Mark Turner : Speeding point proven at 2 AM

September 28, 2016 06:14 PM

I’d spent many evenings last week going door to door along State Street, methodically collecting signatures on a city petition to reduce the State Street speed limit to 25 MPH from its current 35 MPH. The first two days garnered the lion’s share of signatures; before I knew it I was up to ten. The last four, however, have been a challenge. Some neighbors tell me they agree 100% with reducing the speed and yet they’re very reluctant to put their name on the list. Some of these neighbors are older and some are renters who are perhaps worried any more neighborhood improvements might price them right out of the home they are renting. It’s hard to know what their real reasons are but it’s frustrating that they want it done and yet don’t want to do anything to make it happen.

Sunday afternoon I was particularly bummed when some friends I thought I could count on to sign decided against it, citing the mess that the water main replacement/traffic calming on Glascock has been. Even though I stressed it was only a new set of speed limit signs I could not convince them. I felt like chucking my clipboard into the street and giving up on the whole damn process. It would be just like five years ago, when I spent hours walking up and down State only to collect just enough signatures to barely miss the threshold.

Then hope arrived in my mailbox. I had mailed out five letters to owners of State Street rental properties, asking for their approval (owners or residents are acceptable). There was my SASE and letter, with a message scrawled at the bottom: “Thank you for doing this!”

This is what hope looks like.

This is what hope looks like.


Just like that there was new wind in my sails. This landlord not only gave me the signature that I couldn’t get from her shy tenant, she also gave my morale a much-needed boost. Boy, did I need that!

My friends saw my earlier tweet of despair and offered to help convince neighbors. Then I realized a clever option to gain an additional signature. Suddenly the 14 signatures didn’t seem insurmountable.

The final convincing evidence arrived at 2 AM this morning. I awoke to the sound of several motorcycles revving their engines and racing down State Street. When they didn’t go away in 5 minutes I called 911. Another 12 minutes later I called again, asking specifically that an officer be dispatched. Eventually they left by the Oakwood Avenue end but not after having State Street as their racetrack for almost 30 minutes.

I hope this all-too-common episode will be enough to convince the last of the holdouts. I’ve got six more weeks to get this done and I’m pulling out all the stops. Failure is no longer an option.

Mark Turner : N&O quoted my letter to City Council in 2013

September 28, 2016 05:41 PM

I was doing a vanity search on the N&O website, looking for a story I linked to once but apparently no longer exists (the N&O has never fixed its linkrot problem), when I found a 2013 story in which Colin Campbell quoted me and I didn’t even know it. In 2013, after musing about two-way streets here, I had written City Council and urged them to consider getting rid of the one-way streets in East Raleigh:

From: Mark Turner
Date: 06/25/2013 07:57 PM
Subject: Please consider making New Bern and Edenton two-way

Dear Madame Mayor and City Councilors,

I would like to respectfully request that you consider devoting a portion of transportation funds towards converting New Bern Avenue and Edenton Streets from one-way streets into two-way streets east of the Capitol. I strongly feel nothing would provide an economic boost to the east side of town as much as making these streets friendlier to local traffic and pedestrians and making them less like miniature freeways.

Thank you for all that you do for our city!

Respectfully yours,

Mark Turner

Colin quoted it in his story published July 1st, 2013: “East Raleigh’s New Bern Avenue could get a facelift”:

On the opposite end of the road, residents are talking about converting New Bern and Edenton Street to two-way traffic. Neighborhood leader Mark Turner floated the idea to the Raleigh City Council last week.

“I strongly feel nothing would provide an economic boost to the east side of town as much as making these streets friendlier to local traffic and pedestrians, and making them less like miniature freeways,” Turner wrote.

I usually keep up with my interviews but this was something I didn’t know got published. Glad the idea got a wider audience, at any rate. And, hey, nice to be called a “neighborhood leader” in print!

Mark Turner : Google to Google routing could be better

September 23, 2016 12:45 PM

fiber_houseLike many Triangle residents, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Google Fiber service, ready to ditch my indentured servitude to Time Warner Cable. I’m a fairly advanced geek, too, hosting this site and others on Amazon Web Services. I want my website to be as speedy as possible to me and my web visitors, so low network latency is very important. For those who aren’t advanced geeks, network latency is how long it takes for a packet to travel between two points on a network, usually measured in milliseconds. Networking often hits upon the limitation of the speed of light (or radio propagation, depending on the medium), meaning a server located far away (like Singapore) will have a noticeable delay for visitors in America.

My Amazon virtual server is physically located in Ashburn, Virginia but due to some favorable network routing it responds very quickly in the Triangle area, almost as if it were right across town. I have found it very hard to find a server that’s any closer, network-wise.

Now, I’ve been generally happy with Amazon’s service but I don’t like having to pre-pay for a virtual server in order to get the price down to an affordable rate. I also like competition, so I’ve tried kicking the tires of Google’s own cloud service, Google Compute Engine. Compared to the latency of Amazon’s service, though, Google Compute Engine had twice the network latency (or more!) from my Time Warner Cable cable modem at home. Far too many network “hops” stand between me and my Google server.

Enter Google Fiber. I had hoped that a Google Fiber connection would provide a blazing-fast link to Google’s Compute Engine cloud, since Google owns both and shouldn’t have to ride any other provider’s network to get there. I was disappointed this morning to see this is not the case. Checking out a traceroute posted yesterday by one of the Triangle’s first Google Fiber customers, I picked out their external IP and performed a traceroute from a Google Compute Engine instance I spun up today.
Here’s the traceroute posted by Google Fiber customer “undyingfire” from his home to unc.edu:

traceroute to unc.edu (152.19.230.139), 64 hops max, 72 byte packets
1 router.asus.com (192.168.2.1) 0.373 ms 0.179 ms 0.137 ms
2 192.168.1.1 (192.168.1.1) 0.330 ms 0.461 ms 0.957 ms
3 10.26.2.73 (10.26.2.73) 2.458 ms 2.079 ms 2.479 ms
4 23-255-225-23.mci.googlefiber.net (23.255.225.23) 2.724 ms 1.756 ms 2.471 ms
5 23-255-225-25.mci.googlefiber.net (23.255.225.25) 2.903 ms 2.349 ms 2.788 ms
6 192-119-18-203.mci.googlefiber.net (192.119.18.203) 83.741 ms 88.358 ms 83.624 ms
7 192.119.18.105 (192.119.18.105) 11.973 ms 11.521 ms 12.298 ms
8 xe-11-3-2.edge2.atlanta4.level3.net (4.53.238.17) 24.266 ms 23.730 ms 24.213 ms

Picking out the first publicly-available IP, I tried pinging it from my GCE instance:

[markt@instance-1 ~]$ ping 23.255.225.23
PING 23.255.225.23 (23.255.225.23) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from 23.255.225.23: icmp_seq=1 ttl=55 time=33.6 ms
64 bytes from 23.255.225.23: icmp_seq=2 ttl=55 time=33.2 ms
64 bytes from 23.255.225.23: icmp_seq=3 ttl=55 time=33.2 ms
64 bytes from 23.255.225.23: icmp_seq=4 ttl=55 time=33.1 ms

Thirty-three milliseconds. Not terrible, but not blazing fast, either. Still 50% slower than my Amazon route to Ashburn.

The traceroute shows a modest 5 routers between GCE and the Triangle Google Fiber:

[markt@instance-1 ~]$ traceroute 23.255.225.25
traceroute to 23.255.225.25 (23.255.225.25), 30 hops max, 60 byte packets
1 216.58.215.43 (216.58.215.43) 12.601 ms 12.584 ms 12.548 ms
2 * * *
3 192.119.18.50 (192.119.18.50) 77.204 ms 77.352 ms 77.196 ms
4 192-119-18-204.mci.googlefiber.net (192.119.18.204) 77.672 ms 77.875 ms 77.781 ms
5 23-255-225-25.mci.googlefiber.net (23.255.225.25) 45.213 ms 45.148 ms 45.084 ms

Forty-five milliseconds to this router? That’s pretty slow. I would expect this if I were pinging a server in Seattle but this host is supposedly on the east coast. What gives?

This would be the killer application for Google, blazing fast connectivity between their Google Fiber users and their own Google cloud, yet it leaves much to be desired at this point. Amazon isn’t in the broadband business so if Google wanted it could put a significant dent in AWS’s market share simply through better peering. It seems they haven’t planned or implemented this at this point.

Fortunately, Google Fiber “makes it up in volume” with its huge capacity for bandwidth. It would be nice, though, to see lightning-fast latency between the two Google products. Hopefully Google will make this happen.

Mark Turner : Boost of civic energy

September 22, 2016 01:00 PM

No sooner had I written my previous post that I got a boost of civic energy, this one from attending Monday night’s East CAC meeting. It had been a long while since I had been to a meeting, with my involvement in the Ligon PTA taking up much of my free time as well as other things like Friends of Dorothea Dix Park.

Monday’s meeting featured information on the purchase of Gateway Plaza, right outside of my neighborhood, so it provided a compelling reason to be there. There wasn’t much information provided but seeing many of my friends and neighbors there after such a long time was really fun. The same boost of energy I always got when conducting East CAC meetings was still there. My neighborhood inspires me! It’s good to know I can always come back.

The second civic energy boost comes from my efforts to get the speed limit reduced on N. State Street across from St. Augustine’s University. After a neighbor asked if I knew how to do something about the traffic there, I decided to go through the speed limit petition process again the way I had once done for Edmund Street. Nearly every evening this week, I’ve been knocking on doors, meeting neighbors and collecting signatures where I can. Most folks are very interested in doing something about the traffic, though I’ve spoken with two who are somewhat reluctant to sign. I will visit them again this evening, though, and try to convince them. So far I’ve got 11 of the required 14 signatures. I expect to have 13 by the end of the day. Yesterday morning, I mailed out letters to a few of the absentee landlords, asking them to sign as well. Between the two I expect I’ll get what I need to make this petition legitimate.

At the same time, I’m under no illusion that the idiots who have been using State Street as a motorcycle drag strip are really going to give a flip about speed limits. That’s laughable. However, lowering the speed limit is the first step towards traffic calming measures like speed bumps, which definitely would deter motorcycle racing. Dropping the limit to 25 MPH also gives Raleigh’s Finest more incentive to ticket speeding drivers. Hopefully a combination of the two will help tame traffic.

On the way back from dropping the kids off at school, I noticed a speed measuring device has been added to State Street. I take it the city knows I’m serious about speed control here and the Traffic Control department has confidence I will get the petition done this time. Their confidence is well-placed!

Mark Turner : Looking California, feeling Minnesota?

September 19, 2016 02:25 AM

In a departmental meeting last week a look around the room brought on a revelation: I was the only one present who was propping his head up with his hand. I realized that I do this all the time and yet I rarely see anyone else doing it. Why is this? Isn’t anyone as tired all the time as I am?

When I was younger I always knew that age would bring with it its own aches and pains. I just didn’t realize they would hit me all at once! The past two years have seen my energy drain more rapidly than I expected or, frankly, consider normal. It’s astonishing and frightening at the same time.

I am in need of naps far more frequently than I used to be. I have challenges putting faces to names out of context. I often wake up tired from the get-go. I’ve found myself more reluctant to join in conversation. I frequently pay an unexpected price for physical efforts. Everything seems so much goddamn harder now.

I am concerned that the things that my declining health is jeopardizing my life goals.

Yesterday morning, I joined Kelly and Hallie for a bike ride. It was about 80 degrees, breezy and overcast – perfect riding weather – and we rode a milk-run route to Lassiter Mill dam and back, less than 10 miles. I felt great at the time. Then I rushed into the house to shower and get ready for a Democratic Party meeting, where I sat for nearly four hours listening to one speaker after another. By the time we were leaving for that evening’s play (“Almost, Maine” at Raleigh Little Theatre) it was all I could do to drag myself out of the recliner and get in the car. I spent the play trying my damnedest to keep my eyes open and my head from flopping over. Somehow I managed but if someone had rolled a cot out to me I would’ve been asleep on it in 30 seconds, play or no play.

I can’t understand why a bike ride that wouldn’t even get me to break a sweat would seemingly take so much out of me. Or a meeting, for that matter. I don’t have a good answer to why I was so wiped and this is deeply troubling to me.

In stark contrast to the extreme fatigue I am feeling, my vital signs are quite good. My blood pressure is better than it’s been in years, my cholesterol is nearly normal, and nearly all of my chemical measures are good. I’m at a good weight and I’m slowly whittling down my waist to a healthier shape. I walk to and from work on a regular basis and I use a standing desk while I’m there. While it’s good to have good vital signs, it’s a bit maddening when I try to explain to doctors how fatigued I’m feeling. They look at the chart and see a lot to be happy about.

And I’m thankful that all the usual health bugaboos seem to be held at bay at the moment. I just need to figure out what different bugaboo I’m dealing with so I can get some energy back. Whatever it is it’s not fun.

Mark Turner : VA Pregnenolone study

September 19, 2016 01:55 AM

For 12 weeks beginning in February, I participated in a VA-funded research study on using pregnenolone to address the effects of Gulf War Illness. Every week I would check in with a research associate, either in person or by phone, and answer a series of questions regarding my health and mental faculties. It involved driving to the Durham VA Medical Center about every other week for bloodwork and cognitive testing. I would also often return with a dose of pregnenolone for that week.

The cognitive tests were challenging and the worst part of the study. Bloodwork by comparison was a breeze, but when asked to study images of shapes and mentally rearrange them or to recall a varying, long list of fruits and vegetables I would begin to sweat. I hated those tests especially.

At the end of the study the results were compared to the beginning of the trial and the examining doctor noted no noticeable change in the results. I concurred and glumly thought to myself if my trouble had been worth it even though I either received a placebo or this drug didn’t actually address my issues. I decided it was worth it, if not for me then for everyone who suffers from Gulf War Illness.

A week later, I decided to try using a pregnenolone supplement at the doses I was prescribed them during the trial. This time I did notice a difference! It wasn’t a pleasant one, though. A few times during this experiment I awoke from a light sleep experiencing aural hallucinations. Early one morning, I awoke Kelly with a start, asking if she had just heard a fire truck;s siren warble itself quiet right outside of our house. There was no fire truck, of course, and I went back to bed. Still, it sounded real to my half-asleep, drug-enhanced mind. I soon abandoned the drug, deciding I didn’t need that kind of drama in my life.

I’m signed up for another VA study next month that is sure to answer some questions, though whether those answers are what I hope to hear is anyone’s guess. This upcoming test involves strenuous exercise followed by an MRI and lumbar puncture (a.k.a. a spinal tap). A researcher at Georgetown University believes he has discovered markers of Gulf War Illness. I don’t know at this point if I do have Gulf War Illness or not but the study of course takes non-GWI veterans as well, so either way I will be helping the cause. A lumbar puncture isn’t fun in anyone’s book but I’m taking it for the team in the name of science.

Mark Turner : Corroded wire led to Rachel Rosoff’s death

September 15, 2016 05:16 PM

rachel_rosoff-facebook-profile

Wake County Inspectors released their report on what caused the pool at Heritage Point to become electrically charged, killing lifeguard and Enloe High senior Rachel Rosoff on Saturday, 3 September. I’ve perused the report [PDF] and it appears that the pool pump shorted out for some reason (age? damage? No one knows). This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem but the grounded conductor which normally protects from such faults had become so corroded over time that it no longer completed the circuit.

There’s no telling how long ago the corroded ground wire had stopped protecting the pool equipment. Once the motor failed there was no other place for the electricity to flow but into the pool.

Was there negligence? It appears not. The pool’s electrical system was up to the 1978 NEC Electrical code it was built under. So what else might be done? Perhaps pool owners (or county inspectors) could test the grounds on other pools on a regular basis to ensure everything is working properly. I’m sure many are already considering this.

Mark Turner : N&O publisher: Sara Glines of Gannett succeeds Orage Quarles | News & Observer

September 13, 2016 05:27 PM

Sara Glines takes over as publisher of the N&O today. This is the same Sara Glines who in the past prohibited swearing in her newsrooms:

From: Sara Glines
Date: Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Appropriate office speak
To: PA-YorkDailyRecord, PA-YorkNewspaperCompany, PA-LebanonDailyNews, PA-PublicOpinionNews, PA-EveningSun, Teresa Hoover, Allison Roth-Cooper

I’ve heard some troubling conversations recently, so I want to remind all employees that cursing is not appropriate in the work environment.

It’s not appropriate in the office and it’s not appropriate when you are representing us elsewhere.

Ms. Glines does realize she’s in the news business, right? Perhaps she should know that the happiest employees are the ones with the greatest autonomy.

RALEIGH – A veteran publishing executive who also has worked extensively on the news side of the business has been named the new president and publisher of The News & Observer.

Sara Glines is joining The News & Observer from the Gannett newspaper chain, where she was president of the Atlantic Group, overseeing eight daily newspapers plus non-dailies in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Source: N&O publisher: Sara Glines of Gannett succeeds Orage Quarles | News & Observer

Tarus Balog : Open Core Returns from the Dead (sigh)

September 12, 2016 12:57 PM

The last 18 months of my life have been delightfully free of “open core” companies. These were companies who pretended to be “open source”, at least in their marketing materials, yet their business model was based on selling “enterprise extensions” which consisted of proprietary software that actually had the features you wanted. Basically, the open source piece was a loss leader to get you to buy the commercial edition, and as Brian Prentice pointed out so eloquently there was no real difference between “open core” and traditional closed source software. We like to call these businesses “fauxpen source“.

Customers realized this as well, which lead most open core companies to switch their tactics. While many still maintain an open source project, they have removed the term “open source” from their websites and most of their marketing (often replacing it with “open architecture”). I’m happy with this, as it allows true open source companies like OpenNMS and Nextcloud to differentiate ourselves while allowing these other companies to still produce open source software without misleading the market.

But lately I’ve been introduced to two new licenses that offer access to the source code without meeting the ten requirements of the Open Source Definition. These licenses further muddy the waters due to giving access to the code without including the freedoms of truly open software.

The first case was from Monty Widenius, who announced a proprietary Business Source License (BSL) for some of the MariaDB products. Monty was the guy who earned €16.6 million by selling MySQL to Sun and then got upset when Sun got bought by Oracle. Apparently, he seems to be unhappy that he isn’t earning enough money from his fork of MySQL products so he wants to create commercial software but not call it that.

The BSL, or as I call it, the “Rape of Large Companies License” allows the developer to offer the code up for use for free unless you cross some sort of arbitrary threshold, also set by the developer. In three years that code will revert to an OSI approved license, in this case the GPLv2, and if you are above the usage threshold then you don’t have to pay anymore.

I’m not sure what his goals are here, outside of running a commercial software business while paying lip service to open source software. Perhaps he hopes to get people to contribute to BSL licensed projects as long as their use case is small enough not to cross the “pay me” threshold, but more likely he just wants to ride on the coattails of the success of open source software without committing to it.

I learned of another such license called the Fair Source License (FSL) from a post by Ben Boyter who writes the Searchcode Server. Ben, at least, is a lot more up front about his reasons for adding a “GPL Timebomb” to his code. Initially, the code is published under the FSL but with a switch to the GPLv3 in three years. He isn’t expecting contributions and instead has offered up the code simply so it can be audited for back doors. As this is one of the more powerful features of open source software I applaud him for doing it, but I really wish he hadn’t used the term “bomb”. I have to deal with terms like “GPL poisoning” enough in my business that negative words like that just tend to scare people. He should have called it “Happy Fun Lucky GPL Gift Giving Time!”

Look, I’m all for anything that gets more code out there under an OSI-approved license but, c’mon, three years is a lifetime in this industry. Enterprise customers, who would be most affected by this license, will still have to approach the buying decision as if a BSL or FSL licensed application were commercial software. Even with the three year revenue window, it is unclear what happens if, say, a huge security bug is discovered three years out. Does the code to fix that bug restart the clock?

The whole process is confusing and doesn’t help the cause of open source software. I think open source is awesome and extremely powerful, and when I see things like this I’m almost insulted, as if the developer is saying “when I’m done you are welcome to my leftovers”. Instead of announcing a future switch to an open source license years in advance, they should just open it when they are ready, like id Software does with the Doom engine.

I’m giving a talk at All Things Open about running a truly open source business, the core point of which is that you can’t have an open source business with a business model based around selling software. No matter how you dress it up by either calling it “open core” or “business source” it is still proprietary software.

Mark Turner : Twenty years after Hurricane Fran

September 12, 2016 12:13 PM

Last Monday was the twentieth anniversary of Hurricane Fran. I’ve written a lot about Fran here on MT.Net so I won’t geeze and do it again now. I will say, though, how much Raleigh has changed since Fran, and that I’m struck by how many people now living here have no memory of Fran because they weren’t here.

For those of us who were here, though, it will be something we never forget.

Mark Turner : Screen printing

September 12, 2016 12:09 PM

This summer I took a Raleigh Parks and Rec course on screen printing, taught by local Raleigh artist Keith Norval. For one night a week at Pullen Arts Center I learned how to take my designs and apply them to T-shirts and posters. Those snarky T-shirt slogans I’ve been collecting can now be applied to shirts. It is fun and easy to do! For future protests and demonstrations I will now come equipped with my own custom-made shirts.

Mark Turner : “My best friend, he’s the king of karaoke…”

September 12, 2016 12:06 PM

We started off our anniversary weekend by attending the birthday party of a friend of Kelly’s Saturday night. There was a karaoke machine present and, of course, I can never resist doing some singing. I did about 6 songs to rave reviews, with some people asking if I’ve done this before. It’s all very flattering but it did get me thinking if I could find a band and maybe take my singing more seriously.

Our family’s been asked if we can rejoin the Highlanders and play some gigs this fall but it appears our ever-crazier schedules won’t allow for it. Plus there’s no singing; the Highlanders play instrumentals. I enjoy being on stage and playing guitar so adding singing would be even better.

So now I’m asking myself if I have the time it takes to rehearse with a band. It might take time but it wouldn’t seem like work if I’m doing music, so maybe this will actually happen.

(Blog post title from rank Black’s song Calistan.)

Mark Turner : 17 Years of wedding bliss (well, mostly)

September 12, 2016 11:56 AM

Yesterday marked 17 years of marriage for Kelly and me, still going strong. We celebrated by hauling ourselves and our kids off to multiple practices, meetings, and events, so pretty much a typical day. We Turners have lots of interests and solving the logistical challenges take up most of our time. It’s all good, though. We’re busy but happy. With many friends reaching Stage Empty Nest now, I know that the frantic pace we keep won’t continue forever and I’m sure to miss is once it’s gone.

Kelly and I are going out for our celebratory dinner this evening. Of course, it will occur between taking one kid one place and then taking the other kid another place. Ah, life!

Mark Turner : Rachel Rosoff

September 09, 2016 12:12 PM

rachel_rosoff-facebook-profile
Saturday morning, while my family was enjoying the Labor Day weekend, an Enloe High School student named Rachel Rosoff was reporting to work as a lifeguard at a North Raleigh neighborhood pool. Unbeknownst to her, the pool had somehow become electrified, and she was found floating face-down in the water by an arriving coworker who could not rescue her without becoming a victim himself. She was buried yesterday.

I’ve been thinking of Rachel over the past few days. She had many of the same interests that my kids do. I’ve probably even watched her perform with the Improv group at Enloe’s recent open house.

It’s terrifying to me as a parent how quickly lives can be turned upside-down, how you can work to make things safe and still tragedies happen. One moment Rachel was ready to take on the world and her world ends the next. Terrifying and so sad.

No, I didn’t know Rachel or her family but I feel like she and they are part of my family. I hope the Rosoff family finds some peace.

Mark Turner : Tracking planes with dump1090

September 08, 2016 01:01 PM

A RTLSDR receiver and dump1090 can track planes hundreds of miles away.

A RTLSDR receiver and dump1090 can track planes hundreds of miles away.

As an amateur radio operator and full-time geek, I’ve always been interested in the convergence of technologies, especially when the convergence scratches a few of my itches. One one of my latest hobbies is tracking commercial airliners through their ADS-B broadcasts. It’s a hobby that doesn’t take much time outside of setting it up. In about two hours, I configured a receiver, built an antenna, and set up software that shares what I find with the world, and all for under $30. Here’s how I did it.

The ADS-B protocol is a digital “status update” signal broadcast by airplanes which updates other aircraft around it with important location information and the like. The FAA would eventually like to see ADS-B take the place of ground-based radar but not all airplanes use it yet. Transceivers are still pricey and owners of general aviation aircraft like Cessnas largely haven’t yet adopted the system. There’s an amazing amount of data being sent and anyone with the proper receiver can intercept it (oops, that’s what we called radio reception when I was a Navy cryptologic technician), and that receiver can be dirt-cheap like the RTLSDRs.

Three years ago the radio-geek world was set ablaze when it was discovered that a mass-market DVB-T USB device had the ability to become a software-defined radio, basically a wide-range receiver that can easily decode almost any signal. Hobbyists soon were using these $15 RTLSDR dongles for just about everything, including tracking airplanes. I had a few lying around that weren’t really being used for anything so I hooked one up to my Raspberry Pi

So you know about ADS-B signals, you have a RTLSDR receiver and a computer to plug it into. What’s missing? The antenna and software! The antenna that the RTLSDR receivers come with is tuned for digital television and not ideal for picking up the 1090 MHz signal of ADS-B broadcasts. Thus, you’ll be more successful if you build your own antenna. Through the magic of the Internet, I found plans for building a “coaxial collinear” antenna, basically a sliced-up-and-pieces-back-together section of the familiar RG-6 cable TV cable. By dividing this cable into sections that are the wavelength of 1090 MHz, you can vastly improve your ADS-B reception. I spliced together an antenna in about an hour, housed it in a section of PVC pipe, and bolted it to my TV antenna 36 feet above the ground. My antenna doesn’t clear all of the trees in my yard but it does extend the reach of my receiver considerably.

The final piece you need is the software itself. Dump1090 is an amazing piece of open source software which takes the signals decoded from the RTLSDR and plots the positions of the planes that sent them. It comes with several map choices that can be displayed in a web browser (Google Maps is being phased out in favor of OpenStreetMap) and you can also forward on your sightings to a commercial flight-tracking service like FlightAware or FlightRadar24 if you choose. These services will often provide you with a premium account in exchange for the flight data you provide. I am especially impressed with the dump1090 fork that Mutability maintains. Users will submit requests for features and sometimes within a week they will appear in his version of dump1090! It’s open source at it’s best! I do have mixed feelings about sharing my free data with a flight tracking company that will resell it, but until there’s an open source or Creative Commons-licensed flight sharing site this will have to do.

Dump1090 runs on Linux or Mac, so you’ll have to have a *nix platform to use it. You can also run it in a Linux virtual machine if you have VirtualBox or something else on your Windows desktop. I prefer to run mine on my Raspberry Pi as it fits just fine on my tiny low-powered computer.

My next project will be to configure dump1090 to save the data it decodes so that I can play back the positional data that I’m receiving. This will help me adjust my antenna for optimum reception. Perhaps I could design the architecture so that other interested dump1090 users could share their data via a Torrent or similar swarm-streaming system. Good stuff!

Mark Turner : Apple defends decision to remove 3.5mm headphone jack, cites “courage” | Ars Technica

September 08, 2016 12:36 PM

I want to love Apple. I really do. But then Apple does something boneheaded like phase out a perfectly-good 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of its own, $160 proprietary headphone technology and I want to throw out every Apple product in my home.

Apple doesn’t want its customers to have choices. It has become the Microsoft of the 2000s. “Courage,” my ass. How about greed? How often do you think Apple’s customers will lose these loose, pricey earbuds?

"Airpods," a.k.a. overpriced junk

“Airpods,” a.k.a. overpriced junk

SAN FRANCISCO—Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller took the stage at Wednesday’s iPhone event to announce the news most tech geeks had been expecting: the iPhone will leave the 3.5mm headphone jack behind. It was Schiller’s job to justify why Apple was doing so, and he defended the company’s decision by citing three reasons to move on—and one word: “courage.”

Schiller explained to the San Francisco event crowd that Apple would push the Lightning port standard for wired headphones and push a new proprietary wireless standard, driven by the new “W1 chip” in iOS devices, which Schiller called Apple’s first wireless chip.

The 3.5mm port, on the other hand, has to go, Schiller said, because the company can’t justify the continued use of an “ancient” single-use port. He described the amount of technology packed into the iPhone, saying each element in Apple’s phones is fighting for space, and it’s at a premium. And while every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will include a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter, Schiller was a lot more bullish about the company’s wireless-audio standard.

Source: Apple defends decision to remove 3.5mm headphone jack, cites “courage” | Ars Technica

Mark Turner : SpaceX’s Explosion Reverberates Across Space, Satellite and Telecom Industries – The New York Times

September 05, 2016 11:46 PM

This is a fascinating look at all the dominoes that fall when a rocket like SpaceX’s explodes.

The explosion of a SpaceX rocket last Thursday will have an impact across the space industry, far beyond the losses on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

An Israeli satellite operator’s deal to sell itself to a Chinese company is imperiled. Planned launches of communications satellites that support international mobile phone service and digital television are delayed and put in doubt. NASA’s cargo deliveries to the International Space Station will probably be disrupted.

All of them are customers of the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, whose rocket exploded in Florida. The private space launch company, led by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, has a generally solid safety record.But last week’s setback and a failed launch last year, when its rocket carrying a NASA cargo fell apart in flight, are raising questions about SpaceX, a company that has risen rapidly by offering lower costs and promising accelerated launch schedules.

Source: SpaceX’s Explosion Reverberates Across Space, Satellite and Telecom Industries – The New York Times

Mark Turner : Inside The Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns | GQ

September 05, 2016 11:44 PM

Anytime a cop in any jurisdiction in America wants to connect a gun to its owner, the request for help ends up here, at the National Tracing Center, in a low, flat, boring building that belies its past as an IRS facility, just off state highway 9 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in the eastern panhandle of the state, a town of some 17,000 people, a Walmart, a JCPenney, and various dollar stores sucking the life out of a quaint redbrick downtown. On any given day, agents here are running about 1,500 traces; they do about 370,000 a year.

“It’s a shoestring budget,” says Charlie, who runs the center.

“It’s not 10,000 agents and a big sophisticated place. It’s a bunch of friggin’ boxes. All half-ass records. We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia—and they got a job. There’s a huge amount of labor being put into looking through microfilm.”

I want to ask about the microfilm—microfilm?—but it’s hard to get a word in. He’s already gone three rounds on the whiteboard, scribbling, erasing, illustrating some of the finer points of gun tracing, of which there are many, in large part due to the limitations imposed upon this place. For example, no computer. The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.

“That’s the big no-no,” says Charlie.

That’s been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America’s gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested. It’s kind of like a library in the old days—but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name.

“Okay?” Charlie’s tapping a box of Winston Reds. His smile is impish, like he’s daring you to say what needs to be said: This is a fucking nightmare.

Source: Inside The Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns | GQ

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS Group Turns Twelve

September 01, 2016 10:07 PM

Heh, it almost slipped my mind completely but The OpenNMS Group turned 12 years old today.

I did have to go give our co-founder, David Hustace, a hug and if we weren’t so slammed it would have been time for a beer. Raincheck.

I did spend a second reflecting on our wonderful customers who make all this possible, as well as all the people who contribute to and use OpenNMS. There are a lot of people who don’t believe a company can survive with a 100% open source model, but the funny thing is that we’ve outlived quite a few proprietary software companies in the last decade or so, thus we must be doing something right.

Our business plan of “Spend Less Money Than You Earn” and our mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money” are as true today as they were in 2004. I look forward to getting ever better on delivering on both of them.

Kippis!

Tarus Balog : Nextcloud and OpenNMS

August 25, 2016 07:40 PM

Last weekend, OpenNMS-er extraordinare Ronny Trommer was at a conference where he met Jos Poortvliet from Nextcloud. I’ve been following Nextcloud pretty intently since I recognized kindred souls in their desire to create a business that was successful and still 100% open source (and not, for example, fauxpensource). Jos mentioned that Nextcloud was getting a new monitoring API and thought it would be cool if OpenNMS could use it.

Since their API returns the monitoring information as XML, Ronny used the XML Collector to gather the data. Once the data is in OpenNMS, you can graph it, set thresholds, configure notifications, etc.

Available metrics include:

  • CPU load and memory usage
  • Number of active users over time
  • Number of shares in various categories
  • Storage statistics
  • Server settings like PHP version, database type and size, memory limits and more

Here’s an example of the number of files from a small demo system:

Files in Nextcloud

Of course, since OpenNMS is a platform, once the data is in the system you can leverage its integrations with applications such as Grafana:

Nextcloud Metrics in Grafana

Some applications will go on and on about how many “plugins” they have. Often, these are little more than scripts that do something simple, like an SNMP GET, but with all the overhead of having to run a shell. To add something like Nextcloud to OpenNMS, it is just a simple matter of configuring a couple of files, but to make that easier a lot of configurations have been added to a git repository. If you want to try out the Nextcloud integration, follow these instructions.

True open source solutions can offer the best feature, performance and value for most companies, but unfortunately there are so few pure open source companies providing them. I applaud Nextcloud and look forward to working with them for years to come.

Tarus Balog : New Additions to OpenNMS

August 25, 2016 04:07 PM

I am very happy to announce that Chris Manigan has joined the OpenNMS team.

Chris has been using OpenNMS since 2010 when he worked at Towerstream in Rhode Island. He gave us a very nice testimonial for the website, and has a lot of experience with using OpenNMS as scale.

Chris Manigan

He put that experience to use at Turbine, insuring that their infrastructure could deliver gaming content to users who demand performance. Now he’s going to use that experience to insure that OpenNMS is ready to take on the Internet of Things, for both our internal infrastructure and those of our customers.

I also want to announce that Jesse White, our CTO, and his wife Sara welcomed Charles White into the world early yesterday morning.

Charles White

Weighing 7 pounds and 11 ounces, he is already writing code in Python and we hope to have him making commits in Java in the next week or so.

Tarus Balog : Nagios XI vs. OpenNMS Meridian – the Return of the FUD

August 23, 2016 04:29 PM

It seems like our friends over at Nagios have been watching a little too much election coverage this year, and they’ve updated their “Nagios vs. OpenNMS” document with even more rhetoric and misinformation.

As my three readers may recall, back in 2011 I tore apart the first version of this document. Now they have decided to update it to target our Meridian™ version.

Let’s see how they did (please look at it and follow along as it is quite amusing).

The first misleading bit is the opening paragraph with the phrase “most widely used open-source monitoring project in the world”. Now, granted, they do indicate that means “Nagios Core” but it seems a little disingenuous since what they are selling is Nagios XI, which is much different.

Nagios XI is not open source. It is published under the “Nagios Open Software License” which is about as proprietary as they get. I’m not even sure why the word “open” was added, except to further mislead people into thinking it is open source. The license contains clauses like “The Software may not be Forked” and “The Software may only be used in conjunction with products, projects, and other software distributed by the Company.” Think about it, you can’t even integrate Nagios XI with, say, a home grown trouble ticketing system without violating the license. Doesn’t sound very “open” at all. OpenNMS Meridian is published under the AGPLv3, or a similar proprietary license should your organization have an issue with the AGPL. You don’t have that choice with Nagios XI.

Next, let’s check out the price. The OpenNMS Group has always published its prices on-line. One instance of Meridian, which includes support in the form of access to our “Connect” community, is $6,000. They have it listed as $25,995, which is the price should you choose the much more intensive “Prime” support option. I’m not sure why they didn’t just choose our most expensive product, Ultra Support with the 24×7 option, to make them seem even better.

Nagios XI Node Limitation

Also, note the fine print “Price based on one instance of XI with 220 nodes/devices”. There is no device limit with OpenNMS Meridian. So let’s be clear, for $6000 you get access to the Meridian software under an open source license versus $5000 to monitor 220 nodes with extreme limitations on your rights.

Our smaller customers tend to have around 2000 devices, which means to manage that with Nagios XI you would need roughly ten instances costing nearly $50,000 (using the math presented in this document). And from the experience we’ve heard with customers coming to us from Nagios, the reason it is limited to so few nodes is that you probably can’t run much more on a single instance of Nagios XI. Compare that to OpenNMS where we have customers with over 100,000 devices in a single instance (and they’ve been running it for years).

We also price OpenNMS as a platform. You get everything: trouble-ticketing integration, graphing, reporting, etc. in one application. It looks like Nagios has decided to nickel and dime you for logs, etc. and a thing called “Nagios Fusion” which you’ll need to manage your growing number of Nagios instances since it won’t natively scale. And remember, due to the license you are forbidden from using the software with your own tools.

I especially had to laugh at the “You Speak, We Listen” part. If you have a feature or change you need, if you ask nicely they might make it for you. With OpenNMS Meridian you are free to make any changes you need since it is 100% open source, and with our open issue tracker we address dozens of user requests each point release.

Finally, there is the feature comparison, which at a minimum is misleading and is often just blatantly false. Almost every feature marked as lacking in Meridian exists, and at a level far beyond what Nagios XI can provide. Seriously, is it really objective to state that OpenNMS doesn’t support Nagvis, a specific tool that even has “Nagios” in the name?

Nagvis

I had to laugh at the hubris. They obviously didn’t Google “opennms nagvis“, because, guess what? There has been an OpenNMS Nagvis integration for some time now, contributed by our community. Just in case you were wondering, we have an integration with Network Weathermap as well.

Nagios is just another proprietary software product that wants to lock you into its ecosystem, and this is just a shameful attempt to monetize an application that is long past its prime. Heck, it was the inability of the Nagios leadership to get along with others that resulted in the very popular Icinga fork, and with it Nagios lost a lot of contribution that helped make up its “Thousands of Free Add-Ons” (and the way Nagios took over the community lead plug-in site was also poorly handled). Plus, many of those add-ons won’t scale in an enterprise environment, which probably lead to the 220 device limit.

Compare that to OpenNMS. We not only want to encourage you integrate with other products, we do a lot of it for you. OpenNMS has great graphing, but we also created the first third party plug-in for Grafana. When it comes to mapping, OpenNMS is on the leading edge, with a focus on various topology views that can ultimately handle millions of devices in a fashion that is actually usable. Need to see a Layer 2 topology? Choose the “enhanced linkd view”. Run VMware and Vcenter? It is simple to import all of your machines and see them in a view that shows hosts, guests and network storage. Plus the unique ability to focus on just those devices of interest allows you to use a map with hundreds of thousands if not millions of nodes.

Nagios Map

Compare that to the Nagios map screenshot where it looks like “localhost” is having some issues. Oh no, not localhost! That’s like, all of my machines.

As for “Business Process Intelligence” I’ve been told that the Nagios XI version is like our Business Service Monitor “Except BSM is more featureful, and has a significantly better UI/UX”. Need real Business Intelligence? OpenNMS has Red Hat Drools support, the open source leader, built right into the product.

We also support integration with popular Trouble Ticketing systems such as Request Tracker, Jira, OTRS and Remedy. And the kicker is that you can also run any Nagios check script natively in OpenNMS using the “System Execute Monitor“, but once you get used to the OpenNMS platform, why would you?

I’m not really sure why Nagios goes out of its way to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about OpenNMS. We rarely compete in the same markets. I’m sure that Sunrise Community Banks get their money’s worth from Nagios, and for companies like NRS Small Business Solutions, Nagios might be a good fit. But if you have enterprise and carrier-level requirements, there is no way Nagios will work for you in the long term.

When a company does something like this to mislead, from wrong information about our product to using terms like “open” when they mean “closed”, it shows you what they think of their competition. What does it say about what they think about their customers?

Tarus Balog : The Inverter: Episode 72 – Walking Into Trees

August 10, 2016 12:40 PM

I figured I’d better get this review of the latest Bad Voltage out before the next one drops this week (sigh).

The episode clocks in at a svelte 51 minutes, and mainly focuses on two segments, one on Pokémon Go and the other on streaming music.

As the guys point out, unless you’ve been living in a cave you have probably heard of Pokémon Go (and even people in caves are playing it). It is the augmented reality (AR) game from Niantic based on the characters made popular by Nintendo.

It has also had its share of controversy, with stories of people being injured while playing and in my own neck of the woods a row over people being fined for visiting the grave of a friend.

The game from Niantic that proceeded it was Ingress, which I’ve talked about before and I showed it to the team when they did their show in Fulda. Ingress can be pretty addictive, so I was set on not playing Pokémon at all. I didn’t really need another time sink in my life.

But a couple of things happened. First, I was introduced to this short from South Park that parodied Pokémon with “Chinpokomon”. I laughed since “chinpoko” is a rude Japanese word, so of course it was one of the few words of Japanese I know. I was determined to be “chinpokomon” on Pokémon Go.

I installed the app the weekend it was released and tried to register with that “trainer” name. It wasn’t to be. I tried every variation I could think of but it wouldn’t accept it. I’m not sure if it was because they were disallowing names with anything like Pokémon in them, or that, by that time, some of the 10 million people who had downloaded it had had the same idea. So I uninstalled the app and forgot about it.

Flash forward a week or so and not only did Andrea start playing, a bunch of people at the office did too, so I decided to check it out again.

I’ll post a full review soon, but I have a few thoughts to share here. Ingress suffers from three main issues: GPS “spoofing” where people fake their location, people playing multiple accounts and the in-game chat system which is often used to heap abuse on other players.

Pokémon Go is much nicer in that there is no chat system and you can’t trade items (making multiple accounts somewhat useless). That may change in the future but for now you can play in a rather friendly environment. Even in battles your Pokémon don’t die, they “faint” and you get them back. There is still an issue with spoofing, which is how many players access the game in countries that don’t have it.

The problem with Pokémon Go is the gameplay gets old, fast. The variety of game items makes it an order of magnitude more complex than Ingress, but I’m not really into collecting a 100% version of each Pokémon. I do like getting new ones (catch them all) but Niantic has made that pretty difficult. There is a part of the screen that will show you nearby Pokémon but you don’t get a clue as to where they are. There was a website called Pokévision that reverse engineered the API and would display them on a map, and I used that extensively to get uniques. I got a lot of exercise running around the UMN campus during Dev-Jam to get one I needed. I was averaging 25,000 steps a day according to my watch, but since Pokévision has been shut down I am less eager to run around in circles hoping a Pokémon will pop up.

Pokémon Gold Medal

In a couple of weeks of casual play I’ve made it to Level 24 and caught 105 Pokémon (I’ve seen 106, damn Wheezing) and my interest is starting to wane (although the Tauros is my favorite, ‘natch). I’ll probably hit Level 25 (where you get access to a new item) and then cut back drastically. Which I think is going to be the major problem with Pokémon Go.

We often eat at this one restaurant in Pittsboro every Friday night, and two weeks ago one young lady who works there was really into the game. This past Friday I asked her how she was doing with it, and she said she’d stopped playing because “it was boring”.

Don’t get me wrong, Niantic has a hit on its hands, I just don’t think they will sustain the level of interest they had a launch.

The guys made some good points about it. Jeremy noted that while it is called “AR” it is really nothing more than taking the video feed from the camera and superimposing Pokémon pictures on it. It does nothing for scale or distance, for example.

Bryan detailed some interesting history that I didn’t know concerning the origin of Niantic. It grew out of a spooky company called Keyhole with designs on tracking and influencing people’s habits (although they are more well known for being the technology behind Google Maps and Google Earth). Now, as an Ingress player I’ve already opted in to allow Google to track my location, and it came in handy when Jeremy roofied me at Oktoberfest and I wandered around Munich for a few hours. I had a record of where I had gone.

On a side note, Bryan went on to state that on Android you can’t control access to the microphone. Now, I’ll agree that the only way to be sure would be to have a hardware kill switch installed so you could disable the microphone entirely, but I run a version of AOSP called OmniROM and I seem to have the choice to limit access to the microphone on a “per app” basis.

Android Microphone Permissions

Not sure if that isn’t available on all Android releases but it seems to work on mine. Of course, many apps use Google Play Services so there’s that.

The second segment was on streaming music services. I don’t stream music so I don’t really have much to add, but I have heard that Pandora uses OpenNMS so I’m a big fan. (grin)

I do sometimes listen to SiriusXM at my desk. We have it in our cars so I have the option to stream it as well. I was listening to AltNation when I heard a track called “Loud(y)” by Lewis Del Mar. I found it on Soundcloud with a number of other tracks by them, and after it played them all it continued with similar artists. I really liked the mix (which included songs like “Thrill” by CZAR) and ended up listening to it for a couple of days. What I liked most about it is that all of them were from artists new to me. I buy the music I like and so I tend not to get much from streaming, and I also tend to listen when being connected to a network is not feasible (such as in a car or a plane), but I am considering the service from Soundcloud that let’s you listen offline (ironically called Soundcloud Go).

Which brings me to another sore point with me. The guys brought up vinyl. As many people know, vinyl is making a comeback, but dammit, it is just some sort of hipster thing since almost all music today is digitally mastered. You probably haven’t listened to a commercial record that didn’t go through Pro Tools, so when I hear “oh, but vinyl is so much richer and warmer” I have to call bullshit. Get a FLAC version of the song and you can’t get any better. Sure, you may need to upgrade your sound card and your speakers, but when, say, I get a FLAC master track from MC Frontalot it is the one that is sitting on his computer where he created it. It contains all of the information captured, and I can’t see how that gets improved by sticking it on a vinyl record whose sound quality starts to decay the moment you play it for the first time.

(sigh)

The Outro for the episode was kind of cool, as the guys talked about old gadgets and things like BBS’s. I can remember being in Tokyo when the Sharp Zaurus was introduced and I scoured the city looking for one in English. It was a cool device and I also liked the name. And the show brought back memories of having flame wars on a WWIV BBS system over a 2400 baud modem. The host (a high school kid who worked as a bag boy at a grocery store to pay the phone bill) could only afford a single phone line so you had to take turns. It made flame wars kind of fun – once you got in, you’d post your rant, log off, wait 30 minutes and then log back in to see if there was a reply.

All in all a nice, light episode. Nothing too heavy, kind of a like a sorbet. Hoping they bring back the meat this week.

Eric Christensen : POSM, OSM without the Internet

August 09, 2016 02:11 PM

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the POSM or its development.  I’m just an OSM contributor who thought this was neat and wanted to share the love.

For a while I’ve been envisioning some sort of system that would allow map data to be collected over a large area and then committed and later shared without an Internet connection.  Going into a rural area without sufficient or existing Internet connectivity would surely be a problem with using tools for compiling and rendering OpenStreetMap (OSM) data.  I had come up with a few solutions that were not unique and seems to have been tried before.

Sneakernet

Yep, just toss your GPS tracks, pictures, and JOSM output onto a USB thumb drive and walk/drive it over to a centralized location, where Internet connectivity is available, for processing.  Sure, it might take a while to collect all the information and take a while longer to redistribute all the information to the people in the field but it works.

Intranet

Okay, being a network geek this is my favorite solution; build your own network!  For the record, I’m not talking about stringing wire from village to village like soldiers did around Europe in WWII.  No, I’m talking about building wireless MANs to connect wired/wireless LANs that may already exist in these villages (or we can build our own!).

Adding our own infrastructure (email, web, and other servers) to the network would provide basic communications between villages with a potential connection to the Internet from a faraway town.

But this is far from fun for a software geek (I’m not one of those).  From here enter the POSM.

POSM

The Portable OpenStreetMap, or POSM, device is a small server that hosts all the tools needed to compile, edit, and publish collected mapping data without Internet connectivity.  The project was discussed at the US State of the Map (2016) and the video is a must-watch.

Of course a POSM could be added to either a Sneakernet or Intranet to allow for distributed data to be collected faster but the POSM, alone, seems to make working with this data much easier in the field.

Back to my thoughts

Honestly, my first thoughts around making a box like this, even before I heard about POSM, was the syncing of data back to the master OSM database.  If you watched the video to the end it appears someone else in the crowd had the same concern.  The answer to this was the use of git to manage conflicts.  To me this is very smart as git was made for this type of use-case (distributed data that needs to be compiled together at a core location).

I do wonder how well POSM would work if you had one in each village with MAN connections between and having the POSMs sync among themselves, sharing the data in near-real time.  This would be beneficial as there would be a backup of the data in the event one of the POSM devices died and could add some redundancy.  Providing connectivity could also aid in communications between sites through IRC or XMPP.

Lots of ideas…  Lots of options…


Tarus Balog : 2016 PB and Jam

August 05, 2016 06:22 PM

OpenNMS is headquartered in the idyllic small town of Pittsboro, NC, sometimes just called “PBO”. Since a number of people who come to Dev-Jam travel a fair distance, we’ve started a tradition of a “mini Dev-Jam” the week after, hosted at OpenNMS HQ.

This is much more focused on the work of The OpenNMS Group, but it is still a lot of fun. Last night as a team building exercise we decided to try an “escape” room.

This is a a relatively new thing where a group of people get put in a room and they have a certain amount of time to figure out puzzles and escape. Jessica set us up with Cipher Escape in their “Geek Room” which was the only one that could accommodate 11 of us.

It’s a lot of fun. For our experience we were lead into about a 15×15 room and given the following backstory: you are watching your neighbors cat while they are on vacation and after you feed her you realize you are locked in their house. You have 60 minutes to escape.

One thing I thought was funny was that the room was dotted with little pink stickers and we were told that these indicate things that don’t need to be manipulated (e.g. there was a picture frame that when you turned it over you would see the stickers, which meant you weren’t supposed to take it apart). I can only imagine the beta testing that went into determining where to put the stickers (our hostess specifically mentioned that you didn’t need to take the legs off the furniture).

To tell anything more would spoil it, but I was extremely proud that the team escaped with over 10 minutes to spare (we missed the best time by ten minutes, so it wasn’t close, but we did beat a team from Cisco that didn’t escape at all).

Escape Room Success

It was a ton of fun, and I’d put this team up against any challenge.

Afterward, most of us went out for sushi at Waraji. I’ve known the owner Masatoshi Tsujimura for almost 30 years, and even though they were packed they were able to set us up with a tatami room.

Waraji Dinner

It’s a bit out of the way for me to visit often, so I was happy to have an excuse for a victory celebration.

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 5

August 05, 2016 05:59 PM

The last day of Dev-Jam is always bittersweet. The bitter part is the goodbyes, but the sweet part is “Show and Tell” when folks share what they have accomplished in the week.

We also get together for a group picture. Just before that Jonathan’s son Eddie joined us from the UK on the robot:

Dev-Jam Jonathan and Eddie

and David, who had to leave for a family issue, joined us via robot as well.

Dev-Jam 2016 Group Pic

All of the presentations are up on Youtube.

Chandra has been working on adding provisioning detectors to the Minion:

Deepak and Pavan, who work for a large electronic medical records company, discuss how they are using OpenNMS at scale:

Seth has been managing a lot of that work, which is currently focused on syslog, and he did a presentation on new syslog parsing functionality:

Alejandro presented some awesome improvements to the UI:

Markus has been working on project Atlas, which includes major improvements to OpenNMS maps. Here he demonstrates the integration of the geographical map with the topology map:

More UI enhancements were offered by Christian who added trend lines to the OpenNMS home page:

Ronny talked about his ideas for making device configurations more modular and managing that with git:

And he has also been creating reusable Docker containers with OpenNMS:

One project I found extra exciting was “Underling” which is an instance of Minion written in Go. This makes it incredibly small (about 6MB) which should allow the Minion to run on very inexpensive hardware.

I plan to demonstrate more Minion stuff at the OpenNMS Users Conference (and if you haven’t registered, you should).

In the evening we walked back across the river to dine at Town Hall Brewery.

Dev-Jam Final Dinner

It will be the last time all of us were together until next year, and I can’t wait.

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 4

August 04, 2016 03:47 PM

Dev-Jam is made up of two main groups of people: those who work on OpenNMS full time and those who don’t. For those who work on OpenNMS full time, we try to depart from the day to day running of the project to both try new things and have fun. Think of it as “special projects week”.

Since OpenNMS is aiming to be a platform for the Internet of Things, this tends to involve a lot of electronics.

Dev-Jam Electronics

I decided to take some time out to further explore the Virtual Reality provided by Google Cardboard. I played with it last Dev-Jam, but I bought a nice headset from Homido since the Cardboard experience with the actual cardboard holder, while novel, was a little bit wanting.

The downside is that it doesn’t have the little magnet thingie that acts as a mouse click. Most people using the Homido tend to pair some other controller to their Android device in order to navigate, and since I have a PS3 (that I mainly use to play Blu-ray disks) I had a Sixaxis controller I could use. I had to buy an app in order to deploy a driver on my Nexus 6P that would work with the Sixaxis, and after a bit of tinkering I got it to work (note that it disables the regular Bluetooth driver when you run it).

I configured the “X” button to act as a mouse click, and pretty soon I was able to move about the Google Cardboard demos. The Homido fits well and the image is good, but it does allow some light to bleed around the edges in so it would work best in a dim or dark room.

I then went off to find some apps. This is not a field that a lot of developers have explored, and most of them are pretty passive. While this can work (check out the creepy “Sisters”) I wanted something more along the lines of what I experienced with the Samsung Gear VR, which includes immersive games. I found one called Hardcode VR that was fun, sort of a platformer along the lines of Portal. The controller worked out of the box exactly like you would expect it to: the right joystick was used for looking around and the left one for moving. I did get a slight headache after playing it for awhile, though, so I think that for the time being mobile device-based VR is still a novelty.

My experiment did amuse some of the folks at the conference, and Ronny made this comparison:

Tarus vs. Bender

I am always humbled by the people who give a week of their lives up to come to Dev-Jam, and even more so since DJ was away from his wife on his birthday. We did make sure he had a cake, though.

DJ's birthday cake

The cake was from Salty Tart and it was mighty tasty.

Warren Myers : here seems like it would be perfect for pilots

July 29, 2016 09:18 PM

With Here, you can download maps to use offline. 

And, via personal experimentation, I can attest to the rapidity with which the screen will update (even in “airplane mode”) on my iPhone when in a commercial jet if I have Here open. 

So why don’t they advertise their mapping product(s) to pilots?

Or do they, and I just haven’t noticed?

I’d think running Here on an iPad Pro or even an iPhone 6S Plus would be fantastic for pilots of all stripes – private, charter, military, and commercial.


I’m sure other devices will handle Here well, too – but have only tried on my iPhone & my dad’s Samsung Note.

Warren Myers : automating mysql backups

July 29, 2016 10:39 AM

I want to backup all of the MySQL databases on my server on a routine basis.

As I started asking how to get a list of all databases in MySQL on Stack Overflow, I came across this previous SO question, entitled, “Drop All Databases in MySQL” (the best answer for which, in turn, republished the kernel from this blog post). Thinking that sounded promising, I opened it and found this little gem:

mysql -uroot -ppassword -e "show databases" | grep -v Database | grep -v mysql| grep -v information_schema| |gawk '{print "drop database " $1 ";select sleep(0.1);"}' | mysql -uroot -ppassword

That will drop all databases. No doubt about it. But that’s not what I want to so, so I edited the leading command down to this:

`mysql -uroot -e "show databases" | grep -v Database | grep -v mysql| grep -v information_schema| grep -v test | grep -v OLD | grep -v performance_schema

Which gives back a list of all the databases created by a user.

Now I need a place to keep the dumps .. /tmp sounded good.

And each database should be in its own file, for I need mysqldump $db.identifier.extension

Made the ‘identifier’ the output of date +%s to get seconds since the Unix epoch (which is plenty unique enough for me).

All of which adds up to this one-liner:

for db in `mysql -uroot -e "show databases" | grep -v Database | grep -v mysql| grep -v information_schema| grep -v test | grep -v OLD | grep -v performance_schema`; do mysqldump $db > /tmp/$db.dump.`date +%s`.sql; done

Plop that puppy in root’s crontab on a good schedule for you, and you have a hand-free method to backup databases.

Thought about using xargs, but I couldn’t come up with a quick/easy way to uniquely identify each file in the corresponding output.

Might consider adding some compression and/or a better place for dumps to live and/or cleaning-up ‘old’ ones (however you want to determine that), but it’s a healthy start.


You can also do mysqldump --all-databases if you think you want to restore all of them simultaneously … I like the idea of individually dumping them for individual restoration / migration / etc.

The full script I am using (which does include backups, etc):

############################
#!/bin/bash

date

echo 'Archiving old database backups'

tar zcf mysql-dbs.`date +%s`.tar.gz ~/sqlbackups
rm -f ~/sqlbackups/*

date

echo 'Backing up MySQL / MariaDB databases'

for db in `mysql -uroot -e "show databases" | grep -v Database | grep -v mysql| grep -v information_schema| grep -v test | grep -v OLD | grep -v performance_schema`; do mysqldump $db > ~/sqlbackups/$db.dump.`date +%s`.sql; done

echo 'Done with backups. Files can be found in ~/sqlbackups'

date

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 3

July 28, 2016 02:25 PM

It’s hard to believe this year’s Dev-Jam is half over. After months of planning it seems to go by so fast.

One of the goals I had this week was to understand more about the OpenNMS Documentation Project. For years I’ve been saying that OpenNMS documentation sucks like most open source projects, but I can’t say that any more. It has actually become quite mature. There is a detailed installation guide, a users guide, and administrators guide and a guide for developers. Each release the docs are compiled right alongside the code, and it even rates its own section on the new website.

Web Site Docs Page

It’s written in AsciiDoc, and all of the documentation is version controlled and kept in git.

Ronny Trommer is one of the leads on the documentation project, and I asked him to spend some time with me to explain how everything is organized.

Ronny Trommer

Of the four main guides, the installation guide is almost complete. Everything else is constantly improving, with the user guide aimed at people working through the GUI and the administration guide is more focused on configuration. For example, the discussion of the path outage feature is in the users guide but how to turn it on is in the admin guide.

There is even something for everyone in the developers guide (I am the first to state I am not a developer). One section details the style rules for documentation, in great detail. For example, in order to manage changes, each sentence should be on a single line. That way a small change to, say, a misspelled word, doesn’t cause a huge diff. Also, we are limited as to the types of images we can display, so people are encouraged to upload the raw “source” image as well as an exported one to save time in the future should someone want to edit it.

It is really well done and now I’m eager to start contributing.

Speaking of well done, Jonathan has figured out what is keeping OpenNMS from using the latest version of OTRS (and he’s sent a patch over to them) and Jesse showed me some amazing work he’s done on the Minion code.

We’ve been struggling to figure out how to implement the Minion code since we want to be able to run it on tiny machines like the Raspberry Pi, but since OpenNMS is written in Java there is a lot of overhead to using that language on these smaller systems. He re-wrote it in Go and then uploaded it to a device on my home network. At only 5.6MB it’s tiny, and yet it was able to do discovery as well as data collection (including NRTG). Sheer awesomeness.

Wednesday was also Twins night.

Twins Tickets

For several years now we’ve been going as a group to see the Minnesota Twins baseball team play at Target Field. It’s a lot of fun, although this year the Germans decided that they’d had enough of baseball and spent the time wandering around downtown Minneapolis.

At first I thought they had the right idea, as the Braves went up 4 to 0 in the first and by the top of the fourth were leading 7 to 0. However, the Twins rallied and made it interesting, although they did end up losing 9 to 7.

Our seats were out in left field, ‘natch.

Twins Tickets

Warren Myers : change your default font in windows 10

July 27, 2016 09:22 PM

Starting from a tutorial I found recently, I want to share how to change your default font in Windows 10 – but in a shorter edition than that long one (and in, I think, a less-confusing way).

Back in the Good Ole Days™, you could easily change system font preferences by right-clicking on your desktop, and going into the themes and personalization tab to set whatever you wanted however you wanted (this is also where you could turn off (or back on) icons on your desktop (like My Documents), set window border widths, colors for everything, etc).

Windows 10 doesn’t let you do that through any form of Control Panel anymore, so you need to break-out the Registry Editor*.

0th, Start regedit

WindowsKey-R brings up the Run dialog – type regedit to start the Registry Editor

2016-07-27 (3)

NOTE: you should back-up any keys you plan to edit, just in case you forget what you did, want to revert, or make a mistake.

1st, Navigate to the right key area
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\FontSubstitutes

2016-07-27&&

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts

2016-07-27 (1)Are where you’ll need to be to make these changes.

2nd, Blank entries for Segoe UI

For all of the “Segoe UI” entries in Fonts, change their Data field to blank (“”)

3rd, Add a Segoe UI substitute font

In FontSubstitutes, click Edit->String Value. Name it “Segoe UI” (without the quotes). In the “Value data” field, enter your preferred font name. I used Lucida Console.

2016-07-27 (2)

4th, Logout, or reboot, and login again to see your changes take effect.

* You can also download my registry keys, which have the substitution already done here. And you can pick any other font instead of Lucida Console you like – just edit the key file in your favorite text editor (I like TextPad) before merging into your Registry.

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 2

July 27, 2016 02:49 PM

By Day Two people have settled into a rhythm. Get up, eat breakfast, start hacking on OpenNMS. I tend to start my day with these blog posts.

It’s nice to have most of the team together. Remember, OpenNMS is over 15 years old so there is a lot of different technology in the monitoring platform. I think David counted 18 different libraries and tools in the GUI alone, so there was a meeting held to discuss cleaning that up and settling on a much smaller set moving forward.

In any case ReST will play a huge role. OpenNMS Compass is built entirely on ReST, and so the next generation GUI will do the same. It makes integrating with OpenNMS simple, as Antonio demonstrated in a provisioning dashboard he wrote for one of his customers in Italy.

Antonio Teaching

They needed an easier way to manage their ten thousand plus devices, so he was able to use the ReST interface to build out exactly what they wanted. And of course the source is open.

Several years ago we started a tradition of having a local restaurant, Brasa, cater dinner one night. This year it was Tuesday, and it is always the best meal of the week.

Antonio Teaching

As we were getting ready to eat, Alex Hoogerhuis, a big supporter of OpenNMS who lives in Norway, decided to join us via our Double Robotics robot, Ulfbot. It worked flawlessly, and he was the best first time driver we’ve had. Ben, Jeff and Jonathan joined him for a picture.

Alex and Team

We like using the Yudof Hall Club Room for Dev-Jam for a number of reasons, one includes the big patio overlooking the river with picnic tables. Alex was able to drive around and spend some time with the rest of the team, although we had to lift him up to see over the wall to the Mississippi (we also had to carry him in when the wind picked up – heh).

Alex at Dinner

After dinner people kept working (DJ was up until nearly 2am chasing a bug) but we also took a break to watch Deadpool. It’s why “Dev-Jam” rhymes with “fun”.

Tarus Balog : Review: X-Arcade Gaming Cabinet

July 26, 2016 10:07 PM

Last year I wanted to do something special for the team to commemorate the release of OpenNMS Meridian.

Since all the cool kids in Silicon Valley have access to a classic arcade machine, I decided to buy one for the office. I did a lot of research and I settled on one from X-Arcade.

X-Arcade Machine

The main reasons were that it looked well-made but it also included all of my favorites, including Pac-Man, Galaga and Tempest.

X-Arcade Games

The final piece that sold me on it was the ability to add your own graphics. I went to Jessica, our Graphic Designer, and she put together this wonderful graphic done in the classic eight-bit “platformer” style and featuring all the employees.

X-Arcade Graphic

Ulf took the role of Donkey Kong, and here is the picture meant to represent me:

X-Arcade Tarus

The “Tank Stick” controls are solid and responsive, although I did end up adding a spinner since none of the controls really worked for Tempest.

When you order one of these things, they stress that you need to make sure it arrives safely. Seriously, like four times, in big bold letters, they state you should check the machine on delivery.

I was going to be out of town when it arrived, so I made sure to tell the person checking in the delivery to make sure it was okay (i.e. take it out of the box).

They didn’t (the box looked “fine”) and so we ended up with this:

X-Arcade Cracked Top

(sigh)

Outside of that, everything arrived in working order. You get a small Dell desktop running Windows with the software pre-installed, but you also get CDs with all the games that are included with the system. It’s a little bit of a pain to set up since the instructions are a little vague, but after about an hour or so I had it up and running.

Anyway, it is real fun to play. It supports MAME games, Sega games, Atari 2600 games and even that short lived laserdisc franchise “Dragon’s Lair”. You can copy other games to the system if you have them, although scrolling through the menu can get a bit tiring if you have a long list of titles.

We had an issue with the CRT about 11 months after buying the system. I came back from a business trip to find the thing dark (it never goes dark, if the computer is hung for some reason you’ll still see a “no signal” graphic on the monitor”). Turns out the CRT had died, but they sent us a replacement under warranty and hassle free. It took about an hour to replace (those instructions were pretty detailed) and it worked better than ever afterward.

This motivated me to consider fixing the top. When we had the system apart to replace the monitor, I noticed that the top was a) the only thing broken and b) held on with eight screws. I contacted them about a replacement piece and to my surprise it arrived two days later – no charge.

The only issue I have remaining with the system is the fact that it is Windows-based. This seems to be the perfect application for a small solid-state Linux box, but I haven’t had the time to investigate a migration. Instead I just turned off or removed as much software as I could (all the Dell Update stuff kept popping up in the middle of playing a game) and so far so good.

I am very happy with the product and extremely happy with the company behind it. If you are in the market for such a cabinet, please check them out.

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 1

July 26, 2016 03:15 PM

Dev-Jam officially started on Monday at 10am, where I did my usual kick-off speech before turning it over to Seth and Jesse who handle the technical side of things.

Yesterday I stated that this was our tenth Dev-Jam at UMN. I forgot that the first one was held at my house, so this actually makes this the ninth (we’ve still had eleven since 2005).

Yudof Club Room

Everyone went around the room and talked about the things they wanted to work on this week. A lot of them focused on Minion, a technology rather unique to OpenNMS. A Minion is a a Karaf container that implements features for remote monitoring. It is key for OpenNMS to be able to scale to the Internet of Things (IoT) level of millions of devices and billions of metrics. And speaking of IoT, Ken turned me on to openHAB which is something I need to check out.

Yudof Kitchen

It is often hard for me to describe Dev-Jam to other people, as it is truly a lightly structured “un-conference”. In a great example of the Open Source Way it is very self-organizing, and I look forward to Friday when everyone presents what they have done.

Some of the Germans

We did have Alex Finger, one of the creators of the OpenNMS Foundation, join use via robot. He was having some sound issues and I think he did get stymied by the robot’s lack of hands when he came across a door, but it was cool he was able to visit from Europe.

Alex on the Robot

We use this week for planning and sharing, so Jesse took some time to go over the Business Service Monitor (BSM) which allows you to create a “business level” view of your services versus just the devices themselves. It is fully implemented via ReST and it pretty powerful, although as with a lot of things OpenNMS that very power can add complexity. I’m hoping our community will find great uses for it.

jesse and BSM

That evening about half of us walked to a theatre to see Star Trek Beyond. Most of us disliked it and I posted a negative review, but it was fun to go out with my friends.

Tarus Balog : 2016 Dev-Jam: Day 0

July 25, 2016 02:25 PM

♬ It’s the most wonderful time of the year ♬

Ah yes, it’s Dev-Jam time, where we descend onto the campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, for a week of OpenNMS goodness.

This is our eleventh annual Dev-Jam and our tenth at UMN. They are really good hosts so we’ve found it hard to look elsewhere for a place to hold the conference.

This is not a user’s conference. That is coming up in September. Instead, this is a chance for the core contributors of OpenNMS, and those people who’d like to become core contributors, to get together, share and determine the direction of OpenNMS for another year.

This year we are just shy of 30 people from four different countries: The US, the UK, Italy and India. Alejandro and his wife Carolina are now permanent residents of the US so I can’t really count them as being from Venezuela any more, and that happened directly through his involvement with Dev Jam. We’ve had more people but 30 seems to be the magic number (one year we had 40 and it was much harder to manage)

MSP sign at airport

My trip to MSP was uneventful. I flew through Dallas even though there is a direct RDU->MSP flight on Delta since I’m extremely close to Lifetime Platinum status on American Airlines. Also, AA has added a cool feature on their mobile app that lets me track my bags. This was important since I was shipping a box of four 12-packs of Cheerwine – a Dev-Jam favorite and as always a target for TSA inspection (apparently a 40+ pound box of soda is suspicious). Everything got here fine.

Including Ulf:

Ulf in Admiral's Club

Ulf is the OpenNMS mascot and he, too, is a product of Dev-Jam. Many years ago Craig Miskell came to Dev-Jam from New Zealand. He brought this plush toy and gave it to the Germans, who named him “Ulf”. Since then he has been around the world spreading the Good News about OpenNMS, so it wouldn’t be Dev-Jam without him.

We stay in a dorm called Yudof Hall where we take over the Club Room, a large room on the ground floor that includes a kitchen and an area with sofas and a television. In the middle we set up tables where we work, and due to UMN being a top-tier university we have great bandwidth. There is a huge brick patio next to it that looks out over the Mississippi River. It’s a very nice place to spend the week.

Speaking of the Mississippi, we crossed it last night to our usual kick-off spot, the Town Hall Brewery. As a cocktail aficionado, I was happy to see some craft cocktails on the menu, and a number of us tried the “Hallbach”, their take on the Seelbach Cocktail:

Hallbach Cocktail

It was very nice, as they used a high proof bourbon and replaced the champagne with sparkling cider.

We like Town Hall since we can seat 30 people. We do cater in as well as go out. The new light rail service to campus makes getting around easy, especially to the Mall of America and Target Field.

Speaking of baseball, we’re all going to the game on Wednesday. If you are in the area and want to join us, I should have a couple of tickets available. Just drop me a note. We also brought along the Ulfbot, which is a tele-presence robot so do the note dropping thing if you want to “visit”.

Dev-Jam!

Mark Turner : Dix Park Advisory Committee chosen

July 20, 2016 04:23 PM

Raleigh city council approved the members of the Dix Park Advisory Committee yesterday. My son Travis and I did not make the list. I was disappointed about this for a little while until I recognized how much time I now won’t be spending in meetings. I had cleared the decks to devote the proper time and attention to this but now I am free to pursue other initiatives. Now, how to fill it?

Mark Turner : Aunt Beverly and Uncle Bill

July 20, 2016 12:46 PM

My uncle, Bill Turner

My uncle, Bill Turner


Up until recently I’ve been fortunate not to have any of my friends and relatives die. Sadly, this has not been the case recently. My Aunt Linda died last spring and in the past two weeks I’ve lost both my Aunt Beverly and my Uncle Bill.

Aunt Beverly was married to my dad’s oldest brother, Jimmy. She was a longtime Spanish teacher in Birmingham and raised two of her three kids on her own after Jimmy died in the 80s. I didn’t know her too well.

While I was making plans to attend her funeral I found out Uncle Bill was in serious condition. Bill died last week. I was unable to attend Beverly’s funeral but was able to get away for Bill’s, also in Birmingham.

It’s an 8+ hour drive to Birmingham from Raleigh, so my brothers and I carpooled there. We spent the next few days eating barbecue, catching up, and attending services. Then it was a long trip back.

Uncle Bill was just a fun guy. He always had a funny story to tell, the result of a keen sense of observation. He worked as a service manager at a car dealership for most of his career but filled his retirement with golf and trips. He was also the only other member of my family to be a veteran of the Navy. Like me, Uncle Bill only spent four years in the Navy but those four years transformed his life. He was fiercely proud of his service and his Navy. I hope my service was up to his standards!

The occasion did give me the opportunity to spend time with my family in a way that has become increasingly rare. I just hope the next occasion is a more positive one.

Tarus Balog : New Fancy Website for www.opennms.org

July 20, 2016 11:39 AM

As some of you may have noticed, a little while ago the OpenNMS Project website got updated to a new, fancy, responsive version.

OpenNMS Platform

This was mainly the work of Ronny Trommer with a big assist from our graphic designer, Jessica.

We are often so busy working on the code we often forget how important it is to tell people about what we are doing. Most people who take the time to learn about the project realize how awesome it is, but it can be hard to get over that first hump in the learning curve.

I hope that the new site will both reflect the benefits of using OpenNMS as well as the work of the community behind it.

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS Meridian 2016 Released

July 19, 2016 12:32 AM

I am woefully behind on blog posts, so please forgive the latency in posting about Meridian 2016.

As you know, early last year we split OpenNMS into two flavors: Horizon and Meridian. The goal was to create a faster release cycle for OpenNMS while still providing a stable and supportable version for those who didn’t need the latest features.

This has worked out extremely well. While there used to be eighteen months or so between major releases, we did five versions of Horizon in the same amount of time. That has led to the rapid development of such features as the Newts integration and the Business Service Monitor (BSM).

But that doesn’t mean the features in Horizon are perfect on Day One. For example, one early adopter of the Newts integration in Horizon 17 helped us find a couple of major performance issues that were corrected by the time Meridian 2016 came out.

The Meridian line is supported for three years. So, if you are using Meridian 2015 and don’t need any of the features in Meridian 2016, you don’t need to upgrade. Major performance issues, all security issues and most of the new configurations will be backported to that release until Meridian 2018 comes out.

Compare and contrast that with Horizon: once Horizon 18 was released all work stopped on Horizon 17. This means a much more rapid upgrade cycle. The upside being that Horizon users get to see all the new shiny features first.

Meridian 2016 is based on Horizon 17, which has been out since the beginning of the year and has been highly vetted. Users of Horizon 17 or earlier should have an easy migration path.

I’m very happy that the team has consistently delivered on both Horizon and Meridian releases. It is hoped that this new model will both keep OpenNMS on the cutting edge of the network monitoring space while providing a more stable option for those with environments that require it.

Warren Myers : hov lanes are misnamed

July 13, 2016 02:23 PM

I dislike HOV lanes on principle, but I also dislike them grammatically: "high-occupancy vehicle" states the vehicle can hold many people (ie, it has a "high-occupancy").

They should be labeled "highly-occupied" vehicle lanes – same acronym, but with better grammar.

Alan Porter : The Wrist Watch Boneyard

July 11, 2016 12:42 AM

Audrey was looking for a replacement battery for an old watch, and that got me looking through my own wrist watch boneyard. I gave up wearing watches in 2008.

Back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I wore one of these:

casio-abx-20-u-b3

The Casio ABX-20 was an analog watch with a digital display that floated above the hands. I thought it was pretty cool at the time (although I am sure everyone else thought it was dorky). I also had a couple of Timex “Expedition” analog/digital watches — they had Indiglo backlights.
I still think the analog/digital dual format is pretty cool.

Sadly, the Casio ABX-20 is beyond repair. But while we were getting a battery for Audrey’s watch, I picked up a few batteries for some of the other boneyard watches, just to take them for a nostalgic spin.

Tarus Balog : Upgrading Linux Mint 17.3 to Mint 18 In Place

July 06, 2016 03:02 PM

Okay, I thought I could wait, but I couldn’t, so yesterday I decided to do an “in place” upgrade of my office desktop from Linux Mint 17.3 to Mint 18.

It didn’t go smoothly.

First, let me stress that the Linux Mint community strongly recommends a fresh install every time you upgrade from one release to another, and especially when it is from one major release, like Mint 17, to another, i.e. Mint 18. They ask you to backup your home directory and package lists, base the system and then restore. The problem is that I often make a lot of changes to my system which usually involves editing files in the system /etc directory, and this doesn’t capture that.

One thing I’ve always loved about Debian is the ability to upgrade in place (and often remotely) and this holds true for Debian-based distros like Ubuntu and Mint. So I was determined to try it out.

I found a couple of posts that suggested all you need to do is replace “rosa” with “sarah” in your repository file, and then do a “apt-get update” followed by an “apt-get dist-upgrade”. That doesn’t work, as I found out, because Mint 18 is based on Xenial (Ubuntu 16.04) and not Trusty (Ubuntu 14.04). Thus, you also need to replace every instance of “trusty” with “xenial” to get it to work.

Finally, once I got that working, I couldn’t get into the graphical desktop. Cinnamon wouldn’t load. It turns out Cinnamon is in a “backport” branch for some reason, so I had to add that to my repository file as well.

To save trouble for anyone else wanting to do this, here is my current /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list file:

deb http://packages.linuxmint.com sarah main upstream import backport #id:linuxmint_main
# deb http://extra.linuxmint.com sarah main #id:linuxmint_extra

deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu xenial main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu xenial-updates main restricted universe multiverse

deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ xenial-security main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu/ xenial partner

Note that I commented out the “extra” repository since one doesn’t exist for sarah yet.

The upgrade took a long time. We have a decent connection to the Internet at the office and still it was over an hour to download the packages. There were a number of conflicts I had to deal with, but overall that part of the process was smooth.

Things seem to be working, and the system seems a little faster but that could just be me wanting it to be faster. Once again many thanks to the Mint team for making this possible.

Tarus Balog : MC Frontalot and The Doubleclicks at All Things Open

July 05, 2016 01:50 PM

I am happy to finally be able to confirm that MC Frontalot and his band, along with The Doubleclicks, will be playing an exclusive show during the All Things Open conference in October. The OpenNMS Group, at great expense (seriously, this is like our entire marketing budget for the year), has secured these two great acts to help celebrate all things open, and All Things Open.

MC Frontalot

I first met Damian (aka Frontalot) back in 2012 when I hired him to play at the Ohio Linuxfest. I subscribe to the Chris Dibona theory that open source business should give back to the community (he once described his job as “giving money to his friends”) and thus I thought it would be cool to introduce the übernerd Frontalot to the open source world.

We hit it off and now we’ve hired him a number of times. The last time was for OSCON in 2015, where we decided to bring in the entire band. What an eye-opening experience that was. A lot of tech firms talk about “synergy” – the situation when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – but Front with his band takes the Frontalot experience to a whole new level.

Also at the OSCON show we were able to get The Doubleclicks to open. This duo of sisters, Angela and Aubrey Webber, bring a quirky sensibility to geek culture and were the perfect opening act.

Now, I love open source conferences, but I overdid it last year. So this year I’m on a hiatus and have been to *zero* shows, but I made an exception for All Things Open. First, it’s in my home city of Raleigh, North Carolina, which is also home to Red Hat. We like to think of the area as the hot bed of open source if not its heart. Second, the conference is organized by Todd Lewis, the Nicest Man in Open Source™. He spends his life making the world a better place and it is reflected in his show. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate that then to bring in some top entertainment for the attendees.

That’s right: there are only two ways to get in to this show. The easiest is to register for the conference, as the conference badge is what you’ll need to get in to the venue. The second way is to ask us nicely, but we’ll probably ask you to prove your dedication to free and open source software by performing a task along the lines of a Labor of Hercules, except ours will most likely be obscenely biological.

Seriously, if you care about FOSS you don’t want to miss All Things Open, so register.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of MC Frontalot, may I suggest you check out “Stoop Sale” and “Critical Hit“, or if you’re Old Skool like me, watch “It Is Pitch Dark“. His most recent album was about fairy tales (think of it as antique superhero origin stories). Check out “Start Over” or better yet the version of “Shudders” featuring the OpenNMS mascot, Ulf.

As for The Doubleclicks, you can browse most of their catalog on their website. One song that really resonates with me, especially at conferences, is “Nothing to Prove” which I hope they’ll do at the show.

Oh, and I saved the best for last, Front has been working on a free software song. Yup, he is bringing his mastery of rhymes to bear on the conflict between “free as in beer” and “free as in liberty” and its world premiere will be, you guessed it, at All Things Open.

The show will be held at King’s Barcade, just a couple of blocks from the conference, on Wednesday night the 26th of October. You don’t want to miss it.

Tarus Balog : First Thoughts on Linux Mint 18 “Sarah”

July 01, 2016 10:42 PM

I am a big fan of Linux Mint and I look forward to every release. This week Mint 18 “Sarah” was released. I decided to try it out on my Dell XPS 13 laptop since it is the easiest machine of mine to base and they really haven’t suggested an upgrade path. The one article I was able to find suggested a clean install, which is what I did.

First, I backed up my home directory, which is where most of my stuff lives, and I backed up the system /etc directory since I’m always making a change there and forgetting that I need it (usually concerning setting up the network interface as a bridge).

I then installed a fresh copy of Mint 18. Now they brag that the HiDPI support has improved (as I will grouse later, so does everyone else) but it hasn’t. So the first thing I did was to go to Preferences -> General and set “User interface scaling” to “Double”. This worked pretty well in Mint 17 and it seems to be fine in Mint 18 too.

I then did a basic install (I used a USB dongle to connect to a wired network since I didn’t want to mess with the Broadcom drivers at this point) and chose to encrypt the entire hard drive, which is something I usually do on laptops.

I hit my first snag when I rebooted. The boot cycle would hang at the password screen to decrypt the drive. In Mint 17 the password prompt would be on top of the “LM” logo. I would type in the password and it would boot. Now the “LM” logo has five little dots under it, like the Ubuntu boot screen, and the password prompt is below that. It’s just that it won’t accept input. If I boot in recovery mode, the password prompt is from the command line and works fine.

(sigh)

This seems to be a problem introduced with Ubuntu 16.04. Well, before I dropped back down to Mint 17 I decided to try out that distro as well as Kubuntu. My laptop was based in any case.

I ran into the usual HiDPI problems with both of those. I really, really want to like Kubuntu but with my dense screen I can’t make out anything and thus I can’t find the option to scale it. Ubuntu’s Unity was easier as it has a little sliding scaler, but when I got it to a resolution I liked many of the icon labels were clipped, just like last time I looked at it.

(sigh)

Then it dawned on my that I could just install Mint 18 but see if encrypting just my home directory would work. It did, so for now I’m using Mint 18 without full disk encryption. The next step was to install the proprietary Broadcom driver and then wireless worked.

Next, I edited /etc/fstab and added my backup NFS mount entry, mounted the drive and started restoring my home directory. That went smoothly, until I decided to reboot.

The laptop just hung at the boot screen.

Now there is a bug in Dell BIOS that if I try to boot with a USB network adapter plugged in, it erases the EFI entry for “ubuntu” and I have to go into setup and manually re-add it. Thus I was disconnecting the dongle for every reboot. On a whim I plugged it back in and the system booted. This led me to believe that there was an issue with the NFS mount in /etc/fstab, and that’s what the problem turned out to be.

The problem is that systemd likes to get its little hands into everything, so it tries to mount the volume before the wireless network is initialized. The solution is to add a special option that will cause systemd to automount the volume when it is first requested. Here is what worked:

172.20.10.5:/volume1/Backups /media/backups nfs noauto,x-systemd.automount,nouser,rsize=8192,wsize=8192,atime,rw,dev,exec,suid 0

The key bits are “noauto,x-systemd.automount”.

With that out of the way, I added mounts for my music and my video collection. That’s when I noticed a new weirdness in Cinnamon: dual icons on the desktop. I have set the desktop option to display icons for mounted file systems and now I get two of them for each remote mount point.

Double Desktop Icons

Annoying and I haven’t found a solution, so I just turned that option back off.

Now I was ready to play with the laptop. I’m often criticized for buying brand new hardware and expecting solid Linux support (yeah, you, Eric) but this laptop has been out for over a year. Still the trackpad is a little wonky – the cursor tends to jump to the lower right hand corner. Mint 18 ships with a 4.4 kernel but I had been using Mint 17 with a 4.6 kernel. One of the features of 4.6 is “Dell laptop improvements” so while I was hoping 4.4 would work for me (and that the features I needed would have been backported) it isn’t so. I installed 4.6 and my trackpad problems went away.

The final issue I needed to fix concerned ssh. I use ssh-agent and keys to access a lot of my remote servers, and it wasn’t working on Mint 18. Usually this is a permissions issue, but I compared the laptop to a working configuration on my desktop and the permissions were identical.

The error I got was:

debug1: Connection established.
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_rsa type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_rsa-cert type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_dsa type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_dsa-cert type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_ecdsa type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_ecdsa-cert type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_ed25519 type -1
debug1: key_load_public: No such file or directory
debug1: identity file /home/tarus/.ssh/id_ed25519-cert type -1
debug1: Enabling compatibility mode for protocol 2.0

It turns out that OpenSSH 7.0 seems to require that an “IdentityFile” parameter be expressly defined. I might be able to do this in ssh_config but instead I just created a ~/.ssh/config file with the line:

IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_dsa_main

That got me farther. Now the error changed to:

debug1: Skipping ssh-dss key /home/tarus/.ssh/id_dsa_main - not in PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes
debug1: Skipping ssh-dss key tarus@server1.sortova.com - not in PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes

It seems the key I created back in 2001 is no longer considered secure. Since I didn’t want to go through the process of creating a new key just right now, I added another line to my ~/.ssh/config file:

IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_dsa_main
PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes=+ssh-dss

and now it works as expected. The weird part is that you would think this would be controlled on the server side, but the failure was coming from the client and thus I had to fix it on the laptop.

Now that it is installed and seems to be working, I haven’t really played around with Mint 18 much, so I may have to write another post soon. I do give them props for finally updating the default desktop wallpaper. I know the old wallpaper was traditional, but man was it dated.

This was a more complex upgrade than usual, and I don’t agree that you must base your system to do it, even from major release to major release. This isn’t Fedora. It’s based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian and I have rarely had issues with those upgrades. Usually you just change you repositories and then do “apt-get dist-upgrade”.

But … I might wait a week or two once they approve an upgrade procedure and let other people hit the bugs first, just in case. My desktops are more important to me than my laptop.

Hats off to the Mint team. I’m pretty tied to this operating system so I’m encouraged that it keeps moving forward as quickly as it does.

Tarus Balog : The Inverter: Episode 70– Delicious Amorphous Tech Bubble

June 30, 2016 08:11 PM

This week the Gang of Four is down to three as Stuart is off on holiday with his daughter in New York City. The episode runs 82 minutes long and I’m seeing a trend that the shorter episodes happen when Jeremy is out. I think it is because he clutters up the whole show with facts and reasoning.

The first segment asked the question “Are we in another tech bubble, and if so, what shape is it?” Of course we are in another tech bubble, as Jeremy so deftly demonstrates by comparing a number of start ups with over a billion dollars in valuation to real companies such as General Electric. They talk about a number of reasons for it, but I think they left an important one out: egos.

Look, growing up as a geek in the late 1970s early 1980s, we didn’t get much respect. Now with the various tech bubbles and widespread adoption of technology by the masses, geeks can at least be wealthy if not popular. But I think we still harbor, deep down, a resentment of the jocks and popular kids that results in problems with self-esteem. Take Marc Andreessen as an example. By most measures he’s successful, but take a look at him. He is not a pretty man, even though that male pattern baldness does suggest a big wee-wee. I think he still has something to prove which is why he dumps money into impossible things like uBeam which has something like a $500MM valuation. I think a lot of the big names in Silicon Valley have such a huge fear of missing out that they drive up valuations on companies without a business model and no hope of making a profit, much less a product.

But then Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26.2B so what do I know.

Well, I do know the shape of the tech bubble: it’s a pear.

In the next segment the guys almost spooge all over themselves talking about the Pixel C tablet. I’ve never been a tablet guy. I have a six-inch … smart phone and it works fine for all of my mobile stuff. If I need anything bigger, I use a Dell XPS laptop running Mint. I do own a Nexus 10 but only use it to read eBooks that come in PDF format.

But all three of them really like it, meaning that if I decide to get a new tablet I’ll seriously consider it. Bryan did mention a couple of apps I was unfamiliar with, so I’ll have to check them out.

The first is called Termux and it provides a terminal emulator (already got one) but it adds a Linux environment as well. Could be cool. The other is DroidEdit which is a text editor for Android with lots of features, similar to vim or gedit on steroids. Bryan used these during his ill-fated attempt to live in the Linux shell for 30 days.

Apparently the Pixel C is magnetic, with magnets so strong you can hang it on your fridge. Add a webcam and I won’t need one of these.

The third segment was on Nextcloud. I’ll give the Nextcloud guys some props for getting press. This is something like the third in-depth interview I’ve listened to in the past three weeks. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know that Nextcloud is a fork of OwnCloud, start here. They interviewed Frank Karlitschek and Jan-Christoph Borchardt about the split and their plans.

I was hoping for more details on what caused the fork (because I’m a nosy bastard) but Jono starting off with something like a 90 second leading question to Frank that pretty much handed him an explanation. I was screaming “Objection! Leading the witness!” but it didn’t help. I guess it really doesn’t matter.

I do think I’d really enjoy meeting Frank. They are dedicated to keeping Nextcloud 100% open source (like good ol’ OpenNMS). They also brought up a point that is very hard to make with large, complex open source projects. Everyone will ask “How do you compare with OwnCloud” when the better question is “How do you compare to Dropbox”? At OpenNMS we are always getting the “How are you different from Nagios” when the better question is “How do you compare to Tivoli or OpenView”?

The fourth segment was on the XPrize Global Learning Project. The main takeaway I got from it was that the very nature of the XPrize doesn’t lend itself to the Open Source Way. The prize amount is so high it doesn’t encourage sharing. Still, a couple of projects are trying it so I wish them all the luck.

The final “segment” is the outro where the guys usually just shoot the breeze. They mentioned Stuart, visiting the US, getting slammed with Brexit questions, and I do find that amusing having traveled to the UK numerous times and been peppered with questions about stupid US politics. It’s one of the reasons I hope Donald Trump doesn’t get elected – I’m not ready to go back to claiming to be Canadian when I travel.

They also talked about fast food restaurants. I’m surprised In-N-Out Burger didn’t get a mention. From the moment a new one opens it is usually slammed at all hours. They did mention Chick-Fil-A, which I used to love until I boycotted them over their political activism. There is a pretty cool article on five incredible fast food chains you shouldn’t eat at (including Chick-Fil-A) and one you should but probably can’t (In-N-Out).

Overall I thought it was a solid show, although it needed more ginger. Good to see the guys getting back into form.

Warren Myers : browsers should have integrated sharing ability

June 30, 2016 11:06 AM

Mobile browsers can all share pages via whatever is available on your tablet, iPad, Android, iPhone, etc.

Why do ‘full’ browsers not offer the same thing without goofy extensions?

Mark Turner : Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe – The Washington Post

June 27, 2016 03:00 PM

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it.

At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them.

Source: Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe – The Washington Post

Warren Myers : tesla’s solarcity bid isn’t about energy production

June 27, 2016 01:02 AM

Ben Thompson* (temporary paywall) makes an excellent first-order analysis of Elon Musk's bid to acquimerge SolarCity with Tesla. But he, uncharacteristically, stops short of seeing the mid- and long-term reasons for the acquimerge.

It's about SpaceX.

It's about Mars.

It's about the Moon.

Musk knows that he needs an incredibly-solid pipeline of technology to get SpaceX past its initial "toy" phases of being a launch company to the ISS.

He wants to ensure that he's able to support the future on non-terrestrial bodies – lunar missions, Mars missions, long-term space exploration, high-altitude space stations, etc.

Sure, it happens to be good for Tesla (integrating solar tech at Tesla charging stations is a no-brainer). But that's not the end game.

The goal is space.


* Follow Ben on Twitter – @benthompson

Mark Turner : Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

June 27, 2016 12:41 AM

Great commentary by Glenn Greenwald on Brexit.

Brexit — despite all of the harm it is likely to cause and despite all of the malicious politicians it will empower — could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites (and their media outlets) react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction. Exactly the same potential opportunity was created by the Iraq debacle, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of Trumpism and other anti-establishment movements: This is all compelling evidence that things have gone very wrong with those who wield the greatest power, that self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything.

But, as usual, that’s exactly what they most refuse to do.

Source: Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS and Elasticsearch

June 24, 2016 09:06 PM

With Horizon 18 we added support for sending OpenNMS events into Elasticsearch. Unfortunately, it only works with Elasticsearch 1.0. Elasticsearch 2.0 and higher requires Camel 17, but OpenNMS can’t use it. I wondered why, and if you were wondering too, here is the answer from Seth:

Camel 17 has changed their OSGi metadata to only be compatible with Spring 4.1 and higher. We’re still using Spring 4.0 so that’s one problem. The second issue is that ActiveMQ’s OSGi metadata bans Spring 4.0 and higher. So currently, ActiveMQ and Camel are mutually incompatible with one another inside Karaf at any version higher than the ones that we are currently running.

The biggest issue is the ActiveMQ problem, I’ve opened this bug and it sounds like they’re going to address it in their next major release

So there you have it.