streetdirectory.com hosed?

This is what I get from http://www.streetdirectory.com. Looks like they are front-ending their Windows 2008 server with a FreeBSD machine.

The preceding shows two images: one is the hosed streetdirectory.com site and the other the article that ran in the Digital Life publication of the Straits Times today, April 1st 2008. Don’t let the date fool you. I think the story is a serious one but is an example of how not to write a technology article (subtly sponsored by Microsoft). It should have been an advertorial, but it is not indicated as such.

Let’s look at the article:

While more users are going down the open-source path, one Singapore firm will be ending its nine-year yourney on that route. Its grouse – a lack of open source talent here.
The company is Virtual Map, which provides road maps through its streetdirectory.com website. It also develops and hosts web-based map aplications for corporate clients.
Since its founding in 1999, the firm has been hosting its map applications on open source operating system, MandrakeSoft, renamed Mandriva three years ago.
All was well until last year, when its IT administrator left. “We couldn’t replace him,” said Eugene Lim, director of business development at Virtual Map.
The firm ended up hiring someone well-versed in another Linux operating system called Fedora Core.
Eugene said because skill are “not portable” between the different open source flavours, his company had to move its map applications to the new operating system.
“We spent three weeks doing that – all because of one guy.”
The firm’s frustrations did not end there. Recently, it found itself repeating the three-week exercise, moving applications from Fedora Core to yet another Linux distribution, as “the open source community has decided to end support for Fedora”.
What this means is that the community will no longer develop security patches and feature improvements on the Fedora operating system.
In October last year, the firm turned to mainstream software vendor Microsoft for help.
“It would be great if we could have only one server operating system running all the time and one neck to choke if things don’t work,” said Eugene.
After testing its map applications on Windows Server 2008, the firm decided to consolidate on the platform.
Customer feedback also helped the map solutions firm arrive at its recent decision.
“Over the years, we’ve received numerous requests to deliver our application on Windows since most customers are more familiar with it (compared to open source).”
Migration is expected to take six to eight months, with the web applications of 50 customers here, including DBS Bank and Kai Soon Air-Conditioning, running on Windows by the end of this year. These applications include a retail store locator and vehicle tracking.
What made the transition easier is a new feature in Windows Server 2008 that hosts PHP (hypertext preprocessor) applications. The last major release of Windows Server in 2003 does not support programs developed using the open source scripting language.
With PHP support, no re-programming of any of virtual map’s applications is required.
Another new feature called Terminal Services allows system administors to do remote monitoring.
For instance, virtual map’s system administrators no longer have to visit customer’s sites to maintain the servers that run its map applications. Such visits could happen as often as once a month.
“We will be able to cut down travel time, expenses and manpower by 30 per cent,” he said.
That being true, the company admits to having to pay more for technology. With open source, virtual map pays nothing to run an operating system.
With Windows Server 2008, however, the firm has to pay about $4,000 in software licenses, making total IT costs rise by about 12 per cent.

Not a universal problem
With virtual map, the problem seems to be a compound of bad judgement and bad hire. it is a different story with another open source user here.
“Most administrators I’ve met and interviewed have strong backgrounds in Linux or Unix, and can even pick up Windows administration easily. The reverse is seldom true,” said Lo Sheng, vice-president of online technologues and quality at Muvee Technologies.
The Singapore-based movie-editing software maker has saved tens of thousands of dollars using Red Hat Linux servers, Apache web servers and MySQL database. It has three open source administrators, whome Sheng is proud of.
“I would say administrators with strong roots in LInux and Unix are a lot more versatile – not only across the different open-source flavours but also the Windows domain. Incompetent administrators – Windows-based or Linux-based – both are equally capable of making grown men cry.”

I have nothing to say except to watch from the sidelines how streedirectory.com crashs and burns. They have such a horrible site, full of ads with the query that you made burried way down. They have exhibited pure incompetence in their technology design that it is really a joke. About 5 years ago, I was looking up “Beatty Secondary School” on their site. It came back empty. Zip. Nada. Hmm. I sorta knew that it was somewhere in Toa Payoh and when I worked my way around their map, I realized that the school was labelled as “Beatty Sec. School”. Typing it as such gave a hit. Their search is horribly broken as is their entire business model.

It probably is useful to remind ourselves that this is the same company that started suing people for making copies of the map and placing on their websites (at $10,000 a pop) and for this same company to be sued by the Singapore Land Authority for using the maps without permit. I think they deserve to run Windows. We do not want them to have any form of stability. Good riddance.

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About harishpillay

father, husband, son, hacker, friend, human
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