The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lost weekend?

Nah, I've just been super-busy the past few days. Regular posting should resume shortly—depending on how this week in Cleveland goes.

What's going on with the Microsoft Azure blog?

For the last couple of days, I've had trouble getting to Microsoft's Azure blog. From my office in downtown Chicago, clicking the link gives me an error message:

The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

However, going to the same URL from a virtual machine on Azure takes me to the blog. So what's going on here? It took a little detective work, but I think Microsoft has a configuration error one of a set of geographically-distributed Azure web sites, they don't know about it, and there's no way to tell them.

The first step in diagnosing a problem like this is to see if it's local. Is there something about the network I'm on that prevents me from seeing the website? This is unlikely for a few big reasons: first, when a local network blocks or fails to connect to an outside site, usually nothing at all happens. This is how the Great Firewall of China works, because someone trying to get to a "forbidden" address may get there slowly, normally, or not at all—and it just looks like a glitch. Second, though, the root Azure site is completely accessible. Only the Blog directory has an error message. Finally, the error message is coming from the foreign system. Chrome confirms this; there's a HTTP 200 (OK) response with the content I see.

All right, so the Azure Blog is down. But that doesn't make a lot of sense. Thousands of people read the Azure blog every day; if it were down, surely Microsoft would have noticed, right?

So for my next test, I spun up an Azure Virtual Machine (VM) and tried to connect from there. Bing! No problem. There's the blog.

Now we're onto something. So let's take a look at where my local computer thinks it's going, and where the VM thinks it's going. Here's the nslookup result for my local machine, both from my company's DNS server and from Google's 8.8.8.8 server:

Now here's what the VM sees:

Well, now, that is interesting.

From my local computer, sitting in downtown Chicago, both Google and my company's DNS servers point "azure.microsoft.com" to an Azure web site sitting in the North Central U.S. data center, right here in Chicago. But for the VM, which itself is running in the East U.S. data center in southern Virginia, both Microsoft's and Google's DNS servers point the same domain to an Azure web site also within the East U.S. data center.

It looks like both Microsoft and Google are using geographic load-balancing and some clever routing to return DNS addresses based on where the DNS request comes from. I'd bet if I spun up an Azure VM in the U.S. West data center, both would send me to the Azure blog running out there.

This is what massive load balancing looks like from the outside, by the way. If you've put your systems together correctly, users will go to the nearest servers for your content, and they'll never realize it.

Unfortunately, the North Central U.S. instance of the Microsoft Azure blog is down, has been down for several days, and won't come up again until someone at Microsoft realizes it's down. Also, Microsoft makes it practically impossible to notify them that something is broken. So those of us in Chicago will just have to read about Azure on our Azure VMs until someone in Redmond fixes their broken server. I hope they read my blog.

Fake news for no fun but lots of profit

The Daily Currant's business model, explained:

[I]n The New Republic, Luke O'Neil argued that such stories "could do actual damage to political discourse and the media in general... Juicing an already true-enough premise with more unbelievability simply adds to the informational noise pollutionwithout even the expected payoff of a laugh." 

All legitimate gripes, but perhaps that's overthinking it for a site that's the product of under-thinking. The Daily Currant is trying to maximize clicks and shares, and has found a niche between The Onion and real news: all the believability of the latter, but all the libel protections of the former. There's a Catch-22 to this approach, though. As more people have become aware of The Daily Currantin December, Mediaite whined, "Just Stop It, Everyone: Internet Falls for Daily Currant Fake Story Once Again"suckers have become increasingly rare. The site is a victim of its own success.

No matter. The formula is easily replicable, as other web entrepreneurs and hucksters have discovered. This poor imitation of The Onion has itself spawned a legion of poor imitations, websites so devoid of infotainment value and so cynical in their click-baiting that they make the likes of Viral Nova and Upworthy look staid.

The author goes on to compare the Currant to "a potentially lucrative con predicated on exploiting the worst habits of social media driven news content."

Lunchtime reads

I may come back to these again:

Publishing the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ to NuGet is still coming up...just not this weekend.

Even Azure requires maintenance

Yesterday I migrated this blog and four other ASP.NET websites from a Windows 2008 Microsoft Azure virtual machine (VM) to a brand-new Windows 2012 R2 VM. I did this because Microsoft has announced the end-of-life for Windows 2008 VMs on June 1st, so I thought I'd get a jump on it.

VMs usually mean never having to say "reinstall." Unfortunately, since this involved upgrading three steps at once, I decided it would be simpler just to launch a new VM and migrate the applications using FTP.

Seven hours and 25 minutes later, everything works, and I've archived the old VM's virtual hard disk (VHD). Why did it take 7:25 to complete?

Forget it. I'm not reliving those hours. I will say only that at least 90 minutes of that time was completely wasted because my AT&T Uverse FiOS line doesn't...quite...make it to my building, limiting it to 1.5 Mbps. Yes, I have a 1.5 Mbps Internet line. While waiting for things to download and upload yesterday, I spoke with them, and they assured me that I have the fastest Uverse service available to me.

Which brings up the other problem with doing so much in Microsoft Azure: you need good Internet connectivity. Which I don't have. Which meant I spent a lot of time yesterday rubbing Parker's belly and cursing AT&T.

Upgrade!

You can't actually see it, but I've upgraded the Microsoft Azure VM that this blog runs on to a brand-spanking-new Windows Server 2012 box.

In fact, it's so transparent, the only purpose of this blog entry is to make sure I can make blog entries.

Seriously, this means absolutely nothing to anyone else. Except that, since Microsoft was going to kill the old VM automatically sometime in June, this is a good thing.

About this blog (v 4.2)

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

4,000

This is the Daily Parker's 4,000th post of the modern era. Since 13 November 2005 (3,030 days ago), I've posted 4,000 bits of flotsam, jetsam, and other things considered debris in some circles.

Four thousand entries ago:

  • George W. Bush was almost a year into his second term and Barack Obama was the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois;
  • Molly Ivins was still alive and kicking;
  • Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had stagnated;
  • Facebook was less than two years old but more than a year from general availability;
  • The Atlantic Ocean was seven weeks away from ending the weirdest hurricane season on record; and
  • Parker was still seven months from being born.

But also:

  • We had troops in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • A sizable portion of the United States believed in the literal truth of 3,000-year-old Jewish mythology;
  • Vladimir Putin was president of Russia;
  • Most of the U.S. House of Representatives comprised exactly the same people it does today.

Back in my 3,002nd entry, I projected hitting 10,000 entries in April 2025. A thousand entries later, ticking along at a consistent 1.5 entries per day, the 10,000th entry is now due in...February 2025. Here's the progress for the first 4,000 posts, measured in posts per day:

I could go on. And I will. So keep reading.