Fun with LEDs – FadeCandy + Raspberry Pi + Python (Demo 1)

It’s been so long since I’ve last blogged about a zany project that I couldn’t resit writing this up when a co-worker brought up a new project to me.  The project itself is still TBD but the first step is seeing if part of what we wanted to do was possible on the quasi-cheap…  Enter, FadeCandy!




FadeCandy is a tiny USB device for driving controllable WS2811/WS2812 LEDs.  Perfect for me because I have a ton of those from my past projects.

Here’s a bit on it from Adafruit:

A new collaboration between Adafruit & Micah from Scanlime, we are excited to introduce Fadecandy, a NeoPixel driver with built in dithering, that can be controlled over USB. Fadecandy is not just hardware! It is a kit of both hardware and software parts that make LED art projects easier to build and better-looking so sculptors and makers and multimedia artists can concentrate on beautiful things instead of reinventing the wheel. It’s an easy way to get started and an advanced tool for professionals.

Link to the main Fadecandy github page:

With a bit of googling I found a lot of people building fairly complex projects with FadeCandy and Raspberry Pi.  So I knew something as simple as what I wanted to do was going to totally be possible.


The Smarts

I’ve been busy building APIs these days at work, so I knew my way around Python & Flask and other related things to build the framework for what I wanted quickly.   Using some example code from the above linked to projects I was quickly able to come up with a working prototype!


REST API to control some Blinky Things

Without giving too much away on the end goal of the project, in a nutshell I wanted a very simple way to address individual (or groups) of LEDs over an API.  I am not doing animation or visualizations so speed is not important, but persistence and stability IS important.  Meaning, the system needs to remember what settings were applied after it has been interrupted (reboot, crash, shock myself, etc).

I think the first go at it is pretty neat so far.


I couldn’t get the brightness and whitebalance right in the video yet, so bear with it.  All the colors are washed out pretty bad.  I assure you the reds are red, blues are blue, and so on…


Raspberry Pi 3 (any model will probably work)


1 or more neopixel ring (or any other WS2812. Unsure why but my WS2811 Xmas lights aren’t working well )  Big ones in the video are these

Power Supply – I’m using a 300w 5v supply that I had on hand for my xmas lights, but anything powerful enough according to the neopixel specs will work until you scale up.


Check out my code here:

Making sense of Spectre and Meltdown in a vSphere and Dell environment

If you work in IT you no doubt are aware of the problems Intel has been having.  If not….here’s a link for you.  Enjoy.

In the days after the public announcement vendors released the microcode updates that Intel delivered to them, as well as, a few updates in the months prior that they slipped in without any fanfare.

Specifically, VMware had a fix in December for Spectre on VMSA-2018-0002.2

6.5: ESXi-6.5.0-20171201001s-standard – Build 7273056
6.0: ESXi-6.0.0-20171101001s-standard – Build 6856897

On January 9 after the announcement VMware posted VMSA-2018-0004.2 also for Spectre.

vCenter 6.5 U1e – Build 7515524
vCenter 6.0 U3d – Build 7462485


6.5: ESXi-6.5.0-20180104001-standard – Build 7526125
6.0: ESXi-6.0.0-20180104001-standard – Build 7504637

HOWEVER, Either on January 10th or January 12th (can’t tell from the history), they updated the KB article and pulled the ESXi patches from the depot when Intel advised they were seeing unplanned reboots from hosts with the applied microcode.

At the current time – my best recommendation is to patch ESXi up to the following: (this site is REALLY handy)

6.5: 2017-12-19 ESXi-6.5.0-20171204001-standard – Build 7388607
6.0: 2017-11-09 ESXi-6.0.0-20171104001-standard – Build 6921384

If you applied those January patches for ESXi, and have a build number of 6.5 7526125 or 6.0 7504637, VMware has a process for applying a CPU mask to help avoid the problem, however it has to be done per VM and requires a reboot of each.  My personal feeling is if you aren’t seeing a problem, wait for further updates.  Your results may vary of course.


On the Dell side, they did too make a bios update available and has since pulled it.  I only pay attention to R430’s – they released BIOS 2.7.0 (link is now dead).

As of today (Jan 22) I noticed that bios has been removed and the newest listed is 2.6.0 released November 28.  Dell’s main support page has not been updated with a recommendation as of yet.  We’ll see what develops here.   My recommendation is hold off on deploying the new bios, and be cautious of any hosts that already have it.  Dell Support says options for rolling back are coming.



Jan 23 – Dated yesterday (22nd) Dell is now recommending rolling back BIOS if you have applied it.  This worked fine for me on a R430 from 2.7.0 to 2.6.0.

Jan 24Duncan has some info on working around the pulled patches with Update Manager, because otherwise you’ll get an error.

Feb 26Dell has released new BIOS 2.7.1 to address CVE-2017-5715

March 20 – VMware has released the microcode updates in what they are calling Update 1 G, see details here ESXi 6.5 Build 7967591 and vCenter 8024368


Link roundup:

VMware’s main KB

Dell’s main KB

Intel’s Response to reboots

ESXi Patch Info

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Winter Sufferfesting in Time Lapse


Winter Sufferfesting in Time Lapse

I’ve always wondered what it looks like in time lapse when slaying yourself on a trainer.

To Get To The Other Side
The Way Out

Canon 6d
Canon 16-35mm


Donors by Letter Box



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Things learned managing production WordPress: How to easily enable HTTPS

This is the start of a series that will chronicle everything I’ve learned along the way keeping the wife’s photography website ( running smoothly.  I’ll cover topics including performance improvements, dealing with spam & robots, content distribution networks (CDN) and using website tools to track progress.  I intend to keep the technical mumbojumbo to a minimum and make the reading level less technical than my typical blog posts for easier consumption.


In 2014 Google announced they will start boosting page rankings for https enabled sites.  While SEO is of course important, it’s also just good practice to use SSL.

The current Wikipedia entry for HTTPS includes:

HTTP Secure (HTTPS) is an adaptation of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for secure communication over a computer network, and is widely used on the Internet. In HTTPS, the communication protocol is encrypted by Transport Layer Security (TLS), or formerly, its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). The protocol is therefore also often referred to as HTTP over TLS, or HTTP over SSL.

Put simply, when you enable HTTPS you put a private key and public key in the web server configuration that encrypts traffic between the web server and your web browser.  OK… put even more simply…  It makes your web traffic hard(er) for bad people to read.

Certificates are issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).  The whole system is based on trust.  Your web browser contains a list of the CAs in the world.  When you load a HTTPS enabled site, the certificate is compared against the list, and if all checks out, it turns green and you are safe.  If one of these CAs get severely hacked, browsers will remove them from the lists and anything they issued will no longer be trusted.  Usually you have to pay out money to a CA to have a certificate issued for you from a company like GlobalSign, Verisign, or GeoTrust.  In 2016 however, a free service was launched called Let’s Encrypt that now offers them for free.  Yay!!

Let’s Encrypt

Their free service is great, but it does have a limitation of only a 60 day duration in the certificates they issue (typically the commercial ones are measured in years).  They explain their reasoning for that here.  Basically, it is a built in failsafe if they get compromised (stolen) and the short duration encourages automation.  And I have to admit, the automation tool I first used is great!

Getting Started

The easiest way to get started is by using a tool to request the certificate and put it in place for you.  I found the CertBot tool from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).  I’m using Apache on CentOS 6 so I’ll just focus on that.  The install steps for that are here.


Run the commands, and it starts off installing dependencies

Right off, it dives into a few prompts.  First the terms of service, then an EFF email notification.

It goes through your web server config and lists the configured domains. In our live site it listed all we had sites for, surprisingly.

Then it asks if you want the tool to automatically configure apache to force redirects to SSL/443 or not.  Be sure you take a backup of your config before proceeding – by default at /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf.

Yay!  First part is done!

So remember the certificate is only valid for 60 days.  They include a method to automatically renew it, which is actually pretty awesome.  Enterprise system administrators forget all the time to renew certificates.

They have a dry run option (which  means it shows what it would do, but doesn’t actually do it)

(ignore my annoying python warnings/errors using the default config)

Add this to cron so you don’t forget.  They recommend doing it twice a day, but I don’t see any harm in doing it multiple more times.

Yay!  We’re all good!

Ah crap…. what now?

By default, it only picked up the base domain ( that was configured in Apache, and not the full domain that is more human friendly (

They have a command to add a domain to the certificate:

There we go, thats better.

To troubleshoot any problems, you can use this syntax to dump the contents of the certificate in human readable form:


That’s all we got!  For a basic site this will work out of the box.  You may have to tweak things a little if you use a content delivery network, or pull in files from other sites and so on.  We’ll cover some of this in a later post.


Wuups…   I didn’t notice in the OpenSSL output that only the subdomain was in the certificate!  I actually ran the wrong command above with the expand flag.   What that syntax did was create a NEW certificate, not add the subdomain to the existing one.  The syntax should include the cert-name field like so:


Ahh that is better.


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Stickman costume /w LED pixel strips

In some way, it’s more that I’m dressing up as my house for halloween and that it just looks like a stick man… but more on that another time… i digress…

DIY stickman made with LED pixel strips!  Yay!

I had a roll of LED pixel strip left over from Christmas last year and have been looking for a use for it lately.  It’s a rather expensive bit of kit to cut up into pieces and use for something like this but it was left over anyway.  And turns out I mis-judged lengths (and made a few mistakes) and had to order another roll.  But crap, I couldn’t just buy the same expensive one so I got a cheaper one…but double crap… it turned out to have RGB in a different order (at full green or full blue the light up as opposites.  luckily red was the same) and they’re half as populated (30 LEDs per meter, instead of 60) so…I just had to put my perfectionism on hold…it’s just a costume!

Anyway, you can use just about any type of pixels strips to make this work I’ll just note here what I used and what I found handy.  Your mileage will definitely vary.


Arduino – I used a uno but any will work. (sparkfun)

(1) Pixel LED RGB Strip 60 LEDs/m 60 Pixels/m Waterproof Tube (16ft-6in/5 meter Roll) – 12v / INK1003 (WS2811 clone) (holidaycoro)
(2) Pixel RGB LED Strip 30 LEDs/m 10 Pixels/m Waterproof Tube (16ft-6in/5 meter Roll) – 12v / 2811 / BLACK PCB (holidaycoro)

(1) Some sort of small button (sparkfun)
(2) Fun “gameshow-like” button found on Ebay (ebay)

(1) USB for Arduino (Anker)
(2) 12v battery pack for lights (Amazon)

Odds n Ends:
Electrolytic Decoupling Capacitors – 1000uF/25V (sparkfun)
Solder Shrink Sleeves Wire Splices / 18 – 22 AWG Wire / Red (holidaycoro)
3pin Connector Male Female Cable Wire for WS2811 WS2812B LED Strip 10pcs (Vozop)
Saftey pins…lots and lots…
~ 9″ hoop thingy from a hobby store

LED Strips
These lights are “smart” leds, meaning every single light is individually addressable in huge variations of red green and blue to produce….I don’t even many colors.  They are quite fun.   For this I’m not doing any fancy animations, just solid colors.  You could do this REALLY cheap when using just dumb single color LEDs, but what fun would that be…..!

The battery pack I used was nice because it already had the right size barrel plug on it for quick disconnecting and swapping.  I had wanted to use a rechargeable battery pack similar to the ones Anker makes but with a barrel plug on it that goes up to 12v but it didn’t have enough amperage.

LED strips come in either 6v and 12v. Also, some are 3 pin and 4 pin. Be sure you plan ahead all your parts.  Also, It’s best to separate the power for the Arduino from the strips for simplicity.  If you do it this way, be sure to connect the grounds together.

Also, to prevent the initial power surge from causing damage to the lights it’s best to wire in a capacitor, see that in the diagram.

Yeah I’m not a great circuit designer…..

Pretty simple.  You just need a 470k resistor in line of the data from pin 6.  I wanted two different buttons to control the lights, so I wired up the one I could hold in my hand, and if that failed for some reason I could still hit the button on the board.

Using some of the parts I linked to above, I created some diy splitters  to simplify the connections between strands.

I planned out the sections something like this:

The full code is here on github.  It’s really nothing special at all.   All it does is switch between a list of colors when the button is pressed.  I’m using the FastLED library with no animations, just solid colors.  Much could be improved here, but I just went for simplicity in this build.


I first thought it would be easier to use an off the shelf controller but the cheap $10 one I picked, while fun, was not ideal for this type of use.  But bonus, I learned the controller I got does indeed control pixels perfectly so I could use it for something else someday.


Would I would do different
If I was to do this again, I would use the cheap strips on black background for the whole thing for sure.  I got that second strip on sale for only $15!


Sources / Inspiration


RGB Stickman


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HOWTO: Change Storage Policies for VSAN across entire clusters /w PowerCLI

I had a need recently to switch the applied storage policy across a ton of VMs, but I didn’t want to change the default policy that comes out of the box.   A tough proposition as I found no easy way to do it.  It took quite a bit of googling and trial and error but I came up with this two liner to get it done, so here you go world – go forth and policy change if you need such a thing.

The first line applies it to the VM object, then the next applies it to all the disks.  Easy peasy.


Technology found our new best friend.

Last night I built a robot that brought us to our new best friend. Meet Cash.


Before I explain this strange statement, first let’s back up.

Two weeks ago we found our beloved Maddie was stricken with a tumor on her spleen that ruptured.  I won’t dive into the heartbreaking details, but you can read about it here, here and here.


To summarize: heartbroken.   That damn wonderful dog lived a great life and will never be replaced.  But we have found we’re a two dog family.  Enter the idea of visiting shelters….which is always fun..!


After a few misses, we found just how competitive adopting dogs is in Boulder.  Yes, competitive.

Forget cycling, running, and climbing – the most competitive sport in Boulder is trying to adopt a dog from the pound link

Dogs fly out of the Boulder Humane Society.  There was one Jen was interested in that was adopted within hours of her becoming available.  We heard of one from employees that was going HOME within 45 minutes of stepping into the adoptables area.   Seriously.

The employees say to just keep an eye on the website.  So that’s what we did for a bit.  We noticed it was updated frequently throughout the day.  But there was no way to be notified of new dogs.  Enter my light bulb moment.

I saw there was no RSS feed, and (of course) no API.  So I took a glance at the HTML source and saw it would be super easy to screen scrape.  Muahhaha…… this will be easy peasy!    With just a little bit of hacking last night I had a working system that scraped their webpage every 15 minutes, stored it in a local database, and sent us an email when a dog became available!  Ha! Leg up, take that one, Boulder animal people.  Dog adoption performance enhancing drugs.

In the morning I surmized that wasn’t nearly geeky enough.  I added functionality to email us when a dog appeared to be adopted (wasn’t listed any more).  And since email is SO year 2000s, I spun up a new twitter account and had it tweet and direct message us when a dog showed up and went home.  I dub thee: Dog(S)talker.  Get it?  Dog Stalker.  Dogs Talker.  I kill me…

Low and behold…while I was out with the kid on his bike and Jen working on an extension to the chicken coop, DING. DM from the new robot:


Due to an unfortunate typo in the code it is missing the details of the dog but still….. the fucking thing worked… A quick click on the link showed it was a 1 year old, Australian Kelpie Mix, and about 45 pounds.  Check check and check all the boxes!  I yelled across the street: “JEN!”  to which I immediately heard the reply, “I’M GETTING READY TO GO [to the shelter]!”

15 minutes later I received this:


So an absolute max of 30 minutes from the time she was posted to the website to one of us showing up to check her out.

Long story short, he’s perfect for us.  I’ll post the code to github soon.   Perhaps if this is useful to anyone else I can add others to the notifications.



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How to send vCenter alarms to Slack

I’m spending some of my time in the new gig with my old sysadmin ops hat on.  We needed a quick easy way to keep an eye on alerts from a vSphere environment so….what else would be more fun than to funnel them to Slack?!  Easy peasy, even on the vCenter Appliance.  Let’s see how…

First you need to configure the integration on Slack.   In the channel you wish to see the alerts in, click the “Add a service integration” link.


Now there is not any special integration with vSphere, we are going to be using a simple REST api to push the content.  Scroll down to “Incoming WebHooks”


Now you need to approve the integration verifying the chat room and click the button:


The outcome of this will be a long URL you will need for the script.

Now we need to get your script ready. Now remember this is on vCenter (windows OR appliance), not ESXi.  Much credit to this guy that created a simple script for Zabbix, as this is a hacked up version of it.   The key here is using the environment $VMWARE_ALARM_EVENTDESCRIPTION which I use because it’s short and simple.   If you want other types of data check out the documentation here.

Now you just simply need to hook this script up to the alarm in vSphere:


Sweet.  Cool.  Let there be (kind of) chatops.

But, I hear you asking…   What if you want to apply this to all your alarms??   Also…. easy peasy.   I just whipped together some powercli and bam.

That line will apply this script action to ALL alarms in the vCenter you connect to.   It will apply this by default to the Yellow to Red action level.    For now I wanted this to trip on all four cases so I looked a little deeper and found this will do it:

Now if you are like me and you screw this up along the way, you may have to clear out the actions across the board.  This line will do that for you:



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VMware Annoucements @ DockerCon 2015

Two announcements are being made by VMware at DockerCon today that I am pretty stoked about. Here’s a snipped of the details and a link roundup.  I’ll revisit these soon with deeper posts.

VMware AppCatalyst

VMware AppCatalyst is an API and Command Line Interface (CLI)-driven Mac hypervisor that is purpose-built for developers, with the goal of bringing the datacenter environment to the desktop.

“Introducing AppCatalyst – the desktop hypervisor for developers” – VMware Cloud Native Blog link

VMware Communities & download link

Update June 23, 2015 – Using Pivotal Lattice with AppCatalyst by @jrrickard link

Update June 23, 2015 – Vagrant provider for AppCatalyst link

Project Bonneville extension of VMware vSphere that enables seamless support for Docker containers


“Introducing Project Bonneville” – VMware Cloud Native Blog link

Overview video from VMware’s Brit Mad Scientist Ben Corrie here.

Update June 23, 2015 – Demo video of Bonneville link

Update June 23, 2015 – Bonneville running MS-DOS to play Lemmings link

Other Links

“Extending the Data Center with VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville” – VMware Tribal Knowledge blog post

“VMware previews Project Bonneville, a Docker runtime that works with vSphere” – Venture Beat post (with some weird upside down image that is giving me a headache)

“A Different VMware: An API-Driven Hypervisor and a Docker Oriented vSphere” – The New Stack post

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware targets new DevOps tools at Docker” – Silicon Angle link

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware Doubles Down on Docker Integration with Project Bonneville” – Server Watch link

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville: ‘Datacenter On the Desktop'” – Virtualization Review link

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware brings AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville technology previews” – InfoTech Lead link

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware Brings More Tools To Docker Development” – Information Week link

Update June 23, 2015 – “VMware builds a magic mirror for containers and a desktop cloud” – The Register link

Update June 24, 2015 –“VMware Blunts Container Attack With Bonneville VM” – The Platform link

Update June 24, 2015 – “VMware containers go soup-to-nuts for cloud apps” – TechTarget link

Update June 24, 2015 – “VMware Embeds Docker Container Capabilities in Hypervisor” – Datacenter Knowledge link


A change…or pivot if you will…..

Pivotal_Logo_200I have been at VMware for 7 years (this week on the dot actually!).  That is a half a lifetime in IT Dog Years.  In that time I have done many different things, and been to many different places.  I saw (and at times helped (or tried to help) ) virtualization mature from a fringe lab thing that would never run production workloads efficiently and easily, to an established vendor that most people are using in some way.  Quite a ride!

Just after the July 4th holiday I will be (metaphorically, though not geographically) be walking a few blocks up the hill in Palo Alto from the VMware campus to a sister EMC Federation company, Pivotal.  I’ll be leaving the current Pre-Sales gig and getting my hands dirty directly in technology as a main focus.  I’m excited!

micro-services1-297x250I plan to continue the blogging weird and silly projects on here, though it will stray from a VMware focus to more broad devopsy topics in general.   Hence the slight change in name (mostly as a joke that I was told at GlueCon recently) – Josh as a (Micro) Service!  Kind of catchy don’t you think?

I’ll spare you all the pontificating on merits of focusing on one thick technology stack made up of all kinds of mashed together bits being a monolithic focus, and now for the future breaking it down into singular focus areas and doing each of them well……I don’t know… This joke might not work entirely, but I get a good laugh out of it anyway.


“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Helen Keller

“Live every week like it’s Shark Week.” – Tracy Jordan

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy.” – Steve Jobs

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