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Sunday, 18 August 2013

Not the Chinese Hackers

Complaints were received at the command hub this morning about slow download speeds from a parishioner trying to view the minutes of the September 2011 full Parish Council meeting. Although they were published almost two years ago I was sure that the ‘911’ minutes were not materially larger in data volumes than any other month’s. (Regular readers will recall my analysis of the variation in the volume of the Parish Council minutes, which showed that, apart from a tendency to dip in August, all were of comparable size within the applicable statistical norms.) It took me no time to realise, therefore, that the entire website might be running slow, a conjecture  I was able to prove in minutes by running the suite of performance test scripts that I’d produced on holiday last year, as described in the January blog (the scripts, that is, not the holiday). Fearing another 'denial of service' attack by the Chinese government hackers, I lost no time in checking the firewall logs, running an automated d-scan of the enabled FTP ports, and all the other checks you’d expect to see under parallel circumstances. The figures spoke for themselves- not the merest spike in workload (allowing for the usual transients), so clearly no DOS attack in progress. Which left the one obvious other explanation for the slow download experienced by the unhappy parishioner- that hoary old bug (or ‘feature’ as Microsoft prefers to call it) of the NTS file management tree index reset.

I can still remember those days, back in ’86, when I, along with a handful of other luminaries (some no longer with us, sadly) were kicking around ideas and options for what was later to become NTS, although in those days it was just a part of the embryonic operating system we were developing for the soon-to-be-launched IBM ‘PC’, a DOS of a different sort. Gatesy was full of ideas for using a binary chop as the basic indexing method for the identification and retrieval of logical disk segments. For me and the others it seemed a nutty idea from the off. I could see that at least a quadtree approach was needed, or perhaps even a higher dimensionality, and we had a go with the whiteboard pens to sketch out the shortcomings in his thinking. But you know what Bill’s like- a few high-pitched screeches, stamps of the feet and all the toys are thrown out of the pram We gave in to him then, as we’ve always done since, and lived to regret it, as we’ve always done since.

 Anyway, a few hundred extra GB of ram did the trick. I’d had them knocking round since I did that upgrade of the web-server motherboard to a terra-bus config, so it was just five minutes to plug them in, check the cooling fins were making proper thermal contact, and launch a dynamic reboot with the SYS=MAINTAINED flag set to keep the website up while the co-processors re-started. Tested the 911 minutes myself. Download was under 3 seconds from start to finish, with 0.037s latency. Cloud computing? You can keep it.

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