HTML Ads, More on Benchmarking Web Servers, and Watching your Plumbing

Great media is often created in a collaborative environment, but it cannot be done by committee

-- Denise Caruso, writing in Wired this month

Speaking of Wired, you know you are getting old when your eye is drawn to Gates' belly on the cover and you immediately compare it to your own girth. 'Enuf said.

Have you begun to notice the HTML-ization of advertising? Two notable examples: Microsoft's latest TV ads that are essentially screen shots of Internet Explorer (and mostly text, I might add). And there are IBM's print spreads that come complete with underlined blue phrases and buttons. (There are lots of other print campaigns that use HTML-like structures, please share with me your favorites good and bad.) Is this, like, nuts or what? Do we all spend that much time in front of the web, or are ad creative directors that clueless? Hard to call that one.

I am not sure where this will lead, but I hope that this doesn't become more of a trend: I spend enough time looking at bad HTML online that when I come home the last thing I want to see it on my living room TV. And speaking of which, does anyone else besides me think that putting a PC inside a TV is a bad idea? Steve Manes' pan of Gateway's product in this week's NY Times agrees with me: marrying the two will require a lot more thought and social interfacing than just attaching the two with some soldering iron.

I have been doing more testing of web servers with the help of the good folks out at Keylabs, taking the original test bed that we developed for c|net and putting a few products through the paces. What we found is that you really have to understand how each server works. Not to pick on SiteBuilder, but they went from being the worst performer to one of the best, merely by adjusting a single parameter (the number of connections allowed into the server). That makes me concerned, to say the least.

To give you some idea, with 100 Netscape Win95 clients hitting the server, the original average time to run through our tests that we reported in c|net was 7.8 seconds. This was using the default of 16 connections. When we boosted that up to 48 connections, the times dropped to 2.4 seconds. That would put it at the top of the heap, next to IIS and Netscape on NT. SiteBuilder runs on NetWare. This parameter by the way can only be adjusted by editing a text file and isn't well documented.

We have been looking at Intercon's Mac-based web server on the same test bed, and have found YAOTB (yet another Open Transport Bug). I had thought that it was safe to dip my hand into the OT pool with the latest 1.1 release, but no. Not yet, no how. Apple has admitted to us to some problems with OT handling frequent IP connections, such as what we are doing at Keylabs.

We have gotten system bombs as soon as enough clients began hitting on the server. It has something to do with OT not releasing the connection back to the application. As soon as I can get someone at Apple on the record, you'll know more. In the meantime, the full spreadsheet of results are on my benchmarks page.

This brings up an important point: shouldn't we have figured out our plumbing by now? Are you as tired as I am of having to deal with issues that are so far down the protocol stack that surely someone else should have fixed them? And least you think I pick on Apple, how about this situation that I've having with my NT and 95 machines:

I want to use the Internet as my wide-area network connecting my office to NT servers that I administer scattered around the countryside. In theory, and according to Microsoft, I should be able to connect to them across the Internet just fine: for those of you that remember LAN Manager, the net use z: \\server\share syntax is simple to remember and works on both NT and 95 command lines. You need to add the IP address to your hosts file too.

But in practice something is wrong. I won't go into all the gory details, but sometimes I can connect from 95 and not from NT, and sometimes vice-versa. When I go on a trip with my 95 machine, I can't connect to my servers at all via MSN. And some days I have to do a net view command (to see the shared directories) before the net use (to connect to them) will work. I've asked several people at Microsoft why this happens, no one can give me a satisfactory answer. I'll tell you, Unix is looking better and better. That is, until I heard from a friend of mine who tells me that his AIX/Netscape combination is crashing under a load of several thousand daily hits. Oh well, as I said, let's get this stuff behind us.

Awards, promotions, and sitekeeping dep't

I've written several articles that have been published in Infoworld these past few weeks: reviews of Kane Security Analyst for NT (thumbs up), NetManage's NT- based Intranet server (thumbs down), and reviews of Vinca's Standby Server and Network Integrity's LANtegrity (mixed). The latter two were tested down in Florida at g.Neil's network.

Also, if you have a chance to pick up the June issue of Windows Sources, you see that I wrote a fairly extensive cover story on fast Internet access, covering ISDN, satelites, cable modems, and advanced digital technologies. I'll be doing an online chat about that topic on 5/28 at 4 pm eastern.

On to this week's award. I'm giving PDAPage a Be.Here.Now award to make a point: a web site doesn't have to have fancy graphics or lots of style to be current and attractive to visitors: it needs good content that is frequently updated by people who know what they are doing. Check out the site, which tracks current prices on Sharps, HPs and other PDAs and tell me what you think.

This essay is composed in HTML and can be read in your browser. This is not always a simple process, and I'll be happy to provide help if I can. If you are getting this directly from me, or if someone is forwarding it to you, and you want to change that situation, let me know. Subscriptions are always free of charge. And, while normally I send this out in MIME/HTML format, this isn't. I'm working on getting that changed, not to worry.

David Strom
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