Europe 2008: Home

Well, I made it home, and after 14 hours of sleep I’m feeling much better.

We flew out of Heathrow Saturday morning with only a half hour delay, and arrived in Raleigh with warm temperatures and fuel prices that had increased 50 cents a gallon while we were gone. They are still a long way from the US$10-US$12 a gallon in Europe, but we’re getting closer.

Some statistics:

Countries visited: Five (Six if you count a layover in Denmark)
Number of days gone: 15
Number of different beds: 11

Planes: 8
Trains: 11
Automobiles: 6
Buses: 6

There were only three flight delays and they were minor, and my bag managed to find me the whole time. We managed a total of four OpenNMS seminars, and I think they were well received.

All in all an amazing trip, but not something I would want to do again unless I could add a day between each country to recover.

Europe 2008: Paris to London

Because of the train strike I rebooked our travel from the train to an airplane from Nice to Paris, and then we took a bus into the city. It dropped us off near the Arc de Triomphe.

Me and the Arc de Triomphe

A friend of mine has a nice flat in Paris in a great location, so we decided to stay there instead of another hotel. It’s really refreshing to be in something that is more like a home than a hotel room, and we were even able to do some laundry. If you want to live like me, you can rent the same place if you are ever in Paris. Be sure to use the “friends and family” rate and say you know me from OpenNMS.

Today we woke up and took the Metro to La Défense, one of the main business centers in Paris.

Victor Hugo Metro stop

As we were waiting for the client to come and meet us in the lobby, I was looking through their annual report. They had revenues of 50 billion euros last year.


When we first started this OpenNMS thing, we thought that the people who would want to use our software would be smaller companies that couldn’t afford OpenView or Tivoli. It turns out it is the large companies that can’t afford them, and they are really drawn to the aspect of zero software licenses as well as the flexible framework that OpenNMS provides.

We’ve done work in France in the past, but this project will definitely increase our involvement in that country, and we hope to have some French-centric resources available soon.

After a nice lunch we returned to the apartment to do some e-mail before heading back on the Metro to Gare du Nord, one of the main train stations (and yes, every time I was on the subway Berlin’s “The Metro” was going through my head). From Gare du Nord we took the Eurostar train to London.

David looking out at the land speeding by.

This train will do 300 km/hour (about 186 mph) and the French landscape just flew by. We were going so fast that the longest trains we passed coming the other way were there and gone in less than 3 seconds. Tunnels bothered me, because I would feel some uncomfortable pressure in my ears every time we went through one due to air compression.

That part was pretty fun, but it took us 2.5 hours from arriving in London to make it to the hotel near Heathrow. I hate Heathrow, and I wish American would go back to Gatwick.

But that’s not gonna happen.

So tomorrow it’s back to the USA. I’ll post a little more over the holiday weekend. Have a great one.

Europe 2008: Scenes from Nissa

[Note: the following post has little if any OpenNMS content, so feel free to skip it if you are not interested in my travels]

On my last day in Nice I actually spent some time visiting around the city. People talk about the luxury of the French Riviera, and they ain’t kidding.

On Thursday it was the perfect temperature (69F/21C) with sun and a nice sea breeze. The coast is very scenic, but the beach is made of rocks instead of the sand I’m used to.

There is also a lot of architecture in Nice. The municipal library is home to the museum of modern art, and there is a huge “blockhead” sculpture outside next to the garden. We were told that you could get up inside it but both the library and the museum were closed when we were there.

Wednesday night we ate at some tourist trap in old town called Le Grand Blue or something like that. I paid €25 for a small plate of chewy, fried calamari. I usually avoid touristy places when I travel. I tend to look for small, local restaurants with lots of people in them. Rarely has that method served me wrong.

Speaking of traveling like me, if you want to come to Nice, book a room at the Little Palace Hotel (I use The hotel is run by a father/daughter team and it’s clean, inexpensive and centrally located. It also has decent free Wi-Fi. Skip the breakfast, though.

To get there, fly into Nice and take the number 99 city bus to Gare de Nice. It’ll run €4 and it will drop you off at the train station. With the station at your back you are looking down the road that leads to the hotel. Cross the street, go to the right and take the stairs down (which will send you back to the left), then head straight for 7-8 easy blocks.

For lunch I ate at McDonalds, making France the tenth country where I have had a Big Mac, Coke and fries. David’s daughter Jess ordered “Le Royale with Cheese” which made me wish I had thought of it first.

While I don’t often shop for souvenirs, I did find a Harley Davidson dealer in Nice and I had to buy a T-shirt with “Harley Davidson” on the front and “The French Riviera” on the back. It inspired me to start a Motorcycle T-shirt for OpenNMS polo shirt trading program.

After sightseeing, Dave and I headed for the airport for the flight to Paris. Just one more plane ride left after that one and I’m home.

Europe 2008: TeleManagement World

The telecom management market is both huge and dominated by a small group of companies. One of our friends at QinetiQ said that the OSS software market was US$70 billion a year, and 60% of that spending was focused on 30 companies.


It’s been an interesting conference, but I have been really unimpressed with the sessions I’ve attended. I’m a geek and very interested in the content, but the speakers have had the most dry and monotone manner of delivery (at least the ones I saw).

While I was dozing in the comfy chair provided for one of these talks, I came up with a vision of this market. I saw it as two enormous sumo wrestlers. One represented the “service provider” companies, and the other represented the “solutions provider” companies. The ring literally became the planet, as many of these companies can comfortably reach across it. I saw them moving slowly around each other, constantly trying to find a better position and to implement a better strategy, and often they would clash together.

Incumbent solutions providers can be almost as big as their customers. The customers would like solutions that are easy to deploy, adapt quickly to changing technology, and interact at a high level. The solutions providers may make a lot of speeches about interactivity, but they thrive on vendor lock-in, as the amounts involved are staggering, and once a client has adopted a solution it is very hard for them to change. This makes them (the solutions providers) very reluctant to implement interfaces that would make it easier for their clients to move to another vendor’s solution.

I think that open source software can play a huge role here. Open source communities tend to be able to react to changing needs more quickly than monolithic commercial companies, and only by having open solutions incorporating the proposed standards will the solutions providers finally step up to support them as well.

But there is a long way to go before that even starts to happen.

David and I are wearing slacks and OpenNMS polo shirts, and we feel underdressed. I would say that 95% of the male attendees are wearing suits and ties. The politics of this event rival the UN, and even the presentations of a technical nature often include a “marketing plan” to get people to adopt the proposed standards. One talk brought up cooperation between the TMF and the DMTF in a fashion that suggested détente.

So it’s been an eye-opening experience if not necessarily a fun one, although I have had some fun and met some great people.

Tomorrow I hope to spend a little time actually wandering around Nice before the flight to Paris.

Tip for Wi-Fi Issues in Europe

While I like our hotel, the Wi-Fi service has been really wonky. Stuff coming down seemed to be fine, but anytime I tried to send data up it would timeout or not go at all.

I had some nagging memory of this happening before, and when I woke up this morning the solution dawned on me. Once while working in England the same thing happened, and it had to do with PPPoE limiting the MTU size to 1492, while the default is 1500 for most ethernet interfaces.

Simply running:

sudo ifconfig en1 mtu 1400

on my Mac fixed my issues completely, so I thought I’d share. This is probably not limited to Europe but that’s where I have seen it before.

Europe 2008: Yeah, But We're *Huge* in Sweden

For the end of the first day of TMW, Nokia Siemens hosted a “networking event” at a medieval castle situated up on the hills that surround Nice.

Unfortunately, they didn’t count on road construction so it was taking the buses over an hour to get there from the convention center. While Craig and I were waiting in line, we had a pretty amazing conversation that went something like this:

Stranger: Excuse me, where did you get that shirt (pointing to Craig’s OpenNMS shirt)

Craig: Oh, I work with the OpenNMS project.

Me: I have one too.

Stranger: Oh wow, I read your blog!

Me: What?

Stranger: I read your blog on OpenNMS.

Me: I don’t believe you.

Stranger: Then let me ask “How are you feeling today?”

Me: Wow.

Seriously, if I thought people actually read this thing I might put a little more effort into it. I don’t really care about things like “hits” and “downloads” as a measure of success, so I really haven’t checked to see if anyone reads it. Perhaps I should, and maybe I should be a little more “politically correct” while I’m at it, too.

Nah. (grin)

Me and Carl doing da gangsta OpenNMS sign, yo

The stranger’s name was Carl, and he and his friend Jan work for a company in Sweden called Tail-f Systems that provides tools for networking device manufacturers to build network management systems to implement the standards required by large enterprises and carriers. The name comes from the Unix command “tail -f” which is a basic method used to monitor logfiles. Cool, huh?

Anyway, we finally made it to the castle and had some decent food surrounded by people in period costumes (shades of the festival in Andilly). There were people on stilts, musicians and “demonstration areas” focused on aspects of medieval life.

I went to one of the demonstration tables and picked up a crossbow. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand the instructions and proceeded to shoot the target in the face (I missed the fact that the other targets were apples). After being corrected by the host of the booth (“you shoot my son!”) my next two shots took out apples, and this was captured by one of the cameramen for TelecomTV. Three for three, not bad for a fat geek with bad eyesight.

More on my thoughts about the conference tomorrow.

Europe 2008: Nice

Nice is nice.

Okay, got that out of my system.

The trip to Nice was uneventful. Our hotel is very comfortable considering the price, and it’s in a great location.

David and I are in Nice for the TeleManagement Forum conference. This is the premier worldwide telecom event, and we are slowly introducing the concept of free and open software to this market. Craig Gallen (OGP) got us involved a couple of years ago, but this is the first time we’ve been able to attend the conference.

One of the dominating management concepts of the TMForum is Next Generation Operational Systems and Software (NGOSS). This defines a large number of interfaces for various management functions to interact. Through Craig’s work OpenNMS includes support for the “quality of service” (QoS) interface, and we’ve completed a proof of concept implementation using it.

It’s also cool to be in a place where I am the customer vs. the vendor.

If any of the three people who read this blog are also here, please drop me a note so we can meet up. I’m here until Thursday afternoon when we head to Paris.

Europe 2008: Geneva

I awoke feeling much better today, but still not 100%. The beauty of the area definitely made things better. If you find yourself in this part of the world consider staying at La Bergerie. Mdm. Chantier speaks French, Italian and English, and her bed and breakfast is in a renovated farm house built in the 1700s. It’s beautiful.

David, Mdm. Chantier and Alex

Alex met us in the morning, and after coffee we headed into Geneva. Swisscom is now in a fancy new building (owned by Dupont) near the airport, and I think it is a much nicer office than the place they used to lease.

We had some meetings about OpenNMS in the morning, and then we met Steve Adams from Linalis for lunch. Linalis is a systems integrator here in Geneva and we are hoping to partner with them to offer OpenNMS solutions.

Lunch was short since Steve had to run to a UNESCO meeting in preparation for LinuxDays coming up later this week. Alex is giving a talk on the tools Swisscom uses, and will include OpenNMS. There is a big push for open source in Switzerland (all of the schools are moving to open source) and so there is also a lot of opportunity here for free and open projects.

I had some free time after lunch, and so I am striving to get caught up. I am disappointed that we won’t meet Berkay Mollamustafaoglu. We were supposed to get together before we head to the airport, but he had a child care issue and had to cancel. Perhaps next time.

Speaking of canceling, I reluctantly canceled our TGV trip across France. There is a train strike on Thursday, so we’re taking a plane to Paris. We are meeting with a large company that did a comparison of 12 projects and has settled on OpenNMS to manage their large network. I’ve never been to Paris so it should be fun.

Europe 2008: Busted flat in Baton Rouge Menthonnex-en-Bornes

Well, my body finally gave up on me. After 8 days and a total of 37 hours of sleep, I just crashed at Alex’s house yesterday.

I was beat and running a fever, so I took 500mg of Bayer aspirin and went to sleep. I’m still not 100%, but today is the last day I have with clients until Friday, so I hope to be able to get back to normal over the next couple of days.

Europe 2008: Geneva, Andilly, and Menthonnex-en-Bornes

Okay, due to the strike in Bergen, after spending about 24 hours there I had to take an eight hour train ride back across the country to Oslo. I arrived at just before midnight (it was still pretty light outside), got about four hours of sleep and then headed back onto the plane.

I had to change planes in Copenhagen, but since I didn’t leave the airport I can’t say I’ve “been” to Denmark, but I did buy breakfast there which resulted in change in Danish kroners (vs. Norwegian kroners vs. Euros vs. British pounds) which brings me across four currencies since leaving the US.

I arrived in Geneva right on time and met up with David (who came from Holland) and we were met by another Alex, Alex Finger.

Alex was born in Germany, works in Switzerland and lives in France, so he is one of the more culturally aware people I’ve ever met. I always tend to learn things around him (as he is also amazingly smart as well).

He took us into France and asked if we wanted food. He suggested a “festival”, and I wasn’t quite sure what that was. I mean, I understand the normal use of the term, but Newton Circus in Singapore is a food court (there are no elephants even) so I didn’t know.

Well, it turns out that it was a festival in the traditional sense, le petit pays performed by Grandes Médiévales d’Andilly. It was a full fledged Mediaeval festival that would have done Mike Huot proud. It had musicians, costumes, food and sword fighting.

Of course, the French came out on top (well, except for the Battle of Agincourt and struggles in that period).

We ate roasted pig (it was okay, but being from North Carolina I take roasted pork seriously) but the scenery was just amazing.

Even though I’m more exhausted than I can remember, I love my job. As a country boy from North Carolina it was amazing to find myself sitting against to a replica of a catapult on the edge of the French Alps on a beautiful day – all due to a little thing called OpenNMS.

More tomorrow.