Planet OpenNMS

November 21, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 Open Source Monitoring Conference

Once again I got to visit the wonderful town of Nürnberg, Germany, for the Open Source Monitoring Conference.

OSMC - Badge

Hosted by Netways, the conference started out ten years ago as a Nagios conference. The name was changed due to an issue with the Nagios trademark, but it still focused heavily on Nagios. However, the organizers are pretty open to all things monitoring, so they started inviting projects like Zabbix and OpenNMS to come. When the Nagios fork Icinga was created, the amount of Nagios content dropped considerably, and out of 24 talks over 2 days there were only two that had Nagios in the title. Part of this has to do with Icinga 2 being a total rewrite and thus has started to move past its Nagios roots.

This year it was a cornucopia of monitoring choices. In addition to Icinga, Zabbix and OpenNMS, there was Alyvix, Assimilation, Heroic, and Prometheus. Grafana was popular and most tools are adding support for that data visualization tool, and it was nice to see talks on NSClient++ and MQTT. A little less than half the talks were in German, so there is a large German focus to the conference, but there was always an English-language talk available as well.

Nürnberg is a cool town. There is a big castle and lots of walls are left over from the original fortifications for the city. It is also home to SuSE Linux, and I made sure to swing by if just to get a picture for Bryan Lunduke:

OSMC - SuSE Office

Ronny and I got there on Monday. While the main conference is held over two days, this year there were workshops on Monday and a “hack-a-thon” on Thursday. The conference pretty much takes over the Holiday Inn, City Center, hotel. While the facilities are nice, it is right next to the city’s “eros center” which seems to creep closer and closer to the hotel each year I attend. It doesn’t impact the conference in any way, and those who might be sensitive to such things can easily avoid it.

There is always lavish catering and this year we had a nice, small crowd of OpenNMS enthusiasts in attendance, and we met up for the hosted dinner on Monday night. I had not seen some of the people since the OUCE, so it was nice to catch up.

My talk was on Tuesday, the first day of the main conference. The event was sold out, with about 250 people, and at times the rooms could get quite full.

OSMC - Crowd

The talks were all rather good. Torkel Ödegaard talked about Grafana:

OSMC - Grafana

which was a big hit with crowd, and as I mentioned before a lot of projects are leveraging his work to provide better data visualization, including OpenNMS. My talk went well (I think) as I went over all of the amazing things we’ve done since last year at the OSMC, which included four major releases of our application. I was stumped with the question “How do I get started with OpenNMS?” when I realized that I didn’t have an easy answer. I can tell you how to install it, but that doesn’t get you started. I need to work on that.

That evening we returned to Terminal 90, which is an odd place to hold a dinner but it seems to work. Terminal 90 is a restaurant located at the Nürmberg airport, and it does a good job of holding everyone. We have to take the U-bahn to get there, and at least this year there were no incidents (last year someone tried to hold open the doors, which caused the autonomous train to shut down and wait for human intervention).

OSMC - Terminal 90

The food and drinks were good, and toward the end of the evening they had woman impersonating German pop star Helene Fischer, which was lost on me but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

I called it a night fairly early, but this is a group that tends to hang out until the wee hours of the morning. Although my room was on the first floor, I didn’t hear much noise from “Checkpoint Jenny” across the street, so maybe everyone is getting more mellow in their old age. (grin)

The second day featured a number of talks from different projects. Usually the Zabbix talk is done by Rihards Olups, but he was unable to make it this year so Wolfgang Alper did the honors.

OSMC - Zabbix

After that was a really good talk by Martin Parm on how Spotify monitors its music service.

OSMC - Spotify

It started out with all of the tools they tried that failed, and I kept thinking to myself “don’t let it be OpenNMS, don’t let it be OpenNMS” (it wasn’t) and ended with a tool they wrote in-house called Heroic. It is a time-series data store built on top of Cassandra, and it looks a lot like the Newts tool we built. Both are open source and Apache-licensed so I’m hoping to find some synergy between the two projects. There is another large music streaming service that uses OpenNMS, but maybe we can get all of them (grin).

OSMC - Prometheus

Then there was a talk by Fabian Reinhartz on a monitoring system called Prometheus. I had to joke that the name refers to the daily experience of most network managers of having their liver eaten out, but it seems like an interesting tool. Written in Go, it may find resistance from users due to the configuration being more like writing code, but that also makes it powerful. Sounds familiar to me.

I had to leave right after lunch in order to be ready to catch my flight home, but I really enjoyed my time there, even more than usual. Many thanks to Bernd Erk and the Netways gang for holding it, and they should be posting the videos soon. If you are interested in next year be sure to register early as it is likely to sell out again.

by Tarus at November 21, 2015 04:10 PM

November 16, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 54 – The Trolley Problem

Throw out the first segment, and this is one of the best Bad Voltage episodes yet.

It’s not that the first segment sucks (well, for certain values of “suck”), but it pales in comparison to the rest of the show.

That first bit concerns a rant, introduced by Aq, about a trend in programming to rely on “frameworks” instead of actually learning how to code in a particular language. It was set off, as I understand it, by someone wanting to know how to add together two numbers using JQuery, and the response was, uh, why don’t you just add the numbers together using Javascript?

I can understand the frustration. There was a recent rant by Linus Torvalds about a pull request submitted against the kernel that was unnecessarily obtuse. As the pressure mounts to get more and more code out faster and faster, not only are novice programmers being asked to do more complex tasks, they are relying more and more on frameworks and libraries to do them.

While I am not a coder, I do view the writing of code as an art form, and I like code that is artistic: beautiful, clever and functional. I can remember many years ago visiting an especially ugly page on a government website, and when I looked at the source I found it had been generated by Microsoft Frontpage. Yes, that tool would create a web page, but in no way will the code be beautiful or clever, or in this case, functional.

I was not sure if this rant applied to IDEs. Almost all OpenNMS code is done in Eclipse. I think I’m the only one who uses vi, along with healthy amounts of recursive grep. We also use a lot of libraries. Why reinvent the wheel? Of course, this has caused the size of the OpenNMS application to balloon, currently pushing more than half a gigabyte. But space is relatively cheap and time matters, so why not?

I thought it very telling when Aq decided he disliked code that involved any level of abstraction above what he was using. It reminded me of the old George Carlin joke that anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, while anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot. I did like it when they reminisced about classic code that was very compact and just plain fast. These days we trade speed of completion for speed of execution. My own memory is of running Mac OS 6 on one double sided (800K) floppy. I could put the O/S, MacPaint, MacDraw and MacWrite all on one disk will about 100K left for my files. I couldn’t afford a Mac back then (they ran about US$5K) but the school had ones you could use and all I needed to carry was that disk.

The next segment talked about the Blue Yeti microphone. I bought one of these specifically for the time I was on Bad Voltage, so there must be something in the water about this show and owning one. I was a little confused, however, when the segment starts and Jono states he bought his as a travel mic. This sucker is huge, and as I like to travel as light as possible I can’t imagine dragging it around. However, as the segment continues, it is obvious we are talking about the same mic.

It is a great device. While I like getting input from the gang on which toys to buy, my go-to source for tech advice is The Wirecutter, and the Yeti is their microphone of choice as well. If you plan on recording for the Internet, you should seriously consider getting one of these.

It is the third segment that I thought was brilliant. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but the discussion centered around ethics programming in self-driving cars. While I disagree with Jeremy that this is something that will need to be figured out before these vehicles become mainstream, it will be a question in need of an answer as they mature.

The scenario offered is this: You are in your self-driving car going along a mountain road. Suddenly, you turn a corner and there are five people in the way. Assuming the car can detect this, should it continue on, protecting the passenger but possibly killing the five people, or should it drive over the side of the cliff, killing the passenger but saving the people in the road?

Wow – what a neat question.

I have no idea of the correct answer. It did dawn on me (as it did the gang) that if the solution was to sacrifice the passenger that pranksters would be more than happy to jump in front of these cars just to see what happens, and I think in at least those models aimed at higher end consumers, they may tout that passenger safety has been programmed into the system to be paramount.

It was a real “grown up” question and I think spawned one of the better discussions ever done on the show.

I was surprised no one brought up Spock’s death speech, “The needs of the many, outweigh … (the needs of the few) … or the one” but Aq did reference the I, Robot movie so he gets points for that.

The final segment concerned the UK government’s decision to put pressure on technology providers to eschew strong encryption in favor of either weak encryption or some sort of back door. Apple has stood up and stated that, if enforced, they would stop selling their products in the UK. It was scary to think about this, since no elected official in any company would want to be labeled as the guy who stood in the way of someone getting an iPhone. Bryan pointed out that the market capitalization of Apple is roughly US$700B, putting it at about 25% of the UK’s GDP (with its fifth highest GDP in the world), and so that threat carries a lot of weight.

This was another “big boy question” and I liked the discussion. Should anyone announce that a back door exists in a popular technology, you can bet the bad guys will throw everything at exploiting it. It’s just not a good idea, although it isn’t surprising that it comes from the UK, a country known for the ubiquitous use of CCTV (on a side note, they have also started using traffic cameras that track you between points and if you exceed the posted speed between them, you get ticketed.)

Of course, there is the thought that a private company like Apple has the ability to sway governments, but no one minds the 800 pound gorilla when it is on your side.

During the outro the guys announced they are returning to SCaLE next year to do a Live Voltage show. These are awesome and shouldn’t be missed, and they have room for nearly 1000 people in the venue so expect it to be crazy. Plus, if you visit the site you’ll see Bryan Lunduke right on the front page next to Cory Doctorow – which I think is pretty cool. Outside of Live Voltage, he’ll be doing a presentation on why he hates freedom, I mean, why Linux sucks.

While we aren’t sponsoring that show, OpenNMS is a gold sponsor at the conference, so be sure to go and stop by our booth.

Anyway, the lads did a great job this week. If you have never listened to Bad Voltage, this would be a great one with which to start.

by Tarus at November 16, 2015 06:24 AM

November 15, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Review: Signal by Open Whisper Systems

I like security, and one of the biggest security holes in my technology concerns text messaging and phone calls. While I can secure my data (for the most part), it is hard to secure traffic over the telephone network, especially with the proliferation of devices like the Stingray.

Awhile ago my friend Jeff introduced me to Red Phone by Open Whisper Systems, which was an app that would encrypt your phone calls. I could never get it to work very well, so I didn’t use it, plus Jeff was the only person I talked with who used it.

Flash forward more than a year, and I’m finding that I quite often don’t get texts from Jeff, while he gets mine just fine. He did some investigation and traced the issue to TextSecure, which was an encrypted text app also from Open Whisper Systems. Apparently I was registered on his phone as a TextSecure user, so it was trying to send text to me by that method. Since I no longer had Red Phone on my device (I play a lot with the software on my mobile devices and had not restored it after a clean install) I wasn’t getting the messages.

I went to install TextSecure and found that it has been replaced by Signal. My, what a difference a year makes. Not only was it easy to use, the app itself is pretty nice. It combines both TextSecure and Red Phone features, and is now the default SMS application on my handy.

Signal is 100% open source. The only way for true security is if everyone has the opportunity to examine the code and look for vulnerabilities. Plus, think about it, if you care about security chances are you want to send sensitive information using the service. Without open source you can’t be sure that information isn’t being intercepted by third parties.

This has resulted in some pretty high endorsements:

Quotes about Signal

Signal is available for both Android and iOS, Note that is uses a data connection to send encrypted SMS messages, so it will count against your data cap. I haven’t had the chance to try out the phone functionality as of yet, but it works fine as a normal SMS client as well.

It is nice to come across such a useful piece of software that is 100% open source, and if I happen to send you SMS messages, be on notice that I will be sending you an invite to Signal (grin).

UPDATE: This is so cool. Since the app uses data instead of the SMS protocol for encrypted texts, it works as long as the mobile device has data. Which means that I can get texts no matter what SIM card is currently in my handy. Cool! So I’m in Germany using my Ortel SIM and I’m able to get SMS messages from friends in the US who have no idea where I am or what network I’m using. Killer feature.

by Tarus at November 15, 2015 08:20 PM

November 14, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Reflections on Paris and My Cowardice

I was on a bus in Ireland when I heard the news about the Paris attacks. I had gotten up early to head to the opposite coast as I wanted to see an Ireland that wasn’t Dublin, and I don’t think I could have picked a better spot than Doolin, in County Clare.

Today was to be a particularly gray day and it was dark when I started out. It didn’t get much lighter as we rode to Galway, and when I changed buses the driver was playing the news from the radio. Of course the only story was about the more than one hundred people killed in senseless violence overnight.

Peace Symbol by @jean_jullien

I have some friends in Paris and so I immediately reached out to them. As I waited for a response, I pretty much sat, stunned, as the Irish countryside passed by outside my window.

Once I got to my B&B, I dropped my bag and took a long walk, looking for lunch. The day reflected my mood perfectly. It was like nature itself was in mourning. At high noon the sky wasn’t much lighter than at dusk. A roaring wind came off the sea, churning up angry whitecaps. The clouds drizzled rain like tears.

By the time I was getting cold, I found the recommended pub and went in. It was packed, as this is a popular tourist location and they drop people off by the bus load. Since I was alone, I offered to sit at the bar to make room for the next coach, which arrived about five minutes after I did.

A boisterous crowd of mainly young people came in and crowded around the bar where I sat. They were laughing and joking, blissfully unaware of how quickly that can change. I took a little comfort in the normalcy of that moment: people ordered food, the Indian guy asked about vegetarian options, and drinks were poured (including an inexplicable request for a bottle of Miller beer).

As I ate my meal, a nice smoked salmon salad and a wonderful seafood chowder stuffed with mussels, I was reminded of the last time I had mussels this good, which just happened to be in a Belgian restaurant in Paris called La Gueuze.

And I struggled with a dilemma. The Paris Open Source Summit is next week and I am supposed to be there. Heck, I lobbied hard for the opportunity to participate. But while the chance of anything happening is very slim, I can’t say I’m eager to be in Paris at the moment, especially as part of a large crowd.

So I decided not to go.

There were a number of factors. Part of it was concern for my wellbeing. Part of it was concern for my family. I travel a lot and I know they worry no matter where I’m going, and they have been very understanding when I’ve gone to places that don’t exactly have a reputation for safety. I refuse to put my decision on them, but it did play a role.

But I think the deciding factor was actually how much I enjoyed Paris on my last trip. It is an amazing city, and I didn’t want that memory ruined by seeing soldiers on every corner or having to go through intrusive screening at every point of entry.

It makes me feel like a coward. The terrorists have won.

And I can’t understand it. Of all the countries in Europe, the French bend over backwards to be accommodating to different views and ways of thinking. The French motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” leads with the word for freedom, and they go to great lengths to explore all the weird corner cases to insure their society is as free as possible.

And that’s what makes me the most angry. I’m certain these acts are going to change that. Not only will it move France to be more restrictive, it will give the more aggressive countries reason to step up military action in the Middle East. A lot more people will die, and most of them will have darker skin. This will create more terrorists, and the cycle will continue.

I hope France and the rest of the world shows some restraint. I’m not, in any way, shape or form, suggesting justice not be sought out, but I’m reminded of something I saw many years ago.

I was living at my parents’ house and my two-year-old nephew was staying with us. It was a beautiful day and so the windows were open, and there was a gentle breeze throughout the house. One strong breeze caught the door behind the boy and slammed it shut. It scared him, so he reached out and smacked the door, as if to punish it. It struck me as a perfect example of a childish reaction – I’m scared and angry so I need to strike out at the nearest thing, whether is makes sense or not.

I hope the world remembers that we are not children.

I don’t have any answers on how to make things better. The best I can do is to promote free and open source software. I know it sounds silly, using FOSS to cure the world’s problems, but in every place I’ve visited (and I’ve been to 37 different countries) I’ve found like-minded people in that community with a strong desire to create new things through cooperation. It creates an environment where anything is possible. In a small way, it creates hope.

I am writing this sitting on my bed at the B&B. It’s cold, and the wind is whipping around the house, but I feel cozy and safe. Here’s a wish that everyone can find a place to be cozy and safe, as well as the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

by Tarus at November 14, 2015 07:50 PM

November 13, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Horizon 16.0.4 Security Release

In response to the vulnerability found in the vulnerability found in the vulnerability found in the vulnerability found in the Apache Commons library that Apache Commons library that Apache Commons library that Apache Commons library that OpenNMS uses, version 16.0.4 has been released to help secure against a remote exploit.

The exploit involves Java Remote Method Invocation (RMI) which listens on port 1099 by default. In my previous post I pointed out that if that port is inaccessible, then the exploit can’t happen.

What 16.0.4 does is limit RMI to only listen on localhost. While that will prevent remote exploits even in the event port 1099 is blocked via the firewall, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. To fix the root cause of the issue will require changes to Apache Commons, and we are ready to upgrade to the fixed version as soon as it is available.

We tend to be very internally critical of security issues within OpenNMS, and some people complained that my last post wasn’t technical enough. So I’m hoping to correct that with this one, but if you don’t care about such things you should probably skip it (grin). I have started updating the Security Considerations page on the wiki with details about securing OpenNMS in general, and that will have better information for people interested in security and OpenNMS than this blog post.

While blocking external access to port 1099 will secure OpenNMS against this attack for most people, it doesn’t prevent people who have access to the machine from exploiting the vulnerability. This is called a “privilege escalation” attack vs. a “remote exploit”, as a “normal” user can now have rights (i.e. root access) if they are locally on the machine. Most of our users tend to limit shell access to the server, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but in environments that rely heavily on directory services such as LDAP, the default may be to allow non-privileged access to certain users (say, the “IT Group”) that aren’t involved in maintaining OpenNMS.

And there is also the slim chance that there is a vulnerability in our webUI that could allow a user access to the system. We, of course, don’t know of any and we take great care to prevent it, but simply hoping to limit access to the server as a way to prevent this exploit is insufficient.

So, to prevent it entirely, we are removing RMI. It was introduced in the first iteration of the OpenNMS Remote Poller, but real world installation found that getting the proper ports open was a real pain. So instead the remote poller now talks over HTTP/HTTPS (with the latter being the most secure). Most networks have ports 80 and 443 open, so that made things a lot easier.

Until that is introduced (most likely with Horizon 17), it is still a good idea to limit access to the OpenNMS server to only essential people.

Note that Java Management Extensions (JMX) also use serialized objects and thus could be vulnerable. OpenNMS has a JMX port (18980) but it is bound to localhost by default. In fact, all ports are bound to localhost by default in 16.0.4 except for the webUI, port 8980.

There are a number of other steps you can take to harden your OpenNMS server. I’m planning on detailing them on the wiki, but start with only doing a minimal operating system install. The less software on the system, the smaller the chance one will have a vulnerability.

Also, OpenNMS currently runs as the “root” user. This is due to the fact that it needs access to ICMP traffic as well as port 162 for SNMP traps. Both of these require root by default. With some “stupid kernel tricks” you can run OpenNMS as a non-root user, but it has not been heavily tested. We have a detailed list of issues for running as non-root on our Jira instance.

Sorry to drone on about this, but we take security extremely seriously at OpenNMS. We also have to labor under the misconception that Java is inherently unsafe. It is not true, although people still have nightmares from the early issues with client-side Java applets. The Java in OpenNMS is server-side and we don’t use applets, and the language is used securely in a tremendous amount of software.

For comparison, WordPress, an application I love, is currently estimated to run 25% of the world’s websites. It is written in PHP, a language that has a huge track record of security exploits, and many of the spam e-mails I get link to compromised WordPress sites.

It is possible to secure WordPress (we use it for all of our websites as well) but it takes some diligence. We will remain as diligent as we can concerning the security of OpenNMS, and we will continue to take steps to make it even more secure.

by Tarus at November 13, 2015 04:57 PM

November 11, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Dublin OpenNMS Meetup

I’m working in Ireland this week, and our UK/Irish Ambassador, Dr. Craig Gallen, used the opportunity to put together an OpenNMS meetup, featuring beer and pizza (grin).

We held it in an office space near Temple Bar thanks to Barry Alistair. Among his many talents, he is also one of the organizers behind, an on-line community for the Irish Software Developers Network.

Ulf at Dublin Meetup

It was a lot of fun. We socialized for a bit, and Craig had arranged the pizza to arrive at the end of our talks in order to reward folks for listening to us hold forth on the wonders of OpenNMS (the beer was on offer first, ‘natch). Once again I ran long and the pizza was consumed between my introduction and Craig’s presentation. I did an overview of the history of OpenNMS and why using open source, especially for a network management platform, is a Good Thing™.

Craig at Dublin Meetup

Craig’s presentation was much better, and covered a lot of the new features that have recently been added to the application as well as the direction the product was moving (such as being positioned for SDN/NFV/Internet of Thingies). No one left or fell asleep and there were lots of good questions.

Events such as this are one of my favorite things to do, so I want to thank Barry and Craig for making it possible.

by Tarus at November 11, 2015 11:11 AM

November 10, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

[Release] – OpenNMS 16.0.4

We welcome a new minor OpenNMS Horizon release 16.0.4 with codename Doorman. This is a bug fix release and all solved issues can be found in the Release Notes.

by Ronny Trommer at November 10, 2015 11:41 PM

[Security] – Java RMI exploitation

We got noticed from one of mailing list readers about a security issue. This article explains this issue in all details.

The research shows that it is possible to execute code on the OpenNMS server remotely due to a bug in the Apache commons library, which OpenNMS uses. There are two types of issues, one is remotely exploitable code and the other is local privilege escalation. Firewalling TCP port 1099 changes the attack vector into a local privilege escalation. The issue with local privilege escalation has still to be investigated. Make sure you allow only IPv4 localhost and IPv6 ::1 to access TCP port 1099.

For security issues we have a contact address which you can find in the Contact Us section on

by Ronny Trommer at November 10, 2015 12:37 PM

Adventures in Open Source

The Many Uses of Grafana

One of the things I love about open source and OpenNMS in particular is watching what people do with it. We knew that we had a great data collector in OpenNMS but sometimes it was hard to display that data in a useful fashion.

OpenNMS is a platform and it is very broad. For example, we do log management, but that is only a small portion of what the application can do, yet there are companies who do nothing but that. So yes, we can display graphs but we don’t necessarily have the resources to focus on making a great data visualization tool.

Enter open source. Torkel Ödegaard has written a great visualization tool in Grafana, so it would be silly for us not to leverage it.

I was at a customer site I and I saw this cool graph:

Grafana Graph

I asked Patrick about it, and he said that he wanted to play with the OpenNMS/Grafana integration so he installed it and within a half hour he had it up and running. He created the graph as a version of the “stacky graphs” you can make in OpenNMS, but it was much easier to do and to maintain.

The name “stacky graphs” came from another customer of ours. They asked me if there was a way to put the bandwidth from all of their peer points on one graph. Now, in OpenNMS, it is easy to make a graph of data from a single device, and it is easy to group multiple graphs together, but it was not easy to put disparate data points on a single graph.

However, OpenNMS is a platform so I was able to find a way. When you create a graph definition in OpenNMS, there are two important fields, called “columns” and “type”. The “columns” value defines the file to look for, say ifInOctets.rrd and ifOutOctets.rrd, and the “type” value tells OpenNMS where to look for those files. So what I did was create symbolic links under the OpenNMS node directory named things like LAX-in.rrd, LAX-out.rrd and NYC-in.rrd, NYC-out.rrd that were linked to the interface RRDs of interest. Then I created a report of type “nodeSnmp” with column names like “LAX-in, LAX-out, NYC-in, NYC-out” etc. Then I could use AREA graphs to print out the data.

This was a pain for a number of reasons. First, you had to do a lot of configuration on the command line. Second, sometimes it is useful to delete .rrd files that haven’t been updated in awhile, but if you aren’t careful you’ll delete the symlinks. Finally, it is a lot of work to add new data sources.

Grafana Graph vs. RRDtool

In this picture you can see the Grafana dashboard in the lower left corner and the OpenNMS “stacky graph” in the upper right. Not only does the Grafana version look better, it will be easier to maintain moving forward.

I am eager to see what others are doing with this, so feel free to check out the integration on the wiki and let me know if you come up with anything cool.

by Tarus at November 10, 2015 11:58 AM

November 09, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Open Source Software and Corporations

An interesting post caught my eye this week entitled “Corporations and OSS Do Not Mix” by Ian Cordasco. It was kind of depressing – here was a person who had spent a lot of free time contributing to open source code, but the actions of some users of that code had taken the fun out of it.

My only issue with it was the targeting of “corporations” in the title. At OpenNMS we have a large number of corporate customers and we get along with them just fine. I want to talk about that in a bit, but first I want to address some of the other experiences Ian had that were similar to mine.

When I became the maintainer of OpenNMS back in 2002, I would often get e-mails from people that would start out with “OpenNMS is good, but what you need to do is …”. I used to spend a lot of time responding to them, pointing out that it was open source and anyone can help contribute to it, so they didn’t have to wait on me to do anything, but it never really helped and it turned into a huge time suck. I started to send back a generic e-mail that went along the lines of “OpenNMS is an enterprise product and if you won’t take the time to understand it then you should try something easier like Nagios” which would usually result in a reply calling me an asshole, but it took little of my time and then conversation was over. Now I pretty much just ignore them.

When you create something and share it, you are putting a bit of yourself out there and there are bound to be critics. For the most part they can be ignored, and you have to develop a thick skin to be in this environment. I’ve found that overall the good far outweighs the bad, and if you can learn to brush off the bad you can be very happy working in open source.

People tend to forget that open source “business” is still “business”. People exchange money in return for services. If I had Ian’s talent I would simply set up various custom development options, so when someone complained about a bug he could just return an e-mail with a price list. If you don’t have time to do it, make the prices really, really large – large enough that you would make time to do it. It’s your life – you are in the driver’s seat. I used to give a talk on running an open source business and I always stressed that you should never compete on price, or at least you shouldn’t lead with “my solution is cheaper”. Sure, open source software can provide tremendous savings over the life of the solution, but that doesn’t mean the solution itself is inexpensive to get set up. Done right, it will be better than any proprietary solution, but that doesn’t mean it comes without cost.

Always remember: free software does not mean free solution.

Getting back to dealing with corporations, like any interaction between two parties is it extremely important to set up expectations. You need to clearly outline what the product the client is buying covers (response time, 24/7 support, etc.). If they aren’t buying anything, then you don’t need to worry about them. I chuckled when I read “Well if you’re not going to take this seriously, we’ll have to start using another project.” We often get the “use another project” line and my response is “knock yourself out”. If you want to take this seriously, then pay me for my work. It’s like going into a free kitchen and complaining the soup is too salty.

A more difficult issue comes when someone wants to submit substandard code. This does require a little effort, since you can’t be sure that this isn’t just an eager but inexperienced coder versus someone lazy. Again, expectations are important. If you publish what the base level of quality should be, such as “must include unit tests”, then you can point to that when you don’t accept a submission. Plus, git makes it very easy to track a master branch and just apply your changes, so some sort of reply about how to do that could deflect criticism about the speed in accepting pull requests.

Ian makes a lot of really good points in his post, but I think he misses a point that if you run your open source project like a business then corporations (i.e. other businesses) will respect you and treat you like a business. We have one amazing company that just hired four (!) OpenNMS developers to work on code that they need. While some of it, if not most of it, will address their particular needs, all of it will be put into OpenNMS and they are paying us (gasp) to help project manage that team. That relationship did not happen overnight, but was built on a series of successful projects where we delivered particular value in exchange for money.

Look, I love, by and large, the open source community and I like being a part of it, but that doesn’t mean that open source and business are mutually exclusive. Learning to deal with open source as a business not only insures more open source gets created, but it also keeps it fun.

by Tarus at November 09, 2015 03:50 PM

OpenNMS RMI Exploit

Recently, my RSS feed on OpenNMS stories turned up an article listing a possible remote code execution exploit in a number of applications, including OpenNMS.

In it, the researcher shows that it is possible to execute code on the OpenNMS server remotely due to a bug in the Apache commons library, which OpenNMS uses.

We’re a little unhappy that they published this without letting us know first (note that the e-mail address “security at opennms dot org” exists for reporting such things), but it is pretty easy to make sure that your instance of OpenNMS is safe. Simply configure the server’s firewall to disable remote access to port 1099 (it will need to remain for localhost).

I was happy to notice that the example he uses seems to be related to OpenNMS running on Windows. It can be a bit tricky to get OpenNMS to work on Windows, and perhaps the Windows default firewall doesn’t block port 1099 so that it why they noticed it.

It is a good idea to run something like iptables on your OpenNMS server and limit remote access to a minimal set of ports. Technically, the only port you really need access to is 8980, which is the default port for the webUI. I would assume that you would want port 22 for ssh access (unless you want to use the console for all configuration). In addition, port 162 should be open for SNMP trap reception.

That should be it. Now the application needs access to other ports (such as 5817 for events) so those need to remain accessible from localhost ( or ::1) but that limits all exposure to only people who have shell access to the server, which we assume you limit to those people you trust. Remember to include IPv6 firewall rules if you use it.

An easy test to see if that port is remotely accessible would be to run:

telnet [IP or hostname of OpenNMS server] 1099

from a remote system to see if you can access the port. No connection should be made.

Sorry about this, but as I mentioned this wasn’t revealed to us until after the exploit was public. We are looking in to how we can better protect against this issue from a code change standpoint, but until then simply blocking access to the port will prevent most problems. We do plan to have a code fix in place soon.

by Tarus at November 09, 2015 01:12 PM

November 06, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 53 – They’ve Got a Flamethrower

Okay, so I’ve been slack at getting this review out, since by now they’ve already had the planning meeting for next week’s show. As they mention at the start of this one, both Jeremy and Jono were unavailable for the last planning meeting so Stuart and Bryan ran with it. It was a good show, but it kind of demonstrates that, like many of us, the guys are very busy and sometimes you just have to soldier on, which I think is a great set up for the quality of this blog post.

I’ve been traveling a lot and I’m about to head out again, in part, to attend two great open source conferences in Europe, but last week found me in Rochester, NY which was an easy drive to Buffalo, where I met up with a recovering Jeremy Garcia.

Jeremy Garcia at Buffalo Proper

Due to my fascination with classic cocktails, we ended up at Buffalo Proper, where it turns out they make great drinks. This was right after the taping of the show, so I heard a bit about it from Jeremy and then listened to it on the plane ride back home.

The first segment talks about all the new cool open source computing devices out there, and if they are just for über geeks or will they ever appeal to the masses. I love reading about all the new toys that are available, but unfortunately I’m so busy that I can’t ever find time to play with them. I bought a Raspberry Pi when it first came out, but after it sat on a shelf for six months I gave it away to someone who might actually have time to use it. It took me forever to get around to making an OpenElec/Kodi PVR and without a specific need it is hard for me to find time to just play. I think these things will become more popular, but it will take time as young people (who tend to have more free time) discover them and start coming up with ways to use them.

Think about Lego. When they just made generic sets of bricks, they were a well known company but not very large. Then they started making sets to build specific things, and the brand took off. We’re are the “generic brick” stage now, but I expect something to come along that will create a huge increase in what things you do with these devices.

I am often jealous of today’s youth. Back when I was in school we didn’t have the Internet, per se, but we did have access to a number of dial up services. I used to call into BBS systems a lot (mainly running WWIV) and even figured out how to dial in to the campus network and access the VAX (which was connected to the Internet). There I could use “talk” to communicate with friends. Now, kids today have access to orders of magnitude more information and more toys. Unfortunately, that comes with the risk of “cyber-bullying” and other problems, but still, for those so motivated the benefits outweigh those risks.

I was surprised they didn’t talk about the ruling by the Librarian of Congress that made it (more) legal to tinker with technology you buy, which I think is a great step toward opening up tinkering at all levels.

The next segment discussed “vigilante malware” which uses the same exploits as regular malware but does it in order to make things less vulnerable to attack. Is this a good thing? The guys all agreeded that having someone change things on your devices with out your permission was “bad”, but they differed on the level of bad. I take a different approach. I work hard to keep my equipment up to date, so my assumption is that I wouldn’t be affected. However, many geeks and most muggles aren’t so aggressive, and so they get owned. This results in things like my mailbox being hit by spam (I get around 150 spam messages a day – most caught and processed by our mail server). This wouldn’t happen if people were more careful, as most spam originates from infected PCs, so I’m all for vigilante malware. Think about it – malware isn’t going away so why not encourage more of the good kind? Think of it like “good” vs. “bad” cholesterol. The only real solution to both is better security practices and better code, and both types of malware are incentives.

I think there is a hole in my logic somewhere. It’s kind of like the joke that you should always take a bomb onto a plane. Because while the chance of there being a bomb on a plane is slim, the chance of there being *two* bombs …

Anyway, the third segment talked about the Owncloud application. I’ve been meaning to play with this for some time (see “no time to play” above) as it looks cool. Take all of the nice features of “cloudy” things like Dropbox, and put them on a server you control. I think this is a fine goal. Plus, Owncloud also includes calendaring and contact management (apparently). We currently use Sogo for that, but it would be neat to integrate that with other things.

The only thing that wasn’t clear to me was the business model. The founder Frank Karlitschek states that Owncloud is not “open core” (or as we like to call it “fauxpensource“) but I’m not clear on their “enterprise” vs. “community” features. My gut tells me that they are on the side of good. I can see having a different license for an “enterprise” feature such as Sharepoint integration, especially if Owncloud has to use a proprietary library in order to get it to work at all, and it doesn’t look like the “server” version is intentionally hamstrung in order to get more business. Only finding the time to play with it will let me know for sure.

The final segment concerned laws about open source. The thesis is that the open source community spends a lot of effort working against laws that limit open source, so why shouldn’t the proprietary software world have to fight against laws that would make open source the norm? From the example above, the Software Freedom Conservancy spent a lot of effort to get the Librarian of Congress to make an exception to allow you to examine the software in various devices you own – why shouldn’t other companies have to fight to keep their code closed?

I think the team got this one right – money. Proprietary software companies get an immediate financial gain when their lobbying efforts pay off, but it doesn’t work for free software. However, I am seeing in these days of cost cutting that there is a movement in some governments to promote open source, so I think it is more of a question of true education than lobbying. One of the issues is that it gets confusing when companies like Owncloud offer an “enterprise” version and it isn’t clear what that means. While it might be 99% open source, all a detractor has to do is say “look, Senator, you have to pay just like you do for our stuff, and you know our stuff”.

Overall, decent episode. I get a mention in the outro as Jono refers to Todd Lewis, one of the people behind the All Things Open conference, as the “Nicest Man in Open Source”. I once held that title, but I would happily cede it to Todd. He is a truly nice guy, and is always willing to give you a hug. I used hug too, until that time I hugged Jono in Munich and what happened next had to be explained to my therapist with dolls.

by Tarus at November 06, 2015 06:44 PM

November 03, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

[Release] – OpenNMS Grafana Datasource

We have a new release of the OpenNMS Grafana Datasource which is now compatible with Grafana v2.5.0. There are also some improvements regarding layout. Most importantly we have a now the possibility to add filters which can be applied on the data, e.g. Trend- and Peak filter. It is also possible to use Grafana templates to get whole dashboards more dynamic.

You can find some additional notes can be found on our maintainer and author Jesse White and his blog. If you want to get started go to the Grafana page in our wiki.

by Ronny Trommer at November 03, 2015 10:02 AM

OUCE 2015 – Videos and Slides

Thank you very much to all attendees and people who organized the OpenNMS User Conference 2015. We had a great time and for the ones who couldn’t be in Germany. We’ve uploaded all videos to a OUCE 2015 Youtube playlist for the OpenNMS community.

Some speakers added their slides and are archived in our conference system.

Additionally I have to give a big thank you to the Bad Voltage guys, they did such a great job entertaining the crowd and I recommend highly getting a Podcast subscription.

You can find the recording of the Bad Voltage live show on the Bad Voltage website.

by Ronny Trommer at November 03, 2015 09:42 AM

October 30, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Upcoming Conferences

[UPDATE2: My whining paid off and I got moved to the first day at OSMC. At least one round is on me!]

[UPDATE: Yay! Daniel was able to contact the #OSSPARIS15 organizers and I am scheduled to speak.]

I just wanted to drop a quick note about some upcoming conferences. First off, the Call for Papers for next year’s SCaLE conference ends *today*. It’s a great show and they already have some amazing speakers on board, so be sure to get your paper topics in ASAP.

In November I’ll be attending at least one and maybe two conferences. The first is the Open Source Monitoring Conference being held in Nürnberg, Germany.

I love this conference as it really demonstrates the power of true open source communities. While it is mainly focused on Icinga (and you can hear how it is supposed to be pronounced, kind of like “eee-clinga” with a click, but a lot of people just say “eee-sing-ah”), it brings together many of the truly open source projects in the space, such as Zabbix and, of course, OpenNMS, and we all just get along. This year Torkel from Grafana will be there as well, and while I met him at All Things Open I didn’t get to chat with him much, so maybe now I’ll have the opportunity.

And by “get along” I mean drink heavily, and I’m unhappy that I’m speaking (again!) on Day Two as the evening of Day One has a tendency to become the morning of the second day. Luckily it isn’t the first talk of the day like last year so I guess I’ll deal with it (grin). The company that sponsors it, Netways, is actually in the business of hosting such events so it is always top notch.

The second “maybe” conference is the Paris Open Source Summit which is held the same week as the OSMC. This conference is put on by the people who do the Open World Forum, and unfortunately it seems to be plagued with the same lack of organization.

Since I speak at conferences a lot, I tend to run into all the other (more amazing) people who promote open source. Every one of them has complained to me about the lack of communication between the OWF conference organizers and the speakers. While most shows let you know months in advance, the team behind the Open World Forum tends toward the exact opposite. It is extremely hard to get any form of direct communication from them, and years ago I just gave up trying.

When Daniel, my friend in Paris, sent me the information about #OSSPARIS15, I figured I’d give it a shot. As expected, I didn’t hear from them. Not to sound all self-important, but I travel a lot, usually to work with OpenNMS customers, and I need to know as far in advance as possible if I’m speaking at a show. Usually this means I’m giving up some other opportunity, often one that would actually pay the bills. This time I figured that I would be in Europe anyway for the OSMC, so if I got accepted I would just change my return flight.

Last week I started seeing The OpenNMS Group pop up in press releases for #OSSPARIS15, and I found myself on the schedule for Thursday the 19th at 16:00. I wrote to the organizers to confirm and never heard back, but since I love Paris I made plans to be there.

Well, when I sat down to write this post I noticed that I had been removed from the program. (sigh)

This is very frustrating, as every spare cent we make at OpenNMS goes into the project and changes to flights can be expensive. We are investigating to see if this is just an oversight or if, even after the press release, they decided to remove me from the program. Perhaps it is because the website got hacked (grin).

OSSPARIS Website Hecked

I hope to see you at one of these conferences, or at another in the near future.

by Tarus at October 30, 2015 12:31 PM

October 27, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

First Look at Ubuntu Gnome 15.10

Back when I was an Apple fanboy, I would eagerly await the announcement of new products by Steve Jobs, with one window open to the live blog feed and the other refreshing the Apple Store page so I could be the first to order the new shiny. Steve Jobs made me fall in love with my technology.

I’ve rarely felt that since, but when the new Dell XPS 13 came out I became once again attached to a laptop and I was determined to make it work under Linux.

While it ships with the latest stable Ubuntu release, 14.04, there are issues. Now I often say that we in the open source community suffer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choice. Since I’ve found that Linux Mint with Cinnamon works best for me I tried it, but I just could not get it to work with the XPS. To address the shortcomings in Ubuntu 14.04, I read Barton’s Blog and decided to upgrade to 15.04. That addressed a lot of the problems, and I used Ubuntu with Unity for awhile, and although Unity was my first real Linux desktop it doesn’t work as well for me anymore. I also found that its HiDPI support was not quite there. I also tried Kubuntu but its HiDPI support (in my experience) was even worse, and since I’d based my laptop I figured I’d give Ubuntu Gnome a shot.

Now I wasn’t one of those haters who just ranted on Gnome 3.0, but when it came out I couldn’t get used to it. However, when I went to install Ubuntu Gnome on the XPS, I was encouraged that the installer recognized out of the box that I was on a HiDPI screen. There have been a lot of changes since that initial release and I found myself warming to it.

I do want to note that while I found all the desktop options I tried to be pleasantly polished, and, well, “pretty”, I decided to stick with Ubuntu Gnome.

A pesky issue with the touchpad and the touch screen required the 4.1 kernel or later. For months I’ve been running mainline kernels, so when 15.10 was announced with the 4.2 kernel standard, I was eager for the upgrade, and I ran it as soon as it became available.

So what does 15.10 offer? All I can really say at the moment is that it offers a pretty painless upgrade process. I ran “do-release-upgrade -d” and after answering a few prompts it went on its merry way.

Wireless worked out of the box (I used to have to futz with the Broadcom driver when on mainline) and overall the system seemed to be pretty smooth. During the boot process I get this error concerning lvmetad which I think is due to the fact that my entire laptop disk is encrypted, but the boot completes without any other issue and I have confidence it will soon be addressed.

Speaking of boot, Ubuntu Gnome has changed the logo on the boot screen. Instead of the familiar foot:

Old Ubuntu Gnome Logo

You get this new one:

New Ubuntu Gnome Logo

Forgive the quality as I had to produce the second image by taking a picture of the screen. While I like that the colors have been softened from black to a gray, I don’t like the new logo, which looks like two U’s mating. I think it is supposed to represent “UG” but I still don’t like it (and I tend to embrace change). I’m hoping someone puts together a splash screen replacement.

The only real issue that is driving me bonkers at the moment concerns the touchpad. One thing Apple just nailed is the touchpad and the Synaptics one on the XPS is oh so close.

The problem I’m experiencing concerns the cursor jumping when I left click. There are no “real” buttons, so you left click by depressing the lower left corner of the touchpad (or clickpad, whatever it is officially called). Sometimes when this happens, instead of registering a click the cursor will jump to the lower left corner of the screen, and *then* click. It is real annoying in Thunderbird since the icon in the lower left corner puts it in offline mode.

I’ve tried most of the suggestions I’ve found in the t00bz but nothing has helped. I just found a reference to HorizHysteresis and VertHysteresis so I’ll play with those values and see if it helps (update – doesn’t seem to). Not quite sure what they do, however. I think the issue has something to do with a finger from my right hand still grazing the touchpad surface when I make the click.

On the upside, the palm detection issues I was dealing with seem to be improved. Not sure if they have been solved but I’m not noticing it as much. Could be that I’ve just modified my typing form to avoid the touchpad better.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the upgrade. It should set up a nice base for the next LTS release, 16.04. I’m not quite willing to give up Linux Mint on the desktop just yet, and I’ll probably try out Mint 18 when it is released next year, but Ubuntu Gnome 15.10 has at least made switching a possibility.

One final note, I like the new shiny and I’m willing to put up with a lot in order to play with it. I give money to Dell to encourage them to supply more Linux offerings, but the downside is that Dell leads with devices designed for Windows first. If you want a true Linux experience with zero issues, check out the offerings from System 76. Our Sable all-in-one desktops Just Worked™.

Okay, so that wasn’t the final note. While I doubt any of my three readers work for major laptop vendors, I really want to see a push for physical kill switches on things like the camera and the microphone, such as on the Librem 15. I considered getting one of those but they are a little sketchy on what “PureOS” actually is, and so I’ll wait to see what others think of it first.

by Tarus at October 27, 2015 11:37 PM

October 24, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 All Things Open

I love going to open source conferences. Despite that I’ve decided to take a hiatus in 2016 so I can focus on some OpenNMS projects that have been languishing. However, I may need to make an exception for All Things Open.

One reason is that it is nearby. It was odd to wake up Monday morning and drive to a show. The other reason is that it just rocks.

Organized by IT-ology (the same people who do POSSCON), the show attracts nearly 1800 people to the city of Raleigh. Since Raleigh is also the world headquarters of Red Hat as well as being next to the Research Triangle Park, you get a great mix of attendees and speakers. It’s popular, so remember to get there early to avoid the registration line:

ATO Line

This year OpenNMS was a sponsor and we decided to have a booth.

ATO Booth

Come over to OpenNMS, we have cookies.

Well, not exactly. The cookies were a snack from the show, but we did have cool #monitoringlove T-shirts featuring Ulf:

ATO OpenNMS Shirts

Our booth was in a great location, right next to the folks and just down from the Red Hat booth. On the first day Jim Whitehurst (the amazing CEO of Red Hat) was there signing his book The Open Organization. Afterward, he spent a few minutes talking with Todd Lewis, the main organizer of ATO, and Jason Hibbets let me photobomb the picture:

ATO Photobomb

I also got to meet this guy:

ATO Taras Mitran

Check out his badge:

ATO Taras Mitran's Badge

Yes, this is the fourth “Tarus” I’ve met, but the first who spelled it “Taras”. The first was a “Tauras”, the second a “Taurus” and the third spelled it like me, “Tarus”. I was named after the movie Taras Bulba so his is the traditional spelling (grin).

We had most of the local OpenNMS team there, and we would take turns at the booth and enjoying the conference. I was speaking on Tuesday, so I had Monday free (well, after I finished my presentation).

Monday night there was an event sponsored by GitHub followed by a Speaker/Sponsor dinner at the Sheraton hotel. At our table sat Gianugo from Microsoft (who helps out OpenNMS with an MSDN subscription) and Jono from Bad Voltage (who, well, we’re not sure what Jono does but we think it’s positive). When I met them earlier in the day I wanted to do that whole David Letterman “Uma/Oprah” bit from the Oscars: Gian … Jono. Jono … Gian.

ATO Gian and Jono

The next morning I gave my talk on “Living an ‘Open’ Life”. It was in a small room but it was full, and my only major mistake was that I thought I had 55 minutes and only had 45, so I missed finishing a chunk of the talk. (sigh)

While I spent most of the conference doing booth duty, I did manage to see the Lightning Talks. I’ve always wanted to do a Lightning Talk. These are short, five minute presentations on interesting subjects, and while they didn’t do this at ATO, I really like it when you get 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.

Whenever I mention my desire to the team to do this, they laugh and point out that I can’t even introduce myself in less than five minutes. I would disagree but as I demonstrated with my ATO talk, it is hard for me to keep things brief. (grin)

The hour started off with a video featuring an interesting story on the Enabling the Future project. I’m bummed that I can’t find the exact video they showed, as it was moving, but it demonstrated how a community of “makers” was helping to provide improved prosthetic arms to people using collaboration and 3D printers. It was exempted from the five minute time limit.

Then Rikki Endsley and Jason Hibbets from took the stage:

ATO Rikki and Jason

They were the organizers behind the lightning talks.

I finally got to see Steven Vaughan-Nichols in person.

ATO Steven Vaughan-Nichols

He is a writer who I have been following for years, and I am disappointed that I didn’t get to meet up with him in person. In his presentation he talked about how he got into writing about open source software, as well as the early computers he used that ran Unix, such as the PDP11. My first experience with a PDP11 was one that ran, I think, RSX-11, but all I can remember is writing in FORTRAN on it.

ATO Jamie Duncan

I also enjoyed the talk by Jamie Duncan, who I had spoken with at the Speakers/Sponsors dinner. He is a delightful individual with wonderful stories, such as those involving his time working to fix The title of his talk, “Gleaming the Kube”, was a play on a skateboard movie from the late 1980s. He is very outspoken on the fact that containers, such as Docker, are basically made up of kernel tricks and to make them useful you need something like Kubernetes (hence the name of the talk).

ATO Sarah Kahn

There was also a talk by Sarah Kahn about Girl Develop It, an organization aimed at helping women interested in learning code development skills. It was nice to see a large turn out by women at the conference, probably more so than the others I have been to this year, and with kernel contributors like Sarah Sharp feeling the need to leave the kernel development team, women in tech is something that needs to be addressed.

ATO Charlie Reisinger

While all the talks were good, my favorite was from Charlie Reisinger of the Penn Manor School District. They gave students Linux laptops with full root access (gasp!) and were amazed and what they did with it. While technology can be a scary place for the younger generation, too often school overreact in trying to protect students, when in fact technology can be empowering.

ATO Jono Bacon

The final talk was from my friend Jono Bacon, who gets all the cool speaking gigs and makes me jealous. His talk was on the field of behavioral economics, which points out that most traditional economic theory is based on the fact that people should behave rationally when making buying decisions. Behavioral economics demonstrates that with the proper stimulus, people will behave irrationally. I was introduced to this concept through the book Predictably Irrational back in 2008 and even got to meet the author, Dan Ariely, in 2009, when we met for lunch and discussed the power and problems with the word “free”.

While Ariely is definitely an economist, Jono introduced me to Rory Sutherland, who is a prominent figure in the field of marketing. There is a great TED Talk by Sutherland who talks about marketing, influence and behavioral economics, and Jono covered some of the main points by him and others.

(Seriously, the TED Talk is brilliant, especially Sutherland’s take on wine that starts about 10:30, and his thoughts on understanding English around 20:00)

After the Lightening Talks I headed back to the booth. Apparently the Convention Center was hosting another conference that evening and we were asked to take down the booth around 3pm, so we did. Then we headed home, which was nice since I haven’t spent much time there recently and is one of the reasons for my hiatus, but missing ATO in 2016 will be hard for me to do.

by Tarus at October 24, 2015 04:19 PM

October 16, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 52 – Immensely Deft

For this episode, the Bad Voltage team returns to normal with a taped show clocking in at just over an hour. I really enjoyed this one and it made me remember why I started this little column in the first place. Most of the time they bring up stuff for which I have strong opinions, and these posts let me express my thoughts in some depth. Plus, my three readers don’t seem to mind, if they read them at all (grin).

So, if you haven’t listened to it already, please do so now. I’ll wait.

The first segment focuses on the Volkswagen software scandal where, as Jeremy put it, code was added that basically said “if under test, then lie”. I even came up with a joke about this while in Germany. How many VW engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? Forty, unless the emissions inspector is watching, then it is only one.

I had three main thoughts about this topic. The first concerns the US VW CEO Michael Horn, who blamed the whole thing on rogue engineers. Unlike the overall CEO (I found reference to a “North American” CEO, too, how many CEOs does this company have?) Martin Winterkorn who resigned, Horn is obviously taking the coward’s way out and looking to blame anyone but himself. It seems a little fishy – one would think that all the major engineering decisions would be made in Germany, so had Horn testified to that effect instead of trying to shift blame I would have been a little more comfortable with his testimony, but now it seems like he is trying to hide something, which would suggest he knew about the issue. Winterkorn stated “I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group” which seems to indicate it was too large to just be confined to one or two “rogue” engineers, casting even more doubt on Horn’s account. But since Horn lives in the US of A it is doubtful anything will happened to him, and even if it did he could always find a high paying job in the financial industry. (sigh)

The second thing that bothers me is that this kind of cheating would not be possible if the code for the cars was open source. Heck, the DMCA specifically prohibits “anti-circumvention” which has been interpreted to mean that attempts to reverse engineer proprietary code are illegal, so even attempting to figure out what they are doing could land you in jail. With growing demonstrations of huge security issues in automobile software something needs to be done about it, and of course I’d like to see things become more open. I have been thinking about selling my car, a 2004, but one thing that has kept me from doing it is the thought all of the possible software holes in new vehicles.

Finally, as someone who once owned a 2002 Jetta TDI, part of the diesel ownership experience is the idea that you are helping the environment. I can run biodiesel in it, perhaps from recycled cooking grease, and the overall pollution equation is supposed to be close to that of a hybrid (when you consider the environmental damage used to make the batteries) or an electric car (the majority of electricity in the US is from coal, so add that to the damage caused by mining rare earths). To find that you have been lied to and are actually a huge polluter is quite a blow, and it is the one thing VW won’t be able to easily fix.

One of my team owns a later model TDI and I am very interested to see what happens. My guess is that a software-only fix will simply dumb the power curve down to the point where the car is unusable (and modern diesels can be quite peppy). Think about it: using Jeremy’s “if-then” analogy above, “set test=true” and bam, you pass emissions. Probably makes the car run like crap or they would have done it from the start, but that is an extremely easy software fix. My prediction is that it will take a class-action to get VW to address the problem properly, which will ultimately involve a car “buy back” program.

Anyway, I’m sure the guys will revisit this in the near future and I look forward to hearing more of their thoughts.

The next segment talked about a portable desktop/laptop thing from System 76 called a Serval Workstation. This is a monster device, weighing nearly nine pounds without the charging brick in the 17-inch form factor, that is meant to be a laptop that acts as a high performance desktop.

Several years ago I became tired of lugging even my small laptop around, and so I found a deal on Woot for a decent desktop and bought two of them. I added a couple of nice monitors and now I have one at home and one at the office. With everything I need being accessible from the network, I really didn’t see the need for a laptop (of course, I have one for when I travel).

I thought Aq hit it on the head when he mentioned all of the stuff you have to get for a desktop: keyboard, mouse, camera, speakers, etc., that just comes with a laptop. I especially like the built in UPS – as someone who lives in a rural area they are a must for the frequent power fluctuations. Laptops just come with them. Thus the appeal of this device is to create a portable desktop that is easy to move, trading size and battery life for power.

Also, I really like System 76. I tend to vote with my wallet, and when we needed to replace some aging iMacs I bought a bunch of Sable machines from them and we haven’t been disappointed. They “just work” with Linux, and they are both reasonably priced and pretty sharp looking as well.

The one thing I wish the guys had talked about is the anemic 1080p resolution. I hate the fact that so many laptop manufactures seem content with such a limited pixel density. Sure, 1080p on a 12-inch screen is fine, but on a 17-inch monster? My desktop monitors have a much higher resolution, and my latest laptop, the Dell XPS “sputnik” has even higher density. The HiDPI screen has caused some issues, so that could be one reason that System 76 opted for a lower density, but still it would be nice to have a HiDPI solution that just worked.

My final comment on this is that they are actually wrong when it was stated that the Dell Ubuntu version requires patches that must be installed via a Dell repository. I don’t run the Dell repos on my machine as most of the changes have been ported upstream and there was nothing in the repos I actually needed. Yes, it didn’t work out of the box – it shipped with Ubuntu 14.04 but I am running Ubuntu Gnome 15.04 with a 4.1 experimental kernel to address some of the more irritating bugs, but with 15.10 coming out in a week I am very eager to play with an O/S with the 4.2 kernel delivered as standard.

The third segment was on the idea of a “delayed public license” where code would be initially published under a proprietary license but at some predefined point it would convert to an open source license. While I appreciate the idea behind it, this is not a licensing issue that requires a new license. We really don’t need any more open source licenses. Instead, you could just publish it under a proprietary license with the terms that “on such and such a date” the license would become something else.

The idea is that a lot software has a limited shelf life, and once the immediate revenue opportunities have been exploited, there isn’t much need to keep software closed. Thus a small team of developers could monetize their work yet still add an open source angle to it. This isn’t a new idea, as mentioned in the show id software does this with a lot of its technology. First they opened their Doom engine, and a few years later they opened their Quake engine. Easy peasy.

My suggestion would be to promote this behavior versus coming up with a new license. Also, while I like the thought of putting the code up on something like Github on day one with a proprietary license so that it would be out there when the time came to open source it, I would recommended heavily against this line of action. We have been through a number of cases where people have appropriated OpenNMS code in spite of the license, and the discovery process can be quite expensive if not cost prohibitive. Since this method of starting out proprietary and moving to open source was aimed at small development teams, do yourselves a favor and just hide the code until you are ready to open it. It will work out better in the end.

There were a couple of bits at the end of the show. Jono did a quick “Hack Voltage” segment letting people know that many mobile carriers have the ability to turn e-mails into SMS texts. For example, if you are on AT&T, sending an e-mail to your number “” will result in an SMS to your phone. We’ve used this a lot in OpenNMS (there is even a field called “pagerEmail” for the address assigned to each user) and it was nice to learn about the addresses for other popular providers. Note that if you have a need to send actual SMS messages (say, if your e-mail server or network is down) you can get an inexpensive device that will let you do it for the price of a SIM card.

They closed the show with a nice long “thank you” to us for hosting the Live Voltage show in Fulda. I was quite touched and I bet the rest of the team were as well, and I look forward to the next “hinted at” live outing of the Fab Four.

by Tarus at October 16, 2015 03:06 AM

October 15, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 51 – Live Europe 2015

What can I say? Best. Show. Evah.


Of course, I might be slightly biased since I helped make this one happen. Every year we have an OpenNMS Users Conference and this year it was held in Fulda, Germany. In an effort to attract more people, I thought it would be cool to get some open source celebrities. That didn’t work out, but I found that most of the guys who do the Bad Voltage podcast would come out for the price of airfare and lodging. The fact that it coincided with Oktoberfest didn’t hurt.

The guys may joke that they just throw the show together, but I’ve gotten to see how the sausage is made and they do put a lot of effort into making an episode – especially a live one. With the help of the wonderful people at the University in Fulda, I think it went really well.

We had Jeremy Garcia, Jono Bacon and Stuart Langridge there in person, but Bryan Lunduke stayed at home due to the recent birth of his second child. Well, that and the fact that he hates me. He was there in spirit, however, via the “Bryan-o-tron” which was a large, red button that when pressed would produce Bryan saying a pithy quote. It worked out well and was pretty funny.

The first segment focused on Cybercrime and ways to stop it. I was in the camp that most “cyber” crime is actually old school crime just using computers. A lot of it still relies on people being stupid, naive and/or greedy.

For an example on how low tech crime still works, we recently had our car burglarized and they stole Andrea’s purse. About a week later we noticed nearly two thousand dollars missing from our account. The thieves had written a check from a stolen account and then used her ID to cash it. Even though we had changed our account number and we never withdraw large sums of cash, the bank went ahead and dispensed the cash (the person had gone through the drive through teller and used her driver’s license as ID). This despite the fact that we had reported the theft, changed our account and the signature on the back of the check wasn’t even close to her’s. Of course, they refunded the money to us (after about a week) but I was still amazed that, in this day and age, with debit cards and PIN numbers and multiple ways to ID a person, this actually worked.

The next segment was taken from the first Bad Voltage Live show at SCaLE and it was called “Wrong in 60 Seconds”. The idea is to give people 60 seconds to rant about something, and then the team would judge who did the best job. We were worried about this bit because Europeans tend to be more reserved than Americans, and even with a little bit of beer in them we weren’t sure what the participation level would be.

And our worst fears were realized. Only Ken Wimer volunteered to rant, and we needed at least two more people. Jessica saved the day by volunteering Antonio Russo (a great choice) and I immediately thought Ian Norton would do a good job, so I threw his name into the hat. They all agreed to do it, and it was a lot of fun. The lighting is kind of poor, so you miss the fact that Antonio actually threw his shoes before starting. Ken ranted in German, Antonio in Italian, and Ian in English.

It came down to a tie, with Jessica casting the deciding vote for Ian. The prize was a really nice tablet.

The last segment features Stuart talking about the biggest danger to open source being the people involved. This may seem a little counter-intuitive: open source is a movement made up of people, so how could they be the biggest danger to it? But he makes some good points, specifically you never hear someone in the Apple user community blasting someone because of their choice of application, but we constantly get factions up in arms about Unity vs. Gnome vs. KDE and Ubuntu vs. Fedora vs. OpenSUSE. Even in the opening parts of the show they joke about the three OpenSUSE guys (who came a long way to be at the show) being the *only* three OpenSUSE users. We laugh but it is somewhat endemic of open source culture and maybe we need to change it. It’s one reason we at OpenNMS strive to be both welcoming and tolerant of new users, as they will be the evangelists of the future.

Toward the end of the bit the Bryan-o-tron took a fearful turn as it was no longer static images and canned quotes, but Bryan himself via a Google Hangout. He unleashes his trademark vitriol and then manages to join the show via a DoubleRobotics telepresence robot.

While this worked flawlessly in rehearsal, we had some connection issues and Bryan’s face was missing from the screen. Here is what it should have looked like:

OUCE Robot

In any case, it was funny, and toward the end when he slowly storms off, the robot locked up in forward mode (I’ve had this happen to me) and slammed into the wall, falling over. No harm was done and it was a pretty funny way to end the segment.

That was pretty much it for the show. Clocking in right at an hour, I think it went well. I’ll be eager to see the next Live Voltage when they plan one.

by Tarus at October 15, 2015 04:16 PM

October 10, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

A Wonderful OUCE

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but the fourth quarter is always our busiest time of the year and I’ve been slammed. Plus, I’m still recovering from a great week at the OpenNMS Users Conference. You did go, correct? (grin)

We are always striving to find ways to bring more people to the conference, so this year I thought it would be cool to invite some open source celebrities, namely the guys from the Bad Voltage podcast. Plus, since this year’s conference was in September, we had the opportunity to make a side trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

We arrived in Fulda from Munich on Sunday night. Now in the run up to the conference the BV team would sometimes talk a little smack about Fulda (as in “where the hell is Fulda?”, etc.) but I love this town. It is a wonderful combination of old and new, with cobblestone streets and a beautiful cathedral. You can walk everywhere, and for us the fact that the university (the Hochschule) has great facilities makes it an awesome place to hold the OUCE.

Since we rely on the Hochschule we have to schedule the conference during a time when the students are not on campus. While it is usually held in the Spring, this year it got moved to Autumn. I think the weather is about the same, although we did have a snow storm during one OUCE.

The conference itself is two days long, but we put two days of optional training in front of it. I get to teach an OpenNMS “bootcamp” on Monday that attempts to cover most of the basics in a day. So fresh off of Oktoberfest I had to actually work on Monday.

The class went well, if a bit long. The students were some of the best I’ve ever had, and I don’t think we hit many snags except for the occasional typo. As much as I tried to hurry, it still took us about ten hours to cover the material. OpenNMS is such a huge platform that even the basics take time to go over, and perhaps next year I’ll ask the students to do some work before getting to the classroom.

We had about half of the team together for dinner that night, and I got to have some of the dark German beer I like (in this case, Köstritzer). I called it a night early on, although many of the guys headed to a small bar called “The Eck”, which was apparently a lot of fun.

On the second day of training, Jeff and Jesse discussed some of the more advanced features in OpenNMS. I slept in a bit and then worked with the Bad Voltage team to make sure everything was working for the show on Wednesday. This included making sure Bryan Lunduke could access and use the telepresence robot.

OUCE Robot

Normally when we hold the OUCE in Fulda we have access to a student run establishment called Cafe Chaos. Unfortunately this year it is being remodeled, so we had to make our own set up in Halle 8.


It was pretty cool. We had a large refrigerator for drinks and they set up some couches in the back corner. Being at the University, the bandwidth was stellar.

On Tuesday night Nethinks sponsored a meal at the Havanna Bar. Most people had arrived by then, so it was nice to get together. Many thanks to Uwe and his team for putting this on.

Wednesday was the first full day of the conference. I kicked things off with a “State of OpenNMS” keynote, with an introduction by Alex Finger, the man who pretty much created the OpenNMS Foundation.


I thought the talk went pretty well, and thanks to the A/V team at the University you can see it in all of its glory:

After that I could relax and let the rest of the gang take over. There were plenty of amazing talks, and you can catch them all on Youtube.

Speaking of Youtube, Wednesday night was the Bad Voltage Live show. I plan to review that in a separate post, but it was a lot of fun. We ran a bunch of errands Wednesday afternoon in preparation, which mainly included buying a tablet to use as a prize and beer … lots of beer.


On Thursday we had more talks, and then, sadly, the conference had to come to an end. Those of us who were still around helped tear down Halle 8. It looked really empty when we were finished.

OUCE Closing

We then headed off to the Wiesenmühle for one final gathering before going our separate ways.

If you like OpenNMS then you really should make plans to come to the OUCE. Next year will be held at about the same time at the same place, so reserve space on your calendar now.

In the meantime, there are two more conferences left in the year where OpenNMS will be presenting. In a week you’ll find us at All Things Open in Raleigh, NC, USA, and in November Ronny and I will be at the Open Source Monitoring Conference in Nürnberg.

Hope to see you at one or all of these.

by Tarus at October 10, 2015 11:55 PM

October 09, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

GrafanaCon in NYC with Jesse White

Just a quick note to point out that GrafanaCon is next week in NYC.


It’s a free, one evening conference that promises to be a lot of fun.

OpenNMS’s very own Jesse White will be discussing the amazing API he wrote to put OpenNMS collected data into the Grafana dashboard in a talk called “Tales of a Custom Data Source” at 6:45pm. If Grafana didn’t exist, we’d have to write it, and we probably couldn’t have done as good a job as they did.

If you want to see the future of data visualization, don’t miss this conference. Plus you get to see how we plan to display all of the billions of “Internet of Thingies” data points OpenNMS will be storing in Newts.

by Tarus at October 09, 2015 06:44 PM

September 23, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 50 – Automated

The latest Bad Voltage show, episode 50, was titled “Automated”. It marked a milestone, fifty episodes is a lot and the gang deserves credit for making it that far, and I was surprised they didn’t talk about it. That’s professionals for ya, just another show.

TL;DR: I didn’t really care for this show that much. Now, to me, Bad Voltage is like sex: when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good, so please don’t tear into me too roughly for not praising it (see how I got “rough sex” into your brain and into the search engines?). This episode was a little more navel gazing than normal. They revisited the Mycroft Kickstarter (and now on Indiegogo), and then moved on to an interview that I thought was unnecessarily brutal. Many geeks are not the most socially gifted people on the planet and being on a podcast, even one like Bad Voltage, can make them extremely nervous and anxious. Considering that this was supposed to be a friendly interview I found it a little painful. Then there was a home automation “Internet of Things” discussion that I found too high level than I would of liked, and the episode ended with Jono’s review of a standing desk.

The show clocked in at seconds under ninety minutes. There is a large variation in times for these podcasts, and I’m happy listening to the team for as long as they are willing to talk, but the shows I like the most seem to be a little more focused, regardless of the length.

This episode started off with the announcement of the birth of Bryan’s second child, a boy named Solomon. It is the main reason he won’t be joining us in person for next week’s live Bad Voltage show, but congratulations are still in order.

The first segment was a discussion of the Mycroft project, which is attempting to create an open source Siri-like digital assistant. Yes, they discussed this on the last show as well, and while the Kickstarter has ended they have an Indiegogo campaign going on as well. I am eager to see what comes of this, but not willing to fund it at the moment. The last time I funded something, the open source fitness Angel Sensor, they took my money and it’s now a year overdue. Not really complaining (if I were complaining I’d be upset that the first app they plan to release is iOS only) but it kind of burned me on these kinds of things.

Still a cool idea, and it may be possible to eliminate any privacy concerns I might have. I need to help out by offering to read some stuff on Librevox as Aq suggests.

The second segment was an interview with Chris Waid. It turns out that the FCC is unhappy that, with software defined radios, one can increase the power in such a fashion that it violates the broadcast license for the device. For example, you could extend your WiFi range using the same gear through software. They want to stop this, but the concern is that the easiest way to do this would be to lock down the firmware for these devices, which would rule out things like installing alternative firmware on your home router, or perhaps even running free software on computers and laptops, as access to the WiFi and Bluetooth chips could be prevented.

While I’m in the camp that this is more a poorly thought out proposal on the part of the FCC than the FCC trying to be malicious, there is a chance this could be a Bad Thing™ and we should take steps to prevent it. However, in their zeal to get to the meat of this problem the team went a little overboard on poor Chris. Even when a guy in the room with Chris tried to help out, the immediate thought was that Chris was being corrected by one of his own guys (which wasn’t the case). Sure, it would have been funny, but Chris just got more flustered and the message got lost.

Now I’m all for skewering the bad guys, although I prefer it be done nicely as in the style of Jon Stewart, but this wasn’t a bad guy. At worst he is overstating the threat a bit, but compared to some of the jewels the US government has put forth in the past concerning technology, overstating the threat is worse than understating it. They do apologize, somewhat, at the end of the show, but the whole segment made me a little uncomfortable.

There was a short segment by Jeremy, resident home automation geek, about a project to mount a tablet inside a bathroom mirror. Not sure if there is a killer app for such a thing, but I have been in hotels with TVs in the mirror so it has possibilities.

The third segment was a discussion of home automation and “The Internet of Things”. A lot of it involved discussing all of the competing protocols and solutions, to the point where Jeremy needs several different hubs just to talk to everything. At the moment it is more like “The Internet of Silos”.

I was surprised no one mentioned X10. Any one of my three readers remember this? It was a home automation protocol that worked by sending signals over the home electrical wiring. I once had tons of the stuff: light switches, controllers, even a device that you could stick under your analog thermostat to turn on the air conditioning. It worked by turning on a small heating element that would make the thermostat think it was hotter than it was. Plus, no cameras or microphones phoning home with who knows what information to third party servers.

Those were the days.

The last segment was Jono reviewing a standing desk he bought. Standing desks are all the rage now, and he wanted to try one out so he bought one by LIFT. We got a bunch of movable desks from Varidesk at the office, and I quite like them. I do agree with Jono that if you are serious about them you need a floor pad.

While it wasn’t my favorite BV, I did enjoy it. It’s not like I want 90 minutes of my life back ‘n all. They also didn’t mention the morse code message from the previous episode and I’ve been too lazy to find out what was up with that. I like little Easter eggs. Perhaps they should come up with a contest where each week clues are hidden in the podcast, and if you put them together you win a laptop or something else cool.

Remember, the next show will be Live at the OpenNMS Conference in Fulda, Germany. We still have a few seats left, and if the 5€ fee is an issue, please drop me a note. We can work something out, and there will be beer.

by Tarus at September 23, 2015 12:22 PM

September 22, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Review: Varidesk Standing Desk

Several years ago we did a lot of work in Sweden (Hi, Lasse!), and that is where I first saw some really nice standing desks. The first standing desk I ever saw was when I worked at Northern Telecom and it was for an employee who needed one due to health reasons, but it was fixed in place. The ones they had in Sweden (from IKEA, ‘natch) had a little switch that you could use to raise and lower it as needed, and they had places to mount a PC and run cables so they wouldn’t get snagged when it moved.

When I looked for them for the office, I was shocked by the price. A decent one with options pushed $900 and they could go north of $2000 fully loaded. While I’ve read a lot about the health benefits of standing I just couldn’t afford to get such a desk.

Recently I was on an American Airlines flight, and I just happened to see a small ad for something called a Varidesk in the in-flight magazine (and I’ve never bought something from the back of an in-flight magazine). This was something you put on an existing desk and you could use it to lift a monitor, keyboard, etc. to a standing height. It was manual, but it was considerably less than a dedicated desk.

Now, being the CEO of a profitable company it is required that I have the huge executive desk, so I do. Of course, mine was free from a business that was moving offices and all I had to do was go get it, and then repair all of the broken bits so I could put it back together. My monitor sits in one corner of this monstrosity, and I was happy to see Varidesk made a product that would fit perfectly.

Varidesk Lowered

First off, the sucker’s heavy. It cost a lot to ship due to its weight, but that translates to a lot of stability when raised. The unit I bought had a shelf for the monitor, speakers, etc., with a lower shelf for the keyboard.

In the upper shelf you will notice two holes. You place your hands through them to release levers which will allow you to raise the desk. It does take strength to get it started, but then it is balanced so that it becomes easier.

(Note: the little green light on my PC is my OpenNMS Blink notification)

Varidesk Raised

I love that everything comes up with it: the speakers, the monitor, the keyboard, my Yeti mic, etc. It will also go fairly high – I’m a little over six feet tall and I can get it high enough that I’m comfortable using it. It isn’t perfectly stable, if you are energetically pounding on the keyboard it will move slightly, but it is easy to get use to it. I did have to get some USB cable extenders to make sure things like my camera didn’t go flying off when I raised the desk, but outside of that it pretty much worked out of the box.

And, yes, when standing I like to crank the tunes and dance. You do not want to see me dance.

The Varidesk is well built and I did find myself using it, so some of the other guys in the office were interested. They don’t have fancy executive desks, so I got a slightly cheaper model that fit theirs better.

Varidesk Developers

We bought three more and everyone seems to enjoy them, although we probably don’t use them as much as we should. Because they are stylish and convertible, even in the down position they look good.

I found that after about an hour of standing my legs started to hurt. Our office, like many, is pretty much industrial carpet over concrete. There is little padding, so I bought a pad on Amazon that works well for me and I can dance longer.

It’s also cool to elevate the laptop for our daily scrum call:

Varidesk During Scrum

So, if you are thinking about getting a standing desk but already own a desk, consider the Varidesk. While it isn’t the cheapest thing out there, it is well made and will give you experience to see if you even like working standing up, which would be considerably cheaper than buying a new desk and finding you didn’t like it.

by Tarus at September 22, 2015 09:43 PM

September 16, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Ad hoc Suspension of Polling Services

As I was reading through my RSS feeds this morning, I saw that a user named “Fredebben” had posted a neat find on the OpenNMS wiki.

I didn’t know this, but it turns out that you can temporarily suspend service polling with an event, and then resume it as needed. This is pretty cool, especially if you need to stop polling for just one service.

I once had a client with a requirement that there be a scheduled outage once a week for all services but ICMP. In their case I had them move ICMP into its own package, and then they could use a Poll Outage to suspend polling on the other services. That is still probably the best way to do it for a lot of services, but it is nice to know this event method works as well.

by Tarus at September 16, 2015 11:35 AM

September 15, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The Inverter: Episode 49 – The Tapas of All Bananas

I am a fan of the Bad Voltage podcast, but as it is hard for me to listen, pay attention and work at the same time, I tend to listen to it on airplanes. A lot of ideas and comments come to me during an episode, so I’m going to start a new feature on this blog called “The Inverter” where I review and comment on each show.

TL;DR: This episode was well done. It was tight, it flowed nicely and clocks in at slightly over an hour. That is their target time but the average show is closer to 80 minutes. There was a cool little mystery at the front followed by a discussion of the Endless Computer project, which was deemed too expensive to succeed. They talked about the horrible Nest smoke detector, version one, and the much nicer version two. Aq reviews Gliffy, a web-based Visio-like application, and they end with a segment on Microsoft’s changing relationship with open source.

This week I’m on a flight to DC so it is time to pull out my copy of the latest Bad Voltage. After the intro, starting about minute three, you get two minutes of what sounds like Morse code.

Intrigued, I found an app that will decode Morse (this webby one didn’t work for me but the Android app did fine) and read the following message:


Now, I’m not sure what “Insots” or “in Sots” are but I thought it was cool that they put this in the podcast, I probably would have added it after a delay at the end of the recording, as it was a little weird listening to two minutes of beeps (I thought my mp3 download was corrupt) but then only the hardcore listeners would have made it all the way through. Apparently you can find more about this in the t00bz but I’ve been too lazy. Cool addition, though.

The first segment was on the Endless Computer, which states it is building a “computer for the entire world” which brings to mind the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. But there are a lot of differences, the main one being that Endless is a for-profit company (at least I think so – during my exhaustive, nearly 60 second perusal of their website, I didn’t find any verbiage to indicate that this was a charitable foundation versus a commercial enterprise).

As a for-profit company, their gear is not inexpensive, and most of the discussion on the show concerned the price, which is pretty steep for the hardware. There is also the issue that you still need to spend even more money to get it functional (as in buy a keyboard and a mouse). Jono, who was the only one who has actually played with the thing, pointed out that the user experience they have created is pretty nice, but the rest of the gang was still stuck on the price.

There is a $169 version, and a $229 version and they both have a funky look, something like an egg.

Now, I have zero experience with the thing but since that hasn’t stopped me from having an opinion before, here are my thoughts.

First off, I loved the OLPC project. I wonder what would have happened if the OLPC project started now, with the vast improvements in open source operating systems, instead of having to come up with their own O/S that was a little hard to understand.

Endless is not OLPC, and I think that’s the main reason for the price point – they need and want to make money.

If I really wanted to get computing power into the hands of the disenfranchised I would have gone with a tablet. For $229, you can make a decent tablet, which would remove the need to have a TV or keyboard/mouse. You could even add an option to charge it via solar cells. Heck, even the Endless website says “as simple as a tablet” which makes you wonder why they didn’t build one of those (margins, probably). With PC sales in free fall, starting a company to make a new one seems silly – like making a “VCR for the World”.

No, what I think happened is that someone found an investor in the Valley who heard “2 billion potential customers” and started seeing dollar signs. We can be the third world Apple! Simply make a funky design, hire a “Chief Growth Officer” and then … profit!

Another sign of impending doom is that they don’t even own the “” domain name. According to Paul Graham, it matters.

I’m willing to wager Endless is pretty much DOA, but then I guess I’m just bitter in that this pipe dream got funded and I can’t find decent investors for my company, which actually makes a profit. (sigh)

Moving on, the next segment was on the Nest “Protect” smoke detector. Apparently the first generation ones were crap, but Jeremy invested in the second generation and, so far, likes them. They have all kinds of whiz-bang features, such as two different sensors for various types of fires, and a networking feature so that in, say, a three story house like Jeremy’s, the detector on the third floor can set off all of the others.

I’ve avoided Nest products because I’m a bit of a privacy nut (odd, considering that I share most of my life on-line, I know). I don’t want microphones in my house. I don’t want things “phoning home”. Plus, my old smoke detector works just fine and alerts the nice people who provide my security monitoring when I cook bacon, so I don’t see the need to upgrade.

I did like hearing about the feature where the Nest can serve as a night-light and light up when people walk by it, sort of like the lights in a European hotel hallway. But I think I’d rather engineer that solution on my own then to buy something that is always talking to a third party, no matter how often that third party says I can trust them.

This episode the guys have introduced something called “Hack Voltage” in which one of the hosts will review something cool they’ve discovered. Aq did a short segment on “Gliffy” – a diagramming tool like Visio that you can run in a browser. As a hosted solution, you get some bits for free but then you pay a subscription fee for more features and storage. He seemed to like it, but for me I’d rather struggle with something open source, but if I ever have the need for such a tool I’ll check out the “free” version.

Android Wear Translate Screenshot

For my own version of Hack Voltage, the coolest new thing I’ve been playing with is Google Translate on my watch. I haven’t had time to make a video, but you set up your source and destination languages, speak into to the watch, and voilà, translation. When you flip the watch over (like you would when showing it to another person) it enlarges and displays just the translated text. I plan to use this a lot when I’m in Germany for the OUCE and Bad Voltage Live.

The final segment was on Microsoft warming to open source, which it once referred to as a “cancer”. The new CEO seems to be very open to working with open source projects as well as integrating with them, although certain things, like requiring Surface tablets to boot in secure mode, seem to harken back to the bad old days.

All I can say is that Microsoft has always treated OpenNMS well, including gifting us with an MSDN subscription so that we can improve OpenNMS support on Windows. Overall, Microsoft is much more friendly toward open source than they have been in the past.

That was it for this episode. Short and focused with a minimum of swearing and a modicum of mystery. Just one more show before they descend on the little town of Fulda, and I’ll probably listen to it on the plane ride over there. Hope you can make it.

by Tarus at September 15, 2015 12:13 PM

September 04, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

OUCE 2015: Fulda? Where is Fulda?

With the OpenNMS Users Conference less than a month away, I hope you have convinced your boss to let you attend. Ronny updated the website recently, the call for papers has closed and the schedule is being finalized.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a little about the town of Fulda (pop. 65,000) where the OUCE is being held.

The reason we are holding the OUCE in Fulda is mainly due to it being the home of the Hochschule Fulda, the University of Applied Sciences. This is where a number of OpenNMS contributors went to school and some of them still work there. The facilities are excellent, as is the bandwidth, and the town itself is pretty cool.

The city started in 744 when Saint Sturm founded a monastery there. For someone from the United States it is mind boggling to visit a place that is nearly a millennium older than most places in my country. Thus modern Fulda is a mix of old and new.

In addition to the university, the OUCE will visit a number of other places. On Tuesday night, Nethinks is hosting a dinner for the attendees at Viva Havanna, a Cuban style restaurant (I learned that in German, the extra “n” actually means the “n” sound is pronounced in a shorter fashion than normal). On Wednesday night we’re having the Bad Voltage team do a show, and afterward we’ll most likely end up at a biergarten called the Wiesenmühle.

It is easy to get to Fulda. If you are coming by air, the closest major airport is Frankfurt (FRA) and you can take a train from there to Fulda Station. The website has more details.

Fulda has some historic significance as well. Nearby is the Fulda Gap, an east-west route often used by invading forces into Europe and it was thought to be a primary route any Soviet invasion of NATO countries would use. Thus there was a strong military presence in the area during the cold war.

My favorite “Fun Fulda Fact” is that the monastery there was responsible for the survival of the book/poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things). Written in 100 BC by the Roman poet Lucretius, it was one of the first books to state that the world could be explained by natural phenomena versus gods, and includes such gems as all matter being made up of atoms. As you might imagine, there were those who disliked these ideas and thus all copies of the poem were thought destroyed.

De rerum natura image from Wikipedia

However, in 1417, ­Poggio Bracciolini found one at the Benedictine abbey at Fulda. He made a copy, and thus the book survives to this day. Author Stephen Greenblatt wrote a book called The Swerve about the impact of the poem. From the New York Times article “The Almost-Lost Poem That Changed the World”:

Titus Lucretius Carus’ “De Rerum Natura,” or “On the Nature of Things,” is a 7,400-line poem in Latin hexameters written in the first century B.C. It covers philosophy, physics, optics, cosmology, sociology, psychology, religion and sex; the ideas in it influenced Newton and Darwin, among others.

Cool, huh? Well, I have been to the abbey in Fulda, and you can too, if you come to the OUCE. Hope to see you there.

by Tarus at September 04, 2015 12:47 PM

September 03, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

Your ticket to OUCE 2015

Just a few weeks left to the OpenNMS User Conference in Europe. You are still not sure to go? – Check out

by Ronny Trommer at September 03, 2015 08:55 PM

Adventures in Open Source

Send an SMS with OpenNMS

I thought I’d written this post years ago, but apparently I didn’t. Since my friend Salma asked about SMS notifications with OpenNMS I felt it was a good opportunity to document this process.

Of course, OpenNMS can’t send an SMS message without a little help. You’ll need some sort of modem that can actually connect to the network. We use one from the great folks at MultiTech.

Multitech Modem

It’s USB powered, so all you need to do is insert an active SIM card and plug it in. Here is the exact model:

Multitech Modem Back

and you can find more information on their products on their website.

For the SIM card, I just added a phone to my AT&T plan for a few dollars a month.

The next thing you’ll need is software to send the notices. I used smssend, which comes in RHEL/CentOS via the smstools package:

Name        : smstools
Arch        : x86_64
Version     : 3.1.15
Release     : 12.el7
Size        : 748 k
Repo        : installed
From repo   : epel
Summary     : Tools to send and receive short messages through GSM modems or mobile phones
URL         :
License     : GPLv2+
Description : The SMS Server Tools are made to send and receive short messages through
            : GSM modems. It supports easy file interfaces and it can run external
            : programs for automatic actions.

This will install a daemon called smsd that is configured via /etc/smsd.conf. You’ll need to edit that file to set the path to your modem, in my case it’s /dev/ttyUSB0. Then start the daemon (via “service” or “systemctl”, etc.)

At this point you can test if it works by running:

smssend [number] "This is a test message"

Note that the number must include the country code, such as “+19195330160”.

Once you have that working, it is pretty easy to set up in OpenNMS. First, edit notificationCommands.xml and add the “smssend” command:

    <command binary="true">
        <comment>Send an SMS</comment>
        <argument streamed="false">
        <argument streamed="true">

This configuration includes the full path to the “smssend” command, and I used the mobile phone “-mphone” field as well as the short message “-nm” field, which are the only two parameters required for the command.

At this point you’ll need to restart OpenNMS. It actually isn’t necessary to make this work, but it is needed to make the webUI know that the “sendSMS” command has been added.

The rest of the configuration can be done through the webUI. For every user you want to receive SMS messages, make sure that their mobile number (including country code) is configured on their user account page. Then you can just add “sendSMS” as a notification action on a destination path and it should just work.

by Tarus at September 03, 2015 04:48 PM

September 01, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

I, Robot

Today is the 11th anniversary of The OpenNMS Group. We started on September 1st, 2004 with little more than a drive to build something special, a business plan of “spend less than you earn” and a mission statement of “Help Customers, Have Fun, Make Money”.

Since I’m still working and people are using software other than OpenNMS to manage their networks, I can’t say “mission accomplished” but we’re still here, we have a great team and the best users anyone could want, so by that measure we are successful.

When it comes to the team, one thing I worry about is how to connect our remote people with the folks in North Carolina. We do a lot of Hangouts, etc, but they lack the aspect of initiative – the remote guys have to be passive and just sit there. Then I got the wild idea to investigate getting a telepresence robot. Wouldn’t it be cool if remote people could pop in and drive around the office, attend meetings, etc?

After a lot of research, I decided on a robot from Double Robotics.

Robot Tarus

The buying decision wasn’t a slam dunk. It is a very iPad/iOS centric solution which bothered me, and I had some issues concerning the overall security of the platform. So, I sent in a note and ended up having a call with Justin Beatty.

It was a great call.

Double is pretty serious about security, and assuming there are no firewall issues, the connection is encrypted peer-to-peer. While there are no plans to remove the requirement that you buy an iPad in order to use the robot, they are working on an Android native client. You can drive it on almost any platform that supports the Chrome browser (such as Linux) and you can even use it on Android via Chrome. There is a native iOS app as well.

What really sold me on the company is that they are a Y Combinator project, and rather than focus on raising more capital, they are focused on making a profit. They are small (like us) and dedicated to creating great things (like us).

Justin really understood our needs as well, as he offered us a refurbished unit at a discount (grin).

Anyway, I placed an order for a Double and (gulp) ordered an iPad.

It was delivered while I was away in England, but I was able to get it set up on Monday when I returned to the office. They have a number of easy to follow videos, and it probably took about 20 minutes to understand how everything went together.

You take the main body of the robot out of the box and place it on the floor. I had purchased an external speaker kit (otherwise, it uses the iPad speaker) which makes it look like a little Dalek, and you install that on the main post. Then you plug in the iPad holder and screw it to the post with a bolt. That’s about it for robot assembly.

The next step is to take the USB charging cable that came with your tablet and mount it inside the iPad holder. You then insert the iPad upside down and connect the cable so that the robot can power and recharge the iPad. The Double supports any iPad from version 2 onward, and they have a spacer to use for the iPad Air (which is thinner). Finally, you connect a directional microphone into the audio slot on the bottom of the iPad (or top, depending on how you look at it) and the unit is assembled.

Then I had to set up the iPad, which was a bit of a pain since I’m no longer an Apple person and needed a new Apple account (and then I had to update iOS), but once it was configured I could then pair the iPad to the robot via bluetooth. Next, I had to download the Double app from the App Store and create a Double account. Once that process was complete, I could login to the application on the tablet and our robot was ready to go.

To “drive” the robot, you log in to a website via Chrome. There are controls in the webapp for changing the height of the unit, controlling audio and video, and you move the thing around with the arrow keys.

It’s a lot of fun.

When moving you want to have the robot in its lowest height setting. Not only will it go faster, it will be more stable. This isn’t an off road, four wheeling type of robot – it likes smooth services. There is a little bump at the threshold to my office and once the robot has gone over that you want to wait a second or two because it will wobble back and forth a little bit. Otherwise, it does pretty well, and because the rubber wheels are the part of the robot that stick out the most in the front and the back; if you run into a wall it won’t damage the iPad.

I did have to mess with a couple of things. First of all, it needed a firmware upgrade before the external audio speaker would work. Second, sometimes it would keep turning in one direction (in my case, to the right), but restarting the browser seem to fix that.

You do need to be careful driving it, however. One of my guys accidentally drove it into a table, so it hit the table along the “neck” of the robot and not on the wheels. This caused the unit to shoot backward, recover and then try to move forward. It fell flat on its face.

Which, I am thankful, did no damage. The iPad is mounted in a fairly thick case, and while I wouldn’t want to test it you are probably safe with the occasional face plant.

I bought an external wireless charger which allows you to drive the robot into a little “dock” for charging instead of plugging it in. To help park it, there is a mirror mounted in the iPad holder that directs the rear camera downward so you can see where you are going (i.e. look at the robot’s “feet”). Pretty low tech but they get points for both thinking about it and engineering such a simple solution.

Everyone who has driven it seems to like it, although I’m thinking about putting a bell on the thing. This morning I was jammin’ to some tunes in my office when I heard a noise and found Jeff, piloting the robot, directly behind me. It was a little creepy (grin).

I bought it with a nice (i.e. expensive) Pelican case since the plan is to take it on road trips. I bought the iPad that supports 4G SIM cards so I should be able to use it in areas without WiFi. It’s first outing will be to the OpenNMS Users Conference, which is less than a month away. If you haven’t registered yet, you should do so now, and you’ll get to see the robot in action.

Robot Bryan

Bad Voltage will also be there, with Bryan Lunduke piloting the robot from his home in Portland. I had him try it out today and he commented “So rad. So very, very rad”.

At the moment I’m very pleased with the Double from Double Robotics. It’s a little spendy but loads of fun, and I can’t wait to use it for team meetings, etc, when people can’t make it in person. You can also share the output from the unit with other people with the beta website, although you could always just do a Google Hangout and share the screen.

Double Logo

I even like the Double Robotics logo, which is a silhouette of the robot against a square background to form a “D”. I am eager to see what they do in the future.

by Tarus at September 01, 2015 09:20 PM

August 27, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

OUCE 2015 – Hot Chicks

As you all know, we don’t spend a lot of time in marketing and I got a pro-tip to add hot chicks on the website. I don’t have any idea why but if it helps. JOIN OUCE 2015 NOW!

by Ronny Trommer at August 27, 2015 10:20 AM

August 21, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

OUCE 2015: Bad Voltage Live

Every year at the OpenNMS Users Conference (OUCE) we have a good time. In fact, learning a lot about OpenNMS goes hand in hand with having fun.

At this year’s SCaLE conference, the team behind the Bad Voltage podcast was there to do a live version of the show. You can watch it on-line and see it went pretty well, and this gave me the idea to invite the gang over to Germany to do it again at the OUCE.

Since there may be one or two of my three readers who are unaware of Bad Voltage, I thought I’d post this little primer to bring you up to speed.

Bad Voltage is a biweekly podcast focused on open source software, technology in general and pretty much anything else that comes across the sometimes twisted minds of the hosts. They deliver it in a funny manner, sometimes NSFW, and for four guys with big personalities they do a good job of sharing the stage with each other. As I write this they have done 47 episodes, which is actually quite a nice run. For anyone who has done one or thought about doing a periodic podcast or column, know that after the first few it can be hard to keep going. It is a testament to how well these guys work together that the show has endured. Believe it or not, I actually put time into these posts and even I find it hard to produce a steady amount of content. I can’t imagine the work needed to coordinate four busy guys to create what is usually a good hour or three of podcast. (grin)

Bad Voltage as The Beatles

Anyway, I want to introduce you to the four Bad Voltage team members, and I thought it would be a useful analogy to compare them to the Beatles. As I doubt anyone who finds this blog is too young to not know of the Beatles, it should aid in getting to understand the players.

Bad Voltage - Jono Bacon Jono Bacon is Paul. If you have heard of anyone from Bad Voltage, chances are it is Jono. He’s kind of like the Elvis of open source. He was a presenter for LugRadio but is probably best known for his time at Canonical where he served as the community manager for Ubuntu. He literally wrote the book on open source communities. He is now building communities for the XPRIZE foundation as well as writing articles for and Forbes and occasionally making loud music. He’s Paul because is he one of the most recognizable people on the team, and he secretly wishes I had compared him to John.

Bad Voltage - Bryan Lunduke Bryan Lunduke is John. He gets to be John because he has heartfelt opinions about everything, and usually good arguments (well, arguments at least) to back them up. He has passion, much of which he puts into promoting OpenSUSE. I’ve never met Bryan in person, but we’ve missed each other on numerous occasions. I missed him at SCaLE, he missed the Bad Voltage show I was on, and I missed him again at OSCON. And I’ll miss him in Fulda, as his wife is due to deliver their second child about that time, but he will be there virtually. He adds depth the the team.

Bad Voltage - Jeremy Garcia Jeremy Garcia is George. Although none of these guys could be described as “quiet”, he is the most reserved of the bunch, but when he opens his mouth he always has something interesting to say. You can’t be part of this group and be a wallflower. I’m not sure if he has a day job, but fifteen (!) years ago he founded and has been a supporter of open source software even longer. He adds a nice, rational balance to the group.


Bad Voltage - Stuart Langridge Stuart is Ringo, known to his friends as “Aq” (short for “Aquarius” – long story). He is pretty unfiltered and will hold forth on topics as wide ranging as works of science fiction or why there should be no fruit in beer. He was also a member of LugRadio as well as an employee of Canonical, and now codes and runs his own consulting firm (when he is not selling his body on the streets of Birmingham). If there was a Bad Voltage buzzword bingo, you could count on him to be the first to say “bollocks”. He adds a random element to the group that can often take the discussion in interesting directions.

They have been working hard behind the scenes to plan out a great show for the OUCE. Since many of the attendees tend not to be from the US or the UK, it is hoped that the show will translate well for the whole audience, and to make sure that happens we will be serving beer (if you are into that sort of thing). If you were thinking about coming to the conference, perhaps this will push you over the top and make you register.

But remember, you don’t have to attend the OUCE to see the show. We do ask that you register and pony up 5€. Why? Because we know you slackers all too well and you might sign up and then decide to blow it off to binge on Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time. Space is limited, and we don’t want to turn people away and then have space left open. Plus, you’ll be able to get that back in beer, and the show itself promises to be priceless and something you don’t want to miss.

If that isn’t enough, there is a non-zero chance that at least one of the performers will do something obscenely biological (and perhaps even illegal in Germany), and you could say “I was there”.

by Tarus at August 21, 2015 04:35 PM

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

[Release] – OpenNMS 16.0.3

We are happy to announce the new stable release of OpenNMS 16 Horizon with codenamed Phillip Fathom. This is a minor bug fix release and the list of issues can be found in the Release Notes.

Happy Updating.

by Ronny Trommer at August 21, 2015 04:21 AM

August 19, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Convince Your Boss to Send You to the OUCE

With this year’s OpenNMS Users Conference a little over a month away, I plan to be writing about it more in the run up to the event. I figured I should probably start on why you should go and, better yet, how to convince your boss to pay for the trip.

First off, if you aren’t using OpenNMS, why not? (grin)

In all seriousness, if you are happy with your network management solution you can stop reading now. But if you aren’t happy, are in the process of considering alternatives, or if you have a serious interest in discovering the benefits of an open source network management platform, the money you will spend to investigate OpenNMS through the Users Conference is a rounding error compared to the price of similar commercial solutions.

Second, OpenNMS is more of a platform than an application. I know of a number of organizations who manage billion dollar budgets using Microsoft Excel, but it didn’t work for them out of the box. They had to build the spreadsheets, integrate it with databases and other applications, but now they have a custom system that fits their needs. Most network management applications require the user to adapt their processes to fit the application. For most IT organizations those processes are what differentiate them from their competitors, so it makes more sense to use a platform like OpenNMS which can be customized to better complement them instead of the other way around.

Third, OpenNMS does have a steep learning curve. It is a broad and powerful tool but it does require an investment in time in order to realize its full potential. One way to get such knowledge would be to attend a week-long training class at the OpenNMS HQ. The cost would be US$2500 plus travel.

Contrast this with the OUCE. The full four day package runs 1000€, currently about US$1100, or less than half the price of the standard training course. Even with travel expenses (assuming you aren’t in Germany in particular or Europe in general) it should make more sense to go to the OUCE than to the usual training course (plus, the next one isn’t until January of next year). If you don’t have the need to go to the one day OpenNMS Bootcamp, it is even less expensive. It makes good financial sense.

Fourth, this is a *users* conference. If you come to training you will most likely get to listen to me for five days. At the OUCE you get to meet and talk with the people who *use* OpenNMS. Got a common problem? Find out how others solved it using OpenNMS. Got a weird problem? I can guarantee that someone at the conference will have a weirder one that they used OpenNMS to fix. The initial list of accepted talks is awesome and will only get better.

Fifth, a lot of the key people behind OpenNMS will be there as well (including yours truly) and so you can experience first hand what makes the OpenNMS community so special. Plus, since we don’t “unveil” new features, you can see first hand what is currently available in the development version of OpenNMS, including “big data” storage, new and improved graphing, elasticsearch integration and distributed polling via “minions”.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun. I can remember meeting Ian Norton during an OUCE several years ago. He had been forced to attend the conference by his (now previous) employer and was very unhappy about it. Not knowing who I was, he candidly ranted about issues he saw with the product. I assured him that we would work hard over the next two days to address them. Now he is one of our biggest supporters, and all it took was two days to “get it” and understand what makes OpenNMS so magical (in the interest of full disclosure, schnapps was involved).

In conclusion, if you are not using OpenNMS you are probably paying too much for a lesser solution. This may not be true in your particular case, but you should at least seriously investigate the possibility. It makes financial sense to do this at the Users Conference, even with travel expenses, plus you can see how real users, just like you, are getting the most value out of the tool. And even if you decide OpenNMS is not for you, you’ll have had some fun and can rest assured you did your due diligence when examining management options for your employer.

Hope to see you there.

by Tarus at August 19, 2015 09:14 PM

August 18, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

OUCE 2015 – Giggity support

Keep your schedule up to date with Giggity Schedule Viewer and add OUCE 2015 with the following URL: You can also scan the QR code.


by Ronny Trommer at August 18, 2015 10:14 PM

August 07, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Case Study: Why You Want OpenNMS Support

I wanted to share a story about a support case I worked on recently that might serve to justify the usefulness of commercial OpenNMS Support to folks thinking about it. As always, OpenNMS is published under an open source license and so commercial support is never a requirement, but as this story involves commercial software I thought it might be useful to share it.

We have a client that handles a lot of sensitive information, to the point that they have an extremely hardened network environment that makes it difficult to manage. They place a separate copy of OpenNMS into this “sphere” just to manage the machines inside it, and they have configured the webUI to be accessed over HTTPS as the only access from the outside.

Recently, a security audit turned up this message:

Red Hat Linux 6.6 weak-crypto-key
3 Weak Cryptographic Key Fail "The following TLS cipher suites use
Diffie-Hellman keys smaller than 1024 bits: *
TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA (768-bit DH key)" "Use a Stronger Key If
the weak key is used in an X.509 certificate (for example for an HTTPS
server), generate a longer key and recreate the certificate. Please also
refer to NIST's recommendations on cryptographic algorithms and key
lengths (
) ." Vulnerable

and they opened a support ticket asking for advice on how to fix it.

I had some issues with the error message right off the bat. The key used was 2048 bits, so my guess is that the algorithm is weak and not the key. The error message seems to suggest, however, that a longer key would fix the problem.

Anyway, this should be simple to fix. The jetty.xml file in the OpenNMS configuration directory lets you exclude certain ciphers, so I just had the customer add these two to the list and restart OpenNMS.

And then we waited for the nightly scan to run.

This fixed the issue with the TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA cipher but not the first one. Nothing we did seemed to help, so I installed sslscan on my test machine to try and duplicate the issue. I got a different list of ciphers, and since openssl uses different name for the ciphers than Java, and it was a bit of a pain to try and map them. I couldn’t get sslscan to show the same vulnerabilities as the tool they were using.

We finally found out that the tool was Nexpose by Rapid 7. I wasn’t familiar with the tool, but I found that I could download a trial version. So I set up a VM and installed the “Community Edition”.

Note: this has nothing to do with open core, which often refers to their “free” version as the “community” version. Nexpose is 100% commercial. They use “community” to mean “community supported”, but it is kind of confusing, like when Bertolli’s markets “light” olive oil which means “light tasting” and not low in calories.

I had to fill out a web form and wait about a day for the key to show up. I had installed the exact version of OpenNMS that the client was using on my VM, so my hope was that I could recreate the errors.

First, I had to increase the memory to the VM. Nexpose is written in Java and is a memory hog, but so is OpenNMS, and it was some work to get them to play nice together on the same machine. But once I got it running, it wasn’t too hard to recreate the problem.

The Nexpose user interface isn’t totally intuitive, but I was able to add the IP address of the local machine and get a scan to kick off without having to read any documentation. The output came as a CVS file, but you could also examine the output from within the UI.

The scan reported the same two errors, and just like before I was able to remove the “TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA” one just by excluding it in jetty.xml, but the second one would not go away. I found a list of ciphers supported by Java, but nothing exactly matched “TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA” and I tried almost all of the combinations for similar TLS ciphers.

Then it dawned on me to try “SSL_DHE_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA” and the error went away. I guess in retrospect it was obvious but I was pretty much focused on TLS based ciphers and it didn’t dawn on me that this would be the error with Nexpose.

It was extremely frustrating, but as my customer was being beat up about it I was glad that we could get the system to pass the audit. While this was totally an issue with the scanning software and not OpenNMS, it would have been hard to figure out without the help we were happy to give.

It may not surprise anyone that a large number of OpenNMS support issues tend to be related to products from other vendors. Usually most of them can be classified as a poor implementation of the SNMP standard, but occasionally we get something like this.

Our clients tend to be incredibly smart and good at their jobs, but having access to the folks that actually make OpenNMS can sometimes save enough time and headache to more than offset the cost of support.

by Tarus at August 07, 2015 03:46 PM

August 05, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Welcome Costa Rica! (Country 28)

While I have never been able to personally visit Costa Rica (it is on my list) I am happy to announce that we now have a commercial customer from their, making it the 28th unique country for OpenNMS.

They join the following countries:

Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad, the UAE, the UK and the US.

by Tarus at August 05, 2015 08:20 PM

July 28, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 O’Reilly Open Source Conference

I think this year marks the eighth OSCON I’ve attended. I’m not sure of that, but I am sure that every year I can meet up with a number of interesting people that I just don’t see elsewhere.

I used to get the conference pass so I could see the presentations, and while they tend to be of a very high quality, I often found myself spending most of my time outside of those rooms, either on the Expo floor or just sitting and talking, so this year I just got the Expo pass.

OSCON 2015 - Entrance

I have a love/hate relationship with OSCON. It seems to be skewed toward large companies, and this year was no exception.

I got to see the jugglers at Paypal:

OSCON 2015 - Paypal

(Note: Jason, who used to work with us at OpenNMS, is now at Paypal and so I get to hear about some of the stuff they are doing around open source it is pretty exciting).

and Microsoft was back with the photo booth:

OSCON 2015 - Microsoft

There were also some smaller companies in attendance. I had to go by and say “hi” to the Atlassian team as we happily use a number of their products to make OpenNMS happen, such as Bamboo and Jira:

OSCON 2015 - Atlassian

and it was nice to run into Chris Aniszczyk, the open source guy at Twitter.

OSCON 2015 - Chris Aniszczyk

I had not talked to Chris since last year’s OSCON and it was cool to learn that he’s doing well.

One thing I’ve been looking at for OpenNMS is the best configuration platform with which to integrate. It is hard to choose between Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Salt (and we should probably do all four) but if the choice was solely based on the friendliest staff Chef would probably win.

OSCON 2015 - Chef

I never did get the full story on what happened with their booth.

Right around the corner was the Kaltura booth with its incredibly shy and withdrawn Director of Marketing, Meytal:

OSCON 2015 - Meytal Burstein

She was also at CLS and our paths crossed a lot, and I’m certain I’ll run into her in the future. Oh, and if you want her opinion, you’ll have to drag it out of her.

(Note: some of the above is not true)

OSCON 2015 - CDK Global

It was also cool to see a booth for CDK Global. CDK was formed by merging Cobalt and ADP Dealer Services, and the latter uses OpenNMS. Sam (the guy in the middle) was also a Frontalot fan, so we got along well.

I spent most of my time off to the side of the Expo floor on a row I called the “Geek Ghetto”. These are booths that OSCON offers to open source projects and organizations. It was cool to see that it was almost always packed with people.

OSCON 2015 - Geek Ghetto

I got to talk to the team at the Linuxfest Northwest. This is one conference I have yet to attend but I’m going to make an effort to get there next year. I’m hoping to convince the Bad Voltage guys to come along and do a live show (they will be with us at the OUCE this September in Germany)

OSCON 2015 - Linuxfest Northwest

Next to them was a booth from the EFF. Maggie, who was at the anniversary show in San Francisco, was also doing booth duty at OSCON.

OSCON 2015 - EFF

I believe in what the EFF is doing so it was nice to get to talk with them.

Last year I spent a lot of time learning about Free Geek:

OSCON 2015 - Free Geek

and it was nice to chat with them again. If you are in a Free Geek city, you should get involved.

It was good to see a large number of women in attendance, although it was still not reflective of the population as a whole. One group working to change that is Chicktech:

OSCON 2015 - Chicktech

Note that my picture got photobombed by “Open Source Man”.

Also in the Geek Ghetto was the Software Freedom Conservancy, run in part by Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler. I think highly of them both and enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.

OSCON 2015 - Karen Sandler

Now, I should probably explain my shirt.

Bryan Lunduke is one-fourth of the Bad Voltage team. While I have known Jono Bacon for some time, I didn’t get to meet Jeremy Garcia or Stuart Langridge until this year’s SCaLE conference. I never got to meet Bryan. To be honest, a lot of these “meetings” happened in bars and Bryan doesn’t drink, and I did try to get his attention on the show floor but he obviously didn’t hear me.

Then I was on the Bad Voltage podcast talking about OpenNMS. This was an episode where Bryan was ill, so outside of signing in to say he couldn’t do the show, I didn’t see much of him.

Finally, we are planning on having Bad Voltage come out to the OpenNMS User’s Conference this September. Bryan is expecting the arrival of his second child, so he had to beg off.

Now I just see these things as coincidences, but the guys in the office suggested the real reason is that Bryan hates me. Jessica, our graphic designer, took the bait and made up a graphic, and my friend Jason at Princredible printed a few really nice shirts.

I wanted to meet up with him in Portland, but he was only at CLS the second day (I was there the first). He was at OSCON on Wednesday. I wandered around the Expo floor trying to find him but we could never meet up.

It started to become amusing. People would stop me and say “Bryan was just here looking for you”. After awhile I thought it might be even funnier if we never met, just circled each other at the conference and to this day we still haven’t stood next to each other (he and Jono did call me later in the day, but I had already left).

Anyway, if you think Bryan Lunduke hates you too, you can get a nifty shirt just like mine. Jason will take orders until 10 August. These are high quality shirts that are actually printed – the image is dyed into the fabric and not screened on top were it is likely to crack and peel.

OSCON 2015 - Jono Bacon

Speaking of Jono, he did an “Ask Me Anything” session and I was very eager to get some of the burning questions off my chest. Unfortunately, it was subtitled to limit the questions to things like “community management” and “leadership”. Mine were, to a fault, all obscenely biological.

I want to end this note with a picture of one of my favorite people, within or outside of open source, Stephen Walli.

OSCON 2015 - Stephen Walli

I usually only see him at OSCON, and while in his sunset years he has quieted down a bit (grin), I always welcome the time I get to spend with him.

Hope to see everyone in Austin in 2016, if not sooner.

by Tarus at July 28, 2015 07:52 PM

July 25, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Review: MC Frontalot with The Doubleclicks

Best OSCON after-party ever! – Satisfied Customer

Even though OpenNMS has been around for over 15 years now, a lot of people, including open source people, don’t know we exist. In an attempt to fix that, we’ve been experimenting with various marketing efforts, and in keeping with our mission statement of “Help Customers – Have Fun – Make Money” we also want them to be fun.

I have a love/hate relationship with the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) but I can be assured that many of my friends who are into free and open source software will be there. This year I thought it would be fun to host a concert featuring MC Frontalot. Not only is his music awesome, it should appeal to many of the attendees. We lined up a venue (the amazing Dante’s) and an opening act, The Doubleclicks.

My one fear was that no one would show up, so I was relieved when I rushed from a previous meeting to Dante’s to find the place full, and by the time the show started it was packed.

Prior to setting this up, I had not heard of The Doubleclicks. Angela and Aubrey Webber are sisters who sing about geek things. Prior to the show I listened to a lot of their music, and since I was paying for this gig they even did one of my favorites, “This Fantasy World (Dungeons and Dragons)“. When they sang the lyric “and their primarily Windows-based computers” it got a big laugh.

The Doubleclicks

One thing we struggle with in the tech world in general and open source communities in particular is how to encourage more women to get involved. As a male dominated industry, women can face particular challenges. When The Doubleclicks sang “Nothing to Prove” I realized I couldn’t have asked for a better set list if I’d tried:

We read books, we played games, we made art, we watched Lost
We said things like “D20”, “shipping” and “Mana cost”
It felt good to be myself, not being mocked
Still self-conscious, though, we whispered things about jocks

But one day, you grow up, come into your own
Now geek’s not rejection – it’s a label I own
Then ignorant haters come to prove me wrong
Tell me I’m not nerdy enough to belong

I’ve got nothing to prove
I’ve got nothing to prove
I’ve got nothing to prove

This rang particularly true due to OSCON being hit with a “gamergate“-like attack for having Randi Harper speak. Considering the number of women at the show, I think we succeeded in promoting an all-inclusive environment.

After their great set, MC Frontalot and the band prepared to take the stage. This was the fourth Frontalot show I’d organized but the first with the band. The reason I hadn’t hired the whole band before was simple: it’s more expensive. Plus, from the videos I’d seen on the Intertoobz, I didn’t think they added all that much.

I was so wrong.

It’s hard to capture on video the energy these four gentlemen bring to the stage. The man driving the beat on drums is The Sturgenius (aka Sturgis Cunningham). Blak Lotus (aka Brandon Patton) is the whirling dervish on bass. I sat an watched him spin from stage left, often winding the cord to his bass around his legs and then unwinding it just in time to avoid tripping. Vic-20 (aka Ken Flagg) played wireless keytar, and while everyone was mic’d, turns out he has the voice of an angel and did the most duty on backup vocals.

MC Frontalot and Band

They played all of my favorites, such as “Critical Hit” and “Stoop Sale“, and while Front has always given 110% at my shows, being with the band brought out something more.

When I walked around OSCON inviting people to the show, a lot of people were psyched but I still got that weird “Nerdcore Hip Hop?” look from many. I don’t think that anyone who has seen them live could mistake them for anything other than truly original musical artists.

OCSON is moving to May and to Austin, Texas, next year, and my hope is to bring the band out again. And I do actually plan to write up my thoughts on OSCON itself, but as I got almost no sleep in the last week that will have to wait. The fourteen and a half hours I slept last night seemed to have helped a lot, though.

by Tarus at July 25, 2015 06:00 PM

July 23, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 OSCON MC Frontalot and Doubleclicks Party

I just wanted to post a short note about tonight’s concert.

WHAT: MC Frontalot and The Doubleclicks
WHERE: Dante’s, Portland, OR, USA
WHY: To give back to our Free and Open Source Software Friends, and to promote OpenNMS
WHEN: Doors open at 8pm, Doubleclicks sometime after 9pm, Frontalot around 10pm

If you are still reading, OpenNMS has been able to get Frontalot to perform at a number of Linux conferences, but this is the first time we’ve been able to bring out the whole band (2015 is shaping up to be a good year). So in addition to the man himself, we have Blak Lotus on bass, The Sturgenius on drums and Vic-20 on the key-tar. This promises to explode with awesomeness.

Since this is Portland, we wanted to get a local group to open and The Doubleclicks were kind enough to join us. They are the sister duo of Angela and Aubrey Webber, who will entertain with their particular brand of nerd folk. I was introduced to their work just recently, and I think it will be the perfect way to start the evening.

We also want to thank O’Reilly for continuing to produce OSCON. In many cases, it is the only time in a year where I get to see friends of mine in person, and they bring together all different type of people from the free and open source community.

Finally, last but not least is Dante’s itself. The venue was kind enough to let us schedule this free event there, and while I’ve never been, I’ve only heard great things. The only downside is that I’ve been told it is somewhat small. Since we are not selling tickets, I have no idea how many people are showing up, but from the feedback I’ve been getting from OSCON attendees, we’ll probably pack the place.

To guarantee you get to see the show, doors open a 8pm, but since some of you might still be enjoying OSCON events at that time, please note that the show won’t start until sometime after 9pm, so we hope you can make it.

Oh, if you do come and like it, please give a nod to @opennms as we are working hard to correct the fact that it is the greatest open source project you have never heard of.

See you there.

by Tarus at July 23, 2015 07:19 PM

July 21, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Solution for One Trackpad Issue for the XPS 13

My new laptop is the beautiful new Dell XPS 13 running Ubuntu Gnome 15.04.

It is not perfect, but it is getting close. Lightweight, beautiful screen and awesome battery life (nearly 8 hours the way I use it).

One thing that was killing me, though, was that after a certain amount of time (on the order of tens of minutes and not hours), the trackpad/clickpad thingie would start misbehaving under Gnome Shell, registering bogus clicks. There wasn’t an easy way to fix it outside of a) reboot or b) use an external mouse.

It seems that this issue has been addressed in the 4.1 kernel, so I decided to try it. I’m not sure if Ubuntu is going to support the 4 kernel series officially before 15.10 so I didn’t want to wait.

I downloaded the 4.1.1 kernel here (you’ll need three debs: the “all” headers deb and the image and headers debs for your CPU – I used “generic” and “amd64”), installed them with “sudo dpkg -i” and rebooted. The problem seems to be fixed.

But, my Broadcom wireless driver wouldn’t work. I had to download one more deb from here (via my phone – never play with kernels when you are on a long road trip), install it and now wireless is back.

Now if we could just get palm detection fixed …

by Tarus at July 21, 2015 01:03 AM

July 19, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 Community Leadership Summit

I’ve been working full time with open source software for fourteen years, and I can remember a time when we were pretty much making everything up. No one had experience with this market which most of us now take for granted, and there were a lot of questions about dealing with an open source “community” versus paying customers for open source related software and services.

Out of this arose a role, for lack of a better word, called a “Community Manager”. It doesn’t quite fit since “manage” isn’t accurate. It is hard to apply old school management techniques to a group of sometimes anonymous volunteers, many of whom you might only know by a name such as “Zaxxon476”.

One of the first people to document this role was Jono Bacon. He was one of the leaders of the Ubuntu community, one of the larger of such communities in existence. He wrote a book called The Art of Community and he also founded the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) which meets the weekend before OSCON. Due to scheduling I have never been able to be there, but OpenNMS has been a sponsor every year it has been around.

CLS - Sponsors

This year I was finally able to attend, and I wasn’t disappointed. A large, eager group of people showed up, and I really enjoyed the diversity. Not only were women strongly represented (in both attendees and session leaders) there were many people from outside of the United States.

Jono kicked off the conference:

CLS - Jono Bacon, the delicious meat

with help from another amazing fellow, Stephen Walli:

CLS - Stephen Walli, the other white meat

The format was in the “unconference” style, meaning that the attendees set the agenda. After an initial group of planned 15-minute presentations, those people wanting to host a session would write a short description on a card, get up in front of everyone and announce the session, and then go post it on a large schedule “wall” in the main hallway.

I’ve been to a number of such conferences but rarely seen such participation levels. We actually ran out of Saturday spots, but in the true cooperative style a number of people were able to combine sessions so I think it all worked out.

CLS - Schedule

The whole event had a really good vibe. It wasn’t just open source people, either. The “open source way” can be applied to a number of different fields, and it had to be stressed that in any given session you couldn’t make assumptions about the open source knowledge of the people in the room. One woman discussed how she was dealing with mental illness, and an on-line community was key to her becoming healthy. Another woman was discussing how concepts from the formal study of psychology could be applied to make communities stronger. Even proprietary companies such as New Relic were there because the user community has become key to the success of almost any technology endeavor.

I got to make new friends and catch up with old ones, so I have to admit like many conferences I spent more time chatting in the hallway than in actual sessions (as some of those session were in the hallway, I had to be reminded that my voice carries. Ooops and sorry).

For high school I went to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and I constantly run into alumni in this field. OpenNMS’s own Seth Leger went there, as did Spot Callaway and Gina Likins from Red Hat. I got a cute picture of Gina (pronounced “Jenna”) with Ulf.

CLS - Gina Likins

It looks like the second day might even be stronger than the first, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it. As OSCON is moving to Austin next year, it will be interesting to see how that changes CLS, and I plan to make every effort to be there.

by Tarus at July 19, 2015 06:02 PM

July 17, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The EFF Turns 25

In 1990, when the Internet was much smaller and slower than it is today, a bunch of forward-thinking people realized that this new technological wonder would create some unique issues for our society, and they formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation to protect people from its negative effects.

I can’t remember the first time I got involved with the EFF, but for years I’ve followed their efforts and cheered them on. Before I wore it to shreads, my “Protect Bloggers Rights” T-shirt was one of my favorites, and I still carry my passport in an EFF-badged wallet that blocks RFID transmission.

Earlier this year, the animator Chad Essley auctioned off the chance to be added to his video for the MC Frontalot song “Shudders” with all proceeds going to the EFF. The result was that the OpenNMS mascot Ulf gets a few seconds of much deserved fame and I got an invitation to the EFF’s 25th anniversary party.

I wasn’t going to make it (I don’t live in the Bay Area) but when I decided to attend this week’s Community Leadership Summit followed by OSCON up in Portland, it turned out that it wasn’t much more expensive to fly here first before heading up to Oregon. I know several people in the area and I figured I could find something to do before the party, but then the EFF created a half-day “minicon” so I decided to attend that as well.

EFF - DNA Lounge

The minicon consisted of three panel discussions. It was held at a nightclub called the DNA Lounge and when I got there just before noon the line to get in was already stretching down the block. When I did get in, there was a stage set up for the panels (a moderator’s podium and a table with four chairs for the panelists) as well as two banners describing what the EFF does.

EFF Banner

I thought the left one was pretty succinct: Free Speech, Privacy, Innovation, Transparency, Fair Use, International. Yup, that about covers it.

I didn’t take any pictures of the attendees (this group does attract a contingent from the “black helicopters” crowd) so while I probably had the right to take pictures as part of a public gathering it would have been rude. It was nice to see a fairly even split between men and women, and for once I wasn’t the oldest person in the room. It was mainly Caucasian and Asian faces that I saw (hey, that’s pretty much Silicon Valley) and I did see people with colorful hair (bright pink, electric blue, etc.) That part was similar to the open source conferences I attend, but there wasn’t a single utilikilt. The vibe was also different. Whereas FOSS conferences also attract technical people with a strong libertarian bent, this crowd included a lot more people concerned with social activism.

Which brings us to the first panel: Activism.

EFF - Panel 1

Not only does the EFF identify threats to liberty brought on by new technology, one of their pillars is to mobilize people to effect change, so this panel discussed ways to more effectively do just that. Should you call your Congressional Representative or e-mail them? Is publicly tweeting about them better than a private correspondence? One panelist commented on the fact that you can’t A/B test reality so it can be hard to determine the best action. Plus, if a particular effort is successful, such as with SOPA, the bar is set high for the next one, which can cause its own problems.

It was the first time I had been introduced to Annalee Newitz, and I really liked her comments. Yet another person to follow on the Twitters.

They also announced a project by Sina Khanifar called which is supposed to make it easier for people to contact those in government.

The second panel focused on Copyright.

EFF - Panel 2

I am not an anti-copyright person. Copyright law is what makes free and open source software possible. However, it is obvious that it is broken. As a process created to mainly protect things like the written word, it doesn’t lend itself well to computer code. Plus, some copyright holders have a track record of abuse. I’ve even experienced it in such things as bogus DMCA takedown notices.

Part of this discussion focused on the concept of “fair use”. If I am given something or I pay for something, does the person from whom I got that something have a right to set limits on what I can do with it? It’s a tricky question. If I use someone’s song in a television commercial, it seems obvious that I should have to pay the owner of that song, especially since it may imply that the creator of the music endorses my product or service. But what if I invite 30 people over for a party and put on some music? Does that count as a “public performance”? It’s tricky.

The EFF is very concerned with transparency, and quite naturally has issues with secret negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Proponents of keeping trade negotiations secret will claim that they don’t want the discussion to disrupt markets. For example, if the discussion was about whether or not to place tariffs on corn exports, whether or not they would actually come about, this could cause undue fluctuations in the market for corn.

As one of the panelists noted: Copyright is not corn.

The TPP has a focus on intellectual property rights which will have far reaching repercussions for users of technology. Without oversight, the government’s zeal to protect, say, the movie and music industry, may result in actions that are detrimental to end users. People in government don’t tend to have strong technical experience, so it is important that these discussion take place in the open.

Privacy was the topic of the final panel.

EFF - Panel 3

This panel included Bruce Schneier. This was the first time I had seen him speak, and I was not disappointed. One of the questions was to predict privacy challenges due to technology 25 years from now. Bruce pointed out that it was harder to predict the impact of new tech on society than the tech itself. For example, we now have flying robots that kill people. On the one hand this is very frightening, and on the other hand, in a way, it is really, really cool.

He was referring to drones of course, and I couldn’t help but think of the trauma some drone operators are now facing even though they are thousands of miles from actual combat. Tech has also created an “interrupt driven” culture that may be fostering short attention spans. Heck, I’ll be surprised if even one of my three blog readers makes it this far in this long post, and we’ve had to come up with tags like “TL;DR” to deal with things like this. I can’t imagine what changes this will bring about in 25 years.

I was also impressed by panelist Parisa Tabriz. She is the “Security Princess” at Google and a solid public speaker. She pointed out that at Google they sometimes struggle with security versus privacy, in that certain security tech can leave a fingerprint that might weaken anonymity.

It is hard to talk about Google without bringing up Apple, and it was pointed out that Apple fails miserably on the transparency front but does do a good job when it comes to privacy. The argument goes that since Apple makes money on hardware (compared to Google’s model) they have less motivation to look at their users’ data. It would have been nice to have someone from Apple on the panel, but I’m not sure if they were asked. I did ask the EFF via a tweet, but didn’t get a response.

While most panel discussions suck, I enjoyed these, and I’m glad I went. The minicon ended around 4pm and since the party didn’t start until 8pm I decided to head back to the hotel, work on some e-mail and take a nap.

That was a mistake.

When my alarm went off at 7pm, I was so tired I considered blowing off the party entirely. I decided to go because Maggie had managed to find another RFID blocking passport wallet, as my EFF-branded one is pretty tattered, and I need another. It doesn’t have the EFF logo on it, but I hope they make more in the future.

EFF Passport Holder

My passport has had RFID technology embedded in it for years, but in all my travels it has never been legitimately accessed. It is just another example of technology being chosen because it exists without a firm plan on how to use it. I like knowing that I now can chose when to enable it or not (and yes, I know I could nuke it in the microwave but I’m not ready to go that far, yet).

Another thing I wish the EFF would do is advertise more about Amazon Smile. If you shop on Amazon Smile you can choose to have a portion of your purchase benefit a specific organization. It doesn’t cost you anything, and while I can’t find an actual total, since I shop on Amazon a lot I feel that I’ve probably sent a significant amount of money to the EFF. Of course, I can’t imagine that they are happy with things like Amazon Echo, so perhaps there is a conflict of interest, but I still wanted to make people aware of it.

EFF - Party Stage

So, I grabbed an Uber, went to the party, met Maggie and got my new passport holder. I then made a pass around the club but didn’t really feel comfortable. These were my people but then again not my people. It was obvious many knew each other, and while I’ve never been one to have a problem with a room full of strangers (in most situations I make new friends) the environment was pretty loud and not conducive to conversation. I just didn’t have the energy so I left.

This means I missed seeing Wil Wheaton and Cory Doctorow, two more people I’ve never seen in person but would like to one day. From social media it seems like it was a good time, but I just wanted to grab some dinner and sleep.

EFF - Wil Wheaton

Overall, I had a good time with the EFF. It is rare that I agree with everything even people I like do, but I can’t think of something the EFF has done in the last 25 years that bothered me or pissed me off. It is one of the few organizations that I regularly donate to, and I plan to leave them some money in my estate (if there is any left, I also plan to live for another 100 years and die after I’ve spent my last dime). If you haven’t supported them yet, I’d like to suggest that you do so.

Today I’m off to Portland for the CLS and OSCON, and these really are my people. I’ll let you know how it goes.

by Tarus at July 17, 2015 05:41 PM

Uber vs. Taxi

Back in 2012, I first experienced Uber. While I assume everyone knows what Uber is, just in case you don’t, it is a ride service that heavily leverages modern technology to disrupt the livery/taxi industry.

When I first used Uber in 2012, it was limited to “black cars”, vehicles like Town Cars on the higher end of the scale, and the price reflected it. Now they have a number of different options, such as UberX (similar to a taxi), UberPool (more of a ride share version of UberX), UberSushi, UberMusic, etc. (okay, I made the last two up).

I had a rather positive experience with Uber back in 2012, but I rarely had the chance to use it much after that. Later, when I started reading about some “evil” things they were doing, I wasn’t inclined to call on them when I needed a ride, and their Android app seems to need an awful lot of permissions in order to work correctly, so I wouldn’t install it.

I am currently spending a few days in San Francisco, and when I landed at SFO I decided to take a taxi instead of BART. I like BART, but I was running late and also had a fairly large suitcase with me, so I opted for the convenience of a cab.

It was a bad experience.

When I approached the cab stand, I was assigned the next cab in line. This was car 226 from “Veteran’s Cab Company” and it was a very tired Toyota Prius. The driver seemed more interested in listening to music on his phone and texting than getting me to my hotel.

Texting Taxi Driver

He repeatedly ignored my requests that he not text and drive, and as I was watching for the best routes on Google Maps, he also ignored my requests to take me on the faster route. Outside of putting my life in danger, he probably cost me an extra $10 and an extra 15 minutes.

I did survive the trip, and I checked into the hotel, dropped my bags and headed back out because I was meeting a friend and we were going to take BART to the East Bay.

Although her house was only a 10-15 minute walk from BART, she was in heels and decided that we would catch a ride with Uber. This was UberX. The driver was waiting for us in an immaculate Prius and promptly took us to the house. As I ended up staying there past the time that BART stopped running, they called me another UberX ride to take me back to the hotel. This was also in a Prius, clean, and the driver was very friendly and safe.

It is hard to express the stark contrast between the experience of a normal taxi versus Uber.

I was in town for the EFF’s 25th anniversary party. While I walked to the “minicon” they held during the day, I decided to take Uber to the evening party. I dusted off my Uber account, updated the credit card, and called for a ride.

Within three minutes Ye showed up in a nice Toyota Camry. The route to the DNA Lounge was already in his phone, adjusted to avoid traffic, and the trip was quick and pleasant. As everything is paid for via the app, I had nothing to do but enjoy the ride.

I can see why people could get used to this.

For the ride back, I used Uber again. This time Allam picked me up in a Honda CR-V. Again, he arrived within three minutes. I was his first customer for the night and we hit it off to the point where I didn’t want the ride to end (he was originally from the West Bank of Israel and we talked a lot about the Middle East, which I’ve enjoyed visiting).

When I go to the airport tomorrow to head to CLS and OSCON, I plan to take UberX, or I might try UberPool.

While I still have concerns about some of Uber’s policies, and I probably need to check out Lyft (a competing service), we are talking about an experience that is orders of magnitude better than the old status quo. I’ll be hard pressed to take a taxi again.

by Tarus at July 17, 2015 05:57 AM

July 11, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

The OpenNMS Calendar

As I was spending this morning trying to get organized, I thought it would help me to post some of the OpenNMS events coming up over the next few months.


The O’Reilly Open Source Conference, being held the week of 20 July in Portland, OR, USA, is probably the last great commercial open source conference. I’ll be there on the Expo floor and would love to chat with folks about OpenNMS and open source. We are also sponsoring a free concert with MC Frontalot and the Doubleclicks at Dante’s on Thursday night the 23rd:

August: Training

We are holding our formal week-long OpenNMS training course the week of 10 August at OpenNMS HQ in Pittsboro, NC. This is the best way to get up to speed with OpenNMS, plus you get to meet a lot of the people who make it happen.

September: Users Conference

This year’s users conference is shaping up to be the best yet. It will be held from 28 September to 1 October at the University of Applied Science in Fulda, Germany, which is just outside of Frankfurt.

Sponsored by the independent OpenNMS Foundation, The Call for Papers is still open. Also this year we’ll have the gang from the Bad Voltage podcast doing a live show for your entertainment.

October: All Things Open

From 18-20 October, the All Things Open conference returns to America’s Open City: Raleigh, NC (home of Red Hat). This is a great time and OpenNMS will be a sponsor this year.

Hope to see you at one or all of these events.

by Tarus at July 11, 2015 02:48 PM

July 08, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 Mini Dev-Jam

So, after this year’s Dev-Jam, several people followed us back to Pittsboro. Markus von Rüden, Ronny, Christian and Dustin all came to visit, as did Antonio. It was an extra week to get even more work done and a chance for us to socialize.

On Thursday Ben suggested we visit a really nice Japanese restaurant called Dashi in Durham. While downstairs serves noodles, upstairs is a bar with small plates. We rented the place out for a few hours.

Dinner at Dashi

It was excellent. The food was delicious and unusual, and the drinks were splendid as well.

Since our guests weren’t leaving until July the 5th, it was only appropriate to have everyone over to celebrate July the 4th. I was finally able to make Fish House Punch (there is so much of it you need a large number of people to help drink it) and we did the usual 4th of July things such as cooking out on the grill.

The one thing we couldn’t do was fireworks, as there are pretty strict limits on them in North Carolina. I thought we could substitute a bonfire (I generate a lot of stuff to burn on the farm) but with the large amounts of rain we have been getting it really wouldn’t catch.

Then Jesse asked “Do you have any gasoline?”

Against my better judgment, I got some gas and while it improved things, the fire still wasn’t blazing like a bonfire should. Then someone suggested I get the leaf blower.

Tweet about the 4th party

Now, I have a really nice leaf blower. It’s a four-cycle Makita that makes me feel like Magneto. It did the job.

4th of July Bonfire

Remember, don’t try this at home.

Speaking of home, everyone made it back safely. It was nice seeing them for an extended period of time.

The next chance I get to see old friends will be OSCON coming up in two weeks. Remember that OpenNMS is sponsoring an MC Frontalot concert with the whole band at Dante’s on July 23rd. Hope to see you there.

by Tarus at July 08, 2015 08:02 PM

July 07, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Linux Mint 17.2 “Rafaela”

Just a quick post as I’ve now upgraded two desktops to the latest Linux Mint, version 17.2, code named “Rafaela”.

The upgrade process was pretty painless. I was on 17.1 “Rebecca” so I made sure all the packages were up to date. Then I launched the “Update Manager” application and chose “Upgrade to 17.2″ under the “Edit” menu.


I haven’t seen any new issues and some of the old ones seem to have disappeared. I used to have issues with a) the desktop background going all wonky, b) the screen resolution dropping down to 640×480 that was only fixable via reboot, and c) the screen not being responsive at all, necessitating Ctl-Alt-Fx and then back to Ctl-Alt-F8. No biggies and they were pretty infrequent, so I’m not certain they are fixed (I have an ATI Radeon PRO card in the desktop with the issue) but I haven’t seen them since the upgrade.

Plus, yay!, the screensaver is back. Ubuntu decided a long time ago to basically nix the screensaver and just power off the screen. I like screensavers, but I also like an integration with the desktop environment so I never hacked in xscreensaver. Well, in 17.2, they did. You will have to install the xscreensaver packages to get choices (well, more than the default two) and it is missing a randomizer (sniff) but one step at a time.

I just wish I could get the clickpad to work correctly on my new laptop. I’ve posted my problem to the forum but so far no suggestions.

Anyway, I’d recommend Mint users upgrade when able. So far so good.

Update: Problem a) is still happening. When the system comes back from a suspend the desktop background is distorted into squares of mainly black and white pixels. I have to change the desktop background away from what it is and then back to restore. Doesn’t happen on my NVidia desktop.

by Tarus at July 07, 2015 11:17 PM

July 03, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Five

Sorry for the week delay on this post, but this happened.

The last day of Dev-Jam is always bittersweet for me. I’m sad that it is over, but I also get to see all the wonderful “new shiny” people have been working on. Friday we do demos.

This year we made an attempt to record each demo. Just click on the picture to see it on the YooToobz. Videos, yay!

First up was Ben. Ben is the architect of our new mobile app, OpenNMS Compass. Available for both iOS and Android, it may even turn into our next overall user interface. To do that, it needs graphs, so Ben demonstrated how you can now display graphs in Compass. You can even set “favorites” so they show up on your main screen.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ben

Markus von Rüden spent the week working on something fun: digitizing our mascot and kiwi overlord, Ulf. He demonstrated this work in a game. While it wasn’t completely finished, when Ulf died would he split in half to reveal a kiwi (fruit) center. Cute. Unfortunately, no video and no wiki page (yet).

Dev-Jam Demos: MvR

Christian presented a new way to represent issues within OpenNMS, a “heat map“. It works with both alarms and outages.

Dev-Jam Demos: Christian

Jesse presented something that literally gave me goosebumps. Using our new integration with Newts, you can search for similar data within OpenNMS. So if there is say, a spike, you can search through all the other metrics to see if there are other data sources that spike at the same time.

Dev-Jam Demos: Jesse

David S. presented a new northbound interface for sending alarms to other systems via JMS. He used ActiveMQ as a proof of concept.

Dev-Jam Demos: David S.

Ron created a couple of new features. The first was the ability to see polls as events, including how long each poll took (if available). He also added the ability to create a consistent color scheme across performance graphs.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ron

Umberto created another real exciting feature – the ability to export in real time OpenNMS events to Elasticsearch. Since OpenNMS can handle thousands of events a second, sending them to a system built to analyze such data could be very useful. Umberto was sponsored to attend by the OpenNMS Foundation.

Dev-Jam Demos: Umberto

A second OpenNMS Foundation attendee was Marcel. He worked on improving data collection for Fortinet devices.

Dev-Jam Demos: Marcel

Another cool feature was Dustin’s custom data collection script tool. Sometimes OpenNMS gets criticized for not using SSH to collect data and perform montoring. The reason it doesn’t is rather simple: it’s a stupid idea. It usually requires that you set up keys with null passphrases, and often they connect as root. Despite the security issues, it is also a resource hog and can’t scale. We have always recommended using an extensible SNMP agent like Net-SNMP, but it can be some effort to set up.

Dustin’s feature allows you to put collection scripts in a special folder on the server, and OpenNMS will automatically collect the data. All you need to do then is to add a graph definition and you’re done.

Dev-Jam Demos: Dustin

Ronny discussed running OpenNMS in Vagrant and Docker containers. Neato.

Dev-Jam Demos: Ronny

DJ was frustrated in how long it can take to compile OpenNMS if tests are enabled. OpenNMS is heavily instrumented with software tests. These can be broken into “unit” tests and “integration” tests. Maven (the build system used by OpenNMS) can be configured to separate them. Since unit tests should be small and quick, they can be run every time with the integration tests only run for regression.

Dev-Jam Demos: DJ

Finally, Seth presented the work he did this week which was focused on changes needed to support OpenNMS Minion. Minions are little, stand alone processes that can perform basic monitoring and data collection, which is then forwarded up to an OpenNMS Dominion instance.

Dev-Jam Demos: Seth

While the last Dev-Jam always seems to be the best Dev-Jam, I think it was true this year. This work will go along way toward positioning OpenNMS for the coming Internet of Things, and as always it is amazing to see what brilliant people can do when given the opportunity to work together.

We ended the day at Surly Brewing Company. The beer was delicious and the company stimulating. I only got one non-blurry picture, and unfortunately my pants fell down when I stood up to take it.

Dev-Jam: Surly Brewing


I hope to see everyone at the OpenNMS Users Conference in September. I promise to keep my pants on.

by Tarus at July 03, 2015 05:23 PM

June 28, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

DevJam 2015 Demos

The basic idea is put a bunch of smart good looking people from the OpenNMS community in one room, take care about fun, food, sleep and see what happens. We had this year 27 people from the U.S. and Europe to spend one week in our adventure to Open Source. Special thanks to Mike Huot, his family and The OpenNMS group to make this event happen. We had also the first time two community members sponsored by the OpenNMS Foundation at the conference. This year was amazing and we had a small demo session on the last day. Here are the videos if you are interested and can wait until next years DEVJAM!!!

Code refactoring with Seth Leger

Unit Test improvements with DJ Gregor

Vagrant and Docker with Ronny Trommer

Performance data correlation with Jesse White

Script data collection with Dustin Frisch

Extending Fortinet data collection with Marcel Fuhrmann

Elasticsearch integration with Umberto Nicoletti

JMS Northbounder with David Schlenk

RRD Enhancements with Ron Roskens

OpenNMS Compass improvements with Benjamin Reed

Heatmap with Christian Pape

by Ronny Trommer at June 28, 2015 02:44 PM

June 26, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Review: Dell XPS 13 (9343) Ubuntu Edition

Okay. When it comes to tech, I want the latest and greatest. To me, the “greatest” must include as much open software as possible. As an ex-Apple user, I want the same experience I used to get with that gear, but with free and open source software.

It can be hard. Rarely is the open source world involved in new hardware decisions by the major vendors, so we learn about new devices after the fact. Thus there is an inevitable delay between when a product is announced and when it properly works with FOSS.

Such was the case with the new XPS 13 laptop from Dell.

Now, I vote with my wallet, so back in 2012 when I needed a laptop I bought the second edition “Sputnik” Dell XPS 13, which shipped with Ubuntu. It served me well for many years and currently runs Linux Mint 17.1 with no problems. When the latest edition XPS 13 was announced, I immediately ordered it, but it didn’t work out so well.

When I discovered that the other option from Dell, the M3800, wasn’t for me, I decided to wait until they officially supported Ubuntu on the new XPS 13. I didn’t have to wait long, and I placed my order the day I learned it was available (I was happy to learn that they had to fix some kernel-level issues and it wasn’t just me).

Why didn’t I wait longer? The XPS 13 is gorgeous. I haven’t felt this strongly about a laptop since my 12-inch Powerbook back in 2013. Others seem to agree, with even Forbes praising this machine.

Anyway, the order process was simple. I got the XPS 13 with the i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and the HiDPI touchscreen. The laptop arrived about a week before it was scheduled. Go Dell.

Now for the obligatory unboxing pictures. The outer box arrived undamaged:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 1

The laptop itself came in a separate box:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 2

with the accessories shipped in a cardboard “square tube”:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 3

While the small power supply came with a longer power cable with a “mickey mouse” connector, the XPS 13 comes with a small adapter that gets rid of the cable entirely (like the Apple laptop power bricks).

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 4

The laptop pretty much fills up its box:

Dell XPS 13 Unboxing Pic 5

Like with my original XPS, there is a cool little intro video that plays when you first start it up:

Please note that it only runs on the first start – you will not have to wait 40+ seconds to boot your system (usually less than 10).

The XPS 13 Ubuntu Developer Edition ships with 14.04, but I had some issues with it. First, it didn’t have the option for encrypting the home directory. I’m not sure how or why that got removed. The system also crashed when I attempted to make a backup image to a USB stick. Finally, there are apparently still outstanding issues with 14.04:

Ubuntu 14.04 includes kernel 3.13. The touchpad will run in PS2 mode and the soundcard will run in HDA mode. Currently (4/15) out of the box the HDA microphone will not work, and you will need some packages from the factory shipped image to make it work properly.

While I knew I was going to base the system, I logged in to the stock image to check out the apt repository. There really wasn’t anything outside of the vanilla Ubuntu (the few Dell packages seem to be just for recovery) so I felt fairly safe in reinstalling.

I immediately went to my default distro, Linux Mint 17.1, but found that a lot of things, especially the touchpad, didn’t work as expected. It did handle HiDPI screens just fine (you could actually see the mouse pointer increase in size when logging in). I figured I’d wait until 17.2 comes out and try it again.

On a side note, I don’t know why it is so hard to get a decent touchpad under Linux. We’re getting closer, but still, it tends to be the weakest point of the Linux laptop experience.

In search of a solution, I found Barton’s Blog and read the following:

With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound will not function. Please update to at least BIOS A02 and the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode. (4/15) All of the relevant patches have been backported and all functions will work out of the box.

I really liked the “will work out of the box” bit, so I installed Ubuntu 15.04.

It had been awhile since I’d used Unity, and it has really matured. I especially liked the little touches. When I changed my desktop background, the background of the Dock changed color to match it. Neat.

Where Unity still has some way to go is in HiDPI support. There is a scaling factor you can set, but it only applies to a small part of the UI. I still ended up having to customize many of my apps. For example, if you look at the settings page with scaling, a lot of the text under the icons are cropped:

Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu Text Cropped

Not a show stopper, and I used it for over a month without getting too annoyed.

Last week I saw that the release candidate for Mint 17.2 was out, so I dutifully backed up my Ubuntu install, based the system and installed Mint. Things seems to work better (although HiDPI support was not working by default), but I ran into a weird problem with trying to click and drag.

While everyone seems to deal with trackpads differently, the way I click and drag is to use the index finger of my left hand to click and hold the lower left corner of the trackpad, and then I use the index finger of my right hand to move the mouse pointer. This works fine under most desktop environments, but under Cinnamon it seems to interpret it as a right click (which usually causes a menu to drop down). If I just used a single finger to click on the window header and then move it, it worked as expected, but I couldn’t get used to it enough to continue to use it.

Oh well. I’ve posted a question on the Mint forums but no one has been able to help.

Anyhoos, since my system was based I decided to try out some other 15.04-based distros while I had the chance. I had heard great things about the new Plasma interface in KDE, so Kubuntu was next.

I can’t say much about Kubuntu since its HiDPI support is worse than Unity. Everything was so tiny I couldn’t spend much time in the UI. Oh well, what I saw was pretty.

And I should stress that this was a recurring theme in my experiments with desktop environments. Every UI I’ve tried has been beautiful and more than able to compete with, say, OS X.

By this point I decided to punt and just search on “Linux Desktop HiDPI”. Several of the results touted that Ubuntu Gnome was the best desktop to use for HiDPI systems. So, before going back to Unity I decided to give it a shot.


I haven’t used Gnome 3 in awhile, but I was encouraged in that even the install process handled the HiDPI screen well. It has become really mature, and so far has provided by far the best experience with the XPS 13. I’ve had to do little to get it to work for me.

Is it flawless? No. There is an issue with the touchpad where it occasionally translates touches into click (kernel patch approved). If you sleep the system, the touchscreen will stop working (but you can reload its module). Sometimes, the system doesn’t sleep when you close the screen, which can cause the laptop to get really, really hot.

But these are minor issues and I expect them to be addressed in the near future. I am confident that I’ve found a great combination of software and hardware, and that it will only get better from here.

I have just a few more notes to share. The battery life is outstanding – I can get 6-7 hours of use without recharging. The “infinity screen” is beautiful and bright, but by having almost no bezel they had to move the camera to the lower left corner, which creates a slightly odd viewing angle.

Dell XPS 13 Camera Angle

In closing, here are a couple of shots comparing the XPS 13 with the M3800.

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 1

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 2

Dell XPS 13 vs. M3800 Pic 3

by Tarus at June 26, 2015 08:10 PM

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Four

Since I sincerely doubt even my loyal readers get to the bottom of my long posts, I figured I’d start this one with the group picture:

Dev-Jam Group Picture

That antenna behind Goldy’s head is part of Jonathan’s project to use OpenNMS to collect and aggregate FunCube data from around the world. Can I get an “Internet of Things“? (grin)

There is this myth that just by making your software open source, thousands of qualified developers will give up their spare time to work on your project. While there are certainly projects with lots of developers, I am humbled by the fact that we have 30-40 hard core people involved with OpenNMS.

Unless you’ve gone through this, it is hard to understand. At one time, OpenNMS was pretty much me in my attic and an IRC channel. Luckily for the project that didn’t last long. My one true talent is getting amazing people to work with me. Then all I have to do is create an environment where they can be awesome.

It’s why I love Dev-Jam.

I also love pizza. Chris at Papa Johns was kind enough to send us some free pie for dinner:

Dev-Jam Pizza

Today we spent time talking about documentation. Documentation tends to be the weak point of a lot of software, and open source software in particular. The Arch Linux people do about the best job I’ve seen, but even then it is hard to keep everything current. For over a year now a group of people has been working very hard to improve the documentation for OpenNMS, and the new documentation site is most excellent.

It does take a little time to understand the navigation. The documentation is included in the source and managed on GitHub, so there is a new version for each release. But just as an example, check out the Administrator’s Guide for 16.0.2.

Written in AsciiDoc, it is now the best place for accurate information on how to use the software. We also want to extend a special thanks to the Atom project for creating the editor used to create it.

One of the things we discussed was how to deal with the wiki and the .org website. It’s not practical to duplicate the AsciiDoc information on the wiki, so the plan is to include the relevant part from the documentation in something like an iframe and use the wiki more for user stories. The “talk” page can then be used for suggestions on improving the documentation, and once those suggestions are merged they can be removed.

I had suggested that we make the wiki page the default landing page for the .org site, but Markus pointed out that we need to do a better job of marketing OpenNMS, and the landing page should be more about “why to use OpenNMS” versus “how”. I had to agree, as we need to do a better job of marketing the software. My friend Waleed pointed out in Twitter this weakness:

Twitter Comment 1 from Waleed

Twitter Comment 2 from Waleed

To better educate folks about why OpenNMS is so amazing, we are considering merging the .com and .org sites and using the .com WordPress instance for the “why you should use OpenNMS” with a very obvious link to the wiki so people can learn how to use OpenNMS. Part of me has always wanted to keep the project and commercial aspects of OpenNMS separate, but it then becomes really hard to maintain both sites.

In case you haven’t guessed, we do spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this. (grin)

Dev-Jam Thursday

A lot of other cool stuff got done on Thursday. DJ announced that he had separated out the unit tests in OpenNMS (for features) from the integration tests (for regression). OpenNMS has nearly 7,000 junit tests (and growing). It’s the main way we insure that nothing breaks as we work to add new things to the software. But with so many tests it can take a real long time to see if your commit worked or not. This should make things easier for the developers.

It’s hard to believe that Dev-Jam is almost over. Luckily, it sets the stage for the next year’s worth of work. Since our goal is nothing less than making OpenNMS the de facto network management platform of choice, there is a lot of work to be done.

by Tarus at June 26, 2015 03:06 PM

June 25, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Review: Nexus 6

As most of my three readers know by now, I was a big fan of the OnePlus One handset until I experienced their customer support (which seems intent on covering up a major defect in the touchscreen of their devices).

So, it was time to get another smart phone. Andrea had been using a Nexus 6 for awhile, I thought the phone might be too big for me. The phone is huge.

David pointed out that the OnePlus was huge compared to my previous HTC One, and it only took me a day or so to get used to that size change, so I’d probably feel the same way about the Nexus 6.

He was right.

I ordered it from the Play Store and it showed up a couple of days later. The name of the phone was actually on the bottom of the box:

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 1

and once I cut the “tape” I flipped it over so I could open it.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 2

The phone sits in a little cardboard cradle

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 3

and if you remove it you can see a little packet with documentation.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 4

Under that is a high amp charger and that’s about it.

Nexus 6 Unboxing Pic 5

The phone has a gorgeous display and its six inch screen is big enough that I can watch movies on it, so I loaned my Nexus 7 (that I used to use when traveling) to Ben so he could play with OpenNMS Compass on Android.

Nexus 6 Specs

It’s also blazingly fast, but all that power does come with a price: battery life. With the OnePlus I could easily go a day, even with playing Ingress to some degree, the Nexus 6 needs a little more juice. It is in no way horrible, and is much better than the HTC One, but it is still a factor. I just ended up buying a TYLT wireless charger for my desk so I can sit the handset there all day and it stays charged (yay wireless charging).

I did buy a case for the phone but that pushed it over the size limit for even my large hands. Caseless, I was worried about dropping it, so I bought a “grip” pad that sticks to the back and makes it feel less like a slippery bar of soap. So far so good.

The best thing is that, thanks in large part to Jake Whatley, I can now put OmniROM on it. It was a pretty simple process to unlock the phone using adb, install TWRP and then flash the latest OmniROM nightly. I was surprised at how much my Android experience was truncated by the stock ROM. I couldn’t shake my phone to dismiss an alarm or augment the power menu to add options like a reboot instead of just powering off. So far no problems.

The size of the Nexus 6 will be off-putting for some, but it is about the same size as an iPhone 6 Plus, so perhaps not.

Nexus 6 vs. iPhone 6+

As I was investigating alternative ROMs for the Nexus 6, I thought it was funny when I found out the code name for the device. Nexus devices tend to be named after fish.

The code name for the Nexus 6? Shamu.

by Tarus at June 25, 2015 08:24 PM

Review: LG Watch Urbane

Even though I am no longer a user of Apple products, I was eagerly awaiting the release of the Apple Watch. Why? Because Steve Jobs had a way of making stuff for me that I didn’t know I wanted. While I’ve owned an LG G Watch R for awhile now, the experience hasn’t been life changing (unlike using an iPhone was) and so I was looking for Apple to really “wow” me.

My friend Ben (who knows more about Apple products than anyone I know) thinks I’m more critical of Apple than the fiercest “fanboi” and he’s probably right, so I want to make sure to expressly state that I haven’t used an Apple Watch so anything I say about it needs to be taken in that context.

However, Matthew Inman, another person whose opinion I respect, recently did a comic on his experience with the Apple Watch, and his experience is very similar to mine with Android Wear. It’s interesting, it has potential, but it isn’t life changing … yet.

To me, my watch is like having a second screen on my phone. Remember when people first started getting dual monitors? It’s like that – it makes me more productive when using my phone but it is more of an extension than a feature in and of itself.

The main thing my watch gives me is a socially acceptable way to keep up with notifications. If I’m in a meeting, or at a meal, or in any other social situation where pulling out my phone and looking at it would be rude, I can glance at my watch and see if I need to address that text or e-mail.

The main difference between Wear devices and the Apple Watch is that the latter has a crown that spins and can be used scroll the display. Inman points out that he doesn’t use it, and so you are pretty safe choosing the smart watch you like that works best in your digital ecosystem.

The main thing I want from a watch is a stylish accessory that actually looks like a watch. Enter the LG Watch Urbane.

Urbane Watch Face

After my horrible experience with the OnePlus One phone, I was shopping for a replacement handset when I came across the Watch Urbane. I fell in love immediately.

I got the G Watch R because it looked like a watch and not a slab of glass. The Urbane takes that experience to a new level by adding a rose gold bezel and a nice leather strap. The display is amazing. The default watch faces are amazing. In short it is the perfect evolution for my favorite smart watch to date.

It’s a powerful watch with great battery life. While I tend to charge it overnight, I can get over two days of normal use out of it easily (I’ve had to test that when flying overseas).

Urbane Specifications

I bought it on Amazon, and it showed up protected in a rather easy to open plastic cover:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 1

The box was similar to other mechanical watches I have bought:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 2

and opening it immediately revealed the watch:

Urbane Unboxing Pic 3

The band was a little stiff at first, but after wearing it for a day or so it softened up a bit.

Urbane Unboxing Pic 4

It came with a number of accessories. Like the LG G Watch R it requires a charging cradle that is powered via a microUSB connector.

Urbane Unboxing Pic 5

The Urbane was one of the first watches to ship with the Andoird Wear 5.1.1 update that allows for such things as talking to the phone over Wi-Fi, but about a day after I got the watch the update was generally available for other devices, including my G Watch R.

Urbane vs. G Watch R

The Urbane is a little smaller, and while I liked the “tick” marks around the outside of the G Watch R, so many watch faces include them due to the popularity of the Moto 360 that I was happy to see them removed on the Urbane (having two sets of tick marks is a little cluttered).

While I still wear the G Watch R if I’m going to be active (i.e. sweating), the Urbane is my go-to wrist accessory. I am constantly getting compliments on it, and I think the biggest problem LG has is that no one has heard of it.

Perhaps this post will help.

by Tarus at June 25, 2015 05:35 PM

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Three

It’s hard to believe that this year’s Dev Jam is half over. It seems to take forever to get here and then it is over too soon.

Lots of cool stuff going on. David Schlenk has written a Java Message Service (JMS) northbounder interface. While targeted at Apache ActiveMQ, it should work with any JMS provider, and it is another great tool to have for the OpenNMS platform.

Christian did a cool little hack using a Blink(1) USB light. If you have a Blink(1) you can plug it into your laptop and then run a little Java app. The app will connect to your OpenNMS instance and then the color will change based on the severity of alarms. Cool.

Dev-Jam Key Blink(1)

I also participated in my first GPG key signing. Jeff organized it to increase our “web of trust” and once I got into it, it was kind of fun.

Dev-Jam Key Signing

He promised cake, and for once the cake wasn’t a lie:

Dev-Jam Key Signing Cake

The cake went well with dinner, which came from the always amazing Brasa:

Dev-Jam Key Brasa

Most of us ate out on the deck. This is the view looking out toward the Mississippi:

Dev-Jam View

While we have held Dev-Jam in locations other than UMN, it has become a lot harder to do so since we get treated so well here. While most attendees have been to previous Dev-Jam events, we always have a few new people, and many of them end up staying off campus in a nearby hotel. There is something about staying in a dorm room that bothers them – perhaps it was a bad experience in college.

So I thought it would be a public service to actually show the rooms we get at Yudof Hall.

Each person at Dev-Jam gets their own room. While these rooms tend to hold at least two students when classes are in session, during the summer they are singles. You get a sink and a little kitchen with a microwave, two burner stove and refrigerator.

Dev-Jam Dorm Kitchen

There is a single bed, desk, an armoire (closet) and a chest of drawers.

Dev-Jam Dorm Bed

You even get to control the temperature in the room. I like mine on the cool side and the air conditioning works quite well.

Each room shares a bathroom with a toilet and a shower with one other person from Dev-Jam. While these rooms might be a little close with two people, they are perfect for one. Plus they are incredibly convenient since the event is held in the downstairs Club Room.

So, if you ever decide to come to Dev-Jam, don’t hesitate to stay on campus.

by Tarus at June 25, 2015 03:47 PM

June 24, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

Linux on the Dell M3800

I am way behind on a number of tech reviews, but I’m hoping to catch up soon. Please bear with me.

Earlier in the year I had a disappointing experience with the new Dell XPS 13 and Linux. It was especially hard because I really loved that hardware – not since my first Powerbook have I felt such an attachment to a laptop. I was happy to learn later that there were kernel-level issues with the hardware that had to be addressed, so it wasn’t just my lack of ability in dealing with Linux.

While that story is not over, I did send it back and decided to check out Dell’s other Ubuntu offering, the powerful M3800.

I dutifully placed an order for the Ubuntu version of the laptop, and since it is much larger than the XPS 13 there were more options. I liked the fact that I could get an SSD as well as a standard HDD, so I chose the 256GB SSD option and a 1TB HDD. I travel a lot and thought it would be cool to carry more media with me while still having a fast primary drive.

The order process was pretty painless. Still not as streamlined as the Apple Store, but not too bad.

Then I waited.

My expected arrival date kept slipping. This went on for several weeks until I got an e-mail that, due to a misconfiguration, my order was canceled.


Considering that the website pretty much walks you through the ordering process and indicates any kind of impossible combination (such as a larger battery and an extra drive, since they can’t both occupy the same space) I was confused and a little torqued off.

After a few days to calm down, I decided to retry the process. It turns out that the “misconfiguration” was due to the extra drive, which was surprising. Order it with Windows? No problem. Check Ubuntu and it fails.


I did some investigation and was led to believe that the M3800 Ubuntu version ships with a vanilla 14.04 install. So I decided to pay the Microsoft tax and order the hardware I wanted, and then to base it and install Ubuntu.

This time the process was much smoother, and the laptop even arrived about a week earlier than they told me it would. It was a pleasant surprise.

The shipping box was a bit dinged up:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 1

But they did a good job of protecting the actual laptop box:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 2

There were actually two boxes, one holding the laptop and one holding accessories:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 3

All in all, it was a decent unboxing experience:

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Picture 4

The accessories included the power brick, a restore USB stick and a USB Ethernet adapter.

Dell M3800 Unboxing - Accesories

I liked having the Ethernet adapter since I’ve found installing Linux on a laptop works best when wired. While a lot of modern distros ship the proprietary wireless drivers needed, many times they aren’t enabled during install.

I got the HiDPI touchscreen option (3840×2160) and so I decided to install Linux Mint on it. I figured that if Ubuntu worked on it, I should be able to get Mint to work, and I prefer Cinnamon to Unity, plus Mint handles HiDPI screens much better than Ubuntu. Ubuntu has a scaling factor but it doesn’t really apply across the board, so you end up seeing things like clipped text under icons, etc., and sometimes the selection boxes can be very small. I believe Mint does what Apple does and just doubles everything (i.e. represents system graphics with four pixels instead of one).

This system is screamingly fast (I got the Quad Core 3.3GHz CPU and 16GB of RAM) and the display is solid, but as someone who uses desktops primarily, I wasn’t used to using such a large laptop (although it was quite thin).

Dell M3800 - Mint Login Screen

Mint worked pretty well, but there was a frustrating issue with the clickpad. Sometimes I was unable to select a piece of text on the first try. On a second (or sometimes third attempt) it worked fine, but I could never get the behavior to go away entirely. I have found hints on the Intertoobz that suggest it is a known issue with Cinnamon, so perhaps it will be addressed in 17.2.

My main issue with the unit, outside of the size, was the battery life. I could sit and watch the battery percentage drop, about one percent a minute. This was in light duty mode, such as writing e-mails and browsing the web. While 100 minutes of battery life isn’t terrible, it is less than half of what I am used to.

I took a guess that part of the problem could be in the weird hybrid video controller setup they use. There is both an NVidia card and an Intel card in the unit. I installed bumblebee and that seemed to help some, but it didn’t make the power issue go away.

[Note: as an aside, many thanks to Arch for having such amazing documentation]

Dell M3800 - Mint desktop

Overall, if I was looking for a laptop to replace my desktops, I would have tried to stick with it longer. But the size coupled with the battery issues made me send it back. I was still in love with the XPS 13 so I decided to just wait until they supported Linux on it.

by Tarus at June 24, 2015 04:38 PM

2015 Dev-Jam: Day Two

I should mention that so far the weather in Minnesota has been outstanding. Highs in the low 80s (mid-20s for those of you in the rest of the world) and low humidity.

Too bad I spend most of my time indoors.

When we did our first Dev-Jam back in 2005, we learned a lot. The main issue was that people have different schedules, so being able to come and go whenever was important. That also applies for things like meals. While we strive to be together as a group for dinner (which often involves catering or pizza), everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch. Since we want to cover all the expenses for the conference as part of the conference, we usually find some way to give people money to spend on food and sundries.

At UMN they have something called “Gopher Gold” which allows students to use their access card to buy things on campus. This works really well, but the problem is that if the funds are not used by the time the conference is over, they are gone. This usually resulted in a mad dash to the student store on the last day.

This year I got the idea of getting a custom pre-paid debit card. With the artistic talents of Jessica, we came up with Kiwi Kash:

Dev-Jam Kiwi Kash

So far it has worked out pretty well.

Day Two of Dev-Jam, for me, was spent working with a client. We don’t stop support during this week and I needed to get one of our customers up on Meridian. As it is a migration and not an upgrade, it took a little longer than usual, and we had to do some database optimization which took longer than I would have liked.

Everyone else, however, seemed to be having a lot of fun. Jesse did a presentation on some of the graphics work he’s been doing.

Dev-Jam Jesse Presentation

This includes the OpenNMS integration with Grafana as well as a new library written in Javascript to generate RRDtool-like graphs. This will help us get graphing into Compass as well as other things.

In the evening we all went to see the Minnesota Twins lose to the Chicago White Sox. The Twins are now 1-3 on OpenNMS Project night (sigh).

Dev-Jam Twins Sign

But everyone seemed to have a good time. I spent part of the evening trying to explain the game to the Europeans, and the stranger behind me pointed out I was doing it wrong, but still is was a great night to be outside with friends.

Dev-Jam Twins Gang

by Tarus at June 24, 2015 03:03 PM

June 23, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 Dev-Jam: Day One

Ah, it’s that most wonderful time of the year: Dev Jam. Once again we have gathered at Yudof Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.

Dev-Jam OpenNMS Sign

This year marks the tenth time we’ve gathered together to spend a week hacking on OpenNMS. The first one was held in 2005 at my house, and every year since then (with the exception of 2009) we’ve managed to have another one. I’m being sincere when I say that I look forward to this week almost more than any other.

Plus, I get to wear my “special” Dev-Jam T-shirt:

Kiwis come from T-rex

Our project’s mascot, Ulf, showed up at a Dev-Jam many years ago as a gift from Craig Miskell (who came from New Zealand). That he became our mascot wasn’t intentional, but then again it seems in open source all that is required is to create an environment conducive to great things and great things will happen. This year we have people from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK, all working to make OpenNMS even more awesome.

I wore that shirt as I kicked off this year’s conference. I also got to announce that Dustin Frisch and Jesse White have been inducted into the Order of the Green Polo. It is important to note that both Dustin and Jesse worked with us in the Google Summer of Code project and now are key members of our team. I also got to formally announce that Jesse is now the Chief Technical Officer of The OpenNMS Group. I then turned the meeting over to Seth Leger (our VP of Engineering) and Jesse as Dev-Jam is more about coding than me running my mouth. My main role is to serve as “Julie” the cruise director.

Dev-Jam gives us, as a community, a chance to work:

Dev-Jam work area

and a chance to share:

Dev-Jam Presentation

Here, Umberto talks about his work integrating OpenNMS with Elasticsearch and Kibana (code available on GitHub).

We also get to play. Here, MvR and Jessica are working on modeling Ulf in 3D:

Dev-Jam MvR and Jessica

and DJ and Mike Huot (my co-cruise director) play with a 3D printer:

Dev-Jam 3D Printer

The first day of Dev-Jam seemed to fly by this year. Now that light rail is available from UMN we can travel more easily about the city. In the evening, some of us went to Mall of America while I and others saw Mad Max: Fury Road (which I highly recommend).

Day Two? Minnesota Twins, baby.

by Tarus at June 23, 2015 02:10 PM

June 21, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

DevJam 2015

On 22nd June the 5th season of the year is going to start … OpenNMS DevJAM! We have one week with ~30 attendees from Europe and the United States at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to hack and learn with OpenNMS. The event is an unconference style and we gathered projects people want to investigate. We gathered the projects on the Wiki in DevJam 2015 page. If you are interested hit the opennms-devel list or go to real life IRC chat.

We have for the first time Umberto Nicoletti and Marcel Fuhrmann at the conference. Both are sponsored by the OpenNMS Foundation and the OpenNMS Group, the proposed projects around documentation and integration for ElasticSearch. For my point of view, I would like to make two workshops around our current documentation project and how we can improve the handling of configuration in OpenNMS.

I wish all a great time and happy DevJamming

by Ronny Trommer at June 21, 2015 08:45 PM

June 17, 2015

OpenNMS Foundation Europe

[Release] – OpenNMS 16.0.1

We are happy to announce the new stable release of OpenNMS 16 Horizon with codenamed Bananaman. There a most of bug fixes. The most noticeable ones are:

  • Dashboard node status shows wrong service count (Issue NMS-7459)
  • Web UI doesn’t start on system with no internet connection (Issue NMS-7683)
  • Example Drools rules imports incorrect classes (Issue NMS-7693)
  • Unable to create a user defined label on nodes after upgrade to 16.0.0 (Issue NMS-7704)
  • API documentation links are not up to date (Issue NMS-7708)

The full list of bugfixes and enhancements can be found in our Release Notes.

New documentation location

Big thank you to the build infrastructure rework, we have now a new place for the generated documentation and release notes and can be found in

Big thank you to all contributors and happy upgrading.

by Ronny Trommer at June 17, 2015 07:54 PM

June 16, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 SELF – Day Three

After a rather active night on Saturday, Day Three of SELF was more sedate. I took some time to take pictures.

As a sponsor we had a room named after us, which was cool:

SELF OpenNMS Classroom

The project booths/tables were set up in the hallway around the meeting rooms. There was a table staffed by Google:

Google at SELF

and I was able to get a “Google Cardboard” kit which I plan to review a bit later. The Ubuntu folks were there as well:

Ubuntu at SELF

and Spot was there representing Red Hat with his 3D printer. Mini-Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy seemed a popular choice.

Spot at SELF

Overall, while this conference wasn’t as heavily attended as, say, SCaLE, the average knowledge of the attendees was much higher and we had some great conversations. The people who stopped by the booth seemed genuinely interested in learning about OpenNMS versus gathering swag, although we managed to give most of the stuff we brought away.

OpenNMS Booth at SELF

Since we were monitoring the show network, we decided to leave when the number of associated devices dropped below 60, which turned out to be about an hour before the show was supposed to end. I always feel bad if I leave early, but we’ve been pretty slammed lately, so being able to get home a couple of hours early was nice, and now I have next year’s show to look forward to as well.

by Tarus at June 16, 2015 03:12 PM

June 14, 2015

Adventures in Open Source

2015 SELF – Day Two

Day Two of SELF was a bit of a whirlwind. While I love going to conferences, “booth duty” can sometimes be a bit tiring, but for some reason the time just seems to fly at this conference.

Speaking of booths, I got to stop by the Rackspace table. I have a soft spot for Rackspace since they were our first major customer at OpenNMS and if it weren’t for them we probably wouldn’t be here.

They have a reputation for hiring top-notch people, and at the show they have a little “break/fix” challenge. You are given ten minutes to complete eight tasks, and like Spinal Tap the score goes to eleven.

I was a little disappointed with my score of seven, but I can always claim I was distracted by a couple of people coming by to say “hi” while I was taking the test. Not that it would have made any real difference, but what is a day without at least one good rationalization.

I asked Jesse to give it a shot and he score a more respectable nine, and I didn’t hear of anyone getting it completely right, but it was fun to do.

Monitoring the SELF Network

Speaking of fun (well, if you are a network management geek) we set up some more data collection on the show network. We added graphs for the number of people connected to each SSID, as well as the max and average association time between devices and APs. It was cool to see a dip around lunch time as a number of people left to get food, and then it came back up as they returned.

I often talk about how important it is to not only be able to collect data about the network but also to understand why the data is what it is, and it was cool to be surrounded by other geeks who liked to look at the output from OpenNMS and to understand it.

SELF Cards Against Humanity

That evening there was a social gathering sponsored by Linode. I was able to hang out until a little after midnight and everyone seemed to be having a good time. There was the obligatory Cards Against Humanity game going on, and it was one of the largest I had seen. Not sure the game play works that well with so many people but those playing seemed to enjoy it.

by Tarus at June 14, 2015 12:57 PM