Canada Revenue Agency extends e-filing deadline to 06 May 2008 due to website submission problems

That’s today’s news, and I ran into it myself. All of the Canada Revenue Agency sites are Sllllllooooooooooow today. Moving the filing deadline off is the Right Thing To Do from a tactical standpoint. However, you still have to pay any owing amount today. (PUBLIC SERVICE REMINDER: do that through your BANK, the government’s website is too slow to look this information up there!)

This problem does raise some interesting questions.

Did they do volume testing, optimization, or load balancing? (Do you?)

Are their pages set to gracefully degrade in the face of large loads (clearly not; for the most part, the actual HTML (XHTML, a tip of the hat for a nicely structured page) loads, but the linked images do NOT), and the pages are set not to cache, even for purely presentational, ‘nothing to see that has changed here’ pages. (Do yours?)

Moreover, when you actually try to submit the ‘netfile’ .tax file, the page doesn’t load. The announcement that the deadline has changed is on a separate news page, that’s behind a submit button, and it too takes forever to load.

Wow.

This is a solvable problem. Anyone care to weigh in on opinions as to how to solve it? I’ll do a follow-up summary and share some of my own thoughts later in the week.

Have you tested this sort of load with YOUR application? Does it matter?

(In my strong opinion: yes, it does matter, and you’d best be able to prove that your projected load is something you ARE handling, every day. You better also understand how your system will degrade under unexpectedly heavy load…like a million people clicking on the submit button multiple times because it didn’t respond fast enough 😉

Best,
Dak

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SubVersion (SVN) for fun and profit

Lifehacker had a reference to a really excellent posting on “Using SubVersion for Writers.”

This is a really good overview, with examples, of how to use SubVersion for writing, web projects, etc. Continue reading “SubVersion (SVN) for fun and profit”

Getting cranky about “IT Policy,” and improving your password practices

I just read a helpful article about tuning organizational password policy but I’m afraid it rubbed me the wrong way.

What it says is helpful and mostly good practice, but it fails to address the problem from the perspective of the users, and does the usual “well, this will be a pain for the users, but it’s good policy, so we’re recommending it,” which is one of many reasons why people hate IT departments. (I say this as a seasoned IT professional, and I hate us, too. 😉

IF you notice that YOUR passwords violate any of these rules, chances are that they are already broken. Change them now.

To all password users, everywhere: Make your passwords unguessable as best you can. If someone guesses your password, change it. Corollary 1: Since you can’t know if someone might have guessed your password, change it from time to time. If you feel that you have to make a list of passwords, make a list of reminders, not the actual passwords, and keep it safe (not where someone can look at it without you knowing about it). More detail below.

HOW: Continue reading “Getting cranky about “IT Policy,” and improving your password practices”

Now absolute for Toronto, but perhaps useful elsewhere: Keep raccoons out of your green recycling bin

In use.
Installed and closed.

Toronto uses a ‘green bin’ system to recycle and compost organic waste. Toronto also has a highly active raccoon population, which quickly tips, opens, scatters, and eats the leftovers in the green bin. This is risky from a health perspective, as raccoons are carriers of roundworms, can be rabid, and will escalate once they establish your home as a source of food.

There are many solutions to this problem. Toronto FINALLY implemented a proper anti-raccoon lock with an all-new bin solution. It’s not perfect, but it does render the below obsolete.

ELSEWHERE, feel free to use this. Cheap, cheerful, works-ish.

Without further ado, here is mine, and a bit of description of the design space.

The requirement: keep the raccoons out of the recycling.
The solution space: cheap, people-friendly, and does not require locking the bin in an enclosure, since many people do not have a convenient place for the enclosure.

Typical solutions involve locking straps, multiple screws, and some sort of buckling mechanism. These work well.

Mine is one loop of Velcro One-Wrap, and a screw. Tools needed, a screwdriver, a sharp knife point, and a drill or small flat screwdriver bit suitable for making a pilot hole in the body of the green bin. (A Leatherman tool will frequently have all of these. I favor the ‘Juice S2‘ for everyday use.)

  1. Take the roll of One-Wrap. Hold the end of the Velcro in your hand. Wrap it around your hand until it completely overlaps on your palm.
  2. With a sharp penknife or utility blade, cut a 5mm slit in the velcro so that you can pass a screw through it, just below the overlap region. You will use this hole to securing the loop to the body of the green bin with a screw, below.
  3. Push the screw through the velcro, so that the head is inside the loop
  4. Place the velcro loop on the bale of the green bin, and close it. Use the sharp end of the screw to mark the body of the green bin.
  5. Using your drill or small screwdriver bit, make a pilot hole for the screw
  6. Drive the screw into the body of the green bin

Notes on using this device:

  • The velcro must be firmly and fully coupled on the overlapping part to keep the raccoons out
  • When you take the bin out on the morning of recycling/garbage day, remember to undo the velcro.  Toronto Garbage will not open it (nor any other strap that I can find on the market).
  • In practice, the loop lasts for about a year due to weathering. I recommend replacing it each Spring.
  • The largest failure (in three five years of practice) is human error: someone dropping a recycling bag into the bin, and forgetting to re-close it.

Feedback, requests for clarification, commentary, kudos and complaints are all welcome.

HOWEVER, I make no warranty or claim of suitability, as I’m NOT selling this to you. It does work for me. It won’t work for you. Seriously, you’ll lose a load or two of recycling to the raccoons because you’ll forget to close it properly, or the loop will become stiff with age and need to be replaced, but it’s radically better than nothing, and very inexpensive.

As a helpful commenter notes, below, there’s also a good commercial solution (http://www.raccoonsolutions.com/). If this doesn’t work for you, upgrade to that.

Regards,
Dak

The Free Economy and Your Business

I recently had a conversation with Nathon Gunn (CEO of Bitcasters) and this article came up. Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business.

Why you should read it: Not everything is going to be free, and at least 80% of the readers of this blog haven’t thought of all the business models that Chris Anderson (Editor of Wired, author of The Long Tail) lists in this article…and frankly, it’s the best and fastest overview you are going to see on the topic. If you think that every free business model is the same as Google, Yahoo! or broadcast TV, you are missing something.

Definitely worth a read. Why you should listen to me: for you old-timers on the web, remember HoTMetaL PRO and HoTMetaL Free? That was SoftQuad, and I was there. And, frankly, your competitors ARE thinking about this, if you aren’t, and they’ll eat your free lunch.

Best,
Dak

Tieing it all together [tips, opinions, musings]

So, what, on earth, do all these postings have to do with each other?

Like you, I am a “person in the loop” system. I observe, tune myself to what’s going on, act, observe what happens, and repeat. What I’m sharing with you is what I’m currently observing, that’s “on the fringe” that is my “reading outside of my area.”

I personally view reading outside of my area as being critical to success. We have to be able to bring all kinds of ideas into play when we are looking for creating consulting and management solutions, and bring them up in a heartbeat.

The challenge is maintaining focus while doing this. One solution is setting a limited time budget, and a low energy time, when other, more critical things need to be done, so that it adds value rather than rationalizing distraction. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun, which is all the more reason to put it as a ‘time reward’ or ‘play period’ with limits.

Best,
Dak