Forget the Bobs, I'm Going to See the Alisons

In the past I’ve been pretty critical of LinuxWorld Expo, and I may have to take some of it back.

I love the .org Pavilion at the LinuxWorld shows. We went to both US shows in 2005, and we won a Product Excellence Award at the San Francisco show. So we were really surprised when we weren’t invited back.

This year I received an e-mail from Alison McCormack with an offer to submit OpenNMS for consideration for this year’s San Francisco show. This was a nice change from the previous year where the process was shrouded in mystery, so I put our name in the hat.

Today I received an e-mail from Alison Dwelley that read in part:

Dear Tarus,
It is my pleasure to inform you that your organization has been chosen for this year’s .org Pavilion at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo being held in San Francisco August 7-9, 2007


This happens to be the week after Dev-Jam and right after I have to be in a wedding, so I had to price a plane ticket from RDU -> MSP, MSP -> ATL, ATL -> SFO, and SFO -> RDU. If we get a spot at OSCON I do believe my wife will kill me.

If you can’t make it to Dev-Jam, hope to see you in San Francisco.

Hawaii, the 43rd State

I am writing this about 30 feet from the ocean in Laie, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. This makes the 43rd state in the US I’ve been able to visit.

We now have a client here, and some people are bound to say “lucky you, you get to go to Hawaii”. I travel a lot for OpenNMS, and I guess I deserve to get a cool trip once in awhile.

But you know what’s funny? They are all cool trips. I was going to write something like “yeah, I get to go to Hawaii but I also had to go to Saltillo, Mexico”. But then, outside of the heat, I really liked Saltillo. On Fridays you get to go to this one taco stand for cachete de puerco and I’ve been craving it ever since.

The community around OpenNMS is special. I think that becoming a user and then deciding to purchase services and/or support acts as sort of a filter. I have friends at other companies who complain about their customers, and I think in part it’s because those companies might oversell their products and thus they end up with unhappy clients. I don’t think we have any customers we don’t like.

We don’t have any full time sales people: our users sell our products for us. Thus when I go on a client site visit I tend to meet up with people who are a lot like me. No, I don’t mean fat and loud, but they see the value of open source and they are eager to experience the benefits of using it. And while we may see things differently politically or religiously the open source connection means that I always have fun on these trips.

But I have to admit Hawaii is still pretty freakin’ cool.

Vermont, the 42nd State

Even though I grew up in the small town of Asheboro, North Carolina, I have managed to travel quite a bit. Part of it was that I was born in Pittsburgh (and I lie about that on my credit card “secret question” so don’t even try it) and while we moved south when I was six months old, we did go to Pennsylvania several times a year to visit family when I was growing up, so I saw a lot of the east coast. I went to school for awhile in LA, so that got me most of the southern United States, and other travel has put me in 41 states so far.

A recent trip to visit a client in Burlington, Vermont made that 42. I’m still missing Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho and Hawaii.

I liked Burlington. It is a bit of a struggle to get there by air from Raleigh, but the people are friendly and the landscape is really pretty. The high “hippie” quotient due to the local colleges made me feel at home.

On they way back I had to fly on a prop plane to La Guardia, and the pilot made a slow circle over lower Manhattan on the way to Brooklyn. I got to see Ground Zero from about 2000 feet as well as the towers from the World’s Fair that were featured in the first Men in Black movie. All in all a nice trip.

I like to travel, and one thing has made my life on the road much more pleasant: curved shower rods.

I know this sounds silly, but sometimes the simplest ideas can have the greatest impact. I hate shower curtains (I have glass doors at home) and bathing in the numerous hotel rooms I stay it was always unpleasant due to the curtain being so close that it would invariably jump out and stick to me. Just by putting a little bend in the rod has made all of the difference. It must be a popular change because now I rarely stay in a hotel without one.

We have always tried to apply similar thinking to OpenNMS. We look for simple ways of addressing management issues in the hopes that someone will say “wow, that’s pretty cool”. In fact we have an informal “Simple Rule” at the office: if it doesn’t make things easier for our clients or easier for us to provide service, we don’t do it.

Now I know that there is at least one of my seven readers out there who would hesitate to describe OpenNMS as “simple”. Trust me, compared to software like Tivoli, OpenView and Unicenter, OpenNMS is a walk in the park. It is one thing to get an application installed – it is quite another to get it to actually do something useful. Sometimes half the battle is to just get out of the way and let the network managers implement the processes necessary to do their job, instead of having the management app stick to you.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

My life has been rather … complex … lately, so I apologize for not posting. I hope to get caught up over the next week or so. But there have been a few personnel changes at good ol’ OpenNMS that I wanted to announce.

The first one is that DJ Gregor has left our band for a job at a slightly larger company. It seems that he was more of a social animal than he thought, and he missed being around people (DJ was our one remote employee). I also think some of his friends (who I owe for getting me on the LISA game show back in 2005 without my knowledge) might have had something to do with it as well.

It was the nicest parting of ways I’ve ever experienced as an employer, since DJ will still be a major part of the project and he negotiated with his new employer to continue to contribute. He’ll be with us again at Dev-Jam.

Karma taketh away and karma giveth. Last week I found out that Ben Reed was available, and we pretty much closed the deal in a couple of hours. Like DJ, Ben is a founding member of the OGP, has mad open source cred through his work on Fink, and he was working with OpenNMS before I was.

He’ll be yet another one of our jacks of all trades here at the Group, and expect to see his hand in support, releases and improved Fink support for OpenNMS (grin).

He’ll be at WWDC this year as well as aKademy, so if you plan to attend either one of those events be sure to look for him. He’s RangerRick on the IRC channel.