The main physical server (we call it giant) we’ve been using at Haxx for a very long time to host sites and services for 20+ domains and even more mailing lists. The machine – a physical one – has been colocated in an ISP server room for over a decade and has served us very well. It has started to show its age.
Some of the more known sites and services it hosts are perhaps curl, c-ares, libssh2 and this blog (my entire daniel.haxx.se site). Some of these services are however primarily accessed via fronting CDN servers.
giant is a physical Dell PowerEdge 1850 server from 2005, which has undergone upgrades of CPU, disks and memory through the years.
giant featured an Intel X3440 Xeon CPU at 2.53GHz with 8GB of ram when decommissioned.
The new host is of course entirely virtual and we’ve finally taken the step into the modern world of VPSes. The new machine is hosted by the same provider as before but as an entirely new instance.
We’ve upgraded the OS, all packages and we’ve remodeled how we run the web services and all our jobs and services from before have been moved into this new fresh server in an attempt to leave some of the worst legacies behind.
The former server will not be used anymore and will be powered down and sent for recycling.
Glitches in this new world
We’ve tried really hard to make this transition transparent and ideally not many users will notice anything or have a reason to bother about this, but of course we also realize that we probably have not managed this to 100% perfection. If you detect something on any of the services we run that used to work or exist but isn’t anymore, do let us know so that become aware of it and can work on a fix!
This site (daniel.haxx.se) already moved weeks ago and nobody noticed. The curl site changed on October 23 and are much more likely to get glitches because of all the many more scripts and automatic things setup for it. Both sites are served via Fastly so ordinary users will not detect or spot that there’s a new host in the back end.
The Internet Museum translated to Swedish becomes “internetmuseum“. It is a digital, online-only, museum that collects Internet- and Web related historical information, especially focused on the Swedish angle to all of this. It collects stories from people who did the things. The pioneers, the ground breakers, the leaders, the early visionaries. Most of their documentation is done in the form of video interviews.
I was approached and asked to be part of this – as an Internet Pioneer. Me? Internet Pioneer, really?
I’m humbled and honored to be considered and I certainly had a lot of fun doing this interview. To all my friends not (yet) fluent in Swedish: here’s your grand opportunity to practice, because this is done entirely in this language of curl founders and muppet chefs.
Back in the morning of October 18th 2019, two guys showed up as planned at my door and I let them in. One of my guests was a photographer who set up his gear in my living room for the interview, and then me and and guest number two, interviewer Jörgen, sat down and talked for almost an hour straight while being recorded.
The result can be seen here below.
The Science museum was first
This is in fact the second Swedish museum to feature me.
I have already been honored with a display about me, at the Tekniska Museet in Stockholm, the “Science museum” which has an exhibition about past Polhem Prize award winners.
I view myself as primarily a software developer. Perhaps secondary as someone who’s somewhat knowledgeable in networking and is participating in protocol development and discussions. I do not regularly proclaim myself to be a “speaker” or someone who’s even very good at talking in front of people.
Time to wake up and face reality? I’m slowly starting to realize that I’m actually doing more presentations than ever before in my life and I’m enjoying it.
Since October 2015 I’ve done 53 talks and presentations in front of audiences – in ten countries. That’s one presentation done every 25 days on average. (The start date of this count is a little random but it just happens that I started to keep a proper log then.) I’ve talked to huge audiences and to small. I done presentations that were appreciated and I’ve done some that were less successful.
My increased frequency in speaking engagements coincides with me starting to work full-time from home back in 2014. Going to places to speak is one way to get out of the house and see the “real world” a little bit and see what the real people are doing. And a chance to hang out with humans for a change. Besides, I only ever talk on topics that are dear to me and that I know intimately well so I rarely feel pressure when delivering them. 2014 – 2015 was also the time frame when HTTP/2 was being finalized and the general curiosity on that new protocol version helped me find opportunities back then.
Public speaking is like most other things: surprisingly enough, practice actually makes you better at it! I still have a lot to learn and improve, but speaking many times has for example made me better at figuring out roughly how long time I need to deliver a particular talk. It has taught me to “find myself” better when presenting and be more relaxed and the real me – no need to put up a facade of some kind or pretend. People like seeing that there’s a real person there.
I’m not even getting that terribly nervous before my talks anymore. I used to really get a raised pulse for the first 45 talks or so, but by doing it over and over and over I think the practice has made me more secure and more relaxed in my attitude to the audience and the topics. I think it has made me a slightly better presenter and it certainly makes me enjoy it more.
I’m not “a good presenter”. I can deliver a talk and I can do it with dignity and I think the audience is satisfied with me in most cases, but by watching actual good presenters talk I realize that I still have a long journey ahead of me. Of course, parts of the explanation is that, to connect with the beginning of this post, I’m a developer. I don’t talk for a living and I actually very rarely practice my presentations very much because I don’t feel I can spend that time.
Some of the things that are still difficult include:
The money issue. I actually am a developer and that’s what I do for a living. Taking time off the development to prepare a presentation, travel to a distant place, sacrifice my spare time for one or more days and communicating something interesting to an audience that demands and expects it to be both good and reasonably entertaining takes time away from that development. Getting travel and accommodation compensated is awesome but unfortunately not enough. I need to insist on getting paid for this. I frequently turn down speaking opportunities when they can’t pay me for my time.
Saying no. Oh my god do I have a hard time to do this. This year, I’ve been invited to so many different conferences and the invitations keep flying in. For every single received invitation, I get this warm and comfy feeling and I feel honored and humbled by the fact that someone actually wants me to come to their conference or gathering to talk. There’s the calendar problem: I can’t be in two places at once. Then I also can’t plan events too close to each other in time to avoid them holding up “real work” too much or to become too much of a nuisance to my family. Sometimes there’s also the financial dilemma: if I can’t get compensation, it gets tricky for me to do it, no matter how good the conference seems to be and the noble cause they’re working for.
Feedback. To determine what parts of the presentation that should be improved for the next time I speak of the same or similar topic, which parts should be removed and if something should be expanded, figuring what works and what doesn’t work is vital. For most talks I’ve done, there’s been no formal way to provide or receive this feedback, and for the small percentage that had a formal feedback form or a scoring system or similar, taking care of a bunch of distributed grades (for example “your talk was graded 4.2 on a scale between 1 and 5”) and random comments – either positive or negative – is really hard… I get the best feedback from close friends who dare to tell me the truth as it is.
Conforming to silly formats. Slightly different, but some places want me to send me my slides in, either a long time before the event (I’ve had people ask me to provide way over a week(!) before), or they dictate that the slides should be sent to them using Microsoft Powerpoint, PDF or some other silly format. I want to use my own preferred tools when designing presentations as I need to be able to reuse the material for more and future presentations. Sure, I can convert to other formats but that usually ruins formatting and design. Then a lot the time and sweat I put into making a fine and good-looking presentation is more or less discarded! Fortunately, most places let me plug in my laptop and everything is fine!
As a little service to potential audience members and conference organizers, I’m listing all my upcoming speaking engagements on a dedicated page on my web site:
I try to keep that page updated to reflect current reality. It also shows that some organizers are forward-planning waaaay in advance…
Invite someone like me to talk?
Here’s some advice on how to invite a speaker (like me) with style:
Ask well in advance (more than 2-3 months preferably, probably not more than 9). When I agree to a talk, others who ask for talks in close proximity to that date will get declined. I get a surprisingly large amount of invitations for events just a month into the future or so, and it rarely works for me to get those into my calendar in that time frame.
Do not assume for-free delivery. I think it is good tone of you to address the price/charge situation, if not in the first contact email at least in the following discussion. If you cannot pay, that’s also useful information to provide early.
If the time or duration of the talk you’d like is “unusual” (ie not 30-60 minutes) do spell that out early on.
Surprisingly often I get invited to talk without a specified topic or title. The inviter then expects me to present that. Since you contact me you clearly had some kind of vision of what a talk by me would entail, it would make my life easier if that vision was conveyed as it could certainly help me produce a talk subject that will work!
What I bring
To every presentation I do, I bring my laptop. It has HDMI and USB-C ports. I also carry a HDMI-to-VGA adapter for the few installations that still use the old “projector port”. Places that need something else than those ports tend to have their own converters already since they’re then used with equipment not being fitted for their requirements.
I always bring my own clicker (the “remote” with which I can advance to next slide). I never use the laser-pointer feature, but I like being able to move around on the stage and not have to stand close to the keyboard when I present.
I never create my presentations with video or sound in them, and I don’t do presentations that need Internet access. All this to simplify and to reduce the risk of problems.
I work hard on limiting the amount of text on each slide, but I also acknowledge that if a slide set should have value after-the-fact there needs to be a certain amount. I’m a fan of revealing the text or graphics step-by-step on the slides to avoid having half the audience reading ahead on the slide and not listening.
I’ve settled on 16:9 ratio for all presentations. Luckily, the remaining 4:3 projectors are now scarce.
I always make and bring a backup of my presentations in PDF format so that basically “any” computer could display that in case of emergency. Like if my laptop dies. As mentioned above, PDF is not an ideal format, but as a backup it works.
I’ve run my own public web sites on hardware I’ve administered myself for over twenty years now. I’ve hosted the curl web site myself since it’s inception.
The curl web site at curl.haxx.se has recently been delivering roughly 1.5 terabyte of data to the world per month. The CA bundle we convert to PEM from the Mozilla source code, is alone downloaded more than 100,000 timesper day. Occasional blog entries I’ve posted here on my blog have climbed very fast on popular sites such as Hacker news and Reddit, and have resulted in intense visitor storms hitting this same server – sometimes reaching visitor counts above 200,000 “uniques” – most of them within the first few hours of the publication. At times, those visitor spikes have effectively brought the server to its knees.
Yes, my personal web site and the curl web site are both sharing the same physical server. It also hosts more than a dozen other sites and numerous services for our own pleasures and fun, providing services for a handful of different open source projects. So when the server has to cease doing work because it runs out of memory or hits other resource restraints, that causes interruptions all over. Oh yes, and my email doesn’t reach me.
Inconvenient and annoying.
Haxx owns and runs this co-located server that we have a busload of web servers on – for the good of the projects and people that run things on it. This machine’s worst bottle neck is available RAM memory and perhaps I/O performance. Every time the server goes down to a crawl due to network traffic overload we discuss how we should upgrade it. Installing a new machine and transferring over all the sites and services is work. Work that none of us at Haxx are very happy to volunteer to do. So it hasn’t been done yet, and frankly the server handles the daily load just fine and without even a blink. Which is ninety nine point something percent of the time…
Haxx pays for a certain amount of network traffic so as long as we’re below some threshold we remain paying the same monthly fee. We don’t want to increase the traffic by magnitudes as that would cost more.
The specific machine, that sits deep inside a server room in Stockholm Sweden, is a five(?) years old Dell Poweredge E310, Intel Xeon X3440 2.53GHz with 8GB ram, This model is shown on the image at the top.
Alternatives that hasn’t helped
Why not a mirror system? We had a fair amount of curl site mirrors a few years ago, but it never worked well because they were always less reliable than the main site and they often turned stale and out of sync with the master site which eventually just hurt users.
They also trick visitors into bookmark or otherwise go back to the mirror site instead of the real one and there were always the annoying people who couldn’t resist but to fill the mirror with ads and stuff. Plus, they didn’t help much with with the storms to the main site.
Why not a cloud server? Because with the amount of services, servers and various things we do on our server, it would be inconvenient and expensive. But perhaps even more because we started out like this so we have invested time and energy into the infrastructure as it works right now. And I enjoy rowing my own boat!
Fastly reached out and graciously offered to help us handle the load. Both on the account of traffic amounts but also to save our machine from struggling this hard the next time I’ll write something that tickles people’s curiosity (or rage) to that level when several thousands of visitors want to read the same article at the same time.
Starting now, the curl.haxx.se and the daniel.haxx.se web sites are fronted by Fastly. It should give web site visitors from all over the world faster response times and it will make the site more reliable and less likely to have problems due to traffic load going forward.
In case you’re not familiar with what a CDN is, a simplified explanation would say it is a globally distributed network of reverse proxy servers deployed in multiple data centers. These CDN servers front the Internet and will to the largest extent possible serve the visitors with the right content directly from their own caches instead of them reaching the actual lowly backend server I run that hosts the original content. Fastly has lots of servers across the globe for this purpose. Users who are a long way away from Sweden will probably be the ones who will notice this change the most, as you may suddenly find haxx.se content much closer (network round-trip wise) than before.
These new servers will host the sites over HTTPS just like before, and they will require TLS 1.2 and SNI. They will work over IPv6 and support HTTP/2. Network standard wise, there shouldn’t be any step down – and honestly, I haven’t exactly been on the cutting edge of these technologies myself for these sites in the past.
Editing the site
We will keep editing and maintaining the site like before. It is made up of an old system with templates and include files that generate mostly static web pages. The site is mostly available on github and using that, you can build a local version for development and trying out changes before they land.
Hopefully, this move to Fastly will only make the site faster and more reliable. If you notice any glitches or experience any problems with the site, please let us know!
“Probably the only person in the whole of Sweden whose code is used by all people in the world using a computer /smartphone /ATM/ etc …every day.His contribution to the world is so large that it is impossible tounderstand the breadth.“
Thank you everyone who nominated me. I’m truly grateful, honored and humbled. You, my community, is what makes me keep doing what I do. I love you all!
To list “Sweden’s best developers” (the list and site is in Swedish) seems like a rather futile task, doesn’t it? Yet that’s something the Swedish IT and technology news site Techworld has been doing occasionally for the last several years. With two, three year intervals since 2008.
Everyone reading this will of course immediately start to ponder on what developers they speak of or how they define developers and how on earth do you judge who the best developers are? Or even who’s included in the delimiter “Sweden” – is that people living in Sweden, born in Sweden or working in Sweden?
I’m certainly not alone in having chuckled to these lists when they have been published in the past, as I’ve never seen anyone on the list be even close to my own niche or areas of interest. The lists have even worked a little as a long-standing joke in places.
It always felt as if the people on the lists were found on another planet than mine – mostly just Java and .NET people. and they very rarely appeared to be developers who actually spend their days surrounded by code and programming. I suppose I’ve now given away some clues to some characteristics I think “a developer” should posses…
This year, their fifth time doing this list, they changed the way they find candidates, opened up for external nominations and had a set of external advisors. This also resulted in me finding several friends on the list that were never on it in the past.
Tonight I got called onto the stage during the little award ceremony and I was handed this diploma and recognition for landing at second place in the best developer in Sweden list.
And just to keep things safe for the future, this is how the listing looks on the Swedish list page:
Yes I’m happy and proud and humbled. I don’t get this kind of recognition every day so I’ll take this opportunity and really enjoy it. And I’ll find a good spot for my diploma somewhere around the house.
I’ll keep a really big smile on my face for the rest of the day for sure!
(Photo from the award ceremony by Emmy Jonsson/IDG)
I won’t keep posting every video update here, but I mostly wanted to mention that I’ve kept posting a weekly video over at youtube basically explaining what’s going on right now within my dearest projects. Mostly curl and some Firefox stuff.
I’m back home after FOSDEM 2014. A big THANK YOU from me to the organizers of this fine and totally free happening.
Europe’s (the World’s?) biggest open source conference felt even bigger and more crowded this year. There seemed to be more talks that got full, longer lines for food and a worse parking situation.
Nothing of that caused any major concern for me though. I had a great weekend and I met up with a whole busload of friends from all over. Many of them I only meet at FOSDEM. This year I had some additional bonuses by for example meeting up with long-term committers Steve and Dan from the curl project whom I had never met before IRL. Old buddies from Haxx and Rockbox are kind of default! 🙂
Talk-wise this year was also extra good. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Embedded room but this year there was fierce competition for my attention so I spread my time among many rooms and got to see stuff about: clang the compiler, lots of really cool stuff on GDB, valgrind and helgrind, power efficient software, using the GPU to accelerate libreoffice, car automation and open source, how to run Android on low-memory devices, Firefox on Android and more.
I missed out the kdbus talks since it took place in one of them smaller devrooms even though it was “celebrity warning” all over it with Lennart Poettering. In general there’s sometimes this problem at FOSDEM that devrooms have very varying degrees of popularity on the different talks so the size of the room may be too large or too small depending on the separate topics and speakers. But yeah, I understand it is a very hard problem to improve for the organizers.
As a newbie Firefox developer at Mozilla I find it fun to first hear the Firefox on Android talk for an overview on how things run on that platform now and then I also got references to Firefox both in the helgrind talk and the low-memory Android talk. In both negative and positive senses.
As always on FOSDEM some talks are not super good and we get unprepared speakers who talk quietly, monotone and uninspired but then there’s the awesome people that in spite of accents and the problem of speaking in English as your non-native language, can deliver inspiring and enticing talks that make me just want to immediately run home and try out new things.
The picture on the right is a small tribute to the drinks we could consume to get our spirits up during a talk we perhaps didn’t find the most interesting…
This year I found the helgrind and the gdb-valgrind talks to be especially good together with Meeks’ talk on using the GPU for libreoffice. We generally found that the wifi setup was better than ever before and worked basically all the time.
Accordingly, there were 8333 unique MAC addresses used on the network through the two days, which we then can use to guesstimate the number of attendees. Quite possibly upwards 6000…
See you at FOSDEM 2015. I think I’ll set myself up to talk about something then. I didn’t do any this year.
I’ve worked in open source projects for some 20 years and I’ve maintained curl and libcurl for over 15 years. I’m an internet protocol geek at heart and Mozilla seems like a perfect place for me to continue to explore this interest of mine and combine it with real open source in its purest form.
I plan to use my experiences from all my years of protocol fiddling and making stuff work on different platforms against random server implementations into the networking team at Mozilla and work on improving Firefox and more.
I’m putting my current embedded Linux focus to the side and I plunge into a worldwide known company with worldwide known brands to do open source within the internet protocols I enjoy so much. I’ll be working out of my home, just outside Stockholm Sweden. Mozilla has no office in my country and I have no immediate plans of moving anywhere (with a family, kids and all established here).
I intend to bring my mindset on protocols and how to do things well into the Mozilla networking stack and world and I hope and expect that I will get inspiration and input from Mozilla and take that back and further improve curl over time. My agreement with Mozilla also gives me a perfect opportunity to increase my commitment to curl and curl development. I want to maintain and possibly increase my involvement in IETF and the httpbis work with http2 and related stuff. With one foot in Firefox and one in curl going forward, I think I may have a somewhat unique position and attitude toward especially HTTP.
I’ve not yet met another Swedish Mozillian but I know I’m not the only one located in Sweden. I guess I now have a reason to look them up and say hello when suitable.
Björn and Linus will continue to drive and run Haxx with me taking a step back into the shadows (Haxx-wise). I’ll still be part of the collective Haxx just as I was for many years before I started working full-time for Haxx in 2009. My email address, my sites etc will remain on haxx.se.
At the embedded hacking event in GBG yesterday I organized a small contest for the attendees. I’ve done something similar several times before, so I wanted to make it a bit different this time to spice things up a bit. A straight-forward N questions in a row and then a puzzle to get the final question was too easy. I wanted to create a maze or a play-field that you would need to traverse somehow in order to reach the final goal. But it is hard to create a maze that you don’t immediately spot the way through or that you can somehow “cheat” and find the way in other means rather than to actually answer the questions and do right by using your skills… Then I realized that with just a couple of things added, I could fulfill my goals and still get a fun contest. So, let me start by taking you through the first slide that details the rules:
Ok, so to make the rules be a bit clearer we take a look at a simplified example play field so that we understand what we’re about to play on:
A short summary:
start on a green box
follow the arrow in the direction that your answer to the question of the box leads you. There’s a compass rose there to help you remember the directions! 🙂
each box you visit has a word associated with it, collect the words along the path
when you reach the red box you’ve read the goal and you’re done
then you re-arrange all the box words you’ve collected and create a final question
answer that questions, the fastest to answer wins!
Everything clear? To help the participants, we had both the playfield and the associated questions printed out on two sheets of paper that we handed out together with a pen. The amount of data is just a bit too much to be able to show on a single screen and it may help to use a pen etc to remember the track you take and which words to remember etc. If you want to repeat the exact same situation, you do the same! I did a special black-and-white version of the playfield to make it more printer-friendly. You may want to fire this up in full resolution to get the best experience:
The question sheet looks like this, but click it for the full PDF:
On October 17th 1997 we registered Haxx as a company. Today we’re 0x10 years old. We like hexadecimal numbers.
Haxx was founded before the first curl version was released.
It was before Google.
It was long before Firefox and Chrome and even before the Mozilla browser appeared.
Heck, a lot of things of today didn’t exist those 16 long years ago.
It was a different and in many ways simpler world back then, but I would say that we’ve manage quite good to keep with the times and we’ve progressed fine as a company and as individuals all since then.
Me, Björn and Linus are still going strong with more contacts, more customers and possibly more fun than ever.