This caffeine fueled, bass driven installment of the Top5 is brought to you by our sponsors at “Wait how do I get that all done?” and associates. Fortunately, if I have to be burning the midnight oil, and let’s face it we all do sometimes, there are few things I’d rather be doing than geeking out on wickedly cool technology. It just so happens to work in my favor, then, that I work for a company that produces precisely that. Any time I need reminding of that I need only wander down the richly hewn halls of DevCentral’s vaults of hawesome. It’s not long before I trip over something I didn’t know, didn’t know I wanted to know, but am suddenly glad that I learned. Not convinced, you say? Read on, I answer, and check out my picks for the week. If you’re not convinced by the end, then either I’ve lost my touch, or you’re reading this from your android piloted spacecraft somewhere in low earth orbit. If that’s the case, I concede that you may have cooler toys. For us mere terrestrial beings, however, these will do nicely:
iCall – All New Event-Based Automation System
The very term “Announcement” tends to lend itself to the concept of something that is new, likely exciting, and almost certainly important enough to, well, announce. That term rings true here, to be sure, and as such the announcement of this wicked new technology being added to the F5 arsenal brooks top billing in this week’s listing. Geeks, geekettes, and all non-denominational folk in between, I give unto you, iCall. You’ve conquered the world with iRules, you’ve put some automation into your automation with iControl, and you’ve checked for the unseen servants whisking away your configuration woes after only a few small questions thanks to iApps. This newest addition to the i-Stuff family (That is so not F5 terminology, fyi, and I can hear the letter from marketing on its way already) adds yet another savory spice to the iStew. While iRules allows you control over the data plane in real-time, iCall allows you to have nearly the same level of granular control over the control plane. What’s the difference? Well the data plane is where all the bits of your application pass. That’s where you can do things like header modifications and content re-writing and selective routing and whatnot. The control plane is where the configuration of the devices themselves happens. Things like adding a pool member, setting member priority, changing a monitor, etc. are all performed on the data plane. This is usually iControl’s bailiwick, which is all well and good, but iControl is generally speaking used for automation and building out larger scale integration with F5 devices. With iCall you’re able to get fine toothed control over the data plane in a native, on-board, Tcl based language that looks and feels a heck of a lot like TMSH scripting, iApp scripting, and iRules. The effect is a power packed set of features that you can toy with on box and bend to your whims. There’s so much more to tell, however, and Jason does a darn good job of detailing the hows and whats in this blog post, complete with not only a pretty picture (ooohhh!) but also some code, because all my chattering doesn’t show you the nitty-gritty.
This one is worth reading for sure. This is an exciting, powerful new technology unleashed upon F5 community to give them even deeper access to build dynamic solutions. I’m eager to see what comes of this, and it’s time to get the word out. iCall has arrived, will you answer?
Web Scraping – Data Collection or Illegal Activity?
Do you web scrape? Do you know what web scraping is? Whether you’ve been a victim, read an article, tried to perform some actually less-than-underhanded version of web scraping for some reason or another, or otherwise, you should be familiar with this concept. If you’re not, it’s time to get familiar. Fortunately this article from John does a good job of outlining the what, why, problems with and some silver lining surrounding this would be issue. Web scraping is not a particularly fun issue to deal with, but it is something that can be handled if you know what you’re doing it. There are lots of ways to work around this, from custom rolled solutions to products galore, to things like iRules that can step in and solve the problem for you, depending on your deployment. Fortunately, however, there’s a feature built into ASM that’s all packaged up and ready to use with a few keystrokes (or mouse clicks, for the more GUI inclined). John does a great job of outlining the problem, and hinting at one of the possible solutions via ASM in this article. In the rest of the series he digs deeper and provides far more detail and information for those looking to be less vexed by scrapers scraping things with their scrapey bits. This one is a good introduction, and leads to good detail down the road. Check it out, especially you security minded folk.
The Application of Everything
When I say “Mobile Application” what do you picture? I’ve got money saying it’s your mobile phone, and one of a handful of wildly popular applications wherein you can post your status, watch a video, buy or trade something, post a picture or some other equally pervasively mobile function. What you probably don’t picture, however, is a web browser. That’s interesting, because it shows just how good of a job the UI designers of those “applications” you’re picturing are doing at making you forget that you are, for all intents and purposes, firing up a web browser. A purpose built, custom skinned, highly targeted browser, to be sure, but for all intents and purposes a huge portion of mobile applications are web browsers. Why is that? Well because they are fronting HTTP and HTTPS based web applications. Whether I’m reading my eBook on my computer, my tablet, or my phone, I’m accessing effectively the same back end with shockingly similar front-ends. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that many of the same HTTP issues that have existed in the computing world since, well, forever, exist. First and foremost amongst those is often performance. Therein lies a bit of a rub, however. We’ve gotten pretty good at HTTP acceleration and performance enhancements, but that is mostly when talking about dealing with a traditional browser on a traditional computer platform. Twist that around to a mobile browser and platform, let alone a mobile network, and the game changes dramatically. The needs and approaches are vastly different, and we’re still figuring things out as we go along, really. This intriguing reminder of precisely that from Lori is thought provoking and points to some of these concepts in a way that makes it extremely easy to follow and understand. It may not solve the problems, but it describes them well and will hopefully get you thinking about them as much as it has me.
Two-Factor Authentication using Yubikey, YubiCloud, and BIG-IP LTM
Two factor authentication is nothing new here in the Top5. I’ve talked about it in various forms on several occasions. One of which was even talking about this particular two factor auth method, Yubikey. For a refresher on what Yubikey is, Jason’s article will clarify nicely, but it’s basically a touch activated USB key that generates a one time password on demand. There was a detailed solution showing how to get Yubikey working with APM a while back. This article is just a little bit different, however, in that it is entirely iRules based. What’s that? A touch sensitive USB key interacting with purely iRules to perform the necessary authentication and send off box info as needed to make Yubicloud do its thing, and provide smooth, two factor auth with nothing but some diet Dr. Pepper fueled coding know-how? Yes. Oh sweet merciful Targaeryens yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Jason, as always, does an awesome job of laying out this article complete with big animal pictures (the cow says, moo.) and the code necessary to make this dog hunt in your neck of the woods. I love me some iRules goodness, as anyone that’s been here before is well aware, and this smacks of precisely that. Go take a look for the full scoop, and let me know if anyone tosses this one out there for Yubi-enabled users in the wild. I’d love to see it in action, and let Jason know that he has, yet again, become the hero of the users.
DevCentral Weekly Podcast
The Weekly podcast is no stranger to the Top5. It’s cheating, really. My name is Colin, and I am a cheater. I cheat because I love you, though. You’ll forgive me, won’t you? What if I promise you that in this video there is a video WITHIN a video, that contains an F1 champion crashing and burning in an F5 labeled car? Maybe I’m leaving out the parts about it being a simulator and there being no actual crashing or fire, but hey, it’s still pretty cool. Aside from the gear head squee inducing goodness, this podcast also actually talks about, gasp, technology. John chats about web scraping, Joe gives the dirt on the many events the DevCentral team has been attending, and they both offer some insight and info on what’s going on in DCville these days. As I am only a visitor, and no longer a resident, I tend to glean what I can from these podcasts just like the rest of the DCLovers out there (that’s you…I hope), and I can say that I heartily enjoyed this one. See for yourself if it tickles your fancy, or at the very least share in my jealousy over F1 royalty on an F5 video (That they waited until I wasn’t around to film, I might add…some people).
Well folks, that wraps up another installation of the Top5, overdue though it may have been. Things have been a bit crazy ‘round these parts, so my apologies for the lack of broadcasts, but here’s to hoping that’s rectified now and I can resume my regular transmissions. As always if you’ve got feedback, questions, suggestions or “other” please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I’m at c dot walker at f5, or all over DevCentral with the fancy blue links that say “Colin”. And now, as the refrains of “Blame it on my ADD…” thud in the background, I bid you good reading, and remind you as ever, to code hard.