Pictures at an Exhibition

While I wrote previously about the tenth anniversary of The OpenNMS Group, because it happened over the Labor Day holiday meant that we had to wait a week to celebrate. So on September 7th we gathered at a really nice restaurant in town called The Oak Leaf for a celebration.

We rented out the place so we had it all to ourselves, and it started with an open bar and amazing appetizers. We were able to socialize as people arrived before sitting down for a three course meal.

Of course, to paraphrase Heinlein there ain’t no such thing as a free open bar, so I subjected everyone to a speech before we could eat. I had the restaurant seat us at one long table with me at one end and our newest team member Ken at the other. It turned out to be a pretty long table. I wanted to demonstrate how we had grown in those ten years, from the three founders in one cramped office into something much larger.

I must admit I got a little verklempt during my speech when I thought back on all the people that made The OpenNMS Group possible. I did miss having Eric there as he couldn’t travel due to a recent surgery, but with that one exception I was surrounded by people who are almost as close to me as my own family (and include some of them as well).

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.

Keep Austin Weird

I got to spend a few days down in Austin this week. I like this town, and as most people know it has become a bit of a hotbed for tech with a lot of companies either moving here or opening offices (I just found out that Atlassian, makers of Jira and Bamboo, among other things, is opening an office in Austin).

Usually when I come to town I get to see Eric Evans. Eric, the guy who coined the modern usage of the term “NoSQL“, lives an hour away in San Antonio and outside of the daily scrum call I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like. However, he just had rotator cuff surgery and when I sent him a text about meeting for dinner his reply was “I’m not yet wearing pants and can’t tie my shoes so the answer is probably no.”

Yeah, there is a “no pants” theme to this post.

On a whim I decided to see if my friend, favorite mad scientist and evil genius William Hurley (aka whurley) was around. As luck would have it, he was.

Speaking of people I don’t get to see very often, whurley is one of them. I think it would be a full time job just to keep up with his projects, and we haven’t had a chance to spend any time together for several years so we tried to cram a lot of catching up into a short evening.

When we drove up to his house the first thing I noticed was a candy apple red Cadillac ELR parked out front. whurley has a large Twitter following, so Cadillac gave him the car to drive and tweet about. This is Cadillac’s entry into the luxury electric hybrid market. It has pretty aggressive styling for a Cadillac, but it is more of what we old folks used to call a “2+2” instead of a true four seat car. It took some acrobatics to get three full sized adults into it for a short trip to grab some Chinese takeout.

Another pleasant surprise was to find out that he is now married, and I got to meet his bride Pamela. As might be expected with anyone associated with whurley, she is exceptional, and welcomed us into her home with short notice.

William + Pamela // Kauai Wedding from John Hoel on Vimeo.

whurley knows that I am a privacy advocate, so he showed me a TED talk he did on the issue, but instead of leading with, say, references to 1984, he goes back in time to talk about the Jacquard loom. This loom was one of the first programmable machines, a forerunner of computers, and it was used to manufacture cloth for clothing. If you think about it, clothing could be considered the earliest form of privacy, so it is a bit ironic that this ur-computer was used to create privacy whereas modern computers are now used to decrease it.

One of the reasons I like being around him is he makes me think. As an old guy, I am constantly amazed at how the younger generation seems to be so eager to give up privacy by sharing pretty much all details of their lives on-line. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be less concern about nudity. I’m not saying that all twenty year olds are running around naked, but compared to 30 years ago when I was in high school, the socially accepted norms for modesty have changed greatly.

But now this seems to make sense. If clothing is the primal form of privacy, one would expect this from a culture in which privacy is less important. And I’m not sure this is a bad thing, as I don’t believe anyone should be ashamed of their bodies, plus it helps me toward earning my “Dirty Old Man” merit badge.

(grin)

In David Brin’s book Earth he envisions a world without privacy, and there are a lot of positive aspects to it. Recently Scott Adams has blogged about the subject, and he makes a number of valid points. The issue I have is that the world we are creating isn’t a utopian transparent society but instead one in which an oligarchy controls the majority of information to use however they see fit, and to me that is dangerous.

So I plan to strive to increase my privacy and, with few exceptions, I’ll keep my pants on.

Review: Question Bedtime by MC Frontalot

The best perk of my job is that I get to meet some truly amazing people. From the people I work with, to others in the open source world, to people like Damian Hess, my life has definitely been enriched by the people in it.

I was able to sponsor Damian, aka MC Frontalot, to perform at the Southeast Linuxfest (SELF) last year in Charlotte, and it was a great weekend. One evening ended up with a group of us in a hotel room, and Damian played some of the raw tracks from what would become his sixth studio album, Question Bedtime.

When he told me that he was doing an album based on bedtime stories, I was like “Wha?”. It didn’t seem to fit in with his “nerd” focus, but now that the album is out I can see why it works. First, while classics like “Goldilocks” and “Little Red Riding Hood are represented, most of the songs reference more obscure tales. Fairy tales are, by definition, fantastical, in much the same way as comic books or other geek friendly literature, so it isn’t as much of a stretch as I originally thought.

One of the tracks I heard that night at SELF was called “Devil in the Attic”. It is based on an obscure Japanese fairy tale called “The Ugly Son“. Such was their vanity, the parents of a very beautiful girl send out notice that she should only be wed to the fairest youth in all the land. Some grifters with a deformed (but intelligent) son think up a plan to wed him to her. They claim he is the fairest in the land and a courtship ensues, but based on tradition they do not see each other at first. On the night of the wedding, the boy’s father goes up into the attic of this grand house and starts claiming to be a demon who will visit a curse on the boy for daring to wed the girl, which the demon claims for himself. The curse turns out to be to deform the features of the boy – thus explaining his looks once they are revealed.

Front puts his own spin on the tale, turning it into a story of the oppression when women were considered property, as well as a lesson on conceit. In the chorus the father of the girl brags “Anything you could have, we have it. Even got a devil in the attic.”

Well, more than a year later, the CD Question Bedtime is now available for pre-order and immediate download. I’ve been listening to it for several weeks now and just got the final copy when it released this week.

The “his own spin” theme flows throughout the album. In “Gold Locks” the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story is retold from the bear’s point of view, portraying Goldilocks as the boogie man, creeping into your house to chop you up and eat you. The opening track “Start Over” is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” as told by Front to a group of children who, in the chorus, exclaim “That ain’t how it happened”.

Just like in Solved, the album is laid out with tracks separated by little interstitial skits, this time with the theme that Front is a babysitter talking to his charges. Only they are all adults. In the opening one Front is trying to get “Li’l Kyle” (comedian Kyle Kinane) to go to sleep, and Kyle questions the arbitrary nature of a “bed time” – hence the name. It’s funny just to hear the arguments presented by the “children” in the skits – I wish I could have thought up some of those when I was younger.

I like every track on the album, but as can be expected I like some more than others. Almost all of them have a hook that will give you more earworms than the victims in The Strain. This morning I was walking around getting ready for work with “Gold Locks, gets in through your open door” on repeat in my brain.

My favorite track is “Two Dreamers” which is based on a tale from 1001 Arabian Nights. What has always attracted me to Front’s work has been the quality of the music. Too much of nerdcore rap tends to focus on the lyrics. While the lyrics are important, and Front excels at them, it is the music that takes it past novelty act and into valid art. In “Two Dreamers” there is even a bit of auto-tune, which I usually shun, but in this case it works. Quite frequently while listening to the album I switch over to Banshee and put that track on repeat.

Of course the track that is bound to be talked about the most is Wakjąkága. It is based on a tale from the native American Ho-chunk (Winnebago) tribe. Let’s just say that when I was learning how classical mythology explains things like why the sun rises and sets and why we have winter and summer, my instructors skipped over this little origin story.

If you are an MC Frontalot fan, you’ll like this album, and if you haven’t been exposed to him before, this album is his most accessible CD for non-geeks. It showcases his progression as a musician, and while my favorite tracks from Solved (“Critical Hit”, “Stoop Sale”, “Victorian Space Prostitute”) resonate with me more than the tracks on this album, they are offset by a couple of tracks I either don’t care for or actively dislike, such as “Invasion of the Not Quite Dead”. Overall, I like the album Question Bedtime the most, and tend to listen to it straight through.

As a bonus if you are an audio nerd, the download includes an 88.2kHz FLAC version which is as close as you can get to the music exactly as he mixed it. Be sure to read the README that comes with it though – if your audio card doesn’t support it he also ships a mastered 44.1kHz FLAC version that will sound better than if your media player is forced to downsample the 88.2kHz one.

Welcome Ken!

As you might imagine, things have been a little hectic around here this week, so I almost forgot to share a great piece of news.

Ken Eshelby, a longtime OpenNMS user and frequent attendee at the OUCE, has joined our team as a consultant. I am excited to be working with him, as in his previous job he did one of the most amazing OpenNMS customizations I’ve seen.

I asked him for a picture and this is what he sent to me. Not sure of the context …

Earthquake in Chile

One of the major things I love about OpenNMS is its worldwide scope. Last fall we had two students, Javier and Cristian, attend our training course in Pittsboro. They work for Telmex in Chile, and the office is just outside of Santiago.

When I heard about the magnitude 8.8 quake, my first thought was to hope that they were okay. I did get an e-mail from them and they are fine, although Cristian writes “I am hoping the earth stops moving … it is a worrying feeling all day long to feel the floor moving and not knowing when it will come.”

Our best thoughts go out to everyone affected by this earthquake, as well as our hopes for a speedy recovery.

Sourceforge CCA Voting Ends Monday

Just in case you haven’t voted yet, this is one last reminder that the Sourceforge Community Choice Awards voting ends on Monday.

If you like OpenNMS, please be sure to give us some love with a vote (the link should pre-select OpenNMS for “Best Project for the Enterprise and if you don’t have a Sourceforge account you can just enter in an e-mail address).

Remember to vote early and often, and we really appreciate your support.

Plus, if you haven’t had a chance to check out our video, I think it’s worth a look.

Le quatorze juillet

The 14th of July, or Bastille Day, celebrates the beginning of French independence with the storming of the Bastille prison on this date in 1789.

I haven’t been able to spend as much time I would like in France. My friend Alex lives in France near the Alps and the Swiss border (he works in Switzerland so I assume he didn’t get today off) and I’ve been able to visit him a couple of times, and we have a customer in Paris that I was able to visit on a whirlwind trip there last year. The French seem to have a natural understanding of our free (libre) and open source philosophy.

One of the major IT companies over there, Bull, uses OpenNMS as the platform for its SmartOSS offering. They are presenting it at the Open World Forum and I was hoping to be able to attend, but I’m not sure that is going to happen (hint: if anyone wants me there, drop me an e-mail).

Also, I received an e-mail while I was on vacation from Samuel Mutel about OpenNMS Sans Effort, a distribution of OpenNMS on CentOS to make it easier for people to get started with the application. It is really exciting to see things like this happening and is one of the joys with working on free and open source software.

Here is hoping that all of our friends in France had a wonderful holiday today.

Brain Regrooving

When I started a business around OpenNMS, everyone who had real jobs would say “Oh, it must be so nice working for yourself since you can take a vacation whenever you want”. Unfortunately for me, our support model business plan didn’t allow for me to just disappear whenever I wanted to, and for the first few years the best I could manage was an occasional three day weekend, where I would stop from time to time on the workday to check mail.

Now that the company has grown, I find I am able to take a decent vacation at least once if not twice a year. This allows me to get away from the business, get away from the farm and spend a little time getting my brain regrooved from the long weeks this project requires of me.

This year we went out to Oregon to spend a week fishing with friends. If I didn’t live in God’s Own Earth I would probably live in Oregon (somewhere down around Eugene). We camped and went fishing for steelhead, bass, trout and tuna.

The latter required getting up at some ungodly hour, getting on a boat, and spending over two hours to get 40 miles out to the tuna. Over the next six we caught 37 fish – nearly 1000 pounds. It’s an exciting and somewhat bloody form of entertainment.


My friend TJ with two of our fish

Unfortunately, I found out that the sea, a small boat and me don’t exactly mix so I spent most of that time in the wheelhouse hoping someone would shoot me and put me out of my misery.

Once back on land I perked up almost immediately and was able to clean the boat while the other folks worked on cleaning the fish. I brought along some wasabi and soy sauce and had some sashimi – that made it all worth it as it was so good (although my fishing buddies were certain I would see that sashimi again).

So let me apologize if I haven’t been responsive to e-mails over the last week. I don’t like “vacation” notification e-mails so I never use them. My first priority it to get through the backlog of nearly 250 messages, so if you are expecting a reply, please be patient.

A Week in Silicon Valley

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. I spent last week in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, to be exact) and it kept me so busy that I wasn’t able to find the time to write anything.

I’ve been to this area of California dozens of times, but I can barely suppress my delight at seeing the headquarters of all those tech companies. Just driving around for lunch is a veritable Who’s Who of the industry. Seriously, as we went to In-N-Out one day we drove past a building that had a sign out front for a company I’ve been talking to for a couple of months about using OpenNMS, but we had never met in person. I dropped them an e-mail and we went out for dinner on Thursday. Too cool.

The company I was working for was right across the street from Palm.

Speaking of Palm, I’m still trying to decide on a new phone. The Palm Pre is out to relatively positive reviews. There is always the iPhone, but until AT&T gets their femtocell solution figured out it is not an option for me. A friend of mine at Google hooked me up with a G1 Android-powered phone, but one of my requirements has to be an easy way to sync my calendar and contacts from my Mac.

From what I can tell, the only way to easily sync your contacts with a G1 is to sync them through Google. I’m enough of a privacy nut that I really don’t want to have my address book on a server I don’t control, so that option is out. For the Pre there appears to be a Missing Sync that’ll work, so that is an option. Bah, I think I just hold off for a few months and see what else comes up.

One thing I really liked about being back in California was the plethora of places to eat. My throat has been bothering me lately, so it was nice to be able to get a big hot bowl of Pho.

On the way to the restaurant I saw a very typically California sign on a post:

I hope they find it.

Tuesday night I got to meet up with a friend of mine from high school named Geoff Davis.

He’s doing some interesting things at Google, and plus we got to try this great Thai place in Mountain View.

We talked past the last shuttle back to San Francisco, so I ended up driving him back to his place in the Haight. It was nice coming over that last ridge on the 101 and seeing the city skyline. I think there will always be a special place in my heart for San Francisco.

On Friday I made plans to meet up with John Mark Walker in San Mateo. Neither of us realized it at the time, but they were having a “wine walk” street faire so it took awhile to find a place to park. As I was waiting for him I wandered around a bit, and came across this Porsche 550. I’m not sure it was authentic, since they are extremely rare and worth north of US$1 million, but it was in any case a nice looking car.

We ate at this Indian place and got caught up on gossip in our little world of open source. He will be moderating a panel with me, Luke Kanies and Michael Coté at the LinuxWorld reboot called OpenSourceWorld in August.

I’m not sure what he was planning with the knife.

I made it home with little trouble on Saturday, ending my third trip out west in six weeks. In addition to the trip in August for the conference, I have only one more short trip to New York City scheduled, so perhaps I’ll get to sleep in my own bed for a change.

Order of the Blue Polo Profile: Ho Trong Dat

When we started the Order of the Blue Polo, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s been interesting, since most of the OBP members so far are people I either didn’t know or haven’t heard from in a long time, and some people I figured would be the first to jump on it haven’t (probably due to the fact we require a company name).

Back in 2002, OpenNMS was pretty much just me in my attic (well, the room over the garage). The economy was still depressed post-9/11 and sometimes I wondered if it was all worth it (luckily I don’t give up too easily).

However, something happened in September of that year that gave me my first glance into how powerful an open source community could become, and it strengthened my resolve to make OpenNMS the de facto management platform used by everyone.

It was a letter from Vietnam.

Hi MAN.
I am calling you MAN because I consider you as a great man in NMS field. You and your band have made an wonderful product as I’ve ever seen and used. I am using OpenNMS 1.0 ( from 0.8.x) at my sites for approximately a year and it keep running well. In future, we will use NMS to monitor almost our VNPT’s network ( VNPT – Vietnam Post and Telecomunication ).

Here our information:
CDIT – Center for Development of Information Technology-VNPT
http://cdit.com.vn/
VietNam

I hope some day I will have a chance to contriubte my little knowledge for OpenNMS’s development.
Best regard.

It was from a man named Ho Trong Dat and it seriously made my day, if not my month. Here I was, working by myself in a little town in rural North Carolina, getting a great letter from a guy in freakin’ Vietnam (and while some readers will probably chuckle at the English, Dat’s English is a hell of a lot better than my Vietnamese).

Note: In most Asian cultures the family name comes before the given name, and I make sure I am aware of this when I travel. However, especially in Japan, some business cards will compensate by reversing them on the “English” side of the card. Note that I said “some” and since I don’t read Japanese I often can’t figure out if it has been done or not. It’s an example where accommodations made for Westerners cause more problems than they solve. So let me apologize in advance if I ever get your names backward.

Another Note: Vietnam has become a popular tourist destination. Think about it – in 40 years the in place to be might be Bagdad.

I was both surprised and extremely happy to see that Dat was to become one of the founding members of the OBP.

Dear OpenNMS users

My name is Dat and I am working for CDIT, a subsidiary company belong to PTIT (Post & Telecommunication Institute of Technology). We are R&D centre. We know OpenNMS when we researched about open source software.

We have been using OpenNMS in CDIT since 2002. From that time, OpenNMS did not release the first version, still 0.9, I remember. We had to install and reinstall OpenNMS a lot of time to get familiar with it. After six month, we finally and totally control OpenNMS in administrating our network. We deployed an WAN for our mother company (VNPT) with over 50 network nodes (router, firewall), a lot of servers (30). Using OpenNMS, we can monitor the status of links between subsidiaries, the performance of the link, of the server. We also monitor a lot of services such as : email, web of collaboration – our internal website, file servers, We think OpenNMS is a very convenient, flexible and highly configurable network management software. We feel happy when using OpenNMS.

Thanks you guys who have been developing such a nice and beautiful software.

So here is a guy from halfway around the world who used OpenNMS back when it first came out, and nearly seven years later he’s still using it (plus Dat’s English is much improved).

It’s letters like these that make me feel happy making OpenNMS.