect.

Anyways, the Lego used up almost the last of my sample yellow, so I opened my new standard filament, the white PLA from monoprice.

The Drow Wizard

The first thing I printed was a Drow Wizard from Shapeways. it was fairly complex, and so-far the printer is completely untuned, so it’d give me a good idea of what I’m working with.

It was pretty rough. There were a lot of strings between the staff and the figure, and the face had no detail. After a bit of cleanup, it’d be passable for kids, but it was still lower quality than I was hoping for

The Filament Guide

The next thing I printed was the filament guide upgrade for the printer itself. This was my first time using a support, and man did it waste a lot of filament. After some cleanup, it came out decent, but still had some print flaws- namely a hole in the top of the guide arm where the top layer wasn’t think enough and inside the “C” at the top, the edges pulled away from the rest of the print. It’s probably still usable, but I’ll eventually print a better one.

The first “real use” part was a Raspberry Pi 3 case I found on Thingiverse. The Top came out rather nice (but still has some flaws), and I’m waiting for the bottom to finish as I type this.

While waiting, I’ve done a bit of research on some of the flaws I’ve noticed and am coming up with a list of things to try. Before I make any further adjustments, I’m going to print a 3dSketchy boat that is commonly used for calibration tests. Once I do that, I’ll probably print 3 or 4 more, trying different configurations and tweaks.

 

Tarus Balog : Privacy and Trash

May 07, 2017 03:59 PM

Meet Sam. Sam is in his early twenties and grew up in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 2012. He is currently on vacation in Athens, Greece, with his girlfriend Sara. They managed to find an amazing deal on American Airlines from Minneapolis to Athens for $200 for the both of them, but with taxes and fees that ballooned up to nearly $850.

I have a copy of Sam’s resume, his Gmail address and his phone number. I know how long he’ll be gone and what seats they will be sitting in on their return. In fact, I know a lot more about Sam and Sara (Facebook and its ilk are ubiquitous) but I’m a little uncomfortable revealing as much as I have, so I’ll stop.

It is all because of this:

Sam Boarding Pass

With all the focus recently on the security of devices like those that make up the Internet of Things, what is often forgotten is that traditional paper has huge security issues in today’s connected world.

Airlines still insist on printing first and last names along with record locater codes on boarding passes. That is often all that is required to access a particular reservation. From there you can get information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

This reminds me of when credit cards first came out and to use one the merchant would take an actual imprint of the card on carbon copy paper. Since that included the shopper’s name, complete card number and expiration date, it became easy for thieves to steal this information. At least now almost all receipts include, at most, the last for digits of the card (in case you were wondering, Sam used a Mastercard ending in 3286).

The genesis of this post arose from a more malicious reason. I fly a lot and over the years commercial air travel (which is the only air travel I can afford) has become less of a special occasion and more like taking a bad bus trip. People use the “seat back pocket” as their personal trash can, to the point that I almost never use it myself, even when I get upgraded to first class. Nasty. On this trip, the duration from when the last person got off the inbound plane until we started boarding our flight was less than ten minutes, so trust me when I say little was cleaned between flights.

I don’t blame the airlines. Consumers have spoken, and what they want is cheap airfare, so it is up to us to be respectful of our fellow passengers.

Anyway, when I see folks like Sam leave information like this as trash, I am so tempted to do things like reassign his seat to one in the middle next to the lavatory (it’s an 11 hour flight), or to cancel his flight completely. Lucky for him I believe in karma, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.

The basics of security involve two things: something you have and something you know. We need to apply this to everything that needs to be secure. I get so frustrated with systems in the United States, such as the new “chip” cards being used for credit and debit. Introduced a decade ago in Europe, their systems use “chip and PIN” – something you have, your card, and something you know, your PIN. In the US we are moving to “chip and signature” – something you have, your card, and something anyone can fake in a heartbeat, your signature.

(sigh)

This is especially touchy since two summers ago my spouse had her purse stolen. We immediately canceled and closed all of the accounts, but they were still able to get over $2000 out of our checking account. They used a paper check from another theft and then they cashed it at the bank using her ID. The bank forgot the “something you know” part of security even though they were quite aware that our account had been compromised and the account number changed. Only after the fact did they offer to “flag” transactions on our account for extra scrutiny, and now neither of us carries paper checks, although thieves could probably guess our bank from our ATM debit cards (we did get our money back from the bank).

So be careful. Buy a good shredder. If you need to dispose of paper when traveling, tear it into tiny bits and drop it in the nastiest trash can you can find … and not in the seat back pocket.

Tarus Balog : LinkedIn

May 03, 2017 11:51 AM

I’m at Red Hat Summit in Boston this week so expect a longer post on the conference later, but I wanted to mention that I’ve reopened a LinkedIn account after an absence of several years. You can find me here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tarusbalog

I left the network due to how they were handling privacy issues. I’m still not 100% happy with it now, but I think I can control how much information I share and I do have a need that I think the service can provide.

I was walking in Boston yesterday and I saw a sign for Harvard Medical School. They used to use OpenNMS and I really enjoyed working with the guys who worked there. Most of them have moved on, so I was curious to know where they were and if they were still in the city. It dawned on me that LinkedIn would have helped in this situation.

I don’t like a number of changes that have been made to the site, such as the inability to feature external links (such as to this blog which will remain one of my main ways to communicate) but it may be just my inability to navigate the website. OpenNMS is also on LinkedIn, and it looks like you can “follow” the company as well:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-opennms-group

Anyway, let’s give this a go. See you in the toobz.

Mark Turner : Mark Binker dies

April 30, 2017 09:35 PM

Mark Binker


I was shocked to learn of the death of reporter Mark Binker yesterday. Mark died unexpectedly at 43, leaving behind a wife and two kids. I can’t say I knew Mark well (we were Facebook friends for a short while) but whenever I visited the General Assembly I was bound to see him there and he was always friendly and appreciative of a quip. His reporting on North Carolina politics was second to none and helped explain to the masses the often arcane operations of the General Assembly. Reading his stuff you could tell Mark did his homework and you could always take his word to the bank.

Sometime last year the family and I went out to eat at a North Raleigh restaurant, perhaps to celebrate a family event. After we had settled down with our food I looked across the restaurant and saw Mark and his family enjoying dinner. I wasn’t entirely sure it was Mark (as I said, I didn’t know him that well) and I didn’t want to be That Guy Who Interrupts TV People Everywhere so I didn’t bother them. I did enjoy watching how doting he was as a father and husband. Sometimes people aren’t the friendly, kind people in real life that they appear on TV, but that little scene told me all I needed to know about Mark.

I’m sure he’d hate that I called him a “TV person,” too. He always looked so damn uncomfortable in front of the lens but his reporting was always rock solid. I’m so, so sorry for his family.

Mark Turner : Selling the sailboat

April 22, 2017 01:40 AM

Whimsy, our 1985 Rebel Spindrift 22 sailboat


With the posting of a Craigslist ad today I officially put our sailboat, Whimsy, up for sale. Going through my photo collection in search of photos to post, I rediscovered several happy afternoons spent on the water. Sadly these were days long gone by: it has been four years since we’ve sailed her.

Sailing the boat has been an emotional event for me. It’s like saying farewell to a family member. I will cherish the memories of those happy afternoons and dream of the day I will once again take the helm and steer my own course.

Magnus Hedemark : Ireland: Breaking in the Passport

April 16, 2017 03:13 PM

One of my bucket list items for a long time now has been to get a passport and put it to good use. I do like exploring quite a lot, but until recently I’ve never explored beyond my own country’s borders. Over the Christmas holiday, I did apply for a passport and immediately upon its arrival book passage overseas.

Trip number one was to Ireland. Why Ireland? Glad you asked.

  • It’s just foreign enough to know that I’m somewhere else. The driving rules are quite different (wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road, roundabouts everywhere, different lines and signs, etc).
  • It’s just familiar enough to be comfortable. The foods are mostly familiar, but with opportunities to try new things. Everyone speaks English, but a different dialect of it. I can relax and enjoy my holiday without sorting through language barriers or other massive cultural disparities.
  • It’s relatively close. Europe just isn’t close to the US. But it’s close enough to get there is a pretty reasonable amount of flying time. And it’s closer to us than most of Europe.
  • It’s very safe. This just isn’t a country known for violent street crime or victimization of tourists. The people live, for the most part, in relative comfort, and by and large aren’t tempted by the kinds of criminal opportunities that might make travel to more impoverished areas a bigger risk.
  • It’s very old. Many of the homes I drove past were probably older than my whole country. There are man-made structures here that pre-date Christianity itself.

I could keep going, easily. Ireland has so much going for it. And I think I chose well; I really had a fantastic time there.

People told me straight off, like on the shuttle bus at the airport, “stick to the coastline and don’t muck about in the middle”. I’d heard that from Americans back home, too. But I think they’re wrong. For me, I enjoyed the middle of Ireland at least as much as the coastal communities. That’s where I met regular people who weren’t jaded by endless streams of tourist buses, and had great conversations.

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Wild pheasant seen on Day #1 on an “L road”. It wasn’t the last.

I’d made a decision to get off of the major motorway as soon as I could. Ireland has a road system with four major categories, as I understand it:

  1. L Roads are locally run, tend to be more narrow and rustic. Speed limits are low, and they aren’t heavily traveled. If you’re looking for bucolic scenery that’s not often seen by tourists, you may find it here.
  2. R Roads are regionally run. They are still a bit narrow and precarious for the most part, by American standards, but they move a little faster while still offering great scenery.
  3. N Roads are nationally run roads and offer a good, safe way to get from town to town at a decent pace, while still offering some opportunities to see things or make stops along the way.
  4. M Roads, or “motorways”, are the closest thing Ireland has to super highways. The speed limits are still low compared to what I was used to at home, and none of the M roads were really all that “big”. But if you need to cover big distances in short time, this is the way to do it. The M roads didn’t offer as much in the way of scenery or opportunities for spontaneous adventuring, so we tried not to make much use of them.

You know how BMW drivers are the primary jerks on American roads, driving aggressively like they are always in such a hurry and your presence on their road is an annoyance? I saw many BMW’s in Ireland but didn’t get that vibe from most BMW drivers there. It was the Audi drivers that were total twats there. And for those who couldn’t afford Audis, the Volkswagen drivers were junior level road hooligans. Most other people were really quite courteous.

On the L and R roads, there were rarely any areas for pull-offs. Hedges and walls were established literally right up against the side of the road without a buffer in most cases, so it took a bit of nerve to get used to that. The downside to this as a traveler was that I didn’t have a chance to pull off to photograph so many wonderful sights.

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Slieve League cliffs in County Donegal offer a breathtaking experience without the crowds of Cliffs of Moher.

The Ireland of old that I think many Americans and plastic paddies desire doesn’t really exist outside of the tourist industry. To come here expecting your stereotypes to play out is really not going to be fair. Other than people saying “wee” a lot, I got to know a place and a people that was outside of preconceived notions.

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The village of Ardagh was not on any tourist itinerary that I’d ever seen, but a shopkeeper I’d patronized in Longford Town saw my camera and guessed correctly that I’d enjoy exploring this place.

I’ll not pad this out to thousands of words in length or offer a deep dive into the experience, though I easily could (and have the photos to back it up). But I’ll say this: I’ve learned what I like in travel, and it’s not something I’ll ever get out of a guided tour. The nexus of people and place fuels my curiosity. And I’m only getting started.

One thing I learned was that traveling with a camera bag is not something I enjoy. My otherwise amazing Fujifilm X-T2 and assortment of lenses might get less use on future trips, if it comes at all. The Ricoh GR, the wee beastie of a camera that fits in the front pocket of my jeans, is likely to get a lot more use on future adventures.

And where shall I go next? Leave suggestions in the comments below.


Mark Turner : The Fear Bubble

April 15, 2017 01:36 AM

The Bogeyman

Facebook can easily become an echo chamber, only showing you posts that its algorithms think will reinforce your worldview (and thus keep you engaged). This can result in a very skewed perspective of the world. On the other hand, Facebook does offer a window into the perspectives of people who don’t think like you do … if you actively seek this out.

I maintain friendships across the political spectrum. People are more alike than disalike, no matter how some might try to accentuate the differences. I do have some conservative-leaning friends and think they’re generally reasonable people. If they were unreasonable and not open to my gentle, loving prodding I might have turned away from them. Some of the less reasonable indeed have made it to the Facebook “unfollow” stage, where I remain connected to them but don’t get updates from them. I like to maintain a window into their worldview because I think it’s important to understand how people think, especially people with whom I sometimes disagree.

It was peering through this “window” that I began to notice a startling personality trait that many conservatives share which came to light after last week’s United debacle. While almost all of my left-leaning friends immediately faulted the airline for its brutal treatment of a paying customer, there were more than one conservative friends who defended the airline. In their view, the senior-citizen doctor must have done something to deserve getting the shit kicked out of him. He argued with authority, he was disruptive, so he earned what he got, their thinking seemed to go.

How can this be? How can some people side with authority in spite of ample warning signs that authority is wrong? Is it part of their personality, their religious upbringing, or some combination? I’m not entirely sure, but there seems to be a class of people who are almost completely authority-driven and these people are conservative people. It doesn’t matter what the orders are, you follow them. No gray area. Everything is good or evil, black or white.

When I look at the appalling treatment visitors to this country have been given by some in the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency, this comes to mind. Orders were given that must be carried out. I think ultra-authority-driven people are drawn to these jobs.

I can also see how, given the right authority figure, people can be convinced to maintain order in ways that are detrimental to others. Germany’s Nazi Party held powerful sway over the German people. At present, Russians adore Vladamir Putin in spite of his looting the country, murdering opponents, and stirring up other lawlessness to bolster himself. Finally, Trump gained the same kind of support from people who were (and are) convinced that there’s a bogeyman behind every tree. Walls must be built, immigrants blocked, and sharia law prevented from taking root here.

A threat is raised and the fearful rally around the strongest authority figure. Oldest trick in the book. I never thought I’d see it here, though. Here we are in 2017 and there are people out there – friends of friends – who are so freaking spooked out of their minds that they have bought into the batshit-craziest fake news stories out there. Honestly, when I see some of these poor folks screaming about ISIS in their neighborhood I can only shake my head.

So, why didn’t these people fall in line behind Obama? After all, being President of the United States should come with some heft, right (well, until recently)? How were today’s fear-mongers able to keep Obama from being their savior? First of all, Obama was too pragmatic to get himself tangled in intractable wars. His job was to get us out of them, which he did fairly well. That meant no jumping with both feat into the ages-old quagmires of Middle Eastern relations, ISIS or no ISIS. The right, therefore, latched onto the Benghazi attack as proof to the fearful that Obama wasn’t going to protect them, no matter that far more diplomats were attacked during Bush’s term.

The other thing the Right did, and this was crucial to their strategy, was to de-legitimize Obama’s presidency, casting doubt on his citizenship and (of course) his race. As long as doubt was sown among the conservative fearful, the Right could drain his authority and keep these poor, petrified folks that they were all alone. As one gun shop owner put it, there was no better gun salesman than Barack Obama.

Somehow we have to get to these people. They are stuck in a “fear bubble,” fed sensational lies by the right-wing media to falsely believe they are under attack. Perhaps if they came out of their bunkers for a bit they would see that the sky is not falling and ISIS is not, after all, roaming their neighborhoods at night.

Can they be reached? It will take a lot of time and effort. One thing’s for sure: American discourse will suffer until they can be freed from their fear bubbles.

Mark Turner : To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old – The New York Times

April 13, 2017 02:40 PM

Great story on why innovation isn’t the exclusive domain of the young. The 94-year-old Dr. Goodenough continues to innovate.

In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.

Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.

Source: To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old – The New York Times

Mark Turner : United Passenger “Removal”: A Reporting and Management Fail | naked capitalism

April 12, 2017 08:37 PM

This is the best piece I’ve read yet on United’s “re-accommodation” fiasco.

As disturbing as is the now widely-discussed incident of the brute force removal of a 69 year old doctor from a United flight last week, equally troubling is the poor job the press has done on such a high profile and relatively simple story. We’ll go over some of the glaring and regular errors as well as troubling oversights before turning to another puzzlingly under-examined issue: what this incident says about management at United. And we don’t mean arrogance and tone-deafness.

Reporting Failures

Widespread misreporting of the cause of the incident as “overbooking”. It would be difficult to figure out how to construct a reasonable sample, from reading a large number of accounts of the incident, a substantial majority, which I would guesstimate as being in the 75% range, refer to the cause of United’s perceived need to eject the elderly passenger, Dr. David Dao, as “overbooking”. Confirming this impression is that that four Senators and Governor Chris Christie, when weighing in on the incident, all referred to it as the result of overbooking or overselling.

Source: United Passenger “Removal”: A Reporting and Management Fail | naked capitalism

Mark Turner : Overbooking should be fraud

April 12, 2017 05:37 PM

Admit one (well, if we feel like it) [courtesy torbakhopper@flickr]


Yesterday’s shitstorm caused by United Airlines’s beating up a passenger has brought the practice of overbooking into sharp focus. Why do we let airlines get away with overbooking? How is this even legal? A ticket is essentially a contract: In exchange for my money, you will take me from point A to point B. Seems pretty simple, right? So why are airlines allowed to renege on that contract?

Let’s say you planned to take your sweetie out for a big date at a concert. You bought your tickets months in advance and made arrangements for transportation, hotel, etc. You and your sweetie get all dressed up, show up at the arena, and get settled in your seats only to be tossed from the arena because they are “oversold.” You’d feel like burning something down, wouldn’t you? And yet airlines do this every day.

Now, let’s imagine that you made reservations for dinner on your date night but the restaurant canceled them. Sure, you’d probably be pissed but a reservation is free. You haven’t put up any money and so you are getting what you paid for. You expect the restaurant to honor the reservation but you know that since you don’t have any skin in the game you have to go along. See the difference?

When my family and I went to Jamaica for vacation two years ago, my son’s ear infection prompted us to forgo our return flight home, a doctor having told us that flying could rupture his eardrum. It seemed an easy thing to just catch another flight home once he was safe to fly but it was extraordinarily difficult to find empty seats! Southwest’s planes were so packed that it was days until seats were available for a trip home.

That’s the problem that overbooking presents. A voucher does no good if there are no flights with empty seats with which you can use it. If airlines are going to fill every seat and make a voucher flight just as difficult to catch, why would people willingly give up the “bird in the hand” that is the seat they’re sitting in? What good is a voucher if the travel it provides is a day or more late?

Airlines have gotten away with overbooking for far too long due to lax FAA regulation. In any other industry it would be considered a crime to sell something you haven’t got. I sure hope United’s incident lights a fire under Congress and regulators to rein in this ridiculous practice.

Mark Turner : Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

April 12, 2017 04:34 PM

In case you were under a rock, yesterday United Airlines dragged a paying passenger off one of its planes to make room for another United crew to fly standby. The resulting outcry caused United’s stock to lose $800 million in value at one point Tuesday. CEO Oscar Munoz then released the biggest bullshit non-apology ever, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” this passenger. I predict that “re-accommodate” has already earned its place on the “word of the year” lists.

A video posted on Facebook late Sunday evening shows a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville being forcibly removed from the plane before takeoff at O’Hare International Airport.

The video, posted by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is taken from an aisle seat on a commercial airplane that appears to be preparing to take flight. The 31-second clip shows three men wearing radio equipment and security jackets speaking with a man identified as Elizabethtown doctor David Dao seated on the plane. After a few seconds, one of the men grabs the passenger, who screams, and drags him by his arms toward the front of the plane. The video ends before anything else is shown.

Source: Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

Mark Turner : Google’s “Someone has your password” emails still ripe for abuse

April 10, 2017 07:23 PM

Fraud or not? Always be on guard!

I got another “Someone has your password” emails today from Google’s security team. These appear to be sent due to a flaw in the way Google geolocates the IP addresses used by our T-Mobile phones and are thus false alarms. That doesn’t keep me from freaking out every time I get one, however.

What’s more, it is exactly these emails that compromised John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the campaign. I consider myself fairly savvy at detecting phishing emails but I have to admit that the fake email the Russians sent was good enough to have had a chance of catching me.

I emailed a friend at Google to make sure the company knew their geolocation stuff was in need of serious work. My friend replied that Google is aware that their algorithm needs work and were working on a way to receive feedback from the message recipients. It appears Google’s “New sign in from … ” emails have a feedback link at the bottom but the “Someone has your password” emails still do not.

I appreciate getting alerts when unauthorized activity is detected but I could certainly do without the false alarms.