Clint Patterson's Blog

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Clint
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Clint's Blog

2018 Halloween IOT Clown Brought to you by Particle, DNN, and Open Source!
2018 Halloween IOT Clown Brought to you by Particle, DNN, and Open Source!

I need to start out by saying that I’ve been inspired to do all this by some great guys in the Charlotte area and they are Dan Thyer, Mike Linnen, and Jay Ziobrowski… thanks for the motivation guys! I am either copying something creative I’ve seen them do or trying to imitate their passion, talent, and drive for Halloween and/or IOT projects. One day I hope to be as sharp and creative as they are.

Halloween & IOT
In 2016 I made a flame throwing pumpkin (copy-catting one of Dan’s inventions) and let’s just say some of the parents weren’t too keen on fire being near their kids and I also didn’t make any fans on the community’s HOA! Though, we all must start somewhere. In 2017 I went the safer route and made the AirGhost which is very similar to this year’s project.

The IOT Clown
This year I have created an IOT Clown. I did some testing and iterating on various ideas and concepts and there’s just no way to get around it… the thrust of compressed air brings a startling surprise and the best part is that it’s safe. We have tons of young kids in our neighborhood and moving a skeleton bone (which I debated in this early prototype) could likely hit someone, cause a toddler to fall, or trip someone up which could potentially lead to a spill on the concrete sidewalk. I don’t want to injure anyone or have some local parents mad at me, so I reverted to the compressed air, but then added a few more movements and changed the medium from a ghost to a clown.

Here’s a quick video of the end-product prototype just to show you where we’re heading… I’m going to dress it up a little more by Halloween, but you’ll get the gist.

Parts Used
Here are the main components I’m using for this project:

Here’s a video “talk-through” of the mechanical parts and power supplies being used.

Let’s Talk About Particle
Particle's Photon The Particle platform is awesome! Check out this video of the Particle platform to learn more. I am admittedly a little bit behind all of Particle’s new innovations. I still need to learn about their Mesh and Argon solutions. Even though I’m not 100% up to speed I know you can do tons of creative stuff with the particle platform, their multiple IOT devices, and their integrated IDE. Since I’m using the Particle photon, we’ll start with it.

The Particle photon is a small IOT (internet of things) device that makes it easy to bring real world objects online. Particle makes it easy to setup the device and to connect to Wifi via a mobile app. If you want to know more about initially connecting and getting up and running with Particle they have some of the best documentation I’ve seen check out the doc, tutorials, and guides.

For this project all I really want to do is to move 3 servos… one for the head to spin, one for the head to roll, and one to push the handle on the air compressor. To do that we need to use the components I listed above + Particle’s platform + some code. I’ve listed out the components and just introduced the photon… now let’s look at some code.

Let’s Look at Some Code!
Particle’s platform is awesome, but we need some code to make things happen! I could easily copy and paste code here, but that wouldn’t help you understand the “why” and “how” behind some of the concepts. I hope to help you connect some dots here and as such I’ve cut a video walking through how I’m doing some of this stuff. The video shows code and includes videos of the device in action.

To all you senior devs… yes, the code shown in the video could be much better. I have not refactored anything yet, so the code is not nearly as efficient as it could be. And yes, I showed my handy Particle access token in the video… no worries though, by the time you read this I’ve already recycled it and created a new one.

Here are some relevant links:

So, with some disclaimers down and links shared let’s talk through the code some…

If you take the sum of all the info presented here that is how I’m making this happen!

And We Wait on Halloween!
Halloween is just about a week away at this point. If you have any questions or issues filling the gaps in this high-level tutorial, please reach out and ask your question. I plan on trying to video some of the fun at Halloween and posting any interesting reactions here just below this section… so stay tuned!

The Halloween Video
Check out some of the reactions we got from kids and a few adults!


Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer

Microsoft Loves Open SourceAs an open source enthusiast and a .NET developer I’ve been watching the transformation of Microsoft happen and it has been great to watch. You see I’m an avid user of DotNetNuke and if you know anything about DNN’s history you know that DNN was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, open source project in the .NET Ecosystem. From 2003 on DNN has been a pioneer in the .NET open source world.

A lot has happened and several trends have come and gone in the Microsoft world since 2003. As an open source project built on Microsoft technology the notion of being open source wasn’t always a popular conversation topic. Being open source wasn’t “cool” and sometimes negative perceptions about open source solutions were visible.

Boy have times changed!

Microsoft is Serious About Open Source… and It’s Not Just Lip Service
One of my college football coaches always said “Your words don’t mean anything, but your actions mean everything.” Actions are a really good sign of what someone really believes. Microsoft’s strategic shift to embracing and focusing on open source over the past few years has been such a refreshing transition to see, feel, and experience for me and my fellow DNN’ers because of the actions we are seeing.

If we look at the recent and strategic moves Microsoft has made it’s easy to see that Microsoft is indeed serious about open source. If you aren’t convinced that Microsoft is serious about open source or if you are not keeping up, let’s look at some of the actions Microsoft has taken related to open source. And these are just the ones I have observed… I’m sure there is even more evidence out there.

  • Open Sourcing of .NET Core - One of the recent Microsoft technologies in the web world is .NET Core. .NET Core is a cross-platform, open source, re-implementation of the .NET Framework and it offers some great features. Releasing .NET Core as open source was a major sign that Microsoft is serious about open source.
  • .NET Foundation Providing Resources For OSS Projects - The .NET Foundation is not technically owned by Microsoft, but it is led by very well recognized names in the Microsoft ecosystem. The .NET Foundation fosters and facilitates open source by providing resources to projects within the foundation. You can find a full list of the resources on the .NET Foundation website and you can see how we in the DNN Community benefit from these resources in my recent blog “5 Reasons We’re Glad to Be Part of the .NET Foundation”.
  • Buying GitHub - In buying GitHub not only did Microsoft make a strategic purchase, but it reiterated the commitment to open source as GitHub is the world’s most popular place for open source.
  • Strategic Position of .NET Open/Source Booth at Build & MS Ignite - I helped out with the .NET Open Source booth in the Expo area at Microsoft’s Build conference and at the recent MS Ignite conference. With all the amazing new technologies and top notch vendors one may think the open source booth would be somewhere stuck in a back corner. Quite the contrary, the .NET Open Source booth was dead in the middle of the action at both events. At MS Ignite, if you came to the expo there’s a high percentage chance you saw the open source booth. This strategic positioning and messaging from Microsoft to developers and IT Pros was simple - Open Source is important to us.
  • Open Sourcing Patent / Joining ION - In another bold move Microsoft open-sourced it’s patent portfolio. OIN (Open Invention Network) is an open source patent consortium and Microsoft just brought 60,000 patents to it. This move is a big one and protects open source projects from patent lawsuits. Here again the messaging is clear, we are serious about open source.

Why It’s a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
There has never been a better time to be a .NET Developer. Literally everything you need to get started building is online and free to use and even better it’s likely open source. Anybody, anywhere can download code, look at it, enhance it, modify it, and submit it back to the projects if desired. If you can dream it, you can build it and you may build an online team of users and contributors to assist you in the process. Microsoft is literally making it easy to build open source projects via the technologies and resources they are providing. They are removing roadblocks for developers and being 100% transparent.

Consider the following capabilities anybody, anywhere has...

  • Want to collaborate on a project - Create a GitHub account and get going
  • Find a bug - Make a pull request
  • Need help - Connect with the developers working on the project or in the open source community
  • Got a Popular OSS project - Join the .NET Foundation
  • Worried about transparency - Everything is developed in the open

In Conclusion
I referenced one of my college football coaches earlier, but he wasn’t the only one to to impart wisdom during my athletic days. My high school coaches had more one-liners than anyone could remember. One line that stuck with me was “If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” Microsoft is not only doing the big things, but they are also doing the little things that continue to reinforce their seriousness about open source.

We are watching a culture and paradigm shift occur in real-time and it’s awesome. By going “all in” on open source Microsoft is not only winning the hearts of developers, but they are making it easy for developers to get started with their technologies! I think the strategic decision to embrace open source will have a big impact for Microsoft in the long term.


Why Businesses Should Contribute to Open Source Software
Why Businesses Should Contribute to Open Source Software

The huge MS Build banner at Microsoft Build 2018

Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. I was helping at the .NET Open Source booth which promoted the .NET Foundation and all things open source. The conference was very nice, and the energy level was high. I had conversations with a wide variety of people during the conference and it is obvious that Microsoft’s strategy of embracing open source is welcomed by developers.

I Want My Developers to Contribute to OSS… but

During one of my discussions a gentleman told me that his organization uses open source software (OSS) and he wants to allow his developers to contribute to OSS, but he needed to be able to justify it to his corporate leadership. His organization is a large, global organization so he needed solid and clear reasoning for why contributing to OSS is something his company should support.

He asked me if I knew of any blogs or resources that could provide insight into this topic. I thought about it and while I’m sure there is info somewhere, I wasn’t aware of any specific blogs or content about this subject. I am obviously biased about this topic, but let’s consider some reasons why a business should support OSS… especially if their organization is using OSS-based products.

Before we list out reasons we should first define what “support” means. When business people hear the term “support” they generally think about money, cost, or financial implications. Though, in the open source world it’s not necessarily about money as support can come in many different forms. Of course, the obvious need for any OSS project is code contribution, but there are more ways to contribute than one may initially think. As examples outside of the code, organizations could allow their developers to assist in marketing and promotions of sub-projects, conferences, user groups, GitHub repos, project documentation etc. Developers could also volunteer in any area of the OSS project as well as exchange knowledge online via forums, blogs, StackOverflow, and others. Organizations could also open up their offices for user group meetings, donate swag & door prizes, or sponsor the food at meetings. Any step taken to help move the the OSS project forward is a form of support.

MSFT Loves OSS on a TV at Microsoft Build 2018

Why Should Businesses Support Open Source Projects?

Now that we know that support can come in forms outside of financial contributions let’s get back to the subject. If you are faced with the need to justify supporting open source software to your business leadership here are some thoughts and ideas to consider:

  • New Features: If a business need arises within your organization that doesn’t currently exist within the software, having the capability and knowledge of how to make contributions to add those features is a great way to give back to open source projects and communities. In the DNN ecosystem we recently saw this happen with the contribution of PolyDeploy by Cantarus. They needed the software to do something that it wasn’t so they built it out and contributed it back as open source to the DNN Community. As a business you can shape the future roadmaps and feature sets of OSS projects by having your employees involved.

  • Locate Talented Developers: Attending and speaking at conferences and meetups is a great way to connect with developers of all levels. Connecting with talent in these locations is a great way to find potential new hires for your organization. Perhaps one could tell their company’s HR department that supporting OSS is a form of recruiting. After all, do you know who some of the top OSS user group meeting sponsors are… recruiting agencies!

  • Brand Promotion: Being actively involved with open source projects helps promote your organization as one that supports OSS which enhances brand reputation and increases the reach and awareness of your organization among developers.

  • Snowball Effect: Actively maintaining and contributing to OSS projects helps show activity around project(s), creates energy and momentum, encourages others to get involved, and extends the longevity of the solution by helping shape perceptions of interest levels of the project.

  • Take and Give: If your organization is using OSS then you are already standing on the shoulders and contributions of others. Every time I use DNN I am well aware that I am achieving things through the software that I could never have done alone. Along with helping extend the project’s lifetime, giving back to the community who has freely provided functionality that your organization uses is the “feel good” right thing to do. You freely take and use the software, why not give back with the same frequency?

  • Opportunity Cost: Let’s consider the opposite perspective for a moment. What would it ultimately cost your organization if you don’t give back to an OSS project that you are using? That is, if you’re running on OSS software and the project loses momentum, developers abandon the project, and then it stagnates… what would the cost be to your organization for having to switch solutions or maintain it on your own moving forward? These costs come in man hours, sometimes they come in paid license costs, and time spent learning/training your developers on new solutions. Would the “cost” of contributing along the way and continuing to make the solution better be less than the cost of the solution not continuing to exist?

  • Free Cross-Training & Knowledge Exchange: Once your developers get involved in OSS projects and communities they will inevitably meet other devs who are well-trained in the solution. These seasoned devs are great developers to learn from. Your company will likely become better simply by exposing your team to other developers in the OSS projects space. I learn new things every week and month at user groups, in forums, Slack channels, conferences, etc.

  • Increase Efficiency: How long does it take your developers to solve issues within open source software? If your developers are active in OSS projects and communities their networks will be filled with subject matter experts who can assist in resolving issues. This easy-access network of experts essentially allows developers to leverage the knowledge and experience of an ecosystem, which is very powerful. Instead of Googling and searching for answers developers now can tap the minds and experience of people very close to the information they seek. And who doesn’t like efficiency in the business world?

  • Developer Mentors: In my experience it’s easier to find mentors around OSS projects. Generally speaking developers involved with OSS projects are some of the most giving and generous people you will meet… it’s just the nature of the open source environment. When senior developers see motivated and passionate younger developers entering their communities they enjoy connecting to ensure new members are onboarded correctly and aware of all available resources. Would an organization benefit from their employees learning from more senior developers and finding mentors who can help them do their jobs better?

  • Creative Outlets for Developers: Sometimes developers who have been around a while get mentally drained or tired of working on the same projects. These individuals are great examples of how allowing developers to work on OSS projects can serve as a creative outlet and break up the monotony of constantly working within the same “box”. Have a developer who likes to feel challenged and learn new things… let them contribute to an OSS project and you’ll likely keep them around longer.

In Sum

In this blog I’ve summarized my thoughts around why it’s important for organizations to give back, be active in, and support OSS projects and communities. As one considers justifying OSS participation to the business side of an organization much of the conversation will center around educating the business-side on how OSS ecosystems function. Communicating the potential positive benefits will be what’s needed to help bring on a change in perspective or cultural shift within the organization.

In my mind there are only positives to gain from contributing to OSS projects. Your developers will learn more, be empowered, meet new developers of all ages and skillsets, and your organization will be more efficient, and will likely be viewed as a great organization to work for.

If you don’t want to jump in head first then just try this one small thing to get your feet wet - if your developers have “down time” then simply encourage them focus their energies and time to assisting with the OSS project in any area they choose and watch what happens to your company in the months ahead. Be sure to pay attention to job satisfaction levels, quality of incoming new hires, general passion for work, and the perception of your organization among developers in your space.

After all, have you noticed that OSS projects that thrive are the ones with active community support? Who doesn’t want the project they use to not thrive? From my perspective the benefits of contributing to open source software far outweigh the drawbacks of not contributing.


5 Things I Learned at Microsoft’s Build Conference
5 Things I Learned at Microsoft’s Build Conference

Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. It was my first time attending so I was excited and didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t take long to realize that Microsoft puts on a top-notch event. From DJ’s playing music during the waiting line, to the constantly available live-stream piped everywhere throughout the event, to “cuddle-corner” where attendees could pet animals and relax, to the awesome expo, and non-stop new features and functionality being rolled out one could easily be impressed.

It was indeed a great event and I’d like to share a few things I learned from having attended the conference. These items will be more high-level and conceptual things I noticed versus down-in-the-weeds technology specific items.

1. You Better Embrace the Cloud!

Azure signs at Microsoft Build 2018

As attendees listened to live-streamed sessions and keynotes the word cloud and “Azure” was prevalent throughout. I spent a lot of time in the expo hall of the event and I must have walked around it 6 or 7 times looking and booths and talking with Microsoft staff. Each booth has a navy-blue sign with white letters at the top indicating the technology being demonstrated at the booth. It was very eye-opening how many of the booths started with the word “Azure”. Sure, Azure has been out for a while now and that’s nothing new. I’m just communicating that walking around the expo and listening to sessions and keynotes it is crystal clear that Azure is a major component of many Microsoft technologies.

Take Home Point: If you are reading this and are hesitant to embrace Azure, you should re-think your position, or you’ll soon be left in the dust.

2. Microsoft is Investing More in IOT

Azure Sphere at Microsoft Build 2018

At the event Microsoft released “Sphere” which is a solution for creating highly-secure connected microcontrollers (IOT devices). And you guessed it… they connect to Azure! Many of the highly attended sessions and one of the most highly-trafficked booths all centered around Sphere.

As an IOT hobbyist I spent some time at the Sphere booth asking all kinds of questions about the Sphere Development Kits. I think the devices will be high-powered and offer a lot of functionality, but right now the price-point seems high in comparison to competitor solutions and the device that was being demo’d only connects to wi-fi currently. I imagine in the future they will connect to cellular via a SIM as well. One could argue that the increase in cost is the tradeoff for security as Microsoft touted how secure these devices are.

While micro-controller devices were being demo’d it’s important to note that Microsoft is not making the micro-controllers, rather they are working with established vendors in the industry to do so. Microsoft is collaborating in the design of the devices and helping align them with their IOT strategy for the future.

Take Home Point: Microsoft is continuing to invest in IOT, is linking devices to Azure, and is promoting the security of their IOT solution.

3. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Everywhere

ML & AI at Microsoft Build 2018

Another common thread throughout the event were the words “ML” and “AI”. You could hear this being presented in several sessions, keynotes, and there were booths discussing and demoing these topics as well…. and it makes sense. If your overall strategy is the cloud (Azure) and now IOT devices are easily connected to the cloud and sending tons of data to the cloud, then what will you do with all the data? The answer: you will learn from it and use it to make better decisions and become predictive.

An example demo showed a DJI drone flying over the top of a building looking at HVAC pipes analyzing them for inconsistencies or anomalies. Within seconds the drone was able to pick out the pipe that had the issue and show it to the audience in real-time. One can easily see the benefits of equipping the drone with AI capabilities.

But it doesn’t stop there… Microsoft is making it easy for developers to tie into their ML and AI capabilities in Azure. If you’ve got data stored in Azure, chances are leveraging the ML/AI capabilities offered to you by Microsoft could help your organization.

Take Home Point: Don’t write “ML” and “AI” off as just buzzwords. If you are using Azure then you may be surprised at how ML and AI can already help you. Give it a look!

4. Renewed Energy in the Microsoft Space

Embracing OSS has created new energy at Microsoft Build 2018

One thing that also stuck out to me at the conference was the energy and level of enthusiasm of attendees and exhibitors. And I’m not just talking about Microsoft fan-boys. There were a lot of non-Microsoft developers at the event which was interesting and served as proof to me that Microsoft is on the right track strategically speaking.

As of late Microsoft has been heavily promoting open source and being open in general. From the open-sourcing of many of their .NET Technologies, to embracing non-Microsoft technologies (think running Linux in Azure) Microsoft is earning the respect of developers. But this stuff doesn’t just happen by luck. Microsoft has taken a different strategic stance and it is paying off… you could easily “feel” it while at the conference.

Take Home Point: This ain’t your granddaddy’s Microsoft!

5. Build is Awesome!

Attendees watch a demo at Microsoft Build 2018

I’m glad I went to Microsoft Build. I’ve been to several conferences over the years (including South by Southwest) and Build was by far my favorite. Yes, the content was great, but the conference experience extended beyond the content of the sessions and was woven all throughout all touch points of the event.

Everything was well-planned, organized, and first class from what I could tell. The registration process went smoothly, swag was everywhere, food and drinks were easily available, “Flow” of the expo was easy and open, the venue was great, several hotels were close by, the new technologies and content was awesome, and the Microsoftees were friendly. I didn’t see any attendees who had issues connecting to the internet or complaining about the typical things you’d see at conferences. All the details seemed to have been handled.

After all, where else could you hear about the latest and greatest technologies, pet dogs/rabbits/miniature horses, get free massages, meet the leaders of Microsoft, and have bottomless refreshments and snacks all in the same room?

Take Home Point: If you haven’t been to Build, you should go. It’s a great event.


Big & J Hog Attractants Strike Again
Big & J Hog Attractants Strike Again

If you keep up with the blog or the SC Hog Removal page you know we’ve been getting calls from local farmers with hog problems. We’ve been staying after these hogs as it seems they can reproduce nearly as fast as we can get them off a farmer’s property. It’s a full-time job to keep them at bay and we are having fun with it.

Big & J Hog Attractants We have been using the Big & J hog attractants Hogs Hammer It” and “Pigs Dig It” in combination with corn and I can tell you that the hogs do like it! When they come in they stay until all the corn is gone and leave the place looking like a tractor had plowed through it. Here again leading up to this hunt we’d put out the corn and attractants and hoped things would line up.

Big and J Hog Attractants with Corn Streak

Big & J Hog Attractants

Labor Day Weekend I had to hang around for a day or so this Labor Day weekend and so why not see if the hogs were moving I thought. It was also the first day of deer hunting season in my game zone so I went deer hunting before dark, got some food afterwards and then headed out for hogs.

As it was a holiday weekend some of my hunting partners were unable to go, but at the same time some of my friends were back at home for the holiday. I was able to talk Garth Knight into going hunting with me. I let him know the hogs had been acting oddly lately as far as their feeding schedule so I was not sure what would happen.

A Short Hog Hunt! Garth and I set up overlooking a field that was not far from a swamp. We’d been getting hogs on camera at all hours of the night. Sometimes they would be solo and sometimes they’d be about 15 of them so I didn’t know what to expect. We got there and got setup around 9:15 or so. I was telling Garth about all the lessons we’d learned with night vision technologies, guns, and the way the hogs had been acting lately.

Every few minutes I checked the bottom of the field looking for heat signatures. We’d been there about 45 minutes when I was telling Garth about how the scope can live-stream hunts to the phone. I got up to turn the Wi-Fi on and as I looked through the scope I saw some bright spots coming through the woods. I told him they were on the way! So we finished streaming the video to the phone and just watched as the hogs approached.

I wanted to give the hogs a few minutes to ensure there were no more coming because sometimes there would be large groups trailing the hogs. So we watched the hogs eating the corn for a few minutes. Nothing seemed to be coming behind these hogs so I decided it was time to take action. I asked Garth if he wanted to shoot and he said he’d hold off this time. It took me a little bit to pick out which hog was bigger and I flipped into black hot mode once to see if that would help. Finally, I was able to figure out the hog on the left was the bigger hog and I told Garth to get ready.

A few seconds later, thanks to the Anderson Rifles AM-10 308 Hunter + Pulsar Trail XP 50, the bigger hog was on the ground! Not bad for the first day of deer hunting season right ??

Clint Patterson with Hog

WeHuntSC Hog Close-Up

Garth Knight with Hog


Splunk’ing Around With DNN
Splunk’ing Around With DNN

I’ve recently been researching Splunk and have been impressed with its power, flexibility, and ease of use. This blog is not intended to be a step-by-step tutorial, but rather is aimed to show some initial findings, overview one way to integrate Splunk with DNN, and paint the picture of some potential use cases.

Splunk Enterprise

So What is Splunk?
If you don’t already know what Splunk is, Splunk is a software company based in San Francisco that produces software for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine generated big data via a web style interface. Splunk’s software helps organizations with operational intelligence, log management, application management, enterprise security and compliance.

Installing Splunk was simple and after clicking around a little while it was evident that Splunk is an intuitive software. From a UI standpoint, it makes logical sense and the flow is easy to understand. And it didn’t take long to see and understand how powerful it is.

As you may imagine, I began to wonder if and how I could integrate Splunk with DNN.

DNN + Splunk: One Way to Connect the Two
One of Splunk’s powerful features is that it can literally suck in all types, styles, and formats of data. This data can be machine data, log files, or even data from a REST API. There are several mechanisms for getting data into Splunk, but for this scenario, DNN’s web API implementation makes this an easy fit. On the DNN side, a developer can easily create a custom module using web services to expose any DNN data on an endpoint, which Splunk can then access. If you’d like to go the custom module route, check out my other blog series on module development. However, I did not write a custom module to test the integration.

For my initial investigation into Splunk I chose to use DNN Sharp’s API Endpoint module as it allows easy configuration of end points. Splunk is architected to consume any type of data and then it makes that data extremely easy to search, create visualizations and/or alerts with. These searches, visualizations, and alerts can be very basic or very complex in nature.

Another thing to note is that Splunk is architected to do this at scale and can easily parse enormous amounts of data. For example, every time you drink from a Coca-Cola “Freestyle” machine at a fast food restaurant, the data from your drink selection is logged and Splunk helps analyze the data, denote trends, and sends alerts. So yes, those Coke machines (all across the world) are connected IOT devices and Coke is a Splunk customer. See how Coke is using Splunk in the Splunk Conf 2014 Keynote replay session. Imagine how much data that is on a global scaled --> Splunk is helping Coke make sense of it.

Side note: Check out the blog I wrote on using Particle & Splunk to monitor temperature

So, my first goal was simple: see if I could get data from DNN into Splunk.

Sticking along the thought process of “data logs” I figured why not expose the DNN event log on an endpoint and see what I could make happen. Obviously, the event log may not be the best use case as site administrators can clear logs or processes to automatically clear logs sometimes exist. However, for this initial test it is a good candidate. To get the event log data on an end point I used the DNN Sharp API Endpoint module to make a SQL query on the event log view and return it as JSON.

Screenshot of API Endpoint

With the event log now sitting out there as JSON on a DNN end point now all I needed to do was get it into Splunk…

Getting REST Data Into Splunk
The Splunk side of this configuration only took a few minutes to configure and keep in mind I’m no Splunk guru (read, it’s easy!). Splunk is similar to DNN in that it’s extensible. Splunk extensions can be found on the Apps and Ad-Ons sections of the Splunk website. I tell you this because ultimately, I followed a blog by Damien Dallimore on getting REST data into Splunk which used a modular input extension and that was all it took. I simply completed the required fields in the Splunk REST Modular Input as shown below.

REST Configuration in Splunk

I chose to poll the data every 60 seconds. With this information inputted I clicked save and returned to the Data Inputs screen of Splunk and chose my newly created data source.

BOOM! I was seeing DNN event log info in Splunk!

DNN Data in Splunk search

Searching, Visualizations, & Alerts in Splunk
With data in Splunk now I needed to proceed to using Splunk to make sense of the data. Splunk’s searching functionality makes it very easy to search for, well... anything you'd like. I’m not yet knowledgeable enough to fully explain all the capabilities, but what I can easily see is that you can select your data source, click on keywords, add them to the source's search criteria and set your desired timeframe for the search. It’s feels as if you have a Google search bar and all your searches are performed on your data source and intellisense & syntax highlighting for your search are provided too!

Once you have a search returning data you can then create visualizations or alerts. And yes, there are tons of visualizations provided by Splunk. These visualizations can be saved as reports or live as “panels” that reside on dashboards. Dashboards can have as many panels as you want and you can have multiple dashboards if you like. Also, you can easily embed these panels into DNN or any other location by clicking the “convert to HTML” link that each panel has. Being able to display this info anywhere you like is a neat feature. Are your mental light bulbs turning on yet?

Splunk's Convert panel to HTML feature

So, I created a few visualizations based on event log data that was available. I created a number-based-visualization to show a large number that represented a count of 404 errors, a line graph showing the number of failed logins, and a chart showing the 404’s over time. So, in just minutes Splunk was already helping me understand that I have some issues going on with one of my sites. I believe one reason for the 404's is that I've renamed some pages that I think bots are targeting trying to register. Anyways, I've got work to do... don't judge!

My first Splunk panels

Opening Up Possibilities
Now you may be looking at this and thinking to yourself, yeah this is neat, but I could create a custom module to make something similar to this happen. And you would be correct, but keep in mind the potential use cases, flexibility, and scalability of Splunk in comparison to a custom module. You could easily have all your customers as data sources and create dashboards to help you (and your customers) quickly understand what’s going on with your customer's applications. You could also do data mashups of data from a DNN website/web app, some IOT device out in space, and any other data source you can think of to provide valuable insight. And again, Splunk has no problem doing this with massive amounts of data.

With just a little research into Splunk it didn’t take long to get my mind spinning with all the possibilities within DNN and beyond. Think about your current DNN use cases, requirements of your customers, and the exploding IOT market and you’ll soon see the light.

Here are some ideas I had right off the bat:

  • Dashboards that visually communicate mission critical data to your client’s management tier
    • Think a specific page of dashboards only visible to your client’s leadership showing application performance dashboards.
    • Think about posting monitors in your client’s offices (or your office) showing performance or usability metrics 
    • Dashboard Examples:
      • Failed Logins – to denote potential bot attacks 
      • New Users – to denote growth or potential bot attacks 
      • 404’s – to denote when pages aren’t found, SEO issues, or other concerns 
      • Etc., etc., etc. 
  • Alerts – Any type of alert you can imagine based on the data you expose 
  • Proactive Client Consulting 
    • If you represent a web firm you can shift your business from being reactive to proactive by monitoring your client’s data and then reaching out to them when trends are noticed
      • Consider your SEO person suggesting redirects be put in place when 404’s for a specific page continuously occur
      • Consider shutting down account creation when a rapid account creation occurs over a short period of time in the scenario of bot registration attacks 
      • Have you developed custom modules for your clients? You could create visualizations and alerts from the data of those modules to help provide business intelligence & insights to your clients 
  • IOT 
    • As I mentioned earlier I also wrote a blog on using Particle & Splunk to monitor temperature. Check it out for more potential use cases. 
    • Many clients are seeking or will be seeking IOT solutions in the future. If you are working with connected devices you could easily setup web services in DNN to log data from these microcontrollers, sensors, motors, or actuators. If you’re logging data into DNN (or any other location) you can easily feed that data to Splunk to parse and analyze the data. Presenting data from IOT devices coupled with data from your DNN instance could potentially provide a holistic picture for your client’s business and deliver critical insights to them.
      • DNN firms like nvisionative are already building IOT based solutions that integrate with DNN. Splunk opens even more possibilities for organizations like this.

Splunk FTW!
As you can see the power and flexibility Splunk provides is really nice. I believe Splunk could be a game-changer especially for those with large amounts of data to parse, anybody in the IOT space, and much more. I hope this blog has provided you with an introductory glimpse into some of the capabilities of Splunk and even got you thinking of potential ways to integrate Splunk into your applications or customer's environments. I am still learning about it and hope you will too. I know that I'm just scratching the surface here in my initial findings.

Find out more about Splunk at http://www.Splunk.com


IOT Example: Using Particle & Splunk to Monitor & Make Sense of Temperature
IOT Example: Using Particle & Splunk to Monitor & Make Sense of Temperature

In the past few years I’ve been getting into IOT. You may have seen tweets or blog about the Tech-Turkey project I’ve been working on or flame throwing pumpkins at Halloween. I’ve learned and used Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s, and Particle Photons and Electrons. It has been fun to learn more and get into the connected world… the internet of things!

I’ve been keeping ServoCity in business and even recently worked to get a custom PCB created. Every step of the way I’ve been learning different things and realizing just how much more there is to learn. Recently I’ve started learning more about Splunk.

What is Splunk
If you don’t already know what Splunk is, Splunk is a software company based in San Francisco that produces software for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine generated big data via a web style interface. Splunk’s software helps organizations with operational intelligence, log management, application management, enterprise security and compliance. 

Side note: In my first exploration into Splunk I wrote a blog about using Splunk with DNN that may interest you.

Particle & Splunk
DNN is a web application, but what if I wanted to get data from an IOT device? That’s when we call on Particle. If you’re not familiar with Particle, it makes it really easy to bring real world objects online. Particle is one of my favorite IOT platforms. It makes awesome microcontrollers, provides a nice IDE, has awesome documentation, and a great community. Connecting to Particle’s cloud is straight forward and even southerners can do it! See my presentation at our user group on DNN & Particle.

If you’re not familiar with Splunk, it makes it really easy to pull in data (machine data) and make sense of it. I’m talking about parsing vast amounts of data, creating visualizations and/or alerts and making it simple to understand. Even southerners can use it too!

Both Particle and Splunk are industry leaders and have some really big names behind their companies and as clients of their companies.

So why not bring Particle & Splunk together?

Reading Temperature with Particle
To use the awesomeness that both solutions bring us we’ll first need to read the temperature and post it to a webservice. Here again, Particle makes this easy. I used a basic temperature reader in a bread board layout for this experiment.

Temperature reading with a Particle, breadboard layout

Then, in Particle’s IDE I used the basic tutorial level code to read an analog value and post it to a Particle cloud variable. Cloud variables are accessible via web services. That is, I can make a GET request and parse the JSON object to get the data. Epic.

Particle code to post a variable to a web service

And all you have to do is “flash” the firmware to the device and then hit the API endpoint. In my case I accessed the service and saw the following JSON

JSON returned from Particle

Now we were cooking with oil! The next step was to get this data into Splunk.

Getting Particle’s RESTful Data Into Splunk
Getting RESTful data into Splunk is really straightforward thanks to Splunk’s extensibility. Splunk has an extensions gallery that can be found on the Apps and Ad-Ons sections of the Splunk website. I tell you this because ultimately, I followed a blog by Damien Dallimore on getting REST data into Splunk which used a modular input extension and that was all it took. I simply completed the required fields in the Splunk REST Modular Input as shown below.

Configuring the REST API modular input by Damien Dallimore in Splunk

After clicking save, the data from my Particle temperature reader was showing up in Splunk!

Creating Dashboards from the Particle Data
Once data shows up in Splunk you can literally perform any search query you want on the data and create/configure dashboards, panels, reports, alerts and more. Splunk is very powerful in this regard and scale to infinity. However, for this scenario I just wanted log the temperature over time from one device, as well as the temperature’s highest, lowest, and average. Splunk, again, made this very simple.

After clicking on the “result” field I created some visualizations and voila! Out popped some neat dashboards showing all my data in a way that’s easy to understand.

Splunk Dashboards displaying temperature reading from Particle

If you are like me, you kind of want to see things in action. So for those of you like me who are visual learners, here’s a quick video of the solution in action.

An IOT Combination That’s Hard to Beat!
As you can see, both solutions are awesome and the opportunities are endless. Consider the possibilities here… Particle is easy to deploy and post data to the net and Splunk can easily connect, suck in data, and bring instant insights. The more data you give to Splunk the more knowledge you’re going to have. Splunk can handle this at scale too… I mean massive scale. Why not connect thousands of devices and pump all the data into Splunk and tune it to your liking! I believe that’s what they refer to as operational intelligence 😊 Now my mind is spinning with possibilities. Is yours?


2017 Eagles Hype Video
2017 Eagles Hype Video

The Central High School Eagles of Pageland, South Carolina have a rich tradition and history of success. A few years ago my friend, Jason Fararooei, a video producer from the Charlotte area, took a liking to the program. Over the years, Jason has made some really great videos for the eagles. If you haven’t seen them then check out 3:17 and the Eagle Tribute Video.

3:17 video Eagle Tribute video

With so much recent transition going on at Central, we decided to make another video to try and create energy and enthusiasm around the program. Our hope is that the new head Coach, Trent Usher, will get the program back to where it used to be.


Big & J Brings All the Hogs to the Yard!
Big & J Brings All the Hogs to the Yard!

We had quite the eventful weekend last weekend. If you read the “Big & J Hogs Hammer It and Pigs Dig It Helps Get Rid of Nuisance South Carolina Hogs” blog that posted on Monday then you are aware of the local farmer who had reached out to us to assist with his hog problem. Although we expected multiple hogs to come out on the first hunt we only ended up seeing one.

So we returned for another hunt a day or so later…

The hogs had stayed away for a day, but on day 2 they wiped out all the remaining corn that was saturated with Big & J Hog attractant. The farmer notified us of what the hogs had done overnight and so we knew we needed to be back down at the farm sooner than later.

Big and J Pigs Dig It on top of corn in South Carolina

After replenishing the corn, I went down to the farm on a solo hunt as my hunting partners were unable to come on this specific night. The farmer sat with me and we watched the corn pile for a while and were ready to handle business. However, nothing moved just after dark. We sat and strategized what we would do when certain hogs arrived, but nothing was moving. The farmer had to pack it in for the night so I remained on the gun watching the field.

Shortly after the farmer left 3 deer came out and grazed through the field. I watched them for a while in the scope. Then 2 more deer entered the field. Interestingly, the deer did not eat the corn that had the Big & J hog attractant on it (which is a good sign to me!). Eventually the deer exited the field into some nearby woods.

From Reading a Devotional to Shooting a Hog
I was reading a devotional on the bible app and I would stop every couple of minutes and scan the field. I’ve hunted hogs enough to know that the hunt can change in an instant because these hogs don’t hesitate too much when they come into a field and they move more quickly than you might expect. I read and scanned, read and scanned, and towards the end of the devotional I noticed a blob of heat on the corn! While I was reading, a group of hogs, 1 female and several piglets, had gotten out into the middle of the field.

I knew it was game time.

I got in the gun and watched this group for a few minutes. I scanned the edges looking to see if any more were nearby or entering the field. I didn’t see any sign of other hogs coming in so I continued to watch. I knew I was going to shoot the big one, but it was just a waiting game.

South Carolina Nuisance Hogs in Pulsar Thermal Scope

I don’t like to shoot in the middle of a white blob of heat because it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re aiming at and sometimes the piglets are taller than you think. Translation: I didn’t want to get a piglet and miss the big one so I waited on the right opportunity to present itself. I needed the big hog to separate herself far enough so that I could get a silhouette of her body and know where I was aiming.

While I watched them feed something funny happened. One of the piglets went behind the female and the larger female cut the piglet a flip! She kicked the piglet and it somersaulted backwards and when it landed it just got right back up and kept rooting. It was pretty funny. I couldn’t believe what I’d witnessed.

Sow Hog Kicks Piglet for a flip

A few seconds later the large female advanced forward aggressively and this singled herself out. It was just the sight I was waiting for. I flipped the safety off and squeezed the trigger really slow. The Anderson Arms AM-10 308 that I have has a long trigger pull and in hopes of not flinching on my shot I always try to ensure the gun surprises me when it goes off. I hope for the smooth trigger pull. I put the cross hairs on this hogs shoulder and squeezed off.

The boom echoed through the field and down to the creek.

The large hog instantly fell and within a second the piglets scurried out of the field. Since the large hog was on the ground, my job shooting was essentially done. I waited a while and started loading up the truck.

South Carolina Nuisance Hog on Truck with Big and J Hog Attractants

Loading a Hog By Yourself Ain’t Easy
I took the shot at about 11:58 and with my hunting partners not around it was me… and well me… that had to load the hog up. When I got down to the hog I realized she was bigger than I thought. Getting her in the truck wouldn’t be as easy as it normally is when you have help.

South Carolina Nuisance Hog with Big and J Hog Attractants

Ultimately, I ended up dragging the hog to the side of the field and then walking up the bumper to the tailgate with one of the hog’s legs in my hand. When I got in the bed of the truck the weight of the hog was very heavy to hold on to so I had to essentially lay down on my stomach and grab the other leg with my other hand. With both legs in hand I then had to figure a way to stand up. It reminded me of a dead lift that we used to do in high school and college football except this was more awkward and off balance. If you would have seen me you would have laughed, but once I got my feet under me I was able to pull the hog in the truck using the tailgate as a lever. I hope that’s the last time I have to load a big hog up by myself!

And since there was no one there to take a pic of me and the hog I had to take a hog selfie!

Clint Patterson with Hog - Hog Selfie

It was a great hunt and yet another nuisance hog is in the freezer at the processor!

Do You Have Hog Problems?
If you have hog problems we’re happy to help. Learn more about how we are helping land owners and farmers with their hog problems on the SC Hog Removal page.


Big & J Hog Hammer & Pigs Dig It Helps Get Rid of Nuisance South Carolina Hogs
Big & J Hog Hammer & Pigs Dig It Helps Get Rid of Nuisance South Carolina Hogs

Another South Carolina Farmer With Nuisance Hog Problems
We’ve recently been in communications with another local farmer who’s crop were being demolished by hogs. On this specific farmer’s land, the hogs showing up and rooting his crop fields was a new occurrence. Frustrated and not exactly sure of how to solve this problem the farmer asked us how quickly we could help him out. Within a day we had game cameras set up and were getting recon on the hog’s pattern on this specific property.

WeHuntSC Game Cam Pics of Nuisance South Carolina hogs

Big & J Hog Products Help the Hunt
In this setup the area where the hogs were showing up was narrow in nature. The field makes kind of a point where the hogs have easy access and had been rooting. This meant we most likely wouldn’t get multiple shots and would need to get the hogs to the middle of this area of the field.

To coax the hogs into the middle of the field we used something that would be memorable for them, Big & J’s new Hog attractant products. We spread both Hogs-Hamer-It and Pigs-Dig-It on top of corn in the middle of this point in the field. And it didn’t take long before we had them coming in and loving what Big & J’s products had to offer!

Big and J Hogs Hamer It

Only One Hog Came Through
Due to the amount of damage we’d been seeing on this property we anticipated seeing several hogs, but on this hunt, it didn’t play out that way. The wind was not in our favor and was blowing pretty strong. We sat for a while and shot the breeze. Early in the night we had a deer that kept walking through the field and right around midnight we had a solo hog come in and go straight to the Big & J hog attractant marinated corn pile!

Clint Patterson and Gavin Jackson with South Carolina Nuisance Hog

For us it’s rare to see a solo hog like this unless it was a really big male. So we waited thinking that more would eventually come out. And we waited and waited and waited. It seemed like forever, but it was probably around 10 minutes or so. Evidently the hog was there by itself. We decided to go ahead and pull the trigger because we didn’t want that one to get out of there before we could get a shot off and nothing else seemed to be showing up.

As you can see on the video below, the Anderson Arms 308 with Pulsar Trail XP50 made quick work of this hog. The hog flopped on the spot and our tracking job was easy! We loaded her up, took some pics, and took her to the processor.

Another nuisance South Carolina hog headed to the freezer.

Do You Have Hog Problems?
If you have hog problems we’re happy to help. Learn more about how we are helping land owners and farmers with their hog problems on the SC Hog Removal page.


Clint Patterson

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