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Skype outage caused by Windows Update? Yeah right...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Aug-2007 09:05

Skype had a very long outage this week. Users around the world, for almost 48 hours, couldn't connect to the global telephony network that runs over Internet services.

Skype was updating its status through a blog, with nothing much more than "bear with us" messages.

People started thinking that hackers had infiltrated the network, bringing down essential servers and clients, making the restart harder.

And then comes the "official" Skype explanation for the outage, which makes no sense at all:

On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.

The high number of restarts affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact.

Normally Skype’s peer-to-peer network has an inbuilt ability to self-heal, however, this event revealed a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly. Regrettably, as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days.

Blame Microsoft Windows Update! Call the usual suspects!

But I say this is just some story Skype is seeding... Let's see why:

1.Windows Update by default runs at 3am local time. So even if all Windows-based PCs in the world would restart they would not restart all at the same time, but over a 24 hour "follow the sun" period. The entire Skype user based is spread over 24 time zones, not in a single time zone.

2.Windows Update is delivered every second Tuesday of the month, and has been for the last three years. Why it only happened now?

3.Windows Update starts on Tuesday, and counting the timezones, the last country to reach that time would be here in New Zealand, which happens to be Wednesday morning local time. If the problem happened Thursday as claimed by Skype, this was Friday morning in New Zealand, almost two days after the automatic Windows Update.

So, yes, I think the whole explanation doesn't work.

While a vast number of people use Skype for their PC-to-PC communications, some businesses are actually using the service to create a virtual presence in other markets. I wonder how much business was lost on a 48 hour outage for these companies? Will they trust Skype again?

UPDATE: Skype has posted a new blog entry with comments worth reading:

We don’t blame anyone but ourselves. The Microsoft Update patches were merely a catalyst — a trigger — for a series of events that led to the disruption of Skype, not the root cause of it. And Microsoft has been very helpful and supportive throughout.

The high number of post-update reboots affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources at the time, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact. The self-healing mechanisms of the P2P network upon which Skype’s software runs have worked well in the past. Simply put, every single time Skype has needed to recover from reboots that naturally accompany a routine Windows Update, there hasn’t been a problem.

Unfortunately, this time, for the first time, Skype was unable to rise to the challenge and the reasons for this were exceptional. In this instance, the day’s Skype traffic patterns, combined with the large number of reboots, revealed a previously unseen fault in the P2P network resource allocation algorithm Skype used. Consequently, the P2P network’s self-healing function didn’t work quickly enough. Skype’s peer-to-peer core was not properly tuned to cope with the load and core size changes that occurred on August 16. The reboots resulting from software patching merely served as a catalyst. This combination of factors created a situation where the self-healing needed outside intervention and assistance by our engineers.

Comparing the Telecom AirCard 595U and Vodafone Vodem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 14:12

Today I've got a Telecom New Zealand-branded Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U (USB CDMA EVDO Rev A modem).

Since I have a similar hardware (Vodafone vodem USB modem) on another network (HSDPA), and since the Vodafone vodem has been providing really poor performance, as my first test I had to compare those two devices.

First impression? I am highly impressed with download speeds when comparing with the HSDPA USB option.

I have a variety of connections available here - Vodafone vodem HSDPA, Vodafone Merlin XU870 HSDPA, Telecom Sierra Wireless CDMA EVDO AirCard 595, and now the new Telecom Sierra Wireless CDMA EVDO AirCard 595U, so I had some experience with mobile data and what to expect from different hardware and network conditions.

I used the vodem with my UMPC because it is a device with USB ports only - no PC Card or Express Card slots. On my laptop I was using the Telecom AirCard 595 because it gave me better performance, coverage and it was the only one working on Windows Vista 64 bit (both the vodem and the XU870 work with 64 bit now, but I am sure Vodafone have not released the drivers to the world yet).

When I first got the Vodafone vodem I could use it from my home office and get an average of 800 Kbps downloads as shown on picture 1 from June 2006:

Since then Vodafone changed something in this area because my voice calls are terribly noisy and mobile data speeds have gone down. How much down? To the bottom, as you can see on picture 2 from today (August 2007):

Wow! Is this a difference or what? It's slower than dialup. This is from the same home office where I tested the same vodem one year ago. See how the network speeds went down? This is consistently the result I get here using the vodem.

Now this is the new Telecom Aircard 595U, on the same UMPC, in the same location, just minutes before I tested the vodem:

No comparison! I just hope Telecom New Zealand manages to actually keep this service when migrating to their new, recently announced HSDPA network. Because on CDMA EVDO it rocks.

To be fair, I tested the Vodafone vodem again, and if though it wouldn't get close to the CDMA speeds, this time it was much better, closer to what I would expect. It also shows how wildly the service fluctuates:

I have talked to someone at Vodafone and we will have this traced to check for cell capacity alarms, etc. I will keep you posted...

That's how it all started: Apple-1 print ad

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 11:28

I found this Apple-1 computer ad through a private group and it's just too good:

Very impressive is the 1 kilobaud interface for cassete and "pseudo-compiled" Apple Basic free! Also note it can be upgraded to 16K RAM, "when they [chips] become available".

It was also known as Apple I.

Do not link to New Zealand Post!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 11:03

I find these Terms And Conditions handed by New Zealand Post pathetic, completely breaking what the Internet is:

You must not create a hyperlink to any of the pages of this website unless we give you our written consent first.

If you create a hypertext link to this website, you are responsible for all direct and indirect consequences of the link. You must indemnify us for all loss we suffer in connection with any link you have created.

I know this is not the first company with this kind of irrelevant content in their T&Cs. But frankly, what a waste of time even thinking of writing this, and then having someone from a legal team analysing it to see if the words "work" together.

You can read more here on the New Zealand Post Terms and Conditions - and guess what? I am not linking to New Zealand Post, I am linking to Google. Take that.

Talking about mobile data prices? Old story...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Aug-2007 14:49

Just to roll on this... Rod and David are talking about the mobile data costs - and now found out the WAP costs at Telecom New Zealand.

Sorry guys, this has already been talked about exactly one year ago - and believe me a lot of people inside Telecom New Zealand know about this. It's nothing news... News would be if the price actually dropped.

And David,WAP data prices are not the same as the open Internet data prices. Comparing the British Vodafone prices with New Zealand prices is a common thing, but they have a huge competition there. This explains the lowest price point at which they offer their services there.

Back to the whole discussion on mobile data roaming prices. Vodafone New Zealand charges $10 per megabyte for data roaming on Vodafone and partners' networks, and $30 per megabyte on any other network.

When asked why $30 per megabyte Vodafone officials say "it's what they charge us". This is wrong in so many levels. How could be possible that a GSM operator in Malta charges exactly the same as a mobile operator in the U.S.? Surely they charge different prices per megabyte, seeing their infrastructure and cost is completely different.

If they were really only passing the costs to consumers then I'd expect to see different mobile data roaming prices depending on where you are actually using the data, with probably cheaper prices in the U.S. and Europe than Asia and Australia.

Back to local costs., not all is lost. If you see Vodafone's 3GB plan for $79/month with an optional 100% allowance for only $10 then we're talking of 6GB mobile data for $89/month, which is really good compared to landline broadband (these are prices on open plan, seeing that I really hate contracts that are only good for operators).

Free webmail account

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Aug-2007 09:39

We have just registered an exclusive domain to provide our readers with free hosted e-mail powered by Windows Live.

When you sign up for Geekzonemail you get a full web-based e-mail service powered by Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail and includes includes a e-mail address of your choice, which is also a Windows Live ID that allows you to log in to services such as Windows Live, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Spaces and more.

All accounts come with 5 GB (gigabytes) of free storage, antivirus scanning for attachments, contacts management, and calendar.

You can access your Geekzonemail through the webmail interface, mobile browser or using the free Microsoft Outlook Connector to access the service directly from within Microsoft Outlook 2003 or Microsoft Outlook 2007.

The ID can be used to login into Windows Live for Windows Mobile on your Pocket PC or Smartphone, providing you with free push e-mail to your smart device, plus access to Live Messenger. You can also use Windows Live Mail client.

If you want an email address use my contact page.

Get a free email account

This is not only for our Geekzone readers, but for everyone who wants a new e-mail address.

Windows Vista Search Whitepaper

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Aug-2007 11:39

I was given the go ahead to share this White Paper with my readers and community at large... Seeing that "search" is one of the biggest advance in Windows Vista - some say "the biggest" - it would be good for us to understand this a bit better.

The Windows Search Technologies Overview for Business Customers is a XPS document written by Arvind Mishra, Product Manager for Search, covering search from an enterprise perspective, but with lots of insights that would be of interest for personal use and small business as well.

This is one "exclusive", seeing this document is not yet available (soon on the Microsoft site somethere), but the folks at Microsoft were nice to let us share this with you.

Integrating Facebook, Jaiku, Twitter in a stream - leave Pownce out of the loop

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Aug-2007 09:24

It's a real time waster going through five or six social networks repeating your status (micro blogging?) around. It would be great if these platforms offered a way to accept stuff in and out by means other than visiting their own application on a browser or gadget.

So after a while I decided to leave Pownce completely behind... Pownce does offer a client based on Adobe AIR, but it won't import anything for status, and it's not at the same level of user numbers as Facebook.

So I used to have an arrangement like this:

Manually update Geekzone Friends;
Manually update Facebook;
Manually update Pownce;
Pownce personal RSS feed routed to Jaiku;
Jaiku personal RSS feed router to Twitter through Twitterfeed.

I've now removed Pownce out of this to something like this:

Manually update Geekzone Friends;
Manually update Facebook;
Facebook personal RSS feed routed to Jaiku;
Jaiku personal RSS feed router to Twitter through Twitterfeed.

Granted the first two in the chain currently do not have a way to import feeds, but they can be used as the top of the chain. Since Geekzone Friends provide a personal feed (with more filtering options coming soon), then it would be great if Facebook actually accepted some input from RSS for its user stauts.

And if Pownce ever consider this again and start accepting RSS feeds as input for their status then I would be happy to add it to the mix again.

As for Geekzone Friends, as I said, there are some more custom filtering options coming for the RSS feeds - and I am working on actually importing feeds for Geekzone Friends Status. Just give me some time.

Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition - but no Halo 3

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Aug-2007 09:12

I wasn't the only one to be surprised with the news that the upcoming Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition actually doesn't come with the Halo 3 game.

What kind of marketing decision is this?

According to the press release, the Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition Console comes on an exclusive ‘Spartan green and gold’ finish and comes bundled with an "exclusive collection" of matching Halo 3 accessories.

But no Halo 3 game.

Owners will have access to Halo 3 Gamer Pics and Theme, only available via Xbox LIVE download.

The Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition Console contains these components:

• Halo 3 Special Edition Console
• Halo 3 Special Edition Wireless Controller
• Halo 3 Special Edition 20GB Hard Drive
• Halo 3 Special Edition Wired Headset
• Halo 3 Special Edition Gamer Pics and Theme
• Component HD AV Cable
• Ethernet Cable
• HDMI Port
• Play & Charge Kit
• Xbox LIVE Silver Membership
• One-month Xbox LIVE Gold Membership

But no actual Halo 3 game.


By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Aug-2007 16:39

Do you know about Zamdes?

If you work with user interaction, design, etc... If you are interested in WPF and Silverlight, and if you are in Wellington and region, check it out.

Nas knows everything about it...

freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

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