ground rules for success in a dynamic, new media environment

In the previous entry, I made the statement that many of us working in new media don’t have a clue about what’s going to be successful and what’s not. I wanted to expand on this topic with a few key points. At first glance, you could interpret these as being pet peeves. My intention, however, is to set some basic ground rules for success even in a space where tools, technologies and strategies change at the drop of a hat. Continue reading

resolving the conflict between new media broadcasters and corporate IT

I returned late last week from attending Akamai Technologies’ first Global Customer Conference in Boston. Intended to bring together Akamai’s major customers, in order to share knowledge and information about current and future Akamai products, I think I derived more insight out of my conversations with other media & entertainment customers than out of the program material. I’ll explain why. Continue reading

Red Hat upgrade complete!

Those of you who have been following my journal closely know that I’ve been working on a project at work to migrate our main web and Java cluster from SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. Well, we did the cut-over tonight and I’m pleased to note that everything pretty much went according to plan. Netcraft will now tell you that is running Apache 2.2.8 on Red Hat. Continue reading

HP’s website is funny

I always laugh whenever I visit Hewlett-Packard‘s website. I have no idea what kind of crazy spaghetti computer systems they have running the site, but URLs of the format make me imagine that the site is being fronted with Apache running on OpenVMS/VAX, with the back-end running Nonstop on a Tandem minicomputer. (All products that HP owns.)

I received the following error message today:

Message from the ISAPI plugin:

No backend server available for connection: timed out after 10 seconds or idempotent set to OFF.
Build date/time: Jun 15 2006

Change Number: 779505

I dearly hope idempotent is not set to OFF. Unless HP/UX really is that bad and you need to keep trying so that at some point you’ll get the answer you were looking for. (“1+1=3 … nope. 1+1=4 … nope. 1+1=2 … ah-ha!”)

Incidentally, i was trying to determine the oldest server that we still have in operation. We still have a few PA-RISC-based HP 9000 A-class systems running HP/UX; they’ve probably been past their prime now for about 7 years. I’ll let you know if I find anything older!

CBC to distribute “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister” via BitTorrent

If you follow Slashdot, Digg, etc. you might already have heard of this, but CBC is going to distribute the final episode of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via BitTorrent immediately following the prime time broadcast of the show this evening. That’s right, a complete, DRM-free XVID AVI file, along with an H.264 version you can download to your iPod.

As a favour to them, I’ll be helping a couple of the folks from TV A&E seed the torrent file this evening. Hopefully the bandwidth demand won’t be too onerous.

For more info, check out the CNGPM blog entry on this topic.

this is where I pretend to be a CBC Radio News host

I’ve been on training the past 2 days at an internal CBC course called “CBC Radio 101” – it’s intended for those people who need to support CBC Radio staff in their daily jobs, so that we can get a better idea of their day-to-day workflow and process. It was a really interesting course and I really would love it if other IT folks were able to attend – seeing in-person how shows are put together gives a new meaning to the words “deadline” or “urgent”. Continue reading

daylight savings time disasters averted… was there any real danger?

As most North Americans know, Daylight Saving Time came earlier this year due to the changes introduced by the US Energy Policy Act of 2005. My colleague Gabriel and I have probably cumulatively spent 80-100 hours on patching systems to handle this change, and so far (keep your fingers crossed!) nobody’s noticed a thing.

My personal view of DST, however, is that the whole thing is folly; and furthermore, attempts to justify the DST change as an energy conservation measure are ludicrous. In fact, you can listen to an interview right on CBC Radio’s The Current with Prof. Ryan Kellogg of the University of California at Berkeley, who’s done a study stating exactly that.

Continue reading

Interwoven Product Generator Matrix

There’s a lot going on at work these days, much of it centred around a cleanup of our legacy infrastructure and fixing some longstanding problems, but I thought I’d take some time to introduce my Interwoven Product Naming Matrix! Simply pick a word from Column A, add another word from Column B, and optionally choose a suffix from Column C, and presto — you have Yet Another Interwoven Product ™. Enjoy!

Column A Column B Column C
Content Annotate MP
Control API Professional
Data Bin SDK
Desk Center Standard
Forms Code Workgroup Edition
Front Deploy
Live Hub
Media Office
Meta Portal
Open Publisher
Sales Services
Team Site
Visual Syndicate
Work Tagger

dark [filesystem] days at

It’s been a rough 48 hours for those of us at Operations. As you can see from the posted notice, a failure of the primary storage device hosting most of the site’s content has knocked out most of the website. Tod Maffin has posted a reasonably complete explanation on Inside The CBC, and I’m thankful for that. At the time of writing, the main volume containing the site content is still offline and fscking with no known ETA.

Originally I wasn’t going to say anything more about the outage, because Tod’s given an adequate update in his entry, and any speculation about the root cause of the outage (whether technical or managerial), and how soon it might be before we can restore service is just that — speculation. But some of the comments that have been posted on the above entry are just astounding and prompted me to write. While I am happy that many technical geeks are amongst our most enthusiastic audience members, I find the glib attitude of many of them with respect to operating the site to be very disturbing and upsetting. Continue reading

Sphinx talk at TAUG this month

As a follow-up to my last post, Simon Ditner is going to be giving a talk about speech-to-text integration in Asterisk using Sphinx2 and Sphinx4 at this month’s TAUG meeting. All the meeting details can be found here. You’ll also get to hear a demonstration of Simon’s own use of this engine, which is a hilarious Zork-over-IP implementation in Asterisk.

By the way, you may have noticed that some of my previous posts allude to me returning VoIP equipment to Devlin. That’s because I’ve returned to the Platform Administration team at This time around, I’ll be working on a number of exciting capital projects (I know, it doesn’t sound exciting when you call them capital projects) that are mostly aimed at fixing the basics with’s infrastructure. I’m not sure I can disclose many details at the moment beyond that, but rest assured that I will be discussing the relevant technical challenges and their solutions at an appropriate time. I hope to be able to informally follow in the footsteps of my colleague Blake’s contributions to the Inside The CBC weblog in his Under The Hood column, but going into far greater technical detail than Blake is able to, for reasons of audience accessibility.