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Not gambling in Vegas

I don’t care for gambling or gratuitous public drinking, and crowds definitely aren’t my scene, so my love for Las Vegas frequently surprises people. I routinely bump into acquaintances who share my feelings, and have avoided Las Vegas because they believe it’s too much of a “sin city” for them. I won’t lie, there is gambling everywhere, hotels intentionally route you through their windowless casinos to get everywhere. Sexualization is everywhere too, from scantily-clothed wait staff in the casinos to outright x-rated advertisements that litter the ground as you walk down the strip. I’d never call Las Vegas family-friendly and am glad they’ve backed off their attempts to make it so.

Still, I do love Las Vegas for the:

  • Neon lights
  • Late nights
  • Extravagant shows
  • Quirky museums and exhibitions
  • Quite the history
  • Spectacular food
  • Animals
  • Stunning pools
  • Interesting day trip opportunities

And over-the-top EVERYTHING, which is a nice escape from time to time. Everything in Las Vegas is bigger, more extravagant and indulgent. So, my similarly-minded friend of mine, if you’re looking for some non-gambling, non-drinking, non-sexualized things to do in Las Vegas, here’s my tour of the goodies I’ve found.

Neon lights

Before I knew much about Las Vegas, I knew about the neon lights on the strip. It’s what I always dreamed of seeing when I thought of Las Vegas, a sparkling city of lights rising from the middle of the desert. Las Vegas doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Much like Times Square in NYC, walking down the strip at night is well-lit because of the huge screens and sparkling neon. The Walgreens has a neon sign, and so does the Denny’s. If you too like neon, The Neon Museum is a must see, and it’s one of the few museums that is not only open past 5PM, it’s much better to see when it’s dark. The basic visit is buying tickets for a specific time to get a tour of the “bone yard” where there are piles of defunct signs, with a handful here and there that are functioning, at least partially. The tour guide takes you through a 45 minute walk through the outdoor bone yard, sharing history of the signs and the city. It’s fascinating, and the walk outside on a cool desert night is quite enjoyable.

The neon boneyard

But what was really breathtaking is the Brilliant! show. I had no idea what to expect from this ticket add-on, and somewhat expected it to be a tourist trap. Instead, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in Las Vegas. You walk from the museum over to a separate area where you’re surrounded by dead signs. Repeat after me: dead. They don’t work. They aren’t plugged in, most are missing their lightbulbs. The signs don’t work. In the middle stands a couple pillars whose purpose becomes clear quickly. The lights are shut off and you’re then dazzled by the signs coming to life, with help from the pillars that contain a series of projectors that precisely beam out overlays onto the signs that make them look like they’re functioning. No joke, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A soundtrack is played during the show featuring classics from Las Vegas standards Sinatra, Elvis and others, adding a bit of heart and nostalgia to the show.

Dead signs come to life for Brilliant!

Late nights

Truth is, not everything is open all night in Las Vegas, but a lot is. You’ll find lots of places open until midnight, but even over night there are always places you can find to grab a bite. If you want to take a walk down the strip in the middle of the night with a beer or cocktail in hand, go for it! Everyone else is. My only word of caution goes for any time in Vegas: it’s a tourist town, there’s crime of opportunity (usually theft, pickpockets), don’t get too drunk and don’t venture off-strip.

Extravagant shows

THE SHOWS! Vegas is a must stop for many of the most popular acts of the day, so you can sync up your trip to see your favorite singer, though I never have. I did see (and meet!) Penn & Teller here, went to The Evil Dead musical during my bachelorette party, have been to a variety of Cirque du Soleil shows. Every time of live performance you’d want to see, it’s probably here. Also, they now have a home hockey team with a stadium right behind New York-New York on the strip, and a football team is coming soon.

Quirky museums and exhibitions

I already mentioned the Neon Museum, but also of note is the The National Atomic Testing Museum. Atomic testing was done within view of Las Vegas and people used to have viewing parties around the explosions. It’s the perfect site for this museum. The city also plays host to world class exhibitions that have found a more long term home here. I worried that exhibits like the Titanic one at the Luxor would be sub-par, but it was tasteful and well done, and houses “The Big Piece” – a huge section of the hull that was recovered and made the visit worth it on its own.

Quite the history

It’s probably a bad idea to glamorize the history of Las Vegas that’s littered with mobsters, but it’s hard to avoid it. I stayed at The Flamingo due to its origin story that included Bugsy Siegel (also, it’s pink, and iconic!). The Mob Museum near downtown Las Vegas is deliciously in a former courthouse and includes such amazing artifacts as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Macabre, perhaps, but amazing. And then there’s downtown Las Vegas itself. I didn’t go in the evening when the giant screens above you light things up, but I did pop into the Golden Nugget and check out other must see neon signs one afternoon. Even though I’ll still likely stay near the strip in the more expensive part of town, it’s worth the visit, and everything really is cheaper there.

Spectacular food

So. Much. Food. Take the normal American excess, and pile on the endless crab legs and chocolate fountains. The crowned best Vegas buffet changes over time and I’ve been to a few great ones. There’s also spectacular fine dining that you should get reservations for, some of the best restaurants in the country have a location in Las Vegas in addition to places like NYC and LA or SF. I love food, so this is definitely a draw for me.

Sushi and sake flight, would order again!


Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat over at The Mirage has dolphins! And lions! And Tigers! It’s one of my favorite places. There are also a handful of aquariums, one at The Mirage and another at the end of the strip at Mandalay Bay. Caesar’s Palace also has a big fish tank you can see for free that they like to call an aquarium, but I was a bit disappointed, though it did allow me to see the also free “Fall of Atlantis” show, which has super old animatronic characters and was actually kind of funny, plus there was fire.

Stunning pools

My pale complexion is not a huge fan of the sun, but I do love pools. One of my strategies is going out in the morning, before the pool gets crowded and the sun too high overhead. You could also rent a cabana, which is not cheap… but it is cheaper in the off-season, and will provide you a dedicated space of your own, food and beverage service and other goodies.

Pool at The Luxor

Interesting day trip opportunities

Boulder City is right nearby! Next time I’m there I want to go on the Nevada Southern Railway excursion train. And the Hoover Dam is just 40 minutes away! You can also visit the west rim of the Grand Canyon on a day trip, which isn’t quite as impressive as what you’d see from the South Rim, but is still spectacular. But my recommendation? Save up and spring for the helicopter plus boat tour. You’re in a huge bus for hours with piles of strangers, treat yourself to more than just a nice view. Plus, then you won’t be painfully jealous of the people on the tour who do take the detour over to the helicopters. It’s not long, but it’s an experience I won’t forget.

Finally, I also do hold a fondness for all the replicas. The giant pyramid of The Luxor, the Eiffel Tower, miniature New York City, the recreation of ancient Rome. It’s all less popular these days with the staggering rise of high end resort-style hotels, but I love this old stuff. I reveled in the night spent at The Luxor, and a stroll through the columns and Roman Gods of Caesar’s Palace topped off with a great Italian meal is quite the treat. I also like walking down the strip, but on hot days it is nice to catch some of the trains, on my last trip I discovered the free tram that now connects The Bellagio, Aria and Monte Carlo, which gets you a nice chunk of the way to New York-New York, and the next train that connects the Excalibur to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Las Vegas also has a (paid) Monorail on the other side of the street, that I used a bit when staying at The Flamingo.

So, much to do in Las Vegas without drinking or gambling! The excess is certainly not for everyone, but I enjoy it for a leave-the-real-world-behind escape.

DockerCon 2018

A few weeks ago I spent a couple days commuting up to San Francisco for DockerCon SF 2018 at Moscone West. This was my first DockerCon and my second time attending a conference in this venue, though last time was for Google I/O when I was living a couple blocks away so the commute was considerably shorter! I came in for Wednesday and Thursday of the conference, which allowed me to see a couple days of keynotes, along with sessions here and there.

The first thing you notice about this conference is how big it is. Coming in at about 5000 people, it’s on the large side of events I go to. Unfortunately the sessions were a bit hard to get into if you didn’t plan ahead by at least a week. The badges doubled as attendee check-ins for the sessions so they could manage flow with guaranteed spots and wait lists. As a result, I missed the opportunity to see a talk by my Mesosphere colleague, though it was nice to see the wait list was also full for his talk!

The second thing that because clear very quickly was that, like Puppet, this was a very vendor-focused conference. They keynotes trended very Enterprise-focused both in product and audience, especially on the second day. I think part of this is that they separated out some of the community stuff into other days that I didn’t attend for. The schedule system was also pretty confusing, so it’s possible I just missed things that may have been interesting to me due to how they split up the event to various “theaters” and things that were not necessarily main track talks.

There was a strong theme of avoiding cloud-based vendor lock-in. It’s an important message for me as well, so I did like to see others pushing the message, and their technical preview of a hybrid cloud solution was good to see.

I was also there to to pitch in at the Mesosphere booth, which I did both days!

On Thursday headed out to lunch and meet up with my friend John, in town from Philadelphia.

Talk-wise, I ended up in few that were less interesting to me due to the proprietary nature of their solutions and focused more on the product than how they solved specific problems in a more general way. However, I really enjoyed a talk by Ilan Rabinovitch of DataDog who shared adoption trends gleaned from statistics that DataDog collects. This gave insight into the most popular workloads (ngnix, Redis) and how many were using orchestrators like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and DC/OS (about 50%). Perhaps most fascinating for me though was the lifespan of a typical container, which comes in at about 2 days, and is less than it was in previous years. Broken down further, the lifespan of a container in an orchestrated environment is actually 1/2 a day, and unorchestrated is 6 days. For those of you following along at home, a shorter lifespan is typically better, since it should point to a system that’s resilient, automated (perhaps driven by a CI/CD process), and updating containers as needed rather than letting anything get outdated or otherwise insecure. I also enjoyed a talk about Itsio, since they dove into the specifics into why traditional tooling for monolith applications isn’t well-suited for a microservices world. They went into the basic architecture of an Istio deployment by explaining what each component was, talked about features of the next release, and gave a demo.

I’m glad I went to experience it and meet up with folks who I know from the community, but I think this conference tended to be on the less valuable side for me. Maybe if I had attended previous ones I may have understood the format a bit better, or if I was actually more involved with the community directly I could appreciate some of the breakout sessions. As a peer in the container space and open source enthusiast, I think it just was a bit too product-focused for me. Back to pure open source and DevOps events for me!

A few more photos from DockerCon 2018 are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157694835161302

Spending time in our new hometown

Over the past month I participated in two conferences and a couple meetups, but they were all in San Francisco, allowing me to sleep in my own bed every night for several weeks in a row! This has allowed me to spend a couple weekends tinkering on some projects and to go on a few outings with MJ. Unfortunately I was also knocked down a peg by a strep throat, accompanied by a fever, which stole an entire weekend from me in early June.

Still, home adventures were had! First up was finally making it over to Chabot Cinema, the one-screen movie theater in downtown Castro Valley. There we got to enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story on the Friday it opened. The theater was probably mid-range quality-wise, it wasn’t as run down as I had feared, but it was certainly no IMAX with reclining seats. It was comfortable and inexpensive, and I could see myself going there regularly if I manage to make time to see movies in the theater anytime soon. Incredibles 2 is playing there now, it’s tempting to head over tomorrow night after MJ leaves for on work trip.

MJ had his friend Matti in town for a week, and one of the outings I was able to tag along to was visiting the nearby Castro Valley Farmers’ Market which takes place in the BART parking lot on Saturdays. It was our first time going there, I picked up fruit, a couple frozen meat pies, and hummus. It’s strawberry season now, and the strawberries from these local farmers were some of the best I’ve had in a long time. It was also hot. The east bay gets considerably warmer than San Francisco, so we’ve been seeing summer temperatures climb into the 80s and 90s for several days this month. An outdoor farmers’ market was a nice jaunt for a half hour or so, but the temperature encouraged a speedy retreat.

Last weekend MJ and I spent our afternoon walking around the Castro Valley Car Show. They closed off a decent stretch of Castro Valley Boulevard and packed it with classic cars, live bands, and vendors. Seeing the cars was a lot of fun, getting to drool over the old sports cars that had their engines swapped so they now speed down the highway at unnatural speeds, and the nice collection of Chevrolet Bel Airs whose fins make you believe they may take off from the ground at any minute, if they weren’t so gigantic. It renewed my interest in the hobby of classic cars that I know I’ll never manage to find time for, but it did inspire me to action in another way, digging out the photo album that contained photos my father’s Triumph Spitfire and scanning them so they’d be available online, photos here. With Father’s Day that Sunday, it was a fortuitous time to get them online, and to posthumously thank him for (sadly!) selling the car in favor of a Practical Family Car when I was a kid. It also brought back memories for some of my relatives who remembered the car and saw my Facebook post sharing the photos.

We took a break midway through car browsing to grab lunch at the local Thai restaurant, and I browsed shops while MJ stepped away for a haircut. That’s when I had the opportunity to visit World Wide Art, which I’d somewhat written off as your standard local frame shop and gallery. It surprised me upon entering, they have a huge collection of popular art, heavy on Disney themes, but also some Star Wars and others creeping in on the edges. Wow! With my home office already teeming with goodies to go on the walls, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to buy from their shop, but I’m thrilled that such a place exists in our new home town, and gives me some good ideas for gifts.

More photos from the car show here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697538127214

I also mentioned I’ve had some time for projects. When I was in Vancouver for the OpenStack Summit, I saw one of my former colleagues on the Infrastructure team with a tiny computer. I quickly learned that it was the GPD Pocket and ordered one for myself. It’s the form factor that pulled me in. I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Dell Mini9, a Linux “laptop” that would fit in my purse, ever since my Mini9 ceased to hold a charge, and even the unused replacement batteries were getting old. While it’s awkward to type on, the GPD Pocket comes in a bit smaller at 7″ and is super cute.

He shared his instructions for installing Debian here and I dutifully followed along, making a couple clarifying statements here and there. The worst part of the process was discovering that the graphical installer for that week on the Debian Testing image was faulty. This was compounded by knowing that a lot of people struggled with limited power coming from the USB port, so at first I believed the USB port was to blame, finally after a couple hours I tried the installer on another laptop and learned that it indeed was the culprit. From there, I just used the text-based installer. The only lingering issue I can think of is the screen rotation, which defaults to portrait for grub, lightdm and the desktop itself (console is fine, which makes for a trippy boot-up sequence). The desktop was easy to fix, the others will take some fiddling. I don’t know that I’ll ever grow accustom to the keyboard, but I won’t be writing the next Great American Novel on it, it’s more about a better solution than my phone or tablet for things like on the go email writing and IRC. I can’t speak to the reliability of it yet, but the form factor is quite slick and I like the feel of it.

The next weekend, inspired by Ubuntu colleague Nathan Haines doing the same, I got to play with some more hardware, this time pulling my BQ Aquaris M10 tablet off the shelf to reinstall Ubuntu Touch on it. I had flashed it with Android after it lost support from Canonical, but today at team over at Ubports has picked up where they left off to continue development and support for Ubuntu Touch. Since I had installed Android on it, first I had to reflash it with an old version of Ubuntu Touch, which took a few tries due to my not reading the instructions properly the first time around. Then the super easy installer they wrote took over and I was up and running with the new version in no time. I’m really happy with how easy they’ve made it, no more fiddling around with adb yourself, you just plug it in and go.

I don’t have any grand travel planned for work over the next couple months, but we will be going back to Philadelphia a couple times to sort through boxes and eventually get everything we’re not using there shipped out here to California. Not exactly a lot of fun, but it needs to be done and I’ll be happy when the den at the townhouse in Philadelphia isn’t packed with boxes and is instead set up as our home office. Our first trip begins this Friday, and we’ll be spending the 4th of July week there before parting ways, with me taking the Acela up to Boston for a couple days to participate in an organizing committee meeting for a conference I’m a talk chair for. It should be an interesting summer.

DevXCon 2018

A few weeks ago I attended my second DevXCon. It was held in the dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco this year, which meant a BART ride and then a MUNI Metro ride to get to the venue, but it was still quite accessible to public transit.

This year my colleague Judith and I put in a talk which was accepted titled “Debian to DC/OS: factors that shape open source communities” where we pulled out some of the similarities between open source projects we’ve worked on and evaluated the strategies for effectively supporting these communities. My own experience across projects has shown some very interesting trends around the relationship between an open source project and the company or companies supporting it. Perhaps most notably, is in the Ubuntu community where we were fiercely loyal to the project, but bristled at the association with Canonical. Community members would be thrilled to have their work highlighted on an Ubuntu-branded resource, but less likely to even allow Canonical to “use their work” to promote the company at all. The key point of the talk is that analysis of the company, project and community needs to be done on several axes so you can craft an effective approach to community development, since what may work well in one community could fail in another, and you need anticipate and handle that. Slides from the talk can be found here (PDF).

Thanks to Leslie Hawthorn for taking a picture during our talk! source

It was an enjoyable talk to give, but the talk slots at this event were 20 minutes long (short!) and I’m not used to having a co-presenter, so I was a little nervous about timing and flow. Still, it went well and I’ll be giving it again at the end of August for the Open Collaboration Conference at the Open Source Summit in Vancouver. I have some additions I’d like to make to the criteria for evaluating projects, and it would be fun to add a couple more projects to our examples.

Of course the real value of this conference is in hearing what other people have to say! The event kicked off on Monday afternoon with a keynote from Jono Bacon about cultivating leaders. This is a complicated topic, and he handled a lot of the nuance of it well. All of the communities I’ve worked in have struggled with cultivating leaders beyond the original few, but you can’t just hand off leadership to anyone who comes along and wants it, as it’s common for people who want responsibilities to be ill-suited for it. You need to look for the right characteristics and recognize that not everyone is cut out to be in a leadership role. He stressed the importance of listening, ability to be decisive, humility and self-awareness for when mistakes do happen. He also talked about how you need to support the people in your community who may be good leaders by providing coaching and mentoring.

The second keynote came from Mano Marks who explored the developer advocate/evangelist question of “Who do you work for?” It’s a question I’ve easily answered as “the community” but you are being paid by a company and there is some loyalty to be recognized there as well. He explored motivations of various stakeholders and factors like company size, project and product maturity and community size, and how these all impact where your role. I was also happy that he addressed the topic of integrity, since many of us are hired partially based on our reputation and that’s important to keep healthy if we wish to succeed across multiple positions in developer relations.

On Tuesday I enjoyed hearing from Bear Douglas about connecting developer relations to product inside of a company. It’s something we’ve started doing more as we process community feedback and tickets. Part of your job is to be the filter and the funnel to make sure feedback is of a high caliber and clear. One of my favorite bits of advice was that you should mix in feature requests and concerns with positive and neutral feedback as well. You don’t want product to dread your reports or visits that are full of complaints and requests, instead mix them up so they also have reason to feel good about what the community members are expressing. She also talked about the importance of closing the feedback loop so everyone involved feels like their feedback is being addressed in some way.

I also enjoyed the afternoon keynote chat with Alex Salazar at Okta who shared a story of their first developer experience hire whose actions actually caused the company to pivot early on based on community feedback, despite protests from leadership. It ended up being the right decision for the company and was an excellent demonstration of how powerful developer relations can be.

During afternoon sessions I heard from Brian Proffitt about effectively talking to the media as a representative of your community, including key tips like making sure you communicate major changes, new things and the larger ecosystem impact of whatever you’re seeking to announce. Clarity is important, since news may go out regardless, and you want it to be accurate. He also appealed to the need to find the right reporter for your news and to stay on target with your messaging. I think what I liked most about this talk was that Brian is a story teller, and I enjoy the story he weaves in his talks.

I also attended a talk by Leslie Hawthorn and Laura Czajkowski where they talked about the success of the Ubuntu community in hiring known people in the Linux ecosystem to work on Ubuntu early on who could effectively impact the product and seed the community, and how the community friendly messaging early on created a passionate community. The Ubuntu community also made clear calls for contributions and always placed a high value on contributions from community members. They also leveraged existing structures in place, like LUGs and existing open source conferences that were receptive to the goals of Ubuntu. It was all stuff that I knew since I was part of the community and lived through it, but I enjoyed seeing it presented as a use case like this since it helped me more objectively look at the successes the community had and how I can more effectively integrate that into my own community nurturing work today.

The conference was a good one for me, and I was quite happy both with the 20 minute talk slots and the duration of the event itself, lasting from Monday afternoon through Tuesday. I think a lot of the attendees are like me and do a lot of events, so taking time to attend yet another event, even if it’s for more specific professional development, can be a bit of a burden. It is a lot easier to squeeze in a day and a half into our schedule, and of course I enjoyed that I didn’t actually have to travel for it!

OpenStack Summit and OpenDevConf

Back in May I traveled to Vancouver for the second time in my life. The first was in 2015 when I was there for an OpenStack Summit, and the summit brought me back this time, as I was on the program committee and giving a keynote at OpenDevCon, co-located with the summit. It’s probably my favorite venue in the world, hugging the harbor to provide spectacular views and the opportunity for nice walks along the waterfront during breaks.

The last time I was at an OpenStack Summit was in Barcelona 18 months prior, during my last week with HPE. As a high end to much of my OpenStack work, I spent that week prepping for and then delivering one of the keynotes where I demonstrated live addition of OpenStack-powered clouds to to the production Nodepool in the OpenStack project CI system. At the time, the key messaging was OpenStack as an “integration engine” that empowers organizations to embrace a wide breadth of proven technologies, from storage to compute-focused virtualization to software-defined networking. I think in these 18 months we’ve started taking those features for granted as the virtualized server side of the market becomes more commoditized and what really resonates with companies today is a desire to avoid vendor lock-in. With this change of pace, the OpenStack Summit this time around had strong messaging around “Open Infrastructure” so you’re not bound to a single cloud provider. Key to the product strategy in the container space, it’s messaging that I’m familiar with and generally resonates with my own goals in the free software movement.

As far as the OpenStack Summit itself goes, for the first time I wasn’t there to collaborate with my peers on OpenStack, so it was a very different experience than past years. As an industry observer this time, I could enjoy the keynote explorations into edge computing and the improvements in hardware involvement in virtualization, from CPUs to networks. There was the general collaboration between would-be competitors throughout the keynotes was what I’d come to expect from this amazing community (with the notable exception of Canonical…). In addition to their general “open infrastructure” messaging, there also has started to be a shift in the role of the foundation, with support of additional projects that, while complementary, aren’t strictly tied to OpenStack itself. This was highlighted with announcements around the independent projects Kata Containers and Zuul CI. Amusingly, containers and CI systems are both things that are now solidly in my wheelhouse, so it appears my own career trajectory is currently mirroring what we’re seeing there. The OpenDev conference I was there for solidly showed their commitment to CI/CD systems, but massive container tracks at the event make me now see the value in Mesosphere being a stronger part of the conversation at future summits.

OpenDev was great. I wrote about my keynote and the event in broad swaths over on the company blog in Open CI/CD Systems Gaining Traction. My keynote was about doing CI/CD for microservices in containers, where the bulk of the 14 minute talk was a demo where I showed deploying Jenkins, Github and a brand new Git repository for a website, with tests, on DC/OS in 12 minutes. It was a nerve-wracking adventure up there on the stage, but it succeeded! If you’re curious, the demo is fully open source so you can even try it yourself: video, slides and demo.

I also enjoyed finally meeting Benjamin Mako Hill (who I overlapped with a bit in Ubuntu work very early on) and seeing him speak on a topic he has written about, Free Software Needs Free Tools (video). He walked through the lessons Linux learned from their trouble with the proprietary BitKeeper software and stressed the importance of using free tools for the development of free software. It was an incredibly popular talk and message for this crowd, as much of the work we’re all doing is focused on an open source ecosystem for software development. A talk from Fatih Degirmenci and Daniel Farrell on Continuous Delivery Across Communities was also fascinating (video). Collaborating at OpenCI.io there are multiple open source projects that now do some degree of hooking their CI systems together to test specific changes against each other, it was fun to sit down with them on day two of the conference to see what the next steps are for making software development better across open source by using forward-thinking strategies that cross the boundaries between communities.

The conference had several talks spanning the open source CI/CD ecosystem today, from Spinnaker to Zuul to a Kubernetes-driven implementation of CI/CD tooling. What was most valuable to me though were the collaboration sessions, which get several practitioners in a room together, many of whom had never met, to talk through common problems and start coming up with solutions and action items. I can catch up with the talks online post-event, but it was energizing to be in a room with others who share my interest in these topics and to tackle popular operations and culture topics outside of the general DevOps umbrella, where I’m more accustom to seeing these discussions happen.

I was really happy with how this event turned out, and it was a pleasure to be invited on the program committee for it. The OpenStack Foundation succeeded in pulling of a flawless event that pulled in a lot of the right people far beyond the crowd who’d normally come to anything OpenStack related. It was really nice to see that several people had come in just for this event itself, and that made it so important voices some of us hadn’t heard before were able to add an amount of diversity to the conversations. Plus, there were cupcakes.

More photos from the OpenStack Summit and OpenDev here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157691445454010

On Thursday OpenDev was behind me, and I spent the afternoon in a few final sessions at the summit itself and catching up with people before taking the train to the airport. But the morning was reserved for something a lot more fun than a conference, I had booked a seaplane tour! When I visited Vancouver last time I watched longingly as the seaplanes took off and landed all week, but I decided to go to amazing Vancouver Aquarium instead on my free day. I wouldn’t miss the seaplanes this time! So I Thursday morning I dragged (ok, it didn’t take much convincing) my friend Steve along with me down to the port, which was conveniently right next to the conference venue.

We did the “Extended Panorama” (Adventure Tour) from Harbour Air, where our charming and amusing pilot took us up for about 45 minutes through the nearby mountains for much of it. The tour kicked off with a reminder from the pilot that seaplanes don’t have brakes (the water does that) and limited steering ability. Hah! Once airborne, we flew around the harbor and then into the snow-capped mountains. The tour offered gorgeous glimpses of mountain lakes and other large waterways and concluded by flying over the city of Vancouver before splashing back down into the harbor. At $200/person it’s not something I could do regularly, but I probably wouldn’t say turn down the opportunity to do it again when I’m in Vancouver again at the end of August for the Open Source Summit.

Lots more photos from the seaplane ride and some of the yummy food I enjoyed on my trip here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157697222323075

A cat and containers in Philadelphia

I spent the week before the OpenStack Summit/OpenDev in Vancouver over in Philadelphia. The point of this visit was to care for my sister-in-law’s cat for the week while they were out of the country. MJ flew out first and picked up our niece, Olive the cat, and I joined him on Saturday morning. Sadly, he flew out on Sunday evening, but at least I had kitty company for the week at the townhouse!

Olive is a sweetheart. I’d only met her once before, when we were over for Thanksgiving last year, but she was full of love and snuggles almost immediately. It made for a good week, as I spent most of it in hermit mode. I had dinner with a friend one night but otherwise the only outing I really did was down to the city to present at a Docker Meetup.

During this hermit time, I spent much of my time sorting through some of the final boxes of stuff we have inherited from deceased relatives. MJ and I are going back for a three-day weekend in June to do some pre-shipping organizing, but my job this trip was to go through about 20 boxes of framed artwork to take photos of them so we could review them here in California and decide what we should bring out here, and what we want to keep back east. It took the whole week since opening big, long-sealed picture boxes was tiring work.

In preparation for the Docker Meetup I doubled-down on completing a CI/CD demo I wrote. I gave a talk with the CD portion of it at SCALE this year, but in the interest of time didn’t make adding the CI portion a priority until recently. Thankfully I was able to complete CI segment before I flew out to Philadelphia and so on Monday and Tuesday I just had to fine tune my presentation before hopping on SEPTA to present.

The Meetup went really well, even with only about a dozen attendees. The small crowd allowed a more casual Q&A section at the end of the presentation which I always enjoy. Plus, I was quite grateful for the opportunity to give the demo for the first time in front of a small crowd, so I’d be more confident when I gave it in in front of 300 people the following week at OpenDev in Vancouver. Thanks to organizer John Mahoney and the hosts at Industrious for such a great space.

Now, you may notice that the sky is a lovely blue in that photo of the SEPTA train earlier in this post. It was clear on the afternoon I went down to the city, which was great for going down and then walking to the event venue from the train station. It was, however, an anomaly for the week. Most of the week was filled with rain. It rained every day I was there, and most days were quite gloomy even when it wasn’t raining. It was probably for the best though, on that afternoon when it didn’t rain the temperature soared to nearly 90F and the humidity was intense. The cooler weather that the rain allowed for made it so on the gloomy days I could turn off the air-conditioning and open the windows in the townhouse to get some fresh air.

Gloomy weather was good for writing though. I wrote a couple quick articles related to conferences I’m participating in, the first was for the USENIX blog as we published the LISA18 Wishlist: Talks and tutorials we’d like to see. My week was filled with work in preparation for LISA18, including chasing down presenters who hadn’t submitted yet, hosting an “office hours” for folks to get help with their ideas, and doing a couple calls with potential presenters. I also wrote Mastering CI/CD at OpenDev about the OpenDev conference I was heading off to.

I wouldn’t say this was a relaxing visit by any stretch. I worked longer hours than I probably should have at my actual day job due to collaboration with west coast colleagues, but it was a nice break from the house stuff I’ve been doing here out west. My trip concluded on Sunday as I headed down to the airport to spend several days in Vancouver!

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU 2018

For the past year and a half I’ve been working in the space of container technologies. My career trajectory in retrospect seems obvious, going from working on Debian and Ubuntu, to my first pure open source job in OpenStack, and now working on DC/OS. I realize now that I keep moving up in the stack as each layer becomes more of a commodity. Kubernetes was fairly new when I started my role at Mesosphere, but in the past year and a half it, and the community surrounding it, has grown tremendously. In September, we even launched an offering of Kubernetes as another scheduler in DC/OS.

But what’s even more fun for me is how many people have accompanied me on this journey. At this event I ran into several people who I’ve worked with in open source spaces for years. Sometimes it’s people I see at a lot of conferences, other times it was people I worked directly with. In the selfie image collage below, I got pictures with Jorge and Daniel who I worked on Ubuntu with when they were at Canonical, and Andreas who has spent over a decade at SUSE and worked with me on the OpenStack Infrastructure team. We’re all now working at companies or in roles that are related to containers.

This is how I ended up in Copenhagen a few weeks ago for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2018. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation doesn’t just host Kubernetes, they have many projects under their umbrella, so there was also a strong showing from projects like Prometheus and I saw talks on Fluentd and Linkerd. Plus, for the first time in a while, I wasn’t speaking during the conference. That allowed me to focus on going to sessions and spending time at the booth to help with some of the more technical questions.

I had a couple focuses during the conference, the first of which was CI/CD. My last role was working on the CI infrastructure for OpenStack, so it’s been high on my list of interests for several years now. It’s been interesting to see how it’s grown in these five years, so much so that the Executive Director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in his opening event keynote made a call for better test coverage on the codebase, and touched upon testing as a key component to a successful containerization deployment. I wrote about it more thoroughly, including links to various open source projects in this space that I saw presentations on, over on the Mesosphere blog: A Growing CI/CD Ecosystem Showcased at KubeCon

My other focus was more on the systems administration toolkit side, as I attended talks about Prometheus. I like metrics and monitoring, but now that I’m out of operations in my day to day work it’s not something I’m heavily involved with. I’d like to change that, so I was eager to see what things people were doing with metrics and monitoring in Prometheus. First, during one of the keynotes I learned that they had rewritten a lot in the 2.0 release to make everything faster, so it could scale better, there is a blog post from the Prometheus team detailing that here. Second, people are doing cool things with the metrics being collected by it, I wrote about it in Exploring Prometheus at KubeCon: Not Just Metrics. Essentially it’s starting to be used as part of the highly-available, self-healing microservices infrastructures supported by containers. As someone who has spent a fair number of late nights fixing production systems during her career, it’s exciting to see the tooling coalesce like this to improve the lives of people managing these complex systems. Even better, many companies are also leading the way in efforts to open source some of this tooling so others in the ecosystem can benefit from it.

Stepping back and looking at the event as a whole, I was struck by the hype cycle that Kubernetes is going through and how eerily similar it is to what I experienced in OpenStack. The event is growing fast, there are a lot of proof of concepts out there and some key players using it in production and being showcased. Major tech companies are right there to support the CNCF and events around the conference itself. Even the conference party held at Tivoli Gardens was a pretty amazing occurrence, and not something I’d typically expect from an open source conference to throw for all participants. My boss wrote about this some in KubeCon 2018: Looking Back and Forward where he echoed many of my own feelings around lessons that the Linux and OpenStack communities have learned. It’s definitely an exciting time to be part of the container ecosystem, something echoed in my experience with the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver last week.

The last thing I wanted to note came from our new friends at Microsoft. After decades of tearing down open source software, they’ve changed their tune in recent years. Throughout the company from leadership to engineering the change to embrace of open source is very real, and I now know several solid open source people who work there. That didn’t quite prepare me for the Microsoft keynote though. The presenter got on stage, plugged in his laptop, and we saw the distinctive aardvark wallpaper from Ubuntu 17.10. In a sea of presentations on Macs, it was the keynote speaker from Microsoft who went on stage to present a demo on Ubuntu Linux. I was so thrilled.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157690739135510

The first streetcar and Weezer in San Francisco

I spent six days in San Francisco between my trip to Copenhagen and flying out to Philadelphia before heading off to a conference in Vancouver. I wasted no time, in what ended up being an incredibly fun and busy week.

It started the day after I got home, with tickets to Boat from “Beach to Beach” May 6. I met up with my friend Mark for this at Cameron Beach Yard, which I’d never been to.

We were there a bit early, so that gave us time to look around the old streetcars they have stashed away in the barn, which was a highlight of this adventure, even if some of them are in pretty rough shape.

Unfortunately the “boat” in the ticket title was not to be. They had planned on taking us out in the Blackpool “boat” tram, which I took in 2015 on another excursion. Alas, due to a mechanical issue with it, it was swapped out for the 1. It wasn’t too disappointing though, the day was a bit chilly and the 1 is a fine streetcar as well.

The excursion was scheduled in order to celebrate 100th anniversary year of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Sadly, the historic streetcars can’t go through the tunnel due to changes in the electric wiring that only supports the modern metro cars. Instead, the two hour ride took us down the M-Ocean View line, then over to the L-Taraval (Zoo train!). It stopped at the end of the L line for pictures, before returning to Cameron Beach Yard. We had a lovely time. It had been a few months since we caught up so it was nice to spend the time catching up on work, life, and the latest things to have broken in our respective houses.

I also learned that it’s one of their last excursions for a while, so I’m glad we were able to get tickets to it. The next fun weekend for the organization that I’m looking forward to is coming up in September, Muni Heritage Weekend on September 8-9th.

More photos from the streetcar excursion here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157696524357325

I saw MJ off to the airport on Tuesday night that week so he could start a week and a half of caring for his sister’s cat at our place in Philadelphia. That Thursday I went into the old Mesosphere office for the last time (we’re moving to a bigger place!) and then met up with my friend Stephen to go to the Red Hat wrap-up part where Weezer was playing. We last caught up last summer when he and his fiance came to stay with us during Fosscon in Philadelphia. Since then we’ve both bought houses and had plenty to chat about.

Conference parties aren’t really my thing, but going with a friend helps, and seeing Weezer was quite the draw and we had a really nice time.

And with that, my six days in the bay area came to a close!

Tourist in Copenhagen, again!

Back in 2012 I went to Copenhagen for the first time. The last Ubuntu Developer Summit was held there, and I took some time after the conference to explore the city with my friend and fellow Xubuntu contributor Pasi Lallinaho, I wrote about our tourist adventures here. Six years later I’m a bit more experienced travel-wise and had a very different job and crew to hang out with as KubeCon descended upon the same hotel and convention center I was at for that UDS. It was interesting coming back to that hotel, feeling the memories rush back in from the great time I had with all my Ubuntu friends. But this post is about tourist stuff!

I arrived with a stomach bug. The flight over wasn’t particularly good and the first few days I was there I was plagued with not being able to eat, exhaustion, and being paler than normal. I wouldn’t let it keep me from exploring though, after sleeping for twelve hours upon arrival on Sunday afternoon, I was ready for some Monday adventures. Coincidentally, my friend Danita was also in Copenhagen for a completely unrelated reason, so we were able to meet up that morning.

Our first adventure was a boat tour! In what I believe was a 90 minute tour we were whisked through Nyhavn (the waterfront area with all the colorful buildings), past the opera house, got to see the water side of the little mermaid and more.

From there we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the Copenhagen Zoo. I believe 2012 predates my visiting of international zoos, so I didn’t even think about going the last time I visited. I enjoyed going this time, what was most notable was their strong breeding program – they had so many baby animals! The baby rhino stole my heart, he was adorable. Thankfully we wound up our zoo visit just before the sky opened up to a major downpour, though we did exit the gift shop in time to be welcomed by it. We took a bus back into town and stopped at a 7-11 where I picked up a muffin. I ate about a quarter of it before my stomach protested.

The next couple of days were taken up with conference stuff, which thankfully gave my stomach time to calm down. Then conference party on Thursday evening was held at Tivoli Gardens. According to Wikipedia, it’s the “second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.” I knew about the park due to the Disney connection, Walt Disney reportedly visited and based some of his own Disneyland on what he saw at Tivoli. One of my colleagues is quite the Disney fan, so she was full of facts about it. I was perhaps a bit too excited to ride on Den Flyvende Kuffert ride through 32 Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. It was super cute. I had a wonderful time on Daemonen roller coaster, which is the first upside down coaster I’ve been on in years. I’ve been getting sick on them since I was about 27, so I stopped going on any coasters that went upside down, but at Danita’s recommendation I did this one – with the Virtual Reality headset. The headset was a cartoon-ish VR experience, but it totally succeeded in preventing me from getting sick, even given the state of my recovering stomach. I think my favorite ride of the park was the Rutschebanen. I later learned from a friend that, built in 1914, it’s one of the oldest running wooden roller coasters in the world. Of note, there’s an operator on the ride, as Wikipedia explains “An operator controls the ride by braking down the hills so it won’t gain too much speed.” Best job ever, or best job ever? Wooden roller coasters are my favorite, so I’m really glad I got to ride on this one, and that I enjoyed it so thoroughly.

I called it quits on the rides after Daemonen and became the bag holder for my colleagues for the best of the beautiful evening. That’s when I spend some time taking pictures of flowers and some night shots. I also went with a candy-loving colleague to one of the candy shops. That’s where I spent something like $8 for a giant lollipop.

It was the best $8 I’ve ever spent. I had a lot of personal stress surrounding this trip to Copenhagen. When I unwrapped that ridiculous lollipop in that beautiful, fun park in Europe on an evening I was spending getting to know some of my colleagues, it faded away from view. I was happy, and totally unashamed to spend a few minutes trying to get a silly lollipop selfie.

Friday night several of us went out for a couple beers, and then headed over to Restaurant Cofoco for their 6-course tasting menu. It was exceptional, and not as expensive as I’m accustom to paying for such a meal, especially when the generous wine pairing was added. I probably drank a bit too much for the night before a morning flight the next day, but it was worth it, and I behaved quite responsibly as I went back to the hotel afterwards instead of joining several of my colleagues for drinks afterwards.

I still haven’t seen the inside of the big palace in the center of the city, and I’m sure there are other things I should see, but it ended up extracting a lot of fun out of this trip.

More zoo and tourist photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157668665933258

DevPulseCon 2018

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in DevPulseCon, a conference from women in software engineering in Mountain View. I attended my first DevPulseCon last year and really enjoyed the talks, and the panels in the afternoon that were kept private only to attendees. The freedom to be open and honest during panels on topics that impact women in technical roles was incredibly valuable. Plus, it’s held at the Computer History Museum!

This year the conference began with a talk by Sarah Cortes who took us on a little tour of the DarkNet to demonstrate how early detection of data being traded and sold there can give you an early warning as to when your data has been leaked. Notably, she talked about the Home Depot settlement which included as part of their security improvements, a requirement for the company to monitor DarkNet sources for their data. This is some pretty forward-thinking strategy from the court, I’m really impressed that such recommendations have started coming down. She also introduced us to some of the tooling that exists for password cracking and service intrusion, advising that software engineers need to be familiar with these tools so they can write systems that are not vulnerable to them. Intruders come in where ever they can, even something as simple as a point of sale system can be an attack vector.

Gloria W. joined the event again this year to give us the latest state of the Internet of Things world. She described some of the landscape and major players in the space, and did a demo with a Raspberry Pi and Matrix Voice.

Meng Chow of VMware took the stage next to give a talk that was very complementary to the one I was giving after lunch, hers was titled “4 Vital Steps to Open Source Success” and she walked through the four steps companies and other organizations need to take to succeed in open source:

  1. Understand licensing
  2. Use open source responsibly
  3. Collaborate with the open source community
  4. Ensure open source compliance

I was very glad she covered licensing, I had a licensing slide in my own talk, but she covered all the important bits so I was able to focus on the more on the human parts of getting involved with open source, which I did after lunch in my “Open Source: Tools, Techniques, Best Practices” talk (PDF slides here).

My talk was a pretty basic introduction to contributing, and I strove to demystify some of the things that are obvious to us open source veterans. Don’t be intimidated by the Mailman 2 UI, IRC is not that scary, bug trackers vary but have the same basic information, conflation of Git with GitHub. I also talked a bit about etiquette, writing good bug reports and how to determine which “identity” to use when signing up for accounts using an email address (work or personal?). I enjoyed writing and giving this talk a lot, I hope I find an opportunity to use it again soon.

The big draw for the day was a Q&A with Donald Knuth, conducted by the founder of CodeChix, Rupa Dachere. I think my favorite advice that he had to give from this Q&A was to have fun and learn to never be bored. It’s something I’ve always taken to heart, I have so many projects to do and books to read, boredom hasn’t been a part of my life for a very long time.

The afternoon was mostly panels, covering topics like career paths and salary negotiation. Like last year, the honesty expressed during these panels due to the knowledge that the content wouldn’t be spread beyond that room was valuable. This year they also allowed men to attend the event, which means several of the panels had a man on it to give insight into how their experiences differed from those of women on the panel.

Thanks to Rupa and the CodeChix crew for putting on this conference and inviting me to participate again this year, I also had a lovely time meeting new people and catching up with others I hadn’t seen in some time.

More photos from DevPulseCon here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157692733907902