Disclaimer: No real OpenNMS content.

One of the things I like about my job is that I get to travel around the world. While I love living in the United States, it is great to get the perspective of people outside the country. They often have a lot to offer.

I also like food. Whether its Indian in London, tacos at a small stand in Mexico, or sitting in a cafe in Naples having lunch, it’s all good.

Awhile ago when I was in France my friend Alex introduced me to the liqueur called pastis. While I tend not to like licorice flavors in general, I really enjoyed pastis and it was a perfect start to dinner.

I was reminded of pastis a few weeks ago when I was on holiday in New Zealand. We were eating at this French restaurant in Wellington and they had a nice selection of pastis (pastises? pastisi?). I had the Henri Bardouin and liked it so much I wanted to be sure to get some when I got back home.

But that was a problem. In North Carolina, where I live, “spirits” (pretty much any alcoholic beverage other than beer or wine) can only be purchased at state-controlled stores. It is rare that you can get anything unusual or obscure in these places, and I doubt there is a bottle of pastis in the entire area.

However, I am in Chicago this week and they have a place called Binny’s that carries a huge selection of beverages. I was invited over to the client’s house for dinner, and I figured that a bottle of pastis would make a great gift to bring.

Unfortunately they didn’t have the Bardouin, but they did carry one by Ricard that looked promising. The only thing odd was the addition of “caramel color” which turns it from being clear to more of a whisky color (I’m not sure why they did that).

To add a little twist to my purchase, while I was buying the bottle a TV crew from the local CBS affiliate asked me a couple of questions. My five seconds of fame begins about 50 seconds into the clip. Ben says I looked like a “gay eskimo” but hey, it’s cold here.

The Ricard, despite its color, was very nice. Pastis is similar to absinthe, and so when you add water to it the somewhat clear liquid turns milky. The suggested ratio is 5 parts cold water to one part pastis, but I tend to like it a little stronger, more like three to one.

Speaking of absinthe, I saw a number of bottles at Binny’s. I had thought that absinthe was illegal in the US, but it appears that with certain restrictions some brands are allowed. I am eager to try it, but I figure I’ll wait until I’m back in Europe and I’ll try to obtain some Verte Suisse or Jade Edouard, which are supposed to be a pretty authentic.

I’m all about the authentic.


When I first started my own business around OpenNMS, I figured it would be a one man consulting shop. I’d work about half time and then take the rest of the time off to do other things.

It didn’t work out that way.

My clients wanted support, and that meant someone (i.e. me) had to be around all the time. Instead of having some time to myself I had no time. This went on for a number of years. I can remember missing the funeral of my favorite uncle because I had a client coming to town for training and I couldn’t cancel at that late date. It was just the way it was.

As OpenNMS grew I was able to take some time off. I hired other people and so I could get away for the occasional long weekend. Or, more accurately, I was able to take weekends off now and then. We have traditionally closed the office from Christmas to New Year’s Day, but even then I tend to work part days during that time just to stay caught up.

Last year was the turning point. We got a client in Hawaii, so I had to head out there for a week. My wife insisted on coming along, and after talking about it with the other folks in the company I decided to take my first two week vacation in … well … pretty much forever. No e-mail, no phone calls, no meetings. Just some time to relax and regroove my brain.

It was fun, so we decided to do it again this year. Since I travel often I get lots of frequent flyer miles, and I had enough for a trip to New Zealand for two. I’ve always wanted to go there. However, the seats go fast so you have to book as early as possible, so I booked a flight for this November back in December of 2007.

When the airline was routing us to New Zealand, they had us stopping over in a place called Nadi. Now, I don’t have a problem going to “naughty” on holiday, but I’d never heard of it before and asked where it was. It turns out that this is the major international airport for Fiji. Fiji sounded cool, so we decided to spend a few days there before heading on to New Zealand.

So starting tomorrow I will be gone for two weeks. As much as I love working on OpenNMS I will not be checking my e-mail, or the lists, or bugzilla, or anything remotely related to work. I’ll be snorkeling on a coral reef or trout fishing in a mountain stream but it won’t have anything to do with the OpenNMS project.

I’m even leaving my laptop at home. This does not mean that I will be without electronic gear, however. I am bringing at least two small gadgets with me.

The first is a Garmin GPS. One thing I like about the Garmin is that it is supported by the New Zealand Open GPS Maps Project. Instead of shelling out US$150 for maps I’m using the work of this group. It was pretty easy to install, and the addresses I looked up for the B&B in Auckland and Zorb were both there. I’ll report on how it goes. While I seem to make it a habit to visit countries where they drive on the left side of the road, this will be the first time I’ve actually done it. I learned from my trip to Australia not to follow the traffic circle directions from the Garmin (as they have you going counter-clockwise in these countries which will get you killed).

The second is a new iPod Touch. While I disagree with the degree of control Apple exercises with the App Store, I haven’t seen a better mobile browser, and I just can’t stay away from the ‘net for that long.

The best news is that the second generation Touch supports a microphone. I had been waiting and waiting for Apple to release its version, but with my trip just days away I went looking for other options.

I found it in a product from Fastmac. They sell an adapter that lets you insert a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (with two rings) which terminates in a three ring connector that supports a built in microphone. Combined with Fring, a free app from the App Store that allows you to use Skype (among other things) I should be able to make Skype calls if need be. It arrived today and works fine, so I’m set.

To everyone in the community, hold down the fort while I’m gone. Try as I might, I won’t be able to keep my mind totally off the project, but I am going to give it my best shot.

Fedora on XO: Step 3

I finally have a somewhat working XO with Fedora running on it.

I owe much of this to Josh Bressers, who pointed out how to turn off enough stuff so that it would load and work within the memory limitations of the laptop.

So while I can use it for awhile, it is still very slow and often just locks for no apparent reason. There is a new image to try so I hope to get around to testing it soon.

Beautiful Music at OpenNMS

I’ve always been amazed at the talented people who work on OpenNMS. Not only can they work on software, most have other talents as well. One of those is Ben Reed, who in addition to being more adept with computers than anyone else I know is also a musician. I’ve been listening to his work for over seven years now.

Recently he managed to finally get an album released named, quite aptly, Finally. This week he received two rather impressive pieces of news concerning his work.

The first is that one of his songs, Pointillize, will be the featured track of the week on GarageBand. I guess at the next party we’ll have to see if he can actually play it.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Music Reviews gave his album four (out of five) “notes” with one song getting a perfect five:

This brings us to what I consider the strongest song on the album, “Perfect Paranoia”; Raccoon Fink now holds the record for being the first independent artist to obtain a rating of 5 on a track.

So if you like music you should check out his stuff. I only hope I can keep him working on OpenNMS when he becomes a big star. (grin)

Customer Service Stories: Etymotic

I started maintaining OpenNMS in May of 2002. By early 2003 the company was doing well enough that I decided I needed a little reward for all of the 80 hour weeks, so I bought a 12″ Powerbook the day it was announced, and I also ordered an iPod.

Back then I traveled as much as I do now, and having something like an iPod helped make the trips more pleasant. However, I wasn’t happy with the default earbuds when it came to dealing with the noise of the aircraft cabin. All the road warriors were buying the Bose noise-cancelling headsets so I decided to check them out.

I didn’t like them for two main reasons. First, they were large. When you schlep bags through airports for a living you want things as small and light as possible. Second, they required a power source. I am constantly being let down by my battery powered devices and I didn’t want to have to deal with another one.

It was then I learned about a company called Etymotic. They pioneered the idea of audiophile-quality in-ear headphones. Think of it as earplugs with amazing sound. They basically block out all sound waves except for that which comes through the bones of your skull, plus they are lightweight, small and require no external power. Most of the reviews I read had the Eymotics beating the Bose hands down.

Ben Reed had gotten a set of ER-4Ps and he let me try them. They were as amazing as I had been lead to believe. While they don’t block out all sound, as long as you have something playing through them you really can’t hear anything else.

So I bought a pair. At the time they were a little more expensive than the Bose (around US$350) but they saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Now when I sit down on a plane and notice the infant (or infants) in the row next to me, or the loud group of college students, or practically any other possible source of noise pollution, I smile, put in my 4Ps, and relax.

Now something like 300,000 air miles later, my 4Ps had seen better days. The insulation had rubbed off in a few areas, but the death knell came on my return from Europe when the right earphone went out.


So I called up Etymotic and found out I could get them repaired for about US$50. Off they went, and a week later I received some bad news. After the cables were replaced, they tested the 4Ps and found some slight distortion on the right earphone. Since they have to repair them in matched sets, they just decided to send me a whole new set of 4Ps.


That’s what I call customer service, especially with a product this expensive (although they’ve come down in price about half since I bought mine originally). If you’re looking for some high quality headphones, please check these out.

New Macbook Pro

Usually I get excited when I get a new laptop. However, I ended up getting a new one today and I’m not all that happy about it.

At OpenNMS, the new guy gets a laptop when he becomes an employee. We order a top of the line machine, always a Mac so far (although not a requirement), along with AppleCare. Since AppleCare is good for three years, they are expected to use that laptop for three years. Thus they have a screaming, envy inducing machine at first, and the last couple of months it’s a little slow. I kept my 12″ Powerbook for 4 years.

Since I travel a lot I went with the Macbook versus the Macbook Pro to replace my Powerbook two years ago. I liked its size (although I would have preferred a smaller footprint) and the plastic case resulted in better Wi-Fi signal in most places. When I had a lot going on it wasn’t the fastest kid on the block, but for most of my work it was fine.

Today I was on a Skype call with Alex when the system froze and I was looking at some serious beachball time. After waiting a couple of minutes for the system to recover, I decided to power cycle it. Instead of the usual welcoming “bong” I was treated to a number of loud clicks, followed by a picture of a folder with a question mark on it.

Dead drive.

Now I have to be out of town for awhile starting on Friday, and there was no way to get the Macbook fixed in time. Ben had a spare drive, but I wouldn’t be able to get that until tomorrow and then I’d spend the whole day swapping it out and then restoring from backup. My guess was that any problems I would encounter wouldn’t show up until I was on the road, so I made the decision to get another laptop.

I went with the Macbook Pro for the extra power, and it really isn’t that much larger than a Macbook (about an inch wider but only about a half inch deeper). I know there are some of you saying “poor baby” but I take spending money seriously, even if it is for my benefit. I guess I could rationalize it by saying that I held on to the Powerbook for an extra year so I can get another system a year early, but that doesn’t really work for me. I guess I can hold on to this one for four years as well to even it out.

On another note, Time Machine rocks. I backup my system regularly to a network drive and it was incredibly easy to restore all of my data. There is one problem however: it is not possible to restore a network volume using the default install of OS X.

When you first start a new Mac you reach a “Migration Assistant” screen which lets you restore from a Time Machine backup. However, you can’t choose a network volume, which kinda ruins it for me since that’s where the backup is located.

If, however, you boot from a Leopard CD, when you get to the installation screen you can access a menu bar (it’s hidden but will appear when you mouse over it). From there you can run Terminal and mount the remote volume:

mkdir /Volumes/TimeMachine
mount -t afp afp://username:password@remotemachineIP/remotemount /Volumes/TimeMachine

Then you can exit Terminal and choose the appropriate backup, press okay and off you go. It took about 3 hours to restore my system.

Really not bad. Some of my preferences are gone and Photoshop CS3 is complaining about not being registered (gonna have to call ’em tomorrow) but other than that things seem fine.

But I still don’t like having to spend the money.

The HTTP Collector Meets the Weather Geek

One of my favorite new features in OpenNMS is the HTTP data collector. In addition to SNMP, JMX and NSClient, we now can mine data from web pages. In many cases it can be easier to just write to a text file in the web root of a local web server than it is to instrument the data via SNMP or some other method.

I decided to put this to the test.

I am a weather geek. In the summer in North Carolina the usual afternoon thunderstorms can be very spotty, and so while it might rain like mad at the office, the farm (10 miles away) could remain dry, and vice versa. This summer we’ve been experiencing an extreme drought, so tracking rain is even more important. I thought it would be cool to see if it was raining at home from the office.

For several years I’ve had a Davis Vantage Pro weather station. With the associated Weatherlink software it is possible to publish the current weather data on the web, but it wasn’t until I finally got broadband a few months ago that it was feasible to actually use it. This weekend I got around to setting it up and sending the data to a web site every five minutes. The output looks like this:

Now all I had to do was set up OpenNMS to grab it using the HttpCollector. Rather than post all of the steps here, I added it as an example on the wiki.

Now I have nifty reports like:

Note that this won’t work for non-text-based site, like those that use Flash, but for everyone else it should provide an easy way to integrate custom data sources into OpenNMS.

Abroche Su Cinturon

I flew to San Antonio yesterday, and it was the first time I could really try out my Entymonic 4P earphones. They rock.

As soon as the flight attendant said it was okay, I pulled out the laptop, stuck in “Lord of the Rings” and put on the 4Ps. These are “in the ear” headphones that also act as really nice earplugs. You can only feel the plane, not hear it, and you get great sound.

The thing I liked best was that I seemed to arrive less fatigued than usual. I never realized how draining simply sitting in a noisy cabin could be.