Tagged: google

GAFYD slowness

I have been using Google Apps For Your Domain (GAFYD) for my floatingsun.net email for a while now (earlier I was using the email setup at my hosting provider, but moved away because of the lack of adequate spam filtering). In the beginning, it was just a joy and everything was nice and peachy.

Google Apps

However, over time, the service has been gradually deteriorating. Since the past few weeks I have noticed a significant increase in latency. Meaning that if I open mail.google.com side-by-side with mail.google.com/a/floatingsun.net, my “regular” gmail account loads up much, much faster than my floatingsun.net account. This despite the fact that my regular gmail account has at least 100x the messages on my floatingsun.net account. And in fact, there have been several occassions in the recent past where it doesn’t load at all, or fails with a server error.

Not to mention that IMAP access has been horrendous recently. Throughout the day, email takes forever to open in my IMAP client (it opens up relatively faster on the web interface) and I get frequent disconnections from the server.

I don’t mean to beat up on Google. I must admit that I am on the free plan, so I really have no reason to complain. But gmail is also free. I have a feeling Google is deliberately imposing some kind of quality-of-service differentiation between paid Google Apps accounts vs free ones. I am keeping an eye on the status dashboard — it says no issues but my IMAP is still flaky. Is anyone else seeing poor performance on free GAFYD accounts?

uBoggle is a featured application!

[[http://uboggle.appspot.com|uBoggle]] is now appearing as the **featured application** on the [[http://appengine.google.com|Google AppEngine]] [[http://appgallery.appspot.com|Application Gallery]]. Thank you for your votes, and thanks to the appgallery editors!

And I have a screenshot for proof and posterity :)

uBoggle is the featured application on App Gallery
uBoggle is the featured application on App Gallery

Experiences with Google App Engine

I’ve been playing around with [[http://appengine.google.com|Google AppEngine]] for the past two weeks, and the experience has been mixed so far. First, the good:

* really easy to build something simple and get started.
* no need to worry about scaling, backup, replication etc. I haven’t verified this obviously, but at least thats the claim.
* the integration with Google accounts is nice.
* good documentation, lots of sample code available.
* dev server really helps with most of the development.
* the sort of restrictive resource usage limits (see below) forced us to think carefully about our code and heavily optimize certain operations to make them work on GAE.

{{ http://code.google.com/appengine/images/appengine_lowres.jpg}}

And now, the bad:
* too many limits: 1 million is their favorite number. No files over 1MB, no request should take more than 1 million CPU cycles (whatever that means) and who knows what other limits they impose internally. While developing, this was the biggest barrier for us. Things would randomly fail, and then our application would be disabled for several hours.
* The dev server doesn’t replicate the constraints in production. So everything would run fine and dandy locally, and the minute we upload, it would fail. Since we can only debug in production, and our application exceeded the quota every time we ran it, debugging was extremely slow and painful.
* local data store is excruciatingly slow. But this is not that critical, since it is only for testing anyways.
* even the remote data store is very flaky and slow at times. Any query involving more than a few hundred elements exceeds the quota.
* the bulk uploader is very useful, but again it is really really slow. If you want to upload anything in “bulk”, you’ll have a hard time. The parameters have to be chosen carefully as well. Even for very simple data models involving 3-5 fields (mostly strings), we had to reduce the batch size to 2-4 to make it work. And despite that we got a few HTTP 500 errors while uploading.

But its been fun so far. Hopefully most of these issues will get ironed out moving forward. As for what we are building? That will have to wait for another post ;-)

Google Reader auto sort

[[http://reader.google.com|Google Reader]] offers several options for [[http://www.google.com/support/reader/bin/answer.py?answer=69980&topic=12012|sorting feed items]]. After having played around with the “auto-sort” for several months now, I am reverting back to “Sort by newest”.

{{ http://www.google.com/googlereader/images/logo_reader.gif|Google Reader}}

The problem is that the auto-sort mode is a little too simplistic. Here’s what it does in their own words:

//This works by prioritizing subscriptions with fewer items. So, with this setting, your friend’s blog with one item a month will not be drowned out by higher volume sites such as the New York Times because we’ll raise the blog to the top.//

The general idea behind auto-sort is good, but unfortunately the execution hasn’t evolved at all to become smarter. For instance, some blogs I read haven’t been updated in a while. And I’m really not interested in the stuff they wrote some months back. So I never read those few old posts and yet they continue to hang around at the top of my feeds, which gets annoying quickly.

Ideally, the auto-sort should also take into account my reading trends (they obviously collect all this data, so might as well use it). In my case, what I really want the auto-sort to do is this: if there are some old posts and I’m consistently choosing not to read them, then perhaps they don’t need to be raised to the top any more. If I need to find them, I can always do so. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind if the old posts were raised to the top of the list once in a while.

An even smarter auto-sort will also take into account my reading habits. If there’s an infrequently updated blog that I read religiously, then I definitely don’t want to miss even an old post, no matter what. Similarly, old posts from an inactive blog that I have stopped following should be given less weight.

How do you sort your feeds?