a reckoning for tech by the humans that work with it

Goodnight, Moon – TR Dispatch v2n11

The TechReckoning Dispatch. Vol 2, No. 11. August 4, 2015. In this issue: XYZ is Dead is Dead. Government Service. Goodbye, Docker. Goodbye, OpenStack. Goodbye, Android. HP Dress Code. Women in Tech. #LookLikeAnEngineer. Windows 10. Comments on Backup Strategies. And our question: Would you ever write a Windows app? [View in Browser]

Early bird prices for The Reckoning 2015 end midnight tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug 5. Save $100 by signing up right now – we’ll refund if you can’t make it. Heck,we’ll refund you if you don’t like the event. I’m starting to think of it as “TED Talks for IT” and “Gathering of the Tech Evangelists (and people who want to be one)”.  If you’ve been thinking about it, now is the time. (Happy to announce that Julia Weatherby is the lucky winner of our early bird SSD!)

XYZ is Dead is Dead

A lot of people have been telling me things lately. AWS has won. OpenStack has won. OpenStack is dead. Apple Watch is DOA. Microsoft has missed mobile and is therefore irrelevant. PaaS is just a prototyping platform and will go away. PaaS is the future of all apps. Converged infrastructure will take over all storage. Converged infrastructure is only for small business and will fade away. Agile is dead. DevOps is dead. HP, EMC, NetApp, IBM, SANs, VMware, Nutanix, Docker — all dead. Software is unsaleable. Open source is not viable. The on-demand economy is dead. All future jobs will be in the on-demand economy.

You know nothing, Jon Snow. You do not know how the future is going to unfold, or when. (Although a lot of people reading this were right to put some chips down on the VMware square back the first time they saw it in action.) “XYZ is Dead” is an easy headline, when in fact things take a long time to die. Lower down in this issue, though, we do see people saying goodbye to a few platforms.

Not Quite A Commercial

Ravello Systems, which makes a mind-blowing nested virtualization platform, has announced the VMware Partner Lab Palooza, a contest this month to build a lab with some VMware partner solution like a storage emulator or backup software. Check it out and give it a spin. I’ve rarely seen this kind of reaction from a technology – this is vMotion-level voodoo. (Disclaimer: I’m consulting for them.)

Worth A Click

Good enough for government work

I spent my teenage years in Reagan country, just four blocks from Eureka College, Ronnie’s alma mater. (His boots were enshrined in a glass case in the library and his leadership of a student protest against substandard cafeteria food was cited as an harbinger of his future presidency.) In the post-Reagan era when I came of age, government was just assumed to be incompetent at everything, especially technology. In the wake of the Obamacare website fiasco, a group of Nick Fury types are practically daring Silicon Valley Superheroes to come to Washington and join a Super Team that has impact at a Google scale while fighting the evil red tape of bureaucracy and actually making government services efficient and usable. And the weird thing is… it’s working. Could government digital services actually work well?

Stock Options? Don’t Need ‘Em! I’m Coding For Uncle Sam! by Steven Levy at Medium’s Backchannel

The Healthcare.gov experience shows how great the differences can be. In newly released figures, the government says that constructing the original enrollment system, known as the Federally Facilitated Marketplace operating system, cost $200 million and would have required $70 million a year to maintain. The new version of the site, revamped by USDS engineers from Google, Y Combinator startups and other commercial tech outposts, cost $4 million to produce, with annual maintenance costs also $4 million.

The government was eager to embrace agile methods, but it didn’t always understand them. The first time the team and the government tried to implement them together, government representatives drew up a plan for a three-month plan, complete with five carefully scheduled development sprints.

“And I’m like, how is that agile? That’s a three-month plan—down to like, a plan every day of those three months. ‘What if you learn something on like the third week that changes the rest of the plan?,’” Yu remembers asking. “And they were like, oh, well it’s the rest of the plan, so it can’t change.”

Goodbye, Docker

This is good and just reeks of hard-won experience. Why Docker is Not Yet Succeeding Widely in Production by Simon Hørup Eskildsen of Shopify on his blog

Dockerfiles cannot realistically capture the complexity now managed by config management, but this complexity needs to be managed somewhere. At Shopify we ended up creating our own system from scratch using the docker commit API. This is painful. I wish this on nobody and I am eager to throw it out, but we had to to unblock ourselves. Few will go to this length to wrangle containers to production.

Don’t Get Too Caught Up With Containers and Microservices by Joe Emison at The New Stack

Here’s why: technology people just want more technology. They wallow in technology.  It’s not about ease of technology. They are just making more technology: containers, container management, monitoring, etc. It’s a pain in the ass to maintain any cloud, even a public one.  The state-of-the-art, best-practices way of administering a cloud are seemingly never-ending; we got rid of the rote SysAdmins and network engineers, but now we need really-hard-to-find DevOps engineers. This isn’t the business agility we were really hoping for.

Some recent reality checks on Docker. 10 myths about enterprise adoption of Docker by Bob Quillen at VentureBeat. Nothing too surprising, but there’s at least one point here that might make you think.
Myth 8: Enterprises are flocking to Google-scale data centers run with Borg-like automation
Enterprises run a heterogeneous mix of private data centers, clouds, hosted and legacy environments, and colocation facilities run with VMware-centric tools. That’s pretty far from the microservice-based, cloud-native applications running on commodity hardware in a highly automated, software-defined environment automated by Kubernetes or Mesos. Sure, perhaps we’ll all get there one day, but on the journey, containerizing as you go can provide immediate cost, efficiency, and business benefits.

Cloud Foundry will be moving to runC, the new standard container format, although they won’t be using Docker, because it contains higher level “opinionated” features. I just wanted to link to this from IBM’s Julz Friedman because I thought it was a great example of clear writing. Garden and runC

Goodbye, OpenStack

Goodbye, OpenStack by Carl on his blog
Everyone I know who is deploying OpenStack has forked. Not publicly, but they have. No one can run the mainline code, it’s a disaster, and OpenStack politics of the “Big Tent” are going to make that problem a lot worse. Because everyone has their own fork, very little code is making it back upstream. Several of my last jobs, I tried to make OpenStack upstream better. To tell you how well that went, look at my stackalytics profile (if I even have one any more). I haven’t committed code in over three years, and I wanted to help. I tried to help. I failed.

Goodbye, Android

Android has a well-publicized exploit involving processing videos that come in over text. When will your carrier update your phone with a fix? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ One man is out. Goodbye, Android by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Vice’s Motherboard.
Google still has very little control over software updates, and Android users are basically at the mercy of their carriers and phone manufacturers when it comes to getting updates or new operating system versions. For example, it took Sony more than six months to push Android 5.0 Lollipop to its new line of Xperia Z phones, despite the fact that it had promised for a much shorter turnaround after Lollipop was released by Google.

Goodbye, Web

If you haven’t noticed, web pages suck these days. A single page load at a news site can take 200 requests and pull over 2 MB of data. The culprit? Bigger web development frameworks and ad trackers of various sorts.

The Web’s Cruft Problem by TJ Van Voll on the Telerik Developer Network is an intro. Then The mobile web sucks by Nilay Patel at The Verge and then amusingly Les Orchard points out on his blog that Nilay’s house is very much made of glass and he shouldn’t be throwing stones:  The Verge’s web sucks. But all ad-supported web sites are going to look this way in 2015.

Why Web Pages Suck by Ben Thompason on his blog Stratechery looks at the economic pressures on publishers and Frederic Fillioux takes a deeper look into what is being loaded when you load a page on Politico or the Daily Mail. 20 Home Pages, 500 Trackers Loaded: Media Succumbs to Monitoring Frenzy on the blog he shares with Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note. Tip: you can check this yourself with Ghostery’s browser plug-in. Frederic does share this one bit of marketing BS from a tracking vendor. I have a finely honed sense of enterprise marketing bullshit, so this smells like roses to me:

Our unifying DMP (Data Management Platform) helps marketers and publishers drive more revenue, efficiency and engagement through the power of audience data. Working as trusted partners, we help our customers transform the way they do business. Providing an unmatched level of industry knowledge and technical service to help them master the complexities of Big Data and gain the impact they need.
You know who wins with all this? Facebook wins. Facebook is experimenting with pulling external content to live natively on its platform. Especially on mobile, that new article will be one quick background fetch away. And Facebook has no need for 500 ad trackers because, well, it already knows everything about you. You know who loses? Magazines and news sites, because their user experience will keep getting worse.

If I were a journalist, I’d invent a trend that hipster sites will go the other way: The fastest blog in the world by Jacques Matthiej on how after moving to Octopress with no JavaScript and inline CSS, his pages are under 20 kb and render in less than 200 milliseconds. It’s like a flying car from some alternate future.

Goodbye, Cloud Nerds

Nerds are so cute. Zuckerberg held a Q&A on Facebook with some celebrity questioners, and Steven Hawking asked him, “Which of the big questions in science would you like to know the answer to and why?” This was part of Zuck’s answer:
I’m also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is.
This is the sad gamer nerd view of the world from the man who is running the engine of global communication in 2015. We are but NPCs acting according to an algorithm. I certainly am not, and I’m as mad about this as I am about Cecil the Lion.

Related: David Linthicum is usually insightful when writing about cloud, but here he takes the nerd view. The cloud is becoming exactly what it sought to replace by David Linthicum at InfoWorld. You see, nerds thought that all of enterprise business bullshit would be replaced with a credit card transaction when it came to cloud. In fact, many defined true cloud as only things you could buy with your credit card. Now David laments:

Many cloud providers are behaving like traditional enterprise software providers: selling multiyear agreements, having their customers sign closed agreements, and even selling maintenance and support.
When I’m doing a multi-million dollar deal, I’m locking in discounts and terms with a contract, not a credit card. Oh nerds, you so cute.

Also related: Soylent founder finds kitchens and grocery stores disgusting. I can’t wait until the Singularity when we get to tell all these guys that we’re uploading their brains into a robot as we take them to the vet, hold them lovingly, and tell them, shush, now, it’s time to sleep, they’ve been a good boy.

I have not set foot in a grocery store in years. Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears. Grocery shopping is a multisensory living nightmare. There are services that will make someone else do it for me but I cannot in good conscience force a fellow soul through this gauntlet.

Nerd postscript: I’m not a grammar prescriptivist by any means, but just to get into the pedantic nerdery of it all, the preferred American usage is “run the gantlet,” not “run the gauntlet.”

Hello, HP

I’m telling you right now that you should not read “the news.” It only purports to inform you, and in fact makes you stupider. Case in point: the whole thing last week that HP is making nerds conform to a dress code, first reported by the Register. Unfortunately dozens of articles were written about how clueless HP is because all media outlets are after maximum clicks because of the aforementioned crumbling economic model.

First of all, “companies” as entities rarely do anything; people do. And secondly, policies at a big company change all the time. When a friend of mine joined VMware with a manager that wasn’t going to let him travel much, I counseled him to wait 6 months. And indeed, within 6 months, the policy had changed and soon after this manager had changed. If you think “HP” decided anything, you need to go back and get schooled on your Corporate Kremlinology.

Secondly, if you actually read the comments (on the Register it is Mostly Safe to read the comments), you discover that this was a memo for the Enterprise Services group, which came from EDS, and was pretty much a recap of an earlier policy, which was: if you customers can see you, try to look professional, ok? Seems appropriate for a professional services organization if customers are in the offices, especially one descended from EDS. The policy does not apply to HP Labs, etc. I fail to see the problem, and I’m not even wearing pants at the moment.

HP put up this unfunny video to also make the point that they don’t have a dress code, and I’ll give them points for being Funny Uncle Stupid and not HP Big Company stupid, which was indeed the point they were trying to make.. Unfortunately it doesn’t unwind the dozens of unfair articles about how stupid they are.

HP also did some non-dress code related things that were pretty smart. First of all, they bought Staccato, a PaaS built on Cloud Foundry, from ActiveState. HP is a supermarket. Cloud Foundry is arguably the best floor wax/modern app platform going. They also dropped EVO:RAIL. Nothing against EVO:RAIL; I think VMware will eventually get the economics right. But as a desert topping/converged infrastructure, it’s not flying off the shelves and HP has it’s own house brand desert topping — might as well just offer that until VMware’s dessert topping moves more units.

Hello, Engineers

I include links to women-in-tech topics because it is a big f’d up thing in our society and our industry.  If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention by Rachel Thomas.
Nobody wants to think of themselves as being sexist. However, a number of studies have shown that identical job applications or resumes are evaluated differently based on whether they are labeled with a male or female name. When men and women read identical scripts containing entrepreneurial pitches or salary negotiations, they are evaluated differently. Both men and women have been shown to have these biases. These biases occur unconsciously and without intention or malice.
This week in SF, developer Isis Anchalee was featured in a BART recruiting ad for her company. (In SF every inch of ad space is devoted to recruiting engineers, from billboards and taxi signs to sandwich shop napkins)  Some dudebros thought she didn’t look like an engineer, so she started a hashtag. #ILookLikeAnEngineer: A Twitter Meme That Speaks for Itself by Alex Williams at the New Stack. Check out a live Twitter search. I’ve used this as an opportunity to follow some smart engineers on Twitter.

Hello, Windows 10

Oh, and this Windows 10 thing got released. I have no use for it, but FYI. BTW, the Wi-Fi Sense thing is BS and not really a security hole, although Windows 10 will send back all your private junk to HQ and makes it harder to switch browsers. Here’s a smart thing from A16z’s Benedict Evans on Microsoft’s new reality. Microsoft, capitulation and the end of Windows Everywhere
The apps that people want on smartphones are not being written for desktop Windows anyway. Uber doesn’t have a desktop Windows app, and neither does Instacart, Pinterest or Instagram. The apps and services that consumers care about are either smartphone-only or address the desktop using the web, with only partial exceptions for the enterprise.
Matt Weinberger at Business Insider also notes that in its latest 10-K filing, Satya Nadella lays out Microsoft’s top three priorities, and doesn’t mention Windows.

Always Read the Comments

Catching up first:

@seanpmassey on Vacations:

In my previous jobs, I was never really able to take a vacation if I wanted to because I was the only sysadmin in the organization.  The best place was my previous, job where I had moved into a position to backfill my boss, so he was able to cover me somewhat when I was out.  Now that I have moved into a role at a partner, I think I would be able to take a summer vacation if I choose to schedule one.
@KongYang on Platforms & Tooling:
It’s an interesting time. I don’t think the industry has a clear direction about what platforms should do because the big players want to be like their competitor and much like politics, they all end up looking the same and arguing over semantics because frankly, there is no differentiators in the products. To developers this is no good because developers want distinction and want uniqueness. The funny thing is that IT Ops want that same ability to customize and be uniquely valued. So everything is converging at high rate to a bland but agile commoditization, which ultimately means that the failures will be spectacular at scale & in frequency and most importantly, the space is ripe for an underdog to take.

Even with all the platform chaos, the investment dollars haven’t stopped flowing yet, and while I think that it’s highly doubtful that the market could bear all the players currently in the market, there’s definitely opportunities for IT pros who have the skills and expertise to bridge the technology to business utility. They only have to overcome technology inertia, internal politics, industry strife, and their own shortcomings in embracing change.

I’m a big fan of small tools that do one thing well. I got back into the sysadmin world after 10 years at/with EMC because the API driven cloud and “devops” movements had finally caught up with where I thought tooling should be.

Plain text in, plain text out.

Last week we asked about home backup solutions. (Update from our home: unrelated to the fire, we had hardware error on a MacBook Air which Apple fixed under warranty; tried to restore from Time Machine but ended up with scrambled OS resources and a locked saved volume so we can’t re-restore. Currently at the shop to untangle Time Machine file locking. The closer you can get to @dellock6’s all-files-in-the-cloud, the better off we all will be, if you ask me. Eliminate home backup complexity by eliminating home backups.)


My offsite home backup is a multi-site affair with Crashplan and a personal setup to a friends home who lives on the other side of town.  He backups to my setup and I to his.    Then we have effectively 4 levels of backups.
My offsite home backup strategy is currently a bit of a mixed bag.  I back up my PC using Crashplan, and I have many of my important files stored in OneDrive.  However, I don’t have a good strategy for my home lab yet.  My plan is to get a Synology to use as a home NAS and VM backup target that would be backed up to Crashplan.
I have a lot of experience in this are thanks to customers and working all over the world a bit.  So my strategy is as a result of customers.  Meaning I had one that lost not only all their financial and tax paper, but also all of their childrens pictures.  So they have nothing of them growing up.  When they talk about that and what it means to them it brings tears to my eyes.  So I use a Mac but my strategy works for any platform.  I use Time Machine backing up to external drive.  This allows me to do easy and quick restores.  I use SuperDuper to get an image backup.  I do that weekly and if I need to use it – such as replacing a dead disk it gets things working and then Time Machine brings me up to date.  But the important last bit is that I use BackBlaze for the off-site part of my backup.  I have web access, and iOS access to my backups via BackBlaze but they can also send me my files using HTTPS or 128 GB USB3 memory stick, or external USB as necessary.  I have used it for quite some time and have tested it very well and am happy – in fact I am very happy with this entire strategy and think it would work for most people.
Most of my data resides on a FreeNAS, which has snapshots enabled. From there, I replicate it offsite to my parents house to another FreeNAS. They are just far enough away that I would be concerned about a natural disaster taking out both places, but close enough that I can just drive over if I need to restore several hundred gigs of data.

To top it off, I take advantage of Google’s free offering to backup my pictures and home-video (it also automatically backs up pictures from my phone).

The solution gives me a fair bit of flexibility as well as redundancy. Hopefully I’ll never need to use it.

My home backup plan is quite simple, and leverages cloud services as much as possible rather than huge backups; the reason is we do not have huge bandwidth where I leave so full machine backups would be hard to complete.

We use both mac and windows machines at home, but documents and data are usually replicated in cloud services: every document I create or work on is saved into the local dropbox folder, so it gets replicated offsite. Email is either in the corporate exchange server or Gmail for personal use, so I don’t need local backups. I take notes with evernote, so it’s replicated too. For blogging, I use MarsEdit, and I’ve configured its two local folders (localdrafts and pendinguploads) as two subfolders in Dropbox, so everytime I update a draft post they are automatically saved into DropBox. Together with dropbox I also use Google Drive for other files, mainly pictures and downloaded files.

I have Time Machine too so if possible I can use it to restore the entire machine, but it’s only stored in my NAS at home.

With this setup I can choose to do a complete restore from Time Machine or a clean install plus restore from the cloud. Sometimes I think a new installation is a good thing to clean up a bit a heavily used operating system. It happened already that I tested this setup! Last year during VMworld US 2014 my SSD drive died one evening, and because the Mac was already 4 years old I decided it was time to get a new Macbook Air 11. I went to the Apple Store early morning, got the mac as soon as they opened, went back to the hotel, setup the basic installation and installed/configured dropbox + google drive + evernote. There was a cron job to list the applications I have on my Mac and write a file into Dropbox, so once I had Dropbox locally I also had the list of the applications I needed to reinstall; I can choose to reinstall all of them, or maybe to skip some I haven’t used for a long time. If there’s some special login or procedure to retrieve the app, chances are they are stored into the 1Password keyfile, that is also into dropbox. At the end (and thanks to the 1gb internet connection I had in the hotel!!!) I had my main applications and data in the new Mac after 3 hours.

Offsite backup is provided by Crashplan backing up to a server in my office. I control all the data, seeded it locally and now it’s just incrementals.
Home off-site backup keeps my sleepless at nights, possibly because I’ve seen enterprises spend hundreds of thousands and still get it so wrong. In any case, I currently use Time Machine to a 4TB external drive in parallel with a Crashplan Family plan to a DC in Sydney. I’d previously used MozyHome with mixed results. While they were good, I got irritated with the price increase as the Aussie dollar lost traction against the greenback. I then switched to Backblaze. I’m still in love with their “hippie” ideals and willingness to share data on how they build the storage pods and the fancy red chassis they use in their DCs. But, alas, they didn’t have a lot of presence in Australia (and still don’t, I think). A forward-thinking fellow at Crashplan / Code42 in Sydney whom I met through a mutual acquaintance hooked me up with a free seed drive and a 12 month subscription to Crashplan. I’ve generally been happy with the performance of the product, and the local (AU) presence is a real benefit because I could seed the 900GB of data from home relatively quickly. Keep in mind I still have an ADSL connection to the internet that barely gets to 6Mbps down / 256Kbps up (and it’s getting worse since Netflix officially launched in AU).

For all that, I haven’t had to restore anything serious yet, for which I am very thankful. I still get a bit twitchy about security of the data at rest and in transit, notwithstanding Crashplan’s assurances that everything’s safe.

My home backup solution is a Synology for stuff I want to keep but access infrequently + all my recorded media + TimeMachine + VM Backup. But the ultimate backup is BDXL disks in a fire safe. Which is where everything goes after it hits the Synology and been there for a bit. I really want to find an inexpensive BDXL Archive device. Actually, I do have  a DISC Blu-Safe but the drive does not understand BDXL yet. Which is a shame as I really need some tool like this to help speed up archiving on a regular basis.

Just Hit Reply

Why would you create a new Windows-specific desktop app in 2015? If you could build one, buy one, or contract that one be made for you — why would you do it rather than a web-based app? I’m lost. Help me out.

The TechReckoning Dispatch. ArchiveSubscribeEmail meCome to The Reckoning 2015. Published every week or two. You are the best thing that ever happened to you. Listening to: Secret Windows Phone App #2: Bottle Opener. “…Goodnight room, Goodnight moon, Good night cow jumping over the moon, Goodnight light, And the red balloon, Goodnight bears, Goodnight chairs, Goodnight kittens, And goodnight mittens, Goodnight clocks, And goodnight socks, Goodnight little house, And goodnight mouse, Goodnight comb, And goodnight brush, Goodnight nobody, Goodnight mush, And goodnight to the old lady, whispering “hush”, Goodnight stars, Goodnight air, Goodnight noises everywhere.”