Working During a Pandemic

We’re in very strange times, that’s for sure. The entirety of humankind is trying to social engineer a defense against a microscopic threat, yet here I am wanting to talk about working and how well it’s going in spite of the pandemic.

When I was first inspired to write this brief post, I decided against it because it felt too much like bragging. After all, not being able to work is clearly on the minds of MILLIONS of people right now. But really, this isn’t about me; it is a testament to how working on a phenomenal team makes it possible to be busy and happy with my job no matter what the rest of the world is up to.

I’m glad to work with friends, to have tons of work to do, and to see my projects succeeding. As a person that already works from home, this whole situation hasn’t been much of a change for me, but it has been fantastic to see how well the rest of the team has been doing with it. It really matters how companies handle situations like these; we all gain some solid insight into what a company values and how much it can adapt. My group has certainly adapted and after a week or so, I think we’re back in the groove. We’re not slowing down — we’re picking up! I’m grateful that work is the last of my worries (which is precisely how it should be during a pandemic).

Some tips for companies:

  • Let people work from home if they can!
  • Make sure your employees aren’t worried about taking sick time or personal time to figure out family situations.
  • Lead by example: if CEOs or leadership video conferences from a home desk just like everyone else, people are less nervous.
  • Be transparent.
  • Be understanding.

Tips for individuals:

  • Develop a healthy morning routine.
  • Take breaks and go for a walk outside.
  • Establish rules for disruptions during work (when my door is closed, I’m in a meeting).
  • Communicate often in the chat.
  • Leave room between meetings for personal time like getting water, checking in on kids, grabbing a snack, etc.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Distributing CLI Tools via Docker

Throughout my career, I’ve seen a couple recurring patterns related to the tools I write: I write a lot of small CLI tools and I like to share them with my coworkers (and whenever possible, the rest of the world).

This has led to several iterations of solving the problem How do I make this tool easy to run? since I don’t want to burden people with understanding the intricacies of all my tools’ dependencies. These tend to be Ruby, some number of gems, and possibly some other common unix utilities. The solutions I’ve come up with have included a lengthy README with detailed instructions, Bundler with Rake tasks to do all the heavy lifting for non-Ruby things, fpm, and even “curl bash piping” (yes, I’m horrible).

Recently I decided to use Docker to solve this problem, since I’m using it so much anyway. Using Docker has some huge benefits for sharing applications of all types: the dependencies list gets whittled down to just Docker, things work on more platforms, testing gets simpler, and it is the new hotness which makes people say “whoa” and that’s fun. That said, the downsides can be frustrating: working with files on your machine gets messy, more typing with the extra Docker-related preamble, things are less straightforward and clear, simple mistakes can lead to lots of images and containers to clean up, and the executable gets significantly larger (since the Docker image is a whole, albeit lightweight, OS userland to run the app). After weighing these pros and cons, I’ve found that telling a coworker to docker pull registry.url/my/app and run it with --help is so much more convenient than the alternatives.

Continue reading Distributing CLI Tools via Docker

Check for locked out Active Directory user via Ruby

At work, I’ve been working on a lot of automation lately and I ran into a seemingly simple problem that ended up being a bit more complicated than I had first imagined. I have been collaborating on a project that we’re using for auditing Active Directory users and groups and tracking changes to those groups via some simple automation. While that project is interesting in its own right, my boss and I agreed that tackling another helpful automation problem would help our entire IT team: determining if user accounts are locked. I’ve been pushing #ChatOps hard at work through Lita, so adding a plugin for our bot to work with Active Directory seemed only logical.

Context out of the way, making Ruby work with LDAP is a solved problem, many times over. Thankfully, Active Directory exposes most everything you’d want via LDAP, so with a few helper methods, building a few objects tailored to this task was easy work. We quickly discovered that each Active Directory user has a handy attribute called lockoutTime, and even some helpful hints via the interwebs that we just need to check if that value is 0 (meaning the user isn’t locked out) or any other value (indicating, naturally, that they are locked out). Well, this would be a pretty crappy blog post if that was the end, but it wasn’t.
Continue reading Check for locked out Active Directory user via Ruby

Checking In

I started a new job last week in San Diego! I’ve been really busy coordinating the move, learning what’s necessary to do my job, and struggling to keep up with my crazy life. I certainly haven’t forgotten about my blog, and I’m working on a few (hopefully interesting) posts little by little. I’ll be updating LinkedIn with my new job’s details soon, so check there for more details.