After a fair bit more of experimentation I have come up with an almost final version of the logo for the project that I’m now calling “everyday”. You can read about the first pass at this logo here:

I have prototyped it using which I’ve really been loving:

See the Pen Full demo with mask by Jake Dahn (@jakedahn) on CodePen.

Several years ago I learned about oblique strategies from listening to a talk from Joel Gethin Lewis. His talk was super inspiring for me, and it led me to building a website for oblique strategies that displays one at random. This project was one of the first things I built using ruby when I was first learning how to code, so even though it is extremely trivial to build, it holds a special place in my heart.

Unfortunately the site has long been dead. Until today! I performed some code archeology and revived the project – You can visit it by going to

The site was shut down a long time ago because it was running on Heroku’s deprecated aspen stack (first heroku stack). When I was building it ruby 1.8.7 was the new hottness, and sinatra had just come out. So to revive the site a lot of changes had to be made so I spent some time today modernizing the sinatra code, and making it work against new ruby (2.1.3) and deploying it outside of heroku on my own server.

I also took some time to update the style a little bit. The old version was very dark and hard to read. So I took about 10 minutes to wrap it in bootstrap — which makes it actually readable. Below is what it used to look like vs. what it looks like now.

Old vs. New

old is left, new is right.

Go is all of the rage, all my friends are doing it so I feel like I have to do it too… So I’ve been playing with Go and Docker a bit recently to try and learn more about go and how I can use it for work and side projects.

I’m enjoying things so far, and I’m finding interesting tidbits as I go. This is one of them.

With go it is easy to build staticly linked binaries which can be distributed. This is awesome by itself, but with docker it is even more awesome.

You can build your go binaries like so:

CGO_ENABLED=0 go build -a ../src/worker.go

Once you’ve built your staticly linked binary you can build a docker image on top of the scratch base image. You can read about the Scratch Image on the docker site, but basically its an empty image that you can drop your binary into that will run as a very minimal container.

FROM scratch
ADD bin/worker /worker
ENTRYPOINT ["/worker"]

Below is output of some shell output from building and running a docker container that contains a go binary. Notice the image size is 5MB. If I use ubuntu or other distros as a base image my docker image is significanly larger:

root@packer-vmware-iso:/vagrant# docker pull scratch
Pulling repository scratch
511136ea3c5a: Download complete
Status: Image is up to date for scratch:latest

root@packer-vmware-iso:/vagrant$ docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
scratch             latest              511136ea3c5a        16 months ago       0 B

root@packer-vmware-iso:/vagrant$ docker build -t jake .
Sending build context to Docker daemon 53.73 MB
Sending build context to Docker daemon
Step 0 : FROM scratch
 ---> 511136ea3c5a
Step 1 : MAINTAINER Jake Dahn <>
 ---> Running in 27f068468755
 ---> a063241634df
Removing intermediate container 27f068468755
Step 2 : ADD bin/worker /worker
 ---> 5053eed5787c
Removing intermediate container 3a36a6c5e19b
Step 3 : ENTRYPOINT /worker
 ---> Running in 1f8014d919b5
 ---> ae0bd28d3e2e
Removing intermediate container 1f8014d919b5
Successfully built ae0bd28d3e2e

root@packer-vmware-iso:/vagrant$ docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
jake                latest              ae0bd28d3e2e        4 seconds ago       5.191 MB
scratch             latest              511136ea3c5a        16 months ago       0 B

root@packer-vmware-iso:/vagrant$ docker run -t -i jake
2014/10/24 05:40:02  [*] Waiting for messages. To exit press CTRL+C # this is a running go program that is a rabbitmq consumer

This is an interesting way to ship and deploy software.

A long time ago when I was working on NASA Nebula I was introduced to the idea of a CloudTop. CloudTop is the simple idea of using a VM hosted in a private or public cloud as your development environment, but also having tools to make bootstrapping your environment easy in ephemeral scenerios. The benefits of using this type of environment as a development environment is pretty clear:

  • Crazy fast 10Gbit internet
  • Regardless of the internet connection you’re currently using, as long as its fast enough to smoothly run an SSH session you will be able to download things to your development environment and very high speeds.
  • Access to 16core+ machines
  • Lots of ram, more ram that will fit in a macbook air

Over time this pattern has become much more common with the price of public cloud services dropping, and better tools for keeping your development environment in sync and working as you expect it.

Recently while trying to get back into the habbit of using a CloudTop I worked through how to use Amazon EC2’s spot instances as a CloudTop. This type of environment is a little quirky, and it requires a few tools to make it actually work well.

Getting Started

I’m going to go over the basics of how I setup a CloudTop environment on Amazon EC2 using a persistent spot instance request.

The Instance Type

For the last month I’ve been using the hi1.4xlarge (16 cores, 60GB ram, and 2x1TB ephemeral SSDs which I stripe together as 1 disk using RAID0). At the time of writing the average bid for this type of machine on us-west-2 is ~$0.14/hr. In an attempt to ensure that the spot instance doesn’t get reaped regularly I bid $0.2/hr for this instance type. This means that in a worst case scenerio I would pay ~$145/month for my development environment.

This may sound like a lot of money, but having pre-provisioned resources with all the tools I need to be effective is worth it.

If you’re interested in something a little more standard but still want the benefits of fast internet I can recommend the c3.xlarge instance type (4cores, 7.5GB ram, 2x40GB ephemeral SSDs). At the time of writing the c3.xlarge type runs at ~$0.03/hr on the spot market, which means you end up paying a little over $20/month for it.

The intricacies of spot instances

Spot instances are a little strange in that they can be terminated at any moment, and all of your data will be wiped. This presents two problems:

  1. If my development gets wiped every time spot prices increase, it’s a pain in the ass to reprovision everything when prices come back down. I address this with a few things. First: my spot requests are “persistent” meaning if the instance gets reaped because of price increase, it will come back when the prices return to normal. So that makes sure my CloudTop is up when it is financially possible. The other thing that I do is create an AMI image using that contains my standard development environment on the root disk. This includes services like docker, and general tools like vim and tmux. I may publish a tutorial on how to use Packer for this, but the summary is that I just run my dotfiles repository to create the base environment I want. Using persistent spot requests means that whenever my development environment is terminated because spot prices increased, it will bounce back once prices are low enough, and all of my tools and services will be presnet.
  2. If I write code and do not push it back upstream to github, and my VM gets reaped I can potentially lose code. I address this by attaching a persistent EBS volume to the spot instance at /dev/xvdj which I mount to /home/ubuntu/persistent. When I’m working on code that I do not want to lose between cloudtop reboots I place it in this persistent directory. In the spot request you can map the device to a specific EBS volume so it will always come back with your data after a new spot instance has spawned.

The next time I get into the weeds with rebuilding an ami for cloudtops I might publish some of the scripts that I used to provision the cloudtop that I use and also tutorials on how to use packer with dotfiles and stuff. This post is meant to get the point across and the next post will be a technical how-to.

This post series is meant to be a summary of what openstack is, and how it can be used as a tool to increase productivity.

The context, or reason, for why I’m writing these posts is that I recently built a small internal OpenStack cloud for use in the Planet Labs office. This is the first job I’ve had that isn’t all about the cloud, and it turns out that most people in the world still do not understand how to leverage the cloud in their day-to-day workflows. So it is my goal to help everyone in the office, as well as anyone who stumbles across this blog series.

What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is an open source implementation of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This basically means that you have a few physical hardware servers, which can virtualize several virtual servers. There are a few main components: Compute, Network, Storage, and an Object Store.

What does ‘compute’ mean?

By compute I basically mean hardware virtualization/virtual machines.

When people hear virtual machine they usually think about things like virtual box, or VMWare Fusion. These are common consumer/desktop virtualization applications which behave similarly to how OpenStack works behind the scenes. When you create a virtual machine using one of these applications you are using a component called the Hypervisor.

A hypervisor is a piece of software that runs on a host (a host is a physical hardware server), and launches + monitors + maintains several guests (a guest (a.k.a instance) is a virtual machine that runs inside of the host).

A few of the most common hypervisors are Xen, KVM, and ESXi. Xen is used by most large public cloud providers such as Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud, HP Cloud, many others. KVM is used more in startups, devshops, and smaller companies as it is free and open source. ESXi is actually what is used when you use a VMWare-based virutalization application like VMWare Fusion.

What does ‘network’ mean?

By compute I mean software defined networking. In OpenStack this component is called Neutron, and it allows you to virtualize complex networking architecture on a simple flat network. This can be useful for when you are trying to replicate what a physical hardware network looks like in a real datacenter, in the cloud.

[insert example here – note: I suck at networking]

What does ‘storage’ mean?

By storage I mean block storage. Block storage is commonly used on instances which need to maintain portable data for long periods of time. For example if I launch an instance, make a bunch of changes, save the data to a block storage device, I should be able to unmount the block storage device from inside the instance, and attach it to any new instance in the future.

The interface, or how you use block storage, is basically identical to what it looks like to mount and write to a USB Flash Drive.

What is an ‘object store’?

An object store is basically an ever-growing bucket of files. Typically when using an object store you can upload millions of keys (aka files) to a single bucket. Each key is replicated across several servers, for redundancy, and you can be assured that your data will be both available, and safe in the event of hardware failure.

In OpenStack this is called ‘Cinder’. You also may have heard of Amazon’s S3 service.

To my knowledge the most frequent way of deploying OpenStack’s Horizon django application is via apache, and modwsgi. I think this is primarily because in the early days of devstack the community decided that apache was (at the time) the most common web server.

But now it’s 2013, and things have changed. NGINX is the new hottness, and gunicorn has been replaced with uWSGI for speed and reliability.

Since I didn’t have any specific Horizon instructions, I would like to share some of the configuration I used recently to deploy Horizon using NGINX and uWSGI.

The operating system I used was Ubuntu 13.04 (raring), with the addition of Ubuntu’s cloud archive apt repositories.

Install Dependencies

# Remove the backslash, my websites markdown parser is broken
sudo echo "deb http:\// precise-updates/grizzly main" | tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-cloud-archive-grizzly

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y build-essential python-dev python-pip nginx-extras memcached node-less openstack-dashboard

sudo update-rc.d -f  apache2 remove # Disable apache

sudo pip install uwsgi


server {
    listen 80;

    location / { try_files $uri @horizon; }
    location @horizon {
        include uwsgi_params;
        uwsgi_pass unix:/tmp/horizon.sock;
    location /static {
      alias /usr/share/openstack-dashboard/static/;


master = true
processes = 10
threads = 2
chmod-socket = 666

socket = /tmp/horizon.sock
pidfile = /tmp/
log-syslog = '[horizon]'

chdir = /usr/share/openstack-dashboard/
env = DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE=openstack_dashboard.settings
module = django.core.handlers.wsgi:WSGIHandler()


description "OpenStack Horizon App"

start on runlevel [2345]
stop on runlevel [!2345]


exec uwsgi --ini /etc/uwsgi/horizon.ini

Then you can control horizon via upstart:

sudo service horizon start
sudo service horizon stop
sudo service horizon restart

A long time ago I created a cointosser application that would do something like 10,000 coin flips via which was sort of slow. I thought it might be cool to instead transmit the data as an image which can be read by pixels – a 100×100 image is 10,000 trials and the file is pretty small/easy to parse. I wrote a simple prototype of this in Go, and plan on running it on a raspberry pi using its hardware random number generator

package main

import (

func main() {
  img := image.NewRGBA(image.Rect(0, 0, 100, 100))
  random_seed := rand.New(rand.NewSource(time.Now().UnixNano()))

  // For each pixel in the `img` randomly set pixel to black or white
  for x := 0; x < img.Bounds().Max.X; x++ {
    for y := 0; y < img.Bounds().Max.Y; y++ {
      if int(random_seed.Intn(2)) == int(0) {
        img.Set(x, y, color.Black)
      } else {
        img.Set(x, y, color.White)

  // save image out to png file
  export_img, _ := os.Create("random.png")
  defer export_img.Close()
  png.Encode(export_img, img)


When developing tools that depend on relatively useful IaaS APIs it becomes blatantly obvious which providers fail to provide the necessary APIs to perform the fundamental tasks required to build cloud tools and applications. It also becomes very frustrating when a provider claims to be something it clearly is not.

Rackspace does not support public key authentication out of the box, which is something so fundamental to the way cloud developers work, that it is difficult to consider Rackspace a serious cloud provider.

If you say you’re running OpenStack, you should really be running OpenStack with full API support…


p.s. I’m working on cloud agnosticism for CloudEnvy, and my biggest frustration thus far has been Rackspace.

For the last few years I’ve been working on OpenStack, and one of the aspirations many of us in the community have had from the beginning was to actually be able to use OpenStack for our own personal projects. A while ago I started working on a project called CloudEnvy which has potential to change the development patterns of web developers everywhere.

What is CloudEnvy?

CloudEnvy is a tool which allows you to configure and distribute reproducible development environments in the cloud. Basically you create an Envyfile.yml in the root of your project’s git repo, which defines things like environment name (translates to instance hostname), server image to use (for example ubuntu or centos), what type of instance to launch (m1.tiny, etc), and any provision scripts required to build out the environment. (right now provision scripts are primarily bash, but realistically they could be ruby, python, perl, or whatever…)

Now I know you’re thinking “Wait, isn’t that the same thing as Vagrant?” The answer to that question is YES! Vagrant is amazing, but there are some pretty significant advantages of using CloudEnvy over Vagrant.

Advantages of cloud development environments

  • Datacenter internet (download at 10,000kb/s instead of 100kb/s)
  • Cloud Mentality (If somethings broken, just kill it and spawn a new environment. It only takes 20 seconds.)
  • Local machine performance (I own a macbook air with 4gb of ram, launching more than a single tiny vm locally is futile)

Using CloudEnvy

To get started you first need to install CloudEnvy. We (aka Brian Waldon) regularly update and maintain packages on PIP, so the following should get you the most recent release:

sudo pip install cloudenvy

Next you need to setup your global configuration file – this is located at ~/.cloudenvy.yml. This is where you define your cloud credentials.

      os_username: username
      os_password: password
      os_tenant_name: tenant_name

      # Optional
      #os_region_name: RegionOne

Now that you can actually connect to a cloud, it’s time to get your project setup. As an example of how things work I will be outlining how to launch Devstack as a cloud environment (Devstack is an OpenStack development environment).
The following would be in the Envyfile.yml of your project’s root directory:

  name: devstack
  image: 'Ubuntu 12.04 cloudimg amd64'
  remote_user: ubuntu
  flavor_name: m1.large
    - icmp, -1, -1,
    - tcp, 22, 22,
    - tcp, 80, 80,
    - tcp, 8770, 8770,
    - tcp, 8774, 8774,
    - tcp, 8775, 8775,
    - tcp, 8776, 8776,
    - tcp, 9292, 9292,

Currently the best way to provision an environment is by running a bash script. Note that in the Envyfile.yml we have defined a single provision script; now lets actually flesh it out. The following bash script can live anywhere, as long as the path is correctly defined in the Envyfile.yml. In our example it’s located in the same directory as the Envyfile.yml at


# Skip ssh new host check.
cat<<EOF | tee ~/.ssh/config
Host *
  StrictHostKeyChecking no
  UserKnownHostsFile /dev/null
  User ubuntu

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y git python-netaddr

git clone #-b stable/folsom

cd devstack/

cat<<LOCALRC | tee localrc


Once the provision script is written it’s time to actually launch your first cloud environment. For your first launch I recommend using the -v tag to get useful output for debugging. Running the following command will launch an instance using your public key, create a security group for this specific environment, allocate and assign a floating ip, and run the script.

envy -v up

You should see output saying what CloudEnvy is doing, and you should see all of the output from the provision script. When your environment is complete it should return the instance ip address. In case you forget it and need it for something you can always get it again by running:

envy ip

Having multiple environments makes it kind of difficult to remember all of the ips for all of your environments, so we have a command which will ssh into your current project’s environment:

envy ssh

That’s really all you need to know to get started.

Where is envy going from here?

CloudEnvy is very useful in several different use cases, and I’ve been very happy to see it being used regularly by a whole slew of people from different backgrounds.

Going forward there are a few things on my priority list

  1. Cloud Agnosticism Right now CloudEnvy only works with OpenStack, but honestly that’s not enough. CloudEnvy needs to work with Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud, HP Cloud, and all other providers with a sane API.
  2. Multi-node Environments Not sure if this is ever going to make it into CloudEnvy, but it would really be nice if there was a recommended, or at least documented path for deploying multi-node development environments.
  3. Building a community Tools mean nothing if there isnt a community around them that documents what can be done, and outlines best practices. I would love to see envyfiles for projects and platforms I have never heard of, currently there are only a few examples of this located here:

If you have any questions, or would like to contribute feel free to hit me up on twitter @jakedahn