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A Binary Salute to a Digital Visionary

October 2011 hasn’t been kind to the fathers of modern computing.

The death of Apple front man Steve Jobs spawned a wave of iWakes across the world, but the loss of Dennis Ritchie – the father of the C programming language and unix, was just as sad a day for techies everywhere. Perhaps even worse – as many people didn’t even notice.

Afterall, OSX could not exist without the work that Ritchie did 30 years ago.

To pay respect to the digital pioneer, our very own Sean Davis wrote a C program to send a cheers to the big bit bucket in the sky.

You can find the original here.


#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <sys/uio.h>

#define URANDOM "/dev/urandom"
#define OUT "/dev/null"
#define A_FORTY 5 /* 40 bits */

	int argc;
	char **argv;
	char *buf;
	int fd,ret;
	size_t rwret;

	buf = (char *)malloc(A_FORTY);

	if (buf == NULL) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Can't hold a forty. (%s)\n",

	fd = open(URANDOM,O_RDONLY);

	if (fd == -1) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Failed to open %s: %s\n",

	rwret = read(fd,buf,A_FORTY);

	if (rwret == -1) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Failed to grab a forty: %s\n",

	if (rwret == 5) {
		printf("Got a forty.\n");
	} else if (rwret == -1) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Couldn't get a forty. (%s)\n",
	} else {
		fprintf(stderr,"This forty is light, only %d bits!\n",
			(int)rwret * 8);

	ret = close(fd);

	if (ret == -1) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Failed to close the beer fridge. (%s)\n",

	fd = open(OUT,O_WRONLY);

	if (fd == -1) {
		fprintf(stderr,"Can't find the drain. (%s)\n",

	rwret = write(fd,buf,A_FORTY);

	if (rwret == 5) {
		printf("Goodbye, Dennis. I wouldn't be what I am without you.\n");
		printf("Poured out forty bits for our dead homie.\n");
	} else {
		fprintf(stderr,"The drain must be clogged, only poured out %d bits.\n",
			(int)rwret * 8);
		ret = close(fd);
		if (ret == -1) {
			fprintf(stderr,"Can't plug the drain (%s)\n",


Goodbye Dennis, and thanks for all the magic!

Open Heart Surgery, Geeky Beach Style.

I once heard someone say that doing a major network upgrade on a live production network is not unlike performing open heart surgery on someone – while they are running a marathon. In the world of The Internet, one bad keystroke can be as dangerous as an unanticipated slip of the scalpel.

Over the past 8 months, the Serverbeach network has undergone a series of upgrades that definitely felt like open heart surgery. It’s challenging to truly do the scope of these network upgrades justice, but I’d like to attempt to give this project a bit of perspective.

We spent months designing, planning, organizing, testing, and re-testing. Planning for any possible issues that might come up, because there’s no such thing as an undo button on a live production network. No amount of planning can make that open heart surgery any easier, It simply means you’re more aware of the difficulties that might arise, and are suitably prepared for them.

Although a datacenter network can range from modest all the way to the Googlesque, they can all be broken into 3 layers. The Serverbeach network upgrades touched every single layer in each data center. We completely upgraded the top two layers, essentially transplanting the heart and all supporting muscle and valves. On top of the transplant, we also reconfigured the whole bottom layer of the network, which would equate to making every vein and artery more efficient. In the end we succeeded in completely overhauling Serverbeach’s circulatory system.

For a little more directness on the scope of this project, here are some of the numbers that make up what the 5 person backbone network engineering team worked through:

Number of man-hours spent planning, coordinating, ordering, designing, meeting, preparing, decommissioning, documenting, diagramming: 1800
Number of man-hours spent in after hours change control windows: 300
Number of man-hours spent in after hours emergency change control windows: 18
Number of after hours Change controls performed: 16
Number of after hours Emergency Change controls performed: 1
Number of Kilometers/Miles flown: 33,800 / 21,000
Number of hours spent in airplanes: 55
Number of network devices reconfigured locally while sitting within the datacenter : 380
Number of hardware failures that occurred within Change Control windows: 6

To allude back to the original metaphor of comparing a network upgrade to open heart surgery, a successful surgery requires more than just a surgeon to be a success. Just like a surgeon is aided by a variety of resources, so too was the backbone network engineering team aided by an incredible variety of teams within Peer1. Without this level of coordination of efforts and awesome team work, these upgrades would not be possible.

Guest author Ben “Dr. Network” Kennedy is a hockey player, network engineer, and aspiring open heart surgeon who has developed a mild case of Stockholm syndrome ever since the 8 month network maintenance window has closed.

70 Years of SuperComputing Infographic

From vacuum tubes and that filled entire basements and required a math degree to program to 8.2 petaflops on demand in the cloud, computing has come a long way over the past 70 years. Our friends over at PEER 1 Hosting made an infographic

Created by PEER 1 Cloud Hosting

Hug a SysAdmin on July 29th

Being a Systems Administrator can be thankless work. They’re the ones who keep your data flowing, networks pinging and computers booting round the clock, and the cruel hallmark of a great Sysadmin is this:

If they’re doing a good job, you don’t even know they’re doing it.

So we have SysAdmin Appreciation Day – an attempt to recognize the unsung heros of Information Technology. And while a single day of recognition and appreciation doesn’t really undo the countless hours of frustration that can come along with the job, it sure doesn’t hurt either.

This year ThinkGeek has partnered with The Marysue and Geekosystem to sweeten the deal with a SysAdmin Pageant! Nominate your favorite SysAdmin and they could be crowned SysKing or SysQueen of 2011. Winners take home a whole array of prizes, including a 16GB iPad, a fancy red swingline stapler, and an RTFM mug.

If you’d just like to show your Sysadmin love the old fashioned way, I suggest the showering your I.T. department with the following on Friday:

  • Delicious food
  • High fives / Mad Props
  • Cold hard cash
  • Bottles of fermented grain
  • Cake and other tasty treats

What do you have planned for your SysAdmins for this Friday?

ServerBeach Bowls for Kid’s Sake

Last month a team of Beachers traded in their geeky glasses for some super stylin’ shoes and headed down to the bowling alley to take part in the annual Bowl For Kids’ Sake Fundraiser.

The event is the largest annual fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of South Texas, and very close to our own Alyssa Vargas‘ heart, as she was involved as a Big Sister back when she was in High School & College. She coordinated our participation in the event, and was thrilled to see that we were able to fill not one, not two but three teams to represent the SeverBeach family.

“Participating in the Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser was a great experience” said Business Analyst Matt Valdes. “It’s always rewarding to help raise money for a good cause, especially one that helps children. To be able to play a game while doing it makes it a win-win situation!”

Congratulations go out to our Assistant Data Center Manager Brad Pearson for bowling  the game of his life, knocking down a 7-10 split. Apparently our team was defeated during the hula hoop contest, but I hear guarantees of redemption being promised for next year.

I’ve also been told there’s video of IT Support Guru Jim Park and our very own Big Kahuna Dax Moreno dancing the YMCA circulating on Facebook, but this has yet to be confirmed by the author.

Special thanks goes out to all of our friends and families who supported our efforts. In total we were able to raise almost $2000, all of which will go toward making a positive, long-lasting impact on children in our community.

Geek Pride Day Contest Winners

Congratulations to our five Geek Pride Day contest winners!

1. Jason enjoyed towel day by reading some Douglas Adams and playing some minecraft
2. Alex hangs out at work with his friend little Cthulhu
3. Jot shows off his customized Nintendo DS project
4. Jennifer is an indisputable Queen of the Geeks (check her full submission here)
5. Chris keeps a reminder from Marvin the paranoid android close at all times: Don’t Panic!

We had a lot of great entries to the contest, you can check out the rest of them here if you’d like, and let us know your favorites!

Winners will receive an awesome $100 credit at ThinkGeek.com, and we will be sending a free copy of our Map of the Internet poster to all participants. If you submitted a photo please forward your address to me (sboten at serverbeach dot com) so I can get your poster on it’s way as soon as possible.

Thanks again to everyone who entered from all of us at ServerBeach – we definitely got a kick out of all your photos. Until next year – Stay Geeky!

Pebkacs, Cthulhu and Stormtroopers, Oh My! Last chance to show us your Geek Pride!

Canucks/StarWars/Geek pride!

Geek Pride Day is tomorrow –  Have you entered our contest yet?  Take a look at all the entries so far and let us know which is your favourite. So far we’ve had appearances from an astronaught, Darth Vader, Gordon Freeman and even the Queen of the Geeks herself!

You have until 5pm PST tomorrow to get over to facebook and post your geeky photos on our wall to get your free Map of the Internet poster and a your chance to win one of five $100 credits at Thinkgeek.com.

Show Us Your Geek Pride to Win $100 at Thinkgeek.com

May 25th is Geek Pride DayAn entire day dedicated to embracing your inner geek! This year we’re celebrating by offering FIVE $100 gift certificates for ThinkGeek.com. To enter all you have to do is like us on facebook and post a picture or video on our wall showing us your geek pride. Entries can be anything that you think is awesome but other people might not all understand – maybe it’s your mint condition original issue Millennium Falcon model, that Cthulhu costume you wore last year for Halloween, that light sensitive midi controller you built out of a an old Nintendo or even your ‘There’s no place like’ door mat. Anything that says I’m a Geek – and Proud of it!

And just because we love you, every entry get will get a free copy of our full sized Map of the Internet poster! Click facebook.com/WeHeartGeeks today and post your entry before May 25th to win.

What Makes A Geek and Why Do We Love Them?

When you think of the word Geek, what comes to mind? Pocket protectors? Glasses? An insatiable love for 20 sided die? Skillful mastery of quantum mechanics and an affinity for Renaissance fairs? Or maybe it’s the the guy or girl who rescues your computer at work, or the friend who comes over and sets up your TiVO for you?

Whatever your internal geek stereotype may be, I think there is a common thread between them, and it isn’t necessarily just mouth breathing and social awkwardness.

For example, I have a friend with an extensive record collection. He used to run a record store, and now has an entire room devoted to his vinyl. It’s meticulously organized, incredibly thorough and properly cataloged. In short, it’s awesome. But you get this guy talking about music… he’ll just keep talking. Forever. Add another music buff to the conversation and you’ve got yourself a pair of music geeks, who will proceed to talk your ear off for hours, which can get pretty boring if you’ve never heard any of the music they are talking about. (Thankfully the giant room of records really helps with that.)

So I don’t think being a geek really has anything to do specifically with technology these days, but moreso that geeks are people who are just really into something that other people don’t understand. So under this definition, anyone who knows a lot about something you don’t know about can potentially be a geek – and that’s what we love about them.

Geeks are passionate. Geeks are knowledgeable. Geeks are dedicated. Geeks come correct – and aren’t afraid to go off on a tangent to defend their point of view.

Like just the other day I was at a restaurant and overheard two men having a fairly intense Lord of the Rings discussion. I wasn’t really paying too much attention because I’m not a huge fan, but out of nowhere the sassy looking blonde lady behind the bar walks over and says;

“Um ACTUALLY that’s movie canon which is highly fallacious. Faramir is the true hero of men and foil for Boromir as in the book he not only resisted the ring and sent Frodo on his waybut is the only man to do so. Aragorn is a member of the Dunedain, descendants of the ancient race of kings, and has a small amount of elf blood. It’s shown many times that due to their wisdom, inherent magical characteristics, and race knowledge, elves are far more successful at resisting a Ring of Power. Faramir’s accomplishment is therefore more significant than Aragorn’s, even though Aragorn’s story arc is more central.”

The two gentlemen put their drinks down and looked somewhat taken aback. Lord of the Rings trivia may seem like stereotypical geek fodder, but the fact that this tangent had come from the bright red lips of a pin-up looking barkeep was enough to prove to anyone that geeks can be as much awesome as they are awkward!