The Minutia of Getting a Flash Video to Play Right Every Tme

OK – you’ve got it all together. The video is ready to download and play, it’s tested, we’ve watched it, the flash works (or Quicktime or whatever vintage you prefer). We watch customers watch it over and over. Things are going great. Then, someone somewhere tries to download it over the web, and it fails. The refresh button is hit over and over, it continues to fail, and that disappointed person just gives up. Why didn’t it play?

Looking over the logs today provides a window into just how difficult it is to provide 24/7 perfect video streaming to any type of computer anywhere. These problems vex the biggest and smallest vendor because they are based on architectural flaws so fundamental that these occasional failures are impossible to guard against.

Fun Friday: Google Test Positive, Laser Bits, Gender Blues

While we were working on getting all those Jolix 386BSD fans their Porting Unix to the 386 articles (we have been swamped BTW – and yes, there’s more coming), a few other items of interest this week…

If you made money on Google (or if you wished you had made money on Google), you might try using The Google Test to evaluate your next investment. According to Matt Marshall of VentureBeat, “Entrepreneur William Jolitz posits a contrarian view on YouTube, praising its expensive use of bandwidth as a key to its success. Read on about how YouTube meets the “Google Test.

Bandwidth-driven business models may seen counter-intuitive to a technologist – after all, we like to make products that make money, and when we fail we tend to face a firing squad. So I can understand it when a techie gets all worked up about those $1M/mo bandwidth bills without getting anything in the way of dollars back. It’s always bothered me that companies like Google, YouTube, and MySpace seem to violate laws of nature. But guess what, kids – making these big Internet moves doesn’t seem to have as much to do with moving $$ product (after all, any techie can upload a movie or make a GenY webpage with a plethera of packages) and more to do with getting eyeballs and mindspace. Yes, this was true when I was at IGN Networks way back in the dotcom bubble, and it’s still true today.

So I heartily recommend that tech guys and gals read this little piece, not to depress you, but to allow you to learn how those top-flight venture firms like Sequoia make their decisions. After all, if they want to spend the money, aren’t we up to the challenge of making it work out?

On another exciting topic, looks like Intel and UC Santa Barbara have made a a promising breakthrough in using laser light to make a much faster interchip switch. According to the article “The breakthrough was achieved by bonding a layer of light-emitting indium phosphide onto the surface of a standard silicon chip etched with special channels that act as light-wave guides. The resulting sandwich has the potential to create on a computer chip hundreds and possibly thousands of tiny, bright lasers that can be switched on and off billions of times a second.” As one of my engineering friends said when we chatted, this makes low-power SiliconTCP all the more valuable (see InterProphet for more information).

Finally, an interesting essay from up-and-coming Renkoo CTO Joyce Park on women role models in business and her dismay over the HP Dunn affair. Since I’ve written on this topic often, I couldn’t help putting in my own two-cents. 🙂

Happy weekend reading – there will be a “Google test” on Monday.

Fun Friday: DSL Debacles, Celebrity Linux, and Ubuntu

Tom Foremski of has picked up my little meditation on how telcom companies keep competitors from serving DSL even if they don’t want the business (see DSL Debacles and Competitor Cheats) with the headline “Lynne Jolitz tries to get DSL on a DSL line”. We’ve got a few comments on this one relating to dark fibre which some folks might find interesting.

On the celebrity front, I’ve been waiting for the ultimate celebrity distro, and finally it’s here – Paris Hilton Releases Tinkerbell Linux. Now, I know that ever since 386BSD everyone and his dog does Unix releases, but I’m gratified to see the dog finally get her due. And unlike my rather dry technical discussions of OS open source, Paris has added the touch of glamour to Linux that I’ve always wanted to see in BSD: “First,” she writes, “I think The Open Source Movement is, like, really hot. I’ve been dabbling with coding for ages, but it’s taken me some time to find the courage to release it. As you know, I’m a shy and modest person, and wasn’t sure if it was good enough for the strict standards of the coding community.” What’s next? – Brittney Linux, the kind you can dance to? 🙂

Finally, it probably comes as no surprise that there is a lot of source contributor turnover in open source kernel projects, what with the low user esteem, nonexistent pay, endless “such terrible food and such small portions” complaints, burnout and rampent piracy. But usually it’s the “control freak” kernel developer that’s blamed for everything. So it’s refreshing to see why major Linux contributor Matthew Garrett left Debian for Ubuntu: “”In his own blog, Garrett relates his gradual discovery that Debian’s free-for-all discussions were making him intensely irritable and unhappy with other members of the community.”

Why he likes Ubuntu? The “technical code of conduct” (which means talk distro and code, not politics) helps, but the key is to see an end to discussion and make a decision. “At the end of the day, having one person who can make arbitrary decisions and whose word is effectively law probably helps in many cases.”

I wish them well. 386BSD also enforced a code of conduct similar to Ubuntu’s today. But unless there is genuine respect for their developers, the poison of ridicule can erode even the best of intentions. I’ve watched Ubuntu take some of the best ideas we pioneered a decade ago with 386BSD Release 1.0. I hope they learn from history and don’t just imitate it.

When Video Kills Your Drive – Quicktime Waxes Track 0

Alright! Yes, sometimes I do read slashdot when it’s amusing, and the discussion of how you can create your own custom panic screen (or BSOD window) for OS/X via an API is amusing (my son Ben points this stuff out for me – he feels it’s one of his sacred tasks). Joke panic screens have been around a long time, but the battle over “how much information to give people” has led to many not-so-amusing battles, especially when we were creating 386BSD releases and did the Apple approach as an option long before Apple switched to BSD and did the same thing we did. I like information and transparency, but not at the cost of frustrating and annoying lots of people…

But aside from this old debate, probably the funniest *real* programming error discussed (yes Apple, you did it again) was the Quicktime capture bug a video engineer discussed, where it merrily fills up the drive with video and then, when you’ve run out of space on the disk, overwrites allocated blocks. Yes, allocated blocks! And where did that leave our poor engineer? With no track 0. Even Apple couldn’t put that one back together again – they had to give him a replacement drive, and that’s a complete admission of defeat, because as everyone knows Apple is very cheap. (Disclaimer – I have worked in manufacturing, and we all are very cheap in this regard because hardware returns make a nasty entry on your income statement – show me a systems vendor that doesn’t care about hardware returns, and I’ll show you a vendor that won’t please shareholders).

But the question begs – is there another way to recover from a track 0 loss on a disk drive? Well, we faced the same problem at Symmetric Computer Systems years ago, and we recovered that disk, albeit not the way you might think…

DSL Debacles and Competitor Cheats

OK, so I need DSL at a few locations, so I check out pricing, find a good reputable provider, and book the orders. We do this all the time, right? It’s a no brainer.

But what happens if one of those locations just happens to be in an area your phone company just doesn’t want to service? And worse yet, what if they don’t want anyone else to service it either? Do they let their competitor take the business anyway, leaving them with the line maintenance? Or do they say the line is no good? Well, if you think you can get away with it, why not lie? And so we begin a saga of how keeping competitors from serving an area can be as easy as the magic words “load coils”… because how do you prove they don’t exist, and that this is a ruse to keep out service (violating tariffs galore)? Well, I do know one way…