2015 Open Source Monitoring Conference

Once again I got to visit the wonderful town of Nürnberg, Germany, for the Open Source Monitoring Conference.

OSMC - Badge

Hosted by Netways, the conference started out ten years ago as a Nagios conference. The name was changed due to an issue with the Nagios trademark, but it still focused heavily on Nagios. However, the organizers are pretty open to all things monitoring, so they started inviting projects like Zabbix and OpenNMS to come. When the Nagios fork Icinga was created, the amount of Nagios content dropped considerably, and out of 24 talks over 2 days there were only two that had Nagios in the title. Part of this has to do with Icinga 2 being a total rewrite and thus has started to move past its Nagios roots.

This year it was a cornucopia of monitoring choices. In addition to Icinga, Zabbix and OpenNMS, there was Alyvix, Assimilation, Heroic, and Prometheus. Grafana was popular and most tools are adding support for that data visualization tool, and it was nice to see talks on NSClient++ and MQTT. A little less than half the talks were in German, so there is a large German focus to the conference, but there was always an English-language talk available as well.

Nürnberg is a cool town. There is a big castle and lots of walls are left over from the original fortifications for the city. It is also home to SuSE Linux, and I made sure to swing by if just to get a picture for Bryan Lunduke:

OSMC - SuSE Office

Ronny and I got there on Monday. While the main conference is held over two days, this year there were workshops on Monday and a “hack-a-thon” on Thursday. The conference pretty much takes over the Holiday Inn, City Center, hotel. While the facilities are nice, it is right next to the city’s “eros center” which seems to creep closer and closer to the hotel each year I attend. It doesn’t impact the conference in any way, and those who might be sensitive to such things can easily avoid it.

There is always lavish catering and this year we had a nice, small crowd of OpenNMS enthusiasts in attendance, and we met up for the hosted dinner on Monday night. I had not seen some of the people since the OUCE, so it was nice to catch up.

My talk was on Tuesday, the first day of the main conference. The event was sold out, with about 250 people, and at times the rooms could get quite full.

OSMC - Crowd

The talks were all rather good. Torkel Ödegaard talked about Grafana:

OSMC - Grafana

which was a big hit with crowd, and as I mentioned before a lot of projects are leveraging his work to provide better data visualization, including OpenNMS. My talk went well (I think) as I went over all of the amazing things we’ve done since last year at the OSMC, which included four major releases of our application. I was stumped with the question “How do I get started with OpenNMS?” when I realized that I didn’t have an easy answer. I can tell you how to install it, but that doesn’t get you started. I need to work on that.

That evening we returned to Terminal 90, which is an odd place to hold a dinner but it seems to work. Terminal 90 is a restaurant located at the Nürmberg airport, and it does a good job of holding everyone. We have to take the U-bahn to get there, and at least this year there were no incidents (last year someone tried to hold open the doors, which caused the autonomous train to shut down and wait for human intervention).

OSMC - Terminal 90

The food and drinks were good, and toward the end of the evening they had woman impersonating German pop star Helene Fischer, which was lost on me but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

I called it a night fairly early, but this is a group that tends to hang out until the wee hours of the morning. Although my room was on the first floor, I didn’t hear much noise from “Checkpoint Jenny” across the street, so maybe everyone is getting more mellow in their old age. (grin)

The second day featured a number of talks from different projects. Usually the Zabbix talk is done by Rihards Olups, but he was unable to make it this year so Wolfgang Alper did the honors.

OSMC - Zabbix

After that was a really good talk by Martin Parm on how Spotify monitors its music service.

OSMC - Spotify

It started out with all of the tools they tried that failed, and I kept thinking to myself “don’t let it be OpenNMS, don’t let it be OpenNMS” (it wasn’t) and ended with a tool they wrote in-house called Heroic. It is a time-series data store built on top of Cassandra, and it looks a lot like the Newts tool we built. Both are open source and Apache-licensed so I’m hoping to find some synergy between the two projects. There is another large music streaming service that uses OpenNMS, but maybe we can get all of them (grin).

OSMC - Prometheus

Then there was a talk by Fabian Reinhartz on a monitoring system called Prometheus. I had to joke that the name refers to the daily experience of most network managers of having their liver eaten out, but it seems like an interesting tool. Written in Go, it may find resistance from users due to the configuration being more like writing code, but that also makes it powerful. Sounds familiar to me.

I had to leave right after lunch in order to be ready to catch my flight home, but I really enjoyed my time there, even more than usual. Many thanks to Bernd Erk and the Netways gang for holding it, and they should be posting the videos soon. If you are interested in next year be sure to register early as it is likely to sell out again.

Upcoming Conferences

[UPDATE2: My whining paid off and I got moved to the first day at OSMC. At least one round is on me!]

[UPDATE: Yay! Daniel was able to contact the #OSSPARIS15 organizers and I am scheduled to speak.]

I just wanted to drop a quick note about some upcoming conferences. First off, the Call for Papers for next year’s SCaLE conference ends *today*. It’s a great show and they already have some amazing speakers on board, so be sure to get your paper topics in ASAP.

In November I’ll be attending at least one and maybe two conferences. The first is the Open Source Monitoring Conference being held in Nürnberg, Germany.

I love this conference as it really demonstrates the power of true open source communities. While it is mainly focused on Icinga (and you can hear how it is supposed to be pronounced, kind of like “eee-clinga” with a click, but a lot of people just say “eee-sing-ah”), it brings together many of the truly open source projects in the space, such as Zabbix and, of course, OpenNMS, and we all just get along. This year Torkel from Grafana will be there as well, and while I met him at All Things Open I didn’t get to chat with him much, so maybe now I’ll have the opportunity.

And by “get along” I mean drink heavily, and I’m unhappy that I’m speaking (again!) on Day Two as the evening of Day One has a tendency to become the morning of the second day. Luckily it isn’t the first talk of the day like last year so I guess I’ll deal with it (grin). The company that sponsors it, Netways, is actually in the business of hosting such events so it is always top notch.

The second “maybe” conference is the Paris Open Source Summit which is held the same week as the OSMC. This conference is put on by the people who do the Open World Forum, and unfortunately it seems to be plagued with the same lack of organization.

Since I speak at conferences a lot, I tend to run into all the other (more amazing) people who promote open source. Every one of them has complained to me about the lack of communication between the OWF conference organizers and the speakers. While most shows let you know months in advance, the team behind the Open World Forum tends toward the exact opposite. It is extremely hard to get any form of direct communication from them, and years ago I just gave up trying.

When Daniel, my friend in Paris, sent me the information about #OSSPARIS15, I figured I’d give it a shot. As expected, I didn’t hear from them. Not to sound all self-important, but I travel a lot, usually to work with OpenNMS customers, and I need to know as far in advance as possible if I’m speaking at a show. Usually this means I’m giving up some other opportunity, often one that would actually pay the bills. This time I figured that I would be in Europe anyway for the OSMC, so if I got accepted I would just change my return flight.

Last week I started seeing The OpenNMS Group pop up in press releases for #OSSPARIS15, and I found myself on the schedule for Thursday the 19th at 16:00. I wrote to the organizers to confirm and never heard back, but since I love Paris I made plans to be there.

Well, when I sat down to write this post I noticed that I had been removed from the program. (sigh)

This is very frustrating, as every spare cent we make at OpenNMS goes into the project and changes to flights can be expensive. We are investigating to see if this is just an oversight or if, even after the press release, they decided to remove me from the program. Perhaps it is because the website got hacked (grin).

OSSPARIS Website Hecked

I hope to see you at one of these conferences, or at another in the near future.

2015 All Things Open

I love going to open source conferences. Despite that I’ve decided to take a hiatus in 2016 so I can focus on some OpenNMS projects that have been languishing. However, I may need to make an exception for All Things Open.

One reason is that it is nearby. It was odd to wake up Monday morning and drive to a show. The other reason is that it just rocks.

Organized by IT-ology (the same people who do POSSCON), the show attracts nearly 1800 people to the city of Raleigh. Since Raleigh is also the world headquarters of Red Hat as well as being next to the Research Triangle Park, you get a great mix of attendees and speakers. It’s popular, so remember to get there early to avoid the registration line:

ATO Line

This year OpenNMS was a sponsor and we decided to have a booth.

ATO Booth

Come over to OpenNMS, we have cookies.

Well, not exactly. The cookies were a snack from the show, but we did have cool #monitoringlove T-shirts featuring Ulf:

ATO OpenNMS Shirts

Our booth was in a great location, right next to the opensource.com folks and just down from the Red Hat booth. On the first day Jim Whitehurst (the amazing CEO of Red Hat) was there signing his book The Open Organization. Afterward, he spent a few minutes talking with Todd Lewis, the main organizer of ATO, and Jason Hibbets let me photobomb the picture:

ATO Photobomb

I also got to meet this guy:

ATO Taras Mitran

Check out his badge:

ATO Taras Mitran's Badge

Yes, this is the fourth “Tarus” I’ve met, but the first who spelled it “Taras”. The first was a “Tauras”, the second a “Taurus” and the third spelled it like me, “Tarus”. I was named after the movie Taras Bulba so his is the traditional spelling (grin).

We had most of the local OpenNMS team there, and we would take turns at the booth and enjoying the conference. I was speaking on Tuesday, so I had Monday free (well, after I finished my presentation).

Monday night there was an event sponsored by GitHub followed by a Speaker/Sponsor dinner at the Sheraton hotel. At our table sat Gianugo from Microsoft (who helps out OpenNMS with an MSDN subscription) and Jono from Bad Voltage (who, well, we’re not sure what Jono does but we think it’s positive). When I met them earlier in the day I wanted to do that whole David Letterman “Uma/Oprah” bit from the Oscars: Gian … Jono. Jono … Gian.

ATO Gian and Jono

The next morning I gave my talk on “Living an ‘Open’ Life”. It was in a small room but it was full, and my only major mistake was that I thought I had 55 minutes and only had 45, so I missed finishing a chunk of the talk. (sigh)

While I spent most of the conference doing booth duty, I did manage to see the Lightning Talks. I’ve always wanted to do a Lightning Talk. These are short, five minute presentations on interesting subjects, and while they didn’t do this at ATO, I really like it when you get 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.

Whenever I mention my desire to the team to do this, they laugh and point out that I can’t even introduce myself in less than five minutes. I would disagree but as I demonstrated with my ATO talk, it is hard for me to keep things brief. (grin)

The hour started off with a video featuring an interesting story on the Enabling the Future project. I’m bummed that I can’t find the exact video they showed, as it was moving, but it demonstrated how a community of “makers” was helping to provide improved prosthetic arms to people using collaboration and 3D printers. It was exempted from the five minute time limit.

Then Rikki Endsley and Jason Hibbets from opensource.com took the stage:

ATO Rikki and Jason

They were the organizers behind the lightning talks.

I finally got to see Steven Vaughan-Nichols in person.

ATO Steven Vaughan-Nichols

He is a writer who I have been following for years, and I am disappointed that I didn’t get to meet up with him in person. In his presentation he talked about how he got into writing about open source software, as well as the early computers he used that ran Unix, such as the PDP11. My first experience with a PDP11 was one that ran, I think, RSX-11, but all I can remember is writing in FORTRAN on it.

ATO Jamie Duncan

I also enjoyed the talk by Jamie Duncan, who I had spoken with at the Speakers/Sponsors dinner. He is a delightful individual with wonderful stories, such as those involving his time working to fix healthcare.gov. The title of his talk, “Gleaming the Kube”, was a play on a skateboard movie from the late 1980s. He is very outspoken on the fact that containers, such as Docker, are basically made up of kernel tricks and to make them useful you need something like Kubernetes (hence the name of the talk).

ATO Sarah Kahn

There was also a talk by Sarah Kahn about Girl Develop It, an organization aimed at helping women interested in learning code development skills. It was nice to see a large turn out by women at the conference, probably more so than the others I have been to this year, and with kernel contributors like Sarah Sharp feeling the need to leave the kernel development team, women in tech is something that needs to be addressed.

ATO Charlie Reisinger

While all the talks were good, my favorite was from Charlie Reisinger of the Penn Manor School District. They gave students Linux laptops with full root access (gasp!) and were amazed and what they did with it. While technology can be a scary place for the younger generation, too often school overreact in trying to protect students, when in fact technology can be empowering.

ATO Jono Bacon

The final talk was from my friend Jono Bacon, who gets all the cool speaking gigs and makes me jealous. His talk was on the field of behavioral economics, which points out that most traditional economic theory is based on the fact that people should behave rationally when making buying decisions. Behavioral economics demonstrates that with the proper stimulus, people will behave irrationally. I was introduced to this concept through the book Predictably Irrational back in 2008 and even got to meet the author, Dan Ariely, in 2009, when we met for lunch and discussed the power and problems with the word “free”.

While Ariely is definitely an economist, Jono introduced me to Rory Sutherland, who is a prominent figure in the field of marketing. There is a great TED Talk by Sutherland who talks about marketing, influence and behavioral economics, and Jono covered some of the main points by him and others.

(Seriously, the TED Talk is brilliant, especially Sutherland’s take on wine that starts about 10:30, and his thoughts on understanding English around 20:00)

After the Lightening Talks I headed back to the booth. Apparently the Convention Center was hosting another conference that evening and we were asked to take down the booth around 3pm, so we did. Then we headed home, which was nice since I haven’t spent much time there recently and is one of the reasons for my hiatus, but missing ATO in 2016 will be hard for me to do.

A Wonderful OUCE

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but the fourth quarter is always our busiest time of the year and I’ve been slammed. Plus, I’m still recovering from a great week at the OpenNMS Users Conference. You did go, correct? (grin)

We are always striving to find ways to bring more people to the conference, so this year I thought it would be cool to invite some open source celebrities, namely the guys from the Bad Voltage podcast. Plus, since this year’s conference was in September, we had the opportunity to make a side trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

We arrived in Fulda from Munich on Sunday night. Now in the run up to the conference the BV team would sometimes talk a little smack about Fulda (as in “where the hell is Fulda?”, etc.) but I love this town. It is a wonderful combination of old and new, with cobblestone streets and a beautiful cathedral. You can walk everywhere, and for us the fact that the university (the Hochschule) has great facilities makes it an awesome place to hold the OUCE.

Since we rely on the Hochschule we have to schedule the conference during a time when the students are not on campus. While it is usually held in the Spring, this year it got moved to Autumn. I think the weather is about the same, although we did have a snow storm during one OUCE.

The conference itself is two days long, but we put two days of optional training in front of it. I get to teach an OpenNMS “bootcamp” on Monday that attempts to cover most of the basics in a day. So fresh off of Oktoberfest I had to actually work on Monday.

The class went well, if a bit long. The students were some of the best I’ve ever had, and I don’t think we hit many snags except for the occasional typo. As much as I tried to hurry, it still took us about ten hours to cover the material. OpenNMS is such a huge platform that even the basics take time to go over, and perhaps next year I’ll ask the students to do some work before getting to the classroom.

We had about half of the team together for dinner that night, and I got to have some of the dark German beer I like (in this case, Köstritzer). I called it a night early on, although many of the guys headed to a small bar called “The Eck”, which was apparently a lot of fun.

On the second day of training, Jeff and Jesse discussed some of the more advanced features in OpenNMS. I slept in a bit and then worked with the Bad Voltage team to make sure everything was working for the show on Wednesday. This included making sure Bryan Lunduke could access and use the telepresence robot.

OUCE Robot

Normally when we hold the OUCE in Fulda we have access to a student run establishment called Cafe Chaos. Unfortunately this year it is being remodeled, so we had to make our own set up in Halle 8.


It was pretty cool. We had a large refrigerator for drinks and they set up some couches in the back corner. Being at the University, the bandwidth was stellar.

On Tuesday night Nethinks sponsored a meal at the Havanna Bar. Most people had arrived by then, so it was nice to get together. Many thanks to Uwe and his team for putting this on.

Wednesday was the first full day of the conference. I kicked things off with a “State of OpenNMS” keynote, with an introduction by Alex Finger, the man who pretty much created the OpenNMS Foundation.


I thought the talk went pretty well, and thanks to the A/V team at the University you can see it in all of its glory:

After that I could relax and let the rest of the gang take over. There were plenty of amazing talks, and you can catch them all on Youtube.

Speaking of Youtube, Wednesday night was the Bad Voltage Live show. I plan to review that in a separate post, but it was a lot of fun. We ran a bunch of errands Wednesday afternoon in preparation, which mainly included buying a tablet to use as a prize and beer … lots of beer.


On Thursday we had more talks, and then, sadly, the conference had to come to an end. Those of us who were still around helped tear down Halle 8. It looked really empty when we were finished.

OUCE Closing

We then headed off to the Wiesenmühle for one final gathering before going our separate ways.

If you like OpenNMS then you really should make plans to come to the OUCE. Next year will be held at about the same time at the same place, so reserve space on your calendar now.

In the meantime, there are two more conferences left in the year where OpenNMS will be presenting. In a week you’ll find us at All Things Open in Raleigh, NC, USA, and in November Ronny and I will be at the Open Source Monitoring Conference in Nürnberg.

Hope to see you at one or all of these.

GrafanaCon in NYC with Jesse White

Just a quick note to point out that GrafanaCon is next week in NYC.


It’s a free, one evening conference that promises to be a lot of fun.

OpenNMS’s very own Jesse White will be discussing the amazing API he wrote to put OpenNMS collected data into the Grafana dashboard in a talk called “Tales of a Custom Data Source” at 6:45pm. If Grafana didn’t exist, we’d have to write it, and we probably couldn’t have done as good a job as they did.

If you want to see the future of data visualization, don’t miss this conference. Plus you get to see how we plan to display all of the billions of “Internet of Thingies” data points OpenNMS will be storing in Newts.

OUCE 2015: Fulda? Where is Fulda?

With the OpenNMS Users Conference less than a month away, I hope you have convinced your boss to let you attend. Ronny updated the website recently, the call for papers has closed and the schedule is being finalized.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a little about the town of Fulda (pop. 65,000) where the OUCE is being held.

The reason we are holding the OUCE in Fulda is mainly due to it being the home of the Hochschule Fulda, the University of Applied Sciences. This is where a number of OpenNMS contributors went to school and some of them still work there. The facilities are excellent, as is the bandwidth, and the town itself is pretty cool.

The city started in 744 when Saint Sturm founded a monastery there. For someone from the United States it is mind boggling to visit a place that is nearly a millennium older than most places in my country. Thus modern Fulda is a mix of old and new.

In addition to the university, the OUCE will visit a number of other places. On Tuesday night, Nethinks is hosting a dinner for the attendees at Viva Havanna, a Cuban style restaurant (I learned that in German, the extra “n” actually means the “n” sound is pronounced in a shorter fashion than normal). On Wednesday night we’re having the Bad Voltage team do a show, and afterward we’ll most likely end up at a biergarten called the Wiesenmühle.

It is easy to get to Fulda. If you are coming by air, the closest major airport is Frankfurt (FRA) and you can take a train from there to Fulda Station. The website has more details.

Fulda has some historic significance as well. Nearby is the Fulda Gap, an east-west route often used by invading forces into Europe and it was thought to be a primary route any Soviet invasion of NATO countries would use. Thus there was a strong military presence in the area during the cold war.

My favorite “Fun Fulda Fact” is that the monastery there was responsible for the survival of the book/poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things). Written in 100 BC by the Roman poet Lucretius, it was one of the first books to state that the world could be explained by natural phenomena versus gods, and includes such gems as all matter being made up of atoms. As you might imagine, there were those who disliked these ideas and thus all copies of the poem were thought destroyed.

De rerum natura image from Wikipedia

However, in 1417, ­Poggio Bracciolini found one at the Benedictine abbey at Fulda. He made a copy, and thus the book survives to this day. Author Stephen Greenblatt wrote a book called The Swerve about the impact of the poem. From the New York Times article “The Almost-Lost Poem That Changed the World”:

Titus Lucretius Carus’ “De Rerum Natura,” or “On the Nature of Things,” is a 7,400-line poem in Latin hexameters written in the first century B.C. It covers philosophy, physics, optics, cosmology, sociology, psychology, religion and sex; the ideas in it influenced Newton and Darwin, among others.

Cool, huh? Well, I have been to the abbey in Fulda, and you can too, if you come to the OUCE. Hope to see you there.

I, Robot

Today is the 11th anniversary of The OpenNMS Group. We started on September 1st, 2004 with little more than a drive to build something special, a business plan of “spend less than you earn” and a mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money”.

Since I’m still working and people are using software other than OpenNMS to manage their networks, I can’t say “mission accomplished” but we’re still here, we have a great team and the best users anyone could want, so by that measure we are successful.

When it comes to the team, one thing I worry about is how to connect our remote people with the folks in North Carolina. We do a lot of Hangouts, etc, but they lack the aspect of initiative – the remote guys have to be passive and just sit there. Then I got the wild idea to investigate getting a telepresence robot. Wouldn’t it be cool if remote people could pop in and drive around the office, attend meetings, etc?

After a lot of research, I decided on a robot from Double Robotics.

Robot Tarus

The buying decision wasn’t a slam dunk. It is a very iPad/iOS centric solution which bothered me, and I had some issues concerning the overall security of the platform. So, I sent in a note and ended up having a call with Justin Beatty.

It was a great call.

Double is pretty serious about security, and assuming there are no firewall issues, the connection is encrypted peer-to-peer. While there are no plans to remove the requirement that you buy an iPad in order to use the robot, they are working on an Android native client. You can drive it on almost any platform that supports the Chrome browser (such as Linux) and you can even use it on Android via Chrome. There is a native iOS app as well.

What really sold me on the company is that they are a Y Combinator project, and rather than focus on raising more capital, they are focused on making a profit. They are small (like us) and dedicated to creating great things (like us).

Justin really understood our needs as well, as he offered us a refurbished unit at a discount (grin).

Anyway, I placed an order for a Double and (gulp) ordered an iPad.

It was delivered while I was away in England, but I was able to get it set up on Monday when I returned to the office. They have a number of easy to follow videos, and it probably took about 20 minutes to understand how everything went together.

You take the main body of the robot out of the box and place it on the floor. I had purchased an external speaker kit (otherwise, it uses the iPad speaker) which makes it look like a little Dalek, and you install that on the main post. Then you plug in the iPad holder and screw it to the post with a bolt. That’s about it for robot assembly.

The next step is to take the USB charging cable that came with your tablet and mount it inside the iPad holder. You then insert the iPad upside down and connect the cable so that the robot can power and recharge the iPad. The Double supports any iPad from version 2 onward, and they have a spacer to use for the iPad Air (which is thinner). Finally, you connect a directional microphone into the audio slot on the bottom of the iPad (or top, depending on how you look at it) and the unit is assembled.

Then I had to set up the iPad, which was a bit of a pain since I’m no longer an Apple person and needed a new Apple account (and then I had to update iOS), but once it was configured I could then pair the iPad to the robot via bluetooth. Next, I had to download the Double app from the App Store and create a Double account. Once that process was complete, I could login to the application on the tablet and our robot was ready to go.

To “drive” the robot, you log in to a website via Chrome. There are controls in the webapp for changing the height of the unit, controlling audio and video, and you move the thing around with the arrow keys.

It’s a lot of fun.

When moving you want to have the robot in its lowest height setting. Not only will it go faster, it will be more stable. This isn’t an off road, four wheeling type of robot – it likes smooth services. There is a little bump at the threshold to my office and once the robot has gone over that you want to wait a second or two because it will wobble back and forth a little bit. Otherwise, it does pretty well, and because the rubber wheels are the part of the robot that stick out the most in the front and the back; if you run into a wall it won’t damage the iPad.

I did have to mess with a couple of things. First of all, it needed a firmware upgrade before the external audio speaker would work. Second, sometimes it would keep turning in one direction (in my case, to the right), but restarting the browser seem to fix that.

You do need to be careful driving it, however. One of my guys accidentally drove it into a table, so it hit the table along the “neck” of the robot and not on the wheels. This caused the unit to shoot backward, recover and then try to move forward. It fell flat on its face.

Which, I am thankful, did no damage. The iPad is mounted in a fairly thick case, and while I wouldn’t want to test it you are probably safe with the occasional face plant.

I bought an external wireless charger which allows you to drive the robot into a little “dock” for charging instead of plugging it in. To help park it, there is a mirror mounted in the iPad holder that directs the rear camera downward so you can see where you are going (i.e. look at the robot’s “feet”). Pretty low tech but they get points for both thinking about it and engineering such a simple solution.

Everyone who has driven it seems to like it, although I’m thinking about putting a bell on the thing. This morning I was jammin’ to some tunes in my office when I heard a noise and found Jeff, piloting the robot, directly behind me. It was a little creepy (grin).

I bought it with a nice (i.e. expensive) Pelican case since the plan is to take it on road trips. I bought the iPad that supports 4G SIM cards so I should be able to use it in areas without WiFi. It’s first outing will be to the OpenNMS Users Conference, which is less than a month away. If you haven’t registered yet, you should do so now, and you’ll get to see the robot in action.

Robot Bryan

Bad Voltage will also be there, with Bryan Lunduke piloting the robot from his home in Portland. I had him try it out today and he commented “So rad. So very, very rad”.

At the moment I’m very pleased with the Double from Double Robotics. It’s a little spendy but loads of fun, and I can’t wait to use it for team meetings, etc, when people can’t make it in person. You can also share the output from the unit with other people with the beta website, although you could always just do a Google Hangout and share the screen.

Double Logo

I even like the Double Robotics logo, which is a silhouette of the robot against a square background to form a “D”. I am eager to see what they do in the future.

OUCE 2015: Bad Voltage Live

Every year at the OpenNMS Users Conference (OUCE) we have a good time. In fact, learning a lot about OpenNMS goes hand in hand with having fun.

At this year’s SCaLE conference, the team behind the Bad Voltage podcast was there to do a live version of the show. You can watch it on-line and see it went pretty well, and this gave me the idea to invite the gang over to Germany to do it again at the OUCE.

Since there may be one or two of my three readers who are unaware of Bad Voltage, I thought I’d post this little primer to bring you up to speed.

Bad Voltage is a biweekly podcast focused on open source software, technology in general and pretty much anything else that comes across the sometimes twisted minds of the hosts. They deliver it in a funny manner, sometimes NSFW, and for four guys with big personalities they do a good job of sharing the stage with each other. As I write this they have done 47 episodes, which is actually quite a nice run. For anyone who has done one or thought about doing a periodic podcast or column, know that after the first few it can be hard to keep going. It is a testament to how well these guys work together that the show has endured. Believe it or not, I actually put time into these posts and even I find it hard to produce a steady amount of content. I can’t imagine the work needed to coordinate four busy guys to create what is usually a good hour or three of podcast. (grin)

Bad Voltage as The Beatles

Anyway, I want to introduce you to the four Bad Voltage team members, and I thought it would be a useful analogy to compare them to the Beatles. As I doubt anyone who finds this blog is too young to not know of the Beatles, it should aid in getting to understand the players.

Bad Voltage - Jono Bacon Jono Bacon is Paul. If you have heard of anyone from Bad Voltage, chances are it is Jono. He’s kind of like the Elvis of open source. He was a presenter for LugRadio but is probably best known for his time at Canonical where he served as the community manager for Ubuntu. He literally wrote the book on open source communities. He is now building communities for the XPRIZE foundation as well as writing articles for opensource.com and Forbes and occasionally making loud music. He’s Paul because is he one of the most recognizable people on the team, and he secretly wishes I had compared him to John.

Bad Voltage - Bryan Lunduke Bryan Lunduke is John. He gets to be John because he has heartfelt opinions about everything, and usually good arguments (well, arguments at least) to back them up. He has passion, much of which he puts into promoting OpenSUSE. I’ve never met Bryan in person, but we’ve missed each other on numerous occasions. I missed him at SCaLE, he missed the Bad Voltage show I was on, and I missed him again at OSCON. And I’ll miss him in Fulda, as his wife is due to deliver their second child about that time, but he will be there virtually. He adds depth the the team.

Bad Voltage - Jeremy Garcia Jeremy Garcia is George. Although none of these guys could be described as “quiet”, he is the most reserved of the bunch, but when he opens his mouth he always has something interesting to say. You can’t be part of this group and be a wallflower. I’m not sure if he has a day job, but fifteen (!) years ago he founded Linuxquestions.org and has been a supporter of open source software even longer. He adds a nice, rational balance to the group.


Bad Voltage - Stuart Langridge Stuart is Ringo, known to his friends as “Aq” (short for “Aquarius” – long story). He is pretty unfiltered and will hold forth on topics as wide ranging as works of science fiction or why there should be no fruit in beer. He was also a member of LugRadio as well as an employee of Canonical, and now codes and runs his own consulting firm (when he is not selling his body on the streets of Birmingham). If there was a Bad Voltage buzzword bingo, you could count on him to be the first to say “bollocks”. He adds a random element to the group that can often take the discussion in interesting directions.

They have been working hard behind the scenes to plan out a great show for the OUCE. Since many of the attendees tend not to be from the US or the UK, it is hoped that the show will translate well for the whole audience, and to make sure that happens we will be serving beer (if you are into that sort of thing). If you were thinking about coming to the conference, perhaps this will push you over the top and make you register.

But remember, you don’t have to attend the OUCE to see the show. We do ask that you register and pony up 5€. Why? Because we know you slackers all too well and you might sign up and then decide to blow it off to binge on Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time. Space is limited, and we don’t want to turn people away and then have space left open. Plus, you’ll be able to get that back in beer, and the show itself promises to be priceless and something you don’t want to miss.

If that isn’t enough, there is a non-zero chance that at least one of the performers will do something obscenely biological (and perhaps even illegal in Germany), and you could say “I was there”.

Convince Your Boss to Send You to the OUCE

With this year’s OpenNMS Users Conference a little over a month away, I plan to be writing about it more in the run up to the event. I figured I should probably start on why you should go and, better yet, how to convince your boss to pay for the trip.

First off, if you aren’t using OpenNMS, why not? (grin)

In all seriousness, if you are happy with your network management solution you can stop reading now. But if you aren’t happy, are in the process of considering alternatives, or if you have a serious interest in discovering the benefits of an open source network management platform, the money you will spend to investigate OpenNMS through the Users Conference is a rounding error compared to the price of similar commercial solutions.

Second, OpenNMS is more of a platform than an application. I know of a number of organizations who manage billion dollar budgets using Microsoft Excel, but it didn’t work for them out of the box. They had to build the spreadsheets, integrate it with databases and other applications, but now they have a custom system that fits their needs. Most network management applications require the user to adapt their processes to fit the application. For most IT organizations those processes are what differentiate them from their competitors, so it makes more sense to use a platform like OpenNMS which can be customized to better complement them instead of the other way around.

Third, OpenNMS does have a steep learning curve. It is a broad and powerful tool but it does require an investment in time in order to realize its full potential. One way to get such knowledge would be to attend a week-long training class at the OpenNMS HQ. The cost would be US$2500 plus travel.

Contrast this with the OUCE. The full four day package runs 1000€, currently about US$1100, or less than half the price of the standard training course. Even with travel expenses (assuming you aren’t in Germany in particular or Europe in general) it should make more sense to go to the OUCE than to the usual training course (plus, the next one isn’t until January of next year). If you don’t have the need to go to the one day OpenNMS Bootcamp, it is even less expensive. It makes good financial sense.

Fourth, this is a *users* conference. If you come to training you will most likely get to listen to me for five days. At the OUCE you get to meet and talk with the people who *use* OpenNMS. Got a common problem? Find out how others solved it using OpenNMS. Got a weird problem? I can guarantee that someone at the conference will have a weirder one that they used OpenNMS to fix. The initial list of accepted talks is awesome and will only get better.

Fifth, a lot of the key people behind OpenNMS will be there as well (including yours truly) and so you can experience first hand what makes the OpenNMS community so special. Plus, since we don’t “unveil” new features, you can see first hand what is currently available in the development version of OpenNMS, including “big data” storage, new and improved graphing, elasticsearch integration and distributed polling via “minions”.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun. I can remember meeting Ian Norton during an OUCE several years ago. He had been forced to attend the conference by his (now previous) employer and was very unhappy about it. Not knowing who I was, he candidly ranted about issues he saw with the product. I assured him that we would work hard over the next two days to address them. Now he is one of our biggest supporters, and all it took was two days to “get it” and understand what makes OpenNMS so magical (in the interest of full disclosure, schnapps was involved).

In conclusion, if you are not using OpenNMS you are probably paying too much for a lesser solution. This may not be true in your particular case, but you should at least seriously investigate the possibility. It makes financial sense to do this at the Users Conference, even with travel expenses, plus you can see how real users, just like you, are getting the most value out of the tool. And even if you decide OpenNMS is not for you, you’ll have had some fun and can rest assured you did your due diligence when examining management options for your employer.

Hope to see you there.

2015 O’Reilly Open Source Conference

I think this year marks the eighth OSCON I’ve attended. I’m not sure of that, but I am sure that every year I can meet up with a number of interesting people that I just don’t see elsewhere.

I used to get the conference pass so I could see the presentations, and while they tend to be of a very high quality, I often found myself spending most of my time outside of those rooms, either on the Expo floor or just sitting and talking, so this year I just got the Expo pass.

OSCON 2015 - Entrance

I have a love/hate relationship with OSCON. It seems to be skewed toward large companies, and this year was no exception.

I got to see the jugglers at Paypal:

OSCON 2015 - Paypal

(Note: Jason, who used to work with us at OpenNMS, is now at Paypal and so I get to hear about some of the stuff they are doing around open source it is pretty exciting).

and Microsoft was back with the photo booth:

OSCON 2015 - Microsoft

There were also some smaller companies in attendance. I had to go by and say “hi” to the Atlassian team as we happily use a number of their products to make OpenNMS happen, such as Bamboo and Jira:

OSCON 2015 - Atlassian

and it was nice to run into Chris Aniszczyk, the open source guy at Twitter.

OSCON 2015 - Chris Aniszczyk

I had not talked to Chris since last year’s OSCON and it was cool to learn that he’s doing well.

One thing I’ve been looking at for OpenNMS is the best configuration platform with which to integrate. It is hard to choose between Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Salt (and we should probably do all four) but if the choice was solely based on the friendliest staff Chef would probably win.

OSCON 2015 - Chef

I never did get the full story on what happened with their booth.

Right around the corner was the Kaltura booth with its incredibly shy and withdrawn Director of Marketing, Meytal:

OSCON 2015 - Meytal Burstein

She was also at CLS and our paths crossed a lot, and I’m certain I’ll run into her in the future. Oh, and if you want her opinion, you’ll have to drag it out of her.

(Note: some of the above is not true)

OSCON 2015 - CDK Global

It was also cool to see a booth for CDK Global. CDK was formed by merging Cobalt and ADP Dealer Services, and the latter uses OpenNMS. Sam (the guy in the middle) was also a Frontalot fan, so we got along well.

I spent most of my time off to the side of the Expo floor on a row I called the “Geek Ghetto”. These are booths that OSCON offers to open source projects and organizations. It was cool to see that it was almost always packed with people.

OSCON 2015 - Geek Ghetto

I got to talk to the team at the Linuxfest Northwest. This is one conference I have yet to attend but I’m going to make an effort to get there next year. I’m hoping to convince the Bad Voltage guys to come along and do a live show (they will be with us at the OUCE this September in Germany)

OSCON 2015 - Linuxfest Northwest

Next to them was a booth from the EFF. Maggie, who was at the anniversary show in San Francisco, was also doing booth duty at OSCON.

OSCON 2015 - EFF

I believe in what the EFF is doing so it was nice to get to talk with them.

Last year I spent a lot of time learning about Free Geek:

OSCON 2015 - Free Geek

and it was nice to chat with them again. If you are in a Free Geek city, you should get involved.

It was good to see a large number of women in attendance, although it was still not reflective of the population as a whole. One group working to change that is Chicktech:

OSCON 2015 - Chicktech

Note that my picture got photobombed by “Open Source Man”.

Also in the Geek Ghetto was the Software Freedom Conservancy, run in part by Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler. I think highly of them both and enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.

OSCON 2015 - Karen Sandler

Now, I should probably explain my shirt.

Bryan Lunduke is one-fourth of the Bad Voltage team. While I have known Jono Bacon for some time, I didn’t get to meet Jeremy Garcia or Stuart Langridge until this year’s SCaLE conference. I never got to meet Bryan. To be honest, a lot of these “meetings” happened in bars and Bryan doesn’t drink, and I did try to get his attention on the show floor but he obviously didn’t hear me.

Then I was on the Bad Voltage podcast talking about OpenNMS. This was an episode where Bryan was ill, so outside of signing in to say he couldn’t do the show, I didn’t see much of him.

Finally, we are planning on having Bad Voltage come out to the OpenNMS User’s Conference this September. Bryan is expecting the arrival of his second child, so he had to beg off.

Now I just see these things as coincidences, but the guys in the office suggested the real reason is that Bryan hates me. Jessica, our graphic designer, took the bait and made up a graphic, and my friend Jason at Princredible printed a few really nice shirts.

I wanted to meet up with him in Portland, but he was only at CLS the second day (I was there the first). He was at OSCON on Wednesday. I wandered around the Expo floor trying to find him but we could never meet up.

It started to become amusing. People would stop me and say “Bryan was just here looking for you”. After awhile I thought it might be even funnier if we never met, just circled each other at the conference and to this day we still haven’t stood next to each other (he and Jono did call me later in the day, but I had already left).

Anyway, if you think Bryan Lunduke hates you too, you can get a nifty shirt just like mine. Jason will take orders until 10 August. These are high quality shirts that are actually printed – the image is dyed into the fabric and not screened on top were it is likely to crack and peel.

OSCON 2015 - Jono Bacon

Speaking of Jono, he did an “Ask Me Anything” session and I was very eager to get some of the burning questions off my chest. Unfortunately, it was subtitled to limit the questions to things like “community management” and “leadership”. Mine were, to a fault, all obscenely biological.

I want to end this note with a picture of one of my favorite people, within or outside of open source, Stephen Walli.

OSCON 2015 - Stephen Walli

I usually only see him at OSCON, and while in his sunset years he has quieted down a bit (grin), I always welcome the time I get to spend with him.

Hope to see everyone in Austin in 2016, if not sooner.