[aprssig] distributed findu possible ?

Steve Dimse steve at dimse.com
Thu Aug 7 17:27:42 EDT 2008

On Aug 6, 2008, at 8:03 AM, Michael Conrad wrote:
> Maybe its time to think about alternative solution using the  
> computing ressources
> (bandwidth, memory, storage) of more than a small group of people.  
> Personally I
> would prefer a distibuted approach, where the whole infrastructure  
> is provided
> by a (preferably large) subset of all APRS users.

Is what you are talking about possible? Sure. I'd do it differently  
than you describe, but it would work. However, someone would need to  
rewrite findU's functions to work the way you describe. This is  
actually the easiest part. I've said it before and I'll say it again,  
the programming part of findU borders on trivial. The hard programming  
is all the libraries and programs findU uses, thank you open source.  
The effort with findU is in keeping the system up, it is a lot harder  
than it looks.
It is easy to put a web server up on the net. It is very hard to put a  
server that stays reliable under high load up on the net. The APRS  
"old timers" will certainly verify that findU is far more reliable  
than it was eight years ago when it began, despite a hundred-fold  
increase in load. Interestingly, it is not the code I wrote that is  
more reliable, it is my skill at managing a web server that is  
responsible for the improvement.

It is much harder to administer a server reliably than I thought when  
I started this. It has been a painful road without a lot to show for  
it. I spend something like 20 hours a week administering the two  
servers. I have almost no time to develop new features, because the  
miserable task of keeping the servers running takes most of my free  
time, and leaves me in such a bad mood I want to get as far away from  
my keyboard as I can. If it wasn't for parental feelings towards my  
creation I would have shut it off years ago.

I forget the year exactly, but maybe four or five years ago I tried to  
get some help. I authorized a group to raise funds to buy a backup  
server. The idea was they would install and maintain the server, and  
I'd provide the software and guidance getting the software installed,  
teach them to maintain it. Not only would this decrease my workload,  
it would provide an exit strategy that would protect findU should I  
have an unexpected demise, or just got sick and tired of it.

The group did a great job of raising the money and (eventually)  
installing the server. No sense in rehashing specifics, but after  
spending far more time serially training three people than it would  
have taken for me to do it myself, only to have them all stop helping,  
I gave up on that. I run both servers.

So I couldn't find one person dedicated enough to run a backup findU  
machine. Administering a large distributed system is even more work. I  
wish you the best of luck in finding your "large subset" of APRS  
users. No sarcasm, I really do mean best of luck. There is nothing  
that would make me happier than to see a findU killer out there!

Until then, I doubt I'll be able to pull the plug on the tens of  
thousands of users that look at millions of pages a day on findU. But  
I dream of the day when I can stop throwing time and money into this  
hole and do something new. Imagine what you would do with twenty more  
hours a week.

Steve K4HG

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