Time Stand Still

Last night I tool Isaiah to see Time Stand Still, the documentary of the last concert tour of the band Rush, as well as a retrospective on their entire career. It included commentary by several well-known musicians who have worked with Rush over the years, and lots of remarks by fans.

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One thing I learned was that, while I’m a big fan, I’m nothing compared to some of these (possibly unhinged) people. Folks who have spent tens of thousands of dollars attending Rush concerts, people who have devoted their entire life to collecting news clippings, concert photos, signed things, and so on, documenting the history of Rush. One guy said he had been to 170 concerts. That’s, conservatively, $5,000, and probably much more like $20,000, or even more, given that these were the front-row crowd. And that doesn’t count travel costs, as some of these folks traveled around the country to attend multiple concerts in any given tour.

I’ve been a Rush fan since (I think) about 1984. I’ve been to three concerts, and each time it was hard to justify the expense to myself. Although the first ticket was a gift, I had to drive 5 hours each way to take advantage of that gift.

But, it was a fun watch – funny, sad, and a lot of fun. It was great to see the friendship that held the band together for 40 years. It was sad to watch them reluctantly admit that they’re just too old to do this any more.  It was great to hear the deep concern that they had for their professionalism as musicians, and how much they cared about producing the best possible show for their fans.

Notably, the song Time Stand Still did not appear anywhere in the movie, but, of course, the lyrics of the song are heard behind everything that the band said about the nostalgia of letting this chapter of their lives slip away

Summer’s going fast–
Nights growing colder
Children growing up —
old friends growing older
Experience slips away…

OpenStack Summit Barcelona, 3 of N

Continuing the saga of OpenStack Summit Barcelona …

Wednesday was a very long day – about 10 hours working the Red Hat booth, with hundreds and hundreds of people dropping by to chat, get tshirts, ask questions about our various products, and just hang out.

While Tuesday was “day two”, Wednesday is the second full day of the expo hall, and so this is the time when you get even less frantic swag-seeking, and more people looking for information. Which is good, because we were starting to run out of the swag.

What stood out on Wednesday was the sheer number of people who stopped by just to say how awesome RDO is, and how much they appreciate the work that the RDO community does. Several people also asked how they could get involved in making things happen that are not happening yet. So, this was very encouraging.

Wednesday evening was a quiet dinner-then-bed evening, as is usually the case by this point in a conference, when the true exhaustion of long days and jet lag really catches up. I had dinner with a small group of friends and coworkers, which was really delicious, but I have no idea how to tell you what I had. 🙂

And Thursday was the final day. We got the expo hall open time wrong, so I was actually there in the booth for 2 hours before it opened. Gah! And then, another really long day of answering questions, and giving away the last of the ducks.

img_20161030_154636The duck tradition that was started in Paris continues, and we plan to have more ducks in Boston. We only had 800 ducks in Barcelona, because I waited kind of late to order, and the vendor was low on inventory. Any suggestions of how the duck should dress for Boston?

We closed up just after 4, packed everything up, and I headed to the beach. Unfortunately, right about the time I got there, it started to get overcast and windy, so I only got about a half hour on the beach before I gave up and left, shivering. Oh, well, better than nothing.

Thursday night was another dinner-and-fall-in-bed-early evening, as I was completely exhausted. Unfortunately, as usual when I have a flight in the morning, I didn’t get much sleep. I have this bad habit of waking up every few hours to check the clock, even though I have several alarms set. Some day, I hope to get over that.

On Friday, I shared a cab to the airport with Jen, and we boarded the flight for JFK.

It’s good to be home.

Contrasts

Contrasts
JFK, Oct 28, 2016

With the sand of Mar Bella still crunching in my shoes,
I stand shivering in the taxi line,
my coat pulled tightly around me,
my Mediterranean warmth
slips into the New York dusk

OpenStack Summit, Barcelona, 2 of n

Tuesday, the first day of the main event, was, as always, very busy. I spent most of the day working the Red Hat booth. We started at 10 setting up, and the mob came in around 10:45.

Day two of booth duty is always interesting, because it’s after the swag feeding frenzy has died down a bit that you start hearing from the people that actually care about what you’re “selling”. You get the questions. And what’s been fascinating in the 6 summits I’ve attended is that the bar has been raised a LOT on the questions. In Hong Kong, my first Summit, there were still a lot of people asking what OpenStack was, and nobody had any idea what RDO was. Now, the questions are about specific deployment scenarios, projects that aren’t yet being packaged, the future of TripleO, and so on, with only a handful of people asking what RDO is.

OpenStack has clearly made the transition from “something to consider some day” to “of course we are, and what are you going to do to make it better?”

Another awesome improvement this Summit was how the RDO community stepped up to help in the booth. Every single hour of the day, I had at least one, and usually two, members of the RDO community in the booth with me, either doing an “Ask Me Anything About RDO”, or doing some kind of a demo. It was *awesome*. Maybe next year, I’ll just stay home. 😉

The highlight of the day was the RDO/Ceph community meetup. We had 4 hours at the Gym Bar in the Princess Hotel.

Members of the Ceph and RDO community presented, lightning talk style (5 minute presentations) on a variety of topic. Speakers were threatened with being thrown in the pool if they went over 5 minutes, but we managed to restrain ourselves.

By the end, we had checked in 215 people overall, and we had 12 speakers. The food was good. The speakers were awesome. The only complaint was that the people not actually listening to the talks would NOT shut up, so it was hard to hear. Eventually, one of the speakers shouted at them to shut up or get out, and most of them moved to the other side of the room.

I have a recording of the event, but I don’t expect it’s going to be usable, due to the noise level. I haven’t had a chance to review it yet. Next week, for sure. I also hope to have (some of?) the presentation slides from the various speakers posted somewhere. Watch rdo-list and/or @rdocommunity for details.

After the talks were over, we had an hour or so left, and I cowardly skipped out. There comes a time when I have just had too much social interaction, and I need quiet time.

So, that was Tuesday. Another success, and another day to be glad that I work with such an awesome community.

 

OpenStack Summit, Barcelona, 1 of n

I have the best intentions of blogging every day of an event. But every day is always so full, from morning until the time I drop into bed exhausted.

I used to imagine wandering around the world like Hemingway, seeing exotic places, and writing witty stories about the interesting people I met. I have the great good fortune to have the traveling as part of my job. If only I could find the time for the stories.

Anyways … I’m in Barcelona for OpenStack Summit. This is always an impressive, and somewhat overwhelming, event, with 7000+ people attending, dozens of companies presenting their various products, hundreds of technical presentations, and after-hour events every evening.

The photos are on flickr, at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/albums/72157675620637236

On Sunday, I met up with Jen and various other members of the events team to scope out the venue. We walked over to the Princess Hotel where a number of our meetings and social events are to be held. And we walked down to El Boo, where the employee party was to be held. Both venues were just great.

Later in the day I visited Sagrada Familia, a cathedral which has been under construction since 1884, on and off, and isn’t done yet. It was weird and improbable, and fascinating, and beautiful. I think the architect’s driving passion was to be different from anything you’ve ever seen before.

I also spent a little time on the lovely beach, Mar Bella, which is right in front of my hotel.

On Monday, we had the RDO Infrastructure gathering in one of the rooms at the Princess. we had about 20 people in attendance, and made good progress on a number of issues. The Ocata cycle is going to see more improvements to how RDO works.  More details on this meeting coming to the RDO mailing list soon.

Although the conference didn’t officially start until Tuesday morning, the “booth crawl” was Monday evening – the odd ritual where swag-hungry attendees rush from booth to booth, grabbing all the free stuff they can carry, and having the occasional conversation with booth staff. Sometimes, the booth crawl can be a depressing experience, with people refusing to make eye contact, and just grabbing the stuff. But this was actually really great, with people excited about RDO, and wanting to learn more about we had to show.

Monday night was the Red Hat employee party at El Boo. It’s a boat-shaped restaurant sitting on one of the stone piers along the beach, and we had the whole place to ourselves for the entire night. It was a lot of fun. I stayed until midnight, when several friends toasted my birthday.

All together, it was a lovely start to the week. And there’s so much more to come.

Also, Jordan Perkins

This weekend, Trinity Gay was shot, accidentally, as she was hanging out with her friends in a South Broadway restaurant where my daughter used to hang out with her friends. Several people were arguing in the parking lot, and traded shots. A bullet went stray and stuck Trinity in the neck, killing her.

Trinity was a student at Lafayette High School, where one of my kids is a student, and another recently graduated. Lafayette brought in grief counselors, and is having a memorial tonight after the football game.

These are the right things to do, because Trinity was part of the school community. She had friends and family who will grieve her passing, and need to do this in community.

Trinity was 15. She was a promising track star. Her father is an Olympic sprinter.

On September 26th, Jordan Perkins, another Lafayette student, was driving with three of his friends, and was involved in a car crash, in which he was killed. All three of his friends have serious injuries. Jordan was 15, a Freshman, and was on the football team.

Lafayette High School did not send email home to parents about this incident. They did not bring in grief counselors, nor did they have any kind of a memorial for Jordan. Presumably this is because the car that Jordan was driving was stolen, and had weapons and drug paraphernalia in the trunk, and Jordan is rumored to have been high and possibly drunk at the time of the crash. Jordan can be said, objectively, to have reaped the rewards of his own decisions.

But, here’s the thing. The Fayette County Schools’ motto is “it’s all about kids”. Jordan was a kid. He did something stupid, and he died as a result. His friends were hurt with him. But pretending that it didn’t happen – not giving Jordan’s friends and acquaintances a space to struggle with the senselessness of it, a place to grieve, a time to remember him – communicates that he’s less important because he made a mistake. It tells other kids that are on this same trajectory that their struggles are less important than those of a beautiful track star with lots of friends and a famous dad.

Please don’t hear me saying that the school should have done less for Trinity. My heart is broken for her family, her friends, and even the kids who only knew her from seeing her passing in the hall. If only we could do more.

But they should also do as much – exactly the same things – for Jordan. Because it’s all about kids. And he was another kid, with friends, with acquaintances, with family. And now he’s gone, too.

Wizard, by John Varley

In my continuing saga of the list of Sci Fi books that I’m working through …

I went back and read ‘Titan’, and then read ‘Wizard‘, by John Varley. I am now reading ‘Demon’, because I’m a glutton for punishment.

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I did not like these books. The concept is interesting, but unabashedly borrows from other books – even having characters in the book mention how derivative it is. But there are some characters who are compelling enough that I do want to finish the third book, to find out what happens, so I suppose it’s not all bad.

The frontmatter for Wizard contains this quote:

“I’ve been saying for years that John Varley is the best writer in America. This book proves it.” — Tom Clancy

I suppose how seriously you take that depends in large part on what you think of Tom Clancy.

Anyways, what I find most distracting and irritating about this book is how much of the book focuses on sex, when it has nothing whatever to do with the story line. I imagine that an abridged version of the book, aimed at a younger audience, would be more focused on the story, and roughly half the length. I don’t think I’m exaggerating – or at least, not much. It’s not that it’s lewd or graphic, it’s just gratuitous, and weakens the story, and goes on, and on, and on.

But, yes, I’m finishing the trilogy, because that’s what I do.

The full list that I’m working through is over here.

Big red button

I’ve attached the big red button to the raspberry Echo, so the wires are all hidden underneath the shelf now. Just need to get some mounting hardware for the pi. 

Features, not lies

A colleague is attending the nginx conference in Austin this week, and shared with me several anecdotes in which a speaker preached misinformation – or if I want to be generous, grievously outdated information – about Apache httpd, to support the notion that nginx is better.

This led to the following:

 

Each time I have encountered nginx people at conferences, and attended their talks, they have compared nginx to grossly misconfigured, 10 year old installations of Apache httpd 2.2 to support their claim that nginx is leaner, faster, and easier to administer.

Here’s the thing. nginx is a solid project. I have zero beef with the software itself. I have used it myself, when the need arose. What I object to is the habit of the fans of nginx to lie (or exaggerate, or just spout uninformed opinions) to make themselves look better. If you must compare, compare our latest to your latest, and have experts correctly configure each. That way, each will show where it shines, and where it doesn’t.

It is possible to configure ANY software badly. This is why it’s almost always a bad idea for an expert on SoftwareA, who knows little or nothing about SoftwareB, to compare them head to head – they’ll invariably be comparing a well-configured A to a less than optimally configured B. And in the case of nginx vs Apache httpd, these guys almost always use 2.2 or 1.3 as an example of … well, all of the things that 2.4 fixed. 5 years ago.

Any intro to marketing class will tell you that you need to talk about your own strengths more than you talk about the other guy’s weaknesses. This is a message that nginx and presidential candidates seem to have missed. And, in the case of software, it’s even more important, because whereas Donald Trump will always be a monster, every time you point out a legitimate shortcoming in Apache httpd, we fix it.

Raspberry Echo

At LinuxCon, I won a Raspberry Pi in a raffle, and someone suggested that I make an Amazon Echo with it.

There are two sets of instructions for making an Echo from a Pi.

There’s the set from Amazon, at https://github.com/alexa/alexa-avs-raspberry-pi/blob/master/README.md which is about 93 steps, cleverly disguised as 12 steps, and looked way too much work.

Then there’s Sam Machin’s version, at https://github.com/sammachin/AlexaPi which is one step. Sort of.

And there’s a YouTube video – HERE – which every article about this topic links to. The video, while helpful, skips several important steps, and uses the word “obviously” just often enough to make me feel like a drooling idiot. ‘Cause it’s not obvious, that’s why.

However, with persistence, and a lot of guess work, I got it working.

The instructions go something like this, with some of the details filled in.

Obtain a Raspberry Pi. This is pretty much the only step that is actually obvious.

Attach necessary hardware. Plug a speaker into the headphone jack, and a USB mic into one of the USB ports. I used my Samson Go Mic, and a little speaker I wasn’t using. You’ll need to use a powered (amplified) speaker, if you want to actually hear anything. Finally, you need to attach a push-button across two of the pins on the Raspberry Pi board. The pins are BPIO 18 and ground. Pin GPIO 18 is the sixth pin from the top right, when you hold the board with the pins to your right. Ground is the bottom left pin. There’s a diagram of the pins below, as well as a photo of mine.

Raspberry-Pi-GPIO-Layout-Revision-1

Note that I soldered the wires to the pins, but there are also slide-on pin jumpers that you can acquire to do this without soldering. I just didn’t have any handy.

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You can use any simple electronics kit pushbutton. I got mine at Radio Shack – you know, when there used to be Radio Shacks. 🙁

Register for an Amazon Echo developer account. You’ll do this at https://developer.amazon.com/edw/home.html#/ and this will give you access to the tools necessary to write your own Alexa apps, as well as to register your Raspberry Pi Echo.  Now, go to the 3:44 mark in the video and follow his instructions for registering your device. Give it a name you will remember – I called mine AlexaPi, but anything’s fine. Once it’s registered, leave this browser tab open. You’ll need it below.

Download Noobs – the starter Pi boot image, from https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/noobs/ and unpack that zip file onto a micro SD card that is freshly formatted with a FAT filesystem.

Boot the Pi from that card, and follow the instructions to install Raspbian.

Update Raspbian, and install necessary things. SSH to your newly running Pi (your username is ‘pi’, and your password is ‘raspberry’), and run the following commands.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git

Now, obtain and run Sam’s code:

git clone https://github.com/sammachin/AlexaPi.git
cd AlexaPi
./setup.sh

This script will walk you through the installation process, and will require information from the Amazon developer website that you have open in your browser. You’ll need the name you gave your device, and three long hex strings (numbers and letters) which you’ll paste into the script inputs. The video says that you’ll need to edit a configuration file, but that’s no longer the case, so I presume that there used to be a bug in the script that is now fixed.

The script will tell you to reboot the Pi. Do that.

When it comes back up, it will be running the Alexa service. You press the button to talk to it, and release to tell it you’re done talking. Ask it for the weather. (You can tell your new Echo where you live in the phone app, so that it gives you your local weather, rather than Seattle, which appears to be the default location.)

This is a picture of the finished product.

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My plan is to attach a nicer button, like, say, one of the Staples “that was easy” buttons, if I can get one back from the kids, and then put the rest of this stuff in a more attractive container. But everything works as desired, with one exception. Turns out that the Raspberry Echo doesn’t have access to the Amazon music services, so you can’t actually play music from Prime Music, Pandora, or other music services that are available from the “real” Echo. It’s still a very useful, and cheap, alternative to buying an actual Echo. I did all of this with parts that I already had laying around, and a Pi that I won in a raffle, so it was essentially “free”. But if I had to guess, I’d say you could do the whole project for under $75, including the Pi, a USB mic, and a speaker. Perhaps a little more, depending on what mic and speaker you go with.

If I missed any steps, please let me know, so that I can update the article. Thanks.

The Margin Is Too Narrow