Somebody's Watchin' You

My news sites are heating up about the discovery of a database created by iOS on iPhones that track everywhere you go. While no malicious intent has been uncovered (the information doesn’t seem to go anywhere), one has to wonder why Apple added it and what the ultimate purpose could be. Also, I’m curious as to why Apple never disclosed this to their users.

Using an application called iPhoneTracker, the data can be extracted and displayed. I’ve been pretty busy, it looks like.

Note: I love that the developers of the app also tell you how to access the data directly, for the truly paranoid.

While I love my iPhone, I am pretty certain that it is the last Apple phone I will own. I just can no longer ignore the privacy issues, and although I am far short of abstaining from carrying a phone altogether, and am becoming much more of a freetard than I’ve been in the past.

Fighting Religious Battles

George Carlin once said:

Religion … is like a lift in your shoe. If you need it for a while, and it makes you walk straight and feel better – fine … I say just don’t ask me to wear your shoes. And let’s not go down and nail lifts onto the natives’ feet.

A newbie to the free and open source software world might think it is weird to talk about religion, but most of us who have been around awhile realize that the equivalent of religious fanaticism is pretty common with FOSS. People feel very emotional about certain technologies. And while this kind of fervor has its place, it doesn’t really work within open source business.

I was on a call today where a friend of mine (and OpenNMS proponent) who was talking about a meeting he was in where a team developing a new management application was presenting their technology assessment. To almost every requirement they stated, he was able to reply “OpenNMS does that”, yet when they presented their final scorecard OpenNMS was rated pretty low.

On further examination, it turns out that while most requirements were rated on a scale of 1 to 5, there was a category that basically said “fun to work with” that had some obscene weighting like 1 to 200. Of course, that meant the development team could basically fix their report anyway they wanted (and in this case it was for a technology based on Javascript).

My response was “oh well”.

I don’t fight religious battles.

Our job at the OpenNMS Group is to help people who want to work with OpenNMS get the most out of it. We don’t spend much time trying to get people to switch. For the most part, if there isn’t an immediate, pending reason why a switch is necessary (such as a large renewal bill for a commercial product coming up or they have outgrown their existing solution) there is little use for us to spend the time.

For example, another big OpenNMS fan got a new job, and he was trying to get OpenNMS in to replace their Spectrum/Netcool solution. He writes:

What the real problem here is that the two main Architects go way back 17-20 years, They fought to get Spectrum here when the shop had Cabletron, then Netcool about 5-6 years ago. Both are very good Perl programmers and have written custom scripts to tightly couple the two systems. Real good work.

But the Spectrum guy won’t go down with out a fight, chewed my tail more then once for even bringing up open source. The Netcool guy doesn’t want OpenNMS in here because it will cut into his turf and he worked hard to get it in here in the first place.

I replied:

I don’t know, man. Sounds like a losing fight from my perspective.

OpenNMS is not a free or low cost solution. It’s a powerful replacement for tools like Spectrum, OpenView and Tivoli. Sure, there are no licensing costs, but it does require just as much expertise as Spectrum to customize in order to get the best value.

Of course, I’d love to see another OpenNMS user, but I’m not sure how much help I can be selling it. Think about it, the best I could reasonably hope for would be a Greenlight Plus contract out of the deal. This would be two weeks on-site and a year of support.

So I send one of my guys out there and they meet your two main Architects. They are hostile and refuse to cooperate (kind of like Congress) and so my guy has a miserable time of it, but still manages to get some stuff done. Then comes support – these guys open ten tickets a day complaining about what OpenNMS can’t do. It costs me a guy just to deal with them.

It ain’t worth it.

When it comes to our mission statement of “Help customers, Have fun, Make money” it is much better to focus on people who really want your help and want to succeed than to try to usurp the incumbent solution. While it may mean a lost opportunity or even losing a client, it’s a win in the long run.

Conferences and the Indiana LinuxFest

Man, I’ve been slammed lately, so let me apologize for taking two weeks to write about my trip to the Indiana LinuxFest (ILF) in Indianapolis.

I was kind of surprised when Matthew Williams, one of the main organizers of the ILF, contacted me and asked me to keynote. While I’ve been both deeply involved and committed to free and open source software for over a decade, I don’t really view myself as a spokesperson for the FOSS community as a whole. I’m just part of a small team that is using open source as a way to make a living. And while I can talk about OpenNMS for hours, it was a different experience to chat about something “keynote worthy”.

The topic I chose was an examination of how the divisions within the FOSS community actual foster innovation and improvement. I titled it “Why We All Can’t Get Along (I Why This is a Good Thing)”. I think it was well received and it was fun to think about.

The conference as a whole was a lot of fun. I have to admit that I agree with Brian Aker that the most rewarding part of most conferences is what happens outside of the presentations, and to that end I got to spend a lot of time talking with Bradley Kuhn and Brian Proffitt. That night, we were joined by Carol Smith and Daniel Klein of Google. Most people know Carol as the Summer of Code maven. Daniel works out of the Pittsburgh office and has network management as one of his responsibilities (he has written the software he uses at the moment but I’m hoping to get him interested in OpenNMS).

(Left to Right: Bradley, Brian, Carol and Daniel)

The only criticism I can level at the conference, and this applies to most new grassroots events I attend, is limit the number of tracks. I would say have one track for (at a minimum) every 100 people you expect to attend. This is confirmed people, not how many you’d like to attend or how many you hope will attend – be very honest with yourself and don’t worry about hurting the feelings of any speakers you have to exclude. Your attendees will appreciate a more streamlined conference and the speakers who are there will appreciate fuller rooms. The worst example was last year’s SELF conference that had about seven tracks, and it just got confusing.

Anyway, speaking of conferences, we have two OpenNMS User Conferences coming up this year.

The third annual OpenNMS Users Conference Europe. This will be held 26-27 May in Fulda, Germany, just outside of Frankfurt. The first day will consist of a class on OpenNMS covering the basics of installation, provisioning, event management, service assurance and data collection. The second day will be a barcamp-style day with presentations chosen by the attendees. We’ve had a large amount of interest so far and I hope it builds as we get closer to the date.

Mike Huot (OGP) suggested that we hold a conference in the US, so we’re doing something similar on 17-18 June in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This promises to be a lot of fun, since it is in advance of our annual Developer’s Conference, Dev-Jam so we should have OpenNMS contributors from all over the world for both events. If you are just starting out with OpenNMS or you have advanced questions, this will be the place to be.

Finally, let me make it clear that we welcome anyone to come to Dev-Jam for a week of OpenNMS geekery, and only the slightest bit of nudity. Held at the University of Minnesota, we take over a large “club room” in a dorm and hack on OpenNMS for the whole week. It is one of my favorite times of the year.

In other conference news, I’ll be speaking at this year’s Southeast LinuxFest, also in June, and I hope to be at OSCON this year, but they’ve been a little late announcing speakers so I’m not sure if I’ll be there or not.

Hope to see you all, in person, at some point soon.


Forget Twitter. Forget Facebook. The real money site is Quibids.

I was just introduced to the site today, and I am so upset that I didn’t think of this first. Seriously, this is a website made to print money.

Quibids touts themselves as a “entertainment site” but it is basically an auction site with a few novel twists. They sell a number of new, popular items for incredibly low final prices, but of course, there is a catch.

In fact, there are several. Here are the two major ones:

  1. It costs $0.60 to make a bid.
  2. Each bid only increases the price by one cent (or some other small, set amount).


Think about it – Quibids purchases a iPad for $800. They sell it for $100, but that’s 10,000 bids or a total of $6000 just in bid fees. Add the $100 for the item and that’s a tidy profit of $5300.

Now, sure, someone could potentially get the item for $100.60 plus shipping, but my guess is that it doesn’t happen often. There is no “sniping” on Quibids. As an auction is about to expire time is added as long as people are still bidding. Plus, they don’t care if you pay or not – you have to prepay for the bids and they don’t ship anything until you pay for the item.

Just to make sure no one feels cheated, they will even sell you the item at their cost minus the amount you paid to bid. So I am sure there are people out their thinking – what the heck, if I don’t win I can still buy the item at full price and not “lose” anything.

It gets better. There are limits to how many auctions a person can win as well as the value of the items they can win in a certain period of time. But you can bid on “limit busters” to remove those limits.

I’m in awe.

There were times I used to think I was clever. I was wrong.