Dreamhost now says its router went down because it was attacked:
At this time, all network services have been fully restored to our data center. The cause of the outage was a major distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) aimed at one of our main routers. Once we isolated the problem, we quickly worked with our upstream provider to resolve it. A full report detailing the problem and the steps we will be taking to prevent it from happening again will go out tomorrow. All services are now up, but you may experience email delays as remote networks re-establish connections with our servers. No emails were lost. If you are still experiencing problems of any kind, please contact our support team.
Whatever happened, it seems to have taken a number of the blogs I read with it, notably Whiskey Bar.
Kasei: The Importance of Fudgability, discovers that the life of the law is not logic, and that lawyers are hard to replace with expert systems:
A team of adjudicators spent a lot of their time reading application forms, deciding whether relevant criteria had been met, and then writing a response letter containing their decision. This seemed to be a straightforward rules-based system that could automated away, so we interviewed some staff, watched them do their job for a while, and implemented our replacement system. …
In hindsight, we had made several major mistakes – mistakes that seem to be repeated again and again throughout the software industry.
Part of the problem was how arrogant we were. We believed that we could spend a couple of days watching trained lawyers perform a highly-skilled job, talk briefly to them, and then make their jobs completely obsolete.
Worse, we made the job completely non-fudgable. In any human process there's always a degree to which the outcome can be fudged by the person performing the task. Even when the rules are simple or well-understood, there are always cases when someone will have a compelling reason to do things differently. In this case we didn't even know all the rules, and discovered to our horror that there were many more edge-cases than we'd imagined.
My students will be the next-to-last to be outsourced, right before the pizza delivery guys. (spotted via the blog with the great name, 0xDECAFBAD)
So the blog went away again, and now it's back. If you care, I've attached dreamhost account of what went wrong.
Meanwhile, the law school's email went down today for a while, and the internal network remains nearly useless as it moves data at a crawl. The law school borrowed a $100,000 sniffing tool from the university, but rumor has it (all we get is rumor…) that this didn't solve, or even identify, the problem. Oh joy!
I run a link to the official 'threat level', reproducing the silly color-coding run by the dept of excuse-the-term Homeland excuse-the-term Security. But I worry that readers don't see it as being semi-satirical, since I think the terror alert system is not only stupid but actually dangerous. Were it not for my belief that moving gifs are too irritating to have as a permanent feature, I'd switch to the terror alert banana, which makes the point rather well.
The blog was down for many hours today, as was the support line at dreamhost. They're usually pretty reliable, and very helpful, but when things fail, they fail hard.
The New York Times has a nice story about the Australian reaction to Major Mori, the Marine lawyer who is defending Guantanamo detainee David Hicks with all the skills at his command. By all accounts, Major Mori's the sort of person who makes us all proud. (See also my earlier item on Mori.)
Here's a Really Cheerful Thought:
the Web may actually be helping to keep some dictatorships in power. Asian dissidents have told me that the Web has made it easier for authoritarian regimes to monitor citizens. In Singapore, Gomez says, the government previously had to employ many security agents and spend a lot of time to monitor activists who were meeting with each other in person. But, with the advent of the Web, security agents can easily use government-linked servers to track the activities of activists and dissidents. In fact, Gomez says, in recent years opposition groups in Singapore have moved away from communicating online and returned to exchanging information face-to-face, in order to avoid surveillance.
More generally the article argues that dictatorships have been able to neuter the 'net through a combination of intimidation, monitoring, and blocking foreign sites.