OpenNMS at POSSCON, 14-15 April

#NotAprilFools

I love the fact that with the possible exception of OSCON (which has blacklisted me as a speaker for some reason), the main open source conferences all tend to be grassroots, regional affairs. I love going to them and find them to be much better than the commercial and corporate shows.

One I have never been able to attend is POSSCON. Although only one state away, my schedule has not worked out to allow me to go. I’ve heard a number of good things about it, so this year I was determined to attend and The OpenNMS Group is even a gold sponsor.

We will have be a booth where you can come by and see the new OpenNMS shiny, and I will be giving a talk on the first day about switching to the Linux Desktop, and on the second day there will be a workshop on using OpenNMS.

Hope to see you there.

OpenNMS at Fifteen

It was fifteen years ago today that the OpenNMS Project was registered on Sourceforge.

OpenNMS Sourceforge Summary

The project itself was started sometime in 1999, but I wasn’t around then as I didn’t get involved until 2001. I’ve been told that it started in July of that year, but since an open source project really doesn’t exist until something gets shared, it seems that March 30, 2000, is as good a day as any to mark the birth of OpenNMS.

I went poking around on the site and wasn’t able to find the very first thing posted there. I believe it was a mockup of an administration console using the Java Swing toolkit that never actually made it into the product. While I believe the code is still in there somewhere, in switching from CVS to SVN to git, dates do get a little corrupted and I couldn’t find it.

Anniversaries don’t really mean that much in practical terms. In moving from Sunday, March 29th, to Monday, March 30th there was no substantial change in OpenNMS at all. But it does lend itself to a bit of reflection, and fifteen years is a lot of time on which to reflect.

While I have been working on OpenNMS most of my professional career, I didn’t start it. People much smarter than me did, and that has pretty much been the story of my life. My only true talent is getting intelligent and creative people to work with me, and the rest of my career is just basking in their reflected glory. In 2002, the original founders decided to stop working on the project, but I saw its potential and was able to become its maintainer.

My original plan was to simply remain a company of one and provide consulting services around OpenNMS. That didn’t work out so well, as I soon realized that it could be much bigger than one person. In September of 2004, The OpenNMS Group was born in part to insure that the OpenNMS platform would always be around. We wanted to build something amazing, and this was reflected in our goal “to make OpenNMS the de facto management platform of choice.”

Being pretty much a group of technical people, we didn’t know we were doing things wrong. For a business plan we chose “Spend less money than you earn.” For a mission statement we liked “Help Customers – Have Fun – Make Money”. I put forth my two desires that OpenNMS should never suck and that OpenNMS should always be free software. We just took it from there.

This is not to say that we haven’t met with frustration. Gartner likes to diagram companies on two axes: “Vision” and “Ability to Execute that Vision”. We have a lot of vision, but our business model doesn’t give us a lot of resources to execute that vision quickly.

In order to change this, I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley looking for an investor. Silicon Valley is pretty much the center of the technology industry, and one would assume that they would know the best way to run a technology based business. But I was pretty much told that you can’t be anyone unless you work in the Valley, you’re too old, and most importantly, you are doing it wrong.

There seems to be a formula they like out there. You raise a bunch of money. You hire as many people as fast as you can. You get as many users as possible and you hope that some larger company will buy you out. They call this an “exit strategy”, and this is supposed to be the focus of the business. Once you “exit” you can do it all again.

The problem, as I see it, is that a lot of companies have to exit before they get bought out. They run out of money, the investors run out of interest or patience, and then they just shutter the endeavor. Sure, you have your prominent billion dollar acquisitions, but in the scheme of things they are a very, very small percentage.

Plus, I’m already doing what I love to do. I really don’t want to do anything else. My chosen field, network management, is huge and I can always find something interesting in it, such as figuring out the best way to deal with the Internet of Things.

Sure, I believe that there are companies out there that would complement what we do. Ones that have the capital to help OpenNMS grow in a way that doesn’t go against our corporate culture. And while our involvement with such a company would probably be through an acquisition, I don’t see that as much as an “exit” as an evolution. I wouldn’t do the deal if I didn’t think I’d want to continue to work on the project, so I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I see this post has become more about the business side of OpenNMS than the project itself, but I felt it was important to think about how our business philosophy permeates the project. Thus I thought it was serendipitous that Ben sent me a link to an article about an alternative to the “exit strategy” called the “exist strategy”.

The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the world’s oldest business. It is a hot springs hotel in Japan that was founded in 705 and has been run by fifty-two generations of the same family. They have survived and even thrived for 1300+ years by having a relentless focus on their customers. Even though they have only 40 rooms, by any measure you have to call their undertaking a success.

I think there is a huge problem with the tech industry’s focus on the exit. It’s such a short term goal. I expect the goal we set for OpenNMS to take the rest of my life and maybe some time after that. By focusing on an exit the people who usually end up paying for it are your customers, and that just doesn’t strike me as a way to run a business. I’m certain that if the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan had focused on growth over service they would have died out a long time ago. Heck, even the company that started OpenNMS closed its doors in 2004. When they weren’t moving fast enough toward their goal for the investors, the did what today we would call “a pivot” and it didn’t work out, even thought that’s what anyone in the Valley would have said was the right decision.

Look, I don’t want to come across as some sort of holier than thou “money is evil” kind of person. I run a business, not a charity. But as a businessman, and not a gambler, I truly believe that our best chance at financial success is to find a way for us deliver the best value we can to our customers. Period. That’s our focus, and any type of “exit” is way down on the list. Heck, the current management team at The OpenNMS Group is ten years older than the rest of the guys, and we’ve even thought of selling the business to them when we wish to retire. Not sure we can do it 52 times, but that is one form of exit that is still in line with an “exist strategy”.

And that’s the thought I want to take into the next fifteen years of OpenNMS. We have a covenant with our users and they have paid us back in kind with their support. This has resulted in a number of other impressive numbers. The OpenNMS Group has prospered for more than a decade. We are getting ready for our tenth OpenNMS Developers Conference, Dev-Jam. We’ve had almost the same number of OpenNMS User Conferences, the next one is in September and hosted by the independent OpenNMS Foundation.

We still have quite a few years to go to match the numbers of the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, but I think that focusing on an “exist strategy” is the way to go. We still have the greatest team of people ever assembled to work on a software project, and while the faces and names have changed over the years, I still feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.

And the view is great from up here.

Framing the Net Neutrality Debate

Sorry for the delay in commenting on this, but I’ve been sick with the flu and I’m just now getting back to normal.

Back on February 26th, the FCC voted to treat the Internet as a utility. As a huge fan of “Net Neutrality” I was cautiously optimistic about this, but I was saddened by the fact that the 3-2 vote was along party lines. With the current dysfunctional US government, I was hoping that something as important as a free and open Internet would not be politicized.

Those who would try to control the Internet for their own agenda were quick to respond. Verizon issued a reply that looked like it was created on an old typewriter, implying that ideas created in 1934 (the law that formed the basis of the FCC decision) couldn’t be useful in a modern world. It’s an informal fallacy – instead of trying to describe why the world would be better off with Verizon in control of the Internet, a much harder proposition, they opted to throw a bunch of rhetoric at the problem.

Those against Net Neutrality are going to try to frame the issue as “anti-capitalist”. The problem is that a key component of free markets is “easy entry and exit”. The idea is that if one company is making a profit, competitors will enter in to the marketplace until the overall profit reaches zero. The problem with utilities such as the Internet, electricity and water is that it is not easy to enter or exit the market, which creates barriers to a truly free marketplace. While I can argue that it is uniquely American for a large corporation to try and protect its unfair advantages, it is also anti-capitalist and government should exist to maintain a level playing field.

No, what Verizon dreams about is becoming the Enron of the Internet. I managed to get my hands on a leaked, new “Venron” logo:

Enron demonstrated the problems when you try to mix in greed with a utility. Due to companies such as Enron exerting undue influence in politics, the decision was made to deregulate the generation of electricity in California. Everyone used the same rhetoric being used in the Net Neutrality debate: free markets are the best for the people and “trust us” – why would we want to hurt our own customers? This resulted in skyrocketing energy prices and rolling blackouts throughout the State.

Internet companies such as Verizon are using those same tactics to build opposition to Net Neutrality. Their pet politicians, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (the State responsible for Enron) have been hard at work trying to tie a free Internet to the idea of “too much government” and you can expect them to compare it to everything from the Affordable Care Act to Climate Change.

We need to respond with the simple mantra that a vote against Net Neutrality is a vote for an “Enron of the Internet”. It’s as easy and straightforward as that. Net Neutrality means that no one company, or cabal of companies, can control the Internet – not even the government. It is a vote for freedom and democracy, and anyone who is against that is against the ideals that created our country in the first place.

Yeah, I know that the Constitution is a really old document (even older than 1934) but it has held up pretty well. Let’s make sure that the opponents of a free Internet aren’t allow to disgrace it as well.

Dell, Rhymes with Fail

Yes, I am a bit frustrated at the moment. This post is something of a plea that someone within the huge organization known as the Dell Computer company has a clue and can help me out. Before you think I’m just a big hater, here is a shot of one of our computer racks:

As you can tell, we do use a lot of Dell hardware (and yes, there is an HP box squeezed in the middle there).

I work hard. As a result of that, I feel I deserve nice things, and what I really want right now is a nice laptop. But I want a laptop that runs Linux well.

I’ve looked at the systems from System76, but I want a higher density screen than they offer. I would look at the new X1 Carbon from Lenovo, but I’m still angry at them for Stoopidfish, and while I plan to wipe any laptop I get from any vendor I still think it will be some time before I can give them money.

No, I like to support Linux-friendly vendors, so I recently ordered the Dell M3800 laptop, Ubuntu edition. I ordered it on February 2nd.

A couple of my three blog readers have contacted me eager for my review, but I wasn’t able to publish it because I have yet to receive the laptop. In fact, it appears my original order has been canceled. Here is the story.

I placed the order on the 2nd, and got an estimated delivery date of the 18th. That would have been perfect as I would have the new machine just before SCaLE. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and my estimated delivery date was pushed out until the 26th.

Well, the 26th came and went with no update from Dell. I finally decided to contact them and I was told they would expedite my case.

This week I was told that “I regret to inform you that we are not able to process the order 769577335 due to configuration mismatch.”

WTF?

You drag me along for a month and then tell me that there is a “configuration mismatch”? Now I have to reorder and go through the whole process again? Plus, there was no “mea culpa” and no offer of, heck, free shipping or an expedited order – just “so sorry, try again”.

Grrrr.

Like an idiot, I decided to try again.

I got to the order page, and that’s when I found out what the magical “configuration mismatch” was. It turns out that you can’t order a Dell M3800 laptop with Ubuntu and a second hard drive.

Seriously.

In the configuration I want, I want a 256GB SSD for the primary drive and a 1TB HDD for the secondary drive. That should make the operating system fast while giving me lots of room for files and git repos on the slower HDD.

But when I check it, I get this error:

Choosing Windows makes it go away.

I was dumbfounded. The issue that kept me from getting my laptop, and it appears the issue that will keep me from getting this laptop at all, it that Dell doesn’t know how to deal with a second hard drive on Ubuntu.

Just to make sure, I did one of those chat-thingies:

Time 	                Details
03/06/2015 10:24:51AM 	Session Started with Agent (Jayant K S)
03/06/2015 10:24:51AM 	Tarus Balog: "."
03/06/2015 10:24:59AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Welcome to Dell US Small Business Chat! My name is Jayant Kumar Singh and I will be your Dell.com Sales Chat Expert. I can be reached at jayant_k_singh@dell.com or via phone at 1-800-289-3355 ext. 4166817. How may I help you today?"
03/06/2015 10:25:07AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Hi Tarus :-)"
03/06/2015 10:25:26AM 	Tarus Balog: "I'm trying to order a Dell M3800 laptop with Ubuntu, but it tells me I can't get a secondary hard drive with Ubuntu, only Windows. Is this true?"
03/06/2015 10:25:52AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am sorry about the inconveinence. Glad you chatted in today, I will try my best to help you"
03/06/2015 10:25:57AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Let me check"
03/06/2015 10:27:17AM 	Tarus Balog: "I get that error"
03/06/2015 10:27:26AM 	Tarus Balog: "and it goes away if I choose Windows"
03/06/2015 10:27:37AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "ok"
03/06/2015 10:29:55AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am working on it please stay connected"
03/06/2015 10:30:14AM 	Tarus Balog: "ok"
03/06/2015 10:32:12AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "how much boot drive space do you need and how much for the second"
03/06/2015 10:33:24AM 	Tarus Balog: "I was going to order a 256GB SSD for primary and 1TD HDD for secondary"
03/06/2015 10:34:12AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "Give me 1 Minute"
03/06/2015 10:36:53AM 	Agent (Jayant K S): "I am sorry the second hard drive is not allowed"
03/06/2015 10:37:44AM 	Tarus Balog: "Okay"

My guess is that the Dell provisioning process is so rigid that when it comes to Ubuntu they don’t know how to mount the second drive. This causes the whole thing to fall apart. I don’t know why just mounting it as /data isn’t acceptable, but just when I thought Dell was getting it together when it comes to Linux it appears it is just so much black magic to them.

My hope is that someone from the Dell Linux team will actually see this post and will reply. There is only one thing I really want to know and I have not been able to find out: are there any special PPA’s that ship with the Ubuntu version of the M3800 for drivers, etc. If not, then I’ll buy the Windows version, wipe it and at least have the hardware I want. Yes, it costs me over a $100 more for something I’ll just throw away, but at least I’ll have my laptop issue solved.

This whole process has really soured me on a brand I used to like. My current laptop is the Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu version I bought several years ago and I still like it – I just need more screen real estate. I see now why Apple is able to dominate this market. They always under-promised and over delivered (I never had an Apple order show up late and most showed up a day or more early). I never got some crazy “configuration mismatch” errors when trying to place an order.

And in the few times that Apple made a mistake, they went out of their way to make it better.

SCaLE 13x – Days Two and Three

[Note: Today marks the start of my thirteenth year of blogging about open source. Wow]

Sorry for the delay in getting this post written. We’ve had a couple of bouts of winter weather in North Carolina this week and it has really messed up the schedule. This was quite unlike the beautiful weather we experienced in Los Angeles for SCaLE 13x.

Saturday, Day Two for me, was a long one. The expo floor was open for eight hours so outside of giving my talk and lunch I was pretty much in the booth. I think my talk was well received, but Jeff’s talk later in the day was standing room only. I was told that the talks were being streamed live so I hope to see archived recordings soon.

I missed Jeff’s talk because I was in the booth giving away another set of MC Frontalot CDs. The winner did not want to be identified, so I don’t have a picture.

I didn’t take many pictures that day (we were too busy) but I did get a lot that evening. There was a game night with food and a bar, and that’s where the OpenNMS-sponsored Frontalot show was held.

Before the main festivities, they opened up the room for kids. They had a bunch of games set up. Jess told me that this was “Super Smash Brothers” (I think) at the Mario Kart stage.

About 9:30pm Damian started his set.

I think it was well received – I at least had fun. He hit all of my favorites with the exception of “Critical Hit” and this was the first show I’ve been to that he also had video. For those songs with official videos, those were played, but he’d also arranged some graphics for the others. I thought “Victorian Space Prostitute” worked particularly well, although Jess was the only one I think who recognized all the cosplay.

After the show there was a raffle. Colleen did a lot of the giveaways but since I had to spend the entire weekend in the booth I didn’t get to play (sniff).

I did get a nice picture of another SCaLE organizer, Ilan with his lovely bride:

After the show I ran into Jono Bacon and most of the Bad Voltage crew.

Jono seemed convinced that I looked like George Jetson:

but I think I much more rock the Fred Flintstone:

Comments? I doubt it is as divisive as the color of that dress.

[Note: Does any else remember that short lived show Wait Till Your Father Gets Home? Hanna-Barbera’s The Flinstones was set in the past, and The Jetsons was set in the future, and this was the show for the present. Yes, I’m old]

As the evening wound down I helped Damian get his gear back to the hotel and then we hit the bar in the Hilton. I had met the wonderful Stuart Langridge earlier, so I offered to buy him a drink (and learned that there should be no fruit in beer) and before you knew it we had a nice little crowd in our little corner of the bar. While I love going to conferences for the things I learn, sometimes it is the moments around the conference that create the most memories.

On Sunday I managed to hit the booth right on time (at the ungodly hour of 10am) and then, before you knew it, it was over. The wonderful Cynthia Aguilera was the winner of our third and last set of Frontalot CDs.

After we got everything packed up for the trip home, I just kind of crashed. We ended up watching the Oscars and then going to bed.

Thanks to everyone who made this year’s SCaLE conference awesome, and you can next catch us as April’s POSSCON.

Electronic Program Guide Changes at Schedules Direct

I just noticed that my OpenELEC, Kodi and Tvheadend based DVR was no longer updating the Electronic Program Guide (EPG).

I would get the error:

Service description 'http://docs.tms.tribune.com/tech/tmsdatadirect/schedulesdirect/tvDataDelivery.wsdl' can't be loaded: 500 Can't connect to docs.tms.tribune.com:80 (Connection timed out)

when running the fetch script.

Digging around, I found out the reason is that the Gracenote service is being discontinued and thus some URLs have changed.

I use a script called tv_grab_na_dd from the Debian (wheezy) xmltv-utils package. Version 0.5.63-2 doesn’t appear to use the new URLs. The link above suggests adding:

54.85.117.227  docs.tms.tribune.com webservices.schedulesdirect.tmsdatadirect.com

to /etc/hosts and that worked well for me. Of course, if the IP address for Schedules Direct ever changes it will need to be updated.

It looks like this is fixed in xmltv-utils version 0.5.66.

SCaLE 13x – Day One

Well, technically it was Day Two, but with the launch of the new OpenNMS Group website, our Meridian product, and actually trying to finish up my slides for my SCaLE presentation, it was the first day I actually made it to the show.

I love this show. It was the first real grassroots open source conference I ever attended (at Scale 5x back in 2007) and it was amazing. I haven’t been able to make as many of them as I would have liked (they scheduled one on Valentine’s Day once) but I always welcome the opportunity. This year they can accommodate 3000 attendees and while they haven’t released actual numbers, that is a lot of geeks.

I spent almost all of the day in the expo hall. We introduced the new Horizon/Meridian booth:

which I think turned out well. I also got to wander around and talk with a few of the other projects that are here. One was the Kodi team:

and having used it for several weeks now I think it is an amazing piece of software. I also got to talk briefly with Jeremy Sands, one of the organizers of the SouthEast LinuxFest:

and I should point out that the dates have been set for the conference this year (12-14 June) and the RFP is now open.

My talk at SCaLE is about the changing nature of open source, and it has never been a better time to be involved if you want a job. At most shows I see signs like this:

and there is even a career booth hosted by Disney, of all companies:

We had a nice amount of booth traffic. The OpenNMS shirts went in the first hour (should have brought more) and in honor of MC Frontalot performing on Saturday night, we are giving away signed sets of all six of his CDs.

The Friday winner was Ganeshbaba who registered at the very last minute, but we still have two more sets to give away.

Anyway, if you are at the show be sure to stop by and if you aren’t, well, why the heck aren’t you here?

OpenNMS Horizon 15.0.1 Released

Just a quick note to let everyone know that OpenNMS 15.0.1 has been released. This is the first bug fix release for OpenNMS 15, and if you are running it I strongly suggest you upgrade.

As we are working to complete our transition to Hibernate (which will allow OpenNMS to use any database backend, not just PostgreSQL) we discovered an old issue where, under certain circumstances, duplicate outage records could be created. When this happened under the new code, it would cause an exception and the outages would never be cleared. This has been corrected.

The complete list of changes is as follows:

Bug

  • [NMS-7331] – Outage timeline does not show all outages in timeframe
  • [NMS-7392] – Side-menu layout issues in node resources
  • [NMS-7394] – Outage records are not getting written to the database
  • [NMS-7395] – Overlapping input label in login screen
  • [NMS-7396] – Notifications with asset fields on the message are not working
  • [NMS-7399] – Surveillance box on start page doesn't work
  • [NMS-7403] – Data Collection Logs in wrong file
  • [NMS-7406] – Incorrect Availability information and Outage information
  • [NMS-7409] – Visual issues on the start page
  • [NMS-7423] – Duplicate copies of bootstrap.js are included in our pages
  • [NMS-7425] – Poller: start: Failed to schedule existing interfaces
  • [NMS-7426] – Not monitored services are shown as 100% available on the WebUI
  • [NMS-7427] – The PageSequenceMonitor is broken in OpenNMS 15
  • [NMS-7432] – Normalize the HTTP Host Header with the new HttpClientWrapper
  • [NMS-7433] – Topology UI takes a long to load after login
  • [NMS-7434] – Disabling Notifd crashes webUI
  • [NMS-7435] – The Quick Add Node menu item shouldn't be under the Admin menu
  • [NMS-7437] – The default log level is DEBUG instead of WARN on log4j2.xml
  • [NMS-7452] – CORS filter not working
  • [NMS-7454] – Netscaler systemDef will never match a real Netscaler

Enhancement

  • [NMS-7419] – Read port and authentication user from XMP config
  • [NMS-7438] – Apply the auto-resize feature for the timeline charts