Archive for January, 2011

gov.eg

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

I am writing this from the Air France lounge in the Lisbon airport. In a few hours I should be back in England in preparation for our training next week. I took the time to catch up on the news.

I’ve been following the unrest in Egypt closely. While I have never visited Egypt, I have been to the Middle East a couple of times and I’ve found the people there to be some of the most friendly on the planet. And don’t get me started on the delicious food.

We have commercial customers in Egypt, including the government. I sent out the following note out to them today. I’m not sure if they will receive it, so I wanted to post it here:

Hello.

Working in open source brings together people of all nations and beliefs.

I just wanted to send to you this note that we are all wishing you safety and health during Egypt’s troubles. We sincerely hope that the issues are resolved soon and in a way that provides freedom and prosperity for all.

We are thinking of you in our prayers.

opensource.com on Flickr

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I’m a big fan of the opensource.com website. Turns out they have a flickr account now, and Ben has posted the first picture – a scene from our office.

First!

Congratulations, Dr.Craig Gallen

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Yesterday I did a post about community. Quite seriously, without our community, OpenNMS would not exist. Unlike most applications, our target audience is rather small. We are aiming to replace bloated and expensive software suites like HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli, and that means we target large enterprises and carriers. Without our core community we would have little insight into what those target markets actually need.

I started my adult professional career at Northern Telecom. While communications technology has definitely converged (data is data, whether it is voice, data or video) the telecom and datacom cultures have not changed very much.

I can remember when a company I worked for installed a VoIP switch. Every day an e-mail was sent out announcing a time frame for the daily outage to reboot the system.

I can remember thinking, what? A voice outage? Unheard of.

In the highly regulated world of telecom, outages were unacceptable. I worked in E911 code, the emergency services number in the US. E911 outages were reportable to the FCC. Everything except the line card was redundant, and having to totally reboot a device was an extremely rare event.

Even now that telecom is much more aligned with datacom, traditional telecom companies have a different way of doing things. They are slower to change and much more conservative. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is different from the open source way of “release early, release often”. Yet this is an industry that can benefit greatly from open source, especially in the realm of open protocols and libraries.

Helping OpenNMS navigate that world is Dr. Craig Gallen. Since 2004, he has been our link to the influential TeleManagement Forum and he is now the founder of Entimoss, an OpenNMS partner in the UK. Craig has spent years proving that open source projects, such as OpenNMS, can play a role in what has traditionally been a closed and proprietary environment.

Just before Christmas, I received a letter from Aileen Smith, Senior Vice President in charge of Member Collaboration at the TMForum:

We would like to thank you for OpenNMS’ contribution to the TM Forum’s collaboration program, and in particular the participation of Craig Gallen.

In his role as co-leader of the TIP Shared Interface Infrastructure work, Craig has championed the cause of open source implementation libraries within the TM Forum and provided critical expertise and leadership.

Craig has acted as Architect of the JOSIF build & test system, and he has also architected the framework for the generation of skeleton Java RI and CTK code.

His commitment to the project is also evident as he undertakes the site maintainer role for the SII project and has given many training & webinar sessions to promote the product. In addition to his TIP activities Craig has been a contributor to and participant in the Cloud Service Broker Catalyst in Nice and Orlando.

Thank you for providing him the time to do this valuable work! Wishing you and your team a Happy Holiday and we look forward to working with Craig through 2011.

That letter has been sitting in my Inbox waiting for me to blog about it, but something happened that moved it to the top of the pile.

Outside of a number of yearly conferences held around the world, the TMForum hosts two “Team Action Weeks” each year. One is usually in Europe and one in the US. Last week, while Craig was in Paris for this event, he was awarded an Outstanding Contributor Award.

Craig is the first person on the left in this photo. (Photo credit TMForum)

Craig received this award:

… for outstanding performance and lasting contribution as
co-chair and champion of the Shared Interface Infrastructure tooling team for over 2 years. This team has released version 1.0 of the tooling, which automates and speeds up the development of interfaces. Craig has played an instrumental role in this program in relation to managing the Open Source site, configuration management, coding and more. He is currently focused on code development for the automated generation of the skeleton RI & CTK. This program will be key to the successful delivery of a number of new interfaces in 2011. Craig also participated in the Cloud Service Broker Catalyst at Management World Americas, which demonstrated how to simplify the delivery of complex cloud services to enterprise customers.

Awesome. His years of hard work are starting to pay off, and slowly but surely we are introducing open source into the world of telecom.

Congrats, Craig, and thanks again for your contribution.

“Beating” the OpenNMS Community

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

It was brought to my attention today that Nick Yeates, the new Community Manager at Zenoss, posted a “Lets [sic] Beat the OpenNMS Community” note to the Zenoss forums.

If you’ll remember, a few days ago I posted a notice about the annual LinuxQuestions poll, which included:

If you’re feelin’ the OpenNMS love, please vote. Since OpenNMS appeals to a much smaller, power user class of people than many system and network admins, we rarely win these things, but it is nice to be included in the poll.

Nothing too fancy. Nagios always wins these type of polls anyway (followed closely by MRTG and Cacti) and I wasn’t expecting much, and I even said so in announcing it.

So I found it amusing that a company with US$25 million in venture capital decided to call us out on this particular poll. I mean, if they are feeling threatened by a bunch of guys with no marketing budget, no VC and the backing of a small (yet profitable) company, there is no way they could stand up to an HP or IBM. Ethan Galstad must have them quaking in their shoes, not to mention my buddies over at Zabbix.

It wasn’t the BOSSIE. It wasn’t TechTarget. It was LinuxQuestions.

I wasn’t going to say anything at all, but then the phrase “OpenNMS Community” started to bother me. You are trying to beat my community? Not me personally, or the OGP or the OpenNMS Group, but the OpenNMS community as a whole?

First off, you can’t beat our community. I have never had the privilege of working with a better group of people. These are busy professionals, usually at the top of their field, who care enough to take the time to further our project.

Second, they tend to be too busy to register for polls like this, or care about the results.

Third, while I have serious differences with Zenoss, Inc. calling themselves an open source company, I would never attack the Zenoss community. Time after time I’ve stated that the best software is software that works for you, be it Zenoss, or Nagios, or Solarwinds or Tivoli or, yes, OpenNMS. If using Zenoss gets more people involved in the “open way” then this is a “Good Thing” and I’ll be damned if I’m going to discourage it.

I don’t know what’s happening over in Zenoss-land, but the departures of Mark Hinkle and Matt Ray have obviously left a void.

Global Entry and the Scourge of Saline

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I’m on the road again, spending some time in Europe. I’m writing this from Lisbon, where am I awaiting the arrival of Alex Finger (OGP) so we can go out and get dinner.

Getting here, however, was a bit of an adventure, for at least part of the trip.

For the best fare I was routed through JFK. In fact, I had a 4 hour layover at JFK, which isn’t always pleasant. However, the times I’ve flown through that airport with short connections have been the only times my luggage was delayed, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

What it did allow me to do was have enough time to schedule the interview portion of my Global Entry application process. If you haven’t heard of it, Global Entry is an awesome program run by the US Customs department to allow frequent travelers to bypass some of the more tedious portions of immigration and customs.

You pay $100 and fill out an application. Once your application is approved, you have to schedule an in-person interview at a major airport. My home airport, RDU, is not yet part of the program but I hope one day it will be. The interview was pleasant and short, and it was mainly for the purpose of gathering a nice collection of my fingerprints.

Here’s how it works:

Instead of standing in line to get through immigration and customs, you walk up to a Global Entry kiosk and scan your passport. You will then be asked to place your fingers on another scanner. If everything matches what the system expects, you answer a few onscreen questions and you get a little ticket that lets you bypass both the immigration line and customs (assuming, of course, you have nothing to declare).

It’s valid for five years. If you travel out of the country more than once or twice a year, I think it’s worth it.

The hope is that this program will be extended to cover TSA screenings as well. I can only hope that it will help alleviate some of the insanity currently involved in that aspect of air travel.

(on a side note, I’d like to point out that the backscatter machines at both RDU and JFK were off when I went through. Good for me, but you have to wonder where all that money went for such a “critical” need).

Once my interview was over, I killed some time watching Buffy (man, Season 2 ends on a bummer) and then boarded the nearly empty plane.

Now American Airlines flies into Terminal 3 at Heathrow, and I almost always change to Terminal 5 for my continental connection on British Airways. Turns out that the Portugal BA flight leaves from Terminal 3, so I had to take the bus back.

So here I am, back at Terminal 3, not in the best mood, and going through security. I’ve got my routine down pat: laptop out, “3-1-1″ bag out, jacket and belt off, all electronics in my briefcase, etc.

One of the agents looks at my liquids and notices that I have a four ounce bottle in there. It’s a special no-additive, no-preservative saline solution that I need since I am older and my eyes are very sensitive to the preservatives in normal saline. I can only buy it from my eye doctor, and it doesn’t come in any smaller size. Because I am putting the liquid in my eye, it has to be extremely sterile, so it wouldn’t do to move it to another bottle.

He points out that my bottle is over the 100ml limit. Now, as I mentioned, I travel a lot, but I’ve never had a problem with this particular issue. I travel to places like Dubai, Damascus, Bangkok – places where terrorism is a much higher threat than in the US or the UK and they never have a problem with my saline, and most of the time they don’t even mention it.

So I explain, calmly and rationally, that I have very sensitive eyes and I can’t use normal saline. I have to buy this from the doctor directly, etc. etc.

He points out, again, that it is over the limit. I said, again and calmly, that I realize this, but I have no other option and no one else has complained in over 200,000 miles of flying with said bottle. He mutters under his breath that “they all say that” and I so wanted to scream “Yes! You caught us! The worldwide conspiracy of saline smugglers!”

I am taken over to the “supervisor” – a rather homely, overweight woman who I couldn’t help but imagine was the one the teacher called on in school to take names when she left the room. Note that I don’t usually stoop to pointing out physical imperfections in people (because God knows I got a lot of them), but in this case I feel it is necessary to fully paint the picture of what I was dealing with. Let me also point out that during this entire process she never saw fit to rise from her chair.

I repeated my litany about the saline to her, seriously expecting to be let through.

No such luck.

She explains to me that I can go to the pharmacy, buy an empty 100ml bottle, come back through security and transfer the contents. I point out the flaw in that plan is that it must be completely sterile or the whole process is pointless. I would have done it, like I do with my shampoo, etc., except for this issue. She says that is my only option.

So I ask that if the extra 18ml of salt water makes it dangerous for me to fly, can I pour out an amount of salt water to her satisfaction that I won’t be endangering my life or the lives of my fellow passengers? She says, no, the bottle has to be less than 100ml.

Wanting to see how far I can take this, I then ask for clarification: you are telling me that it is not the amount of liquid or even the type of liquid but the size of the bottle? She says “yes”. With the most puzzled expression I can muster I point out that the size of the bottle, unless the bottle itself were made of explosive, should have no bearing on safety.

Her reply is that larger bottles can be used for “mixing”? Ahah! I point out that if I needed a bottle to mix my explosive I could simply buy some water in the terminal and pour it out. With her last defense now destroyed in the crushing grip of reason, she’ll have no option but to let me through with my saline.

Didn’t happen. I left without my bottle.

What really bothers me about this whole situation is that these are the people who are our first line of defense against terrorists. Yet they are so consumed with minutiae such as bottle sizes that they wouldn’t be able to catch a terrorist short of having one walk up wearing an “I’m A Terrorist” t-shirt and carrying a 118ml bottle of liquid. We need them to be able to think on their own and make their own judgement calls, but with people like this woman in a position of power that is very, very unlikely.

Plus, this crack team totally missed the Burt’s Bees hand cream and chapstick I stuck in the pocket on the side of my bag, and the more than four ounces of gel that I have in the humidifier for my guitar. But, by God, the world is a safer place because my saline bottle didn’t make it through.

This saddens me, because the Brits used to be extremely sane about airport security.

I went to Boots and bought some saline that I hope doesn’t ruin my eyes, and David is coming in a week to help me teach the OpenNMS course and he can bring me another bottle of the stuff I need.

And I can only assume, in some subterranean vault of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, lies my 4oz bottle of salt water – safely unable to wreck the havoc on society that such liquid has been known to cause.

It’s crap like this that really makes me want to stop flying.