Clark Internet Publishing
Clark IP Web Log

September 2015


Biodiesel Feedstock Collection System Continues Expansion
The customer information center we operate on behalf of a national used cooking oil (UCO) collection program has expanded to 14 service providers, over 20 service depots with roughly 300 staff members serving approximately 20,000 restaurants and commercial kitchens in over 1,500 cities across 40 states.

Collectively this provider community has registered over 830,000 waste oil collections on over 46,900 trips. They have collected over 44 million gallons of oil that has thus been kept out of landfills, sewers, rivers and landscapes and the atmosphere. Most of the UCO has been converted to biodiesel, which has kept approximately 980 million pounds of carbon (CO2) out of the air we all share.

Our job is to keep track of schedules, project need, route travel, record collections and report to regulatory agencies, all of which happens over the worldwide web using databases and user interfaces created by Clark IP. We have been doing this since 2008; we've been developing systems for the web since 1994. Uptime for the oil collection system has exceeded 99% the entire time; the longest single outage in the past five years was due to a power failure at an upline provider and lasted under three hours. If that sounds like we're bragging, we do feel pretty good about it.

Have a deep breath on us and another on our customer!

UPDATED: Jan. 16, 2017.

December 2014


Server Reboot
Our web server was rebooted at 10:47 PM.

April 2014


Capacity Expansion
We have added capacity to CPU, memory and storage to accommodate increasing traffic.

May 2013


Security Tip from The Onion
The Onion, an online news parody site, was recently invaded by hackers. The tech team posted the following linked article. It describes how the deed was done and gives some tips your organization might use. Note the references to Twitter, which was a point of vulnerability.

Go There


January 2013


Servers Upgraded
On January 14, 2013, we added server capacity restarted web and mail servers at about 8 p.m. Total timeout was about 12 minutes. Thanks for your continued support!

February 2012


Upgrades to Gallery Clarify, Simplify
We've updated the Gallery system, including the Paypal-oriented catalog option, to make editing easier and navigation clearer. Both editors and end users will find these improvements available from 8 February, 2012. For more information, contact your Clark IP representative. We welcome your feedback.

January 2012


Clark IP paces growth in social networking
Our in-house social networking tools are receiving as much emphasis and interest as our other, more conventional services. These tools allow our clients and others to attach social networks to sites hosted by us or elsewhere and to personalize the site experience and make it more participatory.

July 2011


July Poltergeist
Saturday 7/2 we were experiencing some technical issues with one of our key servers. We are working on the problem. Murphy's Law strikes again; it's a holiday weekend.

Good news; resolved about 2 p.m.

November 2009


Avoid this malicious spam
We've received a particularly malicious spam message. You should watch for it and NOT open the attachment, which in all probability contains malware of some sort.

From: "customersupport@clarkinternet.com" <customersupport@clarkinternet.com>
THIS RETURN ADDRESS DOES NOT EXIST.
Date: November 16, 2009 9:00:48 AM PST
To: <s........@clarkinternet.com>
Subject: your mailbox has been deactivated

We are contacting you in regards to an unusual activity that was identified in your mailbox. As a result, your mailbox has been deactivated. To restore your mailbox, you are required to extract and run the attached mailbox utility.

Best regards, clarkinternet.com technical support.

A .zip file was attached.

September 2009


Email Delay Resolved
A mysterious bug (we're blaming the swine flu) hit our mail servers for about six hours today, delaying deliveries to most users. The problem appears to have been resolved. While we have your attention, you can improve service to all by reducing the frequency with which you check your mail. If you receive just a few messages each day, why not set the frequency to hourly or even daily? Thanks!

January 2009


'Free hosting' myth persists
Among the objections we hear when talking with prospective website owners is that they can get "the same thing" free somewhere. We thought it was about time to repeat an article we ran a couple of years ago on the subject. Caveat emptor.

Read more about it


December 2008


Access, Security Concerns Cited as Laptops Exceed Desktop Sales
For the first time ever, notebook (laptop) sales have surpassed desktop sales, according to research cited in a recent article in Eweek. In the third quarter of 2008, notebook PC shipments rose almost 40 percent compared with the same period of 2007 to reach 38.6 million units. Conversely, desktop PC shipments declined by 1.3 percent for the same period to 38.5 million units, according to the report.

The authors note that small to midsize business owners should carefully consider their needs before moving from a desktop- to notebook-based business.

They caution that notebooks offer portability and come with much longer battery life and more features and power than ever before. However, when notebooks aren’t being used for mobile computing they often require peripherals for use in the office. On the road, additional components like Wi-Fi access, the required broadband cards and an extra battery can also add to costs.

Another issue to keep in mind before purchasing a slew of notebooks is that they are frequently lost and can be easily damaged. The FBI's National Crime Information Center reported that the number of reported laptop thefts increased almost 48 percent over the last two years, to nearly 109,000 from 73,700, Eweek reported among other statistics.

A worthy option: While losing the hardware is unfortunate, the company information contained inside the notebook could cost much more. Dell and Lenovo offer tracking and lock-down features on their notebook families, and starting in 2009, Lenovo ThinkPad notebook users can remotely shut down a laptop that has been stolen or lost.

Eweek Source


November 2008


Clark IP Web Application Manages Alternative Fuel Resources
Clark IP has recently implemented for a client a web application that manages collection of waste material that is converted into a new renewable fuel. The application manages customer relations with several thousand independent producers of the waste stream, schedules pickups, routes travel and tracks collections.

Our client has been in business for several years. Current operations support over one million gallons of output annually with projected growth to several millions over the next two years. The company has over 50 employees, about one dozen vehicles and over 4,000 source locations that must be visited regularly but that should not be visited unnecessarily.

The Problem

The client was falling behind in collection of WVO from its sources. Scheduling and routing were being accomplished with a contact management program plus detailed customer knowledge by a few key employees. WVO sources include restaurants and commercial kitchens in a large region that encompasses major cities and small towns. The company had reached its limit on span of control of the needed information. Uncollected oil at source locations was being stolen by competitors and other unauthorized persons.

The Clark IP Solution

We designed a system that manages customer relations using a web based interface. The major components are customer management (account, location, person); a scheduler-router (trucks, people, services); a sales lead and tracking system that automatically feeds successful leads into the customer management system. The scheduling algorithms track and record current activity and use it as the basis of estimates of when and how much incoming waste is expected. This is used to select locations for just-in-time pickup.

The system uses a custom database and builds upon a solid base of industry standard open software such as Linux, MySQL, PHP, HTML/CSS. This platform has significant advantages in cost, stability, and maintainability.

Using a server-client model allows the system to provide for multiple users, with access restrictions to suit each user, and provides availability over the internet allowing for use by remote facilities and users in the field via laptops and smart phones.

The Outcome

The system has been in operation for nine months at this writing. That period has seen an increase in locations from about 1,400 to over 4,700 and collection volume from about 66,000 to over 162,000 start to peak.

Summary and detailed reports show daily and monthly transactions using a mix of text and eye-catching graphics. The system alerts management to special issues including so-called "fires" or emergency customer service situations.

Although the system's field and reporting services are tightly wrapped around this customer, the underlying CRM elements and service management structure were designed to be adaptable to other applications.

What do you want to collect or distribute today?

August 2008


Upline Provider Outage
One of our key upline providers was out of service for about two hours this morning, which affected access to several of our main systems. Web and mail service was briefly unavailable and was restored by about 9 a.m. This was our first interruption of service in several years; we continue to experience "up time" well in excess of 99 percent.

May 2008


Formatting printed output from Sitemaker CMS
You can make printouts of your web pages more attractive by adding a style sheet that hides the site navigation. You just add some code to the style sheet of your Sitemaker CMS site. This code precedes or follows your other custom styles in its entirety.

You can also place in in the style sheet of a single page if that is more appropriate for your situation. The technique will work with any standard Sitemaker layout. Highly stylized layouts may require additional terms.

The example shows how to hide the standard navigation areas of your page.

<style type="text/css" media="print">
#navigation,
#SM_top_menu_content,
#SM_member_bar,
#footer
{
display: none;
}
</style>

April 2008


Directory Listing Format Revised
List pages in our Directory tool now have additional information and one functional change, installed today, April 18. Each listing now shows a document icon linked to the listings brochure or personal page. The envelope icon now takes the user to the brochure page and is no longer linked to the email form. Finally, a small red question mark indicates that contact data are missing.

The removal of the email link was occasioned by the increasing problem of spam to listing owners. By moving the email function to the brochure page additional "tunneling" is required, which increases the burden on would-be spammers. We found that when a similar change was made to the new-listings feature the amount of spam from that feature went down.

Email Account Manager Updated
We have recently installed an upgrade to our email account manager. We suggest all domain administrators sign in and familiarize themselves with it, as there are some major differences. (If you are not an email administrator this article will seem rather meaningless.)

Administrators can now edit which services are available to each user. If your domain is so enabled, you can turn off/on IMAP, POP, vacation messages and other features. If you do not understand the options we suggest you create a test account and modify it to experiment, rather than applying changes to real mailboxes, until you are familiar with the new techniques.

Navigation within a domain is improved with a jump-to first and -last link, eliminating much of the scrolling and previous-next linking needed before. A better search tool now quickly finds individual users and mailboxes, and all lists and search results are noticeably faster.

Note especially the presence of a Delete Account link next to each account on the account list page; previously this feature was hidden to prevent accidental deletion. We encourage user feedback on this option; we are inclined to revert to our previous configuration.

The account management software is a third-party acquisition. We have installed it as it came from the developer. Some of the GUI features are not what we would do, including the low-contrast links. We may change these features over time to ease navigation.

Feedback via your account administrator is welcome. Enjoy!

Standard Biodiesel: Recycling plus mobility
Standard Biodiesel of Arlington, WA, recycles waste vegetable oil (WVO) into clean-burning diesel fuel that boasts lower emissions, longer engine life and better performance.

Clark Internet Publishing has created a custom Web application to manage routing of WVO collections and customer service for Standard Biodiesel. The same system will be expanded in 2008 to manage plant operations. The entire system is designed for seamless expansion to additional production facilities.

Clark IP's Rees and Gavin Clark have been associated with SB since its early planning stages, assisting in the creation of the original business plan and consulting on the business concept and operations.

The linked article appeared today in The Seattle Times on April 9, 2008.

Read more in The Seattle Times


March 2008


Use it again, Sam!
Here at Clark IP, we're currently working on an exciting data management project with a recycling firm in the Northwest that collects sows' ears and turns them into silk purses (pardon the metaphor, but we cannot use their name right now). The project entails monitoring collection and distribution of the reusable materials from over 2,000 sources and the distribution of the products to a growing number of outlets.

The client needed to replace a customer service management process that was straining the limits of a widely used, desktop contact management program. The source material was backing up at client locations, and production of recycled products was lagging.

Our approach was to offload the data, parse the entire database and migrate the data into a fully relational, MySQL database with PHP middleware driving a web interface that lets managers, production supervisors, drivers and customer support staff access and maintain information from any web browser.

Following a planning and development period lasting about three months, we're happy to report that the system launched with only a couple of page-positioning errors that were quickly handled, and the staff abandoned the old method for the new after only three days of experimentation. The backlog of source material in the region has been reduced from 122,000 units to 82,000 units in about ten days of active collections.

Next to our Journalmaker and Sitemaker tools, this is our largest project to date, and we look forward to presenting a more complete case study later this spring.

February 2008


Is your ISP 'shaping' your connection?
Legislation introduced by Rep. Ted Markey last week renews the fight over "net neutrality" and would require ISPs to remain "neutral" in transmitting content. Clark IP supports the principle of net neutrality. The related article from Macworld has more information. ISPs have taken to using the euphemism "shaping" to describe their manipulation of your prepaid connection. Getting what you pay for? Maybe not.

Read Macworld


January 2008


Brief service outage planned for weekend of Jan 25-27
We have been informed by certain of our upstream providers that they will be relocating key equipment including some of ours during the coming days. UPDATE: The operation is now scheduled for Saturday night after 5PM according to our provider.

During the operation Clark IP web and mail servers will be briefly unavailable.

This will occur some time between Friday morning and Sunday night if all goes as planned. We have been told that the relocation will take only a few minutes; the time required to shut down, repower and restart our server(s) is typically about fifteen minutes, but could be longer when added to the physical relocation.

We have requested that the operation be performed over the weekend, outside Pacific Time business hours 9-5, M-F, but that has not been guaranteed by the providers. We cannot specify the precise time.

Web services (sites) will be unavailable, including our own. DNS services will not be affected. Some web site visitors may receive a message that their browsers "cannot find the server."

Email will be unavailable as well. No email messages will be lost, but they may be delayed. The mail server mail1.clark-ip.com and its backups will be off line. If you receive a message from your email program that it cannot contact the mail server, that will be a pretty good indication that the move has begun. Mail will not be forwarded to alternate servers during the outage; it will be held for later delivery by the sending or intermediate server(s).

Telephoning or messaging us will not speed up the process. We regret the late notice, which we have prepared as soon as possible due to late notice from the provider and the need to back up server content. A special backup was performed Thursday afternoon. It is possible that one of the regularly scheduled overnight backups may be skipped, depending on the time of the operation.

Note that this is the first interruption of service since February 2004, with the exception of very brief, weather-related stoppages. Our systems' availability continues well in excess of 99 percent, which average exceeds our published performance standard and which has been sustained since 1998 when we began keeping track.

Thanks for your patronage as always.

Double H Headdresses Site Debuts
Our newest client is Double H Headdresses of Cody, WY. Double H is a designer and manufacturer of classic Plains Indian ceremonial regalia, produced in traditional methods with natural materials. We encourage you to visit them on the Web and in person.

November 2007


Add a Forum to Your Site
The latest upgrade to our Sitemaker and Journalmaker systems includes a message-bulletin board system called Forums. Each site owner can opt to include this simple feedback mechanism to communicate with visitors or to let members communicate with each other.

Comments by site visitors or members in the Forums are integrated with a generalized comments management service that facilitates a variety of views of comments in blogs, news and informational pages and other content.

Forums requires the Members subsystem to manage login. Each site sets its permissions for use of the forums and other subsystems that require login.

Domain Name Stolen/Squatted? Read This
Otherwise known as ‘Cyber Squatting’, domain squatting is the act of registering, trafficking in or using a domain name with the intent to profit from the good name of an organizations trademark, brand or identity. Here are some of the common ways in which domain squatters work.

Source article at Wired


December 2006


Uptime: 100 Percent!
A milestone for Clark IP: Here's the abridged status report from our primary web server: (top - 09:05:34 up 364 days, 23:07...), which means that in less than a day it will have been working without interruption for a full year.

Another way to say that is 100 PERCENT UPTIME! Our confidence is boundless, so we're making this announcement a day early, since if we only achieve the current 99.988584475 percent, we'll still be pretty happy.

Update 12-21-06 - We made it, of course.

Power Hunger!
Our server network did not falter during the recent storm and is working fine. Some of our clients and staff in the Puget Sound region have been without power or without 'net access since the Thursday (12/14) storm. We're working on the problem.