Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Oh yea, how I got an "A"... When we were posing for pictures, I had worn my black shirt for the occasion, but I didn't have any gold on. Chancellor Peacock gave me the Appalachian State University pin right off of his coat. I wore it with pride. Thank you Chancellor Peacock!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Have you wanted to dive in and try some parts of the cloud, but you just were not willing to pony up any cash? Amazon is giving you that chance with their latest announcement for web services. Yesterday they opened up SimpleDB into a public beta. SimpleDB allows you to store, retrieve and query data similar to a database. The difference is scalability. SimpleDB is great for storing simple data relationships that you need to be able scale and have the ability to handle large volumes. As of yesterday, Amazon is offering 25 machine hours, 1 GB of data transfer and 1 GB of data storage for free for at least the first six months. That is more than enough runway to test out an application or to help anyone prove out a concept. It should let the average user execute over 2 million requests against SimpleDB without paying a dime. We are currently using SimpleDB for some of our prepping and internal work at DigitalChalk and it has been working very well. Here is your chance... jump on in and let me know if you need any help learning to swim.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Too bad it isn't a Turkey for Thanksgiving. Maybe they have the same abilities! Anyone know?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
You can see everything that was announced today on the Amazon Web Services Blog. While I am excited about EC2 being out of beta and playing around with the new Windows instances starting at 12.5 cents per hour, the other news is even more interesting.
- Amazon released an SLA for EC2
- Amazon plans to release an AWS management console
- Amazon is planning to release load balancing, auto scaling and cloud monitoring services
There is much to look forward to!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
We have known about it for months, but very few have been able to play with it until now. Several months ago Amazon started talking about "Persistant Storage" becoming available on their platform and today it is available to everyone. It is labeled as Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS). At DigitalChalk we have been looking forward to this for several reasons. The most immediate benefit that I see getting from this is the ability to have a block of storage that we can put the data store on for our databases. Right now we have very frequent and bandwidth intensive backup solutions in place that snapshot our data and put it into S3. With ESB we will be able to allocate a block of storage up to a TB in size and then simply attach that to any running EC2 instance, essentially making it a SAN in the clouds. Amazon states that "each storage volume is automatically replicated within the same availability zone" helping with the backup scenerios and reliability of data. It doesn't seem to have it across data centers, but this is at least going to help prevent failure due to a single piece of hardware. They have also included the ability to create a "point-in-time snapshot of volumes" which will be extremely useful for the movement of data and quickly standing up a duplicate instance for testing of any sort. This is also going to be helpful as we continue to consult and help companies move their infrastructure to the clouds. We are finding that many we help have a hard time mentally moving from the physical box where they can just add hard drive capacity and rely on a file system. This will allow us to gradually and easily move their applications "as is" to the clouds without having to introduce S3 from the start for reliable storage. I am looking forward to using this service to improve our process at DigitalChalk. The next on the list to come out of the private beta is SimpleDB for me. We have already architected some solutions for SimpleDB and and just itching for its release.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
...we wanted you to be the first to know that we have expanded our CloudStatus service to include Google App Engine support this morning. Additionally, we have also created the first Cloud Service Plugin to include personalized application- and cloud-specific monitoring and management using Hyperic HQ. Finally, we have also provided a few key updates to the CloudStatus website and improved some of our Amazon Web Services monitoring reportingI view this as great news that a monitoring tool vendor has taken the charge to provide "status" for multiple cloud platforms. I can only hope that they continue to grow their base of infrastructures that they can monitor.
Just finishing up the Creative Juice Competition site on Googles AppEngine I am really interested in how monitoring could help me. Having complete control of Amazon's EC2 instances has made monitoring with Hyperic very simple watching everything from AWS to CPU and memory. It appears that CloudStatus for AppEngine will allow you to monitor the service itself as a whole, Datastore metrics, Memcache and URLFetch services. Hyperic is also releasing a plugin that will allow you to monitor your application inside and outside the cloud. I will make use of this as soon as it becomes available for download and see what I think. You can check it all out for yourself tomorrow morning at http://www.cloudstatus.com/appengine. Enjoy!
Monday, August 18, 2008
I know, shame on me. I haven't posted anything for a month now. But today, I do have something worth writing about. I have been busy in the ether of cloud computing this past month. Obviously working on DigitalChalk which resides on the AWS cloud but I have also been working many long nights with Google's AppEngine and have released a site today which runs almost exclsively on it. The site can be found at http://www.creativejuicecompetition.com . Creative Juice is a competition that DigitalChalk is helping sponsor that challenges students to create "value" out of a throw-away object. The contest is designed to help foster imagination, creativity, team work and entreprenuership skills. There are 5 regions across the US competing and the throw away object for each region is secret and will be revealed on the launch date for the region. I am excited about seeing what these students can come up with as value. We are still furiously working out some final details and prizes which I will soon be blogging about. Trust me, there are some really really cool prizes we are working on!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Tony was interviewed today by John Willis in his Cloud Computing podcast. It isn't extremely technical, but it does explain some of how we are using Amazon Web Services to accomplish the architecture that we have for the DigitalChalk products. It was great to listen in on and I have to give great props to Tony for doing a good job explaining some of the technologies we are using. Check it out for yourself at http://www.johnmwillis.com/cloud-computing/cloud-cafe-podcast-7/ . On a side note, John Willis has since signed up as an instructor and you will be able to take his courses soon! As soon as he gets the first ones posted I will let you know.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
For quick updates on how AWS is performing, we have been using the RSS feeds from Amazon at http://status.aws.amazon.com/ . With CloudStatus, we really have a better view of the historical data of the services. I am looking forward to another tool in the toolbelt and I hope it will really help to improve our monitoring capabilities and streamline our diagnosis. I am really interested to see if Hyperic will come out with a dashboard that will specifically target a single AWS account's health. That would be really nice because we have seen before that even when AWS is having trouble in some areas, others are fine.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
If you choose, you can post your medical information with Google. Why?... Well, they believe that
you own your medical records and should have easy access to them. The way we see it, it's your information; why shouldn't you control it?The question for me is how will the doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and other health care providers view this. Will they truly take your records that you post onto Google Health and share information back with you there? I hope that this does take off and that adoption is fast and furious, but I have my doubts. Hospitals and medical offices complain over and over again as it is just in the move to electronic medical records from their paper ones. I think that this might taint their view of yet another step in the process. However, the solution might be other service providers that would interface the record systems with Google Health. Another issue is security... I know how I feel about my records being out there in the cloud, but I am wondering how the general public feels.
Here is what Google says about their security:
You are in control — you choose what you want to share and what you want to keep private.
I encourage you to go and check it out and let me know what you think! I know that there are not many providers right now that integrate, but when they come on board, will you? I have my account and am waiting for the providers in Western North Carolina to get on board. Check out About Google Health and tell me what your plans are in the comments and take the poll to the right.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
At the end of May, Gartner released their top 10 disruptive technologies for the next couple of years. This list is as follows:
- Multicore and hybrid processors
- Virtualisation and fabric computing
- Social networks and social software
- Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
- Web mashups
- User Interface
- Ubiquitous computing
- Contextual computing
- Augmented reality
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I would also disagree that the cloud is insecure. It is as secure as you want it to be. Choose wisely what you store in the cloud and what you run in the cloud. Encryption does work, contrary to what Bill would have you believe. You do not have to publish your private keys or even perform the encryption in the cloud. You can encrypt locally and store. Again, this comes down to design and architecture. Be smart about what you store and how you store it.
Finally on the issue of the Patriot Act and the US government knowing everything about your or your business... Are you a terrorist? The Patriot Act is designed to allow the US government to protect its citizens from terrorist activity. If there is not a reason for them to suspect terrorist activity or need the information for prosecution, then you should be ok. That being said, it still comes down to making informed decisions about who your cloud computing providers are. I am not going to be signing up with anyone having a data center in Iran, Syria or North Korea... Just seems like the smart move to me.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
It is truly amazing what the youth are doing. Tonight was a wonderful night of music at BBC put on by two different bands. The purpose of the night was to raise money for three different causes. One of those causes really hits home with me and was very touching to be a part of. A wonderful man, father, and pastor, David Gaines, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis about a year ago. David is one of the greatest musicians that I have had the pleasure of knowing and has touched the lives of so many. That was evidenced by the benefit tonight completely organized by the youth in our community to help raise money for a lung transplant for him. He gives selflessly of his time and talents for the benefit of others and tonight, the youth wanted to show him and his family how much they cared. A love offering was taken and a portion of the money will be going to help in a small way for the expensive operation. There was a moment of the night that I could hardly hold back the tears as I watched his daughters at the concert. Amanda, the oldest sang for the audience a song that she sang on tour with the group which is special to her father. As I looked out into the crowd I saw Ashley, the youngest, holding the phone up so that her father and mother could hear. They are several hours away staying close to the hospital where the transplant will take place.
You can visit his Caring Bridge site and send him a note. I am also setting up a donation area here so that if you were unable to contribute tonight, you can donate by clicking the button below and I will make sure that 100% of the donations go to David Gaines and the family.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Earlier this week, DigitalChalk, IBM and Hunter College announced that we are working together to make video based training more accessible for the hearing impaired. Looking ahead to our Fall Release is very exciting because of this ability. Instructors will have the ability to send the videos off for transcription and automatically include the result as Closed Captioning with the click of a button. Instead of having to mail off videos for a text transcript and then manually typing it into the system, this will be taken care of by DigitalChalk. We want to continually move forward with the goal of providing a product that is accessible to everyone.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
As it stand right now, Amazon is running an Intel based platform. I will be interested to see if the announcement involves offering some Solaris Operating System AMIs or even taking the open source codebase for ZFS and offering some of the same features on the Amazon EC2 infrastructure. This last option would be somewhat challenging without Sun's help but they have stated on their Solaris 10 Knowledge Base for ZFS site that they are looking at porting ZFS to linux. With ZFS on Amazon, we could really some amazing performance gains, virtually unlimited scalability on the file system, and much more reliable data integrity. We have had no problems with any of these so far (knock on wood) but having that extra assurance would always be welcome.
Om Malik interviewed Schwartz and asked about the availability of Amazon and Cloud Computing helping startups and what Jonathan's take was. He replied: “Do you think it would make sense for us to partner with Amazon to offer free info on the cloud? ... Then you’ll be paying attention to the announcement we make tomorrow with what we’ll be doing with Amazon.”
All of this build-up, let's see what happens! I will be very interested in seeing how this will impact Amazon EC2 and of course DigitalChalk!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
It has been a long time coming, but finally Apple has released Java 6 for the Mac. The download is 57MB, takes 127MB of space to install and works on OS X 10.5.2 or later. It was a simple install and after adding 1.6 to the Execution Environments for Eclipse, I am off to the races. Everything at first blush seems to be operating as expected. This should really please the Java development community after the backlash against Apple for not keeping a reasonable release cycle after Sun's releases. Whether you agree that it is Apple's responsibility or not to keep Java going on their operating systems, this comes as a welcomed release for Java developers. Thank you Apple! I hope with the OpenJDK initiative that Java 7 will not be a 2 year lag behind on Mac. The largest motivating factor that moved me to start using the Mac was that with the MacBook Pro I could run OS X, Windows, and Linux (choose your flavor) all on the same box. This allows me to more easily test our software on various platforms. This Java issue was one of the biggest disappointments I had when I made the move. I am glad that it is resolved.... for now. Happy Coding!
Monday, April 21, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
Phil Yanov has posted some of his pictures on flickr here. I presented our ideas for the future of learning on Tuesday morning to an audience of Entrepreneurs, Investors, Venture Capitalist and Educators. It was an exciting time for DigitalChalk as we were able to push our ideas out to a larger audience and see them very well recieved. There were several people attending the conference that signed up to teach and share their ideas when they came by our booth! It really has been a crazy couple of days follow the conference. Thanks to SwampFox, AB Tech and AdvantageWest for a fun time and all the introductions.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The battle for the best web browser is alive and well. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 is in beta as well as Firefox 3.0 (beta 4) and Safari has released 3.1 today. What does this mean for the Software as a Service provider who delivers their content purely through the browser to their customers like we do at DigitalChalk?
I love seeing software evolve and become better, but it certainly can be painful. I have a feeling that instead of just moving forward, we are going to just have to cast a bigger net in the SaaS delivery supporting IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2.0, Firefox 3.0, Safari 3.0/3.1.,
So, I guess that I am still torn... If the browsers from Microsoft and Apple deliver on what they have promised, then a Thank You is in order... I just wish they would have listened and done the right thing 5 years ago.
What platforms do you plan on supporting in the near future?
Friday, February 29, 2008
I am excited to report that we have been selected to present our product, DigitalChalk, at InnoVenture 2008. "InnoVenture is an annual conference of innovators and entrepreneurs building personal relationships to enhance products sold to existing customers, improve the productivity of existing processes, or create new markets." We will presenting at 11:20am on March 25th at the Carolina First Center in Greenville, SC. We will also be at a booth and would love to meet you if you are attending. Feel free to drop me a message and let me know if you will be there.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
One of the best things that we have done at DigitalChalk is to make use of Amazon Web Services. Take a look at this story that was posted today by Amazon about DigitalChalks use of their web services. Using Amazon's services has helped us in many ways. Not only has it provided a very cost effective method for delivering to our customers, but it has also given us a known, reliable backbone that we can depend upon. Knowing that we are running on the same infrastructure that Amazon is running on gives me great confidence in our reliability and uptime. The services have proven to be easy to use with a very active forum and user community. So much so, that I tell everyone that I know about the technologies we are using that Amazon provides. Right now, Amazon provides server virtualization through EC2, file, data storage and backup through S3 and a messaging service through SQS which help keep DigitalChalk running around the clock. I would highly encourage you to sign up and start playing around with the services for yourself. Amazon is taking Software as a Service to a new level providing these services to anyone that wants to use them. If you have any questions at all about how you can use them as well or need help, send me a note. I would be happy to talk about how it has helped us and how it can help you or even help you get started.
Monday, February 4, 2008
The latest release of DigitalChalk includes many new features. Some of the most important focus on our media player. Accomplishing our technical goals and delivering to you exactly what you have been asking for has been a ton of fun for us. We started on RealPlayer over a year ago now because it was able to handle many different formats and provided support of the SMIL standard for media. The problems soon outweighed the advantages. RealPlayer caused a barrier to entry for our customers because they had to download and install software into their browser. I spoke with RealPlayer because it really did provide exactly what we wanted in a solution that did not corrupt the video stream. They were unwilling to help or change the way that they deliver, so we moved on... I am glad that we did! We have now released our own Flash end to end solution which has been very exciting. The new DigitalChalk Flash Player and DigitalChalk Streaming Server has been a blessing. Our customers can use DigitalChalk without going through a cumbersome install process because 98.8% of internet users already have it installed, and those that don't have it barely notice as it installs for them in most cases. Being forced to write our own Streaming Server technology has been a blessing as well. The ideas coming just from the team and exercise in doing that have been too numerous to count. Users can now upload a video or audio file of almost any format to DigitalChalk and it will be converted to Flash and pushed out to their students. We can dynamically scale to meet demand, do two way communication instead of just push and prepare for some really cool features we are working on right now. One of those features is being able to stream closed captioning of the video and audio files to the students if they choose to see them. The doors have been flung open with this move to Flash and we want to know what you want to see next? What technologies or features would you like to see us incorporate into the flash player or into the learning experience? Who knows, it could open up whole new ways of learning!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
DigitalChalk.com has just been updated to its Winter 2008 release. This has been a release that we have been working on for more than 9 months. The underlying architecture has been improved as well as the interface. There are many more features for the instructor and student. I will detail some of these this week in other updates. For now, you can see the press release that was picked up by Forbes.com here
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The local hospital here in Asheville is helping sponsor a competition between area businesses encouraging a healthier lifestyle. The program is called Lighten up for Life and can be read about at http://www.lightenup4life.com . Why do I write about this today... Well, my wife was on the front page of the paper and was quoted from the talk she gave to some of the participants yesterday. She is the dietitian at Mission Hospital helping with this event and gave some encouraging words and tips to the people participating. You can read about it here: Mission Kicks off Lighten Up . I am proud of her and her passion for helping others. She has been such an encouragement to me and supporting me in my efforts with DigitalChalk and everything that i do and I know that she is an encouragement to others in reaching their goals with their health and eating. She teaches classes several times a week at the hospital and I am hoping to soon feature some of her tips on DigitalChalk. Good luck to all that are participating in this. I wish you all the best and I know that Laura is certainly in your corner.