Magnus Hedemark : illumos makes a comeback in the homelab

October 01, 2014 04:09 AM

Up until a couple of years ago, I was becoming increasingly active in the illumos community. I’d given a talk on the subject at Triangle DevOps, and indeed my most popular entries on this blog tend to be the ones relating to SmartOS. But something happend in my professional career, a conflict of interests, that compelled me to pull back from that community for awhile. The conflict is now gone, and hot on the heels of illumos Day 2014, my interest is re-invigorated.

The homelab was in a bit of a clunky state. Every time things started getting cool, my Apple Airport Extreme would crap its pants and fail me in strange ways. They can supposedly handle up to 50 clients, but I was killing it with fewer than half of that. I haven’t fixed that problem yet, but I know what I’m going to do. More on that later.

Those of you who’ve been following for awhile know that I’ve got a Dell half-rack in the house, and while it is very lightly populated right now, the “big” hypervisor box is an HP Proliant DL160 G6 with 12 cores and 72GB of RAM. It’s been set up in several configurations, all of which left me wanting for something more elegant.

Tonight, I took the machine apart, extracted the HP RAID controller, and replaced it with an LSI SAS HBA. While illumos can handle the RAID controller just fine, ZFS prefers to have a direct view of every disk.

My distribution of choice for this host is OmniOS. SmartOS is also a really neat OS. I’ve had SmartOS running on my HP Proliant N54L microserver for over 2 years now and it’s been rock solid. I have two main reasons why I’m not expanding the SmartOS footprint in my house right now (that could change on a whim):

  1. I use Ansible to manage my home infrastructure. It can manage almost anything it can ssh into, as long as there is a Python interpreter of some reasonable vintage on the other side. The SmartOS non-global zone has no Python interpreter.
  2. I use IPv6 extensively in my home. In fact, IPv4 is the second class citizen here. IPv6 gets more use internally than IPv4. However, in SmartOS, IPv6 is quite a bit trickier to use. Other illumos flavors make IPv6 incredibly easy to set up.

I fired it up with a pair of 146GB 10KRPM SAS disks that I got on eBay. This is for my root ZFS pool (rpool). The root pool is limited to one virtual device (vdev) which effectively means the capacity will never be larger than the smallest disk in the pool, but I can mirror that device if I want to.

For this reason, I’ve also added 4x 1TB near line SAS disks for my zones ZFS pool. I’ve configured this pool in two mirrored pairs.

There are two more drive bays that have been left empty. There will be at least one SSD added to the zones ZFS pool at some point to take advantage of the hierarchical capabilities of ZFS.

# zpool status
  pool: rpool
 state: ONLINE
  scan: resilvered 37.9G in 0h43m with 0 errors on Wed Oct  1 02:42:51 2014
config:

        NAME                         STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        rpool                        ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-0                   ONLINE       0     0     0
            c3t5000C5000EEC9B91d0s0  ONLINE       0     0     0
            c2t5000C50006176C41d0s0  ONLINE       0     0     0

errors: No known data errors

  pool: zones
 state: ONLINE
  scan: none requested
config:

        NAME                       STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        zones                      ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-0                 ONLINE       0     0     0
            c1t5000C50056E1D717d0  ONLINE       0     0     0
            c1t5000C50057BE4CCFd0  ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-1                 ONLINE       0     0     0
            c1t5000C50057C45E7Bd0  ONLINE       0     0     0
            c1t5000C50057C45F7Fd0  ONLINE       0     0     0

errors: No known data errors
#

The OmniOS installer did not mirror the root pool by default, but there are simple instructions for setting this up. Also, the network interface is not configured by default when you first install OmniOS, but it’s super easy to do that, too. I installed the latest r151012 release, which just came out a few days ago. Of course, there was a new bash package waiting for me. A quick pkg update took care of that.

One of the things I really like about this platform is there is nothing extra to install to make use of containers (also called zones in illumos). I pretty much immediately started going to town, building zones on this new box. The only real speed bump I’m hitting is standing up a Jenkins container. I’ve heard that this can be a little tricky, but it’s getting late, so I’ll likely hack on that tomorrow night. I’m setting up Jenkins and some build slaves in order to start building out an OmniOS IPS package repository for all of the software that I care enough about to build my way. Actually, probably multiple repositories; there are some I’ll want to share publicly, I’m sure.

I kind of feel like I need to blog more about this stuff, because I know a lot of super smart engineers who just, for whatever reason, don’t know that there are more tools out there to be used beyond Linux. Linux is great, it has its areas where I will reach for it first. But there are also places where I’d rather run illumos. Hopefully, as I write about it here, curiosity and illumination may follow in others. We’ve not even really started here yet. I’ve just gotten the base OS installed, the ZFS pools set up, and basic networking set up.


Mark Turner : Facebook took my fake-account-spotting ability away

September 30, 2014 11:20 PM

I was disappointed tonight when I discovered that Facebook has taken away my ability to spot fake Facebook accounts. Occasionally, the Facebook groups I administer get requests from suspicious-looking accounts. Often the spammers have recently joined Facebook and have appropriated the photo of another person for their profile photo. Usually the photo is for a hot-looking girl but not always.

When a request to join a group comes in from one of these questionable accounts, the first thing I do it to cut and paste the URL of their profile photo into Google Image Search (GIS). If the account’s fake, GIS will almost always pop up the name of the real person pictured in the photograph. Or there will be multiple hits, showing the same photograph is associated with multiple names. Either way, a Google Image Search has proven a quick way to sniff out fakes.

Facebook has changed the way they display photographs, though. Each image used to be a link to one of Facebook’s own Content Distribution Network (CDN) servers and could be displayed even without logging in to see it. As long as one had the image URL, one could see the image outside of Facebook.

Facebook has recently been adding a UUID (a unique identifier) to the end of each image URL. This UUID won’t work in GIS when it’s left on the URL and without the UUID, Facebook won’t display the image. With no way to turn GIS loose on verifying photos I’m left with having to trust Facebook (ha!) that the noobie asking for access is, in fact, an actual human.

Facebook gets less and less useful every day.

Tarus Balog : Fear of France

September 30, 2014 09:50 PM

For many years I’ve had an irrational fear of France. I don’t speak French and through television and other media I’ve been led to believe that the French are rude and distant, and the small amount of time I’ve spent in that country (or in French speaking Switzerland) did little to allay those fears.

Which is a shame since there are aspects of French culture that really gel with me. Good food and good company, a decent work/life balance and an appreciation for beauty and art are things that are sometimes lacking in my native society. Of course, the anal-retentive part of me would cringe at other aspects of French culture, such as the general lack of urgency over most things, but still I think there is more to love than hate.

For the first few years after I started working with OpenNMS I really couldn’t take a proper holiday. I might be able to squeeze in a three day weekend here and there, but the luxury of unplugging for a couple of weeks was beyond me. A decade later things have changed, so this year Andrea and I decided to take a long holiday with a week in the UK and a week in Paris.

David and I had been in Paris back in 2008 but I’d never really had a chance to see the city. Of course, the reason Andrea and I went had little to do with the art or history of the place: Paris is crazy thick with Ingress portals. Seriously, we flew across the ocean to play a computer game.

This, of course, required the purchasing of a local SIM card. Now one of my favorite things about being involved in OpenNMS is that almost anywhere I go I can find someone who likes the application. I posted a note to the mailing list and got a nice reply from Daniel Ranc. Daniel is a consultant and a professor at INT (Telecom & Management SudParis) and uses OpenNMS as part of his courses.

He recommended that we use SFR, as they had a plan where we could get 2GB of data for 30€. Now the challenge was to find a store.

Next to our hotel was a Bouygues outlet so we stopped there first. The lady in front of us was buying an iPhone 6 Plus (that sucker is huge) but even though it was iPhone launch day, I assume any craziness happened early in the morning. The salesperson told us that a “carte SIM” with 3GB would be 50€, which seemed spendy, so using the hotel wi-fi I found an SFR store a few blocks away (Paris is a very walkable city).

The guy at the SFR store told us that we could buy the SIM card there, but in order to “charge” it we would need to go to the “Tabac”. In Paris a Tabac is a part of a cafe that sells things like cigarettes and lottery tickets and, apparently, mobile phone access. You can identify them by iconic red and white signs.

While I wasn’t sure I fully understood his directions, we found what looked like the right place, but the lady behind the counter said she couldn’t help us. Thinking we had the wrong place, we wandered around for an hour or so until we met a man who told us where to go, which turned out to be the same place we started. This time we tried a little harder, and a gentleman helped out and sold us two “recharge” tickets for 35€ each. Since they worked we figured Daniel was just off on the price, and we happily started hacking portals.

That lasted about a day.

Apparently what we bought had something like a 100MB limit which we promptly exceeded, so this time I used a combination of Chrome and Google Translate to navigate the SFR website. I found the exact plan that Daniel described, but the site wouldn’t accept any of the four credit cards I fed to it (even though a legit-looking confirmation box with the proper bank name popped up each time). So I dutifully copied down the proper plan on a piece of hotel stationery and off we went to the Tabac.

By this time I had picked up more French so I was all “Bonjour, pouvez-vous m’aider, s’il vous plaît” and I handed the lady (the same one as before) my hand written piece of paper and she was able to set us up with no problem. It was the start of my becoming a lot more comfortable in France. We then wandered around our neighborhood and spent a lot of time in the Parc Monceau

My French improvement would continue on Sunday when I actually got to meet Daniel in person. He and his son Lucas picked us up at the hotel and took us to the Île Saint-Louis.

Paris is a roughly circular city as defined by a ring road highway that surrounds it. It is divided into 20 administration zones, called arrondissements. The first arrondissement is an island in the middle of the Seine called the Île de la Cité (home of Notre Dame and the oldest part of Paris) and the others spiral out from there. The Île Saint-Louis is in the 4th arrondissement and our hotel was in the 17th. You can always tell where you are by the post code: 750xx where xx is the arrondissement.

We found a place to park and walked around the island. Daniel and I talked tech while Andrea hacked portals, and we found a nice café for lunch. Parisians love to eat outside and this was no exception, except that we were lucky to be under an awning when a short shower broke out. With that exception and one other evening the weather was perfect for the entire week.

He and Lucas had to run to do some errands after lunch, but we made plans to meet up later in the week.

Most of our time was spent in parks. The public parks in Paris, even the small lesser known ones, are amazing, with priceless works of art available for everyone to enjoy. Since priceless works of art translate easily into Ingress portals, we had a lot of fun wandering around and linking them up. I know I was supposed to be inside the Louvre with thousands of other people, but I have to say that I loved being outside in the nice weather looking at beautiful things.

On Tuesday we faced our usual travel challenge of laundry. It is hard to pack for two full weeks, so we usually plan to do some laundry during our trips. In a lot of countries, like New Zealand, you just drop it off for a “wash, dry and fold” and come back a few hours later. Not so in Paris, but we did find an “laverie automatique”. This is where I learned another lesson of Parisian life: hold on to your coins.

America is one of the few places that doesn’t use what I would call high value coins. Most countries I visit have the equivalent of a one and two dollar coin, whereas in the US the highest value common coin is a quarter dollar. The machines in the laundry required coins and change was pretty much impossible to find. Seriously, there are banks in Paris with “no change” signs on them. Still we managed to scrounge enough together with some strategic purchases from the marché across the street (where the lady was so kind and delightful while she explained that she couldn’t give me more coins) to get the clothes cleaned.

That night we met up with Daniel, Lucas and Daniel’s wife Clarisse at a place called La Gueuze that specialized in Belgian food. While this naturally included Belgian beer (yay!), to me Belgian food is synonymous with mussels (moules).

Here is where I witnessed the most rude event of the whole trip (a minor one), and it was funny because it was between two Frenchmen. We had some confusion on the order. Three of us wanted mussels, but Andrea wanted the set “formula” menu (one appetizer, one main course and a dessert chosen from a list). At first Daniel thought Lucas wanted mussels as well so he ordered four and there was a lot of spirited talking around the table in both French and English. At one point the waiter just sighed, snapped the ticket off his pad, crumbled it up and walked off.

About five minutes later he came back and he and Daniel interacted as if nothing had happened, and we ended up having a nice meal. Lucas showed me a mathematical brain teaser that I hope to try on someone real soon (I got about 60% of it right).

I had snails. I think I would eat pretty much anything doused in butter and garlic.

Earlier we had met Daniel near the Luxembourg Garden, which was just swarming with portals, so on Wednesday we came back and spent several hours there. It was once the grounds for the palace of Marie de’ Medici, and the building is now home to the Senate chamber of the French Parliament. On the grounds are a model that was used for the Statue of Liberty as well as the outstanding Medici Fountain.

On Thursday we did our only real touristy trip by visiting Versailles. I’ve been wanting to visit there for years, especially after reading the Baroque Cycle. I often laugh when people, especially Americans, criticize French military might because if your skin is pale your ancestors lived in fear of King Louis the XIV. The scale of Versailles defies description – the Gardens cover 800 hectares or over three square miles. We spent over ten hours there, and it was really cool to be there in the evening after the crowds had left.

We covered a lot of Paris. We bought a “Paris Visite” ticket that let us ride any public transportation (bus, tram, metro or RER) within the ring road.

The only regret is that I should have gone with the Bouygues SIM card. Not only did I spend too much for ours, the SFR coverage would have issues, especially near Montparnasse. The phone would show 3G but nothing would work. It seemed limited to that one particular area – hey, SFR, if you are reading this, get OpenNMS.

Overall, it was an amazing trip and I’m eager to return. I found the Parisians to be friendly and the city itself very beautiful. It was a little spendy, even with our airfare and hotel being covered by frequent traveler points, so I am motivated to make OpenNMS successful so that I can visit as often as I like.

Scott Schulz : Tweet: Testing new @pushbullet channels. Is support for…

September 30, 2014 04:53 PM

Testing new @pushbullet channels. Is support for them coming to iPhone app in the future? I receive push notification, but not in stream.

Magnus Hedemark : women in open source: revisited

September 30, 2014 12:29 PM

The other day, I posted some thoughts capturing a conversation that happened in the illumos community over the weekend. If you missed it, head over first to The illumos Number That Bothers Me.

The conversation can’t die there. We’ve got to take pro-active steps to better understand how we got into this gender monoculture in the first place, and be catalysts to the change we wish to see in our community. I’ve been looking around a bit since then and found a few resources that should hopefully help to get the ball rolling.


Tarus Balog : Write In “OpenNMS” in Linux Journal’s Reader’s Choice Awards

September 29, 2014 08:00 PM

Not sure what’s going on here, but it seems that once again OpenNMS has been left out as a choice in the Linux Journal Reader’s Choice Awards.

We came in second in 2011 and third in 2012 but they left us out in 2013 and now 2014.

While Nagios tends to run away with it with their readership, perhaps we can write in “OpenNMS” enough to get a mention.

Eric Christensen : Hubert’s TLS Scan results for September 2014

September 29, 2014 07:39 PM

Eric Christensen:

I’ve been enjoying watching these trends.

Originally posted on securitypitfalls:

Ciphers

This time the results are not really different from past month’s ones. About two percent of servers more use SHA-256 signed certificates and 1% more has configuration that allows negotiation of PFS suites.

Small change to reported results: I’ve added “Insecure” entry which counts the number of servers that will use completely insecure cipher suite like single DES, RC2 or export grade ciphers. It doesn’t include the “controversial but not broken” IDEA and SEED ciphers.

SSL/TLS survey of 402742 websites from Alexa's top 1 million Stats only from connections that did provide valid certificates (or anonymous DH from servers that do also have valid certificate installed) Supported Ciphers         Count     Percent -------------------------+---------+------- 3DES                      349454    86.7687 3DES Only                 164       0.0407 AES                       374868    93.0789 AES Only                  1017      0.2525 AES-CBC Only              553       0.1373 AES-GCM                   172322    42.7872 AES-GCM Only              7         0.0017 CAMELLIA                  170577    42.3539 CHACHA20                  15137     3.7585 Insecure                  79666     19.7809 RC4                       355750    88.332 RC4…

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Magnus Hedemark : the illumos number that bothers me (and what we need to do about it)

September 28, 2014 12:44 PM

I just got back late last night from Surge 2014 and illumos Day, which immediately followed Surge the next day. There were some great talks going on, which I’m sure I’ll also be writing about. But the first speaker in particular dropped something on me that’s bothering me, and it should bother pretty much anyone that hears it.

Garrett D’Amore, founder of the illumos project, crawled through all of the commits and made a really interesting discovery. This is a four year old project, and remains relatively obscure (though some very visible things have come out of it, like zfs). In those four years, about 150 unique contributors have committed code into illumos-gate, the shared core of the illumos ecosystem that distributions are built on. Now on the surface, this number sounds pretty wicked cool. illumos is a fairly unknown project, sadly, so to score commits from 150 engineers sounds like a really good thing. Or is it?

Of those 150 unique commiters, 0 of them were women.

Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

While we all know that, for whatever reason, software development has developed a sad stereotype of being almost exclusively a male pursuit, we’ve made some strides over the last n years in being more inclusive on the gender spectrum. We’re seeing more women not just participating in technology, but leading the way. We get a lot of value out of having women involved in software, not just in the doubling of the size of the potential talent pool, but in having greater diversity of thought and perspective in how we solve tough problems together.

While we’re definitely still far from seeing a 50:50 blending of male and female engineers on software projects and at technical conferences, there is some movement and it’s good, and we need to keep getting better at it. But the dirty little shame of illumos, now brought to the surface by Mr. D’Amore, is we’ve managed to attract none of them into committing code to the crown jewels of the illumos ecosystem.

Now, to the credit of the community, the ~20 people in the room at the time immediately stopped the forward momentum of progressing through the slides and engaged in passionate dialog about contributing factors, a little bit of grasping about what we could do about it. We don’t really understand the full scope of the problem yet, so it’s hard to really identify effective solutions.

Bryan Cantrill of Joyent spoke very passionately about assholes being the bane of the Open Source community, and how effective they are at chasing good people away from the community. Part of the solution, it would seem, is to not allow alienating social behavior to enjoy influence. This line of conversation grew legs, and ran around the room a good bit. We’ve got some more to talk about here.

There was also a good deal of agreement that the illumos community is a friendlier place for new contributors to come and find ways to get involved than many larger (and more prominent) projects. As someone who has sort of nipped around the edges of this community, I have to agree, I’ve found it really easy to get help in a very collaborative way. What we’ve not done a good job at is marketing, at sharing this with people outside of the community, which is part of why I feel it’s important to tweet about what we’re doing, blog about it, speak, etc.

There was a sense in the room that we couldn’t really quantify, but that several openly suspected was there, that women have maybe tried getting involved in the Linux community and several (or maybe many) have been alienated by some of the bad behavior that can often go on in those communities. The question posed, but not yet answered, was how do we get them to come hang out with us and see that we want them to feel welcome and valued here?

I don’t think we really have the answers at all yet. I don’t think we have even asked the right questions yet. But this conversation is crucial to the survival of illumos, so it needs to continue, and it must result in real improvements to our gender diversity.


Warren Myers : disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect – law 44 – #48laws by robert greene

September 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 44

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

Magnus Hedemark : DevOps: Year One

September 26, 2014 03:26 PM

Originally posted on Engineering @ Bronto:

I had the pleasure of addressing the Triangle DevOps meetup group on the subject of DevOps: Year One. The target audience was anyone who has bought into the idea of DevOps transformation for their business, but wanted practical advice for how to get started.

With only an hour to speak, and so many great questions to answer, we barely got to scratch the surface. But we did get to talk about some specific practices that have helped the Systems Engineering team at Bronto to work much more effectively.

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Mark Turner : People’s Climate March

September 24, 2014 12:48 PM

We attended the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday. Over 400,000 people marched two miles through the streets of New York to show their support for action on climate change. It was one of the most fun demonstrations I’ve attended, mainly because there was no stage. I don’t like it when 100 different groups get invited to the stage to pitch their pet causes when I might not be inclined to support them all. This one made no demands other than to show up and march. Easy.

It was quite a thrill to stand in the middle of New York City, feel the growing roar of the crowd as it approached, and then add my full-throated yell, too. There was real power there.

I’ll probably post more on this soon but I’m going through a very busy week with bond stuff and other distractions.

I will say, though, that we were left stranded again by our Honda Odyssey, this time on I-95 south of Fredericksburg. We were cruising along when the transmission shredded itself again, spewing smoke and transmission fluid all over the northbound lane. Within ten minutes, though, a AAA-dispatched tow truck was picking up us and our van. Chris at JKJ Transport really took care of us.

JKJ towed our van back to Raleigh Monday evening. It arrived about three hours after we did. The good news is that the transmission will be replaced for free under warranty, though it will likely fail again within three years if history is any guide. We intend to put a new transmission in and quickly find a new home for our Odyssey. One car shouldn’t have to go through three transmissions.

Warren Myers : welcome to laas technologies – purveyors of the latest paas techniques

September 23, 2014 11:21 PM

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Too long prosthesis users have had to suffer through substandard supply processes. From the cycle of repeated denture fittings to the heartache of not being able to best utilize your bionic arm, or the emotional pain of being stuck with last year’s wig model when the latest fashionable variants have debuted – LaaS Tech is here for you.

With LaaS Tech’s innovative prosthetics-by-subscription offerings, you never have to worry about being out-of-style with your toupee, or that you’ll underperform at this year’s New York City Marathon – LaaS Tech will work with you and your budget to maximize your prosthetic experience.

Can’t afford much now, but want to upgrade later? LaaS Tech’s flexible pricing options let you mix’n’match your prosthetics to best fit your style, and your budget. We want you to be fully satisfied with your addons and upgrades, and are available 24 gours a day, 7 days a week.

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Jesse Morgan : Greatest Marketing Pitch Ever

September 22, 2014 07:08 PM

El Monterey, I have the perfect marketing pitch for you:

 

Scene: Dining room table, happy music plays in the background.

Mother, father and two children walk in door carrying fast food bags

Father opens container to find a smashed, nasty, dried out cheeseburger. Music stops.

Mother opens her fish sandwich to find it swimming in tartar sauce.

Everyone appears grossed out and disappointed when suddenly there is a loud thump

Cut to  refrigerator. *thump* it moves.

Refrigerator door opens and a rainbow spin of colors comes out, revealing someone like the Katamari King. scene cuts change to an old japanese fight movie.

In his hands is a small microwave which shoots burritos out like a tommy gun.

Steaming burritos land on plates that magically appear in front of them.

“Thanks burrito overlord!” the family cheers in unison.

Camera cuts to burrito overlord who gives a two finger salute, before jumping, spinning into a rainbow and zapping back into a freezer.

Happy mexican celebration plays while the family digs in.

Text and voiceover both reinforce:

“Always have a Plan B. El Monterey.”

 

 

 

Greg DeKoenigsberg : Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!

September 22, 2014 03:59 PM

London’s a great city, and it’s full of great advocates for Ansible. To everyone I met at the meetup earlier this month: thanks for coming. It was a delight to be able to meet all of you.

I wasn’t expecting to speak at this inaugural meetup, but due to a last minute cancellation (Richard, hope the family is doing better) I found myself pressed into service. I’m not really much for presentations anyway, so it was no hardship; Ali Asad Lotia and Mudassar Mian provided the technical firepower, and then when it was my turn to speak, I fell back on my tried and true strategy of asking questions and listening. This was the first opportunity a lot of people in London have had to talk with someone from Ansible in the flesh, and I’ve learned how very important it is just to meet people where they are and share stories with them.

The first thing I generally do when speaking with a roomful of users, whether I’m giving a formal presentation or not, is to survey the room for expertise. I tend to ask the same series of questions: “who has heard of X? who uses X? who uses X extensively?” What impressed me most about the crowd in London was how many of the hands stayed up through all of those questions. These were serious, serious users of Ansible. Granted, it was an Ansible meetup, so I expected more expertise than at a typical generic meetup — but it seemed as though there were hardly any novices at all.

Except for me, of course. :)

There were a lot of questions; I think we had more than an hour of Q+A. The audience was engaged, not only with me, but with one another; the crowd frequently came to my aid when I didn’t have an answer, and by the end of the evening, I was pretty much an afterthought as people in the crowd carried on their own conversations.

The evening also confirmed the good sense of our decision to hold our first AnsibleFest outside of North America in London. Stay tuned for details on that front soon.

Thanks again to all who attended. Looking forward to my next pint and curry.

Tarus Balog : I Miss Steve Jobs

September 22, 2014 09:32 AM

I am currently on holiday and have been blissfully unaware of work related things for a week now, but I wanted to comment on a couple of items mainly because it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut.

As most of the world knows, Apple recently introduced two new iPhones. Their main feature is that they are larger: the iPhone 6 is the size of a Nexus 4 while the iPhone 6 Plus is slightly smaller than a Galaxy Note 4.

And that was pretty much it.

This is why I miss Steve Jobs. Jobs had the ability to create things I didn’t know I wanted. His vision for the first iPhone became the dominate paradigm for an industry. Heck, I can remember when OS X Tiger came out and the big feature was Time Machine and I thought it was a joke – at least to announce as a major feature – until it saved me on a number of occasions from a catastrophic disk failure.

Bigger phones, and only slightly faster ones at that, don’t qualify.

I do think that Apple Pay will finally get NFC payments into the mainstream. Only Apple has enough clout to get the banks in line, but what does that really get you? I live in a fairly rural section of North Carolina, USA, and I can pretty much pay for anything under $75 with a swipe of my credit card. No need to dig out or unlock my phone, just swipe and go. I can’t see myself using my phone for the same thing.

But that probably labels me as an “Apple hater”.

I am a big fan of Stephen Fry, and during this trip I read a post where he commented on how much he liked the new iPhones. Besides being an awesome actor he is quite the technologist, and I respect his opinions. But I really disliked this post because of his references to “Apple haters”.

There was a time when I was definitely on the blunt end of “Apple hate”. I bought my first Powerbook in January of 2003 when, outside of certain tech circles, they were non-existent. But jump ahead 10 years and now Apple is the 800 pound gorilla with more cash on hand than the US government. I don’t know of a college kid, outside of those using Linux, who would be caught dead with anything other than a Macbook. They are fashion statements, and Apple is the new Microsoft. They are “The Man” and so I find it funny when any criticism of them is met with virulent attacks on the critic.

Case in point: today on Slashdot a person was having issues with iOS 8. I read through a few of the comments to see if it was an isolated case or a trend, but the discussion immediately devolved into fan boys vs. haters.

My favorite laptop of all time, and I’ve owned a number of them including many from Apple, was that first 12-inch Powerbook. It combined the best of open and closed software, but over the last decade everything Apple seems to be locked up tighter and tighter. And while I applaud their efforts to safe guard their user’s information, the recent iCloud breach shows that they can’t think of everything. Seriously, we addressed brute force password attacks in BBS software in the 1980s, yet Apple missed it.

On the iPhone 6 launch day I found myself in Paris looking for a SIM card so I visited a couple of shops selling iPhones. There were no lines but I did see at least one phone being sold – an iPhone 6 Plus – and it was huge. Granted, this was in the afternoon so maybe I missed the fan boy lines, but at least here it was just another day (despite huge banners on the FNAC stores).

Another reason I miss Jobs is that he would never have pre-announced the Apple Watch. It would have been ready for the Christmas shopping season, not some nebulous time in March. It wouldn’t have been square and flat, either.

So, why am I posting this? It’s mainly a vain plea in the hope that Apple will consider opening up its hardware to allow for real innovation. Things are obviously stagnant over in Mountain View and they could use a shot in the arm. Unfortunately, the fact that they lock everything down is even spilling over to vendors such as Samsung, who now lock down their bootloaders so that alternative software can’t be installed. Heck, even Apple’s new NFC support is limited to their single app and my guess is that users will have to wait for the inevitable jailbreak to use the technology for which they paid good money. And, really, what would it cost them? I’m not asking them to support non-Apple software just to put the technology into the most hands.

Tim Cook apparently opened the Palo Alto Apple Store on launch day, which I thought was cool, but he told a Samsung phone user that they needed a new phone.

For me, at least, freedom trumps newness. Just being new isn’t enough. I think I need to join with Mad Dog and just start asking “why would you want a proprietary phone?”.

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

September 16, 2014 04:49 PM

Credit card fraudsters are winning.

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

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

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

September 16, 2014 04:48 PM

Credit card fraud news story.

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

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

Mark Turner : Dis-credit-ed

September 15, 2014 02:08 AM

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

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

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

Home Depot credit card charge

Home Depot credit card charge


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

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

Mark Turner : Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth

September 13, 2014 07:38 PM

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

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

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

September 13, 2014 06:56 PM

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

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

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

Tarus Balog : Pictures at an Exhibition

September 13, 2014 01:52 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 13, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 43

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

Mark Turner : 9/11 revisited

September 13, 2014 03:32 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Fifteen years

September 13, 2014 02:22 AM

Wedding bliss, 1999

Wedding bliss, 1999


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

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

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

September 12, 2014 11:03 PM

Looking more likely that the Great Rail Expedition of 09/14 @Triangle_Train will be a washout :(wunderground.com/q/zmw:27562.1.…?

Mark Turner : My fellow Americans, please stop being idiots

September 12, 2014 01:36 AM

I agree.

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

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

via My fellow Americans, please stop being idiots.

Jesse Morgan : Curse of the Goat

September 11, 2014 02:40 PM

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

 

Curse of the Goat

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

“Maeh-eh-eh-eht…  Maeh-eh-eh-eht.”

Variations

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Business idea

September 10, 2014 11:50 PM

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

Mark Turner : Labs come back clean

September 10, 2014 11:47 PM

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Cheap Thoughts: Dogs and concussions

September 10, 2014 02:09 AM

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

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

September 09, 2014 11:32 AM

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

Mark Turner : Jamaica, part II

September 08, 2014 02:38 AM

Our first rum in Jamaica

Our first rum in Jamaica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holiday Inn Sunspree is a bright and sunny place

The Holiday Inn Sunspree is a bright and sunny place


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

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

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

Mark Turner : Visibly twitchy

September 08, 2014 01:51 AM

My leg looking puffy where my dress sock just was

My leg looking puffy where my dress sock just was


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

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

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

Mark Turner : Parks board and bond

September 07, 2014 02:51 AM

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

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

Mark Turner : Jamaica

September 07, 2014 02:40 AM

Boarding our Southwest flight to Jamaica

Boarding our Southwest flight to Jamaica


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

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

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

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

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

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

My Jamaican Friend

My Jamaican Friend


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

Mark Turner : About my left leg

September 03, 2014 10:11 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnus Hedemark : I Kanban. So Kanyou.

September 02, 2014 03:29 PM

“We’re using a modified Kanban process.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begin Here

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

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

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

  • New Feature
  • Research Spike
  • Defect

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

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

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

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

Next up?

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

 


Tarus Balog : Ten Years On …

September 02, 2014 02:31 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Ford’s Theater

September 02, 2014 02:53 AM

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

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

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

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

Some Blame Booth’s Ghost For Bad ‘Vibes’ at Ford’s
Wednesday, December 20, 1972 Page 23
By PAMELA M. LAKRATT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnus Hedemark : long weekend in the homelab

September 01, 2014 05:02 PM

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

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

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

What are some of the things coming soon?

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

And further out?

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

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

August 30, 2014 09:21 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2014 11:45 AM

Fascinating.

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

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

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

August 28, 2014 11:09 AM

Listening to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (The Skeptics Guide #476 – Aug 23 2014) media.libsyn.com/media/skeptics…

Mark Turner : My FCC petition supporting Wilson’s challenge

August 28, 2014 08:04 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Mark Turner
1108 Tonsler Dr
Raleigh, NC, 27604

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

August 28, 2014 08:03 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Kevin O’Donnell and ALS

August 27, 2014 08:37 PM

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2014 12:18 PM

Law 42

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


Zechariah 13:7b

Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered

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

August 27, 2014 11:34 AM

Whoopsie.

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

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2014 12:33 AM

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

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

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

August 25, 2014 03:42 AM

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

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