Sun Microsystems donates a beefy database server!

I’m very pleased to announce that Sun Microsystems has donated at beefy database server to the MetaBrainz Foundation!

This 2U rackmount server comes with 12GB RAM, two dual-core AMD processors (2216) @2.4Ghz, 4 SAS 73GB Drives, dual power supplies and enough fans to make a complete racket. And, to top it all off its really sweet looking and made by Sun, the legendary makers of reliable hardware!

I bet some of you are wondering why Sun would simply donate a $11k server to the MetaBrainz foundation, right? Well, during a session break at the Future of Music Policy Summit in Montréal Paul Lamere from Sun Research came up to me and introduced himself: “Hi! I’m Paul Lamere from Sun Research and we love the MusicBrainz data — is there anything we can do to help?”

Our hardware wish-list still had a powerful database server on it and knowing how I want to grow MusicBrainz this new server was becoming more important all the time. So I expressed my desire for a new database server and Paul and I continued to talk quite a bit about this during our stay in Montréal. In the coming weeks Paul made a concerted effort to stay on point and continuously follow up on the donation process. From the time we first spoke about the possible donation until we actually had hardware in hand was only about 10 weeks time — an amazingly fast process — I was expecting a 6 month lead time for something this large.

This new server will allow us to free up the existing database server to be another web server front end. Stimpy our front-end web server has been showing signs of being overloaded (hence the recent couple of downtimes. 😦 ) and bringing online another front end for all of our web service queries will spread the load over more machines. The only downside is that we need to purchase more power since we’re at our max for our current contract.

I’m quite excited by this development. This database server gives us room to grow features and the number of users we can handle at the same time. We have more hard drives to spread the load across and room to easily grow the memory to 16GB (or even 32GB, but at greater cost). I think this machine is going to be our workhorse server for the next few years.

Thank you Paul Lamere, Sun Research, Sun Microsystems — we deeply appreciate your support of MusicBrainz!

P.S. It has been suggested that a dedicated MusicBrainz editor be give then chance to name the new machine. If you have someone in mind, please post a comment below.

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Donations to MetaBrainz (UPDATED!)

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking more about how to fund a developer to work on MusicBrainz server features full time. Part of that thinking was taking a critical look at our traffic and our donations. Here is a graph of our overall traffic to


Aside from a traffic spike in Dec 2005/Jan 2006, our traffic is steadily increasing, which means our bandwidth/hosting bill is also increasing. It used to be that donations covered our bandwidth/hosting costs, but that hasn’t been the case since we switched to the new hosting facility in February of this year. Our donations per month (excluding larger “special occasion” donations) are shown below:


Compared to our traffic, there is much more variability here and aside the “special occasion” big ticket donation (from Google, MusicIP, Cory Doctorow, etc) our donations from end users have shrunk, if anything. I would like to increase our rate of donations so that we can have donations cover our traffic costs again and have our licensing income go towards paying people to work on MusicBrainz.

I know that we’re not trying hard enough to solicit donations from our tagger users. Back in the day before Dave implemented auto pruning on the TRM server, the TRM server would slow down and tagger users would get a “we need more hardware, donate please” message. This would result in a wave of donations from users. To me, this shows that tagger users will respond if forced to. Our “please donate” nag dialog on the tagger is not effective in getting enough people to dig around in their wallets and make a donation to MusicBrainz.

My first approach to nagging users more to donate is to add a nag screen to the taglookup.html page that looks up a file in case the file has no PUID or TRM fingerprint. This page is most likely in use by people tagging their music collections and less so by people focusing on editing MusicBrainz.

Currently, people who donate $10 will receive no nag screen in Picard for six months and I think I’d like to apply this rule here as well. Also, other prolific contributors to MusicBrainz will also not receive the nag screen (via the seekrit NoNag flag on user’s accounts). Before I tromp off to implement this, I’d like to ask you for some feedback:

  1. What do you think of this idea in general?
  2. Do you think that six months no nag is a fair deal for $10?
  3. How do you think we should implement this nag screen?

My first idea is to have a nag panel appear over (and deliberately obscure) the taglookup results every 5 lookups. The nag panel will require people to click on the panel to fully be able to view the results. If the user has JavaScript turned off, the nag panel will be shown above the results and lots of white space will be shown below the nag panel, requiring the user to scroll down to view the results.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Thanks for all your feedback! I’ve starting coding the nag dialog and also started the process of getting another credit card processing company. So far I’ve gotten a quote that should be reasonably competitive to PayPal — if this goes through we’ll be offering people the choice to donate with their credit card via this new company or via PayPal. Stay tuned!

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Final test for bug-fix release on Dec 17th

The next server release is finally done and ready for you to test!

All the bugs in the milestone for this release have now been fixed and are live on the staging server. This includes all the fixes mentioned in the previous blog posting on this topic and all of the pending XML Web Service bugs. If you’ve been complaining about bugs in our search, XML Web service or want to test our new freedb/annotation searches, please go to the staging server and try out the fixes/new features there.

Please take a look at the staging server soon — the next release is now scheduled for Dec 17th! If you find any bugs in this release, please enter them into our bug tracker!

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