Monthly Archives: September 2007

70 Servers in a Rack

Our latest toy.. is a custom built rackmount blade-style server hosting system.

It allows you to put 70 standard servers in a (43U) cabinet.. that’s 560GB of memory.

5 servers per 6U box, mounted back-to-back, with two 48port switches back-to-back.

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I know what you are thinking.. 70 is not that much? Sure. If you mounted 1U servers back-to-back you could fit 84 servers (42*2). When I worked for Amazon.com they used to buy cabinets full of servers from Rackable Systems with this design. Nice stuff.

but…. the keyword here is standard. Stock standard, cheap, commodity hardware. Easy to find spares. Easy to support. To put 84 in a cabinet is nice, but it’s very custom stuff.. and usually very expensive.

70 servers is also a bit easier to cool than 84.. well, we will soon find out.

Frogfoot: best stand at Futurex

Quoting Linda Kruger from Exhibitions for Africa (who run Futurex)..

“if there was an award for the best stand, Frogfoot would win”

It’s a bit of a bummer that there is no (actual) award. Minor technicality.

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It’s been fun. At the very least it created a hard deadline and forced us to get all our frogs in a row to launch the new wifi product.

GeekDinner Number 4

My pics from GeekDinner #4 are here.

It was a fun evening. Nice venue. Good food. Bright people. It was nice chatting with an old friend (since 1996 days) and meeting a few new people.

I think it’s safe to say that by number 4 we’ve created a bit of an institution in the Cape Town geek world. The distributed (chaotic) GeekDinner planning model works well, with the help of a few dedicated people. Thanks to everybody that helped organise and support this one. At the end of the night somebody asked about the origins of the GeekDinner and it was nice to have a laugh about how we forked from the 27 Dinner scene. By the Geeks for the Geeks.

On a bit of a sad note, I was disappointed by the number of people who put their names on the wiki but could not make it to the dinner.. but, I guess this is Cape Town.

Planning for the next event should start soon. It seems we already have a name for #5: Eccentric Eggplant. Join the planning mailing list.

See you at the next one.

ps. To the 10 people who won the green frog pirate shirts, Arrr! Frogspeed! (-:

A chat with ICASA Cape Town’s chief cook

I was sitting at Frogfoot’s Futurex stand this afternoon. I had an interesting chat with the new head of the ICASA Cape Town office. We came to ask how our Wifi Hotspot product works… but he was more interested in our big Frogtropolis print which depicts a wireless city with antennas all over the place.

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We started talking about WAPA and licensing. He mentioned that the pressure to “take down” outdoor wireless operators using ISM bands comes from industry (“licensed” competition), but mostly from inside ICASA. My question was: if the competition is licensed to use other frequency, why would they be putting pressure on ICASA? Why would there be pressure from inside ICASA?

I did not get any clear answers other than: “the rules have been made”.

I mentioned how, 3 years ago it was illegal to use Voice over IP (VoIP) and now, looking back we can’t really say why it was illegal. He agreed.

I also suggested that it’s maybe a good idea to take a step back and think about how outdoor (ISM) wireless is used for the greater good. I told him about the SchoolWAN project and how it is enabling the remote support of computer labs at schools. He seemed interested and took down the URL.

He made a positive statements about WAPA and people “pushing the envelope” to bring about change.

Corrosion is a slow but steady process.. you just need the right environment and some catalysts for change.

Good work WAPA.

Joe on ITWeb : Let the Animals run the Zoo

I was quoted in an ITWeb article today:

Frogfoot Networks launched its Internet WiFi offering at Futurex. It allows a small business to keep up to 70% of the profits generated through the connection.

“Our offering is based on the philosophy of letting the ‘animals run the zoo‘,” Botha says. “Entrepreneurs will understand the concept of investing and reselling the product and service quickly and so will build their own networks.”

Read the article here.

Thanks Paul.

Live from Futurex

It’s been a busy morning. I’m at Futurex using the Frogfoot Wifi Hotspot to write this. We have a 2Mbps Amobia link to the roof of the CTICC.

We have balloons all over the place… mmmust use up the whole cylinder of Helium (-;

I’ll put up pics a bit later today. Ok, off to lunch.

You can check out pics of the build day.. here.

It is the strongest swimmers who drown

Warning: this contains soppy and maybe even depressing stuff, with a good helping of self indulgent bullshit and I should probably not publish this, but writing helps me think.

Do you remember that scene at the end of Gattaca?.. with the two brothers swimming out into the sea at night.. (after doing the same as children)

Vincent: “You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never
saved anything for the swim back.”

I think it’s one of the best movie scenes about human courage, rejecting fate, overcoming the odds, bravery and just crazy stubbornness. I’m not really sure why I like this idea. We all know there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity.

I turned 30 in July. It was actually a bit of a non-event, a small party with close friends, nothing big. Just after this I spent almost a month traveling in England, France, Spain and Sweden.. which was my birthday present from me to me. In the end I was feeling more like a 20 year old traveling after school.

“50 is the new 30” as Dr. Ernst likes to say.

Today I started thinking that maybe the reason people make a big deal of milestone birthdays is to spend some time reflecting on where you are and what you want to be going. Seems pretty normal. I’ve been thinking about growing up, balance and focus today.

Why only today? I guess I’ve been busy. I’m good at keeping busy. I also got crapped out from a dizzy height by the significant other. Mostly about working patterns and parenting. One part got stuck in my head: “you see Mia as your 5th child”. I was also called a child. Ouch. “5th” refers to the four companies I’m busy with, taking priority.

Everybody knows the secret to success is: focus. I can even recommend a good book about focus: Focus, by Al Reis.

Yet, I find myself always busy with some new idea. Always doing business. I can go into great detail about why I love working for all the companies we started and how it all makes sense if you should ask me about focus.

Focus is easy. Focus keeps things simple. That’s why I find it hard.

A wise man once told me..

“He who is a slave to the compass has the freedom of the sea”

The trouble is.. I just don’t subscribe to the simple and proven way. Growing up, I was like the kid from Rushmore. I like complexity. I like distraction. I like new and interesting problems.

I guess this is my primary weakness. The risk is overextending. This is my challenge.

So, after a long day, I had to ask myself..

If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you still choose to do what you do? Yes, I love what I do. I know I struggle with focus, I know I can be childish and selfish, I know I’m stubborn and all this reflects in the choices I’ve made.. but I’d rather be unpopular, poor and misunderstood while doing cool, new and interesting things.

“it is the strongest swimmers who drown”, from Dangerous Liaisons

Frogfoot Wifi product launch at Futurex 2007

Frogfoot will launch it’s new Wifi Hotspot product at Futurex on Wednesday. The expo is at the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) and runs from 26 to 28 Sept.

Join us at the show!

We’ve had lots of fun designing and building this product, with all the marketing goodies that go with it. It’s really cool to see a 6 month project grow and build up to the point of launching version 1.0.

Some of the (more visible) things we’ve designed..

Expo stand design: ..this is just a mockup, you’ll have to come to the show to see the real thing
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Hotspot provider brochure:

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End user flyer:

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Scratch card top-up tokens:

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Helium filled balloons:

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Wifi box sleeve:

Front..

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Back..

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Hotspot maps: ..we still need to make this pretty
Map of the (beta) hotspots

There are also more green frog pirate tshirts and 4 types of stickers.

Because the software on the hotspot devices is Open Source we quickly got up and running. There are actually about 20 hotspots up and running at the moment. The wifi router was maybe 15% of the work, we only did minor customisations. The bulk of the work was with things like Radius servers, business and accounting logic, automation, design, web interfaces, marketing etc.

I think the best positive side effect of this project is that it really fits well into our automation strategy for the rest of Frogfoot. We were able to re-use large parts of the systems we had already built to manage clients, create invoices etc. etc. etc.

The wifi business model fits the n-level deep reseller design of our “portal” very well.

Read more about what makes our wifi product different (and better) in the brochures above.

See you at Futurex.

Meeting with Frost and Sullivan

I had a meeting with Lindsey from Frost and Sullivan on Friday morning. She’s an “Industry Analyst” doing research on things like Broadband and Open Source in the Western Cape.

I was first introduced to their work when I attended the CITI AGM.

I was very impressed by their work, the quality of the questions they asked and knowledge of the ISP industry. It was supposed to be a short 20min meeting, but we ended up having a nice long chat.

Interesting how industry roomers move around (-;

Amobia Meeting Day

Just got home from an Amobia meeting, it’s now just after 1am… which makes it about an 8 hour meeting time. The sad thing is: I don’t think it’s a record, there have been longer meetings.

The good news is that Amobia’s consumer products will soon be improved with higher speed (after some testing). Should be live on the 1st of next month.

The other good news is that we had a good interview earlier today and Amobia could have a new senior network engineer soon.

The very good news is that Amobia can now finally, officially advertise it’s products. All the uber-conservative people have been convinced. It only took about 1.5 years. 😛