Tag Archives: service

On the dismissal of Google Reader

On one hand I’m tremendously shocked that Google would end a service that people relied on so much, and the other they do have the right to terminate anything that they are giving out for free.

The “Don’t be evil” argument is not even remotely related this so people who bring this up time and again are just whiners, or worse.

Google Reader has been in my Chrome most visited website for years and I would faithfully just click on it when I’m bored to see the list of content providers whose RSS I have subscribed to.

It does make me have lesser faith on Google services though. When would they call an end to life for Gmail perhaps? Will I continue to use free web services? Yes, only to get scalded once more.

BlackBerry to be banned in Saudi Arabia

Likely for censorship reasons. BlackBerry devices does some encryption that has been deemed as a obstacle toward censorship and surveillance practices.

Saudi Arabia to Ban BlackBerry Service on Friday

Saudi Arabia has ordered the suspension of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry service as of Friday, as it does not meet current regulations, according to the country’s telecommunications regulator.

The suspension will cover all services, including e-mail and instant messaging, said an official from the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), who requested not to be named. He did not specify what were the current local regulations that BlackBerry did not comply with.

BlackBerry’s service is to be suspended in neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Oct. 11 because it does not fall in line with the country’s regulations, the UAE telecommunications regulator said on Sunday.

RIM is also in negotiations with the Indian government over the country’s demands that security agencies should be able to intercept BlackBerry data.

In a customer update earlier this week circulated to the media, RIM said that it does not possess a “master key,” nor does any “back door” exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party to gain unauthorized access to the encryption key or corporate data. The symmetric key system used in the BlackBerry security architecture for enterprise customers ensures that only the customer possesses a copy of the encryption key. (Source: PC World)

I’m standing on the BlackBerry side for this one.

Bank anywhere with Citi Mobile

Last August Citibank Singapore launched its mobile banking platform to enable their customers greater banking options. The can be seen as an all-in-one solution that allows customers to do regular banking transactions and get real-time information through their mobile phones. I’ll show you one of their key services — Citi Mobile.

Citibank customers can take advantage of the new service using their existing Citibank Online logins:

Citibank Citi Mobile login and front page

Citibank Citi Mobile login and front page

There are no additional tools to download and uses a two-factor authentication through an encrypted connection. The One-Time PIN (OTP) is sent via a flash SMS, an SMS that is sent as a layer on top of your browser for mobile banking browser-supported mobile phones. This would mean that you do not have to close your browser to check the OTP in your SMS inbox. Take a look at the screen shot:

Citibank Citi Mobile two factor authentication

Citibank Citi Mobile two factor authentication

In addition, no financial information is stored on the mobile phone. The security features of Citi Mobile ensures it is as secure as Citibank Online.

Essentially Citi Mobile is a streamlined version of Citibank Online targeting mobile users. You can perform payment transfers as you would in Citibank Online which is the full fledge internet banking destination for Citibank:

Citibank Citi Mobile payment and transfers steps

Citibank Citi Mobile payment and transfers steps

To use Citi Mobile, just go to www.citibank.com.sg with your mobile phone.

The following services are offered via Citi Mobile:

  • Card and bank accounts balance enquiry
  • Card and bank accounts transactions enquiry
  • Credit card payment due date and credit limit enquiry
  • FX rates information
  • Funds transfer & bill payment
  • Information on the best Gourmet Pleasures dining and other deals from Citibank Gourmet Pleasures
  • ATM and branch locator via FindMyCiti

For more details, check out Citi Mobile at Citibank’s home page.

Why I joined Media Temple 2 years ago and now am leaving

I previously set up a blog with one of those cheap web host that probably stores like a 150 websites in one server. The price is low and the service I got is alright, typically a one day response time which I am fine with. It was until that low-cost web host start insist on me having one of those VPS plans that I started to turn away. I couldn’t afford the VPS back then and I wasn’t that keen to let them suspend my account due to high activity.

So I was pretty determined to get a good host and stay there for the next few years. Changing hosts is such a chore. Media Temple has a lot to offer:

  • Professional looking: A professional made website with good design and nice pictures of servers. I gotta admit that at one point of time I actually thought their servers look like that.
  • Supports large websites: Media Temple hosts multiple huge websites that I go to. Today they host 9rules and Django Project. And they load pretty quickly. Of course those are under their premium plans but I thought that they would offer me something roughly on par.
  • Marketing gaga: I’m totally into the marketing term “grid”. Even though Media Temple’s Grid Service is not the same grid computing I later understand, the term “grid” was a key deciding factor. Back then I did not understand the term. It just sound like one of those plans I should be having.
  • Designer control panel: Media Temple actually has a wonderful control panel. I’m sick of CPanel and was looking for something fresher. Media Temple’s control panel is almost like a designer panel. And well, the demo control panel also loads quite quickly.
  • Transparency in hosting: Media Temple also has this RSS feed where they reveal incidents of their clusters. This is a huge plus to me. I see the transparency of the hosting provider. I like that level of transparency and they keep updating their customers with rather detail ongoings.
  • Customer centricity: Media Temple has generally positive reviews and does a lot of damage control around the web. This appeals to me. It appears that they’re listening.

So I signed up for Media Temple’s Grid Service thinking that it’s the end of all my worries. But it rarely is the case as I explain below:

  • So what if it’s professional looking: This just means Media Temple hire good designers and have the revenue to do so. A good design invites people but is hardly representative of the level of service they provide.
  • So what if it supports large websites: Media Temple is likely to have place much of their technical resources in these large websites. Media Temple has a stake in maintaining the online time of these websites as they placed their logos on these sites and has become closely associated with them. If you ain’t going to be paying for some of their really expensive services, I doubt you get anything close to that level of dedication.
  • And yeah I believed the marketing department: Well, the word “grid” is totally meaningless. In fact I feel kinda stupid believing it was the holy grail or something. “Grid” turns out to have lots of problems and these includes slow database access which mattered greatly to me.
  • So what if there’s a designer control panel: Designer control panel that is slow, may I add. I found it crawling. When you really need something like accessing the database with phpmyadmin, you will realized how many clicks it takes to reach there. You can’t open a control panel page into a new tab also and that’s bad usability. Control panel takes longer than it should and I pretty much given up using it. The demo control panel does not reflect the speed of your control panel.
  • So transparent but no improvement: Sure they post lots of issues and are still rather transparent. But it just took too long for them to fix their problems. Having an RSS feeds detailing the server faults makes customers slightly more forgiving but what I want to see is a change. It’s almost like someone recognizing his/her mistake and apologies but commits the same thing all over again. After a while, I realized no news is good news. Media Temple have some issues with their vendor Blue Arc and somehow these issues affected a portion of their customers. They took a long time to resolve. I am not sure to what extend it has been resolved.
  • Customer centricity non-existent: I wrongly assumed the level of support from Media Temple judging on the way they perform damage control. Media Temple support is rather poor. They take long to reply and complained that my database activity is too high on several occasions. The database analytic tool that they provide reveal no spike in activity. I mailed them and they insisted that I should check their analytic tool to resolve issue. Want to know how it feels like talking to a wall? Try Media Temple.

Ultimately, what mattered more than webhosting support is not having the need to request for support. Today I hardly request for support because I just don’t need it.

And that is what I call great service.

[If you are interested in Slicehost, consider using my referrer link. Thanks!]

Ma.gnolia.com experience data loss and corruption

Ma.gnolia.com experience data loss and corruption and the service is thus disrupted. I wonder if there are any backups. Seems like it just crashed and recovery is going to be hard.

Dear Ma.gnolia Community Members or Visitor,

Early on the West-coast morning of Friday, January 30th, Ma.gnolia experienced every web service’s worst nightmare: data corruption and loss. For Ma.gnolia, this means that the service is offline and members’ bookmarks are unavailable, both through the website itself and the API. As I evaluate recovery options, I can’t provide a certain timeline or prognosis as to to when or to what degree Ma.gnolia or your bookmarks will return; only that this process will take days, not hours.

I will of course keep you appraised here and in our Twitter account.

Most importantly, I apologize to all of you who have made Ma.gnolia a home for your bookmarks and community. I know that many of you rely on Ma.gnolia in your day to day work and play flow to safely host you bookmarks, keeping them available around the clock, and that this is a difficult disruption.

Sincerely,
Larry

I would be very upset if delicious is gone.

Don’t use a Windows Service just to run a scheduled process

I see windows services that does absolutely nothing but just check for regular updates. It is just sitting there through your entire session waiting for the time to ripe for checking of update. Don’t do that kind of lame stuff.

A common requirement in business application is a scheduled process – call a webservice, process the data, and FTP the results to a business partner, for instance. Developers kick around possible solutions – BizTalk’s overkill, DTS won’t handle it well, what to do?

Invariably, someone suggests a Windows Service with a timer. Just as invariably, when you try to talk them out of it, they’ll condescendingly tell you that Windows Services are easy to write in .NET. “Trust me, it’s not hard – we’ll write a simple service with a timer which will do a simple time check…”

A Windows Service is the wrong solution to scheduling one-off custom processes. The right solution for scheduling simple processes is the Windows Task Scheduler. (Source: Jon Galloway)

I mean it’s just an update check. It’s not that a big deal to use a service for that.