Welcoming Pantelis Sarantos: five questions to know him better

Welcoming Pantelis Sarantos: five questions to know him better

Our slogan is ‘Reliable Open Source Digital Infrastructure’, but without the people behind the ‘operation’, it would be just a marketing bling-blong, not a promise we take seriously. We are managing your infrastructure using open source platforms and the least we can do is to show faces behind the keyboards.

Welcome Pant

We are starting with Pantelis Sarantos, our Athens-based team member, who joined us recently. He is focused on what we label as ‘future-proofing’, our initiative that aims to further improve our operations with a long term planning mindset. So, here it is, 5 (plus one) questions for Pant.

1. Could you tell us some things about you? (where are you from, upbringing, hobbies)

I am Pantelis and I am from Athens, Greece. I grew up in the south of Athens in a suburb called Alimos and I also have family roots from a village in Korinthos where I often visit as part of my vacations. I find Athens nice, even if is overcrowded. Maybe because it has a lot of places to go depending on your mood or maybe because I have got used to it. I guess that every place has its downsides but this has got very familiar to me, so I like it.

Pantelis neighborhood in Athens

I started having an interest on electronics since I was 5 years old. I got curious of what is inside my RC cars so I started unscrewing them. I remember that I used to connect the motors directly to the batteries, for no particular reason. It was my Father who didn’t stop me destroying my toys but instead when I was 6 years old he got me my first solder iron and I was soldering everything, again for no special reason. I used to spend my father’s income to LEDs, resistors and many small electronic parts. Sometimes I had some kits with instructions in order to create devices such as an FM Transmitter or a humidity detector. Its funny that they never got working because I burned some of the parts by touching with the solder iron their pins for too much time.

All I have left from that is good soldering skills and in rare situations the ability to fix some devices.

Growing up, I was ~12 years old when my parents got me my first computer. The funny thing about my first computer was that it was build piece by piece from my father; while he new nothing about computers at all. It had Windows Vista installed at the time and I had no internet connection. Sooner or later an unknown neighbor donated some of his internet capacity, of course without he knowing so.

I remember my self messing around the windows files. I remember trying to find a way to see what is in these .dll files, and probably tweak them. Of course I had no idea about any programming language. Sometime later I ended up in the w3c website and started messing with local html/css websites. I remember that I disliked the CMS available at the time because they added a lot of extra styling and/or html tags. Unfortunately, I never got a good design taste in order to create something nice.

However my interest in school was absent. I barely studied for school and for my English lessons while I was a always was a very bad student. There was only exceptions within the school-year that I was studding for a test or for a specific lesson that I found interesting. It’s not a surprise that in the last high school grade i quited school because I though it was a waste of time.

Never the less there were always some key people in my life where they helped me either not quitting earlier or finishing high school in order to get my degree.

Later I went to a Vocational Training school where I studded about Networks and Telecommunications. It was very interesting and I ended up also acquiring the national Certificates.

As per my hobbies I always liked technology so I was always reading and studding about it. I also read and watch the news and I try to get often updated with the political side of things.

2. Why open source tech? How did you start getting involved? The communities you are more engaged these times? Share it all :)

I now guess that opens source was inevitable to avoid. I always found my self limited with most closed source software/hardware. As I said previously, with my first computer I tried to view what was inside these .dll files. The thing is that it was obvious to me that there should be a way to open/view/edit them. At the time I had no idea that these were not supposed to be edited nor open for my young eyes.

However, the start was at this event of the Open Source Day, where this guy showed me how to crack a WIFI that used a WEP Key for authentication. It was then that I saw the endless possibilities while also being able to find (limited at the time) resources about this. I guess it was not the Aircrack-ng software that actually kept me there but the whole idea of the communities that share information and break the barriers. Software being open source without the people around to explain and teach, wouldn’t be useful. And sadly there are a lot of projects with a lot of complicated code that only the main company can actually follow and develop.

I used to be in the Greek Fedora team but never got to be an Ambassador. The last years I am more actively engaged with the Nextcloud community. We have a Greek Telegram group where we try to solve questions or help people with their issues… I find my self suggesting automated installs rather than manually installing a service like Nextcloud. There always numerous blog posts and guides on how to install your instance, however most of them are usually outdated while security isn’t guaranteed. A working Nextcloud server is not always a secure Nextcloud server. This is why I mostly suggest the use of Nextcloudpi. Nextcloud Greece Community Telegram group

Last but not least, it would be fair to say that anything that is privacy oriented has to be open source. Open source software is a vital component when Privacy is the goal.

3. How do you get in contact with Cloud68.co team members? and what is your actual role within the team?

I first met Redon and Silva at the Nextcloud 2017 Conference in Berlin. It was my first Conference attendance outside of Greece, where I was a volunteer at the booth while also helping ad-hoc issues. We had a great time traveling around Berlin and I remember having nice talks about the need to lower the barrier of open source software to the end user. I don’t remember talking about a specific “Cloud68.co” model at the time, however we shared a lot of common thoughts.

Since then we had online communication through Telegram and always were able to catch up with our news. We did met at most of the upcoming Nextcloud conferences while also met Silva at FOSDEM 2018 my first FOSDEM attendance). A year and a half later I was able to meet in person with Boris at the FOSSCOMM 2019 conference which took place in Lamia, Greece.

…It would be fair to say that we shared a lot of common travel destinations; surprisingly at the same time these conferences held at!

My role at Cloud68.

Since March 2021 I am in the Infrastructure team of Cloud68.co. My role is to help Boris implement new features and improve the back-end while leveraging the good work he has already done. The goal is to improve Cloud68.co infrastructure in terms of stability, future-proofing, updates; always having in mind to lower any managing overhead generated.

4. Could you share some of the challenges you are have at this phase of your work?

This phase of my work is to implement a new approach on the backup architecture across Cloud68.co infra. For that matter we chose the Bareos software which seemed the best option within the open source backup software.
With this new platform we had a lot of challenges, mostly regarding the documentation and the available resources. We thought a lot of times to put our effort on something else, however it was a wise move from our part not to cancel it, because we have now managed to fully understand and ‘own’ it.
Trying to be more specific, the biggest challenge was to understand the definitions that Bareos uses in the docs. This hard part consisted of using some common words in the docs like “volume”,”disk”,”pool”,”storage” (and many more) with a different meaning. So for example, when we read in the documentation the word “disk” is does not mean the physical disk. This took us a lot of time to understand these differences with a lot of tests (try and error).
More challenges were found in the process, either with the documentation not being 100% accurate or with other parts of the infrastructure. For example at first we were thinking of having a dedicated server storing our backups and we had some challenges to resolve regarding the filesystem we should use or the Raid configuration. We ended up ditching the idea of having a dedicated server because we found a much better solution for storage.

Additionally I am going to refactor our internal documentation regarding the technical elements around the infrastructure. It is no longer a secret within the team that I love writing documentation and we are all happy that I am going to spend some time to do so.

It is in our plans to write a few(?) blog posts regarding the Bareos challenges as an accompanied guide for the Bareos documentation. This way a lot of people will be able to get familiar with it much faster.

5. What do you like more about your collaboration with the core Cloud68.co team and (wait for it)?

It is very rare to work with people that do not have the corporate mindset of goals. It is very nice that (not only) the Core Team are very friendly and understand the common human issues we all have from time to time… It is not common for a work environment to worry about your daily mood or trying to make sure you don’t burn out.

These are some qualities that are very hard to find in your work circle, and I am very happy that I have found them here.

Bonus question: How do you see the future for floss and your engagement in this area?

I have a rather pessimistic view.

Since the motivation that moves everything around us is profit, and more specifically profit for the stakeholders, I don’t see the FLOSS being the mainstream any time soon.

Privacy is directly depended on FLOSS because it is the only way to make sure your data (“data” in short for data/info/sensors/devices/cameras/etc) are used in the way you wish. And companies that rely on services that use your data for targeted advertising, by profiling you based on them, always see the FLOSS as the opposite of what they try to achieve.

Of course lets not forget that Privacy is about the control a person has over the usage of his data. In short, it’s about having the choice to not allow a company use your data, independently if you chose to do so. We need to have the choice even if we chose to allow the company to use our data.

Thinking about it as I write these lines, I believe the issue most free libre open source software (FLOSS) has is that it is not widely adopted/used. Maybe the start would be an open source Single Sing-On (SSO) service that would replace every individual service authorization. Additionally a common protocol to provide communication between each service. Maybe this way there would be much greater uniformity between different open source software.

Do not forget that most widely used services (Social Media, Office Cloud Platforms, Services in General) are focusing on the ease of use. And I believe that the most difficult thing someone can change is something that is very easy for him. Convenience and easiness do more harm than good eventually…

Regarding my place in the picture, I see my self as a very small piece on the chain. Talking in conferences and spreading the word in social media is the only weapon in the quiver. But I know I can’t do any difference on my own.

So, unless I find a way to alert and persuade a lot of people to change their habits, I am going to stay a very small link in the chain.