links for 2005-07-30

  • Very thorough listing of port numbers. Standard /etc/services style layout, but much more thorough than anything I”ve seen.
    (tags: ip ports)

Acceptable Downtime

Brad Feld wrote a post yesterday titled “Acceptable Downtime”, where he explains that he has a position on the board of a startup which is considering adding redundancy to their web based service to mitigate the possibility of a catastrophic failure of their systems.

I have found that consumers are much more accepting of downtime than enterprises. When working with the enterprise, especially something like a Telco that offers near 100% uptime itself, their expectation is automatically delivering 5 9’s of uptime.

I think the more important part that is most often overlooked is the calculation of uptime. Many many companies do not include scheduled downtime for maintenance in their downtime metrics. This is very dishonest in my opinion, but they justify it to themselves somehow.

The problem with developing redundancy is not that the capex expense is 50% more than what you’ve already developed, but usually it’s more like 200% of what you’ve already developed. Redundancy is incredibly expensive, and I would think that the risk/reward ratio on the expenditure would be very very high. Whatever problems would result from downtime I think are nothing compared to the crippling effect it would have on most startups and small companies to offer the kind of redundancy that larger companies offer. If the systems and networks are designed for easy redundancy from the start, it can often be done cheaply, but most times I find that redundancy isn’t factored in in the initial architecture, especially for small companies and startups.

The cheapest alternative to redundancy is good process. Hire experienced IT operations managers that enforce good change control processes. Implement processes that standardize architecture among a minimal number of hardware platforms, and implement processes that require a consistent stock available of maintenance spares for every piece of equipment. Implement processes that require backups and processes that require restoring backups frequently to verify their integrity. Implement processes that require exacting documentation before implementing something in your production environment, and keep your organization split between operations and implementation. An operations person is generally not good at implementations (too much attention to detail and an inability to get things online and worry about smaller problems later), and a good implementation person is not good at operations (I fit into this bucket… inattention to detail, get it done at all costs attitude, disregard for most processes). Those people belong in their jobs for a reason, and the turf battle if kept in check is valuable to the organizations stability.

The best way to measure downtime in the end is customer satisfaction. If your customers don’t notice or don’t care that you’re down 2% of the time, then that’s acceptable downtime. If they notice .001% of downtime, then you have meet their expectations. It’s important for sales personnel to set proper expectations and it’s important to focus, at least initially, on more forgiving customers. A good support staff can also mitigate downtime issues. At the end of the day, the number of 9’s of downtime as a metric is only one piece of the puzzle that will make up the retention/churn rates of your customer base.

links for 2005-07-27

Clint on Tech: Episode 4, Ad-Hoc Wireless Networks

On my way back from New York, my wife and I were forced to stay overnight at a hotel room in Dallas. We had one Internet connection to share between us and two laptops. I setup a ad-hoc wireless network between the two computers to share the connection, and I thought it’d make a good subject for a Clint on Tech episode. Couple of things I’m trying different to improve the production value, so let me know what you think. First, I’ve purchased some additional lighting. I’m still trying to learn how to place this stuff in such a small room. Secondly, this is my first hybrid of a screencast and vlog entry, which I think worked out really well. Let me know what you think.

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

New York Times misses it again

The New York Times has ran an article on vlogging. Like most of the mass media coverage on vlogging, they’ve once again missed the point. We are not TV! Chuck Olsen has summarized the problems best on his blog. I wonder when the general public will begin to realize that reporters and the mass media generally spend very very little time becoming acquainted with the subject they’re writing about before publishing. It would have taken less than an extra couple of hours to contact the people mentioned in the article to get sound bites and get a decent overview of what the community is about, like Wired did, but I guess since they’re the NY Times they need not bother with such trivialities. Sad.

Watch Life Happen: Episode 2, Part 3, The Journey Home

The third installment in this three part episode. Enjoy.

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

Watch Life Happen: Episode 2, Part 2, Vloggercue

Second installment of Watch Life Happen, with Clint & Mel, Episode 2. This is footage from Vloggercue in Hoboken, NJ at Adam Quirk’s apartment. It was an excellent event, and much food, fun, and beer was had by all!

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

Watch Life Happen: Episode 2, Part 1, NYC

This is the second installment of my new video diary, Watch Life Happen, with Clint & Mel. This is footage from our trip to New York. I had so much footage, I decided to split up the episode into 3 parts. This is the first installment.

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

links for 2005-07-21

John C. Dvorak and Ziff-Davis the attention whores

John C. Dvorak in this recent column trashes the Creative Commons license, basically because he’s too damn dense to do any research or attempt to understand anything before writing a column.

First, let me address, are magazines stooping to this level these days to attract eyeballs? All I’ve seen from major publications recently is more and more controversy over journalists who are short on research and long on opinion. LinuxWorld’s editorial staff quit in May over a controversy regarding a reporting functionally stalking PJ from Groklaw. I’ve read too many poorly researched and biased articles from Rob Enderle to count, and John Dvorak, whom I used to trust as a source of authority in the industry, has basically turned into a crackpot who exists only to draw traffic to Ziff-Davis websites. Any reporter who cannot add value to the conversation and consistently gets his facts wrong should be fired.

To address points in Dvorak’s column:

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous “fair use” provisos of existing copyright law. This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.

I surely will, John. Creative Commons website says:

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.

Maybe this isn’t clear enough for you. Basically, it allows me to specify a wide range of rights I’m willing to give up to the public without giving away the ones that allow me to make money from my work. This means I can allow other people to remix my work, change it, modify it, etc, but they can’t just go throw it in their ad campaign w/o compensating me for it. It does not effect fair use (which BTW, isn’t law, it’s just common practice. Fair Use is hardly well-defined).

Creative Commons actually seems to be a dangerous system with almost zero benefits to the public, copyright holders, or those of us who would like a return to a shorter-length copyright law.

Creative Commons isn’t law, John, it’s a license. It exists as it does based on the current state of copyright law, and will be modified through time to make sure that it complies with current copyright law. If you want better law, I suggest voting for better representatives, but I don’t see how a license, no matter how widely used, affects that at all. I don’t think you did either, but it makes for a good sound-bite.

This is nonsense. Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws. In fact, the suggestion is dangerous, because if someone were sued by the Creative Commons folks over normal fair use and Creative Commons won the suit, then we’d all pay the price, as fair use would be eroded further.

Total shit argument and you know it. It’s a god-damned license, not a piece of law. If you can do something under the law now the license can’t disallow that use. The non-commercial attributes are there to protect people who license their work under clauses that allow for redistribution from having their work used for commercial purposes without being compensated. It’s blatently obvious to me, and my wife who watched the video on their website understood in the less than 10 minutes that the video ran. Did you watch the video, John? It says to watch the video. I would think someone was well-read as you would take the time to do the proper research, but my instinct here tells me you didn’t. I mainly blame your editor though. I thought that was the advantage of the old-media system, with editors and a management structure behind every by-line? They’re supposed to keep drivel like this from being published right?

If you want to publish something commercially, in it’s whole form, which is the point anyways, you can contact the author and obtain permission, which might involve compensation. This is the same way as it’s always worked, it just means me, who’s not getting paid to write this, is basically free to use their work as I see fit as long as I’m not making a dime off of it. This is beautiful, because people can take my work, written, visual or audio, and make something new and exciting out of it for years to come. We’re pioneering the re-mix culture. My latest video will be an example of that, as I have started to use footage from the Prelinger Archives.

I’m just so sad right now at the state of the media. This kind of attention whoring is what will do them in. I guess they’re feeding right into the hands of the people who want to bring them down, but for me, it’s just sad. The alternatives aren’t up to the task of replacing mass media yet, and I don’t want to live in the blackhole that will be created as people like John C. Dvorak, and the editors who support him, are destroyed.