Jetfar - GeoDomain Development An Unconventional Australian Startup Mon, 13 Sep 2010 01:45:39 +0000 en hourly 1 Cloud Business Continuity Management Communication Tool Mon, 13 Sep 2010 01:43:01 +0000 Rich Atkinson CloudBCM (Business Continuity Management) provides resilient communications infrastructure to ensure that your staff are contacted and can communicate during a business continuity scenario.


Find out more at Cloud Business Continuity Management

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Focus Workshop with Mick Liubinskas Wed, 28 Apr 2010 13:29:31 +0000 Rich Atkinson These are my notes from the Focus or Fail Workshop @ Pollenizer tonight.

What is Focus?

A common cause of startup failure is trying to do too many things

You can’t beat the big companies by being broad

The more focused and narrow you are, the easier it is to ‘get bought’

As entrepreneurs we underestimate the cost of doing more things
Do one thing, and do it right!

Don’t worry about missing customers, customers move very slowly.

What is Purpose?

It’s not about the technology, it’s about creating and capturing value.

Know your focus, and be clear on why.

Regularly review the purpose of what you are doing.

Ask yourself and write down:
1. Your Wildest Dream
2. Why are you building your business?
3. What is the one thing that happens that means it’s all working?

The Approach

Do things in sequence. You can’t have your vision all at once. Do the most important thing, the core of the product first. And do it really well.

Imagine they are like bowling pins. Hit the first pin really hard.

As a rule of thumb, a new product must be 10x better than the incumbent. So go after the one customer (segment) that is beating down your door for the product.

Test your hypothesis as quickly as possible.

Don’t worry about getting it right first time, because you will definitely be wrong.

Target a segment to own it. You can’t own them all (at least not as a startup)

Plan which segments you will focus on:

Focus (one) | Do (few) | Don’t (many)

If you have 20% of the customers in a particular segment, then you basically own that segment. That is much, much better than having customers in different segments all over the place.


( (core utility ) support features ) crap

Customer Development

Customer Discovery → Customer Validation → Customer Creation → Company Creation
How to allocate cost to product versions:
v1 20% / v2 20% / v3 10% / v4 50%

Website lead capture. Turn your leads into happy users.

Context of leads → Qucikest Path → :) Happy Users → Sharing Content?

Pick one contet of referral at a time, and work it! Get it right.

Use the one context to target your focus segment.

You just need to prove unit sales at a profit, to prove your business.

One track mind (or don’t have all your small balls up in the air!)

1. Sacrifice (Sacrifice everything that isn’t your core focus)
2. Sequence (Sequence to vision – steps from Core to Vision)
3. Core First!!!!

Measure what is important!

Patience and perseverance. Overnight success takes many years of hard work.

Pick Segments where you offer 10x the value. Do this by itemising characteristics, and scoring the segment.

Characteristic | Segment 1 | Segment 2 | Segment 3
Strong Immediate need…

(30 characteristics altogether)

NB1: Slides are here:

NB2: There is a Sydney Lean Startup circle

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Delicious Bookmarks – Chrome Extension Sat, 19 Dec 2009 13:53:30 +0000 Rich Atkinson delicious

Simply Delicious is a simple, rock-solid extension for Google Chrome which provides a neat bookmarking button.

Install it here…
Simply Delicious for Google Chrome


I decided to write this extension after I tried the alternatives and realised that they mostly sucked. The objective here is to provide a neat “bookmark in delicious” button; that’s it.

I eventually plan to include a feature to enable local searching of delicious bookmarks, possibly by downloading them into the browsers bookmark store. Rest assured that this will only be done if it can be done sans-bloat.

Note for Windows users

Windows users currently need the Beta version of Chrome to fully use extensions; available here.

Note for OSX users

Mac users have two options for using Chrome Extensions right now:

1. Developer edition of Chrome (mac)
It’s kind of like a pre-beta. But you want to be on the bleeding edge right? Available here.

2. Chromium (open source)
You can also use Chrome extensions on OSX right now with Chromium. Chromium is basically the open source foundation of Chrome, it’s almost identical but slightly ahead in features.

It’s not as scary as it sounds, just use this Automator app to get and install the latest build for you. If it doesn’t work out it’s easy to reinstall the release version.

Please let me know what you think!

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Installing Cassandra and Thrift on Snow Leopard – A Quick Start Guide Wed, 23 Sep 2009 02:36:53 +0000 Rich Atkinson Update March 25 2010: I will soon update this for Cassandra 0.6 (which is currently in beta). Until then, this process still works – just install Cassandra 0.5.1

I couldn’t find much in the way of an OS X install guide for Cassandra and (particularly) Thrift, so here’s a brief summary of the steps I took to get Cassandra up and running on Snow Leopard.

Requirements: xcode (provides java, ant and g++, autotools etc for compiling thrift) & svn.

I used macports to get “boost, “pkgconfig” and “libevent”, all used by for Thrift.


OSX does not set JAVA_HOME for you, instead it must be done manually.

A simple way is to add the following line to ~/.bashrc

export JAVA_HOME=$(/usr/libexec/java_home)

After setting JAVA_HOME, you will need to exit and reopen terminal before the change will take effect.

Part 2: Installing Cassandra

# I installed Cassandra into /opt and run it as me.
mkdir -p /opt/cassandra
chown -R {you} /opt/cassandra

# Need to create the log directory
mkdir -p /var/log/cassandra
chown -R {you} /var/log/cassandra

# Also Cassandra created a directory instead of a file for system.log, so...
touch /var/log/cassandra/system.log

# By default Cassandra 0.4.1 uses /var/lib for data, so...
mkdir -p /var/lib/cassandra
chown -R {you} /var/lib/cassandra

# now lets get the source
svn co /opt/cassandra/cassandra-0.4.1

# If all is well you should be able to build.
cd /opt/cassandra/cassandra-0.4.1

# If that works, you should be able to run cassandra
bin/cassandra -f

All going well, you should be able to, in a new terminal tab, run through the CLI tests here.

Part 3: Installing Thrift

First you’ll need boost, pkgconfig and libevent. So (using macports):

sudo port install boost
sudo port install libevent
sudo port install pkgconfig

Now, with a lack of tags and branches in SVN, I just grabbed trunk (please could someone let me know if this unwise).

svn co /opt/cassandra/thrift

SVN revision at time of writing was 817923

Next, we build it…

(Note the /opt/local references, that’s where macports puts it’s stuff by default)

cd /opt/cassandra/thrift
./configure --with-boost=/opt/local --with-libevent=/opt/local --prefix=/opt/local

# If you get the error:
# ./configure: line 16440: syntax error near unexpected token `MONO,'
# ./configure: line 16440: ` PKG_CHECK_MODULES(MONO, mono >= 2.0.0, net_3_5=yes, net_3_5=no)'

# It's documented, to fix it: (assuming you installed pkgtools from macports)
ln -s /opt/local/share/aclocal/pkg.m4 /opt/cassandra/thrift/aclocal/pkg.m4

# once again:
./configure --with-boost=/opt/local --with-libevent=/opt/local --prefix=/opt/local
sudo make install

Language bindings

The make install should have installed libraries for ruby, perl, python etc.

EDIT: Python bindings were installed into /usr/lib/python2.6/site-packages. I had to move them to my (default apple provided python 2.6) site-packages.

If you want to install them into a virtualenv you will find the in /opt/cassandra/thrift/lib/py

Part 4: Generate “cassandra” from thrift.

Navigate to /opt/cassandra/cassandra-0.4.1/interface

and then…
thrift --gen py:new_style cassandra.thrift

This generates the cassandra python package which you can copy to your project.

If you have any suggestions for improvement here, please let me know.

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Sydney Dust Storm Tue, 22 Sep 2009 22:31:48 +0000 Rich Atkinson Today Sydney is enveloped in a quite spectacular dust storm. Everything is an eerie orange, it really feels post-apocalyptic or like the scene from a martian wasteland.

Here’s a photo that Debi took through our apartment window at about 6am this morning:

Dust Storm

Sydney Dust Storm - September 23rd 2009

According to the weather bureau, it’s likely to stay around all day.

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Cassandra DB Mon, 21 Sep 2009 12:47:30 +0000 Rich Atkinson

Cassandra is a highly scalable, eventually consistent, distributed, structured key-value store. (

Originally developed by facebook, it is now an Apache project and at present has incubator status.

From my point of view, Cassandra stands out from the crowd of non-relational databases for three reasons:

1. Reference Sites: Apart from facebook, Cassandra recently replaced MySQL for parts of Dig. Also Rackspace are doing something secret with it; although I don’t know what it is, my guess would be something along the lines of Amazon’s SimpleDB.

2. True peer clustering: Cassandra does not require a central master. A key feature of Cassandra is you can write to any node in the cluster, at any time. Writes are never blocked. The trade off for this is you get consistency eventually. So transactions aren’t strictly ACIDic, but depending on what you are doing, that might not matter at all.

3. Column Querying: BigTable really popularised (and proved) the concept of the column database for large scale applications. Cassandra really is similar to BigTable from this perspective, but introduces the SuperColumn.

In addition to those things, a couple of other nice features of Cassandra are:

1. It’s JVM based, which makes it nicely portable. It really was a 1 minute job to get it up and running on Snow Leopard.

2. Cross platform API, via a remote Thrift interface.

My intention is to use Cassandra in our current project, where I need a horizontally scalable data store with geographically separate cluster nodes. Fortunately eventual consistency suits this project very well indeed.

Addendum: Here is the best getting started guide I have found so far.

Addendum 2: Eric Flo also sums up Cassandra nicely, although in a slightly different context.

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Snakes on the Web, Jacon Kaplan-Moss Sat, 05 Sep 2009 14:41:59 +0000 Rich Atkinson I really enjoyed reading this transcript of Jacob’s 2009 PyCon talks. If you’re at all interested in Python there’s lots of neat insights here:

We need to be thinking about scale from day one. This means being incredibly skeptical of our own work, and continually asking ourselves where it’s going to fail. We need plan for the day that our framework will be phased out.

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libjpeg and Python Imaging (PIL) on Snow Leopard Sat, 05 Sep 2009 12:05:19 +0000 Rich Atkinson

EDIT: These packages work a treat:

Sometimes OSX could learn a trick from Linux; a great example is package management.

Mac ports isn’t bad but it’s not a patch on archlinux’s AUR for simplicity, and Ubuntu is onto a really good thing with APT.

Installing Python Imaging (PIL) with Jpeg support on Snow Leopard isn’t obvious. For anyone struggling with it, here’s a solution:

1. Download the source from

2. Extract, configure, make:

tar zxvf jpegsrc.v6b.tar.gz
cd jpeg-6b
cp /usr/share/libtool/config/config.sub .
cp /usr/share/libtool/config/config.guess .
./configure --enable-shared --enable-static

3. You may need to create the following directories:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/include
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/lib
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/man/man1

4. Now you can install it as usual.

sudo make install

5. If you want to freetype support, do that now.

6. Finally, you can install PIL. Be sure to activate any vitualenv now if you don’t want to install PIL into the system site-packages.

pip install

At least the native Python 2.6 on Snow Leopard works great, and this wasn’t nearly as painfull as installing PIL on Cygwin!

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Weekend Reading: Sunday 30th August Sun, 30 Aug 2009 01:23:51 +0000 Rich Atkinson The Real-time Web: A Primer

“As with other recent waves of innovation (Web 2.0 and cloud computing, for example) there is no single definition of what the term “real-time Web” means. As a result, it is used as a catch-all phrase for a number of developments underway. At this point, we can identify that the real-time Web…”

by Ken Fromm @frommww.

How to price Enterprise Social Computing offerings

I didn’t realise what a complicated topic this is until this week when an investor completely junked our pricing model with one simple graph. So this weekend I’ve been researching the subject. There are some highly counterintuitive ideas under discussion, which suggests the possibility that there might be a good opportunity to price using an alternative model to the traditional: per user with volume discount.

LShift: Thoughts on real time full text search

This is an interesting discussion on approaches for full text searching on massive data sets such as real time web applications; Twitter is the example.

A list of distributed key value stores

It’s a little more than just a list; here is a fairly good high level overview of current DHT offerings compared form the authors context.

Update: Here is a more up to date comparison prepared by Tony Negrin (Yahoo) after the recent noSQL 09 conference. It includes some indication of maturity and momentum.

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Great Links 26th August 2009 Tue, 25 Aug 2009 23:15:37 +0000 Rich Atkinson Some great reading in the RSS reader this morning; I’ve referenced a couple here for my benefit and yours:

Firstly an article from Chris Dixon. Chris was a co-founder of Site Advisor and has since become one of the most successful early stage tech company private investors:

Products with so-called networks effects get more valuable when more people use them. Famous examples are telephones and social networks. “Complementary network effects” refer to situations where a product gets more valuable as more people use the product’s complement(s).Read the rest at

Secondly, we’ve had a couple of people provide feedback this week about our website. When we launched it only about a month ago, it was a huge step forward for us. However things are moving very quickly at the moment and already we are finding that we need to give it a little more love.

Which is why I really like this article by Aaron Wall about designing your web site with the users next steps in mind.

Saving the best for last, our first piece of press! Check it out: This article in Anthill about our Social Networking Software has already generated a lot of interest. We owe a big thanks to Dave Birchill for putting that together for us!


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