Forgetting Firefox: Idle thoughts on Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird.

I’m a big fan of Mozilla and have been a Firefox and Thunderbird user and advocate for many years. The last few years of development on these projects have left me somewhat disillusioned. Firefox seems to be slowly converging on Chrome, with disruptive UI changes making each update irritating, rather than exciting. Thunderbird, despite regular updates, feels like it has stagnated.

I feel like Mozilla have already won the browser wars. I’d love to see more effort going into Thunderbird and Lightning – groupware being something that open source is still really struggling with despite many valiant efforts.

It’s hard to convince myself this is a big deal; web-based groupware is pretty good these days. But I use Thunderbird every day. I’ve become almost dependent on a bunch of excellent extensions. I love having the option to be in complete control of my email.

I wrote about this in a bit more detail at Medium.

Update:

This seemed to resonate with a few people – ended up being the 18th “Most Read” article on Medium and was featured in their Technology section. Also spawned interesting discussion on reddit and Slashdot.

The full article is reproduced below.

forgetting-firefox-stats

Forgetting Firefox

It’s been more than 10 years since Mozilla released version 1.0 of Firefox. Even for someone that lived through all those early web years it’s hard to imagine what it was like back then — almost everyone who used the web was using Internet Explorer on Windows, something which seems almost comical now in this age of Chrome and Safari and mobile browsing.

Back then though, there wasn’t much of a choice. There were a few alternatives, but many sites were built only with IE in mind, simply due to its huge market share (almost 80%). So chances were good that even if you were running something else, you’d have IE ready to fire up in the background.

I’ll confess that during this time, our web development company was building for IE. Testing in other browsers — if it happened at all — was cursory. We’d fix specific issues in other browsers if they were reported by users, but these were pretty rare.

Today, of course, it is almost the exact opposite. Chrome has the lion’s share in the desktop world. IE is still a respectable second place, though only a fraction ahead of Firefox. Mozilla’s mission of 2004 — to break up the web’s monoculture and near-complete dependence on Internet Explorer — would seem to be over.

Microsoft can no longer afford to let IE not comply with certain standards. Indeed, the argument can be made that it is a second class web citizen and is, more often than not, forced to play catch up to everyone else.

The Mozilla Foundation was established in 2003 to “preserve choice and innovation on the Internet”. I believe they’ve succeeded — perhaps beyond their wildest dreams — in the web space. Who would have thought a small foundation creating open source software could upset one of the biggest software companies in the world and help completely disrupt their near-total market dominance?

Mozilla and Firefox Today

Since Google introduced their Chrome browser, Firefox use around the world has been shrinking. While it is far from an afterthought, it’s clear that many users have jumped ship to Chrome — usually citing performance as the main reason. I listen to the expressions of surprise from my colleagues and peers when they hear about someone using Firefox — “why haven’t you switched to Chrome?”, typically resulting in another convert by the end of the conversation.

Firefox usage on AusGamers.com, 2006–2015.

Further, as more and more browsing is done on mobile devices — where the trend again seems to be to use the standard browser that ships with the operating system — the growth of Firefox seems an unlikely prospect.

However, Mozilla has not stopped working on Firefox. Indeed, change has continued at a furious pace — back in 2011 they switched to a rapid release schedule, aiming to ship a new release build of Firefox every six weeks, calling this change “a major improvement in our ability to respond to the needs of our users and the web”.

The Firefox version number has rocketed skyward. From 2004 to 2010, Firefox went from version 1.0 to 3.6.13. Once their rapid release schedule kicked in though, they burned all the way through to version 33.0, released in October 2014.

Of course, the version numbers aren’t really indicative of much — though some critics deride the versioning strategy as nothing more than a way to try to seem as “fresh” as Google Chrome’s much higher version numbers. What really matters is what has changed under the hood, and there have certainly been a huge number of changes.

Although, as I write this, it’s hard to think of what those changes have been. I certainly can’t think of any new feature that made me go “oh, that’s cool” or “great, I’m glad they finally fixed that” or “sweet, this rocks!” Maybe the background updater? WebRTC support, although I haven’t used it yet. The main feature of their 10 year anniversary special release was just a widget that lets you forget certain parts of your history and some new built-in search options.

Sadly, I have almost come to dread new releases. “What is going to break this time?”, I think. “What random interface changes are they going to introduce?”

However, this essay isn’t about railing on Mozilla for problems with Firefox releases. This is an issue, but there are already many words devoted to covering this in great detail — simply look at basically any Slashdot discussion about any new release and you’ll see a laundry list of complaints (my favourite is the one when they introduced the new Australis redesign).

No, my problems with Firefox are something I see as merely a symptom of the real problem:

Mozilla has already won the browser wars.

Their core mission has been accomplished. Their goal was never to create the most popular browser in the world, or the one with the best UX, or the one with the most features, or the one with the best developer mode. Their goal was to “preserve choice and innovation on the Internet”.

It would be foolish to say a monoculture will never arise again (Google are making some scary moves with Chrome-only web applications). But at this point in time while Chrome is the ascendant browser (largely at the expense of Firefox), Mozilla’s ability to impact the web in general is greatly reduced. (Arguably, the rate of change and the dramatic impact to the long-standing UI and UX could be driving more people away from it.)

Mozilla are not focusing all their efforts on the web alone. While Firefox seems to get the lion’s share of funding and attention, they’ve been extremely hard at work building Firefox OS, an operating system for mobile devices. Mozilla Labs continues to spit out a range of interesting R&D projects.

One other well-known and widely used Mozilla project is, of course, the Thunderbird email client. In 2012, after several years of active development and significant improvements, Mozilla decided that Thunderbird would basically be put into caretaker mode, letting the community drive development.

The groupware mess.

Before going forward, I want to touch on the state of groupware — that being the collection of applications, tools and services that organisations use to collaborate digitally, typically including email and calendar systems.

For many years, Exchange was the uncontested leader in this market. Microsoft’s dominance in this area was almost complete — nothing packed the same level of functionality for communication and collaboration with the same ease of deployment, not to mention the integration with the rest of the Microsoft software ecosystem. Sure, it wasn’t without problems, but it was as close to a groupware standard as existed.

Then Google came along, sniffing a great opportunity. Google Apps offered simple pricing and an experience that almost everyone was pretty familiar with due to the penetration of Gmail and Google Calendar — companies could switch over and not have to worry too much about retraining. Companies heavily entrenched with Outlook couldn’t switch, but for the vast majority of small businesses it was a pretty attractive deal.

Fast forward a bit to 2015 — Amazon have just announced WorkMail, an e-mail and electronic calendar service, targeted directly at customers of Microsoft and Google. It’s clear they’ve been thinking about this for a while; as one of the biggest cloud providers and software developers they’re uniquely positioned to offer services around the planet.

Having these three options will be a great improvement for consumers. The growth of cloud shows little sign of curbing and the increasing simplicity it offers to businesses — “we no longer have to deal with keeping Exchange running?!” — is pretty appealing. So as long as you’re happy with paying another organisation to hold onto some of the critical data of your business, you’re fine.

If you’re turning to open source, there are a few options. I can only claim personal experience with Zimbra — it’s a great piece of software, if a bit fiddly to get and keep running. Finding the one that matches your requirements can be tough and time consuming.

Ultimately we found that we couldn’t stop people wanting to use Outlook. It has a lot of momentum. It has polish and features that make the open source equivalents feel somewhat clunky, awkward and limited by comparison. Zimbra works with Outlook (if you pay for the commercial version with the magic connector), or you can just use the web interface.

Email client usage data from Campaign Monitor, 2012.

But people who are serious about email typically want to use a serious email client. They want plugins and heaps of interface options. They want instant response times. They want a local copy so it can be accessed offline (or if you’re truly hardcore, you don’t want your email on someone else’s server in the first place). You want to have the files that make up your email collection stored on your own disk, so you can back them up and manipulate them at your convenience.

And so we come back to Thunderbird.

Mozilla’s chance to really impact groupware.

Mozilla has already done more for groupware than just about anyone, simply by the existence of Thunderbird in the state it is in today. (Lightning, their calendar application/extension is also a Big Deal.)

But it seems an opportunity exists for Mozilla to once again take the lead in a critical aspect of Internet infrastructure. Microsoft’s blood is in the water as their iron grip on key parts of both the home and business software ecosystems has started to slip.

But Mozilla is in a unique situation — they have a significant lead in the application space. Thunderbird has little mass market penetration and is far from perfect, but in terms of core functionality and stability it is very well positioned. (Lightning needs a lot more work.)

Just like Mozilla made Firefox a unifying piece in the standards-based web that we enjoy today, the opportunity exists to drive Thunderbird as a critical piece of our Internet communications infrastructure.

There are many challenges. The mass market and home users are unlikely to migrate away from web-based mail; it’s simply too convenient. But businesses and business users have a different set of priorities, and being in firmly in control of their own destiny when it comes to their assets is one of them.

Even as I write this, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any point. The cloudification of mail and calendar is just so useful and popular — how could anything turn it back?!

But then I remember what it’s like when an online service goes offline and you can’t get your provider to help out. I remember the NSA, and the risks associated with having my mail and calendar lying around on someone else’s servers. I remember promises of backups being made, only to find that after a disaster, they turned out to not work.

Thunderbird is a tool that can help ensure that users have the choice to retain control. Already a strong, feature-complete product, it’s perfectly usable right now — but it needs more. It needs focus and drive, the kind of effort that pushed Firefox into being the dominant alternative for so long. Mozilla need to re-establish credibility with users by ruthlessly fixing some of the years-old bugs and proving that they see Thunderbird as a critical piece of the Internet, like they did with Firefox.

Ultimately, Mozilla needs to make the nerds really love Thunderbird, recommending it above all else. Just as we were responsible for pushing Firefox (and now, it seems, Chrome) on civilian friends, family and businesses who defer to our geek cred when it comes to software selection… if Mozilla can convert us — we can convert them.

But we’ll only do that if it’s a legitimately better option for them. (And for us — saving us tech support calls is a big factor here!) A strong groupware client with excellent support for email and calendaring is just as important to the open Internet as a browser — for both business and personal use, we need good choices.

Mozilla: you won the browser wars. We will be eternally grateful. But we need you again to help preserve choice and innovation on the Internet. Please help us by devoting some of your incredible talent back to Thunderbird to help drive the state of groupware forward.

WPUpCheck – keeping WordPress up-to-date

WordPress is a great piece of software, but it’s popularity and superficial ease-of-use combined with the fact that computers are hard means running a site on WordPress is not always as simple as it seems.

I wrote about some of the ways to reduce the risk with WordPress over on the Mammoth blog a while back.

One of the biggest risks is a WordPress site that is out of date. There are three main components to the WordPress site:

– Core: the base functionality you get on a brand new installation.
– Plugins: all the other stuff you install for functionality
– Themes: what things look like

Each component is typically its own code base, requiring maintenance and updates. Many users only know they have updates available when they log in – and many of them don’t log in that often, especially if their site is primarily static.

WPUpCheck is a simple Windows tool that polls a WordPress site periodically to check for updates in any of these three components. If it detects available updates it will bring it to your attention via a balloon in the system tray.

The goal is simple – try to ensure a larger number of WordPress sites are no longer running obsolete, out-of-date, potentially vulnerable software.

Anyone interested in beta testing it can download WPUpCheck now.

Irritation, Confusion and Deception in the Android Permission System

The Android permission system seemed like a great thing at first – crystal clear understanding about what each application can do on your device. However, with the latest round of updates, it has become even clear that the permission system is confusing at best and deliberately harmful for users at worst.

If you’re a privacy/security conscious, tech savvy user, you might end up poring over individual permissions for each application before deciding to install it. This can be time consuming – even experienced users might have to hit up Google to see exactly what a permission means. Sometimes you might even veto an app or an upgrade because of onerous permissions. But if you watch normal civilians use their phone, they barely even glance at the security options, during install or upgrade. I’ll even confess to giving up dealing with permissions and just installing an app because I felt I “needed” it.

Everything looked good for a while back in Android 4.3 with the discovery of the permission tweaking system which lead to “App Ops”, allowing users to selectively enable/disable permissions on a per-application basis, granting total control over what they had access to. This was perfect, but sadly was pulled in a later release, with Google saying wasn’t intended to be available. The clever hackers over at CyanogenMod restored it as part of their release, but there’s basically no way to have fine-grained control over your apps – meaning you accept everything permission that they want, or you do without.

Here’s an example – I just received notice of an update for PasswdSafe:

2014-09-29 17.21.57

Now, the “What’s New” notes are provided by the application developer. Sometimes they are nice enough to include details about why there was a permission change, but I would say this is generally pretty rare.

Here’s what happens when you click ‘Update’:

2014-09-30 01.04.50

You only get this sort of popup when there’s a permission change. So this popup implies – to me, at least – that there’s some sort of permission change involving media, or files, or whatever.

But if you scroll to the bottom of the app page to click on the ‘Permission Details’ icon, you’ll see this:

2014-09-29 17.22.46

Here you can see the new permission actually has something to do with Near-Field Communication! (So in this case, the changelog provided by the developer actually does relate directly to the permission change, though it’s not really clear until you manually inspect the permissions like this.)

While you can find the information, this current flow is totally broken. It’s infuriating that the recent change now seems to actively hide and thus mislead the user.

This UI change is a massive step back for Android; it compromises the ability of the user to make informed decisions about the software on their device.

Setting Up Infobox Templates in MediaWiki v1.23


Update 2021-02-23: A few people have left comments saying these instructions no longer work. Unfortunately I’m not surprised – they’re quite old and MediaWiki has evolved significantly. They still work in my ancient version which I still have on an old Debian box.

I am planning on migrating this onto a new server soon so I will be revisiting this soon*.

*May not be soon


This article explains how to add the “Infobox” template to your MediaWiki installation. It is primarily intended for people who have installed v1.23 from source.

This is an updated version of this older post about setting up Infobox on earlier versions of MediaWiki. It is basically the same but has been modified to be suitable for the current (at the time of writing) version of MediaWiki, v1.23. Please see the older post for more info and background as well as helpful commentary from other users in different circumstances.

Here are the basic steps necessary to add working Infoboxes to a freshly installed version of MediaWiki. Note that the original steps required the install of ParserFunctions; this is no longer required as it ships with recent versions of MediaWiki by default.

  1. Download the Scribuntu extension into your extensions folder and add it to your LocalSettings.php as described in the ‘Installation’ section.
  2. Copy the CSS required to support the infobox from Wikipedia.org to your Wiki. The CSS is available in Common.css. You’ll probably need to create the stylesheet – it will be at http://your_wiki/wiki/index.php?title=MediaWiki:Common.css&action=edit – and then you can just copy/paste the contents in there. (I copied the whole file; you can probably just copy the infobox parts.)
  3. Export the Infobox Template from the Wikipedia.org:
    1. Go to Wikipedia’s Special:Export page
    2. Leave the field for ‘Add pages from category’ empty
    3. In the big text area field, just put in “Template:Infobox”.
    4. Make sure the three options – “Include only the current revision, not the full history”, “Include templates”, and “Save as file” – are all checked
    5. Hit the ‘Export’ button; it will think for a second then spit out an XML file containing all the Wikipedia Templates for the infobox for you to save to your PC.
  4. Now you have the Template, you need to integrate them into your MediaWiki instance. Simply go to your Import page – http://your_wiki/wiki/index.php/Special:Import – select the file and then hit ‘Upload file’.
  5. With the Templates and styles added you should be able to now add a simple infobox. Pick a page and add something like this to the top:{{Infobox
    |title = An amazing Infobox
    |header1 = It works!
    |label2 = Configured by
    |data2 = trog
    |label3 = Web
    |data3 = [https://trog.qgl.org trog.qgl.org]
    }}
  6. Save, and you should end up with something that looks like this:

Farewell Robin Williams, an oldschool video gamer

Very sad to hear about the passing of Robin Williams.

I loved his movies, but I also loved his lesser-known passion for video games.

He did an interview years ago where he talked about playing Quake – I’ve held on to this mp3 file since I got it and always enjoyed listening to it every time I stumbled across it when I was deep-diving in my archived files.

It’s embedded below.

The failure of the Australian state to gracefully deal with copyright

Nic Suzor has written another insightful piece for The Conversation which looks at the Australian government’s leaked plan to combat piracy.

In conjunction with research assistant Alex Button-Sloan, the article users several words that I think fairly accurately sum up this plan: “unrealistic”, “vague”, “unlikely to help”. Some of the outcomes are equally depressing: “likely to raise the price of internet access”.

Everyone in Australia should read this article. This plan does nothing to address the root cause of Australian piracy – the simple fact that content is not made available on the same terms as it is in other markets.

The fact that this plan could “massively increase the potential risks for companies that provide legitimate services” also fills me with dread; Mammoth – in addition to being an Internet hosting provider – has been actively involved in legitimate content distribution since the late 90s, across video games, music, and movies. With our clients, we have struggled for years to try to figure out how to make sure Australians have access to the latest content.

These are not technical problems; they are licensing and rights problems caused by media companies carefully choosing how to maximise their profits. The fact that they are now cooperating with out government to literally change the laws to better suit their business model is kind of irritating.

Disruption: why is the US so different for startups?

AVC’s Fred Wilson wrote a post recently looking at platform monopolies and why they’re great targets for disruption.

It’s clear that almost everything about the US is different for startups. A lot of it is just its sheer size – having ten times more people than Australia changes everything. Probably the biggest complaint in Australia though is the lack of VC funding and a reduced appetite for risk.

It’s not clear to me which one of these is the chicken and which one is the egg. Is the startup scene awesome because of the VC? Or does the VC exist because of the startups?

Since moving to the US, the most striking thing I’ve noticed here is the prevalence of these large, giant “platform monopolies” – but not just in the tech space. Many aspects of daily life in the US seem to be managed by these giant institutions. Navigating these large institutions is cumbersome and tiring (especially if you’re a foreigner and have no idea how things are glued together) – and as a result, there are a lot of middlemen that try to make the process easier.

For example, if you’re looking for health insurance, trying to deal with the insurance companies is a real pain. So, there are hordes of health insurance agents and brokers that sit in between you and the insurance companies to try to make that easier. They take a small fee.

If you’re starting a company and need to pay your employees, you need to be aware of the specific tax issues in your state and federally. Even for a one person company this is challenging; I can’t imagine what a headache it’d be if you were trying to set up in multiple states. But don’t worry – there are many payroll companies that specialise in this, all for a small cut. (The first time I ran a payroll here in the US I was staggered by the fact that the company used UPS to courier me an actual payslip on an actual piece of paper. )

Near where I live there’s an entire business that appears to exist solely to cash cheques – a form of payment that is basically extinct in Australia, but because it’s so common here there are these weird cheque companies that exist. I assume that they must make a bit of money on each cheque they cash.

The list goes on. Almost anything complicated you want to do, there’s a support system that seems to sit in the middle to make your life easier.

Fred Wilson comment on this in his article:

The Internet, at its core, is a marketplace that, over time, removes the need for the middleman. That is very good news for the talent that has been giving up a fairly large part of its value to all of the toll takers in between them and their end customers.

This is where a lot of the interesting disruption is happening in the US – people tired of these old, monolithic systems looking to make a change. The payroll issue is being addressed by companies like ZenPayroll. I have no idea what people are doing about cheques but I thought it was entertaining to see that you can deposit a cheque here now by taking a photo of it. And everyone is trying to crack the healthcare nut – health industry startups abound and appear to be highly favoured as targets for funding (hey, the US spend more money per person on healthcare than any other country – it’s good business).

There are many other examples, including ones with global application – Uber and Lyft are probably the most significant and most recent examples; their impact on the transport industry is still being felt. The music industry is another one – all those poor record company executives are going to be a relic of days gone by.

Every country, every society, every community has its own entrenched systems, their own way of doing things. The bigger the environment and the longer they’ve been around, the more likely you are to find middlemen. Technology makes it possible to go back and re-evaluate the old way of doing things. Better automation, communication and integration means a lot of the old ways of doing things are ready to be swept aside – and that’s where a lot of the disruption is happening.

Ultimately I think that it’s this potential for disruption that makes the US startup scene so vibrant and interesting. It’s the fact that every opportunity to change the status quo has the potential to pack a huge punch – even capturing a small percentage of the market here can mean a big business. The bigger the established players in a sector become, the more naturally resistant they become to change – meaning a lot of opportunity for smaller players to start to carve out a niche.

When you encounter someone saying “this is just how we’ve always done it”, pay attention – you might be on the verge of something big. These are tough fights to pick, but – as is being shown by Uber – if you make the right moves at the right time with the right technology, you can revolutionise a space.

MySQL Server fails to upgrade in Debian/Ubuntu

Just did a relatively normal ‘apt-get upgrade’ on my simple WordPress HHVM test server and got a horrible bunch of errors, leaving it in a non-working state:

E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
A package failed to install. Trying to recover:
Setting up mysql-server-5.1 (5.1.54-1ubuntu4) …
start: Job failed to start
invoke-rc.d: initscript mysql, action “start” failed.
dpkg: error processing mysql-server-5.1 (–configure):
subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of mysql-server:
mysql-server depends on mysql-server-5.1; however:
Package mysql-server-5.1 is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing mysql-server (–configure):
dependency problems – leaving unconfigured
Errors were encountered while processing:
mysql-server-5.1
mysql-server

There are many reports of this on various forums and blogs with many different solutions. Here’s mine.

In my case, MySQL logged the following error:

May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld_safe: Starting mysqld daemon with databases from /var/lib/mysql
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [Warning] Using unique option prefix key_buffer instead of key_buffer_size is deprecated and will be removed in a future release. Please use the full name instead.
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [Warning] Using unique option prefix myisam-recover instead of myisam-recover-options is deprecated and will be removed in a future release. Please use the full name instead.
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [Note] Plugin ‘FEDERATED’ is disabled.
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: The InnoDB memory heap is disabled
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Mutexes and rw_locks use GCC atomic builtins
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Compressed tables use zlib 1.2.7
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Using Linux native AIO
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Initializing buffer pool, size = 128.0M
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: InnoDB: mmap(137363456 bytes) failed; errno 12
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Completed initialization of buffer pool
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 InnoDB: Fatal error: cannot allocate memory for the buffer pool
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [ERROR] Plugin ‘InnoDB’ init function returned error.
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [ERROR] Plugin ‘InnoDB’ registration as a STORAGE ENGINE failed.
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [ERROR] Unknown/unsupported storage engine: InnoDB
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [ERROR] Aborting
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld:
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld: 140504 7:04:22 [Note] /usr/sbin/mysqld: Shutdown complete
May 4 07:04:22 trog mysqld:

 

I’ve bolded the important lines – in my case, MySQL was starting and trying to allocate some memory for InnoDB, but it was failing. So when the package manager updated MySQL and restarted it, it would simply exit as failed, returning failure as part of the update process.

I solved this hackishly (but easily) by stopping a memory-hungry process on the server (HHVM), then re-running the upgrade. Without HHVM running there was plenty of spare memory, the update was able to successfully restart MySQL, then I just restarted HHVM.

This is of course indicative that this system probably doesn’t have enough memory – but it’s a small-scale test environment. So if you’re looking for a cheap easy fix when Debian/Ubuntu fail to upgrade MySQL, this might work.

Initial Binary Lane Feedback: Positive

So far the feedback for the newly launched Binary Lane has been really positive:

Feedback on Whirlpool has been similarly positive:

bl-do

bl-wp-1

… and also a good thread on LowEndTalk.com, a developer-focused community for infrastructure services.

There’s still a lot of work going on behind the scenes. New features are still be developed – most recently, a new BYO ISO system, allowing people to install their own operating systems, including things we haven’t supported before like FreeBSD.

Stay tuned.

Binary Lane – a new hosting service from Mammoth Media

I’m proud to announce that the Mammoth team has launched a new product this week – Binary Lane.

Binary Lane is our new take on virtual private server hosting. Our service Mammoth Networks has been in operation since 2010 and has grown steadily to become a respected name in VPS hosting in Australia, and the mPanel – the software that drives this service – has matured and evolved until it has become, in our humble opinion, one of the best platforms for managing virtualised servers on the planet.

Binary Lane features several significant differences that we thought justified a new brand. The main changes:

  • Binary Lane uses KVM for its virtualisation back end, instead of Xen. This gives us a bunch of great new features – including live migrations, allowing us to almost instantly move guests between host nodes.
  • We’re in a new data centre, right here in Brisbane. We’ve had a great relationship with PIPE (formerly SOUL, formerly Comindico) and have been in that facility for years, but we wanted a local presence in our own city. The new NEXTDC data centre and their DC-as-a-service model really fits what we want to do.
  • New IP transit. Again our PIPE/TPG/SOUL connectivity has been awesome, but getting transit from a single carrier has reduced our flexibility a little bit. We’re working with the unbelievably great team at APEX Networks to provide our transit.
  • All SSD storage. SSDs are the future for server systems. The price has reduced to the point where building entire storage systems out of SSDs is feasible for a huge variety of application types. While bulk data storage is still a little bit away, we feel that the performance offerings of SSDs are impossible to ignore.

The Binary Lane brand is also something that gives us a little more freedom internationally – Mammoth Networks was, for various reasons, somewhat restrictive in the United States :) Startups, let that be a lesson to you – even if your target market is Australia initially, always think about the rest of the world when you start building your brand!

Of course Mammoth Networks isn’t going anywhere – it will still continue to receive all the attention it gets currently. We’ll be doing updates to mPanel that may appear on one or the other site first, but eventually both sites will be updated with any new features that are added.

Big congratulations to our awesome development and operations teams at Mammoth for their really hard work on this project and special mad props to our technical director Nathan O’Sullivan, whose tireless efforts leading the charge have again resulted in shipping another great product.

Oh yeh – we’re so confident you’ll love Binary Lane that we’re offering a free seven day trial. Go check it out, marvel at the speed, wonder at the power of mPanel, and be amazed.