Free Frontalot Concert at OSCON Sponsored by OpenNMS

Hey. Lots to catch up on in this post, but the TL;DR is that the OpenNMS Group is hosting a free concert to coincide with this year’s OSCON conference in Portland.

(Please read to the bottom to see how this ties in with the EFF and Ulf)

It will be held Thursday night, July 23rd, at Dante’s, which Google Maps describes as a “Hip, dungeonlike rock venue”.

Map of Dante's and OSCON

Lookie there – we’re “hip”.

The Concert (note how I capitalize it because it is just that epic) will feature MC Frontalot along with his band. This will be the first time I’ve ever gotten to see a Front show with the band (thus “epic”) and I’m really looking forward to it.

And just to throw a little whipped cream and a cherry on top of this huge nerdy/geeky sundae, the opening act will be the Doubleclicks. Yes, you read that right, Angela and Aubrey will be there bringing their unique brand of nerd-folk to the same stage as the man who invented nerdcore rap.

And did I mention it is free? Doors open at 8pm, show starts a little after 9pm.

Plus, for you free and open source software fans, there might be a little extra surprise. Be there to find out what it could be.

Now, the long version on how this all came about.

Chris Dibona once said that his job was to give money to his friends. While our budget here at OpenNMS doesn’t come close to his, I did take his words to heart and we strive at all times to support the FOSS community.

I consider part of that community to be the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). If it wasn’t for the EFF defending a free and open Internet, open source would have a much harder time existing. Usually we give a fairly large donation at the end of each year to support them.

Last year I didn’t. To be honest, 2014 kind of sucked for me for a variety of reasons, and we really weren’t doing well enough to support a donation.

A few months ago I got introduced to Chad Essley. He is the animator behind the MC Frontalot video for the song “Shudders”. While I had yet to meet him, he shared my love of the EFF’s work and decided to auction off some of the artwork from that video and to donate the proceeds. The “grand prize”, if you will, was to have a special remix of “Shudders” made to include some new artwork. Since 2015 is going much better than last year, we decided to bid on that prize and we won, so now I can present the new and improved “Shudders”, which includes everyone’s favorite kiwi, Ulf.

Note that about 1:25 minutes in you can see a pretty accurate rendition of the OpenNMS headquarters.

Anyway, I really enjoyed working with Chad, and I found out he lives in Portland, Oregon. Portland is also the usual venue for the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON). While OSCON has definitely become much more focused on the latest Valley fads over FOSS, it is still the one place I can be sure to see all of my FOSSy friends each year, so I never miss a chance to go. Now I can add Chad to the list of people I get to see.

Then it dawned on me – why don’t we do a little guerrilla marketing and host a show? Thus after all the swag laden Docker parties are over, people can come by and enjoy some geek-centric music in a cool place.

So I approached Frontalot about doing a concert and, again, since we’re doing better this year, I felt we could spring for the whole band. He agreed, and then used his powers of persuasion to get the Doubleclicks on board. Dante’s is also helping us out, so be sure to come out and buy lots of beer in appreciation.

If you are new to the Doubleclicks, as I was, this is one of my favorite songs of theirs:

The show is open to everyone, so you don’t need an OSCON pass to attend. But I’ll be wandering around the OSCON Expo floor handing out some goodies that are just for conference attendees. I’ll post more when it gets closer to the date, and I’ll tell you how to find me.

I am extremely excited that we are able to do this. It promises to be a great time.

Early/Often on the Horizon

Lots of stuff, and I mean lots of cool stuff is going on and to paraphrase Hamlet I have not enough thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. I spent this week in the UK but I should be home for awhile and I hope to catch up.

But I wanted to put down a at least one thought. When we made the very difficult decision to split OpenNMS into two products, Horizon and Meridian, we had some doubts that it was the right thing to do. Well, at least for me, those doubts have been removed.

It used to take us 18 or more months to get a major release out. Due to the support business we were both hesitant to remove code we no longer needed or to try the newest things. Since we moved to the Horizon model we’ve released 3 major versions in six months and not only have we added a number of great features, we are finally getting around to removing stuff we no longer need and finishing projects that have languished in the past.

In the meantime we’re delivering Meridian to customers who value stability over features with the knowledge that the version they are running is supported for three years. Seriously, we have some customers upgrading from OpenNMS 1.8 (six major releases back) who obviously want longer release cycles, and even if you don’t need support you can get Meridian software for a rather modest fee coupled with OpenNMS Connect for those times when you really just need to ask a question.

Anything OpenNMS does well is a reflection on our great team and community, but I take personally any shortcomings. At least now I can see the path to minimize them if not remove them completely.

It’s a good feeling.

♫ To Be Thick as a Brick ♫

In keeping with the musical theme this week, I thought it would be cool to post about a little bit of OpenNMS “bling” now featured at the Chatham County Public Library in Pittsboro, NC.

OpenNMS Brick

We like to both talk about OpenNMS as well as support the local community, so when I found out that the library was raising money by selling personalized bricks, I thought it would be cool to get one.

OpenNMS Brick

We also have one to be installed at the Tesla Museum. I’m going to have to take a road trip to get a picture of that one, or see if Jeremy Garcia will drive over when it is open and take one for us.

Zabbix and OpenNMS

The network management application space is rather cluttered, with a number of “fauxpensource” offerings that can really confuse the landscape when people are looking for truly open solutions.

Two exceptions to that are OpenNMS (‘natch) and Zabbix.

According to the Wikipedia article, Zabbix was started in 1998, which makes it a little older than OpenNMS, which I’m told was started in July of 1999 although we use March 29th, 2000, as the official “birth date” since that’s when the project was registered on Sourceforge.

Despite being in the same space and about the same age, I’d never really used Zabbix or interacted with their community until 2009 when I met Rihards Olups.

Rihards is kind of “the Mouth of Zabbix” and I met him at the 2009 Open Source Monitoring Conference where he brought me some gifts from his home in Lativa. He repeated the gesture at this year’s OSMC, and I asked when would be his next trip to the US so I could return the favor. He pulled out his handy and said “Are you anywhere near Raleigh, North Carolina?”

Since that happens to be pretty much my home I was happy to find out that he was coming to town. Even though he was sick with the flu that had been going around, we managed to get a gang together for dinner.

Left to right, that’s Rihards (with the awesome beard), Eric (who was in town from Texas), Sarah, Seth, David, Me, and Ben.

We went to The Pit, which is an acceptable, local barbecue restaurant that is much more “presentable” than some of my favorite dives although the food isn’t quite as good, and then afterward we went next door to the “barcade” and played games.

I played pinball (one of my favorite things to do) and Rihards played his first game on a real pinball machine. Yes, I’m a bit older than him.

One of the things I like about my job is that I can go most anyplace and find like-minded free software people. It’s awesome and I always have a good time. I hope to visit Riga in September around the time of the OpenNMS Users Conference and meet more.

Meeting the J-Team at opensource.com

This week I was able to visit the Red Hat corporate headquarters in downtown Raleigh for the first time. While I had been on their other campuses in the past, this was my first time in Red Hat Tower, a tall building that they leased from Progress Energy a few years ago to turn into their HQ. While I was using Google Maps to get there (downtown Raleigh has a lot of one way streets that confuse me) it was pretty obvious where I was headed once I turned off the highway and saw the Red Hat logo on the top of a building off in the distance.

I am a huge Red Hat fanboy. First, I love where I live in North Carolina, and this is an NC company. Second, they truly understand open source and are able to help others realize the value it can bring to their business while making money at it. With a market cap greater than US$11.5 billion, this is a real company that is also doing a lot of good (for comparison, note that as I write this CA has a market cap of US$14 billion).

Red Hat gets a lot of disrespect in certain circles because it isn’t headquartered in Silicon Valley. There is a huge “not invented here” complex out west, and I think it is in part because the Valley has been unable to duplicate Red Hat’s success with open source.

When you visit the campus you get a sense of how the idea of open source pervades every aspect of company culture. Open source is about sharing and working together, and that can be applied to many things in addition to software.

Part of that is exemplified in the website opensource.com. I believe it was started in 2010 (prior to that, the URL pointed to Red Hat’s corporate page) as a method for promoting the “open source way“. It is sponsored by Red Hat but does a great job of not being Red Hat centric. This isn’t a marketing platform for Red Hat’s products as much as a platform for marketing the Red Hat philosophy.

Despite being less than an hour away, I don’t get to see the people behind opensource.com often. I used to write for them pretty regularly in the beginning until time constraints made that harder, but we have a healthy e-mail correspondence. I do run into Jason Hibbets (author of The Foundation for an Open Source City) at conferences, but this was the first time I got to meet almost everyone in person.

The J-Team: Jason Baker, Jeff Mackanic, Jen Wike and Jason Hibbets

I didn’t notice until later that a lot of people I know at Red Hat have names that start with the letter “J” – even the CEO is named Jim.

I ended up spending about two hours there and had a great time talking about technology and open source society. Red Hat looks like a great place to work, and the red fedora is pretty much everywhere.

Thanks to a swag trade with my friend Kevin Sonney many years ago (at least a decade), I have an authentic Red Hat fedora and I learned that it is truly “old skool” due to its having a gold Red Hat logo on the inside. Cool.

I am hoping that my schedule will free up enough in 2015 that I can write for them some more. As I was telling stories, Jason B. or Jen would jump in with “that could be an article”.

In any case, with over 400,000 page views per month at opensource.com they are obviously doing something right, and it has earned a prominent place in my RSS feed. I look forward to visiting the Red Hat HQ and seeing them again soon.

OpenNMS-based App Wins Digital Jersey Hackathon

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.

Anarchy OpenNMS in the UK

OpenNMS has a strong presence in both Europe and the UK, and much of the UK effort is driven by Dr. Craig Gallen.

He has created a new website and newsletter aimed at OpenNMS users in the United Kingdom and Ireland (but, of course, it is open to anyone).

The new website can be found at opennms.co.uk and I think it is pretty spiffy (“spiffy” is a proper English word, correct?). There is also an occasional newletter list focusing on OpenNMS events in the region, so if you are interested in such things please register.

The first big push to raise awareness of OpenNMS as well as provide training is a series of OpenNMS workshops to be held around the area. In Craigs words:

Don’t just expect to be lectured to. This will be a participative event. These workshops will stretch your understanding of Operational Support systems and help you to begin thinking through how you can adapt OpenNMS to address some of the key problems in Network and Service Management.

London – Monday 30 June 2014

Location: University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY

Birmingham – Tuesday 1 July 2014

Location: IET Aston Court, 80 Cambridge Street, Birmingham, B1 2NP

Rochdale (near Manchester) – Wednesday 2 July 2014

Location: Zen Interent Ltd. Sandbrook Park, Sandbrook Way, Rochdale, OL11 1RY

Glasgow – Friday 4 July 2014

Location: IET Glasgow: Teacher Building, 14 St Enoch Square, Glasgow, G1 4DB

There is a cost associated with the workshops, but there are a number of discounts available. There is an early bird discount of 10% if you book before 13 June, and if you are a current commercial support customer or a non-profit there is a further reduction in cost. Also, sending more than one person creates even more discounts.

So if you are a non-profit, buy a commercial support contract and then book a whole bunch of people before 13 June and you’ll be saving money hand over fist (grin).

Visit the Registration Page for more details.

This is a wondeful way to get up to speed on OpenNMS and I appreciate the effort Craig put into making these workshops available.

OpenNMS Users Conference Call for Papers

In case you missed it, the Call for Papers for next year’s OpenNMS Users Conference is now open.

In my ten plus years of working on OpenNMS, I think the thing I am most proud of is the formation of the non-profit OpenNMS Foundation Europe e.V.. This was organized totally by people not on the payroll of The OpenNMS Group and their inaugural conference in Fulda, Germany, last year was a lot of fun.

Their sophomore effort will take place is Southampton, UK a little later in the year so perhaps we’ll miss the snow. It is one of my favorite events of the year and I hope to see a lot of people there. OpenNMS is created in something of a bubble. Since we don’t require any form of registration to get the software we have no idea who is using it, and we are often pleasantly surprised to find out where OpenNMS ends up. I can’t wait to see who shows up in April.

Registration is not yet open, but they are interested in hearing from you. The users conference is about users by users and your stories are what’s in demand.

OpenNMS Gets An Emmy Nomination

Okay, so I’m stretching things a bit. Well, a whole lot. In fact, OpenNMS had nothing to do with the Emmy nod, and it is just a shameless attempt to get your attention.

I believe I have very little natural talent. The one exception is that I seem to be able to surround myself with some of the most amazing people on the planet. They do great things and I just bask in the reflected glory.

I’m not knocking it.

One of those people is our chief architect and CTO, Matt Brozowski. In his copious spare time he manages to do a lot of things, including coaching a program at the University of North Carolina called “Powering a Nation“. Each year students create a documentary involving some aspect of energy use in the United States, and the 2012 team created “100 Gallons: How Water Powers Life“.

It got nominated for a Emmy award.

How cool is that. It would be awesome if they won.

Matt is also coaching the 2013 team, so let’s see if they can go two for two.