Magnus Hedemark : update of random stuff

September 01, 2015 12:43 AM

I haven’t been blogging enough. I thought I’d just throw random updates out there and see what resonates.


Health & Wellness

Back in September we moved to a new office space that, from a sensory overload and anxiety perspective, has not been good for me. In that time, I’ve gained fifty pounds. I’ve been putting some effort recently into losing that weight. Starting from three hundred and twenty pounds, I’m down to three hundred and four in about a month. Not bad.


I’m still having a lot of fun with these things. I’m on my second Syma X11, though. The first one had its battery die while it was above the tree tops, so it was all too happy to rest there. These things fly high and fast, but be aware that they don’t give you any real warning that they are getting ready to die. I’ve gotten a bunch of spare batteries and props for it, too. I also have one more coming in so I can have one at work and one at home.

I have a couple more toy quadcopters on the way from China.

The curiosity about hexacopters has been strong. I’ve ordered a JJRC H20 hexacopter to scratch that itch.

The Cheerson CX-10 looks super tiny, and it’s about half the price of the similarly tiny Estes Proto X.

Speaking of the Proto X, I’ve ordered some replacement parts to get mine flying straight again. I’m able to fly it, but it’s a bit squirrely because of the cheap bendy plastic on one of the little baskets that the motors sit inside of. A plastic tab has sort of bent out which allows the motor to sit crookedly, which in turn allows the prop to spin on an axis that is not perpendicular to the airframe. So the whole thing wants to pitch forwards and left, moreso than I can compensate for reasonably with trim settings.


I recently finished Neil Gaiman’s “Trigger Warning“. While I’ve sort of lost my taste for science fiction, at least in long form, I’m not sure that what I was reading here was sci fi. Also, reading short stories was very satisfying. I had a sense of accomplishment every time I put down the book. And it ended on a particularly satisfying note. True to my normal pattern, I’m moving on from here to non-fiction.

The current reading project is “Sparks of Genius” which satisfies ever more of my ongoing curiosity about the nature of creativity in high-potential people. I’ve also got a personal ambition to make better use of the gifts I’ve been given in this department.

To that end…

Photography & Writing

I’ve more or less walked away from it, at least in the form which I’ve been practicing. While I think my later works were really something to be proud of, I didn’t like that I had to keep it relatively low profile to avoid making co-workers uncomfortable (since my work often featured the nude form). I’m not really happy about this. But I feel like spending more time exploring this outlet will only bring me suffering.

My real hope and ambition here is to gradually fill the creative void this leaves behind by writing more. I can write about a nude human being and people don’t get too upset. But if I put a picture of one on the Internet, people tend to lose their senses.

I’ve been sort of frustrated by the sense of feeling a lot of creative inspiration, especially around writing, but not having decent writing tools that I can carry with me. I used to carry a journal with a nice pen, but people got nosy and helped themselves to my writings, and I stopped. I’ve got a Macbook Air 11″ which is a fantastic writing tool, but not practical to carry everywhere. The mobile device (iPhone 6) is absolutely horrid, ergonomically speaking, to write with. I’ll have to do some more noodling on this. I really don’t want to start carrying a manpurse again, but it may come to that.

Eco Tourism


I’ve taken a couple of mini vacations back to back recently. I spent a few days at the Bald Head Island Conservancy in August with my family and it was nothing short of magical. This was our second trip there (the first being in 2010) and I think it’s fair to say this one was an order of magnitude better for all of us. In part, it’s just because the kids were older and thus more engaged. We ended up seeing two loggerhead sea turtle nest excavations, one planned nest hatching (a “boil”), and a second boil that was completely unexpected. We probably saw over two hundred baby loggerhead sea turtles from these four nests over the weekend.

We also managed to find a rumored alligator, who was hiding directly under the observation deck that people searched fruitlessly from. Peeking down between the floor boards revealed two reptilian eyes in close proximity looking right back at us.

A hike through the maritime forest revealed another world to me that was downright inspiring. I know I need to come back to this place. I know I need to bring an array of creative tools with me, and just listen to what this place is telling me. There’s more to the story, and it can’t be observed while traveling with an impatient family group. I’ll have to do this one alone.

Coming home from Bald Head Island was difficult. Home took a few days to feel like home again. I felt like there was another entirely different life waiting for me in a place like Bald Head Island, a better life than what I could live in Raleigh. One where I was in better communion with the world around me, and which still had quiet places in which I could be alone and contemplate the nature of the Universe.

We also went to Hanging Rock State Park last weekend. This one was a mixed bag. The park itself is lovely. Some of the scenery is truly breathtaking. The rustic cabins, though, were a bit too rustic for this family. The smells were odd and unsettling, the appointments were cheap and insufficient. I think we all woke up the first morning feeling sore and ill-rested from the uncomfortable beds. The family took a vote, four out of five voted to finish the last hike and then go home a day early. If we go back here, we’ll look for accommodations outside of the park that are more comfortable. Just to be clear, spartan appointments are not necessarily a bad thing. But if we knew it was going to be this bad, we would have been more comfortable tent camping. On the plus side, I did get quite a good bit of reading done.

We talked about these experiences as a family, and compared them to last year’s vacation to Walt Disney World. My wife and I, as well as two of the three kids, overwhelmingly feel that eco tourism was way more fun than Disney. All three kids are science enthusiasts, but let’s just say one is better suited to lab work while the other two would be more comfortable doing field research.


Honestly, I’ve not had much time to do anything here. Also, the heat from the servers in my home office is hard to vent out, and the electric bill is pretty bad. This may not have been my best idea.9:00

Mark Turner : Malaysia Airlines MH-370

August 31, 2015 05:28 PM

A few of my friends asked how we can so easily track mobile phones but a jumbo jet nlike Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 can disappear without a trace. First off, one of these is designed to transmit all the time, but aside from that difference it is a big ocean out there and it’s still possible to lose things in it.

I responded to my friends with this:

Radars don’t reach everywhere. Polar-orbiting satellites scan the globe but are not always around. Mobile phones have a hard enough time connecting to a tower when turned on in a plane at the terminal. Over the ocean? Forget it.

Then I remembered the U.S. has a fleet of fire-detecting satellites overhead, used to detect missile launches (and also said to be powerful enough to detect artillery). Surely one of these would have seen the plane if it exploded, right?

If the plane blew up in a fiery crash there’s a good chance we might have detected it with our SBIRS missile-surveillance satellites but I have not heard any mention of this.

This could mean a few things:
1. The plane didn’t explode
2. The plane exploded somewhere we weren’t looking (I find this unlikely for a system tuned to detect submarine missile launches).
3. The plane exploded but it’s infrared signature did not draw attention from SBIRS (too weak, etc).
4. The plane exploded and SBIRS detected it but this information has not been released.

It’s quite possible the infrared-detecting satellites we have in orbit were not overhead when MH-370 did its disappearing act. Either way, I haven’t heard any word from government sources about any signs of MH-370 appearing on these satellites.

Warren Myers : on-demand, secure, distributed storage – one step closer

August 31, 2015 12:24 PM

In follow-up to a post from 2013, and earlier this year, I’ve been working on a pointy-clicky deployable MooseFS+ownCloud atop encrypted file systems environment you can rent/buy as a service from my company.

I’ve also – potentially – kicked-off a new project from Bitnami to add MooseFS to their apps list.

Mark Turner : Boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park

August 31, 2015 02:20 AM

Cruising Resurrection Bay

Cruising Resurrection Bay

On the morning of the 13th (a Thursday), we hustled to get out the door to make the hours-long drive to Seward, where we would be taking a boat tour around the Kenai Fjords National Park. If we had to boil our whole vacation down to one activity, this would be it. This tour was a truly amazing experience!

We arrived a bit early at Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward to check in, knowing that the Alaska Railroad was soon to bring another load of tourists to town. We then had a few minutes to walk around the docks and get a quick peek at Seward.

The marina was alive with activity. Pleasure boats and commercial fishing boats occupied every slip. The smell of fresh halibut (which wore on me after a short while), filled the air. The strong morning sun lit up the brightly-painted boats and cast the clear sky in a dazzling blue. It was a postcard-perfect scene. The town of Seward was just as welcoming, with many shops and restaurants lining the main street. Pedestrians and cyclists wandered through town. Beautiful parks and community spaces provided inviting places to play. It seemed far more cheerful than Anchorage to me.

After a quick look around the dock, we joined a line of passengers waiting to board our boat. Kelly’s eyes rolled as one tour worker told a cheesy joke as he made a boarding announcement. We handed in our tickets and climbed aboard the modern, two-level tour boat. We found an unoccupied four-spot table on the top deck but soon left it for spots on the more exciting bow.

Sea otter

Sea otter

The cheesy banter soon gave way to the very knowledgeable talk of the boat captain as he steered us out of the harbor. The captain soon drew our attention to a scattering of objects floating near the harbor. We soon learned that these were actually otters, who take a rest from swimming by floating still on their backs just like logs. Many of them stared quietly back at us through bushy eyebrows as we rolled slowly by them, though a few ducked under water when we got too close for comfort. They were really adorable.

As the boat picked up speed outside of the wake zone, the captain pointed out the alpine glaciers still capping the peaks to our left. The majestic blue ice of a glacier is truly striking to behold. I spent a lot of time with my eyes glued to the binoculars.

We got an oral history of Western exploration of Resurrection Bay and a geological history lesson on the forces that created the fjord. Passing by these glacier-carved cliffs, I could picture them as they were being ground down by the once-enormous but now-vanishing ice thousands of years ago.

Alpine Glaciers

Alpine Glaciers

We proceeded directly over to Fox Island where a buffet lunch was awaiting us. Safely docked at the pier, we snagged an outside table and walked into the banquet hall to get our meal. Kelly and Hallie weren’t impressed with their meals, thinking the mashed potatoes were weak and the Alaska King Crab legs lacking, but Travis and I gobbled ours up without complaint. I was a little disappointed there was no dessert but still enjoyed it.

A second tour boat brought a new crowd of tourists as well as a Park Ranger, who began a presentation on the National Park complete with stunning photographs. We sat for some of that before heading back to the boat for our departure.

Once underway, the captain pointed us towards sea, where we idled a bit while we searched the surface for signs of any whales. After several minutes, the captain steered us towards the tell-tale water spray of a whale off our port bow. Soon we were right next to a humpback whale!
Kelly and I shared a laugh. “Third time’s the charm?” she said.

“Yup!” I answered. After trying twice to see whales in the San Juan Islands, we’d finally succeeded in Alaska.

The whale really put on a show for us. Every two minutes or so, it would roll above the surface and under again, sometimes flipping its tail as it went. We were captivated as we watched, and I was glued to my camera snapping photos as fast as it would go. It seemed like we circled each other for an hour but I’m sure it was a lot less than that. With one last breach of the surface, the whale seemed to wave goodbye with its pectoral fin as the captain steered us towards the unexplored coastline, the next part of our tour.

Magical mountain goats

Magical mountain goats

As we slowly trolled along the rocky coast of the National Park we saw thousands of pigeons roosting among the rocks. The captain steered us into a cove where earlier he had seen a bald eagle’s nest. We strained to see any eagles but it seemed only the captain had spotted the eaglet in the nest (later I saw it, too, upon checking my photos). As we drifted around staring up at the nest, I spotted two white shapes rustling behind the bushes high above on the cliff. Mountain goats! They had brilliant white coats and looked almost magical, like unicorns, as they watched us from above. I got bored watching yet another bald eagle fly by while these magical beasts were lurking in the hills. It became a contest to see who could first spot the little white coats of the mountain goats as we went along.

We also passed close by a pod of seals, sunning themselves lazily on the rocks. I snapped several pictures which wound up looking all the same because these guys were like giant slugs out there. Just not moving a flipper. Occasionally, one would lift up his head and yawn but otherwise they were dead to the world. Nice life those seals live.

Snoozing seals

Snoozing seals

Finally our tour was wrapping up. We cruised again by the alpine glaciers and then set a course for the harbor. Gathering our things, we stepped off the boat and headed back to our car. It was a wonderful experience, far exceeding my expectations. Our visit to Seward wouldn’t quite be complete without a visit to Exit Glacier, so that’s where we headed next.

Mark Turner : Cold Fusion Heats Up: Fusion Energy and LENR Update | David H. Bailey

August 30, 2015 10:06 PM

A friend forwarded this HuffPost story on cold fusion research and I was surprised to learn that a Raleigh-based company called Industrial Heat is said to have working technology.

Perhaps the most startling (and most controversial) report is by an Italian-American engineer-entrepreneur named Andrea Rossi. Rossi claims that he has developed a tabletop reactor that produces heat by an as-yet-not-fully-understood LENR process.Rossi has gone well beyond laboratory demonstration; he claims that he and the private firm Industrial Heat, LLC of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, have actually installed a working system at an (undisclosed) commercial customer’s site.

According to Rossi and a handful of others who have observed the system in operation, it is producing 1 MWatt continuous net output power, in the form of heat, from a few grams of “fuel” in each of a set of modest-sized reactors in a network. The system has now been operating for approximately six months, as part of a one-year acceptance test. Rossi and IH LLC are in talks with Chinese firms for large-scale commercial manufacture.

Source: Cold Fusion Heats Up: Fusion Energy and LENR Update | David H. Bailey

Warren Myers : automation is a multiplier

August 28, 2015 12:23 PM

Multipliers. They’re ubiquitous – from ratchet wrenches to fertilizer, blocks-and-tackle to calculators, humans rely on multipliers all the time.

Multipliers are amazing things because they allow an individual to “do more with less” – a single person can build a coral castle with nothing more complex than simple machines. Or move 70 people at 70 miles per hour down an interstate merely by flexing his foot and twitching his arm.

Feats and tasks otherwise impossible become possible due to multipliers.

Automation is a multiplier. Some automating is obviously multiplicative – robots on assembly lines allow car manufacturers to output far more vehicles than they could in the pre-robot era. Even the assembly line is an automating force, and multiplier regarding the number of cars that could be produced by a set number of people in a given time period.

In the ever-more-constrained world of IT that I orbit and transit through – with salary budgets cut or frozen, positions not backfilled, and the ever-growing demands of end-users (whether internal or external), technicians, engineers, project managers, and the like are always being expected to do more with the same, or do more with less.

And that is where I, and the toolsets I work with, come into play – in the vital-but-hidden world of automation. Maybe it’s something as mundane as cutting requisition-to-delivery time of a server or service from weeks to hours. Maybe it’s something as hidden as automatically expanding application tiers based on usage demands – and dropping extra capacity when it’s no longer needed (one of main selling points of cloud computing). The ROI of automation is always seen as a multiplier – because the individual actor is now able to Get Things Done™ and at least appear smarter (whether they are actually any smarter or not is a totally different question).

Go forth and multiply, my friends.

Warren Myers : reverse proxying from apache to tomcat

August 24, 2015 08:26 PM

After much hemming and hawing, I was able to get Apache working as a reverse proxy to Tomcat today.

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ProxyPreserveHost on
    ProxyPass / http://localhost:8080/path/
    ProxyPassReverse /

That’s all you need (though you can add much more). Note the trailing slashes on the proxy paths – without them, you have no dice.

Tarus Balog : OUCE 2015: Bad Voltage Live

August 21, 2015 04:35 PM

Every year at the OpenNMS Users Conference (OUCE) we have a good time. In fact, learning a lot about OpenNMS goes hand in hand with having fun.

At this year’s SCaLE conference, the team behind the Bad Voltage podcast was there to do a live version of the show. You can watch it on-line and see it went pretty well, and this gave me the idea to invite the gang over to Germany to do it again at the OUCE.

Since there may be one or two of my three readers who are unaware of Bad Voltage, I thought I’d post this little primer to bring you up to speed.

Bad Voltage is a biweekly podcast focused on open source software, technology in general and pretty much anything else that comes across the sometimes twisted minds of the hosts. They deliver it in a funny manner, sometimes NSFW, and for four guys with big personalities they do a good job of sharing the stage with each other. As I write this they have done 47 episodes, which is actually quite a nice run. For anyone who has done one or thought about doing a periodic podcast or column, know that after the first few it can be hard to keep going. It is a testament to how well these guys work together that the show has endured. Believe it or not, I actually put time into these posts and even I find it hard to produce a steady amount of content. I can’t imagine the work needed to coordinate four busy guys to create what is usually a good hour or three of podcast. (grin)

Bad Voltage as The Beatles

Anyway, I want to introduce you to the four Bad Voltage team members, and I thought it would be a useful analogy to compare them to the Beatles. As I doubt anyone who finds this blog is too young to not know of the Beatles, it should aid in getting to understand the players.

Bad Voltage - Jono Bacon Jono Bacon is Paul. If you have heard of anyone from Bad Voltage, chances are it is Jono. He’s kind of like the Elvis of open source. He was a presenter for LugRadio but is probably best known for his time at Canonical where he served as the community manager for Ubuntu. He literally wrote the book on open source communities. He is now building communities for the XPRIZE foundation as well as writing articles for and Forbes and occasionally making loud music. He’s Paul because is he one of the most recognizable people on the team, and he secretly wishes I had compared him to John.

Bad Voltage - Bryan Lunduke Bryan Lunduke is John. He gets to be John because he has heartfelt opinions about everything, and usually good arguments (well, arguments at least) to back them up. He has passion, much of which he puts into promoting OpenSUSE. I’ve never met Bryan in person, but we’ve missed each other on numerous occasions. I missed him at SCaLE, he missed the Bad Voltage show I was on, and I missed him again at OSCON. And I’ll miss him in Fulda, as his wife is due to deliver their second child about that time, but he will be there virtually. He adds depth the the team.

Bad Voltage - Jeremy Garcia Jeremy Garcia is George. Although none of these guys could be described as “quiet”, he is the most reserved of the bunch, but when he opens his mouth he always has something interesting to say. You can’t be part of this group and be a wallflower. I’m not sure if he has a day job, but fifteen (!) years ago he founded and has been a supporter of open source software even longer. He adds a nice, rational balance to the group.


Bad Voltage - Stuart Langridge Stuart is Ringo, known to his friends as “Aq” (short for “Aquarius” – long story). He is pretty unfiltered and will hold forth on topics as wide ranging as works of science fiction or why there should be no fruit in beer. He was also a member of LugRadio as well as an employee of Canonical, and now codes and runs his own consulting firm (when he is not selling his body on the streets of Birmingham). If there was a Bad Voltage buzzword bingo, you could count on him to be the first to say “bollocks”. He adds a random element to the group that can often take the discussion in interesting directions.

They have been working hard behind the scenes to plan out a great show for the OUCE. Since many of the attendees tend not to be from the US or the UK, it is hoped that the show will translate well for the whole audience, and to make sure that happens we will be serving beer (if you are into that sort of thing). If you were thinking about coming to the conference, perhaps this will push you over the top and make you register.

But remember, you don’t have to attend the OUCE to see the show. We do ask that you register and pony up 5€. Why? Because we know you slackers all too well and you might sign up and then decide to blow it off to binge on Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time. Space is limited, and we don’t want to turn people away and then have space left open. Plus, you’ll be able to get that back in beer, and the show itself promises to be priceless and something you don’t want to miss.

If that isn’t enough, there is a non-zero chance that at least one of the performers will do something obscenely biological (and perhaps even illegal in Germany), and you could say “I was there”.

Magnus Hedemark : Head in the Clouds

August 20, 2015 01:58 AM

When I was a kid, I remember thinking I might like to be a helicopter pilot when I grew up. Movies like Blue Thunder got way too much love from me as a kid (really, it was an awful movie). I looked forward to every new episode of Airwolf, and even watched the reruns. But then I grew up, and I learned how godawful expensive it was to fly helicopters recreationally, and how unlikely it was I could ever get paid to fly them because of medical reasons.

Radio controlled helicopters seemed fascinating, but they had a reputation for being very difficult to learn to fly, and for being very expensively crashy.

But something really neat started happening in recent years. Sites like DIY Drones started hitting my radar. Open Source hardware/software projects like APM:Copter took off. Technology was now making multirotor drones like quadcopters and hexacopters affordable and easier to fly. Videos started popping up on YouTube showing off how these hobbyist aircraft would loiter in one spot, stubbornly returning to where they were told to remain if somebody walked up to it and forcefully shoved it out of its chosen airspace.

My fire had over the years become a small, warm ember. But these new developments in the hobby had fanned the flame anew.

Before long, toy manufacturers entered this space and presented dumbed-down versions of these smarter aircraft. They offered a promise of being more controllable, newbie friendly. I pulled the trigger and bough a Syma X1 quadcopter in January, 2014. While it was a little fun, it was a sort of wild and untamed thing. It was pretty easy to crash hard into walls, ceilings, etc. So it spent a lot of time on a shelf while I played with other flying toys, mostly helicopters.

There was a lot of news going on about what was happening in the high end of this space. Commercially produced quadcopters were being offered at a price point near $1,000. Not something I could justify spending as a hobbyist, and my interest wasn’t in perving on my neighbors. But other aircraft started popping up on the toy scale, and at a very sweet price point. Sometime in 2015, I noticed one could buy decently flying toy quadcopters and hexacopters for $18 to $35.

Toward the $30 end of the price range was the Estes Proto XTruly a “nano” sized aircraft, the full airframe could fit on a playing card with room to spare. My Syma X1 was by now badly beaten up and flying poorly. The plastic pots that the motors rest in were breaking apart. It was time to upgrade the fleet.

So I bought the Proto X!

Honestly, I would not suggest this as a first quadcopter for beginners. It’s a deceptively powerful zippy little thing for its size, so it’s quite easy to accidentally overdrive it. And as any Proto X owner will tell you, these things throw propellers as if they cost pennies. Sadly, a propeller costs you about a buck or more. This is probably a really good second quadcopter, but not a good first. Learn to fly on something more predictable, more rugged, and cheaper to maintain. This little guy is super fun, but it’s rather like trying to control a bumble bee. Mine is no longer flying too well as a hard crash has broken one of the plastic pots for its motor, but happily that’s available as a replacement part. You can bet I’m going to be making this one good as new.

I learned a bit about different flight modes through the Proto X. You see, many quadcopters boot up into a more limited flight program that optimizes for stability and more deliberate movements. This is great while you’re learning, but not as fun when you’re outdoors (especially if there’s any kind of wind going on, which the slow/stable default settings often have a hard time coping with). Tap the right incantation on the controller, hear two audible beeps, and now the quadcopter is way more responsive, pitching hard on your whim. I was now able to fly outdoors rather like a hooligan. And it was brilliant fun!

I managed to get the old X1 out for just one more flight, held it together long enough to get it going in its high performance program, and it too was far more fun on this setting. So much so that I might even go to the trouble to repair it and start flying it again.

Let me tell you really quickly that there is an enormous amount of quadcopter content out there on sites like YouTube. One of my favorite channels right now is run by a guy who goes by the username of Quadcopter 101. Talk about a guy who has his head in the clouds! This man buys one of just about every single popular and obscure quadcopter that’s out there, but each of them is on the affordable end of the spectrum. He takes them out to the desert and flies them around and tells you what’s good and bad and ugly about each one. And he might take an older one out every now and then and teach it a new trick with something like a camera upgrade. If you’re at all curious about quadcopters and hexacopters, I can’t recommend highly enough binge watching everything on his channel.

I mention this because it was through Quadcopter 101 that I learned about the Syma X11. Folks, this is the one. If you’re interested in learning to fly a quadcopter, start here. Syma has come a long way, both with the airframe design and the flight software, since introducing the X1 that I first flew. This is a really versatile quadcopter that is easy enough for my kids to learn to fly inside of the house. It’s got a rather generous propeller protector, and such stable flight characteristics, that I was able to intentionally bump it into the walls and into the ceiling without a crash. The propellers are geared, which allows them to use very small motors running at a slower speed. And that equates into better stability and flight time. Most of these cheap toy type quadcopters use direct drive propellers.

But take the X11 outside, remove the propeller protector (which now improves weight and aerodynamics). Then bump it into the high performance program and take to the open skies. I was able to maintain control of this micro quadcopter out to fairly irresponsible distances (well above the tree canopy). And in its high performance mode, it’s capable of some fairly hair raising dives and swoops and turns.

Compared to the popular DJI quadcopters (that are, to be fair, way more capable in a very different way), these X11’s are cheap thrills. You can fly it like it’s stolen, because you can get one for about $17 if you’re patient and $26 if you’re in a hurry and have a Prime membership. That’s a steal for this level of fun. And I did. I flew it like it was stolen. I didn’t suffer any terrible crashes outside.

But then tonight something weird happened. I was flying around at dusk, in the open space between the oak trees. First a bird, maybe a mockingbird, came out of a tree and took a swipe at my quadcopter. He chickened out at the last moment and didn’t come back. Then the bats came out. They didn’t attack it, but they were definitely curious about it. They flew around it, without getting too close. If I changed direction and flew towards them, they evaded, but then quickly fell back in line behind the quadcopter.

This was too much fun! I was flying with bats! We flew higher, higher, ever higher. We flew above the canopy. I was so enjoying this moment, and I was so carried away, that I’d forgotten to consider the state of the battery.

One thing you really need to know about these low end toy quadcopters is that they don’t give you any real warning that the battery has run down. The sort of give you a courtesy “screw you, I’m out” blinking of lights when they are done, and then the aircraft will suddenly power off. This is not universally true, but it is certainly common in quadcopters in this price range.

So that’s exactly what happened. There I was, high above the trees, using the LED lights on the quadcopter to see where it was and which way it was oriented. And then the lights blinked.

Oh, shit!

I had about one or two seconds of controlled descent. I tried moving the aircraft out into the open so it would free-fall between the trees. But this was not to be. The craft went into a free-fall, and a breeze gently pulled the limp airframe to an area just out of sight, just above the tree canopy. I heard no crashing branches. I saw nothing hit the ground. I’m fairly certain that the quadcopter came to rest at the top of the big oak tree on the corner of my property.

Then I got on Amazon, and ordered two more (one on Prime, one at a bargain price with a longer shipping lead time), and spent under $40 on the pair. Because they are that good, I want to have one at home, and one in the office. I also ordered spare props, spare batteries, and a fast charger.

If you’re at all curious about flying quadcopters, stop thinking about it. Check out the Quadcopter 101 channel on YouTube, buy yourself an X11 or something like it, and learn to fly it!

Tarus Balog : Convince Your Boss to Send You to the OUCE

August 19, 2015 09:14 PM

With this year’s OpenNMS Users Conference a little over a month away, I plan to be writing about it more in the run up to the event. I figured I should probably start on why you should go and, better yet, how to convince your boss to pay for the trip.

First off, if you aren’t using OpenNMS, why not? (grin)

In all seriousness, if you are happy with your network management solution you can stop reading now. But if you aren’t happy, are in the process of considering alternatives, or if you have a serious interest in discovering the benefits of an open source network management platform, the money you will spend to investigate OpenNMS through the Users Conference is a rounding error compared to the price of similar commercial solutions.

Second, OpenNMS is more of a platform than an application. I know of a number of organizations who manage billion dollar budgets using Microsoft Excel, but it didn’t work for them out of the box. They had to build the spreadsheets, integrate it with databases and other applications, but now they have a custom system that fits their needs. Most network management applications require the user to adapt their processes to fit the application. For most IT organizations those processes are what differentiate them from their competitors, so it makes more sense to use a platform like OpenNMS which can be customized to better complement them instead of the other way around.

Third, OpenNMS does have a steep learning curve. It is a broad and powerful tool but it does require an investment in time in order to realize its full potential. One way to get such knowledge would be to attend a week-long training class at the OpenNMS HQ. The cost would be US$2500 plus travel.

Contrast this with the OUCE. The full four day package runs 1000€, currently about US$1100, or less than half the price of the standard training course. Even with travel expenses (assuming you aren’t in Germany in particular or Europe in general) it should make more sense to go to the OUCE than to the usual training course (plus, the next one isn’t until January of next year). If you don’t have the need to go to the one day OpenNMS Bootcamp, it is even less expensive. It makes good financial sense.

Fourth, this is a *users* conference. If you come to training you will most likely get to listen to me for five days. At the OUCE you get to meet and talk with the people who *use* OpenNMS. Got a common problem? Find out how others solved it using OpenNMS. Got a weird problem? I can guarantee that someone at the conference will have a weirder one that they used OpenNMS to fix. The initial list of accepted talks is awesome and will only get better.

Fifth, a lot of the key people behind OpenNMS will be there as well (including yours truly) and so you can experience first hand what makes the OpenNMS community so special. Plus, since we don’t “unveil” new features, you can see first hand what is currently available in the development version of OpenNMS, including “big data” storage, new and improved graphing, elasticsearch integration and distributed polling via “minions”.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun. I can remember meeting Ian Norton during an OUCE several years ago. He had been forced to attend the conference by his (now previous) employer and was very unhappy about it. Not knowing who I was, he candidly ranted about issues he saw with the product. I assured him that we would work hard over the next two days to address them. Now he is one of our biggest supporters, and all it took was two days to “get it” and understand what makes OpenNMS so magical (in the interest of full disclosure, schnapps was involved).

In conclusion, if you are not using OpenNMS you are probably paying too much for a lesser solution. This may not be true in your particular case, but you should at least seriously investigate the possibility. It makes financial sense to do this at the Users Conference, even with travel expenses, plus you can see how real users, just like you, are getting the most value out of the tool. And even if you decide OpenNMS is not for you, you’ll have had some fun and can rest assured you did your due diligence when examining management options for your employer.

Hope to see you there.

Mark Turner : Back from Anchorage

August 19, 2015 02:12 AM

Well, over 12 hours and 3,500 miles later we are back home from Anchorage, having walked out of RDU around 11 AM. It was an amazing, unforgettable trip filled with many stories I have yet to tell. The red eye on Delta was exhausting, however, and my head does not know what day, time, or place it’s in. I thought I would blog more tonight of our trip but catching up on lost sleep seems more prudent.

Tomorrow I may awaken to wonder if it was all just a dream.

Mark Turner : Anchorage and crime

August 17, 2015 05:38 AM

Knowing the number of tourists that must pass through here, I was hopeful that Anchorage’s downtown would be a welcoming place.

I was wrong. I never felt fully safe when we were there, always having my street-smarts kick in to move us along whenever danger seemed to show up. There were a some guys here and there who seemed to be sizing us up as we walked by, causing me to walk us a bit faster. Suddenly, carrying that gift shop bag through downtown didn’t seem so smart.

One evening we parked downtown and headed over to see the “Aurora” showing at the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts. I overheard the usher there chatting with another tourist.

“Anchorage has a great downtown,” he said without much conviction. “Sure, it has it’s problems …,” he continued, never finishing his thought.

The next night we returned downtown to hit the gift shops. At one corner outside of the Performing Arts center we passed two private security guys who had apparently wrestled another guy to the ground, pinning him in a hold and apparently waiting for police to arrive. As Kelly and I marched the kids right past the scene without comment, privately I was wondering where the police were. The whole time we were there I never saw Anchorage Police anywhere downtown. Those private security guards held that guy for longer than I expected. Had Anchorage PD simply ceded downtown to the vagrants and gang members?

Afterward while I was waiting in the gift shop for the rest of the family to buy their things, I mentioned the scene we saw to the owner. “So … do you have a lot of problems downtown?” I asked.

She paused for a split second, as if deciding how much sugar-coating to add. Then with a frown she answered “well, yes.” It’s not violent crime, she assured me, but more robbery-type stuff. A lot of homeless kids were hanging out in the park, she said. I nodded as she went back to her work.

I had checked Anchorage’s crime before we left and it turns out violent crime is an issue here, particularly sexual assault. I had this in mind as Kelly decided to run alone in Anchorage’s Kincaid Park Friday morning. She enjoyed her run and reported no issues but she did choose to steer clear of the wooded sections of the path. Likewise, I did not let Hallie roam alone through the flea market this morning, as much as she might have wanted to.

On Monday, our search for some good local beer gave us an education on Anchorage’s liquor laws. Anyone entering the liquor store needs to show ID, regardless of age. As Kelly returned to the car to fetch hers, two Asian-looking 20-year old men wearing earphones stepped into the store. The clerk who had been chatting casually with me suddenly turned his complete attention to the two men, each of whom had gone to different areas of the store.

Suddenly some kind of “spidey sense” kicked in and the thought entered my mind that these two guys were about to rob the store. One of the guys walked up behind me as I stood near the counter and suddenly I became very uncomfortable.

Stupid me, I thought. This guy could be armed and I had just let him walk up right behind me. I nonchalantly stepped aside so I could see both him and his friend, who was across the store and taking an unusually long time picking out his liquor. “Where was Kelly?” I kept thinking.

The clerk asked the friend in a half-accusing tone if he was looking for anything in particular, at which point they both exited the store. The clerk then turned back to me and with a shrug said “gang.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Those two were gang. I could tell when they walked in. In fact, I’ve even seen them before,” he said as he rang up my purchase. “You see how one tried to distract me while the other was going to steal?”

I bought my beer and thanked the clerk, so happy to be out of there.

I was disappointed to learn later that Anchorage Police cut its only gang intelligence officer position last year

Alaskans are self-sufficient people. Alaskans love their guns. I just thought the reason for those guns was the dangerous wildlife, not the crooks who roam the streets. Anchorage could really be something great but it first needs to get a handle on its crime. I hope the good citizens of Anchorage are up to the challenge.

Mark Turner : Independence Mine

August 17, 2015 04:43 AM

Independence Mine from above

Independence Mine from above

After our fun whitewater rafting trip, we took our guide Colin’s advice to detour over to Hatcher Pass to visit Independence Mine. The Mine had been on the list our Anchorage landlord sent us, so it was worth checking out.

Independence Mine is outside of Palmer, only a 20 minute detour from our route home. The weather was clear and breezy as we drove up ever-winding roads towards the pass. The road narrowed as it reached the top of the pass and soon we were at 3,500 feet in the Independence Mine State Historical Park. A cluster of freshly-painted wood buildings stood near the parking lot as several other tourists milled around.

The mine opened in 1934 and was active for a short amount of time, from 1934 to 1950, but in that time unearthed gold worth over $17 million (in today’s dollars). Though the work was hard accommodations were actually fairly luxurious, with heat, electricity, hot water, excellent food, and semi-private rooms.

The visitors center was closed when we got there so there were no guided tours. We walked among the mine buildings, some well-restored and others little more than giant piles of splinters. Outside of the buildings were illustrated signs describing what life was like for the miners. Shiny new fencing lined the dirt paths around the park, fencing off collapsed buildings that seemed to have been left right where they fell. Rusted steel cables that once supported mine carts lay across the walking path in several places. Dilapidated mine cart tracks hung twisted in the air, their wooden supports long since fallen.

In a way I am glad that little effort was made to spruce up the ruin of the mine buildings. It added to the realism. We could see we were looking at authentic materials and not a Disney-like recreation. Still, it made me wonder what future restoration efforts might be able to do.

Kelly inspects the rusted mine train

Kelly inspects the rusted mine train

We spent almost two hours wandering through the park: looking in old windows, tracing footsteps up to the “water tunnel” mine entrance, and walking past an old mine train. Viewing the ruins and the photographs of this temporary community helped convey a sense of the daily routine here. It was well worth making the side trip to see what life was like in a real mining

Mark Turner : The 50 Worst Songs of the ’00s, F2K No. 11: Darryl Worley, “Have You Forgotten?” | Village Voice

August 16, 2015 03:47 AM

This cheesy song was playing in an Anchorage gift shop yesterday and my family and I were rolling our eyes. I count myself lucky that I managed to avoid it for ten years.

Just another schmo who hoped that 9/11 would change everything…for his career.

It’s tempting to simply quote in full the lyrics from Darryl Worley’s crass-in attempt to tie together the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war. After all, its lyrics, which rhymed “forgotten” with “Bin Laden” and called for daily showings of the attacks on the World Trade Center, were the linchpin of its “appeal.” But to do that would be a disservice to the fine men and women of this country who have actually had to sit through the track.

Source: The 50 Worst Songs of the ’00s, F2K No. 11: Darryl Worley, “Have You Forgotten?” | Village Voice

Mark Turner : Tam Hunt: Do Electric Vehicles Lead to Environmental Benefits?

August 16, 2015 03:42 AM

Here’s a very comprehensive rebuttal of Stephen Holland’s recent UNC-G study concluding that electric vehicles are only marginally better for the environment.

A number of studies have come out in recent years questioning the conventional wisdom that electric vehicles are better for the environment than efficient traditional cars.

A recent study from a team that included Stephen Holland of the University of North Carolina Greensboro as first author makes a remarkable statement, that “electric vehicles, on average, generate greater environmental externalities than gasoline vehicles.” The study compares electric vehicles (EVs) with gasoline vehicles and finds EVs wanting.

I’ll examine this study in some detail here to show why EVs are, in fact, very good for the environment.

Source: Tam Hunt: Do Electric Vehicles Lead to Environmental Benefits?

Mark Turner : Rafting the Matanuska

August 13, 2015 04:07 PM

Rafting the Matanuska

Rafting the Matanuska

Yesterday we rose early to make the drive to the mouth of the Matanuska River in Alaska for some whitewater rafting! The Matanuska is a glacier-fed river and our rafting outfit, Nova, was about a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage. We rode up some beautiful, twisty mountain roads to get there, passing a pair of moose standing in the ditch on the way. It was our first moose sighting in Alaska!

We arrived around 10:30 to the rafting office, a nice but remote cabin by the river. After using the pit toilets and checking in, we were given rain gear to wear and spent some time adjusting our GoPro camera before taking the short bus ride to the edge of the Matanuska glacier.

The put-in point near the glacier is private property and the rafting staff (Colin, our guide; Riley, our other guide; and Marsha, our bus driver) paid a hefty fee at the entrance for us to visit. On the way to the launch site, we stopped momentarily at a picnic spot overlooking the glacier: a massive, brilliantly-glowing sheet of blue ice. It was stunning to see! We took lots of pictures and witnessed the trickles of meltwater from this ice combine to form the ice-cold, silt-loaded Matanuska River. We would be rafting on water that was only hours earlier part of a glacier. That was incredible to think about.

Marsha expertly backed the bus to the water’s edge and we donned our life vests and got our safety briefing. Then we piled into our inflatable rafts and shoved off into the class 2 and 3 waters. Marsha (our driver) and her older male friend were riding as guests of the rafting company. They joined us in the back of our raft. I gleefully announced the presence of another moose, this one a bull moose who was wandering around across the river from us. Colin told us this was good luck as it had been weeks since the rafting crew had seen a moose.

Colin expertly steered our raft using two paddles as we floated down the river. Due to the silt (and the young water), there are no fish in the water. The rapids offered only a spot of water that was actually white where the waves curled up, with most of it the grey color of concrete. Softball-sized, smooth rocks littered the banks. The clear skies we enjoyed on the way up had turned overcast and a slight breeze had kicked up. I was glad I was wearing double shirts and my fleece jacket under my rain coat and vest.

We quizzed Colin on local issues, like where we should visit, what he did when he wasn’t steering rafts, and whether Bigfoot and UFOs are a problem here. Colin counts himself among Bigfoot believers, knowing a friend who stood 50 feet away from a 10-foot tall creature that wasn’t a bear. I chuckled at this but nervously looked over my shoulder the rest of the day!

We bumped and twirled down the river, dodging some of the trickier holes as we went. Several splashes came over the bow but only a little spray got in our faces. I stayed drier than I had expected but that was just fine with me. The stunning scenery of towering cliffs carved out from glacial activity was captivating. It was great to just be in the moment.

After about an hour’s float, we were guided to the landing point right outside the office again, where we clambered out and returned our foul-weather gear. Hot chocolate and apple cider packets awaited on the picnic table outside the office. We said goodbye to our guides and our fellow rafters (a young family from Iowa) and returned to our car. We weren’t quite ready to return to Anchorage, though, as Colin had also steered us towards a worthy detour: Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass which was north of Palmer.

We set the GPS and were off for our second adventure of the day (stay tuned)!

Mark Turner : Kayaking at Eklutna Lake

August 13, 2015 06:13 AM

Kayaking at Eklutna Lake

Kayaking at Eklutna Lake

Yesterday we piled in the car and headed up to Eklutna Lake to check out the scenery and do some kayaking. This was our first venture into real bear territory but fortunately we loaded up on “bear bells” beforehand at the Anchorage REI store so that bears, which are attracted to the smell of money, stayed miles away.

The drive was a scenic one as the weather cleared out for the first time we’ve been here. Sunny skies surrounded us as we drove north to Eklutna. After an hour’s drive or so, we pulled into the parking lot at Eklutna State Park and wandered over to get our kayaks.

We split up into Team Brown and Team Blue and shoved off for an hour’s paddle around the beautiful lake. I didn’t appreciate how big the lake was until we were on it. It took Hallie and me quite a bit of work to get from one side to the other. Most of the time we pulled our paddles in and let the substantial wind push us around, cruising slowly down the shoreline. After we’d had our fill of drifting, we spent the next 30 minutes fighting the wind to get our boat back to the landing spot. Whew!

I only realized later that we had missed a chance to go see Eklutna glacier, which loomed just behind the bend in the lake. We hope to find time to go back, rent mountain bikes, and ride up to the edge of the glacier.

After our lake adventure, we aimlessly wandered through the horrible Anchorage rush-hour traffic to get gas at Costco. Then we wandered back through the same horrible traffic to grab supper and a beer at Moose’s Tooth, a local pizza joint and brewery. The pizza was nicely priced, the beer was fantastic, and the wait was just 5 minutes. Win!

After our bellies were full (and our muscles still sore!), we spent a quiet evening back at our rental. All in all, not a bad day!

Mark Turner : Hiking Flattop Mountain

August 12, 2015 06:24 AM

At the top of Flattop Mountain!

At the top of Flattop Mountain!

Monday, we decided to tackle a rather ambitious hike: Flattop Mountain. Flattop is a mountain in the Chugach Mountain range next to Anchorage, distinctive not for its height but for its flat top. As the most accessible hike from Anchorage, it is the state’s most-climbed peak. “Accessible” does not mean easily-climbed, however, as we were to find out!

We arrived a little before noon, having taken a variety of clothing since we didn’t know what the weather there would be like. It was overcast and in the low-60s when we arrived, so layers were the rule of the day. After a stop at the trailhead’s pit toilets, we set off for the summit.

Difficult? No kidding!

Difficult? No kidding!

We hadn’t made it up to the first saddle, a mere few hundred feet away from the parking lot, before Kelly and I were already huffing. This clearing offered our first incredible view of Anchorage below us, though, so we took a moment to catch our breath and take it all in. Trudge on we did, though, winding our way along the east side of Blueberry Hill loop.

Just about the time we reached the fenceposts on the eastern side of the loop, the summit of Flattop came into view. Our jaws dropped at the sheer climbing that awaited us.

Tiny people

Tiny people

“Are those people?” we asked in disbelief as we squinted at the tiny figures above us. “Holy crap! What have we gotten ourselves into?” It looked to be the steepest mountain I’d ever laid eyes on, and there was no hesitation coming from the rest of the family about our goal. I considered whether my life insurance was up to date as I rushed to keep up with
Kelly and the kids.

The trail soon wound its way to the first flight of “stairs,” landscape timbers hammered into the ground, with big gaps of ground in between. This was followed by yet another set of stairs, with steps stretching farther and farther upward. The jacket I had been wearing was soon packed into my bag as I began working up a sweat. We all stole rests where we could, stepping aside for other climbers while catching our breath. Occasionally I felt lightheaded as I pushed myself farther up the trail.

The most comfortable bench, thus far

The most comfortable bench, thus far

After a particularly punishing stretch of stairs we reached the second “saddle” of the trail. Hallie and I shared a bench I had declared the most comfortable bench I’d ever sat on. Other climbers explored the hill to the south of us while over our shoulder loomed the steepest part of our climb yet. With one more swig of water, we set out again.

The last section of hike was part climb. Signposts warned of difficult hiking and advised not to bring children. We followed two women up the trail until they seemed to lose their way. Faded blazes made finding the trail difficult as the path disappeared into jumbles of rock. Eventually, I found a zig-zagging switchback and began leading the way up.

About 100 feet below the summit any semblance of path disappeared into a jumble of rock. Here’s where we began to do more climbing than hiking. I was looking for as many handholds as footholds as I followed Travis up the mountain. It was slow going, daunting climbing but foot by foot we eventually clambered over the edge to the summit.

And what a reward it was! Dozens of other hikers milled around the moon-like surface of Flattop. An American flag fluttered strongly from a post planted in a stone circle. Once Kelly and Hallie had reached the summit I handed my camera to another hiker for a photo of us all. It was quite an achievement!

We then went about exploring the wide summit and the views it offered. Heading east, we passed a cairn before coming to the edge that overlooked the Pacific ocean and parts of Anchorage below. Hallie gravitated to a wooden bench perched precariously close to a precipitous dropoff. We passed around a bag of carrots, snapped photos, and moved on to further explore our new conquest.

Enjoying the eastern view

Enjoying the eastern view

A bench with a view

A bench with a view

After about 45 minutes of taking in the views, we decided it was time to descend. The wind had picked up again and jackets came back out of our bags. With one last group photo we began the trip back down.

The rock field near the top turned out to be much easier to traverse going down than up! It also helped that we found the blazes and thus took the best path. Even so, the trip down wasn’t all a cake walk: my legs began to feel a bit like jello as navigated the steep staircase down, dodging the gaps between the timbers. There was no doubt now, though, that our hiking was getting easier. Our laughter increased accordingly!

Yes, it really is this dizzying up here

Yes, it really is this dizzying up here

Safely back at the trailhead, we marvelled at the insanely steep climb we had just made. It was the most challenging hike I had ever made. The kids? Both of them were gung-ho from start to finish. Kelly and I couldn’t have been prouder of how into it they were. They both repeatedly exclaimed how epic the hike had been. And it was.
Did we REALLY do this climb?

Did we REALLY do this climb?

Tired and beat (and not really having had lunch – what?), we drove to Qdoba for a burrito supper. We were back at the rental home by 6 PM and spent the rest of the night just tending our sore muscles.

It was an epic day, indeed.

Mark Turner : Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous – The Washington Post

August 12, 2015 04:25 AM

A good opinion piece on why America needs more than just STEM education.

Twenty years ago, tech companies might have survived simply as product manufacturers. Now they have to be on the cutting edge of design, marketing and social networking. You can make a sneaker equally well in many parts of the world, but you can’t sell it for $300 unless you’ve built a story around it. The same is true for cars, clothes and coffee. The value added is in the brand — how it is imagined, presented, sold and sustained. Or consider America’s vast entertainment industry, built around stories, songs, design and creativity. All of this requires skills far beyond the offerings of a narrow STEM curriculum.

Source: Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : First thoughts on Anchorage

August 12, 2015 03:49 AM

Next stop, Anchorage!

Next stop, Anchorage!

The family and I made it into Anchorage Saturday afternoon after an 18 hour day of preparing and travel. Getting here took a long time (only slightly less than flying to London, Kelly says) but was surprisingly smooth, all things considered. Our Expedia booking put us on different airlines for each leg and the outgoing one was on United through Houston. I’ve complained before of how airlines are going out of their way to make flying as miserable as possible, squeezing every last cent out of its customers, but our flight didn’t suck as bad as I thought it might. The leg from Houston to Anchorage got us there in under 7 hours, though we weren’t treated to the spectacular views of the area that I’d been told about due to the cloud cover.

Waiting an inordinate amount of time for our baggage at the carousel gave me some time to people watch. I saw a number of bearded young men there, all in the Alaska uniform of the day: ball caps (preferably camo) with cheap sunglasses propped on top. In Raleigh, bearded young men are considered hipsters. In Anchorage, they’re rednecks. It made me wonder what it must be like to be so rigidly conformist, if these guys ever felt trapped in the routine.

We wandered over to the car rental place only to have the clerk quiz Kelly about the discount code she had used to reserve our cars. We were about to lose our sweet rate when I pulled up the Hotwire site on my phone and threatened to go two booths down to the other rental agency. We got what we needed, though, and were soon driving out in the daylight at a time when it would already be dark at home.

It was weird having the heat on in our rental car in mid-August.

We were all hungry so we stopped into an IHOP near our rented townhouse. We were all comatose after a long day, it was 9:30 PM Anchorage time (1:30 AM East Coast time), and the cheerful clerk sent us off with the question: “so, how are you going to spend your day?” Ahahahaha! It was straight to bed for us!

Our rental is on the south end of town near all the Anchorage box stores. A Super Wal-Mart is down and across the street, followed by Best Buy and your typical chain stores. You can get everything you need here. Kelly laughed at how our friends back home might have thought we were “roughing it” here. Hardly, though I’m guessing the winter is another story!

Our place is the lower unit of a townhome. When we got in a family with a young boy and an infant were above us. We heard the sound of creaking floorboards and a crying baby at night, which didn’t help our sleep. Also, the beds here all have loud, squeaky box springs, making a racket whenever one turns over at night. On the other hand, the windows in our place are very good at blocking outside noise and, once the young family left yesterday, we had a very peaceful night last night.

Sunday was spent making a grocery run and then driving out to visit Whittier, AK. Whittier started life as a deep-water port for the Army. A railway tunnel was blasted through the mountain to complete the base but then the whole place was mothballed by the Army in the 1960s. Now the tiny town is home to fewer than 200 residents, the vast majority of whom live in just one 14-story building, the Begich Towers. There is a great write-up in Gizmodo about what life is like in Whittier which I recommend reading.

The Whittier side of the Whittier Tunnel.

The Whittier side of the Whittier Tunnel.

The tunnel to Whittier was amazing! At 2.5 miles, the single-lane tunnel is the second-longest tunnel in North America and well worth the $13 toll. Our sightseeing trip was a bit disappointing, outside of the tunnel. Whittier’s downtown is nonexistent. There are few inns and not much for tourists to do, it seems. I wondered what the passengers of the cruise ships do when they get here – I guess they get the hell out of town by way of the Alaska Railway. We did spend some time checking out the other significant building in town, the shuttered Buckner Building.
The Buckner Building

The Buckner Building

The Buckner Building was built by the Army in 1953 to house its troops under one roof and was mothballed only 7 years later. In its time it was the largest building in Alaska. In spite of its Wikipedia entry (which I’ve since corrected), the Buckner Building easily survived the devastating Good Friday Earthquake of 1964.

On the way back, we stopped at the Begich, Boggs Visitors Center at Portage Lake. It has a glacial iceberg in the lake, parked outside of the center and its blue ice caught our attention. It was blustery and spitting rain but we posed for pictures in front of the iceberg. The kids were impressed!

Hallie and the iceberg

Hallie and the iceberg

Travis and the iceberg

Travis and the iceberg

We topped off our first full day in Anchorage with a visit to downtown’s Glacial Brewhouse. The wait was insane at over an hour but it was crowded for a reason. We browsed nearby souvenir shops until our table was ready but once seated, our meals (and importantly, beers) were ready surprisingly quickly. We enjoyed our meals and soon headed back to the place to crash for the night. After all, another busy day was ahead!

Mark Turner : This Hacker’s Tiny Device Unlocks Cars And Opens Garages | WIRED

August 11, 2015 06:03 PM

Remember two years ago when I was captivated by a mystery device thieves were using to open car doors? This $32 device might just be it.

Thus, all the neighbors who have been claiming stuff was stolen from their cars when they knew their doors had been locked may be telling the truth.

At the hacker conference DefCon in Las Vegas tomorrow, Kamkar plans to present the details of a gadget he’s developed called “RollJam.” The $32 radio device, smaller than a cell phone, is designed to defeat the “rolling codes” security used in not only most modern cars and trucks’ keyless entry systems, but also in their alarm systems and in modern garage door openers. The technique, long understood but easier than ever to pull off with Kamkar’s attack, lets an intruder break into cars without a trace, turn off their alarms and effortlessly access garages.

Source: This Hacker’s Tiny Device Unlocks Cars And Opens Garages | WIRED

Tarus Balog : Case Study: Why You Want OpenNMS Support

August 07, 2015 03:46 PM

I wanted to share a story about a support case I worked on recently that might serve to justify the usefulness of commercial OpenNMS Support to folks thinking about it. As always, OpenNMS is published under an open source license and so commercial support is never a requirement, but as this story involves commercial software I thought it might be useful to share it.

We have a client that handles a lot of sensitive information, to the point that they have an extremely hardened network environment that makes it difficult to manage. They place a separate copy of OpenNMS into this “sphere” just to manage the machines inside it, and they have configured the webUI to be accessed over HTTPS as the only access from the outside.

Recently, a security audit turned up this message:

Red Hat Linux 6.6 weak-crypto-key
3 Weak Cryptographic Key Fail "The following TLS cipher suites use
Diffie-Hellman keys smaller than 1024 bits: *
TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA (768-bit DH key)" "Use a Stronger Key If
the weak key is used in an X.509 certificate (for example for an HTTPS
server), generate a longer key and recreate the certificate. Please also
refer to NIST's recommendations on cryptographic algorithms and key
lengths (
) ." Vulnerable

and they opened a support ticket asking for advice on how to fix it.

I had some issues with the error message right off the bat. The key used was 2048 bits, so my guess is that the algorithm is weak and not the key. The error message seems to suggest, however, that a longer key would fix the problem.

Anyway, this should be simple to fix. The jetty.xml file in the OpenNMS configuration directory lets you exclude certain ciphers, so I just had the customer add these two to the list and restart OpenNMS.

And then we waited for the nightly scan to run.

This fixed the issue with the TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA cipher but not the first one. Nothing we did seemed to help, so I installed sslscan on my test machine to try and duplicate the issue. I got a different list of ciphers, and since openssl uses different name for the ciphers than Java, and it was a bit of a pain to try and map them. I couldn’t get sslscan to show the same vulnerabilities as the tool they were using.

We finally found out that the tool was Nexpose by Rapid 7. I wasn’t familiar with the tool, but I found that I could download a trial version. So I set up a VM and installed the “Community Edition”.

Note: this has nothing to do with open core, which often refers to their “free” version as the “community” version. Nexpose is 100% commercial. They use “community” to mean “community supported”, but it is kind of confusing, like when Bertolli’s markets “light” olive oil which means “light tasting” and not low in calories.

I had to fill out a web form and wait about a day for the key to show up. I had installed the exact version of OpenNMS that the client was using on my VM, so my hope was that I could recreate the errors.

First, I had to increase the memory to the VM. Nexpose is written in Java and is a memory hog, but so is OpenNMS, and it was some work to get them to play nice together on the same machine. But once I got it running, it wasn’t too hard to recreate the problem.

The Nexpose user interface isn’t totally intuitive, but I was able to add the IP address of the local machine and get a scan to kick off without having to read any documentation. The output came as a CVS file, but you could also examine the output from within the UI.

The scan reported the same two errors, and just like before I was able to remove the “TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA” one just by excluding it in jetty.xml, but the second one would not go away. I found a list of ciphers supported by Java, but nothing exactly matched “TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA” and I tried almost all of the combinations for similar TLS ciphers.

Then it dawned on me to try “SSL_DHE_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA” and the error went away. I guess in retrospect it was obvious but I was pretty much focused on TLS based ciphers and it didn’t dawn on me that this would be the error with Nexpose.

It was extremely frustrating, but as my customer was being beat up about it I was glad that we could get the system to pass the audit. While this was totally an issue with the scanning software and not OpenNMS, it would have been hard to figure out without the help we were happy to give.

It may not surprise anyone that a large number of OpenNMS support issues tend to be related to products from other vendors. Usually most of them can be classified as a poor implementation of the SNMP standard, but occasionally we get something like this.

Our clients tend to be incredibly smart and good at their jobs, but having access to the folks that actually make OpenNMS can sometimes save enough time and headache to more than offset the cost of support.

Tarus Balog : Welcome Costa Rica! (Country 28)

August 05, 2015 08:20 PM

While I have never been able to personally visit Costa Rica (it is on my list) I am happy to announce that we now have a commercial customer from their, making it the 28th unique country for OpenNMS.

They join the following countries:

Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad, the UAE, the UK and the US.

Mark Turner : News and Observer and I part ways

August 05, 2015 01:47 AM

Over the summer the bank canceled the credit card used by thieves on their New Jersey shopping spree. This was the same card used to pay for our News and Observer subscription, and on 12 July our subscription officially expired. The N&O continued to deliver papers and supplemented that with several letters in the mail asking us to call them. After repeatedly leaving messages for Miriam Widger, the newspaper’s “Audience Retention and Collection Agent,” she finally called me back.

Miriam told me we could continue to subscribe for the incredibly low price of $351 for 52 weeks.

“Gosh,” I responded, “I see on your website that we can get a new subscription for only $109.20 for 52 weeks. Why would you charge your long-time customers three times as much as a new subscriber?”

Miriam didn’t have an answer for that. She was willing to drop the rate down to what it was three years ago ($275/year) but would not honor the new subscription rate. Sadly, I had to tell her I would get us square on what we owed but that would be it. So now, for the first time since I was in elementary school, I am not a newspaper reader.

This decision wasn’t made lightly. I posted this to Twitter on 12 July, the day of our first overdue notice:

I have been a loyal newspaper reader all my life but the sharp decline of @newsobserver is making me question its value. Sad.

A friend then urged me to continue to support it, to which I replied:

I am really torn about this. I want to support newspapers but lately I’m getting far less return for my investment. I have many friends who are staffers there and I love their work. This is not a knock against them or what they do, because they’re awesome at what they do. It’s the business side which has really gotten to me. Huge rate hikes, pop-under ads on the main website, charging me extra to deliver ad-heavy holiday papers, quietly changing the policy of missed papers so no credit is given, not redelivering for missed deliveries. All of this is Customer Service 101, and management’s decision to make these changes is what’s driving me away.

In my travels around the country, I’ve encountered several healthy, thriving newspapers and it always startles me. “How could this be? I thought the newspaper industry is dying? How could this paper be so healthy?” It’s all about how the business is run. McClatchy has bled this paper dry and it’s a real shame.

I hold newspapers in very high regard. Still, I’m not feeling the love from the N&O and I’m asking myself how much longer I can put up with it. If I feel I am getting real value instead of being asked to pay more for less content (often through sneaky, quietly-added additional fees as mentioned above), I will be happy to continue supporting it. As it stands now, I beginning to feel that the N&O is treating its subscribers as suckers.

When another friend urged support, I responded:

If Drescher and gang came out and said, “look, advertising isn’t making it happen. We need another $5 (say) from you per month and HERE’S WHAT IT WILL GET YOU,” I would most likely be happy to pay it BUT I like to see something in return for my added fees. Instead, it seems I’ve been asked to pay more and more and gotten less and less in return. This money is going where? To pay down McClatchy’s debt? How about investing it in some actual journalism instead? I do not like feeling like I am McClatchy’s ATM machine.

So, over the last three years a yearly subscription rose from $275 to $351, a 22% increase for you math-averse folks. The paper has shrunk considerably in that time, too. What was once a front section and a local section were combined, making it unsharable at the breakfast table.

Now a redesign has been put in place and, while I’ve been trying to keep an open mind, I’ve decided I’m not a fan. The italic fonts in the headlines – I don’t know what it is about them but they drive my English Nazi sensibilities bonkers. It irks me that headlines are left-justified, too. Also, the formatting is such that I have a hard time finding the start of a story. I don’t know if it’s the extra white space between the headline and the story or what but it’s not as easy as it was.

I also noticed yesterday that most of the ads are targeting old people: hearing aids, miracle cures for something or other, estate planning. It’s apparent that I’m not in the target audience (or am I? I’m not that old yet? Right?).

The paper’s digital app holds some hope but I can’t get it to work half the time. If I click on a story I’m soon only looking at two advertisements, the story somehow disappears. It’s also crazy expensive at $20 per month (but new subscribers get it for $9.95/month. What?).

It’s tough parting ways with a newspaper habit I’ve had all my life but the N&O has changed and I guess I’ve changed, too. I don’t feel like I’m getting the value I used to. If that changes some day maybe I’ll be back. I hope so.

Mark Turner : So Long, Drawl | NC State News

July 30, 2015 06:15 PM

For more than half a century, the familiar Southern accent has been fading in Raleigh. Its disappearance has been so slow and so subtle that locals may not even have noticed. But for Robin Dodsworth, an associate professor in sociolinguistics at NC State, the decline tells the story of rapid social change across the urban South.

Source: So Long, Drawl | NC State News

Tarus Balog : 2015 O’Reilly Open Source Conference

July 28, 2015 07:52 PM

I think this year marks the eighth OSCON I’ve attended. I’m not sure of that, but I am sure that every year I can meet up with a number of interesting people that I just don’t see elsewhere.

I used to get the conference pass so I could see the presentations, and while they tend to be of a very high quality, I often found myself spending most of my time outside of those rooms, either on the Expo floor or just sitting and talking, so this year I just got the Expo pass.

OSCON 2015 - Entrance

I have a love/hate relationship with OSCON. It seems to be skewed toward large companies, and this year was no exception.

I got to see the jugglers at Paypal:

OSCON 2015 - Paypal

(Note: Jason, who used to work with us at OpenNMS, is now at Paypal and so I get to hear about some of the stuff they are doing around open source it is pretty exciting).

and Microsoft was back with the photo booth:

OSCON 2015 - Microsoft

There were also some smaller companies in attendance. I had to go by and say “hi” to the Atlassian team as we happily use a number of their products to make OpenNMS happen, such as Bamboo and Jira:

OSCON 2015 - Atlassian

and it was nice to run into Chris Aniszczyk, the open source guy at Twitter.

OSCON 2015 - Chris Aniszczyk

I had not talked to Chris since last year’s OSCON and it was cool to learn that he’s doing well.

One thing I’ve been looking at for OpenNMS is the best configuration platform with which to integrate. It is hard to choose between Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Salt (and we should probably do all four) but if the choice was solely based on the friendliest staff Chef would probably win.

OSCON 2015 - Chef

I never did get the full story on what happened with their booth.

Right around the corner was the Kaltura booth with its incredibly shy and withdrawn Director of Marketing, Meytal:

OSCON 2015 - Meytal Burstein

She was also at CLS and our paths crossed a lot, and I’m certain I’ll run into her in the future. Oh, and if you want her opinion, you’ll have to drag it out of her.

(Note: some of the above is not true)

OSCON 2015 - CDK Global

It was also cool to see a booth for CDK Global. CDK was formed by merging Cobalt and ADP Dealer Services, and the latter uses OpenNMS. Sam (the guy in the middle) was also a Frontalot fan, so we got along well.

I spent most of my time off to the side of the Expo floor on a row I called the “Geek Ghetto”. These are booths that OSCON offers to open source projects and organizations. It was cool to see that it was almost always packed with people.

OSCON 2015 - Geek Ghetto

I got to talk to the team at the Linuxfest Northwest. This is one conference I have yet to attend but I’m going to make an effort to get there next year. I’m hoping to convince the Bad Voltage guys to come along and do a live show (they will be with us at the OUCE this September in Germany)

OSCON 2015 - Linuxfest Northwest

Next to them was a booth from the EFF. Maggie, who was at the anniversary show in San Francisco, was also doing booth duty at OSCON.

OSCON 2015 - EFF

I believe in what the EFF is doing so it was nice to get to talk with them.

Last year I spent a lot of time learning about Free Geek:

OSCON 2015 - Free Geek

and it was nice to chat with them again. If you are in a Free Geek city, you should get involved.

It was good to see a large number of women in attendance, although it was still not reflective of the population as a whole. One group working to change that is Chicktech:

OSCON 2015 - Chicktech

Note that my picture got photobombed by “Open Source Man”.

Also in the Geek Ghetto was the Software Freedom Conservancy, run in part by Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler. I think highly of them both and enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.

OSCON 2015 - Karen Sandler

Now, I should probably explain my shirt.

Bryan Lunduke is one-fourth of the Bad Voltage team. While I have known Jono Bacon for some time, I didn’t get to meet Jeremy Garcia or Stuart Langridge until this year’s SCaLE conference. I never got to meet Bryan. To be honest, a lot of these “meetings” happened in bars and Bryan doesn’t drink, and I did try to get his attention on the show floor but he obviously didn’t hear me.

Then I was on the Bad Voltage podcast talking about OpenNMS. This was an episode where Bryan was ill, so outside of signing in to say he couldn’t do the show, I didn’t see much of him.

Finally, we are planning on having Bad Voltage come out to the OpenNMS User’s Conference this September. Bryan is expecting the arrival of his second child, so he had to beg off.

Now I just see these things as coincidences, but the guys in the office suggested the real reason is that Bryan hates me. Jessica, our graphic designer, took the bait and made up a graphic, and my friend Jason at Princredible printed a few really nice shirts.

I wanted to meet up with him in Portland, but he was only at CLS the second day (I was there the first). He was at OSCON on Wednesday. I wandered around the Expo floor trying to find him but we could never meet up.

It started to become amusing. People would stop me and say “Bryan was just here looking for you”. After awhile I thought it might be even funnier if we never met, just circled each other at the conference and to this day we still haven’t stood next to each other (he and Jono did call me later in the day, but I had already left).

Anyway, if you think Bryan Lunduke hates you too, you can get a nifty shirt just like mine. Jason will take orders until 10 August. These are high quality shirts that are actually printed – the image is dyed into the fabric and not screened on top were it is likely to crack and peel.

OSCON 2015 - Jono Bacon

Speaking of Jono, he did an “Ask Me Anything” session and I was very eager to get some of the burning questions off my chest. Unfortunately, it was subtitled to limit the questions to things like “community management” and “leadership”. Mine were, to a fault, all obscenely biological.

I want to end this note with a picture of one of my favorite people, within or outside of open source, Stephen Walli.

OSCON 2015 - Stephen Walli

I usually only see him at OSCON, and while in his sunset years he has quieted down a bit (grin), I always welcome the time I get to spend with him.

Hope to see everyone in Austin in 2016, if not sooner.

Mark Turner : Dick Cheney chilling on Sept 11, 2001

July 26, 2015 02:05 AM

Dick Cheney kicking back on Sept. 11, 2001.

Dick Cheney kicking back on Sept. 11, 2001.

The National Archives released a series of photos taken by White House staff on the morning of Sept 11, 2001. A few of them show a very relaxed (perhaps even bored) Vice President Dick Cheney as scenes of carnage are shown on his television.

I find his lack of reaction very strange.

Mark Turner : Map of Triangle-area Google Fiber huts

July 25, 2015 08:56 PM

Google Fiber in the Triangle

Google Fiber in the Triangle

A News and Observer story alerted me to the recent approval by Raleigh City Council of 10 Google Fiber hut sites in the city. A quick look at the city council minutes showed me where they were. I took a few minutes this afternoon to map these sites onto Google Maps to get a better look at where Google Fiber might soon be deployed.

The result is this Google Map. I have since added the four sites in Cary and one in Morrisville which have already been approved. I searched for approval of sites in Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Garner but as far as I know these municipalities have not yet approved their sites. If someone learns that this has changed, please give me a heads up and I will add these sites to my map.

The upright Google Fiber bunnies signify fiber hut locations, while the horizontal bunnies indicate where conduit permits have been requested. I’ve also put an icon on Raleigh’s proposed Google FiberSpace at 518 W. Jones St in Glenwood South area.

Mark Turner : Trump’s mysterious appeal

July 25, 2015 08:39 PM

One of my conservative friends and former shipmates posted this the other day about Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy:

I’m probably going to lose a friend or two over this, but I’m really liking Trump. People will immediately dismiss him because they are democrats or extreme right wingers, but put parties aside and listen to what he’s saying. If you just say no because you’re not a republican, that’s ignorant. He makes more sense than anyone else running. He has the ties in Asia to work more effectively with China. He has the business knowledge to bring us back to the top. Before you jump up and say he filed bk, that was a smart business move. Many companies and individuals do that. Trump is the only person running that has the cajones to speak honestly and he’s making a lot of sense. I know exactly who in my friends list will think I’m crazy and call me an idiot, but there’s more at stake here than a decent hair cut. My gay friends took a brave stance coming out. My religious friends who post biblical scriptures are brave enough to face the non believers. I’m coming out and saying that I’m behind the Donald. Let the tomatoes fly.

His opinion is shared by surprisingly many of the conservative veterans I know, which is surprising considering many have been cheering him on after his comments regarding John McCain.

On one of the veteran-themed Facebook pages I visit, the moderator permitted a post or two praising Trump for his “commitment to veterans.” I suppose they didn’t seem to care that Trump isn’t a veteran himself and weaseled out of service in Vietnam by obtaining multiple draft deferments, even though he was once classified as a 1A candidate for that service. Trump somehow got a pass from them for insulting the service of John McCain.

I’m not happy about having to defend McCain, as he has shown slimy morals after his service (like leaving his ailing wife once he returned and had become a celebrity, after she had waited years for his return). He was a lousy pilot, too. Make no mistake, though: McCain’s service while in captivity was heroic. As for Trump’s service? Well, it is what it is.

As a Democrat, I was enjoying the curveball that Trump put into the Republican race. Now I’m just tired of the guy, and mystified more than ever how anyone would honestly consider this loser would be a good Commander in Chief.

Tarus Balog : Review: MC Frontalot with The Doubleclicks

July 25, 2015 06:00 PM

Best OSCON after-party ever! – Satisfied Customer

Even though OpenNMS has been around for over 15 years now, a lot of people, including open source people, don’t know we exist. In an attempt to fix that, we’ve been experimenting with various marketing efforts, and in keeping with our mission statement of “Help Customers – Have Fun – Make Money” we also want them to be fun.

I have a love/hate relationship with the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) but I can be assured that many of my friends who are into free and open source software will be there. This year I thought it would be fun to host a concert featuring MC Frontalot. Not only is his music awesome, it should appeal to many of the attendees. We lined up a venue (the amazing Dante’s) and an opening act, The Doubleclicks.

My one fear was that no one would show up, so I was relieved when I rushed from a previous meeting to Dante’s to find the place full, and by the time the show started it was packed.

Prior to setting this up, I had not heard of The Doubleclicks. Angela and Aubrey Webber are sisters who sing about geek things. Prior to the show I listened to a lot of their music, and since I was paying for this gig they even did one of my favorites, “This Fantasy World (Dungeons and Dragons)“. When they sang the lyric “and their primarily Windows-based computers” it got a big laugh.

The Doubleclicks

One thing we struggle with in the tech world in general and open source communities in particular is how to encourage more women to get involved. As a male dominated industry, women can face particular challenges. When The Doubleclicks sang “Nothing to Prove” I realized I couldn’t have asked for a better set list if I’d tried:

We read books, we played games, we made art, we watched Lost
We said things like “D20”, “shipping” and “Mana cost”
It felt good to be myself, not being mocked
Still self-conscious, though, we whispered things about jocks

But one day, you grow up, come into your own
Now geek’s not rejection – it’s a label I own
Then ignorant haters come to prove me wrong
Tell me I’m not nerdy enough to belong

I’ve got nothing to prove
I’ve got nothing to prove
I’ve got nothing to prove

This rang particularly true due to OSCON being hit with a “gamergate“-like attack for having Randi Harper speak. Considering the number of women at the show, I think we succeeded in promoting an all-inclusive environment.

After their great set, MC Frontalot and the band prepared to take the stage. This was the fourth Frontalot show I’d organized but the first with the band. The reason I hadn’t hired the whole band before was simple: it’s more expensive. Plus, from the videos I’d seen on the Intertoobz, I didn’t think they added all that much.

I was so wrong.

It’s hard to capture on video the energy these four gentlemen bring to the stage. The man driving the beat on drums is The Sturgenius (aka Sturgis Cunningham). Blak Lotus (aka Brandon Patton) is the whirling dervish on bass. I sat an watched him spin from stage left, often winding the cord to his bass around his legs and then unwinding it just in time to avoid tripping. Vic-20 (aka Ken Flagg) played wireless keytar, and while everyone was mic’d, turns out he has the voice of an angel and did the most duty on backup vocals.

MC Frontalot and Band

They played all of my favorites, such as “Critical Hit” and “Stoop Sale“, and while Front has always given 110% at my shows, being with the band brought out something more.

When I walked around OSCON inviting people to the show, a lot of people were psyched but I still got that weird “Nerdcore Hip Hop?” look from many. I don’t think that anyone who has seen them live could mistake them for anything other than truly original musical artists.

OCSON is moving to May and to Austin, Texas, next year, and my hope is to bring the band out again. And I do actually plan to write up my thoughts on OSCON itself, but as I got almost no sleep in the last week that will have to wait. The fourteen and a half hours I slept last night seemed to have helped a lot, though.

Mark Turner : Neighborhood hero Victor Spence passes away

July 24, 2015 02:25 AM

Yesterday I worked from home and had the occasion to take Travis home from his camp at N.C. State. As we approached by the Bryan-Lee Funeral home on Wake Forest Road, I spotted a number of motorcyclists standing around near the street. Passing by, I saw a number of flags planted in the lawn of the funeral home and several motorcycles in the parking lot.

“I wonder what’s up with the flags,” I said to Travis. “It’s not a patriotic holiday. No famous politician died today. I wonder who this is for?”

Tonight I was sad to learn that the honoree was none other than my neighbor, Victor “Vic” Spence. Mr. Spence lived quietly and alone in the home that he built with G.I. Bill money at the corner of Monroe and Madison. I would sometimes see him as I walked the dog past his home. He would always smile and say hello and I’d do the same. Other times I’d see him driving slowly down the street in his dark blue Ford Crown Victoria, wearing his Marine Corps hat and on his way to his usual stool at the Fenton Street Dunkin Donuts. He was there so often that when the Dunkin Donuts finally closed last year the first thing I thought was “what will Mr. Spence do now?”

It was a little while after I’d met him that I learned what kind of a hero this man was. He was 16 years old when he joined the Marines and, after boot camp and a stint as a rifle instructor at Parris Island, Mr. Spence shipped out to Camp Pendleton and then to Hawaii before traveling five-days by ship to the island of Iwo Jima. He witnessed the famous Marine flag-raising on Mount Suribachi in the battle and was later wounded by a mortar that killed five of his friends.

After the war, he returned to Raleigh and got a job working at a sign company. Soon, he got a job with the Raleigh Police Department, serving 22 years. When he suddenly had to make a career move (messing around with the Chief’s wife, he said), he became a deputy with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. Overall, he spent over 40 years in law enforcement.

The motorcyclists at Mr. Spence’s funeral were members of the Patriot Guard, there to salute his service. I think their gesture is wonderful but I can’t help but think this must have amused Mr. Spence since the four years he spent as a Raleigh motorcycle cop made him hate motorcycles! Regardless, he certainly deserved the honor!

After hearing the news of his death, I drove his house and stopped to chat with his daughter and son in law. Thinking of her father, Cindy Walls laughed and said “he was determined to leave this earth when he found out he could no longer drive.” She gave me directions to his gravesite which I will visit this weekend.

It was an honor to know Mr. Spence. His presence was always comforting to me, and I always looked for him whenever I’d walk by his home, hoping to get a wave. He was one of the Greatest Generation, to be sure, and the world is a better place because of men like him.

Here’s the link to the documentary on Mr. Spence that Cliff Bumgardner created in 2012.

Here’s Mr. Spence’s obituary from the Bryan-Lee Funeral Home site:

Victor Boyd Spence
12/31/1924 ~ 07/18/2015

Raleigh- Victor Boyd Spence, 90, died Saturday. Mr. Spence was born on December 31, 1924 to Oris Paschal Spence and Alie Womack Spence in Raleigh.

Vic served in the United States Marine Corps, 5th Division during World War II. In the Battle of Iwo Jima he received a Purple Heart Medal.

Victor was a Raleigh City Policeman and then a Wake County Deputy Sheriff where he retired in 1986 after 40 years of law enforcement service.

Mr. Spence was a 32nd Degree Mason at Hiram 40 Lodge and served as chaplain for several years.

Vic was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth Graves Spence; his brother, Carlos P. Spence; his sister, Julia Spence Hartsfield; and his nephew, Preston O. Spence.

He is survived by his two daughters, Cindy Spence Wall (Sonny) of Wilmington and Vicki Spence Painter of Apex: granddaughter, Robyn Wall Ormond (Grady) of Cary; nephews, Ronnie Hartsfield of Apex and Johnny Hartsfield of Raleigh; niece, Brenda Spence Heins of Gastonia; great nephews , William and Drew Hartsfield of Raleigh; great nieces, Kelly Parker Andrews of Gastonia, Christin Leigh Hartsfield Fejervary of Atlanta, GA, and Rhonda Hartsfield Parrish of Raleigh and their families.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, July 22, at 2 PM at Bryan-Lee Funeral Home, 831 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh. Burial with Masonic rites will follow at Historic Oakwood Cemetery. The family will receive friends prior to the service from Noon until 1:45 PM.

Flowers are welcome, or donations may be made to either Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256 ( or Homes For Our Troops, 6 Main Street, Taunton, MA 02780 (

Tarus Balog : 2015 OSCON MC Frontalot and Doubleclicks Party

July 23, 2015 07:19 PM

I just wanted to post a short note about tonight’s concert.

WHAT: MC Frontalot and The Doubleclicks
WHERE: Dante’s, Portland, OR, USA
WHY: To give back to our Free and Open Source Software Friends, and to promote OpenNMS
WHEN: Doors open at 8pm, Doubleclicks sometime after 9pm, Frontalot around 10pm

If you are still reading, OpenNMS has been able to get Frontalot to perform at a number of Linux conferences, but this is the first time we’ve been able to bring out the whole band (2015 is shaping up to be a good year). So in addition to the man himself, we have Blak Lotus on bass, The Sturgenius on drums and Vic-20 on the key-tar. This promises to explode with awesomeness.

Since this is Portland, we wanted to get a local group to open and The Doubleclicks were kind enough to join us. They are the sister duo of Angela and Aubrey Webber, who will entertain with their particular brand of nerd folk. I was introduced to their work just recently, and I think it will be the perfect way to start the evening.

We also want to thank O’Reilly for continuing to produce OSCON. In many cases, it is the only time in a year where I get to see friends of mine in person, and they bring together all different type of people from the free and open source community.

Finally, last but not least is Dante’s itself. The venue was kind enough to let us schedule this free event there, and while I’ve never been, I’ve only heard great things. The only downside is that I’ve been told it is somewhat small. Since we are not selling tickets, I have no idea how many people are showing up, but from the feedback I’ve been getting from OSCON attendees, we’ll probably pack the place.

To guarantee you get to see the show, doors open a 8pm, but since some of you might still be enjoying OSCON events at that time, please note that the show won’t start until sometime after 9pm, so we hope you can make it.

Oh, if you do come and like it, please give a nod to @opennms as we are working hard to correct the fact that it is the greatest open source project you have never heard of.

See you there.

Tarus Balog : Solution for One Trackpad Issue for the XPS 13

July 21, 2015 01:03 AM

My new laptop is the beautiful new Dell XPS 13 running Ubuntu Gnome 15.04.

It is not perfect, but it is getting close. Lightweight, beautiful screen and awesome battery life (nearly 8 hours the way I use it).

One thing that was killing me, though, was that after a certain amount of time (on the order of tens of minutes and not hours), the trackpad/clickpad thingie would start misbehaving under Gnome Shell, registering bogus clicks. There wasn’t an easy way to fix it outside of a) reboot or b) use an external mouse.

It seems that this issue has been addressed in the 4.1 kernel, so I decided to try it. I’m not sure if Ubuntu is going to support the 4 kernel series officially before 15.10 so I didn’t want to wait.

I downloaded the 4.1.1 kernel here (you’ll need three debs: the “all” headers deb and the image and headers debs for your CPU – I used “generic” and “amd64”), installed them with “sudo dpkg -i” and rebooted. The problem seems to be fixed.

But, my Broadcom wireless driver wouldn’t work. I had to download one more deb from here (via my phone – never play with kernels when you are on a long road trip), install it and now wireless is back.

Now if we could just get palm detection fixed …

Warren Myers : maggie

July 20, 2015 03:17 PM

It had such promise.

Or, should have.

How could you go wrong? Slow zombies. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A plot.

It was also [almost] direct-to-video.

What am I talking about? Maggie. The worst movie Ahnold has been in since End Of Days (and boy was that one bad).

No, it was worse than End Of Days.

I don’t know where to begin. So let’s start with the conclusion. It sucked. Bad. And not in the Red Heat kind of bad – more in the Gigli kind of bad.

The zombies in this movie are slow (a plus), but they also take weeks to turn into one after being bit (which, conveniently, gives the non-turned ample time to plan to eliminate them, and time for the turning to get their affairs in order before being dispatched). In the whole movie, I think, there’s only two encounters with “real” zombies – which could have lots of promise. Focusing on the humanity of the situation could have been good.

But it wasn’t. The pacing was atrocious. Good Night, and Good Luck was this slow, but for a reason. This movie was slow, I think, so that they could call it a “movie”. It’s listed at 95 minutes from IMDb. Pretty sure it’s really only about 52 minutes long.

And even that was about 41 minutes longer than it should have been.

I’ve only not seen a couple Arnie films – make sure you add this to your list of ones of his to skip.

Mark Turner : The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle – The New Yorker

July 20, 2015 12:30 PM

Here’s a terrifying story on the Cascadia Fault, which is overdue for an earthquake so devastating it will almost assuredly destroy Seattle. I love The New Yorker’s expert, in-depth writing.

When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh. Earthquakes are common in Japan—that one was the third of the week—and the participants were, after all, at a seismology conference. Then everyone in the room checked the time.

Source: The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle – The New Yorker

Tarus Balog : 2015 Community Leadership Summit

July 19, 2015 06:02 PM

I’ve been working full time with open source software for fourteen years, and I can remember a time when we were pretty much making everything up. No one had experience with this market which most of us now take for granted, and there were a lot of questions about dealing with an open source “community” versus paying customers for open source related software and services.

Out of this arose a role, for lack of a better word, called a “Community Manager”. It doesn’t quite fit since “manage” isn’t accurate. It is hard to apply old school management techniques to a group of sometimes anonymous volunteers, many of whom you might only know by a name such as “Zaxxon476”.

One of the first people to document this role was Jono Bacon. He was one of the leaders of the Ubuntu community, one of the larger of such communities in existence. He wrote a book called The Art of Community and he also founded the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) which meets the weekend before OSCON. Due to scheduling I have never been able to be there, but OpenNMS has been a sponsor every year it has been around.

CLS - Sponsors

This year I was finally able to attend, and I wasn’t disappointed. A large, eager group of people showed up, and I really enjoyed the diversity. Not only were women strongly represented (in both attendees and session leaders) there were many people from outside of the United States.

Jono kicked off the conference:

CLS - Jono Bacon, the delicious meat

with help from another amazing fellow, Stephen Walli:

CLS - Stephen Walli, the other white meat

The format was in the “unconference” style, meaning that the attendees set the agenda. After an initial group of planned 15-minute presentations, those people wanting to host a session would write a short description on a card, get up in front of everyone and announce the session, and then go post it on a large schedule “wall” in the main hallway.

I’ve been to a number of such conferences but rarely seen such participation levels. We actually ran out of Saturday spots, but in the true cooperative style a number of people were able to combine sessions so I think it all worked out.

CLS - Schedule

The whole event had a really good vibe. It wasn’t just open source people, either. The “open source way” can be applied to a number of different fields, and it had to be stressed that in any given session you couldn’t make assumptions about the open source knowledge of the people in the room. One woman discussed how she was dealing with mental illness, and an on-line community was key to her becoming healthy. Another woman was discussing how concepts from the formal study of psychology could be applied to make communities stronger. Even proprietary companies such as New Relic were there because the user community has become key to the success of almost any technology endeavor.

I got to make new friends and catch up with old ones, so I have to admit like many conferences I spent more time chatting in the hallway than in actual sessions (as some of those session were in the hallway, I had to be reminded that my voice carries. Ooops and sorry).

For high school I went to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and I constantly run into alumni in this field. OpenNMS’s own Seth Leger went there, as did Spot Callaway and Gina Likins from Red Hat. I got a cute picture of Gina (pronounced “Jenna”) with Ulf.

CLS - Gina Likins

It looks like the second day might even be stronger than the first, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it. As OSCON is moving to Austin next year, it will be interesting to see how that changes CLS, and I plan to make every effort to be there.

Magnus Hedemark : Homelab Ketchup

July 19, 2015 12:18 AM

I’ve been busy busy busy geeking out in my homelab. Where did we leave off? Oh, yeah, I set up that Jenkins server.

I’ve been pretty busy since then.

  • Set up a server outside of my house to act as an OmniOS package repository.
  • After watching from the sidelines for years, I felt it was time to start taking Bitcoin seriously. I’ve been buying BTC, spending it, learning how it works.
  • Set up a Bitcoin full node inside of a kvm zone on one of my OmniOS servers. I threw a lot of resources at it while it downloaded the blockchain, which finished overnight. Then I scaled it down and it’s running in a small VM on a big machine.
  • bitcoind was making lots of little synchronous writes to my ZFS pool so I added an SSD. ~10GB for a slog, the remainder for L2ARC. It’s kind of neat to watch the writes queue up on the SSD and then flush out all at once (every several seconds) to the magnetic disks.
  • I’ve got a Jenkins job that builds and publishes packages of Git for OmniOS. But I’ve learned enough about CI to know that I want to do this a better (smarter) way, so I’m holding off on making my package repo public until I feel a lot better about what I’m building and how I’m building it.
  • I’ve got my kids’ Minecraft server running in an OmniOS zone, complete with an SMF manifest. I have great customer acceptance on this story.
  • I’m also building Tor on OmniOS but I haven’t taken the time to work up the SMF manifest yet. Also, I want to wrap some more scripting around the decision to build or not build based on Git commit tags.
  • I installed a PDU in the cabinet, but it was an awful experience and I’m ashamed of the final outcome. The tl;dr is that this specific PDU was never meant to be mounted in this specific cabinet.

Once I get the Tor packages building to my liking and I can get them published out, I have a series of articles that I’d like to write about using OmniOS as a platform for hosting Tor hidden services. Now that Freedom Hosting is gone. The raid on that hosting service has had a chilling effect on people who need an online presence under the safety of anonymity. SmartOS or even SDC might be even better for this purpose, but I need to get my hands on some more hardware to prove it out.

I’ve got a lot of other homelab projects all backed up now. So much to do. I’m also currently reading The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey.

I’d like to get bitcoind running natively under OmniOS, and maintain packages for it. There is also an alternative implementation of the full node, sans wallet, in btcd. I’d really like to get both going, publish packages, and write a HOWTO on this.

My sleep schedule is way off again, so homelab work is being interrupted by unexpected naps.

Tarus Balog : The EFF Turns 25

July 17, 2015 05:41 PM

In 1990, when the Internet was much smaller and slower than it is today, a bunch of forward-thinking people realized that this new technological wonder would create some unique issues for our society, and they formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation to protect people from its negative effects.

I can’t remember the first time I got involved with the EFF, but for years I’ve followed their efforts and cheered them on. Before I wore it to shreads, my “Protect Bloggers Rights” T-shirt was one of my favorites, and I still carry my passport in an EFF-badged wallet that blocks RFID transmission.

Earlier this year, the animator Chad Essley auctioned off the chance to be added to his video for the MC Frontalot song “Shudders” with all proceeds going to the EFF. The result was that the OpenNMS mascot Ulf gets a few seconds of much deserved fame and I got an invitation to the EFF’s 25th anniversary party.

I wasn’t going to make it (I don’t live in the Bay Area) but when I decided to attend this week’s Community Leadership Summit followed by OSCON up in Portland, it turned out that it wasn’t much more expensive to fly here first before heading up to Oregon. I know several people in the area and I figured I could find something to do before the party, but then the EFF created a half-day “minicon” so I decided to attend that as well.

EFF - DNA Lounge

The minicon consisted of three panel discussions. It was held at a nightclub called the DNA Lounge and when I got there just before noon the line to get in was already stretching down the block. When I did get in, there was a stage set up for the panels (a moderator’s podium and a table with four chairs for the panelists) as well as two banners describing what the EFF does.

EFF Banner

I thought the left one was pretty succinct: Free Speech, Privacy, Innovation, Transparency, Fair Use, International. Yup, that about covers it.

I didn’t take any pictures of the attendees (this group does attract a contingent from the “black helicopters” crowd) so while I probably had the right to take pictures as part of a public gathering it would have been rude. It was nice to see a fairly even split between men and women, and for once I wasn’t the oldest person in the room. It was mainly Caucasian and Asian faces that I saw (hey, that’s pretty much Silicon Valley) and I did see people with colorful hair (bright pink, electric blue, etc.) That part was similar to the open source conferences I attend, but there wasn’t a single utilikilt. The vibe was also different. Whereas FOSS conferences also attract technical people with a strong libertarian bent, this crowd included a lot more people concerned with social activism.

Which brings us to the first panel: Activism.

EFF - Panel 1

Not only does the EFF identify threats to liberty brought on by new technology, one of their pillars is to mobilize people to effect change, so this panel discussed ways to more effectively do just that. Should you call your Congressional Representative or e-mail them? Is publicly tweeting about them better than a private correspondence? One panelist commented on the fact that you can’t A/B test reality so it can be hard to determine the best action. Plus, if a particular effort is successful, such as with SOPA, the bar is set high for the next one, which can cause its own problems.

It was the first time I had been introduced to Annalee Newitz, and I really liked her comments. Yet another person to follow on the Twitters.

They also announced a project by Sina Khanifar called which is supposed to make it easier for people to contact those in government.

The second panel focused on Copyright.

EFF - Panel 2

I am not an anti-copyright person. Copyright law is what makes free and open source software possible. However, it is obvious that it is broken. As a process created to mainly protect things like the written word, it doesn’t lend itself well to computer code. Plus, some copyright holders have a track record of abuse. I’ve even experienced it in such things as bogus DMCA takedown notices.

Part of this discussion focused on the concept of “fair use”. If I am given something or I pay for something, does the person from whom I got that something have a right to set limits on what I can do with it? It’s a tricky question. If I use someone’s song in a television commercial, it seems obvious that I should have to pay the owner of that song, especially since it may imply that the creator of the music endorses my product or service. But what if I invite 30 people over for a party and put on some music? Does that count as a “public performance”? It’s tricky.

The EFF is very concerned with transparency, and quite naturally has issues with secret negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Proponents of keeping trade negotiations secret will claim that they don’t want the discussion to disrupt markets. For example, if the discussion was about whether or not to place tariffs on corn exports, whether or not they would actually come about, this could cause undue fluctuations in the market for corn.

As one of the panelists noted: Copyright is not corn.

The TPP has a focus on intellectual property rights which will have far reaching repercussions for users of technology. Without oversight, the government’s zeal to protect, say, the movie and music industry, may result in actions that are detrimental to end users. People in government don’t tend to have strong technical experience, so it is important that these discussion take place in the open.

Privacy was the topic of the final panel.

EFF - Panel 3

This panel included Bruce Schneier. This was the first time I had seen him speak, and I was not disappointed. One of the questions was to predict privacy challenges due to technology 25 years from now. Bruce pointed out that it was harder to predict the impact of new tech on society than the tech itself. For example, we now have flying robots that kill people. On the one hand this is very frightening, and on the other hand, in a way, it is really, really cool.

He was referring to drones of course, and I couldn’t help but think of the trauma some drone operators are now facing even though they are thousands of miles from actual combat. Tech has also created an “interrupt driven” culture that may be fostering short attention spans. Heck, I’ll be surprised if even one of my three blog readers makes it this far in this long post, and we’ve had to come up with tags like “TL;DR” to deal with things like this. I can’t imagine what changes this will bring about in 25 years.

I was also impressed by panelist Parisa Tabriz. She is the “Security Princess” at Google and a solid public speaker. She pointed out that at Google they sometimes struggle with security versus privacy, in that certain security tech can leave a fingerprint that might weaken anonymity.

It is hard to talk about Google without bringing up Apple, and it was pointed out that Apple fails miserably on the transparency front but does do a good job when it comes to privacy. The argument goes that since Apple makes money on hardware (compared to Google’s model) they have less motivation to look at their users’ data. It would have been nice to have someone from Apple on the panel, but I’m not sure if they were asked. I did ask the EFF via a tweet, but didn’t get a response.

While most panel discussions suck, I enjoyed these, and I’m glad I went. The minicon ended around 4pm and since the party didn’t start until 8pm I decided to head back to the hotel, work on some e-mail and take a nap.

That was a mistake.

When my alarm went off at 7pm, I was so tired I considered blowing off the party entirely. I decided to go because Maggie had managed to find another RFID blocking passport wallet, as my EFF-branded one is pretty tattered, and I need another. It doesn’t have the EFF logo on it, but I hope they make more in the future.

EFF Passport Holder

My passport has had RFID technology embedded in it for years, but in all my travels it has never been legitimately accessed. It is just another example of technology being chosen because it exists without a firm plan on how to use it. I like knowing that I now can chose when to enable it or not (and yes, I know I could nuke it in the microwave but I’m not ready to go that far, yet).

Another thing I wish the EFF would do is advertise more about Amazon Smile. If you shop on Amazon Smile you can choose to have a portion of your purchase benefit a specific organization. It doesn’t cost you anything, and while I can’t find an actual total, since I shop on Amazon a lot I feel that I’ve probably sent a significant amount of money to the EFF. Of course, I can’t imagine that they are happy with things like Amazon Echo, so perhaps there is a conflict of interest, but I still wanted to make people aware of it.

EFF - Party Stage

So, I grabbed an Uber, went to the party, met Maggie and got my new passport holder. I then made a pass around the club but didn’t really feel comfortable. These were my people but then again not my people. It was obvious many knew each other, and while I’ve never been one to have a problem with a room full of strangers (in most situations I make new friends) the environment was pretty loud and not conducive to conversation. I just didn’t have the energy so I left.

This means I missed seeing Wil Wheaton and Cory Doctorow, two more people I’ve never seen in person but would like to one day. From social media it seems like it was a good time, but I just wanted to grab some dinner and sleep.

EFF - Wil Wheaton

Overall, I had a good time with the EFF. It is rare that I agree with everything even people I like do, but I can’t think of something the EFF has done in the last 25 years that bothered me or pissed me off. It is one of the few organizations that I regularly donate to, and I plan to leave them some money in my estate (if there is any left, I also plan to live for another 100 years and die after I’ve spent my last dime). If you haven’t supported them yet, I’d like to suggest that you do so.

Today I’m off to Portland for the CLS and OSCON, and these really are my people. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tarus Balog : Uber vs. Taxi

July 17, 2015 05:57 AM

Back in 2012, I first experienced Uber. While I assume everyone knows what Uber is, just in case you don’t, it is a ride service that heavily leverages modern technology to disrupt the livery/taxi industry.

When I first used Uber in 2012, it was limited to “black cars”, vehicles like Town Cars on the higher end of the scale, and the price reflected it. Now they have a number of different options, such as UberX (similar to a taxi), UberPool (more of a ride share version of UberX), UberSushi, UberMusic, etc. (okay, I made the last two up).

I had a rather positive experience with Uber back in 2012, but I rarely had the chance to use it much after that. Later, when I started reading about some “evil” things they were doing, I wasn’t inclined to call on them when I needed a ride, and their Android app seems to need an awful lot of permissions in order to work correctly, so I wouldn’t install it.

I am currently spending a few days in San Francisco, and when I landed at SFO I decided to take a taxi instead of BART. I like BART, but I was running late and also had a fairly large suitcase with me, so I opted for the convenience of a cab.

It was a bad experience.

When I approached the cab stand, I was assigned the next cab in line. This was car 226 from “Veteran’s Cab Company” and it was a very tired Toyota Prius. The driver seemed more interested in listening to music on his phone and texting than getting me to my hotel.

Texting Taxi Driver

He repeatedly ignored my requests that he not text and drive, and as I was watching for the best routes on Google Maps, he also ignored my requests to take me on the faster route. Outside of putting my life in danger, he probably cost me an extra $10 and an extra 15 minutes.

I did survive the trip, and I checked into the hotel, dropped my bags and headed back out because I was meeting a friend and we were going to take BART to the East Bay.

Although her house was only a 10-15 minute walk from BART, she was in heels and decided that we would catch a ride with Uber. This was UberX. The driver was waiting for us in an immaculate Prius and promptly took us to the house. As I ended up staying there past the time that BART stopped running, they called me another UberX ride to take me back to the hotel. This was also in a Prius, clean, and the driver was very friendly and safe.

It is hard to express the stark contrast between the experience of a normal taxi versus Uber.

I was in town for the EFF’s 25th anniversary party. While I walked to the “minicon” they held during the day, I decided to take Uber to the evening party. I dusted off my Uber account, updated the credit card, and called for a ride.

Within three minutes Ye showed up in a nice Toyota Camry. The route to the DNA Lounge was already in his phone, adjusted to avoid traffic, and the trip was quick and pleasant. As everything is paid for via the app, I had nothing to do but enjoy the ride.

I can see why people could get used to this.

For the ride back, I used Uber again. This time Allam picked me up in a Honda CR-V. Again, he arrived within three minutes. I was his first customer for the night and we hit it off to the point where I didn’t want the ride to end (he was originally from the West Bank of Israel and we talked a lot about the Middle East, which I’ve enjoyed visiting).

When I go to the airport tomorrow to head to CLS and OSCON, I plan to take UberX, or I might try UberPool.

While I still have concerns about some of Uber’s policies, and I probably need to check out Lyft (a competing service), we are talking about an experience that is orders of magnitude better than the old status quo. I’ll be hard pressed to take a taxi again.

Mark Turner : The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

July 16, 2015 02:08 AM

This is why my family craves vacations instead of stuff.

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

Source: The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

Mark Turner : Thoughts on flag burning and welfare

July 16, 2015 02:06 AM

Your First Amendment at work

Your First Amendment at work

A shipmate of mine posted a photo meme from the “Right Wing News” Facebook page. It reads “Cancel the welfare checks of anyone who burns the U.S. flag. Share if you agree.”

This kind of asinine, knee-jerk, robot patriotism drives me nuts. Many mornings and evenings I have raised and lowered the American flag (we called it “colors”) on my ship while I served in the U.S. Navy. Out of all the tasks I had to perform whenever I stuck on the ship on duty, being color guard was my favorite. I considered it the deepest honor to smartly raise our nation’s symbol above my ship those mornings and to lower it and fold it solemnly at dusk.

I also maintained a keen appreciation for the freedom it symbolizes. I loved that one of the rights granted me by the Constitution was my ability to burn it. I still love that right as the freedom itself is exponentially more important than the symbol of that freedom. Some people miss this important distinction, especially those who’ll share a provocative photo without taking two seconds to ponder its meaning.

This is what burns me up (no pun intended). America needs to grow the hell up. Our grand republic is not going to crumble whenever some yahoo torches a flag. Quite the contrary, it makes us stronger. We either exercise our rights or we will lose them. The First Amendment is one that deserves the most exercise, even if the speech is controversial. As Noam Chomsky pointed out, “if you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like.” You may not agree when someone burns a flag but if you don’t support someone’s right to burn it then you’re not really clear on the concept of the First Amendment. You see, the First Amendment not only protects your freedom of speech, it also protects your right to be offended. If something offends you then you know it’s doing its job.

I feel the same way about Westboro Baptist Church’s protests. They may be douchebags but their right to express themselves as douchebags is the same right that lets me express myself as I see fit. If I undermine their right I undermine my own. See how it works?

I’d love to see us becoming a little more tolerant of differences and of others exercising the rights we have instead of crying like little babies at every offense or else the terrorists win. The terrorists know that all they have to do is burn something that resembles the American flag and we quiver like Jello. We make it so easy for them!

And by the way, my feelings also extend to the brouhaha around the Confederate (battle) flag, but only partly. The battle flag flying over the S.C. state house grounds is the de-facto condoning of its racist history by S.C. government. The same flag flying over Confederate graves is perfectly appropriate. It’s ideals belong in a cemetery, so why not? Beyond that, people should be free to use the Confederate flag however they wish, providing they understand the stigma it may bring.

That’s another thing about the First Amendment – it protects the right for racist, ignorant people to let everyone know they’re racist, ignorant people. And you know what? That’s fine with me. It’s good to know what you’re dealing with, right up front.

Some on the right have had fun sneering at those expressing offense at the Confederate flag, with remarks like “I’m so sick of everyone being offended.” Yet some become loudly offended if the particular flag is an American one in flames. I find this kind of selective outrage amusing.

The second thing that sticks in my craw about this particular photo is the assumption that only “freeloaders” accept welfare. Did you know that a survey by Feeding America shows that 25% percent of active and reserve military families accept food support?

“Yetter’s family is among the 620,000 households that include at least one soldier, reservist or guardsman – or 25 percent of the nation’s total active duty and reserve personnel – that are seeking aid from food pantries and other charitable programs across the country, according to a rare inquiry about the food insecurity of troops and veterans conducted by Feeding America, a hunger relief charity.”

I think this is an absolute travesty. Our military families sacrifice at extraordinary levels to serve our Country, and many need help putting food on the table. Our military gets 24% of our Federal tax dollars and yet 25% of our troops can’t make ends meet. If there’s anything more patriotic than this kind of sacrifice I don’t know what it is. It’s a damn shame.

So to recap, outrage over burning the flag completely misses the point of freedom and the myth of the unpatriotic welfare recipient has been busted. Can we please start applying a little thought now to things before blindly forwarding them? Please?

Mark Turner : No City Council race for me this year

July 15, 2015 05:14 PM

A lot of people have been asking me when I’m going to run for Raleigh City Council. It’s humbling to be considered for such public service and I appreciate all of the interest and enthusiasm for my potential candidacy.

While I considered it strongly, I have decided this is not my year to run. My family is not ready for me to devote the level of time and attention needed to do the job right. I also want to hang on to the few years left that our kids are at home. They are growing so quickly if I blink I’ll miss it.

I’ll still be involved – you know you can’t keep me from meddling! I just will do so as a civilian for the time being.

Thanks for your support and encouragement. When the time is right you’ll be the first to know.

Mark Turner : Phydeaux and Seaboard Station

July 15, 2015 05:01 PM

I was concerned several years ago when Raleigh’s only downtown grocery closed at Seaboard Station but pleasantly surprised when the Phydeaux pet store moved in. I normally don’t get attached to pet stores but I absolutely love Phydeaux. I feel like they know me, and that they are happy to be part of the community.

I was concerned when news spread last month that Phydeaux would soon be leaving Seaboard over concerns with its lease arrangement. Phydeaux is leaving in September for new digs at the current Briggs Hardware building at Atlantic Ave and Six Forks. Phydeaux is purchasing the building from the Scruggs family.

It’s my understanding the rent at Seaboard isn’t cheap, which is amusing considering that a mere ten years ago the place was a ghost town. Phydeaux is set to save a bundle in buying the Briggs building, so much that it was an absolute no-brainer for them to move.

I’m not sure why Trademark (and Peace University) would want to let such a great tenant go. I figure I visit Phydeaux more often than any other business at Seaboard. Probably 80% of my trips to Seaboard are to Phydeaux.

Phydeaux was only offered a two year lease. Why? Who knows? What plans does Trademark and Peace University have for the space? When Peace bought the property in 2013 neighbors had fears that the school would replace its shops with dorms or baseball fields. Trademark’s Billie Redmond says there’s no plans for that.

But for how long will that be true?

Mark Turner : Amazon backs NC’s 1st large-scale wind farm | News & Observer News & Observer

July 14, 2015 02:32 PM

Remember last year when I wondered why Amazon would suddenly start collecting state sales taxes even though it had no presence in the state? The N&O’s John Murawski reported yesterday that Amazon is investing in a giant wind farm in eastern North Carolina. Boom, there’s your “unspecified investment.”

With the estimated $20-$30 million Amazon is now collecting in sales taxes, Amazon’s wind farm is not only powering 60,000 homes, it’s also powering teacher salaries.

The world’s largest developer of wind-energy farms has teamed up with online retail giant Amazon to build a major wind farm in coastal North Carolina.Amazon, which is building a network of wind farms and also testing Tesla storage batteries, announced the project Monday. The Amazon Wind Farm US East, to be built in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, will power the online retailer’s cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, as part of a corporate goal of achieving energy sustainability.

The sprawling 34-square-mile wind farm will start with 104 turbine spires rising from the state’s eastern flatlands. The $400 million energy project will be built by Spanish wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables and will start generating electricity for Amazon’s data centers in late 2016.

Source: Amazon backs NC’s 1st large-scale wind farm | News & Observer News & Observer

Mark Turner : Broadband Speeds Are Improving in Many Places. Too Bad It Took Google to Make It Happen. | MIT Technology Review

July 14, 2015 02:18 PM

MIT’s Technology Review magazine praises Google Fiber for spurring broadband investment.

State and local governments had done little to disrupt the status quo or push ISPs to invest in upgrades. And governments also showed little interest in subsidizing, let alone fully paying for, a better infrastructure themselves. (There was money allocated to broadband investment in the 2009 stimulus bill, but it went mainly to wire underserved areas rather than lay fiber.) On the municipal level, most cities still had building regulations and permit requirements that, inadvertently or not, tended to discourage the laying of new line, particularly by new entrants. And in many cases, even if cities were interested in building or operating their own high-speed networks, state laws barred them from doing so. The result of all these factors was that the United States, slowly but certainly, began falling well behind countries like Sweden, South Korea, and Japan when it came to affordable, abundant bandwidth.

Five years later, things look very different. The United States is still behind Sweden and South Korea. But fiber-to-the-home service is now a reality in cities across the country. Google Fiber, which first rolled out in Kansas City in the fall of 2012, is now operating in Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, and Google says it will expand next to Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, with another five major metro areas potentially on the horizon. The biggest impact, though, has arguably been the response from big broadband providers.

Source: Broadband Speeds Are Improving in Many Places. Too Bad It Took Google to Make It Happen. | MIT Technology Review

Mark Turner : Cheap thoughts: discouraging nighttime thefts from cars

July 13, 2015 05:07 PM

Saturday night as I lay sleeping in the bedroom just above, a thief quietly slipped up my neighbor’s driveway to his car, tried the door handle, and slipped away. He and his buddy found my other neighbor’s door unlocked and ransacked the car.

This happens from time to time when you live in the big city. You either keep your car locked (always a good plan) or suffer potential thefts. There aren’t many tools to it from happening.

Being a law-and- order-minded geek, I have been considering ways to catch some of these crooks. One way involves altering the battery pack on a laptop to conceal a GPS-enabled smartphone, which would lead cops directly to the thief. Why the battery? It does no permanent damage to the laptop and the remaining cells in the battery could power the laptop long enough for a crook to be convinced it works.

Tracking him is fun, but wouldn’t it be better to teach the punk a little lesson first? I thought of electrifying objects in the car as a good (but harmless) shock might get some attention, but that also might cause injury to someone especially susceptible to it and then here comes a wrongful-death lawsuit from the crook’s relatives. I don’t want to kill anybody and don’t want no lawsuit, either.

Another idea I’m toying with is to blind the ever-loving daylights out of the punk as he leans into the car with a strobe-light device. A motion sensor would start a countdown as the car door is opened. When one second elapses, the box emits a blinding strobe light and sounds a deafening alarm right in the crook’s face. This should disorient the crook for a while and it will certainly attract attention, making it unlikely he will come back around. The device would be placed between the seats and could be made skinny enough to barely peek over the seats so as not to attract attention.

I think I could make a device like this for under $30. Been checking the Internet for similar devices but oddly there isn’t anything like this currently available. Maybe I’ll be the first.

Tarus Balog : The OpenNMS Calendar

July 11, 2015 02:48 PM

As I was spending this morning trying to get organized, I thought it would help me to post some of the OpenNMS events coming up over the next few months.


The O’Reilly Open Source Conference, being held the week of 20 July in Portland, OR, USA, is probably the last great commercial open source conference. I’ll be there on the Expo floor and would love to chat with folks about OpenNMS and open source. We are also sponsoring a free concert with MC Frontalot and the Doubleclicks at Dante’s on Thursday night the 23rd:

August: Training

We are holding our formal week-long OpenNMS training course the week of 10 August at OpenNMS HQ in Pittsboro, NC. This is the best way to get up to speed with OpenNMS, plus you get to meet a lot of the people who make it happen.

September: Users Conference

This year’s users conference is shaping up to be the best yet. It will be held from 28 September to 1 October at the University of Applied Science in Fulda, Germany, which is just outside of Frankfurt.

Sponsored by the independent OpenNMS Foundation, The Call for Papers is still open. Also this year we’ll have the gang from the Bad Voltage podcast doing a live show for your entertainment.

October: All Things Open

From 18-20 October, the All Things Open conference returns to America’s Open City: Raleigh, NC (home of Red Hat). This is a great time and OpenNMS will be a sponsor this year.

Hope to see you at one or all of these events.

Mark Turner : The genitalia vote

July 11, 2015 12:33 AM

A liberal friend posted this on her Facebook page in an effort to drum up support for Hillary Clinton for President:

IT is time to put our ducks in a row and support a woman IMHO. We all cashed in that chip and supported Barrack Obama the last time – and we did the right thing — even though he gave us Arnie Duncan!! I want to win. I want a woman to run. I like Bernie but come on – he will not be elected and he is not a woman — if we have a qualified woman does not she deserve our support? Where are all you affirmative action progressives? And bashing Hillary is harming our party and will harm our election chances and many many days the comments against her seem like “excuses” to support another man. Many comments are on the edge of sexist innuendos and often rude. I love Bernie’s brashness- boldness-his honesty and finger wagging BUT I do not want him to be my President – Hillary has experience as Sec. Of State alone that outranks his experience. I think it is time for a woman in the USA to be President. IMHO.

I was a bit taken aback that somehow Hillary was the Chosen One and that to point our her flaws is considered “bashing.” We are over a year away from the actual election, of course. There’s a long way to go. But there’s more.

Another friend responded, including this in his reply:

We certainly should not vote for someone based on what genitalia they have.

This drew another response; one from a woman:

You make some good points. But saying voting for Hillary because she’s a woman is voting for her because of genitalia is pretty insulting. The experience of being a woman in America is not all about what’s in our underwear.

Uh, the original poster appears to endorse Hillary, well … because of her genitalia.

I’m mystified by this. I voted for Obama because I thought he was the best person (yes, person) willing to lead the country at the time. I didn’t vote for him because he was black, or because he was a man. I couldn’t care less about those things. A female candidate with the same credentials would’ve been just as likely to get my vote.

Didn’t we just all celebrate a Supreme Court decision that says if you want to get married the law doesn’t care about what genitalia you have? And didn’t we just celebrate an American soccer team’s world championship, a team that happened to be female? Aren’t we on the way towards leaving stereotyped gender roles in the past where they belong? It sure seems that to me. Good riddance, I say!

Look, I’ve got nothing against women (some of my best friends are women, ha). I am a husband supportive of my wife’s career and achievements. I am fiercely protective of our daughter’s right to do whatever the hell she chooses to do, unencumbered by society’s opinion. I have proudly voted and supported city councilors, mayors, secretaries of state and treasury, and also governors who happen to be women. It’s not because they were women, it’s because they were the best qualified.

I respect my Facebook friend, but anyone who votes for someone solely based on their gender has got their priorities way out of whack. The best candidates should win not based on their gender but what they can do for the people they represent.

Mark Turner : China hacked 7% of America – Business Insider

July 10, 2015 02:32 AM

Remember the Chinese hack on OPM? It’s far worse than we were told. Ugh. I’m thinking somebody needs to go to prison.

More than 20 million people had their personal information stolen when Office of Personnel Management (OPM) servers were breached by Chinese hackers last year, sources close to the agency are reporting.The New York Times and the government are reporting 21.5 million, and CNN is reporting 22.1 million. ABC and Reuters have reported 25 million.

Source: China hacked 7% of America – Business Insider

Magnus Hedemark : fruits of insomnia

July 09, 2015 12:56 PM

One of the common struggles that goes with being autistic is maintaining a regular sleep schedule. For a lot of us, it just doesn’t happen. Last night was a rough night, in which I did get a lot of sleep, but it was at the wrong time: 6PM to 1:30AM. After getting a full night’s sleep, I was ready to kick some ass. What to do?

I know! I’ll start working on my Jenkins CI server!

The last part for my big build box hasn’t arrived yet, but as long as my kids aren’t awake the Minecraft zone isn’t crushing my HP Proliant N40L Microserver. I spun up a couple of zones, one for the Jenkins server itself, and one for a build slave.

I’ve worked sort of tangentially with Jenkins in the past in a professional capacity, but I can’t say I’m a subject matter expert or heavily experienced. There is a bit of a learning curve, but mostly I’ve figured out the bits that I need it to do. I’ve got it tracking three open source project right now: ZNC, Git, and Tor. It’s successfully watching the Master branch of each of the three projects and building them from source on OmniOS.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 8.18.55 AM

For Tor, I additionally have Jenkins running a gmake test after building from source.

Next step: get Jenkins to orchestrate IPS packaging. I also need to work up a solid SMF manifest for Tor.

A little further out: I’ve got some pretty solid hardware, but a flaky residential broadband connection (thanks, Time-Warner). I’d like very much to find some kind soul who has illumos servers in a stable datacenter environment to mirror my private IPS repositories publicly for the benefit of the rest of the community. As much as I love Digital Ocean, they can’t offer me OmniOS zones as a service (hey, get on that guys, please?) Or better yet, 1U of space in a Raleigh datacenter with power and an ethernet port would be fantastic.