Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Right Kind of Complex

I've always been interested in new technology. But I'm always worried about complexity for complexity sake. Now I know that some people push for this type of Technology simply to take advantage of it. By making it complex, they make it mysterious. When it's mysterious, it's magic. And when it's Magic, you can charge whatever you want. 

There are also those the want to be in an exclusive Club. And complex technology is a way to build a clubhouse where only those who understand are allowed in. Well, not really. Those who understand, but still don't need that criteria exclusivity still don't get in. And it seems that way with systemd. now before you go on and skip this because it's going to be another systemd rant, rest assured its not.
I want to talk about something that is appropriately complex, yet Rewards those who Brave its complexities. I I'm talking about docker. I've heard about it for so long in numerous technology podcasts. I heard the podcast where the inventors of Kubernetes begin to popularize it. Yet I found no occasion to use it. Fortunately, I can set up systems pretty fast and never needed before to look at it to improve my delivery cycle. I believe in forward planning, and leaving enough space to handle the unexpected.
However recently, I was pressed for time to deploy A system that used multiple nodes 2 process complex data. There was a front end, a node manager, a back-end component and the nodes themselves. The authors of the system very much encouraged deploying the system using docker. The system was very intriguing to me and it had components that I haven't worked with before. But there wasn't enough time.
There were the usual challenges of setting up a system, such as dealing with dependencies and outdated components. On top of that, the client requested to migrate the system from its original Linux distribution to a distribution that the organization is used to managing. After giving it a few tries (and failing), I decided to follow the strong suggestion by the authors and deployed it using Docker. The system was deployed in almost no time at all on the distribution that was favored by the client. I was taken aback at how simple the process was. I understand that the distribution really didn't change. It was more or less contained and sufficient enough to make the system work.
I decided to take a deep dive into Docker. I wanted to know enough to deploy other Solutions and to deploy Docker as a tool that I would regularly use. I found that my experience Building Systems allowed me to understand not only what was going on but also gave me an insight into the decisions made by the people who created the Docker images. I found that docker is complex but satisfyingly so given what the rewards of using Docker are. It is complex in the right way. It is complex because it needs to be complex. It isn't making something previously simple, complex for it's own sake. It rewards those who are willing to brave its complexities but still offer riches to those who are just intent on using the basic functions. It isn't Magic but it does seem so.
I have only begun my journey with Docker. The mysteries off building and managing my own images lie ahead. From where I stand, some parts does look complex and where isn't, the decisions and issues around those decisions are complex. I love learning about systems like this and passing on the knowledge to those coming up from behind me. I also like sharing the issues and working out with my clients the decision around those issues. That way, I make the magic less mysterious. It still is magic to them but sharing decision making process creates collaboration and acceptance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A problem not big enough to solve?

In open source, 'scratching your itch' is a source of birth for many a project. It makes the assumption that someone who has a problem a.k.a. "itchy", has the resources (e.g. time, effort) to develop a solution (or scratch that itch). With so many open source solutions already built using this time-honored method, the issue nowadays is more of finding the project that "scratches your itch" than actually building one of your own. In fact, this has lead to a lot of dead projects, some of which were brilliant but lost in the shuffle. 

But it surprised me to discover an itch, a problem, that should have been so prevalent that someone should have done something about it. 

I was setting a new MSWindows10 environment at home and decided I needed to be able to access a Linux box remotely and do so while being able to run X11 applications remotely from the box. My go-to solution has been MobaXterm but since it is Freemium solution, I have always installed it with a caveat. I also didn't like it charging for was basically integration of existing open source solutions (in a way, at least). Okay, re-packaging. I remember seeing an alternative called mRemoteNG which sort of has the same features, is open source and expandable.

<a href="" target="_blank">Solved the Problem Illustration</a> by <a href="">Manypixels Gallery</a> on <a href="">Iconscout</a>
I downloaded a portable version and in no time was able to reach servers via SSH tunnels. It does rely on external applications, like Putty, to do the actual connection. But the presentation and configuration management features it provided was very much welcomed. Finally, I decided to use an X11 application on the server. MobaXterm has a built-in X11 server and using it was a no-brainer. But mRemoteNG has no documentaion for it. Even on-line, people did provide suggestions like using the VcXsvr X11 server for windows but no clear indication anybody has successful done so. Which is odd considering running an application from a linux box would be one of the things one would do after connecting to a Linux box. Or have we been disciplined enough to limit ourselves to command-line?

I used XMing back in the day but there are warnings that it doesn't run on Window10. There seemed to be a myriad of things to consider when setting up VcXsvr (e.g. display number, permission settings) before being able to run a single X11 application. Which is strange considering the X11 architecture was intended to allow complex X11 applications to run and consume resources on the server and just provide the UI to the user. 

So I chalk this up to an itch not itchy enough to solve. Nobody has done the work and shared the way to setup mRemoteNG with VcXsrvr. Someone has solved the connection part and the ability to run X11 on Windows. But no one has setup mRemoteNG together with VcXsvr. And that is a shame given that MobaXterm runs X11 apps straight from the ssh window. 

Maybe MobaXterm is the problem solved but nobody it willing to take the extra step and make an open source solution for it. Like I said, not itch enough.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Pandemic and Mageia Madness

Fortunately, the pandemic has little negative impact for me. Working from remote, couped up in the house,endless remote meetings. Tell me something new. It's just more of it. And my exprience with work during the pandemic is opposite of most, I got even busier. New clients looking for a cheaper way of doing the same things. Companies looking at open source solutions mainly as a cost reduction option, suddenly okay with solutions that cost less even though it sticks out in their MsWindows environment. I'm not complaining but some days, I'm am at the edge of it.

 I've recently moved to the most recent version of Mageia. Well, forced to was the more likely. A distro upgrade broke and screwed up the loading of the kernel. I could try to fix it but decided to just start fresh. The data directories were in a different partition (best practice ever) and installing fresh would just mean I may had to deal with the configuration setting differences between the older KDE/Cinnamon with the most recent one (since it was reading my existing home folder). Long story short, it worked like a charm (other than my USB stick coming down with a case of bad blocks).

Then came the whole process of reconsidering the apps I really needed vs the apps I wanted (but almost never use). This is where my thoughts of the needs of the average user return. Does the average user use the apps I use or need? Do they use apps that I don't? This is important to me as a Linux advocate because if Linux doesn't meet the need of the average joe, then the adoption will always fall short. 

This was a slow start.

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