Framing the Net Neutrality Debate

Sorry for the delay in commenting on this, but I’ve been sick with the flu and I’m just now getting back to normal.

Back on February 26th, the FCC voted to treat the Internet as a utility. As a huge fan of “Net Neutrality” I was cautiously optimistic about this, but I was saddened by the fact that the 3-2 vote was along party lines. With the current dysfunctional US government, I was hoping that something as important as a free and open Internet would not be politicized.

Those who would try to control the Internet for their own agenda were quick to respond. Verizon issued a reply that looked like it was created on an old typewriter, implying that ideas created in 1934 (the law that formed the basis of the FCC decision) couldn’t be useful in a modern world. It’s an informal fallacy – instead of trying to describe why the world would be better off with Verizon in control of the Internet, a much harder proposition, they opted to throw a bunch of rhetoric at the problem.

Those against Net Neutrality are going to try to frame the issue as “anti-capitalist”. The problem is that a key component of free markets is “easy entry and exit”. The idea is that if one company is making a profit, competitors will enter in to the marketplace until the overall profit reaches zero. The problem with utilities such as the Internet, electricity and water is that it is not easy to enter or exit the market, which creates barriers to a truly free marketplace. While I can argue that it is uniquely American for a large corporation to try and protect its unfair advantages, it is also anti-capitalist and government should exist to maintain a level playing field.

No, what Verizon dreams about is becoming the Enron of the Internet. I managed to get my hands on a leaked, new “Venron” logo:

Enron demonstrated the problems when you try to mix in greed with a utility. Due to companies such as Enron exerting undue influence in politics, the decision was made to deregulate the generation of electricity in California. Everyone used the same rhetoric being used in the Net Neutrality debate: free markets are the best for the people and “trust us” – why would we want to hurt our own customers? This resulted in skyrocketing energy prices and rolling blackouts throughout the State.

Internet companies such as Verizon are using those same tactics to build opposition to Net Neutrality. Their pet politicians, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (the State responsible for Enron) have been hard at work trying to tie a free Internet to the idea of “too much government” and you can expect them to compare it to everything from the Affordable Care Act to Climate Change.

We need to respond with the simple mantra that a vote against Net Neutrality is a vote for an “Enron of the Internet”. It’s as easy and straightforward as that. Net Neutrality means that no one company, or cabal of companies, can control the Internet – not even the government. It is a vote for freedom and democracy, and anyone who is against that is against the ideals that created our country in the first place.

Yeah, I know that the Constitution is a really old document (even older than 1934) but it has held up pretty well. Let’s make sure that the opponents of a free Internet aren’t allow to disgrace it as well.

Dell, Rhymes with Fail

Yes, I am a bit frustrated at the moment. This post is something of a plea that someone within the huge organization known as the Dell Computer company has a clue and can help me out. Before you think I’m just a big hater, here is a shot of one of our computer racks:

As you can tell, we do use a lot of Dell hardware (and yes, there is an HP box squeezed in the middle there).

I work hard. As a result of that, I feel I deserve nice things, and what I really want right now is a nice laptop. But I want a laptop that runs Linux well.

I’ve looked at the systems from System76, but I want a higher density screen than they offer. I would look at the new X1 Carbon from Lenovo, but I’m still angry at them for Stoopidfish, and while I plan to wipe any laptop I get from any vendor I still think it will be some time before I can give them money.

No, I like to support Linux-friendly vendors, so I recently ordered the Dell M3800 laptop, Ubuntu edition. I ordered it on February 2nd.

A couple of my three blog readers have contacted me eager for my review, but I wasn’t able to publish it because I have yet to receive the laptop. In fact, it appears my original order has been canceled. Here is the story.

I placed the order on the 2nd, and got an estimated delivery date of the 18th. That would have been perfect as I would have the new machine just before SCaLE. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and my estimated delivery date was pushed out until the 26th.

Well, the 26th came and went with no update from Dell. I finally decided to contact them and I was told they would expedite my case.

This week I was told that “I regret to inform you that we are not able to process the order 769577335 due to configuration mismatch.”

WTF?

You drag me along for a month and then tell me that there is a “configuration mismatch”? Now I have to reorder and go through the whole process again? Plus, there was no “mea culpa” and no offer of, heck, free shipping or an expedited order – just “so sorry, try again”.

Grrrr.

Like an idiot, I decided to try again.

I got to the order page, and that’s when I found out what the magical “configuration mismatch” was. It turns out that you can’t order a Dell M3800 laptop with Ubuntu and a second hard drive.

Seriously.

In the configuration I want, I want a 256GB SSD for the primary drive and a 1TB HDD for the secondary drive. That should make the operating system fast while giving me lots of room for files and git repos on the slower HDD.

But when I check it, I get this error:

Choosing Windows makes it go away.

I was dumbfounded. The issue that kept me from getting my laptop, and it appears the issue that will keep me from getting this laptop at all, it that Dell doesn’t know how to deal with a second hard drive on Ubuntu.

Just to make sure, I did one of those chat-thingies:

Time 	                Details
03/06/2015 10:24:51AM 	Session Started with Agent (Jayant K S)
03/06/2015 10:24:51AM 	Tarus Balog: "."
03/06/2015 10:24:59AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Welcome to Dell US Small Business Chat! My name is Jayant Kumar Singh and I will be your Dell.com Sales Chat Expert. I can be reached at jayant_k_singh@dell.com or via phone at 1-800-289-3355 ext. 4166817. How may I help you today?"
03/06/2015 10:25:07AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Hi Tarus :-)"
03/06/2015 10:25:26AM 	Tarus Balog: "I'm trying to order a Dell M3800 laptop with Ubuntu, but it tells me I can't get a secondary hard drive with Ubuntu, only Windows. Is this true?"
03/06/2015 10:25:52AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am sorry about the inconveinence. Glad you chatted in today, I will try my best to help you"
03/06/2015 10:25:57AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Let me check"
03/06/2015 10:27:17AM 	Tarus Balog: "I get that error"
03/06/2015 10:27:26AM 	Tarus Balog: "and it goes away if I choose Windows"
03/06/2015 10:27:37AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "ok"
03/06/2015 10:29:55AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am working on it please stay connected"
03/06/2015 10:30:14AM 	Tarus Balog: "ok"
03/06/2015 10:32:12AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "how much boot drive space do you need and how much for the second"
03/06/2015 10:33:24AM 	Tarus Balog: "I was going to order a 256GB SSD for primary and 1TD HDD for secondary"
03/06/2015 10:34:12AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Give me 1 Minute"
03/06/2015 10:36:53AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am sorry the second hard drive is not allowed"
03/06/2015 10:37:44AM 	Tarus Balog: "Okay"

My guess is that the Dell provisioning process is so rigid that when it comes to Ubuntu they don’t know how to mount the second drive. This causes the whole thing to fall apart. I don’t know why just mounting it as /data isn’t acceptable, but just when I thought Dell was getting it together when it comes to Linux it appears it is just so much black magic to them.

My hope is that someone from the Dell Linux team will actually see this post and will reply. There is only one thing I really want to know and I have not been able to find out: are there any special PPA’s that ship with the Ubuntu version of the M3800 for drivers, etc. If not, then I’ll buy the Windows version, wipe it and at least have the hardware I want. Yes, it costs me over a $100 more for something I’ll just throw away, but at least I’ll have my laptop issue solved.

This whole process has really soured me on a brand I used to like. My current laptop is the Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu version I bought several years ago and I still like it – I just need more screen real estate. I see now why Apple is able to dominate this market. They always under-promised and over delivered (I never had an Apple order show up late and most showed up a day or more early). I never got some crazy “configuration mismatch” errors when trying to place an order.

And in the few times that Apple made a mistake, they went out of their way to make it better.

SCaLE 13x – Days Two and Three

[Note: Today marks the start of my thirteenth year of blogging about open source. Wow]

Sorry for the delay in getting this post written. We’ve had a couple of bouts of winter weather in North Carolina this week and it has really messed up the schedule. This was quite unlike the beautiful weather we experienced in Los Angeles for SCaLE 13x.

Saturday, Day Two for me, was a long one. The expo floor was open for eight hours so outside of giving my talk and lunch I was pretty much in the booth. I think my talk was well received, but Jeff’s talk later in the day was standing room only. I was told that the talks were being streamed live so I hope to see archived recordings soon.

I missed Jeff’s talk because I was in the booth giving away another set of MC Frontalot CDs. The winner did not want to be identified, so I don’t have a picture.

I didn’t take many pictures that day (we were too busy) but I did get a lot that evening. There was a game night with food and a bar, and that’s where the OpenNMS-sponsored Frontalot show was held.

Before the main festivities, they opened up the room for kids. They had a bunch of games set up. Jess told me that this was “Super Smash Brothers” (I think) at the Mario Kart stage.

About 9:30pm Damian started his set.

I think it was well received – I at least had fun. He hit all of my favorites with the exception of “Critical Hit” and this was the first show I’ve been to that he also had video. For those songs with official videos, those were played, but he’d also arranged some graphics for the others. I thought “Victorian Space Prostitute” worked particularly well, although Jess was the only one I think who recognized all the cosplay.

After the show there was a raffle. Colleen did a lot of the giveaways but since I had to spend the entire weekend in the booth I didn’t get to play (sniff).

I did get a nice picture of another SCaLE organizer, Ilan with his lovely bride:

After the show I ran into Jono Bacon and most of the Bad Voltage crew.

Jono seemed convinced that I looked like George Jetson:

but I think I much more rock the Fred Flintstone:

Comments? I doubt it is as divisive as the color of that dress.

[Note: Does any else remember that short lived show Wait Till Your Father Gets Home? Hanna-Barbera’s The Flinstones was set in the past, and The Jetsons was set in the future, and this was the show for the present. Yes, I’m old]

As the evening wound down I helped Damian get his gear back to the hotel and then we hit the bar in the Hilton. I had met the wonderful Stuart Langridge earlier, so I offered to buy him a drink (and learned that there should be no fruit in beer) and before you knew it we had a nice little crowd in our little corner of the bar. While I love going to conferences for the things I learn, sometimes it is the moments around the conference that create the most memories.

On Sunday I managed to hit the booth right on time (at the ungodly hour of 10am) and then, before you knew it, it was over. The wonderful Cynthia Aguilera was the winner of our third and last set of Frontalot CDs.

After we got everything packed up for the trip home, I just kind of crashed. We ended up watching the Oscars and then going to bed.

Thanks to everyone who made this year’s SCaLE conference awesome, and you can next catch us as April’s POSSCON.

Electronic Program Guide Changes at Schedules Direct

I just noticed that my OpenELEC, Kodi and Tvheadend based DVR was no longer updating the Electronic Program Guide (EPG).

I would get the error:

Service description 'http://docs.tms.tribune.com/tech/tmsdatadirect/schedulesdirect/tvDataDelivery.wsdl' can't be loaded: 500 Can't connect to docs.tms.tribune.com:80 (Connection timed out)

when running the fetch script.

Digging around, I found out the reason is that the Gracenote service is being discontinued and thus some URLs have changed.

I use a script called tv_grab_na_dd from the Debian (wheezy) xmltv-utils package. Version 0.5.63-2 doesn’t appear to use the new URLs. The link above suggests adding:

54.85.117.227  docs.tms.tribune.com webservices.schedulesdirect.tmsdatadirect.com

to /etc/hosts and that worked well for me. Of course, if the IP address for Schedules Direct ever changes it will need to be updated.

It looks like this is fixed in xmltv-utils version 0.5.66.

SCaLE 13x – Day One

Well, technically it was Day Two, but with the launch of the new OpenNMS Group website, our Meridian product, and actually trying to finish up my slides for my SCaLE presentation, it was the first day I actually made it to the show.

I love this show. It was the first real grassroots open source conference I ever attended (at Scale 5x back in 2007) and it was amazing. I haven’t been able to make as many of them as I would have liked (they scheduled one on Valentine’s Day once) but I always welcome the opportunity. This year they can accommodate 3000 attendees and while they haven’t released actual numbers, that is a lot of geeks.

I spent almost all of the day in the expo hall. We introduced the new Horizon/Meridian booth:

which I think turned out well. I also got to wander around and talk with a few of the other projects that are here. One was the Kodi team:

and having used it for several weeks now I think it is an amazing piece of software. I also got to talk briefly with Jeremy Sands, one of the organizers of the SouthEast LinuxFest:

and I should point out that the dates have been set for the conference this year (12-14 June) and the RFP is now open.

My talk at SCaLE is about the changing nature of open source, and it has never been a better time to be involved if you want a job. At most shows I see signs like this:

and there is even a career booth hosted by Disney, of all companies:

We had a nice amount of booth traffic. The OpenNMS shirts went in the first hour (should have brought more) and in honor of MC Frontalot performing on Saturday night, we are giving away signed sets of all six of his CDs.

The Friday winner was Ganeshbaba who registered at the very last minute, but we still have two more sets to give away.

Anyway, if you are at the show be sure to stop by and if you aren’t, well, why the heck aren’t you here?

OpenNMS Horizon 15.0.1 Released

Just a quick note to let everyone know that OpenNMS 15.0.1 has been released. This is the first bug fix release for OpenNMS 15, and if you are running it I strongly suggest you upgrade.

As we are working to complete our transition to Hibernate (which will allow OpenNMS to use any database backend, not just PostgreSQL) we discovered an old issue where, under certain circumstances, duplicate outage records could be created. When this happened under the new code, it would cause an exception and the outages would never be cleared. This has been corrected.

The complete list of changes is as follows:

Bug

  • [NMS-7331] – Outage timeline does not show all outages in timeframe
  • [NMS-7392] – Side-menu layout issues in node resources
  • [NMS-7394] – Outage records are not getting written to the database
  • [NMS-7395] – Overlapping input label in login screen
  • [NMS-7396] – Notifications with asset fields on the message are not working
  • [NMS-7399] – Surveillance box on start page doesn't work
  • [NMS-7403] – Data Collection Logs in wrong file
  • [NMS-7406] – Incorrect Availability information and Outage information
  • [NMS-7409] – Visual issues on the start page
  • [NMS-7423] – Duplicate copies of bootstrap.js are included in our pages
  • [NMS-7425] – Poller: start: Failed to schedule existing interfaces
  • [NMS-7426] – Not monitored services are shown as 100% available on the WebUI
  • [NMS-7427] – The PageSequenceMonitor is broken in OpenNMS 15
  • [NMS-7432] – Normalize the HTTP Host Header with the new HttpClientWrapper
  • [NMS-7433] – Topology UI takes a long to load after login
  • [NMS-7434] – Disabling Notifd crashes webUI
  • [NMS-7435] – The Quick Add Node menu item shouldn't be under the Admin menu
  • [NMS-7437] – The default log level is DEBUG instead of WARN on log4j2.xml
  • [NMS-7452] – CORS filter not working
  • [NMS-7454] – Netscaler systemDef will never match a real Netscaler

Enhancement

  • [NMS-7419] – Read port and authentication user from XMP config
  • [NMS-7438] – Apply the auto-resize feature for the timeline charts

Review: 2015 Dell XPS 13 (9343) Running Linux

In short, it doesn’t run Linux very well. (sigh)

When and if Eric reads this he’s just going to shake his head. For two years in a row now I’ve been lured by the wonders of new laptops announced at CES, and in both years I’ve been disappointed. He tells me I’m stupid for ordering the “new shiny” and expecting it to work, but I refuse to give up my dream.

Luckily this isn’t a huge issue for me since my main machines are desktops, but my second generation Dell XPS 13 “sputnik” is getting a little old. I am really looking forward to a slightly larger screen. The pixel density isn’t great on my laptop, especially compared to what is out now, and I am finding myself a little cramped for screen real estate.

The new XPS 13 is an amazingly beautiful device. I spent over three days trying to get it to work just because it was gorgeous. It had become precious to me.

My precious.

But it was not to be. I first started out with my default desktop, Linux Mint. It installed easily and I was very happy to see that code had been added to deal with the insane size of the screen (3600×1800 pixels). While a few icons were still small (like the reload arrow at the end of the Firefox search bar) most adjusted well, including the icons in the settings window. Great job Cinnamon team.

No, the issue I fought long and hard to fix was the touchpad. Every minute or so it would just freeze:

Feb  1 13:15:48 sting kernel: [ 1746.787178] psmouse serio1: resync failed, issuing reconnect request
Feb  1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.722621] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1
Feb  1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.723734] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1
Feb  1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.724642] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1
Feb  1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.725717] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost sync at byte 1
Feb  1 13:15:52 sting kernel: [ 1750.737756] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 - driver resynced.
Feb  1 13:15:55 sting kernel: [ 1753.855093] psmouse serio1: TouchPad at isa0060/serio1/input0 lost synchronization, throwing 2 bytes away.
Feb  1 13:15:55 sting kernel: [ 1754.361293] psmouse serio1: resync failed, issuing reconnect request

I found a post that discussed changing out the driver which seemed to help, some but I could never get the problem to go completely away. The amazingly helpful Arch Linux folks suggested some workarounds, but nothing helped. I found it ironic that the touch screen worked fine.

I then switched to Ubuntu, thinking that might help. It didn’t, and along the way I lost audio. It seemed the audio device would just disappear. I tried 14.04, 14.10 and the alpha of 15.04. Also, Ubuntu did not handle the resolution well. While I could adjust the settings, it wasn’t done automatically for me like with Cinnamon, and certain things like the settings window remained tiny and somewhat “clipped”.

I went back to Mint and discovered that now I had wonky audio issues there. Sometimes it would be there and other times not. I stayed on 17.1 but updated the kernel to the 3.19 release candidate, but that didn’t help.

The scariest issue was that on occasion the screen would just go blank. It didn’t kill the system, if I was playing a movie file you could still hear the audio (assuming that was working), but no combination of key strokes would bring it back. I did find that closing the screen (to suspend) and reopening it would fix it for awhile, but I don’t necessarily want to have to do that in the middle of an important presentation.

Note: while the system seemed to suspend and resume okay, the power light didn’t blink to let you know it was still on like on the older XPS 13 model.

Now I’m certain that most of this will be corrected in the next few months. The Broadwell chipset is still pretty new, and rumor has it that Dell plans to support Ubuntu 14.04 on this laptop, but they will have a lot of work to do since it seems to require the 3.18+ kernel for most of the new shiny.

In the meantime I returned it and bought an M3800 preloaded with Ubuntu. While it is a bigger laptop than I’m used to, I like supporting Linux-native products and I will at least have the ability to contact Dell with issues should they arise.

I should point out that, while not quite to Apple standards, Dell has been pretty amazing throughout the process of ordering and returning this laptop. While not ready for prime time, if you are in the market in a couple of months for a small, awesome Linux laptop, be sure to check out the XPS 13. But unless you are a masochist like me, you definitely should wait.

Oh, and if any Dell folks should join the ranks of my three readers, I’m more than happy to test any unit you might send my way (grin).

SCaLE 13x – February 2015

We are three weeks away from the Southern California Linux Expo and I am getting really excited about it.

For those of you who are in to OpenNMS then tune in that day because we are making a pretty significant announcement at the show. Be sure to come buy the booth on the expo floor and say “hi” to the team, and both Jeff and I will be speaking (although at least during my talk you probably have better things to go see. For example, have you met our Lord and Savior, Docker?)

We are also incredibly excited that MC Frontalot will be performing. I’m not sure of the exact details but I believe it will be Saturday night.

(Note: I stole that picture from here since I like the fact that he has hair in it, well for certain values of “hair”, and note that link may not be safe for work [nudity])

If you are unfamiliar with his work, be sure to check out his YooToob Channel, and if you are so inclined I strongly recommend reading this well written bit (on Jezebel no less) concerning an issue surrounding a Penny Arcade comic a few years ago that really showcases the type of guy he is. Again, might not be safe for work (language). Be sure to click on the link to the original post for more detail.

If you are still on the fence about SCaLE, perhaps this little nugget will sway you: use Promo Code “ONMS” and get 40% off show registration. It’s cheap at twice the price and one of my favorite events of any year, but we want it to be extra special for 2015.