Archive for the ‘geekery’ Category

Clip Download Issues: We’re On It

Hey VideoBoxers,

As some of you have noticed, we have recently removed WMV custom-clip download options from the site. We made this decision because of the complexity involved with creating this particular file type, and the fact that WMVs are fast becoming an obsolete format that most modern devices don’t support. We view this decision as similar to the one we made to drop support for Internet Explorer 6 & 7 a while ago.

Custom clips can still be downloaded as MP4 files, and full scenes can still be downloaded as MP4 or WMV; it’s just the custom-clip WMVs that are no longer available.

Some users have reported difficulties with playback of the custom-clip MP4s in certain software programs, however. We are aware that this is an issue and are working as quickly as possible to resolve it. In the meantime, we recommend VLC player to all of you. VLC is a free software program that can play all media types and provides the user excellent control over playback. It plays our MP4 custom clips without issue.

VLC can be downloaded for free at: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, and will post here again when we have a solution for MP4 playback for a wider array of programs.

Sincerely,
The VideoBox Team

Alpha Test: HTML5 on VB3

Hey VideoBoxers,

As you may have seen in John’s recent post, we have been playing with AirPlay a little bit. Well, with a couple of days somewhat open at the start of this week, I decided to see what it would take to get HTML5 playback happening on iPad, iPhone and Android. I’m pleased to tell you that this afternoon we put an alpha version of this functionality up on VB3!

See the instructions for using it below, but first let me offer a few caveats:

1) This is an alpha test, which means “not even a beta test yet.” I threw it up there for you guys to try out, and I will be busy on other stuff for the next few weeks. Therefore, expect bugs and odd behavior, and you won’t be disappointed. :-)

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What do you guys think about replacing WMV with H.264

When our first site launched back in 2002, WMV was state of the art. Now, however, it’s an old format that doesn’t play well on non-Windows devices and compresses poorly.



So I was wondering what issues you guys would have if we dropped WMV. And before you say “wait, the biggest files are WMV so they’re the highest quality”, be aware that file size and file quality are two different things.



Specifically, our 640×480 H.264 files are 3-4 times smaller than our DVD resolution WMV, but they’re comparable in quality (both formats exhibit their own compression artifacts).



Are there other reasons you like WMV? Does H.264 not play as well for you?



I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Does Familiarity with Porn Stars Breed Contempt?

Perusing the porn star list this morning, I started thinking about what makes a porn star unpopular. Audrey Hollander is a pretty girl who’s made a lot of porn, but she’s not the most popular starlet with VideoBox members (to put it mildly). I had to wonder if those things were connected in some way.

Does the number of scenes a star has on VideoBox affect how popular she is on the site? I hypothesized that the answer was yes. Then I wrote a script to gather up 1,000 stars’ scene counts and popularity ratings. Shortly thereafter I was disappointed to learn that those things appeared to have nothing at all to do with one another. Even the stars with the top 25 scene counts didn’t correlate well with popularity (or lack thereof).

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I went back to the drawing board. What was it that people disliked about Audrey? Was it her willingness to do more, shall we say, extreme scenes? New question: How does the willingness to engage in gangbangs on camera relate to popularity?

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Thirty-eight Percent of Porn Stars Do Anal?

A few months ago, I read this post about a guy who ran some stats on “what will porn actresses do” based on data from an adult modeling agency’s website. Curious whether his numbers would hold true at other agencies and in general (confidence requires more than one sample, after all), I ran some numbers of my own.



This data isn’t shocking. Some interesting things that stood out to me, however, were:

1. Blowjobs aren’t a given. Only about 60% of girls do them. And swallowing is available less than half the time.

2. A star who’ll do girl/girl is pretty easy to find, but one who’ll do girl/girl anal is much more difficult. More will do anal with men than women.

3. Depending on whose data you look at, women willing to do solo are less prevalent than those willing to have sex with someone else on camera. Is there something inherently more self-conscious about being the only one being filmed?

4. About 10% of porn stars claim to be able to squirt. Is it possible that 10% of all women can squirt? Or are porn stars more likely to be able to/claim to be able to?

5. Only about half of porn girls will do interracial. Seriously?

Did anything jump out at you guys about these numbers? Or did they simply confirm for you that I’m a huge dork? ;)

See Dee N take 3


We’re on our 3rd CDN trial, again as noted this is focused on improving the site image load performance time. As usual testing was done before flipping the switch on. Our particular interest is if European users are seeing faster page loading time with this feature. Please comment with your feedback.

Per the last trial, we have for some time now implemented a number of well-known tricks to optimize image delivery. This includes spreading the load between four hostnames, as mentioned by commenter dweazy – along with proper cache HTTP response headers, stripping JPG metadata comments.

Securing Them Gigglebits

Today we’re launching SSL or HTTPS support for a number of pages on the site. This includes the login page, change password form and other user specific sections. You’re probably familiar with “lock” or secure icon in the bottom window of your browser. This form of surfing means the data transmitted is encrypted from your source computer all the way to our destination web servers. Thus folks in your office, dorm or other environments can’t “sniff” your login information. This is a great value if you’re browsing on unsecured WiFi or other shared networks.

For clarification, our billing partners have always received your credit card billing information in this fashion. Extensive testing has been done for the past few weeks to minimize problems. As always, please escalate any issues via the tech support request form.

P.S. I’m sure the uber geeks will point out that HTTPS doesn’t prevent MITM or Man-in-the-middle attacks are still possible. You pervs!

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Nerd Stuff

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We do apologize for the extended maintenance, no one enjoys having the site down – we’re users too! Some of our backend storage acted cranky, causing a delay from our original time budget. I would like to note that this maintenance window was particularly satisfying for the Site-Ops team – signifying the end of a long cage move…

The best analogy to servers and their location tends to be housing. Shared servers are about the same as sharing a locker in the gym – usually temporary, unknown sanitary factors and very cheap. The next step up would likely be a dedicated server, similar to renting a room in a house with roommates. The downside here being lack of control outside of the physical server – the network routing, power infrastructure, backend storage, etc. After hogging up enough physical real estate with servers, routers & storage; folks tend to graduate to a “cage”. These are private suites within a colocation facility, that allow the tenant to customize the layout, power, cooling and network connections. VideoBox has lived in various cages over the years – Wednesday afternoon finalized our most recent move, up a single floor!

Unlike moving homes or even office buildings, large website moves are extremely complicated. In this case, planning began in the summer of 2007 – starting off with contract renegotiating. The last 2 months have seen a number of slow and methodical changes, particularly in the last 3 weeks. Growth support such as more racks, additional network capacity, more storage and numerous configuration changes to allow more redundancy in our systems. Most of this work was done in the background, with minimal user disruption.

A great example of the talent at VideoBox is software deployments. On average the development team deploys new code every two weeks, constantly fixing bugs and adding features (sometimes mixing them up too). These changes are done 90% of time with no disruption to downloads or site navigation. This is extremely rare for high traffic web sites, who systems usually require complete service outages for upgrades.

Both the Site-Ops and Development teams always love to hear the geek shout-outs and half-cocked theories on what software we use, how big our tubes are or which vendors we prefer. The public facing servers are Linux, with some BSD systems thrown in for good measure (Canadians are known to be tight security dweebs too ). Both MySQL & PostgreSQL are utilized – each with their own benefits. As for the small hand-crank lift, those come in handy when one’s storage systems pack 40+ hard drives in a single chassis.

Out of curiosity what other sort of technical geeky posts would you like to see? Cheers.