NY Times: Russians Wary of Cyrillic Web Domains

We just wanted to share this great piece from the NY Times on the coming availability of Cyrillic domain names.  Our take on these new domains is that they won’t impact us here in the States much, if at all.  The piece does point out a number of interesting issues, and points out the impact of language differences in regards to web publishing.  It’s worth a read.

A Very Annoying Site: CelebrityBlackberrySightings.com

If you’re an avid – or even addicted – Blackberry user, do you care about looking at pictures of celebrities using their Blackberries?  And if you are a celebrity gossip fan, do you care to know how celebrities are using their Blackberries?

My answer to both (and for the record, I fall into the former category, not into the later) would be NO!

Looks like I may be wrong, at least on one count.  I came across CelebrityBlackberrySightings.com today.  It seemed like a joke at first, but it appears the site has been posting content since October 24, 2008 (which is also my younger daughter’s birthday).  The first post was entitled Eva Longoria Uses A Blackberry Bold, and most of the posts include headlines which are equally useless.  For example, check out this list:

Katy Perry Works Out With Her BlackBerry

Cheryl Cole Holds BlackBerry In One Hand…

Audrina Patridge Talking On Her Blackberry

Miley Cyrus Is Rockin’ Some Funky Tights, & A Funky Bedazzled BlackBerry

Somewhere, someone is finding and posting these pics, day after day after day.  Wow.

Site Launch: Stepping Stones II Early Learning Center

WSG is pleased to launch SteppingStonesII.com, a brand new site.  Stepping Stones is a child day care center located in Troy, NY.  As their site states:

Stepping Stones II Early Learning Center offers childcare services for children ages six weeks to five years — providing a warm, relaxed, “extended family” atmosphere — a home away from home. Reasonably priced with breakfast, lunch and snacks included and conveniently located off I-90 in North Greenbush.

The site is based on a custom design – including a custom logo – and is running on WSG’s own Content Management Tool.  The staff at Stepping Stones wanted to use the site to communicate with parents and find new families through the web.  Center Director Christy LaBarge has already been doing a good job of watching for and answering user-generated content related to the center online, most notably this thread on the TimesUnion.com entitled “Daycare help!” Good job Christy!

GNU and You: Open Source Software from a Business Perspective

If you’ve been paying attention to the computer world for the past 10+ years, by no doubt you have heard about Linux.  For those who don’t know, Linux is an operating system that has put a small dent into the Microsoft stranglehold of desktop operating systems, and drove a massive nail into the server market.  Linux is an open-source operating system.  The source code for Linux, and a majority of the distributions (variants) of Linux, are open for anyone to view, and for anyone to make modifications to the code to suit their needs.

Now what does this mean for you?  I’m not expecting all of you to go out there and learn C++, Python, or any of the assorted languages you can use to write a program.  However, thanks to the GNU Public License, there are many software options for you at no charge that rival software made by large corporations.

GNU’s Not Unix

GNU (Guh-Noo), in its true nerd fashion, is a recursive name.  It stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”.  One of the original operation systems, Unix, was a powerful operating system that was widely used throughout universities and corporations.  One man, Richard Stallman, began the GNU project because he believed so strongly in open source software that he thought that software should be open and available to everyone.  In his quest to create a completely open source operating system, he created his own versions of many of the programs that Unix used to perform many of its functions.  Before he could create the kernel (the software that manages resources on the system) a man named Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel which could use the GNU programs to complement it.  In short, a majority of the Linux distributions are technically GNU/Linux systems which run thanks to both of these men, and the hundreds of contributors to both projects.  Linux is released under the GPL which is the GNU Public License which allows for free distribution of the program and the source code, and open modification.

What does the GNU Project have to do with my business?

More often than not, web servers typically are running some variant of Linux which provides a few benefits to not only the web host itself, but to you as the client.  Since Linux is a free operating system, you immediately negate the cost of having to run a costly Windows server and the upkeep that comes along with it.  The benefit to this is not only the obvious cost, but the fact that the community behind the software is huge.  Thousands of people submit bugs (and updates!) to the Linux kernel, and Apache, the web server typically used on Linux servers.

Not only is the operating system running your server open source, but if your site is written in PHP, yup, that’s another piece of open source software.  PHP is a powerful language that can process dynamic pages based on elements from a submitted form, user information (like location) or information from a database.  Instead of updating your page by editing the HTML, you can have a tool written for you, a CMS (Content Management System) that will let you quickly update a post or news article on your site.  Since your data would be stored in a database and not hard-coded into the page, if you choose to change your site design, or want to generate an RSS feed, then it’s very easy to make modifications.

Some Final Words…

Open source software is huge.  Some of the best and most powerful programs are open source, whether you know it or not.  A prime example of this is the now leader in the browser wars, Mozilla Firefox.  This time I talked about open source software in the server environment, but next time I’ll let you in on some open source software that you can use in your desktop environment to cut costs so you don’t break the budget on your business.  So if by chance you do have some programming background, find an open source project and start submitting bugs or fixes, but if you don’t…stay tuned and I’ll show you how you can support the open source movement.

Judge Given the Gavel on Social Networking

I was browsing through my Google Reader RSS feeds, and came upon this gem today: Staten Island Judge Booted For Facebook Oversharing.  I understand that people love updating their social networking sites and constantly letting people know where they are, but “his once-public Facebook profile ‘included photographs of his children and, at times, blow-by-blow details of his location and schedule,’ sources told the Staten Island Advance.”  Not even in the peak of my Facebook career did I feel the need to let everyone know where I was going.

Develop a Social Media Policy for Your Company

What can we take out of this example?  Be very careful and complete when you make a policy regarding social networking websites.  For example, I have a personal Twitter name that I like to keep disconnected from my company username (@wsgandrew) in case I just want to post some goofy things to friends.  My Facebook page is not open to the public, and as far as I know, I’m not even able to be seen in search results.  It’s not necessarily about the things I put on there (though that’s very important too), but about the things that other people could put onto my profile (wall messages, bumper stickers, graffiti, etc.)

Personal Profiles vs. Professional Profiles

As I said earlier, I have a personal Twitter account and a professional Twitter account.  I post updates relating to work and social networking from my professional account, and never really let my opinion out on off topic items.  Granted, since this is the age where any piece of information can be found out, my personal Twitter name is easy to find.  I am Twitter friends with people from work on both my personal and professional name.  It’s a very slippery slope, trying to decide where exactly the line is.

For companies looking to implement a social media program that their employees would outreach into the digital world, there should be some limits that are put into place.  Some of these items are obvious, like no pictures from parties or nights out that aren’t work-related gatherings.  Again, all of these criteria are malleable based on your (or the owner’s) preference.

Be aware of what your employees post, but also be aware that without the power of these free social networking tools, you would have to spend thousands of dollars to get your message heard.  And a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter per day is a lot less of a financial burden than large-scale advertising.  Protect your personal pages, and realize that as long as it’s been out on the internet, it’s possible to access.

Speaking of Twitter:

  • @wsgnet – The official Twitter account of WSG.net (Updated by Justin)
  • @wsgandrew – My WSG Twitter account.

Google’s Official Response to this week’s Postini Spam-Filtering Problems

From: Google Enterprise Support <enterprise-support@google.com>
To: justin@wsg.net
Subject: Postini Services Incident Update
Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009 01:17:21 -0400 (EDT)

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA  94043

Postini Incident Report
Service Disruption – October 13, 2009
Prepared for Postini Services Customers

Dear Postini Customer,

The following is the incident report for the issues with mail delivery and Administration Console access
that some Postini customers experienced on October 13, 2009. We understand that this service
disruption has affected our valued customers and their users, and we sincerely apologize for the impact.

Issue Summary
Beginning at approximately 10:25 PM PDT, Monday October 12 | 5:25 GMT, Tuesday October 13,
affected customers experienced severe mail delays and disruption. Also, during this time, affected
customers had intermittent access to the Administration Console, Message Center, and Search Console.
The root cause of the delivery problem was an unintended side effect of a filter update, compounded by
database issues that further slowed message processing.

Incoming messages may have been deferred; no messages were bounced from recipients or deleted. In
some cases, sending servers may have stopped resending messages after a deferral and returned
delivery failure notifications to senders. (Typically, servers are set up to retry sending for up to five days.)
During the incident, timely status information about the incident was not consistently available to
customers. We posted information on the Support Portal and from the @GoogleAtWork Twitter account;
however, customers often experienced problems accessing the portal due to load issues, and updates
were not included on the Postini Help forum. Also, the Postini status traffic lights intermittently showed a
“green light” instead of indicating the delivery delay. Customers calling in to report cases experienced
very long wait times.

Actions and Root Cause Analysis
At approximately 11:30 PM PDT, Monday October 12 | 6:30 GMT, Tuesday October 13, monitoring
systems detected severe mail flow issues and automatically directed mail flow to the secondary data
center. Upon receiving the error alerts, the Engineering team immediately began analyzing the issue and
initiated a series of actions to help alleviate the symptoms. Message processing continued to perform
poorly in the secondary data center.

Mail traffic was then directed across both the primary and secondary data centers to maximize processing
resources. During this time, Engineering temporarily disabled the Administration Console and other web
interfaces to reduce impact to the processing infrastructure. Engineering performed a set of extensive
diagnostics and tests and determined the cause to be the result of a combination of the following
conditions:

• A new filter update appears to have inadvertently impacted the mail processing systems.
• Unusual malformed types of messages triggered protracted scanning behavior, and its
interaction with filter update affected mail delivery.
• A power-related hardware failure with database storage servers reduced input/output rates. The
latency in database access reduced our overall processing capacity.

The combination of these conditions resulted in high failure rates for mail processing and the deferral of
new connections from sending mail servers.

To fix the database issue, Engineering worked with the hardware vendor to replace the faulty hardware
component. At 11:00 PM PDT, October 13 | 6:00 GMT, October 14, database disk input/output
throughput returned to normal.

At 12:30 AM PDT | 7:30 GMT Wednesday October 14, the filter update was revoked, and mail processing
returned to full capability. As a precautionary measure, Engineering continued to process a portion of
traffic through both the primary and secondary data centers. Mail processing was restored to the primary
data center at 1:39 AM PDT | 8:39 GMT. Although mail processing was at normal speed and capacity,
some users may have seen delayed messages continue to arrive in their inboxes. These potential delays
occur when the initial or subsequent delivery attempt is deferred and the sending server waits up to 24
hours before resending the same message.

Corrective and Preventative Actions
The Engineering and Support teams conducted an internal review and analysis, and determined the
following actions to help address the underlying causes of the issue and help prevent recurrence:

• Implement standard procedures for reverting filter updates as a mitigation measure and to help
speed time to resolution.
• Perform an in-depth analysis of the filter update to help ensure this class of error is not
propagated.
• Investigate the unusual malformed messages to quickly identify the message pattern and
thoroughly understand any impacts.
• Enable monitoring for notifications of the class of power failure that may affect the database
storage system.
• Determine whether the database storage servers can be configured to maintain the throughput
level during reduced power situations.
• To improve communications during incidents, we will:
◦ Post timely status updates to the Postini Help forum for better visibility.
◦ Accelerate the work to monitor and communicate the Postini services status on the
Apps Status Dashboard. The dashboard offers a single location for the latest service
status and options for RSS feeds. This will replace the traffic lights system and provide
more accurate and in-depth information.
◦ Moving forward, update the phone status message more quickly to inform customers
during an incident.
◦ Expand phone support capacity to handle spikes in call volume. This capacity is
expected to be available within the next several weeks.
◦ Update the maintenance pages with up-to-date information that are displayed when the
Administration Console is unavailable.

Over the next several weeks, we are committed to implementing these improvements to the Postini
message security service. We understand that system issues are inconvenient and frustrating for
customers. One of Google’s core values is to focus on the user, and we are committed to continually and
quickly improving our technology and operational processes to help prevent and respond to any service
disruptions.

We appreciate your patience and again apologize for the impact to your organization. Thank you for your
business and continued support.

Sincerely,
The Postini Services Team

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