Tracking tasks with Todoist

As the name suggests Todoist is an app for tracking todos. I’ve been using it for the past couple of months during which it has become a daily companion in my quest for getting things done without forgetting half of my stuff (which – if you know me – is a common occurrence).

The basic feature set is quite straight-forward: The app lets you create tasks which by default end up in the “Inbox”. Todoist has native apps for macOS, Windows, iOS and Android. There’s also a web client in case you need to update your tasks on-the-go. For me personally the integration with Amazon Echo is particularly useful. Adding a new task is as simple as saying “Alexa, add a task…”.

Once you’ve created a task you can decide to assign your tasks to a project (e.g. “Work”, “Personal”, etc.) either right away or later on when you have a few minutes to spare. Each task can also be tagged to make it easier to find groups of specific tasks. For example I have two tags “LowEnergy” and “HighEnergy” so I can later on find all tasks which are either easy or hard to do. Tasks can be set to re-occur at specific intervals which range in complexity from “daily” to “every last friday”.

The mobile app supports location-based reminders. I have a recurring task “Get cash from the ATM” which the app dutifully reminds me about when I pass the ATM on my way to work.

I wouldn’t go so far as to put Todoist in the “life saver” category, however it has definitely become an integral part of my daily workflow. Consider giving it a try… even though unfortunately it isn’t entirely free.

 

 

Gunnar Beutner

Autor: Gunnar Beutner

Vor seinem Eintritt bei NETWAYS arbeitete Gunnar bei einem großen deutschen Hostingprovider, wo er bereits viel Erfahrung in der Softwareentwicklung für das Servermanagement sammeln konnte. Bei uns kümmert er sich vor allem um verschiedene Kundenprojekte, aber auch eigene Tools wie inGraph oder Icinga2.

Open Source Backup Conference – 7 reasons…

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series OSBConf 2017 - 7 Reasons

Today, we will start with our blog series for the Open Source Backup Conference 2017. In seven parts, we present the expert talks of last year’s conference and tell you what makes the OSBConf a unique experience for YOU!

The conference will be held from September 25 to 26, 2017 at the Steigenberger Hotel in Cologne.

What awaits you: Core theme of the Open Source Backup Conference is the development and application of open source sofware solutions for data backup. The conference agenda covers the latest developments, conveys strategic knowledge and presents empirical reports as well as best practices, case studies and technical background. Apart from that, three hands-on workshops on September 25 are offered!

Today, we will start to convince you with this great talk from Tobias Groß about Backup of Scale – Bareos Active Clients and Puppet!

 

Julia Hackbarth

Autor: Julia Hackbarth

Julia ist seit 2015 bei NETWAYS. Sie hat im September ihre Ausbildung zur Kauffrau für Büromanagement gestartet. Etwas zu organisieren macht ihr großen Spaß und sie freut sich auf vielseitige Herausforderungen. In ihrer Freizeit spielt Handball eine große Rolle: Julia steht selbst aktiv auf dem Feld, übernimmt aber auch gerne den Part als Schiedsrichterin.

Redis vs MongoDB as message queue and config proxy

Benchmarks and comparisons for these two NoSQL databases exist a plenty. But in all the blogs and whitepapers I found the use-case was quite different from ours, we were trying to find a tool to queue Icinga 2 events and speed up config updates. The queue would use Redis Pub/Sub or MongoDBs capped collections + tailable cursors. From an implementation standpoint MongoDB looks better, it offers good libraries for most programming languages and the document-based approach allows for filtering based on individual attributes while values in Redis are just opaque blobs. Redis Pub/Sub model also has the problem that it loses its queued items when restarted.

From these naive benchmarks (PHP scripts run with time), it looks like MongoDB likes to take their time with creating objects.

Inserting 250.000 objects:

  • Redis: 11.1s
  • MongoDB: InsertOne: 53.3s
  • MongoDB: InsertMany: 25.4s

Inserting 250.000 objects into list capped to 50.000

  • Redis: 12s
  • MongoDB: InsertOne: 57.6s

Redis speed advantage comes from keeping created objects in memory, while MongoDB writes them to the hard drive right away. This is a huge advantage for Redis, as we rotate our events from the queue, writing them to disk would be a waste of io time. But sadly MongoDB does not offer the possibility of keeping the data volatile in memory.

Another concern of ours is security, Redis does not offer any security features and for many application this is not a problem, but in our case, this means we have to finds ways to make it secure. There have been many attempts to do so, e.g using tools like stunnel, but it’s still an additional topic that would need to be tackled. MongoDB on the other hand offers ACLs on document level and native SSL, which is great! Yet is has been rightfully criticized for its insecure default configurations, which resulted in a flood of hacked MongoDB instances earlier this year.

Conclusion: We will have to investigate further. Especially integration and security will need a closer look. MongoDBs performance seems lackluster, but may just be enough as our tests may have been much bigger than what we will be met with in a real setup.

Jean-Marcel Flach

Autor: Jean-Marcel Flach

Auch wenn man Anderes vermuten möchte: Jean ist nicht unser französischer Austauschazubi, sondern waschechter Bamberger. Die Uni war ihm zu langweilig, deshalb knöpft er sich nun im Development gleich die kniffligsten Aufgaben vor.

Submit your papers for OSMC now!

Until July, 31 you have the unique opportunity to let us read your presentation proposal for the worldwide leading conference on open source monitoring solutions! Isn‘t that nice?
If it is a technical documentation, a case study, best practice or your special experience doesn’t matter! We’re happy about reading your talk and seeing you in Nuremberg.

What you have to do now:
Join www.osmc.de and fill in the call for papers form until July, 31.

The early bird tickets are also available until the end of July.
The Open Source Monitoring Conference takes place from November 21 to 24 in Nuremberg and was completely sold out in the last couple of years. Check out your early bird ticket and be safe!

Julia Hackbarth

Autor: Julia Hackbarth

Julia ist seit 2015 bei NETWAYS. Sie hat im September ihre Ausbildung zur Kauffrau für Büromanagement gestartet. Etwas zu organisieren macht ihr großen Spaß und sie freut sich auf vielseitige Herausforderungen. In ihrer Freizeit spielt Handball eine große Rolle: Julia steht selbst aktiv auf dem Feld, übernimmt aber auch gerne den Part als Schiedsrichterin.

Request Tracker 4.4 Security Update and UTF8 issues with Perl’s DBD::Mysql 4.042

Last week, Best Practical announced that there are critical security fixes available for Request Tracker. We’ve therefore immediately pulled the patches from 4.4.2rc2 into our test stages and rolled them out in production.

 

Update == Broken Umlauts

One thing we did notice too late: German umlauts were broken on new ticket creation. Text was simply cut off and rendered subjects and ticket body fairly unreadable.

Encoding issues are not nice, and hard to track down. We rolled back the security fix upgrade, and hoped it would simply fix the issue. It did not, even our production version 4.4.1 now led into this error.

Our first idea was that our Docker image build somehow changes the locale, but that would have at least rendered “strange” text, not entirely cut off. Same goes for the Apache webserver encoding. We’ve then started comparing the database schema, but was not touched in these regards too.

 

DBD::Mysql UTF8 Encoding Changes

During our research we learned that there is a patch available which avoids Perl’s DBD::mysql in version 4.042. The description says something about changed behaviour with utf8 encoding. Moving from RT to DBD::Mysql’s Changelog there is a clear indication that they’ve fixed a long standing bug with utf8 encoding, but that probably renders all other workarounds in RT and other applications unusable.

2016-12-12 Patrick Galbraith, Michiel Beijen, DBI/DBD community (4.041_1)
* Unicode fixes: when using mysql_enable_utf8 or mysql_enable_utf8mb4,
previous versions of DBD::mysql did not properly encode input statements
to UTF-8 and retrieved columns were always UTF-8 decoded regardless of the
column charset.
Fix by Pali Rohár.
Reported and feedback on fix by Marc Lehmann
(https://rt.cpan.org/Public/Bug/Display.html?id=87428)
Also, the UTF-8 flag was not set for decoded data:
(https://rt.cpan.org/Public/Bug/Display.html?id=53130)

 

Solution

Our build system for the RT container pulls in all required Perl dependencies by a cpanfile configuration. Instead of always pulling the latest version for DBD::Mysql, we’ve now pinned it to the last known working version 4.0.41.

 # MySQL
-requires 'DBD::mysql', '2.1018';
+# Avoid bug with utf8 encoding: https://issues.bestpractical.com/Ticket/Display.html?id=32670
+requires 'DBD::mysql', '== 4.041';

Voilá, NETWAYS and Icinga RT production instances fixed.

 

Conclusion

RT 4.4.2 will fix that by explicitly avoiding the DBD::Mysql version in its dependency checks, but older installations may suffer from that problem in local source builds. Keep that in mind when updating your production instances. Hopefully a proper fix can be found to allow a smooth upgrade to newer library dependencies.

If you need assistance with building your own RT setup, or having trouble fixing this exact issue, just contact us 🙂

Michael Friedrich

Autor: Michael Friedrich

Michael ist seit vielen Jahren Icinga Developer und hat sich Ende 2012 in das Abenteuer NETWAYS gewagt. Ein Umzug von Wien nach Nürnberg mit der Vorliebe, österreichische Köstlichkeiten zu importieren - so mancher Kollege verzweifelt an den süchtig machenden Dragee-Keksi. Oder schlicht am österreichischen Dialekt der gerne mit Thomas im Büro intensiviert wird ("Jo eh."). Wenn sich Michael mal nicht im Monitoring-Portal helfend meldet, arbeitet er am nächsten LEGO-Projekt oder geniesst das schöne Nürnberg. Oder - at an Icinga Camp near you 😉

Documentation matters or why OSMC made me write NSClient++ API docs

Last year I learned about the new HTTP API in NSClient++. I stumbled over it in a blog post with some details, but there were no docs. Instant thought “a software without docs is crap, throw it away”. I am a developer myself, and I know how hard it is to put your code and features into the right shape. And I am all for Open Source, so why not read the source code and reverse engineer the features.

I’ve found out many things, and decided to write a blog post about it. I just had no time, and the old NSClient++ documentation was written in ASCIIDoc. A format which isn’t easy to write, and requires a whole lot knowledge to format and generate readable previews. I skipped it, but I eagerly wanted to have API documentation. Not only for me when I want to look into NSClient++ API queries, but also for anyone out there.

 

Join the conversation

I met Michael at OSMC 2016 again, and we somehow managed to talk about NSClient++. “The development environment is tricky to setup”, I told him, “and I struggle with writing documentation patches in asciidoc.”. We especially talked about the API parts of the documentation I wanted to contribute.

So we made a deal: If I would write documentation for the NSClient++ API, Michael will go for Markdown as documentation format and convert everything else. Michael was way too fast in December and greeted me with shiny Markdown. I wasn’t ready for it, and time goes by. Lately I have been reviewing Jean’s check_nscp_api plugin to finally release it in Icinga 2 v2.7. And so I looked into NSClient++, its API and my longstanding TODO again.

Documentation provides facts and ideally you can walk from top to down, and an API provides so many things to tell. The NSClient API has a bonus: It renders a web interface in your browser too. While thinking about the documentation structure, I could play around with the queries, online configuration and what not.

 

Write and test documentation

Markdown is a markup language. You’ll not only put static text into it, but also use certain patterns and structures to render it in a beautiful representation, just like HTML.

A common approach to render Markdown is seen on GitHub who enriched the original specification and created “GitHub flavoured Markdown“. You can easily edit the documentation online on GitHub and render a preview. Once work is done, you send a pull request in couple of clicks. Very easy 🙂

If you are planning to write a massive amount of documentation with many images added, a local checkout of the git repository and your favourite editor comes in handy. vim handles markdown syntax highlighting already. If you have seen GitHub’s Atom editor, you probably know it has many plugins and features. One of them is to highlight Markdown syntax and to provide a live preview. If you want to do it in your browser, switch to dillinger.io.

NSClient++ uses MKDocs for rendering and building docs. You can start an mkdocs instance locally and test your edits “live”, as you would see them on https://docs.nsclient.org.

Since you always need someone who guides you, the first PR I sent over to Michael was exactly to highlight MKDocs inside the README.md 🙂

 

Already have a solution in mind?

Open the documentation and enhance it. Fix a typo even and help the developers and community members. Don’t move into blaming the developer, that just makes you feel bad. Don’t just wait until someone else will fix it. Not many people love to write documentation.

I kept writing blog posts and wiki articles as my own documentation for things I found over the years. I once stopped with GitHub and Markdown and decided to push my knowledge upstream. Every time I visit the Grafana module for Icinga Web 2 for example, I can use the docs to copy paste configs. Guess what my first contribution to this community project was? 🙂

I gave my word to Michael, and you’ll see how easy it is to write docs for NSClient++ – PR #4.

 

Lessions learned

Documentation is different from writing a book or an article in a magazine. Take the Icinga 2 book as an example: It provides many hints, hides unnecessary facts and pushes you into a story about a company and which services to monitor. This is more focussed on the problem the reader will be solving. That does not mean that pure documentation can’t be easy to read, but still it requires more attention and your desire to try things.

You can extend the knowledge from reading documentation by moving into training sessions or workshops. It’s a good feeling when you discuss the things you’ve just learned at, or having a G&T in the evening. A special flow – which I cannot really describe – happens during OSMC workshops and hackathons or at an Icinga Camp near you. I always have the feeling that I’ve solved so many questions in so little time. That’s more than I could ever write into a documentation chapter or into a thread over at monitoring-portal.org 🙂

Still, I love to write and enhance documentation. This is the initial kickoff for any howto, training or workshop which might follow. We’re making our life so much easier when things are not asked five times, but they’re visible and available as URL somewhere. I’d like to encourage everyone out there to feel the same about documentation.

 

Conclusion

Ever thought about “ah, that is missing” and then forgot to tell anyone? Practice a little and get used to GitHub documentation edits, Atom, vim, MkDocs. Adopt that into your workflow and give something back to your open source project heroes. Marianne is doing great with Icinga 2 documentation already! Once your patch gets merged, that’s pure energy, I tell you 🙂

I’m looking forward to meet Michael at OSMC 2017 again and we will have a G&T together for sure. Oh, Michael, btw – you still need to join your Call for Papers. Could it be something about the API with a link to the newly written docs in the slides please? 🙂

PS: Ask my colleagues here at NETWAYS about customer documentation I keep writing. It simply avoids to explain every little detail in mails, tickets and whatnot. Reduce the stress level and make everyone happy with awesome documentation. That’s my spirit 🙂

Michael Friedrich

Autor: Michael Friedrich

Michael ist seit vielen Jahren Icinga Developer und hat sich Ende 2012 in das Abenteuer NETWAYS gewagt. Ein Umzug von Wien nach Nürnberg mit der Vorliebe, österreichische Köstlichkeiten zu importieren - so mancher Kollege verzweifelt an den süchtig machenden Dragee-Keksi. Oder schlicht am österreichischen Dialekt der gerne mit Thomas im Büro intensiviert wird ("Jo eh."). Wenn sich Michael mal nicht im Monitoring-Portal helfend meldet, arbeitet er am nächsten LEGO-Projekt oder geniesst das schöne Nürnberg. Oder - at an Icinga Camp near you 😉