Google Chrome DNS Caching

For the most part, I enjoy Google Chrome and use it almost exclusively for web browsing.  However, I ran into a bit of a problem this weekend as Hollow Developers was switching our production servers from one host to another.  As soon as our DNS records were updated, I hopped over to OpenDNS, the DNS server that I use at home, and ensured their cache for the domain was using the updated server.  It was – so I was good to go – or so I thought.

Next, I loaded up the domain in Chrome, but it was loading the old server!  I opened up Opera, and it was loading up the correct server.  Odd, since DNS should be shared between all applications on my laptop.  And then it hit me, Chrome has some pretty extensive DNS settings and a corresponding DNS cache.  After a little searching, I found out that I could clear the DNS cache at chrome://net-internals/#dns.

Read More

SVN Commit Error

Ah, version management.  For the professional and novice alike, version management can really prevent a lot of headaches.  Accidentally break something in your most recent version?  It’s easy to go back and revert to the last working version.

As helpful as Subversion (and associated TortoiseSVN Windows app) is, it can sometimes throw some really strange errors.  The most recent one that we received was:

“Can’t open file ‘folder.svn\tmp\text-base\file.svn-base’: The system cannot find the file specified.”

Needless to say, we didn’t quite know what to do at first.  However, it turns out that there is a great Stack Overflow article explaining the solution.  We also came up with our own solution, since the root of the problem was a renamed file that differed only in case.  We just appended ‘2’ to the file name, committed, and renamed it again.  The second commit works, and prevents the error from occurring again.

Hope this helps someone else along their development way!

Read More

GoDaddy Instant DataCenter vs. Rackspace Cloud Servers

10/09/2012 Update

We have written in the past about Rackspace Cloud servers, and the fact that our site is actually built on these servers.  As traffic increases and decreases, we can quickly scale up and down our servers to accommodate spikes, and remove cost during slow periods.

Recently, GoDaddy introduced their answer to Rackspace’s cloud servers – GoDaddy Instant DataCenter.

We haven’t had much time with GoDaddy’s product, but wanted to provide some initial thoughts on the two products since there doesn’t seem to be much discussion on the products yet.

First, the areas where GoDaddy wins out over Rackspace:

  • Price – as usual, GoDaddy undercuts the competition by a significant margin.  Three 1GB servers with 100GB outbound transfer will run you $120/month (cheaper if you signup for a longer term).  Comparable servers on Rackspace would cost $150/month.
  • Ease of setup – we called GoDaddy support and had a running server within 2 hours.  Setup time was comparable on Rackspace.  However, GoDaddy provided a stock LAMP Ubuntu server, something that saves just a little time, but is helpful nonetheless for quick proof-of-concepts.
  • Easy firewall – GoDaddy provides a firewall in front of your entire network, so you can use their interface to open ports and establish load balancers.  Rackspace doesn’t let you off quite this easy and requires modifications on each server.
  • Simple load balancer – in the control panel, you tell GoDaddy which port and IP should be load balanced, and also provide target machines – all in a web interface.  Nothing’s easier, and this layer is free.  I would like more details about the load balancer, however.  I am assuming that it is a high availability load balancer with many nodes at the entrance of the network.  You know what they say about assuming, though.

Rackspace has quite a few things going for them, however:

  • API Control – Scripts can easily control your cloud server settings – everything from creating a new server instance to increasing the RAM on a server.  This allows you unparalleled flexibility, and is not, as of yet, available on the GoDaddy Instant DataCenter product.
  • Reputation – A huge plus for Rackspace here.  I don’t know anyone who can say “I’m really embarrassed that I buy products from Rackspace.”  However, the same cannot be said for GoDaddy.  From their icky advertising to their CEO’s elephant killing video, the company is a little sketchy.  Every SuperBowl, I hang my head in shame when their commercial comes on.
  • Documentation – Rackspace wins by a mile with best practices for setting up the servers and step-by-step instructions for performing almost any task that you will need to do.  It’s still early in GoDaddy’s product, but even for their older products, GoDaddy lacks solid documentation and a strong community.
  • Easy CDN Integration – Content delivery network is provided in the control panel to allow quick offloading of resources.
The verdict: mixed.  If you’re just trying things out, you might want to give GoDaddy a try since they seem to be the cheapest option for 1GB servers.  However, Rackspace allows you to start at 256MB, so their cheapest option is also a good starting point.  If you require a more complex setup, I would definitely go with Rackspace due to their flexibility and API integration.

Read More

One Week In Google+

Google+ Logo

So it’s been a week since I signed up for Google+.  (Profile link)  So far, so good.  But, it’s still early in the service’s evolution, and I have a few thoughts:

  • It’s a ghost town among non-techies.  As much as I love the tech community, many of my close friends and acquaintances are not in that community.  Once invites start to make it to the general public, it will be interesting how the community evolves.
  • Photo sharing doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as it could be.
  • In your news stream, posts that were recently commented on get moved back up to the top (at least that was the case a few days ago).  Adding an option that would allow you to sort based on post time or last comment time would be helpful.
  • No threaded conversations – insanely annoying for posts that generate a lot of traffic, as is the case with the most prolific Plus users right now.
  • I could see how the email generated by the service could get spammy very quickly with the default settings.

On the plus side:

  • It’s a ghost town among non-techies.  (Yes, a pro and a con.)  I get to start my social network over again.  Facebook filled up quickly with a lot of acquaintances and people that I only met once.
  • It’s easy to group people into circles.  As easy as it could have been with Facebook, they didn’t capitalize on this feature, and adding people to lists is more difficult than circles.
  • No ads – yet.  I’m glad that Google+ isn’t bombarding me with workout and protein powder ads – yet.  I know that this is the ultimate focus of Google, and that we’ll probably start seeing more relevant ads throughout the internet on AdSense, but advertisements on Facebook can be creepy.  I’m not sure how that will change as Google gets to learn more about me and my friends.
I’m excited to continue using Google+, and ultimately writing a ‘One Year in Google+’ post.

Read More

Gmail Smart Labels

Gmail introduced new smart labels earlier this week as a Labs feature. When you activate this lab, Google will attempt to assign the appropriate label to the message.  At this time, these labels are categorized as:

  • Bulk
  • Forums
  • Notifications
  • Personal
  • Promotions

This is a great first step, but think of how much further it could go!  It would be amazing for Gmail to learn what labels it should apply to different mail depending on who sent it, what the subject is, and other pertinent data.  For instance, our developers always label security updates as a ‘ToDo Item’, as well as a label that indicates what website it is pertinent to.  While our current filters work great for this type of thing, it would make everyone’s lives so much easier if this happened in the background.  So get on that, Google engineers.  A pint of Guinness is in it for you next time we’re at the Googleplex.

Read More

Google’s Japan Earthquake People Finder

Google has deployed its people finder again, this time for the Japan earthquake that occurred earlier today. The massive quake not only unleashed devastating primary damage to buildings and infrastructure, but also spawned a tsunami that inundated low-lying areas. Even the United States’ West Coast was affected by the tsunami, causing some damage.

Google’s People Finder has been deployed after large disasters in the past, and within hours, the site was being used to report people’s locations.  The ability for such a large organization to do something good for humanity in general is a great example for businesses to follow, and a reminder that technology is increasingly becoming a part of disaster response, preparedness, and mitigation.

Within ten minutes of the earthquake, a tsunami warning had been sent out, and the Pacific region had been notified.  Hawaii had hours to prepare for the incoming wave, and the limited damage is a testament to how important these warnings can be.  After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 200,000 people, largely in areas with no warning, these early warning systems are showing their importance, even if the wave that hit Hawaii was small in comparison.

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this disaster.  Google’s People Finder is embedded below.

Read More

Rackspace Cloud Load Balancing

At Hollow Developers, we use Rackspace Cloud for this website, and have started to move over our gaming and education websites to this host.  Today, they have announced public availability of their Rackspace Cloud Load Balancing API.  We have been waiting for this since November when they first announced a public beta, and are even more excited about what this means for our clients in the future.

What is Load Balancing?

Load balancing allows websites to split up the work of hosting pages and images to multiple machines.  Take a site like Amazon.  There’s no way that one server would be able to keep up with all those visitors!  So, Amazon tells some of its customers to use Server A, and some of its customers to use Server B (in reality, there’s probably thousands of machines at Amazon).

There are a few benefits to this.  First, with multiple machines, you have redundancy – your data is stored in multiple locations, and in case one server goes down, your website can still stay online.  Second, suppose one server is being overloaded with a very complex request.  With load balancing, the other server can pick up the slack until the resource-intensive task is complete.  Load balancing also allows you to take servers out of the rotation and perform maintenance, without bringing down your website.  The wikipedia article has a long list of other benefits.

Load Balancing For Small Businesses

In the past, load balancing has been out of reach for many small businesses.  If  your dedicated server that hosted your website went down, your customers would be met with a dreaded 404 page.  However, with load balancing coming soon to the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel, this is going to get much easier very soon.  Starting at $20/month, Rackspace’s solution is poised to be one of the first easy-to-use and inexpensive cloud load balancers.

Interested in getting your site on Rackspace Cloud?  Contact Hollow Developers for a consultation.

Read More

HP dv7t Function Keys


HP Keyboard - not cool, HP, not cool!


We recently bought a HP dv7t laptop, and it has been very good to us so far.  However, we quickly found a small problem with the way the function keys work on this laptop.  In order to press F1, you have to press both the ‘fn’ key at the bottom of your keyboard AND the F1 key (the same goes for all other function keys).  Being a development workstation, function keys are crazy-important, and we find it odd that HP ships a laptop focused at the enterprise with this default behavior.  Thankfully, after rooting around for a while, we found the method for disabling this behavior and enabling the behavior that has been custom since function keys were first invented.  Here are the steps if anyone else is having problems with this ‘feature’:

  1. Reboot your machine.
  2. At the HP loading screen, press ESC to enter the BIOS setup.
  3. Press F10 (just F10, not fn+F10…) to enter BIOS setup
  4. Right-arrow over to System Configuration
  5. Down-arrow to ‘Action Keys Mode’
  6. Press enter, then select Disabled
  7. Press F10 to save and exit.
  8. Compute as you see fit!

While we can see the value of ‘action keys’ at laptops directed solely at consumers, it seems like the default function key behavior should remain the default.

Read More