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Ubuntu on the new LinuxONE III

A few months ago I visited the IBM offices in Poughkeepsie to sync up with colleagues, record an episode of Terminal Talk, and let’s be honest, visit some mainframes. A lot of assembly still happens in Poughkeepsie, and they have a big client center with mainframes on display, including several inside a datacenter that they give tours of. I was able to see a z14 in operation, as well as several IBM LinuxONE machines. Getting to tour datacenters is a lot of fun, and even though I wouldn’t have meaningful technical interactions with them, there’s something about seeing these massive machines that I work with every day in person that brings me a lot of joy.

Now I have to go back! On September 12th, the newest mainframe was announced, the IBM z15 and accompanying Linux version, the IBM LinuxONE III. To celebrate, I joined my colleagues in the IBM Silicon Valley lab for a launch event watch party and, of course, cake.

I wrote a more in-depth article about the hardware of this machine for work here: Inside the LinuxONE III. The key thing about it is that we’ve gone from two versions of the LinuxONE (Rockhopper II and Emperor II), to just one, but one that fits inside a 19” rack space like the Rockhopper II did and is expandable to up to four frames.

The processors are 5.2Ghz each, and in a fully decked out configuration one of these 4-frame systems can have up to 190 processors and 40 TB of RAM. It’s a massively powerful machine. Add in on-chip crypto that we’ve come to know and love on the mainframe, you have a really impressive data processing powerhouse.

Now, I was brought on to the Z Ecosystem team because of my background with Linux, both in the Ubuntu community and broader experience with distributed systems, including OpenStack and Apache Mesos. That’s because these mainframes don’t just run z/OS. The LinuxONE series of machines, the first of which was released in 2015, are exclusively Linux. Last week I wrote an article over on OpenSource.com about How Linux came to the mainframe, where I talk about how this came to be. This morning the second part of that article was published, Linux on the mainframe: Then and now, where I explore the formal entrance of major distributions into supporting the mainframe architecture. Ubuntu joined that fold with an announcement in 2016 that Ubuntu 16.04 had support for the mainframe (s390x architecture). Today, Ubuntu boasts the most s390x packages of all the officially supported distributions.

All recent release of Ubuntu have supported s390x, so while they recommend the LTS releases, you can happily use Ubuntu 19.04 today to get the latest packages, and there are even more improvements in store for Ubuntu 19.10 coming out next month. When I chatted with Frank Heimes, who runs the Ubuntu on Big Iron blog (which you should totally check out!), he highlighted the following this for me with regard to Ubuntu support:

  • Special emphasis is put on kernel, KVM, hardware counters and security, allowing one to make use of z15 and LinuxONE III faster and enlarged number of processors with new CPU capabilities, facilities and larger caches, increased memory and IO throughput
  • Support for hardware cryptography, which he talks about in this blog post and the associated whitepaper: Hardware cryptography with Ubuntu Server on IBM Z and LinuxONE
  • Support for deployments on LPAR, z/VM, KVM, LXD, Docker and kubernetes (CDK), with installation media available as ISO, Cloud or container images.

It was also interesting for me to learn that their MAAS KVM product has been built for s390x, which I’ll point you to the Ubuntu on Big Iron blog for again, for one of Frank’s posts this month on the topic: MAAS KVM on s390x: Cross-LPAR walk-through. There have also been collaborations in the works to create proof of concepts around security, including Digital Asset Custody Services (DACS), which you can explore in more detail in this article from August: Digital Asset Custody Services (DACS) aims to disrupt the digital assets market with a secured custody platform.

For Ubuntu, s390x isn’t just another checkbox architecture that’s being supported. Just like the other officially supported distributions, there are whole teams within Canonical who are spending time making thoughtful and innovative solutions that specifically target the power of the mainframe. The following is their Design Philosophy for Ubuntu Server on IBM Z and LinuxONE, via Frank’s Ubuntu Server for IBM Z and LinuxONE slide deck (4.2M PDF):

  • Expand Ubuntu’s ease of use to the s390x architecture (IBM Z and LinuxONE)
  • Unlock new workloads, especially in the Open Source, Cloud and Container space
  • Consequentially tap into new client bases
  • Exploit new features and components faster – in two ways:
    • hardware: zEC12/zBC12 and newer
    • software: latest kernels, compilers and optimized libraries
    • Provide parity with other architectures
    • Release parity
    • Feature parity
  • Uniform user experience
  • Close potential gaps
  • Open source – is collective power in action
  • Upstream work and code only – no forks
  • Offer a radically new pricing approach (drawer-based pricing) but also an entry-level pricing based on the number of IFLs (up to 4 IFLs)
  • Of course we don’t have mainframes in our garages (even as an IBM employee, I’ve asked!). So as developers, our access is somewhat limited. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build your Ubuntu .deb or snap for s390x! As I wrote about back in June, you can build your PPA for s390x with the clicking of a simple checkbox in the Launchpad UI for PPAs.

    Similarly, you can also build snaps for the s390x architecture. These build systems reside on a mainframe that Canonical hosts in their datacenter, so you don’t even need access to a mainframe yourself to build for it.

    But if you want to be extra sure your application runs on s390x, IBM has made a LinuxONE Community Cloud which gives users a VM running on a mainframe in New York for 120 days! You can try out your application on one of those, and then be confident it works when you submit it to the PPA or snap build system. Unfortunately the only options right now for OS are SLES and RHEL, but Ubuntu support is in the works. Beyond this cloud, we’re also working to get an open source developer cloud launched, but in the meantime you can reach out to me directly (lyz@ibm.com) if you’re interested in some longer-lived VMs for your open source project, or generally want to talk about how you can get more VMs for testing, CI systems, and more.

    If you had asked me a year ago to talk about mainframes, I would not have had much to say, but I’m really excited to be part of this story now. The machines themselves are impressive, the efforts that distributions like Ubuntu are putting into them is quite exceptional, and it’s really fun learning about a new architecture. And speaking of other architectures, s390x isn’t the only architecture Canonical works with IBM to provide support for. As noted on the Ubuntu on IBM partner page (which is worth checking out anyway), you’ll see there’s a lot of work being put in around POWER too.

    Adam’s first MUNI Heritage Weekend

    I attended a couple MUNI Heritage Weekends while I lived in San Francisco, but I didn’t attend the one last year due to being pregnant, and I was going to skip this one due to having the little one in tow. However, we both got the rare good night sleep Friday night, I wanted to go, and I was eager to begin introducing little 8 month old Adam to my beloved old streetcars.

    We took BART up to the city and arrived just as things began. Unlike the last one I attended in 2016, this was a much bigger and more populated affair. Several booths were set up to promote various organizations related to transit and trains, a fake cable car had been brought into the plaza for people to climb up on and take pictures with, which we availed ourselves of.

    After the picture, we made our way over to the vintage buses which were doing 20 minute loops toward North Beach. The old 2230 bus was about to depart, so we selected that one.

    Volunteers happily helped lift Adam’s stroller into the bus, and we were off. As we rode along I realized that this was Adam’s first bus ride, and while I’m not sure I’d say he had fun (based on his expression throughout the ride I texted MJ a picture with the caption “recreational bus rides? Mom, ur so weird”).

    By the end of the ride he was dozing, which lasted as we returned to the plaza and walked around a bit. I made a stop at the San Francisco Railway Museum & Gift Shop right there where they were selling some vintage pins, which I happily scooped up.

    We then did a bit more walking around the plaza waiting for street cars to come by, which is when we got our second look of the day at the old 578, built in 1896, making it the oldest streetcar still in operation in the world.

    Always a crowd-pleaser, we also saw the 228 boat tram. I was a little disappointed to miss the 737 which I’ve never seen in operation (only parked in the barn), but we also got to see the lovely 496 from Melbourne, another one of my favorites.

    As the afternoon crept up on us, it was time to meet MJ for brunch! He’s been working a lot, including over weekends, so it was nice for the three of us to spend a nice brunch in the city together.

    It was nice to go out and have everything go well. Adam was in a good mood, he got in a couple on-the-go naps, and though he was quite lively at brunch, making for several baby hand-offs as we each attempted to finish our meals, he was happy. You have this vision in your head about what it’s like to have a little baby sidekick you can carry around with you, and then there’s the reality of making sure he’s always fed, changed, slept enough, and a bunch of other things to juggle in your mind while you’re out. I’m glad I went up into the city that Saturday, but it was still a tiring affair.

    Sunday began by walking the couple blocks into town for the Castro Valley Fall Festival. It’s probably the most vendor-filled event we’ve been to thus far in town. Lots of vendors selling all kinds of interesting things, plus local businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools representing their place in our town. We got some food to nibble on as we walked around, Adam enjoyed looking around for a while, but I think ended up getting a little bored being pushed around in his stroller for so long in the warm weather. It was nice getting out and mingling with the neighbors and getting more familiar with our town, if only for a couple hours.

    The rest of the day was spent making our first attempt at getting the closet doors installed. It turns out we needed a few more tools, but in the meantime we were able to continue a project started a few weekends ago to start hanging pictures around the house. We got my A New Hope script page hung in my office! And MJ made a valiant, but ultimately failed, attempt to hang my MUNI signs on the door going into my bathroom from the office. We’ll try that one again soon when we have the right equipment to hang it solidly on the door.

    This weekend is much quieter. We have some home improvement tasks to complete and a bunch of little things to wrap up before our trip to Philadelphia next Saturday. We’re also going to get our flu shots (well, Adam gets his on Tuesday), so we’re all set before we start traveling. Looking forward to our visit back east, most notably we’ll be doing our first little road trip with Adam up to Rochester for my cousin’s wedding in early October.

    Open Mainframe and Open Source Summits 2019

    At the tail end of August I had the opportunity to head down to San Diego for a few days to attend the Open Source on the Mainframe Mini-Summit and Open Source Summit North America.

    I had never been to an event put on by the Open Mainframe Project and saw it as a nice opportunity to quickly get up to speed on the open source work happening on the z/OS side of things. The event didn’t disappoint.

    The talks began with an introduction from John Mertic on the general open source ecosystem for mainframes and the value that open source brings to the ecosystem (slides). Joe Winchester followed his presentation with a talk where he dove into some of the stats of the modern mainframe and specifically into Zowe. I had heard the project name before, but this even was the first time I actually got a glimpse of it, which began in Joe’s talk (slides) and continued in a talk about Zowe specifically by Thomas Mcquitty.

    Zowe is really where the modern mainframe open source tooling shines, as described on the website:

    “Zowe offers modern interfaces to interact with z/OS and allows you to work with z/OS in a way that is similar to what you experience on cloud platforms today.”

    There’s a web-based GUI that gives you a kind of “desktop” that allows you to interact with the system and data in a way that’s more natural to those of us with an x86 background. There’s a CLI which opens a whole world of scripting and automation possibilities. Having this tool be open source has fostered an active community spanning a bunch of different companies and organizations contributing to both the core of the tool, as well as third party plugins and other support. Coming from the x86 world, I have certainly come to expect this level of flexibility with my Linux-based infrastructure, so it’s refreshing to see it come to z/OS too.

    The event concluded with a series of Lightning talks, one of which was from Jeff Reser of SUSE who brought Linux to this event! It was nice seeing a talk on the Linux side of things, and I did learn something new: SUSE has had a release for s390x longer than anyone else (slides).

    More photos from the mini-summit here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157710709212201

    Immediately following the mini-summit I headed over to an event being put on by the San Diego Red Hat Meetup group. It was nice syncing up with some folks about upcoming articles I have coming out on opensource.com, and to chat about s390x ports of Linux software. The talk for the event was given by Ben Cotton on Fedora and the future of operating systems where he talked about some of the new technology they’re trying out with Fedora to modernize management of software on the operating system.

    At the Open Source Summit the next morning I attended the keynotes. While we were at the mainframe summit the previous day, my friends over in POWER had their own event and some big announcements around the open sourcing of key parts of the POWER processor, and this was highlighted during the keynotes. Mainframes did have a spot too, with a quick mention of the summit, Zowe and some of the other active projects in the Open Mainframe Project.

    My focus at this event was the booth and letting developers we met at the event know about the LinuxONE Community Cloud so they could take the first step towards seeing if their application would run on the s390x architecture. It was also a nice opportunity to sync up more casually with several of my colleagues who work out of different IBM offices than I do.


    The LinuxONE crew!

    Beyond the booth, I met up with several people during this event, including folks who are exploring porting their applications to other architectures. One of the things I realized upon talking to them was how important getting the job-runners ported to s390x is. Access to the platform is one thing, but if their CI/CD tooling won’t run on the virtual machines we provide to the community they’re left pretty stuck.

    More photos from the Open Source Summit here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157710709705562

    All the work stuff aside (even thought that is fun too!), I thoroughly enjoyed the event party at the famous USS Midway aircraft carrier. This is the second aircraft carrier museum I’ve been to, the other being the USS Hornet in Alameda. I’d love to go back to the Midway some time though, it’s a huge ship and only a subsection was open during the event party.

    More photos from the USS Midway here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157710709723087

    A refrigerator, plums, and family visit to SF

    This summer has been different one for us. We’ve had plans a lot closer to home now with little Adam, and we don’t go on as many adventures. Gone are most of our jaunts to San Francisco for brunch, and weekends in wine country. This past week I sadly canceled our two wine club memberships, since our wine rack is completely full and we weren’t taking advantage of our other member benefits. We do still get out to some places though, and as exhausting as the adventure days are with a baby in tow, I always appreciate that we have had the opportunity to frequently introduce him to new things.

    Now stepping back to where I last left off in generalist life blog posts, in the end of June our refrigerator started to die. It came with the house, and upon inspection I learned that it was manufactured in 2003, so it had a pretty average run as far as modern refrigerators go. It was unfortunate though, we had hoped it would last until we did our kitchen remodel so we could get our forever refrigerator. We also can’t survive without a refrigerator, the day it stopped working I ran out to Home Depot and picked up the biggest mini-fridge I could find so that Adam’s milk wouldn’t spoil, and was suddenly grateful for the freezer that came with the house, which had just been sitting unplugged in the garage. That was plugged in and all the frozen and refrigerated milk was saved! Finally, the timing was poor. We were just about to leave for our July visit to Philadelphia, so we ended up flying out and leaving the old refrigerator in place, and didn’t get it replaced until a full month after it died. Getting the replacement delivered was a trial as well, our kitchen is on the second story and it took three delivery attempts and several phone calls until they finally sent a big enough crew to get it up the stairs to our kitchen.

    In July I also received my vanity license plate. I almost got one when I lived in Pennsylvania, but until just a couple months ago, I didn’t have my own car here in California to put one one. I went with the environmental one, and it came out beautiful!

    This summer we’ve been frequenting the Castro Valley Farmers’ Market in the nearby BART parking lot on Saturdays. The fresh strawberries, raspberries, and pluots have been a real treat. We haven’t needed to go far for all our fruit though, in addition to oranges and limes growing on our neighbors tree that looms over our entry pathway, we discovered that a tree in our back yard produces little plums! This is the second year in our house so you think I would have noticed a plum tree last year, but I was pregnant and dealing with pretty serious morning sickness, so I had help with the yard work and food was the last thing on my mind. They’ve been yummy this year though! Especially when I can make the time to chop them up and put them in a fruit salad.

    Adam has been enjoying fruit too, in July he started on solid foods! Well, Gerber 1st foods which are mostly pureed fruits and vegetables. It took a couple days for him to get the hang of eating, and he still makes a mess even being spoon fed a month in, but he does seem to enjoy foods quite a bit, and last week he got his first meats in the form of pureed chicken meals.

    Our own meals have taken a drastic turn this year. We used to eat out a lot and now we’re finding ourselves doing take-out most nights. Thankfully California has a vast assortment of cuisines, so we are have a nice selection, but we have missed actually going out and having dinner together. We ultimately do want to institute a regular “date night” where we hire a babysitter and go out, but for now we were happy to enjoy a single sushi date night in San Francisco in early August at our favorite sushi place. And stopped for donuts afterwards.

    The big event for August was my sister Annette and her son, my nephew, Xavier, coming into town for nine days. They had never been to California and were eager to get some time with little Adam, and we needed some childcare coverage for Adam while I took a work trip down to San Diego. The timing worked out for all of us before Xavier had to go back to school, so they arrived on August 16th and stayed through the 25th.

    Saturday the 17th, the first day they were in town, I gave them a quick walking tour of downtown Castro Valley so they could find their way around while I was gone. We then all piled into the truck and made our way to the Oakland Zoo. I had been there before, but it had been several years and they made some significant changes since I was there, most notably the addition of a California trail section of the zoo that you take a gondola to!

    Of course the San Francisco Zoo will always be my local zoo, even with Oakland now significantly closer, but Oakland does also have the added benefit of having elephants! So we swung by them, and the giraffes, a bunch of monkeys, and the California trail concluded with some bears. It was a tiring day, and Adam was getting fussy about the heat toward the end, but I’m glad we went. We also made sure to hit the gift shop, where Xavier and Adam got matching African painted dog stuffed toys, which Adam now adores.

    The next day I wanted to take them to San Francisco for the standard tourist visit, but I think we were all pretty tired from the previous day zoo adventures, and I was struggling with logistics of getting baby around everywhere. I did want to show them BART though, so they’d be prepared to take it on their own while I was gone if they wanted to spend a day in the city on their own. So we did a quick mini-visit to the city. Popping out at the Embarcadero BART station, they got a glimpse of the California street cable car, along with a bunch of street cars going by. We walked through the vendors in the plaza across from Ferry Building, and then had brunch there at Ferry Building before taking a walk along the bay. Our visit concluded with a stop at the little San Francisco Railway Museum, which we all enjoyed. It was then back on BART to head home. I think it ended up being the perfect sized trip for the day.

    My week was spent going to the office on Monday, and then on Tuesday flying to San Diego for the Open Source Summit, which I attended through Friday and will write about later. MJ picked me up at the airport and we had a late dinner with my family.

    The next day, on Saturday, ended up being our big San Francisco trip. It started off much the same as the previous Sunday, but instead of stopping at Ferry Building we started walking up to Pier 39. However, we quickly detoured when I saw an opportunity to skip walking and take a water taxi! I’d never been in one before, but I thought a boat ride would be a much more enjoyable way to experience the bay, and they had no problem with us bringing Adam’s stroller on board. Now, I do admit a bit of apprehensiveness around going on a little boat in the bay with my 7 month old, but I kept telling myself that I surely would have heard about it if tourist boats were sinking in the bay all the time (or ever). I was right about it being fun, and it was Adam’s first boat ride!

    The boat stopped at Pier 39, where everyone else got off, but we decided to take it all the way up a bit past Fisherman’s Wharf – our own private tour! The boat operator was kind enough to take us in a few little spots, and we got to see some sea lions. Adam took it all really well, giggling when the waves got big or water sprayed on his feet. At the conclusion of our journey we made our way through the crowds at Fisherman’s Wharf and then had lunch at Boudin. It was then that the four of us walked to Pier 39 to meet up with MJ, who had driven up after completing some work for the day. We saw the sea lions there at the pier, ate some donuts, went on the carousel (Adam’s first time!), and stopped at Build-A-Bear so Xavier could get a dragon.

    We then all piled into the car for a quick visit to the Palace of Fine Arts, and then over the Golden Gate Bridge! Our favorite place to see the bridge is from Fort Baker, so we brought them there and I hung out with a sleepy Adam in the car for a bit, then put him in a baby carrier for the second half of our adventure around Fort Baker to get some good views of the city and the bridge. I’m glad we were able to make this part of the trip happen for them, the fog made the bridge difficult to see from Pier 39, and what’s a visit to San Francisco without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge?

    My sister and nephew left on a 7AM flight back to Maine the next morning, leaving MJ, Adam and I with a pretty standard Sunday together.

    This Labor Day weekend has been relatively uneventful. On Saturday I spent the morning cleaning up the fruit in the back yard (so many plums!) so they are composted rather than rotting on the ground and attracting unwanted critters. I also installed a hose we recently bought to replace the ones we have which were old and if not already cracked, were getting there. Today I made major progress in getting some bits of our house organized that have languished since I got pregnant last year. Our laundry room looks 10x better now, and an unused closet now has a Metro rack we brought up from the garage and we’re able to stash a bunch of stuff in there now. We’ve also enjoyed brunches Saturday and Sunday. I hope to get some more organizing done tomorrow, but we’ll see what Adam thinks of that idea.

    September is shaping up to be a busy one for me at work, and at the end of the month we’re planning a visit back to Philadelphia for a couple weeks, including during Rosh Hashanah, when I’ll be taking about a week and a half off from work to observe the holidays and spend time with family. We’re also going to be doing a little road trip up to Rochester for my cousin’s wedding, which I’m really looking forward to.

    OSCON 2019

    Last month I had the opportunity to attend OSCON for the first time since 2015. It was nice to be back, the conference attracts a lot of great speakers, but it’s also a nice opportunity to see how the landscape has shifted when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who has the big booths? Who has downsized? What are the top open source projects being promoted, and what products have come of them? This is all information you can infer from keeping up to date with tech news and broad open source community news, but it’s an experience to witness it first hand and see where companies really are investing.

    My presence this year was all around LinuxONE, and I was joined by my colleague Leon Kiriliuk for our two days of booth duty at the event. Our push at these open source events is two-fold:

    • Tell developers and infrastructure engineers that mainframes still exist, and geek out over hardware with them
    • Invite them to create an account on the LinuxONE Community Cloud for a free virtual machine so they can test their applications there, and either start building for s390x, or publish they’ve tested it and it works

    Given my long time interest in trying out alternate architectures, these are fun discussions to have, and with Leon there I learned a tremendous amount about the hardware that I wasn’t aware of before.

    A short slide deck ran on rotation at the booth. The most popular slides were definitely the wall-of-logos showing a bunch of the open source software verified for LinuxONE, and the third slide which talks about the hardware. I made the deck available here: IBM_LinuxONE_-_OSCON.pdf (12M PDF)

    Beyond the booth were talks. Aside from the general technical talks about various open source projects and products, I felt from the keynote that the conference had a trend around community building. It feels like just a few years ago that most companies investing in open source believed “people will just show up” if they build a compelling project. At minimum, most would invest in a couple developers who would review patches, but not much thought was put into actual development of the community. Today you see a lot more people employed as Developer Advocates (myself included) who are fully entrenched in the community and communicating improvements, and companies are taking community a lot more seriously. They’ve realized that real investment needs to be made in order to foster healthy communities that people want to contribute to and their customers gravitate toward, and the keynotes on the first day reflected that.

    The second day of keynotes had a lot of discussion about where open source stands today and where it’s going. There’s have been several high-profile instances of re-licensing projects by companies who suddenly felt they can’t survive when large service providers start offering their projects as services on their platform. It was interesting hearing from speakers coming at this from different angles, from believing that new licenses and definitions are required, to simply developing a better understanding of how a company can thrive alongside large service providers.

    Finally, it was really exciting to see the Faces of Open Source exhibit at the event. I had my picture taken for this last fall, when I was about 5 months pregnant! So I’ll admit, I hung out near the exhibit for a few minutes until I got to see my own smiling face. Bonus, it popped up alongside Mitchell Baker and Zaheda Bhorat!

    Due to the arrival of my little one in January, this was the first generalist open source conference of the year I managed to get to, but it’s thankfully not the last. I’m off to the Open Source Summit in San Diego next week.

    More photos available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157710021063781

    Exclusively Pumping

    As breastfeeding week (August 1-7th) comes to a close, I have finally gathered up the courage to write about a topic been very personal to me: exclusively pumping.

    Exclusive pumping in the realm of breastfeeding means I don’t nurse, but my baby does get breast milk. Instead of nursing, I sit down five times a day (down from 8-10 in the early weeks!) and express milk with a breast pump. He is then fed from a bottle. I’ve been doing it seven months now.

    But let’s step back a bit.

    When I thought about all the things that would be difficult about having a child, feeding my child didn’t factor largely into it. After a lifetime of “breast is best” encouragements, I knew I wanted to feed him breast milk. At the recommendation of a friend of mine, I dutifully ordered my insurance-covered breast pump before our baby was born so I’d have time to learn how to use it before I went back to work and would have to pump during the day and when I traveled for work. Otherwise, I simply assumed I’d be nursing, and didn’t spend much time thinking about it. It’s a thing mammals do, how hard could it be?

    Turns out it’s incredibly hard for some women, including me.

    While I was in the hospital recovering from the birth, lactation consultants came around to make sure babies were properly latching. We thought it was going OK, but after going home it seemed like my little one was never getting enough. Along with some other issues, we ended up returning to the hospital so he could spend a couple days in the NICU. I won’t get into the emotional roller-coaster that was, but it was during this period that I learned how to use my breast pump at home so we could bring breast milk to the hospital for him. I saw the lactation consultants again while I was there so they could once again examine our form before going home, but we were bottle feeding him breast milk and supplementing with formula while in the NICU.

    When we finally brought our little one home for good, I had grown somewhat accustom to pumping, but I continued trying to get him to nurse. We then had family come into town for his bris and naming, so suddenly my house had gone from housing just my husband and me, to acting as home base to my mother, grandfather, aunt, and in-laws, close friend, plus a new baby! Even with the incredible support I got from my aunt who stayed with us for seven weeks, I found the fear of a return to the NICU, coupled with the stress of so many guests and not being able to get my little one to effectively latch to be too much. My husband would walk in to me in tears after another unsuccessful nursing attempt, and it was he who first suggested I stop trying to nurse and just pump. Pumping seemed to be working, and once the milk was expressed, it meant anyone could feed him!

    It was a tough decision, and I felt like I was a failure, but my husband was right, pumping was working for me. I stopped trying to nurse and went the exclusively pumping route before I even knew it had a name.

    Since then, I discovered the Exclusive Pumping website, along with the lifesaver of a Facebook group. I’ve also learned how difficult this first year is for a breastfeeding mother, regardless of how the breast milk gets in to your baby. Exclusively pumping has worked for me though, in addition to giving everyone the opportunity to feed him (and for me to get more sleep!), it’s allowed us to precisely track his intake (peace of mind after the NICU), caused minimal disruption when I go into the office or travel for work (milk is always from the bottle!), avoided expensive formula costs (though pumping supplies aren’t free), and allowed me to build up a healthy freezer stash so I may be able to provide him milk for longer than I’m actively supplying it (possible when nursing, but trickier to gauge how much to pump and store).

    It’s not all great though. I’ve pumped in the back seat of our truck, on airplanes, at a half dozen airports, while I’m commuting, in my office, and in the lactation room of an office I was visiting.


    Inside a Mamava pod at an aiport

    Inside a particularly spacious lactation space at another airport

    Five times a day I need to make time for it, and if I go more than six hours without pumping, I start getting pain that will last long after I finally am able to pump. I got mastitis once, which gave me piles of misery for days and a fever that lasted two days – all of which happened to land while my husband was on a business trip. I can’t take the birth control pill that best controls my migraines because it caused a drop in my supply so severe that I couldn’t keep up with demand and had to dip into the freezer supply. I still wake up in the middle of the night to pump, because dropping that session impacted my supply too much.

    Knowing that a nursing mother has all the feeding equipment with her at all times, it’s incredibly frustrating when we’re out with the baby and we have to go home from a nice time out because I didn’t plan accordingly to bring my pumping supplies. It’s also made work travel challenging. I need to make plans ahead of time, from finding lactation space at a conference venue or office, to figuring out how I’ll keep the breast milk chilled until I can get it home (thankfully a perk from my employer is shipping it home each day!). I learned quickly not to be shy about it. I email conferences ahead of time about my needs when it’s unclear, and when I was visiting a remote office recently the co-worker who was hosting me helped me find the lactation room.


    Pump parts cleaning while traveling, hotel bathrooms are not set up for this!

    Then there is the cleaning of pump parts multiple times a day and the regular sterilization process. Some days I really wish I could take a pumping vacation, but that’s not how this works.


    Fancy rack at home I have for drying parts

    And did I mention that people were judgmental? Most days the comments of “why not just nurse?” and “you know, you could just use formula” cause an eye roll and quick brush off, because it’s none of their business, but other days it’s harder.

    My little one is 7 months old today and I’m really proud of having made it this far. I’m aiming for a year of pumping, but there are days when I thinking about quitting and switching him to formula. Formula is a great way to feed your baby, and in spite of the prevailing breastfeeding mantra, the truth is, “Fed is best.” If I do need to stop my pumping journey earlier than I want, I’m going to remind myself that I’m a great mom for making it this far, and I’d be a great mom if I fed him formula from the start.

    Off to a wedding in Florida

    The last time I was in Florida for a wedding was 2014. It was one of my first epic travel months which included 2 conferences, 2 weddings, and my first trip to Paris. I thought I knew tired, but I can honestly say that this trip to Florida for a wedding was the more tiring one! It’s astonishing how much your life changes with a little one in tow. Still, we had a wonderful time on this trip and the wedding was beautiful!

    We flew down from Philadelphia, arriving at the resort in Hollywood Beach where the wedding was held in the late evening and got all the fun stuff sorted out with our room to prepare for spending a couple days there with the little one (crib, refrigerator for milk). We didn’t rent a car for this trip, given the short stay and thinking we would have everything we needed. Alas, it turns out that with a little one that is never the case. We immediately realized we needed a few things and had to do a quick delivery order for them. Now we know. With kids, always rent a car unless we’re actually staying downtown somewhere where it’s easy to walk to a supermarket or pharmacy.

    I was able to spend a lot of solo time with Adam on this trip. Saturday morning we went for a little walk and then ended up at the coffee shop in the hotel where I got an impressive avocado toast, and Adam tried to steal it from me.

    The afternoons were spent as a family. Meeting with relatives for lunches, then spending time at the pool, which gave us the opportunity to introduce Adam to a pool for the first time! He was a bit fussy and uncertain at first, but he seemed to enjoy it after a few minutes as MJ and I held him there in the water.

    On Sunday morning after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel restaurant with our au pair, Adam and I went for another walk, this time strolling further down the boardwalk. It was pretty hot out, so he mostly slept, which goes for most of the time we had him outside in the hot, Florida summer. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t much hotter than Philadelphia had been.

    Sunday evening MJ and I attended the wedding, though I had to depart the reception a bit early to take over Adam care for the rest of the night. Monday morning was spent making a final visit to the pool before we packed up and headed to the airport in evening.

    In all, a really nice, quick trip. It was nice to have a few meals with relatives, along with the wedding itself. I wish we could have stayed longer, but work beckoned, and I was on a plane the afternoon after we got home for a conference in Portland, OR.

    Mainframes in Poughkeepsie

    Last month I had the pleasure of visiting the mainframe mothership: the IBM offices in Poughkeepsie, New York. A number of folks I work with day to day are based there, there’s a test and assembly facility, and they have a client center where they show off technology, including mainframes!

    There’s also an Amtrak station in Poughkeepsie, making the train a solid option coming from the townhouse in Philadelphia. My day started super early as I called a car to take me to the Amtrak station in Trenton. During that ride I learned that my driver was a Philly Linux member long ago, and he happened to mention MJ casually in the conversation. What a small world! We connected on LinkedIn. My 5:43AM train out of Trenton took me to Penn Station in NYC, where I switched to the line that would take me up to Poughkeepsie, putting me in town at 8:45AM, where my colleague Matthew Cousens picked me up.

    Matt showed me around the office and let me use his office as a home base for the day as I flitted off to various meetings with folks. The first was with an IBM employee who didn’t actually work with us, my friend and colleague from HPE and OpenStack-land, Matthew Treinish! He lives not too far away and it was nice to have coffee and catch up before he headed back to work.

    Around noon I rejoined current colleage Matt and we went to lunch and chatted about how I’m settling into my new role. I’m one of the few people on my team that was hired externally, so it’s always nice to get a chunk of time from team mates as I adjust to IBM culture and get familiar with all the tooling and processes.

    After lunch he took me over the the test and assembly facility where they had a little museum set up.

    Front and center was an IBM System/360. The s/360 is the granddaddy of all the mainframe stuff I do today and this was the first time I’d ever seen one in person!

    But tucked away in the back was something that was perhaps even more impressive from a historical perspective: an early prototype of Herman Hollerith’s tabulator. Anyone familiar with computer history will know that Hollerith’s census machines play a key role in the birth of computing. What I learned from reading Building IBM is that IBM itself traces its roots back to these machines, since Hollerith was the founder of the Tabulating Machine Company, one of the companies that was merged into the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911, and renamed IBM in 1924.

    First Punched Card Processor

    Early prototype built by Herman Hollerith in the late 1880s for the first electrical punched card tabulator.

    Back over in the client center, I got to meet some mainframe shells – including one that was just too tempting to pass up a photo of. It actually turned out to be a useful prop when I was at OSCON a couple weeks ago and people asked me how big a mainframe was. “Well, I’ll show you a picture!”

    In the early afternoon I met up with Jeff Bisti and Frank De Gilio to record an episode of Terminal Talk. It’s a mainframe-centric podcast, and I’ve been listening to the show since I learned about it a couple months ago when they did an open source on the mainframe edition of the show. It was an honor to be proposed as a guest on the show, especially given how new I am to all this territory, but that was actually the point of me coming in. I’m coming in from a traditional Linux Sysadmin on x86 machines background, so I bring a completely different perspective than the traditional mainframe crowd. The episode was released a few days ago: Elizabeth Joseph – Hyper Protect

    After the podcast, it was time to head over to the little raised floor data center they have set up for customer tours. It has all the networking to keep it running, several storage servers, including arrays with spinning and solid state media, and a few robot-driven trap drives. In the fancy bit of the datacenter they have a z14 hooked up to an IBM DS8880 (hybrid storage) that you can poke at, which is the machine Esmeralda Quintana gave a tour of in this video, so it was fun to finally see it in person. I also got to touch the quantum computer (IBM Q)! Which I learned is the only quantum computer in the world running actual external workloads. So cool.

    Before I left, I took the advice of Anthony Giorgio and stopped by Ross Mauri’s office to visit a clock.

    But not just any clock, in a plaque at the base of it, the history of the clock is told:

    INTERNATIONAL TIME RECORDING CO. MASTER CLOCK

    This clock was manufactured in Endicott, New York, by the International Time Recording Company, one of the three companies that originally formed IBM. It stood in the anteroom of Thomas J. Watson Sr.’s Office at 50 Broad Street in New York City until 1930, when it was moved to IBM’s new headquarters at 270 Broadway. In 1938 it was moved to the executive floor of 590 Madison Avenue. The clock was moved to the Kenyon House in Poughkeepsie (then the laboratory for IBM’s computer development efforts) in the late 1940’s where it continued in operation until 1994.

    This clock is weight driven with a mercury compensated pendulum for precision timekeeping. The weights are wound by an electric motor.

    After a couple more meetings, I had to say goodbye to catch my 4:15PM train. The three hour train ride each way made it a pretty long day, and I made this visit a bit on a whim since I was spending time in Philadelphia anyway, but I’m really glad I did. It’s totally worth doing every once in a while.

    More photos from my visit here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157710022012742

    The 4th in Philly

    In what’s becoming an annual tradition, we spent the 4th of July in Philadelphia. This was little Adam’s second visit to Philadelphia, but the first time traveling there with our au pair, and of course his first 4th of July!

    The trip out was a bit exhausting. We decided to take an overnight flight, thinking Adam would sleep through it like he has in the past. Alas, our almost 6 month old was no newborn, and the excitement of the airport and flight meant that he was awake during a good chunk of the flight. We’ll be adjusting future trips accordingly, only daytime flights from now on!

    We spent nearly two weeks there visiting with family and friends, enjoying thunderstorms, and eating far too many desserts. I blame breastfeeding on my new insatiable sweet tooth, but Philadelphia rose to the challenge, between diners with full dessert cases and traditional bakeries our home was full of desserts the whole visit.

    The trip began with the realization that little Adam’s bedroom is the sunniest room of the house. We didn’t notice during our visit in March, but with the sun coming up around 5:30AM in July, we were the proud parents of a baby who decided that he’d wake up at 5:30AM. Not only was that far too early, but it was the opposite direction of jet lag, and made for a particularly fussy first day. Cue emergency curtain shopping. I hit Amazon to grab the same blackout curtains I use in my home office in California, and MJ ran out to the hardware store to buy some tension rods until we could get around to properly install the curtains at a later date. Thankfully, that solved the problem!

    The first week we were there I also got settled in to my work routine, which I discovered is easier on the east coast. I live on the western edge of where our team sits timezone-wise, so being on the east coast allowed me to have earlier meetings with my European team mates and no trouble joining calls that would otherwise land at 6AM California time. On July 3rd I went down to University City in Philadelphia to give my first presentation representing my new role as a Developer Advocate at IBM. I was joined by a colleague who made the trek down from New York and could answer questions I couldn’t about my topic of “Linux on Mainframes: Past, Present and Future”. Being an east coast audience, there were actually people there who had worked on mainframes and who had great questions about the state of Linux on them today. It was also a fun talk to prepare for and deliver. The intersection of history and computing is my sweet spot, and the open-source-before-it-had-a-name details I was able to dig up is fascinating stuff. Slides here: Linux_on_Mainframes-PLUG-July_2019.pdf (2.1M). I also made a visit up to the Poughkeepsie office for work during this trip, but I’ll be writing about that later.


    Thanks to @LRW3bb for taking a photo during my presentation! (source)

    We spent the 4th of July out to dinner with the family. The next day I had off from work and had the delightful chore of taking the car into the shop for it’s annual tune-up. That afternoon I took Adam to Build-A-Bear to get him a couple bears to celebrate turning 6 months old (as if I needed an excuse).

    Over the weekend we took a drive over the river to New Jersey to meet up with our friends Mike, Jess and their kiddos. We had a great lunch together and then stroll around the mall as we waited for the thunderstorms to relax some so we wouldn’t get soaked on the walk to the car. Dinners are trickier now though, we traditionally would have dinner out with our friends Tim and Colleen while in town, but Adam’s 7:30PM bed time precludes us from doing that now unless we have his grandparents over to baby sit. So we just changed our plans some, Tim and Colleen came over to our house and joined us for a pizza night one night just as Adam was getting ready to go to sleep. The following week my friend Crissi came over for a few hours in the evening, during which we enjoyed some delivered food and then she helped me with my measurements and on dress suggestions so I could custom order some new clothes. I can’t begin to say how grateful I was for this visit from her, I hadn’t been feeling great about myself since the pregnancy, but being able to order some dresses that actually fit me and are flattering to my new shape is a huge help.

    Our trip concluded by re-packing up to head to Florida to attend the wedding of one of MJ’s cousins. It was a bit of a stressful transition, I had packed for the Florida trip 2 weeks earlier when we left California, but I missed a few things and we had to scramble a bit to get everything we needed. Still, I think going to Florida directly from Philadelphia instead of coming back to California was the right move.

    Our next family trip back east will likely be at the end of September, and attached to another wedding! This time for one of my cousins in upstate New York. But for now I’m enjoying not having to pack up the kiddo into an airplane for the next couple months.

    Life and my return to work

    It’s been a couple months since I’ve been able to sit down and do a proper blog post about generic life stuff. That’s entirely due to how exhausting life is now. I have to wake up much earlier than I used to due to Adam’s immutable schedule (why don’t kids sleep in?) and in my new job I have meetings starting around 8AM Pacific anyway. I schedule 9 hours for work each day so I have the space to be flexible when an appointment pops up on my calendar. After work I get my 2.5 hours of quality time with Adam until he goes to bed, then there’s chores and dinner before I can finally go to bed myself, which frequently doesn’t happen until 11PM. Weekends aren’t much better since the kiddo needs a lot of attention and it’s also when I get caught up on the big chores like laundry and mail.

    In a lot of ways, I’m really lucky. Having an au pair sharing our home with us means we don’t need to run around and get Adam ready for day care and deal with getting him there and back. Working from home a good chunk of the time when I’m not traveling gives me a considerable amount of flexibility with my schedule, and actually allows me to work more than if I had a daily commute. We have the financial freedom to get prepared meals for dinner, so I only really need to bother with breakfast and lunch, which are easy. We have a service come in to clean the house every other week, so while I do have a bunch of chores to keep the house running day to day, cleaning toilets isn’t one of them.

    But what severely lacking is personal time. The only reading and TV watching I do now is while I’m expressing breast milk, which is 20 minutes at a time 3 times a day (I do it 5 times a day, but 2 of those are while I’m working!). I’ve tried to read before bed like I used to, but I’m so tired by the time I get to bed and I really need to sleep. All of my personal projects have been gathering dust. Open source projects I’m involved with only get a small sliver of my time. Even personal email has been piling up in a way I’m not accustom to.

    Still, while I know I’ll never again have the glorious swaths of free time I enjoyed before we had a child, but I think things will get easier once little Adam drops his middle-of-the-night feeding and is slightly more self-sufficient.

    But enough with the preamble, I went back to work at the end of April! I have an office now, which taught me that it wasn’t specifically offices that I hate working in, but open floor plans. I look forward to my days at the lab, even if my commute is 3 hours (1 hour in the morning, 2 hours to get home).

    I was able to celebrate my first Mother’s Day as a mother back in May! I now understand why so many mothers want to trade a fancy brunch for sleeping in. I did partake in a bit more rest than usual, then was surprised by roses and some small gifts from the family. We went to a brewery for a leisurely lunch and sat outside, which was wonderful and not stressfully busy like all the brunch places would have been.

    We’ve had some house projects going on. The one I took the lead on was getting our yard sorted out. Between my inability to do gardening while pregnant, and then the chaos of having a newborn, the yard turned into a jungle! After calling around, I finally found a service who would come out to spend a couple days getting it in order. Next I just need to find someone to maintain it, since as much as I want to do it myself, I am struggling to find the time.

    MJ is taking the lead on getting our roof prepared for solar panels to be installed, which is a multi-phase effort to get a bunch of things moved and then a roofer in to tidy it all up before the solar guys come out. He also plans on installing the closet doors we finally got painted and are sitting in our garage.

    We also had some family photos done. We met up with the photographer who also did our engagement, wedding, and my professional head shots. The original plan was just for MJ to get head shots, but I added in family photos since I figured it would be a nice opportunity. We went up to San Francisco to meet her, took Adam to the beach to start the photos (beautiful place, but windy, cold and in retrospect, not the best idea) and then over to the Palace of Fine Arts (a better idea!). We got some good pictures, but it was a tiring day for us all.

    Another weekend was spent closer to home, with MJ’s friend Matti in town we made a short walk to the Castro Valley downtown to enjoy the annual car show. I took lots of pictures and daydreamed about what classic car I’d love to own some day. It was a warm day and Adam slept through most of it as we strolled down the boulevard.

    More photos from the car show are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157709126865576

    The next weekend MJ brought Matti to the airport and headed off to do some work while Adam and I met my friend Nathan at the San Francisco Zoo for Adam’s first zoo visit! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to visit with a friend, but quickly realized how difficult it is now to have meaningful conversations with a six month old in tow. Adam is a great baby, but his age means he needs a lot of attention, so our conversations were often interrupted and staggered. Fortunately Nathan took it in stride and insisted he still had a great time when I later apologized for having my attention split so much.

    I didn’t take many photos at the zoo, but there are a few: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157709210306098

    This takes us to the end of June, when we hopped on a plane and went to Philadelphia for a couple weeks, and then on to Florida for a wedding.

    Looking at how much we have been doing these past couple months, I should probably cut myself some slack regarding how little I feel like I’m getting done. It’s not always easy, but we’re still having fun and getting out there as we adjust to life with the newest little member of our family.