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Dave Robinson
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Dave Robinson

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Google Is Quicker Than HTTP

In 2009, +Google announced that it was developing a new protocol: SPDY, pronounced speedy. It was supposed to improve speeds over traditional HTTP traffic. When I read the announcement, I thought this was Google’s efficiency gone mad. 

Google has always tried to push efficiency as far as possible. They made Javascript scream in +Google Chrome, they have some of the most energy efficient data centres in the world, they’ve provided a way to save bytes when downloading web fonts. The list goes on and on. If there is something inefficient out there with the Web, you can bet Google is working on it. 

SPDY seemed silly to me though. Granted that SPDY could gain something in efficiency, could they really save all that much? Additionally, was anyone really going to start using SPDY in place of regular old HTTP? Was Google really going to convince web servers and browsers to adopt this new standard. That seemed so far fetched to me that while I could acknowledge that SPDY has some merits, I thought it a waste of time.

That was in 2009. A year later in 2010, Google’s fast-growing browser, Chrome, announced support for SPDY. In early 2011, Google’s own services deployed SPDY. Now one could see that at least from Google’s perspective, all its servers could run SPDY and any Chrome browser out there could take advantage. These little efficiencies would make Google sites seem faster for Chrome users and would also remove some burden from Google’s own servers.

In 2012, Twitter enabled SPDY on its servers, the party hasn’t stopped since. Firefox, Internet Explorer, WordPress, Facebook, Opera, Amazon. The list goes on and on. One by one, everyone fell in line to support SPDY. Then, it was announced that HTTP/2, the successor to the ubiquitous HTTP/1.1 that we all use every day, would use SPDY as the base for its technical specification.

In less than 6 years, Google had turned what seemed like a bad joke in 2009 into the new standard for web communication. HTTP/2 was published as a proposed standard by the IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group) in February of 2015.

This didn’t happen because of Google’s muscle though. It happened because SPDY really was fast. It included many enhancements over traditional HTTP. Called multiplexing, SPDY allowed for multiple HTTP sessions over a single connection. This greatly reduced the many roundtrips of having to setup each individual session. TCP itself requires three packets to setup a session, then TLS layered on top of that requires another 4 packets. All of this means multiple round trips before any data can be sent. SPDY does it once and all data is sent in multiple sessions on that single connection.

SDPY also reduces the size of the HTTP headers by compressing them and eliminating useless ones. This makes the same requests faster. On top of that SDPY allows for prioritization of some streams (or sessions) over others, and even allows the server to push some data out itself. 

The only issue I saw with SPDY was that it required mandatory encryption. Google is all about security, so I wasn’t surprised that this was the case. However, if you run a site that simply puts information on the web, with no need for user input or interaction, is there any need to encrypt that data? For example, the Canadian government has a site that allows people to read the various laws online. There is nothing to do on that site other than read law. There is no user input available and the site is open to all. Why should anyone care that the data is encrypted when transmitted over the Internet? This creates the potential for SPDY to be slower than HTTP in certain cases, and it also burdens servers unnecessarily. 

As it turns out, others weren’t happy about mandatory encryption either. Cisco voiced major concerns about this because small appliances like routers and switches would be hard pressed to enroll and renew certificates regularly, especially when proper certificates cost money. The issue is complex, but it basically meant that Cisco would have to leave HTTP/2 out of their devices, or utilize it and cause their users to see certificate and security warnings on their browsers when they accessed Cisco devices. Neither is a good option. Thankfully, HTTP/2 decided to part ways with SPDY on this one point and not require mandatory encryption -- though it’s unclear if any browsers will allow anything other than an encrypted session.

Though that was my major concern, there were more fundamental issues. It’s not that people didn’t notice those issues, it’s more that we all just accepted them as the fabric of the Internet. They were unalterable realities that restricted our protocols. They were so well known and considered so unsolvable that they just blended into the background and were accepted and forgotten.

The more fundamental problems that we have on the Internet are TCP problems. TCP isn’t going anywhere and while it can be improved here and there (and it has been over the years) it can only be altered so much. Not only that, but TCP is deeply embedded into operating systems. Changing it generally means replacing kernels or upgrading entire operating systems. This is not easily done, and it’s certainly not something that can be globally done. It’s a major problem.

Consider video streaming. When you’re watching a video on a congested Internet connection, you are probably going to lose some packets. TCP requires that those packets be retransmitted. Even if you are into the 10th second of video, TCP would retransmit a frame in the 9th second if it was missed. The problem is that this adds to the congestion that’s already taking place -- all for segments of data that you no longer care about. TCP is generally poor at a number of other things too, and though some of these can be altered, upgrading the world’s operating systems is a hard goal to achieve.

This is why Google is finished with SPDY and is now working on QUIC. QUIC will solve some of the problems associated with TCP by operating over UDP instead. Paradoxically, QUIC serves as a second transport layer on top of UDP, but will be faster than simply using one transport layer in TCP. QUIC will function in much the same way as SPDY did, but without the limitations of TCP, QUIC can be much faster.

As opposed to TCP+TLS+SPDY’s 8 packets to setup a connection, QUIC will require only 2 packets (1 round trip) to setup an initial session. On subsequent connections, QUIC can just send data with no connection setup at all using cached information.

Since UDP is a connectionless, unreliable protocol, it has no retransmissions. QUIC streams can layer reliability on top of UDP or can remain unreliable. This makes QUIC flexible in that it can require retransmissions like TCP today, or it can be the protocol we need for streaming video with no retransmissions. This isn’t 100% clear from the spec, but there’s no reason not to do this and the spec at least seems to hint at this.

TCP limits SPDY streams where there is trouble on the line. One stream suffering from packet loss will affect all other streams. This isn’t the case with QUIC. Since it’s carried by simple UDP, QUIC can be fully in control and allow packet loss to affect only the stream that experienced the loss.

QUIC also does some very clever error correction. It can send FEC (Forward Error Correction) packets at regular intervals. This is explained kind of like RAID, but for packets. A parity packet can be sent so that if there is an error, the lost packet can be computed from the previous packets and the FEC packet. No need for retransmission at all. This is very clever indeed.

Lastly, since QUIC doesn’t rely on TCP, it’s not bound to very specific sessions on source and destination IPs and port numbers like TCP is. A QUIC connection is based on a connection ID that has nothing to do with IP addresses or port numbers. This means that even if your IP address changes, or your firewall experiences a failover to a backup unit, your QUIC session can remain active without having to setup a new one. In TCP this is very hard to do with firewalls today and it certainly can’t be done if IP addresses change. 

The downside to QUIC is that header or transport information is encrypted. This means that QUIC sessions are essentially unreadable to firewalls. There will be no NGFW that can block Facebook chatting while allowing you to view Facebook pages. There won’t even be any packet inspection that can be done to troubleshot issues. Any packet investigation will have to be done at the endpoints, and probably still will require new tools to do it. This is ugly, but Google maintains that once firewalls and other middle devices start looking at the headers of the protocol, they’ll start providing blocking and forwarding features that rely on those headers, making the protocol difficult to upgrade QUIC without breaking certain firewall implementations. This is a good point, but it seems to me that troubleshooting, packet capture, and the potential for NGFWs to block certain aspects of QUIC are more important than the risk of new QUIC versions introducing breaking changes. Even if they do introduce such changes, device vendors will have to upgrade their software. This is certainly a slower process, but seems like a fair middle ground to me. The issue is also mitigated if Google gets QUIC right out of the gate, rather than making major changes to the protocol down the road.

Keep an eye out for QUIC, it seems like it’ll solve many of our current protocol limitations, but it could also disrupt the burgeoning NGFW market. If Cisco caused some major concerns over HTTP/2’s mandatory encryption, just watch the fireworks when the NGFW vendors have to deal with QUIC. 

QUIC is very new, so don’t expect to see anything happen all that, well, quick. However, Google did an amazing job with SPDY and you can expect that QUIC will be no different.

//cc: +Roberto Peon
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Dave Robinson

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Exploding Sodium Explained

I watched the +Periodic Videos​ video that showed cesium exploding. There a ton of these videos out there and it really seemed from the explanations like there was nothing left to discover.

This is a bit of a longer watch, but truly a triumph of the scientific spirit. A very rewarding watch.
 
Wow!  Sodium powered electrical generators?  That's a mind trip, but seems so plausible.   Congrats on the discovery!
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So the rumour was overblown, but still, a firmware update speeds up Tesla's already crazy-fast P85D.

Check out @elonmusk's Tweet: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/560898568748531712
“Tesla P85D 0 to 60mph acceleration will improve by ~0.1 sec soon via over-the-air software update to inverter algorithm”
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Dave Robinson

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There are so many of those videos showing how great make-up transforms average people into magazine cover material. Here's an impressive video showing what $20k of lighting, a rain machine, and no Photoshop can do. Wow.
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Is The Internet In Space An Idea That's Really Down To Earth?

Elon Musk has recently announced building a network of satellites that will provide space Internet for the masses. The focus will be on providing Internet to the rural masses who can't get it reliably or quickly today. This solves a real problem. My sister-in-law is a rural Canadian who can get satellite Internet, but the latency is massive and the bandwidth caps are barely better than mobile Internet. Now consider this: she's one of the lucky rural Internet users. Many have no access at all.

Musk proposes that SpaceX will solve this problem. He's also suggesting that he'll build out an interplanetary Internet reaching to Mars. Keeping our feet on the ground though, Musk made an interesting statement about his satellite Internet. Aside from rural philanthropy, he's also claiming that he'll be able to achieve a faster Internet as light travels 40% faster in the vacuum of space than it does through fiber optic cables. That needs some unpacking.

While the speed of light statement is obvious, two other questions need consideration. How long does it take to the signal into space in the first place? Furthermore, granted that the latency will be 40% less in a vacuum, what is the wireless technology that Musk will use to achieve faster wireless throughput than transatlantic fiber optic cables offer today?

The first question is easier to answer. Satellite Internet providers today use satellites in geosynchronous orbit. This makes good sense because you simply point your antenna to the right place in the sky and as long you've got line-of-sight, you've got Internet access. Geosynchronous orbits sit some 32,000km above the earth though. Light takes about 120ms to get to those satellites, and another 120ms to get back. That makes for a whopping 240ms up and down -- almost a quarter second. Many rural customers experience only that because they only care about download speeds. They have some low bandwidth land connection for upstream access. So in a typical use case, a tiny request for a web page goes through a land line that doesn't need much bandwidth. It hits the ISP on the ground, the web page is retrieved, sent to the satellite (120ms) for transmission, and the satellite sends the web page down to the client who requested it (another 120ms). Some (mostly businesses) have expensive antennas on their roofs capable of sending data into the sky as well. Now that web page request takes 120ms to hit the satellite, another 120ms to come back to the ground where the web site is, another 120ms for the page to go back up to space, and a final 120ms for the page to be delivered from space to the customer. That's 480ms of latency assuming that the satellites themselves and the rest of the Internet introduce no latency at all!

At 240ms round trip, the Internet feels terribly slow, no matter how much bandwidth one can offer. At 480ms, it's more than crippling. The current satellite providers "fix" this by utilizing TCP accelerators that pull off some great trickery. The result is that while things seem slow to start with, once a session gets going, things seem pretty snappy and you can enjoy the bandwidth that's being offered. In recent years, there have been some advancements in TCP itself to handle high-latency connections much better, so the accelerators may play a decreasing role in the future.

Still though, that's only TCP. For everyone who builds a VPN connection to their office using UDP (NAT Traversal) or ESP (IPsec), you're out of luck. Your traffic will seem dreadfully slow - if it even works at all. That goes for users using some of the newer P2P protocols out there too. And this is only going to get worse. Streaming video is going to use UDP rather than TCP more and more. Gaming is in the UDP boat too. Simply getting TCP to work just isn't enough.

SpaceX has a great answer here. Rather than geosynchronous orbit, they are planning a network of satellites in low Earth orbit. Rather than 32,000km above the Earth, SpaceX will be a mere 1200km above the Earth. The one-way latency for that distance is only 4ms. For transmitting to space, then back down to the Internet, then receiving data back from the Internet and sending it to space, and finally from space back to your home (which clearly must be the goal here) we're only looking at 16ms. Outstanding!

Now that the signal can get into space quickly it can take advantage of the 40% increase in speed to be achieved by sending data through space rather than fiber optic cables. It's going to need it. The circumference of the Earth is about 40,000km. Once you're 750km above the Earth though, the circumference of your satellite ring is almost 44,000km - a 10% difference in distance. That's eating into the 40% speed increase. 

The real issue is that our current transatlantic cables are capable of providing something on the order of 70ms to cross the pond. 40% of that is 28ms. If we could shave 28ms off of Internet latency, it would make great sense. But it's really more like shaving off 30% because of the larger circumference, which makes our savings only 21ms. This is one-way end-to-end latency, which means in space that'll include getting the signal to space and back down again, an 8ms hit. Now that 21ms becomes 13ms. Still better, but getting slim, and it sure ain't 40%.

Finally, Musk needs a way for these satellites to transmit tens of gigabits per second wirelessly to rival current cable technology. He probably needs to be able to do it all with the power of the sun too, since these things will run on solar power. This is no easy task. 

Complicating matters is the nature of low Earth orbits. Musk will need a network of satellites that will have to be talking to each other. Maybe this is easier in space, but this is tricky from the ground. Since the orbits aren't geosynchronous, one cannot simply point an antenna to the right spot in the sky. There is no right spot. Relative to the Earth, the satellites keep changing position. The Earth bound antennae will need to track the satellites in space in order to keep in constant communication with them.

SpaceX thinks it'll cost them about $10B to launch the entire project. That makes sense, since aside from the wireless space protocol that will send data at ten of gigabits per second, all of the other technology has already been made.  So why hasn't this been done already. It has. Sort of.

Teledesic tried to do this 90s. Low Earth orbit, a network of satellites, high speed connections on Earth. It's all been tried. The cost? Teledesic projected $9B. That's $9B of 90s dollars. Irridium, Orbcomm, and Globalstar are all companies that tried something similar with low Earth orbits - though at lower bandwidth.

The Teledesic project is most interesting because it was partially funded by Bill Gates himself. So who's funding this new SpaceX project? It's partially funded by new tech giant on the block. Google and Fidelity are putting up $1B in exchange for roughly 10% of SpaceX.

It's easy to look at this and imagine that it will be another failure. However, there's something about betting against Musk that doesn't sit well. If there's someone who could actually make this happen, it's the guy who's bringing electric cars and reusable rockets into the mainstream. If they've managed to get $1B from Google and Fidelity, they might just be onto something.

This could mean that truly redundant Internet connections (one wired and one in space) will become common place. Just like we're seeing the 3G Internet-on-a-stick making small waves today, we could soon see space transmitters and receivers making much larger waves tomorrow. This would be a new horizon for reliable Internet, as well as for network installers, troubleshooters, and managers.
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You're just waiting for the day when a trip to install a router for a client is not a drive or a flight, but an interplanetary journey to Mars, aren't you? :)
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This was a great read. I've often wondered some of these things, but never bothered to look it up. In particular, my eldest was just asking me the other day what the etymology of jaywalking was.
 
The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of "jaywalking"
By Joseph Stromberg (Vox). January 15, 2015
vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history 
Excerpt:

<< "In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers' job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them," says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. "But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it's your fault if you get hit."

One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking. Here's a history of how that happened. >>
 . . . 
<< The idea that pedestrians shouldn't be permitted to walk wherever they liked had been present as far back as 1912, when Kansas City passed the first ordinance requiring them to cross streets at crosswalks. But in the mid-twenties, auto groups took up the campaign with vigor, passing laws all over the country.

Most notably, auto industry groups took control of a series of meetings convened by Herbert Hoover (then Secretary of Commerce) to create a model traffic law that could be used by cities across the country. Due to their influence, the product of those meetings — the 1928 Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance — was largely based off traffic law in Los Angeles, which had enacted strict pedestrian controls in 1925. >>
 . . . 
<< Even while passing these laws, however, auto industry groups faced a problem: in Kansas City and elsewhere, no one had followed the rules, and they were rarely enforced by police or judges. To solve it, the industry took up several strategies.

One was an attempt to shape news coverage of car accidents. The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, an industry group, established a free wire service for newspapers: reporters could send in the basic details of a traffic accident, and would get in return a complete article to print the next day. These articles, printed widely, shifted the blame for accidents to pedestrians — signaling that following these new laws was important.

Similarly, AAA began sponsoring school-safety campaigns and poster contests, crafted around the importance of staying out of the street. Some of the campaigns also ridiculed kids who didn't follow the rules — in 1925, for instance, hundreds of Detroit school children watched the "trial" of a twelve-year-old who'd crossed a street unsafely, and as Norton writes, a jury of his peers sentenced him to clean chalkboards for a week.

This was also part of the final strategy: shame. In getting pedestrians to follow traffic laws, "the ridicule of their fellow citizens is far more effective than any other means which might be adopted," said E.B. Lefferts, the head of the Automobile Club of Southern California in the 1920s. Norton likens the resulting campaign to the anti-drug messaging of 80s and 90s, in which drug use was portrayed not only as dangerous, but stupid. >>

— Joseph Stromberg. The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of "jaywalking". Vox. January 15, 2015.
vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history 

Related pages: 

• Roman. Episode 76: The Modern Moloch. 99% Invisible. April 4, 2013.
99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-76-the-modern-moloch 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaywalking#Legal_issues_by_jurisdiction 
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reclaim_the_Streets 
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy 

URL source G+ post:
plus.google.com/+TimOReilly/posts/7ZCG7ftQdvo 
URL via G+ post: 
plus.google.com/+MichaelJCoffey/posts/cSQs3CwFP6Y 

URL related G+ posts: 
plus.google.com/+ArthurBrownleeIV/posts/h6oHhSYvTKn 
plus.google.com/+reasonmagazine/posts/K71HGUoaVdP 
plus.google.com/+StefanMolyneux_Freedomain_Radio/posts/WZRQCLbRXov 
plus.google.com/+ZephyrLópezCervilla/posts/4yQmgttYehs 
In the 1920s, auto groups redefined who owned the city street.
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Google did a great job capturing some great moments in my year.
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The Fermilab channel is, by far, the best channel on +YouTube for particle physics. There are some other good sources out there, but these guys are fantastic. 

I thought I was pretty up-to-date on the subject of dark matter (as up to date as a popular science reader can be without digging into the math), but this presentation was fantastic. All the information about the gamma ray signal was totally new to me. The Q&A session at the end was great too.

If you've got an hour on your hands and you've been interested in dark matter, this is a great primer on the topic and a great introduction to the current research. 

It's exciting to think that in my lifetime we might have a fairly deep understanding of what dark matter is. I remember reading about quasars when I was a child. The most you could read was that they were these mysterious sources of massive amounts of energy that were some of the furthest objects in space we knew of. I was fascinated by what was out there that could be so powerful. Having seen the mystery of quasars solved in my lifetime has been so interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what is uncovered about dark matter.
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Inside a Camera at 10,000fps

This is one of the best videos that the +SloMoGuys​ have done.

cc: +Mike Robinson​, +Mike Robinson

Inside a Camera at 10,000fps - The Slow Mo Guys: http://youtu.be/CmjeCchGRQo
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That's pretty awesome!
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An interesting article on how tech companies get eclipsed. Is +Google  next? I enjoy reading Stratechery by Ben Thompson. Pretty insightful guy.

http://stratechery.com/2014/peak-google/
Google owns search, and will continue to do so. But the online ad market is about to get a lot bigger, and it's not clear that Google will win.
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Ready to have your mind blown. Watch this for a few minutes. Legolas and Hawkeye have nothing in this guy.
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Here are my shots taken at Red Rock Canyon. I was really impressed with what came out of my Nexus 5 camera. +Android's camera app allowed me to put together horizontal and vertical panoramas, as well as one fisheye shot. +Google+'s automatic enhancements helped in some places too. Additionally, some panoramas were created by +Google's auto-awesome feature when I uploaded certain stills that covered overlapping areas.

For me, it's hard to believe that all of this came from my phone. While the +Nexus may not be rated as the greatest camera out there, I was still really impressed. I should mention, the scenery itself helped quite a bit. Hard to take a bad shot surrounded by this amazing place. Really had a good time at Red Rock Canyon.
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beautiful and I think it was unusual for you to see that area with the cloud cover?
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I'm just a guy trying to put out a fire.
Introduction
Programmer, chess enthusiast, follower of Jesus - oh, and I love food too.
Education
  • Cardinal Newman
    1990 - 1994
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Male
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Software Development / Computer Networking
Employment
  • End to End Networks
    Senior Technology Specialist, 1998 - present
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Toronto
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Bendale provides solid Bible-based teaching and a loving, caring environment for individuals and families. A wonderful community growing together as they follow Jesus.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
The wait times for the servers are sometimes painful, particularly when they impose a dining limit of 2 hours. I stayed 2.5 hours, and was prepared to argue at length that it was their fault. No matter though, the food (when it arrived) was very good. Massive selection. Almost always cooked to the level on doneness that I preferred. Great flavours to be found here. Recommended for sure. The entire visit was an experience, and one that I will definitely have again.
Food: Very GoodDecor: Very GoodService: Poor - Fair
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
Had the dungeoness crab here. In a word: stellar. Prepared perfectly, my friend and I were licking our fingers. Great oysters, wonderful margaritas.
Food: ExcellentDecor: GoodService: Excellent
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
I had hoped the food would be better. Typical pub fair, nothing special here.
Food: Poor - FairDecor: GoodService: Good
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
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Since this place was feature on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, I had to check it out. I just asked the server to bring something delightful from the menu. She brought the chicken marsala. Wonderful.
Food: ExcellentDecor: GoodService: Excellent
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
Great service. Typical burger and fries joint. Great spot to stop for a snack and get back on the road.
Food: GoodDecor: GoodService: Very Good
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reviewed a year ago
This camp is a little slice of heaven. The staff are fantastic! Very kind and caring. I was not disappointed with a single member of staff. The facilities are great too, all kinds of fun for summer and winter. I'll be there as often as I can.
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