Archive for September, 2012

La Crosse IT Pro User Group Meeting

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I will be in lovely La Crosse, Wisconsin, on Tuesday speaking at the La Crosse IT Pro User Group Meeting on OpenNMS.

If you are in the area, come on out. There will be pizza.

Lands’ End Redux – Back from the Dead

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Okay, last week I was very upset with Lands’ End. They are in the process of implementing both a new ordering and a new production system, and this has resulted in long, frustrating delays in processing orders.

The worst part was that prior to this I’d had always had extremely good service from them – so much so that I just expected it. If they had just had average service, I probably would have been a little more tolerant, as strange as that may sound, but after waiting a month I was a little upset.

Anyway, I canceled a fairly large order and was looking for another provider when I got a voicemail from a Ms. Ferrone. She’s a Senior Manager with Lands’ End’s Customer Care Services, and apparently they have a group within the company that searches the Internet and social networks for comments about the company. One of them discovered my blog entry and brought it to her attention, which I think is pretty amazing since I don’t believe any of my three readers works for them, but she tracked me down and wanted to try to make things right. I was off in Oregon and really didn’t have time to talk, but on Monday she caught me in the office and we had a nice chat.

She apologized profusely for the delay and she felt confident that the new system would result in a better experience for everyone, but in the meantime they were going “old skool” and manually handling account issues like mine. She asked if I would reconsider my order and offered a nice discount for the inconvenience, and I found I couldn’t stay mad at them, especially considering the effort they took to get in touch with me (take heed American Airlines and Centurylink).

So I gave her my order number and as she was investigating it, she told me it had already shipped. In fact, it had shown up in the warehouse the day after I posted the rant on my blog. Now, I would have known this if I had gotten my usual “shipped” e-mail from Lands’ End, but I still felt a little bad about it. I offered to return some of the discount but she insisted that they wanted to compensate me for the trouble.

The whole conversation lasted nearly an hour (those who know me won’t see this as unusual) and she seemed nether rushed or in a hurry to end the call. It was a wonderful customer service experience and had definitely won me back as a customer.

I have said in the past that the measure of a company is how they react when things go wrong even more than getting everything right, because if you work with anyone long enough something will go wrong. By that scale, Lands’ End is tops.

OpenNMS Wins a 2012 BOSSIE Award

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I am once again humbled to see that OpenNMS has again been recognized with Infoworld’s Best of Open Source Software award.

OpenNMS is the network monitoring and management software you use if you have a lot of stuff and need something highly customizable. More flexible, more customizable, and more enterprise-ready than most of its competitors, it is also the most open source. The only downside is that it’s more difficult to install on average. However, if you need to monitor and manage everything and anything on the network, this is probably the best tool under the sun, open source or not.
– Andrew Oliver

I also think it’s cool they used Antonio’s map feature (complete with a picture of his home country of Italy) as the screenshot. I can’t wait until they get their hands on the new GUI, just in time for next year’s awards.

The Apple Fanboys

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

As the iPhone 5 announcement pushes AAPL over $700/share, it is obvious that Apple has another hit on its hands and will be adding even more to its coffers (one of my friends ordered three). As someone who is happily moving away from Apple, I pretty much could care less about the announcement, and I have to agree with Brian Prentice that the iPhone announcement was a little lame.

What is Apple ultimately offering with the iPhone 5? Speeds and feeds. New processor, larger screen, different connector, LTE support. thinner form factor. Don’t get me wrong – these things are important. And they constitute some fantastic engineering work to hang it all together. But is it fundamentally changing my experience with a smartphone? No, not really.

Despite distancing myself from Apple, I still follow some Apple-centric news sites like Cult of Mac. As with any large site, the quality of writing varies, but for the most part the Apple fanboy rants are kept to a minimum. For the most part.

Recently I saw this article complaining about a Samsung ad.

I own a Galaxy S3 so I was interested in how it compares to the new iPhone. I find the S3 to be incredibly light, so I was surprised to see the iPhone 5 is even lighter, but with that exception the S3 meets or exceeds the iPhone’s specifications.

Now the fanboy was ridiculing the rest of the ad for mentioning other features like “S-Beam” and “Picture in Picture”. Well, sorry to say, that’s what advertising is for – to increase consumer awareness – just like no one knew what Siri was until Apple told people. The sad fact is that the iPhone is a fashion accessory as much as a device (notice how case manufacturers now cut out a circle in the case so they can display the Apple logo?) and it will be hard for anyone to complete against that – until the fashion fades. I think that is the most telling thing about the iPhone 5 announcement – there’s nothing really new here. Unless Apple continues to innovate, the door is open.

And I’m with Brian when I think that Microsoft still has a shot at the market. I’ve seen some of their new tech, and the integration of Windows and Office across phones and tablets with centralized storage is huge. Apple is still having trouble getting into the corporation, and if Microsoft can deliver tools that let people work with Excel, Powerpoint and Word more efficiently, that will be more important than Angry Birds and Youtube.

Anyway, I do agree with the Cult of Mac guy that Samsung could have done a better job in their ad. Since I run CyanogenMod I don’t use any of their fancy software (seriously, Samsung, I can’t remove the Yellow Pages widget ’cause it is an important system file?) I would have focused the ad on the things that really differentiate the S3 from the iPhone: removable microSD storage, removable battery, NFC and the microUSB plug.

The thing I dislike most about Apple is that they really want that “walled garden” so that anything going onto or out of your device has to go through them. Removable storage would make it easier to circumvent that, but would erode their margins on memory. With 64GB microSD cards becoming common and 32GB cards being downright cheap, it would be difficult to charge an extra $200 for 64GB (versus the $55 I paid for a 64GB microSD card) if options were available. Plus, the removable storage is the best way for me to manage O/S upgrades and media on my phone, and I can’t see how I lived without it.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of a removable/replaceable battery. A lot of OpenNMS customers are financial institutions that severely limit network access. When I am on-site at one of those places, I rely heavily on my phone, and quite frequently my iPhone would run out of juice by the afternoon (and the iPhone 4 had good battery life). My only option was to plug it in. Not a big deal, but now I just swap in a spare battery and get on with my life.

One would think that Apple would be embracing new tech like NFC. With Square raising another $200 million, the interest in mobile payments is huge. Now granted, it may take an Apple to make NFC payments ubiquitous, but the lack of NFC in the last two iPhones means that there is a opportunity to pass them by.

And finally, while it may seem silly, I love the fact that the S3 charges off of a microUSB cable. It’s called a “standard” and it is one that every other device maker on the planet is moving toward (despite another Cult of Mac fanboy rant about Samsung cables in the past) and I can always find one – be it for my Kindle, my bluetooth headset or my digital camera.

While it has been a frustrating experience switching from an iPhone to Android, at the moment I could not see myself going back. The user experience is totally different and the culture is much more about creating than consuming.

I have a choice, and that is the best feature out there.

Oregon

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

I really like visiting the state of Oregon, from Portland all the way down to Roseburg. While I haven’t been to the eastern side, the western side is beautiful, and there is also a lot of OpenNMS history there. The City of Portland uses OpenNMS, as does Earthlink Business Solutions (currently across the river in Vancouver, WA, but with a data center in Portland). Ken Eshelby, who works for the State of Oregon, has one of the most amazing installations of OpenNMS I’ve ever seen (he takes my definition of OpenNMS as a platform very seriously).

But my heart always resides with Oregon State University down in Corvallis. When I first started out on my own back in 2002, OSU was the second organization to purchase a Greenlight project. They’ve been using it for ten years, and last week they invited me back to do a “Tune My OpenNMS” project in order to get them on the latest version and to show them ways to maximize how they are using the tool.

The “Tune My OpenNMS” project (once called “Pimp My OpenNMS” but we had a client warn that he could never submit a purchase request with the word “pimp” in it) is three days long, so I decided to come in a day early to visit friends down in the Peoples Republic of Eugene. Sunday we sat outside drinking microbrews and feasting on salmon caught off the coast, and on Monday I got to go hiking in the Tamolitch Valley.

The area has both old and new growth forests, and there are some pretty extensive lava flows. Here’s a picture of my friend Kate where you can see the lava starting to be overgrown with brush.

The path we took followed the McKenzie River, which made me wish I had brought along my waders and fly rod, but since I didn’t I had to content myself with just pointing out those places where the monster trout would live.

Our destination was a place called The Blue Pool. This is a small pool that contains (so I learned) a lot of dissolved silica. While it shows up as white on the tree trunks and rocks downstream, in the still water of the pool it shows up as an incredibly rich blue (as it scatters blue light). There were once falls on one side of the pool but a lava flow covered them up. There is still water flowing under the rock and it comes out under the water, so they call it a “dry” falls.

I said goodbye and headed up to Corvallis Monday night. On Tuesday I met with Joel Burks at OSU and we got down to business migrating their existing 1.6.7 install to 1.10.5. For lunch we met Bill Ayres (OGP) who was one of the leaders of the OSU OpenNMS project until he retired, and the three of us had a lot of fun.

One night we drove out to Newport to eat seafood at Local Ocean. It was amazing.

I also got to see the controversial mural located downtown that illustrates atrocities committed by Chinese soldiers against Tibetan monks.

I thought it was quite the coincidence that I was in Corvallis when a news story broke that wasn’t about OSU athletic scores.

I didn’t get a paper accepted at OSCON this year so this was my only trip to the area, and I had missed it. I hope to return soon.