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Contributing to the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter

Super star Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter contributor Paul White recently was reflecting upon his work with the newsletter and noted that he was approaching 100 issues that he’s contributed to. Wow!

That caused me to look at how long I’ve been involved. Back in 2011 the newsletter when on a 6 month hiatus when the former editor had to step down due to obligations elsewhere. After much pleading for the return of the newsletter, I spent a few weeks working with Nathan Handler to improve the scripts used in the release process and doing an analysis of the value of each section of the newsletter in relation to how much work it took to produce each week. The result was a slightly leaner, but hopefully just as valuable newsletter, which now took about 30 minutes for an experienced editor to release rather than 2+ hours. This change was transformational for the team, allowing me to be involved for a whopping 205 consecutive issues.

If you’re not familiar with the newsletter, every week we work to collect news from around our community and the Internet to bring together a snapshot of that week in Ubuntu. It helps people stay up to date with the latest in the world of Ubuntu and the Newsletter archive offers a fascinating glimpse back through history.

But we always need help putting the newsletter together. We especially need people who can take some time out of their weekend to help us write article summaries.

Summary writers. Summary writers receive an email every Friday evening (or early Saturday) US time with a link to the collaborative news links document for the past week which lists all the articles that need 2-3 sentence summaries. These people are vitally important to the newsletter. The time commitment is limited and it is easy to get started with from the first weekend you volunteer. No need to be shy about your writing skills, we have style guidelines to help you on your way and all summaries are reviewed before publishing so it’s easy to improve as you go on.

Interested? Email editor.ubuntu.news@ubuntu.com and we’ll get you added to the list of folks who are emailed each week.

I love working on the newsletter. As I’ve had to reduce my commitment to some volunteer projects I’m working on, I’ve held on to the newsletter because of how valuable and enjoyable I find it. We’re a friendly team and I hope you can join us!

Still just interested in reading? You have several options:

And everyone is welcome to drop by #ubuntu-news on Freenode to chat with us or share links to news we may found valuable for the newsletter.

Weekends, street cars and red pandas

I’m home for the entire month of June! Looking back through my travel schedule, the last month I didn’t get on a plane was March of 2013. The travel-loving part of me is a little sad about breaking my streak, but given that it’s June and I’ve already given 8 presentations in 5 countries across 3 continents, I’m due for this break from travel. It’s not a break from work though, I’ve had to really hunker down on some projects I’m working on at work now that I have solid chunks of time to concentrate, and some serious due dates for my book are looming. I’ve also been tired, which prompted an extensive pile of blood work that had some troubling results that I’m now working with a specialist to get to the bottom of. I’m continuing to run and improve my diet by eating more fresh, green things which have traditionally helped bump my energy level because I’m treating my body better, but lately they both just make me more tired. And ultimately, tired means some evenings I spend more time watching True Blood and The Good Wife than I should with all these book deadlines creeping up. Don’t tell my editor ;)

I’m also getting lots of kitty snuggles as I remain at home, and lots of opportunities to take cute kitty pictures.

I continue to take Saturdays off, which continues to be my primary burnout protection mechanism. I’ve continued to evolve what this day off means. While originally inspired by the Jewish tradition of Shabbat, and we practice Shabbat rituals in our home (candles, challah, etc), and I continue to avoid work, the definition of work is in flux for me. Early on, I’d still check “personal” email and social media, until I discovered that there’s no such thing, with my open source volunteer work, open source day job and personal life so intertwined. There recently have also been some considerable stresses related to my volunteer open source work, which I want to have a break from on my day off. So currently I work hard to avoid checking email and social media, even though it’s still a struggle. It’s caused me to learn how much of a slave I’ve become to my phone. It beeps, I leap for it. Having a day off has caused me to create discipline around my relationship with my phone, so even on days when I’m working, I’m less inclined to prioritize phone beeps over the work I’m currently engaged in, leading to a greater ability to focus. Sorry to people who randomly text or direct message me on Twitter/Facebook expecting an immediate response, it will rarely happen.

So currently, my Saturdays often include either:

  • Attending Synagogue services with MJ and having a lunch out together
  • Going to some museum, movie or cultural event with MJ
  • Staying home and reading, writing, catching up with some online classes or working on hobby projects

I had played around with avoiding computers entirely on Saturdays, but on home days I realized I’d get bored too easily if I’m reading all day and some times I’m really not in the mood for my offline activities. When I get bored, I end up napping or watching TV instead, neither of which are rejuvenating or satisfying, and I end up just feeling sad about wasting the day. So my criteria has shifted to “not work” to including fun, enriching projects that I likely don’t have time or energy for on my other six “working” days. I have struggled with whether these hobbies should be on my to do list or not, since putting them on my list adds a level of structure that can lead to stress, but my coping habit for task organization makes leaving them off a challenging mental exercise. Writing here in my blog also requires a computer, and these days off give me ample time for ideas to settle and finally have some quite time to get my thoughts in order and write without distraction. Though I do have to admit that buying a vintage mechanical typewriter has crossed my mind more than a few times. Which reminds me, have any recommendations? Aside from divorce lawyers and a bigger home in the event that I drive MJ crazy. I also watch videos associated with various electronics projects and online classes I’m learning for fun (Arduinos! History and anthropology!), so a computer or tablet is regularly involved there.

It’s still not perfect. My stress levels have been high this year and we’ve booked a weekend at a beautiful inn and spa in Sonoma next weekend to unplug away from the random tasks that come from spending our weekends at home. I’m counting down the hours.

Last weekend was a lot of fun though, even if I was still stressed. On Saturday we went on a Blackpool Boat Tram Tour along the F-line. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to ride on this “topless” street car for years, but the charters always conflicted with my travel schedule, until last weekend! MJ and I booked tickets and at 1:30PM on Saturday we were on our way down Market Street.

As the title of the tour suggests, these unusually styled street cars come from Blackpool, England, a region known for their seaside activities, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach where they now have the first Wallace and Gromit theme park ride, Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic ride! Well, they also have a tramway where these cars came from, and California now has three of them – two functioning ones operated here in the city by MUNI and maintained by the Market Street Railway non-profit, which I’m a member of and conducted this charter.

We met at 1:15 to pick up our tickets, browse through the little SF Railyway Museum and capture some pre-travel photos of the boat tram.

Upon boarding, we took seats at the back of the street car. The tour was in two parts, half of it guided by a representative from Market Street Railway who gave some history of the transportation lines themselves as we glided up Market Street along the standard F-line until getting to Castro where a slightly different route was taken to turn back on to Market.

At the turn around near Castro, the guides swapped places and we got a representative from San Francisco City Guides who typically does walking tours of the city. As a local enthusiast he was able to give us details about the major landmarks along Market and up the Embarcadero as we made our way up to Pier 39. I knew most of what both guides told us, but there were a few bits of knowledge I was excited to learn. I was also reminded of the ~12 minute A Trip Down Market Street, 1906 that was taken just days before the earthquake in 1906 that destroyed many of the buildings seen in the video. Fascinating stuff.

At Pier 39 we had the opportunity to get out of the car and take some pictures around it, including the obligatory pictures of ourselves!

The trip lasted a couple hours, and with the open top of the car I managed to get a bit of sunburn on my face, oops!

More photos from the tram tour can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157654163687542

Sunday morning I took advantage of the de-stressing qualities of a visit to the zoo.

I finally got to see all three of the red pandas. It had been some time since I’d seen their exhibit, and last time only one of them was there. It was fun to see all three of them together, two of them climbing the trees (pictured below) and the third walking around the ground of the enclosure. I’m kind of jealous of their epic tree houses.

Also got to swing by the sea lions Henry and Silent Knight, with Henry playing king of the rock in the middle of their pool.

More photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157654194707041

In other miscellaneous life things, MJ and I made it out to see Mad Max: Fury Road recently. It’s been several months since I’d been to a theater, and probably over a year since MJ and I had gone to a movie together, so it was a nice change of pace. Plus, it was a fun, mind-numbing movie that took my mind off my ever-growing task list. MJ and I have also been able to spend several nice dinners together, including indulging in a Brazilian Steakhouse one evening and fondue another night. In spite of these things, with running, improved breakfast and lunch and mostly skipping desserts I’ve dropped 5lbs in the past month, which is not rapid weight loss but is being done in a way that’s sustainable without completely eliminating the things I love (including my craft beer hobby). Hooray!

I’ve cut back on events, sadly turning down invitations to local panels and presentations in favor of staying home and working on my book during my off-work hours. I did host an Ubuntu Hour this week though.

Next week I’m planning on popping over to a nearby Ubuntu/Juju Mine and Mingle. I’ll also be heading down to the south end of the east bay for an EBLUG meeting where they’ve graciously offered to host space, time and expertise for an evening of discussing work on some servers that Partimus is planning on deploying in some of the schools we work with. It will be great to meet up and chat with some of the volunteers who I’ve largely only worked on thus far online, and to block off some of my own time for the raw technical tasks that Partimus needs to be focusing on but I’ve been suffering from time constraints around.

I really am looking forward to that spa weekend, but for now I’m rounding out my relaxing Saturday and preparing for get-things-done Sunday!

Tourist in Vancouver

While in Vancouver for the OpenStack Summit, I made some time to visit some of the sights as well. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do as much as I’d like, when I arrived early on Sunday I was sick and had to take it easy, so missed the Women of OpenStack boat tour and happy hour. Then after a stunning week of sunny weather, the Saturday afternoon following the summit brought rain. But I did get out on Saturday to explore some anyway.

First thing on Saturday morning I laced up my running shoes and took advantage of the beautiful path around the waterfront to go for a run. Of all the places away from home I’ve run, there’s been a common theme: water. From Perth to Miami, and even here at home in San Francisco, there’s something about running along the water that defies exhaustion otherwise brought on by travel to inspire me to get out there. It was a great run, one of my longer ones in recent memory.

While on my run I got to see the sea planes one last time. The next time I visit Vancouver, taking one of them to Victoria will definitely be on my list, I knew I’d regret not taking time on Saturday to do it and I totally do! Vancouver isn’t that far away, I’ll have my chance some other time.

I then packed up and checked out of my hotel in time to meet a couple colleagues for lunch, and then I was off to Stanley Park to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. I’ve been to a lot of aquariums, and this one is definitely in my top 5. They had a Sea Monsters Revealed exhibit that I visited first, very similar to the Bodies exhibits that show the insides of people, these ones showed the inside of sea animals. Gross and cool.

Fish, frogs, jellyfish, but the big draw for me is always the marine mammals. I continue to have mixed feelings about keeping large animals like belugas in captivity, but they were amazing to see. While I got a glimpse of one of the dolphin from an underwater tank, the above ground section was closed due the other recovering from surgery, which I later learned was sadly unsuccessful and she passed away the next day. Then of course there were the sea otters, oh the adorable sea otters! I also got to see the penguins get some food from one of their caretakers, after which they were quite lively, waddling around their habitat and going for swims.

Great visit, highly recommended. The rest of Stanley Park was beautiful too, I should have taken more pictures!

More photos from the aquarium here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157651049343264

I then headed back down to Gastown, the historic district of Vancouver, for some shopping and browsing. I picked up some lovely first nation-made goodies as well as some maple coffee, which may be a tourist gimmick, but it is one of the few types of coffees I’ve grow accustom to drinking black and it’s tricky to find south of the border. Gastown is also where the really cool steam-powered clock lives. While not historic, it is very steam punk.

And with that, the skies opened up and it began raining. I had planned for this and wore my new raincoat supplied as the gift to OpenStack attendees (nice thinking in Vancouver!). It was good to break it in with some nice Vancouver rain, but I did get a bit soggy where I wasn’t covered by the raincoat while walking back to the hotel. I then enjoyed a drink with a colleague who was also escaping the rain and we enjoyed chatting and I wrote some post cards before heading to the airport.

Liberty OpenStack Summit days 3-5

Summiting continued! The final three days of the conference offered two days of OpenStack Design Summit discussions and working sessions on specific topics, and Friday was spent doing a contributors meetup so we could have face time with people we’re working with on projects.

Wednesday began with a team breakfast, where over 30 of us descended upon a breakfast restaurant and had a lively morning. Unfortunately it ran a bit long and made us a bit late for the beginning of summit stuff, but the next Infrastructure work session was fully attended! The session sought to take some next steps with our activity tracking mechanisms, none of which are currently part of the OpenStack Infrastructure. Currently there are several different types of stats being collected, from reviewstats which are hosted by a community member and focus specifically on reviews to those produced from Bitergia (here) that are somewhat generic but help compare OpenStack to other open source projects to Stackalytics which is crafted specifically for the OpenStack community. There seems to be value in hosting various metric types, mostly so comparisons can be made across platforms if they differ in any way. The consensus of the session was to first move forward with moving Stackalytics into our infrastructure, since so many projects find such value in it. Etherpad here: YVR-infra-activity-tracking


With this view from the work session room, it’s amazing we got anything done

Next up was QA: Testing Beyond the Gate. In OpenStack there is a test gate that all changes must pass in order for a change to be merged. In the past cycle periodic and post-merge tests have also been added, but it’s been found that if a code merging isn’t dependent upon these passing, not many people pay attention to these additional tests. The result of the session is a proposed dashboard for tracking these tests so that there’s an easier view into what they’re doing, whether they’re failing and so empower developers to fix them up. Tracking of third party testing in this, or a similar, tracker was also discussed as a proposal once the infra-run tests are being accounted for. Etherpad here: YVR-QA-testing-beyond-the-gate

The QA: DevStack Roadmap session covered some of the general cleanup that typically needs to be done in DevStack, but then also went into some of the broader action items, including improving the reliability of Centos tests run against it that are currently non-voting, pulling some things out of DevStack to support them as plugins as we move into a Big Tent world and work out how to move forward with Grenade. Etherpad here: YVR-QA-Devstack-Roadmap

I then attended QA: QA in the Big Tent. In the past cycle, OpenStack dropped the long process of being accepted into OpenStack as an official project and streamlined it so that competing technologies are now all in the mix, we’re calling it the Big Tent – as we’re now including everyone. This session focused on how to support the QA needs now that OpenStack is not just a slim core of a few projects. The general idea from a QA perspective is that they can continue to support the things-everyone-uses (nova, neutron, glance… an organically evolving list) and improve pluggable support for projects beyond that so they can help themselves to the QA tools at their disposal. Etherpad here: YVR-QA-in-the-big-tent

With sessions behind me, I boarded a bus for the Core Reviewer Party, hosted at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. As party venues go, this was a great one. The museum was open for us to explore, and they also offered tours. The main event took place outside, where they served design-your-own curry seafood dishes, bison, cheeses and salmon. Of course no OpenStack event would be complete with a few bars around serving various wines and beer. There was an adjacent small building where live music was playing and there was a lot of space to walk around, catch the sunset and enjoy some gardens. I spent much of my early evening with friends from Time Warner Cable, and rounded things off with several of my buddies from HP. This ended up being a get-back-after-midnight event for me, but it was totally worth it to spend such a great time with everyone.

Thursday morning kicked off with a series of fishbowl sessions where the Infrastructure team was discussing projects we have in the works. First up was Infrastructure: Zuul v3. Zuul is our pipeline-oriented project gating system, which currently works by facilitating the of running tests and automated tasks in response to Gerrit events. Right now it sends jobs off to Gearman for launching via Jenkins to our fleet of waiting nodes, but we’re really using Jenkins as a shim here, not really taking advantage of the built in features that Jenkins offers. We’re also in need of a system that better supports multi-tenancy and multi-node jobs and which can scale as OpenStack continues to grow, particularly with Big Tent. This session discussed the end game of phasing out Jenkins in favor of a more Zuul-driven workflow and more immediate changes that may be made to Nodepool and smaller projects like Zuul-merger to drive our vision. Etherpad here: YVR-infra-zuulv3

Everyone loves bug reporting and task tracking, right? In the next session, Infrastructure: Task tracking, that was our topic. We did an experiment with the creation of Storyboard as our homebrewed solution to bug and task tracking, but in spite of valiant efforts by the small team working on it, they were unable to gain more contributors and the job was simply too big for the size of the team doing the work. As a result, we’re now back to looking at solutions other than Canonical’s hosted Launchpad (which is currently used). The session went through some basic evaluation of a few tools, and at the end there was some consensus to work toward bringing up a more battle-hardened and Puppetized instance of Maniphest (from Phabricator) so that teams can see if it fits their needs. Etherpad here:YVR-infra-task-tracking

The morning continued with an Infrastructure: Infra-cloud session. The Infrastructure team has about 150 machines in a datacenter that have been donated to us by HP. The session focused on how we can put these to use as Nodepool instances by running OpenStack on our own and adding that “infra-cloud” to the providers in Nodepool. I’m particularly interested in this, given some of my history with getting TripleO into testing (so have deployed OpenStack many, many times!) and in general eager to learn even more about production OpenStack deployments. So it looks like I’ll be providing Infra-brains to Clint Byrum who is otherwise taking a lead here. To keep in sync with other things we host, we’ll be using Puppet to deploy OpenStack, so I’m thankful for the expertise of people like Colleen Murphy who just joined our team to help with that. Etherpad here: YVR-infra-cloud

Next up was the Infrastructure: Puppet testing session. It was great to have some of the OpenStack Puppet folks in the room so they could talk some about how they’re using beaker-rspec in our infra for testing the OpenStack modules themselves. Much of the discussion centered around whether we want to follow their lead, or do something else, leveraging our current system of node allocation to do our own module testing. We also have a much commented on spec up for proposal here. The result of the discussion was that it’s likely that we’ll just follow the lead of the OpenStack Puppet team. Etherpad here: kilo-infra-puppet-testing

That afternoon we had another Infrastructure: Work session where we focused on the refactor of portions of system-config OpenStack module puppet scripts, and some folks worked on getting the testing infrastructure that was talked about earlier. I took the opportunity to do some reviews of the related patches and help a new contributor do some review – she even submitted a patch that was merged the next morning! Etherpad for the work session here: YVR-infra-puppet-openstackci

The last session I attended that day was QA: Liberty Priorities. It wasn’t one I strictly needed to be in, but I hadn’t attended a session in room 306 yet, and it was the famous gosling room! The room had a glass wall that looked out onto a roof were a couple of geese had their babies and would routinely walk by and interrupt the session because everyone would stop, coo and take pictures of them. So I finally got to see the babies! The actual session collected the pile of to do list items generated at the summit, which I got roped into helping with, and prioritized them. Oh, and they gave me a task to help with. I just wanted to see the geese! Etherpad with the priorities is here: YVR-QA-Liberty-Priorities


Photo by Thierry Carrez (source)

Thursday night I ended up having dinner with the moderator of our women of OpenStack panel, Beth Cohen. We went down to Gastown to enjoy a dinner of oysters and seafood and had a wonderful time. It was great to swap tech (and women in tech) stories and chat about our work.

Friday! The OpenStack conference itself ended on Thursday, so it was just ATCs (Active Technical Contributors) attending for the final day of the Design Summit. So things were much quieter and the agenda was full of contributors meetups. I spent the day in the Infrastructure, QA and Release management contributors meetup. We had a long list of things to work on, but I focused on the election tooling, which I ended up following up with on list and then later had a chat with the author of the proposed tooling. My afternoon was spent working on the translations infrastructure with Steve Kowalik who works with me on OpenStack infra and Carlos Munoz of the Zanata team. We were able to work through the outstanding Zanata bugs and make some progress with how we’re going to tackle everything, it was a productive afternoon and always a pleasure to get together with the folks I work with online every day.

That evening, as we left the closing conference center, I met up with several colleagues for an amazing sushi dinner in downtown Vancouver. A perfect, low-key ending to an amazing event!

Liberty OpenStack Summit day 2

My second day of the OpenStack summit came early with he Women of OpenStack working breakfast at 7AM. It kicked off with a series of lightning talks that talked about impostor syndrome, growing as a technical leader (get yourself out there, ask questions) and suggestions from a tech start-up founder about being an entrepreneur. From there we broke up into groups to discuss what we’d like to see from the Women of OpenStack group in the next year. The big take-aways were around mentoring of new women joining our community and starting to get involved with all the OpenStack tooling and more generally giving voice to the women in our community.

Keynotes kicked off at 9AM with Mark Collier announcing the next OpenStack Summit venues: Austin for the spring 2016 summit and Barcelona for the fall 2016 summit. He then went into a series of chats and demos related to using containers, which may be the Next Big Thing in cloud computing. During the session we heard from a few companies who are already using OpenStack with containers (mostly Docker and Kubernetes) in production (video). The keynotes continued with one by Intel, where the speaker took time to talk about how valuable feedback from operators has been in the past year, and appreciation for the new diversity working group (video). The keynote from EBay/Paypal showed off the really amazing progress they’ve made with deploying OpenStack, with it now running on over 300k cores and pretty much powers Paypal at this point (video). Red Hat’s keynote focused on customer engagement as OpenStack matures (video). The keynotes wrapped up with one from NASA JPL, which mostly talked about the awesome Mars projects they’re working on and the massive data requirements therein (video).


OpenStack at EBay/Paypal

Following keynotes, Tuesday really kicked off the core OpenStack Design Summit sessions, where I focused on a series of Cross Project Workshops. First up was Moving our applications to Python 3. This session focused on the migration of Python 3 for functional and integration testing in OpenStack projects now that Oslo libraries are working in Python 3. The session mostly centered around strategy, how to incrementally move projects over and the requirements for the move (2.x dependencies, changes to Ubuntu required to effectively use Python 3.4 for gating, etc). Etherpad here: liberty-cross-project-python3. I then attended Functional Testing Show & Tell which was a great session where projects shared their stories about how they do functional (and some unit) testing in their projects. The Etherpad for this one is super valuable for seeing what everyone reports, it’s available here: liberty-functional-testing-show-tell.

My Design Summit sessions were broken up nicely with a lunch with my fellow panelists, and then the Standing Tall in the Room – Sponsored by the Women of OpenStack panel itself at 2PM (video). It was wonderful to finally meet my fellow panelists in person and the session itself was well-attended and we got a lot of positive feedback from it. I tackled a question about shyness with regard to giving presentations here at the OpenStack Summit, where I pointed at a webinar about submitting a proposal via the Women of OpenStack published in January. I also talked about difficulties related to the first time you write to the development mailing list, participate on IRC and submit code for review. I used an example of having to submit 28 patches for one of my early patches, and audience member Steve Martinelli helpfully tweeted about a 63 patch change. Diving in to all these things helps, as does supporting the ideas of and doing code review for others in your community. Of course my fellow panelists had great things to say too, watch the video!


Thanks to Lisa-Marie Namphy for the photo!

Panel selfie by Rainya Mosher

Following the panel, it was back to the Design Summit. The In-team scaling session was an interesting one with regard to metrics. We’ve learned that regardless of project size, socially within OpenStack it seems difficult for any projects to rise above 14 core reviewers, and keep enough common culture, focus and quality. The solutions presented during the session tended to be heavy on technology (changes to ACLs, splitting up the repo to trusted sub-groups). It’ll be interesting to see how the scaling actually pans out, as there seem to be many more social and leadership solutions to the problem of patches piling up and not having enough core folks to review them. There was also some discussion about the specs process, but the problems and solutions seem to heavily vary between teams, so it seemed unlikely that a unified solution to unprocessed specs would be universal, but it does seem like the process is often valuable for certain things. Etherpad here: liberty-cross-project-in-team-scaling.

My last session of the day was OpenStack release model(s). A time-based discussion required broader participation, so much of the discussion centered around the ability for projects to independently do intermediary releases outside of the release cycle and how that could be supported, but I think the jury is still out on a solution there. There was also talk about how to generally handle release tracking, as it’s difficult to predict what will land, so much so that people have stopped relying on the predictions and that bled into a discussion about release content reporting (release changelogs). In all, an interesting session with some good ideas about how to move forward, Etherpad here: liberty-cross-project-release-models.

I spent the evening with friends and colleagues at the HP+Scality hosted party at Rocky Mountaineer Station. BBQ, food trucks and getting to see non-Americans/non-Canadians try s’mores for the first time, all kinds of fun! Fortunately I managed to make it back to my hotel at a reasonable hour.

Liberty OpenStack Summit day 1

This week I’m at the OpenStack Summit. It’s the most wonderful, exhausting and valuable-to-my-job event I go to, and it happens twice a year. This time it’s being held in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC, and the conference venue is right on the water, so we get to enjoy astonishing views throughout the day.


OpenStack Summit: Clouds inside and outside!

Jonathan Bryce Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation kicked off the event with an introduction to the summit, success that OpenStack has built in the Process, Store and Move digital economy, and some announcements, among which was the success found with federated identity support in Keystone where Morgan Fainberg, PTL of Keystone, helped show off a demonstration. The first company keynote was presented by Digitalfilm Tree who did a really fun live demo of shooting video at the summit here in Vancouver, using their OpenStack-powered cloud so it was accessible in Los Angeles for editorial review and then retrieving and playing the resulting video. They shared that a recent show that was shot in Vancouver used this very process for the daily editing and that they had previously used courier services and staff-hopping-on-planes to do the physical moving of digital content because it was too much for their previous systems. Finally, Comcast employees rolled onto the stage on a couch to chat about how they’ve expanded their use of OpenStack since presenting at the summit in Portland, Oregon Video of the all of this available here.

Next up for keynotes was Walmart, who talked about how they moved to OpenStack and used it for all the load on their sites experienced over the 2014 holiday season and how OpenStack has met their needs, video here. Then came HP’s keynote, which really focused on the community and choices available aspect of OpenStack, where speaker Mark Interrante said “OpenStack should be simpler, you shouldn’t need a PhD to run it.” Bravo! He also pointed out that HP’s booth had a demonstration of OpenStack running on various hardware at the booth, an impressively inclusive step for a company that also sells hardware. Video for HP’s keynote here (I dig the Star Wars reference). Keynotes continued with one from TD Bank, which I became familiar with when they bought up the Commerce branches in the Philadelphia region, but have since learned are a major Canadian Bank (oooh, TD stands for Toronto Dominion!). The most fascinating thing about their moved to the cloud for me is how they’ve imposed a cloud-first policy across their infrastructure, where teams must have a really good reason and approval in order to do more traditional bare-metal, one off deployments for their applications, so it’s rare, video. Cybera was the next keynote and perhaps the most inspiring from a humanitarian standpoint. As one of the earliest OpenStack adopters, Cybera is a non-profit that seeks to improve access to the internet and valuable resources therein, which presented Robin Winsor stressed in his keynote was now as the physical infrastructure that was built in North America in the 19th and 20th centuries (railroads, highways, etc), video here. The final keynote was from Solidfire who discussed the importance of solid storage as a basis of a successful deployment, video here.

Following the keynotes, I headed over to the Virtual Networking in OpenStack: Neutron 101 (video) where Kyle Mestery and Mark McClain gave a great overview of how Neutron works with various diagrams showing of the agents and improvements made in Kilo with various new drivers and plugins. The video is well worth the watch.

A chunk of my day was then reserved for translations. My role here is as the Infrastructure team contact for the translations tooling, so it’s also been a crash course in learning about translations workflows since I only speak English. Each session, even unrelated to the actual infrastructure-focused tooling has been valuable to learning. In the first translation team working session the focus was translations glossaries, which are used to help give context/meaning to certain English words where the meaning can be unclear or otherwise needs to be defined in terms of the project. There was representation from the Documentation team, which was valuable as they maintain a docs-focused glossary (here) which is more maintained and has a bigger team than the proposed separate translations glossary would have. Interesting discussion, particularly as my knowledge of translations glossaries was limited. Etherpad here: Vancouver-I18n-WG-session.

I hosted the afternoon session on Building Translation Platform. We’re migrating the team to Zanata have been fortunate to have Carlos Munoz, one of the developers on Zanata, join us at every summit since Atlanta. They’ve been one of the most supportive upstreams I’ve ever worked with, prioritizing our bug reports and really working with us to make sure our adoption is a success. The session itself reviewed the progress of our migration and set some deadlines for having translators begin the testing/feedback cycle. We also talked about hosting a Horizon instance in infra, refreshed daily, so that translators can actually see where translations are most needed via the UI and can prioritize appropriately. Finally, it was a great opportunity to get feedback from translators about what they need from the new workflow and have Carlos there to answer questions and help prioritize bugs. Etherpad here: Vancouver-I18n-Translation-platform-session.

My last translations-related thing of the day was Here be dragons – Translating OpenStack (slides). This was a great talk by Łukasz Jernaś that began with some benefits of translations work and then went into best practices and tips for working with open source translations and OpenStack specifically. It was another valuable session for me as the tooling contact because it gave me insight into some of the pain points and how appropriate it would be to address these with tooling vs. social changes to translations workflows.

From there I went back to general talks, attending Building Clouds with OpenStack Puppet Modules by Emilien Macchi, Mike Dorman and Matt Fischer (video). The OpenStack Infrastructure team is looking at building our own infra-cloud (we have a session on it later this week) and the workflows and tips that this presentation gave would also be helpful to me in other work I’ve been focusing on.

The final session I wandered into was a series of Lightning Talks, put together by HP. They had a great lineup of speakers from various companies and organizations. My evening was then spent at an HP employee gathering, but given my energy level and planned attendance at the Women of OpenStack breakfast at 7AM the following morning I headed back to my hotel around 9PM.

Xubuntu sweatshirt, Wily, & Debian Jessie Release

People like shirts, stickers and goodies to show support of their favorite operation system, and though the Xubuntu project has been slower than our friends over at Kubuntu at offering them, we now have a decent line-up offered by companies we’re friendly with. Several months ago the Xubuntu team was contacted by Gabor Kum of HELLOTUX to see if we’d be interested in offering shirts through their site. We were indeed interested! So after he graciously sent our project lead a polo shirt to evaluate, we agreed to start offering his products on our site, alongside the others. See all products here.

Polos aren’t really my thing, so when the Xubuntu shirts went live I ordered the Xubuntu sweater. Now a language difference may be in play here, since I’d call it a sweatshirt with a zipper, or a light jacket, or a hoodie without a hood. But it’s a great shirt, I’ve been wearing it regularly since I got it in my often-chilly city of San Francisco. It fits wonderfully and the embroidery is top notch.

Xubuntu sweatshirt
Close-up of HELLOTUX Xubuntu embroidery

In other Ubuntu things, given my travel schedule Peter Ganthavorn has started hosting some of the San Francisco Ubuntu Hours. He hosted one last month that I wasn’t available for, and then another this week which I did attend. Wearing my trusty new Xubuntu sweatshirt, I also brought along my Wily Werewolf to his first Ubuntu Hour! I picked up this fluffy-yet-fearsome werewolf from Squishable.com, which is also where I found my Natty Narwhal.

When we wrapped up the Ubuntu Hour, we headed down the street to our favorite Chinese place for Linux meetings where I was hosting a Bay Area Debian Meeting and Jessie Release Party! I was pretty excited about doing this, since the Toy Story character Jessie is a popular one, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up some party supplies to mark the occasion, and ended up with a collection of party hats and notepads:

There were a total of 5 of us there, long time BAD member Michael Paoli being particularly generous with his support of my ridiculous hats:

We had a fun time, welcoming a couple of new folks to our meeting as well. A few more photos from the evening here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650542082473

Now I just need to actually upgrade my servers to Jessie!

OpenStack events, anniversary & organization, a museum and some computers & cats

I’ve been home for just over 3 weeks. I thought things would be quieter event-wise, but I have attended 2 OpenStack meetups since getting home, the first right after getting off the plane from South Carolina. My colleague and Keystone PTL Morgan Fainberg was giving a presentation on Keystone and I have the rare opportunity to finally meet a scholarship winner who I’ve been mentoring at work. It was great to meet up and see some of the folks who I only see at conference, including other colleagues from HP. Plus, Morgan’s presentation on Keystone was great and the audience had a lot of good questions. Video of the presentation here and slides are available here


With my Helion mentee!

This past week I went to the second meetup, this time over at Walmart Labs, just a quick walk from the Sunnyvale Caltrain station. For this meetup I was on a mainstage panel where discussions covered improvements to OpenStack in the Kilo release (including the continued rise of third party testing, which I was able to speak to), the new Big Tent approach to OpenStack project adoption and how baremetal is starting to change the OpenStack landscape. I was also able to meet some of the really smart people working at Walmart Labs, and learned that all of walmart.com is running on top of OpenStack (this article from March talks about it and they’ll be doing a session on it at the upcoming OpenStack Summit in Vancouver).


Panel at Walmart Labs

In other professional news, the work I did in Oman earlier this year continues to bear fruit. On April 20th issue #313 of the Sultan Qaboos University Horizon newsletter was published with my interview, (8M PDF here). They were kind enough to send me a few paper copies which I received on Friday. The interview touched upon key points that I spoke on during my presentation back in February, focusing on personal and business reasons for open source contributions.

Personally, MJ and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a fantastic meal at Murray Circle Restaurant where we sat on the porch and enjoyed our dinner with a nighttime view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We also recently agreed to start a diet together, largely going back to our pre-wedding diet that we both managed to lose a lot of weight on. Health-wise I continue to go out running, but running isn’t enough to help me to lose weight. I’m largely replacing starches with vegetables and reducing the sugar in my diet. Finally, we’ve been hacking our way through a massive joint to do list that’s been haunting us for several months now. Most of the tasks are home-based, from things like painting we need to get done to storage clean-outs. I don’t love that we have so much to do (don’t other adults get to have fun on weekends?), but finally having it organized and a plan for tackling it has reduced my stress incredibly.


2nd anniversary dinner

We do actually get to have fun on weekends, Saturday at least. We’ve continued to take Saturdays off together to attend services, have a nice lunch together and spend some time relaxing, whether that’s catching up on some shows together or visiting a local museum. Last weekend we had the opportunity of finally going to the Cable Car Museum here in San Francisco. Given my love for all things rail, it’s astonishing that I never made it up there before. The core of the museum is the above-ground, in-building housing for the four cables that run the three cable car lines, and then exhibits are built around it. It’s a fantastic little museum, and entrance is free.

I also picked up some beautifully 3d printed cable car earrings and matching necklace produced by Freeform Ind. I loved their stuff so much that I found their shop online and picked up some other local landmark jewelry.

More photos from our trip to the Cable Car Museum are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157652325687332

We’ve had some computer fun lately. MJ has finally ordered a replacement 1U server for the old one that he has co-located in Fremont. Burn-in testing happened this weekend but there are some more harddrive-related pieces that we’re still waiting on to get it finished up. We’re aiming for getting it installed at the datacenter in June. I also replaced the old Pentium 4 that I’ve been using as a monitoring server and backups machine. It was getting quite old and unusable as a second desktop, even when restricted to following social media accounts and watching videos here and there. It’s now been replaced with a refurbished HP DC6200 from 2011, which has an i3 processor and I bumped it up to 8G of RAM that I had laying around from when I maxed out my primary desktop with 16G. So far so good, I moved over the harddrive from the old machine and it’s been running great.


HP DC6200

In the time between work and other things, I’ve been watching The Good Wife on my own and Star Trek: Voyager with MJ. Also, hanging out with my darling kitties. One evening I got this epic picture of Caligula:

This week I’m hosting an Ubuntu Hour and Debian Dinner where we’re celebrate the release of Debian 8 “Jessie”. I’ve purchased Jessie (cowgirl from Toy Story 2 and 3) party hats to mark the occasion. At the break of dawn on Sunday I’ll be boarding a plane to go to the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver. I’ve never been to Vancouver, so I’m spending Sunday there and staying until late on the following Saturday night, so I hope to have time to see some of the city. After this trip, I’m staying home until July! Thank goodness, I can definitely use the down time to work on my book.

POSSCON 2015

This past week I had the pleasure of attending POSSCON in the beautiful capital city of South Carolina, Columbia. The great event kicked off with a social at Hickory Tavern, which I arranged to be at by tolerating a tight connection in Charlotte. It all worked out and in spite of generally being really shy at these kind of socials, I found some folks I knew and had a good time. Late in the evening several of us even had the opportunity to meet the Mayor of Columbia who had come down to the event and talk about our work and the importance of open source in the economy today. It’s really great to see that kind of support for open source in a city.

The next morning the conference actually kicked off. Organizer Todd Lewis opened the event and quickly handed things off to Lonnie Emard, the President of IT-oLogy. IT-oLogy is a non-profit that promotes initial and continued learning in technology through events targeting everyone from children in grade school to professionals who are seeking to extend their skill set, more on their About page. As a partner for POSSCON, they were a huge part of the event, even hosting the second day at their offices.

We then heard from aforementioned Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. A keynote from the city mayor was real treat, taking time out of what I’m sure is a busy schedule showed a clear commitment to building technology in Columbia. It was really inspiring to hear him talk about Columbia, with political support and work from IT-oLogy it sounds like an interesting place to be for building or growing a career in tech. There was then a welcome from Amy Love, the South Carolina Department of Commerce Innovation Director. Talk about local support! Go South Carolina!

The next keynote was from Andy Hunt, who was speaking on “A New Look at Openness” which began with a history of how we’ve progressed with development, from paying for licenses and compilers for proprietary development to the free and open source tool set and their respective licenses we work with today. He talked about how this all progresses into the Internet of Things, where we can now build physical objects and track everything from keys to pets. Today’s world for developers, he argued, is not about inventing but innovating, and he implored the audience to seek out this innovation by using the building blocks of open source as a foundation. In the idea space he proposed 5 steps for innovative thinking:

  1. Gather raw material
  2. Work it
  3. Forget the whole thing
  4. Eureka/My that’s peculiar
  5. Refine and develop
  6. profit!

Directly following the keynote I gave my talk on Tools for Open Source Systems Administration in the Operations/Back End track. It had the themes of many of my previous talks on how the OpenStack Infrastructure team does systems administration in an open source way, but I refocused this talk to be directly about the tools we use to accomplish this as a geographically distributed team across several different companies. The talk went well and I had a great audience, huge thanks to everyone who came out for it, it was a real pleasure to talk with folks throughout the rest of the conference who had questions about specific parts of how we collaborate. Slides from my presentation are here (pdf).

The next talk in the Operations/Back End track was Converged Infrastructure with Sanoid by Jim Salter. With SANOID, he was seeking to bring enterprise-level predictability, minimal downtime and rapid recover to small-to-medium-sized businesses. Using commodity components, from hardware through software, he’s built a system that virtualizes all services and runs on ZFS for Linux to take hourly (by default) snapshots of running systems. When something goes wrong, from a bad upgrade to a LAN infected with a virus, he has the ability to quickly roll users back to the latest snapshot. It also has a system for easily creating on and off-site backups and uses Nagios for monitoring, which is how I learned about aNag, a Nagios client for Android, I’ll have to check it out! I had the opportunity to spend more time with Jim as the conference went on, which included swinging by his booth for a SANOID demo. Slides from his presentation are here.

For lunch they served BBQ. I don’t really care for typical red BBQ sauce, so when I saw a yellow sauce option at the buffet I covered my chicken in that instead. I had discovered South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce. Amazing stuff. Changed my life. I want more.

After lunch I went to see a talk by Isaac Christofferson on Assembling an Open Source Toolchain to Manage Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud Deployments. With a focus on automation, standardization and repeatability, he walked us through his usage of Packer, Vagrant and Ansible to interface with a variety of different clouds and VMs. I’m also apparently the last systems administrator alive who hadn’t heard of devopsbookmarks.com, but he shared the link and it’s a great site.

The rooms for the talks were spread around a very walkable area in downtown Columbia. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this and worried it would be a problem, but with speakers staying on schedule we were afforded a full 15 minutes between talks to switch tracks. The venue I spoke it was in a Hilton, and the next talk I went to was in a bar! It made for quite the enjoyable short walks outside between talks and a diversity in venues that was a lot of fun.

That next talk I went to was Open Source and the Internet of Things presented by Erica Stanley. I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Erica back in October during All Things Open (see here for a great panel recap) so it was really great running into her at this conference as well. Her talk was a deluge of information about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how we can all be makers for it! She went into detail about the technology and ideas behind all kinds of devices, and on slides 41 and 42 she gave a quick tour of hardware and software tools that can be used to build for the IoT. She also went through some of the philosophy, guidelines and challenges for IoT development. Slides from her talk are online here, the wealth of knowledge packed into that slidedeck are definitely worth spending some time with if you’re interested in the topic.

The last pre-keynote talk I went to was by Tarus Balog with a Guide to the Open Source Desktop. A self-confessed former Apple fanboy, he had quite the sense of humor about his past where “everything was white and had an apple on it” and his move to using only open source software. As someone who has been using Linux and friends for almost a decade and a half, I wasn’t at this talk to learn about the tools available, but instead see how a long time Mac user could actually make the transition. It’s also interesting to me as a member of the Ubuntu and Xubuntu projects to see how newcomers view entrance into the world of Linux and how they evaluate and select tools. He walked the audience through the process he used to select a distro and desktop environment and then all the applications: mail, calendar, office suite and more. Of particular interest he showed a preference for Banshee (reminded him of old iTunes), as well as digiKam for managing photos. Accounting-wise he is still tied to Quickbooks, but either runs it under wine or over VNC from a Mac.

The day wound down with a keynote from Jason Hibbets. He wrote The foundation for an open source city and is a Project Manager for opensource.com. His keynote was all about stories, and why it’s important to tell our open source stories. I’ve really been impressed with the development of opensource.com over the past year (disclaimer: I’ve written for them too), they’ve managed to find hundreds of inspirational and beneficial stories of open source adoption from around the world. In this talk he highlighted a few of these, including the work of my friend Charlie Reisinger at Penn Manor and Stu Keroff with students in the Asian Penguins computer club (check out a video from them here). How exciting! The evening wrapped up with an afterparty (I enjoyed a nice Palmetto Amber Ale) and a great speakers and sponsors dinner, huge thanks to the conference staff for putting on such a great event and making us feel so welcome.

The second day of the conference took place across the street from the South Carolina State House at the IT-oLogoy office. The day consisted of workshops, so the sessions were much longer and more involved. But the day also kicked off with a keynote by Bradley Kuhn, who gave a basic level talk on Free Software Licensing: Software Freedom Licensing: What You Must Know. He did a great job offering a balanced view of the licenses available and the importance of selecting one appropriate to your project and team from the beginning.

After the keynote I headed upstairs to learn about OpenNMS from Tarus Balog. I love monitoring, but as a systems administrator and not a network administrator, I’ve mostly been using service-based monitoring tooling and hadn’t really looking into OpenNMS. The workshop was an excellent tour of the basics of the project, including a short history and their current work. He walked us through the basic installation and setup, and some of the configuration changes needed for SNMP and XML-based changes made to various other parts of the infrastructure. He also talked about static and auto-discovery mechanisms for a network, how events and alarms work and details about setting up the notification system effectively. He wrapped up by showing off some interesting graphs and other visualizations that they’re working to bring into the system for individuals in your organization who prefer to see the data presented in less technical format.

The afternoon workshop I attended was put on by Jim Salter and went over Backing up Android using Open Source technologies. This workshop focused on backing up content and not the Android OS itself, but happily for me, that’s what I wanted to back up, as I run stock Android from Google otherwise (easy to install again from a generic source as needed). Now, Google will happily backup all your data, but what if you want to back it up locally and store it on your own system? By using rsync backup for Android, Jim demonstrated how to configure your phone to send backups to Linux, Windows and Mac using ssh+rsync. For Linux at least so far this is a fully open source solution, which I quite like and have started using it at home. The next component makes it automatic, which is where we get into a proprietary bit of software, Llama – Location Profiles. Based on various types of criteria (battery level, location, time, and lots more), Llama allows you to identify criteria of when it runs certain actions, like automatically running rsync to do backups. In all, it was a great and informative workshop and I’m happy to finally have a useful solution to pulling photos and things off my phone periodically without plugging it in and using MTP, which apparently I hate and so never I do it. Slides from Jim’s talk, which also include specific instructions and tools for Windows and Mac are online here.

The conference concluded with Todd Lewis sending more thanks all around. By this time in the day rain was coming down in buckets and there were no taxis to be seen, so I grabbed a ride from Aaron Crosman who I was happy to learn earlier was a local but had come from Philadelphia and we had great Philly tech and city vs. country tech stories to swap.

More of my photos from the event available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157651981993941/

Spring Trip to Philadelphia and New Jersey

I didn’t think I’d be getting on a plane at all in March, but plans shifted and we scheduled a trip to Philadelphia and New Jersey that left my beloved San Francisco on Sunday March 29th and returned us home on Monday, April 6th.

Our mission: Deal with our east coast storage. Without getting into the boring and personal details, we had to shut down a storage unit that MJ has had for years and go through some other existing storage to clear out donatable goods and finally catalog what we have so we have a better idea what to bring back to California with us. This required movers, almost an entire day devoted to donations and several days of sorting and repacking. It’s not all done, but we made pretty major progress, and did close out that old unit, so I’m calling the trip a success.

Perhaps what kept me sane through it all was the fact that MJ has piles of really old hardware, which is a delight to share on social media. Geeks from all around got to gush over goodies like the 32-bit SPARC lunchboxes (and commiserate with me as I tried to close them).


Notoriously difficult to close, but it was done!

Now admittedly, I do have some stuff in storage too, including my SPARC Ultra 10 that I wrote about here, back in 2007. I wanted to bring it home on this trip, but I wasn’t willing to put it in checked baggage and the case is a bit too big to put in my carry-on. Perhaps next trip I’ll figure out some way to ship it.


SPARC Ultra 10

More gems were collected in my album from the trip: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157651488307179/

We also got to visit friends and family and enjoy some of our favorite foods we can’t find here in California, including east coast sweet & sour chicken, hoagies and chicken cheese steaks.

Family visits began on Monday afternoon as we picked up the plastic storage totes we were using to replace boxes, many of which were hard to go through in their various states of squishedness and age. MJ had them delivered to his sister in Pennsylvania and they were immensely helpful when we did the move on Tuesday. We also got to visit with MJ’s father and mother, and on Saturday met up with his cousins in New Jersey to have my first family Seder for Passover! Previously I’d gone to ones at our synagogue, but this was the first time I’d done one in someone’s home, and it meant a lot to be invited and to participate. Plus, the Passover diet restrictions did nothing to stem the exceptional dessert spread, there was so much delicious food.

We were fortunate to be in town for the first Wednesday of the month, since that allowed us to attend the Philadelphia area Linux Users Group meeting in downtown Philadelphia. I got to see several of my Philadelphia friends at the meeting, and brought along a box of books from Pearson to give away (including several copies of mine), which went over very well with the crowd gathered to hear from Anthony Martin, Keith Perry, and Joe Rosato about ways to get started with Linux, and freed up space in my closet here at home. It was a great night.


Presentation at PLUG

Friend visits included a fantastic dinner with our friend Danita and a quick visit to see Mike and Jessica, who had just welcomed little David into the world, awww!


Staying in New Jersey meant we could find Passover-friendly meals!

Sunday wrapped up with a late night at storage, finalizing some of our sorting and packing up the extra suitcases we brought along. We managed to get a couple hours of sleep at the hotel before our flight home at 6AM on Monday morning.

In all, it was a productive trip, but exhausting and I spent this past week making up for sleep debt and the aches and pains. Still, it felt good to get the work done and visit with friends we’ve missed.