Monday, September 26, 2011

Insane Apache FastCGI settings

We recently moved PMRobot to a new server, configured very similar to the old one with WHM/CPanel.

The only major difference was a newer version of the Apache Web Server -- 2.2.21 vs 2.2.16.

Unfortunately, not long after the switch, reports started coming in that most attachments were not uploading. Only very small ones (less than 100K) seemed to work.

Since there were no recent changes to our attachment code, I started digging through logs to discover the source of the problem.

None of the usual error logs reported seemed to contain anything useful.

Finally I worked my down down to the root Apache error log and discovered this little gem:
[warn] [client ...] mod_fcgid: HTTP request length 137881 (so far) exceeds MaxRequestLen (131072), referer:

A nondescript little warning that thankfully led me to this post which solved the problem.

This person also seemed to have had the same problem. 

The icing on the cake was the little warning at, which reads:
Warning: Before 2.3.6, this defaulted to 1GB. Most users of earlier versions should use this directive to set a more reasonable limit.
My question is WHY!?! Why did they reduce a 1GB default limit to 128K? Surely someone must have realized that havoc that might wreak, no?

In any case, if you encounter this problem, simply add the following to your Apache config:
<IfModule mod_fcgid.c>
 FcgidMaxRequestLen 1000000000
and you should be good to go again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lean Coffee: Are ideas overrated?

Had a great LeanCoffeeTO this morning at BNOTIONS with a lively discussion roughly summarized by the following points:

  • Startups have become very popularized
    • There's a trailer for an American Idol-type startup TV show
  • Problem with Lean: Doesn't really allow for "blue sky" thinking?
  • Ideas need to come at the right time
    • Only see a limited view at any given time snapshot
  • Is starting a "startup" different than starting a "business"?
  • Startups need to have a "grand vision"?
  • Treating Lean as "gospel" is dangerous
  • Process needs to be flexible
  • Lean and its process makes a great base for discussion
  • Very different environment for businesses now (vs late 90s/early 2000s)
    • Faster pace, easier technology
  • Value of ideas: Can turn any idea into "something"
  • Idea vs. vision
    • Idea is just a "spark" that can lead to a full vision
  • Twitter has evolved
    • Started by a failed podcasting company
  • Interviewing is hard
  • Lean process reduces risk
    • However -- Reducing the risk is not the same as getting to success?
  • Starting a startup not "sensible", the sensible thing is to get a job
  • Would benefit Ontario if health care software providers followed more Lean principles?
So the discussion took a few interesting turns along the way, but overall a very valuable session.

Great to see everyone and really looking forward to the upcoming one year celebration events.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lean Coffee: Raising your first round

I think I've been spending a few too many late nights coding PMRobot UI enhancements, as I had some trouble actually finding today's Lean Coffee Meetup.

I was running late due to the TTC, and the Meetup Android app hadn't updated the recently-changed location. So I wandered through an empty building trying to figure out where I had gone wrong.

Luckily somebody (who had obviously had more sleep) pointed me to the open door I had just walked past, and I was able to join in and take down some notes about raising investment:

  • The Canadian Angel investing community is not as established as in the US
  • Tech startups are getting more popular -- getting harder to find developers here
  • Canada is "a couple steps behind" but heading in the right direction
  • Investors are looking to invest immediately and get their returns in 5 years
  • Currently near the end of a 5-year cycle -- little money available
  • Something to check out: Angelist
  • Canadian companies get government matching and SRED, so big financial advantage
  • It's not beneficial to hold back on communicating the details of an idea
  • What is the right time to approach investors? Probably not the idea stage
  • Government grants, funding, etc. can work at the concept stage
    • Having solid market research can help with grants
    • There are grant writing companies who will help you apply for a cut of the cash
  • Board of advisors
    • Not easy to establish
    • What's in it for them?
    • Angels place a large value on your board
  • Angels tend to be on the team more than the idea
Glad I finally found everyone this morning. Next time I may need a pre-LeanCoffee coffee :)

See you then!