Saturday, 24 March 2012

08:50 – I finished the QC2 review on the biology book and sent off my comments to the production editor. We’re finished with this book. It goes to the printer on 3 April. Barbara and I are doing final preparation on the biology kits this weekend, and will start assembling finished kits next weekend. And I just got email from my editor yesterday asking about image(s) for the cover of the forensics book, which they’re fast-tracking.

My new cell phone showed up yesterday. I put it on the charger, but I haven’t yet activated it. It’s a cute little clamshell unit. It reminds me of my first cell phone more than 20 years ago, a Motorola clamshell model, although of course the new one is a lot smaller.

I have about had it with DreamHost, which had yet another major outage yesterday. Their promise of 99.9% uptime has become a sick joke. This is about the fourth major outage so far this year. As always, they claim that only one small datacenter was affected and that only a small percentage of their customers were affected. By some coincidence, every time they have have an outage, I’m one of that small percentage of affected customers, as is everyone else I know who uses Dream Host. The major outages would be bad enough, but even when their service is working it’s often so slow as to be almost unusable. My annual renewal is coming up soon, and I think I’m going to move to another hosting company, probably

12 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 24 March 2012"

  1. MrAtoz says:

    I have noticed your site takes much longer to load lately. Plus, the outage was obvious.

  2. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Ditto the above. Also, it managed to happen in a way that it took a post I created with it when the “server cannot be found” dialog appeared. Will I ever learn NEVER to compose in the browser?

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, I really got spoiled by a decade of Greg & Brian’s Excellent Hosting Service. They sometimes went literally years without any significant glitches.

    Sorry about you losing your post. Weren’t you able to use the browser’s back arrow to get back to the page where you’d entered your text? That’s happened to me several times, and I was always able to back-arrow, copy, and save elsewhere.

  4. Lynn McGuire says:

    I host my website, , on a dedicated web server at Pair Networks, , since 2000 . The cost is about $300/month and their motto is “uptime ! uptime ! uptime !”. However, they are rather utilitarian and seem to be going off the deep end on some ecological thing.

    Have you thought about hosting at WordPress itself like John Scazli, ? I have no idea what the cost is, . But Scalzi’s site is always quick and responsive. And up.

    Good luck, it is the Wild, Wild West out there.

  5. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Well, when I went “back” (using the back arrow), the site was still down, and I got another one of those “server not found” dialogs. I suspect that wiped out my comments. I left the tab up, but when contact was restored, nothing I could do would show the comments I had written.

    If I had good presence of mind, I probably could have switched to offline mode in Firefox, and then gone back a page, but alas, my hands were quicker than the mind.

  6. Miles_Teg says:

    I don’t get server down messages very often but the page does take a long time to load sometimes.

  7. Chuck Waggoner says:

    It amazes me how much of an improvement elegant, optimized code makes. I did not upgrade my LAME MP3 encoder for many years, until just recently, when I moved to v3.99.4. Formerly, LAME maxed out the dual cores and made the laptop fan run on high. The newer version has cut processor usage by about 50%, and finishes the task in about 1/3 the time it took with older versions, using the same encoding bit rate; the fan now moves up only one step.

    The revised Exact Audio Copy, by the way, does not seem to have any faults. There were several in older versions, including problems passing correct tagging info to LAME. Not a problem any longer, and it now includes the ability to search for album cover art and embed lyrics into the tags. I have not used the lyric search so I cannot speak to it, but everything else just works. The only additional command I have to insert these days is “-V2” to get the proper VBR encoding rate. Although LAME developers have recommended using variable bit rate for well more than a decade, no audio creation software I use supports VBR rates natively. That includes EAC and Audacity among others. With EAC, a provision for additional commands exists, but with most other software I have used, there is no such ability to add to the LAME command line. Even editors in Linux, like Ardour and Cinelerra do not support exporting to LAME as a VBR file. In fact, even though double-blind tests have demonstrated that LAME VBR is superior to CBR, I am the only person I know who uses VBR. Rarely do I come across a VBR file outside of my own library. There used to be problems with players handling VBR files, but those deficiencies were eliminated a good decade ago.

    Meanwhile, with streamlining elimination of jobs in radio station staff, quality control is becoming noticeably absent. The Indy NPR station airs a classical music program produced by my university alma mater, featuring Romance era compositions. I stumbled across it the other day, and there was clearly MP3 material in the program. The female host had that clipped, squashed, ‘dragging chains’ sound in the sibilance portions of her speech, that only comes from lossy compression. My guess is that they were recording her tracks as MP3’s, then editing and adding that into the program, which in all likelihood, is again converted to an MP3 for distribution. MP3 is a final state, and should never be used as an interim format for further work. Only lossless formats should be used for that.

    Compounding the problem, it is likely that they were using Fraunhofer encoding, which is noticeably inferior to LAME. It is still not clear whether using LAME is legal, but no one is pressing any lawsuits at the moment–and Fraunhofer has meanwhile moved its focus on to other projects and seems not to care about MP3 anymore. They transferred all income from MP3 to the Fraunhofer Foundation–which, coincidentally enough, was located in one of the Telekom buildings where I taught. I have no idea what the foundation is supposed to be about, but they were a fast-growing group, taking over a large part of the formerly all-Telekom building, when I left. Large commercial ventures (like universities) often insist on using licensed Fraunhofer to avoid any possibility of future lawsuits. The better quality of LAME is then passed over. But that program sounded really awful, and I was in the noisy car when listening, which did not mask it.

  8. James Chamier says:

    Bob, try a virtual private server (VPS) of your own. As a Linux guru, you’d be at home with CentOS command line without worry.

    I use a UK company who also have data centres in the US; I’ve been with them for 4 years, only had 1 day downtime in that time, and incredibly cheap for full root access.

  9. OFD says:

    I also can recommend CentOS, the free community version of Red Hat, almost an exact clone. IBM does not upgrade the RH servers until they see a stable upgrade on CentOS, at least. Scientific Linux being another nearly exact RH clone, which I have on a box here at home.

    My experience of the site has been that it has been slow for some time now, but hard for me to pin it down due to fluctuations in our own wired/wireless service here and nearby frequency interference from the railroad, among others.

  10. eristicist says:

    DreamHost, IIRC, sucks. I used to be involved with a large gaming community who used their VPSes and dedicated servers. In ~2008, they billed a load of customers (including us) for an entire year’s worth of services — all in one month, when they were supposed to bill for one month’s worth.

    We left them after that. They really screwed up the finances of our community.

  11. Rick Hellewell says:

    As I have probably mentioned before, I use JustHost ( for my personal sites (about 25 sites now) for about 3+ years, with minimal problems. Another bunch of sites I take care of (including Dr Jerry Pournelle) uses BlueHost ( Both have very reasonable monthly costs, plus unlimited data transfer, file storage, email accounts, etc. And both have very large data centers with backup protection. Uptime is 99.99% (4-nines).

    I can recommend both.

  12. Roy Harvey says:

    I am the only person I know who uses VBR.

    I use VBR too, but that’s because I follow what you told me to do years ago. I don’t rip often, but I guess I’ll upgrade EAC and LAME.

    I tried using Rhapsody for playback on the PC but gave up. Albums where tracks should flow one into another smoothly have pauses to destroy the music. So I’m back to WinAmp.

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