Tarus Balog : 2014 Open Source Monitoring Conference

November 26, 2014 10:28 PM

This year I got to return to the Open Source Monitoring Conference hosted by Netways in Nürnberg, Germany.

Netways is one of the sponsors of the Icinga project, and for many years this conference was dedicated to Nagios. It is still pretty Nagios-centric, but now it is focused more on the forks of that project than the project itself. There were presentations on Naemon and Sensu as well as Icinga, and then there are the weirdos (non-check script oriented applications) such as Zabbix and OpenNMS.

I like this conference for a number of reasons. Mainly there really isn’t any other conference dedicated to monitoring, much less one focused on open source. This one brings together pretty much the whole gang. Plus, Netways has a lot of experience in hosting conferences, so it is a nice time: well organized, good food and lots of discussion.

My trip started off with an ominous text from American Airlines telling me that my flight from RDU to DFW was delayed. While flying through DFW is out of the way, it enables me to avoid Heathrow, which is worth the extra time and effort. On the way to the airport I was told my outbound flight was delayed to the point that I wouldn’t be able to make my connection, so I called the airline to ask about options.

With the acquisition by US Airways, I had the option to fly through CLT. That would cut off several hours of the trip and let me ride on an Airbus 330. American flies mainly Boeing equipment, so I was curious to see if the Airbus was any better.

As usual with flights to Europe, you leave late in the evening and arrive early in the morning. Ulf and I settled in for the flight and I was looking forward to meeting up with Ronny when we landed.

The trip was uneventful and we met up with Ronny and took the ICE train from the airport to Nürnberg. The conference is at the Holiday Inn hotel, and with nearly 300 of us there we kind of take over the place. I did think it was funny that on my first trip there the instructions on how to get to the hotel from the train station were not very direct. I found out the reason was that the most direct route takes you by the red light district and I guess they wanted us to avoid that, although I never felt unsafe wandering around the city.

We arrived mid-afternoon and checked in with Daniela to get our badges and other information. She is one of the people who work hard to make sure all attendees have a great time.

I managed to take a short nap and get settled in, and then we met up for dinner. The food at these events is really nice, and I’m always a fan of German beer.

I excused myself after the meal due in part to jet lag and in part due to the fact that I needed to finish my presentation, and I wanted to be ready for the first real day of the conference.

The conference was started by Bernd Erk, who is sort of the master of ceremonies.

He welcomed us and covered some housekeeping issues. The party that night was to be held at a place called Terminal 90, which is actually at the airport. Last time they tried to use buses, but it became pretty hard to organize, so this time they arranged for us to take public transportation via the U-Bahn. After the introduction we then broke into two tracks and I decided to stay to hear Kris Buytaert.

I’ve known Kris through his blog for years now, but this was the first time I got to see him in person. He is probably most famous in my circles for introducing the hashtag #monitoringsucks. Since I use OpenNMS I don’t really agree, but he does raise a number of issues that make monitoring difficult and some of the methods he uses to address them.

The rest of the day saw a number of good presentations. As this conference has a large number of Germans in attendance, a little less than half of the tracks are given in German, but there was also always an English language track at the same time.

One of my favorite talks from the first day was on MQTT, a protocol for monitoring the Internet of Things. It addresses how to deal with devices that might not always be on-line, and was demonstrated via software running on a Raspberry Pi. I especially liked the idea of a “last will and testament” which describes how the device should be treated if it goes offline. I’m certain we’ll be incorporating MQTT into OpenNMS in the future.

Ronny and I missed the subway trip to the restaurant because I discovered a bug in my presentation configuration and it took me a little while to correct it, but I managed to get it done and we just grabbed a taxi. Even though it was in the airport, it was a nice venue and we caught up with Kris and my friend Rihards Olups from Zabbix. I first met Rihards at this conference several years ago and he brought me a couple of presents from Lativa (he lives near Riga). I still have the magnet on my office door.

Ulf, however, wasn’t as pleased to meet them.

We had a lot of fun eating, drinking and talking. The food was good and the staff was attentive. Ulf was much happier with our waitress (so was Ronny):

Since I had to call it an early night because my presentation was the first one on Thursday, a lot of people didn’t. After the restaurant closed they moved to “Checkpoint Jenny” which was right across the street (and under my window) from the hotel. Some were up until 6am.

Needless to say, the crowds were a little lighter for my talk. I think it went well, but next year I might focus more on why you might want to move away from check scripts to something a little more scalable. I did a really cool demo (well, in my mind) about sending events into OpenNMS to monitor the status of scripts running on remote servers, but it probably was hard to understand from a Nagios point of view.

Both Rihards and Kris made it to my talk, and Rihards once again brought gifts. I got a lot of tasty Latvian candy (which is now in the office, my wife ordering me to get it out of the house so it won’t get eaten) as well as a bottle of Black Balsam, a liqueur local to the region.

Rihards spoke after lunch, and most people were mobile by then. I enjoyed his talk and was very impressed to learn that every version of the remote proxy ever written for Zabbix is still supported.

I had to head back to Frankfurt that evening so I could fly home on Friday (my father celebrated his 75th birthday and I didn’t want to miss it) but we did find time to get together for a beer before I left. It was cool to have people from so many different monitoring projects brought together through a love of open source.

Next year the conference is from 16-18 November. I plan to attend and I hope to spend more time in Germany that trip than I had available to me this one.

Tarus Balog : Shameless Promotion

November 26, 2014 08:45 PM

Just a heads up that I have a couple of new websites that aren’t open source or OpenNMS related.

The first is tarus.io where I plan to put all of the geeky things that really don’t belong here, and because all of the cool kids seem to be getting .io addresses.

The second is forgottencocktails.com which is a blog where I’m trying to make all of the drinks in the seminal Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book. You might notice a trend in the frequency of posts there versus here (grin).

I figure at least one of my three readers might be interested in such things, but not to worry as I’ll still be providing open source insight and reckless commentary here for your enjoyment.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Does @NumerousApp silently fail on some pics? Or…

November 26, 2014 08:28 PM

Does @NumerousApp silently fail on some pics? Or does it take awhile for them to show in client? Seems I battled this before…

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Death by chocolate courtesy of @lucettegrace in Ra…

November 26, 2014 07:47 PM

Death by chocolate courtesy of @lucettegrace in Raleigh http://t.co/T6pyKlAStH


Scott Schulz : Tweet: What he wanted to say: “Break the law for five yea…

November 21, 2014 01:09 AM

What he wanted to say: “Break the law for five years without getting caught, and we’ll welcome you.”

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Does the Dumbass in Chief understand the meaning o…

November 21, 2014 01:07 AM

Does the Dumbass in Chief understand the meaning of the word ‘fact’? I think not. Not the word “criminal” either, apparently.

Warren Myers : charge for carry-on luggage

November 20, 2014 02:55 PM

Airlines over the past several years have begun charging for all kinds of things that used to be “free” (they weren’t ever “free”, they just hid the cost in your ticket price).

One of the worst offenders to this list of fees, though, is the inane charge for your first checked bag whereas carry-on baggage is free. Southwest doesn’t charge for your first two checked bags – and other airlines won’t if you have status or book your flight with their branded credit card – which is the model all airlines should use. But they need to add charging for anything for than your FAA-recognized “personal item”.

Why? Because finding overhead bin space for bulky carry-on bags is what slows most boardings to a crawl. And it is what makes most travelers most frustrated when getting on the plane – not in the first or second boarding groups? They’re going to check your bag(s) for you anyway because all the bin space is taken. (Add-in the ridiculous seat pitch, and you can hardly put anything but a small backpack or purse down by your feet anyway.)

My solution: give the first (and maybe second) checked bags away for free. But charge heavily for carry-on baggage that is more than a personal item (ie your laptop case or purse). (I’d allow an exception for items purchased in-airport from the duty-free shops – they can be carried-on free, too.) By “heavily”, I mean at least $50.

And I would eliminate that crazy practice of gate-checking your bag when getting onto a commuter flight: just check the bag and don’t bottleneck the jetway getting on and off for the rest of us who weren’t as narcissistic as to think bringing our roll-aboards onboard was a good idea.

With the TSA  suggesting everyone arrive at least 2 hours before their flight, there is no reason you wouldn’t have time to check your bags. And with the hassle of trying to navigate a crowded terminal dragging your wheelie duffel behind you, everyone should love the idea of just getting it at baggage claim.

“But what about lost bags?” I hear you ask. Lost and misdirected baggage happens. But it’s pretty rare. It’s something that has happened to me the sum total of 3 times in my flying life (the last 18 years, several of which included flying frequently for work). And of those 3 instances, only 1 ended up with the bag going to the wrong airport – each of the other two ended up with the bag arriving before I did.

Frontier Airlines gets it right (almost – on the carry-on aspect they do, but they still charge for checked bags). Mash Southwest’s checked policy with Frontier’s charging for carry-ons, and you would have a worlds-better flight experience.

The other major benefit to this plan: your time going through TSA will be shorter – the fewer bags that have to be scanned, the less time it will take to get through.

Tarus Balog : Can a Service Outage be Fraud?

November 19, 2014 04:11 PM

I’m in Germany for the always excellent Open Source Monitoring Conference (review coming) and I wanted to have data for my mobile phone. At the airport we stopped at a Relay store and bought an Ortel SIM card for 20 euros (well, €19.90). Since Ronny was with me I just let him activate the card (the process was mainly in German) and we got on the train to Nürnberg.

During the two hour trip I must have exhausted the small amount of default data that came with it, and thus began an odyssey that took over 24 hours to get resolved.

First we tried to go to the “Mein Ortel” site, but it was down.

Then, we downloaded the “Mein Ortel” app from Google Play. It loaded but we could never authenticate.

This lasted for hours.

After we had arrived at the hotel, we noticed that the website, at least, had become available. But at any point when we tried to purchase more time we’d get still another error.

They do have a customer service number, but they charge €0.49 per minute to use it. In desperation we called it but they had closed for the day, so there was no resolution to be had on the first night.

The next day we tried, unsuccessfully, to get the web site and the app to work. Finally Ronny called, was put on hold (!) and then told that they were having issues with their payment system. Why a total lack in the ability to accept payments would require so much time to determine that you would have to be put on hold is beyond me, but my guess is that Ortel just wanted to ratchet up a few more euros from me.

At lunch we went in search of another provider. We found a Base store that sold Ortel and Blau SIMs, but we were told that Blau may take up to 24 hours to activate. We then found a Vodafone store but they wanted €45 for a SIM. In the end, we decided to buy an Ortel voucher (the SIM was activated at least) for €15 and with the help of the lady at the Base store managed to get the credit applied, and I should have service for the reminder of my stay.

My question is: isn’t is fraud to take money for a service and then fail to deliver that service? I’m only here for three days and I was without data on my phone for more than a third of the trip, all due to the fact that Ortel can’t be bothered to implement network management.

I’m doubly surprised that this happened in Germany, since they tend to be more strict on these things than most countries.

Yeah, I know “first world problems”, but as someone who is in this country with nearly 300 other professionals to discuss monitoring it seems like Ortel could benefit from sending some people to this conference. As commercial network-services become even more prevalent and important, I do expect to see the implementation of fines for outages.

Anyway, if you are ever offered the option to get mobile service from Ortel, run the other way.

Mark Turner : Bootstraps? What if you don’t even have boots?

November 19, 2014 03:16 AM

A post I made to my Facebook page regarding the minimum wage turned into a pointless discussion about how the poor, lazy SOBs should just get better jobs. Yeah, I know … predictable. I know enough to not fan those flames but I came away from it really wondering what it might take for conservatives who subscribe to that point of view to really grasp what life is like for the working poor. Would spending 24 hours with a struggling single mother help them to see that the poor aren’t lazy? If not that, then what?

There is a force in play in our universe called karma. Those who mock the plight of the poor may one day find themselves in the same predicament. I would hope it wouldn’t come to that but honestly I’m not sure what might open their eyes. How can I help them understand?

Mark Turner : More light rail

November 18, 2014 02:00 PM

NCDOT's Engine 1792, "The City of Raleigh"

NCDOT’s Engine 1792, “The City of Raleigh.” This is heavy rail.

Continuing the spotlight on light rail reporting, today’s editorial in the N&O expressed support for light rail, which is good:

“Transit has been a topic of discussion for so long that advocates of light rail and commuter trains in the Triangle had been on the verge of giving up – on light rail and on the possibility that Wake County residents would be given a chance to vote on a small transit tax, already approved in Orange and Durham counties.

But now light-rail advocates are taking heart with a study of rail lines and crossings in West Raleigh and eastern Cary, with an eye toward the day when there will be light-rail stations and accompanying development.”

I have to make somewhat of a correction myself, as there will indeed be light rail on part of the NCRR corridor between Cary and Raleigh. This is in addition to the “heavy rail” commuter rail service proposed between Cary and Durham on the existing tracks.

The N&O is not alone in throwing the “light rail” terminology around. WRAL had their own story called Wake commissioners lukewarm on light rail:

“Regional transit officials are excited over federal approval on Tuesday to enter project development on a 17-mile light rail system in Durham and Orange counties, but Wake County commissioners remain light on the idea.”

Technically, very few commuter rail systems in America are truly “light rail,” due to the stringent (some say impossibly high) standards the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) imposes on the nation’s rail services. Therefore, with few exceptions (such as a day-night separation passenger and freight traffic) light rail systems require their own tracks. According to the Capital Area Friends of Traffic, we’ll be getting new tracks for our light rail system from Cary to Triangle Town Center mall:

“Phase II: Enhanced Transit Plan

Light Rail Service

Electric trains on new track
Runs 13.9 miles from downtown Cary, through downtown Raleigh, and up to Millbrook Rd.; eventually expanding to NW Cary/Morrisville and up to Triangle Town Center
Trains every 10 min. during peak and 20 min. off-peak
16 stations, with some over-lapping with commuter rail stations
Coordinates with local bus service
Links neighborhoods to provide intra-city travel and new transit-oriented development
Implemented by 2022
Costs $1.1 billion for construction, $14 million for operation
Requires federal and state funding as well as local revenue.”

That, as you’ll note, is Phase II of the transit plan as it’s obviously much easier to get commuter rail going on existing tracks.

So, bottom line: are we readying for light rail? Yes we are, but we’re going to do heavy rail first. That’s really my quibble with this reporting.

Mark Turner : N&O makes “light rail” goof on front page

November 17, 2014 07:54 PM

Light Rail? Umm, no.

Light Rail? Umm, no.

While we’re holding the N&O under a microscope, I tsk tsked over my coffee this morning when I read the headline that accompanied the print edition of this story…

RALEIGH — In West Raleigh and eastern Cary, government planners are laying the groundwork for the development and traffic that may accompany a string of proposed passenger rail stations.

A coalition of local governments and others has put half a million dollars toward a study of the roads between the two municipalities, aiming to improve safety and traffic flow at a half-dozen places where rail lines cross pavement.

I re-read the story again just to be sure and the conclusion is that these hearings have nothing to do with light rail. Heavy rail, yes. Light rail, no.

Heavy rail is the giant locomotive that graced the front page along with this story. Light rail is rail that can go most places that cars can go (existing road overpasses, etc). Light rail is a custom-built, closed system most often powered by electricity. Think Charlotte’s Lynx line.

Raleigh’s (and Wake’s) first dip into commuter rail will begin with heavy rail, using existing freight tracks and pulled along by diesel locomotives. That’s what these hearings are about – how to deal with the road crossings in the existing rail corridors. They have nothing to do with the entirely new corridors that light rail will require.

I’m happy that the online version didn’t commit the same mistake as the print edition but I would expect the N&O to have a better grasp of these concepts (and perhaps print a correction).
via RALEIGH: Raleigh, Cary look to improve rail corridor before transit arrives | Traffic | NewsObserver.com.

Mark Turner : I told the cabbie, “take me to Midtown”

November 17, 2014 07:41 PM

… said no one, ever.

The News and Observer ran this story last week about changes to Enloe High School’s base. As you know, changes to Enloe are of high interest to me, so of course I read it. I didn’t get too far before something really irritated me:

CARY — Enloe High School is among nine overcrowded schools that Wake County school administrators have identified for possible limits on enrollment.

In a briefing for the school board’s facilities committee Wednesday, school planners also suggested keeping enrollment caps in place at 10 other schools, including Combs and Hunter elementary schools in the Midtown area during the 2015-16 school year.

See that? The “Midtown area?” What the hell is the “Midtown area?” Hunter Elementary is firmly in Southeast Raleigh and Combs is out on the southwestern edge of Raleigh. Neither one would be considered “midtown” in anyone’s estimation.

“Midtown” is an invention of the News and Observer to create a new outlet for its advertising. Have you ever in your life ever heard anyone say “I’m from Midtown?” Have you ever heard any other media source refer to Midtown? No? Me neither.

Maybe it’s time to give up on this moniker since no one outside of the newspaper has any idea what it means.

via CARY: Enloe High School near downtown Raleigh could see enrollment limits | Education | MidtownRaleighNews.com.

Mark Turner : Don’t blame the voter

November 17, 2014 12:16 AM

It’s been about two weeks since the last election and I’m about as tired now of the Monday morning quarterbacking from my fellow Democrats as I was of the campaign mudslinging. I keep hearing “if only so and so group had voted.” “I don’t understand why this group didn’t vote.”

Can I ask a favor? Can we please stop blaming the voter? If a voter wasn’t moved by our message it’s not the voter that needs fixing, it’s the message. We Democrats have to either sell what people are buying or convince them to buy what we’re selling. If our product isn’t compelling then we need to come up with either a better product (a.k.a., candidates or platform) or better marketing (a.k.a. spin).

This really isn’t rocket science. It starts with knowing the voter, knowing what it takes to get her off the couch and into the polling place. If you don’t understand why a particular voter doesn’t vote that sure ain’t the voter’s fault.

Mark Turner : Peter Eichenberger on 9/11

November 14, 2014 01:57 PM

I was thinking again today about a local writer whom I respected, Peter Eichenberger. It was about this time of year four years ago that Peter wrote this post on the 9/11 event on his blog. He died just three days later from the brain injuries he suffered in a bike crash several years prior. I figured I’d repost it here in case WordPress.com ever got around to deleting his blog.

Vowing to myself not to succumb to a knee-jerk reaction over the passing of the date of the most significant post-WW ll event I kept it buttoned back in September. Were it so until a November 17th piece by Kevin Ryan in Foreign Policy Journal, an expanded look at well reviewed (overseas) evidence of insider trading upstream of 9/11 that added some weighty bit of ballast to the mounting pile of evidence pointing toward a new, actual investigation. http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/11/18/evidence-for-informed-trading-on-the-attacks-of-september-11/%5D Ryan’s piece added to the fuel provided by W’s aka Whistledick’s claim to have ordered the launch of interceptors following the hit on the South Tower, a claim that the prudent analyst must entertain is based in truth. That fancy leaves 2 troubling possibilities; that both the Air Force and Air National Guard failed at their duty, or “someone” else lower in the chain of command chose to countermand a President’s executive orders. Either event in another dimension would have resulted in the military inquiry that never happened here.

Anyone out there who’s kept up with my stuff knows how I feel about the 911 myth, the one claiming that 19 guys with box cutters flummoxed the world’s most advanced defense system (@ a Billion dollars per day) and on the day when it really mattered penetrated the most stringently protected airspace in the world to put a “jetliner” into the side of the Pentagon. To accept this far-fetched story, the first of a tottering sky-high stack of coinkeedinks, leaves unexamined a similar event a scant year before when Golfer Payne Stewart’s Lear 35 lost cabin pressure resulting in unconsciousness of crew and passengers and death by suffocation. Civilian and NORAD radar operators knew of the problem almost immediately, scrambled fighters from Tyndall AND McDill AFBs and within 15 minutes intercepted the Lear Jet with enough time to mull a shoot down if the plane threatened populated areas until it starved for fuel and crashed in South Dakota.
Actual hard evidence aka unreported facts threatening the Official Conspiracy Theory are becoming so numerous and enlarged that they seem poised to coalesce into a WTC sized amoeba come to swallow the far-fetched fairy tale — if only somehow they were to be published ANYWHERE in the US media. Anyone out there read about the prominent Australian Labor leader who has taken a good look at the material available and declared the official myth to be questionable? http://www.silobreaker.com/911-explanation-not-good-enough-for-australian-union-leader-5_2263807374013759683 I didn’t think so. How about the Colorado Democratic Party’s demand for an investigation? No? Figures. http://911blogger.com/news/2010-11-09/colorado-democratic-party-supports-new-911-investigation . How about the piece on Evidence Based Inquiry and 911? http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/09/24/ethical-reflections-on-the-911-controversy/all/1
For those just joining us, a refresher on some old news, primary pesky details that no official body has made an attempt to answer and have never, NEVER appeared in your morning paper.
In stark contrast to the 911 Commission members having rejected their own findings and declared the report to have been based on “lies,” the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) , Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA and every other official agency and person involved continue to insist on unsupportable, daft “theories” in the absence of evidence, common sense, historic precedent as well as concordance with accepted laws of physics, like:
1. That 3 steel-framed buildings collapsed, one in just 56 minutes, via office fires ignited by jet fuel, an innocuous accelerant chemically identical to charcoal lighter — kerosene, which would have cooked off in minutes. Despite official accounts and supporting data that the fires did not nor could not have risen over 1800 degrees (and then only briefly) no official agency or person (besides Kevin Ryan, a true patriot who lost his job with UL over his work on the steel issue http://www.wanttoknow.info/911kevinrryanfired) has dared even speculate on source of the 2400 degrees required to have produced the large quantities of MOLTEN steel that persisted for weeks in the pit, attested to by people on the scene (4) including the same NYFD emergency crews pulled off the scene to make way for a creepy list of robotic specialists, some specializing in ordnance removal.
2. No US official has recognized or bothered to comment on the work of Danish scientist Neils Harriet, et al who co-authored a peer-reviewed paper that extensively reviewed the presence in the dust of the collapsed building of microspheres of solidified molten steel and fragments of a highly specialized form of thermite unavailable to anyone outside of a government or intelligence agencies. http://www.bentham.org/open/tocpj/articles/V002/7TOCPJ.htm?TOCPJ/2009/00000002/00000001/7TOCPJ.SGM
3. There have been no ideas forwarded as to why 5 Israeli Mossad agents detained and later released were doing across the river in Jersey jiving and high fiving as they videotaped the buildings’ destruction http://www.erichufschmid.net/TFC/Bollyn-dancing-Israelis.html especially in light of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initial elation to the news of the WTC destruction, ”It’s very good,” immediately editing himself: ”Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” certainly a true statement considering the US’s role as Israel’s primary patron. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/12/international/12ISRA.html
4. No one has even attempted to provide a consistent explanation as to what brought Building 7 down, an event not even mentioned in the official 911 report. “It” certainly wasn’t an aircraft as the building was not struck by an airplane. History’s sole fire-induced failure of a steel framed building in history, in a major metro area no less, becomes even more curious when viewed the lack of any investigation (the 911 commission report did not even mention it) and lately the additional oddity of some, um, edited videotapes http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/2010/10/suppressed-911-footage-explosions.html which served via the media to construct the dominate consensus reality of that day. One piece finally pried out of NIST by a lawsuit revealed both 2 snips, one that removed the frames showing the penthouse collapse of building 7, the other a piece of soundtrack that revealed a loud, low frequency rumble that synchronized with the penthouse collapse and data captured by seismic research stations up the Hudson River. http://www.sott.net/articles/show/209899-A-New-Study-of-the-Seismic-Signals-on-September-11-2001-in-New-York The data the stations captured were to non-official geophysicists mindful not so much of a hollow object striking another hollow object but something more akin to heavy explosions heard by hundreds at the site, notably a Janitor, Rodriquez just before the airplane strike http://www.rinf.com/news/july-05/14a.html
These are just identifiable, documented facts and scientific observations that scatter the contents of the “coincidence” bucket. Good detectives look askance at “coincidences” as do authentic scientists, as should curious laymen. Yet, incredibly, here was the C word used by a senior Military official prefaced by the use of “bizarre” when he spoke of the lack of air response being caused by Vigilant Guardian, an air defense drill supposedly training pilots, yet one more in a tottering stack of the unexplained that test the limits of probability. It might be interesting and useful to contrast that detail with the presence of security teams conducting a “drill” in London for a Tube bombing, exactly the event that occurred there that same day.
Analysis of the original “coincidence,” the lack of air defense, must include a curious account rendered by former Transportation Secretary Norman Minetta, in the Situation Room that morning of a young staffer who continued providing warnings of an approaching aircraft on the radar scopes until a Doctor No drew the kid up with a scolding. Bear in mind, Andrews AFB is 10 miles from the capital. http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=norman_mineta
The only question remaining for me in light of the slow collapse of the myth and repeated pressing of the 911 button that seems to have worn the paint off is: what’s next? The US is in a similar position of the Catholic Church following the bloody end of their heresy scare when to keep parishioners on edge and to retain their hegemony the church stoked up a witch craze. Now that the man has about worn the paint of the 911 button (once we finish playing mop boy on Iran for the Israelis) the US Empire of Fear will be forced to conjure up another invisible, implacable foe to foster a greater, even more unbelievable threat. Don’t look for it to be the Chinese. Who else out there is scaled to churn out sufficient tonnage of consumerist crap for mall fatsos? Nope, the US is fresh out of credible earth based enemies. Amid the military/security/industrial empire’s need for a more menacing, implacable threat, the prescient visionary must look to the stars. That’s right, I’m betting on it being flying saucers. You heard it here first.

Mark Turner : Talking trance

November 14, 2014 03:08 AM

Man, I don’t know what happened but it sure was interesting! I returned from my Digital Connectors talk tonight around 6:50 PM. I then settled down to catch up with some of my friends’ activities on Facebook. When I got up from my chair about 20 minutes later it had seemed to me as if two hours had passed. I could not believe the clock was moving as slowly as it was. It was as if I were in some kind of a trance!

I know I get energized when talking with groups (and especially kids) but to have time draw out like that for me was really amazing. Not sure what went on there but I’m glad it did!

Mark Turner : Reconnecting with the Digital Connectors

November 14, 2014 02:44 AM

These young people are going to change the world

These young people are going to change the world

Recently I was invited to give another talk to the Raleigh Digital Connectors and I delivered that talk tonight to a roomful of attentive young people at the St. Monica’s Teen Center. My experiences with blogging was again the topic of conversation, so I spent about 45 minutes going over the highlights (and some of the lowlights) of my twelve years of blogging experience.

It’s hard to boil down so many different posts over so many different years so I mentioned some of the posts that got noticed or those that mean a lot to me. I also had fun comparing blogging to Facebook and trying to show that they’re not the same.

Given a little more time, I would have mentioned a few other things, too. Near the conclusion, I was trying to make a point about how I speak my mind here and if you find what I say to offend you then it’s your fault. If you come into my proverbial home, don’t be shocked when you find me being myself. Many of my friends and family find agreement with things I write and many do not. That doesn’t bother me because I feel obligated to the world to always call ‘em like I see ‘em, regardless of whether my opinions are popular or not. I hope I’ve demonstrated that characteristic throughout my years as a blogger.

That’s what I was trying to convey, anyway. In the excitement of the talk I tend to trip over my words and sometimes mangle my point. :)

The other part of that is that there have been a few cases where one of my friends had been on the opposite side of an issue but after reading my thoughts on the topic they had changed their mind. Those times are especially rewarding as a blogger since they showed that people may assume you think a certain way but if you have a forum in which you can share your views, they might not only realized they misjudged you, they might even decide they agree with you. Pretty cool when it happens.

Bradley Upchurch, who leads the program, asked if there were examples where I’ve used my blog (to paraphrase) “for good,” as in helped rally around a cause. I hadn’t thought of any good examples at the time, but one that popped into my head was the time I wrote about the untimely death of an acquaintance of mine, Leah Kubick. Leah was a geek and a blogger like me and better known by her online handle of Heinous. Anyway, my post was very brief but it somehow caught the eye of Leah’s mother. She posted a very nice comment on the post thanking me for remembering her daughter. It wasn’t a revolution or any big movement but I’m happy if I helped ease someone’s pain.

Blogging is what you make it. Everyone is different and everyone has something to say. There are no real rules here. Just post what you feel like posting, be yourself, and trust that you’ll find your audience.

Warren Myers : do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop – law 47 – #48laws by robert greene

November 13, 2014 01:18 PM

Law 47

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Shipping is a Feature.

Tarus Balog : Net Neutrality and Enron

November 11, 2014 03:08 PM

Yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas tweeted the following:

It was in response to President Obama making a statement in support of Net Neutrality by wanting to classify broadband Internet as a utility. Despite the fact that it was about six years too late, I had to roll my eyes because I knew that if Obama came out in support of something, the Republicans would feel required to take the opposite stance.

Treating broadband as a utility is a no-brainer. It is basically an extension of the telephone system which has done very well as a utility, and it has become so important to most people and businesses that creating barriers to access would be a huge step backward. The OpenNMS Group would not have been able to survive in a world where we would have to pay to compete for access at levels that HP and IBM can afford, and there are thousands of other small businesses and entrepreneurs in the same boat.

But Senator Cruz and others have received a large amount of money from cable companies, especially Comcast, who stand to benefit the most if they can charge different rates to different content providers. This isn’t an new argument, Jon Stewart discussed it on his show back in 2006:

But now with Obama’s stance and the newly minted Republican-controlled Congress wanting to flex its muscles, expect it to become a hotter topic.

I was made aware of this through The Oatmeal, and while Matt Inman is dead on as usual, his language and analogies are, hmm, shall we say, not often for gentle ears. So while he makes his point he is basically preaching to the choir, and we need to frame the discussion in something that may actually shame the Republicans into doing the right thing.

Then I remembered Enron.

If broadband is not a utility, but seems like one, what could happen if we put control into private hands? That’s exactly what California did in 1996 by partially deregulating its energy market. This let to an energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, that according to Wikipedia was “caused by market manipulations, illegal shutdowns of pipelines by the Texas energy consortium Enron, and capped retail electricity prices”.

It’s eerie that Comcast’s shutdown of Netflix traffic is so similar to “illegal shutdowns of pipelines”. It’s already happening.

So, when faced with irrational statements like those from Senator Cruz, remain calm and just point out “so you think we need an Enron of the Internet?”. Keep saying it, over and over again.

Perhaps they’ll get the message.

Mark Turner : The fall of the Berlin wall, 25 years ago

November 11, 2014 01:42 AM

Yesterday, the fall of the Berlin Wall turned 25. I wrote about the fall of the Wall back on its twentieth anniversary. It remains one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen on television.

As I wrote five years ago, it was quite satisfying to be serving in the military at a time when peace was “breaking out all over.” Somewhere, in a parallel universe, that peace became permanent.

Mark Turner : Bridging the rural gap

November 10, 2014 03:40 AM

Last week’s election overall didn’t look good for North Carolina Democrats. I have been reflecting on the Raleigh Elites post I wrote two years ago. Looking at the map where Tillis won versus where Hagan won, there is still a huge divide between urban versus rural voters.

The upside this time around is that Democrats did exceedingly well in Wake County, which was the source of frustration in my post from two years ago. The difference, I think, is messaging. The combined campaigns of Hutchinson, Burns, Holmes, and Calabria offered a coherent plan. They articulated why they should be elected and I think that helped cross the divide. It looked like they were competent, at least, and I think that is valued more now in political leaders.

Did Kay Hagan offer a compelling reason to vote for her? When I listened to her stump speeches, all I seem to remember is “Koch Brothers this” and “Koch Brothers that.” I cringed when I heard it. Most of the electorate has no clue who the Koch brothers are. If you’re going to run a campaign based on a boogeyman, at least make it one everyone is frightened of.

These are the challenges that face whomever opts to rebuild the state Democratic party. I hope we find someone who can inspire voters because that’s what we seem to be missing.

Mark Turner : Parks bond passes

November 10, 2014 03:24 AM

Election night was sweet for me for one uncommon reason. You see I, along with a few dozen other citizens, served on the citizen’s advocacy committee for Raleigh’s recent $92 million parks bond. As co-chair I was tasked with marketing and PR, including social media. My friend Jeff Tippett was chair of the overall effort and as he has an actual marketing background he was able to fill in for my lack of marketing background. I came up with the fun “I flip for parks” social media campaign and enjoyed posting pictures of notable Raleigh personalities as they “flipped for parks.”

The bond passed with 68% support. I was hoping to beat the 2007 bond’s numbers but considering the political landscape and that it was the largest bond ever floated by the city, I’m pretty happy with 68%.

Starmount does NOT flip for parks

Starmount does NOT flip for parks

Post-election I was reviewing the poll results and noticed there was one precinct that voted decidedly against the bond: the Starmount neighborhood just east of Capital Boulevard. This precinct, 17-10, voted 216 no to 184 yes, or 54% no.

Neither me nor parks staff are entirely sure why Starmount doesn’t flip for parks. The guess is that this is an older population which is averse to taxes but that’s just a guess. It would be interesting to interview a few of these citizens to find out why they voted the way they did.

Mark Turner : Parks board service is complete

November 10, 2014 01:52 AM

I learned last week that my replacement was finally appointed to the Parks board. Thus, the October meeting I attended was indeed my last one. I was humbled by the kind remarks my fellow boardmembers shared with me. It’s been a great ride, that’s for sure.

I do also want to wish my replacement, Shane Malun, all the best!

Mark Turner : Advocating vs. complaining

November 08, 2014 01:03 AM

In September we learned that the Wake County Public School System was considering shifting our neighborhood’s school assignment away from nearby Enloe High School and to Millbrook High School. Millbrook is a great school, don’t get me wrong, it’s just much farther away than Enloe. What’s more, this was the sixth proposed or actual reassignment we’ve had since we’ve been here (six years). Hearing of the plans gave me whiplash.

Kelly and I worked to rally the neighborhood to advocate for our cause. We reached out on the mailing lists, explaining the situation and providing links to the resources so our neighbors could see for themselves. With a good understanding of the guiding principles of the reassignment (proximity, stability, operational efficiency, and student achievement), we suggested our neighbors politely point out how these points were not being supported by the change. A number of neighbors followed our lead, repeating the points we offered on the school system’s feedback site. We also suggested polite emails be sent to the board members. I heard back from some boardmembers that they had received quite a bit of feedback on the issue, which is a good sign.

Bottom line? The school system opted not to shift our neighborhood, we got what we wanted, and everything stayed civil.

I thought of this when I came across a friend’s Facebook post, showing how she was working to change her reassignment:

Can you provide a logical reason to shift all 119 current [Neighborhood] students out of [Preferred] elementary to a school that is farther away and on a different calendar? Remember, [Preferred Elementary School] was one of the schools that was converted to MYR and then converted back. You had so many parents fighting against MYR for so long that you created an administrative nightmare for the district. This will only continue as the majority will apply to traditional calendar schools and you’ll create more work for the district. [Neighborhood] has been the backbone of [Preferred Elementary School] for years and is the closest physical school as long as I have lived in the neighborhood (17 years). Please explain your reasonable justification. Overcrowding doesn’t work, now that other neighborhoods who were going to be shifted to [Preferred School] are no longer being shifted in this draft there are PLENTY OF SEATS.

See that? “Provide a logical reason…” “Administrative nightmare…” “Please explain your reasonable justification…” That sets a confrontational tone. Automatically the school system staff are painted as adversaries. This is the stick approach. Here’s more from other comments to this post:

[Fancy Neighborhoods] and that area have been handed what they asked for on a silver platter. Now their neighborhoods are safe and comfortable in their traditional spots. The “proposed new traditional middle school” will NOT be built and ready before MANY [Neighborhood] children are entering middle school. So, we will find ourselves FIGHTING for those coveted [Preferred Middle School] traditional spots. [Neighborhood] will get shut out of [Preferred Elementary School] and [Preferred Middle School] as they become more crowded.

This is the us-vs-them, it’s-not-fair argument. Again, a non-starter.

And another:


This person chose to move into one of the highest-growth areas of the Triangle and now blames the other people moving in? Bonus points for insulting the people that they need to persuade.

Here’s another:

I have yet to hear a logical reason why [Neighborhood's] kids should be uprooted from [Preferred Elementary School] and shifted to another school farther from their community. Has anyone stopped to think what is best for these kids? We want to keep our kids at the school that they know within our own community. Providing this as an option and not a base is simply a false compromise. It’s clear that not all these kids, if any of them, can grandfather in to [Preferred Elementary School].

“Yet to hear a logical reason…” sounds a lot like talking down to staff. And “has anyone stopped to think what is best for kids” is also insulting to staff.

None of these have addressed the guiding principles mentioned above. They’re based on emotion, not facts. I fully understand these parents’ concern and emotion and I don’t blame them for wanting to advocate for their kids, it’s just that this is not the way to sway anybody.

There is a bright spot in the comments, however. One parent sets the right tone:

[Neighborhood] has a long tradition and largest attendance base for [Preferred Elementary School.] It is within safe walking and bike riding distance on town roads (no crossing under highways). [Neighborhood] parents, including myself, have deep volunteer involvement with the school. My wife and I designed and built the [Preferred Elementary School] website! My four oldest kids have attended there, and I hope my younger kids will go there as well.

Traditional calendar is very important to us as well. We will have kids in high school, middle school, and elementary school at the same time for many years to come (I have six boys!). So aligning [Preferred Elementary School] > [Preferred Middle School] > [Preferred High School] is extremely important for us to be able to manage the schedules in a way that doesn’t negatively affect our family and the boys’ education.

Please do not move [Neighborhood] to [Unwanted Elementary School.] We need to stay traditional, and we love [Preferred Elementary School] and [Preferred Middle School.]

The key to getting what you want is to advocate, not to complain. Certainly not to insult the decision-makers. In this case only this last comment hit the mark.

With my own recent advocacy experience coupled with having sat through many public hearings as a parks board member, I have considered offering a workshop locally to teach people the right way to advocate for their particular causes. It doesn’t matter whether your cause has merit if you shoot yourself in the foot before you even get started.

Jesse Morgan : The Key to Creating Good, Tileable Images (in GIMP)

November 07, 2014 08:13 PM

I’m writing this as a general guide both for future reference, and to get feedback from others.

Often when using an image manipulation program such as GIMP or Photoshop, you’ll need to create large swaths of consistent texture. The easiest way to do this is with a pattern fill tool, however most programs only include a small set of patterns. The good news is that you can make your own with relatively little grief.

A quick note- While you may occasionally want an obvious tile (e.g. tiled floors), this discussion will focus on tiles that try to appear seamless.

Choose a Texture


For our example, I took a photo of the dirt outside. As you can see, it’s not perfectly uniform, but we’ll take care of that in a moment.

The first step is obviously to decide what you’d like to have as a texture- dirt, cement, gravel, treebark, marble, and leaves are all good examples of common textures. Your texture should be relatively consistent. While some variation is needed to give it flavor, it needs to be somewhat symmetric (i.e. a baseball in a tile of grass will make tiling obvious), however you may be able to cover that up.







Crop Inconsistencies


Here you can see I cropped out the large flat top right corner and dark bottom left corner. It’s starting to look a lot more consistent, however there’s still a few pesky details that stick out.

Sometimes your source picture will have an anomaly on one side, such as the edge of a sidewalk on a dirt texture, or stick in a field of grass that wasn’t quite out of frame. The simplest way to deal with this is to crop it out. Save as much as you can of the original image, but make sure to completely remove the inconsistency. Judicious cropping can also help you determine your focus- is your pattern a field of grass or blades of grass?









Remove Anomalies


Here you can see I removed quite a few wood chips, the twig, some tree buds, and a small sprout The consistency is coming along nicely at this point.

Should your texture has some type of anomaly (like the baseball mentioned above) that is too far in to safely crop, you can often use a combination of the rubber stamp tool and healing tool to copy a more generic spot over the anomaly and blend it into place.









Offset and Wrap


We were relatively lucky with the dirt; the seams are barely noticeable.

Now that our tile looks fairly consistent, lets examine the seams. For this we’ll need to offset the entire image by half (Layer->transform->offset or ctrl+shift+o) along the X and Y axis. This should give you a nice cross where the edges will meet in the final product. Quite often you will find color variation between the two sides- sometimes you can get lucky and dodge or burn the image to get them closer shades, sometimes it’s far more tricky (and beyond the scope of this document).


Using the four quadrants as a baseline, you can use the rubber stamp and healing tools to cover the seams- with any luck this process will be fairly simple and painless. Remember, the goal is to make the seams disappear, so be sure to feather it in unevenly, and not with a straight line that will still be visible.





This image should be seamlessly tileable at this point.

Once complete, we need to verify we didn’t accidentally damage leave any artifacts need the ends of the seams. To do this, do another offer, but only offset the Y by half; this may reveal a small horizontal seam near the center. Take care of that and perform a final offset, transition X by half. This should leave a small vertical seam. Once it’s resolved, you should have a nice, seamless texture… but we’re not done yet.









Unfortunately we do see some banding along the top and middle of the image; this could be corrected with some dodging and burning, but we’ll call it good for now.

Quadruple It

The phrase “can’t see the forest for the trees” applies here. We’ve seen what one intersection looks like- how about several? If we increase the image canvas size and duplicate time layer 3 more times, we can set them side-by-side and merge them down to identify redundant features that escaped us previously. Things you might see include:

  • That small twig may have been unnoticeable with one tile, but with many tiles it betrays the redundancy
  • There may have been an ever-so slight variation in color that was previously unnoticed
  • The area surrounding the original seams was not as well blended as previously thought
  • A small area that is simply too unique and sticks out just enough to be noticeable.

You have a choice at this point; you can either undo back to the single image, or choose to keep it quadrupled. If you keep it quadrupled, you can ad ever-so-slight modifications to each quadrant to help disperse the redundancy.


The final step is to export (File->export as… or ctrl+shift+e) and save the pattern as a .pat file.  This should be kept in your GIMP patterns folder (on linux ~/.gimp-2.8/patterns/)

The next time you refresh your patterns box, you should see your new texture.

Holy Cow it’s too Big!

Oh, all that work we just put in? It may be worthless; I shoulda mentioned that up front.

Here’s the problem: If your base texture is 2500×2000 pixels, don’t be surprised that your pattern is gigantic when you try to use it. As of right now, GIMP doesn’t have a built-in way to scale patterns (although there are plugins that claim to do it). Your best bet is to scale the image down before exporting it to a pat file, just be warned that the scaled image may have seams reappear from the scaling interpolation, so you may need to run through the offsets again to verify that it’s acceptable.

Final Note…

  • No, I cannot tell you how to do this in photoshop.
  • I despise capitalizing GIMP. it I understand why it’s supposed to be, but it still feels super lame.
  • If you have feedback, please leave a comment below- I’d love to improve my process.
  • If you liked this tutorial, please consider supporting me via Patreon

Tarus Balog : Test Driven Development

November 07, 2014 05:05 PM

One of the things that bothers me a lot about the software industry is this idea that proprietary software is somehow safer and better written than open source software. Perhaps it is because a lot of people still view software as “magic” and since you can’t see the code, is must be more “magical”. Or perhaps is it because people assume that something you have to pay for must be better than something that is free.

I’ve worked for and with a number of proprietary software companies, so I’ve seen how the sausage is made, and in some cases you don’t want to know. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen well managed commercial software companies that produce solid code because in the long run solid code is better and costs less, but I’ve also seen the opposite done simply to get a product to market quickly.

With open source, at least if you expect contribution, you have to produce code that is readable. It also helps if it is well written since good programmers respect and like working with other good programmers. It’s out there for everyone to see, and that puts extra demands on its quality.

In the interest of making great code, many years ago we switched to the Spring framework which had the benefit that we could start writing software tests. This test driven development is one reason OpenNMS is able to stay so stable with lots of code changes and a small test team.

What’s funny is that we’ve talked to at least two other companies who started implementing test driven development but then dropped it because it was too hard. It wasn’t easy for us, either, but as of this writing we run 5496 tests every time something changes in the main OpenNMS application, and that doesn’t include all of the other branches and projects such as Newts. We use the Bamboo product from Atlassian to manage the tests so I want to take this opportunity to thank them for supporting us.

OpenNMS 14 contained some of the biggest code changes in the platform’s history but so far it has been one of the smoothest releases yet. While most of that was due to to the great team of developers we have, part of it was due to the transparency that the open source process encourages.

Commercial software could learn a thing or two from it.

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS 14 Timelines

November 05, 2014 05:31 PM

I often talk about how OpenNMS is a platform and not just an application, and with the release of OpenNMS 14 there is a lovely way to demonstrate the difference.

There is a cool little GUI improvement that I believe was started at last year’s Dev Jam which provides graphical timeline for outages. So now instead of having to look at the outage table on a node’s page, you can just look at the service availability section.

Cool, huh? What you may not realize is that instead of hardcoding the feature the timelines are rendered through ReST. The GUI sends a ReST request to the server which returns the graphic information. Let’s examine the “Update” service above.

The query


results in:

with a format of:


Even the header graphic is done the same way


results in:

with a format of:


Of course, assembling all of that can be tedious, so this query:


with a format of:


will create the whole HTML code needed to render the timeline:

document.write('<img src="/opennms/rest/timeline/image/46/" usemap="#46-">
<map name="46-"><area shape="rect" coords="128,2,412,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153740" alt="Id 153740"
title="2014-11-04 18:13:24.628"><area shape="rect" coords="-111,2,-26,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153724" alt="Id 153724" 
title="2014-11-04 06:12:56.322"><area shape="rect" coords="-2051,2,-1925,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153348" alt="Id 153348" 
title="2014-10-31 06:13:11.421"><area shape="rect" coords="-2291,2,-2291,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153289" alt="Id 153289" 
title="2014-10-30 18:11:33.006"><area shape="rect" coords="-2691,2,-2397,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153258" alt="Id 153258" 
title="2014-10-29 22:13:27.086"><area shape="rect" coords="-2871,2,-2871,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153235" alt="Id 153235" 
title="2014-10-29 13:12:29.747"><area shape="rect" coords="-3071,2,-2884,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153137" alt="Id 153137" 
title="2014-10-29 03:12:13.887"><area shape="rect" coords="-3232,2,-3231,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153132" alt="Id 153132" 
title="2014-10-28 19:11:02.873"><area shape="rect" coords="-3690,2,-3670,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=153086" alt="Id 153086" 
title="2014-10-27 20:14:11.949"><area shape="rect" coords="-6431,2,-6431,18" href="/opennms/outage/detail.htm?id=152786" alt="Id 152786" 
title="2014-10-22 03:11:05.149"></map>');

If a service isn’t monitored, such as the StrafePing service in the above example, that empty timeline is also available:


with a format of:


Pretty cool, huh? A lot of OpenNMS is accessible by ReST and the wiki page covers most of the options. Thus you can use the data via the OpenNMS GUI or integrate it with one of your own.

Tarus Balog : Announcing OpenNMS 14 and Newts 1.0

November 04, 2014 05:08 PM

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the release of OpenNMS 14. Yup, you heard right, OpenNMS *fourteen*.

It’s been more than 12 years since OpenNMS 1.0 so we’ve decided to pull a Java and drop the “1.” from the version numbers. Also, we are doing away with stable and development branches. The Master branch has been replaced with the develop branch, which will be much more stable than development releases have been in the past, and we’ll name the next major stable release 15, followed by 16, etc. Do expect bug fix point releases as the in past, but the plan is to release more major releases per year than just one.

A good overview of all the new features in 14 can be found here:


The development team has been working almost non-stop over the last two months to make OpenNMS 14 the best and most tested version yet. A lot of things has been added, such as new topology and geographic maps, and some big things have been made better, such as linkd. Plus, oodles of little bugs have finally been closed making the whole release seem more polished and easier to use.

Today we also released Newts 1.0, the first release in a new time series data storage library. Published under the Apache License, this technology is built on Cassandra and is aimed at meeting Big Data and Internet of Things needs by providing fast, hugely scalable and redundant data storage. You can find out more about this technology here:


While not yet integrated with OpenNMS, the 1.0 release is the first step in the process. Users will have the option to replace the JRobin/RRDtool storage strategies with Newts. Since Newts stores raw data, there will be a number of options for post-processing and graphing that data that I know a number of you will find useful. Whether your data needs are simple or complex, Newts represents a way to meet them.

Feel free to check out both projects. OpenNMS 14 should be in both the yum and apt repos, and as usual I welcome feedback as to what you think about it.

Mark Turner : Ebola and hysteria

November 03, 2014 05:44 PM

Over the past few days debate has popped up about what to do about healthcare workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa. Politicians vow to quarantine anyone returning from the affected areas, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not. Asymptomatic healthcare workers who are being “voluntarily” quarantined are rebelling against the restrictions placed on their activity. Nurse Kaci Hickox blasted politicians for falling for hysteria rather than following science.

“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” she said.

She’s right, of course. The only thing scarier than Ebola is succumbing to mob rule and hysteria.

The most worthless news items, though, are the polls being touted. The latest one says that 80 percent of respondents favor quarantining travelers to West Africa. Well, if polling had taken place during Galileo’s time, the majority would’ve favored the Earth as the center of the universe. What the majority wants, of course, does not make it so.

It does not matter what 80% of those polled think about Ebola if those 80% are not experts. When it comes to Ebola, disregarding science is a good way to get us all killed.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: How does one add a hyperlink to text in the new @E…

November 02, 2014 01:23 PM

How does one add a hyperlink to text in the new @evernote web version.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Blog: VMware – Pay but not Download http://t.co/VG…

November 01, 2014 03:48 PM

Blog: VMware – Pay but not Download ift.tt/1wSrnvR

Tarus Balog : Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

October 31, 2014 04:15 PM

I have yet to decide whether or not Patrick Rothfuss is an asshole.

I know that sounds like a mean thing to say, but I have my reasons which I’ll get to soon.

I was introduced to Rothfuss through his first novel, The Name of the Wind. Since that can get tedious to type, allow me to abbreviate it TNotW.

TNotW is the first book in a trilogy. It concerns a near mythical figure named Kvothe, and it is one of the best novels ever written in the fantasy genre, or any genre for that matter.

At least one of my three readers is asking themselves why I would write about fantasy literature on an open source blog. One reason is that open source tends to be a geeky thing and so is reading fantasy, but the other thing is that it helps me think about the future. As the third law of Arthur C. Clarke states “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” in my mind anyone who wants to create advanced technology must first start with “I want to do magic. How should I begin?” Reading fantasy allows me to think in different ways that I find both enjoyable and useful.

Anyway, in TNotW Rothfuss introduces his magic system. In the best fantasy there are rules that both empower and limit the characters, and I really like his. Called “sympathy”, magic in his world requires three things: a link, a source of energy and strength of will.

For example, suppose you wanted to move an iron skillet off of a fire through magic. First you would need some way to link what you wanted to move with something you could easily manipulate. In this case the best thing would be a small piece of the skillet itself. That would form a very strong link. Barring that, you could use any piece of iron, but that link would be weaker. Weaker still would be a non-ferrous metal, etc.

So let’s assume you have a small chip of the skillet in your hand. You would then need a source of energy. The bigger the magic, the more energy you need (i.e. rules). In this case you could probably use the heat from the fire itself.

Finally, you would need strength of will to connect your piece of the skillet to the whole thing. This is the hard part, as you basically have to imagine, with the full weight of reality, that the small part of the skillet you hold is the skillet itself, so when you move your piece, the skillet will move.

I’m oversimplifying but you get the gist. In TNotW Kovthe starts to learn about sympathy and is admitted to The University, a place where its principals are studied and taught. Out of them comes a form of engineering, a form of medicine, a form of chemistry, etc.

However, in addition to this sympathetic magic, there is a more primal, raw form of magic based on names. It is a common theme in fantasy that by knowing a thing’s “true name” one can control it. Names are powerful, which is why I obsess over them more than most people. In the world that Rothfuss creates, the pursuit of “Naming” is magic in its truest sense, but it is also the most dangerous. One of my favorite characters in his stories is Master Elodin, the Master Namer, who is quite bent.

In any case, Rothfuss is the rare author who inspires a certain type of rabid fandom. Anything he posts on his blog is almost always met by a chorus of fawning comments. It’s not that he isn’t talented, quite the contrary, but this type of fandom ends up rubber stamping everything he does as “great”.

For example, the second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, did not resonate with me like the first. I came close to actually disliking it upon a first reading.

Now, granted, once I set it on the shelf for awhile and then took it down and re-read it, I liked it more, but still, it didn’t affect me like the first book. I look on it like Tolkien’s The Two Towers where “things happen that must happen” but it acts like a bridge between the first and last books of a trilogy. I eagerly await the third book, tentatively titled Doors of Stone to see if he can pull off the magic of TNotW.

And this is where the asshole part comes in. I have some friends who have met Rothfuss and spent some time with him and some of their comments tip the meter toward “asshole”. Some of the stuff that he writes on his blog rub me the wrong way, thus re-enforcing the thought. But I guess I am mainly upset because I just want him to work on that third book instead of all the other stuff he does. This is very selfish of me, because some of the stuff he does is very worthwhile and makes the world a better place, but at this point I am emotionally invested in the story of Kvothe and I want to know how it ends.

Which brings me to a sobering point: I know almost nothing about Patrick Rothfuss. One of the fallacies of the Internet is this illusion of intimacy. The thought that I can read a blog or a twitter feed or an interview and think that really gives me insight into who the person is is ludicrous. To paraphrase Silent Bob, what I don’t know about Patrick Rothfuss could just about squeeze into the Grand Canyon.

But I do know one thing without a doubt: he loves words.

I like words. I like my ten cent words and my five dollar words. But to me they are a means to an end. I like how a certain word can convey just the right feeling or evoke a particular response. But I don’t love words.

Rothfuss loves words almost as much as his family (which, if you read his blog, he loves a lot). He dotes on them. He caresses them. And I’m almost certain that he stays up nights obsessing over finding the right word.

Which brings me to his latest book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

This is a tiny book, around 150 pages. It’s even shorter than Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He warns on both his blog and in the forward that many people won’t like this book. Heck, it only has one character in it, Auri, the mysterious girl befriended by Kvothe in TNotW.

I loved it.

This is a love song to words. He uses them to paint pictures and to compose symphonies. It is a three ringed circus of adjectives and adverbs, nouns and verbs all coalescing to create an experience if not exactly a narrative.

Auri is a woman of unknown age. She is very small, about the size of a child. She lives in a complex of tunnels and forgotten rooms called “The Underthing” that exists beneath the grounds of The University. While Rothfuss has never told us straight up her history, I’ve always imagined that she was a great student at The University who studied Naming and went crazy. She decided to “make herself small” and hid herself away. It is one of the characteristics of Kvothe that he was able to befriend her. He even gave her the name “Auri” which inspired Master Elodin to instruct Kvothe in Naming. But don’t expect to see those characters in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It is all about Auri and can stand alone from the rest of the series.

If you haven’t read any of his books, then you won’t know what I’m talking about. Heck, I’m not even sure I know what I’m talking about. All I know is that I feel like a better person from having read it.

It covers several days in the life of Auri. And that’s about it. Pretty easy not to spoil. She has good days and bad days but to her they are just “days”. The narrative focuses a lot on her drive to put things in their proper places and in some cases, give them names.

One of the world philosophies that I strongly identify with is Taoism. Now I’m certain that a true scholar of the Tao will be horrified, if that is possible, over how I’m about to describe it, so my apologies in advance.

The Tao is all things and how they are connected. There is no “good” or “evil”, there is just the natural cycle of things. When one lives in tune with the Tao, this we call happiness. When one struggles against the Tao, sadness ensues. It stresses a very low impact existence and an acceptance of the way things are, but still manages to get a lot of stuff done, which sounds a little like an oxymoron.

One of the best books on the subject is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. In it he demonstrates the principals of Taoism through the stories about Winnie the Pooh. It works, and it is one of my favorite books. It sits next to me at my desk in case I’m having a rough day and I need a reminder.

As I was reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things I couldn’t help but think that Auri was a Taoist master. Here is a quote from toward the end of the book:

That meant you could move smoothly through the world without upsetting every applecart you came across. And if you were careful, if you were the proper part of things, then you could help. You mended what was cracked. You tended to the things you found askew. And you trusted that the world in turn would brush you up against the chance to eat. It was the only graceful way to move. All else was vanity and pride.

Seems very Taoist to me.

I once saw Kurt Vonnegut give a lecture. He was talking about “the shape of stories” and the normal Western narrative and how it has these huge swings in mood. The example he used was Cinderella. It starts off pretty bad. Her parents have died and she’s living with her evil stepmother. Then it gets really good. She gets to go to the ball and she meets the Prince. Then the clock hits midnight and things are bad again. Then the Prince finds her and all is well. He drew this on a white board in the form of a big sine wave that swung from bad to good.

He compared that to Native American stories. Usually the mood is very flat. We walked in the woods. We saw a deer. We caught some fish. We ate. We went to sleep. That sort of thing. There really isn’t this whole process that we expect from our stories. On his white board he drew a straight line, pretty much neutral between good and bad.

Then he examined Hamlet. Hamlet is not a happy story. Things start of bad and remain that way. As Vonnegut talked through the plot he drew another straight line. Granted, this was firmly on the “bad” side of the chart but it had a lot more in common with a Native American narrative than a traditional one, and Hamlet is one of the greatest stories ever told.

Heh – I just decided to take a stab at the premise that “everything is on the Internet” and I found a page talking about this very thing.

I don’t think that The Slow Regard of Silent Things is one of the greatest stories ever told, but it is a very good one. It, too, has a flat narrative arc. I will reread it a number of times. While I think a lot of his fans will be put off by it, and he knows this, but the fact that he created it and felt strong enough to see it through to publication moves the needle, at least for me, back firmly into the “not asshole” side of the meter.

Eric Christensen : Ability to remove TLS 1.0 from httpd in CentOS 6

October 30, 2014 03:22 PM

Due to a bug in mod_ssl, the ability to remove TLS 1.0 (and only support TLS 1.1 and/or TLS 1.2) has not been available.  The fix has now made it to CentOS 6 and you can now fine-tune your cryptographic protocols with ease.

Before the fix my /etc/httpd/conf.d/ssl.conf file had this line:

SSLProtocol all -SSLv2 -SSLv3

This allows all SSL protocols except SSLv2 and SSLv3 to be used with httpd.  This isn’t a bad solution but there are a couple of sites that I’d prefer to further lock down by removing TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.2 1.1.  With the fix now in mod_ssl my settings can now look like this:

SSLProtocol all -SSLv2 -SSLv3 -TLSv1 -TLSv1.1

…and I’ll only support TLS 1.2 and beyond.  Of course doing this will significantly reduce the number of clients that can connect to my server.  According to SSLLabs I’m blocking all IE users before IE 11, Android before 4.4.2, Java 7, and Firefox 24.2.0 ESR.  But luckily I really don’t have a problem with any of these browsers for a couple of things I do so I’ll likely tighten up security there and leave my more public sites alone.

Warren Myers : never appear too perfect – law 46 – #48laws by robert greene

October 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 46

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Mark Turner : Mystery cell tower has vanished!

October 27, 2014 01:31 AM

Back at the end of July I became curious about a mysterious cell phone tower that sprouted behind the Adventure Landing business on Capital Boulevard. The fresh paint on the box, the fresh dirt around the bottom of the utility pole, and the new electrical meter box that still had the plastic cover on it led me to believe this site had just been installed. Instead, less than three months later the only sign it was there is a small patch of dirt where the pole once was. The site has vanished!

That patch has so much grass growing over it now that if you didn’t know where to look you could easily overlook it. That makes me think that the pole could have been removed perhaps a one month ago or longer.

I had convinced myself that the strange site was simply a micro-cell site but I was flabbergasted when I found the site has gone missing. I never expected to revisit the site and have it just be … gone. Why would a company dig up a cell tower site just a few months after installing it? Hell, maybe even before it had been fired up? I have to say that any company in the business of installing cell towers that would suddenly change its mind about a site after so much work had been done runs a piss-poor operation. At the very least.

I can only wonder again if the site was a Stingray site all along and either

  • served its purpose in an investigation, or
  • got its cover blown.

Real cell towers don’t disappear practically overnight. Not even micro sites. This is just weird.

Tarus Balog : OpenNMS Newts at ApacheCon Europe

October 25, 2014 03:44 AM

Being Hungarian, I am very jealous and yet still proud that our very own Eric Evans will be presenting at ApacheCon Europe in Budapest, Hungary.

He will be talking about Newts which is a new time series data store built on top of Apache Cassandra. It will be a key part of positioning OpenNMS for the Internet of Things as well as being very useful on its own.

Eric is a dynamic and interesting speaker, so if you are attending the conference be sure to check out his talk.

And while you are there, eat a Túró Rudi or three for me.

Tarus Balog : Alinea

October 24, 2014 08:50 PM

Note: This is a travel/food blog post with no OpenNMS content. As usual, feel free to skip.

I consider myself insanely wealthy. Not in terms of money, most people could always use a little more, but because I’ve managed to meet some truly amazing people in my life, and even better, there still seems to be a nice supply of them. My life has been greatly enriched because of it.

One such person is Geoff Davis, who I met in high school (he was a year younger but in all my advanced courses) who now works at Google. The last time I was out there he and his bride took me to dinner in the Mission, and while we were talking about food he mentioned the Alinea.

The Alinea restaurant is located in Chicago, and it is one of only thirteen (when I booked it was ten) Michelin three star restaurants in the country. I happened to be in Chicago this week, and as this trip was planned months ago I was able to book a table for six. The experience was pretty amazing.

The name comes from an archaic mark similar to the “paragraph” symbol: ¶. The alinea looks more like an inverted “D” with two vertical marks, and in the name of the restaurant it represents “a new beginning”.

The booking process was unique as well. I like to cook, and occasionally (very occasionally) after one of my better efforts, someone will say “you should open a restaurant”.

Hell no. Owning and running a restaurant is incredibly hard work. People who aren’t into food (and some who are) just don’t realize it. Part of the problem is that people have few qualms about either canceling a reservation at the last minute or not showing up at all.

The Alinea addresses this by selling tickets instead of taking reservations. I’m not sure it would work for every restaurant, but when you have a place with a) high demand and b) a prix fixe menu it seems to work well. There is a long discussion of the history of the ticketing system available so I won’t repeat it here, but it did resonate with my innate fondness for unusual business models.

The restaurant itself is very non-descript. Most of our party met at Boka next door for drinks (an excellent restaurant on its own right with its own Michelin star). I probably wouldn’t have known where to enter the Alinea if I wasn’t shown the way.

You enter in via a dark corridor highlighted by red lights, and it seems to narrow a bit. When you reach the end you are greeted by what I would come to recognize as the level of service that helps the Alinea keeps its stars. For our group of six there were at least three people there to take our coats. One pair in our party had arrived with their car, so the staff took the valet parking slip to make sure the car would be ready when it was time to leave. We were served by no less than twenty people during the evening but it was perfect – they were there when you needed them and quickly gone when you didn’t.

We were shown upstairs to our table. The restaurant only accepts parties of two, four or six. Party of three? You buy an extra ticket, and since they are quite spendy my guess is you’d find an excuse to invite Aunt Edna out for the evening.

Just a quick note: I wanted to immerse myself in the experience so I took no photographs or notes. I might get some of the details wrong so I will apologize in advance since my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Our host Miguel, I would not call him a server even though he did serve us food, welcomed us and explained how the evening would play out. We were to have 15, maybe 16 courses and there was an optional wine pairing. He stressed that the wine servings were modest and that it would end up being about four glasses of wine total. The “maybe” 16th course was a special: white truffle risotto. When I visit my friend Antonio in Italy (another amazing person who has enriched my life) I always tease him about this very expensive food. When he asks what I want to eat I say “tartufo bianco”. I love truffles but as Cat, one of our dinner companions, pointed out, having such an extravagant course here would be like gilding the lily. Plus, the $150/person cost put it out of my league – I had to cash in my Christmas and Birthday presents to swing the dinner alone.

I got excited when they prepared to bring out the first course. They placed little white pillows on the table in front of each of us and on it was a caviar spoon (I love fish eggs of any type). Miguel explained that the silverware we’d need for each course would be placed on the pillow and that we were to leave the used items with the serving dish in order to keep the pillow clean for the next course.

Speaking again of the crazy level of service, if one of us got up to use the restroom, one of the staff would immediately remove the napkin and replace it with a fresh one. Cat explained that napkins are meant to be used, and no one should have to come back to a soiled one. Crazy, but cool.

The first course was Osetra caviar served with a variety of other flavors. I was not going to do the wine pairing, but I agreed to start off with a glass of champagne (Pierre Moncuit Blanc des Blancs Brut NV) as did Ron (what else do you pair with caviar?). Demetri and Cat did get the pairing, while my lovely bride Andrea ordered a glass of Riesling and Colleen stuck with water.

The caviar was delightful.

The second course arrived in the form of two large “tumbleweeds” made up of intertwined brown vines. Each was about twice the size of a basketball. We were told we had to find the second course hidden within the branches. In each ball was hidden a piece of salsify, a root vegetable that had been cooked sous vide and heavily seasoned. It matched the color of the vine exactly but had a much softer texture. It was tasty, although this is one of the few places I’ve eaten where you had to ask yourself “is this bit the food?”.

The third course was skate, cooked sous vide and seasoned with brown butter, lemon and herbs. The paired wine was an A.J. Adam “Dhroner” Riesling (Mosel 2012). I made a joke about “Dhroner kebabs” that fell flat. Demetri had me taste some of his and I liked it so much I changed my mind about skipping the wine pairing. It was the most tender skate I’ve ever eaten, and it makes me want to explore sous vide cooking even more.

Course number four was ebi, or sweet shrimp for those of you who like sushi. It was paired with Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Granite” (Domaine de l’Ecu 2010) which I found to be too mineral. I remember liking this dish but I don’t remember too much of the details, since it was eclipsed by …

Corn. The fifth course arrived served in roasted corn husks, causing me to remark “look, the world’s most expensive tamale”. It was far from a traditional tamale. The corn was whole, roasted and served over a bed of creamy grits. The whole thing was seasoned with truffle, manchego cheese and sherry. Think about how much corn you have eaten in your lifetime – this redefined it for me. We were told that this was the next to last night it would be served as the seasons were changing. When asked how they were able to get the corn off the cob yet have it hold its shape, the secret is that the whole cob is dipped in clarified butter so that the kernels can be sliced off but still stick together.

The sixth course arrived on pieces of wood that used to be barrel staves. It was trout in white pepper, coriander and broccoli. Outside of eating off a stick (we asked and were told the staves were cleaned in the dishwasher and then burnt with a torch) in the middle were pieces of bone – a small bit of spine and the plate near the cheek of the fish. We were told that, indeed, this was food. It was surprisingly tasty, although I think I cut my tongue a little on the spiny bit. This was paired with a Chablis (Laurent Tribut 2011) that I quite liked.

Flowers made up the seventh course, mainly lilies, with rambutan and a caviar lime sauce.

Now at the halfway point, the staff brought out two stone plates topped with pieces of wood. They set these on fire, and the smoke and light added a nice ambiance.

Course number eight featured matsutake mushrooms, which I adore. It was served with a number of sweet flavors, including a huckleberry foam and tapioca. In keeping with the Japanese association with this food, the pairing was sake, Tensei “Song of the Sea” Junmai Ginjo-shu (Kumazawa Shuzo, Kanagawa-ken). I loved the food but just liked the sake (I’m pretty particular about sake).

The ninth course was a bit of a surprise. The wood/fire centerpieces, which had now gone out, were dissected and out of them came our food. It was charred pork belly served with compressed parsnip. Yummy. It was served with our first red of the evening, Donkey and Goat “Testa Vineyard” Carignane (Mendocino 2013), which was very nice.

Dish number ten was also unusual. It was a warm butter-based broth served in a small, concave bowl made of wax (it reminded me of nothing less than a huge contact lens). Suspended above it on a steel pin was a piece of potato and truffle. You were told to pull the pin, causing the items on it to fall into the broth and then eat the whole thing in a shot. Tasty, but I spilled a little of mine. I believe it was on the table for about 450ms before someone had wiped it up.

The last mainly savory dish of the night was squab. Served on a piece of dark wood that looked like the top of a tree trunk, the roasted squab was served with carrot, potato, beet and an orange sauce. There was also a piece of squab liver as well. The pairing was another red, Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Tomasso Bussola 2009) which complemented the meat well.

The twelfth dish started the transition to sweet. Called “graffiti” it was a hazelnut candy, like a praline, served with balsamic vinegar on a matching piece of gray stone. This was the only misstep by the staff. Ron doesn’t like balsamic vinegar but they missed his request not to spray it on. I like balsamic but this dish was only “good” for me. The pairing, however, was a Vergano Chinato Moscato “Luli”. Lately I’ve become enamoured of sweet dessert wines like Sauternes and this Moscato was delicious. I’ll seek it out when I get home.

Probably the oddest dish (in an evening of odd dishes) was dish number thirteen. Featuring blueberries, part of the dish was a foam made from Bubble Yum™ chewing gum. I double-checked to make sure we could eat it. Believe it or not, it really worked. The pairing was another Muscat wine, Jorge Ordonez “Victoria” (Muscat, Malaga 2013) which I liked considerably less than the Vergano, but it was still good.

If you read about the Alinea, you’ll often see pictures of transparent white balloons. That was our fourteenth course of the evening. Made with a green apple candy, the balloons are served filled with helium with a taffy string. The way we would told to eat this was to try and suck the helium out of the balloon and then talk. Yes – fun with food. It is this kind of whimsy that made the evening worthwhile, and the fact that in the end you could eat pretty much everything was also a plus.

The final course was the most elaborate. We all moved to one side of the table which was then covered in a large rubber sheet. The head chef himself, Grant Achatz, came out and using about 15-20 small dishes painted our final course directly on the table. It was a combination of tropical fruit flavors. There was mango, passion fruit, compressed melon, a coconut meringue flash frozen in liquid nitrogen, a kaffir lime “candy” with edible wrapper, roasted banana, pineapple – and I forget what else. The chef was professional if not extremely outgoing. I was so busy watching him and his associate work (the table size required two people) that he was there and gone before I knew it.

The final wine pairing was a Passito di Pantelleria (Fernandes 2006) which I honestly can’t remember. It was at this time I first looked at my watch and realized that four hours had passed.

Leaving the restaurant was as efficient as our arrival. Not only were our coats and bags waiting for us, so was Ron’s car and two taxis for the rest of the group.

If you are into food and can make it to Chicago I can highly recommend the Alinea. Better yet, if you have some amazing friends like I have in Ron, Colleen, Demetri and Cat (plus my BFF Andrea) it will be an experience to remember. Yes, it is pricey, but one of the keys to happiness is to buy experiences and not things.

In that realm I am a very rich and happy man.

Mark Turner : Ebola research: Fever not a surefire sign of infection – LA Times

October 22, 2014 07:41 PM

If we’re only looking for fever while screening Ebola victims, we may be missing 13% of cases. Yikes.

For public health workers screening more than 1,000 air travelers who arrive each week in the United States from Ebola-stricken West Africa, one symptom above all others is supposed to signal danger: fever.

So long as an individual’s temperature does not exceed 101.5 degrees and there are no visible symptoms of Ebola, health authorities say it should be assumed the person is not infectious.

Yet the largest study of the current outbreak found that in nearly 13% of “confirmed and probable” cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and elsewhere, those infected did not have fevers.

via Ebola research: Fever not a surefire sign of infection – LA Times.

Tarus Balog : Internet of Silos

October 22, 2014 07:03 PM

My friend Phil sent me a link to a Gartner article listing the “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015” and I wasn’t surprised to see the “Internet of Things” at number two.

Now that mobile computing has become ubiquitous, there is a rush to network connect everything. Plus, there is a lot of money in it – take a look at the Nest acquisition. I’m not really certain this is a Good Thing™. My experience with low end network devices shows that corners that can be cut often are (i.e. crappy SNMP agents) and my guess is that in this rush to get things out the door we will end up with some serious issues.

One thing that can circumvent this is open source. By making the code transparent, especially for medical devices, there is a strong chance that major issues could be identified and corrected.

If, and that is a big “if”, we could get people to standardize around various open source software for the IoT there is a chance we can prevent the “Internet of Silos”. I first heard that term in a BBC article where it was announced that ARM (a British company) was creating an open source programming language for devices powered by its chips.

As you might expect, the article was short on specifics, but if the language is any good and the license is permissive, perhaps other chip manufacturers will port it. At a minimum it should encourage companies like Intel to also open source the technology used for their chips and the community might be able to build wrappers around both of them.

No matter what happens, we hope to support any management capabilities they introduce. We are actively working on making OpenNMS almost infinitely scalable to be able to handle the needs of the IoT, from insanely fast data storage (Newts) to highly distributed polling and data collection (Minion). We hope that the open nature of the platform will encourage more and more product vendors to use OpenNMS for their element management system, and then at least on the management front we can prevent the silos.

Warren Myers : draft day – the second football movie of the year

October 22, 2014 03:14 PM

And while not as good as When The Game Stands Tall, still a very good movie.

The parents’ guide warnings from IMDB may be helpful – there’s more language than needed for the story-telling, though I guess that’s what brought it into the PG13 range instead of PG.

I’m not a huge fan of sports movies in general, but some are good (especially the ones that aren’t really sports movies (like For Love of the Game, another Kevin Costner film)). I’m happy to be able to add this one to my list of enjoyable stories.

Mark Turner : Falls whitewater letter to the editor

October 21, 2014 06:02 PM

I just wrote this to the N&O:

Thanks to the N&O for advocating again for a whitewater park. I recall the excitement I felt when the Falls Whitewater Park Committee appeared before Raleigh’s parks board with its proposal to fund construction of this park. I urge whitewater enthusiasts to visit www.fallswhitewaterpark.org and give generously to make this spectacular park a reality.

Mark Turner : I Saw Firsthand How Nuts Airlines Are Getting With Ebola Fear

October 21, 2014 05:17 PM

USAirways flight attendants had a full-fledged freakout Sunday at RDU Airport over a passenger they suspected of having Ebola, according to one local blogger. How did these superhero flight attendants, presumably not experts in infectious diseases, diagnose Ebola you ask? The woman had an African accent and asked for a club soda.

Yesterday I took a US Airways flight from Raleigh-Durham to Washington, DC to drive some Hellcats. So far so good, right? Across the aisle from me was a woman, from Boston, who was feeling a bit queasy. She asked the flight attendant for some club soda. They responded by trying to kick her off the plane. Any idea why?

If we’re absolutely being honest, there were two very simple reasons why: the woman was black, and had an African accent. In the popular culture of panic, those two factors seem to be enough to turn an entire plane full of people around and return to the gate to attempt to kick a paying traveler off a plane.

via I Saw Firsthand How Nuts Airlines Are Getting With Ebola Fear.

Mark Turner : N&O changes

October 20, 2014 05:34 PM

Gary Pearce weighed in on the News and Observer’s recent print changes so I figured I should do the same.

During our fair visit Friday, I stopped by the N&O booth and chatted with one of the reps there. I volunteered that I liked the new changes to the paper (the local section and front section have been merged) and was told that I’m “one out of a million.” Apparently the feedback from subscribers has been mostly negative.

I pay more attention to the local stories since that’s something the N&O can cover better than anyone else. I like that the local coverage is getting more prominent.

On the other hand, though, I do have to fight with my daughter (mainly) for a section of paper to read in the mornings. Not having a front and local section makes it difficult to share.

I certainly don’t blame the N&O for experimenting, though. I think any newspaper that doesn’t try to change and adapt in these times is at risk of extinction in these fast-moving times for journalism.

Warren Myers : fallen angels by walter dean myers

October 20, 2014 04:14 PM

When I reviewed Germline by T C McCarthy, I mentioned it reminded me of a scifi-ified version of a book I’d read years ago about the Vietnam War.

I came across that book today, and it is entitled “”Fallen Angels” by Walter Dean Myers (which, ftr, I only bought in the first place because he had my last name).

I would heartily NOT recommend you read it if you are at all offended by foul language, as it is rife with it. But it is also a gritty story told from the perspective of someone who was living it every day.

Mark Turner : Spankings

October 20, 2014 02:28 AM

A Facebook friend (one who does not share my political outlook) forwarded a photo that illustrated the value of spanking. It showed a kid getting beat, with the caption “with more of this, there would be less of this,” showing a trio of young men dressed as gang members. I shook my head.

It reminded me of a spectacle I came across as I was on my way to the Player’s Retreat Saturday afternoon. As I was pulling into the parking lot, a father was loading his kids into his car. The father was shouting at his misbehaving kids to get in the car. His young son, probably four years old at the most, was defiantly yelling back at his dad, echoing his very same tone. As I rolled by, I saw the father’s hand smack the boy’s rear hard before the father loaded his son into the car. I thought the show was over but when I got out of my car I was appalled to hear the father screaming at the top of his voice “that is enough!” He was so loud I heard him across the parking lot even with his windows rolled up. He then drove off and I just shook my head. If his kids weren’t terrified before, they were now.

I wonder if the father could hear the echo of himself in his son’s voice right then. I wonder if he realized that he is teaching his son that violence is a solution. How powerless that young boy must have felt, and how sad that his father could not connect to his kids in a way that engaged them rather than hurt them.

I’m not a perfect father by any stretch but one thing I learned early on is that if I ever raise my voice with my kids, I’ve already lost. If I’m shouting I’m admitting defeat. I’m admitting that I have no cards left to play, that it’s become an I’m-bigger-than-you-are game. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that might makes right and that throwing a tantrum is the way to get what you want. This parent was throwing a tantrum just as big as his son’s and he should have been old enough to know better.

It seems to me that the world would be better off if we all worked harder at listening to each other. That’s something that starts at home.

Mark Turner : Twitches and fatigue

October 20, 2014 02:12 AM

My initial optimism about the magnesium supplements helping with the muscle twitches I’ve had has worn off. The twitching has continued, spread out all over my body now. In fact, one night last week I felt the muscles between my shoulder blades twitch when I was sleeping – waking me up. It’s the biggest damn pain in the ass.

To top it off, we had only walked about the fairgrounds for about an hour before I started feeling very fatigued. I felt like my arm and leg muscles were slow as molasses. It dawned on me that night that I am finally able to effectively define fatigue versus simple tiredness. Fatigue is like tiredness but without the mental urge to sleep. Fatigue is not having any energy while still maintaining the will to do something. The mind is willing but the body unable. It seems that the fatigue that would once make a visit to me for a few weeks every year or so has begun to occur far more frequently and persistently. And it really sucks. I’m tired when I have no right to be and it’s starting to affect my quality of life.

I hope to revist my doctors soon to discuss next steps. This journey is obviously not over yet.

Mark Turner : Weekend update

October 20, 2014 02:05 AM

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday morning was the press conference and the official kickoff of the Parks bond campaign. NFL stars Torrence and Terry Holt joined other city officials to urge passage of the bond. As the marketing co-chair of the bond committee, I helped plan the press conference and some of the talking points used. The location of the Chavis carousel was perfect, the weather was perfect, the messaging was perfect, and it all just came together. What’s more, I was able to collect the photographs of many attendees, all to add to our “I Flip 4 Parks” social media campaign. Oh, and the official website, iFlip4Parks.org, was unveiled as well. Marketing has been a group effort, with the Raleigh Chamber pitching in as well as committee members Jeff Tippett (committee chair), myself, and Patrick Buffkin (speakers chair). The website was designed by Scott Reston with video provided by Napoleon Wright. Everyone did a super job!

Friday afternoon was the visitation for Thomas Crowder, held in the lobby of Meymandi auditorium. There was a huge turnout of people paying their respects. I was glad to meet many of Thomas’s family and say hello to those I’ve already met.

We left Friday afternoon for the North Carolina State Fair. Normally I would rather get a root canal than go to the fair, but it turned out to be a pleasant experience – far less crowded than we expected. We did a lot of walking around before the kids settled on riding a roller coaster. We then grabbed some pizza, watched a few tractor pulls take place, and then wandered over to ride the front Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel is still my favorite ride at the fair, where you can spend lots of time sitting comfortably and enjoying the view. Soon afterward, with some of us starting to drag, we headed home.

Hallie’s soccer game was canceled as she was playing at a field at Heritage High School and it was the only field in the whole system that was closed for wet conditions. The season-end party and kid-parent scrimmage still took place, though, with the parents winning. The coach was angry with his girls, though, as they played much more aggressively against the parents than they did during their real opponents!

I had to bow out of the soccer festivities, though, in order to attend Thomas’s funeral. A large crowd filled West Raleigh Presbyterian Church for the service, which was scripted by Thomas ahead of time. In addition to the remembrances and hymns the songs “What a Wonderful World” and “Spirit in the Sky” were played, with the crowd clapping along as they exited.

I walked out of the funeral with misty eyes and feeling sad. There were lots of friends there but I didn’t really feel like talking. I spoke with a few friends for a few minutes and then headed over to the after-service celebration at the Player’s Retreat, a favorite haunt of Thomas’s. A beer, some snacks, a few old and new friends, and several engaging conversations later and I was feeling upbeat again. It was clear that the folks who cared for Thomas and his work were not in any mood to slack off now that he’s gone.

I got back home about the time Kelly and the kids returned from the soccer party. Then we all cleaned the house before Travis’s friends came over for a night at the Railhawks game and a sleepover. I got mad when I reached the gate of the Railhawks stadium and was turned away because of my “detachable lens” camera. I steamed about this for a half-hour before I started to enjoy the game. What a stupid rule! It was Travis’s birthday party, he got to spend some time on the field as a “player escort” before the game, and I couldn’t even take a decent goddamn picture of him because my telephoto camera had to stay in the car. Travis enjoyed the game, though, and the boys stayed up late watching a movie.

We made pancakes and smoothies for our young guests before handing them back off to their parents. Travis spent time on his computer while I did more bond-related stuff. Then around 2:45, Kelly, Travis, and I hopped on our bikes to ride the new greenway connector from Milburnie Road to Anderson Point Park. It is awesome, exceeding all my expectations! I thought it would be just a ho-hum connector trail, getting greenway users to the beautiful Neuse River Trail. Instead, it is a gem in itself, surrounded by woods, following Crabtree Creek, and with a nice, wide path.

Before we knew we were at Anderson Point, but not before Travis began to feel ill. We turned around and headed back but Travis bonked before we were off the new part of the trail. Kelly sent me back to fetch the car which I did. Soon we were all back home, where Travis soon got sick and spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch. Poor guy. This is not a good way to celebrate one’s tenth birthday.

I spent the evening creating a design for a Time-Of-Use magnet reminder. As a solar PV owner, we’re on a Time-Of-Use schedule with Duke Energy Progress, meaning our electricity costs differently during different parts of the day. My magnet will serve as a convenient reminder for when the rates change so that we can maximize our electric bill savings.

It was a long weekend but a rewarding one.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: How the heck does Numbers from @apple sum 9.44 and…

October 19, 2014 07:39 PM

How the heck does Numbers from @Apple sum 9.44 and 8 and get $18? Is that common core math?

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Lawn mowing is finished. For the season? I should…

October 19, 2014 06:36 PM

Lawn mowing is finished. For the season? I should be so lucky

Magnus Hedemark : Service Oriented Architecture vs. Dunbar’s Number

October 19, 2014 06:14 PM

I’ve got a bit of a problem in that I spend most of my career working in engineering space, but most of my thought capital is spent on larger problems of organizational design, technical strategy, laying down foundations today for problems we’re going to need to solve in a year or more. This frustrates my bosses to no end, who just want me to build a server or swap a bad hard drive out or any other of a number of mundane day to day sysadmin tasks. I’m left without much of an outlet for this stuff besides meetup groups and, when I find the time, blogging. Thanks for humoring me.

One of my frequent frustrations is we tend to carry too much legacy around in how we work, in how we organize. We do things all wrong because, well, that’s how we’ve always done it. But I’m thinking farther out, and I see many operations teams on a collision course with the hard limits of the human brain. To wit: the hierarchical limitations of Dunbar’s number and the human neocortex.

As the theory goes, we can only maintain about 150 human:human relationships before our brain starts demoting less important relationships out into the realm of mere acquaintances, or recognition, or worse yet… a person is completely forgotten. This all comes from when we were hunter-gatherers and we moved past the more primitive great ape behavior of grooming one another to verbal communication as the glue between us. The number can vary from individual to individual, with a lower bound capacity of about 100 to an upper bound capacity of about 250.

But within that ~150 social group, we have layers. There may be about 5 people that we’re intimately familiar with… mother, father, closer siblings, a lover, a best friend. Further out we may have a relatively deep sense of kinship with about 30 or so people, our extended family, our tribe, or in the modern context, our department at work.

Our brains evolved to increase our ability to be social with one another using spoken language as our glue, and gave us enough capacity in the neocortext to maintain the bonds we form. But there are upper limits on the numbers of bonds we can form, with a relatively low limit on the closest bonds, and a relatively higher limit on the looser bonds.

What the hell does this have to do with Service Oriented Architecture?

Mark Burgess has been pioneering the field of Promise Theory, and its practical application in human:machine and machine:machine relationships through the ongoing development of CFEngine. Most of you reading this now have probably indirectly benefited from Burgess’ research by way of using configuration management tools like Puppet or Chef. In his book “In Search of Certainty“, Burgess explores how we have behaviorally taken advantage of the neocortex to build relationships with the machines that we rule over, and that the limitations of our ability to rule over machines is limited by the capacities of our neocortex to maintain those relationships.

In the bad old days of operations engineering, it was not uncommon to see a 1:20 or a 1:30 relationship between sysadmins and servers. I’ve even seen ratios as poor as 1:12, and even worse in Windows shops. In shops like this, our servers were special snowflakes, lovingly built by hand and given cute names. The upper boundary on how many machines we could handle was more of a capacity limit on the neocortex than any sort of time boundary.

If you were lucky enough to work in a LAMP shop back then, and you didn’t have much of a social life hogging up your more intimate Dunbar slots, you had the luxury of having deep, intimate knowledge of your full stack. It wasn’t very complicated. It was within the realm of reason to be a full stack ninja rock star (or whatever the recruiters are calling people like that these days).


When CFEngine came out and inspired the release of other automation tools like Puppet, Chef, etc, we moved to an Infrastructure as Code mentality. This didn’t eliminate the limitations of the neocortex, but it did add a layer of abstraction. Instead of being intimately familiar with individual machines, we now had to become intimately familiar with the roles defined in code. As many shops had fewer than 30 major server roles in production, our brains coped and by all appearances it was Mission Accomplished! We licked that capacity problem, and now one engineer can run 10,000 servers. Indeed, through use of automation, I had at one point in my career been solely responsible for over 4,000 machines at once and still had time left over to help out the Windows guys.

But most of those 4,000 machines shared one role. I’d only consumed one Dunbar slot for over 99% of my domain of responsibility. Of course I could be intimately familiar with it all!

Enter SOA.

Service Oriented Architecture, combined with the rise of cloud, the maturation of configuration management tools, Agile methodologies, etc. represented an ideal confluence of new ways of doing things. We were able to go back to the old school UNIX best practice of making small tools that do specific things really well, and then gluing them together to solve bigger problems. We got better at decomposing big problems into small ones, and solving those small ones with discrete services. This didn’t just solve a lot of technical problems for us, but it also solved some organizational scaling problems. Now engineering teams could truly focus on smaller parts of the service stack, knowing that as long as the interfaces were stable and well-understood, they had a good bit of autonomy on everything that happens inside of their domain space.

But it hasn’t been so awesome on the operations side. In many shops, we’ve still got the age-old problem of development teams tossing things over the wall at operations. And as service offerings get more comfortable embracing SOA, the variety of services that operations engineers are responsible for are growing.

In some cases, growth will exceed the boundaries of a Dunbar layer.

While all of this is going on, the rise of the DevOps movement is placing greater emphasis on our human:human relationships, which is putting even greater strain on the limitations of human biology. The neocortex can only handle so much before somebody gets demoted.

So how do we get back to the operations engineer knowing all the things about all the things? We don’t. It’s a fallacy. You can go through the motions, but at the end of the day, the human mind can only have intimate knowledge of a finite number of entities. And remember, if you try to load them up with more machine contexts to be intimately familiar with, you’re asking them to drop a slot that would go to another human being.

We’ve seen some movement in the DevOps space towards shifting part of the operational burden to product development teams, and in some cases this works very well. But it makes sense, because they are already very familiar with their code. Would building greater intimate familiarity with the operationalizing of that code occupy another Dunbar slot? Or would it just add depth to the slot that is already being consumed by familiarity with the service?

In working this way, the remaining operations team is no longer bothered with intimate familiarity of services running on their infrastructure. Instead they can focus on excellence in providing the Infrastructure as a Service. And if this is comprised of only a few discrete systems, can that then occupy one of the closer orbit slots in the neocortex? This approach would marry better with the social creatures that we’ve evolved to become. We’d use our biological limitations as a strength rather than as a weakness.

Whether it was obvious to the author or not, such a shift happened in “Turn This Ship Around!” by L. David Marquet (an excellent book, by the way). The crew of the Santa Fe, a nuclear submarine in the US Navy, had a crew complement of 135. That fits comfortably into the Dunbar theory of social capacity. One of the things that the captain changed, though, is moving the intimate technical knowledge down the organizational stack, placing decisions in the hands of those closest to the impacted domain space. Marquet realized rather profound improvements in organizational performance and engagement, but I’m not sure that he recognized that part of the reason for this success is restructuring responsibilities around smaller working groups that built deeper, more intimate relationships with their areas of responsibility (and removing himself from the decision space in the process).

Humans make pretty poor machine emulators, but we’ve got tens of thousands of years of experience at being primates. We ought to tap into what we’ve learned about hominid social structures to build more effective engineering organizations. SOA happens to offer up some convenient abstraction boundaries for partitioning domain knowledge and responsibilities.

Tarus Balog : Conferences? We Got Yer Conferences

October 19, 2014 01:19 PM

This is my “oh” face

as in “Oh how awesome is All Things Open”.

Last year was the first edition of the All Things Open conference in Raleigh, NC. I was very happy that we could be a sponsor, and the above picture was taken during my talk.

We ended up with about 50% more people than were expected, and the keynotes were standing room only. It was really cool to see such a turnout, especially since it sort of validates the Raleigh area as a center for open source excellence.

This year we will have a booth where you can come by, get some OpenNMS swag, and hear about the pending release of OpenNMS 14 (yes, fourteen) which is only a few days away.

Now, “oh” could also mean “oh-hi-oh” as in the Ohio LinuxFest. Directly after All Things Open, the Ohio LinuxFest will be held in downtown Columbus this weekend. This has been one of my favorite open source conferences, and it looks like this year is going to be no exception.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to make either of those shows due to another commitment. But if you want to see my “oh” face in person, come to the “Oh Ess Em Cee” conference in November.

Last year all three conferences were held the same week, which was very disappointing for me as it was hard to choose which to attend. This year the Open Source Monitoring Conference was pushed out a month and will be held in Nürnberg, Germany, 18-20 November. While mainly thought of as an Icinga and Nagios conference, the organizers have been very inviting of other projects. We have had a presence there for the last couple of years, but I have only personally been once and it was amazing. So many people sign up that they are able to pretty much rent out an entire hotel, so while the conference is always good it is the conversations outside of the presentations that are the most enjoyable.

I’ll be giving a talk on OpenNMS (‘natch) as well as getting up to speed on what else is going on in the monitoring world.

I hope you can make at least one of these shows. You won’t regret it.