I wondered about the name “Las Vegas.” I am a California resident who dabbles in Duo Lingo. “Las Vegas” means “The Meadow,” named by a Spaniard who enjoyed stopping over at this grassy meadow in the desert. A meadow fed by natural springs. Later, the Americans would come and build pumps, draining the springs, and leaving the city to sink several feet into the desert sand: vegas no más. Other minds beheld this sunken place near the Hoover Dam, nodded at the lack of prohibitions on gambling, and began building casinos. The casinos begat a nice airport. Other minds contemplated diversification: cheap power, cheap land and easy logistics are all good for the datacenter business. The party will last as long as the Colorado River flows. It is a visit to the dimmed lights of the datacenter that brought me.
When America allows itself to take all its worst instincts and run with them, we get Las Vegas. The City feels like any suburb in America: a series of large shopping malls in the middle of town sealed in to their own reality, surrounded by humbler strip malls where the locals satisfy their day-to-day commercial needs. All generously connected by a grid of six lane roads and choked highways. The area leading to the Buy N Large datacenter is rocky desert strewn with trash. A developing country missing its stray dogs.
It was from the driver of the rental car shuttle bus that I gleaned a potential use for Las Vegas. As we rode from the Airport Terminal to the Car Rental complex across the street, he took to the mic to entertain and inform. The weather was in the fifties that day, but in a few days the forecast called for ninety. He then explained that the airport had recently been renamed from “McCarran” to “Harry Reid” and fortunately most of the signs have been changed, but for the first year a lot of folks had been confused. Our driver then informed us of a list of national parks and how many hours of driving they were from Las Vegas: Bryce, Zion, Death Valley, and the North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Ah, I thought: as an air hub, Las Vegas could be a good spot to fly to with the family to rent a car and explore. Coastal Northern California is surpringly far from The West. Perhaps I would be back.
An early morning line at the airport Starbucks, where I’m pretty sure I won’t be served.
The morning was long. I had been up at 5:30 to shower, drive, park, and catch my flight. I had hoped for a pastry and coffee at the airport Starbucks, but the line was long and moved at zombie speed. I stood patiently for a few minutes until the airport loud speaker announced that my plane was now boarding, and I had the length of the terminal to cross. On the plane, the pilot announced that due to the unusual presence of Weather in California, the flight could be choppy, so no “service” would be attempted, for safety. At Harry Reid’s rental car terminal, there was a big Starbucks in the middle, but I had an orientation to get to at the Buy N Large datacenter, and at that point I had achieved my “cruising altitude” for the morning and didn’t need anything. I made my way to the cars and picked the Blue One. When asked to choose a rental car, I try to go for the most unusual color, in hopes of remembering which car I was driving.
Driving rental cars is its own pleasure for me, because at any given point in my life I am probably driving an older car. Behold, the crisp video feed from the backup camera! How does the cruise control work? Lane keeping! That’s neat. Where do I put my phone for easy navigation. Once I discover that I can pair my phone to the car’s video screen I am in a good place. At some point I ask myself whether I might want to be the kind of person who always drives a newer car. And I explain to myself that sounds nice but what is even better than that is to be the kind of person who doesn’t spend enough time driving for car quality to be important.
The Buy N Large datacenter has several entries in the Maps App. Because I had shipped some hardware last month, I recognized the street name of the one I needed to get to. I met my colleague and an armed security guard gave us the orientation, and guided us through our navigation of the sectors. Buy N Large is the largest data center I have ever worked in. It is one of those monuments which people in my line of work are likely to visit at some point in our careers. I recalled an old colleague who gave up living in Oakland, because The Company was content to have him work remote near the datacenter. He was content to rent a Large House to share with his cats, and drive out into the desert some nights to look up at the stars. Las Vegas was a home base from which he could visit The Universe.
Between orientation and getting work done I needed to eat. I asked The App for Brunch and settled on a place called “Mr Mamas.” A diner in a strip mall. Clean and efficient and delicous, with American portions. I had French Toast and eggs and a lot of coffee and was in a great mood for an afternoon of Moving Cables Around. At one point, I realized I would need More Cables which can be a problem because after all, Fry’s Electronics is no more. But the app suggested that Kiesub Electronics was on the way to Grainger. I hopped in the Blue Car and found The Cables that I needed at Kiesub. I had wanted to buy Extra but they had exactly Enough for my purposes. I got to chatting with the guy and he noted that while Fry’s had come and gone, Kiesub had stood for fifty years. We chatted some more. He inquired about me and I enumerated my blessings, and noted that for me, everything was pretty great. For Now. I’ll always remember the Lean Years after 2001. The guy had been married some decades and explained that while Marriage is Work, it really helps if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Amen.
Back at Buy N Large, I got the cables moved around and around 5:30pm, I called it A Day. I checked in at the hotel and asked for advice regarding dinner. The clerk kindly explained her favorite options which I duly checked out but I just wasn’t Feeling It. I wanted to sit at The Bar, somewhere quiet. I resorted to asking The App for Irish Pubs. After all, that is our comfort in Sunnyvale, which is the name we settled on when the Post Office told us we couldn’t call our town Murphy. The first on the list was in Mandalay Bay, which is a massive golden cube. I drove up to it, and pulled into a driveway. I passed a line of taxis wondering what the parking situation would be. I was deposited back out onto another six lane street. I asked The App again, and scrolled West into the Sprawl. I found my way to an Irish Pub in a Strip Mall. The parking lot was full, but a local vouched that the No Parking Tow Zone filled with parked cars was a place he parked Every Week. For tonight was Trivia Night.
I sat at the bar and the menu bragged that the Fish and Chips were the best in the US in 2019. I had travelled to an inland desert and I ordered The Fish and it was tasty. As suggested, I filled out the trivia cards. Brian the Owner stood near and we chatted. I told him about Buy N Large and he recounted a friend who was gifted in the ways of computers who had a confidence that he could talk himself out of anything, who had met a violent end from a neighbor who had mental problems. It was Halloween, and another Body in the yard had initially been mistaken by the kids as a decoration.
Come morning, I surveyed the Hotel Breakfast. Eager guests fed themselves off styrofoam plates, as is The Custom at American Hotel Breakfast Buffets. I allowed myself to recoil and to drive back over to Mr Mamas to enjoy the same damn meal I had enjoyed the day before. It did not disappoint. I dropped by Buy N Large to check on my colleague. My work done, I dropped in at a local coffee shop, which was okay. Back to Buy N Large, to bring my colleague to the Rental Car Return and on to the airport, where we parted ways, to our different airlines serving different sectors of the Bay Area.
I had a few hours to kill. I walked the length of the terminal, studying my options for sustenance and souveniers. I eventually settled on a $4 Nathan’s hot dog and discovered another Irish Bar next to my gate. A guy left a Blue Moon at the counter, which the barkeep acknowledged would be an insult in Ireland. I took this neglected pint under my care, which I nursed alongside my own Goose Island IPA. Another Illinoisan from Naperville who had matriculated from the same High School as the girl I had once dated from Naperville asked the Irish Bartender what he thought of the mixed drink known as an “Irish Car Bomb.” The bartender named a woman who he had known who got blown up in the early eighties. “It wasn’t intended for her, but her boyfriend, an English soldier.” If an Irish Pub promoted “Car Bombs” you could tell it was run by Americans. Conversation passed well through a third beer.
“Nevada” means “snow” and this year the “Sierra Nevada” lives up to its name.
The flight home was pleasant. I was served a Coke and a snack and had time for the buzz to recede so that I could drive home safely from the Long Term Parking, and help my sweetheart put our boys to bed.
I remember asking Adina about the Green Caltrain blog. Had blogs died, or is that still a way to reach people? Times have changed, she acknowledged, but a lot of people subscribed to the blog via email, and that made it, to this day, a very good way for news to reach people. One “obsolete” technology relied on an older, and even more “obsolete” technology. Video leans upon the radio star.
I put “obsolete” in quotes because while blogs had their day and receded some, people still use them. And email is still great at being email. Some of us are even daring to believe in distributed communication platforms again, thanks to Elon’s ongoing effort to drive Twitter into a wall.
When I was in college, I initially avoided Computer Science, mainly because it felt like Microsoft was eating the technology world, and that wasn’t a platform that gave me joy. But then I discovered Unix, and the ideals of an Internet built by different folks along open standards. Linux and FreeBSD and the ideal that software should be as free (to inspect and modify) as possible. In the early days, most web sites, like this one, were just people writing up HTML markup by hand, later with tools. Blogs came along: get access to a server and run some software, and you can publish your own thoughts for the world to see. And people would subscribe in Google Reader.
Then the Internet took a dark turn. All the content got hoovered into The Walled Garden. I can understand. The Internet is complicated, and Facebook serves some compelling, predictable, fast content. Why leave the restaurant when a visit to McDonald’s is sure to engage you in petty squabbles punctuated with pictures of cats and grandkids?
Twitter is dying. It will shuffle along in a zombie state, perhaps indefinitely. For me, the walled gardens are just so much ping pong distraction candy. Put the engagement machine down, quiet the mind, and let the inner Creation flow.
I’ve signed up for Mastodon. I get more “engagement” than I did on Twitter, and then I get bored and put it away. The concept is Social Media built on Open Standards. Blogs with open standards, shrunk to a Twittery microblog essence. It is nice to be trying a New Thing, especially when that New Thing isn’t built to contain us all in some weird psychology experiment where we are the product.
We bought our home in Northern California in 2012, which was great timing because that was about the last time after the mortgage crisis that we could reasonably afford a home, at a mere $605,000. At that time, the home had a floor/wall furnace from 1949 that had a hole that made it a carbon monoxide risk. We upgraded to central heating shortly after. Guys came out and ran ducts all over the attic and hooked them all up to an efficient gas furnace with an air filter. Topped it all off with a shiny Nest thermostat. It gets chilly out here on winter nights, and it used to be only a few days in the summer that anyone needed air conditioning, at which point you go to the office during the week or to the mall on the weekend.
In 2016 I added an air conditioner to the system. The local contractors seemed not quite comfortable with heat pumps, and the furnace was new, and we only run the air conditioner, well, now maybe a total of a few weeks each summer. A major construction project across the street involved asbestos mitigation, and we were having a baby, so the ability to shut the windows on bad days had some appeal. (I later gifted our old box unit AC to another expectant couple who had concerns with construction dust.)
Most of the time, we enjoy having windows open, day and night. Most of the time, our climate is blessedly mild—most of the time. The past few years have had a lot more smoke from all the fires in California. 2020 had an apocalyptic vibe when the plague was joined by a daytime sky turned orange. Shut the windows, run the AC, praise the air filter in the HVAC. For the Pandemic, I also set the air to circulate 15 minutes every hour during off-peak energy hours. (We’re on a Time-of-Use plan.) The idea is that if we had COVID-19 in our air, we would filter some of it out and help improve our odds.
This year has been less awful. The winds have been mostly blowing the fire smoke from the hellscape experienced elsewhere in the West, away from the Bay Area. As a result, AQI has stayed mostly under 200. But as I had gotten back in the habit of checking purpleair.com to figure out if the windows need shut, I got curious to better understand the air quality inside our house, so I ponied up $200 for an indoor monitor. It has a bright LED that changes color based on what it measures, and the boys think that’s a pretty great night light.
My first revelation was that indoor AQI was spiking overnight, starting around midnight. Since I first installed it near the dishwasher, I figured that was the culprit. After a week of A/B testing, I had ruled out the dishwasher and figured out when the wife goes to bed, she likes to run a humidifier, and the water droplets in the air can look like pollution to a laser. Mystery solved!
The other thing I noticed while keeping an eye on purpleair.com to see if it was time to shut the windows is that our indoor AQI would tend to have a lower (better) score than outdoor sensors nearby. That’s good news. Zooming in, I could see a jaggy pattern where the AQI would drop when the furnace fan circulated our air through the MERV 16 filter in the attic, then it would spike back up. The upshot is that we could have open windows most of the time and cleaner air inside the house, but how to run the fan on an efficient schedule?
Well, it is tied to a thermostat … I could implement an “AQI-o-stat” with a Python script that scrapes the AQI reading and tells the Nest to run the fan. The script took about 3 hours to write. 10 minutes to scrape purpleair.com, 2.5 hours to figure out Google/Nest’s authentication API, and 20 minutes to figure out how to set the Nest fan. The authentication part took only 2.5 hours because Wouter Nieworth posted a bunch of helpful screenshots on his blog.
I implemented the “AQI-o-stat” on the afternoon of Sep 3, at which point CatHouse A now keeps AQI around 60 or below, while the neighboring Zinnias outdoor sensor reads in the low hundreds.
There was some tweaking, but I now have a Python script running out of cron that checks the indoor AQI, and if it is above 50, it triggers the timer on the fan. I started polling at 15-minute intervals but found 5-minute intervals made for a steadier outcome. The result is that we can leave the windows open, and the indoor air quality hovers around 60. One less thing to worry about. (There are plenty of things to worry about.) I have been thinking that, in the “New Normal” (which really means there is no “normal” because the climate systems have been thrown into turbulence) that having an air sensor as an input to your smart thermostat will probably just become a standard feature.
Warren is bursting with what we might call â€œcharismaâ€ in male candidates: She has the folksy demeanor of Joe Biden, the ferocious conviction of Bernie Sanders, the deep intelligence of fellow law professor Barack Obama. But Warren is not a man, and so those traits are framed as liabilities, rather than strengths.
Itâ€™s significant that the â€œI hate you; please respondâ€ line of political sabotage only ever seems to be aimed at women. Itâ€™s also revealing that, when all these men talked about how Warren could win them over, their â€œcampaignâ€ advice sounded suspiciously close to makeover tips. In his article, Payne advised Warren to â€œlose the granny glasses,â€ â€œsoften the hair,â€ and employ a professional voice coach to â€œdeepen her voice, which grates on some.â€
Warren really is an intellectual, a scholar; moreover, she really is running an exceptionally ideas-focused campaign, regularly turning out detailed and exhaustive policy proposals at a point when most of the other candidates donâ€™t even have policy sections on their websites. Whatâ€™s galling is the suggestion that this is a bad thing.
The â€œschoolmarmâ€ stereotype now applied to Warren has always been used to demean educated women. In the Victorian era, we called them â€œbluestockingsâ€â€Šâ€”â€Šunmarried, unattractive women who had dared to prioritize intellectual development over finding a man. Educators say that 21st-century girls are still afraid to talk in class because of â€œsexist bullyingâ€ which sends the message that smart girls are unfeminine. Female academics still report being made to feel â€œunsexual, unattractive, unwomanly, and unnatural.â€ We can deplore all this as antiquated thinking, but even now, grown men are still demanding that Warren ditch her glasses or â€œsoftenâ€ her hairâ€Šâ€”â€Što work on being prettier so as to make her intelligence less threatening.
Warren is accused, in plain language, of being uppityâ€Šâ€”â€Ša woman who has the bad grace to be smarter than the men around her, without downplaying it to assuage their egos. But running in a presidential race is all about proving that you are smarter than the other guy. By demanding that Warren disguise her exceptional talents, we are asking her to lose. Thankfully, sheâ€™s not listening. She is a smart woman, after all.
On average, cars left 10 inches (29 cm) less room when cyclists were using painted cycle lanes, 12 inches (30cm) less room when there were rows of parked cars along the curbs, and 15.7 inches (40cm) less room when a road had both parked cars along the curb, then a painted cycle lane. (In other words, cars left cyclists the most room on stretches of road with no painted cycle lanes and no parked cars.)
“We know that vehicles driving closely to cyclists increases how unsafe people feel when riding bikes and acts as a strong barrier to increasing cycling participation. Our results demonstrate that a single stripe of white paint does not provide a safe space for people who ride bikes,” said Dr. Ben Beck, lead author of the study.
Over time, my husband and I started to suspect that Samâ€™s musings on doxxing and other dark arts might not be theoretical. One weekend morning as we were folding laundry in our room, Sam sat on the edge of our bed and instructed us on how to behave if the FBI ever appeared at our door.
Mr. Smart Phone sized me up â€” an elderly, decently-tailored gentleman with a walking cane â€” and thought I would immediately be on his side. He walked towards me and started to complain about how the gray-haired man and his hippie van were parked overnight on the street.
â€œOkay,â€ I said, â€œbut why are you surveilling him?â€ It was a loaded question for Mr. Smart Phone. He knew â€œsurveillanceâ€ was still not totally cool in San Francisco. As he was continuing towards me, his jaw hardened and his eyes grew cold. He said nothing. So I asked him another question, even though I knew it would be even more provocative. Like I said â€” Iâ€™m an idiot. We live in times when even the most everyday altercations can turn deadly. But I couldnâ€™t keep my mouth shut.
â€œIâ€™m curious â€” Iâ€™ve lived in this neighborhood for a long time and I donâ€™t recognize you,â€ I said. â€œHow long have YOU lived here?â€ Since he was applying residency standards to the man in the hippie van, I thought it was a legitimate question. But Mr. Smart Phone didnâ€™t. â€œFuck you!â€ he exploded, just a few feet from my face. Here I was trying to calm things down and they were quickly spiraling out of control.
Just then a neighbor whom Iâ€™ll call Maria, whose fluffy little dog often plays with Brando, came to the rescue. â€œWhy are you bothering people with your phone?â€ she bravely asked the menacing man. â€œWe donâ€™t like that sort of thing in our neighborhood.â€ And with that show of neighborhood solidarity â€” that clear expression that Mr. Smart Phone was violating our more tolerant community standards â€” he sheepishly backed down and walked away.
The hippie van-owner then hurried over to Maria and me and thanked us profusely for our intervention. â€œThis gives me hope about our city,â€ he said. â€œYou canâ€™t treat people the way this dude was treating me â€” like I donâ€™t belong here â€” like I donâ€™t have a right to exist. Iâ€™ve lived in San Francisco for 35 years. I was a social worker, but I lost my home. Iâ€™m only going to park here for a couple more days, then Iâ€™m leaving the city.â€
The spate of milkshake attacks in the United Kingdom follow on from the story of Australia’s “Egg Boy,” a swoopy-haired teenager who cracked an egg on the back of far-right lawmaker Fraser Anning’s head at a news conference in March. Following the attack, Egg Boy was punched in the face by the senator, as security officials scrambled to control the situation.
Last month, political eggings continued in Australia. Prime Minister Scoo Morrison was hit on the head with an egg – although on this occasion it failed to crack.
In Britain, it is believed that milkshakes have become the preferred weapon of choice as attackers sipping shakes appear far more inconspicuous than bystanders clutching eggs.
The trackball was invented 11 years before the mouse, in 1952. It was invented by Tom Cranston and Fred Longstaff as part of a computerized battlefield information system called DATAR, initiated by the Canadian Navy. It used a standard five-pin bowling ball as its trackball, which is smaller than the more common 10-pin bowling ball.
“And then there is the ever annoying parking in the cycle lane.”
AT LAST! A bit of Dutch infrastructure that sucks in a way that an American can relate to!
I love watching these vehicles but it also makes me frustrated that the most cutting edge American bicycle infrastructure is already obsolete in the Netherlands. :)
In late 2014, Lieutenant Graves said he was back at base in Virginia Beach when he encountered a squadron mate just back from a mission â€œwith a look of shock on his face.â€
He said he was stunned to hear the pilotâ€™s words. â€œI almost hit one of those things,â€ the pilot told Lieutenant Graves.
The pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. It looked to the pilot, Lieutenant Graves said, like a sphere encasing a cube.
The near miss, he and other pilots interviewed said, angered the squadron, and convinced them that the objects were not part of a classified drone program. Government officials would know fighter pilots were training in the area, they reasoned, and would not send drones to get in the way.
â€œWe have helicopters that can hover,â€ Lieutenant Graves said. â€œWe have aircraft that can fly at 30,000 feet and right at the surface.â€ But â€œcombine all that in one vehicle of some type with no jet engine, no exhaust plume.â€
Lieutenant Accoin said only that â€œweâ€™re here to do a job, with excellence, not make up myths.â€
I am a successful IT professional. I got my start in the 90s, answering phones at an independent ISP and getting folks online with their new modems. This was a great age when folks had a choice of any number of Internet SERVICE Providers who could help them get up and running on AT&T’s local telephone infrastructure.
To this very day, I use the DSL option available from the local Internet Service Provider (Sonic) over AT&T’s wires. I use this despite the fiber optic cable AT&T has hung on the pole in front of my house. Fiber would be so, so much faster, but I’m not going to pay for it until I have a CHOICE of providers, like Sonic, who has always been great about answering the phone and taking care of my Internet SERVICE needs.
Competitive services were the foundation of my career in IT. I believe they were a strong foundation to get Americans online in the first place. Competitive services are, in my opinion, REQUIRED, if you want to get Americans on to modern network technology today.
The scooter proponent answered that since the scooters are a handy way to save car trips, San Francisco can continue its efforts to convert car lanes to bike lanes, where the scooters could safely scoot apart from pedestrians. That sounds great to me. The helmets, though … as I pulled up to the office, I emailed in a brief opinion. I then hung back from going into the office for a couple of minutes to catch the very end of the show. I’m glad I did. Michael Krazny closed with this:
We’ll leave it there! Well, except for one more comment about helmets that I want to read here, from Daniel, who says: “We should revisit the helmet requirement. Helmet use is a cultural convention. For example, they don’t wear helmets in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, which makes bicycling even easier in those places. It is safer to wear a helmet when riding in a car, yet we wouldn’t expect anyone to wear a helmet as a requirement to ride in a car.”
I think it would be nice to see these scooters in Peninsula suburbs, where we tend to lack good “last mile” transit options, and where there are fewer pedestrians to upset. Rental electric scooters sound like a better option than rental bikes in a lot of cases because they’re cheap to deploy, require less knowledge to ride, and require less storage space. And I suspect that the helmet requirement is probably unworkable.
Yesterday we tried out Slack’s new thread feature, and were left scratching our heads over the utility of that. Someone mused that Slack might be running out of features to implement, and I recalled Zawinski’s Law:
Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.
Eric Raymond comments that while this law goes against the minimalist philosophy of Unix (a set of “small, sharp tools”), it actually addresses the real need of end users to keep together tools for interrelated tasks, even though for a coder implementation of these tools are clearly independent jobs.
Sometimes you’re busy banging out the code, and someone starts rattling on about how if you use multi-threaded COM apartments, your app will be 34% sparklier, and itâ€™s not even that hard, because heâ€™s written a bunch of templates, and all you have to do is multiply-inherit from 17 of his templates, each taking an average of 4 arguments … your eyes are swimming.
And the duct-tape programmer is not afraid to say, “multiple inheritance sucks. Stop it. Just stop.”
You see, everybody else is too afraid of looking stupid … they sheepishly go along with whatever faddish programming craziness has come down from the architecture astronauts who speak at conferences and write books and articles and are so much smarter than us that they donâ€™t realize that the stuff that theyâ€™re promoting is too hard for us.
“At the end of the day, ship the fucking thing! Itâ€™s great to rewrite your code and make it cleaner and by the third time itâ€™ll actually be pretty. But thatâ€™s not the pointâ€”youâ€™re not here to write code; youâ€™re here to ship products.”
To the extent that he puts me up on a pedestal for merely being practical, that’s a pretty sad indictment of the state of the industry.
In a lot of the commentary surrounding his article elsewhere, I saw all the usual chestnuts being trotted out by people misunderstanding the context of our discussions: A) the incredible time pressure we were under and B) that it was 1994. People always want to get in fights over the specifics like “what’s wrong with templates?” without realizing the historical context. Guess what, you young punks, templates didn’t work in 1994.
Via Steve Vance, Mapzen has a new tool, Mobility Explorer, which can generate isochrones for walking, biking, driving, and transit. I have previously used tools provided by Walk Score, but Mapzen seems more accurate, and the transit shed can be calculated based on a time-of-day.
Here is how far you can get on public transit from Sunnyvale at noon on a Wednesday in 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes.
The colors on the web site color scheme are not that great. On Steve’s blog you can see he’s generated his own map via an API call.
I’ve been a SysAdmin for … since the last millennium. Long enough to see certain fads come and go and come again. There was a time when folks got keen on the advantages of chroot jails, but that time faded, then resurged in the form of containers! All the rage!
My own bias is that bare metal systems and VMs are what I am used to: a Unix SysAdmin knows how to manage systems! The advantages and desire for more contained environments seems to better suit certain types of programmers, and I suspect that the desire for chroot-jail-virtualenv-containers may be a reflection of programming trends.
On the one hand, you’ve got say C and Java … write, compile, deploy. You can statically link C code and put your Java all in a big jar, and then to run it on a server you’ll need say a particular kernel version, or a particular version of Java, and some light scaffolding to configure, start/stop and log. You can just write up a little README and hand that stuff off to the Ops team and they’ll figure out the mysterious stuff like chmod and the production database password. (And the load balancer config..eek!)
On the other hand, if you’re hacking away in an interpreted language: say Python or R, you’ve got a growing wad of dependencies, and eventually you’ll get to a point where you need the older version of one dependency and a bleeding-edge version of another and keeping track of those dependencies and convincing the OS to furnish them all for you … what comes in handy is if you can just wad up a giant tarball of all your stuff and run it in a little “isolated” environment. You don’t really want to get Ops involved because they may laugh at you or run in terror … instead you can just shove the whole thing in a container, run that thing in the cloud, and now without even ever having to understand esoteric stuff like chmod you are now DevOps!
(Woah: Job Security!!)
From my perspective, containers start as a way to deploy software. Nowadays there’s a bunch of scaffolding for containers to be a way to deploy and manage a service stack. I haven’t dealt with either case, and my incumbent philosophy tends to be “well, we already have these other tools” …
Container Architecture is basically just Legos mixed with Minecraft (CC: Wikipedia)
Anyway, as a Service Provider (… I know “DevOps” is meant to get away from that ugly idea that Ops is a service provider …) I figure if containers help us ship the code, we’ll get us some containers, and if we want orchestration capabilities … well, we have what we have now and we can look at bringing up other new stuff if it will serve us better.
ASIDE: One thing that has put me off containers thus far is not so much that they’re reinventing the wheel, so much that I went to a DevOps conference a few years back and it seemed every single talk was about how we have been delivered from the evil sinful ways of physical computers and VMs and the tyranny of package managers and chmod and load balancers and we have found the Good News that we can build this stuff all over in a new image and it will be called Docker or Mesos or Kubernetes but careful the API changed in the last version but have you heard we have a thing called etcd which is a special thing to manage your config files because nobody has ever figured out an effective way to … honestly I don’t know for etcd one way or another: it was just the glazed, fervent stare in the eyes of the guy who was explaining to me the virtues of etcd …
It turns out it is not just me who is a curmudgeonly contrarian: a lot of people are freaked out by the True Believers. But that needn’t keep us from deploying useful tools, and my colleague reports that Kubernetes for containers seems awfully similar to the Ganeti we are already running for VMs, so let us bootstrap some infrastructure and provide some potentially useful services to the development team, shall we?
I recently started using sslmate to manage SSL certificates. SSL is one of those complicated things you deal with rarely so it has historically been a pain in the neck.
But sslmate makes it all easy … you install the sslmate command and can generate, sign, and install certificates from the command-line. You then have to check your email when getting a signed cert to verify … and you’re good.
The certificates auto-renew annually, assuming you click the email. I did this for an important cert yesterday. Another thing you do (sslmate walks you through all these details) is set up a cron.
This morning at 6:25am the cron got run on our servers … with minimal intervention (I had to click a confirmation link on an email yesterday) our web servers are now running on renewed certs …. one less pain in the neck.
So … next time you have to deal with SSL I would say “go to sslmate.com and follow the instructions and you’ll be in a happy place.”
I have misplaced my coffee mug. I’m glad to hear Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is out. “Codenamed ‘Xenial Xerus'” because computer people don’t already come off as a bunch of space cadets. Anyway, an under-caffeinated curmudgeon’s take:
The Linux kernel has been updated to the 4.4.6 longterm maintenance
release, with the addition of ZFS-on-Linux, a combination of a volume
manager and filesystem which enables efficient snapshots, copy-on-write
cloning, continuous integrity checking against data corruption, automatic
filesystem repair, and data compression.
Ah, ZFS! The last word in filesystems! How very exciting that after a mere decade we have stable support for it on Linux.
There’s a mention of the desktop: updates to LibreOffice and “stability improvements to Unity.” I’m not going to take that bait. No sir.
Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS includes the Mitaka release of OpenStack, along
with the new 2.0 versions of Juju, LXD, and MAAS to save devops teams
time and headache when deploying distributed applications – whether on
private clouds, public clouds, or on developer laptops.
I honestly don’t know what these do, but my hunch is that they have their own overhead of time and headache. Fortunately, I have semi-automated network install of servers, Ganeti to manage VMs, and Ansible to automate admin stuff, so I can sit on the sidelines for now and hope that by the time I need it, Openstack is mature enough that I can reap its advantages with minimal investment.
Aside: My position on containers is the same position I have on Openstack, though I’m wondering if the containers thing may blow over before full maturity. Every few years some folks get excited about the possibility of reinventing their incumbent systems management paradigms with jails, burn a bunch of time blowing their own minds, then get frustrated with the limitations and go back to the old ways. We’ll see.
Anyway, Ubuntu keeps delivering:
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS introduces a new application format, the ‘snap’, which
can be installed alongside traditional deb packages. These two packaging
formats live quite comfortably next to one another and enable Ubuntu to
maintain its existing processes for development and updates.
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES OH snap OH MY LERD YES IF THERE IS ONE THING WE DESPERATELY NEED IT IS YET ANOTHER WAY TO MANAGE PACKAGES I AM TOTALLY SURE THESE TWO PACKAGING FORMATS WILL LIVE QUITE COMFORTABLY TOGETHER next to the CPANs and the CRANs and the PIPs and the … don’t even ask how the R packages work …
Further research reveals that they’ve replaced Python 2 with Python 3. No mention of that in the email announcement. I’m totally sure this will not yield any weird problems.
In my mind, what is most unfortunate about that setup, is they did not get to experience Dial Up Networking via a modem. I think they would have been truly blown away. Alas, the Internet contains wonders, like this guy getting a 50 year old modem to work:
What could be more amazing than that?Â How about this guy, with a 50 year old modem and a teletype, browsing the first web site via the first web browser, by means of a punch tape bookmark?
The other day I figured to browse Best Buy. I spied a 15″ Toshiba laptop, the kind that can pivot the screen 180 degrees into a tablet. With a full sized keyboard. And a 4k screen. And 12GB of RAM. For $1,000. The catch? A non-SSD 1TB hard drive and stock graphics. And … Windows 10.
But it appealed to me because I’ve been thinking I want a computer I can use on the couch. My home workstation is very nice, a desktop with a 4k screen, but it is very much a workstation. Especially because of the 4k screen it is poorly suited to sitting back and browsing … so, I went home, thought on it over dinner, then drove back to the store and bought a toy. (Oh boy! Oh boy!!)
Every few years I flirt with Microsoft stuff — trying to prove that despite the fact I’m a Unix guy I still have an open mind. I almost usually throw up my hands in exasperation after a few weeks. The only time I ever sort of appreciated Microsoft was around the Windows XP days, it was a pretty decent OS managing folders full of pictures. A lot nicer than OS X, anyway.
This time, out of the gate, Windows 10 was a dog. The non-SSD hard drive slowed things down a great deal. Once I got up and running though, it isn’t bad. It took a little getting used to the sluggishness — a combination of my adapting to the trackpad mouse thing and I swear that under load the Windows UI is less responsive than what I’m used to. The 4k stuff works reasonably well … a lot of apps are just transparently pixel-doubled, which isn’t always pretty but it beats squinting. I can flip the thing around into a landscape tablet — which is kind of nice, though, given its size, a bit awkward — for reading. I can tap the screen or pinch around to zoom text. The UI, so far, is back to the good old Windows-and-Icons stuff old-timers like me are used to.
Mind you, I haven’t tried anything as nutty as setting up OpenVPN to auto-launch on user login. Trying to make that happen for one of my users at work on Windows 8 left me twitchy for weeks afterward.
Anyway, a little bit of time will tell .. I have until January 15 to make a return. The use case is web browsing, maybe some gaming, and sorting photos which are synced via Dropbox. This will likely do the trick. As a little bonus, McAfee anti-virus is paid for for the first year!
I did try Ubuntu, though. Despite UEFI and all the secure boot crud, Ubuntu 15.10 managed the install like it was nothing, re-sizing the hard drive and all. No driver issues … touchscreen even worked. Nice! Normally, I hate Unity, but it is okay for a casual computing environment. Unlike Windows 10, though, I can’t three-finger-swipe-up to show all the windows. Windows+W will do that but really … and I couldn’t figure out how to get “middle mouse button” working on the track pad. For me, probably 70% of why I like Unix as an interface is the ease of copy-paste.
But things got really dark when I tried to try KDE and XFCE. Installing either kubuntu-desktop or xubuntu-desktop actually made the computer unusable. The first had a weird package conflict that caused X to just not display at all. I had to boot into safe mode and manually remove the kubuntu dependencies. The XFCE was slightly less traumatic: it just broke all the window managers in weird ways until I again figured out how to manually remove the dependencies.
It is just as easy to pull up a Terminal on Windows 10 or Ubuntu … you hit Start and type “term” but Windows 10 doesn’t come with an SSH client, which is all I really ask. From what I can tell, my old friend PuTTY is still the State of the Art. It is like the 1990s never died.
Ah, and out of the gate, Windows 10 allows you multiple desktops. Looks similar to Mac. I haven’t really played with it but it is a heartening sign.
And the Toshiba is nice. If I return it I think I’ll look for something with a matte screen and maybe actual buttons around the track pad so that if I do Unix it up, I can middle-click. Oh, and maybe an SSD and nicer graphics … but you can always upgrade the hard drive after the fact. I prefer matte screens, and being a touch screen means this thing hoovers up fingerprints faster than you can say chamois.
Maybe I’ll try FreeBSD on the Linux partition. See how a very old friend fares on this new toy. :)
I attended a presentation about Kubernetes yesterday. Kubernetes is an orchestration tool for containers that sounds like a skin condition, but I try to keep an open mind. “Watch how fast I can re-allocate and scale my compute resources!” Well, I can do that more slowly but conveniently enough with my VM and config management tools . . .
There was an undercurrent there that Kubernetes is the Great New Religion that Will Unify All the Things. I used to embrace ideas like that, then I got really turned off by thinking like that, and now I know enough to see through the True Beliefs. I could deploy Kubernetes as an offering of my IT “Service Catalog” as a complimentary option versus the bare metal, hadoopclusters, VM, and otherservices I have to offer. It is not a Winner Take All play, but an option that could improve productivity for some of our application deployment needs.
At the end of the day, as an IT Guy, I need to be a good aggregator, offering my users a range of solutions and helping them adopt more useful tools for their needs. My metrics for success are whether or not my solutions work for my users, whether they further the mission of my enterprise, and whether they are cost-effective, in terms of time and money.