Category Archives: Life

Antranig Vartanian

July 20, 2022

The apartment building in front of our house feels like the United Nations. There’s so many flags.

The obvious one is, of course, the flag of Armenia. Then there’s the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh. The new wave of migrants means that there’s also an Ukrainian flag. I’ve seen some other flags too, but not sure which country was it.

Our balcony is small, if it was bigger I’d join them too. Also, we’re on the last floor where everyone would be able to see the flag.

Wave your flags, folks!

Citing Saturday: John le Carré

If you haven’t watched it, I totally recommend you check out The Night Manager, either the novel or the TV series.

As I said before, I’ll be doing Citing Saturday, which I’m doing on Sunday, but technically Monday, because I messed up my sleeping schedule.

And here’s a quote:

Promise to build a chap a house, he won’t believe you. Threaten to burn his place down, he’ll do what you tell him. Fact of life.

– John le Carré, The Night Manager

That’s all folks.

Techlife Crisis

This is another migration story, like the one that I wrote back in 2020. Unlike the other story, the motivation of this migration is totally different. It’s emotional instead of technical.

Last year a friend of mine got a new job that I referred her to. She passed the interviews and I helped her to get on-boarded as the employer was a friend of mine and I was pretty familiar with their product. The job was remote and she didn’t have a good laptop. Since I have many laptops I ended up giving her my ThinkPad T480s where she ran Ubuntu. As you can tell the employer was a VERY close friend of mine 🙂

All of this meant that I moved back to my MacBook Pro running macOS. I used to like macOS, for me it was always a rock-solid UNIX system with a proper graphical interface.

Unfortunatly these years the UNIX part is not solid anymore and the graphical interface is more iOS-y eye candy than a proper desktop interface.

But I was okay with that, since I spent most of my time in a terminal running vim, ssh, etc. I’d run typical work apps like Mail.app with GPGSuite and a Slack browser client.

But then something snapped in me. I think it was after the car accident. I spent two weeks at home, not able to work. So I started coding on my open-source projects again, doing some patches in FreeBSD, improving code on software that I like and so on.

I realized that I’ve been an Open Source advocate for years, and yet I was in the Apple ecosystem. Not that I don’t like the Apple ecosystem, don’t get me wrong, but as someone who’s been telling the government to use open source, helping them migrate, giving lectures to students about the open source movement and its history, I felt… bad.

I had this MacBook Pro laptop and this iPhone that both control me more than I can control it.

I contacted my friend again, asking if we can swap the laptops and she told me yes. She actually ended up working at our company and now she has a fancy new MacBook Pro while I came back to my lovely ThinkPad T480s running FreeBSD like I wanted in the first place.

As I mentioned, this time it hit me hard, so I decided to escape non-OSS things completely and now I’m running a Pixel 2 with Lineage OS.

There’s a whole story on how I got that Pixel 2 at this day and age and that story is coming soon. And the funniest thing is, as soon as I completed my transaction/migration to Open Source, I got the news that Apple Pay will finally work in Armenia.

Open Source changed my life when I was a kid in Syria, I learned more about computers because of Open Source and while I got distracted with the cute and nice macOS for a while, it’s time to come back home.

Here’s a screenshot

That’s all folks!

Wrong Indicators

Bryan Cantrill has this amazing talk about debugging where he tells the story of Three Mile Island.

After watching that talk all I thought was “well, let’s hope this doesn’t happen in my life”, and by “my life”, I meant my personal or work server, not my AFK life!

55 days ago my girlfriend and I moved to a new apartment downtown the capital. I like everything about this house, specially that many things are electric, including the stove.

Like a sane person, when I see a stove with multiple levels (1, 2, 3) I assume that the lowest number is the lowest and highest number is the highest.

Now you’d think and say “Antranig, didn’t you notice that your cooking was talking 2 hours, so there must be something wrong?”

Oh no, my friend, very much no. As you can see we have two stove tops, a small one and a big one. Now, the small one is working very fine. At the highest level it heats more than at lowest level.

But the big one, the big stove top, not so much.

We thought that there’s a problem with that top and used it only during slow emergencies.

One day I come home from work and Lilith is laughing. I asked “what happened?” and she replied “you’re not gonna believe this!”

Well she was right, it’s been couple of days now and I still can’t believe this. I mean if both of the stove tops were in reverse order, I would understand that someone was very Unix-y and they wanted to design it similar to nice.

But when each of those knobs are the exact opposite of each other, it makes you think, “why me?”

Why me indeed.

That’s all folks!

2021 Retrospective

Lately Rubenerd blogged about Reading people’s blog archives and I remembered that I used to do that when I had nothing better to do. One of my favorites was Norayr’s yearly retrospective. Let’s try doing the same here.

I’m happy that I’m not doing this last year, as 2020 was the year of pain, loss and war.

2021, on the other hand, was the year of happiness, gain and love.

Let’s start 🙂

Personal life

  • I finally had a proper vacation
  • I moved with my girlfriend, Coffee, to a new apartment!
    • It has an amazing view of our lovely city, Yerevan 🙂
  • Had a car accident around October
    • No major incident, fully recovered
  • My ideological crisis made me rethink my technological choices

Technology

  • I moved to open-source Android, LineageOS, running on my Google Pixel 2 phone.
    • You’d think that now I’ve completely ditched Apple, but that’s not true.
    • A friend of mine needed a laptop, so I moved back to my MacBook Pro and gave her my ThinkPad T480s
  • I learned JavaScript and started writing VueJS at work
  • Wrote a new FreeBSD Jail orchestration software named Jailer. I planned on open-sourcing it in the Summer, but with the lack of hands I hope it will be released Spring of 2022
    • I moved all my servers to Jailer
  • I ditched music streaming services and I’m more than happy with this choice
  • I moved all my networks to WireGuard and I’m happy with that choice too!

Blogging

  • I wrote 65 entries, which makes me sad. I hope I will blog a lot more in 2022
    • I wrote a blog post about blogging regularly where I mentioned Jamie Zawinski. Then I emailed that blog post to him. When I was drunk. I also mentioned that I was drunk. Good thing he replied 🙂
  • 3 of my entries were posted on the orange site with many people commenting about them
  • I added a comment section to my website using isso
  • Reading more about blogging led me to learn about Dave Winer
    • Which led me to learn about OPML and oldSchoolBlog, which I still don’t know how to use or even if I should
  • I redid the theme of my website based on Archie theme which was written by Athul
  • I automated my writing process using Shell Scripts

Community

  • I organized the first Systems We Love — Armenia meetup
    • The plan was to make it a monthly thing, but life happened
  • For years I dreamed about an Armenian Open-Source Ecosystem, as of 2021 we have
  • We went to the city of Stepanavan and organized a GradaranCamp (LibraryCamp) at the Stepanavan public library. Unlike me, my friends continue organizing it
  • I started using Twitter Spaces which led me to talk with my idols, including Bryan Cantrill. His talks have shaped my methodology and ideology for years. I don’t have the word to describe how happy I am about this. I kinda still don’t believe it 🙂

Talks

  • I have given 8 talks this years, including and not limited to
    • Portland Linux/Unix Group Online Meeting: 360Cloud based on FreeBSD
    • BarCamp 2021: FreeBSD Cloud
    • BarCamp 2021: Open-Source ecosystems and Armenian tech communities
    • BarCamp 2021: Information Security Panel
    • PYerevan #15 Meetup: Tracing Production
    • ArmSec 2021: Tracing hackers for fun and profit
    • ArmSec 2021: DNSSEC in Armenia

Work

I hope 2022 brings the best to all of us.

That’s all folks

Car accident and pain

So I had a car accident two weeks ago and like any sane person my first action was to tweet about it. It’s good to let people know that you will be offline for couple of weeks.

There were no serious injuries to the bone, but my muscles hurt till now. The main reason why I wanted to go offline so I don’t become asshole do mistakes while under pain.

The downtime was good. I was able to spend some time contributing to some personal and open-source projects that I care about.

At this point I’m back on track, hopefully will blog about some upcoming personal and $WORK news.

That’s all folks…

The long awaited vacation

It’s finally here and I cannot believe it. I’ve been waiting for this for a long-long time.

We started illuria Security on… wait let me check.

$ whois illuriasecurity.com | grep -i creation
   Creation Date: 2018-05-15T16:51:31Z
Creation Date: 2018-05-15T16:51:31.00Z

Ah yes, more than 3 years now. I never had a vacation since we started the company.

Every time I told myself “Okay, you will have relax time during the weekend” I ended up coding, if not for the company software then at least for something related to it. A patch in rc.d here, a shell script there.

But now, I’ve grown (I think), I finally know the value of the self. If I’m not good, then the company is not good, if I’m tired, then the company will be tired.

So, for once, all of the co-founders decided to take a proper vacation. We are all still online, because that’s what the world expects from us these days, but at least I’m not coding in Elixir or writing Shell.

Here are some thing that I wanted to do for a LONG time.

  • Fix my ZNC server and migrate my own channels to Libera.Chat.
  • Clean up my hard drives and setup ZFS backup pools and TimeMachine.
  • There are backups of my home server but I’ve NEVER tried to restore them. Time to open the Schrödinger’s cat’s box and see the results.
  • Fix my email servers that I run for communities. God knows how many TLS certificates are there to update.
  • Think about the redundancy of this weblog, but that’s a story for another day.

9 days of vacation after 3 years doesn’t seem much, but I promised myself that I will NOT do this again. Hopefully I will have a proper 7 day vacation after 5-6 months like a normal human being.

It’s very COVID-y on Earth, but at this part of Earth, Armenia, COVID-19 pretty much does not exists. No one wears masks, very few are vaccinated, night-life is all on and internal tourism is on fire. So we ended up going to Switzerland Dilijan, away from all the noise, always raining, never complaining about traffic and almost every corner has a coffeehouse that serves latte.

Take care of yourself folks, it’s okay to write that code a day later, send that email 12 hours late, but the time you spend not taking care of yourself will be spent 10x more later. It’s like legacy code.

This will also give you time to think about… life.

That’s all folks…

How I got fired from my first tech job

My daily routine is usually the same, wake up, go to work, do a lot of meetings, chat, email, code, sleep and repeat. Which means that I don’t have new things to talk about. However, since I decided to blog regularly, here’s a blast story from the past 🙂

I grew up in Syria and it’s a cultural thing that we work from a very early age. I got my first job when I was 11 years old. During the summer I worked as a stonesetter, my salary was 200 Syrian Liras per week, back in the day that would be 4 US Dollars.

I loved that craft, looking deeply into the pins and understanding where the gems and diamonds would go, how to close the pins properly so it would sit there for years.

However, I also had a love for computers, I got interested when I was introduced to Unix, I wanted to use Aircrack-ng to hack the neighbor’s WiFi Access-Point so I get free internet access. Inet access was not only expensive, but you had to wait 6 to 12 months to get one. I got Slitaz Linux up and running, it included Aircrack-ng in it and cracked the network, I still remember the password, it was 11111222223 with WEP algorithm. Hrach, if you are reading this, I’m sorry that I never told you about it, but thanks to you I got into computers 🙂

When I was 14 I had to deliver gold to a partner workshop, on the way, right at the beginning of Sulaymaniyah Street I noticed a large computer shop. Very beautiful, a lot of computers, laptops, hell, there was a gaming PC with 3 screens (That was the first time I saw a desktop with 3 screens!). After I delivered the gold, on my way back, I entered the shop, I got introduced to the owner. Turns out they were an official representative of companies like Dell, HP, Asus, etc.

I talked with the owner about some of my projects, that I was installing Linux machines in school and that I was trying to make a map with all access points in Aleppo with their passwords.

After 20-30 minutes of chit-chat, he offered me a job. I was supposed to 1) Format computers (as we used to say), that is installing a fresh OS and setting up software 2) Help the other employee to deploy networks at schools 3) Help customers buy new computers when they arrive.

I worked there for 3 months, I was getting paid 250 Syrian Liras per week, that is 5 USD back in the day, plus some bonuses every time I would sell a device or fix networking issues at the schools.

One day customers arrived (a man with his wife), they were having problems with a laptop that they owned, I fixed the issue on the spot and asked nothing in return. They asked if I could come and fix a similar issue on their desktop at home, I told them I would but I cannot right now as the owner is not here. I wanted to give them a business card to call us later but we were out of those, so I gave them my cellphone number.

An hour or so later the owner came back, I told him about what happened and went back to my room to fix an HP laptop that had a melted keyboard and I started blaming AMD for that 🙂

The couple called, I told my boss, he told me “Okay, go to their place and fix it, don’t charge them anything”. So that’s what I did.

I came back to the office an hour later, the owner was sitting in front of his desk and told me to sit in front of him. Then he said, “Are you trying to steal my clients?”.

I got confused, I had no idea what is he talking about, “Sorry, what do you mean? I didn’t understand what are you implying”. He answered, “You gave them your cellphone number, so they start calling you and pay you instead of us. You’re fired”.

I didn’t know what to respond, I didn’t have those intentions, I was just doing my job.

I took my backpack and I left. I was crying the entire time, walking back home, listening to Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds’ OST.

To make things worse, when I arrived at home my mother told me “Why are you so much into computers? It’s not that it even pays well, you know you have to study and graduate Pre-Secondary Education this year”, little did she know, that as of right now, I will not be paid at all while “doing computers”.

Years have passed and I moved to Armenia during the Syrian war. While working as a waiter for a year, I found an “Armenian Linux” and the company responsible for it, Turns out they were a huge software development company. I wrote a patch for the “splash screen”, I gave them the patch, on a USB drive.

The CEO of the company said “What are you doing next Monday?”, “I have to go to university” I replied, as I was an undergrad learning English and Communications. “Well, after the university you’re coming here, you’re hired”.

Oops, flashbacks, what am I supposed to do now?

I looked left and right, there were all these desktops running Linux, the engineers on the top floor were working on robotics, so I said “Deal!”.

I learned that day, that no matter how bad of an experience you get, the next time will probably be different. Unless it’s Windows, that thing always fails.

That’s all folks.