mPulse

Friday, September 29, 2006

Google Reader: More thoughts

So far, Google Reader is meeting or exceeding all my expectations in all areas except one: auto-refresh. Bloglines occasionally checks back in and loads up new articles, and it would be great if the Google Reader did the same thing.

UPDATE: Looks the interface does this. My mistake!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bye-Bye Bloglines

Niall Kennedy informed us that the new Google Reader interface is out.

Ummmm....wow.

It's exactly what I have been looking for in a Web-based reader.

GMAIL SMTP Server Outage?

Judging by the flood of mail coming into my account for the last 15 minutes, there was an outage with the GMAIL SMTP servers sometime overnight or early this morning.

Anyone know what happened?

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Ghostly Images of Urban Decay

Randomly, I will select a Flickr Group and subscribe to it for a while, just to see what images bubble to the surface.

 

All Rights Reserved -- Carey Primeau

This picture is a stunning photograph -- part of a series taken inside an abandoned monastery in Chicago (pictures - story).

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

GrabPERF: Back in Business

Many thanks go out to the technical team for getting the GrabPERF Web server back on the Interweb.

All the good (and bad) news about Web performance is back.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lord Black wants to come home...NOT!

Conrad Black, who gave up his Canadian citizenship to sit in the House of Lords, wants it back.

Problem: he faces eight fraud charges in the US [here] . Takeaway quote from the article:
"I have settled into my new life as a freedom fighter," said Black.

I think that he should be held to exactly the same standard that any foreign immigrant is when applying for Canadian citizenship.

Can't wait to hear him explain away the criminal charges/conviction part of the questionnaire.

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WRT54G(L): Interesting Behaviour

I was futzing around with my WRT54G(L) last night and did something wrong. I thought I had bricked the damn thing. Much cursing and swearing ensued as I put a BEFSX41 on the front-end of the network (I have three of these; don't ask why) and wandered upstairs with the lump of black and blue plastic that used to be the hub of my wireless network.

After much fiddling, I thought I had it working, so I plugged it into the network drop I have at my desk...and the damn thing disappeared!

Not physically, but from the network. I couldn't connect to it via the network ports, and when I did connect wirelessly, I got an IP address from the wired router..????

Then the lightbulb went on. It appears that when you put a WRT54G(L) on a network behind another router (most likely only happens with other Linksys devices) , it immediately becomes an access point ONLY.

This was the way it was supposed to work.

And people wonder why Linksys/Cisco sells so many of these damn things. With automagic behaviour like this, it makes the world of networking so much easier for morons like me.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

GrabPERF: Frustrated and Demoralized

The GrabPERF Web server has been offline for more than 4 days, after it was moved to a new rack.

Kevin Burton complained about the lack of availability today [here].

I have enquired about an ETA for return to service. None has been forthcoming.

At this point, I guess you can consider GrabPERF offline until further notice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

GrabPERF: Web server still out

The folks who host the server are slammed and trying to figure out what is happening. Hopefully it will return to action tomorrow.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

GrabPERF: Web Server Offline

Last night, the folks at the hosting facility moved the servers to a new rack. The database server is up and data is coming in from the measurement agents, but the Web server is not yet back up.

I hope that this will be resolved later today. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Welcome aboard!

I finally tired of running my own blog server, and since most folks use the feeds, I figure I will abuse Matt Mullenweg's bandwidth rather than my own.

Welcome back?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Creative Hiatus — Sketching

As a part of my creative hiatus, I have strated sketching. A lot. Still lifes mainly (people are still way off in the future), and mostly objects found on my desk and around the house.

Nothing worth showing yet, but it is relaxing to dissect an object line by line and then put it back together.

The Size of Storage

Today, I took an inventory of the portable storage solutions I have with me at all times.

The Size of Storage

On the bottom, a Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition at 100GB. In the middle, an 8GB Zen Microphoto. On to, a mostly useless iPod Shuffle that I use as a thumbdrive.

The top two are provided for context. I also purchased a 300GB Maxtor OneTouch III that I use for my media files.

Based on it's size, the Maxtor Mini must use a standard 100GB laptop drive in a sleek aluminum housing. So far, It's a dream. Slides into my bag, acts as a backup, and stores larger media files for when I'm on the road.

But the whole idea that I can slip nearly 110GB of storage into my pack is insane. And next year, this will be old school.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Suburban Wildlife

Over the last 12 hours, we have had some pretty remarkable "wildlife" scenes in our yard.

Last night, as I took Wiggles out for her walk, she found a cat...a striped, stinky cat.

Skunk 1, Wiggles 0.

We suspect that it had been hiding under our back porch. We are taking steps to encourage it to find new digs. But Wiggles did enjoy her bath at 10:30 last night.

This morning, two squirrels decided to try on their best wrasslin' moves in the ancient birch tree outside our house. The were tumbling around like crazed...well, squirrels. They rolled down the tree in a ball once, and then fell separately from about 20 feet, bouncing off tree branches on their way to the ground.

When they broke it up, one of the combatants sat in a tree branch for about 20 minutes, recuperating and literally licking its wounds.

Who says that we live in a world devoid of natural elements?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Visual Beauty

As I re-align my processing, I have discovered that the beauty of photographs really holds me. Many of my Bloglines subscriptions are now streams from Flickr. One photographer in particular that I have found captures images of power is Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. There is something very powerful in her images, and she lives in one of the countries I really want to visit: Iceland.

© 2006 Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir -- All rights reserved.

There is something primeval and cultured that emanates from that island nation, the cultural centre of the Vikings.

Pictures make my mind snap, change my mood in an instant, draw power from inside me.

Wandering Flickr is always a wonderful way to relax.

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On a creative hiatus

Over the last 3 weeks, I have been unusually quiet, even for me. I am taking a creative hiatus and doing a lot of reading, by real writers, not just technical books.

I am also in the office a lot more than I have been for the last two months. Getting back into that takes a little time as well.

As always, comments are open, and spam will be deleted.

Be good to each other.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Looking for "Time Team" shows

When I was in the UK in early 2003, I saw a great show on Channel 4, Time Team.

Of course I can't find it in the US.

Does anyone out there have access to the DVDs or copies of the show I could get copies of? Or where do I buy them in the US?

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Friday, September 8, 2006

Brad Feld: Used Mercedes Dealer

So, with all the prognosticating about what Brad Feld is going to do next, I think I know what his next gig is.

Used Mercedes Dealer, specializing in cars with slight electrical issues.

Here's one of the models he has in his Kevlar and Nomex lined showroom.

Ignore the flames.

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Thursday, September 7, 2006

Web Performance, Part VII: Reliability and Consistency

In this series, the focus has been on the basic Web performance concepts, the ones that have dominated the performance management field for the last decade. It's now time to step beyond these measures, and examine two equally important concepts, ones that allow a company to analyze their Web performance outside the constraints of performance and availability.

Reliability is often confused with availability when it is used in a Web performance context. Reliability, as a measurement and analysis concept goes far beyond the binary 0 or 1 that the term availability limits us to, and places it in the context of how availability affects the whole business.

Typical measures used in reliability include:

  • Minutes of outage

  • Number of failed measurements

  • Core business hours


Reliability is, by its very nature, a more complex way to examine the successful delivery of content to customers. It forces the business side of a company to define what times of day and days of the week affect the bottom-line more, and forces the technology side of the business to be able to account not simply for server uptime, but also for exact measures of when and why customers could not reach the site.

This approach almost always leads to the creation of a whole new metric, one that is uniquely tied to the expectations and demands of the business it was developed in. It may also force organizations to focus on key components of their online business, if a trend of repeated outages appears with only a few components of the Web site.

Consistency is uniquely paired with Reliability, in that it extends the concept of performance to beyond simple aggregates, and considers what the performance experience is like for the customer on each visit. Can a customer say that the site always responds the same way, or do you hear that sometimes your site is slow and unusable? Why is the performance of your site inconsistent?

A simple way to think of consistency is the old standby of the Standard Deviation. This gives the range in which the population of the measurements is clustered around the Arithmetic Mean. This value can depend on the number of measures in the population, as well as the properties of these unique measures.

Standard Deviation has a number of flaws, but provides a simple way to define consistency: a large standard deviation value indicates a high degree of inconsistency within the measurement population, whereas a low small standard deviation value indicates a higher degree of consistency.

The metric that is produced for consistency differs from the reliability metric in that it will always be measured in seconds or milliseconds. But the same insight may arise from consistency, that certain components of the Web site contribute more to the inconsistency of a Web transaction. Isolating these elements outside the context of the entire business process gives organizations the information they need to eliminate these issues more quickly.

Companies that have found that simple performance and availability metrics constrain their ability to accurately describe the performance of their Web site need to examine ways to integrate a formula for calculating Reliability, and a measure of Consistency into their performance management regime.

My wife thinks I have a problem

This is what I found when I dumped out my pen/pencil case this morning. Does anyone out there find this unusual? I don't.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Apparently "Canadian" is translated into "Strafe and Kill" in American pilot slang

Canadian soldier killed, others wounded in 'friendly fire'

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. warplanes mistakenly strafed Canadian troops fighting Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier and seriously wounding five on Monday in an operation that NATO claims has also left 200 insurgents dead.

This is not the first "friendly-fire" incident involving US pilots and Canadian Ground troops.

On April 18, 2002, four Canadian soldiers were killed in what became known as the Afghanistan friendly fire incident: Sgt. Marc Léger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith. Eight other soldiers were wounded during a night-time live-fire training exercise near Kandahar and Tarnak Farms. The four were killed when an American F-16 fighter pilot, unaware of the exercise, noticed the ground fire and responded by dropping a bomb without determining who the combatants were. These were the first Canadian soldiers to be killed in combat since the Korean War. The pilot, U.S. Air Force Maj. Harry Schmidt, disobeyed an air controller's order to "standby" while information was verified. Schmidt was initially charged by the U.S. Air Force with 4 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 8 counts of assault. The charges were dropped in June 2003 and in July 2004 he was found guilty of dereliction of duty. [here]

UPDATE: Seems that the Canadian soldier killed on Monday was a track star at Nebraska.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Mark Graham, a former Nebraska track star, died Monday in Afghanistan while serving with the Canadian military. He was 33. [here]

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What we did this weekend

Yesterday we had no bricks.

sep042006-bricks (1)

sep042006-bricks (0)

It's amazing what one trip to a former chimney in Watertown can do.

Garden edging, here we come.

If I never hear "God Bless America" again…

Summer is officially over. Our neighborhood is now an emptying parking lot as the City of Marlborough begins to recover from the Annual Labour Day Parade.

Gabrieli for Polluter!

All of the usual floats and groups were there — in fact, the order is almost predictable now.

Machine gun fire is echoing from one of the floats. It seems that the parade is less a celebration of the working man, and more a celebration of the military culture of the United States. I know that the average military man is a working man, but does the air of my community have to ring with the constant rage of machine gun staccato to remind me of the glory of the military?

The one memory I will take from this year? The several thousand balloons released by parade spectators bearing the words "Gabrieli for Governor". I think the Gabrieli campaign should have thought a little harder about this. Now there are flocks of latex animal killers floating through the MetroWest skies.

Yay team.

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Friday, September 1, 2006

Discovering Nick Drake

On a recent musical connect the dots tour through Wikipedia, I stumbled across a reference to Nick Drake. I had first heard of Nick Drake through a review of his work on All Things Considered months ago.

The sound is ephemeral. The sound is haunting. The sound is a lost gem of our time.

It has shocked me how much the songs he made are what I have needed over the last few weeks.

If you get a chance, watch A Skin Too Few, the documentary of his life; you will have to look in the usual places online to find it, as it hasn't been released on DVD yet.

Find him. Listen. You will never go back.
I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

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Enemy Alien Status: Uncertain

I just remembered something this morning. Starting October 7, 2006, I will be officially a man without a Visa. My final H1-B renewal expires on October 6, 2006, and although they have applied for an extension, and I am at some indeterminate point supposed to get a Green Card, I will be of no status as of that date.

If you have any conferences or camps or seminars you want me to attend, better get me before October 6!

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Web Performance, Part VI: Benchmarking Your Site

In the last article in this series, the concept of baselining your measurements was discussed. This is vital, in order for you and your organization to be able to identify the particular performance patterns associated with your site.

Now that's under control, you're done, right?

Not a chance. Remember that your site is not the only Web site your customers visit. So, how are you doing against all of those other sites?

Let's take a simple example of the performance for one week for one of the search firms. This is simply an example; I am just too lazy to change the names to protect the innocent.

one_search-7day



Doesn't look too bad. An easily understood pattern of slower performance during peak business hours appears in the data, presenting a predictable pattern which would serve as a great baseline for any firm. However, this baseline lacks context. If anyone tries to use a graph like this, the next question you should ask is "So what?".

What makes a graph like this interesting but useless? That's easy: A baseline graph is only the first step in the information process. A graph of your performance tells you how your site is doing. There is, however, no indication of whether this performance trend is good or bad.

four_search-7day



Examining the performance of the same firm within a competitive and comparative context, the predictable baseline performance still appears predictable, but not as good as it could be. The graph shows that most of the other firms in the same vertical, performing the identical search, over the same period of time, and from the same measurement locations, do not show the same daytime pattern of performance degradation.

The context provided by benchmarking now becomes a critical factor. By putting the site side-by-side with other sites delivering the same service, an organization can now question the traditional belief that the site is doing well because we can predict how it will behave.

A simple benchmark such as the one above forces a company to ask hard questions, and should lead to reflection and re-examination of what the predictable baseline really means. A benchmark result should always lead a company to ask if their performance is good enough, and if they want to get better, what will it take.

Benchmarking relies on the idea of a business process. The old approach to benchmarks only considered firms in the narrowly defined scope of the industry verticals; another approach considers company homepages without any context or reliable comparative structure in place to compensate for the differences between pages and sites.

It is not difficult to define a benchmark that allows for the comparison of a major bank to a major retailer, and a major social networking site, and a major online mail provider. By clearly defining a business process that these sites share (in this case let's take the user-authentication process) you can compare companies across industry verticals.

This cross-discipline comparison is crucial. Your customers do this with your site every single day. They visit your site, and tens, maybe hundreds, of other sites every week. They don't limit their comparison to sites in the same industry vertical; they perform cross-vertical business process critiques intuitively, and then share these results with others anecdotally.

In many cases, a cross-vertical performance comparison cannot be performed, as there are too many variables and differences to perform a head-to-head speed analysis. Luckily for the Web performance field, speed is only one metric that can be used for comparison. By stretching Web site performance analysis beyond speed, comparing sites with vastly different business processes and industries can be done in a way that treats all sites equally. The decade-long focus on speed and performance has allowed other metrics to be pushed aside.

Having a fast site is good. But that's not all there is to Web performance. If you were to compare the state of Web performance benchmarking to the car-buying public, the industry has been stuck in the role of a power-hungry, horsepower-obsessed teenage boy for too long. Just as your automobile needs and requirements evolve (ok, maybe this doesn't apply to everyone), so do your Web performance requirements.

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Amazon Adds New Server Response Header to HTTP Spec

I like it when a major online retailer takes the initiative and extends the existing HTTP specifications.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2006 13:58:58 GMT
Server: Server
x-amz-id-1: 1S269NQQQYFX2DF09G7Z
x-amz-id-2: jiSzL7NRwWiEx7pM/90anU1AW9p9Qts3
Set-cookie: session-id-time=1157698800l; path=/; domain=.amazon.com; expires=Fri Sep 08 07:00:00 2006 GMT
Set-cookie: session-id=002-9480265-0783223; path=/; domain=.amazon.com; expires=Fri Sep 08 07:00:00 2006 GMT
Vary: Accept-Encoding,User-Agent
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
nnCoection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

Anyone know what the nnCoection: close header represents?

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