Salt and Pepper Squid with Fresh Greens

A few days ago I told Andrew Wafaa I’d write up some notes for him and publish them here. I became hungry contemplating this work, so decided cooking was the first order of business:

Salt and Pepper Squid with Fresh Greens

It turned out reasonably well for a first attempt. Could’ve been crispier, and it was quite salty, but the pepper and chilli definitely worked (I’m pretty sure the chilli was dried bhut jolokia I harvested last summer). But this isn’t a post about food, it’s about some software I’ve packaged for managing Ceph clusters on openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

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Watching Grass Grow

For Hackweek 11 I thought it’d be fun to learn something about creating Android apps. The basic training is pretty straightforward, and the auto-completion (and auto-just-about-everything-else) in Android Studio is excellent. So having created a “hello world” app, and having learned something about activities and application lifecycle, I figured it was time to create something else. Something fun, but something I could reasonably complete in a few days. Given that Android devices are essentially just high res handheld screens with a bit of phone hardware tacked on, it seemed a crime not to write an app that draws something pretty. Continue reading


Since the Senate passed legislation expanding your surveillance powers on Thursday night, you’ve copped an awful lot of flack on Twitter. Part of the problem, I think – aside from the legislation being far too broad – is that we don’t actually know who you are, or what exactly it is you get up to. You could be part of a spy novel, a movie or a decades-long series of cock ups. You could be script kiddies with a budget. Or you could be something else entirely.

At times like this I try to remind myself to assume good faith; to remember that most people are basically decent and are trying to live a good life. Some people are even trying to make the world a better place, whatever that might mean.

For those of you then who are decent people, and who are trying to keep Australia safe from whatever mysterious threats are out there that we don’t know about – all without wishing to impinge on or risk destroying the freedoms that we enjoy here – you have my thanks.

For those of you involved in the formulation of The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (No 1) – you who might be reading this post as I type it, rather than after I publish it – I have tried very, very hard to imagine that you honestly believe you are making the world a better place. And maybe you do actually think that, but for my part I cannot see the powers granted as anything other than a direct assault on our democracy. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, I should be more worried about bathroom accidents, restaurant meals and lightning strikes than terrorism. As a careful bath user with a strong stomach and a sturdy house to hide in, I think I’m fairly safe on that front. Frankly I’m more worried about climate change. Do you have anyone on staff who can investigate that threat to our national security?

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll take it as a kindness if you don’t edit this post without asking first.


Tim Serong

Something Like a Public Consultation

The Australian government often engages in public consultation on a variety of matters. This is a good thing, because it provides an opportunity for us to participate in our governance. One such recent consultation was from the Attorney-General’s Department on Online Copyright Infringement. I quote:

On 30 July 2014, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis, and the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull MP released a discussion paper on online copyright infringement.

Submissions were sought from interested organisations and individuals on the questions outlined in the discussion paper and on other possible approaches to address this issue.

Submissions were accepted via email, and there was even a handy online form where you could just punch in your answers to the questions provided. The original statement on publishing submissions read:

Submissions received may be made public on this website unless otherwise specified. Submitters should indicate whether any part of the content should not be disclosed to the public. Where confidentiality is requested, submitters are encouraged to provide a public version that can be made available.

This has since been changed to:

Submissions received from peak industry groups, companies, academics and non-government organisations that have not requested confidentiality are being progressively published on the Online copyright infringement—submissions page.

As someone who in a fit of inspiration late one night (well, a fit of some sort, but I’ll call it inspiration), put in an individual submission I am deeply disappointed that submissions from individuals are apparently not being published. Geordie Guy has since put in a Freedom of Information request for all individual submissions, but honestly the AGD should be publishing these. It was after all a public consultation.

For the record then, here’s my submission:

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The Fridge Magnets

Last Thursday night was the TasLUG OpenStack 4th Birthday meetup. We had some nice nibbly food, some drinks, and four OpenStacky talks:

  • An update from the OpenStack Foundation (presented by me, with slides provided by the Foundation).
  • A talk about the NeCTAR cloud and using the command line tools to work with images, by Scott Bragg.
  • A talk on spinning up instances with Nova and Heat, by Stewart Wilde.
  • A talk by me on Ceph, and how it can be used as the storage backend for an OpenStack cloud.

We also had some posters, stickers and fridge magnets made up. The fridge magnets were remarkably popular. If you weren’t at TasLUG last night, and you want a fridge magnet, first download this image (the full-res one linked to, not the inline one):

Then, go to Vistaprint and place an order for Magnetic Business Cards, using this image. You can get 25 done for about $10, plus shipping.

Finally, I would like to publicly thank the OpenStack Foundation for supporting this event.

An Open Letter to Our Elected Representatives

To Whom It May Concern,

Please allow me to offer my congratulations on your election to office. Depending on the exact circumstances, this is a testament either to your general excellence, or to the deep incompetence of your opponents (or possibly to a combination of the two).

I would like to offer – if I may – a single piece of advice: do not, under any circumstances, publicly complain about the inadequacies of your predecessors or the mess they have left. You will sound like a petulantly whining child. Rather, explain plainly the state of things as they are, and your bold plan to bring us to a better future. Many of us are not idiots, and will respect (and even vote for) competent adults, assuming we are able to find any.

All the best for the next few years.


Tim Serong


Some time late last Sunday night, I stumbled upon a fight discussion on Twitter. It turns out there are actually more threads to it than I’ve reproduced here, so if you’re really keen, do feel free to click through on individual tweets to see where it went. Here I’ve only reproduced the thread I read at the time. It starts with this:

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Happiness is a Hong Kong SIM

In 1996 Regurgitator released a song called “Kong Foo Sing“. It starts with the line “Happiness is a Kong Foo Sing”, in reference to a particular brand of fortune cookie. But one night last week at the OpenStack Summit, I couldn’t help but think it would be better stated as “Happiness is a Hong Kong SIM”, because I’ve apparently become thoroughly addicted to my data connection.

I was there with five other SUSE engineers who work on SUSE Cloud (our OpenStack offering); Ralf Haferkamp, Michal Jura, Dirk Müller, Vincent Untz and Bernhard Wiedemann. We also had SUSE crew manning a booth which had one of those skill tester machines filled with plush Geekos. I didn’t manage to get one. Apparently my manual dexterity is less well developed than my hacking skills, because I did make ATC thanks to a handful of openSUSE-related commits to TripleO (apologies for the shameless self-aggrandizement, but this is my blog after all).

Given this was my first design summit, I thought it most sensible to first attend “Design Summit 101“, to get a handle on the format. The summit as a whole is split into general sessions and design summit sessions, the former for everyone, the latter intended for developers to map out what needs to happen for the next release. There’s also vendor booths in the main hall.

Roughly speaking, design sessions get a bunch of people together with a moderator/leader and an etherpad up on a projector, which anyone can edit. Then whatever the topic is, is hashed out over the next forty-odd minutes. It’s actually a really good format. The sessions I was in, anyone who wanted to speak or had something to offer, was heard. Everyone was courteous, and very welcoming of input, and of newcomers. Actually, as I remarked on the last day towards the end of Joshua McKenty’sCulture, Code, Community and Conway” talk, everyone is terrifyingly happy. And this is not normal, but it’s a good thing.

As I’ve been doing high availability and storage for the past several years, and have also spent time on SUSE porting and scalability work on Crowbar, I split my time largely between HA, storage and deployment sessions.

On the deployment front, I went to:

On High Availability:

On Storage:

  • Encrypted Block Storage: Technical Walkthrough. This looks pretty neat. Crypto is done on the compute host via dm-crypt, so everything is encrypted in the volume store and even over the wire going to and from the compute host. Still needs work (naturally), notably it currently uses a single static key. Later, it will use Barbican.
  • Swift Drive Workloads and Kinetic Open Storage. Sadly I had to skip out of this one early, but Seagate now have an interesting product which is a disk (and some enclosures) which present disks as key/value stores over ethernet, rather than as block devices. The idea here is you remove a whole lot of layers of the storage stack to try to get better performance.
  • Real World Usage of GlusterFS + OpenStack. Interesting history of the project, what the pieces are, and how they now provide an “all-in-one” storage solution for OpenStack.
  • Ceph: The De Facto Storage Backend for OpenStack. It was inevitable that this would go back-to-back with a GlusterFS presentation. All storage components (Glance, Cinder, object store) unified. Interestingly the
    libvirt_image_type=rbd option lets you directly boot all VMs from Ceph (at least if you’re using KVM). Is it the perfect stack? “Almost” (glance images are still copied around more than they should be, but there’s a patch for this floating around somewhere, also some snapshot integration work is still necessary).
  • Sheepdog: Yet Another All-In-One Storage for Openstack. So everyone is doing all-in-one storage for OpenStack now ;-) I haven’t spent any time with Sheepdog in the past, so this was interesting. It apparently tries to have minimal assumptions about the underlying kernel and filesystem, yet supports thousands of nodes, is purportedly fast and small (<50MB memory footprint) and consists of only 35K lines of C code.
  • Ceph OpenStack Integration Unconference (gathering ideas to improve Ceph integration in OpenStack).

Around all this of course were many interesting discussions, meals and drinks with all sorts of people; my immediate colleagues, my some-time partners in crime, various long-time conference buddies and an assortment of delightful (and occasionally crazy) new acquaintances. If you’ve made it this far and haven’t been to an OpenStack summit yet, try to get to Atlanta in six months or Paris in a year. I don’t know yet whether or not I’ll be there, but I can pretty much guarantee you’ll still have a good time.