The Day PEINet Kicked Us Out

Although my email archive from the late fall of 1996 isn’t complete, I’ve been able to string together the story of the events surrounding PEINet’s request that we leave their shared webserver for our own host. My chain of email starts with this paragraph in a note to a friend:

Sorry to have not replied earlier — engaged in a little crisis management on this end today. Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., 10 minutes before we were to demonstrate the Government site to the new Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, I got a call from our ISP saying that they had decided that we had to move to our own server ASAP as our Christmas Card feature was giving them load averages of 36.
So I’ve spent the day sourcing an a Intel Linux box, finding memory and setting it up with Linux. Hard to do with no money and 24 hours notice!

The “Christmas Card feature” in question, which was a Perl-based e-card system based on a similar service we found at MIT, became suddenly popular in early December, to the point where it was causing problems for the shared host we were using at PEINet. And so we got a call telling us, in essence, “you guys gotta find another solution, quick.”

The solution? We “borrowed” the Intel Pentium 100 desktop of an admin assistant who was on vacation; later the same day, I sent an email to the system administrator at PEINet about this new machine I’d put together:

The machine is an Intel Pentium 100 with a 500 meg hard drive and 48 megs of memory. It has an Intel EtherExpress card in it. I’ve installed Slackware v3.0, with the Linux 2.0.0 kernel on the machine and verified that the NIC card is probed for and recognized.
I’ve installed the ‘A’ and ‘N’ disk sets, which is enough to get the machine up and running and on the network. I’ve gone through the netconfig routine during setup, but, of course, didn’t have the proper information so I entered bogus data. You’ll need to boot it up and run netconfig to put it on your network.
This machine will be in place for the next 10 to 15 days until a more capable replacement (probably a Pentium Pro 200 with 128MB of RAM) arrives, so if it is possible to keep it housed in your offices until then, that would be preferable.

Then, finally a three days later, confirmation that everything working more smoothly after we took the machine down for a processor upgrade:

The new server is up and running. Because of the faster processor, I’ve been able to up the simultaneous connections to 45 from 30, which seems to be having a positive effect on response time. I’ve also copied all of the web data to the new SCSI disk, which is much faster than the old IDE drive, and this is improving response as well. Our load average seems to be in the 3 to 4 range as opposed to 10 to 15 which it was before.

While the desktop got replaced with more robust hardware early in 1997, it’s amazing to recall that 10 years ago the entire web infrastructure of the Province of PEI operated on an Intel Pentium 100 MHz with 48MB of RAM and half a gigabyte of storage. More amazing still when you consider that my tiny Nokia N70 mobile phone has a 220 MHz processor and 1 GB of storage.

That same week I was preoccupied with server issues, two other big events were happening in my life. First, my paternal grandmother, Nettie, got a computer:

Dear Peter and Catherine: Surprise! I am learning to send messages on the Internet. I’m having quite a time. It’s really hard for me to catch on. Your Dad has been here a few weekends to help me but I’m as dumb as I was to start with. I’m not feeling too badly but am stuck in the house all the time. Am not looking forward to the snow or cold weather. Wishing you the best. Love, Nana

And Dave Moses and I were plotting the company that would, in 1997, emerge as Okeedokee. Here’s a rather precious “mission statement” I wrote that same week:

Okeedokee combines technology new and old with irreverant systems thinking to create simple, delighful solutions to information, logisitics and entertainment challenges.
Our core values are: Modesty, Honesty, Beauty, Utility, Fun.
We think technology is best when it’s non-intrusive, useful, sensible, compelling and beautiful. Sometimes its neat when technology takes your breath away, too.

I do like the “takes your breath away” part.


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