2017: A year in review

A few years ago when I was doing client work, we would regularly host clients’ sites and apps for them. During this time, I was responsible for both development and keeping them up and running as much as possible. Most of the money being in new development, it was difficult to assign priority to improving the operations of existing applications. In this period, I wanted an “operations person” to teach me how to make new applications that would need minimal operations support from the beginning. Failing this, I decided to become “the operations person” myself.

Following that decision, I found myself working at BizReach on the infrastructure team for HRMOS, a Software-as-a-Service product focused on applicant tracking for medium to large enterprises, in the end of 2016. Following that job, I then went to a small startup, dely, as a Site Reliability Engineer for their flagship product Kurashiru, a recipe video app for iOS and Android.

This is the first full year I’ve been working full-time as a dedicated infrastructure / operations / SRE / DevOps engineer, and I feel like I’ve grown a lot. On the technical side, I was able to lead the migration of complex legacy monolith systems to scalable and resilient independent systems. On the not-so-technical side, I’ve experienced different types of company cultures, managerial styles, and I’ve gotten accustomed to working with teams of engineers — the experience I’ve had up until this year was mostly working in extremely small teams.

While I do have a passion for making, maintaining, and improving services, I am also very interested in company culture — what makes it and what breaks it — especially when it comes to remote work. I believe most technical engineering work can be done as efficiently (if not more) remote, but there are definite challenges that need to be addressed before I can start leading a change in any position I’m in.

Here’s to 2018! 🎉

Shipping Events from Fluentd to Elasticsearch

We use fluentd to process and route log events from our various applications. It’s simple, safe, and flexible. With at-least-once delivery by default, log events are buffered at every step before they’re sent off to the various storage backends. However, there are some caveats with using Elasticsearch as a backend.

Currently, our setup looks something like this:

The general flow of data is from the application, to the fluentd aggregators, then to the backends — mainly Elasticsearch and S3. If a log event warrants a notification, it’s published to a SNS topic, which in turn triggers a Lambda function that sends the notification to Slack.

The fluentd aggregators are placed by an auto-scaling group, but are not load balanced by a load balancer. Instead, a Lambda function connected to the auto-scaling group lifecycle notifications updates a DNS round-robin entry with the private IP addresses of the fluentd aggregator instances.

We use the fluent-plugin-elasticsearch plugin to output log events to Elasticsearch. However, because this plugin uses the bulk insert API and does not validate whether events have actually been successfully inserted in to the cluster, it is dangerous to rely on it exclusively (thus the S3 backup).

Upgrading PostgreSQL on Ubuntu

I recently started using Ubuntu Linux on my main development machine. That means that my PostgreSQL database is running under Ubuntu, as well. I’ve written guides to upgrading PostgreSQL using Homebrew in the past, but the upgrade process under Ubuntu was much smoother.

These steps are assuming that you use Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and PostgreSQL 9.6 is already installed via apt.

  1. Stop the postgresql service.
    $ sudo service postgresql stop
  2. Move the newly-created PostgreSQL 9.6 cluster elsewhere.
    $ sudo pg_renamecluster 9.6 main main_pristine
  3. Upgrade the 9.5 cluster.
    $ sudo pg_upgradecluster 9.5 main
  4. Start the postgresql service.
    $ sudo service postgresql start

Now, when running pg_lsclusters, you should see something like the following:

9.5 main          5434 online postgres /var/lib/postgresql/9.5/main          /var/log/postgresql/postgresql-9.5-main.log
9.6 main          5432 online postgres /var/lib/postgresql/9.6/main          /var/log/postgresql/postgresql-9.6-main.log
9.6 main_pristine 5433 online postgres /var/lib/postgresql/9.6/main_pristine /var/log/postgresql/postgresql-9.6-main_pristine.log

Verify everything is working as expected, then feel free to remove the 9.5/main and 9.6/main_pristine clusters (pg_dropcluster).

These cluster commands may be available in other distros, but I haven’t been able to check them. YMMV. Good luck!

Podcasts I’m Listening To (November 2015 Edition)

My wife Naoko wrote a reply to this post. It was fun comparing how different the podcasts we listen to are. 🙂

First, I’d like to plug a podcast that I’m a semi-regular guest on, techsTalking(5417), a podcast where technology people just talk about whatever is on our mind.

Here are some other podcasts that I’m currently subscribed to:

  • The Incomparable — a podcast about anything geeky. Star Wars? Check. Star Trek? Check. Silly drafts? Check. Crazy movies? Check.
  • The Incomparable Game Show — born from The Incomparable proper, regular panelists play crazy games for your entertainment. On the podcast.
  • Incomparable Radio Theater — The Incomparable podcast, once upon a time, liked to do funny things on April Fools. Like, say: release a full-length episode in the format of old-time radio drama. Including equally funny sponsors (some fake, some real). Now, they’ve spun it off in to a separate podcast.
  • Random Trek — Incomparable regular Scott McNulty hosts a podcast with non-random guests talking about random episodes of Star Trek.
  • Robot or Not? — Is it a robot? Or not?
  • Astronomy Cast — A weekly “facts-based journey through the cosmos”.
  • Reconcilable Differences — Two of my favorite podcasters, John Siracusa and Merlin Mann, get together on one podcast.

A few other podcasts I listen to occasionally:

And assorted programming-specific podcasts.

bundler gotcha

So, this is a thing:

bundle install --without development:test
Bundle complete! XX Gemfile dependencies, XX gems now installed.
Gems in the groups development and test were not installed.


bundle install
Bundle complete! XX Gemfile dependencies, XX gems now installed.
Gems in the groups development and test were not installed.

Basically — you run bundle install --without <group> once, and that’s saved in .bundle/config. So next time you run bundle install without any arguments, it won’t install gems in the groups you specify.

It looks like it is fixed in Bundler 2.0, though.