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      April 2019

      How To Probe the Depths of Nautically-Themed Open-Source Projects Using Moby Dick


      Introduction

      Despite being a commercial failure after its first publication, Herman Melville’s allegorical adventure novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is today one of the most popular and influential novels in the American canon. Artists as diverse as William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, and Bob Dylan have acknowledged the novel’s impact on their work, and one can spot references to it in films, television, music, and, of course, open-source projects.

      In this article, we will analyze several nautically-themed open-source projects and how they pay tribute to Moby-Dick.

      Warning: While it isn’t necessary that you read Moby-Dick prior to reading this article, this article does contain a few spoilers. If you haven’t read the novel but would like to, you may want to hold off from reading this article until you’ve finished it.

      Prerequisites

      To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need:

      • Familiarity with 19th-century literature.
      • An appreciation for nautical puns.
      • An adventurous disposition. For example, whenever you find yourself growing grim about the mouth, you account it high time to get to sea as soon as you can.

      Docker

      Docker logo

      Docker is an open-source program that performs operating system-level virtualization, also known as containerization. The influence of Moby-Dick is obvious with this project: Docker’s logo and mascot is a whale affectionately known as Moby Dock. However, there are some substantial differences between Moby Dick and Moby Dock.

      First, Moby Dock’s species isn’t immediately obvious. It’s clear from the beginning of the novel that Moby Dick is a sperm whale, and while it’s possible that Moby Dock is a sperm whale as well, there are several clues that suggest otherwise:

      • The head: Sperm whales have distinctively large, block-shaped heads. Moby Dock, however, has a flat forehead with a snout that slopes smoothly downward to its jaw, which is more suggestive of a right whale or bowhead whale.
      • The blowhole: Moby Dock is always seen from its left side. As any whaler worth their salt knows, a sperm whale’s blowhole always skews slightly to the left side of its head. No blowhole is visible in any known images of Moby Dock, another clue that it isn’t a sperm whale.
      • The fins: Moby Dock doesn’t seem to have any pectoral fins. All sperm whales are born with pectoral fins, adding another strike to the “Moby Dock is a sperm whale” theory. That said, all whales have pectoral fins, so this begs the question of whether or not Moby Dock is a whale at all.

      Another important difference between these Mobys is that Moby Dock is helpfully carrying a few stacks of containers; Moby Dick would never be so accommodating. In fact, one can easily imagine Moby Dick going out of his way to knock over such a neatly organized pile of shipping containers. Perhaps Moby Dock is meant to be seen as a warmer, friendlier cousin of Moby Dick. After all, it’s probably bad marketing to associate one’s product with a ferocious leviathan bent on destroying everything in its path.

      OpenFaaS

      OpenFaaS logo

      OpenFaaS is an open-source project that aims to make serverless functions simple through the use of Docker containers, allowing users to run complex infrastructures with far greater flexibility and without the fear of vendor lock-in.

      The OpenFaaS logo focuses entirely on a whale’s tail, which is significant because Melville dedicates an entire chapter to describing the tails of sperm whales. In it, Ishmael reveals his deep appreciation of whales’ tails:

      Such is the subtle elasticity of [the tail], that whether wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it be in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no fairy’s arm can transcend it.

      The OpenFaaS whale is shown to be peaking its flukes, presumably as it is about to dive. In the same chapter, Ishmael opines that “excepting the sublime breach…this peaking of the whale’s flukes is perhaps the grandest sight to be seen in all animated nature.” Perhaps the OpenFaaS team chose a whale’s tail as their logo to convey the grace and power that OpenFaaS brings to managing functions. It could even be that the whale is “diving in” to the realm of functions as a service.

      Because OpenFaaS is closely related to Docker, it’s obvious why the project’s logo also features a whale. However, are these supposed to be the same whale? Let us not forget that Moby Dick was believed to be “ubiquitous”, with sailors swearing up and down that they had encountered him “in opposite latitudes at one and the same instant of time.” This may be a clue that Moby Dock and the OpenFaaS whale are indeed one and the same.

      Perhaps in choosing this logo the OpenFaaS team was trying to signal their hope that the framework would become ubiquitous in future software projects. Interestingly, while an omnipresent whale may strike fear in the hearts of whalers, software is generally seen as safer and more secure if it’s widely used. The OpenFaaS team should be thankful that coders are generally less superstitious than whalers.

      Kubernetes

      Kubernetes logo

      Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration system that helps to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of applications. The name “Kubernetes” comes from the Greek word “κυβερνήτης,” which translates to English as “captain” or “helmsman.” Appropriately, its logo consists of a ship’s wheel, or helm, conveying the control and steadiness required to manage complex container orchestration with ease.

      Curiously, the Pequod doesn’t have a wheel; instead, it has a tiller made out of a whale’s jawbone. This is seen by some readers as underscoring the shared histories of Captain Ahab and the ship, as Ahab lost his leg to the great white whale and replaced it with a whalebone prosthesis.

      Though a helm or tiller can convey steadiness and control, as the Kubernetes logo designers intended, Moby-Dick shows us the deeper questions that the project maintainers might have brushed aside. Who is at the helm when it comes to Kubernetes? Even more, who is at the helm in our everyday lives? Do we drive software, or does software drive us? Of all these things the helm is the symbol.

      MySQL

      MySQL logo

      MySQL is the world’s most widely deployed open-source database management system (DBMS). MySQL’s logo features the outline of a dolphin, affectionately known as Sakila.

      While dolphins aren’t prominently featured in the plot of Moby-Dick, Melville discusses them at length in one of the books famous pseudoscientific asides. In Chapter 32, “Cetology,” Ishmael refers to dolphins as “Huzza Porpoises,” so called because sailors see them as an omen of good luck:

      Their appearance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner…. If you yourself can withstand three cheers at beholding these vivacious fish, then heaven help ye; the spirit of godly gamesomeness is not in ye.

      Mayhaps the MySQL developers chose a dolphin to represent their DBMS to impart this same sense of hopeful joy to those who use it. By associating the database with a dolphin, they hope users will see it as being similarly fast, agile, and fun-loving. After all, who doesn’t have fun running correlated subqueries?

      MariaDB

      MariaDB logo

      MariaDB is a community-supported fork of MySQL, as indicated by its similarly nautical logo. Both the MariaDB and MySQL logos include the respective RDBMS’s name and feature an aquatic animal: in MariaDB’s case, this animal is a pinniped.

      Interestingly, there’s some confusion about what kind of animal is depicted in the MariaDB logo. According to the project’s trademarks page, the animal in the logo is a sea lion. However, some members of the MariaDB community see it as a seal. MariaDB’s official sources are fairly consistent in referring to their mascot as a sea lion, though not always. Certainly, the mascot’s shape does seem to more closely resemble that of a sea lion, but it’s also missing the telltale ears which would distinguish it as such.

      The idea that human perception is inherently biased and unreliable runs as a theme throughout the novel. Perhaps by keeping the pinniped’s species vague, the MariaDB team is making a Melvillian comment on how truth isn’t always obvious and, in some cases, can never be known for certain. Is it a seal or a sea lion? Is Moby Dick real or imagined? Is Vim or Emacs the superior text editor? Riddles like these abound throughout the world we live in, which, like a magician’s glass, to each and every man in turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for those who ask the world to solve them.

      Of course, it’s also possible that the logo is simply meant to represent a sea lion. Perhaps when the MariaDB team asked the designer to draw ears, they responded “I would prefer not to.”

      Conclusion

      Clearly, Melville’s influence extends far beyond the realm of literature, and well into the world of open-source technology. As this article has highlighted, these five projects (and likely many more) pay homage to his great whaling tale through subtle references in their names and logos, as well as how they challenge our perceptions of truth and human nature.

      We hope that by reading this article, you’ll go on to create your own Melville-inspired, nautically-themed, open-source project. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

      • Ishmael: an application that turns any server process into an orphan process.
      • Starbuck: An uptime monitor that swears it will keep everything under control, but in the end just gives up and lets the system crash.
      • Stubb: A program that purports to do lots of important work, but really just takes credit for work done by other applications.

      Note: Some readers may be wondering why this article hasn’t yet mentioned DigitalOcean’s own Sammy the Shark. The simple reason is that Sammy has little in common with the sharks depicted in Moby-Dick. Throughout the novel, sharks are depicted as ravenous beasts dominated by instinct. Melville’s sharks eat anything and everything in their path, and are violent, dangerous creatures who pose a serious risk to the crew of the Pequod (though not as great a risk as whales, apparently).

      Clearly, Melville never encountered a shark like Sammy. After all, Sammy is a vegetarian, and a very friendly one at that!





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      Tutorial: How to Use Synology’s Hyper Backup App to Sync with DreamObjects


      If you’ve got a NAS (network attached storage) device at home, you know how great they are.

      These mini-computers full of hard drives live on your home network, ready and waiting to store and share all of your music, photos, and other media. You can grant access to yourself, your friends, your family, or everyone on the planet using any number of different apps!

      While NAS devices themselves are extremely fault-tolerant, that doesn’t mean that they could survive . . . a flood. Or a fire. A Godzilla foot would definitely destroy all your data.

      That’s why you should back up your NAS regularly. Synology has made this easy by providing powerful backup tools in their line of NAS devices.

      Today we’ll look at setting up Synology’s Hyper Backup app, and we’ll be using it to back up the contents of our Synology device to DreamHost’s DreamObjects cloud storage service.

      You’ll first need to create a private “bucket” on DreamObjects this where your data will live. Doing this is quick and easy, and at the end of the process, you’ll have three things: a public key, a secret key, and a bucket name.

      Secure Cloud Storage Hosting

      DreamObjects is an inexpensive object storage service great for hosting files, storing backups, and Web app development.

      The process to create a bucket on the DreamObjects control panel is pretty straightforward, but if you need a little hand-holding, our knowledge base has got you covered: DreamHost Knowledge Base: What is DreamObjects?

      Once you’ve got your bucket created, log in to your Synology device’s web interface, also known as DSM.

      Click over to the Package Center, navigate to the “Hyper Backup” app, and click to Install/Open it.

      Synology Hyper Backup

      If you’ve just installed Hyper Backup, navigate to your list of installed apps where you’ll see that it now sits proudly under a spotlight, awaiting your click.

      Hyper Backup App Icon

      Launch Hyper Backup.

      The first thing you’ll be asked is which where you’d like your backups to live. Navigate to “S3 Storage.”

      S3 Storage

      Why S3? Simple! DreamObjects is compatible with S3’s API, meaning that just about any app written for AWS S3 will work flawlessly with DreamObjects.

      Backup Destination Settings

      Select “Custom Server URL” for your S3 Server. Your server address should be “objects-us-east1.dream.io” and your signature version can be v4. Once you provide your access key (public key) and secret key, all of your available DreamObjects buckets will populate the dropdown list. Select the one that you want to use (you might only have one.) The “Directory” will be a directory that lives at the top level of your bucket, and you can name it whatever you like.

      Now you’ll need to tell Hyper Backup which directories to include in this backup task.

      Selecting directories to backup

      If you want to back up the settings and data from any of Synology’s own applications, you can do that as well on the next screen.

      Selecting apps to backup

      You’ll now need to give this backup task a name so that you’ll be able to quickly identify it in the future. You’ll also need to choose how often you’d like the backup to run.

      Configure your backup

      Finally, you’ll need to determine your rotation settings. This is important. If you allow your backups to run every week, for example, you’ll end up with 52 backups by the end of the year, and you’ll end up paying for all 52 of them. That’s probably not what you want.

      What you select on this screen is up to you, but here’s the official word from Synology on how their Rotation Settings work.

      Rotation Settings

      If all goes as planned, you should now see a screen like this:

      Backups have begun

      Whatever data you’ve selected from your NAS is now being backed up to DreamObjects! You can now kick back and never worry about having to retrieve it until you have to!

      If all goes well, you’ll see this:

      Great success!

      If you ever have a need to restore your data, just launch Hyper Backup and click this little fella to get started:

      Restore Data

      Alternately, you can use Synology’s standalone utility, Hyper Backup Explorer to retrieve individual files buried within your backups as well.

      Backups automated with tools like Hyper Backup and DreamObjects can be key to ensuring the security of your data in a world full of ransomware, random hardware failures, and natural disasters. Be prepared!



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