Kernel Upgrade Fun

A few days ago I did a kernel upgrade from 2.6.24 to 2.6.32.1. Surprisingly the load on the server has dropped slightly. The server is generally under minimal load, just the way I like it so a drop is particularly surprising. It was restarted just a few weeks prior, so I don’t think the restart had an impact on load. Unscientifically it appears the box is under the same level of usage as prior to the upgrade. The two spikes that delimit the restart are due to some log processing.

Server Load

Making Websites Faster

I’ve always been somewhat of a fan of minimalism when it comes to websites. The way I figure it:

Simpler + faster = better

Lately I’ve become slightly obsessed with seeing how much I can tweak a website to perform faster. In this case it’s my password generator SafePasswd.com, which I built in 2006 and overhauled in 2009. It’s always been somewhat of a playground for me to try things a little different.

The old site circa 2006 took about 5 seconds to load. It was sometimes a little more if the server was under load. After an overhaul I got down to about 3.5 seconds. A solid and respectable improvement considering the new version is way better.

After my latest round of optimization with a clear cache, I’m down to 1.61 seconds, and I think I can get it slightly lower. Google Page Speed score is now a 95 and YSlow is B (83) or A (95) for v2 and v2 small site respectively.

SafePasswd.com Load Time

Most of the improvements were relatively small and simple. A few required some backend changes to make it all work from a technical perspective. Even with a fairly image-centric design it’s possible to get pretty decent performance.

Where Is The Asynchronous AdSense Google?

Anyone who cares about website performance comes to the quick realization that ads are a huge slow down. They are also the source of income for many websites. I somewhat casually mentioned back in December that Google was beta testing an async Google Analytics call. I found a bug in the early version but since updated it works extremely well and is non-blocking. It’s rather awesome.

Google AdSense like most ad networks is still a major slowdown. Often ads are implemented via a script which itself can include several other resources (including other JavaScript). Because it’s just a <script/> it’s blocking. It would be nice if AdSense would have an asynchronous version that lets you specify an element where it could insert the ad when loaded by passing an element object or id. It could then be non-blocking and speed up a large number of websites thanks to its popularity.

I can’t find any reason this wouldn’t technically be possible. It would make setup slightly more complicated, but the payoff for those who choose this implementation would be a faster website. Perhaps Steve Souders could poke the AdSense folks for a faster solution.

I’m also still hoping for SSL support. Another place where Google Analytics is ahead.

Facebook’s HipHop For PHP

I mentioned the other day that Facebook was about to open source a method for speeding up PHP. Today they announced HipHop a code transformation tool that converts PHP into C++ and compiles using g++. There is apparently a server component to this strategy as well.

I’m slightly skeptical that this approach will have much more success than the other attempts in the past. This approach may make sense for Facebook, but I don’t think it will pay off for most smaller (relatively speaking) sites.

I think for most users doing something similar to the Unladen Swallow, an effort for Python which is trying to build a custom virtual machine with a JIT built on top of LLVM would be best. Perhaps even Nanojit could be a potential option.

I suspect HipHop will be a fork more than anything else. Regardless it’s a pretty cool project and some really interesting technology.