Archive for August, 2012

The Centurylink Amateurs Are At It Again

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Hey, #centurylink, if you want to play with the big boys, you are going to have to invest in qualified people. Not people who take out business networks for hours at a time.

I was looking forward to starting my Labor Day vacation a little early today, but that’s not going to happen. About 2am this morning Centurylink made some changes to their network (both my home DSL circuit and my father’s, who lives an hour away, got new DHCP address) and the network at the office went down completely.

When I called, the automated voice told me that they were aware of the outage and that it would be fixed by 4pm.

Now:

a) in what universe is a business class circuit allowed to have a 14 hour outage?

b) who does a major network change on a Friday?

c) who does a major network change on a Friday before a major holiday?

d) If you can’t plan an outage, including disaster recovery, to last less than an hour or two, get out of the business.

This was on top of a routing loop last week that almost cost me a major customer (since we had a demo planned and couldn’t reach the server we needed).

I waited a couple of hours and then decided I wanted to vent. So I called Centurylink back. I didn’t expect it to get anything fixed faster but I figured I’d at least get a “mea culpa” and a little “we screwed up – sorry”.

The monkey in first level who answered the call not only did not apologize, but seemed to act if 14 hour outages were normal. When I explained to him that my business depends on that circuit and in fact we’d flown a guy up from Atlanta in order to work today (but that couldn’t happen from the office, now could it) he dismissed my concerns with “well, it’s an area outage, not just your circuit”.

I then pointed out that my home DSL line was fine, and since I live 10 miles from the office it obviously wasn’t an “area outage”. His suggestion? We needed to upgrade to a T1.

A T1? Was is this, 1993?

When I pointed out that a T1 was only 1.544 Mbps he told me I was wrong, that it was much faster than the 10 Mbps I was getting now. I suggested that there might be some sort of technology one could run over a T1 that would result in higher realized speeds (i.e. DSL over a T1 versus a POTS line) and that must be what he was referring to, he continued to insist that a T1 was much faster.

(sigh)

I then asked to speak to a manager, and was told I couldn’t but that the monkey would be happy to relay any concerns I had.

I’m going to do it myself after the Time Warner guy gets back to me with my new office circuit. I recommend that anyone running a business that depends on Internet access stay as far as possible away from Centurylink, and that probably goes for voice service as well considering the level of customer support they find acceptable.

Ohio Linuxfest and MC Frontalot

Monday, August 27th, 2012

I have been on a forced hiatus from conferences this year. I love going to them, but they do take up a lot of time and I wanted to focus as much as I could this year on the OpenNMS business.

However, last year I missed the Ohio Linuxfest due to illness, so I wanted to go back this year. We usually sponsor the show, and when I was talking to Robert Ball about doing it again this year, he asked me about ideas for entertainment for the after party on Saturday night.

I suggested we get MC Frontalot.

A few weeks and several e-mails later, I can confirm that the musical stylings of Damian Hess will descend on Columbus for one night only. As a fan I’m pretty excited, and I was happy that we could get him to come to the show.

Note that his show is only open to attendees of the conference, for which admission is free, but the party costs money and is limited to 350 people (the maximum occupancy of the venue).

If you have been on the fence about coming to the OLF this year, perhaps the chance the see MC Frontalot is enough to change your mind. If you’ve never heard of him before, chances are that if you are reading my blog you’ll like him – a lot.

Plus, I’m giving a talk in the new users track about switching to Linux from Apple products if MC Frontalot isn’t enough to get you there.

OpenNMS, CSECS 2012 and VMWare Monitoring

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

A rather delayed post to let people know that Ronny Trommer did a presentation at this year’s Computer Science and Education in Computer Science conference on the work that he and Christian Pape are doing to add a very powerful monitoring feature to OpenNMS focused on VMWare’s vSphere.

I’ve also included a link to the paper itself.

We’ve had a sharp uptick in the amount of outside development being done on OpenNMS (especially with the GSoC and our developers in the German office) and I find this very exciting. I hope to be able to post more about it in the future.

Some Thoughts on the Apple/Samsung Silliness (#noapple)

Monday, August 6th, 2012

My indentured servitude to AT&T ended recently and I decided to use that to jump in for another two years but also to get rid of my iPhone 4.

As my three readers are aware, last summer I decided to move away from Apple products toward freer alternatives. I still have a Macbook Air (running Ubuntu – natch) and up until last Thursday I had an iPhone.

I pretty much liked the iPhone, but it was mainly a consumer device (i.e. I didn’t create much using it) so I didn’t care so much, but I did get frustrated with the terms of service. It was easier for me to freakin’ buy the OpenNMS app than it was to spend 30 minutes or so every other month trying to update my project keys so I could check it out and build it. I settled on the Samsung Galaxy S3 as a replacement.

Having used it now for several days, I have to admit that I’m a little pissed at all of the talk about how Samsung (and implicitly, Google) ripped off Apple. Using the S3 is a greatly different experience from using the iPhone.

I almost wrote “totally” but I have to admit that, yes, there is a virtual keyboard, and yes, you can have a page of icons that you press to launch apps, but outside of that there is little in common between the two.

First, the phone just feels different. It is bigger, thinner and feels lighter to me (although in the interest of full disclosure I have a case on the iPhone 4 since without it my calls drop when I hold it in my left hand). The iPhone felt like a dense, solid slab whereas the S3 feels more like a bar of soap, all smooth and round edges. I am afraid that it might squirt out of my hand one of these days.

Next, the user experience is different. The way one navigates Android takes a little bit to get used to coming from iOS, but the fact that in addition to a physical home button I have two soft buttons (one for contextual menus and one for “back”) seem to make the UI experience a little cleaner (since there doesn’t have to be so many menu icons in the apps). Notifications are different, the way you can control placement of icons is different, and the idea of widgets seems pretty unique to Android. Widgets let you display information without having to actually open an app.

The one disappointment I’ve had is that the S3 doesn’t work with Banshee or Rhythmbox, so it is harder to organize my media files. I am hoping this gets fixed soon.

Android 4.0+ uses the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) instead of just mounting the filesystem like a USB disk. I can get Ubuntu to mount the phone just fine, but when I launch Banshee it umounts the phone and then hangs. Under Rhythmbox it shows up as a Media Device, but the moment you try to access it (say, right click on it and choose Properties) it kills the app. There is an open bug on that one, but despite its use of Mono I much prefer Banshee.

Now, the S3 ships with the usual amount of kruft that you find on modern technology. Samsung has their own sync technology called Kies (no Linux client of course [sigh]) and I thought it might be interfering with libmtp. So less than 24 hours after I bought the phone I’d rooted it and installed Cyanogenmod (CM9 – not comfortable playing with the CM10 betas just yet).

Cool.

Now I don’t have any apps I don’t want, and I understand what all the apps I have installed are actually supposed to do. I haven’t seen any real performance problems with the exception of the camera crashing once and some browser issues that went away when I switched to Chrome.

With the exception of the issue managing my media, I am quite happy with this phone. The screen isn’t as crisp as the iPhone 4 but its large size really makes a difference with my aging eyes. But how anyone could confuse the two is beyond me. I hope this patent silliness goes away soon and in the meantime I’m going to vote with my wallet.