Meet James Freeman: Exploring Automation, Ansible, and More

I am thrilled to welcome James Freeman (@jamesfreeman959) as a guest blogger to our community!

James brings over two decades of experience in the technology sector, with a specialized focus on Ansible and Linux systems.

He is the co-author of “Mastering Ansible” and has shared his extensive knowledge at numerous industry events, including AnsibleFest.

James is also an advocate for leveraging automation to enhance productivity and well-being, topics he has explored in depth at events like the Red Hat Summit.

We look forward to learning from his expertise and incorporating his insights into our ongoing discussions about ThinLinc and broader Linux environments.

Interview Questions:

  • James, how did you first become involved with Ansible, and what inspired you to co-author “Mastering Ansible”?

  • Could you tell us about one of your most memorable speaking engagements at AnsibleFest or other conferences and the impact it had?

  • During your Red Hat event presentation, you discussed the broader benefits of automation with Ansible, including its impact on well-being. Can you elaborate on how automation intersects with Positive Psychology?

  • Could you share why and how you have implemented ThinLinc for your customers? What aspects of ThinLinc do you particularly appreciate, and why do you recommend it in certain scenarios?

  • Can you tell us about the consulting services you provide, how potential clients can hire you, and what kinds of projects you are most interested in?

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Thank you so much @muitotri - it’s an absolute pleasure and honour to be here and to have this opportunity! Before I dive into the interview questions, I’d like to ask the community to participate in the poll attached to this post - I have a few ideas of what to write about first, but I need your help in choosing what the first blog should be! Let me know :grinning:

Also, I will be speaking at Red Hat Summit in Denver next month, so if anyone in the open source community wants to come and see my talk or say “hi”, please do! Session details are here: Red Hat Summit 2024 - Automatically generate Ansible collections from vendor API’s like AWS with Ansible Content Builder

Ok, let’s address those interview questions:

  • My boss kindly took me along to my first ever AnsibleFest in London in 2017, and I was immediately taken with the passion and enthusiasm of the community for Ansible. The more I learned, the more I realised how important automation is to effective IT Operations, and in 2018 I was selected to give a break-out session at AnsibleFest in Austin, TX. It was there that I met a good friend Eric Chou who writes books on network automation, and I suspect he might have had something to do with the publisher Packt approaching me via LinkedIn shortly after my return from the conference. I’ve always loved writing and the written word, so I jumped at the chance to have my name on the cover of a published book! That was 5 books ago now…
  • I guess there are two - at my first AnsibleFest talk in 2018, I got confident and decided to open with a joke. There was absolute silence in the room and I just wanted the floor to open up, and I then realised I had two choices - to walk off the stage or to just keep talking. Thankfully I chose the latter, so I guess that had a pretty big impact on me. My favourite presentation was given first at the London Ansible Meetup about how I see Positive Psychology and Ansible intersecting, and I had people lining up to talk to me afterwards so I think the message really hit home. They say people will always remember how you made them feel, and I think I made people feel good about automation.
  • I believe people are at their best when they feel empowered, and I think we all know that nothing saps energy more than boring, repetitive tasks. Ansible gives people the opportunity to create something (hence a sense of accomplishment), and the potential to contribute it to the wider community (which gives them purpose and the possibility of making meaningful connections). This in turn gives so much more meaning to what might have begun as a menial task, and the sense of community that exists to this day around Ansible only adds to that meaning. Of course that’s just a brief summary, and if you’d like to see the version of the presentation that was given at AnsibleFest 2021, you can find it here:
  • My opinion is that remote desktop solutions for Linux have not advanced at the same pace as the rest of the Linux ecosystem, and many solutions are either proprietary at some level, costly, or based on old (and hence insecure technologies). ThinLinc is the first remote desktop product I’ve found for Linux that I can just install, and that solves so many of these problems providing authentication, encryption, working sound, clipboard, drive redirection, and also the option of both a thick client and an HTML5 based interface. This, combined with the fact that it is available in both free and paid versions is great as customers can start free and pay for support if they need it. Many of the people I work with have migrated from Windows and asking them to set up an SSH tunnel to then run VNC over it is a tall order by itself!
  • I specialise in open source (and have done for 20 years now) and provide consulting services around implementation, IT operations, monitoring, upgrades and architecture. I am also happy to review designs and processes for companies and am happy to perform break-fix troubleshooting if required. I am branching out more into Cloud operations (AWS), especially cost optimisation. If anyone is interested in reaching out to be, the best place to start is a discussion over e-mail or WhatsApp
What blog article should guest blogger James Freeman write first?
  • Setting ThinLinc on up an AWS EC2 instance and behind Traefik and Authelia
  • Adding LetsEncryptSSL and 2FA (Duo) to the Traefik/Authelia setup
  • Use Tailscale VPN with Tailscale SSH to provide passwordless remote access to ThinLinc on a remote server
  • Install ThinLinc server using the Ansible role that exists on Ansible Galaxy
  • “Saved sessions” for ThinLinc on macOS
  • “Saved sessions” for ThinLinc on Windows
  • Something else (reply in the thread)
0 voters

Closing the poll today - thank you to everyone who voted! We have a tie in the vote for the blog article, so I propose the first article written will be Setting ThinLinc on up an AWS EC2 instance and behind Traefik and Authelia. The blog article on Tailscale VPN can come second :grinning:. Look out for the first article coming soon!