Yorkshire Airlines

October 30, 2006

Being a Lancashire Lad, born and bred, I just love this video courtesy of Hale and Pace and Google Video.

Disaster (Un)Procedures

October 30, 2006

We had a major electrical fault at our backup data centre this weekend. Thankfully it was our backup data centre so we only had very minor glitches, and to our secondary services at that.

It was a good chance to put those disaster recovery plans into full swing. And at 5am in the morning this time was as good as ever.

Here’s what we learned:

  • It’s the small things that catch you out

our electricians needed access to the dry riser cupboards, but then also to our roof to access the external power feeds. Where were the keys?

  • We’d lost power to the data centre and the lights were off

put two and two together, we needed a torch! The stairwell lights had gone too.

  • We needed to call the electricians, the air con crews, the building owner, the generator hire company

have these numbers to hand. Plaster them all over the data centre. Don’t have the need to go scrambling

  • Our file servers had cooked! What about all our support files and documentation?

We couldn’t access them. Luckily we keep copies off-site, and everyones (well, most) contact details in our phones.

  • Procedures?

Yes, we have procedures for Africa. We had them off-site. Did we use them? Not once. When the clock is ticking and the pressure is you don’t have time. Well trained, well drilled staff is what you need.

  • Turn a negative into a positive

Be truthful with your customers. By informing them that we had a major power failure but that we were fully up and running within 4 hours, with only minor and secondary glitches to services, they’ll knew that we were onto it. They appreciated the effort. They’ll know we’re not trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Truth and honesty – customers like that.

Basically, and you should all be sucking eggs by now, test test and triple test your disaster recovery processes. Even though our recovery process went very well, in our debrief today we still came up with a list of over ten actions!

Grand Theft Auto

Playing the PSP game Liberty City Stories, it dawned upon me how “rock solid” computer games are. Business world, please take note.

I mean, look at the sheer complexity that sits behind these games. The insanely complex gaming rules (sic. business rules), the rendering rate (sic. performance), the highly “context sensitive” sound and music (sic. integration), and the mind blowing presentation (sic. user interface). Oh – and it runs on a PSP (sic. server) that fits in my back pocket. Bulletproof. No bugs.

Nowadays, games are built just as movies are. Initial concept, tweak, get the best cast, tweak, storyboard, tweak, then wireframe, tweak, the shoots, tweak, the sound and music, tweak, post-production, tweak, marketing, tweak, marketing, tweak, premiere, tweak, etc, etc, etc. And they are made with intense passion.

Do we build IT systems like this?

Um, thought so.

We ought to.

Web2.0. What is it? If you’re reading this the chances are you’re somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0.

I’ve got my opinion, O’Reilly has his 5 page opinion (hey, he defined it didn’t he?), and 500 Basecamp users have their opinion.

What’s yours?

The Big Bad GooWolf?

October 27, 2006

Google

I have to say it. I am a big fan of Google.

I rarely need to go elsewhere. With RSS running rampant on the web, Google Reader is my one stop shop. My homepage is personalised (with Reader of course), I have mail, I have gadgets, I have maps, I have documents, I have spreadsheets. And now they even have vertical search. Anywhere, (almost) any device. Bloody brilliant.

But don’t we hate the big bad wolf? (er, Microsoft anyone?)
Sometimes you feel a bit guilty saying you like Google, because it’s a kind of mainstream. It’s kind of like going to McDonalds, Burger King, or Starbucks. The big difference is that Google serve up good stuff. The key – everything is just so simple. Very simple. When was the last time you looked up Google Help?

It’s pretty scary when you think about it because they have the audience, the intellectual grunt, the resource grunt and, of course, the lots of moolah grunt.

What does this mean for us smallfry? In many ways it makes it very hard to compete in that “Mass Market 2.0” space. Eurekster, a Christchurch based company specialising in vertical search, recently had to face the news that Google had just launched their very own vertical search. Who’s shouting Eureka now? Seriously, I wish the Eurekster crowd the best of luck. They deserve it.

It seems now that if you’re in any kind of space that either Google or Yahoo can get into, your business model is predicated upon eventually selling out to them. But be wary, it appears the number of big money tech acquisitions out there are fewer than you may first think. So don’t bank on it.

Just do what you love doing and believe in what you’re doing. You never know, Sergey and Larry may come knocking on your door.

iTunes New Zealand. Kinda.

October 26, 2006

iTunes I recently made the switch from Windows to a Mac, and so far I’m really enjoying it.

Like most people say so, I find the Mac really easy to use on the multimedia side. With their bundled iPhoto application, Apple allow you to create a beautiful hardback book to send to your friends and family.

I could not resist (and one of my friends succumbed to this urge as well) and proceeded to create a brilliant looking book. What a fantastic Christmas present.

But, alas, when you’re finished with your book and want to sent it for printing, you find out that this service is only available in the UK and the US! Why did they not tell me (and my mate) that beforehand.

Guess what? We can’t do iTunes here in NZ. There is no iTunes here in NZ. Basically, you need a credit card and billing address in a country of where they DO have iTunes/iPhoto books.

Or do you? I had an old UK debit card, but my billing address is here in NZ. I entered the credit card number, but put in my parents address.

Hey presto. It worked.

So if you have old credit cards from wherever they have iTunes, but are living here, just put in any real address.

Line RiderI regularly visit Lifehacker as I find it a great source of ways to make life much easier. It’s also a great site for coming across those wierd and wonderful things that just seem to chomp your time.

You need to play with things like Line Rider to keep up sanity, and to give you those much needed micro-breaks.

So simple. So much fun.