This Week's Travel Plans

Just a quick note about some travel that’s coming up this week. I will be in Austin, Texas, USA for barcampESM on Saturday. I’m not sure what to make of it, but some folks I know will be there and some people I want to meet, like Luke Kanies, will also be there, and since I have to be in Texas anyway I thought “what the heck, let’s do it”. We’re also planning an OpenNMS Sunday brunch if you are in the area and want to get together. Just drop me a line and I’ll let you know the details once they are decided.

Also, Ben Reed will be at Google this week for the KDE 4.0 Release Event. He is pretty much the maintainer of KDE on Darwin (OS X). As Mac users and big fans of free and open source software, we encourage (i.e. let Ben work on it, well, at work) his involvement on this and look forward to KDE 4. Be sure to say “hi” if you see him.

Monitoring RAID with OpenNMS

Jack Hughes over at Tech Teapot posted a story about how nice it is to have RAID on your server when a drive fails, and this got be to thinking about our own servers.

For the record, I’m a security and backup nut. The Dell server that hosts and this blog has six drives. Five are configured RAID-5 and the remaining drive is a hot standby. There is even a spare drive sitting on top of the device just in case a drive fails so someone can quickly replace it. Even though I figure the chances of two drives failing in quick succession is pretty slim, why take chances? (grin)

Also, “RAID is not backup“, so we also rsync that server every night as well.

But Jack’s article made me realize that I had not taken the time to actually monitor the status of our RAID. Since OpenNMS is our monitoring tool of choice, I decided to write up how to go about it and I placed “Monitoring a Dell PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller 3/Di” on the wiki.

Now I have the “afaRAID” service up and running and I’ll get notified if anything goes wrong. For as much sleep as I’ve lost over the last six years worrying about OpenNMS, this step will at least make me sleep a little easier.

Viva Italia!

Matt is off in Italy for a couple of weeks with Antonio. They met up with one of the newest members of the OpenNMS community, Evan, at the Trattoria Dalla Zia in Milan, and they seem to be having a good time even though it is cold in Italy this time of year.

Antonio, Evan and Matt

I, on the other hand, had to deal with Orbitz and Alitalia to change his return trip and that was hell (more so the Orbitz part). I’ll rant about that tomorrow.

Dev-Jam 2008 Dates and Location Set

Well, I’m suffering through my usual post holiday depression. It’s not that the holiday is always that great, but in the run up to the actual time off I plan on doing a lot more than actually gets done, and then feel bad about it when the new year comes and I didn’t do much more than visit with friends, read, play with the Wii and drink scotch.

Note: I splurged on a 33 y.o. Glendronach during one of my layovers at Gatwick. It was mighty nice for a Speyside (I tend toward Highland) although I seriously blew my lunch money for, I dunno, a decade.

But one thing that can get me out of the doldrums is thinking about Dev-Jam, the OpenNMS annual developer’s conference. As much as the Internet can facilitate all sorts of remote collaboration, nothing beats spending some time face to face. This year it is a departure from our usual UMN haunt and we are heading for Atlanta.

There are several reasons for this. We have a lot of international contributors and thus Atlanta offers a good international airport (ATL). It is also close enough to the main office that we can drive down, saving on airfare. Plus, Atlanta can be a fun town.

It will be hot, however. Atlanta in the summer is like being on the inside of a napalmed watermelon (apologies to Tom Robbins).

So reserve the dates: 27 July to 1 August (once again between OSCON and LinuxWorld). We’ll post more info as we get closer.

PSA Number 1: Credit Freeze

This doesn’t have much to do with OpenNMS, but since I am pretty much a privacy/security nut I thought I’d post this as a public service. The “S” in FCAPS stands for security so it is tangentially related to management. It is only relevant in the US, but I’d be interested to learn how other countries handle this.

I am amazed at how often I read about this firm or that firm losing private data; data that could be used to steal someone’s identity. I found out yesterday that there is a way for consumers to protect themselves. It’s called a “credit freeze“. It prevents the credit bureaus from distributing your credit report without your express authorization, which will prevent any new credit being issued in your name.

In North Carolina this became available in 2005 and the Attorney General has a nice document (PDF) about it.

Since the idea of a credit freeze is appealing, here’s my plan:

I went to to stop any new offers coming in the mail. This I hope will both reduce the amount of junk mail offers I receive and prohibit someone from stealing my identity through one of these offers.

Then I went to and requested a report from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The process takes about 20-30 minutes, as as I was asked for a lot of personal information to verify my identity as well as being prompted for some non-free services such as my credit score. My spouse will do the same thing.

We’ll review the information and close any really old or unused accounts. I don’t want to close all of them, because one thing lenders look for is your debt to credit ratio, which is the amount of credit you have versus the amount you use. So a guy with a $20K on a credit line of $100K will sometimes look better than a guy with $1K on a credit line of $2K. But I really want to limit the number of accounts out there since I plan to keep an eye on them.

Finally we’ll spend the $60 (2 people x 3 credit reporting services x $10) to get our credit frozen. We have enough credit for now, so I don’t expect it to be a problem, and the upside is a serious reduction in the chance that someone could steal our identities. If we ever need new credit, it will be a little more involved to temporarily “unfreeze” our credit, but I think the hassle is worth it.

Happy New Year and 2007 in Review

Well, 2008 is here. It seems like yesterday that I was participating in the non-event known as Y2K. I really like the New Year’s holiday. At OpenNMS we officially close for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to allow us to spend some time with our families, some time to relax and time to regroove our brains, which tend to get pretty flat when you spend as much time working on OpenNMS as we do.

I have great hopes for this year. We hope to have out two, count ’em, two stable releases, 1.6 and 1.8, as well as improving documentation and the user experience. Luckily it is easier to make a project like OpenNMS, with strong, scalable internals, prettier than it is to make a pretty application scale.

Another thing I hope to do is travel less. I did 75K miles on 62 airplanes last year, and visited 5 countries outside of the US. It was fun but a little tiring. So Matt got this week’s trip to Italy (grin).

Speaking of last year, 2007 was pretty solid.

From a project point of view, we did 6 releases (well, 7, but 1.3.4 didn’t count) and our goal was 4. We held our third Dev-Jam back at UMN (this year’s conference will be at Georgia Tech in Atlanta) and inducted three new members into the OGP.

From the commercial standpoint it was also a solid year. It’s nice being profitable, as we don’t have the same worries as a company with impatient investors, and we were able to continue to deliver on our mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money”. We lost our first employee. DJ decided that he missed working in an office and his current situation didn’t let him move to North Carolina. He is still very active in the project. But when one door closes, another opens, and this time it was two. Ben was finally able to come back to work full time on OpenNMS and Jeff joined us late in the year bringing a lot of talent and experience with him. I’ve worked with some great teams in the past, but man, this is the frickin’ dream team.

Of course, we are also looking to grow by a couple of positions in 2008. If you are interested, the best way to get a full time job with OpenNMS is to get involved in the project. My last three hires have all come from the OGP, although it’s not a requirement.

The year 2007 saw a lot of new companies hitching their wagons to open source. To be quite honest I haven’t seen many embrace it as purely as OpenNMS does, and I have had to restrain myself a number of times from getting into the “my project has more downloads/features/users/marketers than your project” destructive cycle. We’ve been at this since 2000, so we have some handle on what works and what doesn’t, and what is important and what isn’t.

From the standpoint of a user, use something that works. If it works for you, it’s good, no matter if it is open or closed or a hybrid. Tools should be designed to let you focus on your business, not the tools (that’s why I use a Mac).

From the standpoint of our project, it’s the community. We let people contribute and change large chunks of functionality to OpenNMS. Heck, these are the people who use it the most, so they probably have some idea on what it should do. We don’t just give lip service to the efforts of the people outside of the OpenNMS Group, we let them choose in large part the destiny of the whole application.

And finally from the standpoint of our company, by focusing almost entirely on meeting the needs of our customers and having a great time doing it, the money comes. We ply all of our profit right back into the business (my main vehicle is a 1993 Honda Civic) which in turn makes OpenNMS better, which drives more customers. It’s a silly idea in today’s venture-driven world, but it works for us.

To everyone involved with OpenNMS, thanks for 2007. In 2008 let’s go do great things.

Happy New Year.