I’ve been doing some experiments with HTTP textures, and yes, you can proxy/cache them external to your machine even though the viewer doesn’t support it.

There are benefits to this and some downsides. It’s particularly handy if you’re behind a corporate or educational firewall and your network admin would prefer to proxy rather than open up a new port. Caching improvements, alas, are fairly dubious.

Proxying Second Life HTTP-textures with Squid

This is moderately advanced material.

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Well, after a while of thinking that the whole thing might just become vaporware, Mektek did release the free Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries game as promised yesterday, in conjunction with Microsoft.

Problem is that within about an hour or two the name-servers for their domain failed and while they came up a few hours ago, the Web-site itself is now looking deceased – which also essentially kills Mektek’s digital download system. If, however, you’ve got about 1.8GB of bandwidth free, you can still get the release and get it to work.

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Dying to hear back from Linden Lab, but can’t be bothered actually sending them something? Or have you been waiting weeks for a reply?

Trouble yourself no longer, you can now have the reply you’ve always dreamed of!

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So, your team has worked hard on designing a high-performance software system. One of the key components is a thread or service designed to buffer and protect the application from slow operations by caching the response of lookups from slower or more distant systems (like frequently used credential data or permissions, for example that might be coming from database servers).

On the test-bench, everything looks good and then the code goes into production. Everything scales nicely up to peak loads, and then the whole system begins to stall and stutter. Performance ratchets in a staccato sinusoid, working just fine here, and coming to an almost complete halt there. After a while, as overall load falls and end-users become frustrated, it all sorts itself out and runs smoothly, until just after the next peak load.

You direct the team to investigate, to profile code, to monitor logs and performance. Nobody can find a link. Your engineers come up with plans to optimize the cache service and eke every microsecond of performance out of it.

Mysteriously, the problem just gets worse, not better despite thousands of hours and weeks or months of investigation, and tuning. Someone discovers that disabling hyperthreading on the server mitigates the problem significantly, but nobody’s closer to a solution.

Congratulations, you’ve hit a common, but very rarely understood problem in high-performance systems design. It’s bitten almost every high-performance systems shop, yet almost nobody has truly solved the problem, because hardly anyone has understood the true cause at the time. Most engineers end up working around it, because they never quite know where to look.

Let’s save the day and tell your team where to look. It might not be the source of your particular problem, but ruling it out early can save you tens of thousands of dollars in development, and far more than that in frustrated customers.

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