OUCE 2013 Videos Now Online

The OpenNMS Foundation gang has put up a large number of videos from this year’s OpenNMS Users Conference – more than 16 hours worth of OpenNMS goodness.

Check out the popular talk on OpenNMS and Drools-based event correlation:

or how to fail with OpenNMS:

or watch Tobi Oetiker give an introduction to RRDtool:

Hats of to the team for getting these up and putting on a great conference.

It’s Friday, So This Must Be Finland

Chris Dibona once wrote that, on a trip to China, he was “visiting the birthplace of all of my electronics”. On my first trip to Finland I feel a little like I am visiting the birthplace of OpenNMS.

OpenNMS was actually born in North Carolina, USA, but the thoughts that made it possible were the influence of a local company called Red Hat, which in turn was inspired by the work of Linus Torvalds, a Finn who was born in Helsinki.

On a modern note, the new OpenNMS GUI relies heavily on Vaadin, a software framework that was invented in Finland. Finally, my family originated in Hungary. The Hungarian language (which I do not speak) is related to few other languages, but one of those happens to be Finnish.

I came here from Sweden to visit a new client, and that makes Finland the 26th country in which The OpenNMS Group has customers (the others being, in no particular order, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Israel, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Trinidad, Malta, India, Honduras, Chile, Sweden, the UAE and the US.)

I got a really good vibe from Helsinki, even though it was really cold. The Germans have a term for temperatures at or below -15C, arschkalt, and I did experience that here.

The client was pretty cool. I met Jari last week at the OpenNMS Users Conference and he and his coworkers went out of their way to may sure I enjoyed my short stay. On Thursday night we went to a restaurant called Salutorget and had a wonderful meal, and on Friday we visited a place called Stone’s Beer and Burger where I had a Finnish “veggie burger” – instead of the usual attempt to make a burger patty out of vegetables, it was a bun and grilled vegetables, which was quite tasty.

The beer had to wait until after work, when we visited Teerenpeli. This was on the advice of Ville, the Vaadin employee who came to the Users Conference and suggested some places I should visit while in Helsinki.

On a somber note, there was a marble memorial to people killed in the Finnish Civil War in the office building where we were working. I thought it unusual that there was a lack of Finnish surnames starting with “B” through “F” – there were three names that started with “A” and then it jumps to “G”.

Overall, the only criticism I have of the trip is that it was too short. Next time I come I hope to take a side trip to Tallin, Estonia and/or St. Petersburg, Russia. Both are surprisingly close, and I need a few more countries to visit. I’m at 33 at the moment and I want to hit 50 before I am 50 years old.

But I think I want the next one to be a little warmer.

Note: I didn’t think of Monty Python’s song “Finland” while I was there. Not once. I swear. Really.

OpenNMS be Killer, yo

It was cool to see OpenNMS mentioned in an article on Silicon India called “Ten Killer Open Source Networking Tools”.

It was included with Cacti, and I think their analysis was valid. I haven’t been exposed to Cacti very much but they do make it easy to create aggregate reports, and if you use the RRDtool option in OpenNMS you can create files that Cacti can easily manage. I think we could improve OpenNMS by borrowing some of their ideas.

I also thought it was cool that RANCID was also mentioned, since we have a nice integration with it. It’s always nice to see OpenNMS mentioned in the technical press.

Hunting Moose in Sweden

Look, I like my job. I really do. When I’m driving around in the heat of a North Carolina summer, I am glad that my job allows me to spend the hottest part of the day inside with air conditioning.

That said, there are times I wish I could be outside more often. Much of my job involves removing obstacles so other people can do their jobs with less hassle. So I find myself in meetings, working on administrivia, and looking at e-mails and project plans way more often than actually building things. Granted, many of these things are necessary in order for things to get built in the first place, but sometimes I wish I could just say “give me some money and I’ll go build something wonderful for you”. Then again, sometimes I wish I could spend more time outside, since things seem simpler out there. There doesn’t seem to be so many things competing for my attention.

Anyway, I was in Sweden and I was a little upset. We are doing a huge project and I had flown thousands of miles to meet with a man named Lars, and he didn’t seem to have time to meet with me. I didn’t get any responses to my e-mails, etc., and I really needed to talk to him.

Well, I got my wish, but not in the way I expected. One morning he walked into the office, gave my shoulders a squeeze and said “Out front, 16:00, dress warm. We’ll be back sometime tomorrow morning” and walked off.

Note that the high temperature at this time was around -4C, with pockets in the north getting down to -20C at night.

This type of behavior in general is not unusual with Lars, but this particular behavior was a little unusual even for him. I was worried, since I didn’t bring real cold weather clothes, so after lunch Ronny and I drove into town to a sporting goods shop where I bought some thermal underwear and proper Swedish boots, gloves and a coat.

Thus armed I waited until 16:00 and then headed out to the parking lot. Lars was there in his Defender 110 along with his totally delightful fiancée Linda. Also joining us was Gollum, a slightly flatulent Boxer puppy that had a hurt paw and thus needed a little extra care, and Anders, a friend and new lieutenant of Lars.

Lars apologized for not being able to meet with me, but things had been crazy. I found out that he gets nearly 3000 e-mail messages a day, so mine got lost in the flood, and his phone pretty much rang constantly as we drove. Luckily, phone coverage was pretty spotty where we were going, so there was a chance for some peace and quiet.

We were hunting for moose.

Many years ago, Lars’ uncle started buying up land after the timber was harvested off of it. He did this over and over again until he had amassed over 42,000 hectares (103,700 acres or 162 square miles) of land and over 11,000 hectares of lakes and ponds. It is located along the Norwegian border near Bogen, which was a two hour drive away. We had a nice time talking both about life and work as we made the drive into the mountains, with occasional breaks to open the window to let it air out from the dog, and the snow getting slowly deeper and deeper as we would ascend into the hills.

Some of this property is leased, and they also have several businesses running off of it – mainly sport related such as hunting and fishing. The uncle made a rule in his will that only enough timber could be harvested in any given year to cover expenses, which while not small (they have nearly 3000 km of logging roads to maintain) insures that no relative down the line can strip the place bare. Everything is done with an eye on conservation so that the area will be available for generations to come.

As soon as we turned onto the property we startled two young moose, both about a year old. The first one ran off into the woods but Lars stopped the Rover, wound down the window and by covering his mouth and pinching his nose he made this weird sort of “mooing” sound. This caused the moose to stop and just stand there, and while he didn’t come closer he also didn’t run off. Not until we started up the car again did he leave.

We made our way up to a group of hunting lodges and got out to stretch our legs.

Lars has been known to tell the members of his executive team to come to the office prepared for a weekend retreat, and when everyone shows up expecting to spend the weekend in a luxury hotel, he has a helicopter drop down and cart everyone off to Bogen for a weekend in the woods.

Did I mention that I like Lars? (grin)

During the stop Lars cleaned off the lamps mounted along the top of the Rover, and we would need them as we drove around looking for moose and wolves. Wolves are a huge problem in the area, as they are both plentiful and cunning.

On one of the roads on the preserve it looked like every animal in the forest had come there to leave tracks. It had not snowed in a couple of days so there were tracks everywhere. Both Lars and Linda kept pointing them out: moose, wolf, hare and fox. The hares here grow really large, and sometimes it is easy to mistake the tracks for a those of a larger animal. Of course I am relying on Lars’ and Linda’s interpretation of things since both Anders and I were totally lost when it comes to tracking (Anders has lived in Stockholm since 1994).

We stopped at the spillway of a nearly frozen lake called Kivlamp to experience some of the cold first hand. While we were there another car pulled up and I got to meet one of the area’s caretakers, a man named Bosse. When he found out I was from the Southern United States he handed me his “varmint rifle” – a scoped .30 caliber – and offered to let me shoot it.

Now I don’t have much experience with shooting outside of some trap shooting with a 12-gauge shotgun, but I did my best. Bosse told me to aim for this rock out in the lake because if I hit it we could hear it. I think a lot of men believe they can shoot better than they really can, so the words of my father, a marksman in the Army, came back to me. He got his marksman’s medal, he said, just because he listened and knew how to follow directions. So I aimed, slowly squeezed the trigger, and heard a satisfying “ping” off of the rock. I was able to repeat this a second time to show it wasn’t a fluke (it was). It helped that it was a nice rifle with little kick.

I think it would be cool to hang out with Bosse for a little while and see the area through his eyes, but it isn’t an easy life so I wouldn’t want to do it for long.

After all the freezing, shootin’ and camaraderie, we got back in the cars and headed even higher. Lars found a wider than normal spot on the road, stopped the Rover, and proceeded to make a fire. When it was established, he pulled out a flat cooking plate on a tripod that would fit over the burning logs to provide a place to heat our meal. Once that was done, Linda took over and Lars and Bosse started another fire nearby, pretty much for warmth. It wasn’t extremely cold, maybe -10C (14F) but the wind had picked up. My Swedish gear was holding up pretty well with the exception of my gloves, so I would be sure to thaw them a little over the fire occasionally.

The moon was about half full and would peek out from behind the clouds from time to time (it was lightly snowing) and it was nice to look out into the woods while Linda cooked up a gourmet meal. Maybe it was the cold and maybe it was the company, but it sure tasted wonderful.

We spent a couple of hours up there before breaking camp and cleaning up (we had lots of snow to work with). Then we climbed back in the Rover to go and search for more wildlife. At one point Lars drove down the airstrip that they have up there (completely covered in snow, of course), and when he turned around all you could see was the tracks of his truck in the snow. Anders joked “oh, I can tell using my huge expertise that these tracks were made by a Land Rover Defender 110” and I picked up on the joke, adding “and you can tell by the tread pattern that it is green”.

We didn’t see any more moose or a wolf, but that really didn’t matter to me. It was just fun to be up in some pretty, unspoiled country. Lars stopped by a river and let me get a picture of the ice, the snow and the stones – which was cool since you could see where the snow had fallen and the water had washed all but the stuff on top away.

On the way off the property we headed even higher until we were meters from the border with Norway.

Lars explained that during WWII there was concern that the Germans would drive tanks over the mountains, so we stopped to look at some stone obstacles that had been planted to prevent this from happening (I missed that picture, unfortunately). What was amazing was seeing how the terrain had changed – when we started out it was pretty flat, but now we had high mountains and deep valleys.

After midnight we headed home and then the biggest worry was that we wouldn’t hit a moose or that Lars would fall asleep (it wasn’t a big issue but he would joke about it). I told the old joke that I wanted to die in my sleep like my grandfather and not like his screaming passengers, and that got a laugh. We did see some deer and a couple fleeting glimpses of foxes on the way back, but otherwise it was uneventful.

I guess is is a bit of a Catch-22. I loved the entire evening, from the land to the company to the conversation to the food, but especially since it took my mind off work. However, without OpenNMS, I wouldn’t have had the chance to take this trip.

Kind of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

Phone Unlocking

Okay, I just scanned through my Google Reader feed (adios, Reader, I’ll miss ya) and found yet another rant about unlocking phones and I just can’t keep silent. My guess is that this won’t be one of my better posts, so you might as well go and check out xkcd. It’s always a hoot.

In the US at least, when you buy a phone you can often get it at a greatly discounted price if you buy it “locked” to a particular carrier’s network. The debate is whether or not one can legally unlock a phone without the carrier’s permission.

Now, it has always been illegal to unlock a phone while it is “under contract”. This has nothing to do with copyright law and everything to do with contract law. These days most carriers will unlock your phone once it is out of the time span of your agreement. The 3GS I use while overseas was happily unlocked by AT&T since its contract was over.

However, there are people providing software to unlock your phone without the carrier’s permission. This is usually done to circumvent the contract so that one can get a great deal on a phone yet use it on another network. This doesn’t make much sense to do in order to switch to another network full time as you are still under contract to make payments to the original carrier, but it can save a bunch of money if you travel overseas a lot and want to use your same phone yet not get raped by high mobile data fees.

The carriers are trying to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – as flawed a piece of legislation as there ever was – to block this software.

Since the DMCA deals with copyright, the administration of the law falls on the Librarian of Congress. They can issue exemptions to the DMCA, and for the last three years unlocking phones has enjoyed this exemption. This year the exemption was not renewed, and so it is now possible for the carriers to pursue legal action against people and companies involved in unlocking phones.

NOTE: This has nothing, zero, nada, zilch to do with “rooting” a device or installing different software on it, which is still legal.

This has caused a bunch of moral outrage, including a petition to get the White House involved.

I think it’s crap.

You want to sign a petition? Sign one to get the DMCA thrown out. When a huge company like F5 Networks can issue a letter to Google that results in the removal of legitimate webpages, like several dealing with the OpenNMS project, and costs me time and effort to try and get it reversed – that should be illegal. Heck, phone unlocking isn’t even a copyright issue so I doubt a court test would hold up, but abuse of the DMCA with junk such as this should be illegal.

You want to sign a petition? Sign one to get carriers to remove the “no class action” clause from their contracts. Since they all do it, it’s collusion, and there is no place in the market one can turn to that allows consumers to have any real recourse when the carriers do something stupid. If the phone unlocking hubbub was about requiring carriers to unlock out of contract phones, I could get behind it, but as far as I know, they do that already.

But if you just want to get out of your legal obligations to save a few bucks, cry me a river. When the Librarian originally granted the exemption, consumers had few options in getting either unlocked phones or getting off-contract phones unlocked. This has changed and the decision to remove the exemption is a good one.

I am especially unhappy when I see people in the Free and Open software movement unlocking their phones early. Enough people already associate free software advocates with software pirates that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Don’t like a contract? Don’t sign it.

But I truly wish we could remove the DMCA and replace it with something less insane. That’s a petition I’ll sign.

Hat tip: This great article on what’s really going on.

Final Thoughts on OUCE 2013

Now that I’ve had some sleep, I wanted to make a few last comments on the Users Conference.

I think the Foundation did a wonderful job ‎with their first conference. All of the feedback I got was positive, with a lot of long time attendees thinking this was the best one yet. I think what made it work was the vibe that this was “user driven”. Heck, even the location for meals, Café Chaos, is student run and managed, and they also handled the catering.

It was a little hard to say goodbye to old friends and new, but many had lives to get back to and trains to catch. Those of us left ended up at the Wiesenmühle beer garden, the traditional ending to the conference. I was extremely happy to see that Dunkel was still in season.

A tradition I didn’t want to repeat was the excessive schnapps consumption of last year, but it just wouldn’t be right without one or two.

Of course, David (pictured on the right) accidentally overrode my order with the waitress for “zehn” (10) glasses and managed to count two more people at our table than were actually there. Thus he and Markus (pictured left) ended up with the two left over shots (Markus since he missed all the “fun” last year).

I had an early flight so managed to leave while feeling very happy and content. It is a shame I have to wait until next year to see everyone again.

Speaking of next year, we are looking for a venue. The team would like to move the conference around Europe. We need a place with two conference/class rooms, a place for everyone to gather and eat, and enough hotel rooms to accomodate everyone. Good public transportation and proximity to an airport are also important. If you know of one, be sure to drop a note to the Foundation folks.

I’ll leave you with this picture. I’m not sure how I managed to take it, actually. It’s supposed to be of a glass of Schwarzer Hahn beer, but I think it turned out pretty cool.

2013 OpenNMS Users Conference

This was the week for the fifth annual OpenNMS Users Conference in Fulda, Germany. I had grand plans for blogging about the event, but as usual things got away from me and now I am getting started on the last day.

I spent last week teaching an OpenNMS course to ten students from a local company in North Carolina. While I love teaching people about OpenNMS, it took a lot out of me. Even for “the Mouth”, talking for 8 or 9 straight hours for days on end can be difficult.

The class ended on Friday and I had just enough time to head home, do laundry and pack before leaving for the airport on Saturday morning to head toward Fulda.

One of my tasks was to bring Ulf, the OpenNMS mascot. While I was waiting for my plane to Dallas (I hate flying through Heathrow so, yes, I went two hours in the wrong direction just so I could get a direct flight to Frankfurt) I ran into the UNC Womens Gymnastic’s team and they were kind enough to pose for a picture.

The rest of the trip to Frankfurt was pretty uneventful. At the airport I was met by Markus, who was acting as chauffeur, as well as Jeff who came in from Atlanta and Gary from Kansas City. We drove to Markus’s house where he and his wife Sandra had prepared a nice lunch. Some of the other people from the conference came by, and we had a great time chatting into the evening.

For dinner we visited a traditional German restaurant in Fulda called the Schwarzer Hahn. While we were eating I was able to ask a question about the German language. When I travel, I like to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff at my hotel. I asked them for the German word for “housekeeping” and they replied that there really wasn’t one, but I could try “zimmermädchen” or “room maid”. On Monday morning I left a note and three euros for the cleaning staff using my new found German words.

On Monday we prepared for the conference. For the last four years the conference had been organized by Nethinks, a certified OpenNMS partner with offices in Fulda, and I’ve been to Fulda on a number of other occasions (this year it was organized by the newly formed OpenNMS Foundation). When a friend of mine decided to make the four hour trip from Bayreuth just to visit me, I was able to show her around Fulda like a native.

Did I mention it was cold? I think it is kind of important to mention how cold it was – most of the time it was a few degrees below freezing – so the Fulda tour pretty much involved finding great places to eat and have coffee.

We ended up at Hochschule Fulda, the site of this year’s conference, and we got to see Christian’s Raspberry Pi controlled coffee maker. The interface is in the style of the replicator from Star Trek, and you can simply state, in German “Computer – coffee please”. It was kind of cool to see it work, but we found out that with Jeff’s accent the difference between “make a coffee” and “perform the cleaning function” are similar. (sigh)

Speaking of language issues, when I got back to my room on Monday night I found that my note and three euros were still on the desk. When I met Jeff for breakfast and told him about it, he asked to see the note, and when I showed it to him he immediately started to laugh. I had written “Zimmer Mädchen Danke” and apparently by adding the space I was not addressing the cleaning woman but instead I was asking to have a young woman (Mädchen) for my room. While I had other German speakers tell me that it would have been a stretch for someone to arrive at that conclusion, others start laughing the moment I mention adding the space. Of course, being German, some of them simply point out that three euros is not enough money and that three 50 euro notes would have been more appropriate.

(heavy sigh)

Tuesday morning I awoke to see about six inches of snow on the ground. Apparently it was bad enough in Frankfurt that they closed the airport. This did impact some of the people coming to the conference, but for those on trains it was only delays versus cancellations.

The conference officially started on Tuesday with a Basic Training Day. I tried to fit about two and half days of training into one, but even with some drastic cuts and pre-installing OpenNMS, it took ten hours to cover the OpenNMS basics. The class was cool and let me talk until 7pm, but I was really looking forward to Wednesday and my first “down day” in weeks.

Dinner was at the Havanna Bar, where we went to celebrate Jeff’s birthday. Tobi Oetiker had arrived (although a little late due to the snow) and it was nice to be able to spend some time with him. He had come up to do an RRDtool tool talk on Wednesday. After dinner I told everyone not to expect me until noon.

At 8:30 Wednesday morning my phone rings. Jeff is sick and can I come in and teach? I quickly shower, dress and head over to the school, where I proceeded to improvise eight hours of advanced OpenNMS training. I think it went well, and I only ran about 30 minutes over the allotted time, but to say I was exhausted at the end of the day would be an understatement.

I skipped the evening activities and tried to get a little rest, but soon realized that I needed a lot of rest. I felt ill, but I wasn’t sure if it was related to illness or just exhaustion. I went to sleep but woke at 5am in order to get my demo working for my “What’s New in OpenNMS” talk on Thursday morning. I literally had to build a fresh OpenNMS release since major bug fixes had been added by Ben Wednesday night, and I think the demo was well received with the exception that loading the VMWare topology database via OSGi failed (it had worked at the hotel).

I ended the talk with a Steve Jobs style “one more thing …” This is very hard to do with an open source project, since by its very nature open source software doesn’t hide anything (I was always amused by those fauxpensource companies that promised an “unveiling” of new software at various trade shows). My “one more thing” was to point out that the best new thing in OpenNMS is the OpenNMS Foundation. The creation of this independent users group means a lot to me, and I think it will insure the continued growth and success of OpenNMS.

At lunch on Thursday I heard a nice story. One of the attendees had a performance review via Skype the day before, and he was told that he had received a prestigious “innovators” award from his company. The reason was his introduction of OpenNMS to this large corporation that had been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on products from HP and BMC.


Unfortunately, I missed the rest of Thursday. I simply could not go on. I went back to the hotel and crashed, but managed to get up in time to visit the Havanna Bar for the conference social event. We had over seventy people in the upstairs dining room, and I spent most of the night with a table of Germans and Ville, a Finn who works at Vaadin and is living in Frankfurt.

At one point the talk turned to language, and it was pointed out that there are only five words in German that end in the letters “nf”. I thought that was cool, since the German word for “five”, fünf, is one of those words. However, no one at the table could name all five, and one person found an article that stated there were only four (apparently there is a dispute).

This bothered me, since I felt it was important that there be five since fünf would be one of them, so Ville and I decided to introduce the word “pünf” to the German language, which is defined as “the feeling when one realizes they should have stopped eating 15 minutes ago”. Both of us were feeling very pünf at that moment.

Speaking of language, I think we should all adopt the German term for the mobile phone, which is “handy”. My reasoning is that the word “phone” is outdated (I rarely use the “phone” function of my handy). John Scalzi in “Old Man’s War” called them “hand terminals”. That is accurate if a little long, so we should shorten it to “handy”.

At one point in the evening I remember looking around the room at everyone laughing and talking, and thinking “I put this in motion”. Not the conference, as that was done by better people than me, but when I took over the OpenNMS project in 2002 to keep it from dying, I never thought that it would grow so much beyond what I started.

I left the event a little early, as I was still not feeling my best, and I walked back to the hotel through the light snow. I got to sleep a little after 11pm and slept in until 7:30. When I awoke I felt better than I had all week, so I am hoping it that I was just tired and that I’m not getting sick.

So far on Friday I’ve seen a couple of cool talks. Almost all of the talks in this conference are being given by OpenNMS end users. I saw one on integrating OpenNMS with Salt Stack (a Puppet/Chef-like configuration management tool) and one on the new Scale Free Topology Provider.

I hate that I missed most of the talks yesterday, but I think the organizers have done a great job with this conference and I look forward to what they come up with next year.

The only thing I would change is the weather.

2013 OpenNMS Users Conference

On Saturday I am off to Germany for the 2013 OpenNMS Users Conference and you should be there, too.

Seriously, this is going to be the place to be for OpenNMS and network management in general. What excites me the most about it is that this whole conference was organized and staffed by OpenNMS users and not The OpenNMS Group. The non-profit OpenNMS Foundation was founded to promote OpenNMS and build an independent users community around it, and based upon the registrations so far it looks like they will be successful.

In any case I am looking forward to “gettin’ my geek on” in Fulda next week, and I think if you ask nicely you can still get registered.