Green Power

This Green Power project is one of the reasons it’s great to live on Prince Edward Island. What it doesn’t say in the news release, but which is apparently true, is that we consumers can buy Green Power too, at a premium, with the premium going to support the wind generator site.

I will be among the first to sign up for this — I think it’s an amazing idea.

Another nice Maritime Electric thing: they have an entire list of managerial email addresses online.

Pings and Traceroutes

The Story about Ping When Internet traffic travels from point A to point B — say from your computer to Yahoo! — it travels first to your local Internet company, then over their network to an Internet backbone (something like the 401 in motor vehicle terms), then to the Internet company of your destination. Along the way your traffic passes through a variety of technical gizmos calls bridges and hubs and routers, all roughly analagous to switching stations on the railway.

When you ping a computer, you’re essentially sending out a signal over the Internet, and waiting for it to bounce back. You time how long this takes, and in doing so get some idea of how smooth or congested the route between you and your destination is. This is roughly the same as going into a canyon and yelling “Ping!” at the top of your lungs, and timing how long it takes you to hear the echo.

A traceroute is essentially a roadmap showing the hops, skips and jumps your Internet traffic takes between you and your destination. For example, when I post this message to the website, it will travel over my Island Tel DSL connection to the Aliant network, then to BellNexxia in Montréal, New York and Toronto, over to AT&T Canada’s network in Toronto, to ISN here in Charlottetown, then to the Reinvented server 4 blocks across town. In general the fewer number of hops Internet traffic has to take between you and your destination, the smoother things will go for you.

Here are the results of my pings and traceroutes to Eastlink’s gateway (see previous message for details).

The Government of PEI webserver is 18 hops from c5.eastlink.ca with an average ping return time of 82ms measured over the last five minutes. By contrast, my Island Tel DSL puts me 2 hops away with an average ping return time of 10ms.

The Yankee webserver in Dublin, NH is 15 hops from c5.eastlink.ca with an average ping return time of 62ms. By contrast, my existing DSL puts me 16 hops away, with an average ping return of 50ms.

The Yankee webserver in Boston, MA is 11 hops from c5.eastlink.ca with an average ping return time of 40ms. By contrast, my existing DSL puts me 15 hops away, with an average ping return of 52ms.

Sad note: Mike Muuss, the author of ping was killed last year in an auto accident.

Eastlink Impresses

So I got “the call” today from Eastlink telling me that they can now offer Internet, telephone and digital cable services to the Reinvented World HQ here on Prince St.

One of my concerns about switching from my existing Internet service is a question about how “far”, in Internet terms, I would be from servers I maintain for PEI and for Yankee.

So I went to the Eastlink website, clicked on the technical support link, got the phone number (1-800-345-1111) and dialed it up.

I travelled through a well-laid-out phone tree, and after pressing “1 for Internet Technical Support” the phone rang. Once. Yes, just once. I didn’t have to listen to an electronic version of James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. At all.

The friendly guy who answered the call said “Eastlink Internet. How can I help you?” He didn’t say “What’s your user id?” I like this.

I told him my situation. He didn’t respond by saying “what’s an IP address?” He responded by saying “why don’t you just do some pinging and tracerouting to our gateway at c5.eastlink.ca”. Just like that.

The call lasted about 2 minutes from start to finish. I am very impressed.

Andrea Ledwell and the Guardian Headlines

Andrea Ledwell mentions the lack of Guardian headlines and the old News section of this site. The news is back and so are the headlines, in a friendlier format. It’s funny you should mention this, as earlier this week I sent the following email to Gary MacDougall at The Guardian:

Back in late 1999, I was an early experimenter with a new technology called RDF, which, in essence, allows website content to be syndicated. The idea is that headlines from many different websites can be amalgamated onto one customizable page, with links to the original source provided. While this is quite common these days (see my.yahoo.com, www.moreover.com, my.netscape.com and others), at that time it was all new and experimental.

In the spirit of this experimentation, on November 3, 1999, shortly after you folks went online with your website, I wrote a little program that would visit your website at 3:00 p.m. each Monday through Saturday and sift through the stories on the various pages, pull out the headlines from each page (this is easy to do, in part because you’re so consistent in your formatting — you always enter headlines the same way), and make these available for syndication. I published a couple of notes about this to my own website, and experimented with adding Guardian headlines to various customizable third-party websites.

And then I forgot about all of this and went on to other projects, leaving the daily headline update in place on my server for all takers.

Unbeknownst to me, a lot of people watched those original experiments, or found links to the Guardian headlines files on my server, and started to use them to provide customizable Guardian headlines, with pointers to your website, on their websites. I only noticed this recently, when I started to analyze the traffic to www.reinvented.net.

Look at this website as an example of this; halfway down the middle column of the page you’ll see a section called “Charlottetown Guardian: Top Stories”. I don’t have any relationship with these folks, in fact I didn’t know they existed until I searched just now — they simply connect each day to 5 little files of headlines on my server which, in turn, point to stories on your server.

These headlines are now showing up in many different places in the Internet. If you go to www.google.com, for example, and search for “Charlottetown Guardian deaths”, you’ll see the first search result takes you to a page at this site, which displays today’s Guardian-listed deaths, with links back to your site for details.

Traffic-wise, in the last 100 days there have been 1,367,606 requests for these headlines files from my server, roughly 14,000 per day. This traffic is now accounting for 90% of the traffic to my server.

In the end this is all a Good Thing for the Guardian because, at least in theory, it should be driving traffic to your website.

When I first started this little experiment, I sent an email to Don Brander letting him know what I was doing; I didn’t hear back from him at the time. This email is simply to let you know that this is all happening, and to seek your comments on whether this is a service I should leave in place or not.

I got a nice note back from Gary saying he would get back to me.

Island Tel Network Down for 35 Minutes

At 11:25 a.m. this morning the Island Tel network went off the air. No high speed Internet. No access from the Internet to webservers on the network. And so on. Took the usual frustrating trip through customer service [sic] hell. Finally hung up in frustration after the tech guy asked me to disable my firewall. Sigh. Network came back up after 35 minutes.

3,281 Words

I remember when I was in high school and university, the prospect of writing 1,000 words on something, to say nothing of 2,000 or 3,000 words, was always very daunting.

I have strong memories of combing through a 950 word essay looking for ways to stretch out the length — substitute “the research conducted in the scientific community” for “research” and so on. This can’t have been a good lesson.

And so I was amazed tonight when I sat down after supper to put together my talk for tomorrow that, when I was done 5 hours later, 3,281 words had just flowed right out of me.

I’m not sure how this bodes for my talk tomorrow, but it does put earlier frustrations in a new light.

Technology Under Carpet

My wise friend Ann the Communicator writes, in part:

I think you should have a subsection of your site for endless technology discussions which are Not of General Interest…
While I’m the first to admit that the long drawn out saga of Island Tel vs. ISN vs. Peter has been a little overwhelming (hey, you just have to read about it; I have to live the life!), I consider it part of my Greater Duty to alert the general population to the insanity of the dehumanizing technological world we’re have build around ourselves.

That said, using Ann as a canarie, I will direct my gaze elsewhere for a spell, if only to preserve my own sanity.

Beware, though, that at any minute, some horrible techo-debacle could strike, and I would have no choice but to write about it. In case this happens, I suggest you of the techo-averse class on this ship re-route to this website for a respite from the inanity.

Just don’t come looking for me when Island Tel comes for your cats1.

1. Any suggestion that Island Telecom Inc., or its parent or associated companies have anything against cats is purely a fictional construction used for dramatic effect only. As far as we know, they love cats. And I’m sure if you asked really hard, they would install a phone for a cat. But not High Speed Internet. For that you have to be at least a dog.

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