2015 Dev-Jam: Day Five

Sorry for the week delay on this post, but this happened.

The last day of Dev-Jam is always bittersweet for me. I’m sad that it is over, but I also get to see all the wonderful “new shiny” people have been working on. Friday we do demos.

This year we made an attempt to record each demo. Just click on the picture to see it on the YooToobz. Videos, yay!

First up was Ben. Ben is the architect of our new mobile app, OpenNMS Compass. Available for both iOS and Android, it may even turn into our next overall user interface. To do that, it needs graphs, so Ben demonstrated how you can now display graphs in Compass. You can even set “favorites” so they show up on your main screen.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ben

Markus von Rüden spent the week working on something fun: digitizing our mascot and kiwi overlord, Ulf. He demonstrated this work in a game. While it wasn’t completely finished, when Ulf died would he split in half to reveal a kiwi (fruit) center. Cute. Unfortunately, no video and no wiki page (yet).

Dev-Jam Demos: MvR

Christian presented a new way to represent issues within OpenNMS, a “heat map“. It works with both alarms and outages.

Dev-Jam Demos: Christian

Jesse presented something that literally gave me goosebumps. Using our new integration with Newts, you can search for similar data within OpenNMS. So if there is say, a spike, you can search through all the other metrics to see if there are other data sources that spike at the same time.

Dev-Jam Demos: Jesse

David S. presented a new northbound interface for sending alarms to other systems via JMS. He used ActiveMQ as a proof of concept.

Dev-Jam Demos: David S.

Ron created a couple of new features. The first was the ability to see polls as events, including how long each poll took (if available). He also added the ability to create a consistent color scheme across performance graphs.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ron

Umberto created another real exciting feature – the ability to export in real time OpenNMS events to Elasticsearch. Since OpenNMS can handle thousands of events a second, sending them to a system built to analyze such data could be very useful. Umberto was sponsored to attend by the OpenNMS Foundation.

Dev-Jam Demos: Umberto

A second OpenNMS Foundation attendee was Marcel. He worked on improving data collection for Fortinet devices.

Dev-Jam Demos: Marcel

Another cool feature was Dustin’s custom data collection script tool. Sometimes OpenNMS gets criticized for not using SSH to collect data and perform montoring. The reason it doesn’t is rather simple: it’s a stupid idea. It usually requires that you set up keys with null passphrases, and often they connect as root. Despite the security issues, it is also a resource hog and can’t scale. We have always recommended using an extensible SNMP agent like Net-SNMP, but it can be some effort to set up.

Dustin’s feature allows you to put collection scripts in a special folder on the server, and OpenNMS will automatically collect the data. All you need to do then is to add a graph definition and you’re done.

Dev-Jam Demos: Dustin

Ronny discussed running OpenNMS in Vagrant and Docker containers. Neato.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ronny

DJ was frustrated in how long it can take to compile OpenNMS if tests are enabled. OpenNMS is heavily instrumented with software tests. These can be broken into “unit” tests and “integration” tests. Maven (the build system used by OpenNMS) can be configured to separate them. Since unit tests should be small and quick, they can be run every time with the integration tests only run for regression.

Dev-Jam Demos: DJ

Finally, Seth presented the work he did this week which was focused on changes needed to support OpenNMS Minion. Minions are little, stand alone processes that can perform basic monitoring and data collection, which is then forwarded up to an OpenNMS Dominion instance.

Dev-Jam Demos: Seth

While the last Dev-Jam always seems to be the best Dev-Jam, I think it was true this year. This work will go along way toward positioning OpenNMS for the coming Internet of Things, and as always it is amazing to see what brilliant people can do when given the opportunity to work together.

We ended the day at Surly Brewing Company. The beer was delicious and the company stimulating. I only got one non-blurry picture, and unfortunately my pants fell down when I stood up to take it.

Dev-Jam: Surly Brewing

Sorry.

I hope to see everyone at the OpenNMS Users Conference in September. I promise to keep my pants on.

Review: Dell XPS 13 (9343) Ubuntu Edition

Okay. When it comes to tech, I want the latest and greatest. To me, the “greatest” must include as much open software as possible. As an ex-Apple user, I want the same experience I used to get with that gear, but with free and open source software.

It can be hard. Rarely is the open source world involved in new hardware decisions by the major vendors, so we learn about new devices after the fact. Thus there is an inevitable delay between when a product is announced and when it properly works with FOSS.

Such was the case with the new XPS 13 laptop from Dell.

Now, I vote with my wallet, so back in 2012 when I needed a laptop I bought the second edition “Sputnik” Dell XPS 13, which shipped with Ubuntu. It served me well for many years and currently runs Linux Mint 17.1 with no problems. When the latest edition XPS 13 was announced, I immediately ordered it, but it didn’t work out so well.

When I discovered that the other option from Dell, the M3800, wasn’t for me, I decided to wait until they officially supported Ubuntu on the new XPS 13. I didn’t have to wait long, and I placed my order the day I learned it was available (I was happy to learn that they had to fix some kernel-level issues and it wasn’t just me).

Why didn’t I wait longer? The XPS 13 is gorgeous. I haven’t felt this strongly about a laptop since my 12-inch Powerbook back in 2013. Others seem to agree, with even Forbes praising this machine.

Anyway, the order process was simple. I got the XPS 13 with the i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and the HiDPI touchscreen. The laptop arrived about a week before it was scheduled. Go Dell.

Now for the obligatory unboxing pictures. The outer box arrived undamaged:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 1

The laptop itself came in a separate box:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 2

with the accessories shipped in a cardboard “square tube”:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 3

While the small power supply came with a longer power cable with a “mickey mouse” connector, the XPS 13 comes with a small adapter that gets rid of the cable entirely (like the Apple laptop power bricks).

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 4

The laptop pretty much fills up its box:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 5

Like with my original XPS, there is a cool little intro video that plays when you first start it up:

Please note that it only runs on the first start – you will not have to wait 40+ seconds to boot your system (usually less than 10).

The XPS 13 Ubuntu Developer Edition ships with 14.04, but I had some issues with it. First, it didn’t have the option for encrypting the home directory. I’m not sure how or why that got removed. The system also crashed when I attempted to make a backup image to a USB stick. Finally, there are apparently still outstanding issues with 14.04:

Ubuntu 14.04 includes kernel 3.13. The touchpad will run in PS2 mode and the soundcard will run in HDA mode. Currently (4/15) out of the box the HDA microphone will not work, and you will need some packages from the factory shipped image to make it work properly.

While I knew I was going to base the system, I logged in to the stock image to check out the apt repository. There really wasn’t anything outside of the vanilla Ubuntu (the few Dell packages seem to be just for recovery) so I felt fairly safe in reinstalling.

I immediately went to my default distro, Linux Mint 17.1, but found that a lot of things, especially the touchpad, didn’t work as expected. It did handle HiDPI screens just fine (you could actually see the mouse pointer increase in size when logging in). I figured I’d wait until 17.2 comes out and try it again.

On a side note, I don’t know why it is so hard to get a decent touchpad under Linux. We’re getting closer, but still, it tends to be the weakest point of the Linux laptop experience.

In search of a solution, I found Barton’s Blog and read the following:

With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound will not function. Please update to at least BIOS A02 and the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode. (4/15) All of the relevant patches have been backported and all functions will work out of the box.

I really liked the “will work out of the box” bit, so I installed Ubuntu 15.04.

It had been awhile since I’d used Unity, and it has really matured. I especially liked the little touches. When I changed my desktop background, the background of the Dock changed color to match it. Neat.

Where Unity still has some way to go is in HiDPI support. There is a scaling factor you can set, but it only applies to a small part of the UI. I still ended up having to customize many of my apps. For example, if you look at the settings page with scaling, a lot of the text under the icons are cropped:

Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu Text Cropped

Not a show stopper, and I used it for over a month without getting too annoyed.

Last week I saw that the release candidate for Mint 17.2 was out, so I dutifully backed up my Ubuntu install, based the system and installed Mint. Things seems to work better (although HiDPI support was not working by default), but I ran into a weird problem with trying to click and drag.

While everyone seems to deal with trackpads differently, the way I click and drag is to use the index finger of my left hand to click and hold the lower left corner of the trackpad, and then I use the index finger of my right hand to move the mouse pointer. This works fine under most desktop environments, but under Cinnamon it seems to interpret it as a right click (which usually causes a menu to drop down). If I just used a single finger to click on the window header and then move it, it worked as expected, but I couldn’t get used to it enough to continue to use it.

Oh well. I’ve posted a question on the Mint forums but no one has been able to help.

Anyhoos, since my system was based I decided to try out some other 15.04-based distros while I had the chance. I had heard great things about the new Plasma interface in KDE, so Kubuntu was next.

I can’t say much about Kubuntu since its HiDPI support is worse than Unity. Everything was so tiny I couldn’t spend much time in the UI. Oh well, what I saw was pretty.

And I should stress that this was a recurring theme in my experiments with desktop environments. Every UI I’ve tried has been beautiful and more than able to compete with, say, OS X.

By this point I decided to punt and just search on “Linux Desktop HiDPI”. Several of the results touted that Ubuntu Gnome was the best desktop to use for HiDPI systems. So, before going back to Unity I decided to give it a shot.

Wow.

I haven’t used Gnome 3 in awhile, but I was encouraged in that even the install process handled the HiDPI screen well. It has become really mature, and so far has provided by far the best experience with the XPS 13. I’ve had to do little to get it to work for me.

Is it flawless? No. There is an issue with the touchpad where it occasionally translates touches into click (kernel patch approved). If you sleep the system, the touchscreen will stop working (but you can reload its module). Sometimes, the system doesn’t sleep when you close the screen, which can cause the laptop to get really, really hot.

But these are minor issues and I expect them to be addressed in the near future. I am confident that I’ve found a great combination of software and hardware, and that it will only get better from here.

I have just a few more notes to share. The battery life is outstanding – I can get 6-7 hours of use without recharging. The “infinity screen” is beautiful and bright, but by having almost no bezel they had to move the camera to the lower left corner, which creates a slightly odd viewing angle.

Dell XPS 13 Camera Angle

In closing, here are a couple of shots comparing the XPS 13 with the M3800.

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 1

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 2

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 3

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Four

Since I sincerely doubt even my loyal readers get to the bottom of my long posts, I figured I’d start this one with the group picture:

Dev-Jam Group Picture

That antenna behind Goldy’s head is part of Jonathan’s project to use OpenNMS to collect and aggregate FunCube data from around the world. Can I get an “Internet of Things“? (grin)

There is this myth that just by making your software open source, thousands of qualified developers will give up their spare time to work on your project. While there are certainly projects with lots of developers, I am humbled by the fact that we have 30-40 hard core people involved with OpenNMS.

Unless you’ve gone through this, it is hard to understand. At one time, OpenNMS was pretty much me in my attic and an IRC channel. Luckily for the project that didn’t last long. My one true talent is getting amazing people to work with me. Then all I have to do is create an environment where they can be awesome.

It’s why I love Dev-Jam.

I also love pizza. Chris at Papa Johns was kind enough to send us some free pie for dinner:

Dev-Jam Pizza

Today we spent time talking about documentation. Documentation tends to be the weak point of a lot of software, and open source software in particular. The Arch Linux people do about the best job I’ve seen, but even then it is hard to keep everything current. For over a year now a group of people has been working very hard to improve the documentation for OpenNMS, and the new documentation site is most excellent.

It does take a little time to understand the navigation. The documentation is included in the source and managed on GitHub, so there is a new version for each release. But just as an example, check out the Administrator’s Guide for 16.0.2.

Written in AsciiDoc, it is now the best place for accurate information on how to use the software. We also want to extend a special thanks to the Atom project for creating the editor used to create it.

One of the things we discussed was how to deal with the wiki and the .org website. It’s not practical to duplicate the AsciiDoc information on the wiki, so the plan is to include the relevant part from the documentation in something like an iframe and use the wiki more for user stories. The “talk” page can then be used for suggestions on improving the documentation, and once those suggestions are merged they can be removed.

I had suggested that we make the wiki page the default landing page for the .org site, but Markus pointed out that we need to do a better job of marketing OpenNMS, and the landing page should be more about “why to use OpenNMS” versus “how”. I had to agree, as we need to do a better job of marketing the software. My friend Waleed pointed out in Twitter this weakness:

Twitter Comment 1 from Waleed

Twitter Comment 2 from Waleed

To better educate folks about why OpenNMS is so amazing, we are considering merging the .com and .org sites and using the .com WordPress instance for the “why you should use OpenNMS” with a very obvious link to the wiki so people can learn how to use OpenNMS. Part of me has always wanted to keep the project and commercial aspects of OpenNMS separate, but it then becomes really hard to maintain both sites.

In case you haven’t guessed, we do spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this. (grin)

Dev-Jam Thursday

A lot of other cool stuff got done on Thursday. DJ announced that he had separated out the unit tests in OpenNMS (for features) from the integration tests (for regression). OpenNMS has nearly 7,000 junit tests (and growing). It’s the main way we insure that nothing breaks as we work to add new things to the software. But with so many tests it can take a real long time to see if your commit worked or not. This should make things easier for the developers.

It’s hard to believe that Dev-Jam is almost over. Luckily, it sets the stage for the next year’s worth of work. Since our goal is nothing less than making OpenNMS the de facto network management platform of choice, there is a lot of work to be done.

Review: Nexus 6

As most of my three readers know by now, I was a big fan of the OnePlus One handset until I experienced their customer support (which seems intent on covering up a major defect in the touchscreen of their devices).

So, it was time to get another smart phone. Andrea had been using a Nexus 6 for awhile, I thought the phone might be too big for me. The phone is huge.

David pointed out that the OnePlus was huge compared to my previous HTC One, and it only took me a day or so to get used to that size change, so I’d probably feel the same way about the Nexus 6.

He was right.

I ordered it from the Play Store and it showed up a couple of days later. The name of the phone was actually on the bottom of the box:

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 1

and once I cut the “tape” I flipped it over so I could open it.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 2

The phone sits in a little cardboard cradle

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 3

and if you remove it you can see a little packet with documentation.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 4

Under that is a high amp charger and that’s about it.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 5

The phone has a gorgeous display and its six inch screen is big enough that I can watch movies on it, so I loaned my Nexus 7 (that I used to use when traveling) to Ben so he could play with OpenNMS Compass on Android.

Nexus 6 Specs

It’s also blazingly fast, but all that power does come with a price: battery life. With the OnePlus I could easily go a day, even with playing Ingress to some degree, the Nexus 6 needs a little more juice. It is in no way horrible, and is much better than the HTC One, but it is still a factor. I just ended up buying a TYLT wireless charger for my desk so I can sit the handset there all day and it stays charged (yay wireless charging).

I did buy a case for the phone but that pushed it over the size limit for even my large hands. Caseless, I was worried about dropping it, so I bought a “grip” pad that sticks to the back and makes it feel less like a slippery bar of soap. So far so good.

The best thing is that, thanks in large part to Jake Whatley, I can now put OmniROM on it. It was a pretty simple process to unlock the phone using adb, install TWRP and then flash the latest OmniROM nightly. I was surprised at how much my Android experience was truncated by the stock ROM. I couldn’t shake my phone to dismiss an alarm or augment the power menu to add options like a reboot instead of just powering off. So far no problems.

The size of the Nexus 6 will be off-putting for some, but it is about the same size as an iPhone 6 Plus, so perhaps not.

Nexus 6 vs. iPhone 6+

As I was investigating alternative ROMs for the Nexus 6, I thought it was funny when I found out the code name for the device. Nexus devices tend to be named after fish.

The code name for the Nexus 6? Shamu.

Review: LG Watch Urbane

Even though I am no longer a user of Apple products, I was eagerly awaiting the release of the Apple Watch. Why? Because Steve Jobs had a way of making stuff for me that I didn’t know I wanted. While I’ve owned an LG G Watch R for awhile now, the experience hasn’t been life changing (unlike using an iPhone was) and so I was looking for Apple to really “wow” me.

My friend Ben (who knows more about Apple products than anyone I know) thinks I’m more critical of Apple than the fiercest “fanboi” and he’s probably right, so I want to make sure to expressly state that I haven’t used an Apple Watch so anything I say about it needs to be taken in that context.

However, Matthew Inman, another person whose opinion I respect, recently did a comic on his experience with the Apple Watch, and his experience is very similar to mine with Android Wear. It’s interesting, it has potential, but it isn’t life changing … yet.

To me, my watch is like having a second screen on my phone. Remember when people first started getting dual monitors? It’s like that – it makes me more productive when using my phone but it is more of an extension than a feature in and of itself.

The main thing my watch gives me is a socially acceptable way to keep up with notifications. If I’m in a meeting, or at a meal, or in any other social situation where pulling out my phone and looking at it would be rude, I can glance at my watch and see if I need to address that text or e-mail.

The main difference between Wear devices and the Apple Watch is that the latter has a crown that spins and can be used scroll the display. Inman points out that he doesn’t use it, and so you are pretty safe choosing the smart watch you like that works best in your digital ecosystem.

The main thing I want from a watch is a stylish accessory that actually looks like a watch. Enter the LG Watch Urbane.

Urbane Watch Face

After my horrible experience with the OnePlus One phone, I was shopping for a replacement handset when I came across the Watch Urbane. I fell in love immediately.

I got the G Watch R because it looked like a watch and not a slab of glass. The Urbane takes that experience to a new level by adding a rose gold bezel and a nice leather strap. The display is amazing. The default watch faces are amazing. In short it is the perfect evolution for my favorite smart watch to date.

It’s a powerful watch with great battery life. While I tend to charge it overnight, I can get over two days of normal use out of it easily (I’ve had to test that when flying overseas).

Urbane Specifications

I bought it on Amazon, and it showed up protected in a rather easy to open plastic cover:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 1

The box was similar to other mechanical watches I have bought:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 2

and opening it immediately revealed the watch:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 3

The band was a little stiff at first, but after wearing it for a day or so it softened up a bit.

Urbane Unboxing Pic 4

It came with a number of accessories. Like the LG G Watch R it requires a charging cradle that is powered via a microUSB connector.

Urbane Unboxing Pic 5

The Urbane was one of the first watches to ship with the Andoird Wear 5.1.1 update that allows for such things as talking to the phone over Wi-Fi, but about a day after I got the watch the update was generally available for other devices, including my G Watch R.

Urbane vs. G Watch R

The Urbane is a little smaller, and while I liked the “tick” marks around the outside of the G Watch R, so many watch faces include them due to the popularity of the Moto 360 that I was happy to see them removed on the Urbane (having two sets of tick marks is a little cluttered).

While I still wear the G Watch R if I’m going to be active (i.e. sweating), the Urbane is my go-to wrist accessory. I am constantly getting compliments on it, and I think the biggest problem LG has is that no one has heard of it.

Perhaps this post will help.

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Three

It’s hard to believe that this year’s Dev Jam is half over. It seems to take forever to get here and then it is over too soon.

Lots of cool stuff going on. David Schlenk has written a Java Message Service (JMS) northbounder interface. While targeted at Apache ActiveMQ, it should work with any JMS provider, and it is another great tool to have for the OpenNMS platform.

Christian did a cool little hack using a Blink(1) USB light. If you have a Blink(1) you can plug it into your laptop and then run a little Java app. The app will connect to your OpenNMS instance and then the color will change based on the severity of alarms. Cool.

Dev-Jam Key Blink(1)

I also participated in my first GPG key signing. Jeff organized it to increase our “web of trust” and once I got into it, it was kind of fun.

Dev-Jam Key Signing

He promised cake, and for once the cake wasn’t a lie:

Dev-Jam Key Signing Cake

The cake went well with dinner, which came from the always amazing Brasa:

Dev-Jam Key Brasa

Most of us ate out on the deck. This is the view looking out toward the Mississippi:

Dev-Jam View

While we have held Dev-Jam in locations other than UMN, it has become a lot harder to do so since we get treated so well here. While most attendees have been to previous Dev-Jam events, we always have a few new people, and many of them end up staying off campus in a nearby hotel. There is something about staying in a dorm room that bothers them – perhaps it was a bad experience in college.

So I thought it would be a public service to actually show the rooms we get at Yudof Hall.

Each person at Dev-Jam gets their own room. While these rooms tend to hold at least two students when classes are in session, during the summer they are singles. You get a sink and a little kitchen with a microwave, two burner stove and refrigerator.

Dev-Jam Dorm Kitchen

There is a single bed, desk, an armoire (closet) and a chest of drawers.

Dev-Jam Dorm Bed

You even get to control the temperature in the room. I like mine on the cool side and the air conditioning works quite well.

Each room shares a bathroom with a toilet and a shower with one other person from Dev-Jam. While these rooms might be a little close with two people, they are perfect for one. Plus they are incredibly convenient since the event is held in the downstairs Club Room.

So, if you ever decide to come to Dev-Jam, don’t hesitate to stay on campus.

Linux on the Dell M3800

I am way behind on a number of tech reviews, but I’m hoping to catch up soon. Please bear with me.

Earlier in the year I had a disappointing experience with the new Dell XPS 13 and Linux. It was especially hard because I really loved that hardware – not since my first Powerbook have I felt such an attachment to a laptop. I was happy to learn later that there were kernel-level issues with the hardware that had to be addressed, so it wasn’t just my lack of ability in dealing with Linux.

While that story is not over, I did send it back and decided to check out Dell’s other Ubuntu offering, the powerful M3800.

I dutifully placed an order for the Ubuntu version of the laptop, and since it is much larger than the XPS 13 there were more options. I liked the fact that I could get an SSD as well as a standard HDD, so I chose the 256GB SSD option and a 1TB HDD. I travel a lot and thought it would be cool to carry more media with me while still having a fast primary drive.

The order process was pretty painless. Still not as streamlined as the Apple Store, but not too bad.

Then I waited.

My expected arrival date kept slipping. This went on for several weeks until I got an e-mail that, due to a misconfiguration, my order was canceled.

What?

Considering that the website pretty much walks you through the ordering process and indicates any kind of impossible combination (such as a larger battery and an extra drive, since they can’t both occupy the same space) I was confused and a little torqued off.

After a few days to calm down, I decided to retry the process. It turns out that the “misconfiguration” was due to the extra drive, which was surprising. Order it with Windows? No problem. Check Ubuntu and it fails.

Grrr.

I did some investigation and was led to believe that the M3800 Ubuntu version ships with a vanilla 14.04 install. So I decided to pay the Microsoft tax and order the hardware I wanted, and then to base it and install Ubuntu.

This time the process was much smoother, and the laptop even arrived about a week earlier than they told me it would. It was a pleasant surprise.

The shipping box was a bit dinged up:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 1

But they did a good job of protecting the actual laptop box:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 2

There were actually two boxes, one holding the laptop and one holding accessories:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 3

All in all, it was a decent unboxing experience:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 4

The accessories included the power brick, a restore USB stick and a USB Ethernet adapter.

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Accesories

I liked having the Ethernet adapter since I’ve found installing Linux on a laptop works best when wired. While a lot of modern distros ship the proprietary wireless drivers needed, many times they aren’t enabled during install.

I got the HiDPI touchscreen option (3840×2160) and so I decided to install Linux Mint on it. I figured that if Ubuntu worked on it, I should be able to get Mint to work, and I prefer Cinnamon to Unity, plus Mint handles HiDPI screens much better than Ubuntu. Ubuntu has a scaling factor but it doesn’t really apply across the board, so you end up seeing things like clipped text under icons, etc., and sometimes the selection boxes can be very small. I believe Mint does what Apple does and just doubles everything (i.e. represents system graphics with four pixels instead of one).

This system is screamingly fast (I got the Quad Core 3.3GHz CPU and 16GB of RAM) and the display is solid, but as someone who uses desktops primarily, I wasn’t used to using such a large laptop (although it was quite thin).

Dell M3800 - Mint Login Screen

Mint worked pretty well, but there was a frustrating issue with the clickpad. Sometimes I was unable to select a piece of text on the first try. On a second (or sometimes third attempt) it worked fine, but I could never get the behavior to go away entirely. I have found hints on the Intertoobz that suggest it is a known issue with Cinnamon, so perhaps it will be addressed in 17.2.

My main issue with the unit, outside of the size, was the battery life. I could sit and watch the battery percentage drop, about one percent a minute. This was in light duty mode, such as writing e-mails and browsing the web. While 100 minutes of battery life isn’t terrible, it is less than half of what I am used to.

I took a guess that part of the problem could be in the weird hybrid video controller setup they use. There is both an NVidia card and an Intel card in the unit. I installed bumblebee and that seemed to help some, but it didn’t make the power issue go away.

[Note: as an aside, many thanks to Arch for having such amazing documentation]

Dell M3800 - Mint desktop

Overall, if I was looking for a laptop to replace my desktops, I would have tried to stick with it longer. But the size coupled with the battery issues made me send it back. I was still in love with the XPS 13 so I decided to just wait until they supported Linux on it.

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Two

I should mention that so far the weather in Minnesota has been outstanding. Highs in the low 80s (mid-20s for those of you in the rest of the world) and low humidity.

Too bad I spend most of my time indoors.

When we did our first Dev-Jam back in 2005, we learned a lot. The main issue was that people have different schedules, so being able to come and go whenever was important. That also applies for things like meals. While we strive to be together as a group for dinner (which often involves catering or pizza), everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch. Since we want to cover all the expenses for the conference as part of the conference, we usually find some way to give people money to spend on food and sundries.

At UMN they have something called “Gopher Gold” which allows students to use their access card to buy things on campus. This works really well, but the problem is that if the funds are not used by the time the conference is over, they are gone. This usually resulted in a mad dash to the student store on the last day.

This year I got the idea of getting a custom pre-paid debit card. With the artistic talents of Jessica, we came up with Kiwi Kash:

Dev-Jam Kiwi Kash

So far it has worked out pretty well.

Day Two of Dev-Jam, for me, was spent working with a client. We don’t stop support during this week and I needed to get one of our customers up on Meridian. As it is a migration and not an upgrade, it took a little longer than usual, and we had to do some database optimization which took longer than I would have liked.

Everyone else, however, seemed to be having a lot of fun. Jesse did a presentation on some of the graphics work he’s been doing.

Dev-Jam Jesse Presentation

This includes the OpenNMS integration with Grafana as well as a new library written in Javascript to generate RRDtool-like graphs. This will help us get graphing into Compass as well as other things.

In the evening we all went to see the Minnesota Twins lose to the Chicago White Sox. The Twins are now 1-3 on OpenNMS Project night (sigh).

Dev-Jam Twins Sign

But everyone seemed to have a good time. I spent part of the evening trying to explain the game to the Europeans, and the stranger behind me pointed out I was doing it wrong, but still is was a great night to be outside with friends.

Dev-Jam Twins Gang

2015 Dev-Jam: Day One

Ah, it’s that most wonderful time of the year: Dev Jam. Once again we have gathered at Yudof Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.

Dev-Jam OpenNMS Sign

This year marks the tenth time we’ve gathered together to spend a week hacking on OpenNMS. The first one was held in 2005 at my house, and every year since then (with the exception of 2009) we’ve managed to have another one. I’m being sincere when I say that I look forward to this week almost more than any other.

Plus, I get to wear my “special” Dev-Jam T-shirt:

Kiwis come from T-rex

Our project’s mascot, Ulf, showed up at a Dev-Jam many years ago as a gift from Craig Miskell (who came from New Zealand). That he became our mascot wasn’t intentional, but then again it seems in open source all that is required is to create an environment conducive to great things and great things will happen. This year we have people from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK, all working to make OpenNMS even more awesome.

I wore that shirt as I kicked off this year’s conference. I also got to announce that Dustin Frisch and Jesse White have been inducted into the Order of the Green Polo. It is important to note that both Dustin and Jesse worked with us in the Google Summer of Code project and now are key members of our team. I also got to formally announce that Jesse is now the Chief Technical Officer of The OpenNMS Group. I then turned the meeting over to Seth Leger (our VP of Engineering) and Jesse as Dev-Jam is more about coding than me running my mouth. My main role is to serve as “Julie” the cruise director.

Dev-Jam gives us, as a community, a chance to work:

Dev-Jam work area

and a chance to share:

Dev-Jam Presentation

Here, Umberto talks about his work integrating OpenNMS with Elasticsearch and Kibana (code available on GitHub).

We also get to play. Here, MvR and Jessica are working on modeling Ulf in 3D:

Dev-Jam MvR and Jessica

and DJ and Mike Huot (my co-cruise director) play with a 3D printer:

Dev-Jam 3D Printer

The first day of Dev-Jam seemed to fly by this year. Now that light rail is available from UMN we can travel more easily about the city. In the evening, some of us went to Mall of America while I and others saw Mad Max: Fury Road (which I highly recommend).

Day Two? Minnesota Twins, baby.

2015 SELF – Day Three

After a rather active night on Saturday, Day Three of SELF was more sedate. I took some time to take pictures.

As a sponsor we had a room named after us, which was cool:

SELF OpenNMS Classroom

The project booths/tables were set up in the hallway around the meeting rooms. There was a table staffed by Google:

Google at SELF

and I was able to get a “Google Cardboard” kit which I plan to review a bit later. The Ubuntu folks were there as well:

Ubuntu at SELF

and Spot was there representing Red Hat with his 3D printer. Mini-Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy seemed a popular choice.

Spot at SELF

Overall, while this conference wasn’t as heavily attended as, say, SCaLE, the average knowledge of the attendees was much higher and we had some great conversations. The people who stopped by the booth seemed genuinely interested in learning about OpenNMS versus gathering swag, although we managed to give most of the stuff we brought away.

OpenNMS Booth at SELF

Since we were monitoring the show network, we decided to leave when the number of associated devices dropped below 60, which turned out to be about an hour before the show was supposed to end. I always feel bad if I leave early, but we’ve been pretty slammed lately, so being able to get home a couple of hours early was nice, and now I have next year’s show to look forward to as well.