Mark Turner : This New Card Skimmer Is Almost As Thin As A Credit Card | TechCrunch

September 16, 2014 04:49 PM

Credit card fraudsters are winning.

Good old Brian Krebs has the scoop on a new card skimmer found in Europe. How is it different? It literally fits right into the card slot of any ATM, essentially allowing unfettered access to cards as they slide through. Add in a tiny camera and you’ve got a complete card cloning system.

via This New Card Skimmer Is Almost As Thin As A Credit Card | TechCrunch.

Mark Turner : Little fraud — but reason to worry — after major credit card hacks – Business – The Boston Globe

September 16, 2014 04:48 PM

Credit card fraud news story.

For American consumers, some specialists say data breaches are the new normal. More than 500 data breaches — not just of financial information, but of passwords, e-mail addresses, and personal information — occurred in the United States in the first half of 2014 alone, roughly on par with 2013 and 2012, according to Risk Based Security, a Virginia consulting firm. Worldwide, there were 76 breaches that exposed credit card numbers over that same period.

via Little fraud — but reason to worry — after major credit card hacks – Business – The Boston Globe.

Mark Turner : Dis-credit-ed

September 15, 2014 02:08 AM

This afternoon, Kelly showed me what she thought was a realistic looking phishing email she received. Upon further examination, however, we realized it was a legitimate fraud alert sent from our credit card company.

I quickly called the customer service number on the back of my card and learned of a fraudulent charge put in today to Xoom Corporation, a wire transfer company of some sort based in San Francisco. Within minutes, a new credit card was being sent out and the fraud charges declined. This was the card we were sent only in February as a replacement for the Target credit card breach, so it lasted all of 7 months before being compromised. Nice.

With all the news about Home Depot’s recent, massive credit card breach, I first wondered if the company was to blame for my fraud instance. In actuality, I almost never shop at Home Depot. The last time I did was February 1st and that was using my previous credit card.

Home Depot credit card charge

Home Depot credit card charge

According to reports, Home Depot’s breach took place in April which means my card wouldn’t be among those stolen.

That leaves unanswered the question of where my data was stolen. Maybe it’s time I used dedicated credit cards for each company I do business with, so that when (not if) there’s another breach I’ll have a clear understanding of whom is at fault.

Mark Turner : Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth

September 13, 2014 07:38 PM

Here’s a good C-SPAN interview of Richard Gage of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Good stuff:

Not that I’m paying attention to such stuff, of course.

Mark Turner : Hands down, people without kids have better lives—except for this one major thing – Quartz

September 13, 2014 06:56 PM

Despite all of the negatives in their lives—the stress, the unhealthy lifestyle, the meager social life, the financial challenges, the pop culture oblivion, and the longing for younger days—parents still find themselves happier. We can’t prove exactly what drives these numbers. I have good friends who are physically unable to have kids, which no doubt affects their happiness. Some people choose not to have kids because of other hardships in their lives. And, surely, lots of unhappy parents only say they’re happy because they think they’re supposed to.

But maybe joy indeed doesn’t just have to come from extrinsic things and fabulous social lives—it can come from the adventure of raising a family, from teaching and nurturing others, from sacrifice, and from unconditional love.

via Hands down, people without kids have better lives—except for this one major thing – Quartz.

Tarus Balog : Pictures at an Exhibition

September 13, 2014 01:52 PM

While I wrote previously about the tenth anniversary of The OpenNMS Group, because it happened over the Labor Day holiday meant that we had to wait a week to celebrate. So on September 7th we gathered at a really nice restaurant in town called The Oak Leaf for a celebration.

We rented out the place so we had it all to ourselves, and it started with an open bar and amazing appetizers. We were able to socialize as people arrived before sitting down for a three course meal.

Of course, to paraphrase Heinlein there ain’t no such thing as a free open bar, so I subjected everyone to a speech before we could eat. I had the restaurant seat us at one long table with me at one end and our newest team member Ken at the other. It turned out to be a pretty long table. I wanted to demonstrate how we had grown in those ten years, from the three founders in one cramped office into something much larger.

I must admit I got a little verklempt during my speech when I thought back on all the people that made The OpenNMS Group possible. I did miss having Eric there as he couldn’t travel due to a recent surgery, but with that one exception I was surrounded by people who are almost as close to me as my own family (and include some of them as well).

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.

Warren Myers : work on the hearts and minds of others – law 43 – #48laws by robert greene

September 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 43

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Mark Turner : 9/11 revisited

September 13, 2014 03:32 AM

'Dissent is Patriotic" sign overlooking the World Trade Center site.

‘Dissent is Patriotic” sign overlooking the World Trade Center.

I took an eye-opening cab ride on a business trip to New York several years ago. It wasn’t the driving that raised my hair as much as the topic of conversation. My cabbie, a native English speaker, had a tale to tell about the 1996 attack on the World Trade Center. It was his opinion that someone higher up had allowed that bombing to happen, since a gigantic security rule was broken when the van that was detonated was allowed to enter the parking deck.

“I drive my cab there all the time,” he told me. “I know where we people are allowed to park and where they’re not allowed to park.”

I challenged the cabbie on this but he was insistent. “No way. That couldn’t have happened in a million years without someone higher up approving it,” he said.

At the time I chalked it up as a tale from an overly imaginative cab driver, but it wasn’t long before news broke that the FBI was deeply involved in a supposedly botched sting operation in which fake explosives were to be switched in at the last moment. Whoops!

Here’s Dan Rather’s report on CBS the night of October 28, 1993:

I don’t recall hearing that any FBI agents lost their jobs after fucking up a sting operation, bombing a building, and killing six people. Do you?

Fast forward to today. Another 9/11 anniversary has come and gone and even 13 years after the event I can’t help but feel awkward pausing for a moment of silence. It isn’t that I’m not saddened by the loss of lives on that terrible day, it is the way that event is continues to be described as a terrorist attack. There has never been any doubt in my mind that the official narrative of 9/11 is complete bunk, and I must admit that every year my certainty grows.

We lost a lot more than 3,000 lives that day, in my opinion we lost the republic. That truly deserves a moment of silence.

  • Why have the planes’ black boxes never been found?
  • Where was the massive plane crash debris at the Pentagon crash site?
  • Where was the plane debris of the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania?
  • Why did the buildings fall into their own footprint, just like a controlled demolition?
  • Why did the buildings collapse at nearly free-fall speed?
  • Out of all the skyscraper fires that have occurred before or since 9/11, why were WTC1, WTC2, and WTC7 the only skyscrapers ever to completely collapse due to fire?
  • What made WTC7 collapse if not an airplane?
  • Why did Larry Silverstein, the lessee of the WTC properties, say on television that WTC7 was “pulled,” slang for a controlled demolition?
  • Why did the BBC announce that WTC7 had collapsed before it actually did?
  • How was the open-air burning of kerosene (jet fuel) able to melt steel?
  • If kerosene can indeed melt steel, what keeps jet engines from melting?
  • Why did FEMA document molten steel found in the wreckage of the buildings?
  • How is it the WTC towers stood solid for three decades but Silverstein leases them and four months later they get destroyed?
  • What happened to the rumored short sales of airline stocks preceding the event?
  • Who ordered NORAD to stand down that day?

… and the number one question that’s been bothering me:
How come no one lost their job due to the colossal fuckup that was 9/11?

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt fired CINCPACFLT Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lt. General Walter Short for their failure to defend our bases. Whose head rolled due to 9/11?

What really happened on 9/11, and why aren’t more people asking this question?

Mark Turner : Fifteen years

September 13, 2014 02:22 AM

Wedding bliss, 1999

Wedding bliss, 1999

Kelly and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary yesterday. For a little romantic night out, we spent our evening with a few hundred other Ligon Middle School parents at the Open House. Hey, at least we were together and, to be honest, it was fun! We’re going out tomorrow night for a romantic dinner.

Above is a scan of a wedding photo we’ve had on our shelf almost since our wedding day. The color may have faded but the love is stronger than ever!

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Looking more likely that the Great Rail Expedition…

September 12, 2014 11:03 PM

Looking more likely that the Great Rail Expedition of 09/14 @Triangle_Train will be a washout :(…?

Mark Turner : My fellow Americans, please stop being idiots

September 12, 2014 01:36 AM

I agree.

Look, I’ve said it before and I still believe every word. ISIS represents no threat to the United States. None.

Are there terrorists in this world who would like to give us a bloody nose? Absolutely. You know what? You’ve already surrendered an astounding amount of your personal privacy in the name of enabling agencies to reduce that threat. Stop being so eager to bend over and give the little that remains. You’re already going through ridiculous rituals at airports and government offices and museums and bus stations and football stadiums and probably at the local Gymboree, all designed to give you the illusion of safety at an immense cost in both time and money. You’ve already given up everything from the privacy of your phone calls and emails to the ability to take some shampoo on the road. Don’t get out the checkbook to buy more nonsense.

via My fellow Americans, please stop being idiots.

Jesse Morgan : Curse of the Goat

September 11, 2014 02:40 PM

I’m not sure why the idea hit me, but my brain has focused on it and it won’t let me move on until I write it down.


Curse of the Goat

When afflicted, a goat appears from nowhere and proceeds to follow you around, constantly bleating. The goat is immortal, never sleeps, and cannot be lost. It will keep you awake, give away your position, and generally be annoying. If pushed off a cliff or otherwise separated, it will reappear within minutes, often headbutting the afflicted from behind.

“Maeh-eh-eh-eht…  Maeh-eh-eh-eht.”


Curse of the Golden Goat – The only way to silence the goat is to feed it gold coins; a gold coin will by you 10 minutes of silence.

Curse of the Ghost Goat – The goat is incorporeal. Can’t be locked in another room, can’t be used to wedge a door closed, and spooks living animals.

Curse of the Silent Goat – It doesn’t bleat, it just stares at you and makes you feel bad about your life choices. Seen as an ill omen.

Mark Turner : Business idea

September 10, 2014 11:50 PM

I’ve got a business idea brewing in my mind, an idea for a consumer safety device. Might even be patentable. I’ll have to see how far I can go with it, starting first with building a prototype. Like I don’t already have enough to do.

Mark Turner : Labs come back clean

September 10, 2014 11:47 PM

I got my lab results on Monday. They all look perfect – everything is right down the middle of the acceptable ranges. I’m as healthy as a horse … except for the weird. unexplained twitching I experienced.

Fortunately, the twitching has almost totally stopped since the family bike ride we all took on Sunday morning. And my muscles are not feeling as tense during the night, giving me a better night of sleep every night.

As nice as the clean labs are, though, it doesn’t really explain what happened. As it appears to not be an issue and my doc is satisfied I suppose I’ll just chalk it up to a mystery for now.

Mark Turner : Cheap Thoughts: Dogs and concussions

September 10, 2014 02:09 AM

How do dogs violently shake their heads when they’re drying off without giving themselves concussions? It makes my head hurt just watching them yet it never seems to faze the dog.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: 6.02 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday. Insane…

September 09, 2014 11:32 AM

6.02 inches of rain at NC-JH-23 yesterday. Insane. #ncwx

Mark Turner : Jamaica, part II

September 08, 2014 02:38 AM

Our first rum in Jamaica

Our first rum in Jamaica

This is part two of our vacation to Jamaica. Read part one here.

While my bag wasn’t waiting at the baggage claim, a bag very similar to mine was there. I realized quickly that my bag most likely made it to Jamaica but got mistakenly carted off by another passenger, thinking it was his. I checked the address tag on the bag and got the name of the owner, a guy from Pittsburgh. It seemed only a matter of time before he realized his mistake and I would be reunited with my bag.

The family and I went outside the airport and met our pre-arranged taxi at the curb. Our driver, Byron (which he pronounced “Barry-um”) kindly drove us to the hotel and provided us tips about what we should see. Zipling, snorkeling, and a trip to Blue Hole were all discussed. Byron offered to be our tour guide for a day at Blue Hole or the nearby city of Ocho Rios for a flat fee. We took his card from him as he dropped us off at the Holiday Inn Sunspree, about 10 minutes east of the airport.

Like many hotels in Jamaica, the Holiday Inn was sat behind a wall and gate from the main road. The lobby was open air and people milled about. We bypassed the lengthy check-in line at the receptionist desk and were escorted to the VIP check-in room.

The kids plopped down on the couch in this air-conditioned room while we waited to be served. Several African-American New Jersey kids in their 20s were already seated and we bantered a bit. One of the men took a picture of Kelly and me once we had been delivered the first of our rum drinks.

As we were handed our room key, I brought up the issue of my missing bag, asking that hotel staff be aware that it might be delivered at some point. With that, we headed to our room and unpacked what bags we had with us. Kelly and the kids waded out into the Caribbean while I spent the afternoon waiting by the hotel room phone.

Finally the lost baggage agent called me and said the guy who took my bag would be returning it shortly. I was to check it carefully to make sure nothing was missing. If all seemed well, I would call Southwest back and give them permission to release the guy’s own bag to him.

The Holiday Inn Sunspree is a bright and sunny place

The Holiday Inn Sunspree is a bright and sunny place

I was told the guy would meet me in the hotel lobby at 3:15 PM. After waiting in the lobby for 30 minutes beyond when the guy told me he would be there I was fuming. I marched out to the beach to where Kelly and the kids were and declared that if the guy showed up I was going to take my sweet time getting his damn bag released.

I picked up a rum drink and walked back through the lobby one more time when I spied a flustered couple at the desk with a jittery cab driver in tow. The guy was apologetic and I could tell he and his wife must have been running around like mad trying to get this sorted out. I got the feeling he’d gotten an earful from his wife over the episode, too. A quick look through my bag showed everything intact, so I spoke into the cabbie’s phone and told the Southwest agent all looked good.

With my bag in one hand and a rum punch in the other, I headed back to the room to change into my swim trunks. Finally the fun could begin!

Mark Turner : Visibly twitchy

September 08, 2014 01:51 AM

My leg looking puffy where my dress sock just was

My leg looking puffy where my dress sock just was

For a day after writing my post about my twitchy leg I didn’t notice it twitching at all. Eventually the twitching came back and I began to try to track it down.

This morning while I was reading in the easy chair I watched it twitch. I don’t know if I had actually seen it twitch until today, so now I know it’s probably not the more serious, invisible twitch that had me concerned this week. Hopefully the lab work will come back tomorrow and my doc and I can work through what might be causing it.

On another note, Kelly, Hallie, and I went for a bike ride this morning and which I haven’t seen or felt my leg twitch. I wonder if something had gotten tangled up in there and worked itself out today?

Mark Turner : Parks board and bond

September 07, 2014 02:51 AM

Friday I woke up to an unfamiliar feeling: I was no longer serving on Raleigh’s Parks board. Six years had come and gone in a blink of an eye.

Though I’m no longer on the board, I still get to play a role in promoting parks. I was been appointed by the mayor to serve on the citizen board advocating for the upcoming parks bond. Not only that, I’ve agreed to serve as a co-chair for the marketing and communications team. It’s a great group of citizens and I’m looking forward to making this happen. I will have my hands full for the next several weeks, though. So far, it’s been a blast!

Mark Turner : Jamaica

September 07, 2014 02:40 AM

Boarding our Southwest flight to Jamaica

Boarding our Southwest flight to Jamaica

It’s been a month since we began our week-long vacation to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The trip was a curious mix of being both relaxing and trying. We had to work hard to relax. Was it worth it? Overall, I think so.

Why Jamaica? For a few years Kelly and I discussed taking an international vacation. We wanted to try to use the Southwest points we’d earned and that limited our options to a few Caribbean destinations. I’d always wanted to go to the Caribbean, so we looked into our Southwest choices. Among the airline’s new destinations is Aruba; Nassau, Bahamas; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. We chose Jamaica.

Southwest is new to international travel, however. We experienced this when checking in early on the first Saturday. The ticket agent was unfamiliar with the new software used to check us in and was assisted by another agent with a clipboard and a German accent. After a bit longer getting our bags checked we boarded our plane and were soon in Baltimore, boarding our flight to Jamaica. We were already seated when we were informed that a substitute flight crew would be taking us to Jamaica.

It was a new experience to be flying Southwest over water. Our flight left land behind off the coast of Wilmington, NC and flew over water and islands for the rest of the way. I kind of enjoyed the idea of flying over Cuba as I hadn’t expected to do that but there was little to be seen from our altitude.

Hallie sat near the window and I took the aisle. Our middle seatmate was a wonderful woman who was born in Jamaica but is now an American living in Baltimore. She traded me stories of Jamaica for my assistance in filling out her customs forms, as she had trouble reading them.

As we approached Montego Bay, our new flight crew happily announced our impending arrival … in Kingston? A murmur went around the cabin until a flight attendant quickly corrected our substitute pilots. Southwest does not fly to Kingston, of course.

My Jamaican Friend

My Jamaican Friend

The airport terminal was not very fancy but long corridors led from our gate to Customs. Apparently our plane was not the only one to land around that time, as those corridors soon filled up with fellow vacationers.

We got to the Customs area and thought we had our declaration forms filled out, only to find the Southwest flight attendants had mistakenly told us we did not need to fill out the departure information. Rather than step right into line, we spent 10 more minutes filling out the missing information as the Customs line grew longer and longer. Whoops.

After a long wait in line at Customs, it was finally our turn to be served. Our bored-looking young agent was surprised that the Southwest flight had apparently changed flight numbers. She peered at my boarding pass and said something casually to the agent nearest her before waving us through.

Finally, our vacation would begin! We happily made our way to baggage claim, ready to enjoy some Jamaican sun and fun. I could almost taste my first rum drink when we rounded the corner and discovered that only three of our four bags awaited us.

My bag was missing. Here we were, scheduled to stay in a foreign country for a week and my clothes and belongings had gone AWOL.

Did my bag make it on our flight? Did someone steal it? I could only wonder as I walked back with the Southwest baggage agent to fill out a claim form.

Our vacation was not getting off to the best of starts.

To be continued.

Mark Turner : About my left leg

September 03, 2014 10:11 PM

Went to see the doctor today for something I considered a minor annoyance: Ever since I was in Jamaica I’ve noticed a very slight but maddeningly consistent twitch in the bottom of my left quadricep. I remember being on the beach and remarking to our friends the Ambroses that this twitch was driving me crazy. We are solidly into the third week of twichery and things haven’t gotten better.

Of course, after the ice bucket challenges and watching ALS videos, my mind has conjured up the Worst Possible Scenario about what this could mean. Which is stupid. But predictable. This Popular Science article explaining the two types of twitches, for example, has only added fuel to the fire, to wit:

However, involuntary muscle twitches are not all fasciculations, and any non-fasciculation muscle twitch is almost certainly a bad sign. Fibrillation, for example, can be confused with fasciculation, but fibrillation indicates that the surrounding muscle fibers have completely lost their nerve supply. Fibrillations are very bad news, and indicate a serious nerve disorder, like Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

My twitches appear to my not-at-all-medically-trained eye to be the Could Be Something More variety. Thankfully, my doctor tends not to jump to wild conclusions like his patient does, and will treat this as something simple until proven otherwise.

I’ve had some unusual occurrences with my left leg recently, such as night cramps in my calf muscle. These have taken place about once every 6 months for the past few years. Curiously, it’s always the left leg, never the right.

Then there are the very visible veins that are popping out along my left leg. Like a mini mountain range, in places. My modeling days might be over but I don’t know if big veins are a concern.

I’ve been thinking for a while that my left leg appears to be bigger than my right. No one’s body is perfectly symmetrical, but a tape measure confirms that my left calf muscle is 1.5cm wider in circumference than my right. To my knowledge, though, no one’s ever died of asymmetry.

The doc took blood samples today, testing electrolyte levels. I should know in a few days whether that’s to blame for my leg’s twitchy behavior. I anxiously await the results.

Magnus Hedemark : I Kanban. So Kanyou.

September 02, 2014 03:29 PM

“We’re using a modified Kanban process.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begin Here

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

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

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

  • New Feature
  • Research Spike
  • Defect

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

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

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

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

Next up?

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


Tarus Balog : Ten Years On …

September 02, 2014 02:31 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Ford’s Theater

September 02, 2014 02:53 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnus Hedemark : long weekend in the homelab

September 01, 2014 05:02 PM

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

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

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

What are some of the things coming soon?

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

And further out?

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

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

August 30, 2014 09:21 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2014 11:45 AM


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

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

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

August 28, 2014 11:09 AM

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

Mark Turner : My FCC petition supporting Wilson’s challenge

August 28, 2014 08:04 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner
1108 Tonsler Dr
Raleigh, NC, 27604

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

August 28, 2014 08:03 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Kevin O’Donnell and ALS

August 27, 2014 08:37 PM

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 42

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

Zechariah 13:7b

Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered

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

August 27, 2014 11:34 AM


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

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2014 12:33 AM

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

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

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

August 25, 2014 03:42 AM

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

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

Mark Turner : Hold the ice

August 24, 2014 07:56 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Shocking photos: This is what drought looks like.

Eric Christensen : Okay, this is a neat attack…

August 22, 2014 01:44 PM

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

OWA Verify Screen

OWA Verify Screen

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

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : Keep Austin Weird

August 22, 2014 11:48 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Magnus Hedemark : Reading List

August 21, 2014 05:23 PM

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Back from Jamaica

August 21, 2014 03:04 PM

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

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

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

August 17, 2014 04:43 PM

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

The 7 items are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is related to the next point …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* publicizing compensation – why not?

Tarus Balog : Time Warner, Really?

August 15, 2014 04:42 PM

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

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

What bothers me is this bit at the bottom:

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

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

Tarus Balog : Review: Question Bedtime by MC Frontalot

August 15, 2014 03:04 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 41

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

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

August 13, 2014 11:02 AM

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

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: Insane Model Railroading…

August 09, 2014 01:12 PM

Blog: Insane Model Railroading

Mark Turner : Neighborhood kudos

August 07, 2014 11:47 AM

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

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

This makes it all worthwhile.

Mark Turner : Coyote snatches cat from porch

August 07, 2014 12:24 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : OSCON 2014: Is Open Source Dead?

August 06, 2014 05:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 05, 2014 02:10 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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