• Archives

  • Categories:

  • Other profiles

When things were normal

I’m writing this on March 21st, day five of the Shelter in Place order from Alameda County, where we live. I’ll write more about what brought us here later, but for now I want to catch up on what life was like before that!

My last general update about life covered our visit back east for the holidays. Upon my return from that trip, I flew to Australia for a conference, so things didn’t quite return to normal until I came home on January 18th. It was also then that we started on the next challenge of our parenting journey: Switching to solid foods.

Adam checks out the menu at our local Thai place, he got rice and prawns

Feeding has been a significant source of stress for me, starting out with my exclusively pumping journey and now simply learning what you’re supposed to be feeding a one year old to keep him happy and healthy. We’ve had to employ some strategies to get him to eat more vegetables and more generally, feeding a new human food presents new challenges when going out to eat and traveling, in contrast with just making sure we bring along a bottle of milk. On the one hand, I no longer need to pump (hooray!) but on the other, we always have to be thinking about his next meal, packing food for him when we travel, and making sure we dine at places that have appropriate options for him. This all may seem obvious, but it’s not trivial! We’re managing though, and he has his next doctor appointment in a couple weeks where they’ll check his weight and probably confirm that he’s doing fine.

The other thing I had to deal with upon my return home in January was a leaky dishwasher. It turns out that it had been leaking for some time, and had leaked through the floor into the garage. The first step to handling this was fixing the leak and ordering a new dishwasher. Then we had to get a water damage company in to check for mold and dry everything out. They cut a hole in the ceiling of the garage, treated the mold, and that began nearly a week of having a noisy dehumidifier and heater in our already cramped kitchen. I did not enjoy this process and was thankful when it was over. In the beginning of March the new dishwasher finally came in and was installed. Turns out the old one was over 15 years old, so it was probably time to replace it anyway.

We’ve gotten a lot of baby-proofing done. At the townhouse in Philadelphia the outlets are the newer kind that resist tampering, but we aren’t so lucky here, and have taken to putting covers on the ones he has access to. We also put up a couple Retract-A-Gate baby gates so he can stay confined to the large family room we have upstairs, with only a small corner reserved for the plans and a lamp that we secured with the remaining gate pieces we had from when we baby-proofed the townhouse.

Adam and I continued going on local adventures. He seems to enjoy taking BART, so one evening we took it one stop over to Target. A few weeks ago we took it to the mall in Pleasanton. I’ve spent some time hanging art in his room too. I realize that decorating the nursery is something people typically do before the child is born, but I never managed to make time for it then. Plus, this way I’ve been able to buy specific prints of art I really like and have actually enjoyed the process rather than feeling like I’m on a deadline. I completed the decorating by putting up pair of colorful maps for children, one featuring the United States, and the other of the world.

I’ve started having a little more time to myself now that Adam has turned one. His schedule is pretty reliable, and though there still are a lot more chores than before, I’ve made specific effort to carve out time. In addition to rebuilding my desktop recently, I also finally got around to resurrecting our backups and media servers, one of which had a completely failed RAID array and needed to be recreated. Over 500GB of backups are now being reliably made of everything, including the server this blog runs on and had previously only been backed up to my desktop. I also recently put together my Raspberry Pi 4, and I just finished debugging why the graphical display is so dim on my GPD Pocket running Debian (I had thought it was not booting up, but then I noticed it was just really dim!).

Reading still hasn’t returned to my pre-parenthood rate, mostly due to my time on weekends being spent playing with Adam instead of reading, but I do still manage to get some time in most nights before bed, and I take half hour here and there during my work week to read work-related books. I also got back into using an RSS reader. This was driven by my terrible habit of using my phone too much, and I realized that if I was going to spend so much time on it, I should at least give myself some good content to read rather than refreshing social media feeds. It also made me set up feeds for work, which has helped my tremendously in my goal to make sure I’m staying on top of mainframe news and podcasts.

In early February I came down with a brutal sinus infection, and while on antibiotics and making a slow recovery, a long weekend of windy and rainy weather swept through, taking out part of the fence in our back yard. We’ve known about the vulnerability of the fence for some time and have sketched out plans to replace it, but now the situation is a bit more dire. Without the fence back there, Caligula can’t enjoy play time in the back yard without supervision, so I’ve been taking time to go outside with him and make sure he doesn’t run off. Last week I was able to take some time to at least pick up the fence and put the wood in a pile, during which I realized just how bad the fence was, parts of it just broke to pieces as I pulled it apart.

We spent several days in Las Vegas at the end of February and then we were off to the Southern California Linux Expo in Pasadena, both of which I’ll write about soon. On March 10th I took Adam out for his first haircut, which I’m glad I did because his hair was getting a bit long, and we’re not certain when salons and barber shops will be open again.

Which leads me to mention that everything related to COVID-19 has hit us. It’s caused me to cancel work and family trips coming up, which is pretty disappointing, but we’re well-situated to work from home and so far we’re doing fine. I could, and probably should, write a whole post soon about how it’s changing things for us – starting with all of us being home all the time! We’re running the dishwasher a lot.

Highlights of LCA 2020 in Gold Coast

I already wrote about the tourist stuff I did while in Brisbane and Gold Coast, but the actual reason for my trip to Australia was to present at Linux.conf.au (LCA).

One of the things that is particularly remarkable about LCA is the length of the conference. Most conferences I go to top out at three days, with one or two tutorial or community days thrown in for particularly invested community members. With LCA you have two days of mini-confs, but the quality of those events is just as high as the main conference. If I’m flying to the other side of the world, you bet I’ll attend those days too, and submit talks to a mini-conf. Add in travel time and a weekend of tourist stuff before the event so I can adjust to the time zone a little before giving my talks, and we’re talking about a 10 day trip. This has always thrown a wrench in my normal work, but this year it was definitely worse. With more considerable family obligations to come home to and an important launch at work on the horizon (which was thankfully pushed, but I didn’t know until I got home!), it’s taken me some time to catch up and finally sit down to write about the event.

I spent Monday morning in the Sysadmin Miniconf, as I typically do. We heard talks covering the latest from OpenZFS and Samba, a cultural look at DevOps, and a fascinating talk from Craig Miskell about why we all should probably stop running our cron jobs on the hour (random is better!) and his journey to debug failures at GitLab related to the practice.

Then I had to get into the right head space for my talk, which included enjoying some Indian food for lunch with some of my LCA buddies. My sysadmin mini-conf talk was on “Why Linux Systems Administrators Should Care About the Mainframe,” (slides, video) which started out as a lightning talk, but was expanded to a 25 minute talk by the time I arrived! I had to add some last minute content to account for that, but I think the talk went well. It was nice to have a talk so early in the week, too. It put me in touch with other IBM Z folks at the conference very quickly, and others who were using mainframes and were surprised to see mainframe content at the conference. For me, it was nice to sync up with some Australians, since most of the data I had for my talks was still US-centric, and I was weaker than I had planned on being about mainframe usage in Asia/Pacific. Plus, it was reassuring to know there were folks in the audience who were truly invested in the technology and interested to be there. I think my favorite comment though came from a fellow who only attended my talk because it was in the sysadmin mini-conf room, and admitted “I thought it would be boring, but it wasn’t!” High praise, right there!

Thanks to Rob Thomas (@xrobau) for taking a photo during my talk! (source)

On Tuesday the morning kicked off with a women in open technology breakfast. I’m quite shy at these “working breakfast” type events, but I was able to find my voice and chime in a bit, and I’m glad I went. The keynote that morning was probably my favorite of the conference, hearing from Dr. Sean Brady who spoke to the dangers of expertise. Through a series of stories and priming techniques, he demonstrated the glaring blind spots that our expertise can get us into, and pulled it back into engineering, both in the architectural sense and as broader technologists.

Other highlights included Wednesday when I went to a really fun talk by Keith Packard on Snek. He detailed his work teaching young students programming, and ended up developing a Python-compatible language called Snek to aid in his goals. Drawing from languages like Logo (turtle!), he wanted to make the experience simple and exciting, but still actually useful for students. It was also interesting to hear him talk some about the cultural side of teaching children programming, and that a non-competitive environment tends to work best (Hackathons need not apply). Finally, he announced a crowdsourcing campaign of SnekBoard, “an open-hardware python microcontroller for LEGO┬«”. Naturally, I backed it.

My second talk of the event was also on Wednesday, “Linux in the Cloud, on Prem, or… on a Mainframe?linux.conf.au (slides, video). I had to borrow some material from this talk to flesh out my talk on Monday, but this talk had a different focus, more about the open source technologies that have enabled the modern mainframe running Linux to have a place at the table alongside other Linux-based offerings, both in the cloud and on premises. Unfortunately my talk was at the same time as the OpenPOWER talk by the great Hugh Blemings, but Andrew Donnellan from the Power side came over to see my talk, and Hugh brought the rest of his Power crew over to my room to say hello once our talks were completed. With my friend Matthew Treinish of IBM Quantum there too, we got a fun picture covering IBM Systems: Power, Q, and Z!

Thursday included a talk from Robert Collins on why making broad assumptions about technology you don’t care for (like NTFS on Windows) does you, your project, and your community a disservice. He documented how he able to make the installation of Rust using Rustup considerably faster by throwing away assumptions that others had made and spending time doing a bunch of low-level debugging. Plus, it was an entertaining story. I also heard from Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen Sandler in a talk I admit I didn’t expect: one where they talked about the inherent privilege in being able to craft your life around being fully open source. We have gotten to a point in the open source movement where there’s a “holier than thou” attitude around just how open source you can be, and while it can be an interesting hobby for die-hard enthusiasts, at the end of the day not everyone is able to do it. When the proprietary app on the only phone you can afford saves you money on groceries and every dollar matters, you’re going to use that app. The talk sought to reign in this kind of attitude and be kinder to each other, and I was really happy to see it come from representatives of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which people in our communities tend to respect in this area.

On Friday I got to hear from my buddy Matt actually talk about quantum computers in his talk on quantum compilers. Being at IBM, I probably have more exposure to them than the average person, but my grasp on how they work is basic, at best. The talk was a fascinating glimpse into probabilities and optimizations that needed to be made for quantum compilers to come out with accurate results. It’s still brain-bending stuff, but at least I understand a little bit more now.

The conference concluded with a series of fun lightning talks, one of which had the location of the next LCA embedded in it, Canberra! I’ve never been to the Capital before, and as LCA remains one of my favorite conferences, I hope I can make it next year.

More photos from the conference here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712791312518. And the LCA YouTube account has a playlist that includes keynotes and talks, here: https://www.youtube.com/user/linuxconfau2019/playlists.

Flowery new desktop: Version 2

Back in February 2010 I moved to San Francisco and didn’t bring my desktop with me. Instead, I bought the parts to assemble a new desktop. It had one of the first generation Intel i7s, 8GB of RAM, and I got the most beautiful flowery case decorated with Swarovski crystals. I wrote all the details in this blog post: Flowery new desktop.

The machine was reasonably future-proofed. Over the years I swapped out everything except the motherboard and CPU (including the CPU fan after some overheating incidents a couple years ago), but the motherboard maxed out at 16G of RAM and it was starting to get annoying. Plus, the machine would randomly shut off. The latter could have been many things, especially since I had that overheating problem, and I could have just started debugging by swapping out parts, starting with the power supply, which was the cheapest component, with the highest likelihood of being the culprit. The memory situation was insurmountable though. My desktop is the centerpiece of my permanent home office here, and I needed it to be more powerful than it was.

It was time to build a new machine!

I was oddly daunted by this task. I was a teenager when I had my dad drive me around town to buy computer parts and I assembled my first machine, so it’s not like I lacked experience. It had been 10 years since I assembled a desktop, but in the intervening time built servers for work, so it’s also not like I was completely out of practice. I think I’ve just been in a bit of a funk project-wise because I have so little time now that I have a baby at home. Plus, building a new desktop can be one of those projects that gets away from you if you let it, and I was really anxious about parts not working together, power issues, hooking things up wrong, you name it. And then not being able to make time to fix it in a timely manner.

Thankfully, I had an easier time than that, but my road was not without bumps.

At the end of January I ordered all my parts, and when they arrived I noticed my first mistake: My case can only fit a micro ATX motherboard. I knew this. The computer sits right next to me all day, every day, and it’s very obvious that it’s not even a mid-tower. Thankfully, I figured this out before I opened it and was able to immediately RMA it and pick out a new motherboard. While perusing my micro ATX options, I did momentarily pause to consider that I should just get a new case, but my case is beautiful and I didn’t want to give it up. I finally settled on a board I’d be happy with and placed my order.

On Tuesday night this week I finally had all my parts and after putting Adam to bed I ignored all the chores I am supposed to do after he goes to bed and instead got working on my assembly project. It went fine! I did discover that my DVD-RW is IDE, so I’d need to replace that, and I did get momentarily stumped while moving the CPU heatsink and fan over (it has a bracket on the back of the motherboard that it screws into), but the only real problem I had was that a capacitor fell off my graphics card while I was moving it. I was pretty sure it would be fine without it, but then it got me wondering if the capacitor was already loose and that had been causing my shutoff problems. I booted my system and happily had it running for several hours the next morning. I posted a whole big thread on Twitter about how great it was that my new computer was built without any problems.

Then it shut off.

Oh no!

So, graphics card or power supply? I immediately ordered both, with the plan to replace the graphics card first, because I’d need to anyway (the plan is to resolder the capacitor back onto the old one, but I needed a graphics card now and I don’t currently have soldering tools). I installed the new DVD-RW and the graphics card yesterday. Alas, after an over night, and then several hours of daytime up time, my machine shut down again. It was the power supply. So I replaced that this morning before work, and it seems to be holding steady now. It should, the only things that are old in there are the pair of SATA harddrives, the case fan, and the CPU heatsink and fan!

So, what did I end up buying? Here we go:

  • Intel Core i7-9700KF Coffee Lake 8-Core 3.6 GHz (4.9 GHz Turbo) LGA 1151 (300 Series) 95W BX80684I79700KF Desktop Processor
  • ASRock Z390M Pro4 LGA 1151 (300 Series) Intel Z390 SATA 6Gb/s Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
  • OLOy 32GB (2 x 16GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600) Desktop Memory Model MD4U163216CGDA
  • VisionTek Radeon 5450 2GB DDR3 (DVI-I, HDMI, VGA) Graphics Card

The processor was the big expense here, at $369.99 it was almost half the budget of this project, which ultimately ended up costing me $773.01 once I got the unexpected graphics card, power supply, and DVD-RW. I’m really happy with the project cost though, I wouldn’t have been able to buy an assembled machine for that much, plus it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun!

I really haven’t had time for any of my own projects in over a year. My job is incredibly satisfying for scratching my need for technical geekiness, but it’s not the same as having a project of my own. Next I should probably resurrect the degraded array in our media server, though I really would rather play with my new Raspberry Pi 4.

Tourist in Brisbane and Gold Coast

On January 8th I hopped on a plane for my first international trip since giving birth to Adam, I was on my way to Australia! The trip was to meet with some of my Australian colleagues and present at Linux.conf.au, but I added a weekend of padding at the beginning of the trip so I could adjust somewhat to the time zone and take in some local sights.

I arrived later than anticipated on Friday due to a cancelled flight. In retrospect, I was grateful that I was able to at least arrive on the right day, another colleague of mine wasn’t so lucky and found himself put on a flight that wouldn’t get him in until Saturday. I thought I’d be tired upon my arrival, but the jet lag was doing its work and I managed to have enough time to drop my bags off at my hotel and make my way over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to catch the tail end of their opening hours and pet some critters!

I kind of joke that I want to pet a new animal each time I visit Australia. It was easy at first, finding a place where you can pet kangaroos and koalas is pretty straight-forward. Then it starts getting harder. You can’t pet Tasmanian devils, so on my trip to Tasmania I managed to pet a baby wombat instead. I didn’t get to pet any new critters while I was in Sydney a couple years ago, but this time I really wanted to pet something new. The dingo petting tours were sold out for the day, but while walking around the free-range feeding area I spotted a couple emus, with children petting them! The emu was not on my list of things I wanted to pet, they’re huge and I’m generally afraid of birds. Still, I had a goal, and bravely walked up to the critter and quickly petted it before making a hasty retreat!

More photos from my adventure here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712791286013

On Saturday I met up with my friend Steve from Sydney, who was also staying in Brisbane over the weekend prior to the conference. We didn’t have super solid plans for the day, but there are a couple sights to see in the city, so we just started walking. We passed by City Hall and learned about the historic clock tour and picked up tickets for later in the day and did a quick loop around the small museum they have there at City Hall. We walked past the hilariously poetic casino housed in the historic treasury building. Then it was over a bridge to have lunch at a Saccharomyces Beer Cafe before making our way to the Queensland Museum where we got to see some dinosaurs, and a stuffed cassowary that was kept far from the other animals (even dangerous when they’re dead? hah!).

I think the highlight of my day was the clock tour tour. It wasn’t long or extensive in any way, but it was a fun surprise. The whole thing takes about 12 minutes, during which they take you up in a beautiful, historic elevator (lift) up to the 12th floor to walk around and see the sights from what was once the highest point in the city. From there they stop for a minute on the 11th floor where the clocks actually live, but you aren’t permitted to get out due to fears of damaging the clock equipment. Still, it was interesting to see, and learn about.

Sunday was travel to Gold Coast day! I say “travel” but it was an easy train ride down there, plus a cab for the final few miles to my hotel. There I went to visit the beach (it is Gold Coast, after all!) and met up with people for food. I didn’t end up swimming at the beach at all, which I’m a little disappointed about, but with this being my first big trip away from my new family, I put a high value on sleep, and a sandy beach visit just didn’t make the cut.

Some more photos from my walks around Brisbane and Gold Coast here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789955952

The conference itself was as spectacular as ever, and I’ll write about that later. But I wasn’t done with touristing. Steve and I met up at 3:30AM one morning for a group shuttle that would take a whole basket-full of tourists up in a hot air balloon! It was an experience that had been on my list for some time, but it’s common for them to want to lift off at extremely early times, so I could never make it happen. This was the perfect opportunity. By 5:30AM we were up in a balloon for a beautiful ride over the hills and farms inland from Gold Coast.

The timing of the tour meant that the only bit of the conference we missed were the keynotes, which was a trade-off I was willing to make. Five-day conferences are pretty intense, especially when I’m on the hook for giving two talks.

Hot air balloons are interesting things. The only real control the pilot has is to go up and down, aside from that the whole adventure is dependent on the wind. As a result, every ride is different and you never really know where you’ll end up. The company who runs the tours has agreements with many of the local farmers to land in their fields, under certain conditions, and the farmers are compensated for this. It’s a nice system. We landed on the far end of a field full of cows! When the ride concluded, we had the option of helping them pack away the hot air balloon, which was actually a lot of fun.

We were then shuttled off to a local winery for a champagne breakfast, in keeping with an international tradition of having champagne at the conclusion of a hot air balloon ride. I also took the opportunity while there to do an 8AM wine tasting, and for some reason they had alpacas! So I got to visit those too, and walked along a stream where they have wild platypuses, but I didn’t see any. There were some ducks though.

Check out more photos from the day (including the alpacas!) here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789962642

Australia is one of my favorite places in the world, so I’m glad I was able to do a bit of tourist stuff the weekend before the conference. Bonus that it helped me adjust to jet lag quickly, so I was at the top of my game for my first talk on Monday.

Our upcoming Webinar on Security with Ubuntu and IBM Z

My first interaction with the Ubuntu community was in March of 2005 when I put Ubuntu on an old Dell laptop and signed up for the Ubuntu Forums. This was just a few years into my tech career and I was mostly a Linux hobbyist, with a handful of junior systems administrator jobs on the side to do things like racking servers and installing Debian (with CDs!). Many of you with me on this journey have seen my role grow in the Ubuntu community with Debian packaging, local involvement with events and non-profits, participation in the Ubuntu Developer Summits, membership in the Ubuntu Community Council, and work on several Ubuntu books, from technical consultation to becoming an author on The Official Ubuntu Book.

These days I’ve taken my 15+ years of Linux Systems Administration and open source experience down a slightly different path: Working on Linux on the mainframe (IBM Z). The mainframe wasn’t on my radar a year ago, but as I got familiar with the technical aspects, the modernization efforts to incorporate DevOps principles, and the burgeoning open source efforts, I became fascinated with the platform.

As a result, I joined IBM last year to share my discoveries with the broader systems administration and developer communities. Ubuntu itself got on board with this mainframe journey with official support for the architecture (s390x) in Ubuntu 16.04, and today there’s a whole blog that gets into the technical details of features specific to Ubuntu on the mainframe: Ubuntu on Big Iron

I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining the author of the Ubuntu on Big Iron blog, Frank Heimes, live on February 6th for a webinar titled How to protect your data, applications, cryptography and OS – 100% of the time. I’ll be doing an introduction to the IBM Z architecture (including cool hardware pictures!) and general security topics around Linux on Z and LinuxONE.

I’ll then hand the reins over to Frank to get into the details of the work Canonical has done to take advantage of hardware cryptography functions and secure everything from network ports to the software itself with automatic security updates.

What I find most interesting about all of this work is how much open source is woven in. You’re not using proprietary tooling on the Linux level for things like encryption. As you’ll see from the webinar, on a low level Linux on Z uses dm-crypt and in-kernel crypto algorithms. At the user level, TLS/SSL is all implemented with OpenSSL and libcrypto. Even the libica crypto library is open source.

You can sign up for the webinar here, and you’ll have the option to watch it live or on-demand replays: How to protect your data, applications, cryptography and OS – 100% of the time and read the blog post from the Ubuntu blog here. We’re aiming to make this technical and fun, so I hope you’ll join us!

Adam’s three first birthdays

In some ways, Adam’s first birthday snuck up on me. As challenging as this first year with a child has been, it’s difficult to comprehend that it actually has been a full year and his first birthday was on the horizon. Due to the timing of his birth (January 6th), we realized before our end of year Philadelphia trip that we’d need to do some birthday prep for his party in California before we left. I ordered all the party goodies, including jungle-themed plates, napkins, and tablecloth. Claudia knows a woman who makes invitations, so she took the lead in getting those made, and they came out beautifully!

Once we arrived in Philadelphia it became apparent that there were family and friends in Philadelphia who wanted to see him for his birthday, so we ended up planning a birthday with them too.

But before planned birthdays, on New Years’ Day we went to New Jersey to visit MJ’s family out there and were surprised by a little party for him, complete with a present, birthday cupcake, and cookies!

His birthday party on Saturday, January 4th, was a larger affair. Family, friends, and neighbors dropped by during the hour we had designated for the party. We asked people not to bring gifts (we won’t make a habit of it, because I know how awful that is for kids born during that time of year, but he’s still just a baby, and already so many new toys!), but we did have a cake, Finding Nemo themed because of his fascination with turtles. After cake, a bunch of us went out to lunch at a nearby Italian place, marking a lovely conclusion to our visit in Philadelphia.

Our flight home was on Saturday night and Adam slept through most of it, as planned. We still got in quite late though, so getting up early to head to the grocery store to pick up the cake and balloons, and set up for guests came swiftly. Thankfully, Claudia helped out a lot with all of this too. Plus she made brigadeiros to enjoy during the party!

We had a few people over, including three babies under one who Claudia and Adam knew from around the area. It was the first big “play date” we’d had at our house, and I’m grateful to Claudia for arranging it and introducing us to Adam’s friends. Our neighbor dropped by as well, and after the two hour window concluded, one of Claudia’s friends helped us clean up. Given how tired I was from travel, and from the whole weekend, it was really great to have others there.

And did I mention the flavor of the cake? It was a pretty standard marble cake with white frosting, but it had a layer of bananas! It was a hit with both Adam and the adults. The party itself was fun too, meeting new people and getting to celebrate this milestone.

Happy first birthday, Adam! We don’t plan on making a habit of hosting multiple birthday parties, but I’m glad we did it for his first.

First Hanukkah and New Years back east

As has become tradition, we spent the last two weeks of the year in Philadelphia celebrating Hanukkah and New Years with family and friends. This was the first year for Adam though! MJ and I never did Hanukkah gifts, but things are different now with little Adam, and during our visit over Thanksgiving and in the weeks before the holiday, we went shopping for toys and books.

And then I piled them inside the tracks of the O-scale train I keep in Philadelphia to make it a Hanukkah train.

The train is set up on the card table we keep in our home office downstairs. It was just before setting it up that I discovered that the square table expands out into a large rectangular one. While we were in town we also made our first visit to the local model train shop and picked up a model of Independence Hall, as well as a little diner and some cows and sheep.

I won’t have any kind of permanent setup there for the train, but it is fun to buy some easy-to-put-away buildings and scenery. I also was a little sad that I bought pre-assembled buildings instead of one of the kits that I could put together and paint myself, but I have to be realistic about the amount of time I have for hobbies these days.

But Hanukkah! It’s always been an enjoyable holiday with the candles and all, but having a little one who gets to open presents during each night of the holiday adds a whole new dimension to how much fun it is. One evening the family came over with gifts, others we spent just the three or four of us, but each night Adam got at least one new gift that we helped him unwrap.

The visit also saw my first and second viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I loved it. My first viewing was by myself on the Friday we arrived in Philly, which was opening day. I’ve seen all the modern era (1999-present) Star Wars movies on opening day, so it was kind of a big deal that I complete the set, even if that meant seeing it after coming off an overnight, cross-country flight and juggling Adam care for the afternoon, and as a result not having MJ there with me. Later in the visit we snuck out for a date night together while grandparents were on babysitting duty to watch it.

On New Years’ Eve we made our way over to MJ’s father’s house to enjoy an evening of Georgian food and family time. Adam got to meet Carmen, a large German Shepherd who was incredibly sweet with him, even if he calls her a cat (any fluffy animals are currently “kee” for “kitty”) and is still a bit grabby with animals.

The weather throughout our visit was on the warm side for winter in Philadelphia, so we took the opportunity to take Adam down to the Philadelphia Zoo to see the LumiNature light exhibit one evening. We were all still bundled up, but it was a really fun walk around the zoo and Adam seemed to enjoy it until the end when he got bored with sitting in his stroller and I ended up carrying him back to the car.

We also were able to celebrate Adam’s birthday while we were in town, which I’ll write about a bit later. Suffice to say, he had a lot of attention for his first birthday, which was celebrated across three states with various members our of family, friends, and neighbors.

I was working pretty extensively while we were there, only taking off from work a couple days during the visit. I took two weeks off for the Jewish High Holidays back in October, so the major religious holidays for us were already behind us. Most of my colleagues took time off though, which meant I had two weeks that were meeting-free and I had the flexibility to catch up on training, writing, and more, all of which had been sidelined during the busy conference time in October in November. I like my job, but having this much time to work on whatever I wanted was a real treat, and meant the work was actually peaceful and relaxing.

MJ took several days off late in our stay to work on the house. He was able to make progress on the biggest home improvement project we have going on, but most noticeable for the rest of us was getting a giant play pen put together for Adam in the living room. Now that he’s crawling everywhere, we needed to do something baby-proofing-wise and figured keeping him in a large, gated area would be the best bet. Even as big as it is, he’s not super keen on being in it alone, and gets annoyed if there are too many people on the outside while he’s “trapped” inside, but it is full of toys and he’s got more than enough room. And let’s be honest, there’s almost always someone in there playing with him.

Play pen almost complete! By the end of the visit, MJ had secured a couple more pieces of fence and completed the missing bit along the wall

In all, it was a great visit and our trip back to California on January 4th was uneventful.

The adventures of 2019

The biggest thing of 2019 was welcoming our little Adam Stanley Joseph into our lives!

Throughout the year we’ve got to experience piles of the joys of new parenthood. The newborn snuggle time, reading our childhood favorites with him, adorable baby giggles, the look of happiness when he sees me after work, the on-going process of watching him discover everything in the world, and generally being able to bring him on all kinds of new adventures. My heart-melting reaction to some of these things was surprising to me. Having a child truly does change you, especially those of us who wouldn’t have classified ourselves as “kid people” prior to having one of our own.

Being a new parent is also difficult and exhausting, so this year has been really challenging. I met my goal of breastfeeding for a year, but it was hard, especially with my travel schedule. My daily schedule has completely changed. My priorities are very different. Even relationships that I never expected being influenced by parenthood have changed, and conversely some that I thought would have not. I’ve gotten very good at prioritizing things, especially when it comes to tasks around the house. I’ve definitely leveled up when it comes to multi-tasking too. I bring little Adam on errands most evenings, and all around the house with me as I do laundry, sort mail, and all the other little tasks one does to keep a household flowing.

I also started a new job this year. After almost four months of maternity leave, I started at IBM at the end of April. I’m still doing Developer Advocacy, but I’ve made a major change by getting into IBM Z (mainframes). I can use a lot of my existing infrastructure experience, but it’s also been a year of learning a lot, starting with what a mainframe is. It’s been a fascinating eight months with an extraordinary community of people. I dove into events immediately, but I took some time to start doing talks again as I grew into my role and learned what I needed to, but I was back up to my usual pace of talks and conferences by October and I’m in a great spot for 2020.

Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

I’ve spent more time with family this year, mostly due to everyone wanting to meet and spend time with Adam, but also because we had both a funeral and two weddings to attend this year. Socially, I’ve really struggled. I’ve never been a social butterfly, but I’m constantly juggling precious little time and energy, and I haven’t been reserving any to make plans with friends. I don’t know if that will change soon, but I am mindful of the effort not being expended there and I don’t want things to be like this forever.

Travel-wise, I had my slowest travel year in recent memory, with just 54k miles, and since I decided to wait until Adam was a year old for any international travel, it was all domestic.

  • March: Philadelphia to visit
  • April: Hollywood, FL for a funeral
  • May: Atlanta for TechU conference, and visiting some family
  • May: Boston for the Red Hat Summit conference, and visiting some family
  • July: Philadelphia to visit
  • July: Poughkeepsie, NY for an office visit
  • July: Hollywood, FL for a wedding
  • July: Portland, OR for OSCON conference
  • August: San Diego for the Open Source Summit conference
  • September: Philadelphia & Rochester, NY for a visit and a wedding
  • October: Portland, OR for LISA19 conference
  • November: San Diego for KubeCon NA conference
  • November: Philadelphia to visit for Thanksgiving
  • December: New York City for the Open FinTech Forum conference
  • December: Philadelphia to visit for the holidays

Talks were similarly on the lean side, but I’m building a nice base of talks and a narrative that seems to resonate. I was really happy with the events I participated in.

As I look at 2020, I don’t see a huge change in store for us. We’re slightly more confident parents, but my priorities are still going to be family and work.

Open FinTech Forum 2019

In early December I flew to New York City for a couple days to attend my last conference of the year, the Open FinTech Forum put on by the Linux Foundation. It’s the second year of the event, and it was definitely on the small side, but with fintech being so entrenched in the mainframe world, it was a good place for me to be.

The event began with several keynotes that were generically open source with a financial slant. We had Jim Zemlin start things off by talking about the role of the Linux Foundation and touch upon topics that were of interest to companies in the financial sector. It was nice to hear from the GitLab CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, about using multiple cloud vendors (multi-cloud) and the importance of being able to move your applications without lock-in from specific vendors.

For such a small event, it was really nice to see several familiar faces. From a friend who I worked with in my Ubuntu days, to a few of my new IBM colleagues, and others from general open source work over the years. It was also great to sync up with John Mertic of the Linux Foundation and the Open Mainframe Project, even if I forgot half the things I had on my mind to talk to him about, haha! I guess that’s what email is for.

One of the talks I went to was by Gabriele Columbro of FINOS, the Fintech Open Source Foundation. I’m not sure what I think about the proliferation of open source foundations, but on the surface this organization had some interesting insights into the financial sector that I wasn’t familiar with. What I really enjoyed about the talk though was his walking through some of the news through the past decade. At the beginning of the decade there were articles about financial companies getting ahead by using in-house “secret sauce” technologies, and just a few years later the same publication would do an article about how they’re falling behind because they’re using an in-house solution and for not adopting open source technologies. As a long time open source enthusiast it’s nice for me to see financial companies joining so many other industries in embracing open source.

In an unfortunate scheduling change, my talk on “Modernizing Workloads with Linux on Your Mainframe” was at the same time as another mainframe talk by fellow IBMer Diana Henderson, The Future of Banking: Securing Digital Asset Custody Solutions. They were also put side-by-side in a large room separated by a curtain, which is probably my only complaint about this venue. It was a bit of a challenge to give a talk when the next talk over is just on the other side of the curtain. Still, we made it work and the venue had a nice street view of the holiday lights in the financial district!

My talk (slides) had an audience that was on the small side, but this was in line with attendance I saw event-wide. I suspect there were too many tracks for the number of attendees, and it seemed like a lot of folks used the event more for networking than for the actual sessions. Still, the audience I had was chatty and had the right background, they were mostly members of organizations that had mainframes, but they were Linux administrators and unfamiliar with that side of the tech stack. I enjoyed giving the talk, and afterwards I was talking to one of the attendees who gave me some valuable feedback: Java runs really fast on z/OS. I took his word for it, but when I got back to California I paid closer attention to this in some of the material we have, and yeah, if you want to run Java, it’s crazy fast on the mainframe. Good to know! During the break I also made sure to meet up with Diana sync up about our topics and get to know each other a little.

Photo courtesy of the Linux Foundation source

At the last session of the day I ran into a former OpenStack colleague whose name I recognized but I didn’t know very well. After chatting during the networking portion of the event, we grabbed dinner. I was happy for the company, particularly because I haven’t done a great job this year of arranging after-event social engagements. A goal for next year is definitely getting back on top of this and make sure I have a better balance of socialization and decompression time.

I wish I could have stayed longer to enjoy New York City, but with this being my last event for the year I was eager to get home to my family and the project work that I’d put on hold during the high travel portion of the year. Huge thanks to the Linux Foundation for rounding off my year with such a satisfying event, I look forward to participating again in the future.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712383525001

KubeCon NA 2019

Back in November, just before Thanksgiving, I attended my second KubeCon. My first was in Copenhagen last year. A lot has changed in the past eighteen months, both for me an Kubernetes at large. When I attended then, I was working at a container startup and spent my time there making connections with old and new colleagues at various organizations and working the booth. This year I’m working for one of the oldest computer companies on mainframes, and I had a speaking slot.

KubeCon North America is a huge event for me, I heard that the number of attendees this time was around 12,000. It’s somewhat cliche to compare it to the hype cycle that OpenStack went through, but I’m going to do it anyway. At the height, the events felt very similar. It’s very different for me though. In OpenStack I was a core contributor and my role in the project infrastructure team meant that I worked with a lot of people in the community. I would attend for both the OpenStack Summit and the Developer event, much like the community events exist around KubeCon. That means my KubeCon experience differs a lot from those like Chris Short, but just the three days of the main event was pretty exhausting. I think part of it is the noise of the expo hall and the sheer size of the keynote room.

First day keynotes!

It was also quite overloaded socially, I met up with over a dozen people while I was there, which was great, but tiring for an introvert like me. Of particular note work-wise, I was able to meet up with the IBM Z folks who were there. I only knew a couple via email and conference calls, and so it was nice to meet more. It was also somewhat unexpected, even though the premise of my talk was that people often don’t think about Kubernetes and mainframes at the same time, even I’m still surprised when I find mainframers at container events! We got a picture of some of us, but due to the nature of the event, we never got all of us in one place at one time.

IBM Z representing!

There were also a bunch of other people who I knew were there but didn’t manage to sync up with. Thankfully most of them will be at other events in the coming months. It’s fun how many folks I knew from OpenStack were there too. Many have transitioned into roles that are similar to what they worked on in OpenStack, some are still working on OpenStack but working with Kubernetes integration, others like me have completely gone off in a different direction. The continuity of having a few familiar faces does help me feel comfortable at these larger events though.

Content! I may have been able to skip most of the keynotes. I like attending them generally because they tend to set a tone for the event, but some of them were heavy on the sponsorship side. I’m also kind of over 5G demos, as fun as it is to wheel hardware onto the stage.

I think my favorite talks of the event were operations talks. One came from Ricardo Rocha of CERN (he’s another OpenStack alum!) who gave a talk on Managing Helm Deployments with Gitops at CERN (video). CERN has done a remarkable amount of innovative operations work over the years, so it’s been fascinating following their journey through the OpenStack days and on to their path with Kubernetes. In this talk he traced some of that history, and the way that their deployments have sped up over the years from bare metal, to VMs, and now with containers. I’m also a sucker for a good GitOps talk, so it was nice to see their work in practice.

There was also a talk from Chris Carty of the City Of Ottawa that I quite enjoyed, Moving from Legacy Infrastructure to the Cloud in a Government Organization (video). I was somewhat concerned that he might mean mainframes when he said “legacy” but that wasn’t the case, instead it was just the more traditional stack of x86 Linux machines that were reaching their end of life. He took the audience through a walk-through of their journey, from being overwhelmed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) list of projects, to actually trying them out and implementing solutions. It was a really great talk that considered things like support for key open source components of Kubernetes when selecting a vendor and distribution, on and off-prem options (hybrid cloud), and role-based access controls (RBAC). He also talks about how they encouraged departments to adopt the new infrastructure and how to get early and easy wins. If you are considering a Kubernetes deployment and watch just one talk from the event, I suggest it be this one. And he talks about GitOps too!

On Wednesday, the day my talk “Wait, People Run Kubernetes on Mainframes?” was scheduled, San Diego had a bit of a disaster: It rained. Not major rain, just rain, but San Diego clearly is not equipped to handle any sort of rain. The convention center leaked and worse, a large chunk of the venue lost power. Without knowing when power would be restored, they made the decision to move a whole swath of talks over to a nearby hotel. Kudos to the event staff for managing to pull this off instead of canceling the talks, but my talk was one of the ones that was moved, and it was quite the trek to make it over to the new location. For what was already a niche topic with a limited audience, I was worried this would mean death to my talk, but instead I had about 30 people attending and my hope is that the ones who were there are the people who really wanted to be there. The talk went well, and I indeed seemed to have the right audience, from people with mainframes in their infrastructure that they weren’t familiar with, to the curious who really were surprised to see a talk like mine on the agenda. It was definitely nice for sparking fun post-talk discussions. Resources for my talk are online: slides and video.

Thanks to Jin VanStee for taking the photo on the right during my talk! source

On Thursday things really started to wind down for me. I had some work to do in the morning so didn’t see as many talks, and most of my time was spent chatting with people more casually than previous days when I had more scheduled meetings. It was a nice way to conclude my final big event of the year. Plus, with the rain wrapping up on Thursday, we got a nice KubeCon rainbow!

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951648431

While Kubernetes isn’t the main focus of my work these days, it’s definitely a key component of some of my efforts, particularly with OpenShift fully coming to Z in 2020. I submitted a couple talks to KubeCon EU next year (fingers crossed!) I’m looking forward to weaving in more future KubeCon events into our team strategy.