Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Best of the Web on GrabPERF

Best of the Web Blog Search has been added to GrabPERF. Thanks to Scoble for the heads up.

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Dear Mr. Jobs: WTF where you thinking with this one?

Steve, what the hell is this?

Problems with the iPod WiFi
  • big
  • cumbersome
  • clumsy
  • not environmentally friendly (no rechargeable batteries?)
  • And it's been done. There must be a dozen docks that let people plug iPods into their stereos
The iPod WIFI would have been a more interesting product announcement.

This one won't sell many, except to the MacAddicts, or to the Apple museum of broken dreams.

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What My Tax Return Won’t Be Buying Me This Year

What I want.

Chance of getting it -- Null/Infinity.

Doesn't stop me from pouting.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Board Meetings

Why does it take the senior executives and product managers seven (7) working days to prepare for a board meeting? For small companies, is this an excessive intrusion-to-guidance ratio?

Maybe some of the folks out there who sit on boards can explain this phenomenom.

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Resume/Curriculum Vitae of
Stephen Pierzchala

Contact Me

PLEASE NOTE: I am a Canadian citizen, and hold an H1-B Visa.

Executive Summary

  • Eight (8) years of experience identifying, isolating, diagnosing and resolving Internet performance issues. Six (6) years working directly with some of the world's largest eBusinesses to develop their ability to define, achieve and maintain Web performance excellence

  • Two (2) years of intensive experience developing materials for technical courses designed to encourage the understanding and effectiveness of customers in diagnosing and resolving their Web performance issues

  • Member of a strategic Professional Services team which delivers key performance benchmarks and advanced performance consulting services

  • Author of several published articles on topics in the area of Web Performance. Writing samples can be found at WebPerformance and below

  • Accomplished speaker and presenter on the topic of Web Performance, Caching, Web Compression, Browser Compatability and Performance Diagnostics

  • Areas of Technical Interest/Expertise

    • Performance Tuning for Apache 1.3 and 2.0

    • Web Application Tuning

    • HTTP Optimization

    • Web Caching and Squid Proxy Server configuration

    • Web Compression for all Web platforms

    • HTML Optimization

    • MySQL Optimization -- Server and Queries

    • Internet Infrastructure

    • Linux, both server-side and as an alternative desktop OS

    • Web Development using Apache 2.0.x, PHP/PERL and MySQL

Published Articles

Core Competencies

Web Performance

  • Chief Performance Evangelist for WebPerformance, a informational site dedicated to advocating the use of existing technologies and improved site design to optimize and enhance Web performance metrics and processes

  • Chief designer, developer, DBA, and manager of GrabPERF, the Blog Performance Monitoring service. Using a multi-agent measurement network, GrabPERF produces real-time Web performance information. Companies that use GrabPERF include:

  • Expert at real-time and forensic analysis of Web performance data

  • Expertise in the HTTP/1.0 and HTTP/1.1 protocols

  • Expertise in how browsers interact with Web servers

  • Improving the performance of the Apache Web server using:

    • Optimized caching configurations for server content

    • Deployment of content-compression solutions for static and dynamic Web content

    • Optimized server-side control of persistent connections

Server/System Administration

  • Development of Web sites using LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) technologies

  • Expert at analyzing the protocols and structure of the Internet, including IP, TCP, HTTP, HTTPS, and DNS

  • Installation, deployment and analysis of the efficiency of the Squid Caching Proxy Server in both home and corporate environments

  • Installation and deployment of BIND and Postfix for local use

Training and Seminar Presentation

  • Technical trainer and speaker with excellent presentation skills

  • Experience developing training materials for single- and multi-day training sessions

  • Experience writing technical documents for both technical and non-technical users (see /papers/ for examples of these papers)

Network/System Security

  • Installation and deployment of Nessus and NMAP for scanning local and remote vulnerabilities

  • Installation and deployment of SNORT for local intrusion detection, both inside and outside a firewall, and in single-homed and multi-homed configurations

Have I lost my mind…again?

Some of you who have been around a while realize that my brain chemistry cycle makes the mood swings of Mike Tyson look minor.

Last week was the absolute bottom of my cycle. I behaved in a completely irrational way and did some very stupid things.

This week is a week of reflection and...well, recovery.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Take this day back…

Ever had a day you want as a do over?

This is one.

An historical trail of backbone names

This morning, I was briefly waylaid by a colleague who wanted me to look at a traceroute for her. Her question: "Is it safe to say that is not Verizon?"

Answer: Nope. begat begat MCI/Worldcom begat MCI begat Verizon.

And so goes the world...

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GrabPERF Development on Hiatus

GrabPERF development is on hiatus. The release planned for April 2006 has been postponed indefinitely.Technorati Tags: , , ,

It’s a very attractive cell…

We have been in the Boston area for 2.5 years. In that time, Samantha and the boys have not been home.

Frankly, the whole process of leaving the US and then getting back in scares the hell out of us. US immigration always goes out of their way to make us feel unwelcome.

But Samantha told me last night that she has to go see her parents and let them see their grandbabies. So they are going to Victoria April 13-25.

It comes to a point where you have to say it's a really nice cell, comfortable and all; but we are still in jail.

Samantha and the boys are going to make a break for it.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Google Video Censorship — US Style

I was reading online (Slashdot) that some videos from Iraq are censored in the US.

Yup, it's true

Google Video Censorship in the US -- Feb 21 2006

So much for "Do no evil".

Any wagers on where the first internment camp will be opened in the United States? Guantanomo Bay and Eastern European "democracies" are not included in this pool.

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UPDATE: Turns out this is a "feature" of the Google Video uploader. [here]

Monday, February 20, 2006

Coding drought

After the release of GrabPERF 2.0/2.01, I hit a wall. I haven't been able to write a line of new code for over a month.

I know that the move to the new datacenter took a lot out of me, but I can usually snap out of it.

Any suggestions for snapping out of a funk?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

GrabPERF Aggregated Data - Jan 21 - Feb 18, 2006

So, In my ongoing effort to be more transparent about the data that I find in GrabPERF, I have produced an Excel spreadsheet of Jan 21 - Feb 18 2006 Aggregated Data.

Top Twenty - Performance

Aggregated Web Performance Top 20 - Jan 21 - Feb 18 2006

Top Twenty - Availability

Aggregated Web Availability Top 20 - Jan 21 - Feb 18 2006

I hope to post this data more frequently in the future.

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Jan 21 - Feb 18 2006 Aggregated Data

Aggregated GrabPERF data from Jan 21 - Feb 18 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

GrabPERF Link Love

Some random GrabPERF link love from the Web.

Technorati hosting blog pageload timing service

BlogDrive Server Performance

Thank you TechCrunch!

b5media: Taking a Hit

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GrabPERF: State of the System, Feb 2006

If anyone wants to know why I am proud of GrabPERF, this graph should give you a clue.

GrabPERF Growth

Every hour, an aggregated value is produced for every test url. Counting up the Geometric Mean aggregations on a daily basis, the growth line is pretty amazing.

Doing a rough calculation, the system has grown from testing 40 urls to testing 104 urls.

But the true scope of this growth can only be seen by looking at the number of data insertions into the raw data table on a daily basis.

GrabPERF Measurements Per Day

Currently, with the four measurement agents (I turned down one of the Technorati agents today to relieve the strain on the database server), the system is handling nearly 300,000 data insertions a day. Not even in the same timezone with most of the major sites I measure, but when I think that this is a system that I designed, I am stunned. For an unfunded, not-for-profit, one-person effort, I am constant astounded by what this system can handle.

Other areas of note over the last year:
  • The Technorati-donated servers can now easily hold 60 days of detail data on a robust enterprise grade system, in a real datacenter
  • The basement datacenter is now closed
  • The new interface was created specifically to allow the system to grow and easily accommodate new features
  • People are now approaching me on a daily basis to have sites added, or to have data explained
  • GrabPERF went from one measurement agent to five agents in four locations, including a location in Europe (Portugal)
  • GrabPERF has been used in various places to serve as an indicator or motivator for performance improvement, including: Bloglines, Ping-O-Matic, Technorati, PubSub (1 and 2), Blogwise, and others.
  • A number of corporate and individual sponsors have stepped forward to support our efforts in many different ways: money, servers, measurement locations, commentary and critiques
I know that I have said it many times in person, or online, but thank you all. Those of you who use and support GrabPERF are the ones who continue to motivate me to make this system better on a daily basis.

Keep those cards and letter coming.

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DNS | Apache Virtual Host Madness Today

I have noticed that GrabPERF has been responding increasingly more slowly as of late. Well, I believe that I have resolved the performance issue: I moved the Web component of GrabPERF off of the machine where the database is housed.

However, when I did this, I hit a really stupid issue that was the result of a legacy httpd.conf file directive.

As well as GrabPERF, I moved this blog, also a heavy HTTP | PHP user, onto the same Web server. Then, once I had seen the DNS propagate, I went to this blog....and got the GrabPERF homepage!


Turns out that I was the victim of a REALLY dense mis-configuration, which I removed from the new Web server configuration file. I had buried the NameVirtualHosts directive in a VirtualHost container, which was not part of the new server's config file.

Without the NameVirtualHosts directive set, the server happily responds to all incoming requests with the first VirtualHost it finds in the httpd.conf file, which in in this case was GrabPERF.

Once I solved this, and placed the NameVirtualHosts directive outside of all of the VirtualHost containers, the server began working perfectly.

I then went and retrofitted the secondary Web server.

If none of this makes sense, it's ok. I am not feeling real lucid right now.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Opera Web Site: Hello? Anyone home?

As a Web performance analyst, this is the sort of graph that melts your mind and makes you want to scream at the gods|goddesses to rain a plague of locusts on the offending System|Network|Web Site Administrators.

Opera Server Errors - Feb 17 2006
Click for a larger version

This is a classic display of the "run in circles, scream and shout" problem identification and resolution process.

One-half of the Opera Web servers at are not responding.


They have three separate public IP addresses, and it is clear that behind those IPs are many more NAT|VIP machines that respond to requests.

Did I mention that one-half of the machines at all three IP addresses are not responding to HTTP requests?

Has anyone at Opera noticed this?

Sometimes I feel like even the echoes aren't listening anymore.

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Welcome Aboard San Francisco!

Thanks to the efforts of Paul Querna, GrabPERF is the proud receiver of data from the San Francisco measurement agent.

Thanks to the powers that be at, and I look forward to seeing lots of good data in the future!

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Brad Feld’s Blog is Down


Brad Feld Site Down - Feb 17 2006

Likely it will be back soon.

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UPDATE: Brad's blog is back...kinda

Brad Feld Back, But...

AJAX and Web Performance Improvement: How do you measure it?

AJAX is an amazing bit of technology, and a boon to Web performance.

The question is, how do you accurately measure it?

Now, from the perspective of synthetic transaction measurement, AJAX destroys the foundational concept of the "Page", as it is built on the concept of the "sequence". "Pages" assume a whole new HTML document is loaded in each step, where a "sequence" simply tracks the specific flow of steps that the customer performs, regardless of whether they occur in a new HTML document or not.

In this respect, passive monitoring services currently have a distinct advantage over synthetic measurement, because they intrinsically track the sequence of event that a customer triggers, rather than the pages that are downloaded. I will not declare the death of synthetic Web performance measurement yet (my day job is with one the largest synthetic Web performance measurement companies); but the industry has to re-evaluate many of its core precepts.

AJAX is a technology that will definitely benefit from the blending of passive and synthetic performance measurement into a single usable stream of information that companies can act on. With this blend, companies can determine how their servers are responding, as well as what customers are doing, tracking the flow of business data in real-time.

What will be interesting to watch is how the synthetic measurement companies (including the one I work for) respond to this. One of the companies in our space says that they handle it now, but I have yet to see the results of their effort and how they really implement it in the field.

How are you and your team measuring the performance of your AJAX applications?

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

AJAX has a positive effect on Web Performance

Or so it seems from this article!

Makes sense if you think of it. Only part of the page is updated, so less bandwidth is used. And if you compress that data as well, you save even more.

Maybe AJAX is not just a novelty.

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UPDATE [Feb 17 2006]: Some great additional articles are showing up in the comments. The catalogue demonstration is very cool.

Meme Tracker Performance

Am I missing any?

Let me know.

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Web performance fiends, read this!

The Web APM Blog: So many tools, so small a budget

If not now, when? And is Web performance management an extra, or a necessity?

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Play this….

...and get it out of my head!


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I just listened to the original of Bootylicious [sample on Amazon]. Trust me...this re-mix takes the lyrics to the place they should have gone in the first place.

BlogFlux Mapstats — Performance Improvement!

The team at BlogFlux laid on some major performance improvements to their Mapstats service last night.

BlogFlux Improvement -- Feb 16 2006

This is a fantastic improvement! I can't wait to hear how they achieved it.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How much of your bandwidth does RSS consume?

Yesterday I was on a call with a customer who flat out stated that 55% of their bandwidth was consumed by applications pulling RSS feeds.

Does your company have a grip on just how much continual background noise RSS feeds inflict on your Web servers?

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Stupid Mastiff! Take me on will he?

I like this. Underdog wins again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

GrabPERF 2.50 Enhancements and Improvements

I am starting to lay out the new items that I will be rolling into GrabPERF 2.50, set for release in April. Already some friends of GrabPERF have weighed in with their desires, and some of them are easy to do, others require a whole new learning curve for me to get ramped into.

What I need from all the folks who use the system right now are the things that make you nuts. What don't you like about:
  • Graphing
  • Data Presentation
  • Workflow
  • Available Statistics
This is your time to speak up because you use GrabPERF far more than I do. And without feedback, I just write in the stuff that is interesting to me.

Looking forward to the give-and-take.

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Two Fisher Space Pens — GONE!

Last spring I bought two Fisher Space pens: one matte black; and one shiny purple.

Yesterday, I lost the last one, the black one.

Back to the Pilot G2s. Don't feel so bad losing those.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Who do you want to be?

Gates or Allen?

Jobs or Wozniak?

Torvalds or Stallman?

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GrabPERF Quarterly Pledge Drive

Time for me to launch the GrabPERF Quarterly Pledge Drive.

This is the part I hate. As I have noted in the past, I can't charge for GrabPERF in any sort of traditional business sense. But I am also not doing this for a pat on the back.

As always, any donation, no matter how small, is appreciated.

I am also looking to add to my corporate spnsors list, so if you or your company is interested in achieving this much sought after position, drop me a note.

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TailRank: Happy Monday the 13th

Kevin Burton of TailRank dropped me a great note last night and asked me to add his site to GrabPERF.

TailRank - Feb 13 2006


He did have a lot of great ideas about extending GrabPERF capabilities, and I will be putting those up in a post later today.

UPDATE: TailRank came back at around 14:00 GMT (09:00 EST).

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Canadian Olympic Committee — Go back to Roots

In the past, I have lined up to buy Canadian Olympic team goods from Roots. Good quality, and just generally cool and useful stuff.

This year, HBC (the Hudson's Bay Company) is doing Canadian Olympic apparel.

This is like grandma dressing a teenager.

I am so disappointed. What was the COC thinking?

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

What do you use as your resume?

Yes, I know. For the fourth time in a week, this is a post with a link to my resume.

But last night, while I was writing an e-mail to someone about the long-term future of GrabPERF, I wrote something that I had to read twice when it came out.

GrabPERF is my resume.

How can a simple Web application be a resume?

In my case, it highlights all of the things that I am interested in:
  • Web performance
  • Statistical analysis
  • Clear presentation of data and information
  • Web development skills
  • Database administration skills
  • System administration skills
  • Distributed systems
GrabPERF showcases everything that I have taught myself over the last seven years. And I am proud of it.

So, what do you use for your resume?

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The basement is spooky.

Last night, when I came in from work, I turned off the last of the powerful (ok, back in 1999 they were) servers that have been running in my basement for the last 2 years.

When I go down there now, it is eerily quiet. Spooky actually.

It's weird to know that something you control is 3,000 miles away, and not under your direct control anymore.

I guess this is what it will be like when my kids leave the house.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A personal look at constructive criticism

Tonight, I received a very lengthy email from a friend of GrabPERF who had some comments and concerns.

The hardest thing I have had to learn to do in my professional life is to listen to criticism, and not take it personally. It is something that does not come naturally to me, as my first reaction is to lash out and say something that will do more harm than good in the long run. With my personality type, it is even harder to stop yourself from writing that gut-reaction email when you are tired, frustrated by things in your professional life, and coming off a week of illness.

My first reaction to the email was...well, not polite. But years of experience have taught me to stop and think about my response before I send it. In the past, those emails and words have haunted me, and have destroyed some opportunities that I may have had.

I respect the judgement and opinions of the person who sent this email, and he is held in high-regard by someone I hold in high-regard. So an off-the-cuff answer was definitely not the right way to go.

I stopped. I took a breath. I walked away from the email for an hour.

When I came back to it, I was able to see that not only were his comments constructive, but they actually meshed well with my professional philosophy towards Web performance data and were ones that I should be acting on to improve GrabPERF.

In IT, sometimes we forget that walking away from the problem is the best way to solve it. With so many of us in this space saddled with various degrees of ADD and introverted personalities, sometimes we do have to step back and ask ourselves, "what would the smartest manager/director/VP/executive I know do when presented with this email?"

Opportunities and ideas come from everywhere. Some of the best are those that come from other people.

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The final move has occurred

So, the move to the new datacenter is complete. We finished off the final changes last night | early this morning, and the Web server and database are now running on a big fat pipe at 365 Main in downtown San Francisco.

How did I spring for new hardware and hot hosting? Well, I had a little help from some Friends of GrabPERF -- Technorati.

About 3 months ago, Dave Sifry contacted me when we went through our last financial crisis and offered to host the whole kit and kaboodle. He put me in contact with Adam Hertz, who turned me over to Camille Riddle.

After driving Camille and her team nuts for two months, we switched everything over starting at about 23:30 EST (04:30 GMT) last night. There were a few hic and burps, and the DNS propagation may take a while to reach some of the most distant folks, but this morning, I issued the final "poweroff" command to my home-based Web server.

I want to thank the Technorati team for all if their help, and I look forward to continuing to deliver quality data to the blog community.

Niall Kennedy talks about the Technorati side here, along with a funky pic of the old GrabPERF datacenter.

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Screw the Ritalin! Give Me Chaos!

What more can I say?

Adult ADD Strengths » Top 10 Advantages of ADD in a High Tech Career

I am the person they describe in this article.

And my boredom level is running high...resume link!

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Newest Industry Banner

If you are wondering about the picture at the top of this page (sorry for you folks in RSS readers, gotta head to the blog to see it), I can tell you one thing.

It is real.

[PS: Photo provided by Chris Magnusson.]

I grew up in the shadow if this mountain called, oddly enough, Mount Seven. The Seven is a natural event that only appears in the spring as the snow recedes from the summit.

The other claim to fame for this peak is among paragliders and hang-gliders. If you ask anyone who partakes in these sports if they have ever heard of Mount Seven, their eyes will likely glaze over and drool will run from their mouths,


Well, the banner doesn't do the mountain justice from the perspective of a non-powered flight aficianado. This perspective for Google Earth give you a better idea.

When you depart Mount Seven, it is a free and clear 5,000 foot drop into the valley below. And it's not just any valley; it's the Rocky Mountain Trench. At a minimum of 5 miles wide, the flying is free and clear. One glider took off from the mountain and ended up in Montana.

Mount Seven is a glorious landmark, and one of the few fond rememberances I have of the town I grew up in.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2006

What happens when…?

What happens when you are a highly trained consultant in a company that is being managed into a commodity status?

Remember, that resume link is here.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Stephen Pierzchala

Stephen in a pub in Glasgow -- September 2004


Do not edit this page

Migrating from b2evolution to Wordpress 2.0

So today, I re-instated blogging on my own hardware and also migrated my b2evolution articles to Wordpress 2.0.

It was painless.

Five-minute Wordpress install.

Run the b2evolution -> Wordpress import script. [here]

Ummm...that's it.

I will be tweaking the theme over the next few days until I feel it is more me.

Guess I'm just like Ben Metcalfe.

President Bush secures the country for his protection

It should come as no surprise that I am a fan of "graphic novels", known as "comic books" when I was coming of age. One of my favourites is the Dark Knight | Dark Knight Returns series.

In the Dark Knight Returns, the US is run by a cabal with a holographic presidential avatar as their figurehead. In this world, the "Freedom FROM Information Act ... makes anything worth knowing secret".

That quote has stuck with me for most of the last week. The American population is supposed to hang its head and march quietly in line with everyone else, never looking to the side because they might accidentally see their freedoms dying in the ditches.

The United States is Rome, and the babarians (no, not the elephant king, barbarians you fool!) are on the far banks of the Rubicon, with their feet in the water.

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Hmmm..geese are big this year…HOLY CRAP!

The A380 has begun cold-weather testing in Iqaluit, Nunavut. [here]

Perfect weather for's sunny and -29C (-20F) there today.

And where is there? It's here.


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We’re back!

Ok, this domain will live again!

Thanks to Matt and the crew for putting up with my abuse over the last few months while we determined what was going to happen with the Newest Industry.

Welcome back?


Stephen Pierzchala[1] is currently the Senior Technical Performance Analyst at Gomez, Inc, as well as the Chief Performance Evangelist for WebPerformance, and the primary developer for the GrabPERF Performance Monitoring System. He has been actively been working with, supporting and analyzing data from Internet technologies since 1994.

At both Gomez, Inc and Keynote Systems, Stephen Pierzchala has analyzed and documented a large number of interesting Internet performance issues, with a focus on forensic and real-time analysis of the root causes of the problem.

Stephen has written a number of articles on aspects of Web Performance. Many of these have been published online, while others have actually appeared in dead-tree format. A complete list of published article locations is available here.

Stephen is well-versed with the Linux operating system, although other versions do not phase him (except Gentoo which is for true masochists). He has found ways to use Linux as a workstation replacement in an environment that is 99.99% dominated by the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems. However, he is well-versed with Microsoft Operating systems; he simply prefers not to run them as they are not challenging, an issue most desktop users do not run up against.

Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1968, Stephen has worked on computers since the days of the Apple II and Commodore PET. He has also had the perverse pleasure of connecting a KayPro Portable to the Internet over a dial-up connection.

After a ten-year detour through the liberal arts — BA in Canadian History from the University of Victoria and some Graduate Studies in History at the University of Alberta — he returned to his geek nature in 1995 when he took a position at Islandnet as a tech support analyst.

From July 1998 until June 1999, Stephen participated in the Applications and Management of Information Technology (AMIT) program at the University of Victoria, where he was exposed to many aspects of IT management and system administration. He obtained a Windows NT 4.0 MCSE in October 1998, and has never bothered to maintain it.

Stephen relocated to Waltham, MA from San Mateo, CA in October 2003, and to Marlborough, MA in April 2004. His wife, Samantha Ewing, and their two sons, Cameron Ewing and Kinnear ("The Terror") Pierzchala, tolerate his extended absences (both physical and mental) because of his excellent lawn-mowing, garden-watering, and snow-shovelling skills, as well as his willingness to crawl into odd spaces to run network, phone and television cabling. He has recently discovered the joys of crimping his own CAT5 network cables and creating database indexes.

The Canadian Consulate in Marlborough opened in May, 2004. Donations of perennials for the grounds are always appreciated.

[1]"Pierzchala" can be pronounce one of two ways:

  1. "peer-sha-WHA" — Actual Polish Pronunciation

  2. "per-CHEL-la" — Anglicized Pronunciation used by my family