Archive for the 'Conferences' Category

Conferences? We Got Yer Conferences

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

This is my “oh” face

as in “Oh how awesome is All Things Open”.

Last year was the first edition of the All Things Open conference in Raleigh, NC. I was very happy that we could be a sponsor, and the above picture was taken during my talk.

We ended up with about 50% more people than were expected, and the keynotes were standing room only. It was really cool to see such a turnout, especially since it sort of validates the Raleigh area as a center for open source excellence.

This year we will have a booth where you can come by, get some OpenNMS swag, and hear about the pending release of OpenNMS 14 (yes, fourteen) which is only a few days away.

Now, “oh” could also mean “oh-hi-oh” as in the Ohio LinuxFest. Directly after All Things Open, the Ohio LinuxFest will be held in downtown Columbus this weekend. This has been one of my favorite open source conferences, and it looks like this year is going to be no exception.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to make either of those shows due to another commitment. But if you want to see my “oh” face in person, come to the “Oh Ess Em Cee” conference in November.

Last year all three conferences were held the same week, which was very disappointing for me as it was hard to choose which to attend. This year the Open Source Monitoring Conference was pushed out a month and will be held in N├╝rnberg, Germany, 18-20 November. While mainly thought of as an Icinga and Nagios conference, the organizers have been very inviting of other projects. We have had a presence there for the last couple of years, but I have only personally been once and it was amazing. So many people sign up that they are able to pretty much rent out an entire hotel, so while the conference is always good it is the conversations outside of the presentations that are the most enjoyable.

I’ll be giving a talk on OpenNMS (‘natch) as well as getting up to speed on what else is going on in the monitoring world.

I hope you can make at least one of these shows. You won’t regret it.

OpenNMS-based App Wins Digital Jersey Hackathon

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

I was delighted to find out that an Android app using OpenNMS as the backend won the “Best App” prize at the first ever Jersey Hackathon.

Note: This is Jersey as in the island and not Jersey as in New.

The Open Alert “Man on Site” app is a small Android application that is designed to track the activities of people working alone at a remote site. From the wiki:

When activated this reports the location of the phone on a regular basis back to a central OpenNMS server. OpenNMS is configured to plot the current location and status of the device on a geographical map (Open Streetmap).

The App has four buttons;

Start Job – This is pressed by the worker when they start lone working on site. This starts a timer in the local App and on OpenNMS. The local timer will generate an alarm on the local device if the user forgets to report in after a set time.

Report In – This must be pressed when prompted by the local timer. If it is pressed both the timer in OpenNMS and the local device will be reset. If it isn’t pressed then OpenNMS will escalate the ‘Man on site’ event to the next level of severity and notify the OpenNMS operator that there is a problem. (Obviously the local timer should be set to 5-10 minutes less than the OpenNMS time out.) OpenNMS will keep escalating the alarm until it is signalled as critical. If the alarm is escalated, then there should be manual processes in place to contact the worker by other means or send someone else to site to make sure they are OK.

Finish Job – This should be pressed when the worker leaves site. The man on site alarm is cleared in OpenNMS and no further escalation takes place.

Panic – If the panic button is pressed, an immediate critical alarm is created in OpenNMS indicating that the worker on site is in trouble and needs help.

OpenNMS maintains a log of all of the movements of the user and also of the time of starting work / stopping work / panic events which could be important for triage if an incident happens.

Congratulations to the authors, Craig Gallen and Mark Wharton, who created this during the 48 hours of the Hackathon. We built OpenNMS to be a platform and not just an application and this is one example of what can be created leveraging it.

More information can be found on the UK OpenNMS Site and the code is available on Github.

OpenNMS in Dublin

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I’ve been to 34 countries so far, and my goal is to hit 50 by the time I’m 50 (which is closer than I’d like). In all that time I’ve managed to miss Ireland, but that is about to change.

Airspeed Telecom is hosting a workshop next Wednesday, October 8th, at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin, described as “probably the hippest & coolest luxury hotel in Dublin city centre”.

That’s just how we roll.

The workshop will feature a case study by Airspeed, as well as a futures roadmap presentation by Dr. Craig Gallen and David Hustace.

Oh, and I’ll be there, too.

If you can make it, please email Liz at

OSCON 2014: Is Open Source Dead?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

After visiting OSCON this year, I have to ask myself: is open source dead?

I don’t mean open source software. Software published under licenses approved by the OSI is booming. What I mean is the ideal of open source software, that people would get together to build collaborative applications that would be given away for free.

I’ve never been a fan of software in an of itself. I’ve always looked toward software for what it can allow me to do. I don’t care about spreadsheets unless they help me manage my company. I don’t care about word processors beyond their ability to allow me to express my thoughts. Even games can be judged on how well they allow me to escape into them. So I don’t see “software” as a product – it’s the thing that helps me make the product.

It seems that open source applications have all but disappeared. What’s doing very well are open source libraries and languages that allow people to build proprietary products. Take a look at the biggest sponsors of OSCON. There’s Bluehost, a hosting provider “built on open source technologies”. There’s Paypal, “using open source foundations in their technology stacks”. The list continues: Citrix, Google, HP, Github, Microsoft and Rackspace. Of all of those, only Github strikes me as an open source company. The others are using open source technologies but to build closed products. The “open” has come to mean “open protocols” more than “open source”.

Is this a bad thing? I really don’t know.

If you look at the sponsor page, you’ll see “We’re Hiring” banners next to the names of many of the companies. Being fluent in open source technologies is a good way to get a job, and seems to be the primary reason many of the companies were there in the first place.

The only large truly open source company I know of, Red Hat, was there, but in a little bitty booth. There are still a lot of “open core” companies represented: those companies that provide a feature limited version of their products under an open source license but charge for the full featured one. While I think this is a bad thing, they seem to be doing well.

Is it because no one cares anymore? This saddens me.

There seems to be a lack of concern about the lock-in that comes with proprietary software, even more so than in years past. There is a huge gold rush to provide software as a service (SaaS) offerings, but no one is caring about security or portability. A lot of the business models of these SaaS companies directly involves analytics of their users. Was anyone in the tech world really surprised when it was revealed that Facebook was experimenting on its user base? Yet people seem to be in a rush to turn over their most important information to third parties. Even at OSCON, the premier open source conference, most of the people wandered around with Macbooks and iPhones.

So, open source is really succeeding in core technologies such as libraries and languages but fails at the end user application level. I think part of it is the lack of a good business model. People are more than willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for software licenses but are loathe to pay for an open source support contract. I also think that it fails when it comes to usability. Without the business model, there just aren’t the resources available to make a lot of the software accessible to the casual technical user and much less to the Muggles. Heck, even Apple, which did such a good job with Time Machine, has pretty much moved backup from the user space to iCloud.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on open source. I still use a Linux Mint desktop and an Android phone running OmniROM. Almost all of the software I use is open source, but even I have to admit that in many cases the stuff I use isn’t ready for the basic user. But I may have to rethink my relationship to the term “open source”.

This post may sound like I’m really down, but I’m not. I’m actually kind of upbeat overall. And I really enjoyed the short amount of time I spent at OSCON. While not as open source-y as I might like, this is one of the few times a year I can be assured of running into a lot of cool people I’ve met over the years. When I arrived at the exhibit hall, I made a beeline for the unfashionable booths in the back and toward the left known as the “Nonprofit Pavilion” or as I like to call it, the “Geek Ghetto”. It’s pretty cool that some commercial shows like this offer free booths, but one must realize that they don’t include things like carpet padding, power or Internet access. I know a couple of projects that got booths next to each other so they could share.

The first booth I stopped at was the Software Freedom Conservancy booth where I got to see Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler for the first time in over a year, and I got to meet Marc Delisle, the maintainer of phpMyAdmin. They seem to be doing well and the list of Conservancy projects keeps growing. While I was there, open source guru Stormy Peters stopped by, as well as Deb Nicholson from the Open Invention Network.

I also was happy to see the LibreOffice booth. That is one project that really does try to do a fully open source application and they seem to be succeeding (I use it every day). Back when I was a Mac user I started using Keynote and Pages until I realized that the stuff I was creating was going to be tied to Apple forever. To my knowledge none of the Microsoft Office or iWork stuff support an open format, but maybe that will change now that the UK government has formally adopted ODF as their standard.

While interest in open source applications is waning, it is fun to see the open source spirit is still alive in projects other than software. I met Kevin from Free Geek, a non-profit that started in Portland but has grown to over ten other cities. Free Geek recycles technology and provides training for a variety of disciplines including computer hardware, software and even lock picking (who knows when you’ll get locked out of the server closet).

Something I don’t believe they had at OSCON last time was an “open hardware” section. I got to play with a beagleboard which is used by Prof. Thomas Bewley in his robotics classes as UCSD. I’m kind of jealous at all the new toys college students get to play with these days, for credit even.

One project is to create a balancing, two-wheeled robot. The one I played with was managed with a radio controller, and it was quite robust, even when I purposely drove it into other things (people, other robots).

On the opposite corner of the hall from the Geek Ghetto were the booths of some of the smaller open source projects with more commercial backing. The Red Hat booth was over there, and it was nice to run into Greg DeKoenigsberg at the Anisible booth. I met Greg when he was at Red Hat and it was also nice to see a local face (he’s nearby in Durham). Anisible seems to be a pretty cool project and I loved the tweet from an emphatic user who said “If a vegan, Crossfit, Anisible enthusiast meets you, what do they talk about first?”.

Speaking of meeting people, I got to chat with Erica Brescia over at the Bitnami booth, and later on ran into Jono Bacon and Stephen Walli. We ended up at Baileys along with Chris Aniszczyk from Twitter and some others, but as they say, what happens in Portland stays in Portland, so no pictures.

Plus, you really, really don’t want to know about that evening’s particular discussion. Ah, good times.

2014 OpenNMS Users Conference

Monday, March 10th, 2014

There is less than month to go before the biggest OpenNMS user event of the year. The OpenNMS user conference will be held 8-11 April at the University of Southampton in the UK.

I just got back from a week in the area and I’d thought I’d share some of my favorite things about it. First of all, I got to see two UK OGP members, Craig Gallen and Jonathan Sartin, who will both be at the conference.

Craig got his doctorate at the University, and he has arranged for us to have access to some pretty nice facilities. I wanted to take pictures but class was in session at the time, but basically we have access to one large, auditorium style classroom and several smaller classrooms, all connected by a common area that we can use for chatting, coffee, etc. We have access to accommodation in a nearby dormitory as well, which should make getting around pretty easy. There is a cafeteria/restaurant next to the building with the classrooms where we’ll have meals.

While some people criticize English cuisine, I do have my favorites and I look forward to having them again this trip. This last trip I stayed with some friends in nearby Lyndhurst, and on Sunday they rolled out the “full english“:

Okay, so it’s missing the black pudding, but I tend not to eat that anyway. I also have a fondness for “bangers and mash“:

But of course this conference isn’t all about food. Many of the developers will be there as well as numerous customers who will tell how they get the most out of OpenNMS. Jeff and I will be teaching a “boot camp” training course on OpenNMS for the first two days, but the main event will happen the last two days when the presentations start. David will be giving a keynote on the “new shiny” coming in 1.14 as well as an update on 2.0. Our newest hire, Ken, will be discussing what he learned running a huge instance of OpenNMS for the government of the state of Oregon. Eric, Mr. NoSQL, will present his work on the Cassandra backend to replace RRDtool for highly scalable performance data storage. Antonio will talk about the new features in Linkd.

But the sessions I will be attending are those by OpenNMS users that are part presentation/part case study. Markus will discuss a configuration done for a large company in Sweden that enabled category-base thresholds. Mike and Ron are going to talk about how they use OpenNMS to import odd but useful data into the system. Ian is going to discuss BGP monitoring.

And, while I can’t imagine that isn’t enough to get you interested, remember that other half of English cuisine, the beer:

I’m sure there will be lots of that. (grin)

Southampton itself is an interesting town. A major sea port, this is the port from which the Titanic set sail (slogan: when she left here she was whole). Craig took me to a museum dedicated to the port in the general and specifically the Titanic. It was pretty nice, except that someone needs to pay attention to their Adobe Air version:

If you want to spend the weekend after exploring the area, you can’t walk ten feet without tripping over something of historical significance. I got to visit Minstead, which is the final resting place for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

I also got to see “Satan’s Roundabout” up in Hemel Hempstead. This is a traffic circle with several little traffic circles hung off of it (in all fairness the locals call it the “Magic Roundabout“). It was weird to be driving the “right” way around it, which is actually wrong, and it made it even harder than usual for me to keep from getting run over by looking in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic.

And of course, if you get homesick for a taste of home, there is always Papa Johns:

So if you’ve been on the fence about coming to the conference, I hope I’ve convinced you that it will be both valuable and fun. I can guarantee you’ll learn how to get more value out of your OpenNMS instance than it costs to attend. Registration is still open and I hope to see you there.