TCPDump Made Easier Parody Book Cover, with the subtitle "Who actually understands all those switches?"

One to use:

I’m sure that anyone doing operational work has been asked at some point if you can run a “TCPDump” on something, or if you could get a “packet capture” – if you have, this tool (as spotted on the Check Point community sites) might help you!

Using simple drop-down fields for filters and options and using simple prompts, this tool tells you how to run each of the packet capturing commands for common firewall products (FortiGate, ASA, Check Point) and the more generic tcpdump tool (indicated by a Linux Penguin, but it runs on all major desktop and server OSs, as well as rooted Android devices).

Well worth a check out!

Podcast/Talk Summary – OggCamp “Main stage ‘Extravaganza'”

Format: Five podcasting guys standing in front of an audience. No slides. Discussion. 200ish attendees


Slot: Slot 9 Saturday (Closing Session) 16:00-17:00

Notes: My first main stage show. Two questions proposed by the podcasters and a discussion with the audience. Slightly waffly on my part, mostly because I was tired. I also was taking the “mic around to the audience”. Skilfully mastered by Joe Ressington.

Well worth a listen – I’d like to know your views on anything raised in the podcast in the comments!

Oh, and at the end, I tried to make a point, but couldn’t remember the exact quote – here it is: “Be who you needed when you were younger” – Brad Montague

Enjoy :)

A bit about my day

I’ve been inspired by this post by one of the leadership team at the company I work for to talk about my working day.

  1. What time do you reach the office each day?
    Around 7:30. I typically work from home, so it’s largely adjusted by what is going on with the family before I get to my desk.
  2. Is your job varied?
    My work schedule is typically the similar sorts of tasks for a week or two, followed by documenting what I’ve done the previous couple of weeks, and then a new task for the next cycle. It means you get long enough to work on one thing before being distracted onto the next thing.
  3. Is your job creative?
    It requires creative and critical thinking to work out why things aren’t working the way you expect them to, or to fix issues for people you’ve agreed to help. It doesn’t typically involve understanding graphical design elements, user experience or visualising customer needs beyond what Visio brings.
  4. What do you spend the majority of your time doing?
    Investigating vendor products, writing Ansible playbooks, supporting consumers of my team’s output and documenting how I’ve integrated the vendor products into the environments I’m working on.
  5. Do you personalize your desk?
    I have a podcasting microphone, an Android plush toy, a lego fencer, two radio transceivers and a cardboard Millennium Falcon. Aside from that, it’s all business.
  6. Would you describe yourself as creative?
    Not particularly. I don’t really have an eye for graphical things and I’m not very good at writing prose. I can grammar check a document well though :)
  7. Do you have any quirky daily rituals?
    Not that I’m aware of. My wife probably disagrees!
  8. Do you tend to work on your own or with colleagues?
    I work from home and don’t work directly with anyone else on the projects I’ve been assigned, but have quite a few meetings with peers and managers during the week, so I don’t feel isolated or like I’m working by myself.
  9. How many hours on average do you work a day?
    I’m contracted for 37 hours a week, but I normally work between 7.5 to 8.5 hours each day. Overall, I’m probably doing about 40 hours. Oops!
  10. Roughly how much time do you spend each day on email? Taking calls? In meetings?
    Email is usually checked for an hour in the morning, then anything critical coming in during the day is handled as it comes in, so probably another 30 minutes or so then. I’m usually on two or three 30 minute online meetings during the day, and there’s probably three or four 15-45 minute calls. Depending on the complexity of the meetings and calls, I might be multi-tasking on other activities during those calls or meetings though.
  11. Do you use social media much for work?
    Not really. I tend to do more by email or phone.
  12. What do you enjoy most about your work?
    Every day is a new challenge, and I get lots of opportunities to help people – whether thats colleagues taking the output of my work, peers looking for guidance in areas I have experience, or being able to help vendors understand how we use their products.
  13. What type of music (if any) do you listen to at work?
    I use Google Music to create instant playlists based on what mood I’m in – usually starting from something like Iron Maiden, Metallica or Linkin Park. If I’m not listening to music, I’ll be listening podcasts, of which I have lots of feeds to select from, or to my local Amateur Radio repeater (GB3WP).
  14. What do you do for lunch?
    Working from home, I tend to eat with my wife and daughter (when she’s not at pre-school).
  15. Do you socialize with work colleagues?
    When we have team meetings, I’ll go out with colleagues.
  16. Are there any tasks (through your career) you’ve been especially glad to get rid of?
    No. My career has been pretty good to me – I started working in retail, specialising in radio products while I was at school and university, when I came back from uni, I went into an office, and learned a bit about sales and financials, and then ended up working for IT firms doing technical support, initially remote support, then on-site, and then for a helpdesk. I progressed from there into server support and then network security. The whole path has gone just right for me, changing at the point when things started to get stale or when I wanted a change. I’ve been exceptionally lucky!
  17. What is your last task of your day?
    Usually finishing up any unsent emails.
  18. How do you like to relax after work?
    I run a yearly conference and a monthly tech meetup. I watch TV with my wife and we play board games.
  19. Do you keep checking email through the evening?
    Nope. I used to, when I had an operational role, but now I don’t need to.
  20. Do you take work projects home with you?
    I work from home, so, technically yes. It’s rare that something from work intrudes into my home life though.
  21. What would you say to your 20-year old self?
    Nothing! 20 year-old me was a bit of an idiot, but without what he did, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
  22. If you could try out any job for a day, what would you choose?
    I like my job, so I don’t think I’d do anything else.
  23. What device did you use to answer these questions?
    Fujitsu E736 running Windows 10
  24. Do you use your own personal device for work?

Talk summary – Amateur (Ham) Radio – What’s it all about?

Format: Slide deck from a laptop standing next to a pillar in the open area. 10 attendees.


Video: None

Slot: Day 2 (Sunday) Slot 4 12:30-12:55

Notes: Very quick summary of what you can do with Amateur Radio. Trying to encourage people to take up Amateur Radio from an Open Source mind set. Followed up with two attendees, one who was licensed, another who might get a license. Felt good :)

One to read: The 4 Core Capabilities of DevOps

One to read: “The 4 Core Capabilities of DevOps”

Sometimes, I don’t actually link to these articles for the text… sometimes I link to them for a single image. In this case, it’s absolutely because of the image at the end… (just before the advert for their course ;) )

A table, comparing 'Pathalogical Power-orientated' organisations, with 'Bureaucratic Rule-orientated' organisations, against 'Generative Performance-orientated' organisations.

Having worked in places with all three sets of attributes [1] this table is very interesting… I wonder what your organisation feels like to you, and what would it take to get you to a good place?

[1] “Modest cooperation”, “Messengers shot”, “Narrow responsibilities”, “Bridging tolerated”, “Failure leads to inquiry” and “Novelty crushed” was one of the more …. challenging places to work in, but the people were nice, so there’s that ;)

Setting UK keyboards in Vagrant Ubuntu Machines, using Ansible

Wow, now there’s a specific post title…

I use Ansible… quite a bit :) and one of the things I do with Ansible is to have a standard build desktop that I can create using Vagrant. Recently I upgraded the base to Ubuntu 18.04, and it annoyed me that I still didn’t have a working keyboard combination, so I kept getting US keyboards. I spent 20 minutes sorting it out, and here’s how to do it.

- name: Set keyboard layout
    name: "keyboard-configuration"
    question: "keyboard-configuration/{{ item.key }}"
    value: "{{ item.value }}"
    vtype: "{{ item.type|default('string') }}"
  - { key: "altgr", value: "The default for the keyboard layout", vtype: "select" }
  - { key: "compose", value: "No compose key", vtype: "select" }
  - { key: "ctrl_alt_bksp", value: "false", type: "boolean" }
  - { key: "variant", value: "English (UK)", vtype: "select" }
  - { key: "layout", value: "English (UK)", vtype: "select" }
  - { key: "model", value: "Generic 105-key PC (intl.)", vtype: "select" }

I posted how I got to this point over at the Server Fault post that got me most of the way.

Ansible Behaviour Change

For those of you who are working with #Ansible… Ansible 2.5 is out, and has an unusual documentation change around a key Ansible concept – `with_` loops Where you previously had:

with_dict: "{{ your_fact }}"
- "{{ your_fact }}"
- some_subkey

This now should be written like this:

loop: "{{ lookup('dict', your_fact) }}"
loop: "{{ lookup('subelements', your_fact, 'some_subkey') }}"

Fear not, I hear you say, It’s fine, of course the documentation suggests that this is “how it’s always been”…… HA HA HA Nope. This behaviour is new as of 2.5, and needs ansible to be updated to the latest version. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to indicate to Ansible “Oh, BTW, this needs to be running on 2.5 or later”… so I wrote a role that does that for you.

ansible-galaxy install JonTheNiceGuy.version-check

You’re welcome :)

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