Dev-Jam 2013: Day Five

The final day of Dev-Jam came all too soon. Several people headed out Friday morning, but we still had a nice crew of 20+ for a return trip to the Town Hall Brewery on Friday night.

I often joke that Dev-Jam is my favorite Holiday outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it’s funny ’cause it’s true. I think the best way to sum it up is from Jeff Genender, Apache contributor and first time Dev-Jam attendee:

As an Apache stakeholder, I can honestly say you have a fantastic community and you guys exceed doing things “right”. Keep up the fantastic work and thank you sincerely for the fantastic hospitality and a great Dev Jam.

Until next year.

Dev-Jam 2013: Day Four

Thursday was a pretty exciting day for me. We started seeing some changes to the codebase (capsd was deprecated in favor of provisiond, the ticketer plugins are now separate packages) and Markus N. and Matt R. demonstrated a new site built on Rails to manage community configuration contributions (and I got to practice my alliteration).

I spent the morning in downtown Minneapolis. I noticed that there was an extremely tall building called The Capella Tower. Capella University has been using OpenNMS since the 1.2 days, and while we’ve been working with them for many years I’ve never met them in person.

For some reason I thought they were headquartered in Chicago, but I think that was because they advertise on the subway trains there. Anyway, I dropped Will a note and asked if he was in the Capella Tower, and he invited me out.

It was cool to see their operation as well as the changes they’ve made to their instance of OpenNMS. OpenNMS is a platform, and it really starts to shine when it is customized, and Capella has done a great job with it.

I offered to take the team to lunch, and they suggested we hit the food trucks. All around downtown you can find some amazing food, especially on Marquette.

We hit one called “Get Sauced“. Now, being from North Carolina, we elevate the cooking of pork to near religious status, so I tend to be very critical of pork BBQ, but Get Sauced did not disappoint. It was easy to see why their BBQ sauce has won at the State Fair for three years in a row.

They also had something called “Mexican Corn”. It was grilled, fresh corn removed from the cob and seasoned. It was wonderful.

After I left Capella I took the opportunity to play a little Ingress and managed to level to Level 5. I haven’t been playing much (most of the people who started when I did are around L7) but I managed to gain about 50K AP this week without much effort due to the density of portals in the area.

We also took our group photo today. Unfortunately, Jeff Prime had to leave early due to a personal reason and missed the pic, but the rest of us made it. Thanks to Donald for taking the picture.

Thursday night was Twins night. Starting with last year we’ve taken everyone at Dev-Jam out to the ball game, and this year it was cool because we had a couple of Royals fans in the group as well (plus the Europeans who had absolutely no idea what was going on – which is how I feel about cricket).

We all wore our new polos, and so we made quite an impression next to the local marching band that was also in uniform.

And the blue and black made us easy to spot in the stands.

Like last year, we were appropriately in far right field, but we were also joined by this lovely young lady (posing here with Ulf).

She sang the national anthem before the game. I love the fact that the performance of The Star Spangled Banner is and of itself a sporting event, as it is extremely difficult to sing. She did a great job and nailed the high note at the end.

It was a lovely evening, although since both pitchers did a great job the game itself was less than exciting. The Twins pulled off the win, however.

I like to think we had a hand in that. (grin)

[Note: Ben posted a lot more of his pictures from the game here.]

Dev-Jam 2013: Day Two

One of the coolest things to come out of Day Two was an OpenNMS Chrome Extension.

Dominick and Saqib from Datavalet plan to submit this to the Chrome Store, but for now you can get the beta here.

One installed, you just need to add in your server credentials under the “Options” tab.

Then, disable and re-enable the plugin and you should start seeing pop-ups for alarms within your OpenNMS instance.

Pretty cool.

We also spent some time working on performance issues in the build. The best comment I heard about the modern OpenNMS was from Matt, who stated that if there was a Java library that wasn’t included in OpenNMS, that was an oversight.

But the funniest comment of the day came from Ben. I was talking about how fast we are growing and how we need to hire more people, and I was asked about what qualifications I was looking for in candidates. I went over a few of them, but I said the most important thing was “no sh*tty people”, as we have a great team and I don’t want to ruin it.

Ben replied, “I guess Rule Number One is: no number two”

(grin)

For dinner, we once again had Brasa cater in, and once again it was amazing.

We’ll be eating leftovers for the rest of the week.

Dev-Jam 2013: Day One

My role at Dev-Jam is purely an organizational one. As someone who doesn’t code much, if at all, I always describe myself more as Julie the Cruise Director, just here to make this a great week.

I do, however, reserve the right to open the conference, so at 10am Monday morning I got to address the folks who had come here to spend the week. I also got to distribute this year’s OpenNMS polos which are a new offering from Lands’ End and are made of that newfangled “tech” fabric. I then turned over the meeting to Matt Brozowski, who as the project’s lead architect, gets to do most of the heavy lifting this week.

Speaking of shirts, I found a cool one at HeroesCon that I bought just for Dev-Jam in honor of our mascot, Ulf.

Dev-Jam is more than just coding. Mike brought in a collection of Raspberry Pis to show off some of the projects he’s been working on:

and DJ brought even more electronic gear as he is working on a cool stoplight integration with OpenNMS:

His soldering iron came in handy when Richard, who is doing an audio segment on our community, had a cable malfunction. Dustin was able to use DJ’s tools to fix it.

Mike also showed off this interesting little app he found for the iPhone that allows it to autorotate using the vibration alert built in to the phone. Here is the video that introduced him to it:

Such a talented group.

They also can eat, so thanks to Chris over at Papa Johns we had a pizza feast at dinner.

If you are following the wiki, you can see what’s being worked on this week.

We Have the Champions

Almost every customer we have starts out with one person with the vision to switch from expensive proprietary software such as OpenView or Tivoli to OpenNMS. We refer to them as “internal champions” and without them OpenNMS wouldn’t exist. They are the ones who find OpenNMS, explore its power and then convince their organizations to use it.

One of those people is Eddie van Zanten.

Eddie works for the Ministry of Defense for the Netherlands. They have been using OpenNMS for many years now, and they sent a bunch of people to the US for training. When you come to training you get an OpenNMS polo shirt, but Eddie wasn’t one of them. However, the operation of OpenNMS fell to him. His coworker Dennis Waanders wrote to me:

One guy is doing the implementation of OpenNMS in our department. And he is been busy with it for over two years now. Without him OpenNMS would have died a slow death within our department. He alone is keeping OpenNMS alive within our department. At this moment some OpenNMS features are implemented and ready for monitoring and now people in our organisation do see the benefits of OpenNMS. All because of the persistence of one guy. One guy who had faith in the use of OpenNMS.

That is pretty much the definition of an internal champion.

So I sent Eddie a one of a kind OpenNMS pullover, which he is proudly wearing in the picture above. We are here because of people like him.

A Quick Post on Being Nice

There was a nice e-mail on the opennms-install list today. The install list is our “newbie” list, as the first hurdle to jump with OpenNMS is to get it installed, and a person had posted a question about a Debian install.

The question was well worded, and while I couldn’t explain the problem the person was having with importing our GPG key to apt, I was able to quickly test a workaround on my desktop and offer it to the list.

Here is the reply we received:

I wanted to thank everyone for helping me with this issue. Obviously, I am new to this and just trying to learn. I asked a question on a different listserv (for a different monitoring software package I was testing) and all I received were snarky responses and little to no help…how discouraging! That definitely was not the case here!!!

I went with Tarus’ instructions and they worked just fine. The rest of the tutorial was spot on for me and no issues. I now have a few nodes scanned and am just loving the interface and how it feels.

I have been involved in open source for a very long time now, and I have to say that his experience with “snarky responses” is all too common. We have always made the best effort to be open and friendly to new users, since they will be the old users of the future.

But I can understand how this happens. No sooner had I read the post then someone else hijacked the thread with a “it don’t work help me plz” question.

(sigh)

I tried not to be snarky when I replied, asking the user to start a new thread by sending a new message to the list. Was it too much to point them to esr’s “How to Ask Questions” document?

I also felt the need to stress that any direct replies to me would be ignored. While this doesn’t happen with most users on the list, usually the ones that need a little more help latch on to the first person to reply and start peppering them with questions to their direct e-mail address.

I never feel right answering those, since our business model is for a large part built on providing commercial support services, so in order to ask me a direct question I want you to have a support contract. Not because I’m greedy, but because I want to be fair to the people who put food on my table.

But the list is different. Since it is shared I feel like I am answering not only the question at hand but almost all future versions of that question.

It’s really hard to balance limited time with virtually unlimited needs, but if someone politely asks a well-formed question on the list, I do my best to answer it.

Who knows, perhaps one day in the future they’ll answer a question of mine.

2013 OpenNMS Users Conference

This was the week for the fifth annual OpenNMS Users Conference in Fulda, Germany. I had grand plans for blogging about the event, but as usual things got away from me and now I am getting started on the last day.

I spent last week teaching an OpenNMS course to ten students from a local company in North Carolina. While I love teaching people about OpenNMS, it took a lot out of me. Even for “the Mouth”, talking for 8 or 9 straight hours for days on end can be difficult.

The class ended on Friday and I had just enough time to head home, do laundry and pack before leaving for the airport on Saturday morning to head toward Fulda.

One of my tasks was to bring Ulf, the OpenNMS mascot. While I was waiting for my plane to Dallas (I hate flying through Heathrow so, yes, I went two hours in the wrong direction just so I could get a direct flight to Frankfurt) I ran into the UNC Womens Gymnastic’s team and they were kind enough to pose for a picture.

The rest of the trip to Frankfurt was pretty uneventful. At the airport I was met by Markus, who was acting as chauffeur, as well as Jeff who came in from Atlanta and Gary from Kansas City. We drove to Markus’s house where he and his wife Sandra had prepared a nice lunch. Some of the other people from the conference came by, and we had a great time chatting into the evening.

For dinner we visited a traditional German restaurant in Fulda called the Schwarzer Hahn. While we were eating I was able to ask a question about the German language. When I travel, I like to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff at my hotel. I asked them for the German word for “housekeeping” and they replied that there really wasn’t one, but I could try “zimmermädchen” or “room maid”. On Monday morning I left a note and three euros for the cleaning staff using my new found German words.

On Monday we prepared for the conference. For the last four years the conference had been organized by Nethinks, a certified OpenNMS partner with offices in Fulda, and I’ve been to Fulda on a number of other occasions (this year it was organized by the newly formed OpenNMS Foundation). When a friend of mine decided to make the four hour trip from Bayreuth just to visit me, I was able to show her around Fulda like a native.

Did I mention it was cold? I think it is kind of important to mention how cold it was – most of the time it was a few degrees below freezing – so the Fulda tour pretty much involved finding great places to eat and have coffee.

We ended up at Hochschule Fulda, the site of this year’s conference, and we got to see Christian’s Raspberry Pi controlled coffee maker. The interface is in the style of the replicator from Star Trek, and you can simply state, in German “Computer – coffee please”. It was kind of cool to see it work, but we found out that with Jeff’s accent the difference between “make a coffee” and “perform the cleaning function” are similar. (sigh)

Speaking of language issues, when I got back to my room on Monday night I found that my note and three euros were still on the desk. When I met Jeff for breakfast and told him about it, he asked to see the note, and when I showed it to him he immediately started to laugh. I had written “Zimmer Mädchen Danke” and apparently by adding the space I was not addressing the cleaning woman but instead I was asking to have a young woman (Mädchen) for my room. While I had other German speakers tell me that it would have been a stretch for someone to arrive at that conclusion, others start laughing the moment I mention adding the space. Of course, being German, some of them simply point out that three euros is not enough money and that three 50 euro notes would have been more appropriate.

(heavy sigh)

Tuesday morning I awoke to see about six inches of snow on the ground. Apparently it was bad enough in Frankfurt that they closed the airport. This did impact some of the people coming to the conference, but for those on trains it was only delays versus cancellations.

The conference officially started on Tuesday with a Basic Training Day. I tried to fit about two and half days of training into one, but even with some drastic cuts and pre-installing OpenNMS, it took ten hours to cover the OpenNMS basics. The class was cool and let me talk until 7pm, but I was really looking forward to Wednesday and my first “down day” in weeks.

Dinner was at the Havanna Bar, where we went to celebrate Jeff’s birthday. Tobi Oetiker had arrived (although a little late due to the snow) and it was nice to be able to spend some time with him. He had come up to do an RRDtool tool talk on Wednesday. After dinner I told everyone not to expect me until noon.

At 8:30 Wednesday morning my phone rings. Jeff is sick and can I come in and teach? I quickly shower, dress and head over to the school, where I proceeded to improvise eight hours of advanced OpenNMS training. I think it went well, and I only ran about 30 minutes over the allotted time, but to say I was exhausted at the end of the day would be an understatement.

I skipped the evening activities and tried to get a little rest, but soon realized that I needed a lot of rest. I felt ill, but I wasn’t sure if it was related to illness or just exhaustion. I went to sleep but woke at 5am in order to get my demo working for my “What’s New in OpenNMS” talk on Thursday morning. I literally had to build a fresh OpenNMS release since major bug fixes had been added by Ben Wednesday night, and I think the demo was well received with the exception that loading the VMWare topology database via OSGi failed (it had worked at the hotel).

I ended the talk with a Steve Jobs style “one more thing …” This is very hard to do with an open source project, since by its very nature open source software doesn’t hide anything (I was always amused by those fauxpensource companies that promised an “unveiling” of new software at various trade shows). My “one more thing” was to point out that the best new thing in OpenNMS is the OpenNMS Foundation. The creation of this independent users group means a lot to me, and I think it will insure the continued growth and success of OpenNMS.

At lunch on Thursday I heard a nice story. One of the attendees had a performance review via Skype the day before, and he was told that he had received a prestigious “innovators” award from his company. The reason was his introduction of OpenNMS to this large corporation that had been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on products from HP and BMC.

Cool.

Unfortunately, I missed the rest of Thursday. I simply could not go on. I went back to the hotel and crashed, but managed to get up in time to visit the Havanna Bar for the conference social event. We had over seventy people in the upstairs dining room, and I spent most of the night with a table of Germans and Ville, a Finn who works at Vaadin and is living in Frankfurt.

At one point the talk turned to language, and it was pointed out that there are only five words in German that end in the letters “nf”. I thought that was cool, since the German word for “five”, fünf, is one of those words. However, no one at the table could name all five, and one person found an article that stated there were only four (apparently there is a dispute).

This bothered me, since I felt it was important that there be five since fünf would be one of them, so Ville and I decided to introduce the word “pünf” to the German language, which is defined as “the feeling when one realizes they should have stopped eating 15 minutes ago”. Both of us were feeling very pünf at that moment.

Speaking of language, I think we should all adopt the German term for the mobile phone, which is “handy”. My reasoning is that the word “phone” is outdated (I rarely use the “phone” function of my handy). John Scalzi in “Old Man’s War” called them “hand terminals”. That is accurate if a little long, so we should shorten it to “handy”.

At one point in the evening I remember looking around the room at everyone laughing and talking, and thinking “I put this in motion”. Not the conference, as that was done by better people than me, but when I took over the OpenNMS project in 2002 to keep it from dying, I never thought that it would grow so much beyond what I started.

I left the event a little early, as I was still not feeling my best, and I walked back to the hotel through the light snow. I got to sleep a little after 11pm and slept in until 7:30. When I awoke I felt better than I had all week, so I am hoping it that I was just tired and that I’m not getting sick.

So far on Friday I’ve seen a couple of cool talks. Almost all of the talks in this conference are being given by OpenNMS end users. I saw one on integrating OpenNMS with Salt Stack (a Puppet/Chef-like configuration management tool) and one on the new Scale Free Topology Provider.

I hate that I missed most of the talks yesterday, but I think the organizers have done a great job with this conference and I look forward to what they come up with next year.

The only thing I would change is the weather.

OpenNMS Wins a 2012 BOSSIE Award

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.

2012 Dev-Jam: Celebrating Community

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