Tag Archives: Armenia

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!

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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 SchrΓΆdinger’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…

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Barcamp EVN21, or why we don't build more products

The year was 2021, the month, July, the day was the 10th and I was very happy. It was Barcamp Yerevan again, the new year of the tech industry, the day we all share knowledge, the day people come NOT to listen to talks but to take stickers and t-shirts instead, because it’s free, as in beer as well as in speech.

Not all people are like that, some of them give talks. I’ve been giving talks since Barcamp Yerevan 2016. Since it’s a free unConference, we get a lot of sponsors, from small outsourcing companies to large ISPs and Gambling-as-a-Service providers.

Usually, during an unConference such as this, there are 1) sponsored talks, by the sponsors, 2) selected talks, by individuals, which are selected by a committee and 3) unConference talks, where people just write on a wall “Talk about X at room Y, ZZ PM” and whoever is interested goes there to listen.

Usually, there’s this habit, that if the unconference talk is not good, then people leave the room by smashing the door on the way out. Usually, the selected talks are good, because good job committee, usually the sponsored talks are good, because sponsors don’t want to send an engineer who’d give a bad talk.

But this year was not a usual one. This year was the exact opposite.

The uncoference talks were awesome, people from random companies were talking about how to work remotely, how to work from outside the heart and the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. People were talking about how to start a community. People were talking about audio system and audio engineering.

The selected/sponsored talks were the… I’m not sure I know how to describe this, but, they were what they are supposed to be, sponsored talks by sponsors.

Here is an example. A system engineer fellow talks about infrastructure automation, how tools like Terraform are cool, what is an automat… no sorry, he did NOT talk about the benefits of an automated infrastructure nor what problems it solves. I wondered why.

At the end of the talk someone asked “so have you implemented this at YOUR company?” and the fellow answered “Well, not really, some bits here and there”, and I got the answer to my why question.

He did not know, because he was not talking from experience. That’s why there was no storytelling, there was no “sharing” of experience. It was only a talk, which is what the sponsored company was aiming for anyway.

Now for me, a systems engineer, I can see BS lack of experience like that in a minute, but I asked my friends if ALL the talks were the same, the marketing ones, the media ones, the ones about “how to grow your company,” and guess what, all of my expert friends in other fields agreed with me.

We also had panels. I was on one of those panels, I think it was called “Security Panel” which was supposed to be about… Security, as in InfoSec. But instead we talked about the war and the post-war status of the “cyber” security field in the country.

Last but not least, the guests, they were awesome, all of them, they shared a LOT of knowledge with the audience, which I hope will have an impact long-term.

Alas, that’s the pain of running a free, corporate-sponsored (un)conferences. You give voice to people who have the money, which not necessarily have the knowledge nor the experience. And this is why we don’t have more product companies in Armenia. We are not producers, we don’t have the experience. We are consumers, we are not part of open-source communities, and if a fellow is then everyone will point out as if it’s some god-ish action to contribute to software.

Hopefully, next year will be better.

P.S. Every year I give the last talk on the last day, since people stick around and ask me questions and I don’t like to ignore questions or free the room for the next speaker. All my previous talks are on my personal page on the new Barcamp Yerevan website. This year I was at 10:30AM… Most of the organizers who knew me personally were afraid that I’d oversleep. Luckily, such disaster was averted thanks to Syuneci.

That’s all folks.

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Migrating home-servers

As I have mentioned before, I want to blog more, so here it goes.

I’ve been struggling financially lately, with COVID and then the war I’ve thrown away almost all of my savings. One of the decisions that I had to make was moving back to my old place. No one lives here anymore, my parents got their own house, which means I can live with freedom alone and rent-free.

That meant I need to move home servers again. Yes, I’ve always been a home server fan. This blog runs on my home server as well.

While many people argue that running a home server is a complex process compared to the cloud, since you need to pay for electricity and manage hardware, I, however, feel that’s a myth.

My current uptime is

ssh pingvinashen uptime
1:59PM up 48 days, 42 mins, 2 users, load averages: 0.15, 0.18, 0.21

And I only needed to reboot because I had to upgrade since I’m a fan of upgrading whenever there’s a patch to some critical software πŸ™‚

One of the advantages of running a home server in Armenia is the fact that electricity is cheap, so are static IP addresses. I pay 2USD/mo for each IP address and I have many of them.

Usually, I have one static IP per service (Jabber, ZNC, etc.) and one static IP for all web-oriented services such as blogs, websites, etc.

However, norayr also runs a home-server for the community, he runs the Armenian instance of Diaspora*, Mastodon, and SocialHome.

Due to technical limitations at his side of the city, he’s been keeping his home server at my place.

Vartanian LLC, Home-Server as a Service πŸ˜›

Anyways, I had to bring his home server to my new/old place as well, which meant that he needs a static IP for his services.

I did not want to call the ISP for a new IP address since the last one I’ve been using was for an Armenian instance of Lobste.rs that I deployed for our community. It’s not very active, but you can’t force people to be active in communities and Armenia does not have the concept of “tech communities” like others do in the west.

That meant that I have to remove an IP from a Jail so norayr can use it.

So I had to migrate some things. I had to use my proxy server IP address and reverse_proxy the traffic to the lobsters’ Jail.

Sounds easy, until I remembered that I run Apache on my host.

I’m not very fluent in Apache, I keep doing mistakes, so I wanted to migrate all of my vhosts to Nginx.

You’d think that it would be easy, and yes it was πŸ™‚

So now, norayr runs his home server and I have migrated the webserver to Nginx in an hour.

For some reason, it feels faster, but I’m still not sure why. I probably had to optimize Apache back in the day, but Nginx’s default configs do seem better.

Now, since many IP addresses have been changed, I have to struggle with SMTP issues. No, SMTP works fine, but Google, just like it keeps breaking the web, it keeps breaking email as well, routing all-good emails to people’s spam folder, eh.

That’s all folks.

* not a footnote but part of the project name.

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