NetMcr #10, April 2017

The 10th NetMcr meeting was held on the 13th of April, once more in the upper embrace of 57 Thomas Street. To mark this nice, round number of events, we had a brace of presentations that really helped to make this event stand out from the ever-growing crowd of wonderful evenings we’ve had to date.

To mark this nice, round number of events, we had arranged a brace of presentations lined-up.

Large NetMcr crowd listening to Mark Tearle's presentation
A decent crowd had assembled for our tenth meeting

Long-time attendee, first time speaker Mark Tearle, was the first presenter of the evening. Mark split his presentation into two; a talk on tinc – a VPN daemon that runs on many operating systems, and builds a topology of point-to-point, encrypted tunnels – and, for the first time in NetMcr history, a live demonstration!

Mark Tearle talking about tinc
We didn’t have a good shot of the demonstration, but Mark did an equally great job of speaking

Mark did extremely well, and despite poor network conditions – WiFi tethered to 3-maybe-4G through my phone – was able to give us a demonstration of tinc’s ease of use, and slightly more surprisingly, the decentralised topology detection that it includes.

Following on from Mark, we had a little comfort break, filled some glasses and ordered some cheese. Our second speaker for the night was Andy Sutton, from BT (formally of EE). Andy was here to speak about 5G standards development, and the challenges of the ever-increasing requirements for data throughput on mobile network design.

Andy beginning his presentation, to a very engaged audience

Andy’s talk was, to be frank, excellent. It really isn’t every day that most Engineers get chance to hear about mobile network development, and especially so when it’s this cutting edge. It wasn’t a huge surprise to find that no-one raised a concern that the talk overran by 15 minutes – oops!

We were left with a big dose of enthusiasm – and not to mention, a deeper respect – for the radio networks that Andy & his colleagues are building for us to use (and abuse) in the not too distant future.

Andy Sutton answering questions on his talk
Andy illustrating the maximum size of a of 5G cell (hand gestures not to scale)

After his talk was over, Andy was very kind to stay as long as he could to answer so many of our queries and questions, including with one foot out of the door. There was no doubt that all of the attendees appreciated him spending his evening indulging our curiosities!

We’d like to thank both of the presenters that made this one of the more memorable & varied NetMcr events, and of course a huge thanks to all that attended to listen and engage.


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #10” – (PDF)
  2. Mark Tearle, “An introduction to tinc” – (PDF)
  3. Andy Sutton, “5G Networks” – (PDF)

NetMcr #9, March 2017

The ninth NetMcr event took place – coincidentally – on the 9th of March, where we once again adorned the upstairs portion of 57 Thomas Street, ready for another dose of Mancunian Networking.

As had been the case with February, we had certainly been struggling to find new presentation content – and/or willing speakers – so eventually wound up with one, rather strong presentation, from returning speaker Simon Gunton of Auto Trader fame.

Audience listening to Simon Gunton beginning his talk
Simon desperately trying to decipher our dastardly remote, whilst many eager faces look on

As was the case with his previous talk at NetMcr, Simon took us through an element of Auto Trader’s intriguing network. This time, however, it was more on the software side of things; Continuous Delivery.

Simon expanded into quite some detail on what Continuous Delivery means in principle, in practice, and ultimately how it has provided significant benefit to Auto Trader’s daily development.

A few late arriving attendees smiling and waving
A few late arrivals snuck in whilst Simon was mid-flow

Given that this is a rare subject for the purer network service providers, Simon went on to explain how the two worlds can collide in a complimentary fashion. We learnt that whilst some network operating systems have historically lagged behind their server counterparts, there are an increasing array of options to ‘make your code the configuration’.

Though Simon did take the time to round the talk off by reassuring us all that a Python script will not be stealing the jobs of Network Engineers any time soon… Perhaps it’ll be Golang, then?

Simon Gunton leaning on the bar and answering questions from the attendees
Simon fielding a variety of questions by the harsh light of Powerpoint

Since the event, we also understand that Simon will be delivering an extended version of the talk at UKNOF 37, and that will be his first presentation at any UKNOF. We look forward to seeing NetMcr’s first speaker Alumni take to the big stage, and wish him good luck!

The next NetMcr will of course be on the 13th of April, upstairs at 57 Thomas Street, starting 7pm sharp. Don’t miss it.


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #9” – (PDF)
  2. Simon Gunton, “What is Continuous Delivery” – (PDF)

NetMcr #8, February 2017

February was a slightly quieter month for NetMcr attendance, but despite the success of January spoiling us somewhat, we still had plenty of attendees to fill the chairs of 57 Thomas Street.

For the evening’s event, there were brace of presentations for February, and the first of those was given by returning speaker James Blessing.

James Blessing talking to the crowd about IGPs
James beginning his talk with a little history.

James took us back to basics, with ‘IGP Choices 101’. From the history of IGPs, right through to the differences between IS-IS & OSPF, and why we seem to use them for different applications. There was even an overview of Dijkstra’s algorithm!

The attendees of NetMcr and James giving his talk
IGP design choices can make for a tough crowd, but James kept it engaging!

For a topic that normally invokes one or two flame wars, James managed to curate well-mannered debate on the subject that was – I suspect – of some benefit to us all.

Our second (and final) talk, given by Tim Bray, was entitled ‘IPv6 in Offices’. You might think this could be a relatively straightforward topic, but Tim’s talk explained – with recent real-world experiences – that this is anything but a solved problem, particularly with regards to upstream link resilience (such as ADSL failover).

Tim pointing at his presentation, whilst talking
Tim points, and uses the laser pointer, to highlight something very important indeed

I must say this was really quite an appropriate talk given the current work on BSkyB’s network, and a related/ongoing push from Enterprises to take note of IPv6 (even if uptake is slow today).

As has previously held true, Tim’s insightful talk gave us plenty to discuss throughout the rest of the evening. We’ll just have to hope he can keep thinking of topics to present on!


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #8” – (PDF)
  2. James Blessing, “IGP Choices 101” – (PDF)
  3. Tim Bray, “IPv6 in Offices” – (PDF)

NetMcr #7, January 2017

Admittedly there was some trepidation about holding a NetMcr meeting in January. It would be relatively close to the dreaded ‘back to work’ period, and we were struggling to secure talks to fill in the gaps.

The grand attendance of NetMcr January
With all the attendees, we were beginning to run out of seats at 57 Thomas Street!

Thankfully, there was apparently no cause for concern as we received one of the biggest turnouts for any NetMcr event to date! This made sure that our sole presentation had plenty of keen ears, so thank you to everyone that braved the snowy streets of Manchester.

In amongst a lot of healthy socialising, we did have a talk by returning presented, Marek Isalski. This time, Marek was back to speak in more detail about the Mikrotik range of network devices, including both routers & switches.

Marek Isalski giving his talk on Mikrotik devices
Rumours of earlier titles for this talk, in reference to Brexit, are entirely without basis.

Marek propped-up the whole evening with another well-given talk, and one which generated a tonne of extra discussion points to take us well into the rest of the evening’s socialising.

In a slight departure from the norm, during the standard outro presentation, we – the NetMcr organisers – also floated a couple of ideas with the room:

  • Creating our own mailing list for announcements (not discussion)
  • Designing some basic marketing materials (posters, basic business cards)

Both of which were well received by those in attendance, and thus we have resolved to implement both actions as soon as we can.


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #7” – (PDF)
  2. Marek Isalski, “Mikrotik  & RouterOS” – (PDF)

NetMcr #6, December 2016

In early December, on Thursday 8th – just before everyone started getting busy with the usual festive celebrations – we were back at 57 Thomas Street for the final NetMcr of 2016.

The crowd at 57 Thomas Street
Despite being a little light, we were delighted with the turn-out for December.

We even found a poor, unsuspecting Network Engineer, enjoying a quiet post-work beer by the window. After hearing about NetMcr and what we had planned, he was more than happy to join us. What are the chances?

The first talk for the evening was about CZ.NIC‘s extremely popular Turris Omnia router, given by familiar face Mike Hughes. Many talks have been given about this device over the years, primarily by CZ.NIC themselves, however Mike was also kind enough to go into some ‘real world’ detail on his experiences of using one as a daily (wireless) router at home.

Mike Hughes presenting on the Turris Omnia
Mike began with a history of how the Turris Omnia came to be.

Despite a few complications on VLAN setup, it sounded like the Turris was serving Mike well. No doubt it’ll cross the minds of those in the room when they’re next considering their home network.

James Blessing continued the evening with the second of our two talks, this one entitled ‘1984 was not a training manual‘. There will be no second-guesses granted as to the topic of his talk – it was of course, a history of the UK Government legislation on surveillance. Specific regard to how past, current & new laws interact with ISPs was given.

James Blessing presenting '1984 is not a training manual'
James’ talk had everyone on the edge of their seats; very pertinent subject matter.

James’ talk was, as expected, a fantastic account of the legislation involved, and we were all particularly grateful to have someone with his breadth of expertise to speak on the topic.


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #6” (PDF)
  2. Mike Hughes, “Experiences with the Turris Omnia” (PDF)
  3. James Blessing, “1984 was not a training manual” (PDF pending)

 

Upcoming: NetMcr #6, 8th December

Hello everyone,

NetMcr #6 will be going ahead as per the usual ‘2nd Thursday’ schedule! We’ll have talks about the newly-passed Investigatory Powers Act from ISPA Chair James Blessing, and also on the CZ.NIC Turris Omnia router from NetMcr regular Mike Hughes.

As per ususal, we’ll be occupying the upstairs room of the glorious 57 Thomas Street, starting from 19:00. The first talk is generally at 19:30, so do get there with enough time to get settled.

There is also the usual Lanyrd event page for you to keep a track of the evening’s agenda as it develops, and to indicate your attendance.

Of course, we’re still looking for someone to fulfil the third talk slot, or indeed talk slots in January & February, so please get in touch if you’d like to give short & informative talk. You don’t need to be an expert, nor do you need to have previous experience of giving talks to a large audience – we’re a well behaved bunch, and maintain a strict code of conduct. Any topic related to Networking will be well received and appreciated. 🙂

Thanks!

Tom

NetMcr #5, November 2016

On the 10th of November, NetMcr came once again took place upstairs at the 57 Thomas Street bar, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Attendance was lighter than expected, mostly owing to a certain lurgi doing the rounds, but we were certainly weren’t in short supply of fresh faces; one attendee came all the way from Warwickshire, and we also still seem to be getting fresh faces from around the local area, which is excellent.

We were overjoyed to have our first presenter of the evening; long-time Manchester networking stalwart – yet first-time NetMcr attendee – Marek Isalski, Owner of Faelix.

Marek delivering his talk
Marek delivering his talk to the engaged audience; thankfully no expletives were visible.

Marek’s presentation, entitled ‘The Naughty Step’, went into fantastic detail regarding the home-grown system that Faelix use to make better use of all the raw intrusion data that is collected as part of routine network operations. Netflow, Fail2Ban, etc.

The presentation gave a great overview of just how useful all of this information can be, when put to proper use. We were treated to a number of end-user success stories (and a few gotchas!) that have really made a difference to Faelix’s response to security events happening on their network.

Many parts of Marek’s presentation also went into a bigger topic that was presented at the first Mikrotik User Meeting to happen in London, so we’re very grateful that we could see the brief version before the big event!

The last of two presentations for November was by Tom Hill, Network Manager at Bytemark, discussing the lacklustre percentage of IPv6 traffic being served towards ISPs with hundreds of thousands (even millions) of IPv6 subscribers, relative to that of larger content producers (e.g. Netflix, Google).

Tom ranting profusely about the lack of public-facing AAAA records
Tom ranting profusely about the lack of public-facing AAAA records

Because this was more of a lightning talk, Tom left us with the conclusion that as larger ISPs are now finally pushing IPv6 out to their subscribers en masse, the pressure has now shifted to be on those in Systems, Support & Development roles to enable AAAA records for their public-facing web presence.

We were done with presentations for the night, and for another month, but there was plenty to discuss over another pint (or two). We’d like to thank everyone that did manage to make it along, despite the biological hazards that seem to have been plaguing Manchester this past month. We’ll look forward to seeing everyone again on the 8th of December! 🙂


For those interested, here are the slides for the talks, in the order they were presented on the evening:

  1. Tom Hill & Thom Seddon, “Welcome to NetMcr #5” (PDF pending)
  2. Marek Isalski, “The Naughty Step” (PDF)
  3. Tom Hill, “Dude, where’s my IPv6?”  (PDF)

Upcoming: NetMcr #5, 10th November

Hello everyone,

NetMcr #5 will be going ahead as per the usual ‘2nd Thursday’ schedule! We’ve already confirmed a talk by Marek Isalski, whom has gracefully agreed to talk about the Internet’s “Naughty Step” (we can’t include the avoid the original name for this talk, as it’s somewhat rude!)

As per ususal, we’ll be occupying the upstairs room of the glorious 57 Thomas Street, starting from 19:00. The first talk is generally at 19:30, so do get there with enough time to get settled.

There is also the usual Lanyrd event page for you to keep a track of the evening’s agenda as it develops, and to indicate your attendance.

Of course, we’re still looking for someone to fulfil a few extra talk slots, so raise a hand if you’d like to give short & informative talk. You don’t need to be an expert, nor do you need to have previous experience of giving talks to a large audience – we’re a well behaved bunch, and maintain a strict code of conduct. Any topic related to Networking will be well received and appreciated. 🙂

Thanks!

Tom

NetMcr #4, October 2016

A little later than expected, but I’ve finally gotten around to writing-up the NetMcr event from Thursday the 13th of October, 2016.

Owing to a short delay at the beginning of the evening, whilst we waited for the borrowed projector to get to us, the evening started with a little more socialising than usual.

Lots of socialising
Lots of socialising, discussion and a sprinkling of beer.

Not long after this was taken, the projector was retrieved (thank you, James) and the show began with the usual introductions.

Tom presenting the NetMcr welcome slides
Tom Hill (@tomm3h) presenting the NetMcr welcome slides

The first presentation of the night was to be given by Simon Gunton, of Auto Trader. Simon was kind enough to give us some insights on what a hosting network looks like when you’re only building it out for a single customer (albeit a pretty big, important one, such as AT) and he certainly sparked a great deal of intrigue from the room.

Simon Gunton giving Auto Trader presentation
Simon (right) in full presenter swing. Engaged audience (left).

There’s something about Auto Trader that seems to capture our interest; local heroes, or just a well recognised brand? Either way, I’m afraid we’re not able to redistribute the slides from the evening, but I’m hopeful that we’ve made a good impression on enough of the Auto Trader staff to keep them coming back in future months, just in case you’re curious.

Our second, and last presentation for the evening was by Ashley Nurcombe from WiFi hardware & consultancy company, Aerohive Networks. Ash travelled all the way up from Southampton to give us this talk, so we were really very grateful to have him there on the evening.

Ash Nurcombe's Aerohive presentation
Ash giving his presentation, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was roaming’

The presentation ran across a broad range of facets regarding WiFi, as well as some of the more nuanced wireless concepts (including some misconceptions!) such as roaming, and Ash probably spent almost as much time answering questions from the room as he did giving his presentation. Good sport!

Ashley Nurcombe, fielding questions
Ash fielding a great many questions from the room

Unfortunately, we were also prohibited from sharing the slides from the Aerohive presentation. However, Ash (and Simon) are both on twitter – @ajnurcombe and @cessle, respectfully – so do feel free to say hello if you’re interested in hearing more about their areas of expertise.

Thanks to everyone that came, the two presenters for their excellent contributions, and we hope to see you all again in November.


We’ll be back in the upstairs room of 57 Thomas Street on the 10th of November.

Upcoming: NetMcr #4, 13th October

Hello everyone,

NetMcr #4 will be going ahead as per the usual ‘2nd Thursday’ schedule, despite our quietness! We should be back this time with a return to form, with two talks already lined-up for the evening.

Once again we’ll be occupying the upstairs room of the glorious 57 Thomas Street, starting from 19:00.

There is also the usual Lanyrd event page for you to keep a track of the evening’s agenda as it develops.

Of course, we’re still looking for someone to fulfil that third presentation slot, so raise a hand if you’d like to give short & informative talk. You don’t need to be an expert, nor do you need to have previous experience of giving talks to a large audience. Any topic related to Networking will be well received and appreciated. 🙂

Thanks!

Tom