Category Archives: Misc

Relief effort for tornado victims in Washington, Illinois

Days after the colossal tragedy in the Philippines where Typhoon Haiyan caused deaths of upwards of ten thousand people, the midwestern part of the United States was hit by powerful tornados.

Just 151 miles away from the eBoundHost.com home base near Chicago, Illinois, a massive tornado touched down in the city of Washington.

The images of devastation and news of loss of life are so completely overwhelming that it’s amazing how anyone survived. A good portion of the city has been reduced to rubble, houses, businesses, stores, hospitals, schools are simply gone. People who planned their lives and retirements, and worked hard to build and to save, are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

The realization sinks in that this could have been us, any of us.

Most importantly it’s time to help our neighbors with the very basic needs in life like clean water, food and shelter. We are entering the coldest part of the year where temperatures are dropping to below freezing and these people need help today, right now.

Please join us in doing what you can. Volunteer your time or help by donating funds to the relief fund. More information can be found here:

http://ci.washington.il.us/

Hurricane Yolanda/Haiyan in Philippines

typhoon.yolanda.haiyan

Our hearts go out to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in the Philippines.   We are extremely saddened by the loss of life and hope that the  survivors find comfort in the world community joined together to rebuild what was destroyed.  eBoundHost.com is donating to the relief fund  organized here:

http://www.itmatters.com/typhoon-yolanda/

100% of donations collected go directly to the victims. Wecall on everyone who can to join us.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9s3PmasGVnw9Yl58aAuwiQ/videos

Stop SOPA / PIPA

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

SOPA / PIPA

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

 

Quick update

It’s been quite a while since the last official blog post, specifically almost 6 months.  This is in no way due to a slowdown of eBoundHost activity, quite to the contrary, we have been so busy that it’s been difficult to keep up with non-critical things like this blog.

The last 6 months have brought a lot of behind the scenes changes to our team, office, data center, even a refresh of our office computers.

Most importantly we have added some fresh new faces to our customer support team.  Of course, the term “fresh” is relative, since our team members are industry veterans (if you can say that for a 10 year industry).  Those of you who have the pleasure to work with our support team will notice some new names on your support tickets, be sure to put them through their paces!  No need to go easy on them just because they are new.

Our data center has been expanded in order to accommodate projected growth.  This has involved new rackspace, more bandwidth and more electrical power.    Since even the smallest changes to the data center can lead to unexpected consequences, we try to plan ahead as far as reasonable and make incremental changes. The latest update should take us through the middle of 2011 without any more major upgrades.

And finally, we are in the midst of a office move.  We outgrew the previous office of 7 years and have moved up to a beautiful new office with large windows.  It may be strange to mention that this office has large windows, but you would be surprised at how many potential offices we turned down due to the lack of sunlight.  We might be computer people, but aesthetics and comfort of the office environment are paramount.  We spend more time working than any other activity, even sleeping takes less time during the week, so the office environment has to be comfortable.

That’s it for now, lots of other things going on that we can’t get into just yet, but a few major changes are in the pipeline.  Stay tuned!

Thanksgiving

Today is the American national holiday of Thanksgiving. We gather from all over the country and sometimes the world for the purpose of sitting down around the same table and sharing a meal with our closest family members. The news reported that 37 million people are traveling the highways on this day to be with their families. That is more than 10% of the country’s population on the roads at the same time trying to join their relatives for dinner. Dwell on the enormity of that for a moment.

In the hustle of life its easy to forget that this is really what is most important, family. We work to live not the other way around.

From our table to yours, we wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

Call center phone problems

Technological advancements are not without caveats.  For instance, our VOIP provider is having issues and as a result our primary telephone line is not working for some callers.  Luck would have it that all of our other (secondary) lines are working without any issues, while the only one that truly matters is down.

For the next several days call this secondary number: 847-368-9490

We have used this particular telephone company for the past 2 years without any major issues and this is the first time we have seen how they respond to a real customer service trouble ticket.

Working with their first and second level support really makes me appreciate our own support team.  Our people know what they are doing and they don’t have idiotic scripts to read while you are aggravated on the other end of the phone call.  We don’t waste your time with endless “for this department press this, for that department press that”.  We don’t have you wait on hold endlessly while reading basic notes.  We don’t transfer you to five departments before reaching the correct person.  Bad customer service is infuriating.

If we don’t have a resolution tomorrow, we will move off to another carrier, telephone support is too important for our customers.

You don’t appreciate good service until you need it.

Happy holidays everyone!

Whatever you celebrate, we can all join together and wish each other a happy holiday season.  With such awful weather (in Chicago), it’s the perfect time to gather indoors and spend time with the family.

Due to holidays our team is operating on a skeleton crew for the next few days but we are still here for you if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to say “hello!”

Have a happy and safe holiday season and we’re looking forward to working with you in 2009!

Get out and vote!

Its November 4th, election day in the USA, and all the nonstop political coverage is almost over. Whatever your political leaning, I’m sure we all agree on one important thing, electing our leaders is one of the few true freedoms we have. However you vote, its better than failing to show up. If you don’t like either candidate, then write in your own name. This is a much better way to protest than through aparent apathy. Howvever you vote, just vote.

Let’s hope that whomever takes the White House is going to unite the country that has been so bitterly divided politically for the last few election cycles.

Denial of Service

It’s good to be popular but it definitely comes with it’s own problems.  For instance, today, some clever folks decided to run a Distributed Denial of Service attack on the eBoundHost.com domain name.  They knocked us out of the web for a little bit of time, but luckily our monitoring system sounded an alarm and a tech was dispatched to fix the problem.

What happened?  A standard server simply cannot cope with several hundred servers trying to access a website at the same moment.  At first things work fine, then they slow down and finally, the server runs out of allowed processes.  The Apache web server is now effectively useless, hence the title: Denial of Service attack.

How does the attack happen?  Someone’s grandmother receives an email on her AOL account that promises to have pictures of her favorite relatives.  She opens the picture only to infect her computer with the most nasty Trojan virus known to mankind.  This Trojan proceeds to let his friends know that there is a party happening at grandmas house.  They come to visit and also infect the computer.  All sorts of fun things can be installed this way, for instance, software that turns this computer into a node on a botnet.  This botnet zombie is now fully in control of some 16 year old in Vietnam/Russia/Turkey/etc, and this computer can now participate in things like sending spam or a Denial of Service attack.

There are definitely ways to deal with this kind of situation.  First off, there are devices you can buy that deal with known DDoS patterns.  There are lists of known zombie ip addresses that you can block out on the router.  There are ways to deal with this type of situation.  Luckily this does not have all that often, and it is usually enough to merely let the attack work itself out.

This time the attackers were nice enough to have left us a signature of their work, and for that we are very grateful.  It really made the cleanup effort much easier.  So I wanted to say the following, we know you are out there and we know what you can do, and we are very impressed 😉

Happy holiday weekend everyone!

4th of July

Tomorrow is the fourth of July. This was the day The Declaration was approved and signed.  The day the Colonial Experiment became the American Dream.  The day everything changed.

This particular July 4th, is especially interesting.  I do not remember the last July 4th during a presidential campaign year because I didn’t happen to pay particular attention.  But today, our two (main) candidates will go on television and make flowery speeches and promise the world to us, just as long as we are willing to vote for them.  And then the political analysts are going to dissect and analyze every word and gesture and try to hide behind a journalistic lack of bias while steering the conversation in a particular direction.  And then the public is going to have private conversations about how a particular candidate is bad for our country and how the other guy/gal is going to be our savior.

Today’s political process seems very dirty.  The candidates appear inadequate, each in their own way.  The political commentators are biased and dishonest.  And the public seems to be the exact uneducated, unwashed masses, that are looked down upon by people who consider themselves the ‘elite’ and call the space between New York and Los Angeles, “flyover country”.

Somehow, I get the feeling that not much was different a hundred years ago.  Some Presidents have been unworthy of the title.  Newspaper publishers have been cheaters and liars, and the public, well the public literally didn’t bathe much.

But this is just an illusion.  The candidates at this level of the game are really the best of what is available to fill the Presidential shoes.  They may be unable to spell ‘potato’ or hold the book upsde down, but nobody can possibly stand up to this kind of scrutiny and constant pressure.  The candidates are good people who have already shown themselves to be good leaders.  The journalists are definitely opinionated but they maintain as much neutrality as possible and are balanced out by their colleagues on the other side of the political spectrum.  And the people are more politically savvy than they are given credit for.  When it comes down to it the system is brilliant.  And with all this imperfection, we somehow overcome the shortcomings and grow past the mistakes of our leaders.  Somehow, our country has been the innovator in almost every scientific field.  Somehow we have one of the highest qualities of life, and own the best ‘stuff’.  Even with the bad economy, most people have an excess of food, a flat screen television, relatively new car, a cell phone and computer.  We have it so good that we are STILL selling SUV’s the size of Caribbean inner city buses.  We invented the Internet.  We invented the automobile.  We invented the telephone.

Whoever wins the upcoming election, things are not bad now and they are probably going to remain pretty good.  The reason for this, in my opinion, is the very nature of our society.  We are Open Source.  We have checks and balances, we have the right to criticize our leaders, to replace them if necessary.  The right to become candidates and fix the system from the inside.  The system is not perfect, but we are always working on it.  We are a society that is truly governed by the people, from the people and for the people.

On behalf of the eBoundHost team, we wish a happy 4th of July to the world.

How it works: server hardware

About servers. Everyone reading this post is making a connection to a server. In fact, you are making a connection to at least a couple. There is a server in your office or home that is allowing you to proxy onto the internet, most likely a wireless router, which connects through another server, the DSL or cable modem. There is a caching DNS resolver server on your ISP. An entire army of router servers between your home and our data center. And the last server in the chain is our web server, which actually hosts this content.

Lets narrow down the definition of a Server. We are not going to talk about IBM mainframes or Sun UltraSPARC based blade systems. Today, we care only about the servers which comprise the majority of the infrastructure of the websites you visit. These are normal computers just like you have in your house or office, with the exception of being confined into more efficient packaging. They use familiar Intel or AMD processors, normal DDR2 or faster RAM, and SATA hard drives. What really separates them from home PC’s is the software. But software is not what this blog is about.

Here is what one of our older servers looks like (below):

2u

To compare, here is one of eBoundHost’s newest servers.  This form factor is unofficially called the ‘pizza box’ due to its small dimensions.

1utop

The first thing you will notice is that the new server is not as tall. Our older hardware uses 2u (units of space) while the new servers use 1u. This allows for greater density. Some servers use as much as 7u but these are specialty machines that are filled to the brim with hard drives in gigantic RAID arrays.

Side to side comparison:

old and new

These servers fit into specialty (read expensive) racks that have 42u of storage in each rack. This means that when filled with 2u servers, we can only install 21 machines instead of 42 1u servers. It’s a dramatic difference when you talk about a server room full of racks such as in our facility:

Racks
Of course the entire 42 units are not available for servers, there are switches, power distribution units, firewalls, intrusion detection equipment.  All considered, we are happy to have 30 servers in one rack.

There is also the consideration of electricity and heat. A rack full of servers eats electricity like a hungry SUV, and produces just as much heat pollution. 30 servers stacked on top of each other, blowing air into the same direction, require an amazing amount of cooling, which needs big air conditioners that move a lot of tonnes of air. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Data center challenges is going to be saved for another blog entry.

To jump back into server hardware. Here is the same 1u server without its cover.

1uinternals3

Motherboard, CPU, heatsink, RAM, hard drive and a very powerful cooling fan. Seems simple enough. Another picture:

1uinternals1

Every server is custom built. When an older machine comes off line, we generally sell it through eBay and build a new server to take its place. The nature of hardware is such that components wear out and fail eventually. Our clients and our reputation are far too important, so we give old hardware the boot and use all new equipment.

Here are some servers in action. The following pictures may not be completely safe for geeks, they may cause weakening of the knees and a desire to run out and fix something. Please refrain, it will pass:

1u servers

These (above) are dedicated servers. Inventory tags have been obfuscated in order to protect the innocent.

(below) Are some specialty machines which have 15k SAS (fast/expensive) hot swappable hard drives in RAID array. Used for our shared servers, VPS machines, and some powerful dedicated servers.

Swappable

Each server is built by our staff. We love them so much that we have hundreds of them 😉

More to follow, there is so much to cover: data center, operating systems, server software.

Thanksgiving Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us. From the eBoundHost crew, I would like to wish all our friends who are observing this wonderful day, to have a good celebration and try not to have too much turkey (or whatever else).

This is the one holiday per year that seems completely innocent and not commercialized. Its spirit has somehow been preserved over the years and has not become a day to give cards or mandatory gifts, just to get together with your family around a dinner table and enjoy each other’s company.

On a related note, some of our staff are traveling around the country in the next few days, so we are running on a skeleton crew. If support runs a bit slower than usual, we hope you understand! (non critical/outage tickets only, of course)

So without any further delay, happy Thanksgiving.

The fuss about FOSS

Recently i have been following some very interesting conversations in the Free Open Source Software (FOSS or just OS) community. In case you have been on the moon for the last 10 years and have not had any news updates, I’ll fill you in. There are entire communities of people who are continually building all types of software that they distribute for free on the Internet. These people are computer programmers, graphic artists, copywriters and others. The software they build ranges from an operating system like GNU/Linux or to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and my personal favorite, TiVo.These projects are built by mostly unpaid programmers who contribute their free time and knowledge to build a better program/operating system/encyclopedia. They are driven by an altruistic desire to build a better “whatever.” They, then release this “whatever” to the masses for free, who in turn take these programs and hopefully make money from their distribution or by providing support. Ideally, whenever someone makes money from these projects, they will turn around and support the project they are using, thereby supporting the programmers who in turn will be able to make an even better program. So this is an ongoing cycle with contributions helping to fund development.

Sometimes these free programs are backed by large companies such as Sun (creators of Java) or TiVo. They often distribute a core system free of charge and hope to get a user base hooked on their product so they could then sell them the advanced software with more robust features. And sometimes companies find it easier to find a open source project and build their own system on top of it. For example, there are wonderfully powerful SQL systems available for free, MySQL and PostgreSQL. They have been in development for 7+ years and are such powerful systems that the vast majority of today’s Internet applications are based on one or the other. It would be foolish for a small (or large) company to start building a product from the very ground up.

The potential of such integration is HUGE. Company A only needs to make sure that their product integrates with the FOSS project B. Company A does not need to worry about any potential security threats or unexpected crashes due to project B. Instead, the programmers for project B take care of all such issues. This way company A is able to focus on improving the usability of their own product, which, coincidentally, does not even have be FOSS.

So this gets us to the really interesting part, sometimes Open Source projects are not compatible with each other. You would think that these programmers would be smart enough to allow these programs to integrate, but the problem is not what you think. Sometimes their licenses are incompatible!

The two licenses that I’m most concerned about are the GPL and BSD licenses. The BSD license says “do whatever you want with this code” which means that you are free to take code and even distribute it as closed source, proprietary programs. Coincidentally, the Apple X operating system is based on FreeBSD with some (very major) changes. So according to this license, Apple is able to take the current FreeBSD code, change whatever they want to change and distribute it as an independent project. Thankfully, Apple was kind enough to contribute significant improvements back to the project, but they did not have to. The BSD license allows them complete independence. The company does not have to release its trade secrets, only what they chose to. However, it is in their own best interest to contribute back and make sure that FreeBSD continues to be a vibrant operating system. This way, for the next release of the Apple software, they simply grab the FreeBSD code base, apply their own changes to it, and they have an up to date system with full security patches.

So the point of this blog is the other, and probably more important license, the GPL. This one says, that you are free to distribute this program as long as you make all the changes available to the public. So any company that modifies the source code of any project, thereby improving it, will have to open up its changes (including trade secrets) to the greater community, and if these changes are quality, they are then going to be integrated into the main project. Linux is distributed under this license. The added complexity of GPL is that there are 2 separate GPL’s on the table today GPLv2 and GPLv3. The v3 is newer, more complicated and puts restrictions on how the code can be used. We are slowly making the transition from v2 to v3 but a lot of companies are unable to make this transition because they would have to open up their closed source addons to GPL’d software, which were allowed under v2. So companies have to make a choice, use old and buggy GPLv2 software or upgrade to GPLv3 and lose business. This is a big issue that is beyond the scope of this blog, and we’ll see how things work out in the coming years.

So as far as we’re concerned, the major difference between the two licenses are

BSD: you should do the Right Thing but we won’t force you
GPL: you have to do the Right Thing and contribute back to the project

As a active reader of the FreeBSD mailing list and Slasdot and various Linux lists, I have recently started to see a lot of chatter about how the GPLv3 license is superior to everything else. People froth at mouth (or keyboard) and spew such hatred towards the other camp. After reading through 10 pages of this drivel, I realized that these people are wrong. They are trying to make a better FREE license by putting more restrictions on how it can be used. This is ridiculous.

Seems to me that they forgot what all of this is about and are trying to bite the hand that feeds them. If you take out corporate money out of open source software, a lot of important projects will collapse. The real support ($$$) comes from corporations that support projects which help to make money. No corporate profit means no support. Live and let live, if someone makes good money using FOSS, more power to them!

Last time I checked, making money is good for the person/company making money and for the entire community which benefits from the added support, either through sponsorship or awareness which leads to more pubic support. Companies like Google, have entire teams of programmers working on Open Source software and contribute millions to improving other ongoing projects.

Not to mention that you simply cannot outlaw capitalism which is what they seem to be trying to do. If people are forced into the corner, they will find another exit. And guess what, the BSD license is not a bad alternative to GPL’d software. If the GPL people keep pushing, they will just drive away developers to the other camp.

FOSS is great for all of us. Everyone should step back, take a deep breath and refocus on building better software rather than bickering about nonsense.

Oh, and for the record, this entire document is entirely not open for redistribution without my permission. How is that for a license 🙂

One rough Monday

So while last Friday went without any problems, today is Monday so something was to be expected. No wonder that it is supposedly the most common day of the week for heart attacks.

As the day began and all system components began stressing out with highest load of the week (monday morning) the weakest link failed, the power unit. All 4 RAID drives were spinning and CPU usage (and power consumption) shot through the roof as the email began to pour in and tens of thousands of little files were being written to the mail system. But to be fair, these things happen, nobody is immune from hardware failure, this is why I always stress having a full backup of all your content.

In little less than an hour, everything was back to normal. RAID array checked out, file system checked out, temperature nominal on the new power unit. All was well until the hour-long outage began to catch up with us in the form of an avalance of email that was not received on time. When it began to pour in, it really hit hard.

The bad news is that it took a few hours to work through the queue and there was a delay with real-time messages.  The good news is that as a result of this experience a new mail system is being implemented that will eliminate 90% of all spam before it arrives at the hosting servers. This mail will be filtered out as it hits the network and will reduce the stress on machines that have other tasks to handle such as serving websites.

Testing will begin early next week and we should be fully implemented before end of the month.

A very good week

Today is Friday the 13th.  A mysterious day where you should stay in bed because terrible things will happen.  Don’t walk under the ladder, don’t spill salt, don’t cross the path of a black cat.  I don’t know, it’s the end of the day and still feeling happy and upbeat.

It has been an amazingly busy week in an overly busy month but for some reason I was able to tear myself away from the paperwork and look back in retrospect.  This happens less often now that things have become so busy, but I realize this is more important than having your head buried in daily routine.  Overall, I have to say that this was a very good week, much was accomplished.

It still shocks me to look over the New Sign ups roster and recognize just one or two of the names.  Used to be that majority of our new sign ups were either existing clients or referred by existing clients.  Today, our genetic pool has become diverse to the point where it is going to be difficult to say where the majority of our new clients are located.  Some in Europe, Middle East, Asia, South America and of course a great number from North America but it is becoming quite diverse.

While I’m here writing, something new and exciting is going to be announced in the upcoming week.  While I can’t tell you details yet, I will just say that we have added a sizable addition to our eBoundHost family.

I hope the week was as meaningful and successful to all of you as well.  Have a happy weekend and I’ll see you back on Monday!

Artur

Happy Independence Day

On behalf of the eBoundHost.com team I would like to wish all of our US based customers a very happy July 4th. It is too easy to forget that freedom is not a given and by no means cheap. Much blood and sweat has gone into building this wonderful country and we must not forget that nothing is guaranteed. The First Amendment, freedom of education, lateral movement between social classes, world class medicine, and many others are what make this country so unique.

We are lucky and priviledged to be here, never forget.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.