mPulse

Friday, December 31, 2004

Database Update — InnoDB

I updated my two largest database tables -- my raw server logs and the GrabPERF data table -- to InnoDB tonight to try and improve performance. I have noticed some sever performance degradations lately, but that may be because I am using it more and expecting more of it.



I will monitor this change and rollback if no real improvement is seen.

Cancel Inauguration Parties

Samantha and I are right in tune with Mark Cuban on this.

Start by cancelling your inauguration parties and festivities.




Could there be anything more confusing and shocking than to read that our country was offering $35mm in aid
to the areas affected by the Tsunamis, but that the cost of inauguration parties would be about $40mm ?




Does anyone else think that this is wrong ?


Secrets of the DNS Gurus

  1. I find DNS one of those things on the Internet specifically designed to drive sane people mad.


  2. The true DNS gurus do very little to share their knowledge.


  3. Are there any truly legible blogs on DNS, and most notably BIND?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Creative Burnout and the Future

Scott Berkun has an excellent essay on creative burnout.



For those of you who read this and may know me, this is a hard thing to accept. That I have gone so hatd at something for so long that it no longer excites me. Yes, there are elements of it that do motivate me, but the day-in, day-out work of taking apart companies' Web performance data, answering the same questions, and hearing the same questions is no longer fun.



I used to live for this sort of thing. I would work from 06:00 - 00:00 because there were so many cool and interesting problems to solve. Now I heat those some questions and almost roll my eyes.



I have been immersed in this field for so long that I have lost a lot of my focus. But now I am asking questions that are the foundation of my life.



  • Where do I want to be in 5 years?  Short Answer: Working in Canada, consulting and speaking to an international audience on trends in Web performance from a technical and process standpoint


  • Will I be working for the company I am working for now? Not likely.


  • Where will I be living? At minimum in one of the Pacific Northwest's triad (Vancouver/Victoria, Seattle or Portland). Preferably near but not in Victoria, where I can easily get flights to my gigs.


I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and thinking how much better I would feel being closer to home. I accepted this move as a way to get out of one backward, dead-end job, but I often find myself questioning if it was a good move, or simply one of convenience.



Last night, I updated my resume/CV. Tomorrow, I will transfer it to Word, Text and PDF formats. Time to hit the pavement again.

And they wonder why I fear for this nation sometimes…

Read this article, and you will understand.



Help America.

Interesting theme appearing — US Foreign Service Not Helpful

One of the themes I keep reading about in the stories from the Southeast Asia Disaster Zone is that Americans are all reporting how ineffective and/or invisible members of the US Foreign Service are in dealing with citizens trying to get replace documents, find loved ones or simply get home.



I hope that the Canadian Foreign Service is doing a better job.

Faye Wachs said she was impressed by the efforts of the Thai
government and the International Committee for the Red Cross, but "she
was appalled at the treatment they got" from the U.S. government, her
mother said.



At the airport in Bangkok, other governments had set
up booths to greet nationals who had been affected and to help
repatriate them, she said.



That was not the case with the U.S.
government, Wachs told her mother. It took the couple three hours, she
said, to find the officials from the American consulate, who were in
the VIP lounge.



Because they had lost all their possessions, including their documentation, they had to have new passports issued.



But the U.S. officials demanded payment to take the passport pictures, Helen Wachs said.



The
couple had managed to hold on to their ATM card, so they paid for the
photos and helped other Americans who did not have any money get their
pictures taken and buy food, Helen Wachs said.



"She was really very surprised" that the government did so little to ease their ordeal, she said.



http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/12/28/tsunami.diver/index.html

Donate what you can — Tsunami Relief & American Red Cross

Scoble points us all to the Amazon homepage.



Amazonmaindec292004



Give what you can.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Updating my CV/Resume

Spent the last couple of hours looking over my CV and examining all the things that I have done over the last six and a half years. I have gone from a pretty mundane tech-support position that was not challenging me in Victoria, BC, to Silicon Valley during the boom, and landing a job in the 128 Corridor in Massachusetts.



Not bad for a kid from a small town, where the grad class only had 65 students.



If you are a potential employer (or basically curious or voyeuristic), drop by the updated document; there is a link in the left-hand column of this page.

GrabPERF Renamed

The site formerly known as GrabPERF has be re-branded (yuck!) as WebPerformance.



The GrabPERF measurement system is a component of the WebPerformance site. There are also libraries of articles on Web performance, caching, and compression.



I will be making more tweaks, as I have this week off from my real job.

Craig’s List Costing Newspapers

Report: Craigslist costing newspapers millions



Well, this is no surpise. It's fast, cheap and easy-to-use. THe classified industry has changed so substantially as a result of the online world that traditional classifieds almost seem quaint...at least to me.

Southeast Asia Tsunami Aid — Who’s Giving?

The CBC has a great list of which countries are giving and how much.



Given the size and scope of the crisis, the response from the world community seems particularly small. Individual contributions will likely grow this number, but give what you can.



Especially in the US. I would like to see private donations in the US vastly exceed government contributions to send a message to the Bush Cabal -- the United States has not forgotten the rest of the world.




UPDATE



It seems that the US has decided to kick in another $20M. I gave my $100 to the Canadian Red Cross this afternoon.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Netcraft Anti-Phishing Tolbar

The folks at Netcraft have released an anti-phishing toolbar. So far it is only for MSIE; hopefully they will release a Firefox extension soon.

Free Tools from Port80 Software

Got an e-mail from the team at Port80 Software in San Diego. They have a compression and caching solution for IIS, which although not my development platform of choice, is heavily used in the Fortune 1000, mainly due to the requirement from these firms to contract with a vendor with enterprise support programs.



The link below takes you to their variety of tools that check the cacheability and compressibility (this a word?) of your pages.



Port80 Tools Page

They also have a blog -- [200 OK]. Drop by and check them out -- there is a very interesting discussion on TIME_WAIT states going on, an oft-forgotten little tweak that is available for high-performance Web servers.

Get this book…if you can

If you want erudite and reasoned analysis of the roots of the current state if US foreign policy, Gwynne Dyer's Future: Tense would be the book for you. [Funny, Amazon doesn't seem to carry it.]



It plots the course and rationale for the neo-conservative revolution and its primary objectives: a Pax Americana enforced by special forces and weapons of high technology, and the diminishment (or dissolution) of the UN.



The book makes a strong case that this undertaking will lead to a multi-polar world, with regional blocs of economic-military alliance banded together to mutually defend each other. He draws comparisons to the world prior to the First World War and the spheres of influence in Goerge Orwell's 1984.



Yummy god read.

Snow

Once it's shovelled, it is quite beautiful out there.



About 6 inches -- ok maybe 4 inches with larger wind-accumulation in our weird yard. Kids had a blast in the snow and the Damnation Hound goes "crackerdog" in snow.



We are all wiped and Samantha is baking for the New Year's Day house party we are having. We will have food for millions by the end!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Another Blogger Refugee

Allan Jenkins is moving Desirable Roasted Coffee to Typepad.

Another Blogger user fleeing to another service.

Hmmmmm....

Browser Percentage Art

I thought everyone would get a kick out of my mirror image browser pertage chart.



Mirrorimagebrowsers



What do you see in the picture?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Wasted Life — Part Deux

As I previously asked, ever get the feeling you have wasted your life?



This feeling was renewed when I actually sat down and read Joi Ito's bio. I am obviously slated to be one of the proles.

Madness is over

Two kids.



One dog.



A treeful of presents.



45 minutes.



Now to deal with madness that resulted.



From our house to yours, Merry Giftmas.



House_christmas2004

Friday, December 24, 2004

New player?

Just discovered a new player in the Web performance field: SciVisum.



Anyone know anything about them?

Web compression benefit survey — looking for volunteers

As a sidelight to my Web performance job, I spent a lot of time investigating Web compression techniques, tools and devices a while back (I have a library of items I have collected



My studies were purely technical, i.e. what was the bandwidth saving in implementing this technology v. remaining uncompressed. Now I want to work with some companies who have implemented a compression solution recently and get a sense of what the bottom-line impact was.



Some questions I am trying to answer.



  • Does compression really save companies money?


  • Is the hardware/software implementation cost have an acceptable ROI?


  • Have you implemented a compression solution, then retired it? Why?


Not earth-shattering questions, but they will help me better understand the end-to-end business implications of deploying and integrating a compression solution.



If you woul dlike to partcipate, please drop me a line here.

By Invitation only

Lexthink! sounds like the kind of event I would want to attend if I worked in a real Professional Services firm.



And to make it "by invitation only"...well, that makes it super sexy!



Thanks to Scoble for the link.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

To measure or not to measure; that is the question…

Remember how Comcast Re-IP'ed the entire neighbourhood this week? Well, I can measure the Sears hompage again. For those who don't know the story, you can read more here.



The ethical question that I face is whether I should or not because I can. In the Web performance business, the companies that I work for have always held that if the site is public, then it can be measured, even if the site owner is not the one requesting the measurement (competitive benchmarking, public performance indices, etc.).



I am not going to burn the bridge with Sears at this point, but does anyone else have an opinion? How would your company react if it found itself being measure/monitored without it's knowledge/consent?

Christmas Present Assembly

Just spent the last hour assembling a gift for the boys. Samantha was kind enough to stand back and simply read the instructions to me -- and they were EXCELLENT directions. There were a few "big daddy hands in in a tight small space to tighten a nut" moments, but beyond that, all the parts were there and clearly marked and in the right quantity.



End-product: one ride on tractor for the boys! Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa (Samantha's parents) and Great Grandma Isa (my grandmother) for contributing.

Database Update

Just upgraded the GrabPERF database to MySQL 4.1.8. Went fine -- always does when you use their RPMs.



It's not a big database, but it does keep me entertained.

Freaky warm and odd e-mail

In a New England tradition, it is currently warmer here at the Embassy than it is in Victoria, BC, where this odyssey originated. This happened last year as well.



I shake my head and consider a cocktail.



On that note, I got an e-mail from a very old friend who I haven't seen since I graduated from UVic in 1990. I found his e-mail address a while back and sent him a note and he just sent me one in return and it was like Hunter S Thompson on amphetamines. Stream of consciousness vitriol.



Disturbingly familiar to me. I wonder if I have outgrown that part of my life, or just suppressed it?



All the presents are bought and we are ready (almost) for...something. I will keep you posted if I find out what it is.

Comments on management books

In a previous post, I discussed that I was reading some management books to get an insight into the other side of the company. I have finished Hope is Not a Strategy finally. Interesting, but no new revelations. The war stories are the most interesting part of the whole book. The approach to sales in common-sensical, but much too hard for most folks in this day of instant gratification.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Long Tail == Heavy Tail == The Beaver Effect

The reason why the Long Tail concept seemed so familiar to me is that I work with the statistical cousin to the marketing term, the Heavy Tail.



The term Heavy Tail is used to describe a dataset that is not "normally" (in the statistical sense; think Bell Curve) distributed. Internet performance data is notoriously heavy-tailed, with a large concentration of datapoints to the left-hand side of the population and a very slow and long/heavy tail trailing out into the nether reaches of "where things go very wrong".



When I gave training classes, I described this (being a Canadian, of course), as the Beaver Effect. If you are as puzzled as some of my seminar participants were, I am not suprised. However, go look at a picture of beaver -- none posted here; you know how to use Google.



Huge Body; large tail. The Beaver Effect.



Guess it doesn't resonate like the Long Tail.

Turn data into information

I have a monthly conference call with one of our consulting clients to go over their data, discuss improvements, and hear about initiatives that they they may be undertaking which will have an effect on the data for next month's call.



I woke up from my month-long slumber to prepare for this call. I saw some unusual trends, noted them, threw everything in a PowerPoint and thought to myself, "Well, they probably already knew this...but it's what I saw".



When I got on the call, it seems that my information had set off a fire-drill. They look at the data daily, but hadn't had anyone turn it into information for them. Now it looks like they will have to go in and debug an ancient piece of Java code that no one has looked at in years, cause it just worked. (See Tim Bray for more on this topic)



How does your company turn data into information? Chat away!

Speaking in Public

I miss it.



Seems like an odd thing to say, but I miss talking to groups of people who may be interested in what I have to say (in my offbeat and unique way) about concepts in Web performance. I used to do it a lot at my previous job, but I have not been presented the opportunity to go somewhere and talk for too long.



Anyone know of any good conferences where I could give a presentation or talk on Web performance? I can't seem to find any...but I guess I haven't been looking in the right places.

The Long Tail Phenomenom

The Long Tail has been the latest phenom here in the blogosphere. Its discussion of the choice freedom released by online retailers and distributors should be no surprise to anyone who has been online for more than 2 weeks.



My experience with this Long Tail goes back to the Christmas in 1998 when I bought a copy of Christmas in Connecticut (the original, not the schlocky re-make) from Amazon. Paid duty and shipping to have it sent to Canada. Very few of my peers had ever heard of it, and the only taped copy was an old Betmax version pulled from TV years before.

The whole reason that the Internet retail channel was touted in the first place was for just the reason that Chris Anderson has "discovered" in the Long Tail: all-the-time access to everything in market niche X. So why is the blogosphere heralding this as a new discovery? It has been with us since the beginning. But when someone "invented" a term for it, it is a new idea that needs to be discussed.



It is the original idea behind the commercial Internet. It is not news.



Next story please.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Back up — NEW IP

Ok, the GrabPERF and Pierzchala.com servers are back on the Net, with new IPs. You may not be able to get to them for a while, due to DNS propagation.

Whatever Comcast did better be worth it.

Sigh

Looks like the link to my home network is down. Ugh.



Guess I will have to do some work now.




Samantha reports that the tv is out and there are multiple Comcast trucks patrolling the neighbourhood. Looks like a severe knockdown.

English as a Second Spelling

The Blog Herald has a great discussion on blogging to a world-wide English-speaking audience (Choosing your English: the choice for new bloggers).



As a Canadian living in the US, my spellings have slid more towards the English(US) side of the spectrum in the last five years. This has been a matter of survival when dealing with annoying spell-checkers and US businesses (some of which claim to have a world view).



After reading the article, I think that I will make more of an effort to use my native spellings, and preserve what I learned growing up.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Browser Share

Ok, I am with Eric on this one. I do not give one iota about designing to a specific browser. I know what I use, and my pages look good in that browser. I also know that the browser I use is very standards compliant. And it's too bad if other browsers cannot play that game.



Standards, in HTTP and web-rendering languages, exist for a reason. I shake my head that we have to bow to something that not only is partially standards compliant, but based on technology that is creaky at best.



Design to the standards, and eventually everyone will have to bow to the accepted standard.

Kamloops? You said Kamloops?

Ok, as far as Internet hotspots, I have never tagged Kamloops as one of the biggies.



But, as Darren Barefoot passed along, they are the first city in Canada to get city-wide wifi.



Nice place...but, not for me.

Browser Stat Flood

Ok, in a weird little way, the subtext of the browser wars has started to re-surface in the blogosphere. Everyone is getting into the browser distribution mix.



Including me.



Check out the Browser Percentage Stats for this blog and for the GrabPERF Server.



Thanks to Tim Bray for re-starting this mess.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Blog Hit Count Graph Up

Remember that little piece of tracking code I cranked out on Friday afternoon (December 17, 2004)? The real-time graph of the hit-count is up. Not a huge number, but it just shows that with a little PHP and a MySQL database, you can achieve a lot in very little time.

The world-famous GrabPERF Datacenter

For those who have never seen pictures of my previous hosting facilities (San Mateo Hosting Facility), here are pictures of the current GrabPERF datacenter.

Datacenter_1


The whole shooting match.
Datacenter_3
The Web and Database servers. Even I'm not sure which one is which.

What is a Damnation Hound?

Ok, here is a picture of the World-Famous Damnation Hound.

wiggles_on_bed_1


Yes, Wiggles is a cross between a dalmatian and a bassett hound. We have this thing for freaky dogs, and she is one of the best.

They say the weather outside will be frightful…

Expecting snow overnight...like in the 3-7 inches variety. Very cool.



However, as Samantha pointed out, she has yet to have a white Christmas in her life!



Now, surely you are wondering how a woman who is Canadian cannot have had a white Christmas. Well, her entire life has been spent on the Wet Coast, so she has never seen snow on that special day.



Last year, like the Red Sox, we thought it was a sure thing. I mean, Christmas in Massachusetts? Come on, how could you miss?



On Christmas Day, I was wearing shorts and the boys were riding their bikes. It was 55F and sunny. Ugh.



So, the bribe of snow tonight looks potentially like what we need...until I read that it will be 45F and rain later in the week.



Here's hoping for next year...?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Me and Glen

Saturday night.



Christmas tree up.



Boys in bed.



Samantha in the kitchen making chocolate-covered almond roca.



Me in The Big Brown Chair drinking GlenLivet (12 year-old...no one to buy me the 18 or 21 year-old flavours).



Can live be better?

CBC gets RSS feeds

About bloody time: CBC Gets RSS.



Thanks to Dave Winer.

Friday, December 17, 2004

In the category of Oxymoron…

Why is the Phoenix Airport called the Sky Harbor? Last time I checked...well, you know where I am going.



Also just noticed that the Typepad editor limits you to 256 Web-safe font colors (16 of which are black!).

Ok, this is just ridiculous

One car, two cranes, and an anonymous coastal town somewhere in the world (click).



Thanks to the Head Lemur.

SiteMeter Back

SiteMeter is back ... and my 10-minute hack is showing that it is just as accurate as SiteMeter.



Company party starting in 10 minutes...

When the tracking site goes down…

So, what is a geek to do when SiteMeter goes down? He writes his own tracking code and embeds it on his blog page!



Really simple PHP Code:



<?php
include([DATABASE CONNECTION INCLUDE]);
$logtime = date("YmdHis");
$ipquery = sprintf("%u",ip2long($REMOTE_ADDR));

if ($REMOTE_ADDR != [EXCLUDE SOME IPS]){
        $query2 = "INSERT into logger.blog_log
values ($logtime,$ipquery,'$HTTP_USER_AGENT','$HTTP_REFERER')";
        mysql_query($query2) or die("Log Insert Failed");
        mysql_close($link);
}

print "<META HTTP-EQUIV=Refresh CONTENT="0; URL=[IMAGE FILE]"/>";

?>


Then I create a table in my logging database to trap the results. Once I have that, I created an IFRAME call in an MT Typelist and away we go!



There is always a geeky solution to a customer service issue. If this works, I will cancel my SiteMeter subscription.

SiteMeter appears to be hosed

For those of you ourt there that use SiteMeter, I need some verification that the service is unreachable right now. The icon does not load on my Blog page (you may have noticed this if you are reading this is a browser) and when you do get to the site, the stats database is unreachable.



Wouldn't bother me much, except I am a paying subscriber of this service. And companies who offer for-pay services to this community should read Mary Hodder's rant on lost data to understand that a lot of people see this information as a NEED to have.




Seems that they have configured their server with a broken set of re-direction rules that sens Firefox into an endless loop of HTTP 302 messages to the same page.



http://www.sitemeter.com/default.asp?action=LOGINFORM

GET /default.asp?action=LOGINFORM HTTP/1.1
Host: www.sitemeter.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.7.5) Gecko/20041107 Firefox/1.0
Accept: text/xml,application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5
Accept-Language: en-us,en;q=0.5
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive
Cookie: USERID2=XXXXXXXXXXX; PASSWORD2=XXXXXXX; ASPSESSIONIDSSCDARAD=GLJMJECBGJPGPAFDLLIINGAM

HTTP/1.x 302 Object moved
Cache-Control: private
Connection: close
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 13:22:04 GMT
Content-Length: 149
Content-Type: text/html
Location: default.asp?action=LOGINFORM
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
Set-Cookie: USERID=; expires=Wednesday, 09-Nov-99 23:12:40 GMT; domain=www.sitemeter.com;
Set-Cookie: PASSWORD=; expires=Wednesday, 09-Nov-99 23:12:40 GMT; domain=www.sitemeter.com;
Set-Cookie: PASSWORD2=; expires=Mon, 01-Jan-2001 05:00:00 GMT; path=/
Set-Cookie: USERID2=; expires=Mon, 01-Jan-2001 05:00:00 GMT; path=/


MSIE Lets you get to the homepage and then announces that the database for my site is unavailable.




ADDENDUM (JAN 8, 2005): Why is this article suddenly getting so many hits? Today, this single article has leapt to the lead of the greatest hits chart. Wonder what's up....

Server Hits drop quickly

Since I yanked the content from the 9 domains I have decided to sell, I have seen a massive drop in the amount f traffic to my Web servers. This is likely a good thing, considering where these beasts are hosted.



However, I do know that a lot of people have come to rely on the performance information I had posted, especially the information on compression configuration for Apache 1.3.x and 2.0.x. If you are looking for this information, the links are posted below.



Web Compression information is now located here.


Web Performance information is now located here.


Web Caching information is now located here.



I am also trying to determine how to write more white-papers in an effort to motivate myself out of this work-induced funk I am in. Let me know if there is a research paper on a Web performance topic that you or your team would be interested in.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It’s Official: Domains Now For Sale

As I noted in the last post, I have decided to divest myself of some of my domain.



If you want to see the list, you can go here.



Thanks to Jeremy Wright from Ensight for the idea to strip my life down to the bare minimum.

Need to become a reformed domain squatter

I just had a look at the list of domains that I own and realize that I want/need to clean house. There are 3 domains that I want to keep, and 9 that I am looking to get rid of.



Domains that I want to unload include:



mod-deflate.net
mod-deflate.org
performancecore.org
performancecorps.org
performancefreaks.org
performanceguru.org
webcaching.org
webcompression.org
webperformance.org



I will be re-positioning content from these sites to my remaining domains today/tonight.

New Work Laptop

Ok, so it's not completely new; it's recycled from our former CTO. And it came with 256MB of RAM. How can a CTO even consider only 256MB of RAM sexy?



Anyway, I ordered 512MB to supplement whatever I find in here, and off I will go.



And if anyone is curious, it is a Dell Inspiron 8500. A step up from the Thinkpad 600X I had been using. And thankfully this is one of the only Dells with a pencil eraser pointer, not just the glide pad. I have NEVER liked glide pads.



Ok, I have spent the last 3 hours tweaking this thing...off to do something resembling work.

Firefox NY Times AD

I held the NY Times in my hand and was awed by the two-page spread. The people of the Spread Firefox team have outdone themselves.



A PDF of the ad can be downloaded (here and here).



Congratulations everyone.



Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Doc Searls reminding the Big Players to pay attention

Doc Searls, in a posting today, comments on a message from Doug Knapper of DoubleClick.



I won't get into it too much as Doc covers most of the concepts pretty clearly. Suffice to say that the Internet DoubleClick was created for has evolved. I recently said in an e-mail "You are now leaving 2004; Welcome to 1999", and this is how I feel when I talk to some companies, especially about the evolving world of Web performance.



We are all connected. We will talk about everything.

Ensight author going Kerouac

Jeremy Wright of Ensight soon will be doing his Jack Kerouac imitation.



Godspeed, fellow traveller.

Blog on Bandwidth Usage of Blogs

I am throwing this into Web performance, because I firmly believe that the use of HTTP as an application platform (commonly referred to as "Web services") will re-invigorate the bandwidth business.



And the fact that we have a blog dedicated to RSS Bandwidth Usage indicates that this will grow if we are not careful.



Compression, use of proper caching and Modified headers are crucial.



Web performance never dies; just gets a new name.

Severe Geekiness

I like this idea: mondo-geekiness.



CSS reference on your iPod

Google and You

It seems that Dave Winer shares my paranoid feelings toward Google.



I have been ranting to friends and colleagues for a long-time that I would never work for Google, as it is going to be the Microsoft of the early 21st Century. The rosy glow will wear off as they become more and more omnipresent.



They also hired a VP away from a company I used to work for, Now, that isn't so bad, except that this gentleman has a great deal of experience that can't appear on his resume for reasons of National Security.



Great search engine, but that's all Google will get from me.



If you want to extend your paranoia, go here and watch the movie.

Comcast scanning Port 80

You would kind of expect it, but to do it in such an obvious way is kind of mind-boggling. Comcast started scanning my home IP every 15 minutes on November 24, 2004 for signs of a live Port 80. A simple IPTABLES rule and that's the end of that.



Now, that move will likely get me in more trouble than having an active Web server on my IP.

Sears Shuts Me Down

Starting at approximately 18:00 EST on December 14, 2004, Sears began blocking all incoming requests from my public IP address, most likely due to the GrabPERF testing I do from here.



Sears14dec2004blocked



How do I know it's a filter and not a performance issue? Well, when I re-route traffic through one of the many thousands of open proxy servers available, the page comes up instantly. Also, they are doing a smart thing, and not sending an explicit TCP Reset; they are simply routing the TCP SYN requests into the "bit bucket" -- a DROP rule for firewall wonks out there.



I have terminated testing of this site. Guess this means my wife can't access her order information for the oven part -- my bad.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Redhat to Purchase Netscape Server

A while back, I suggested that maybe the Mozilla Foundation should save Netscape Server/iPlanet/SunONE. Well, looks like Redhat is going to do it instead.



Somehow this does not fill me with glee.

Need a Regular Expression to Mangle IIS Log Files

Ok, I need some help in writing a Regular Expression that will allow me to split up IIS logfiles into a usable format for entry into a database. I have one for NCSA/Apache, but no one on the web seems to have one that I can use for the mangles output that I am getting from the IIS logs I have been asked to analyze.



Drop me a line if you can help out.

Service Level Agreements in Web Performance

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) appear to finally be maturing in the realm of Web performance. Both of the Web performance companies that I have worked for have understood their importance, but convincing the market of the importance of these metrics has been a challenge up until recently.

In the bandwidth and networking industries, SLAs have been a key component of contracts for many years. However, as Doug Kaye outlined in his book Strategies for Web Hosting and Managed Services, SLAs can also be useless.

The key to determining a useful Web performance SLA rests on some clear business concepts: relevance and enforceability. Many papers have been written on how to calculate SLAs, but that leaves companies still staggering with the understanding that they need SLAs, but don't understand them.

Relevance

Relevance is a key SLA metric because an SLA defined by someone else may have no meaning to the types of metrics your business measures itself on. Whether the SLA is based on performance, availability or a weighted virtual metric designed specifically by the parties bound by the agreement, it has to mean something, and be meaningful.

The classic SLA is average performance of X seconds and availability of Y% over period Z. This is not particularly useful to businesses, as they have defines business metrics that they already use.

Take for example a stock trading company. in most cases, they are curious, but not concerned with their Web performance and availability between 17:00 and 08:00 Eastern Time.But when the markets are open, these metrics are critical to the business.

Now, try and take your stock-trading metric and overlay it at Amazon or eBay. Doesn't fit. So, in a classic consultative fashion, SLAs have to be developed by asking what is useful to the client.

  • Who is to be involved in the SLA process?

  • How do SLAs for Internal Groups differ from those for External vendors?

  • Will this be pure technical measurement? Will business data be factored in?


Asking and answering these questions makes the SLA definition process relevant to the Web performance objectives set by the organization.

Enforceability

The idea that an SLA with no teeth could exist is almost funny. But if you examine the majority of SLAs that are contracted between businesses in the Web performance space today, you will find that they are so vaguely defined and meaningless to the business objectives that actually enforcing the penalty clauses is next to impossible.

As real world experience shows, it is extremely difficult for most companies enforce SLAs. If the relevance objectives discussed above are hammered out so that the targets are clear and precise, then enforcement becomes a snap. The relevance objective often fails, because the SLA is imposed by one party on another; or an SLA is included in a contract as a feature, but when something goes wrong, escape path is clear for the "violating" party.

If an organization would like to try and develop a process to define enforceable SLAs, start with the internal business units. These are easier to develop, as everyone has a shared business objective, and all disputes can be arbitrated by internal executives or team leaders.

Once the internal teams understand and are able to live with the metrics used to measure the SLAs, then this can be extended to vendors. The important part of this extension is that third-party SLA measurement organizations will need to become involved in this process.

Some would say that I am tooting my own horn by advocating the use of these third-party measurement organizations, as I have worked for two of the leaders in this area. The need for a neutral third-party is crucial in this scenario; it would be like watching a soccer match (football for the enlightened among you) without the mediating influence of the referee.


If your organization is now considering implementing SLAs, then it is crucial that these agreements are relevant and enforceable. That way, both parties understand and will strive to meet easily measured and agreed upon goals, and understand that there are penalties for not delivering performance excellence.

Build a Better Browser

Scott Berkun has written a very thoughtful essay on building a better browser (#37 - How to build a better web browser). Scott cut his chops on MSIE 4 and 5, so he has seen the inside of the process used to kill the reigning champion (at the time, Netscape).



Very interesting perspective, placing browser development in an historical (if you can call just over a decade historical) perspective.

Multi-Threading in .NET

Did a Technorati search on Web performance and came up with this interesting little piece of advice on how to implement multi-threading in .NET.



Boost Web Performance With Multithreading



.NET is definitely an improvement over ASP and multi-threading should make it even more better faster!



Thanks to Ahmed Salijee for the data.

Grabit2 Exposed

As promised, the Grabit2 API is now exposed.



http://www.pierzchala.com/grabit2/request.php?target=[INSERT URL HERE]


This was my first cURL project, started in early 2003. It has evolved substantially since then, most notably into the GrabPERF measurement system.



Have fun!

Firefox Rising

MozillaZine has some interesting statistic war data on the Firefox arrival. Now of course Microsoft is disputing the numbers. But it is sort of like arguing that the Sammy Sosa Home Run record doesn't mean as much as the Roger Maris or Babe Ruth Records because of the extended season.



Microsoft has lost this battle. If they are willing to suck it up and try to win the war, they have to agree to the following:



  1. Internet Standards -- CSS, XHTML, RSS, and HTTP/1.1 -- do matter. In fact, when looking at Web performance, I have to fall back to the following argument: "I don't care if MSIE does it, it is not in the accepted standards". Microsoft has a very active research division that has participated in the development of these standards. Means they must buy into them at some level.


  2. MSIE hasn't had any buzz since the start of the pop-up wars.


  3. MSIE suffers from a general perception of being insecure. Micorosoft hates when the others can effectively use FUD against their products.


  4. Being multi-platform has it's advantages. And Macintosh doesn't count, especially since you don't have a current version of your browser for OSX. Geeks use Linux, and OSX, and BSD, and Windows. But Geeks all love Firefox, and that runs on ALL platforms. So do 90% of the extensions and themes.


I like Firefox. But I do not underestimate the power that Microsoft can bring to bear if it wants to really develop a kick-ass browser. And in the end, all Web users win.

GrabIP Exposed

After having it on my site for over a year, I have exposed the GrabIP API (I can't believe I have a something I can even call an API) for random IP Address checks. Simply send a request to the system in the following format, and it will tell you which IP Block it resides in.



http://www.pierzchala.com/grabip/request.php?[INSERT VALID IP ADDRESS HERE]


The database is not as precise as some of the other ones that are available, but it was never designed as a tool of precision. I wanted a way to determine where visitors to my site were coming from, and I didn't need the level of detail available in some of the for-fee IP lookup databases.



A somewhat outdated write-up on the GrabIP system is available here.



I will be exposing the GrabIT2 API soon.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Canadian Blogging Conference Invites Americans

So, I am reading Ensight and there it is -- a whole list of American bloggers at a Canadian blogging conference.



Nvoice_button_large24



Guess being a Canadian blogger in the US doesn't qualify you anymore. Oh well, who would want to go to Vancouver in February...oh yeah...ME.

Ever get the feeling you've wasted your life?

Read the bio of Dr. Usama Fayyad, the new former Chief Data Officer at Yahoo!.

I will stop whining about my work and try to do something productive instead. Thanks for the ego-crushing YSearchBlog.

Blogger Jobs and the daily rant

The New Blogger Jobs is up. And Amazon is hiring.



Too bad Amazon isn't looking for Web performance gurus. They are a great company and I tried to get in there for a long time, but gave up.



My problem is that I am a Web performance generalist and evangelist. No one wants vague job titles. They want 10 years of experience in analyzing Web performance data with 20 years of Web development and 30 years of SQL expertise.



I have three skills that I value and find far more interesting than hard qualifications: intelligence, the ability to listen and a weird non-linear way of looking at the world.



So, what am I looking for? Last month, I issued a challenge to the world to challenge me. That is what I am seeking -- an organization that will let me carve a clear and recognized path through the morass of Web performance without being restricted by a marketing "vision" or a value proposition.



An organization that will allow me to help a company like Amazon understand why they are all over the news these days, and help them make that issue disappear. Amazon and their peers are great companies that do not need to have their very limited, but very public, Web performance glitches leveraged into marketing fodder.



I will still buy from Amazon; but I want to make them better. I would love to be a part of an organization that wants to HELP companies like Amazon stay on top in e-business and drive Web performance to new levels, not quarterly targets.



So, what does that mean? It means that I want to be a part of an organization that inspires me. And what inspires me?



  1. Clear corporate vision


  2. Profitability and a dedication to research


  3. A willingness to develop a Web performance evangelism team


  4. A holistic view of Web performance and its technology and business repercussions


  5. Having a platform to discuss Web performance with my peers who think about this every day.


Do you have it? Are you an Amazon? Are you better? Do you understand that being ok is not enough? SHow me your passion. Convince me that there are really people who think that Web performance will make or break companies.

MSN Toolbar Suite — Not in this machine

The MSN Toolbar Suite is out. But not in this house.



Get it now! Free!

Warning! Your browser does not meet the minimum
system requirements.
You are recommended to use the MSN Toolbar Suite with
Internet Explorer 5.01 or later.


Gee, you need to integrate it with MSIE...NOT! Anyone out there going to build a desktop search app that ties into the 'Fox?




Ok, in the interests of fairness, here is the unabashed positive MSFT view of the toolbar.

Browser Share Stats

Time Bray is tracking the hits to his site by browser on a week-by-week basis. He obviously gets way more hits than I do, but I have my little 30-day LIVE browser hit trackers. This data is updated every 15 minutes when I aggregate my log data into a backend database for archiving and analysis.



My comments: MSIE is still in the lead, but not by as much as you would expect from a "regular" Web-site. The server hosts a lot of geek-like info, so this does not surprise me.



And the sudden drop in the Bot/Crawler stats resulted from the insertion of a robots.txt file in the GrabPERF configuration.



Other30day



Seems that the MSNBot was being a wee bit aggressive in indexing every site I measure every day.



I also discovered that the dynamically generated files were far too slow to allow to exist in my production environment. I generate new static image files at the end of every log aggregation process, as generating them offline prevents the 80-second generation times when you try and slam the database with three simultaneous requests.

More GrabPERF Enhancements

The newest addition to GrabPERF is the dynamic calculation of Success Rate values for the Top/Bottom 30 (up from 20) tables. This has also been extended to the site pages.



Although this may seem relatively simple, you must remember that I am neither a coder nor a SQL whiz. But last week, a colleague demonstrated how to use CASE statements in SQL queries and all of the pieces snapped together.



The sheer volume of information analyzed in the Top/Bottom 30 tables leads to the following process flow for this page.



  1. Create a temp table to hold the test_id, a success flag and the measurement total. The success flag is based on the HTTP/cURL return codes, where a '200' is the only code written to the database that indicates a success.


  2. Drop all of the data for the specified time range into the temp table.


  3. Generate sorted lists (one ASC, the other DESC) based on the Average measurement for each test_id. The Average calculation uses the actual measurement total when the success flag is '1' and 0 when the success flag is '0'.


  4. As part of Step 3, the Success Rate is also calculated using this fantastic little bit of SQL magic:
    ((sum(case when success = '1' then 1 else 0 end)/count(*))*100)


  5. Spew the results out using PHP to colour-code the table cells based on the generated average response time (<1 -- no colour; >=1 and <3 -- yellow; >=3 -- red).


And the general public wonder why coding Web-apps is hard. This is a simple page.



It's been a year and I am still scratching my head trying to figure out how to allow people to generate graphs based on their own defined start and end dates. I may start with the simple part and allow people to pull the data in HTML/Raw Text, then save the graphing problem until I have some time (like between Christmas and New Years).



Still waiting to hear about other possible enhancements to GrabPERF that people would like to see.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Management Books as Entertainment

Occasionally, when I am travelling, I will find an airport with a decent bookstore. And I will indulge my habit of buying management books to try and get a competitive advantage when dealing with all sales people, even those that work in the same company that I do.



You see, when you understand how sales people think, and how they will try and position the types of services that I am capable of providing, then I am able to defend myself when they dream up some cockamamie scheme that will help them cover their butt for just one more quarter.



This time, it is Hope is not a Strategy and Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. Started Hope, and will likely get to Execution later this week. Then I am going to go back and read Solution Selling. Then, after I indulge in all of this competitive detective work, I hope that someone buys me a copy of High Performance MySQL, if only because I love what Jeremy has to say on his blogs (here and here).



So, if you see some non-Web performance related rantings this week, it's most likely cause of what I am reading offline.

Rants on Rubbermaid

The Head Lemur has an excellent rant on his favourite Rubbermaid Laundry Basket, and the state of the company itself (Laundry Baskets).



I agree with his design changes, and I also wholeheartedly agree with his rants on the state of the Rubbermaid site. I used to be a Rubbermaid evangalist myself. When I was a grad student in the early 1990s, I stored the contents of my nomadic life in RoughNeck containers, which doubled as firniture. However, since then, the quality and diversity of their product line has sunk and they have been marginalized.



After watching the Frontline on Is Wal-Mart Good for America, I blame Wal-Mart and poor management for the slide of one of my favourite brands. Wal-Mart squeezed an American plastics company right to the edge, exposing magaement issues, and forcing them into a merger with Newell.



So, although I like the design that the Head Lemur has suggested, it is unlikely that a company which was once so creative and cutting edge will even care that someone has a cool idea to improve one of their products.



I hope I am proven wrong as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

My former Blogger space hijacked!

When I moved from Blogger to TypePad, I deleted my username. Now it seems that someone has hijacked the space. I know I have no right to complain, but the person posting to this space better be another S Pierzchala, or I may get really grumpy.



Never had my identity stolen, until today.




UPDATE:



Figured I would grab a screenshot of this before it disappeared.



Bloggerhijack



Glad to be home

A very long red-eye. We were diverted to DEN on the SJC-ATL leg due to a medical emergency. This added 4 hours to the trip. I am still wiped out, but the gentleman definitely needed medical attention.



I got some very uncomfortable sleep, but don't expect anything brilliant until at least Monday.

Friday, December 10, 2004

At SJC

Sitting in SJC on the crappiest wireless connection known to mankind, waiting for the Delta flight to start me home. I hate red-eyes, but it's either this or miss all day Saturday.



Meeting today went well, and the client seemed to get a lot out of the information we had to share. It was also a good way to meet some of the people who we work with regularly and understand exactly what they need from our data.



It was also good to hang out with the boys and get the un-filtered view of the internal workings on the home front. We all got some news today that was a bit out of the blue...but that made us all go "Makes sense to me".



Off to parse some GrabPERF data and see if anything interesting has happened while I have been out of touch.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Blasting through the past

As I was roaring down the 101 at full tilt, I realized that the Bay Area is definitely a part of my past. I met with some former colleagues today, and I am still glad that I made the move that I did.



It was nice to see the old neighbourhood. It felt familiar and alien at the same time. Sometimes you have to go back to remember why you left.

More GrabPERF Updates

Added a way to download a tab-delimited raw text version of the collected data. This appears on the individual measurement pages.



Any other suggested improvements?

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

New Addition to GrabPERF

You can now access a full list of the URLs measured by GrabPERF here. This page has also been added to the RSS feed so that you can find it more quickly.



Ok, it is now 1AM PST -- I need to sleep.

In San Jose

Arrived in San Jose about an hour ago. Got a car, and ended up with a smoking room at the Courtyard in Downtown San Jose -- but they bribed me with a beer.



Off to find some food -- hear there is Italian nearby.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

RSS Feed for GrabPERF

Added a simple RSS/2.0 feed to GrabPERF tonight: http://www.grabperf.org/grabperf.rss



Provides the Top/Bottom 20 for the last one, six, twelve and twenty-four hours. Subscribe to the feed and when you click on the links, you will see the tables appear. Not brilliant, but functional.



I will build a list of sites currently monitored by the system when I have some downtime this week.

Amazon.com Experiences Sporadic Outage

Link: Amazon.com Experiences Sporadic Outage.



Ah. My former company quoted.



Again, they fail to be able answer the why. The new player from AlertSite makes a stab at it.



Another "so what" press release.

Akamai and Sandpiper…Digital Island, err, Exodus….ummm C&W Settle Lawsuit

Akamai, C&W Settle Patent Dispute



Not that it matters much anymore, as Akamai won this battle long ago, and C&W has become a smaller niche player. You have to look deep into the bowels of the C&W site to find any mention of their CDN offering.

Web Performance Evangelism Run Amok

I wanted to point you to an evangelist of the good kind that Scoble found -- "Obi-Wan", the Prowler Knight. They come in all shapes and sizes.



One of the directors in our company keeps saying how impressed he was by a certain product evangelist he saw at a conference a few years ago. He sings high praises about my potential to do the same. I know I can -- spent the last five years delving into the how-tos of Web performance, and have a bit of an opinionated streak to help me along.



Today, I am going to evangelize on Web performance.



The issue is that everyone has specific questions and nobody wants to think about the actual big picture. The biggest question an online has to ask is: "How do we make it fast, reliable, scalable, efficient and economic?"



Easy, right? Well, no actually. Big players in the online commerce world still have problems with this. Why? Why can't they get it right?



Over the last few days, I have posted a couple of screenshots showing that Amazon, the online retailing poster child, has had 3 distinct and length outages. This is unheard of from them. However, they should be in seasonal lockdown at the moment. So I looked at some data I have access to last night. I know when the problem started, but don't know the root cause. It is frightening that in the span of a single day, the internet leader is in the uncomfortable position of scrambling to decipher and resolve their problem during the busiest time of the year.



This doesn't surprise me anymore. I just shrug my shoulders and say, loudly, for the umpteenth time that if someone had asked the right questions, followed the correct process, and accurately analyzed the data none of this would be happening.



I have said it before: I have tried. Look at a retailer like Amazon, and you must also look at Target -- Target is completely wedded to the Amazon Infrastructure. Was Target part of the analysis of the data so that they could approve the system state freeze? The answer is likely no, and you know what? Target is likely going to collect a ton of paybacks from SLA infringements as a result of the Amazon outages.



At the beginning, I asked what does it take to achieve Web performance excellence. The answer is time and dedication. Online businesses have to either dedicate themselves to this, or sign on to partners who can.



Some big firms think that the traditional IT consulting firms can do it. What is their expertise in Web performance? How do they plan to validate and verify that the improvement plan they have outlined is actually meeting your business objectives? How will they help you manage your content, customer-tracking and ad providers?



Big IT consulting firms: Can you validate and verify that the performance improvements that you have implemented are economical? Are they efficiently resolving the issue? Who resolves problems?



How many consultant, engineers, developers and business managers does it take to fix a bad Web page?



Answer: I don't know. Do you?



In the end, Web performance is no longer about response times and success rates. It is no longer about usability. It is no longer about hit tracking, processor utilization, SANs, and distributed content. We performance boils down to a single question:



"How do we make it fast, reliable, scalable, efficient and economic?"

A test of Sauce Reader


Ok, I am testing the Sauce Reader and Blog posting tool. Going on the road and want to be able to read things offline on the plane tomorrow.



If anyone else has any offline reader/composer tools for blogs that they can suggest, it would be appreciated.






That didn't last long...it just felt clunky.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Internal Tools Don’t Meet External Usability Requirements

I am running a conversion script on some partner results and the tool that I am using is for internal use only. Which more than likely explains the following result code in the status column -- Catastrophe.



No idea why it produces this, but, it must be bad.

Robot Exclusion file for GrabPERF

Had to slap up a robots.txt file into the GrabPERF configuration; the MSN Crawler is getting a might aggressive. You really don't need to index every single measurement page every single day. You don't compete with Google by saturating the Internet with crawlers.

Bush Deserves Humiliation

Bush scoffed at opposition to missile defence during private meeting with Martin



Frankly, the thought of leaving Canada unprotected is not the issue. It is the absolute arrogance of Bush to think that he even has a hope to get this through a minority parliament -- hell, any parliament.



Even if the freaks in the Conservative party support it, they will be facing the wrath of the independent Western Canadian voter who will be stuck hosting these technology pipe-dreams.



George: Beijing isn't going to attack you -- they own you already.

More Radio Spectrum Available Soon — Dying US Commercial Radio

Steve Rubel: Hate to break this to you -- All US Commercial Radio is worthless crap. iPods are a symptom, not the cause (iPods Blamed for Denver Radio Stations' Decline). The Mega-Media corporation has killed local and unique radio. In San Mateo Samantha used to listen to KFOG; in Boston, it's WBOS. You can't tell them apart. So I don't; they aren't worth the time or effort.



The only station that I listen to is BBC Radio 6 -- Public Radio with tunes from the 1960s to NOW! Wonder if that's on XM or Sirius.

Cost of War

The National Priorities Project Cost of Iraq War Counter.



'Nuff Said.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Alan Herrell on the Sony v. Kottke experience

I am with Alan on this one.



Boycottsony



His open letter to the Sony Corporation on the Kottke/Jeopardy is a very clear expression of what happens when a major corporation attempts to paralyze free speech.



Sony, please take me off your mailing list. Until you re-align yourself with your reality, I will not buy your products, see your movies, or buy your artists cds.



The blogosphere is very tribal. You attack one of the members, we all retaliate.

When Wal-Mart ain’t happy…

Looks like the slow Holiday shopping season is affecting everyone, even Wal-Mart.



Seems that even the Chinese can't help them now (Frontline: Is Wal-Mart Good For America?).

George Tenet on Limiting Net Access

Joi Ito has some interesting comments on George Tenet's madcap Bush Cabal lunacy on limiting net access.



Hey now, this is the kind of thinking we don't need.

Saturday…I think

Spent all day in bed.



Now before you go off the deep-end and start saying how decadent, you have to realize that I spent most of the time unconscious, sweating, and having very unusual vivid dreams. It was actually kind of nice to have vivid dream again; I don't have them very often, as a result of the Paxil/Seroxat I take.



On the whole, it was a truly unpleasant day. Managed to crawl out of bed long enough to help put the boys to bed, and I am functioning mainly with the help of Advil (Curse of the CNS AGAIN!).



Samantha has hit her Holiday Season stride, and is slapping up "Canadian Pine" garlands, lights, bows, and pine cone highlights around the Embassy. I am settled in the command chair, knowing full well I better be healthy by Monday, or the whole trip to West Coast will be in question.



Ugh. Nice disease.



On a happy note, I sent my first 419/Nigerian Scam mail to spam@uce.gov. Seems that someone wants to hear about these things.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Amazon Goes Dark for an Hour

Amazonoutage3dec2004



Ouch. This most likely also affected Target, as they share the same back-end systems.



This part is pure specualtion on my part, but I have been finding Amazon more and more affected by these sorts of incidents in the last six months. I would love to have the opportunity to speak with some folks from Amazon to get a feeling for what may be happening behind the scenes.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Commentaries on MSIE and CSS/Standards Support

Tristan Nitot and Eric Meyer comment (Tristan : Eric) on the seeming resistance by Microsoft to move MSIE towards a greater degree of W3C Standards support.

As a hack and slash Web developer, the presence of standards is a necessity for me. I can read the W3C description of the <div> tag and it's child attributes and be able to implement it on my site.

The interesting that is not mentioned in the this is that MSIE lacks support for a number of HTTP-level standards as well. I know that most designers only worry about the screen results, but us Web performance wanks have to worry about the performance repercussions of a new browser release.

The most stunning example of this is continued resistance in some camps to the use of compression, and the utter lack of support for HTTP pipelining in MSIE.

Resistance to compression is a result of broken compression algorithms in older versions of MSIE. If you are actually still using one of these browsers, or an OS that does not support a new version of MSIE, the Web is mostly broken for you anyway, so compression is just another headache.

HTTP Pipelining is supported in all of the browsers...except MSIE. HTTP Pipelining is the ability to request multiple objects simultaneously across the same TCP connection. As most Web objects are small, the immediate impact to Web performance is astounding.

MSIE 6 is a vast improvement over the previous generations that have come out of Redmond. However, it would be interesting to have Microsoft on the side of Web performance as a major provider of server and client software.

Now, if we could only get the Mozilla.org folks to "liberate" the Netscape Enterprise/SunONE Web server code and bring that dinosaur into the modern age, we would all be a happier lot.

Web Performance First Look: MSN Spaces

A couple of comments on the new MSN Spaces site.



  1. Your web server headers for the main page are basically not helpful, especially the Caching ones:
    Cache-Control: no-cache
    Pragma: no-cache
    Expires: -1

    "-1" is not a valid Expires entry -- jest set it to the current date. "Pragma" is a client-side header ONLY.


  2. No compression? CSS, JS, and HTML file compression could save you some bandwidth and speed up the site.




The one site I looked at from an MSN staff member was an incredibly busy wild mess. But usability and site design are only things that I comment on.



Be interesting to see this try and evolve. Steve Rubel has a link to some of Steve Ballmer's comments. He also links to a previous article that discusses the "Pearl Harbor" email in 1995 when BGates discovered the Web.



I think that this is a bit far-fetched on Mr. Rubel's part. Unlike 1995, Microsoft does not carry the goodwill and universal support that followed it's release of MSIE. Even if they get it right in version 3.0, Google, TypePad and other players will not allow them to dominate. They may be able to release a blogging product that integrates into IIS (oh wait! what database will it use...you need a license for SQL server too!), but that will only allow other companies to open in competition to the Spaces offering.



Yes, the MSN move may move blogging to a more mainstream audience, but the other players in the field will just move-in.



My thought is that 2005 will be the year of corporate consolidation in the blogosphere. Yahoo will acquire one of the major services (TypePad and Radio Userland come to mind), and Blogger will become more tightly integrated with the other Google offerings. It will be like the portal wars all over again.



Will be fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Benefit of a Short Attention Span

I was sitting at my desk, consuming my second cup of Desktop Espresso and trying to get jacked up for the day, when I realized that I had no interest in US politics anymore.



This is a good thing.



My attention spand is one that is intensive, but very short. Samantha and I used to describe one of our dogs as having a "slide-show" mind: it could only hold one thought and it filled the entire screen when it was there. "Sleep under tree...<click>...be good dog...<click>...sit...<click>...squirrel".



I work on that principle. In the run-up to the November 2 vote, I threw myself into reading as much as I could on the campaign and the potential results. Now, I don't care. I have seen this bad movie before: Nixon's Second Term. Time to move on.



Now I am throwing myself back into the world of Web performance, as seen by many of the posts from the last few days. I am trying to elevate myself above the day-to-day trivialities of working as a consultant (pipeline of new business, response to tactical questions from customers and prospects, etc) to concentrate on the bigger picture.



And next week, who knows. I will keep you posted.



Right now, I, Samantha and the boys are concentrating on getting better; we have this vicious cold that will not die. Samantha says its the season; I place tha blame on an inter-species virus that came from the Damnation Hound. She had kennel cough when she arrived, and I firmly believe in the sci-fi idea that she transferred it to us.



But she is so cute for a beast from the 9th Level.



Was I talking about something when I started writing this? I don't remember...

Stupid Bus Drivers and Distant Relatives

Seems that some of the family were hurt in a bus crash in NYC.



Don't know them, but I am more than likely related to them.

Mexican Food Next Week

Tom Peters nails a comment on the comparison of food from the source versus distant interpretations.



I can't wait for the delight that they call a Pancho Villa burrito next week -- one of the benefits of going back to Silicon Valley next week.

Jakob Nielsen — Get a FEED!

Jakob Nielsen's site is a great source for Web usability information. Too bad he doesn't have a feed; I might visit his site more often.



His column -- Alertbox -- is an often scathing look at how Web sites use and mis-use design to drive their users mad.



Jakob, RSS isn't that hard! Get a feed or be lost in the noise.

Comments on Microsoft FUD towards Firefox

Interesting comments on how Microsoft is cranking up the FUD to handle Firefox.  Looks like Firefox is a credible threat to their core development platform.

RNC Blocking International Web Access

Netcraft is reporting that access to the RNC Web site is being blocked for IP addresses originating outside of the US.



Another attack? No one seems to know.