Moving Out

Thanks to everyone who commented on my pending divorce from Apple, both here and on G+. I’ve decided on aiming to be Apple free by July 4th, 2012, as Apple won’t announce its plans for iOS on Macs until next summer (I’m thinking WWDC) and this should give me plenty of time to get ready for it.

I do want to stress that this is an issue with irreconcilable differences between me and current Apple policies and does not mean that Apple sucks or that you suck for liking your Apple products. People get very attached to their technology choices and from some of the comments on G+ it seemed like people were taking my breakup with Apple a little too personally. I expect Apple to get most of our friends in the divorce.

Here is an incomplete list of things I use on my Mac for which I need replacements, in no particular order. My plan is to implement an immediately embargo on OS X-only software and preferably to find FOSS replacements. Then as I move closer and closer to being Apple-free to switch my desktop and base O/S to Linux. Finally, I want to part from my iPhone.

I’ll be updating this list as well as my #noapple progress over time. I’m moving the list of “solved” alternatives to the bottom.

Time Machine

This one product has saved my butt more times than I can count. The ability to almost completely restore an old Mac image to a new Mac is more amazing than I gave it credit for at first. Part of this can be addressed with disk layout (store all data on one volume and the O/S on another) but I really need a good way to restore a machine from bare metal if I have to.


Another great “under the covers” feature, the keychain stores all of my passwords in an encrypted fashion and other apps can leverage it. Since most of them are for websites, much of the functionality can be had with Firefox, but it would still be nice to have it at an O/S level.

Encrypted Disk Images

Huge privacy nut, especially when Apple refuses to return defective disks they replace under warranty, so I always use FileVault and encrypted disk images for sensitive information. I know there are open source alternatives to this, as I encrypt a volume on my Debian server at home, so this at least should be easy.

I like Apple’s I used Thunderbird many years ago, but it used to crash on me in a very evil manner. But still I think it is the leading open source mail application, so I’m going to give it another shot.


With thunder comes Lightning. Haven’t used it yet.

Address Book

I love the Apple address book, especially the ability to put in pictures of people.


Speaking of pictures, I guess the next big thing to replace will be iPhoto. Not that I use the functionality much, but I do need a simple photo management system. Don’t suggest Picasa, since the Linux version isn’t really maintained. I’ll probably settle on Gallery, which I like for a server based solution.


I like NetNewsWire, but I believe Firefox has a built in RSS reader. I would like something that syncs with Google, since I read my feeds from multiple systems.


I assume xchat is still around. I use Colloquy at the moment.


I use iTerm versus Terminal, and my only requirements are tabs and select to copy.


I don’t use stickies as much as I used to, so I can probably find an easy replacement using a text file.


I tend to use VLC more than Quicktime, so that should be an easy switch as well.


The Gimp is the only real option here, I believe. Time to start climbing that learning curve.


I hear decent things about Rhapsody and Banshee. Any preference?


I love Keynote and the rest of the iWork suite has a simple beauty about it, but I’ve been forcing myself to use OpenOffice/Neooffice/LibreOffice for some time now. Leaning toward LibreOffice but I was having problems printing envelopes last time I tried it, so I’m back to Neooffice for now. Still having issue with how ugly the interface can look compared to Apple (the same graphics rendered under keynote beautifully look pixelated on the others). I am hoping that when I switch to a Linux desktop perhaps that will improve.

Which brings me to the final issue: which Desktop? There are only two real choices, Ubuntu and Fedora. While I think Debian is the most freedom loving of the major distros, squeeze doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with the changes happening there. Jeff likes Fedora, but I think I’m going to start by given Ubuntu a go. Shuttleworth seems to understand Apple and he is trying to bring the Apple experience to the Linux Desktop, so it seems like a great place to start.



Already switched to Firefox and Chrome, so no worries there.


Already an Adium user, so no problems there either, as I can easily just use Pidgin.

Suggestions on app replacements are welcome.

Apple: I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee

Apple my love, we’ve been together many years. You’ve brought a little magic back into my life and made me fall in love with design again, but with your new Lion dress on, I don’t recognize you any more. You are not the company I fell in love with.

It wasn’t love at first sight. When we were both young I was across the hall with my TRS-80 and you were over there with the Apple ][e. You had color, and a lid that just popped off so you could see the magic inside, while I was in drab black and white, with tamper evident screws to keep anyone from opening me without voiding the warranty.

But then we both grew older. In college I saw you again, this time as a Macintosh. What an amazing little machine, and I could put System 6, MacWrite, MacPaint and MacDraw on one 800K floppy disk with a little room left over for files. And that was good – because I couldn’t afford to buy you and needed to borrow you in the computer lab (although by this time, strangely, the PCs I did buy had color).

We parted ways for many years, but then at my local Linux Users Group you showed up again as a Powerbook. And you were running something called OS X. It was the Mac interface crossed with Unix, and what a lovely combination that made.

My business was doing well, so a bought a 12-inch Powerbook the day it was announced. I never looked back. OS X Jaguar was perfect – a great UI and UNIX under the covers. A wonderful marriage of proprietary and free. Through the fink project I could still play with all my old Linux friends but on a sweet piece of hardware. The upgrade to Panther was the easiest O/S upgrade I ever did.

Then you started to change. You brought out the iPod, which was amazing, but then your shifted your gaze away from computers and into mainstream consumer electronics and all the hype and fashion that entailed. Then came the iPhone – a revolution to be sure – but gone were the days when freedom and fashion could play together.

I stuck with you because you made things easy, but at what price? I found myself getting tied tighter and tighter to your world. I couldn’t replace the battery on my iPhone without a lot of hassle, but then you even made that more difficult by adding pentalobe screws. You had to double check and second guess everything. If I wanted to play outside of your sandbox I had to jailbreak my phone and potentially void my warranty. But I overlooked that since a phone is not a computer. I consume information on my phone – I create on my computer.

But you got too greedy. You moved the App Store onto OS X to position yourself to get a cut of every software sale for the platform. You want all music, movies, book and software to come through you, and only you, and you are even suing people for using the term “app store”. What, $76 billion isn’t enough? We all can see the writing on the wall. The lion is the king of the jungle – the top, the chief, the end. The next OS release for the Mac is going to look a whole lot more like iOS than OS X, because then your hegemony will be complete.

Don’t deny it – you’re even locking down the hardware by making it that much harder to do simple things like replace a disk drive. You are so focused on controlling the user experience that you’re stifling play, smothering wonder. Instead of a lust for learning you are replacing it with a lust for consuming. You use to be the outsider, the underdog, now people buy you just because you are cool and fashionable. They think that they can buy happiness, which is the worst part of consumerism.

Hey look – I know you have stockholders to please and if I was driven solely by money I’d be doing the same things you are. But that’s not the Apple I fell in love with. This isn’t the Apple that used to encourage people to look inside the box. You’re more beautiful than ever, but oh so cold.

I feel that if I don’t leave you now, I never will be able to – it’s hard enough already. I’ve grown used to things just working, and working well together, but if the price for that is my creative soul then it’s too high. Plus you have given those in free software a lofty target for which to aim, and several are coming close.

I don’t need you to share my memories. I don’t need you to read a good book. I don’t need you to enjoy a beautiful day outside. You forget that it’s our interactions with people that make memories, not our interactions with things. And you have forgotten that when you let people work together to make things, that’s where real magic happens.

So go play with the cool kids. I’m going in a different direction. I’ll always love you, but more for what you were than what you have become.

Oh, and here’s some dog poop for your shoes.


This year I’ve been doing a talk at conferences this year on marketing an open source business, which is a little recursive, since one way to market open source is to speak at conferences.

The next one will be OSCON in Portland next week. If any of my three readers plans to be there, drop me a note and we’ll be sure to meet up. If you are not coming to the conference but are in the area and want to get together, drop me a note as well. The main nights of the conference (Wednesday and Thursday) are booked, but I’m open Tuesday night if folks want to meet somewhere downtown.

I certainly hope a lot of people show up, as there are eighteen (18!) other talks going on at the same time as mine, including one by Chris Dibona (which always seems to happen to me). That’s insane. But in any case, stop in on Thursday from 13:40 to 14:20 if you are interested.

And I just found out I’ll be speaking at the Ohio LinuxFest in September. I had a blast last time, and I hope to see a lot of old friends and make new ones.

Did I mention there’s a Jeni’s in Columbus?

Chicago Board Options Exchange

I’ve spent this week in Chicago. I love Chicago. I think if I didn’t love living out in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina I’d seriously consider moving here.

It also helps that we seem to have a cluster of OpenNMS customers in the area, mostly in finance. The trip this week was to work for the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

One of the schools I got kicked out of was Harvey Mudd College. A friend of mine from those years was a math major, and after graduation he went to work for a private equity firm as an options trader. It was fascinating to me, and once I spent an hour and a half just staring at the action on the floor of the Pacific Exchange. All the traders wear special jackets identifying who they work for, and all those colors moving around was quite mesmerizing.

But that was over 20 years ago, and options trading has changed a lot since then. The physical trading floor has shrunk and about 95% of trades are completed electronically. The CBOE is the largest options exchange in the US by volume, so you can imagine that information technology plays a key role.

I came up here as part of a Greenlight project to replace a Netview installation, and so far I’ve had a blast. The CBOE team are sharp guys. They had managed to do quite a bit with OpenNMS before bringing me up, and I’ve gotten to focus on cool integration stuff. After several installs, I think I finally have a handle on the black magic that is LDAP authentication, and we did some notification work to create pop-ups on operator screens as well as an integration with BMC Event and Impact Management (BEM).

But despite the fact that Chicago is pretty pleasant in July, I’m looking forward to heading home. I’ve been on the road a lot lately, and it doesn’t show signs of letting up anytime soon. After a week on the farm I’m off to Portland for OSCON. Hope to see some of you there.

Groundwork Survey: "Possible Community Edition Revision"

Okay, I know beating a dead horse isn’t going to make it run any faster, but only 19 months after releasing their last “community edition” it looks like the company known as Groundwork Open Source is, at least considering, maybe, possibly, offering another community edition revision. On the table are considerations that it might not be free and it might not be open source (at least in how I read the survey questions) but I doubt they’ll let anything get in the way of “release early, release often”.

Oh, wait …


So, I am really digging the Google+ thing, but I am worried that it is going to become the time suck monster that Facebook became, and unfortunately, in just days of joining the service it seems I’ve offended my first person.

I live in North Carolina, and one of the people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with is Paul Jones. It’s a little late and I’m tired, so I’ll spare you his list of accomplishments, but let’s just say I’m a fan.

When I saw that he was on G+ (all us cool kids call it “G+” yo), I added him to my circles.

I’m a groovy, hip cat, Daddio.

Now many weeks ago he started an experiment to go entirely without e-mail. Note that he is a technologist and not some guy living off the grid in the hills, so this was a big deal. I wanted to contact him to ask about it, but my default form of contact is e-mail, so that wouldn’t work out so well. I thought about calling him, but I hate phone calls since they are so interrupt driven. Then I thought I could call him up and ask him out to lunch, but my schedule won’t allow it.

Anyway, I never had the chance to talk to him about it until today when I saw him post about it on G+. He was interviewed on a local television station and they posted a 45 second spot on his project. He commented “Kinda covers it” and so I watched it.

I didn’t think it covered it at all. Maybe a nice introduction, but it basically went on for 30 seconds about the fact that people get too much e-mail, and then it had 15 seconds of Paul saying he wasn’t going to use it anymore.

(Note: in looking for links for this post I was reminded of Paul’s article and Q&A. I also found a post from Stormy Peters, another person in my circles, from 2004 on the subject.)

Anyway, with his G+ post, here was my chance to ask him about it. Yay! I wrote a several paragraph reply on how I couldn’t see replacing the workflow I’ve built with e-mail with any social technology, and I ended it with “I think any tool, including social media, can be useful. But I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss e-mail simply because a lot of people don’t know how to use it.”

Note that all the other comments were Twitter-sized attaboys, which while nice to get for the writer, don’t necessarily move the debate forward. But I guess I should have known better than to try to have a thoughtful discussion via the Internet. Paul was obviously miffed, and his reply included the comment “Chill pill time?” which I’m not sure was warranted.

As I have said in the past, I am a huge fan of e-mail. But I spend a lot of time optimizing it. Lately I’ve been able to keep my inbox below 30 most of the time, but that is through a combination of bogofilter and heavy use of procmail rules. Plus I’m a big fan of Bill Jensen’s CLEAR methodology.

I just can’t see any other way that I can provide a better service to my customers using current resources than through e-mail. We support customers around the world in 24 countries (with people in 5 countries), and running their questions through an e-mail based ticketing system is the most cost effective solution. Yeah, I’d love to be like Rackspace and have the ability to answer every phone call within 3 rings, but to do that I’d need to at least double my prices. And we won’t hesitate to pick up the phone when conditions warrant.

In addition to e-mail we use XMPP for instant messaging, and Skype for company meetings like the daily scrum call. So we do use technologies to augment e-mail, but none are set to replace it.

My number one concern is the welfare of my clients. Even above my love of open source my clients come first. If there is a better way to help them I want to know about it.

I haven’t learned anything from noemail that is helpful. Paul did write “My point is that email is unnecessarily at the center of our current communications” to which I can’t disagree, but it’s a little light when it comes to options. He started off his reply with “Almost too much to address here” which is even more frustrating, since if I can’t discuss it on G+, where? Twitter?

I know a number of programmers who severely limit their e-mail use, which I think is cool. In my daily job, however, which can revolve around support, dealing with quotes and invoices, scanning and mailing documents to places like Egypt, e-mail is great and indispensable. Plus it beats the heck out of snail mail.

So, I reach out to you, my three readers, and ask for your opinions on noemail. Is e-mail the new snail mail, as the news program suggests, or is it just that people don’t know how to use it well? How does e-mail play in your daily lives?

And feel free to use more than 140 characters.

UPDATE: Okay, now the story starts to become clearer. Someone on the local WRAL television website posted a lot of rather asinine comments with the username “balog”. That ain’t me, but as I can say without tooting my own horn that I am probably the highest profile Balog in the tech sector around these parts, I can see why Paul would have a huge prejudice against anything I would say as he obviously thought we were one and the same.

Now I definitely owe him lunch and I’m pretty weirded out about this “balog” person.

Hershey Medical Center

One of the best ways to market your company is through customer stories. The downside: getting approval to post something publicly usually takes an extremely long time. We have one customer, a private equity firm, that won’t even let us recognize they exist (we use a code name, even internally).

But since we have great customers it is worth the effort and the wait. Today I was able to post a story from Hershey Medical Center that has been in the works for a year. I just did some consulting for them last week, and we were able to get it finished then.

Dale Meyerhoffer, Senior Network Analyst at HMC, has been a client for over three years now. I must say, that if I were tasked to make up the most flattering customer story I could think of, I’d have a hard time matching this.

We are humbled that he took the time to talk about his OpenNMS experience, and I hope it goes a long way toward removing any doubts people might have about switching.

Google+ – Once More Into the Fray

At the end of last year I closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts. There were a lot of reasons from this, but the two main ones were privacy and wasting time.

So I am not sure why I am so enamored of Google+. The circles feature is definitely cool as it makes it easier for me to group all of the different people with whom I interact (there are close friends, people I know from school, people I know from OpenNMS, etc.) It seems to combine the best of Twitter and Facebook, as people can opt to follow me without being “friends” and I can easily post things I want to be public versus those I want kept private. The only complaint I have is that it would be cool to be able to nest circles (an OpenNMS circle would fit inside an Open Source circle, for example). I know I can check multiple boxes, but conceptually I like the idea of “this appeals to open source people” etc.

Plus, warts and all, I think Google is a much better corporate citizen than Facebook. While I don’t expect them to look out for my privacy, for some reason I think they will be less likely to sell it out to the highest bidder. Google primarily just wants to serve me ads.

I think I can live with that.

How the Other Half Lives

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and a week ago I found myself flying into Harrisburg, PA so that I could visit with our client Hershey Medical Center.

Now I fly pretty exclusively on American Airlines. They tend to be competitive, and since I’ve had elite status with them for years it makes flying a slightly more pleasant experience.

But to get from RDU to MDT on American was over $1100. This is a trip I can drive in 7.5 hours (assuming DC traffic isn’t insane) and I’ve flown to Europe and back for less. Not sure why it is so pricy, but I had to look for alternatives.

I found a Delta flight for a little over $300 and decided to take it. In the interest of full disclosure, even though the plane had “Delta” on it, all four flights were on commuter airlines contracted by Delta, so my review may not reflect on the airline as a whole.

The outbound trip had me connecting through Cincinnati with a nearly four hour layover, so I decided to spend the extra $39 and get a one day access to their lounge.

When I was younger I hated airline lounges. The only time I got to enter them was as a guest of some executive, and I thought the expense wasn’t worth it.

Now that I fly 80K-100K miles per year, I’ve learned to love my airline club. It is just so nice to have a decent place to sit that’s clean and relatively quiet, and in the chance that there is a problem with your plane, the agents in the club are perfectly poised to help correct it. With free Internet usually available, I can even get some work done. Also, by using my company’s BusinessExtrAA points, it’s even free.

So the first thing I did on this trip was check out the Delta club. At RDU, the two clubs are American’s Admirals Club and Delta’s Sky Club. My first impression was that I liked the appearance of the Admirals Club a little better, although the Sky Club was still nice. But Delta won hands down on food.

An Admiral’s club will usually have some sort of salty snack mix, apples and oranges, and cookies (a ginger, a shortbread and a chocolate chip). Occasionally you’ll get veggies and dip, but unless you are in an international first class lounge, that’s it.

Delta had a bit more. What got me excited was that they had hummus …

… in a tube.

During this year I’ve worked hard to drop some weight, and hummus is my go-to snack. It is incredibly hard to eat well while traveling. Delta won my heart with this small gesture. And it wasn’t just Raleigh – the Cincinnati club had it too.

As for the plane trip itself – it was quite pleasant as far as these things go. I was able to board without a problem and the planes were clean and newer than I’m used to on AA. Both my planes heading out were delayed, but it didn’t impact my schedule all that much. On each one I was offered not only a beverage but snacks as well (pretzels, peanuts and cookies). American stopped offering snacks in coach a long time ago, but you can buy them on some flights.

I’m not sure if this is typical of all Delta flights, and it wasn’t so amazing that I will be switching any time soon, but I won’t have a problem choosing Delta should I have to in the future. This month I will pass 1.6 million lifetime miles on AA, and since 2 million gets me lifetime Platinum status it is a goal I want to reach.

After that, who knows. Maybe I’ll switch.