Mike Doughty, Ubuntu 12.10 and Amazon

On Sunday I got back in the country after a two week holiday in the South Pacific. It was an awesome trip: no Internet and, for most of the time, no shoes.

I got my brain regrooved.

Now I’m trying to dig out from under the backlog, and I noticed that Mike Doughty has a new album called “The Flip is Another Honey“.

I’m a huge Mike Doughty fan, and since I’m always eager to listen to his work (even an album of covers) I went to Amazon and bought the digital version.

Now, I use Ubuntu as my desktop O/S, and while I still run the “Long Term Support” 12.04 release at home and on my laptop, I recently upgraded to 12.10 at work to see if the MTP support was any better (it isn’t).

One of the more controversial changes in 12.10 was the addition of an Amazon shopping “lens” to the Unity desktop that would return Amazon search listings as well as local (to the machine) results. It’s pretty easy to disable, but I must admit it is a little annoying.

When I access amazon.com via Firefox, an Amazon icon shows up in the launcher as if I’d launched an Amazon application. I really don’t need another icon in my launcher, especially one that duplicates functionality I already have in my web browser. In fact, that’s kinda what web browsers were for: getting rid of lots of little “apps” and just having a single interface to remote content.


I know Canonical is doing this for the Benjamins, and considering the amount of money I’ve paid to them (i.e. zero) I really can’t complain, but it rubs me the wrong way, much like the default Samsung software on my Galaxy S3 that considers the Yellow Pages search application a “system” app that can’t be removed. I’m a little more upset about that, because I did pay money for my phone, which is why I run Cyanogenmod, and I hate additional kruft of all sorts on my machines.

But the main thing that bothers me is that even with this new “integration” I still can’t download the music I buy on Amazon in one step. For “The Flip” I had to download each of the 15 songs individually since Amazon requires the “Amazon Downloader” to manage its .amz files. I looked to see if there was support for the Amazon Downloader in 12.10 but couldn’t find anything.

I would think that considering how much Linux-based software Amazon uses internally and the fact that Ubuntu went forward with this integration despite the potential to piss of their users, the least they could have done is create an Ubuntu Amazon Downloader client.

I look to Canonical to drive a lot of Linux desktop support (see Valve’s decision to provide their initial Steam Linux client on Ubuntu) and I can only hope that we’ll see better execution in the future.

Juniper SRX240 Unboxing

Since the Apple fanboys seem to like unboxing their gear, I thought it would be fun to do the same with a new Juniper SRX240 I just bought (from Redapt – our equipment vendor of choice).

Due to my previously detailed issues with Centurylink, we are working with Time Warner to get a dedicated fiber circuit to the building. While the 10Mbps down will (in theory) be the same as what we had with the DSL line, it’s the 10Mbps up that I’m looking forward to the most.

Currently, we use a Cisco 800 series router to terminate the DSL line, and I needed something else for the new circuit. I’ve soured on Cisco in the last few years (due more to issues with their hiring practices than anything to do with their product) and I’ve grown real fond of Juniper gear, not the least because they are a customer (I buy my pizza at Papa Johns, I book travel on Travelocity, and I shop at Sears in part because I like being a customer of my customers).

Anyway, it looked like the SRX240 would be both more than sufficient for what I needed and it comes with lots of cool features.

I liked the minimalist packaging. The router came in a plastic bag held in the box with lightweight, molded plastic spacers – no “peanuts”. There was another bag with some documentation and a console cable, and the only other thing in the box was a power cable.

The router itself is rather lightweight. It’s 1U in height and about half the depth of a standard rack.

Since the circuit won’t be in for a couple of weeks there isn’t much configuration to do at the moment, but I was able to get the management interface configured from the command line which gives me access to the web-based user interface.

I tend to be a command line person, but when learning new gear having a webUI will be helpful.

Paulo, a Juniper employee who happened to be in our office when this arrived, showed me a neat trick with the CLI.

When you make a change to any router configuration, you usually have to “commit” it in order for it to be applied. This can be a bit scary, especially if you are remote or if you depend on the router for network access. One mistake and you might end up in the car.

JunOS has a feature called “commit confirmed”. This will commit your changes, but only for ten minutes unless you issue a normal “commit”. Thus if you screwed something up, ten minutes later the changes will be rolled back.

Pretty cool.


The following is another of my navel-gazing posts that have nothing to do with OpenNMS. Please, as always, feel free to ignore.

Tomorrow in the United States we begin the final process to electing a new President. I hope that by late tomorrow evening we have a decision, but with the fact that presidential elections have been so close in the last decade means that there is a small but significant chance that we won’t know the outcome for some time.

Ever wonder why elections have been so hard to call since 2000 or so? My theory is that there are really no significant differences between the two major candidates.

I think this started with Bill Clinton. With the success of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns, Clinton realized that he needed to co-opt some of that populist message. Thus started a blending that Presidential candidates use to try to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, resulting in a blurring of their differences.

Now many of you reading this will say that I’m full of it, and that Romney and Obama are totally different. I disagree. As the figureheads of the Republican and Democratic parties they share the same agenda: consolidate power into the hands of the few and use that power to control the rest of the populace.

I was trying to sum up my feelings in a few words, but Conor Friedersdorf in this column in The Atlantic summed it up nicely:

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican candidate in this race is trustworthy or desirable as a leader. Obama is a left-leaning technocrat who habitually breaks his promises and is eager to assume near dictatorial powers in the realm of national security. He has little regard for the Constitution or the recklessness of the precedents that he’s setting. And Romney? He’s a right-leaning technocrat who unapologetically breaks his promises, is eager to assume near-dictatorial national-security powers, and has little regard for the Constitution.

Now I happily voted for Obama in 2008. I was tempted to vote for him again, mainly because the Republican attacks on him were, if not outright lies, quite often wrong. Take spending for example. Obama is attacked for “spending our children’s future” yet the growth of government spending under his administration “has actually been trivial compared to the last 4 presidents.” His administration is attacked for health care reform. As a small business owner who provides health care insurance for our employees I’ve seen my rates double – twice – in eight years. Something needs to be done. While the plan that passed is far from perfect, the idea of just repealing it and going back to the status quo is appalling. Finally, Obama is criticized for not creating enough jobs, but the Republican controlled house refused to implement any of his ideas by rejecting every jobs bill he proposed. It’s okay to disagree, but you better have a solution of your own if you want credit from me. It’s easy to just say “no” to everything. Considering the conditions he inherited and Congress, I think Obama has done an amazing job with the economy.

No, where Obama fails is in the area that is nearest and dearest to my heart: civil liberties. My view is that government should provide a level playing field and then get out of the way. More and more I’ve seen government taking an active hand in trying to control the populace. 9/11 has been used to reinforce the idea that people should do two things: live their lives in fear and buy stuff. When dealing with a person who is inconvenient to handle as either a criminal, subject to the rule of law, or a prisoner of war, subject to rules such as the Geneva Convention, why not create a new category called “enemy combatant” subject to no rules? Guantanamo is still open, the Patriot Act was renewed and strengthened, drones are being used to spy on American citizens and the NSA is building a huge data center to do the same on the Internet. And that’s just a small part of it.

So if Obama hasn’t earned my vote, that means it should go to Romney? No. I don’t see Romney doing anything better and he would probably make things worse, faster.

This year I am voting for Gary Johnson. While he has zero chance of winning, he is the only third party candidate on the North Carolina ballot, and while I rarely identify with the “Big L” Libertarian party, I like Johnson. It would be nice if his voice could have been heard in this election.

What’s most important to create viable third parties is a candidate to receive matching funds for their campaigns. In order to do so, they must get at least five percent of the vote:

Minor party candidates and new party candidates may become eligible for partial public funding of their general election campaigns. (A minor party candidate is the nominee of a party whose candidate received between 5 and 25 percent of the total popular vote in the preceding Presidential election. A new party candidate is the nominee of a party that is neither a major party nor a minor party.) The amount of public funding to which a minor party candidate is entitled is based on the ratio of the party’s popular vote in the preceding Presidential election to the average popular vote of the two major party candidates in that election. A new party candidate receives partial public funding after the election if he/she receives 5 percent or more of the vote.

I think the only way out of the quagmire created by the Republicrats and the Demmicans is to have several strong parties so that rule has to be more of a compromise instead of just “an endless slap fight” between two of them.

Still, several people have accused me of throwing my vote away, especially since the race is so close in North Carolina. That argument was almost enough to sway me, especially when thinking of things like the Supreme Court (where I would probably be more happy with an Obama appointee than a Romney appointee). But then two things happened.

First, Justice Roberts, a Bush appointee, cast the deciding vote confirming the legality of the health care reform bill’s individual mandate. I have always hoped that once a person makes it to the country’s highest court, to serve pretty much for life, that they leave partisanship at the door. Roberts demonstrated this.

Second, my friend Ron on Google+ pointed out that there will never be a way to break the two party system without some of us “throwing our vote away” on third party candidates. He said he was in it for the long game, and that convinced me. In fact I stated that we should carve a plaque stating that “On this day, someone’s mind was changed via a discussion on the Internet”.


And anyway, I’m looking forward to feeling superior no matter who wins. Something has to change, and soon, before we degenerate into throwing shoes.

Let me close with this scary quote from Carl Sagan, taken from his book The Demon-Haunted World and shared with me via G+:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Mail to hotmail.com accounts being blocked

Just a heads up that I found out today that mail from our mail server is being rejected by hotmail.com mail servers.

One of my mail users was sending a message to a friend and it bounced with:

host mx4.hotmail.com[] said: 550 SC-001
(SNT0-MC4-F38) Unfortunately, messages from weren’t sent.
Please contact your Internet service provider since part of their network
is on our block list. You can also refer your provider to
http://mail.live.com/mail/troubleshooting.aspx#errors. (in reply to MAIL
FROM command)

So I dutifully contacted our ISP for the mail server, ServerBeach, as well as hotmail. The ServerBeach folks (awesome as always) replied in minutes and said that the IP is not on any other blacklist, so I had to deal directly with hotmail. I got a reply from hotmail that the issue couldn’t be automatically mitigated, so I had to fill out another questionnaire on-line, and I assume I’ll have to wait a couple of days for it to be addressed.

The funny part is that I looked through our logs, and we’ve tried to send exactly five e-mail messages today to hotmail addresses. Two were to the legitimate address that started this whole process, and three were to addresses like:


which appear to be spammers trying to register on our wiki. The wiki replies and requires an additional action in order to register, and I assume it is this mail traffic that is causing the problem. Note that all of our mailing lists are handled by Sourceforge so this only affects mail from the wiki, project members and employees of OpenNMS.

I think it is pretty ironic that the reason my mail server is being blocked by hotmail is that spammers from hotmail are trying to register on our wiki.

Update: Surprise – I got a rather quick reply from hotmail:

My name is Amrita and I work with the Hotmail Deliverability Support Team.

Your IP ( was blocked by Hotmail because Hotmail customers have reported email from this IP as unwanted. I have conducted an investigation into the emails originating from your IP space and have implemented mitigation for your deliverability problem. This process may take 24 – 48 hours to replicate completely throughout our system.

Inveneo in American Way Magazine

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and while I was reading American Way magazine I came across this article “Road Warrior in Search of Internet Connections and Great Beer”.

Now I'm a bit of a road warrior who likes Internet connections and great beer, but alas it wasn't an article about me. It was about Bob Marsh, one of the founders of the non-profit Inveneo which is dedicated to bringing communications technologies to the developing world.

What caught my eye was:

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, humanitarian agencies needed instant Internet access where no infrastructure existed. Inveneo had the first Wi-Fi links up in six days.

What wasn’t mentioned is that OpenNMS was being used to monitor those links.

It felt really good to help them out, and we continue to support Inveneo’s efforts still, and it was cool to read more about them.