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:: Chaos and Kindness

There are two completely different events that have happened in the last week that i need to think about. i tend to find that i think most when i am on a keyboard, so yay you ineffable void and ad bot now reading this, you get more words!

1) Mozilla’s Layoffs.
social media love
The company i work for announced layoffs for about 70 out of 1000 employees. The folks were chosen by project and role, that part is normal. What’s not normal was something i don’t think i’ve ever seen another company do. The employees were not treated like modern lepers and tossed out the door.

Instead, they were told that they were going to be laid off, but still had access to most of the things they needed. This included company mail, internal Slack channels, resources, etc. Folks inside the company rallied to support them. Spreadsheets were created that had employee info and prospective or recommended hires from folks networks. Social Media networks hosted “#MozillaLifeboat” to help get folks on their feet fast, and many very positive words were said in praise of those who were let go.

The folks who we let go were treated like humans. There was an all hands meeting held a couple of days after the layoffs occurred. The folks laid off were encouraged to attend, ask really hard questions, and were given good answers.

Ask yourself, “Would your company have done that? Could they have done that?”

Granted, mozilla works pretty hard on not hiring sociopaths and jerks, so it’s just not really the culture to be terrible to each other. Still, i’ve been through five rounds of layoffs, and had never seen that level of trust.

As remarkably smooth that incredibly disruptive and painful experience was, it did absolutely drive home a point i’ve been thinking for years: You need to be most loyal to the friends and colleagues you meet in your career than to anywhere you happen to work. Any employer that demands faithfulness solely to them is a huge risk to your professional and personal life. Your friends are who will help you, your employer is not. If you work for somewhere you can’t get that, it’s a HUGE red flag. The money might be good, but the risk is tremendous. i can say with first hand knowledge that getting paid well at a place that doesn’t respect you as a person eats at you in subtle ways.

A side product is that you remember that you’re dealing with people, and as such, folks are making it up as they go. Folks want you to believe that there’s a plan and direction, but quite often, there’s not. More often than not, there’s just a rough guess and a general feeling dressed up in powerpoint slides and bold rhetoric. Again, unless you’ve got sociopaths at the helm, layoffs hurt the folks making the decisions about who stays and who goes. Even if they are sociopaths, the company is giving up the money invested in the person and whatever income that person could have brought in.

(Oh, and if you’re ever working somewhere and see absolutely no sign of remorse or regret when an executive talks about layoffs, leave. i’m talking about actual regret, not “Sorry to see those folks go :sad face emoji: it’s terrible. Anyway, who else here is excited to see the Project Foo we’re launching!? [loud, upbeat techno music]”. Yeah, after that, spend the rest of the day polishing up the resume and sending notes to your network about potential leads.)

2) Actix drama

i’ll preface to say that i don’t know all the details about the drama around actix-web. As i understand, there were some concerns around coding practices, a single maintainer, and some folks who may have been jerks. Coding practice discussions are part of any open source projects, single maintainers are concerning for anything other than a small package that’s just starting, and half of the world are jerks.

What happened was that the project maintainer pulled the library code off of github and announced he was done with open source. Honestly, that’s good, because i believe he didn’t know what open source really was.

Let me diverge a bit here.

Open source is about trust.

When you decide to use a package, you are extending trust that:

  • The program/library/package works.
  • It will continue to do so.

Bug fixes, improvements, documentation, etc are also part of that, but kinda fit into the list above. Open source can sometimes be called “Free as in puppy” in that you might be getting into a lot more than you expected.

It’s very rare that the trust is broken. There are ways for a package maintainer to step away from a given package. They could ask a larger group to take over. They could pass it on to someone else. They could “archive” the package and let someone else fork it into a new version. Almost never does anyone just yank their code down in the same way that you almost never see an argument end with someone throwing a temper tantrum. It’s sad because while the author may have been a talented engineer, i can no longer trust anything that they produce.

Would things have been different if folks were not jerks? Probably. Likewise, i think folks were presuming a level of emotional maturity that may not have been present. i don’t fault the author for his actions, even though i’m deeply impacted by them. i’ll survive, reassess and move on. i’m saddened by them, but i look forward to the growth that i hope he gets to experience.

So, how do these things both relate?

In essence, it’s about people. It’s about remembering that at the end of the day, we’re all real, breathing, mentally weird beings and not just clever bags of thinking meat. Sure, there are some openly hostile folk out there, and there are trolls, dirtbags, grifters, and fools, but those tend to be the painful exceptions, rather than the rules.

As Michelle McNamara often said, “It’s chaos, be kind“.

:: Ununifi’d

i have a server in my garage. It’s not a super beefy machine, but i use it as a NAS, postgres/http server and a few other things. i’ve had it for a while and while i wouldn’t say it’s a key element of my home network, it’s damn handy to keep around. Still, it’s not quite worth fishing a 30m of cat6 line through a 60 year old house, so i use wifi to connect to it.

the unifi access pointBecause i tend to be a fairly cheap bastard, i’ll get a sub $100 access point in whatever the fastest flavor of 802.11 happens to be at the time. The problem with doing that is sometimes, say, when you’re on vacation in LA for a week, the crappy access point dies on you and your wife can’t peek at the out the front window while she’s away. So after coming home and turning the access point on and off again, i decided i’d fix the problem for realz and get an Unifi AP AC Lite. Several colleagues have Unifi setups for their homes and swear that they’re the bees knees. (i’ll get into that a bit more later.)

Yeah, i’m not so sure about that anymore.

Now, let me make a brief aside to discuss my home network.

i consider the modem provided to me to be hostile. It’s from AT&T, so that’s probably all you need to know. Since it runs a network on 192.168.1.0/24, i keep my protected network on 192.168.2.0/24 behind a second router. Further more, i keep two “private” wifi nets and one “guest” net that gets no access to the private network. i also run a Pi-Hole as my local network DNS. ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THAT SHOULD MATTER TO ANY GOOD ACCESS POINT

Normally, when i get a new access point, i simply plug it into the protected net’s hub, open up the admin access HTTP page, do a bit of local configuration for the device, and we’re good to go, super easy-peasy.

This is not the case with Unifi.

Unifi first wants… no, let me clarify… demands you download their java based controller app. This sets up a local connection running on port “8443” (Oh, hey, that’s the HTTPS port! Better hope you don’t run a secure server on whatever machine you’re running this app on because otherwise you’re going to be very sad.). Of course, the Controller app doesn’t provide any config options to change the port or really do anything other than open a browser to connect, which i guess is fine.

Ok, so let me connect up the access point. i grab a few extra cat5 cables (because none were in the box), and pass the connection through the PoE connector running on a 12″ power cord. i was told that as a device comes online it would appear in the Controller listing. This, appears not to be true.

i unplug, and replug, checking connections. Nope.
i open my protected router’s config panel and see the new Unifi device’s IP4 address. Still nothing in the controller.
i ping the access point, Nothing in the controller.
i port scan the access point, oh, port 22 is open. Google says the user and password is “ubnt” (yay! Security!) and yep, that works just fine. Still nothing in the controller app, though.
i use the “device discovery” tool, which eventually finds the device and lets me locate it. Absolutely zilch in the controller app.

Out of pure curiosity and a bit of needling from a colleague, i connect my computer directly to the AP. Hey! There it is! Only i can’t adopt it because who the hell knows why?

Ok, this is just stupid. Screw you, “controller” app that’s probably doing some UDP polling crap to be clever, let me just ssh back onto the device and… oh, swell. It’s running some weird deviant of Unix. No /etc/network, no /etc/wpa_supplicant,…

There is a /var/log/message that i can cat, and see that it’s constantly trying to connect to “http://unifi:8080/inform”. Well, that’s less than helpful, since i don’t have a “unifi” on my net. Let me force it to connect to my host box that’s running the Connector app… Yay! It connected! and failed to adopt and is back looking for “http://unifi:8080/inform”…

Yeah, ok, i’m done.

i have no doubt that these are amazing in enterprise configurations. i’m sure that if you buy enough Unifi gear, that things “just work” kind of like how you need to buy all of Apple’s stuff for all of Apple’s stuff to work together magically. (i consider this “tech tautology”.) i’m also reminded of one colleague noting that he was able to “adopt” unifi gear that was being installed into neighbor’s houses, so guessing that things work REALLY WELL if you’re doing your initial setup in a Faraday cage, or with no questionable parties sitting within 230 feet of you.

But for me? yeah, no. This thing’s going back.

As for my crappy current access point that drops on occasion? i can solve that for about $25.

:: Best of Twitter

Recently, i grabbed my twitter data, mostly because i could. Reading through it, i kinda remembered how ephemeral it all is. So, again because i can, allow me to indulge myself with what i think are the best tweets i came up with (there aren’t many).

:: Dear Graduates of the School I Will Never Give a Commencement Speech to

You, full of youth and vigor, with stars in your eyes and a cause in your hearts, are ready to change the world. i wish you the absolute best, and in many respects, you will absolutely change the world.

Just realize, that about half of you are assholes.

i’m not saying you are, since i don’t know you well enough to make that determination. Nor am i declaring any group of you are assholes, much for the same reason. Hell, every one of you in this auditorium/stadium/state could not be an asshole, nor ever be. That still means half of your peers are, because there’s a lot of you and y’all are everywhere.

i know this because i was horrified to discover that half of my generation were assholes. Same with every generation back to the time when two fish fought to get out of a pile of muck. For some generations, more than half were assholes, for others, less than half, but rest assured, the number is about half.

What’s worse is that the asshole half are fairly well organized. Because they’re organized, they’re influential. Because they’re influential, they tend to get their way. Once they get their way, they do everything they possibly can to keep it that way. Why do they do this? Because they’re assholes.

Fret not, they consider you assholes because you don’t doggedly share their beliefs without question. You ask too many questions they don’t want answers to. Even worse, you support those other groups. How the hell could you possibly do that, you asshole?

i’m telling this to you now so that later, when you realize that all the things you though would happen don’t, or that there was no way could happen do, you’ll understand. Stupid wars will be fought, and gleefully supported by assholes. Assholes will prevent us from intervening in horrible injustices. Assholes will vote in other assholes and those assholes will push for policies that clearly favor assholes.

All this will leave you wondering where the hell all these assholes came from. Truth be told, they were always here. Some are born assholes, some trained to be assholes, some even make the choice to be an asshole and work at it at every opportunity.

You are going to be surrounded by assholes. You’re going to be saddened by them, infuriated by them, and you’re going to want to get revenge against assholes.

Yeah, don’t do that last thing.

Instead, understand that some people are just assholes. There may be a good reason, and you should at least make an attempt to understand what that reason can be, but ultimately, the reason they’re an asshole is because they’re an asshole, and that’s probably not going to change.

Instead, focus on the fact that assholes survive because you’re not doing stuff against them. Have plans. Sometimes, defeating assholes means doing things that you may not like, or make you think you’re an asshole. Sometimes, you might even have to be an asshole to someone in order to not be an asshole to a larger group, or to stop them from being an asshole. Work together with others who oppose the assholes. Assholes hate that and will fight you about it. That’s ok, you should expect them to be assholes about it.

It’s also important to understand why you’re being an asshole to someone (since, after all, half of you are assholes). There’s nothing special that makes an asshole an asshole. Anyone can be an asshole, just like how anyone can not be an asshole. What makes an asshole an asshole is when they’re an asshole. When they’re being selfish, close-minded, greedy, dismissive, demanding, those are all pretty clear markings of an asshole. Heck, we’ve had at least a dozen religions that point that out. (The assholes tend to ignore those parts, though.)

i wish i could give you better advice. i wish i could tell you how to solve the fact that half of you are assholes. i can’t. Perhaps one of you can. Instead, i’ll leave you with a few rules i’ve found for myself.

Take care of others.
Listen more than talk.
Reflect on where you are and how you got there and why someone else isn’t.
Realize that most folks aren’t really comfortable where they are.
Help when you can.
Don’t look back with regret. At the time it was the best decision you could make. Instead learn from it for the next time.
If you have power, use it for others more than yourself.
Realize, even those with power, fame and glory, could still use an extra napkin or help finding the bathroom.
Leave it slightly better than you found it.
Realize you’re not always right and that even someone you might look down on has something to teach.
Everyone has a hard job, and no one is solely defined by what they get paid to do.
Nobody has all the knowledge or answers.
Be respectful and kind.
Pick up your trash and hold the door open.
A few have it better, many have it worse. Just like we can use some help, so can others.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, directions, or just to say “hello”.
Your brain regularly lies to you, and your head is full of assholes.
Other cultures aren’t better or worse, they just have different ideas, and only about half of them are assholes.

But most importantly, try not to be an asshole.

:: Land Line Lubber

It’s 2018, and i still have a land line.

Well, sorta.

So, growing up on the east coast where thunderstorms are a real thing, you learn pretty quickly that the phone lines are nearly magical. They run off of their own power and generally tended to continue to operate even in the event of significant disasters. So, having a land line was the techie equivalent of having a safety blanket.

Of course, in those days a disturbing amount of the phone system was still analog and the power was mostly due to banks of lead-acid battery bunkers, so you know, there was that.

40+ years later, things are more than a bit different. If you have a phone, you’re using VOIP. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 1950’s era princess dial-up that still uses cloth wrapped copper lines, once it gets to the central hub, it’s goin’ over the same lines that bring you cat videos and nazi screeds on twitter.

And that was the absurd bit about my “safety blanket”.

Up until a few years ago, i had a deal where my long distance was unlimited and cost $45. A year. This may be the reason that the company is no longer in business. Looking around for a replacement proved a few things, mostly that cell phones are REALLY popular for a reason. i did manage to find a service that provided unlimited long distance for a reasonable price (at least compared to other services), and that service was: Vonage.

Yeah, the “Telephone over the Internet” people.

It worked out fairly well, except for the near constant barrage of spammers that made my phone announce calls from “Sheboygan, WI” or “8058086:4803768” or “V4071151200013107835” (all of which i just pulled off my call history log). Vonage lets me block up to 25 callers, which gets full mighty fast when spoofers can just make up numbers. They don’t offer a way to whitelist numbers, so i’ve had my home number of “Do Not Disturb” 24/7 for about a month now. i’ve even changed my voice mail number to say “Hey, call my cellphone”.

Basically, i’d go from 4 numbers to 2. One cell number i’ve had since 1996, the other a Google Voice number i got when they rolled out the service.

Still, it’s funny how you hang onto some things mostly out of habit, rather than having a really good reason.

Blogs of note
personal Christopher Conlin USMC memoirs of hydrogen guy rhapsodic.org Henriette's Herbal Blog
geek ultramookie

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