Tarus Balog : Server Room Nightmares

May 25, 2017 07:23 PM

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

Here’s one of mine.

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

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

linkDown event list

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

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

temperature graph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : New Meridian® Releases Available

May 23, 2017 03:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2017 06:48 PM

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

{open}:hack Winners

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

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

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

The goals of {open}:hack are:

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

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

{open}:hack architecture

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

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

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

{open}:hack Group Photo

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

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

May 13, 2017 05:35 PM

Can you count the FAA violations here?

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

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : 2017 Red Hat Summit

May 11, 2017 02:49 PM

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

RHSummit - Airline Sign

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

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

RHSummit - Convention Center Sign

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

RHSummit - Main Auditorium Screen

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

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

RHSummit - Expo Floor

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

RHSummit - Brian Proffitt and Ruth Suehle

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

RHSummit - Zabbix Booth

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

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

RHSummit - Brian Stinson from CentOS

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

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

RHSummit - Lunch Crowd

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

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

RHSummit - Fenway Park

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

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

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

RHSummit - Rowing

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

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

RHSummit - River and Bridge

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

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

Jesse Morgan : Monoprice Maker Select Plus Upgrades

May 10, 2017 03:20 AM

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

 

1. Filament Guide

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

2.  Thumbwheels

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

3. Octoprint

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

4. Allen Wrench and Scraper Hook Support

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

5. Fun Fan cooler

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

6. Pi Cam Arm

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

7. Glass Bed

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

 

Future Plans

Right now I’m planning on the following upgrades:

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

Overall this has been an interesting diversion so far.

 

Tarus Balog : Fifteen Years

May 09, 2017 03:06 PM

On Sunday my mother celebrated her 75th birthday.

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

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

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

sortova.com from archive.org circa May 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Cheap Thoughts: Time of Use for Water

May 08, 2017 06:44 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesse Morgan : Time to Print

May 07, 2017 06:41 PM

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

Printer: Monoprice Maker Select Plus

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

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

Quick Backstory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monoprice Maker Select Plus Cura Settings, Mostly correct

 

Back to the Real Story

The Lego

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

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

The Drow Wizard

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

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

The Filament Guide

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

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

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

 

Tarus Balog : Privacy and Trash

May 07, 2017 03:59 PM

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

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

It is all because of this:

Sam Boarding Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(sigh)

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

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

Tarus Balog : LinkedIn

May 03, 2017 11:51 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Mark Binker dies

April 30, 2017 09:35 PM

Mark Binker


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

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

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

Mark Turner : Selling the sailboat

April 22, 2017 01:40 AM

Whimsy, our 1985 Rebel Spindrift 22 sailboat


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

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

Magnus Hedemark : Ireland: Breaking in the Passport

April 16, 2017 03:13 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF0680And10more_tonemapped

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

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

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

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


Mark Turner : The Fear Bubble

April 15, 2017 01:36 AM

The Bogeyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 13, 2017 02:40 PM

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

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

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

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

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

April 12, 2017 08:37 PM

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

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

Reporting Failures

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

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

Mark Turner : Overbooking should be fraud

April 12, 2017 05:37 PM

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 12, 2017 04:34 PM

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

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

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

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

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

April 10, 2017 07:23 PM

Fraud or not? Always be on guard!

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

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : How Version 2.0 Killed Android Wear

April 10, 2017 06:18 PM

I am the happy owner of an LG Urbane smartwatch. Unfortunately, I just upgraded to Android Wear 2.0 and now I can’t use it.

Andrea Wear 2.0 Upgrade

Luckily for me, my smartwatch is not “mission critical”. If I leave it at home by mistake, I don’t turn around to go back to get it. The main thing I use it for is notifications. I like the fact that if it is with me, it will automatically mute my phone and then vibrate when I have a notice. A quick glance at my wrist will tell me if I need to deal with it right this moment, or if it can wait.

The second thing I use it for is to do simple voice searches or to set reminders and timers. Outside of that there are a few apps I use and I like the fact that it tracks my steps, but overall I don’t use a ton of features.

When the notice popped up that I could upgrade, I blindly went ahead and did it. In retrospect, that was stupid, but I often get in trouble rushing out to install the “new shiny”. The upgrade seemed to go fine, and I didn’t think that much about it until lunch.

One of the things I do before heading out to lunch is check the temperature to see if I need a jacket. So I did the usual wrist flick to “wake” the watch and said “Ok Google” to get to the voice prompt.

Nothing happened.

Hrm, I did some research and apparently with 2.0 you have to press the button on the side of the watch to get to the Google prompt. I think this is a huge step backward, because now I have to involve both hands, and I find it ironic that with Android Wear 1.5 I I had to sit through a demo of one-handed gestures over and over again (I often have to re-pair my watch due to reloading software on my phone) and now they’ve thrown “do everything with one hand” out the window.

Anyway, I pressed the button which then brought up the Google Assistant setup screen on my phone. With 2.0 if you want to use voice searches, etc., you must use Google Assistant and you have to give Google access to all of your contacts, calendars etc.

(sigh)

I work hard to “sandbox” my Google activity from the rest of my digital life. It’s not that I think they are evil, it’s just that I don’t want anyone to have that much information on me, well, other than me. I kind of despair for free and open source software solutions in the consumer space. Everyone seems to be rushing to adopt these “always on” digital assistants with absolutely no regard to privacy, and this is causing vendors to lock down their ecosystems more and more. While open source is definitely winning on the server side, I don’t think the outlook has ever been so grim on the consumer side.

There were some upsides with 2.0, such as improvements to the look and feel, but I also found that I didn’t care for the new notification system (I seemed to miss a lot of them – perhaps I needed to change a configuration). But the requirement for Google Assistant was a deal breaker.

I thought about going back to 1.5, which I liked, but I can’t seem to find a factory image. In trying to locate one, I discovered that TWRP does have a version for bass (the codename for the LG Urbane) and I should have installed that and made a backup before upgrading. I contacted LG and they told me it was impossible to downgrade. That’s a load of crap because I could easily sideload the old version if they made it available, but then I’d have to deal with constant upgrade reminders and the few apps I do use would probably stop support for 1.5 to focus on 2.0.

It just isn’t worth it.

I know at least one of my three readers is thinking I should just cave and learn to embrace the Google, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I am eagerly awaiting open source alternatives like Asteriod OS (which just isn’t ready for daily use) and Mycroft (which is supposed to be shipping units this month) but I really don’t think I’ll miss my Urbane enough to spend the time on it.

I plan to sell my Urbane on eBay and I’ve gone back to my previous “dumb” watch (a nice little Frederique Constant I bought on a flight from Dubai to London). It’s kind of a shame since I enjoyed using it, but to be honest I’m not going to miss it all that much.

Mark Turner : Men and women in leadership roles

March 29, 2017 03:08 PM

Ladies, men making decisions about you (like VP Mike Pence and the “Freedom Caucus” here) should be incentive enough to start taking charge.

I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of strong, amazing women, many of whom have stories of times when they have been (or felt they’ve been) shut out of important discussions in their professional lives simply because of their gender. I’m always sad to hear that they face this treatment and strive myself to treat everyone with whom I work (and, frankly, everyone I meet) with respect.

I got a small taste of how this feels as PTA president when I’d be the only man in a meeting and the women would never address me. Education, it seems, is so overwhelmingly associated with women that as a man I felt like an interloper. Other PTA volunteers would so often applaud the efforts of “our PTA ladies” that rather that fight the point it was easier just to quietly consider myself an “honorary lady.” There are ongoing efforts to get more dads involved in PTA but I came to realize that the deck is stacked against them.

Another thing I have noticed after years of serving on various boards and groups is that some women love to call the shots but only if they’re not the actual leader. They have strong views of how things should be done but when given the opportunity to take charge of the changes they demur. This drives me nuts because I know what they’re capable of doing – these are women who are great leaders – but for whatever reason are reluctant to be in charge. I don’t know if this is a culture thing or what but many women seem to hold themselves back – a self-imposed glass ceiling. They have so much going for them! If they’d only step up and add the authority to their ideas they would have it all.

It might come down to men and women leading differently. Or it might come down to me being full of shit, too. As an off-again-on-again leader myself, though, I do enjoy studying the topic.

Mark Turner : Nine years as East Raleigh residents

March 28, 2017 01:24 AM

It was nine years ago tomorrow that we became owners of a home in East Raleigh, walking distance to downtown. We moved in officially the next day (Wednesday’s anniversary), though I did haul some items over to start with.

Still very happy to live where we live!

Mark Turner : Home projects getting done

March 28, 2017 01:16 AM

While I’ve been away from my blog, several honeydos have been getting done (or worked on, anyway). I’ve scrubbed our boat down and started replacing parts in order to get it ready to sell. Kelly and I have also made plans to replace our cracked, rotted deck with something nicer. We’ve also explored expanding our screened porch, though not quite ready to pull the trigger on that one.

One thing we did decide to do is fix the drainage in our back yard. We get deluged by stormwater every time it rains as a catch basin on Glascock street empties into the neighbors’ yard and settles in our yard. The new homes next door have “industrial strength” storm drains at the edge of our property, so we hired a contractor to put in an underground pipe to move the water from one end of our yard to the other. Right now our backyard resembles the trenches of the Western Front of World War One. It should be better than new in a few days, though. Good to be investing in the home again, and knocking out those things we’ve been meaning to do for so long.

Tarus Balog : The Importance of Contributor Agreements

March 27, 2017 05:28 PM

One thing that puzzles me is the resistance within the open source community to contributor agreements. This was brought into focus today when I read that the OpenSSL Project wants to migrate to the Apache 2.0 license from the current project specific OpenSSL license.

In order to do that they need permission from all of the nearly 400 contributors of the project over the last 20+ years, and contacting them will be a huge undertaking. If one person refuses to agree, then they will either have to abandon the effort, or locate that person’s contribution and either remove or replace it.

Many years ago we found out that a company was using OpenNMS in violation of our license. When our lawyer approached them about it, they claimed that they were only using those parts of the code for which we didn’t hold copyright. At that time, early versions of OpenNMS were still copyright Oculan, the company that started the project, and not OpenNMS. Since Oculan wasn’t around anymore it took us awhile to track down the intellectual property, but in the end David and I were able to mortgage our houses to purchase that copyright so that now the project can control all of the code and defend it from license abuse in the future.

But the question arose about what to do moving forward, specifically how should we deal with community contributions? In the past companies like MySQL required all contributors to sign a document with phrases like “You hereby irrevocably assign, transfer, and convey to MySQL all right, title and interest in and to the Contribution” which seemed a little harsh.

I posed this question to the Order of the Green Polo, the de facto project administrators, and DJ Gregor suggested we adopt the Sun Contributor Agreement that we now call the OpenNMS Contributor Agreement, or OCA. This was a straightforward document that asked two things.

First, you attest that you have the right to contribute the code. This is more important than you know, because it helps remove liability from the project should the contribution turn out to be encumbered in some way, such at the author writing it as part of their job and thus it is actually the property of the employer. We allow both individuals and companies to sign the OCA.

Second, you assign copyright to OpenNMS while retaining copyright yourself. This introduces the concept of “dual copyright”. Now some critics will say that this concept hasn’t been tested in court, but there is a long history of authors sharing copyright. Considering that Oracle maintained the agreement in the form of the Oracle Contributor Agreement, it appears that their lawyers were satisfied.

I claim responsibility for the license under which these Contributor Agreements are published: the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. When DJ suggested the Sun Contributor Agreement I noticed that there wasn’t any license on the agreement itself. I didn’t want to just copy it and change “Sun” to “OpenNMS”, so I contacted Brian Aker who had just moved to Sun with the MySQL acquisition and asked him about it. Soon thereafter the Agreement was updated with the license and we adopted our version of it.

Once we adopted the OCA, I was tasked with tracking down anyone who had ever contributed to OpenNMS outside of the company or Oculan and asking them to sign it. They all did, but I can tell you that I had a hard time tracking down a number of them (people move, e-mails change). I don’t envy OpenSSL at all.

I hope this story illustrates the importance of some sort of Contributor Agreement for open source projects. They don’t have to be evil, and in the end getting your copyright and licensing issues completely sorted out will make managing them in the future so much easier.

Jesse Morgan : 3d Printer Ahoy!

March 25, 2017 02:45 PM

I’ve finally gotten the go-ahead to get a 3d printer. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but I’m just now at the point where I can get into it. As I wait for my tax return, I’ve started learning how to use Freecad.

 

So far I’ve finished the following tutorials:

  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Basic_Part_Design_Tutorial
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Aeroplane
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Manual:Modeling_for_product_design
  • https://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/Sketcher_tutorial (2017-03-26)

It’s taken a bit of time, but I’m slowly getting there. With any luck I’ll be fabricating parts with relative ease, then can move on to sculpting with blender.

 

Mark Turner : Still here

March 24, 2017 07:26 PM

Well, yesterday was the day I was supposed to die according to the Death Dream. I’m still here and still just as annoying as I ever was. Perhaps moreso. Aren’t you glad?

Warren Myers : firewalld

March 22, 2017 11:06 PM

Last week, for the better part of 4.5 days, this site was offline.

Along with, of course, every other domain hosted hereon .

Here’s the timeline of my actions

  • Tuesday, reboot to update kernel revs
    • system did not come back online
  • over the next several days, tried all kinds of diagnostic attempts, including
    • verified host was pingable, tracerouteable, etc
    • rescue environments to chroot and remove out of date packages, update boot menus, etc
    • remote KVM (which is Java based, and wouldn’t run on my macOS Sierra machine with Java 8 U121)
  • late Friday (or maybe it was Saturday), received a cron-generated email – which meant the server was up
    • had a bolt of inspiration, and thought to check the firewall (but couldn’t for several hours for various reasons)
  • Saturday evening, using a rescue environment from my hosting provider, chroot’ed into my server, and reset firewalld
    • reboot, and bingo bango! server was back

So. What happened? Short version, something enabled firewalld, and setup basic rules to block everything. And I do mean everything – ssh, http, smtp, etc etc.

Not sure exactly how the firewall rules got mucked-up, but that was the fix.

 

Mark Turner : Where’s Mark?

March 20, 2017 12:18 PM

Been a while since I posted. As y’all should know by now, that means I’ve been busy! Got home from Spain with so much to say about the trip but couldn’t find the time to put it all down. Instead, I had consolidate my two Amazon instances into one, working to save money (and complexity). Since my old server was running CentOS 6.x and I wanted to be able to run Docker, I had to build an identical server, only based on CentOS 7.x. This took a while to transfer but hopefully no one out there noticed.

The reason I wanted Docker was to work on a new project, kicking the tires of new web forum software that I hope to use here in Raleigh for a new community site. It took some work but I got it going, though launch date is still several weeks away.

In the meantime, I prepared for my follow-up colonoscopy, hauled the kids around town, planned a summer vacation, and spent several hours working on our boat, Whimsy, to get it shipshape for selling. Add to this the work I’ve been doing for Central Raleigh CERT and the Democratic Party (who knew how crazy things would get?) and that doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Oh, and on a whim last month I decided to start running. Kelly and I often get awakened at the crack of dawn by our dog, whining to go for his walk. I pondered my daily schedule and realized I could shift some of my routine around and get in a 30+ minute run first thing. So, three times a week for a few weeks now I’ve been dragging myself out of bed and plodding around a 3 mile course through the neighborhood. Friday morning was 22 degrees F and I still got in a good run, so I guess I’m serious about this. My next goal is to do a 5K. It turns out Ligon Middle School’s Bolt for the Blue is April 30, which is about the right timing for my first race in a while. Should be good.

I’ve got more posts to share. Been saving them up for when I have time and it seems I’ll have some time soon to do some catching up.

Tarus Balog : Electronic Devices and CPB

March 09, 2017 02:04 PM

With the change in administration in the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have modified their behavior to include actions with which I don’t agree. These include forcing a US citizen to unlock his mobile device, even though it was a work device and contained sensitive information. I set out to come up with how I will deal with this situation should it arise in the future.

TL;DR My plan is as follows: before I enter the United States, I will generate a long, random password and set that as the encryption password for my laptop and my handy. I will then ssh into an old iMac I have on my desk, store the password in a file, and then shut the computer down. At that point I will not be able to access the information on my device until I return to the office and power on the system.

UPDATE: The EFF has published a detailed guide to help understand your rights at the border.

First off, let me say that until recently I’ve always respected CPB. They have a tough job and everyone I’ve ever met while returning from my travels has been efficient, competent and friendly.

But after the recent “Muslim Ban” fiasco I’ve come to realize that my experience is not universal. I think one of the main problems is this idea that the Constitution stops at the CBP desk, and until you are past it you really aren’t “in America” and thus the Constitution doesn’t apply.

I don’t agree with this interpretation, but it can probably be traced to the actions taken by the US government after 9/11 and the creation of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Prior to that, when “bad hombres” were captured by the US government, they fell into one of two categories: criminals or prisoners of war. How each class was treated was fairly well defined. Criminals were processed according to the rule of law, and the treatment of POW’s was covered under the various Geneva Conventions.

The US government decided that those two classifications were inconvenient, and so they ventured into the murky waters of “enemy combatant” and Guantanamo. Their logic goes that since Guantanamo isn’t in the US, US law doesn’t apply, and since these people aren’t members of a foreign country’s military force with which we are at war, then they aren’t POWs. So, the US gets to make up its own rules about how these people are treated.

This is dangerous for a number of reasons. Since nothing is really codified about the treatment and rights of the detainees at Guantanamo, the rules are arbitrary. Also, this opens the door for other countries such as Russia to do similar things without fear of international repercussions. The US has survived for so long because things like this are not supposed to happen, yet here we are.

This thought now extends to the border. Even though a US citizen is being questioned by another US citizen, in the role of a representative of the US government on US soil, somehow the rules of the Constitution are suspended. It’s arbitrary and I don’t buy it. The Constitution codifies a right to privacy in the Fourth Amendment, and it doesn’t go away when entering the country. And it definitely extends to mobile devices, which in today’s world are probably the most personal item people own.

So how can people like me, with almost no political power, resist this threat to our freedom?

I’ve always done little things, like opting out of millimeter wave scans at airports and getting a pat down instead (I’m not shy). If everyone did this the whole system would collapse, and they would find better ways of dealing with security than the security theater we have now. Seriously, if the Israelis don’t use it, it ain’t worth using.

When I turned to the problem of dealing with CBP, my main thoughts went to two devices that I use when traveling: my handy (mobile “phone”) and my laptop. I figured the easiest thing to do would be to just wipe them before coming into the country, but that presents some logistics problems.

For example, I could make a backup of my handy, copy it to a server at home, and then wipe it. The problem is that I have 64GB of storage on the device and I doubt I could transfer a backup in time over, say, a hotel Wi-Fi connection. One of my coworkers uses an iPhone and they thought about wiping their phone and just restoring it from iCloud when they were in the country, but then CBP could require that he turn over his iCloud password.

On my laptop I use whole disk encryption, but I thought about just rsync’ing my home directory and then deleting it before leaving, then again there is the WiFi issue and I really don’t want to have to deal with copying everything back when I’m home.

Then it dawned on me that if I didn’t know the encryption password, then I couldn’t reveal it. The problem became how to create a secure password that I couldn’t remember yet get it back when I needed it.

While my main desktop computer runs Linux Mint, I keep an old iMac on my desk mainly to run WebEx sessions and for those rare times I am forced to use a piece of software not available for Linux. It’s connected to the network, so I can access it remotely. But, if I can access it, I would be lying if CBP asked me for my password and I said I couldn’t retrieve it. Unlike the US Attorney General, I refuse to perjure myself.

Then it dawned on me that I could shut the iMac down remotely and have no way to turn it back on. Thus I could store a passphrase on it, retrieve it when I was back in the country, but until then I would be unable to unlock my devices.

That became the plan. So, the next time I’m returning from overseas, I’ll generate a new, random password. I’ll set that as the whole disk encryption password on my laptop and the encryption password on my handy (note that this is different from the screen-lock password). This will also tie up all of my social network passwords since I use complex ones and store them on those devices. Well, with the exception of my Google account, but since I use two-factor authentication I should be safe as my handy is the device that generates the codes (and I won’t carry any of the backup codes). As long as both of those devices stay powered on, I’ll be able to use them, but once I power them off they will be useless until I get to the office, power on the iMac, and retrieve the passphrase. Note that in order to do that, I’ll be firmly in the US and anyone who wants me to unlock my devices will need a court order.

Which I would respect, unlike CBP. I think the scariest part of the whole “Muslim Ban” incident was when CBP refused to honor court orders. America is built on three branches of government, and when the Executive branch ignores the orders of the Judicial branch we are all in trouble.

I had a two other problems to address, one of which is done. If I’m in the US but my handy is locked, how would I make calls? I might need to call my ride home, etc. To that end I bought a cheap “feature” phone and I’ll just move the SIM card to it when we land.

ZTE Feature Phone

The second issue is that while I should be on solid legal ground concerning my electronic devices, there is nothing preventing CBP from holding me for a long time. Thus the final step is to find an attorney and execute a G-28 form allowing them to represent me. I’m not sure if I need a civil rights lawyer or an immigration lawyer but I’m looking into it. My goal is to be able to notify my attorney when I am coming back into the country, and then send an SMS to them when I am through immigration. If that doesn’t arrive within two hours of my scheduled arrival, they need to come and get me.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this whole process is the need for it. I’m not a tinfoil-hat conspiracy guy but the actions of the new government have me worried. As I use open source software almost exclusively I know I’m safer than most when it comes to surveillance, and I also don’t expect to run into any problems being an older, white male. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, and the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Warren Myers : circus

March 08, 2017 08:30 PM

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Children of ALL ages. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus is proud to present … GUNTHER .. GABLE .. WILLIAMS!!!”

Is about all I recall in vivid detail from when I went to see the RB&B&B circus as a kid with my parents, aunt, and friends. (And, as a sidebar, gave me the idea to be a host of something “cool” someday.”)

Saturday, my wife and I are taking our three to see Ringling Brothers on their farewell tour.

It’s exciting that I get to take my kids to see it.

But incredibly sad they won’t get to go again.

Tarus Balog : Dev Jam 2017: July 16-21 Concordia University

March 07, 2017 08:27 PM

One of my favorite times of the whole year is the week of Dev-Jam, the annual OpenNMS Developers Conference. This year will mark our twelfth meeting, and it has grown quite a bit since our inaugural one in 2005.

For the first time we will be holding Dev-Jam outside of the United States. About a third of the attendees come from other countries and due to recent changes in US immigration policy we couldn’t have people forced to reveal sensitive things such as social media passwords just to come to Dev-Jam.

So, we are holding it at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Not only is Montreal an awesome city, Concordia is also the alma mater of Jesse White, one of the key architects of OpenNMS. It should be a wonderful venue for the conference.

We have reserved a block of rooms in the historic Grey Nuns Building. Similar to the dorms we have used in the past, every one will get a single room with a shared bathroom. If you would rather stay in a more conventional hotel, there are a number of excellent choices nearby, although I would strongly recommend you consider the dorm as the majority of people will be staying there and it can be quite nice.

Grey Nuns Motherhouse

There are also a number of other events going on in Montreal that week, including a Metallica concert and a fireworks competition, and we will try to do something as a group (baseball is out since the Expos moved to Washington, DC, in 2004).

Space is limited, so if you are the slightest bit interested please let me know and I can reserve you a spot. More details can be found on the wiki and registration is now open.

Hope to see you there, and yes, there will be poutine.

Mark Turner : KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

March 06, 2017 10:03 PM

Last week I explained in this column how President Donald Trump, despite facing serious political challenges over his murky ties to the Kremlin, was fortunate to have opponents more motivated by partisanship than truth-telling. As long as that state of affairs continued, the commander-in-chief was likely to avoid the thorough scrutiny which his apparent links to Moscow actually merit.

A lot has changed in just a few days. Last week began promisingly for the president, with his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening earning better reviews than many had anticipated. Then it all unraveled the next day, when it was reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a key member of the White House inner circle, had two discussions with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington, during the 2016 election campaign.

It’s hardly abnormal for sitting senators—as Sessions was last year—to meet with foreign diplomats, even Russian ones, but the precise capacity in which he chatted with Kislyak suddenly became important. Was Sessions parleying with the Kremlin’s emissary as a senator or as a top advisor to Donald Trump?

Source: KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

Warren Myers : somewhere over the buffet

March 03, 2017 07:49 PM

From the late, great John Pinnete (to the tune of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)

Somewhere over the buffet:
Food piled high.
There’s a meal I must get to,
Stop me and you will die.

Somewhere over the buffet:
Watch me fly.
Eating up all of the profits,
Making the owner cry.

Someday I’ll have my own buffet
Where no one can tell me to stop eating.
With prime rib, pork chops, pizza, ham –
A gastronomic wonderland!

I’ll be at every seating!

If scrawny, skinny men can fly
Over the buffet,
Why oh why can’t I?

Mark Turner : Donald Trump’s White House ‘Shit Sandwich’ Problem

February 20, 2017 01:38 AM

Wow.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that, when a retired flag officer declines a job offer from the president* that would put him at the top of the national security apparatus, he’s had a good, long look into Bedlam and has declined to sign on.

Source: Donald Trump’s White House ‘Shit Sandwich’ Problem

Tarus Balog : Fourteen Years

February 19, 2017 03:44 PM

I just wanted to take a second to thank my three readers for fourteen years of support.

My first post on this blog happened on this date in 2003, and when I wrote it I had little idea I’d still be doing it almost a decade and a half later.

It does seem weird that I still consider OpenNMS a start-up. We took a much different path than a lot of other companies, focusing on our customers instead of fundraising. With our mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money” and our business plan of “Spend Less Than You Earn” we’ve not only managed to survive but thrive, and both the company and the project have never been stronger. While we are always looking for good investors, this allows us to pick just the right partner.

I’d like to end this with a quote from Michael Seibel of Ycombinator. Actually, it is almost his entire blog post but it really resonated with me.

I’d like to make the point that success isn’t the same as raising a round of financing. Quite the opposite: raising a round should be a byproduct of success. Using fundraising itself as a benchmark is dangerous for the entire community because it encourages a culture of optimizing for short term showmanship instead of making something people want and creating lasting value.

I believe founders, investors, and the tech press should fundamentally change how they think about fundraising. By deemphasizing investment rounds we would have more opportunity to celebrate companies who develop measurable milestones of value creation, focus on serving a customer with a real need, and generate sustainable businesses with good margins.

Optimizing for funding rounds is just as unproductive as optimizing for headcount, press mentions, conference invites, fancy offices, speaking gigs or top line revenue growth with massively negative unit economics.

Mark Turner : All’s well in the end

February 16, 2017 03:47 AM

I’m done with today’s colonoscopy and, even better, I’m off the hook for another five years. The doctor removed another small polyp but that appeared to be the last. Other than that all was routine.

We got to the endoscopy office and waited at the elevator with another, older couple. Mr. B, dressed like me in sweatpants and a long-sleeve T-shirt, jokingly asked me “how was your night of sleep?”

“I’ve had better!” I laughed, recognizing the Patient Uniform we both were wearing. It was Mr. B’s second colonoscopy, ten years after his first. I told him the second time was easier though with a gap of ten years he might have forgotten all about the first. Mr. B got seen first and I’d wished I’d had more time to chat with him because he and his wife were so friendly and nice.

My account I posted this morning was roughly correct with a few changes. Andi, the anesthesiologist, never gave me a chance to count. I was chattering away about how I knew the name of the pulse oximeter she had placed on my finger and went into the story of our daughter being born a preemie. All the while she’s plunging a syringe right in front of me and I don’t even notice! A second later, my head starts swirling and I don’t even have time to say “hey!” before the lights go out and I’m gone.

I was comfortably out for the 40 minutes or so I was back there (Dr. Schwartz told me beforehand that the actual scope process took about 20 minutes). Regaining consciousness was an interesting process. I awoke to the sight of Kelly at my side and Dr. Schwartz standing at the curtain. Apparently we had been joking around about a front-end loader – I believe the doc asked if I was all ready to operate a front-end loader or something. At first my mouth would move and words came out but my mind would instantly forget what was said. I repeated a question or two more than once.

Gradually my recall began to return and things began to stick in my memory again. Fortunately, Kelly wrote down everything the doc said and then with little fanfare I was asked to get dressed again to be wheeled out of the recovery room. The endoscopy place operates like a well-oiled machine.

As we waited for one of the staffmembers to roll me out in a wheelchair, I saw Mr. B in line for the same service.

“Wanna race?” he grinned as he gave me a thumbs up over his shoulder. I smiled back and laughed. It was a good reminder to make the most of a unpleasant situation.

And that was pretty much it. I was loaded into the car, Kelly stopped to get me my requested Egg McMuffins, and I took a two hour nap at home. I couldn’t drive nor do anything requiring coordination or concentration so I caught up on today’s news and rested.

Warren Myers : vw to start driving into the cloud

February 15, 2017 05:51 PM

VW is planning to put cameras and sensors on new cars sold after 2018 to aid self-driving vehicles, create better maps, and more.

Ford announced concept vehicles back in 2010 that could Tweet while they drove.

Pretty sure I don’t like this move on the part of VW – technologically, it’s super cool. But from a privacy standpoint … not so much.

Tarus Balog : Ulf: My Favorite Open Source Animal

February 15, 2017 05:32 PM

Over at opensource.com they asked “What’s your favorite open source animal?” Hands down, it’s Ulf.

OpenNMS Kiwi: Ulf

When I was at FOSDEM this year, we were often asked about the origin of having a kiwi as our mascot. Kiwi’s are mainly associated with New Zealand, and OpenNMS is not from New Zealand. But Ulf is.

Every year we have a developer’s conference called “Dev Jam“. Back in 2010, a man named Craig Miskell came from NZ and brought along a plush toy kiwi. He gave it to a group of people who had come from Germany, since he had come the furthest east for the conference and they had come the furthest west. They named him “Ulf”.

There was no conscious decision to make Ulf our mascot, it just happened organically. People in the project started treating him as a “traveling gnome“, setting up a wiki page to track some of the places he’s been, and he even has his own Twitter account.

I lost him once. We had a holiday party a few years ago and Ulf went missing. We thought he had been left in a limo, so I dutifully sought out a replacement. I found one for US$9, but of course shipping from NZ was an additional US$80 more, so I bought two. I later found Ulf hiding in the pocket of a formal overcoat I rarely wear (but had the night of the party) so now we have a random array of individual Ulf’s.

Anyway, Ulf manages to represent OpenNMS often, from stickers to holiday cards and keychains. I love the fact that he just kind of happened, we didn’t make a conscious decision to use him in marketing. If you happen to come across OpenNMS at conferences like FOSDEM, be sure to stop by and say “hi”.

Mark Turner : Scoping out today’s colonoscopy events

February 15, 2017 12:00 PM

Today I head in for my colonoscopy. I’m to arrive an hour early (8 AM) to make sure paperwork gets filled out, any remaining questions get answered, and to get changed into my gown. While I set settled on a hospital bed, an anesthesiologist will insert an IV into my arm. The doctor will meet with me to answer any other questions I might have and then when the procedure room is ready I’ll get wheeled into it.

Once in the room, I’ll have the opportunity to say hello to the team doing the colonoscopy, usually two other staffers (nurse and anesthesiologist, I believe) and the doctor. I’ll get shifted from the hospital bed to a operating table and told to lie on my left side with my knees pulled up at my chest. I’ll get EKG leads attached to my chest to measure my vital signs.

Once everything is ready, the anesthesiologist will open the valve on the sedation IV. I will be asked to count to 10 and by the time I hit 6 or 8 I will completely go under. The medical team will then do its thing and thirty minutes later I will awaken in a bit of a drug-induced stupor for a while. I recall doing a lot of vivid dreaming right before I was awakened by the nurse calling my name and poking me. It felt like I had been out for a while even though it was only 30-40 minutes.

The doctor will explain to my loving wife whatever instructions I will need when I get home and then I’ll get wheeled in a wheelchair out to our car. I remember feeling able to walk and do things when I got sent out of the facility but this was an illusion. This time around I will be a good patient and take it easy.

Once home I will likely want to sleep for several hours until the sedation wears off. Then the next day it’s back to my same routine with the exception of no exercising or straining for a week or two. The doctors don’t want any potential perforations to get aggravated.

That’s all for this … end. I’ll write more when I come out of my stupor later today.

Mark Turner : Day of colonoscopy prep

February 15, 2017 03:29 AM

So I made it to the tail end (ha!) of my day of colonoscopy preparation and its been better than the first time. What does a day of colonoscopy preparation mean? I’m about to tell ya. Why do I tell ya? Not because it’s glamorous or fun, but because someday, Dear Reader, you may also be faced with having to get a colonoscopy and you’ll be thinking “dammit, why didn’t I listen to that blogger guy, Whatisname?”

Beginning Monday, I switched to a mostly diet – not because anyone told me to but because I wanted today to be as smooth as possible. I bought a case of Ensure-type nutritional shakes at Costco and swigged them throughout the day yesterday, pausing only for a four-egg dinner because I got so hungry by the end of yesterday. Today, though, was an all clear-liquids diet. That meant Gatorade, Jello, and chicken broth. Mostly Gatorade, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The doc wants you to stay hydrated because the laxative is going to take a lot out of you. You can only consume clear liquids, though, because anything more solid will clutter your bowel. My epiphany this time around is that chicken broth, while relatively tasty, only has 15 measly calories. A glass of Gatorade, on the other hand, has 80 calories. A bowl of Jello has calories somewhere in-between. Thus, I mostly subsisted on Gatorade today after two large cups of black coffee in the morning. Then, once I’d gotten as many calories as I could from Gatorade, I drank two cups of heated chicken broth at dinnertime.

For breakfast and lunch it was Jello, one box per serving. It gave my stomach something to do but I still found myself craving a handful of assorted nuts and dipping chips in hummus throughout the day. I’d also find myself imagining cutting into a juicy steak but the daydreaming was only torturing me more. I found myself wanting to get outside for a while, just to get away from all food.

So my routine wasn’t much different than normal for most of today, other than the liquid diet. My blood pressure began to rise a bit when it came time to take my first laxative, Dulcolax, a stimulant laxative that was relatively easy to handle.

At 5 PM the real fun started when I took my first dose of SURPREP. This stuff goes through you within 30 minutes and from then on you’re going to stay wherever you are for a while. A follow-up dose at 9 AM will likely keep me awake for a bit longer but after 11 PM my gut should settle down for the night.

Today is the hardest day of the whole colonoscopy routine. The procedure itself is a breeze, comparatively speaking. I show up, put on a gown, and fall asleep for 45 minutes. Super easy. But Prep Day is not much fun.

I got some ideas from last time on how to make this time better. I swallowed my pride and made use of diaper rash cream and adult … shall we say, “undergarments.” Both made a difference in my comfort.

And here’s something I just figured out that no one else has ever told me: when you are drinking your water or drinks, make them warm or lukewarm ones! You’re going to be flushing your body with lots of water during this day and if you’re doing it with cold water your body is going to feel somewhat chilled. That hot chicken broth I drank offered pitiful calories but its warmness was greatly appreciated. If the SUPREP laxative calls for “cool water,” you can read this as “not excessively hot.” Warm is okay. Also, feel free to make your hydration drink of choice to be decaffeinated coffee or tea. Might as well drink something tasty and warm while you’re fueling up.

What’s left? Tomorrow’s procedure! At this point I’m so looking forward to getting it over with and chowing down to a big hamburger or Egg McMuffin. I’ll blog a bit on tomorrow’s expected process in the morning.

Mark Turner : HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

February 15, 2017 02:26 AM

N&O reporter Will Doran took a stab at estimating crowd size, rightfully pointing out that Fayetteville Street isn’t long enough to hold the 80,000 demonstrators some claimed were at Saturday’s HKonJ rally.

Blending the Howard Jacobs-method of estimating crowd size that Doran used with the National Park Service’s official SWAG method (“scientific wild-ass guess”), I’ve done my own calculations, based on the drone shot I took and shared in the previous blog post and measuring streets and spaces using Google Maps.

Here’s what I came up with:
South Street area between Salisbury and Wilmington, curb to curb: 600 x 33 ft = 19,800 sq. ft.
Wilmington between South and Davie: 1224 x 34 ft. = 41,616 sq. ft.
Davie between Wilmington and Fayetteville: 300 x 38 ft. = 11,400 sq. ft.
Fayetteville St. between Davie and Morgan: 1429 x 99 ft. = 141,471 sq. ft.

Now, based on my drone photo there is a huge crowd still in front of Memorial Auditorium at 10:35 AM. The area they’re in totals 71,500 sq. ft, give or take. It looks packed.

Going by the 5 sq. ft. per person Jacobs model and assuming all of these areas are that full, I get a high-end guesstimate of 57,157 people. The low-end estimate assuming the 10 sq. ft model (and that Memorial is 5-level full) is 35,729 people. A middle estimate that assumes Fayetteville was closer to slightly half-full gives me 44,168 people.

So, did the rally attract 80,000? Not even close. Still, the numbers it did attract are still quite impressive by any measure.

Supporters of Saturday’s protest march in downtown Raleigh, the 11th annual HKonJ, said more than 80,000 people attended.Organizers including the N.C. NAACP announced the massive crowd size, then it began circulating on social media and was picked up and repeated by several national news outlets covering the event.

The march was held to oppose President Donald Trump and to voice support for a laundry list of causes, ranging from supporting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act to opposing gerrymandering. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street.

But many questioned whether the crowd was really as big as organizers and attendees claimed, and some asked PolitiFact North Carolina to look into it.

Crowd size estimates are a handy way of gauging people’s interest – or lack thereof – in the big topics of the day.So understandably, estimates often inspire emotional reactions from both sides – especially in highly politicized contexts like this weekend’s HKonJ.

Source: HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

Mark Turner : Huge crowd for HKonJ rally Saturday

February 15, 2017 01:49 AM

HKonJ brings a huge crowd to downtown Raleigh, Feb 2017..

This past Saturday was the day of the annual HKonJ rally and march (#HKonJ #MoralMarch hashtags). HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. It was one of several HKonJ marches I’ve attended. Previous marches sometimes seemed overly optimistic calling themselves “thousands” as there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday as there was arguably the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen in Raleigh.

Kelly, Hallie, and I attended but we were running late due to all the other things that happen in the Turner household on weekends. By the time we had made our signs and were in the car, it was close to 10:30 AM. We parked the car in the parking deck at Blount and Cabarrus and snapped a quick photo before heading off. Kelly and Hallie took their signs and joined the crowd marching towards Fayetteville Street, while I took advantage of the empty parking deck to launch my drone for some aerial footage of the crowd.

At least I got some footage before a downtown Raleigh security person (“ambassador?”) chased me out of the deck, saying that hanging around to photograph was not permitted. Then, when I tried to launch again from the intersection of Wilmington Street and Davie Street, my drone lost its GPS lock and landed in a tree. Fortunately only the propellers got damaged but I had no backups with me and packed it in to get to my Democratic Party SEC meeting that afternoon.

I posted a few aerial shots I had taken and got lots of shares and likes on Twitter and Facebook. I’m surprised I was the only one in the air but that apparently was the case. I have to get serious about getting a commercial drone license so I can do this for pay.

I was thinking about the rally again earlier this week while I frantically printed and signed a stack of invitations for active Democrats in my neighborhood to attend an upcoming precinct meeting. A favorite chant at rallies is “this is what democracy looks like.” I thought about that while I put those papers together and decided that marching down the street is perhaps what the first step of democracy looks like. It’s the flashy and fun part, the easy part. It’s the celebration. It’s fun to get together with your tribe and let out a roar. It’s energizing.

But it’s not enough. Democracy is knocking on doors, signing up voters. It’s pitching in to help campaigns. It’s choosing to run as a candidate. It’s working phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods, and organizing volunteers.

This is where the Tea Party has outdone us lefties. They have rallies too, of course, but they have followed them up with action. They have steered their candidates towards their views and made those views abundantly plain to elected officials. In short, they’ve done the heavy lifting of democracy; the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that really makes a difference. That’s how they’ve become a political force in America today.

That’s one quibble I have with HKonJ: there need to be more tables along Fayetteville Street staffed by good organizations who can use that moment to sign up an army of volunteers. What good does it do to march and cheer if you just go home and that’s it? I didn’t see much effort put into harnessing the energy that was built and it seems like a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there will be other rallies and chances to build on this, so hopefully people will continue to be engaged.

Tarus Balog : 2017 Europe: Brussels and FOSDEM

February 14, 2017 09:48 PM

This post is about a week overdue, but for the first time in my life I came down with a vicious case of “con crud”. This is a illness that you can get after attending a conference or convention (no reference since the top hits on Google all reference “furries“). This really knocked me out – mainly sinus congestion so severe that my head hurt so bad I couldn’t really sleep. It just laughed at my attempt to treat it with pseudophedrine, and nothing but time seemed to help. Luckily I feel better now and I’m eager to talk about my great time in Brussels at my first FOSDEM.

The Free Open Source Developers European Meeting is probably the largest free software event in the world. This year an expected 8000 people descended on the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and I believe every one of them walked by our stand. It was insane.

I arrived from Riga Friday night and made it to my hotel. My so-called friends had already abandoned me and headed toward the Grand Place and Cafe Delirium, the de facto pre-conference bar.

Cafe Delirium Crowd

Against all odds I managed to catch up with them in the alley outside the bar. Ronny and Markus had come over from Germany, as did Simon and Anya. Jonathan and Craig had come from the UK, and I finally got to meet the amazing Cyrille, a long time OpenNMS contributor who lives in Brussels. There was beer.

Our Gang at Cafe Delirium

We headed over to the university early on Saturday to set up our booth. While this was my first FOSDEM, I was told by a couple of long time attendees that the conference outgrew the venue years ago, with various suggestions for why: from “tradition” to “it’s free”. In any case, it does create an atmosphere that can only be described as special.

FOSDEM Stand

We had a stand in Building K on the second level. This was in a wide hallway surrounding a large auditorium where a number of sessions were held. From the start we got a lot of traffic to the stand, and unlike many conferences the people that stopped seemed genuinely interested in learning about OpenNMS and weren’t just there to check out the swag.

And we had really good swag. In addition to a number of stickers (including the awesome “Ulf Mate” sticker as a play on the “Club Mate” logo and slogan), we had, new for this show, OpenNMS keychain/bottle openers which were a big hit.

OpenNMS Keychains

I also got interviewed for Hacker Public Radio. I don’t remember much of what I said, but people seemed to be into it (grin).

It is seriously difficult for me to describe the crowds. When I needed the restroom, I had to make my way downstairs and then fight my way through a crowd so packed I think it rivaled that year I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

FOSDEM Crowd

But it just lent to the energy and atmosphere of the place. I know from social media that a number of people I know were there that I just missed (looking at you Brian Proffitt) but I did get to see some old friends and I make a few new ones. One person I was happy to meet for the first time was Carol Chen. She is the community manager for ManageIQ, and I first learned about her when Jeff was invited to do an OpenNMS talk at the ManageIQ Design Summit.

Carol Chen and Ulf

She showed up at the stand on Sunday in search of one of our keychains, but we had run out. I had put one away for me but was happy to give it to her. After all, I can always get more.

One thing that sets FOSDEM apart from other open source conferences is the emphasis on “free” software, and some of the social justice causes that naturally follow. Heck, the University has “free” (as in freedom) in its name. Considering that the US President had signed a “Muslim Ban” the week before the conference, it was cool to see this sign on campus.

Refugees Sign

But not all of the fun happened at ULB. Brussels has some beautiful architecture, and just wandering around you might come across a stunning building like this church.

Brussels Church

Nothing is probably as striking as the Grand Place, or central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by tall buildings, some of which represent Guildhalls of various crafts. My friend Daniel pointed out to me that a lot of the money for those buildings probably came from Antwerp during the height of the Hanseatic League. Since the cities of Tallinn and Riga were key players in the Hansa, it kind of brought this European trip full circle.

That’s not to say there aren’t modern things in Brussels. I’ll post this picture without comment.

Mr. Ego Sign

We ended the conference on Sunday with a small group of us meeting for beers and then dinner. Dinner was held at Restaurant Vincent and it was quite good.

Dinner at Vincent's

At the table is Karen Sandler from the Software Freedom Conservancy, me, Lukas and Daniel Ranc from Paris (Daniel teaches at Télécom SudParis and his son is working on his Ph.D.), Cyrille Bollu, Ronny Trommer and Markus von Rüden from OpenNMS, and Spot Calloway from Red Hat.

My only wish is that we could have sat at a round table, since the long table caused conversation to be split into two. I really wanted Daniel and Spot to chat, as Daniel is working on some cool software for education for doing quizzes and surveys in class, and Spot is focused on higher education at Red Hat. But in any case I really enjoyed the conversation, especially one story that Spot told of his college days that I pretty much can’t top (and I pride myself on being able to hold my own when it comes to storytelling).

It was a nice end to an exciting week.

Mark Turner : What a colonoscopy is like

February 14, 2017 02:25 AM

I briefly mentioned last year about getting a colonoscopy in December 2015. I was scheduled for a follow-up colonoscopy a year following and so I’m going back on Wednesday morning.

I didn’t go into much detail about the whole process though I find medical procedures somewhat fascinating. I chose not to do much blogging about my experience because it seemed a bit embarrassing. This time around, I will share details because I’ve since learned how important this procedure is.

I recall last time gradually coming out of a sedation-induced fog as I lay on the post-op gurney, the doctor coming in to say that they had collected two polyps that were being biopsied. They turned out to be precancerous, fortunately, but gave me a start. I was 46 at the time and on the young side for anything like this to be discovered. It was not an enjoyable experience (or prepping wasn’t, anyway – more on that later), but I’m glad I got it done since who knows what might have happened if I had put it off.

So that brings us up to now. How does one prep for a colonoscopy? Months ago, I got a prescription mailed to me from Wake Endoscopy for two laxatives and a “prep kit.” Starting tomorrow morning I will be on a clear-liquids-only diet until I leave the clinic. Once the laxatives take hold I will be, shall we say, “indisposed” for a great portion of the day (and some of the night).

Then at 8 AM Wednesday, I’ll arrive at the clinic. An hour later, they’ll take me back and I’ll change into a patient robe. I’ll be wheeled into the procedure room and meet the doctor and staff doing the work. They’ll have me lie on my left side, hook an IV into my arm, crank up the sedative, and before I can count to 10 I’ll be out like a light.

Thirty minutes later, I’ll be wheeled back into the post-op area, though to me it will seem as if an entire night has gone by (I remember last time dreaming deeply under sedation). The nurse will continually poke me until she rouses me and, even though my eyes are open and I’m responding to my name, for a little while what I say and hear will be utterly nonsensical due to the sedation. It will appear I’m there but I won’t be, in other words. Kelly will collect the post-op instructions while I get loaded into a wheelchair, after which I’ll be helped into the car for the trip home.

The drug kept me sleepy last time and I went straight to bed. With this procedure being at 9 AM, I’m sure I will be ready to nap for a few hours at least, if not all day. I recall being very hungry afterward last time so I urged Kelly to stop by the nearest McDonald’s for breakfast.

The worst part of a colonoscopy by far is the preparation. Consuming nothing but clear liquids, Jello, and the like is not fun. And certainly are all the frequent trips to the bathroom the day before are not fun. At least the medicines taste better now than they did before – last time around they weren’t the best-tasting but I had no problem drinking them.

With any luck this will be the last colonoscopy I’ll have to do for a while. The second time around won’t be nearly as anxiety-producing for me, though, and hopefully it won’t be for you now should you ever have to get one done.

Mark Turner : Chinese spammers abuse Jetpack plugin

February 10, 2017 11:28 PM

All day long, Chinese spammers have taken advantage of an apparent flaw in Automattic’s (the makers of WordPress) Jetpack plugin. This morning, I noticed a slew of email bounces in my inbox, all with Chinese letters in them and a link to one of my blog posts. It turns out that the spammer has been clicking on the post’s “Share This” link and somehow entering their spam as the resulting email’s “From” address. Each email goes to a “qq.com” address, which is a Chinese mail provider.

The only way I could stop these emails was to turn off Sharing under Jetpack’s settings. Upgrading to the latest Jetpack (4.6) didn’t seem to help.

Apparently this has been an issue since 2014. I have no idea why this is the first time my site has become a victim nor why Automattic hasn’t figured out a suitable countermeasure yet.

Mark Turner : Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune

February 10, 2017 01:26 PM

Rahm has a point. If you’re not in power you have zero say about what gets done.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned Democrats they need to “take a chill pill” and realize that they are not going to take back national power anytime soon.”It ain’t gonna happen in 2018,” Emanuel said Monday at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in California. “Take a chill pill, man. You gotta be in this for the long haul.”

As he did last month at an event in Washington, D.C., the mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.But this time he didn’t hold back on his frustration with some of his fellow Democrats.

Source: Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune

Mark Turner : Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump – Baltimore Sun

February 07, 2017 03:34 PM

When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration’s executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.

The men and women who reportedly handcuffed small children and the elderly, separated a child from his mother and held others without food for 20 hours, are undoubtedly “ordinary” people. What I mean by that, is that these are, in normal circumstances, people who likely treat their neighbors and co-workers with kindness and do not intentionally seek to harm others. That is chilling, as it is a reminder that authoritarians have no trouble finding the people they need to carry out their acts of cruelty. They do not need special monsters; they can issue orders to otherwise unexceptional people who will carry them out dutifully.

Source: Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump – Baltimore Sun

Magnus Hedemark : Personal Fitness Journey: Fork in the Road?

February 07, 2017 01:59 PM

I’ve lost a little over 75 pounds now and I’m feeling stuck. So I’m going to eat more.

When I started at a weight of 316 pounds around Christmas of 2015, I didn’t have a plan or methodology. I didn’t have any notions to exercise. My body was in pain from simple things like standing or walking, and I was using a walking stick to get around.

A few months into my journey, simply “trying to eat right” wasn’t enough. I was hovering around 305 pounds. My youngest brother got married and I missed the ceremony, because the walk from the parking lot to the ceremony was long and I was hobbling on a walking stick. I tried to smile for everyone but in truth I just wanted to lay down in a shallow hole and have everyone throw dirt on me. I couldn’t endure any longer.

I needed to exercise. I needed to have some method to this. And I needed some practical outcomes to aspire to beyond just getting smaller.

“I want to be lean. I want to have good functional strength. I’m training for a week long canoe expedition.” That was it. I had a goal.

I started using technology to help me out. Most of what I use now is MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, and two scales. But I tried an array of things, observed results, and adapted along the way to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

But I also had to add exercise in. In April, I invested in a Bowflex Max Trainer. The idea was to improve my cardio fitness and get some good functional strength into my legs and any other muscle that seemed to be participating in the almost full-body exercise it provided. I put the machine together, got on it, and fell off about a minute in. Grabbing my chest, I was scared to death of that machine and what it might do to me.

About once a week I’d get on that machine and see what I could do, and every week it validated my fears. I really did feel like I was going to have a heart attack.

Next I invested in a heart rate monitor and started using phone apps to track my heart rate as I walked. This helped a lot. I was now able to go on long walks, and have a feedback loop to help me set a good pace that pushed my heart without pushing too hard. I was also stretching every day. These simple stretches were themselves a cardio workout for me. I’d lay in bed while my wife and kids pushed and pulled on my legs and arms, twisted my back to and fro. My breathing got hard and my heart rate monitor registered that I was indeed having a cardio workout while laying in bed and being stretched. That’s how far gone I was.

But eventually, after a few months, I could get on the Bowflex and operate it at a steady state (low speed, low resistance) for the full 14 minutes without my heart getting into a dangerous state. My weight started dropping at a good cadence two or three weeks into this. I started adding one or two intervals per workout, then doing all of the intervals. Then I started upgrading the resistance. I’d committed to doing this four times per week.

photo-jan-21-10-22-01-pm

Caught working out on the Bowflex Max in my workshop.

When I’d gotten down a little in weight, I started running. This went on for about a month. I did interval running (run for a minute, walk for three, repeat). I actually felt great once I hit a groove. But after about a month, I’d go out there and try to run, but I felt like there was no gas in the tank. My breathing was fine. My joints were fine. But I had no energy. My calorie reduction diet was not serving me well for this kind of exercise. I’ll run again someday, when I can eat more.

Today I’m down 77 pounds. But I seem to be stuck. And I’m starting to feel “out of gas” even trying to do the Bowflex. I’ve got the Bowflex set for 20 minutes of workout instead of 14, so I’ve increased the duration of both high & low intervals. And I’ve got the resistance set to 10 now, so I’m getting some strength training with my cardio at this point. My breathing is fine, my heart rate is ridiculously ok with this. My joints are stronger and doing alright.

But I just feel out of gas.

Every weekend I try to go on a hike of 3 to 7 miles on rugged terrain. Last weekend, the same thing happened. My pace was slow, and I just felt out of gas.

The groove I’d gotten into was fun. I wasn’t eating a lot, but I’d felt great. I’d felt strong. Virile. I’d work out and then start bouncing around to burn off all of the extra energy I had. And the weight was falling off.

But now I don’t feel great, the weight isn’t falling off, and I don’t have the energy to eat more. My calorie reduction plan had taken me down to about 1,500 calories per day by the time I’d hit 240 pounds. My daily total food intake was now less than what I’d have eaten for a single meal when I was still over 300 pounds. I think maybe I’d hit a point of diminishing returns.

All along the way I’ve done the same thing, which I learned from DemingPlan, Do, Study, Act. Per the Deming Institute:

The cycle begins with the Plan step. This involves identifying a goal or purpose, formulating a theory, defining success metrics and putting a plan into action. These activities are followed by the Do step, in which the components of the plan are implemented, such as making a product. Next comes the Study step, where outcomes are monitored to test the validity of the plan for signs of progress and success, or problems and areas for improvement. The Act step closes the cycle, integrating the learning generated by the entire process, which can be used to adjust the goal, change methods or even reformulate a theory altogether. These four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement.

So I’m adjusting my plan. I’ve taken my daily calorie count up from about 1,500 per day to about 2,100 per day. My hope is that as my body adjusts to the increased intake, I’ll have the fuel I need to exercise with greater vigor. And then, as I start feeling better about exercise, I’ll start running again.

This whole thing is one big series of math equations, right? You will lose weight if your body burns more Calories than it consumes. Some combination of burning more Calories and eating less will get you there. To date, I’ve done a combination of the two, but perhaps now I have to give greater weight to the exercise side of the equation, even if that means consuming more Calories. Remember, my goal isn’t simply to get thin. I want to have lean functional strength.

There are two forms of exercise I want to add now that I’ve not been practicing yet:

  1. Running. I’m a lot lighter now so it shouldn’t be nearly as hard on my body. Running regularly will get my Base Metabolic Rate up enough to offset the increased caloric intake.
  2. Kettlebell. The kettlebell lends itself to more practical full-body weight resistance workouts that will offer the kind of functional strength I need for practical outcomes in everyday life. Building a little bit of lean muscle mass will also increase my Base Metabolic Rate. “The bigger the engine, the more gas it burns”. I’m not going to bulk up. I have no interest in that.

Where does it end? It doesn’t. This is a lifestyle change for me. The things I’m learning now, the habits I’m building, are going to serve me for the rest of my life. The exercise doesn’t stop. The mindfulness about food doesn’t stop. This isn’t a diet. The results are the outcome of the lifestyle change.

I expect the downward spiral of fat loss will taper off and end when I hit a healthy maintenance weight. And I don’t know what that weight will be. I’m guessing around 180 pounds, give or take 5 pounds. But really I’m looking for a healthy Percent Body Fat level of around 18% or so. I was hoping to hit that sometime late this Summer, but with the new changes happening right now I’m gaining acceptance that I might have to slow my burn rate until I can build more functional strength and endurance, and adjust to increased Calorie intake to allow greater commitment to exercise. Whatever happens, you can be sure I’ll continue to rely on the data I’m collecting to inform my decisions, and my tactics will change accordingly as I go.


Mark Turner : Streaming live video from the 3DR Solo

February 07, 2017 02:28 AM

I have had a 3DR Solo drone since last summer and have been looking for interesting ways to expand its capabilities. One thing that I thought should be possible is to stream live video from the drone while it’s in flight. The Solo controller has an HDMI port to push video to a monitor but I wanted to see if I could get to the video stream directly, through software. I’m proud to say that I figured out how to do it.

First you need a separate computer, preferably a laptop or something portable. The computer will need to connect to the WiFi network that the Solo controller creates. Once you’ve got your computer joined, make sure it’s connected by pinging the controller (IP address 10.1.1.1).

Next, create an SDP file on your laptop as discussed on the 3DR Solo wiki.

c=IN IP4 10.1.1.1
m=video 5600 RTP/AVP 96
a=rtpmap:96 H264/90000
t=0 0

… save this as sololink.sdp.

The controller will only stream video if it’s got a TCP connection from the host requesting a stream. In a terminal window, connect to the controller as follows:

telnet 10.1.1.1 5502

or

nc 10.1.1.1 5502

Now the controller should be able to stream video using a tool such as VLC or ffmpeg. For VLC, open the osololink.sdp file you created above. You should see the drone video appear on your laptop. VLC is nice for checking the video but I haven’t worked out how to send it to YouTube yet. I believe it does not properly handle the RTMP media format that YouTube needs, though I’m not sure of this.

FFMPEG, however, does handle RTMP and can video to YouTube. Through trial and error (with lots of help from blogger George Timmermans and blogger “Yatko”), I worked out the proper command line options:

ffmpeg -f lavfi -i anullsrc -i ~/Videos/sololink.sdp -tune zerolatency -s 432×320 -pix_fmt + -c:v libx264 -b:v 600K -c:a aac -strict experimental -f flv rtmp://a.rtmp.youtube.com/live2/xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx

… where xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx is the Stream Name/Key that can be found when you log into YouTube’s Live Dashboard and set up your stream (under Basic Info – Encoder Setup at the bottom of the page). It also helps to know what formats/resolutions YouTube expects.

There is probably some optimizing I can make to this ffmpeg command line. Also, I need to adjust it so I can see the video in real-time as it comes off the controller (perhaps a tee command).

One quirk of this method of streaming is that only one device gets the video at a time. Thus, if your laptop’s getting video, your smartphone/iPad mounted on the controller is not getting video. If the laptop is showing video and positioned near the remote pilot, however, the pilot can position the drone using the video like before.

Another addition I’m considering is to put a RTSP proxy of some sort on the controller. That way the video can be split to multiple devices at once. There’s also the possibility of running ffmpeg directly on the controller, but without Internet access for the controller what would be the point? A better solution would be an ffmpeg instance on the smartphone configured where the Solo app gets its video while ffmpeg streams it. To be continued!