Archive for July, 2012

Digger and the Hugo Awards

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Okay, no OpenNMS or open source content today, but since most free software geeks also like fantasy and science fiction literature I figure this might be of interest to the three people who read this blog.

One of the highest honors a writer of this genre can receive is a Hugo Award. They are given out every year by the World Science Fiction Society at their annual convention. This year I learned that anyone attending the convention can vote for the Hugo Award winners. I thought it was something like the Academy Awards where only other people in the business could vote. I was wrong. Better yet, I learned that by becoming a supporting member, anyone can vote even without attending the convention.

How great is that?

This is important to me, since a friend of mine, Ursula Vernon, has had her graphic novel series Digger nominated in the “Best Graphic Story” category. I think it would be awesome if someone who lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, won a Hugo Award. Plus, her work is pretty fantastic on its own. And if Patrick Rothfuss can pimp out his editor, I can pimp out my friend.

Before I lose more readers with another “TL;DR” post, I just want to encourage anyone with a love of science fiction and fantasy to sign up as a supporting member and to vote. It’s US$50, but you get digital copies of most of the nominated work (DRM-free, and no, don’t ask me for a copy). If you bought just the “Best Novel” nominees it would be way more than fifty bucks, and you get exposed to amazing shorter work that rarely finds a market.

I always like to be an informed voter, so I am making a dedicated effort to read all of the nominees. Well, except for “Best Graphic Story” since my mind’s made up on that one. (Well, and Betsy Wollheim for “Best Editor – Long Form” since I trust Patrick’s judgement)

Digger is about a wombat. Wombats are marsupials native to Australia that dig extensive tunnel systems. The story starts out with our heroine digging (as wombats are wont to do) but she gets lost and emerges in a world both like and unlike her own. In an attempt to find her way back home, she enlists the help of a talking statue of the god Ganesh, unintentionally partners with a childlike shadow being (who gets her out of a couple of tight places involving hyenas) and listens to the prophecies of an oracular slug.

Cool huh?

The comics are available online, but I plan to buy the printed volumes. I am rationing them, one a month (I just ordered Volume 2 from Amazon). Check them out and then remember to vote! I also want to point out that the other nominees involve teams of people – Ursula both writes and illustrates her work – so that should be worth some extra consideration.

As far as the other Hugo Award categories, I’m working my way through the “Best Novel” nominees. The one to beat will be George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons which is the fifth book in the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series. I pre-ordered this and read it the day it came out and I wasn’t disappointed, so while it is a bit cliché it has my vote at the moment.

I just finished Embassytown by China Miéville last night. I enjoyed Kraken, but didn’t like this one as much. It starts off a lot like Stephenson’s Anathem, with a lot of linguistics that don’t make a lot of sense until you just plow through it for fifty pages or so. Unlike Anathem it is much more a book focused on the link between language and thought. Like pizza, when Miéville is good he’s really good and when he’s bad he’s still pretty good, I did enjoy the book and read the second half pretty much in one sitting, but if I am honest with myself I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as A Dance with Dragons.

Tonight I start Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. I’ve never read anything by him but perhaps since he has two middle initials he can give Martin a run for the money. (grin)

UPDATE: Leviathan Wakes is awesome. At the moment it is my choice for the Hugo Award. I read it as non-stop as I could.

In part it was due to the writing style. “James S. A. Corey” is the pen name of a pair of authors, one who worked for George R. R. Martin. There is Martin DNA all over this book. It starts off with a rather brutal and shocking scene, but then they don’t return to it for several hundred pages. Every chapter is written from the point of view of one of the two main characters (although in third person) and most end in cliff hangers which makes you want to read the next one.

I ordered Caliban’s War, the second book in the series, halfway through this one.

Although this may make me sound a little like Harlan Ellison who, in his dotage, seems to be claiming to have written every science fiction story, I find myself making comparisons between any modern space opera that involves genetic mutation with Donaldson’s Gap series, Leviathan brings enough uniqueness and style to the genre that I’m certain I’ll devour the series.

OpenNMS and the Leap Second Bug

Monday, July 9th, 2012

While this may be pretty old news for most, but I figured I’d post something about it anyway.

At midnight the morning of July 1st, an extra second was added to “official time” in order to keep clock in sync with the Earth’s rotation. This had a negative impact on certain machines, especially Linux machines running Java.

Since most OpenNMS installs are on Linux machines and it is written in Java, this could negatively impact OpenNMS performance.

We had one support ticket opened that was caused by this problem. In this case, OpenNMS was being run as a VM guest and it was the host machine that needed to be rebooted in order to clear the problem. The symptoms involved the CPU being pegged at 100% and OpenNMS never starting.

2012 Dev-Jam: Celebrating Community

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

When I became a maintainer of the OpenNMS project over ten years ago, for several months OpenNMS consisted only of me working on a laptop in my attic. One of the things that kept me going were my connections to, at the time, a group of strangers on the OpenNMS IRC channel and on the mailing lists. They kept me going at times when I wondered if anyone really cared about this project. With their help I was able to keep the project going until it could grow, and now I am very happy that OpenNMS is so much more than just one guy.

Moving forward to 2005, the business side of OpenNMS consisted of me, David Hustace and Matt Brozowski. We thought it might be fun to get together with other members of the community in person, and thus Dev-Jam was born. I invited anyone interested to fly out to Pittsboro, NC, to spend the week hacking on OpenNMS, and five people took me up on it: Bill Ayres, Craig Gallen, DJ Gregor, Johan Edstrom and Mike Huot.

It was a great week, and we learned a lot about the best way to get a group of disparate guys together. Everyone has different sleeping schedules, so it would be nice if people could set their own hours. Also, easy access to food would be cool. Finally, lots of bandwidth doesn’t hurt.

For the next Dev-Jam, Mike suggested we hold it at the University of Minnesota. And thus we decended on Yudof Hall.

It worked out so well that we have returned there for five of the seven Dev-Jams. Outside of the first one, we did Georgia Tech one year, and while it was okay it seems that Yudof is our home.

Things have changed a lot since that first Dev-Jam (although four of the original five people came this year as well). We have more money than we had back then, so this year I rented a bus and we all went to see the Twins play baseball. We had great seats in far right field, and while I’ve always pictured us as being in far left field, they worked out well and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

We even got our name up on the Jumbotron.

Photo credit Mike Huot

I had a couple of spare tickets left over, so we invited along some students. Ulf made some new friends.

Photo credit Mike Huot

And that’s pretty much what it’s all about: friendship. We got a lot of code written that week, but my main goal was to increase community involvement in the project. We’ve been lucky as a business that I’ve had such a great talent pool to pull from when hiring, but I worry when I hire a lot of community members that those I’m not paying will feel left out or less inclined to contribute. I really, really want a strong independent OpenNMS Users Group, and to that end I handed out copies of Jono Bacon’s “Art of Community” in hopes it would inspire people to stay involved.

OpenNMS is a great mixing bowl for bringing people together. We had people from seven countries (Canada, France, Italy, Germany, UK, USA, Venezuela). The seven Germans sat next to the one Italian as Italy once again knocked Germany out of a major soccer tournament.

Photo credit Mike Huot

One of our oldest fans, Ronnie Counts, who has been using OpenNMS longer than I have, got to meet one of our youngest developers, Ronny Trommer, or as we call him in this context, Mini-Me.

Another German, Markus Neumann, was awarded the Order of the Green Polo for his work on the code and in building the community, especially in Germany (he’s mentoring two Google Summer of Code students).

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I am already looking forward to next year.

Photo credit Alex Finger