Thursday, October 1, 2015

Strata Sessions and Events


The choices of session at Stata Hadoop (NYC) this year were plentiful. I was not surprised by the number of talks around getting value out of data (analysis) but I was also happy with the number of talks that fall in my admin category or otherwise discuss how the services work. I would have preferred a few more categorized with security tag. The developer talks on the newly announced projects - RecordService and Kudu specifically - should have been in much bigger rooms. People had to be turned away.

Lack of food options for those with allergies

The Strata Hadoop conference sponsors provide food through the venue for lunch and expo socials. There was a distinct lack of allergen labels on food and limited choices. For a registration that asked about food allergies or preferences, there was not much choice for gluten free,kosher, or vegan. There were some vegetarian options.

The morning keynote area had some fruit (apples, oranges, bananas) with the supplied coffee. Other breaks that I saw did not have anything I could eat - lots of pastries in the morning and some rich and sugary treats in the afternoon. The evening Booth Crawl event was as expected with mostly beer and wine but the food was also not at all allergy friendly. Mostly I saw pasta, cheese plates, and Mexican style chips and dip. I did find a bag a chips to eat and I saw a hotdog stand (but didn't risk it). I also found a corner with some mixed drinks.

The first lunch had some options but not well marked, I had to find a supervisor and ask what I could eat and that was pretty limited. OSCON did a much better job in Portland by providing a separate serving area in addition to clear labeling of gluten free and vegan options (I'm still waiting for dairy free labeling to reach similar frequency). Lunch on the second day was a complete disappointment. It was soup and sandwiches and even the salad had croutons. No gluten free options at all. What is the point of asking people if they want GF at registration if the information is just ignored anyway?

Off site events

I did not make it to Data Dash.  It was a rain or shine event and it was raining but more importantly it was dark. I really am solar powered - early morning and late night events are most often slept through.  There was also the issue of timing. To make it to the event and back to the hotel for a shower, I would not have made it to the keynotes.  I am glad I attended that set of keynotes.

Data after Dark - High Line Hop was a combination of an off-site evening party and a pub crawl.  At other conferences I have attended these two events are separate with the pub crawl following the evening event. That means the pup crawls usually start well after my body gives up and send me "home" to sleep. Since it was a main event, each sponsors provided some combination of drinks, food,and swag. Also at each event was a wristband - collect enough to turn in at the main conference the next day for a hoodie. Initially I was told, get all 7 but later I saw a sign that said get 5 of the 7. I actually popped into all the venues. I am sure it would have been more fun if I was here with a crowd of people I already knew - or if I had any of that type of social skills at all. Still, after a nice walk to the area along the High Line, it was an opportunity to see the inside of some popular NYC hostpots:

The three bars at The Park are interconnected. I entered the Red Room first and found it to be kinda dark. . There are also several small changes in levels so that means step down in the dark.  Seems like a bad combo for bar.  Of these three, it was also the most crowded with everyone hanging right around the bar area at the entrance. After winding through Red Room, The Garden is open and light. This feels like a really nice place to hang out on nice evening. There was also some food provided but it was more pasta so not for me. Finally, there is a steep metal stairs up to The Penthouse which is back into a darker venue, though not as dark as the Red Room. There were some fancy looking deserts provided here.

After exiting The Park venues, I headed next door to Avenue. This venue has a couple of floors. I did not go upstairs but was told there was a second bar up there in addition to some seating. It was very loud and I scrammed fast.

Originally I was going to pop into the 4 that were together, then stop by the Cloudera sponsored venue and head out.  I'm glad I decided to keep exploring. I made a quick walk through Gaslight. I think this would be cool if I could eat pizza. I stayed a while at Catch NYC. This venue was sponsored by Bloomberg and was the "classy" venue. It was also the least populated while I was there. The had some food out but it all appeared to have dairy. We were upstairs and could watch the kitchen at work. I saw a few plates headed downstairs. I think it might be a place that could cater to my needs for a sit down meal.  The music here was also a bit loud but I sat and watched the world go by for a bit.

Finally, I headed to Tao. Very crowded, very loud, very bar scene.I wandered through and then tried to squeeze back out. Another group came in, saw the crowd,and turned around breaking a path back out for all of us.  I suggested they try Catch if they wanted a bit more room.

Overall, I logged many steps and my legs were very tired.


Back in the Big Apple

I made sure my NYC trip this month had a bit of extra time for exploring. I wanted to look for some "small space" bedroom furniture ideas for a specific project. I really need to get motivated to look for some new clothes and I need to find a new backpack that I like. It is Fall, so still warm enough to wander outside and window shop, look for free concerts, and generally people watch.

Day 1 ended with mixed feelings. I did get a doughnut at BabyCakes - now just known as Erin McKenna's Bakery. As I remember, everything is too sweet but that did not stop me! I walked it off though strolling along Spring Street across town. I didn't find the type of shops I was looking for but it was a nice, if hot, walk.

I also got checked into the conference. Glancing around I saw more business casual than Tshirts. Even more than a RH Summit event. Not sure what I am getting myself into here - I must be getting too used to "geek casual".

The 7 subway line is being expanded. The stop near the convention center is brand new. At first glance it is very different from other NYC subways. It has an open, covered, entrance way that is clearly marked. It is modern and deep with multiple escalators. It reminds me more of DC stations. Not to be disappointed, at the bottom of the long escalator, there is still a final level change to the platform - and that transition is all stairs, even if there are many more stairways, each of which are more even and open than the old NYC stations.

At the moment there is only one entrance at street level and 8 escalators - 2 up, 2 down in each of 2 "tunnels" beyond the fare turnstiles. All of this is at one end of the platform. The construction areas at street level show another entrance being built a block away that I am guessing is at the other end of the platform. That new entrance will give slightly better access to the convention center as well by being both a bit closer and with one less major road to cross.  I do not know if there will be any direct access to the convention center. It would be but I am not sure how possible it is.

The Whole Foods  was busy all week, as usual. The one on 23rd street, near the hotel I stay at, has no seating. In the evenings, the crowds and chaos is disturbing. With a conference instead of a class, I was able to experience the mid-week, mid-morning quiet and also the 10pm ease of checkout. The lack of seating is what sent me to Columbus Circle for my late afternoon meal. Since I opted for hydrating fluids with my salad, I ate out in the modern main eating area. Maybe sometime I'll eat back in the pub. They did have a cider on tap.

I had started to learn of several places to eat in NYC, even with the Gluten Free diet  Then I had to give up dairy. My online searches for suggestions come up pretty slim to begin with and then it turns out most of those posts are over 5 years old and half the restaurants are now closed. There are several bakery type locations but I really do not need the calories. And there are some vegan options but dairy free does not have to be vegan. You would think I could find a kosher deli that can make a good sandwich with either no bread or with GF bread. The search will continue, meanwhile I keep falling back to the safety of labeled items at the Whole Foods.

One place on the list and still in existence is Friedman's with several locations. I had a B.L.A.T. at Chelsea Market one evening. It was a very good sandwich though over priced. I know this is NYC but still, the markup fro GF free bread substitution is one of the higher ones I have seen.  The market is a nice place too.


Strata Keynotes

I am attending my first #StrataHadoop Conference in NYC.

The Wed morning keynotes were well done. Lots of speakers, many sponsors, but each was short and about Data in general (not just a sales pitch). The keynotes were all streamed and are available for viewing.

Here are a few of the highlights that caught my interest:

First up was Mike Olson from Cloudera. It was the expected "Recent accomplishments, Big announcements, Exciting Future" talk. Not surprising is the growth of Spark and Kafka. I was also already aware of the new RecordService announcement. I still have to look up a few of the other mentioned partnerships like CounterTack Sentinel and work with healthcare ERM security. Also new projects such as Ibis and Kudu. 
He ended by pointing out that Hadoop is now 10 years old.

The second keynote was my favorite. AnnMarie Thomas (School of Engineering and Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, University of St. Thomas) talked about creative ways to encourage and teach STEM. While not specifically pointed out, it had a very clear message about the benefits of diversity in teams - any team.  Her students work with playdough to sculpt circuitry, experience circus training to learn higher math of physics, gain new perspectives by sharing knowledge with preschool children, and compare digital and human observations with cooking.  All really cool projects. This presentation gave me some ideas to add to my search for non-programming STEM projects for youth that I wrote about a few months ago.

Next up there was an amusing talk by Joseph Sirosh (Microsoft) discussing the How Old Robot. This was followed by Ron Kasabian (Intel) and Michael Draugelis (Penn Medicine) talking about the Trusted Analytic Platform and Penn Signals.  I think I dozed off a bit during the Tim Howes (ClearStory Data) talk.

Joy Johnson (AudioCommon) talked about Music Science followed by a related discussion of data in creative decisions by David Boyle (BBC Worldwide). These were interesting just not in my primary focus. I just do not have enough brain cells for all nifty research out there.

I enjoyed the talk by Jim McHugh (Cisco) on Data from the edge. Can I drive the race car next time? I did not realize that with all the wearables and small device sensors, that the Tour de France still mostly tracked progress with a guy on the back of a moterbike and chalkboard.  Next year there will be GPS devices on all the bikes and in the support vehicles. From the support vehicles, the data gets uploaded "real time" to a helicopter and from there down to a central van analytic truck. Teams, and more importantly, press (and there by fans) can get more acurate real time data of the race progress. 

DJ Patil (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) talked about efforts to open data in a machine readable format. He pointed out that machine readable format does not mean PDF. He also asked that any training efforts make use of these open data sets. He continued to discuss some specific projects available and wrapped up with a plea to integrate data ethics into all programs and all training - not just as an add on or after thought or separate requirement - as a normal part of every step of every use of any data sets.

Katherine Milkman (Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania) discusses improving decisions. I liked the examples of temptation bundling and the choice architecture, specifically the keyboard stairs in Stockholm. There was also a reference to the book Nudge. 

The final presentation was by Jeff Jonas (IBM) He was the founder of another company acquired by IBM and has a background in fraud detection analytics.  He discussed how context is important. His evil puzzle experiment is as fascinating as the space time boxes for asteroid hunting. 


Being the speaker

I am the speaker all the time. I teach. I present material most weeks. I'm paid know my stuff. People pay to learn stuff. While I mostly teach materials written by a large team of other people, I have also often been on those teams. With so many years of experience both writing and presenting material, why have I not been a speaker at conferences more frequently?

For me, a large part is figuring out a topic. Much of what I teach is multi-day classes. Most conference presentations are about 40 minutes with maybe another 10 for questions. What topics do I love to talk about can be narrowed down to a short presentation? What do people really want to hear? What is new or not talked about enough?

So I finally come up with some ideas. Am I describing it correctly to get chosen? How do I convince the committee? Do any of them know me or is the choice from the description only? Have I specified the correct "level" for the conference notes?

And then a talk is accepted. Now I have to actually finish the presentation materials. Bullets are bad. Pictures are good. Once again, have I specified the correct level or otherwise described my presentation correctly? Will anyone attend? What if I get asked a question I cannot answer? Why does the pre-conference attendee list include [leader in field X] as planning to attend my intro talk!?!  Why am I doing this? For free?

I think I need to go listen to Major's “Be an inspiration, not an impostor” talk. He wrote both about his talk at Texas Linux Fest and a followup FAQ.

My first conference talk was at a local information security conference. It was a smallish event and a small crowd attended my session but it went well. I felt that I had covered what I intended and at the level I had expected. I was even asked to submit a topic for the following year.

This year I presented at LinuxCon and was surprised at the response. They moved rooms as the interest shown in the talk increased. I ended up with 95 people attending my "SELinux, Its about the Labels" talk. That is a lot. The keynotes hold about 900 people. The Linux Security Summit at the end of the week was in a smaller room with about 100 people. Intimidating. It went well though - at least I think it did. I had a few people come up and ask questions at the end of the talk and a few others recognize me and mention the talk later in the week. No one flamed me in person or on social media. That is a win.

I am giving the same talk again next month and I learned a few things and will be tweaking the presentation but only a small amount.


Linux Security Summit

Continuing my notes and link references from August....

Before leaving Seattle, I stayed for part of the Linux Security Summit.

Paul Moore gave a great review of the summit.

I have to agree that Konstantin's keynote was exceptional. Check out the Presentation, referenced video, and released policies.

The CC3 talk was fine but just not anything I am remotely working with at the moment.

Stephen Smalley's SELinux on Android talk was informative for me. It gave me some ideas and links to look at before my next talk.

Rethinking Audit went too deep in the kernel source for me but I followed the discussion - or at least most of it.

The afternoon included a nap but I did return for the discussion on the Core Infrastructure Initiative. There is a lot of work to do here but the concept has some promise.

On Friday morning I popped into the Samsung talk before checking out and heading to the airport. I was a bit disappointed as it seems to me they are reinventing the wheel to have a security framework on their platform. I did note a couple of capabilities they are trying to get into the kernel so I do see the relevance of speaking at the summit. It did not seem deep enough - or "source code" enough to interest the kernel developers, and was too much overview to interest my ops side.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Conferences and 5K run/walk

I am not a runner for a variety of reasons. Turns out the problems I had growing up in gym class were more a factor of asthma than being overweight. The pounding on knees is also not my thing. I swim. I walk. I like the elliptical at the gym. Sometimes I even ride bikes or horses.

Last year though I decided to check into a conference "fun run" for charity. I asked about the time table to see if walking the fun run was an option. I had been regularly walking 5K in just under an hour. I was told "sure".

Of course, all the publicity for that year was still listed as "run". I could not talk any of my colleagues into walking with me. On race day, I did find a handful of others who did slow jog and some walking but I was still the last one to finish... in about 55 minutes. I felt wiped. It was hard to breath. But I did it. Three months later I learned that I have a dairy allergy which aggravates my asthma.

This year at the same conference, the activity was listed as a "Fun Run/Walk". I think it drew a bigger crowd. And it definitely raised a good bit of money for a really good cause - e-NABLE.

The coordinators attempted to break out the competitive runners from those that wanted a more leisurely pace. Most went out on the run. About a dozen of us headed off on a walk around the park. This time I did successfully drag a friend and also found a coworker in the group. We finished in about 50 minutes and I was still breathing. It was wonderful.

Those 5K events were 6am runs. In July, I ventured into the OSCON 5K Glow run. A much different experience. First off, It was the evening that I arrived at the conference after a coast-to-coast, two segment plane trip. So my body thought I was trying a 5K at midnight after a long travel day. More to the point of a great event though...

The "wave" ratios were Topsy-turvey from the 6am events. Only a few competitive runners with mostly leisure jogging and a lot just walking. I suspect the 90 minutes of free food and beer leading up to the 9pm start time has a bit of an impact. Turned out to be short of a 5K but that is fine [I heard last year it was well over]. The music (DJ) at the start/finish was way too loud. The cereal van (food truck) was much fun though and with plenty of dairy free and gluten free options. The taco truck also looked good but I never ventured close enough to find out if any of the options could be made gluten free and dairy free. I know they all had cheese in the description but they might have been able to leave that off. The music choices were mixed - some good, lots I did not recognize.

At LinuxCon I did a lot of walking back and forth between the venue and the Whole Foods Market. The 5K run was a morning run again but it was also listed as max of 45 minutes to complete. I slept in. I did go for a long walk (longer than my WF ventures, shorter than a 5K) once I did get up. I also have plans to try the "Data Dash" at Strata late September but that is also an early run a tight schedule.


LInuxCon 2015 - Seattle

More catching up...

LinuxCon Day1 

As usual I was awake early, very early. So a walk and a Whole Foods breakfast were accomplished in time to catch all the keynotes. The first was a snooze. I understand large sponsors getting time with a captive audiance but I really wish they would not just give a sales pitch.  They could have announced their new offering in under 5 minutes, listed the related talks and booth locations, and talked about something more interesting than price points of a mainframe.

The second keynote was "How Collaborative Systems are Reinventing Capitalism" byRobin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Author of Peers Inc.  It was an interesting talk but not what I expected for a LinuxCon audience. By the end the loose ends did eventually tie her Peers, Inc. concept to Open Source collaboration with the idea for Peers, Peers where both innovative user experience and innovative platform environments.

The final keynote of Day 1 was "Full Sail Ahead: What’s Next For Container Technology" presented by several Docker employees and complete with live demos - always a fascinating thing made even more impressive by running smoothly. A key element here was the introduction to notary options - verified and signed containers not just trusted repositories.

Also announced at the keynotes was the Core Infrastructure Initiative which was also discussed more at the Linux Security Summit a few days later.

I ducked into a few talks on Monday including "Why be a Rock Star Developer when you can be a Willie Nelson" by Rikki Endsley but mostly I just worked the hallway track and got my slides finalized and uploaded.

The Monday Evening event, open to Speakers and VIPs, was at Chihuly Garden and Glass I was very excited for this event.  The glass is spectacular.

LinuxCon Day 2

Day 2 turned into a security day for me. 

The first Keynote was a video conference with Bruce Schneier, renowned security technologist and CTO, Resilient Systems where he discussed "Attacks, Trends and Responses". Mostly he talked about the Sony attack and how that has affected the security playing field.

In addition to my talk, I popped into a couple of other security related sessions:

Evening Booth Crawl was crowded and I did not find any food or drink that fits my dietary restrictions. I did finally find a quieter area and some good conversation.

LinuxCon Day 3

The most notable sessions from Day 3 were Repeatable Processes for Building Secure Containers with Ryan Jarvinen & Dan Walsh (which was really an introduction to OpenShift 3) and Container Security - Past, Present & Future presented by Serge Hallyn from Canonical.

Lunch with the Linux Foundation Instructors was a highlight of the day. I was actually most surprised that Rock Bottom Brewery could find something I could eat.  The afternoon booth drawings were a bust and I was just plain tired by the time of the evening event at the EMP Museum. My favorite was the Animation Art of Chuck Jones "What's Up Doc?" exhibit. 


Catching up - OSCON notes

Better late than never?

I enjoyed my first ever OSCON event.  Here are a few observations and a couple of reminders to self:

* In a preview of OSCON, a point was made that this year the tracks are not focused on programming language but rather on function/usage such as "mobility", "Design", and "Data". I noticed this before the article and the shift is a part of what attracted me to attend for the first time.  I was particularly interested in the "Protect" track as well as some "Data" topics.

* I started the week by attending a few of the morning talks at Open Cloud Day.

* Security focused talks attended (for CISSP CPEs).
How my POODLE lost his Xen state by seeing a Ghost, going BERserk, and getting ShellShock with a Heartbleed.

Evolution of information security threats.

Vulnerability management for open software development.

* Any slides are at:

* The lunch time food was very well done, at least for my specific allergy concerns. On Day 1, everything in the "special diet" line was both gluten free and vegan.  I felt the need for a thick rare steak later but I found plenty to eat at the time. Day 2 lunch was mexican day. The mixed dishes were gluten free and vegan so I just had to avoid the side add ons: tortillas, cheese, and sour cream.

The evening events were not so well marked and not as robust in the selections that were marked as vegan and gluten free. I am so ready for the world to label "dairy free" as nicely as they have begun to identify the gluten free items.  While vegan is dairy free, dairy free does not have to be vegan.

* OSCON has an interesting dynamic but I find a number of contrasting statements.  On one hand you have the core conference focused on developers. On the other hand you have the Cultivate preconference event and a variety of talks on building community.

There were talks on sysadmins turned developers and overcoming the impostor syndrome. There were talks about the importance of new contributors and how to make them feel welcome. There were talks on the paperwork and management side of reporting and handling security vulnerabilities. In other words, many talks that are not all about programming.

Even in the keynotes and social media, there are references to inclusion, diversity, and community.
Yet in some of those same discussions, there are references to "we all have computer science degrees" and the use of #programmer along with complaints of "many people use opensource but few contribute". This last one really hit a nerve with me. It feeds my pet peeve of hearing "I cannot contribute to opensource because I don't code"  ARG! But that is rant for another post.

* I remembered to get my Fedora Badge.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Need sources of "IT for youth" (not programming)

At a recent event there was a participant who posed a serious problem. She has plenty of resources available to assist young women who are interested in learning to code. She also knows plenty of young women who are interested in other STEM topics in general but not interested in programming. Young women who have tried to code but found it is not for them. Learning the basic concepts of programming in order to understand the logic is great and important but there are other aspects to the IT world than just programmers. This event participant was looking for ways to interest (or keep interested) young women in information technology with tasks other than programming.

I keep meaning to put together a panel presentation for conferences about how to contribute to or make a living with open source when you do not consider yourself a programmer. I know people that do design, testing, documentation, security compliance, administration, and community management. They all have technical skills with various levels of scripting knowledge or have formerly been programmers. At least one has done special programs with the schools (teaching the use of InkScape) and is hosting a summer intern to assist with her UX job.

My panel idea is focused around contributing to open source projects and is targeted more at adults. It is a starting point for ideas. However, there are other IT related projects that can be of interest to youth (and other non-programmers) interested in other aspects of computers.  [Note: these are US infinitives aimed to help a group in Florida]

I believe that the event participant is a system administrator who can script and work with devops but does not consider herself a coder - much like my background. She is looking for ideas on how to share the message with today's youth that there is more to computer science and information technology than being a programmer. Here are some of my thoughts:

Originally for Junior ROTC programs but expanded to any high school group.

USFirst - Teaches teamwork through robotics which involves design and electronics as well as the programming.

Kaggle - "The Home of Data Science" has competitions that teach data science concepts and contribute to all kinds of research. Many projects need some scripting (coding) skills but others are more about statistics, graphing, and visualization. Check out the tutorials section.

Also check out local meetups and ask for assistance presenting options to youth. Look for groups such as:

  • HackerSpace or MakerSpace or Makers groups
  • Any group inventing with Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or similar devices
  • Meetups entertaining wearable electronics topics.
  • Groups working with 3-D printers (perhaps even for a good cause like

If anyone knows of programs specifically teaching system administration or network administration to youth, let me know so I can pass on the links.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

A non-coder CAN contribute to open source

I am a Fedora Ambassador. I am Linux instructor. I am an advocate for Open Source initiatives be it project management, government, code, or anything else. It drives me bonkers when someone says they are not involved with an opensource community because they "don't code".

I attended Open Source Day at the Grace Hopper celebration several years in a row. Over and over I asked if someone was going to stop by the event and was told "No, I don't code". Over and over I tried to explain the many other ways of contributing to opensource projects.

Thankfully the past few years have brought much more awareness in this realm. More and more projects have a community advocate. Conferences like OSCON promote community building, documentation workshops, and how to let people know how they can contribute. Conferences like "All Things Open" promote the idea that not all opensource is about code.

Non programmers can write docs. They can design logos. They can help with user interface design. They can test fixes or new features. They can triage bugs by verifying that the submitted report can be recreated and adding additional details, logs, or config files. Larger projects need some infrastructure support that is more administration and security compliance than Java programmer. Many people who consider themselves non-programmers do have some pretty good scripting skills and can assist with packaging for distributions.

Meanwhile many (not all) programs to enhance diversity in opensource projects (a much needed enhancement for many projects) appear to focus on the coding side of things. Girls who code, pyLadies, OutReachy, and even Google's Summer of Code. Some are more in name than content. For example I know of at least one summer of code project that was more about documentation and packaging than programming. OpenHatch on campus programs are focused on programming contributions but their database of projects looking for assistance also includes a category of bugs labels as documentation.

Additionally - and much worse - calls for more contributions that end in hashtags like #programmer or look for "non-technical" people to write docs and test code, just further alienate non-programmer contributors. I may not feel like a "coder", but I am definitely "technical" and I can and do contribute to open source projects.

I wonder how those that complain "we have too many users and not enough contributors" count those contributions?
  • Is is purely with the committer logs to the code source?
  • Do they count contributions to documentation? Or infrastructure trac systems?
  • What about (valid) bug reports?
  • The person that tests fixes, new features, or early release code AND provides feedback in crucial to a project. Are they a user or a contributor?
  • What about the person who helps out other users on a mailing list or in a chat room only a user or are they also a contributor?
  • Do the project developers really want to provide all the support and bug triaging in addition to writing the code and test suites?
What is the distinction between committer and contributor? Does it matter? Should it matter? The nature of open source is that anyone can use it without contributing back. Contributions may be the currency of open source (another OSCON quote), and suggestions, requests, and word of mouth advertising  may only be worth pennies, but they are contributions and just as important to a project as the trackable technical contributions. Once you catch and real in the interested technical contributor that can help out so much with non-programming tasks, what is to say they won't learn some programming along the way and even create a patch or even a new feature for your project in the future! Meanwhile they are doing other valuable work so programmers can code.

There were two talks at OSCON this year that I missed but by their descriptions address some related concerns:


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Linux Story

This post is inspired by themed weeks. In January there was a theme of "Open Source Careers" for which I never got organized enough to write my story.  I recently found my draft and did not find it totally horrible.  I think the site is still running "My Story" articles and I thought of submitting it there, but to me it is not that exciting.

I am Technical Trainer and Consultant specializing in Open Source technologies. The majority of my career has centered around Linux operating system deployment, configuration, and interoperability. I mostly work with Red Hat products and their upstream and downstream projects. For the past two years I have also worked with Cloudera and projects related to the Apache Hadoop ecosystem. I also have a particular interest in security topics.

For over 15 years I have earned a living working exclusively with Open Source products but how did I get here?

In many ways it started before Linux existed. In college I had friends who were "admins" in the engineering computer lab. I did not do so well in my CS programming classes but as a hobby and to spend time with my friends, I learned a bit about newgroups, ftp sites, and Unix systems. As a data aide student intern, I realized I made a good translator between the astronomers and the C programmer computer support staff. I could read just enough code to identify the problem area and not enough to actually fix it.

Fast forward to the adult life of entry level jobs. My experience as a user landed me the opportunity learn system and network administration for a PC Helpcenter. This is where I learned about network operating system installation, configuration, and interolperability. When Linux hit the enterprise I jumped on the opportunity to learn, support, and teach Red Hat Linux, SuSE, Caldera, and Turbolinux- not all of which exist today.

Initially almost all of the students in any Linux Administration class were already sysadmins using other operating systems such as AIX, Solaris, HPUX, and NT. Now I have students who are new to system administration learning directly on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. There are a number of colleges teaching distributed computing using Linux including some using books I have contributed to as a reviewer. You do not need to learn other systems first anymore.

By the year 2000 I was working exclusively with Linux products. I earned a living teaching as an independent contractor with a variety of distribution delivery partners. I expanded my skills by finding ways to contribute to the upstream projects and I always encouraged students new to Linux to do the same.  I became a contributor to Fedora through the Docs project and as an Ambassador. I followed the infrastructure team but never found the consistent time to be a true contributor. I participated in test days, did some bug squashing and helped document packaging guidelines.

I still do not consider myself a "coder". I am not a C programmer or a Java developer. I can read just about anything and I have not survived the work of sysadmin without learning a fair amount of scripting. The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ideals have made it possible for me to excel even with the mental block against learning to code. I understand the logic, I can architect the psuedo-code, but I am not good at writing from scratch to correct completion. With FOSS, I can find scripts that are close to what I need and play around until I get what I need. I often do not ever have to get a full section of code written without a solid example on hand. Configuration management products such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible and deployment products such as Spacewalk, Cobbler, and Ambari also help with automation without having to do the sometimes complex structural programming and error handling.

I love teaching. I love seeing the light bulb come on when a person figures out how something is supposed to work. I love figuring out how new products work and where they fit in the market. I love learning and I always learn something new when teaching. These days I do less daily administration and support tasks but more architect design. I also have spent more time testing products and writing instructions - for myself, for book reviews, for curriculum, and for conferences.

With new and emerging technologies such as Apache Hadoop, OpenStack, and Docker there is always more to learn.  I am still a Fedora Ambassador but over the past couple of years, I have not had (or made) the time to contribute to other subgroups.  I am actually looking for new, smaller project to get involved in next.  Probably something in the Hadoop ecosystem related to security. I am sure I can make contributions through testing, bug triage, and documentation.


NCAA rant Part II: How much blame goes on the faculty vs the coaches?

It may be the job of the NCAA to ensure academic eligibility. It is the job of the academic institution to provide quality education.  I think the coaching staffs should put more pressure on the public schools to make sure talented athletes are prepared to enter college academically. There are many ways to learn and many ways to be "brilliant", "gifted", or "smart" [See Disrupting Class ISBN-10: 0071592067].  From grade school to graduate school; from coaches to NCAA advisory boards; we can all do better for the kids.

Once in school, the university provides advisers and tutors for all students, including the student athletes.  The coaches should be reviewing the measurable stats - how many credits, completion of required classes, and grade point averages. Most also review stats such as attendance in class and at study hall or tutoring sessions.

Critics believe that the coaches should have known that the classes were not up to standards.

The coaches should be checking in with the student athlete that they are being given the opportunity to learn what they want to learn. During the same time period that is being investigated, women's basketball athletes completed degrees in a variety of departments including sciences (pre-med). A student approaching the staff (both coaching staff and academic adviser staff) with a particular goal was assisted in achieving that goal. For those students unsure of options outside of sports, everyone - parents, students, coaches - rely on the provided faculty advisers for guidance. How would a coach, who is provided with an faculty adviser for the team, be expected to realize that there were classes given that did not meet the expected standards.

There was misconduct at the university. It has affected the accreditation status of the institution. That decision was "probation". Does the NCAA really have the need (or even the right) to pile on punishment? Especially when that punishment will have the greatest impact on student athletes that were not even enrolled in the university at the time of the misconduct. Additionally, if it the academic side that was offering bad classes, why is the university athletic department not backing all of their coaches?

I'm not the only person wondering.

I can actually understand the university holding off on a contract extension, but purely as a financial decision. There are plenty of reasons to extend the contract. There is a big question about the amount of monetary fines that may come from the NCAA which could have an affect the salary of the contract renewal. Too bad the department cannot comment in ongoing investigations. Like I previously posted in part I of my rant... the extended time frame involved in this investigation only hurts the next class of students. 


NCAA rant Part I: Don't punish the younger siblings.

I have nothing but well wishes for the UNC Women's Basketball students who have chosen to transfer. They need to do what is right for them and their futures both on and off the court. [It was much fun watching Ms. Muvunga play with Team USA in the Pan American Games]

What I do not like is the future generation paying for the sins of the past. Or any of the actions that many people must put up with because of the bad behavior of a few. A few successful terrorists and an explosive devise in a shoe means we all take our shoes off at the airport.  A reputation of gang members or criminals hiding in hoodies results in hard times for men, and particularly dark skinned men, wearing hoodies.

UNC student athletes in all sports are getting a bad rap because of transgressions in the past. Don't get me wrong, I believe that individuals and institutions should be held accountable for their actions. But when the 18 year old gets in a car wreck you don't take the keys away from the younger siblings.  Why, especially when the process is so long, should the current players be sanctioned for the benefits received by the past teams Worse in this case is that those students were doing as advised by the grown ups and did not know they were getting inappropriate benefits. Of course, these classes where also offered to students not on academic scholarships - so is it really an inappropriate benefit per NCAA?  Or just violations of academic accreditation - bad yes, and accreditation is used as one of many qualifiers for NCAA eligibility, but accreditation violations are investigated and sanctioned by a different body, not the NCAA.

As an alum and fan, I am tired of the current students being laughed at for attending UNC. Being bullied and teased and questioned about their classes.  The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication is one of the best in the country. As are a number of other programs but I point that out as a department and subject that many athletes are interested in for after their playing careers.  Others choose nutrition or exercise and sports fitness in hopes of staying in the field as trainers or coaches.  Again, departments not implicated in the scandal.   Don't blame this years kids for the bad behavior of adults 5 years ago.

The school has proven enough reform to retain accreditation even if it is with probation. If the NCAA decides the school should receive sanctions, they need to find a way for that to affect the past teams and not the future teams.  Make the school pay back all earnings from the relevant post seasons, maybe even fine them the amount earned by the winner of those NCAA tournaments. Vacate wins if you must. Forfeit earnings from upcoming post season play. But preventing future teams from playing post season, being seen by scouts, earning the trophy and the rings is wrong.  It is taking the keys away from the younger siblings for the errors of the older children (and the parents). Stand behind these kids and say that the program NOW is in good shape both on and off the court.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vault Conference - Day 2

[I am attending the Linux Foundation Vault Linux Storage and Filesystem Conference in Boston this week. It is the first year and it follows a more regular 2 day invite only developer conference/workshop. I have already posted my thoughts on Day 1.]

Day 2 - early thoughts:

Brrrr. It is colder this morning and the wind is biting as it whips between the city buildings. A bit slower start to the attendance this morning - very typical for a technical conference.  The venue again has a nice spread for morning snacks and I am fueled up on fresh fruit. Time to learn more about file systems and storage.

Morning breakout sessions.

The first session was a tough choice. There was not a standout that drew me in - most sound interesting but not immediately relevant to what I work with at the moment. The 100% FOSS Storage Array would probably be closest but it may or may. It may or may not have that much new information for me and is a Red Hat presenter which means I have other avenues to obtain the information. So I opted to attend the talk on optimizing FUSE for Cloud Storage.  Diversify my experience.  It was given by a representative from Parallals where they are using FUSE to interact with stored images. While mostly over my head with API information, it was still interesting to see another use of FUSE from a user and contributor.

Next up was a pair of talks on GlusterFS: Overview and Future Direction followed by Data Compliance Infrastructure.

The overview was a useful list of features recently released, in the next release, and planned for future releases. Seeing that SSL connections and encryption at rest is in the current release just means I have some work to do when I get home.  I saw the options the last time I was working with RHS class materials but it is not listed in the glusterfs volume set help output or in the RHS public documentation so I thought it was still a preview option.

Another reminder from the Q&A of the overview session was: 
*Ceph started as an object store and added RADOS for file access.
*GlusterFS started as a file store and extended for object store access.
Each perform different/better with different uses and each has advantages for its particular use case. It would be nice to see some documentation on which use cases benefit best with each product.

Data Compliance discussion it was pointed out that the current journaling mechanisms for GlusterFS were designed for replication (local and remote) and is not being enhanced for such topics as: crash consistent,  richer on disk format, callback based, multi consumer model (lightweight, thread safe, ordering), data classification, LFU, object versions, and out of band notification.  

The final push:

After a long walk around Boston over lunch, I returned for a Ceph session on erasure and tiering advances. Maybe it was the time of day, but my brain was full and the absorption rates are declining exponentially each session.  I did stay for the final breakout session and attended the history and future of XFS. This was an entertaining presentation from one of the lead commiters.  I am glad I stayed.

The final keynotes also looked interesting and I had enjoyed other presentation from at least one of them, but I was cold and tired and decided to beat the rush hour out of town.  Maybe next year. I think it is in my home stomping ground of Raleigh.

Early submitted presentation slides are available at:


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Legal Seafood wins again.

I have enjoyed Legal Seafood for as long as I can remember.  I have been thrilled with what they have done with gluten free options over the past several years.  They were the first restaurant I went to with gluten free rolls. They are the only place I know to get gluten free fried clams or fish and chips - they have a gluten free batter and use a dedicated GF frier.

Today was the first time I have been since I figured out I also have a dairy allergy. Avoiding both gluten and dairy is hard.  Legal Seafood has changed the menu again as well. They used to have separate menus for the allergies.  Now that pretty much everything on the main menu has a GF option, they have symbols on the main menu for "can be made gluten free".  Like most places, they do still need better markings for the dairy free. At least asking questions is still a comfortable option.

I used to love the fried GF options but I also knew that the only way that breading stuck was with the help of butter or milk. I learned that the fried stuff uses buttermilk to hold the breading, gluten free or otherwise.

The lite clam chowder is ok. Not that this should ever be called chowda. It is a tasty clam and potato soup but it is not chowda.

I also had some lobster. The gluten free version of the lobster roll is substituting lettuce for the roll. This worked well for me, complete with the fries and coleslaw.  So far so good on how I feel a few hours later.

Thanks again to Legal Seafood for a safe place to eat out.


Vault Conference - Day 1

I am attending the Linux Foundation Vault Linux Storage and Filesystem Conference in Boston this week. It is the first year and it follows a more regular 2 day invite only developer conference/workshop.  There appears to be great international attendance. It is small - only 4 breakout rooms though they are good sized rooms and have been full.

Day 1 - keynotes and amenities.

The first keynote was interesting. It was a summary of the two day invitation developer workshop. It was nicely done, especially knowing it was a short notice report. It was much more technical than other conferences I have attended and I quickly knew that I was a noob in this crowd.  In a sense it was a technical road map rather than a marketing road map.

I quickly realized that many other sessions would also be more technical than other conferences I have attended recently. I am here to be a sponge. I just want to absorb some additional knowledge in the storage realm. I'll continue to be a user of enterprise ready solutions. Teaching HDFS and Glusterfs administration means that I need to be aware of what is coming with those products and also with related products.

Next was the obligatory sponsor keynote. Pretty average on its industry trend vs company bias. At least it was short.

The venue is the Revere Hotel.  There is a large theater in the back that was used for the keynotes.  The vendor booths (the few present as sponsors of the conference) was in another large area on the 6th floor. The breakout session were split between the Mezzanine Floor and the 6th Floor, 2 rooms each.  This was the most frustrating. I have attended events with multiple buildings and multiple floors, but in all cases there was a reasonable option for walking between areas. A single floor difference, not 5 flights.  The elevators were a bottleneck.

The food spreads were pretty to look at. There was a lot of fresh fruit I could eat.  Allergies kept me away from the fancy (gluten) donuts and the afternoon cookies.  I also survived on tea instead of coffee since I am not a fan of black coffee and did not bring any alternative (coconut or almond) milk. The evening event booth crawl had a nice spread. At least it looked nice. A beautiful cheese spread that I was jealous of and some tasty looking pizzas.  I had salad. At least it was more than lettuce . It included tomato, cucumber, and avocado.

I was a bit surprised that there was not a sponsored bag,even a small tote bag or something to collect the pens, fliers, and media from the vendor booths. I guess it has been a while since I have been to a first year or startup conference.

Day 1 - breakout sessions

Btrfs future plans. Chris Mason is from Facebook but did a great job of sharing what other company contributions are happening. He also had a long Q&A period and did an excellent presentation. He had no problem remembering to repeat the question so all could hear and he answered the questions with ease, confidence, and I am assuming (based on followup or lack of followup) correctly.

In the second slot, I attended the Ceph Road Map presentation and after lunch I listened to a discussion on librados. In these talks I jotted down a lot of new vocabulary words. Ceph is really coming along and the examples of librados use cases for moving compute to the data were great.

The next session was a bit of a dud. Besides being distracted by the controversy I had created with a Twitter post, the presenters could only share limited information of their solution and admitted that they use the upstream product but do not contribute back to it. Perfectly fine, but I expect presenters at a conference like this to have committers on staff as well.

I couldn't decide on the last slot and opted to go find a power outlet for my phone. I was going to need it if I wanted a ride form the T station home later in the evening.

Time to recharge for another round tomorrow.


So few Women

It was bound to happen. I would have to post about me, women in tech, and conferences.

The scene:

I am attending a technical conference on open source storage. I was interested in this conference from when it was first announced. I did not feel I had the depth of knowledge In the field to submit anything for the CFP. Now that I am attending, I am sure this is not just an impostor syndrome reaction. I am learning good stuff and collecting vocabulary for much more research and learning.

I knew from the beginning that I would one of few women attending. As it got closer to the dates and speakers and attendees were listed on the web site, that feeling was confirmed. In person, I think I can count the numbers on my fingers (I might need a few toes). I really do not know the numbers, actual or percentage.

The controversy:

The small number of women was also noted by the photographer on site. I am photogenic even though I really prefer to be hidden from the camera and we kept running into each other. She made a comment to me, perhaps noting my dodging of the camera, to watch out. She had been instructed to look for diversity in her shots. The way the conversation went, I took no offense but my tweet on the subject garnered responses that some thought I either was offended or should have been offended. In my post, I was just trying to show an example of a known issue: the more technical - lower in the stack as well as programming knowledge in this case - the open source topic, the less women are visibly involved.

The reality:

I don't get offended easily. I assume the best in people and comments. I assume they mean to be sympathetic to a cause and not taunting of a situation. I assume they do not realize how a statement may be interpreted or that their childhood was just filled with bad examples. If it is blatant, I am not shy to speak up and I have always been lucky enough to have my comment taken with a sheepish "you are right, I was not thinking" type of response. I am an instructor, my instinct is to explain and teach. I do surround myself with supportive people (men, women, employers, colleagues, friends, etc).

I do get frustrated and I do get disappointed.

I get frustrated at how slow change occurs. I get disappointed when people repeat mistakes. I get frustrated and disappointed when I hear stories from other women who have had worse experiences then I have - and more recently. I get excited when I hear role models talk of success. I get pleasantly surprised when I attend a meeting or conference or class where there is better than average diversity.

I get frustrated when I see a student walk into my class and look concerned when they realize I am the instructor. I get disappointed that I assume this is because I am female rather than just "not someone they know". On the other hand, I taught a class last month where a student walked in and announced he had been very excited for the class when he saw I was listed as the instructor. I wish it was not such a novelty but I was and am appreciative of the complement. Very appreciative.

The hope:

In an interesting coincidence of timing, I saw a great article about being the token women speaker at events:

A deep dive into open source storage means including Linux kernel developers - a small group in itself. I do not expect a token women speaker at such a conference. Correct that: I don't expect such a token at any conference. I want the best presentations available from the submitted talks. I want selection based on a balance between expert knowledge and presentation skills. Diversity measurements do not come into play here. The resulting diversity should reflect the industry.

The fact that the industry can benefit from more diversity is a related but separate issue, as is recruiting submissions from some of the quietest but most competent members of any industry and for any speaking engagement. All other things equal, sure, look at diversity. First, allow the selection committee to chose the best from the best. People, not tokens. Grow the diversity in the trenches, not just on the public stage.

Just my thoughts.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What is in a name?

Today, during lunch break, I took a walk around a marina.  I could see the names on a few of the sailboats. Names like "Swell Dancer" and "Knot to Worry". The ones that are puns are fun but I am not sure what to make of "Straightjacket".  All this got me thinking about names. I am always amazed at how people come up with names.

Apparently, a part of choosing my first name came from asking the teenager across the street "do you like your name?"  My middle name has a family connection and the result gives me the same initials as my Mother.  I have no complaints.

I am usually a real bore when it comes to naming computers at home.  laptop1 and server2 are not the most creative things.  I once used a series of names from the DragonRiders of Pern book series. Back when a server farm was small, I saw a lot of Disney or WB or Star Wars or Star Trek themes.  I do not know that these are still considered as "professional" choices.  Couple that "professionalism" with the size of datacenters and temporary condition of virtual servers, a rack location or numbered purpose is much more common.

Pets are hard for me.  There is a desire to include some personality trait.  My first cat acquired her name from an activity I was involved in at the time that she found me. My current cats are litter mates and their names have a relationship to each other.  Some days I really wish I had swapped their names.  I had a friend who got a Dutch Shepard pup.  Those breeders have a tradition that all the pups in the first litter have names that start with "A", the second litter of pups get names starting with "B", etc.  This would make it easier for me.

When I got involved with Fedora the method of naming releases involved choosing a name that has some relationship to the previous version's code name. While I never came up with any names to submit, I did have some fun trying to come up with some ideas.

Luckily my biggest naming challenges these days involve giving meaningful but catchy titles to conference abstract submissions.