Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CQWW CW - As the Dust Settles

Wow!  What a weekend - records falling in bunches, 5 bands open for contesting at once.  And I'm happy to report that the RBN was mostly up to the challenge.

First, the big numbers.  The RBN handled 1.578 million spots on Saturday, and 1.691 million on Sunday, or an average for the 48 hours of 18.9 spots/second.  This is roughly double last year's record average (also in CQWW CW), and is a measure both of how much the bands have improved and how many more people are contributing to the RBN.  Thank you all!

In case anyone wondered, we did have some trouble with the DX Spider Telnet server (telnet.reversebeacon.net, port 7000) on Sunday morning, as the load built to even a higher level than on Saturday.  Felipe PY1NB did some quick first-aid and got it running again within about a half-hour.  Meanwhile, the AR Cluster V6 server (arcluster.reversebeacon.net, port 7000) continued to deliver spots at full bore, though to a smaller audience than our main and long-established server.

There are also some signs that the load that CW Skimmer puts on Reverse Beacon participants' computers may be starting to cause problems.  A number of Skimmer ops reported trouble with less than 100% decoding of signals, due to excessive CPU loading.  At least the failure mode appeared to be graceful - my node, for example, stayed up unattended all weekend despite being on an anemic dual-core Pentium machine.

One surprise, at least to me, was the strong user demand for the main Reverse Beacon web page, which peaked at 384 simultaneous users, also on Sunday.  Log data suggest that most of these users were using the site to track spots of specific stations (maybe their own?), which puts an additional load on the database server.  However, the new hardware handled it very well, and that gives us a good level of confidence for the rest of the contest season.

Future plans?  Well, we intend to do some work on streamlining DXSpider so that it will handle the heavy throughput better.  There's no need for a lot of the features that put a drag on performance in the RBN server role - for example, the server doesn't accept DX spots from users, or Announce messages or WWV messages. Meanwhile, we're on the lookout for good new features to add to the mix.  Tell us what you'd like!

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