Archive for July, 2007

More SmugMug on iPhone

July 27, 2007 Comments off

SmugMug on iPhone

When I’m not busy screaming at my iPhone because it’s hard to sync with my LOST episodes, I’m busy rolling out new SmugMug features specifically for iPhone with the help of GreenJimmy and BigWebGuy. Here ya go:

  • Global SmugMug interface now. You can search & browse through the entire SmugMug site using iPhone, not just individual homepages.
  • Added search to both the global and user interfaces.
  • Added Friends & Family links so you can easily browse through your social network and that of your friends and their friends and….
  • Added a Keywords browsing interface. I’m not really happy with it, so I think we’ll keep playing, but traditional keyword clouds don’t work well with finger tips on this small of a screen, so we’ll have to get creative. Ideas in the comments, please?
  • Spiffy UI improvements to make things look nicer and feel faster.
  • Fixed a rotation bug where the images wouldn’t properly re-render.

Enjoy. I know I am. πŸ™‚

Stupid iPhone!@#$

July 27, 2007 7 comments

Ok, love my iPhone, but that just means that when it lets me down, I’m even more upset. Passion’s funny that way. Here we go:

  1. Bought a season pass to LOST on iTunes Music Store so I can catch up.
  2. Loving watching it on my AppleTV in my home theater.
  3. Want to sync episodes to my iPhone to watch on-the-go. I’ve watched up to episode 16.
  4. Selected “All unwatched” and hit Sync.
  5. “Not enough space” error. Fair enough, it’s only 8GB.
  6. Selected “3 most recent unwatched” and hit Sync.
  7. Ended up with Episodes 24, 23, and 22!
  8. Realized “Most recent” is useless because what you really want is “Next in line by episode #”
  9. Realized that there’s absolutely no way to get episodes 16, 17, and 18 onto my iPhone short of manually editing playlists, which gets really tedious.
  10. Blogged about it, because it’s the only way I can vent.

Basically, you can’t watch TV on the thing. Because you can’t drag shows to it (like you can with an iPod), you can’t sync them (because it sync’s them in wrong order), and it doesn’t have enough storage to “Sync All”. Even Smart Playlists don’t work, because you can’t have a formula that orders by episode #.

Isn’t this stuff supposed to *slurping noise* Just Work?

Has anyone smarter than I thought of a solution? Please share!

UPDATE: The magic Smart Playlist recipe to make this behave, thanks to reader Nick T, is as follows:

  • Show is ‘LOST’
  • Play Count is ‘0’
  • Limit to 3 items selected by album

Still not great, but much improved. Thanks Nick!

Categories: iphone

Datacenter love: Equinix

July 26, 2007 11 comments

I write a lot about products and companies that have potential, but aren’t quite perfect, like Amazon Unbox on TiVo and lots of Sun stuff. But this week’s outage at 365 Main, a datacenter in San Francisco (which we don’t use), reminded me that there are a few products and companies we love that I don’t say nearly enough about. So I’ll start with our datacenter, Equinix, and try to post about some of the others, too.

SmugMug got its start with 3 old used VA Linux boxes (dual 700mhz Pentium 3s with 2GB of RAM which are still in production today and have been our most reliable boxes) from a dead dotcom, which we threw into a friend’s cheap rack at Hurricane Electric. Once the money started flowing in, and we ran into HE’s power contraints and poor bandwidth, we hunted around for datacenter space. Equinix had the very best reputation among the Operations crowd here in Silicon Valley, so we gave them a shot and pulled out of Hurricane Electric.

I should warn you up front that there’s a little “sticker shock” when you first talk with Equinix (ok, and every time you need to buy more stuff from them, it returns), but in the end, it’s well worth it. It turns out that in life, some things are worth paying for. Datacenter space is certainly one of those things (and we feel like photo sharing is too!).

In the ~4 years we’ve been with Equinix, we’ve had only one major problem: They sold our power out from under us (to Yahoo) which forced us to move from one of their locations to another. Ugh. Datacenter moves, especially with hundreds of terabytes of disks, really suck. Luckily, thanks to decent system architecture and some magic from Amazon S3, we were able to do 99% of our move during normal business hours over the course of a month with no impact on our users.

In all fairness to Equinix (though this is no excuse), they weren’t the only datacenter that had poorly prepared for the ‘Power is King’ change in the datacenter landscape that happened a few years back. Plenty of other companies with other providers tell me the same story, so we’re not alone. Datacenters all over the place used to sell you mostly based on space (square footage) rather than power (watts). They all got burned when CPU and server vendors started getting really fast & dense gear. Nowadays, almost the entire negotiation is regarding power and everyone has empty dead space in their rented cages. Such is life.

On the bright side, everything else about Equinix rocks:

  • Power. I’m surprised to hear all of the horror stories out of 365 Main because I assumed they were as good as Equinix has been for us. We haven’t had a single power-related outage in all of the years we’ve been there. It just works – and it’d better, that’s the biggest reason we use a datacenter.
  • Metro cross-connects. If you’re hosted in multiple Equinix datacenters in a single metro area, like we are, you can get cheap (a few hundred bucks per month) GigE cross-connects wired between your various locations.
  • Support. I’m still surprised every time we need to use Equinix’s support staff and they’re actually super-knowledgeable and helpful. I’m talking about hardcore networking and routing questions. BGP, whatever, you name it – they know it. Better than we do.
  • Equinix Direct. I’m always surprised when I talk to other Equinix customers who don’t know about this gem. It’s a way to provision your IP transit providers on a month-by-month basis with no minimum commits or contracts. You pick your providers and pay-as-you-go. Pretty sweet. We’re already directly multi-homed on GigE with multiple providers, but we mix in Equinix Direct to have access to still more. Best thing? ED doesn’t add an extra BGP hop, so your routes still look fast (as opposed to someone like InterNAP who adds an extra BGP hop to do similar stuff).
  • Security. 5 biometric scanners are between you and your cage when you enter the building, with live security on hand 24/7. Stuff like this is fairly common at high-end datacenters, but it’s important, so I’m mentioning it anyway.
  • Bandwidth providers. Equinix is a carrier-neutral facility, and basically everyone has connectivity there, so you can easily pick whomever you’d like to carry your traffic.

Of course, they do all of the other myriad things a datacenter is supposed to do. One of the reasons I haven’t blogged about them in the past is because they just work – and they work so well, I just don’t spend much time thinking about them.

Which, of course, is the way it’s supposed to be. πŸ™‚

(Now, of course, I’ve jinxed the whole thing like Red Envelope and our datacenters are going to explode in a Martian Invasion. Sorry about that!)

Categories: datacenter

Silent data corruption on AMD servers

July 25, 2007 7 comments

One of my readers, Yusuf Goolamabbas, let me know about a nasty silent data corruption on AMD servers with 4GB or more of RAM running Linux. Yikes! This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. Yusuf linked me to two bugs on the subject, one at and another at Red Hat.

Lots of servers from a variety of manufacturers seem to be affected. It looks like a combination of some problem with Nvidia’s hardware (I’m not an expert, so maybe it’s AMD’s fault, but it doesn’t sound that way to me) and the Linux kernel not doing stuff properly with GART pages. Other OSes don’t seem to be affected, either because they don’t use the hardware iommu or they do things correctly in the first place.

One sucky thing? Apparently Red Hat’s fix isn’t out yet for RHEL5 or RHEL4. Ugh. You can force the kernel to use software iommu instead, but I’m glad I’m not affected.

Most of our servers have over 4GB of RAM, and as you know doubt know, we’re pretty in love with our SunFire x2200 servers, most of which have 4GB – 32GB of RAM. So I fired off a frantic email late last night to Sun, asking them if our servers have the problem.

The good news? They don’t! Whew. Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight… πŸ™‚

FYI, there are some Sun servers (and plenty from every other vendor, too) that are affected. Here’s a link to Sun Alert 102790 with more info. Sun was also good enough to send along info on a similar-sounding, but different, issue in Sun Alert 102323.

My next question for Sun will be about how ZFS would handle silent data corruption like this, since it’s supposed to be quite resilient to strange hardware behavior. My bet is that this is likely outside of the scope of things ZFS can detect and avoid (I think it’s awesome at read error detection, but I’m not sure how it could tell that a write doesn’t contain the right data. But then, I’m not as smart as they are πŸ™‚ )

Anyway, hope this info helps some of you out. I know I’d want to know about this stuff.

Categories: datacenter

iPhone features? What would you like?

July 23, 2007 7 comments

Last week we released some great updates to our iPhone interface, and today I’m sitting at Apple in the iPhone Tech Talk workshop. So if you’ve got any feature requests, now’s a great time to leave a comment – there’s a good chance I’ll ship it today. πŸ™‚

Here’s what we released on Thursday:

  • A link from your homepage to iPhone if you’re browsing on your phone.
  • A link on your iPhone back to ‘Full Homepage’ so you can go back to regular SmugMug
  • A cookie so if you’ve visited your iPhone interface, it remembers that you’d like to browse that way. Don’t want it anymore? It clears itself if you hit ‘Full Homepage’ on your phone.
  • Browsing your most popular photos.
  • Browsing through your photos by date. Full timeline supported.
  • A green & black interface to get more similar to SmugMug’s traditional color scheme.

Anyway, leave a comment if you want me to build something for you πŸ™‚

A Support Hero's true identity is revealed!

July 19, 2007 1 comment

Support Hero Dustin as Ghost Rider

As most readers know, we’re a different kind of company. Everyone at SmugMug is a Support Hero and spends time every week helping customers. And slowly, our secret identities have been coming out. (Here’s mine)

Today, Dustin, one of our most heroic Heroes (and anyone who’s used our support knows just how high of a compliment that is) revealed that he is, indeed, Ghost Rider. He’s not new to the company – he’s been helping customers for years but we’d always wondered what lurked underneath that pleasant smile of his….

Categories: smugmug

iPhone Tech Day

July 19, 2007 3 comments

Anyone reading know how to get an invite to iPhone Tech Day at Apple?

I emailed them yesterday, but haven’t gotten any word. I’d love to go work on our iPhone interface for SmugMug if I could. If anyone can help, I’d really appreciate it. (And yes, I’ve been an ADC member for years and years. Probably close to a decade in one form or another).


Categories: smugmug, web 2.0

The Wall Street Journal is wrong.

July 15, 2007 Comments off

Sorry, I love the WSJ, but it’s true. They claim blogging just turned 10. I’ve written about this before, but here’s the short version:

  • I’ve been blogging since 1995. I wasn’t the first, I was a copycat (the concept of journaling on the web was also obvious). It wasn’t called blogging then but it was the same stuff – semi-regular, dated journal entries at a single location.
  • sTeve ‘sCary’ Gibson may very well be the first paid blogger. He was hired to blog on February 8th, 1997. I believe he started in 1995, too, but you’d have to ask him – his blog has evolved into Shacknews.
  • Blogging, at least in our corner of the world, originated from .plan updates, which we naturally evolved to the web instead.

All of this data is out there, it’s easily researched. So why doesn’t anyone do it?

UPDATE: Found a link to one of my friend’s old archives. Unfortunately, as he notes on there, he’s lost some of his early entries (anything before July 1996), but he began even earlier.

Categories: business, web 2.0

SmugMug on our iPhones!

July 13, 2007 34 comments
SmugMug on iPhone

After camping out in line for iPhones for all of our employees, you knew we were gonna do something fun with it. And we have! After testing a new SmugMug release last night, we saw that Joe Hewitt had posted iUI and I thought it’d be fun to play around. About 30 minutes later, we had SmugMug on our iPhones! Turns out browsing SmugMug on your iPhone is a ton of fun – I can’t put it down.

Currently, you can access and browse your public albums on your iPhone. Simply go to . Here’s an example: We have lots more ideas already in the works, so I’m sure you’ll see lots more fun stuff soon. πŸ™‚

SmugMug on iPhone

There are some fairly neat things about what we’re doing, much of it made far easier by Joe’s excellent iUI:

  • The photos are resized on-the-fly by our servers to perfectly fit the iPhone. They’re gorgeous.
  • Yes, we detect the phone’s orientation (portrait / landscape) and show you the perfect resolution. You can rotate your phone at any time and we’ll seamlessly change to the right sizes.
  • Speed matters. So we only grab 10 of your albums at first, and allow you to bring more in at any time by clicking “more albums…”. Same deal with photos, only we grab 30 of them first, then let you pull more in if you’d like. Even on EDGE, it’s quite fast. And on WiFi, it screams.
  • The UI closely matches other iPhone apps, so it’s fairly familiar to iPhone users.
SmugMug on iPhone

Now, I love my iPhone, but I’ve gotta get on my soapbox a little bit here. Apple really really blew it with developers. I shouldn’t have to hack my way around their browser to build an app which will always be slower and clunkier than a native app. We need a real SDK to build native apps so they can be gorgeous and fast. We would have already built a photo sharing application that would blow your socks off – only we can’t.

Our customers are already telling us how sucky syncing with iPhoto is (I concur), and the fact that we can’t import photos from the web into the photo storage on the phone really sucks. Going the other way is even worse – we have a great camera and an internet-capable phone here, so why can’t I just take a photo and have it magically end up at SmugMug or Flickr or wherever? Braindead.

I apologize the app isn’t as fast or as slick as we would have liked – Apple has us shackled. If you’d like a faster, easier, slicker UI contact Apple and politely ask them to pay attention to their developers.

Thank goodness for Joe Hewitt and iUI. I’m hoping we can start helping out with iUI as we find ways we want to extend it. Here are some of our first thoughts:

  • There is no public variable or method for checking Orientation. It sucks to have to rewrite orientation checking code that already exists in the framework because it’s buried in an anonymous function. A custom event framework where we could just listen for orientation changes would be even better yet.
  • Using window.innerwidth to determine screenwidth for orientation detection was giving us heartburn in some cases where objects were wider than 320px. Instead we had to look at the toolbar which does remain a fixed width (at least in our testing) and proved to be more reliable. Oh, and we call it ‘portrait’ not ‘profile’ πŸ™‚

Anyway, those of you with iPhones, feel free to play with it and let us know what you think.

Fleeing Yahoo Photos? Get 50% off at SmugMug.

July 10, 2007 8 comments

Fleeing Yahoo Photos?  Get a 50% off discount coupon for SmugMug.

According to “insiders” we were originally “on the list” of the services that were going to offer seamless migration from Yahoo Photos once it closed but some Yahoos felt threatened by us, so we were removed. I have no idea if the story is true or not, but I certainly hope we were considered. πŸ™‚

In any event, we do have a 50% discount for Yahoo refugees (use coupon code ‘yahoo‘ or click here to start your free trial with the discount applied). I’d blogged about using the Flickr discount awhile back, but apparently it wasn’t getting found (since it was buried in the Flickr post) because we’re getting a lot of email on the subject.

Should you decide to use SmugMug, your best bet is probably the following:

  • Tell Yahoo to migrate your photos to Flickr
  • Sign up for a free trial at SmugMug
  • Use a free tool like SmuggLr to quickly & easily move your photos from Flickr to SmugMug

Note that we’d be happy (thrilled, even) to make this process easier. This is a Yahoo Photos limitation, not a SmugMug one. If anyone at Yahoo wants to talk, by all means, we’re ready and waiting. (And if you feel like, as a Yahoo customer, politely emailing them, that might help. Who knows?)

It’s too bad that what’s good for business (shutting down Yahoo Photos, focusing on Flickr) isn’t so good for their customers. I don’t know what I’d do in their shoes, it’s a tough one. But at least at SmugMug, we’re not a free service, we’re profitable, and we’re not going anywhere.

You get what you pay for – if you care about your photos, come see what you’ve been missing.

Categories: business, smugmug, web 2.0
%d bloggers like this: