Archive for the ‘voip’ Category

Skype – Their Outage explanation doesn’t make sense

August 21, 2007

We use Skype and we purchased the SkypeOut plan for unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada and we buy Skype minutes to call New Zealand since my husband’s family lives there. We also use it to talk to his brother in Italy and we use the video sometimes too, which is really nice.

I like Skype a lot and have been a strong supporter of Skype. And it has been very reliable. But I’ve always said that you can tell more about a company when it has problems and you can see how they handle them, than when everything runs smoothly. Every company has problems and there have been many times that what I thought was a good company, turned out to be bad in a crisis.

I took a cruise on Royal Olympic cruise lines to Greece and Turkey and I really liked their itinerary, their food and the ship (not my cabin, but that is another story). But I had problems with my luggage when I arrived and they were unresponsive and when we were to disembark, they had put me on a bus that gave me almost no time to check in at the airport and they refused to allow me to get on an earlier bus. Naturally, I ended up missing my plane and standing in the middle of the Athens airport crying (the trip was amazing, but was so exhausting that my reserves were absolutely shot). And they had just dropped me off at the airport and split. After much problems, I eventually got home.

But that soured me so much on Royal Olympic that I would have nothing to do with them, even though they had interesting cruises and had (after much hassle) offered me $500 towards another cruise. They have since gone out of business and I am not surprised.

Anyway, I think Skype dropped the ball on this and I think their post that they finally issued today on why they had the problems, just doesn’t make any sense to me. And not just to me. Just read all the comments on their post – it is up to 320 comments so far. Mauricio Freitas speaks on this in his post Skype Outage caused by Windows Update? Yeah, Right. As he points out: the Windows Updates run at 3am local time. So everyone’s PC does not reboot all at once, they would reboot as their own particular local time hits 3am. And by the time the update would take effect in New Zealand where he is, the outage would have already been in affect for a ridiculously long time. Also,Windows Update is delivered every second Tuesday of the month, and has been for the last three years so what makes it cause a problem this time?

The Microsoft Security Response Center blog posted a response to Skype who asserted it was caused by all the PCs rebooting from the Tuesday Windows update and basically said that they were in contact with Skype and there was nothing unusual with this particular Windows update and there was nothing in the update that would have caused any problems. They said “Fortunately, Skype has identified the cause. As Villu Arak notes, “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm” was the cause, and they have corrected it.” That doesn’t say anything bad about Skype, but essentially says Skype found a problem in their software and fixed it.

But what does Villu’s statement mean? What specifically was the problem and what caused it to occur then and why do they feel it won’t happen again? I would not necessarily be able to understand a full explanation, but the beauty of the internet is that there are people who would and who would determine if what they said made sense and would work to fix the problem. But who can say one way or the other when all they say is that it was “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm”. And there is a real concern about it being a P2P network model.

And as MyITForum says in their post on this, “Skype’s main development unit is in Estonia. Estonia’s infrastructure was targeted by massive denial-of-service attacks earlier this year. This tied together with the fact that a new Denial-of-Service exploit against Skype server software was posted to securitylab.ru just hours ago has created lots rumors about what’s really going on.”

Infoworld had a very good article called “Skype Users don’t Buy Outage Explanation. CSO, the resource for Security Executives asked some specific questions of ennifer Caukin, a Skype spokeswoman. The answers were weak, at best and she said there was no one in the U.S. who could answers the questions today (maybe tomorrow…?). The Skype Journal writes about this and has several thoughts on what Skype needs to do to address this correctly with its users. And Computerworld had a good article asking “Does Skype’s Windows update story fly?” (Thanks to Greg of Voip Spider for turning me on to this article.)

I like what Mike McGrath said on his comment to Skype Journal’s post: “

The great Outage of 2007 has some important lessons. The most surprising to me is that there are many folks out there that believe you have no right to complain about something that’s free. Does that mean I have no right to complain about polluted air?

Still, I like Skype and will continue to use it. I hope Skype takes this opportunity to understand the blogoshere’s reaction, good, bad or ugly and make some adjustments that will be good for everyone.”

Skype should had sent emails to every user of Skype (especially the paying customers) and continued to update with real information regularly. Now they need to answer the questions still being posed and answer them thoroughly. I expect nothing less of them, or of any company.

~Susan Mellott

Skype – It’s not the Problem, it’s how They Handled It

August 18, 2007

Skype appears to be starting to become available. I have been able to access it consistently for several hours. But it is hard to find out how many people are still without Skype and if you cannot get Skype yet, please send me a comment so we can keep track of what the real picture is.

Skype has not been forthcoming at all with what the problem is and there is much speculation that it was caused either by the planned maintenance that took place right before Skype went down, or by a hacker attack or both, through an opening while performing the system maintenance. Here is a good article by PCWorld on why people feel it could have been an attack and it says:

“eBay attributes the outage to a problem in a Skype networking algorithm, but code has been posted to a Russian security discussion forum that could supposedly be used to knock the service offline in a DOS (denial of service) attack.

The code, which was published anonymously, appears to be capable of forcing Skype’s servers to freeze up, said the discussion forum site’s editor, Valery Marchuk, in a posting to the Full Disclosure security discussion list. “Reportedly, it must have caused Skype massive disconnections,” he wrote.”

Even though Skype/ebay denies either of these and is blaming it on a “software problem” (could they be any more vague?), they are both not unreasonable scenarios. Skype is only going to quell any rumors if it gives a good and specific reason as to what happened. They can, and obviously would, say whatever they felt was the safest and less likely to frighten customers away. And that is not unusual, that is what any company would do.

Look at 365 Main when the big outage hit San Francisco a couple weeks ago. Rather than saying they didn’t have proper power backup systems (UPS), a company representative said “Someone came in sh*tfaced drunk, got angry, went berserk, and f**ked up a lot of stuff. There’s an outage on 40 or so racks at minimum.” ValleyWag had a good article on this with lots of interesting links.

While Skype is not updating us on the situation, you can go to the original post on the Skype blog about Skype login problems and read the comments to see what is going on with people in different areas. And here is the latest update at midnight GMT August 18 on the heartbeat.skype.com official Skype site. Basically, it says “We are pleased to announce that the situation continues to improve. The sign-on problems have been resolved. Skype presence and chat may still take a few more hours to be fully operational.” I wonder if all the sign-on problems are now resolved. There are about 4 million users online at this moment. That is less than usual, but some may not have tried to get back on so it is hard to tell.

Skype has been really reliable and this is a rare occuraence, but I think that Skype did a very poor job of keeping people updated. Many people didn’t even know there was a general Skype problem and spent a lot of time trying to figure out why their Skype was not working.

Skype has everyone’s email address that uses Skype and they could have easily sent out emails to everyone stating the situation and giving regular updates (and specifics on what they are finding wrong and what they are doing to correct it).

People say “Skype is free so who are you to complain?”. Well, many, many people actually pay for Skype, believe it or not, and use it for their businesses, their help desks, their contacts and their phone system. I am a paying customer of Skype. At the very least, they owe it to the people who pay for their service to provide a better communication than just a couple posts on their heartbeat website saying nothing more than Skype is having problems and they are working on it.

According to GigaOm’s post on Skype Groans and SIPhone Gains: “The company saw a 400% increase in traffic this morning, with 4 times increase in sales, calls and downloads of its Gizmo Project software. “It is interesting to see that voice callers are transitory,” Michael Robertson, founder, SIPphone wrote in an email.”

Yes, voice callers ARE transitory. And people who change to Gizmo Project, or use Jajah or any of the other ways to make calls, very well may not go back. And while you can say that these may not be the paying customers, people who use Skype for free today, are the paying customers of tomorrow. I used it for free until I decided it was good and I wanted to expand what I could do. And I recommend it to other people who do business in other countries.

I am going to wait and see how this plays out before I recommend Skype again. I have always said that you can tell more about a company by the way they handle problems, than by how well they do when there are no problems. Every company has occasional problems, its how they are handled when they happen that makes the difference.

~Susan Mellott

No Skype yet (Infoworld article to the contrary)

August 17, 2007

Well I got up this morning and despite my hopes that Skype would be up, especially since it was partly up last night, no such luck. I did see it briefly flicker on this morning (for about 15 seconds), but essentially it is completely unavailable for me.

Interestingly enough, in my Skype Yahoo News feed, there is a big headline from Infoword that says Outage of Skype’s VoIP Service appears to be Over. Uh, I don’t think so. Upon reading the article, it goes on to say: “At 3:53 a.m. GMT, Skype seemed to be operating normally, with users in Asia able to log in, view their contact lists, place calls, and send messages.” OK, I gues they should have said the outage seems to be over in Asia, because it sure isn’t over in the U.S.

Skype has been posting short updates on its Skype Heartbeat blog. The latest was at 11am GMT. They are really not giving a lot of information at all in their posts. They certainly are not giving any indications what the problem is, although they are quick to say what the problems aren’t, as in this from the latest post: “Finally, we’d like to dispel a couple of theories that we are still hearing. Neither Wednesday’s planned maintenance of our web-based payment services nor any form of attack was related to the current sign-on issues in any way”

I’m sorry, but when you make a big deal about Skype being down for planned maintenance the night of the 15th and on the 16th everything is broke, I’d tend to look a what was done during the maintenance because as any programmer or computer person knows, if something goes wrong, you try to figure out what was changed and that is a good place to start. Skype did mention on one of its updates that there was a deficiency in an algorithm (whatever that means).

The VoIP Guides blog says “The Real issue was because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user’s own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network. We at VOIP Guide feel, the issue was related to authentication algorithm used on their P2P network which uses a very speculative “supernodes” technology. If anyone of you have read our very interesting article on “skype supernodes and vulnerability“, you would probably know how insecure skype could be.”

They go on to explain more about this. Unfortunately, their link to the article on skype supernodes and vulnerability does not work. I did find this article of their about the issues with supernodes.

They have a pretty decent site with a lot of information (if you can get past all the advertisements). They also mentioned Jajah software as an alternative to Skype and I have heard of Jajah as well as Gizmo Project. From the sound of it, Jajah may be easier and quicker to use, especially for a quick, short term solution.

If this keeps up (Skype stays down) then I will have to check these out and I will post my results then.

And it seems that Infoworld retracted its previous statement and has released an article saying that Skype problems may continue throughout the day.

~Susan Mellott

Skype is Back! Well, up and down…

August 17, 2007

Skype is up again! Well, it is fluctuating on and off but it appears to be getting there. Skype Heartbeat issued this statement at 2:15am GMT saying essentially that they are working on the problem and feel they are making progress (could they say any less and still issue a statement?).

I’m going to bed and hopefully it will be good to go tomorrow morning. And I do have to say that I think Skype is in general a very reliable piece of software. I can’t remember it going down before. But the problem is that so many people rely so heavily on Skype now that Skype going down is like losing your entire phone service.

I got an email from someone who said that their business phones were run completely through Skype and they are having to try to contact people (and be contacted by people) completely through email until this gets resolved. But I’m betting it will be fixed when I get up (fingers crossed).

And if people doubt that Skype is a major player and extremely important to people, just because of my posts on Skype being down, My first Skype post was #27 on the Top Posts on WordPress.com today and my All Things Web 2.0 blog was #5 in the WordPress.com list of fastest growing blogs. Ah, the fame! It will be back to reality tomorrow though 🙂 So Thank You Skype for that, anyway 🙂

Susan Mellott