Sat, 16 Feb 2013
Well, that's another FOSDEM over with. In general this year seemed the same as the last couple of years but slightly bigger than usual (although it seems that way every year). The (newish) K building was in full swing with dozens of project stalls and dev rooms. The usual suspects - virtualisation / cloud, configuration management and MySQL rooms had nearly as many people trying to get in to the rooms as they did sitting down.
I think some of the main dev rooms have reached the level of popularity that forces you to either arrive early, get a seat and not move for the rest of the day or accept a very high level of probability that you won't get to see the talks you want. I know a few of us had trouble cherry picking sessions across tracks - which obviously means we have excellent taste in topics. I wonder if having the same talks on both days would make it easier to move around as a visitor - you'd attempt to catch it the first time and if that fails, come back tomorrow. I realise however that this puts even more of a burden on speakers that graciously give their own time in both the preparation and performing of their talks. It does seem that scaling the rooms is the problem of the day once again.
I'd like to say a big thank you to all the organisers, speakers and other attendees for making it another enjoyable couple of days. See you next year.
Sun, 27 Jan 2013
Upcoming Tech events - Q1 2013
For sysadmins and devopsy type people the next couple of months are full of chances to meet and learn from your European peers -
We start off with the return of PuppetCamp to its home in Gent. Puppetcamps are a great, informal way to see how other people are using Puppet and put names to faces. A number of the more active European community members will be present and Ghent is a lovely city so it's worth a couple of days out of the office - and then of course you can stay for ...
the 800 pound gorilla of Free and Open conferences - FOSDEM 2013. It's hard to describe how much happens at FOSDEM, both in terms of material presented and project planning. 473 lectures (including the Configuration Systems Management devroom) and over 5000 people make this one a pleasure.
This year also marks the first DevopsDays London. Love or hate the name, the ideas discussed at the previous devopsdays have had a massive impact on our industries patterns and practises (and of course twitter and Hacker News) and the arrival of PuppetCamp London. Details on this one are a little thin at the moment but considering the number of puppet users in the city it'll be interesting to see who submits talks.
If after all this you still have any Euros or Holiday time left then I can recommend Linux Open Administration Days 2013 in April. LOAD is a hidden gem of a sysadmin conference with a great informal feel, excellent talks and a audience of very passionate people.
It's a great time to learn, get involved and meet your peers - I'm aiming to be at most of the above conferences and it'll be nice to see some of you there too.
Sat, 14 May 2011
ep.io and VMWare at London Devops - May 2011
I never thought I'd use a cliche like "David vs Goliath" but considering the two speakers at London Devops it does seem a little apt. Andrew Godwin from ep.io, a Python hosting platform, was the first speaker, and he did an excellent job of explaining their internal platform, how they make their decisions and what makes them special. While it was both an interesting and engaging talk it did leave me a little worried about the size of the operation.
While small companies are great to deal with in the right situations they can also be a risk due to their low survival odds, questionable ability to grow alongside you and inability to throw resources at an awkward but urgent problem. On the other hand they can provide better levels of support, knowledge and assistance if you can find a good one and treat them more as partners than vendors, and I suspect that ep.io is going to be one of the good ones.
Then we had the VMWare talk. Until a couple of years ago, when budgets shrank again and Xen and KVM began to rise, I was a big fan and a happy user of VMWare products both on server and desktop. While I've not kept up with all the product details it's hard not to have heard of CloudFoundry.
The two speakers, one from RabbitMQ and one from SpringSource (both now part of the VMWare org chart) had very different speaking styles, the speaker from RabbitMQ had a keen wit and kept the tone light with lots of amusing comments like "VMWare is about 9000 staff, about 8000 of them write device drivers" and while the man from SpringSource spent the whole time complaining about how slow his laptop was. At one point the audience nearly had a whip-round to cover the cost of a couple of GB of RAM for him. As for the content it left me a little adrift. I came out of the talk without knowing much more than I went in with. Although I always have to smile when I hear people from SpringSource describe their product line, Spring Tomcat, Spring AMQ, Spring ls and Spring Bash (I might have made the last two up) so it wasn't a complete waste.
Obviously there will be comparisons made between the talk platforms being discussed and one of the most interesting aspects of the evening for me was how well ep.io came out of the deal. They've got an architecture every bit as well thought out as that of VMWares, they're already looking at the next set of problems that both platforms are going to experience and they came across as remarkable professional for such a small team.
CloudFoundry on the other hand will probably have a bigger effect on my working life. VMWare is often quite an easy sell due to its track record and feature set and I can see more companies talking parts of CloudFoundry on board than I can see them hosting with ep.io. So it's one to spend a little time investigating. The fact that it's open source will just make the whole process easier.
The talks were very well attended with 70-80 people in the audience and once again we should say thank you to the Guardian for providing the venue and Gareth for organising it.
Tue, 19 Apr 2011
Linux Open Administration Days 2011
Last year at one of the many Belgium tech events Kris mentioned a conference called LOAD (2010) to me. I was a little late in booking the hotel and in the end I couldn't make it over - and judging by the quality of this years event that was a big mistake.
While it's nice to spend time in the devops world and talk about communication, processes and how to merge development and operational tool-chains sometimes it's nice to focus on solid, production grade sysadmining; and LOAD was the perfect conference for it. Over two days, two tracks of talks and one of tutorials, a selection of top notch speakers covered kerberos, LDAP, packaging (Debs and RPMs), storage systems, single sign on, advanced networking, virtualisation, security, HA and monitoring. Some of the talks presented were perfectly timed (DNSSEC and IPv6 from a working admins perspective), some were very solid updates on technologies we sometimes take for granted (PKI, LDAP, SSO and HA clustering) and some covered more vertical admin niches (inventory systems, Exchange replacements and small business servers).
The conference felt like a large local LUG meeting. The people were friendly, the sessions and speakers encouraged the audiences involvement both in and outside of the talks and even when the event was over everyone seemed happy to stay and chat about what they'd seen or further discuss subjects with the speakers (although I suspect the free food and drink didn't hurt in keeping the conference going after hours!)
The LOAD organisers did a marvellous job of finding so many talented speakers and promoting home grown talent. I'd only seen maybe a dozen of the people speak before and the amount of preparation each and every speaker had obviously invested made being in the audience a pleasure. No one was "quipping" about the fact they'd only just written their slides or started to prepare and a number of the speakers tailored their talks based on the other sessions to help reduce duplication and present their own take on certain subjects - and their talks, and the conference, were enhanced by it.
This post may seem a little gushing but this was the best sysadmin conference I've been to for years. I've come back with information that's going to help me do my job better and it's going to be one of the first conferences I book next year.
Thu, 17 Mar 2011
OpenIndiana - LOSUG March 2011
Tonights (the March 2011) London OpenSolaris User Group (LOSUG) was a little different to usual and while the topics have always been quite diverse we've never had as seditious a talk as one covering the Solaris fork, OpenIndiana, Illumos and the OpenSolaris community.
Alasdair Lumsden did an excellent job of explaining the new projects, why they exist and what they're aiming for. As someone who took a few steps back when Oracle purchased Solaris it was an interesting catch up. The short version seems to be that "Illumos is a derivative of OS/Net (aka ON), which basically is a Solaris/OpenSolaris kernel with the bulk of the drivers, core libraries, and basic utilities." (from Wikipedia) and is being quite heavily invested in by companies (such as Joynet and Nexenta) and by individuals that were previous employed by Sun to work on Solaris. OpenIndiana is to become an OpenSolaris distribution and packaged software ecosystem.
To me the project has a similar feel to the early days of CentOS and Scientific Linux and I think my biggest take home is that Illumos and OpenIndiana, when taken together, want to be to Solaris what CentOS and Scientific Linux are to Red Hat Enterprise Server. Unfortunately they have a massive disadvantage as Solaris, unlike upstream Red Hat, isn't entirely open. One of the most immediately visible casualties is the excellent ZFS, which is closed source upstream and will both lag behind and diverge from the official Solaris version. Which I consider to be a great loss.
On a more cheerful note the OpenIndiana project is looking for people with an interest in taking free Solaris forward and is still young enough that there are plenty of interesting aspects to get involved with. Websites, CI environments (I'm guessing they won't use Hudson. Heh) and all the other usual roles a large opensource project needs filling are up for grabs.
The talk itself was quite well attended, with what looked to be 35-40 people in the audience, and well presented. It's also the first time I've been in to Oracles Moorgate offices and they're actually quite nice and modern. The open sided lift and the suspended spiral staircase that only serves three floors were personal highlights.
I wish the project well and hope it enjoys success while being able to retain some of what made Solaris great. I may even take the DVD for a spin...
Wed, 08 Dec 2010
London Perl Workshop 2010
Over the years I've had the opportunity to attend a lot of different events focused on quite a few different programming languages, but none of them match the sheer enthusiasm and love of the language that you get from London PM. While there is always a contingent of LPMers at Perl conferences held further abroad the London Perl Workshop is my yearly chance to see lots of old friends, what they've been up to and discuss what's coming next in our field.
Other than the 3 1/2 hour tube problems getting to the venue (and having to leave the pub early) I had a great time, the organisation and volunteers were as always exceptional and it was a great idea to try and get some speakers from outside the community - and doubly so when you're lucky enough to get the seriously clued PostgreSQL expert Simon Riggs.
Thu, 15 Jul 2010
GLLUG: July 2010 - Android Talk
This'll be a short write up for a short talk. I went to the July 2010 GLLUG Android Talk where Sunny Aujla explained some of the history behind Android, Googles Linux operating system for mobile devices. He gave a brief overview of how the system differed from the main stream kernel, details of some of the interactions between the mainline kernel devs and the Google Android team and fielded a fair few questions about the tool chain and ideal uses.
Considering it was a LUG meet the number of the audience members who had an Android phone (including a couple of HTCs and a Dell Streak) wasn't exactly surprising, but the popularity of the Nokia N900 was. It does seem to be a popular piece of kit for the sub-netbook ssh running niche.
Tue, 01 Jun 2010
PuppetCamp Europe 2010
To me puppet has always been a major evolutionary step up on the sysadmin tool chain. I consider it important enough to be ranked alongside version control systems and virtualisation as one of those mental leaps that leads to better management and enables more flexible solutions than you could offer before understanding it.
While I'm quite a long term member of the puppet community I'm no where near as active as I should be, but even I couldn't miss the chance to attend PuppetCamp Europe, and I'm glad I didn't! I finally got to meet some of Europes most prolific puppet module releasers in person, discovered that Brice is every bit as nice and as scarily smart in person as he is on-list and that the new PuppetLabs people are a very impressive bunch. Even I've still not had the chance to buy James some of those beers he's racked up over the years on the list.
Puppet may be an open source project but a very high proportion of its development and community support has always come from Puppet Labs, so it's critical to both the product and the users that their staff be as good with the community as they are with the code base, and having met half-a-dozen of them I can honestly say it feels like the project is in safe hands. Jeff gave an excellent talk on using Puppet in environments with strict compliance rules, Markus had a razor sharp grasp of what people were really asking (and gave the answer to what they wanted, not just what they asked) and Luke made the event for many of us, he very patiently gave a lot of advice and information not just about the now but also about the historical whys and theoretical hows.
I had an excellent time (Ghent itself is a lovely place to visit for a couple of days) so I'd like to thank Patrick for organising the event, Luke and Puppet labs for Puppet itself and the participants for making PuppetCamp Europe 2010 such an educational and enjoyable experience.
Sun, 21 Mar 2010
Giving Cloud Computing An Edge - LOSUG March 2010
The LOSUG seems to be the user group with the least cross over of attendees that I go to. It seems to be a three part mix - Sun engineers going along to meet co-workers and get the external eye on to what's happening in different parts of the project, Unix people with dozens of years of experience who want something technical and interesting that matters on the server and people that don't listen to the speaker and then ask questions that, quite frankly, they should be embarrassed over. It's hard to stress how much I've always enjoyed the talks at LOSUG but some of the questions are just... insane.
Right, now I've got that of my chest - and I'll probably get lynched for it in the future - back to the March presentation by Alasdair Lumsden. I'm not going in to details about it as you can read the Giving Cloud Computing An Edge slides yourself now. It was an interesting talk and provided a nice counterbalance to similar talks I've heard in the past about Xen and UML hosting.
What made this LOSUG different to all the others though is that things are changing. Sun's always been very supportive of LOSUG (and always willing to put their hand in their pockets for food, drink and speakers) and now that Sun is owned by Oracle the group will be less driven by the core organisers. You can find more details (and less of me putting words in peoples mouths) at The Future of LOSUG but I wanted to take this chance to both encourage people to come along and show Oracle that the group's important and to say thank you to Joy Marshall, James MacFarlane and Stuart Smith - who have month in and month out organised an excellent event with speakers you couldn't see anywhere else.
LibguestFS GLLUG Talk
Over the years there have been a handful of GLLUG members that have given so many interesting talks that I'll always turn up to watch them - and Richard Jones is definitely in that short list.
The website does an excellent job of explaining: "libguestfs is a library for accessing and modifying virtual machine (VM) disk images. Amongst the things this is good for: making batch configuration changes to guests, viewing and editing files inside guests (virt-cat, virt-edit), getting disk used/free statistics (virt-df), migrating between virtualization systems (virt-p2v), performing partial backups, performing partial guest clones, cloning VMs and changing registry/UUID/hostname info, and much else besides." but it doesn't quite convey how cool it is to spin up access in to a windows machine in a handful of seconds and then dump out the registry key you're looking for - all from a Linux command line.
Oh, and even if you didn't turn up (tsk tsk) you can read all about the libguestfs gllug talk here.
Thu, 18 Mar 2010
London DevOps - March 2010
This month was the first of the London DevOps tech talks. Organised by R I Pienaar and masterfully shepherded on the evening by Chris Read about thirty sysadmins (and some developers, project managers and scrum masters) met for a series of impromptu discussions, beer and pizza
While there was no formal schedule for the evening Chris led the group in a fishbowl, seeding some ideas and then watched the conversations bloom. We went through some tool chain issues, trending, log analysis, how Splunk is the best thing since sliced bread with bacon in it and how Centos does some very interesting things with the data they collect. It was the first fishbowl I'd ever attended and it was actually a lot of fun, especially when people suggested RDF and SPARQL for a common data store.
A short break was taken when the pizza arrived and a number of interesting conversations broke out, how little admin time Apache Solr seems to need (and how odd it is to use rsync and shell scripts to sync out changes), how Redis and CouchDB are making certain problem domains easier to deal with and how the BBC has so many cool people hidden away were among those I ambled in to.
ThoughtWorks kindly donated beer, pizza and most importantly the venue - and for that we should say thank you. Getting a decent venue is always difficult for a new group. Although it's early days the group feels like it's got potential, the conversations were interesting, we don't all agree on where we should be heading and what we need next but the atmosphere was friendly and open. Hopefully these meets will last longer than SAGE-WISE did, with all the developer focused events in London it's nice to get to one that's a little closer to what I do.
Sat, 17 Oct 2009
Hadoop Talk - SkillsMatter 2009
After an embarrassing tale of misunderstanding, wrong locations and blind luck I recently ended up at the Introduction to data processing with Hadoop and Pig talk over at SkillsMatter - and it was excellent.
For those that don't know about Hadoop, it's an OpenSource Java framework for data-intensive distributed applications. It enables applications to work with thousands of nodes and petabytes of data. Hadoop was inspired by Google's MapReduce and Google File System (GFS) papers. I was aware of the basics but even in an hour I learned enough to know where to look for more details. Pig on the other hand is (to me) like SQL but for Hadoop, it's a lot easier to use than writing your own Java apps and simpler (and actually possible) for non-developers to read than the reams of classes required for custom jobs.
The speaker was excellent, the presentation was well timed, fluid, concise, paced just the way I like it and other than the question session the evening was very enjoyable. You can find the Hadoop slides online.
Sun, 27 Sep 2009
DJUGL September 2009
Despite the fact a large percentage of the DJUGL meetups have occurred in the building I work in I've been very lax in attending one, and it's been my loss.
The crowd was friendly, the pizza and diet coke plentiful and the speakers enjoyable, and I've got every intension of making the next meeting - especially if it's in the same building.
Gareth Rushgrove started the talks with a subject very dear to my heart, deployment. The talk went quite quickly with an intro to Fabric and a live demo of a deployment. The demo went as most demos do but fabric itself looks interesting, especially when you consider that our websites are written in Python. Unfortunately the two different versions (with different goals) and the fact that a new owner's pushing the development now means it's not something I can drop in right now with any degree of comfort. I'd like other people to find the rough edges first so for now I'll stick with the plan of getting Capistrano involve id in one of our more self contained projects alongside puppet.
Although I disagreed with little bits here and there it's always nice to hear a developers point of view on this stuff.
Ben Firshman was up next with a selection of talks, the Celery distributed task queue (very nice API but passes pickled python objects so only good for Python at each end projects), a rewrite of MPTT (a topic of which I know nothing) and some highlights about py.test (a quite nice Python test framework). I've been lucky enough to work with Ben over the last few months and he's someone to keep an eye on technically.
This was the last DJUGL organised by Robert Lofthouse, he's passed the baton on to Gareth, and from the people I met at the event, and he can pass it on proud of the group he's put together.
Thu, 17 Sep 2009
Ubuntu Security Talk - Skills Matter September 2009
A couple of days ago I had the chance to attend a talk on PAM and AppArmor at Skills Matter. To be honest it wasn't what I expected, the subject level was very beginner focused, PAM only received scant coverage and the other tools were all old hands like a port scan with nmap or basic IP Tables rules.
The evenings highlight for me was the coverage of AppArmor, both because it's a very neat tech that seems orders of magnitude easier to use then SELinux and secondly because the last time I saw it mentioned was when Crispin Cowan spoke at GLLUG. It's great to see it in a mainline distro and I've added it back on to my experiment with list.
Sun, 30 Aug 2009
Last weekend I joined the hordes and worked my way from London to Seigburg for FrOSCon 2009. Along the way I experienced an airport evacuation due to fire alarm, a delayed flight, four trains (one in the wrong direction) and numerous kindly old German ladies that took pity on me and gradually got me in the right direction. And it was worth every second.
I'd never really considered going to FrOSCon before, the percentage of talks given in German is quite high and I don't speak a word of the language but this year there was an excellent line up of speakers (all presenting in English) in the OpenSQLCamp room. As I'm getting more and more MySQL requests at work I thought it'd be a handy thing to go along and learn from.
In general it reminded me of the earlier FOSDEMs in tone, especially with the selection of project based developer rooms. The only annoyance was that so many sysadmin related talks, with excellent attention grabbing titles, were in German only. I plan on working my way through the slides in the hope that I can get at least a basic idea of their subject matter.
A large percentage of the sessions were recorded and I'm looking forward to catching up on the sessions where I was already booked or engaging in the hallway track. The only annoyance was that so many sysadmin related talks, with excellent titles, were in German only. I plan on working my way through the slides in the hope that I can get at least a basic idea of their subject matter.
Speaker highlights for me were Dag Wieers and Simon Wardley, both are very entertaining, highly practised speakers that grab the audience and don't let go. I especially like watching the audience in swardleys cloud computing talks as they gradually come to see how it's going to impact all of us eventually. If he was paired with someone in the mobile space with the same kind of eloquence we'd have a nice road map of the tech future.
Although the English language talks were a little thin on the ground during the second day the organisers did an excellent job (although the newbies like me could have done a few pointers about things like the BBQ, do we buy tickets? Pay at the counter?) and with a little luck I'll have the money to go back again next year.
Thu, 27 Aug 2009
NW Rug - Capistrano Talks
I recently headed up to the August NWRug in Manchester, firstly because it's been a while since I've seen Will Jessop, the organiser (and more importantly a mate) and secondly because I was interested in Capistrano.
While we use puppet at work for the more strategic stuff, such as ensuring machines start off with a well-defined configuration, I've been in need of something to perform sets of tasks against defined groups of servers. While I've been using the time honoured pattern of wrapping our inventory commands in ssh loops I've started to have more complex needs. While we're not using Ruby or Rails Cap looks like it should be able to fulfil a lot of my need for immediate action (something that puppet isn't good at).
While the first talk of the evening was about the basics of Cap the second was much more interesting to me. It was an advanced talk given by (I think) the current maintainer. He did an excellent job of explaining some of the less common features and how they related to the Unix philosophy - such as streams and pipes. The speaker obviously knew his stuff and it's given me the push I need to hopefully spend some time in the future looking at the software. If his slides go up they are well worth a read.
The group were a friendly bunch, the venue was nice and the talks educational. If it wasn't for the train cost and the time spent travelling I'd be more than willing to attend more of their meetings.
Thu, 02 Jul 2009
EuroPython 2009 - Wrap up Post
Over the last week I've been up in Birmingham catching up with some old friends and attending some talks at the little get together of around 450 Pythonistas that was EuroPython 2009.
This was my second Python conference. The first was PyCon 2008, which was so well organised (by many of the same team as this years EuroPython) that I was inspired to come back. And I wasn't disappointed. There were a lot of very good talks, some that have planted seeds that I'll have to come back and try to find the time to look at and some that showed me things I plan on using in the very near future (such as py.test).
The atmosphere was topnotch. Everyone seemed friendly, the speakers were approachable and after spending the evening with so many people working on so many things it was a pleasure to get back to the room and make sure I actually did something technical before bed.
It's a wonderful feeling to come away from a conference feeling motivated to try new technologies and all I need to do now is actually schedule some time actually write some Python code...
The organisers did a great job and I'll be back next year.
Sun, 01 Mar 2009
London PM Moose Talks - Feb 2009
I wasn't able to get to the actual talks but luckily the Moose talk slides are now all online (apart from Moose for Ruby programmers which has instead been expanded in to a blog post). By all reports it was another excellent night and I'll have to keep the evening free for the next one.
Now I've read the slides and heard so much positive feedback I think it's time I tried Moose for a couple of projects. The initial install is still a little daunting due to the sheer number of modules it pulls in (although my main dev machine has most of CPAN installed anyway) but the benefits it seems to bring (I especially like the look of MooseX::Getopt) may be well worth the trade off.
If you're not familiar with Moose have a look at the slides, it's great to see a lot of the Perl6 promise here to use right now.
Fri, 30 Jan 2009
LOSUG - Jan 09 Wrap Up
I'm going to try and get to more LOSUG meetings this year and the January presentation by MC Brown has done nothing to put me off. Although some of the audience tried their best...
First up - the good. The actual presentation, MySQL/DTrace and Memcached, was very well done. The speaker was funny, well rehearsed and knew his material extremely well. The MySQL DTrace probes are made to be used in demos and are very enticing.
Now for the bad. The talks technical coverage was quite light on the MySQL/DTrace part and the memcache section was painful. Big parts of the audience just didn't seem to get the idea. The speaker had to constantly backtrack to keep more than a handful of us with him. I had to resist the urge to join in and ask questions like 'how do you do joins?' just to see how big the vein on his forehead would get.
Still, the speaker must have been good as I've already played with the OpenSolaris Live CD they gave away. I'm looking forward to next month.
Thu, 22 Jan 2009
LOSUG 2009 - A MySQL Must See
LOSUG is one of Londons best kept tech secrets. It's hosted in a nice venue, often has a very knowledgeable audience full of Sun engineers and this month will be covering MySQL/DTrace and Memcached.
If you're a sysadmin or a developer interested in getting more, or better, metrics and understanding of how and what your system is doing make sure you book a place.