Project Titanicarus: Part 7 – Building the Web Servers

Web Servers

I am building two app boxes per site. They will host mail, web and DNS for all applications I’m hosting. If I was building a larger implementation I’d separate those tasks out but scale doesn’t justify it just yet.

This week we’re going to take one of the app servers we built previously and install the web server components. I am using NGINX compiled from source as I want to include a plugin called Google PageSpeed that helps make things very quick.

Continue reading “Project Titanicarus: Part 7 – Building the Web Servers”

Project Titanicarus: Part 6 – Building the MySQL Cluster

Database

Before I’d dealt with the filers, I had written this weeks tasks up as being the most difficult part of the project.

I have a bunch of experience working with standard MySQL servers using replication, but I’ve never played with MySQL Cluster server before. Learning how to make it work was made difficult by a lack of packages in the Ubuntu repositories, I also struggled to find documentation that was simple enough to understand and complete the task without having to fill in blanks that were left by those documenting their learnings.

I’ve decided to write up the process I used to build a two node MySQL Cluster, hopefully I can fill in the gaps for others trying to make this kind of project happen for themselves. I’m building one cluster per island on a pair of servers. Inter-island replication is something I’m going to have to experiment with as the MySQL cluster docco seems to say that it gets cranky when asked to replicate over the internet.

Continue reading “Project Titanicarus: Part 6 – Building the MySQL Cluster”

Mafia, Penguins & Muses – How I started Mobile Mafia

Mobile Mafia

I have read a couple of books over the last 12 months that really tickled my inner entrepreneur.. The books in question are Ready Fire Aim and The 4 Hour Work Week.

In the 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss maps out a framework in which you can build a business that with only 4 hours direct effort a week can support a pretty fun sounding lifestyle. There were a few things that didn’t 100% sit well with me, but the book left me with a new way to think about building businesses and some new things to try out.

The real trouble started when I read Ready Fire Aim. Michael Masterson addressed head on the things that I didn’t like about the 4 Hour Work Week and provided me with a way to get my head past a few of the things that I didn’t like in Ferriss’ approach.

One lubricated evening in September last year, I decided to build a muse. “Muse” is the term Ferris uses to describe his 4 hour businesses. I was sitting on the lounge and got really annoyed that my iPhone’s battery wasn’t able to last the whole day. This annoyed me to the point of actually doing something about it. I didn’t write a letter like a grumpy old man, I didn’t throw the phone out the window and I didn’t get up and plug it in. I jumped online and started looking for manufacturers who could help me build a solution to the problem that I have since discovered so many other people are affected by.

That night Mobile Mafia (www.mobilemafia.com) was born. Over a period of 6 months I imported and tested dozens of different cases and mobile accessories. When I found one I liked, I’d import a couple of hundred and sell them on eBay to see how they performed when real customers used them and gathered feedback on popularity by how quickly they sold. Some were good, others caused me to lose many nights sleep.

After 6 or 7 months of this, I had settled on a couple of options and decided to have a go at selling my first branded case – The GodCharger (www.godcharger.com) a couple of people have asked me to write up my experiences, over the next month or two I plan on writing a bit more about my experiences getting this project up and running, and there have been a hell of a lot of things I’ve learned :-)

What if money didn’t matter…

One of my friends on facebook shared this video this morning. This is exactly how life should be lived, do what makes you happy, what you truly love. Theres no point sacrificing happiness just to get money and its even worse that we go around teaching our children to do the same.

Product Development – Perfection is the enemy of progress

Perfection is the enemy of progress
Perfection is the enemy of progress
Perfection is the enemy of progress

Perfection is the enemy of progress for all product development people and sadly its an enemy that many are losing their battle with. If you are a coder, hardware nerd, product developer, entrepreneur, anyone who creates products you really need to read this blog post by Andrew Chen and take it to heart.

It seems like the last year or so has increasingly thrown me into the path of people who have been afflicted by the self delusion, doubt and stalled products that Andrew’s article so eloquently discusses. This issue has become quite personal to me because I am watching so many smart people miss out on awesome opportunities with no good reason.

The first thing you need to take away from that article is that you and your customers see your products from totally different perspectives. What you see as a feature, they see as a bug and what you see as imperfection, they often don’t notice at all.

No product is a wild success on its first release. Product development requires trial, error, measurement and most importantly validation that the product is answering the needs of a large enough customer base for it to become commercially successful.

To do this you need customers! Real people who need and want your product. People who are going to give you real honest feedback in the most honest possible way – with their wallets.  If you believe that you are good enough to release a holy grail product without the failure and feedback that comes from having real customers using/breaking/loving/hating your product you’re crazy.

With the people I’ve met and spoken to so far, this behaviour comes from some or all of the following:

  • Fear of criticism
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of perspective
  • Inflexible assumptions

Imagine if you ran your product development process in a way that makes you the subject matter expert on your product.  You’ve spent time with and developed a group of people from your clearly defined target market (You do have one don’t you?). They have told you what ails them and what they would pay for a solution to that problem. You have bounced ideas off them and come up with a minimally featured non working pre-alpha product. They have provided you with feedback which helped you to modify your plans and release a working alpha product which they are even prepared to pay you for!  Success is surely not far off.

In this imaginary world the fears, lack of perspective and inflexible assumptions of the people I’ve been meeting don’t materialise. This is because you’ve stopped and taken the time to ensure that you’re building the right product.  You have confirmed that the problem you’re solving actually exists. You’re no longer spending your life justifying your own opinions because you know what you’re talking about and have evidence to back it.

The only thing that involving your customers doesn’t fix (at least initially) is lack of confidence. Getting out of the office and talking with customers is a critical process. Every single person who creates things must do it regularly in order to remain relevant in their role. Once you’ve done it a few times it becomes easy, you will find that the people you’re talking to become excited to talk with you because you’re helping to make their lives easier.

People with stuck or failing products more often than not have an ad-hoc and unplanned product development process and they are almost always so consumed with “doing stuff” that they miss the point of why they are building the product in the first place – to serve their customers needs. This never ends well.

If you have a product thats stalled, stop working on it now! Get out of your mums basement! Go and visit your customers! This does not mean jump on IRC and ask your mates what they think, or to email a couple of customers asking their opinion. It means physically going out to have a cup of coffee with your customers.

If you don’t know what to say, tell them you’re working on new products for your company and you’re looking for ways to make your customers lives easier. Ask them what makes their job hard or uncomfortable. Don’t offer solutions, just listen and take notes, your customers will know what you should be doing.

If you’re stuck and you need a hand breaking out of a project that just won’t finish, I have helped a bunch of businesses take products out of their mothers basements and release them into the real world. I can help you too – drop me a line.

Overcoming isolation – The top 10 challenges faced by a sole trader

Isolation

IsolationThe guys at Startup Smart have just published a great article on working as a sole trader. In it they talk about the major reasons why working on your own creates an environment that attracts failure and most importantly, they also talk about how to act in order to avoid failing.

This is a great article, these issues are real problems for the owner/operator and are not often understood by friends, family and others who are watching startups and small business people.  Know your enemy – and in this case time management, accountability, isolation and motivation are among the largest enemies to your success.

Great Article! 10 challenges faced by sole traders: http://www.startupsmart.com.au/sole-trader/top-10-challenges-faced-by-sole-traders.html

Did this article help you? What have your experiences been?

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