Grazer Linuxtage 2019

Posted on Sat 13 July 2019 • Tagged with Work, Graz, Timetac

This post is late, but I’m going through my backlog and trying to get some things out, so that’s that. Furthermore it is potentially inaccurate given that I cannot find my notes form the event.

First, I need to apologize. I mistakenly assumed that one of the key people involved in the Grazer Linuxtage who’s working for the FH Joanneum, its previous location, was leaving. I arrived at that conclusion by the fact that the Linuxtage changed their location from the FH to the Technical University Graz as well as a job posting for the same position the person is working in. So that’s that. I was wrong. Linuxtage changed location due to space constraints. The community had simply grown beyond the space the FH could easily provide.

For me, 2019 was the first year in which I joined both days of the conference in April: Friday for the workshops and Saturday for the talks. It was both interesting and exhausting. In my case, exhausting enough that I didn’t want to attend another event several days long just the weekend after - so I ended up not attending PyDays in Vienna despite my original plans to do so. I’m sure my friend D was a bit disappointed I didn’t attend his talk there.

Friday

On Friday I worked on various projects until about noon when I had planned to leave with G for the Linuxtage. However, him being stuck in a never-ending meeting meant I was going alone after all. Unfortunately that meant that I was also late due to waiting a little longer and in consequence the allotted time for lunch was gone.

Automate server configuration with Ansible

I arrived at the TU Graz after a few minutes and went straight to the first workshop - Automate server configuration with Ansible by Vid Jelen. This was the talk I wish I had had before I was thrown into learning the concepts of Ansible with an existing, complex codebase provided by a partner company of Timetac. It went over the basics really well and the presenter was prepared, handing out USB drives with example code snippets and tasks for the participants. I would’ve liked him to also host those in a public repository so I would not have to plug an untrusted device into my company machine. This resulted in me taking a lot of notes instead of working along, which was fine as well. Notes, which I might add I can no longer find.

Overall the workshop was very informative and showed me some things that I had overlooked by jumping into the deep end. I think I took some notes here about little tricks that I wanted to incorporate into the codebase at work, but alas, without my notes that’s going to be a bit hard.

Funnily enough my successor from ICG at TU Graz joined the same talk. I think that’s a good sign that we made the right choice given M showed interest in educating himself past the required tasks.

Beginner Introduction to Python Unit Testing - Write your first test!

One area in DevOps I’m personally interested in is automated testing. I have written both unit tests and integration tests for several projects now and am always curious about how to better structure my tests. This second workshop was therefore a good choice to expand my knowledge. Beginner Introduction to Python Unit Testing - Write your first test! by Peter Kofler was a good introduction to unit testing in general but I underestimated my experience in the field and was not challenged, blazing through most of the tasks due to them being structured fairly simple. I should’ve listened to G who pointed out that this might be the case.

I have to further point out that in contrast to the presenter, I personally prefer pytest as a testing framework and test runner when working with Python due to how they make writing tests extremely easy using assert statements.

Saturday

Saturday focuses on talks and lectures instead of workshops and typically has a lot more on the schedule in many different tracks. The intended audience of these reaches from linux hobbyist to system administrator and back.

I happened to meet a few acquaintances as I do every year at Linuxtage, simply because there are some local Linux veterans that will not miss these meetings. I mostly know these through my previous work at the TU Graz. I typically end up chatting with them for quite some time and end up not attending at least one talk.

WSL, PowerShell & Chocolatey: Ein Hauch von Linux

I started the day with WSL, PowerShell & Chocolatey: Ein Hauch von Linux by Manfred Wallner, whom I know from university. I occasionally have to work with some Windows machines at work, so chocolatey to achieve some level of sanity while installing software is as essential as the homebrew project on macOS. I am still not convinced that I would want to use PowerShell over Python for writing scripts. Manfred’s argument was for PowerShell over Bash, but I already avoid writing anything longer than five lines in Bash if possible.

Windows Subsystem for Linux will be even more essential in the future for my work, when Docker Desktop switches from Hyper-V to WSL2 for their Windows support.

Best Practices in der IT-Administration, Version 2019

Sometimes, you have these rare moments in which you get confirmation that many of your ideas and principles are correct, state of the art and best practise. For me, that was Best Practices in der IT-Administration, Version 2019 by Michael Prokop. He went over a checklist of things you should be asking your IT department to see if your business is prepared for the worst. Backups, Configuration Management and keeping detailed logs (not log files, but rather per customer journals) were only some points of his list for how modern IT administration should work. I admire the consideration and preparation as well as years of experience that went into compiling these principles.

Container - Alles sicher oder was?

Container - Alles sicher oder was? by Michael Maurer was supposed to give you a more detailed insight into how containers and their security can affect your deployment. In reality, the talk wasn’t terribly helpful - it mainly pointed out the usage of SAST and DAST tools to run against containers. When pressed, the presenter said that their workplace uses no such tools which undermined their entire point.

Now, while I don’t like pointing fingers, after 2018, this was the second year in which I attended presentations given by employees of Netconomy, a local shop from Graz. Of the two talks and one workshop I’ve been to, both talks were… not good. Frankly, having had a job interview at their place I don’t understand why. I’ve talked to these guys and they really seem to know what they are doing. Their presentations on Linuxtage 2018 and 2019 were completely superficial and provided little more help than “you might want to do X” instead of giving insight how security can be affected by essential things like monitoring, alerting, automated scanning and much more. Either they have strong restrictions on what they are allowed to show off at events or they need to prepare their topics for another audience - namely tech workers already familiar with the ideas they are presenting.

To end on a good note, the workshop done by their WebOps person (see the corresponding section on Friday) was awesome and I’d happily go to another presentation given by him!

Terraform - Ein Einblick der Möglichkeiten von Infrastructure-as-a-Code

In Terraform - Ein Einblick der Möglichkeiten von Infrastructure-as-a-Code Dr. Sebastian Oehlke tried to show the participants how some experiments using Terraform as infrastructure as code tool could look like. He acknowledged that his examples weren’t taken from reality and walked us through the setups of several example networks. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of the tool given that Ansible modules for the same tasks exist and Ansible is generally the tool which can solve more problems due to its versatility. The presenter argued for better visibility of the changes and initial state than with Ansible.

Next Level Ansible

Next Level Ansible by Manuel Bonk was the logical followup to the Ansible workshop on the first day and I remember taking quite some notes during this talk. Specifically I wanted to look into Ansible’s support of Junit as well as the serial option for doing slower host-by-host deployments. Giving this talk a good structure was hard due to its nature as collection of various bits and general hints, and it showed. The content itself was well prepared - it was mainly the thread holding the topics together that wasn’t always there.

The talk also went over ansible-vault and Jinja2 templates, both of which are in use at Timetac.