April 24, 2008


I'd heard the CouchDB name but but didn't realize that it's an HTTP-accessed, Erlang-implemented, schema-free, distributed datatabase - and it supports Javascript for defining views. Time to dive in!

From Apache CouchDB: The CouchDB Project:

"Apache CouchDB is a distributed, fault-tolerant and schema-free document-oriented database accessible via a RESTful HTTP/JSON API. Among other features, it provides robust, incremental replication with bi-directional conflict detection and resolution, and is queryable and indexable using a table-oriented view engine with JavaScript acting as the default view definition language."

April 21, 2008

What programmers like

Quote of the day, found on the High Scalability blog while looking into Amazon's SimpleDB
"Programmers like problems they can solve with more programming."

April 20, 2008

Online services and availability

I've been working with the design and development of online services for quite some time and am very familiar with what 'high availability' means, but today I had the opportunity to learn first hand how the lack of reliability can directly impact people. This is a minor example, to be sure but as more 'software as a service' companies are built out more people will be affected in ways that they don't quite understand.

My daughter attends a Middle School that uses the online curriculum from Key Curriculum Press - I have no idea if the content is decent or not (but knowing the teachers at the school I'd bet it's good) and in order to access specific materials a login process has to take place and then access to some PDFs become available. This weekend, the login service was unavailable and so my daughter could not work on that part of her homework - very annoying.

The problem is likely something as simple as a server misconfiguration or a host being down (I can't imagine there's too much horsepower required for this sort of service), but as a 'customer' we are unable to do anything. There is no 24x7 tech support or online contact information. I could make a phone call, but that would only work between 8am and 5pm (PST), and I'm pretty sure kids do homework outside of those hours.

I've sent an email to their president and we'll see what kind of response that gets.

Update - I received a nice email from their president and she also sent a follow up email with more details. Very nice!

April 19, 2008

MyOpenID for Your Domain

This post from ReadWriteWeb about
MyOpenID for Your Domain is interesting. I've looked into OpenID several times in the past but it didn't have enough immediate value to get me to do anything about it. Now that more sites are 'supporting' OpenID and with the simple to use MyOpenID provider maybe I'll set something up. It would be interesting to see decentralized profiles and authentication, it seems a shame that everyone is getting locked into a few social networks for hosting and managing personal profiles and shared contact info.

April 16, 2008

Yaws and reverse proxy

It seems that there are a lot of situations where efficient connection handling in an HTTP reverse proxy is needed to help with scaling and keeping costs down, and my first guess was that Erlang would be the way to go.

So I just searched to see if there was a reverse proxy written in Erlang and sure enough Yaws has one.

Next, I need to find some folks that have actually used it and ask some questions. Especially for persistent connections (accepting a request but sending no response until there is data available, like in a message queue or pubsub scenario).

April 14, 2008

Of Liquidity, Competition and Platforms

This post by Bob Wyman "Of Liquidity, Competition and Platforms" reminds me why I subscribe to tech blogs - occasionally you get a deep thinker that clearly and concisely describes something that likely took them a long time to figure out.

"As many others have said, much of what people are building today is 'features' not products. As long as that is the case, raw economics is the real problem with the software business. Competition strengthens the platform builders while eviscerating the component builders... The rich get richer and the builders of innovative features must be satisfied with the 'personal rewards' of doing a job well unless they get lucky in the buy-out lottery game."

With the various cloud computing efforts well underway, and with each providing a different approach as a 'platform', it would be good for developers and entrepreneurs to think about which road to travel.

April 10, 2008

More REST and Erlang

Man, I wish I had the time to dig into these posts about Erlang, Yaws and RESTful services.

Cross domain web apps

This post about cross domain Web apps is spot on. The growth of the current Web was due to millions of silos - no data shared between sites. Over the past few years technology like iframes, ajax and other styles of 'mashups' have made it possible to create applications composed from cross-domain services. I believe this will drive the next major growth curve of the Web.

April 04, 2008

Elephant on a Bicycle

Here's an interesting blog on China from someone living there. The photos are both beautiful and intriguing.

Elephant on a Bicycle

An example of the writing (which I really like)

I'm now in Xining, Qinghai, in a youth hostel 15 floors up - which you think would offer remarkable views of the mountains that crowd the city on all sides. But it doesn't, this is China. 15 floors up generally just presents you with worse pollution, as it seems to procrastinate in mid-air limbo.

I'm in a quiet little room with two computers. Beside me sits a young monk of about 18, who has rather rashly decided to accessorise his austere crimson robes with a pink feather boa. I couldn't make that up. Furthermore, he is currently downloading provocative pictures of Nicole Kidman; certainly harder to find fault with this inevitable phase of teenage experimentation.

Xining city is a fascinating stopover because it offers a unique diversity. It is still predominantly Han Chinese, in both it's populace and it's blindfolded embrace of modernity - noisy, dirty, difficult to look at, pulsing
with energy. But alongside this, it contains a deeply religious aspect from the presence of size-able pockets of Islamic and Tibetan communities. In places there even exists a meditative quiet - a stillness - which amidst the commercial bustle and the perpetual foot-race of human progress can seem almost revolutionary. This is especially apparent in the areas surrounding the great mosque where I spent most of the day after befriending a young Koranic scholar named Farooq.