Blacknight are hiring again!

Blacknight (my employer, my company) are hiring again. We need another programmer/developer to add to our increasing systems engineering team. We have several tasty projects that are on-going with a few more coming up.

Job Details:

  • Location is Carlow, Ireland
  • Salary is between 28k and 34k euro depending on experience
  • Health care cover optional
  • Pension is also optional

Requirements for the applicant:

  • He/She should have at least 2 years experience in a commerical environment with php, xml, use of API’s.
  • Having knowledge of javascript, ajax, ruby on rails, perl, c and bash/shell scripting would be a big plus
  • Having some UI skills would also be a big plus
  • The applicatant must be a team player, he will report directly to our senior developer.

Please send cvs in pdf format to management [ at ]

I’m getting a new Nokia N91

So I decided to upgrade earlier in the month so I’m just awaiting delivery of my new Nokia N91. It has 4GB of onboard memory for storing music, files etc.

Audio stuff:

It’ll play pretty much any of the following audio types, pretty exhaustive list wh00t! MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, Real, WAV, WMA, M4A, AMR-WB, True Tones, AMR-NB. It can also record audio in several formats so it can be used in meetings etc, pretty damn handy.
One of the things I like about it is that it has dedicated buttons for controlling music. A lot of other mobiles share this function with other normal keys which can be a bit limiting at times.

It also has an FM radio with a feature called visual radio – this appears to be where there is a visual channel along with audio where supported by the radio station that gives you updates on whats on now, whats on next etc. Looks semi interesting.

Video and Display:

Regarding video, it’ll play back the following formatsΒ  3GPP H.263, MPEG4, RealVideo which is pretty good also. The display is 176 x 208 with 262k colours. Pretty snazzy, looks a fair bit better than my current Nokia 6680.
The camera is 2Mega Pixel which is good for a phone. Considering it isn’t too many years since cameras were using this and my current phone takes ok photos with its 1.3Mega Pixel camera.


  • 3G – that’ll be turned off thanks, however it could be handy at times where I’ve no other options.
  • WLAN – hahahahaha. I mean… wow great. πŸ™‚
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth

I won’t comment on the brower etc until I actually get a hold of it. I’m looking forward to it though, as it has all sorts of funky features that I want to explore and perhaps make use of.

I will post a review of it in a few weeks once I’ve gotten used to it and broke it in a bit.

Are Eircom service engineers at the bottom of the food chain?

It would appear so. I spotted 2 vans in the new units accross the road from us this afternoon. I thought nothing of this as it’s perfectly normal afterall. However the idiots cut our fax line. To make matters worse, our DSL is on the same line. 6 months ago we’d be completely blind now in the office with no way to operate our NOC.

Would it be possible to install brains into the engineers before they get a van? At least that way they might actually be able to do their jobs.

Eircom, you are a disgrace.


So 35 minutes on hold and I’m told “There is a short on the line, we’ll get someone to look at that for you” – yes please, you stupid idiots!


So eircom send us out an engineer. Great!!! – Not so great, the guy comes into our office whips the cover off their box with our lines and turns around to me and goes “It’s dead alright” – christ, they pay you to tell me something I already know? Please. Anyway he goes out to the manhole accross the road where the aforementioned engineers were “fiddling” and comes back to say the “line is fine out there” – At this stage I’m in “Not letting him leave till its finished mode” as they have a habbit of running off and not coming back for days. Anyway with some more conversation with him I convince the guy to check the line again, he does and next thing “oh it was on the wrong pair”. I ring the fax line number and it rings! IT’S ALIVE!!! Great.

I’m going to SkyCon, Are you?

So it turns out that we are sponsoring SkyCon this year. It’s looking fair promising and because a lot of people I know of from IRC, forums and just general Internet banter I took a closer look at it and decided that I’d do a talk for them. The least I could do, what with us getting all the PR on the run up to it and we’ll have a stand for the 3 days of the conference.

My talk is going to be based on some of the improvements that the OSS community has enabled us to do without spending wads and wads of cash on commercial products and also allowed us to cater for our needs more easily as we can modify/beat the program, programs into shape. I’m pretty excited and nervous about the whole thing as a) I’ve not done a lot of public speaking b) I’m a geek and not very much into humans, more so machines and c) I don’t want some demented kernel hacker asking me questions I can’t fricken answer πŸ™‚

So are you going to SkyCon? If not, why the hell not? You do _realise_ that all the cool kids will be there? πŸ™‚

Ah a year has passed and what is next?

Yep, a year has gone by. AS39122 was approved by ripe on 16th of the December 2005. On the same day our /20 was approved and the works were put into motion to seperate ourselves from our competitors and to reduce the overall running costs of the network while still being able to offer better service to our customers and allowing us to broaden our product range.

So in late Jan 06 we got all the equipment we needed to build our own network. We initially did a lot of testing with no customers on net. We then added a few customers to see how all the effort, time and planning would pay off. We’d only one provider for the first month, we were waiting for 8 weeks for Colt, who in the end couldn’t deliver within the rather generous timeframe we gave them of 8 weeks. We Joined INEX mid feb and we started peering with the various ISPs there. That was fun. I got to learn BGP the hardway, throw yourself in the deepend. I was always interested in the ins and outs of routing etc. It was a great fun learning all about bgp, as numbers, as macros, route maps, ibgp, ebgp, LIRs, PA and PI address space, ripe policies etc etc, I could go on for hours πŸ™‚ – needless to say we were set and ready to take on the market. At that stage we were about 10th in Ireland for hosting.

Groovy I say. We’re now number 2 in Ireland (or will be shortly, depending on what stats you read) and that only took us a year to achieve. We’ve over taken all our competitors, grown our colo and dedicated customer base to 300+ and we’ve got big plans for 2007.

I wanted to mention something about the upgrade we’re doing next week. it’s a very simple upgrade but the benifits are 10 fold. We’re removing some old switches from the network that are probably on their last legs and are causing a bottle neck in our network currently. All we have to do is repatch around 100 servers that were on the old infrastructure, this includes some of our shared servers which we plan to move later in the year to their own home alltogether. After the upgrade next Thursday evening we’ll have a fully meshed network, this means that we’ll have one of the most resiliant networks in Ireland today!

Anyway to close, as the title asks “What is next?” – well thats top secret right now :-), but if you would like virtual private servers, virtual dedicated servers or just a box to play with or test IPv6 as a college experiment or project then watch this space. As part of our expanding and improving product base we’ve got some very interesting new products with improved new features.

Oh and one final note. We’re the only Irish hosting company with native IPv6 support from customer, through our core and to the internet. We’ve substantial IPv6 transit and peering arrangements with several large ISPs; we are ready for the next generation of hosting services.

Xen and LVM vrs UML and File system images

A couple of years ago we started looking at UML as a new technology we could make some products from. So we went about to find a system to build and automate the creation of them. I sat down and made up prices, specs and billing schedules so our sales people could market the new product. At the time it was really cool and we sold a load of them in the first couple of months. However the guy we had doing the work left shortly after. I didn’t have time to look after that stuff anymore so we let it fall by the way side.

Having taken on a heap of new staff in 2006 we found that we had time to spend testing new technologies. Xen was one of them. I’d played a bit and hadn’t thought much about it. However Niall was given the task of moving certain services off of our main web server for company related hosting. So we got in some nice HP servers and off he went at the task. We decided it made a _lot_ more sense to use raid on the under lying file system (resilient raid as apposed to raid 0 that we used on the UML service) and to use LVM to create the FS for the Xen virtual private servers. The speed difference is incredible. The old UML boxes were slow and cumbersome and the VPS on them were unresponsive a lot of the time.

I’ll do a more detailed post in the future with versions of bits n bobs that we used for the new hosts. We’ve migrated all UML customers from the old boxes (and old network) to the new boxes and our shiny new network (which is almost a year old!!)

Blacknights RBL mirror goes crazy

In Blacknight we believe in giving back to those whom we take from. In November we got access to the spamhaus zones. As a result we’ve given them another public mirror for them to add to their round robin dns setup. We initially saw very little traffic, I think the aggregate was in the 10s of thousands of queries per 5 minute period.

That was of course till spamhaus turned us on, which all of a sudden kicked in may I add πŸ™‚ – it was uber cool to see the stats ramp us as they did. On Tuesday 16th of Jan 2007 we hit an all time high which was mostly due to the spamhaus zones we mirror. Approx 1.114m queries in a single 5 minute statistics reporting window. Wow. The crazy thing is that the hardware its on is nothing special. There is no load on the server at all despite it serving over 200k dns queries a minute.

Aggregate dns queries

The above is a 5 minute average from the graphs we generate on the mirror box. The green is positive hits on the traffic coming in vrs what is in the zones. The blue is total number of queries and the orange is a percentage of hits vrs total mail.

The next biggest hitter is surbl, or more accurately – its top hitting day was also the same day as above with 105K queries in a 5 minute window. 5 minute average

The legend for the above is the same as the aggregate one above. The main reason for this post is to highlight that we used to ship all of our own queries onto public mirrors for both spamhaus and surbl. We mirrored surbl for quite a while but it was on the DEG mesh and not on our own Mesh network. The above stats are from a box hosted on our own network. The box is shipping between 3Mbit/s and 4.5Mbit/s during peak times. That is a silly amount of DNS queries, but none the less it helps the performance of our own kit and also provides a valuable resource to our neighbouring networks and other companies in Ireland and the EU that use these mirrors.

We get queries from all over the place to these mirrors. I’ll get Niall to dig out some country stats tomorrow and I’ll post that to another blog post.

Blacknight overtake Novara!

Yesterday I got a report from about our weekly domain stats. As usual I clicked on the link and low and behold I was amazed. I had looked at it late last year and saw we were about 800 domains off of Novara. I calculated that we’d overtake them in the space of about 6 months, judging by current growth patterns according to independant analyst John McCormac‘s monthly statistics that we subscribe to.

However to my supprise we were 106 domains ahead of them. Huzza I thought! This is really good news, as we are now the second largest hosting company in Ireland. To be honest these figures don’t mean a lot, but in terms of perception it puts us at the forefront of the Irish hosting industry. I was really proud, I almost shed a tear (hahaha, yeah right), but seriously its bloody great news. Especially considering we just took on a new Sales Manager. This is a great boost for morale and a good start to 2007.

International Ploughing

We had a stand at the ploughing championships. It went pretty damnned well. Niall basically ran the show, we got a lot of interest out there. We ran demos all day long for potential customers of our sign-up system, control panel, site builder and 3 click installer software. All and all it was a really good experience for us, it has been the first “trade show” so to speak where we have brought a long demo equipment etc.

We used a single desktop pc with debian installed on it, with several xen virtual machines that were replicas of our production hosting environment. The setting up of this alone was a pretty cool experience for both myself and Niall and it worked well. Apart form the lack of internet at the show, because of which the licence updates for installatron and sitezen went a bit mad.

New Hosting plans

In an attempt to pass on savings and make the best use of our investment in our new state of the art network we have announced a whole new set of hosting packages. The pricing is still as it was, however the plan details have been upgraded to be more in line with current market specs. Michele has posted it on our blog and you can see that