Monday, July 31, 2006

GrabPERF: TailRank measurements getting turned off

In the next 10 minutes, I will be turning off the TailRank Measurements. The performance has been abysmal for the last month.

TailRank Performance -- Last 30 Days

I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see if they snap back.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Upgrade to Wordpress 2.0.4

In the last three days I have gone from Wordpress 2.0.2 to 2.0.3, then from 2.0.3 to 2.0.4. All went seamlessly, and the blog working as expected.

Upgrades in both cases took less than 5 minutes.

I love Wordpress. I now know why Moveable Type is tanking so hard.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

GrabPERF: Original Web Server Sold

At our garage sale today, I sold off the original GrabPERF Web server. Sad to see it go, but it was time.

I am still trying to sell the database server. But I might turn it into a file server with a couple of massive drives.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Why it’s time to go home to Canada…part infinity

It appears that I will likely have to be fingerprinted every time I come into the US from now on. [here and here]

I love being an "enemy alien".

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

GrabPERF: Measurement Cleanup

Over the last 12 months, GrabPERF has added a lot of measurements, especially from folks who thought that the system was cool, looked at the data a few times, and never returned.

So, I have looked at the logs for the last few weeks, and determined that there are definitely a large number measurements that no one looks at. In order to absorb the load on the system and to free up space in the database, I inactivated approximately 30 measurements in the last hour.

If I inactivated a measurement you were using, please let me know. If there is a measurement you want added, please let me know.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

GrabPERF: The old servers are on Craigslist

If you want to own a piece of GrabPERF history, let me know.


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Web Performance: MySpace Offline

I came in this morning to read on Netcraft that MySpace had been knocked offline by a power outage at their datacenter. [here]

The question is now one of how did this happen. There should have been contingency planning in the extreme for this type of event, especially for operations in the Western US. Backup generators, UPS, etc. should have been in place.

It would be very interesting to sit in on a post-mortem of this event.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

GrabPERF: For Sale — The Original Servers

As everyone should know by now, GrabPERF has moved to some pretty swell co-lo digs provided by our friends at Technorati. This saved us a bunch of money, both in connectivity and in power.

Now, after nearly 6 months of inactivity, I have decided to sell the original GrabPERF servers. I have no more need for them, and if I was ever to do something like GrabPERF again, I would do it on much more modern hardware.

These two twin PIII 600MHz machines have done stellar work, given that they are at least seven (that's right, 7) years old. They are rock solid running Linux; your mileage may vary running other OSes.

These are defintely NOT desktop machines. People at the local Air Base asked me to keep the noise down. They have less than stellar video cards and no sound cards. These are servers.

These workhorses can be seen in an annotated context here. Until you go there, here is the old GrabPERF rack, just for the memories.

The GrabPERF Rack

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Friday, July 21, 2006

GrabPERF: Five of Seven Agents updated

As of right now, five of the seven GrabPERF measurement agents are updated with the new code I created last night.

I am also planning some addition changes to the service, including posts, HTTP Basic authentication, content matching and some basic per-measurement cookie jar technology.

Thank you all for your continued support of GrabPERF.

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Web Performance — Flickr: Do you want to get faster?

Dear Flickr:

I have been wondering for sometime why downloads from your site seemed a little sluggish at times.

At first I blamed your unprecedented growth and success. For a little Vancouver startup (I am a BC boy myself), your entrance onto the stage of social networking applications has been phenomenal. The move from zero to infinity may have played a part in the performance I was seeing.

Nope. There was something else going on; I could see it every time I loaded a Flickr page in my browser. There was something else going on.

So today, I checked something out, and found the problem.

You need to enable persistent TCP connection on the servers.

Now, that is the simple answer. I know that with large, web-based applications, enabling something as monumental as persistent connections could cause serious issues. If the architecture of the system was not designed to handle persistent connections, turning them on could cause the entire system to collapse.

There are legitimate, if mis-guided, reasons for disabled persistent connections. Some administrators believe that it is actually more efficient to have a client open a connection for every object. Easier to manage state, etc. The only problem is that in order to do that, you have to tune the systems serving data to shorten the amount of time a closed connection spends in a TIME_WAIT state.

When a TCP connection is closed, the socket is not immediately closed by the system in a default configuration. The TIME_WAIT state is the holding pen that these connections are pushed into. While in this state, the socket is locked and this may count against the incoming TCP connection queue, forcing the network stack to delay or reset new incoming connections.

Still, as Flickr is a worldwide company, the delay that the lack of persistent connections injects is astounding for locations in Asia. If you want to grow your business, and support more services, this will likely become a bottleneck very quickly.

Have a great weekend!


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Thursday, July 20, 2006

GrabPERF: New Agent Code in Testing

After a few month hiatus, I am starting to code for GrabPERF again. I need to exercise my brain; as I am a hobbyist code mangler, I have to take on a project every now and then to keep my not-so-l33t skillz honed.

The change to the agent is one of efficiency. The current production agent opens two database connections to run tests: one to retrieve the test configuration data; the other to insert the results of the tests. This means I loop through one set of database query results while doing inserts inside the loop on a second database connection.

This is stupid.

The new code opens a single connection to the database, retrieves the test configuration, dumps the results to an array of arrays, then inserts the data on the same connection. This is more efficient, as I use persistent connections and compression to MySQL to improve performance.

I have this running as TEST AGENT 1 from the Technorati #2 site.

Let me know if you see any madness...outside of Washington DC, and specifically with GrabPERF.

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A Metallica Morning

My musical tastes run the gamut. The sublime includes Gregorian Chants, Baroque music, and ethereal soaring symphonies.

But I was raised in a small town in the BC interior. Metallica is in my blood.

Oh, you may try and deny your Metallica-ness, but you know it's there. It's the one that makes you want to drive fast on the 280 between San Mateo and Sand Hill Road. The one that sees you doing the rocker salute and hair-wave when the kids are out. The one that makes do those 10 extra reps at the gym.

I thought Motorhead and AC/DC could soothe the beast.

No hope.

Out comes Kill 'Em All.

Now, all I need is a very fast car.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Staples: Fisher Space Pen for Cheap

Wandered into the neighbourhood Staples today for an office-supply fix -- didn't buy anything, just like the smell of paper and ink.

Down the pen aisle, I found a Fisher Space Pen.

For $15.99.

This is about $15 cheaper than anywhere else I have seen.

Now, when they start selling Moleskines or Rite in the Rain, I will be impressed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Massachusetts: And people live here because…?

It's just about noon and the temperature is racing towards 95F.

The humidity is high enough that the dog went for a swim, not a walk this morning.

The atmosphere is currently: 80% Nitrogen, 19% Pollution, and 1% Oxygen.

I am trying to imagine why so many people want to live here.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

New Pen Lust: UniBall Power Tank

I got the UniBall Power Tank in Golden, and it has replaced all of my other pens. A gel pen with a pressurized tank, it lives up to its reputation to write anywhere and on anything.

Effectively, it is a $2.95 Fisher Space Pen. And how can that be wrong?


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Canada: Community Recreation Centres — Another Reason Canada is Better

In Canada, the norm is to have a community recreation centre, usually with a pool, an arena and a curling rink.

In the parts of the US where we have lived, community pools are almost unheard of. Private fitness clubs are the only places with pools, other than private homes.

This explains why my seven year-old still can't swim.

While in Victoria, we have been able to enjoy
All of these locations have VERY reasonably priced swim sessions, as well as public lessons and swim teams.

And in Massachusetts and California? Well, I think that if you are privileged enough to live in Sudbury, MA or Palo Alto, CA, you might have access to a public pool.

Oh yeah, how's that Protestant Work Ethic thing working out for you?

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Canada: Mother

I visited my mother on this trip to Canada.

To some, this would seem like a natural. However, my relationship with my mother has been strained over the years for a number of reason which I won't get into here.

I was glad that my youngest brother and his family were there as well, or I would have cut and run a lot sooner than we did. This trip reminded me that my brothers are my family, despite the feelings I may have for (or against) my mother.

It's always your relationship with your parents that make life interesting. They shape you, twist you, bend you, and sometimes break you. For me, the goal has been to try and escape the orbit my mother's gravity pulls me toward. I see a lot of her in myself, and it scares the hell out of me. I know that I have to work hard to try and be my own person; but the baggage of my upbringing and genetics makes it a hard slog sometimes.

Seeing her reminded me that I have to continue to work, struggle against the pull, escape the potential disaster.

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Canada: Final thoughts on an epic trip

This trip home has been an eye-opener. It has reminded me why I want to call myself Canadian, and live in this country.

There is a flow here. A bounce. A knowledge that we are NOT as doomed as the United States is. Canada is not crippled by a devastating and useless war, a moralistic and divisive leadership, or a fatalistic sense of empire.

Even in the middle of nowhere, I knew I was in another place. A place where things get done. Slowly, but they do get done. A place where people all understand that there is a lot more to the world than navel-gazing introspection and misplaced imperialism. The world is a place to celebrate, not conquer.

Canada is home. The United States is the place I reside.

The next five years are going to be very interesting. And I know what side of the 49th Parallel I want to be on.

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American Express: WTF?

Gee, I guess you don't want my business anymore...


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Victoria: Back after a marathon

We made it back to Victoria yesterday, after a 14-hour marathon drive across Southern BC. I can't think of a place I would rather be right now.

Yesterday was a six-summit day.
  • Salmo-Creston | Kootenay Pass (1774m)
  • Nancy Greene (1575m)
  • Paulson (1535m)
  • Anarchist (1233m)
  • Sunday Creek (1284m)
  • Allison Pass (1342m)
By the time we rolled into Hope, Samantha was ranting that she never wanted to see another twisting mountain road again.

Two days to rest, then off to Seattle and back "home".

Oh, and did I mention that the plunge into Osoyoos still scares the bejeezus out of me?


Sunday, July 9, 2006

BC: Hotel Avoidance Warning — Travelodge Merritt

We stayed at the Travelodge Merritt last night. A word of advice: don't.

Pillows that were non-existent...errr, wafer-thin.

Ice machines that didn't work.

Unheated pool (try about 75F -- the boys were freezing in 10 minutes).

Breakfast? Sure, as long as you eat it in their cramped and soulless breakfast room, not your room. And selection was Superstore muffins and still-frozen bread.

Staff needs some hospitality

Avoid this place if at all possible. Please.

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Canada: Drive-Thru Starbucks

I am ot sure why these happy discoveries have not made their way south of the border, but here in Canada, some of the Starbucks' stores have drive-thru windows.

However, I can tell you that the one we had coffee at in Westbank, BC showed that the drive-thru folks got preference over the people in the store. This is a formula that needs to be improved.

Otherwise, a grand idea.

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Friday, July 7, 2006

British Columbia and Alberta, BEWARE!

Tomorrow, we are moving off our Vancouver Island base and out into the British Columbia and Alberta hinterland for a few days. It's highly unlikely that I will have ANY form of connectivity, mainly by choice.

BC and Alberta are highly wired, and even the small town where I grew up has a number of high-speed options to choose from, and my wireless roaming on Rogers Wireless should be seamless.

It has been five years since I ventured beyond Vancouver Island, and I am expecting more than a few changes, and some pretty substantial non-changes (hard to re-configure Roger's Pass and the Rocky Mountain / Columbia River Trench in even 5 years). The small town of Golden, BC has changed substantially since the last time I was there, thanks to the addition of the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

If you need me, cell me -- 508.410.3865.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Victoria, BC: Real Estate and Reality

Even though we lived in Victoria together for 5 years (Samantha grew up here), we continue to be shocked by the house prices. We have been cruising the real estate listings, and even accounting for the exchange rate, what we can afford sucks.

Most of the stuff is 1970s nightmare cookie-cutter homes with no personality and even less yard.

It's a wonder that they can get anyone to move here.

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Sunday, July 2, 2006

Notes From Canada: World Cup Coverage

For those of you in the US who are not blessed with a way to tap into the Canadian feeds from the World Cup, you are missing a real treat. And you know what the treat is?


It seems that the announcers that Rogers SportsNet and TSN have recruited to cover the games know how to keep their mouths shut and let the action unfold on the screen, with occasional salient comments on the action.

As well, the screen isn't cluttered with useless graphics and streaming ticker notes. Just the score and a timeclock in the top left corner that disappears, and re-appears in about 2-minute intervals.

Sometimes, just letting the game unfold is the best way to enjoy the beauty and skill of the teams.

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Victoria: Week One

We have survived the wedding. Actually, I make it sound like it was a trial, but it was, in fact, a rather pleasant experience, even for an introvert such as myself. Beautiful setting out at Starling Lane Winery (I highly recommend the Blackberry Port).

Being in Victoria and area has reminded all of us why we love it here; and why we need to move back sooner, rather than later. Not only is Canada a far more civilized country than the United States, Victoria is a far more livable place than Massachusetts. We even did the rounds of some open houses today, reminding ourselves that although this is a far more livable place, the architecture for homes during the period the area was most intensely developed (1945-1980) was brain-damaged, if not completely diseased.

But the benefits are beyond count. An unseasonable warm day is 90F, with very low humidity. Humidity comes in the winter, in the form of rain, rather than snow. We are in plant zone 6-7 (and some 8), which for the gardeners in the crowd means that plants grow here far more abundantly than you could ever dream of in Massachusetts.

And the people are friendly. The gerneralization made about the people of Massachusetts towards outsiders are, in most cases, true. Unless you have lived in Massachusetts for 2-3 generations, you are treated as a newcomer, and should be either shunned or completely distrusted. We have encountered some notable exceptions, but they are few and far between.

So yes, a return to Victoria is definitely beginning to take shape.

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Saturday, July 1, 2006

GrabPERF: PubSub Measurements Disabled

I have just disabled the PubSub measurements being taken for GrabPERF. Got an e-mail from Bob Wyman this morning saying that he wasn't sure how much longer the site would be running.

As well, this means that the New York PubSub measurement location will disappear shortly. I will be disabling it shortly.

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