Slow Site

Last Friday (May 2), the data center where this site lives suffered a power fluctuation due to some tornado activity in the area. The actual outage (if there was even one) seemed to have been in the 5 minute ballpark based on various monitors. Apparently this somehow resulted in a routing problem resulting in some lag and packet loss for some (including myself). Possibly a router that didn’t persist as well as one would hope. This is being investigated.

As a result, if this site (and it’s feed) seems slower than normal, that’s the reason.

Fun With Wordage v4

I haven’t redesigned this blog since 2005. As I mentioned recently, it was long overdue. It’s finally here. Some of the more notable changes:

  • Much wider content area – The old design was optimized for 800×600 displays. It didn’t allow for anything much wider than 400px, meaning images often had to be cropped or scaled in ways that I really didn’t like. Now optimized for 1024×768 there’s over 600px of useful layout. That’s much better!
  • Movin’ on up! – The old design has a huge header that pushed real content way to low. This design pushes content much higher meaning less scrolling.
  • Related Posts – Simply because it’s convenient. It’s rather accurate and brings up stuff that even I forgot about.
  • Now in a blog directory – This blog is now located at: robert.accettura.com/blog – This url hierarchy makes more sense. Don’t worry, old posts all redirect to the new location. The front page is pretty plain right now, but that will change slowly over time.
  • Components rewritten – Several parts of the blog’s templates and various widgetry have been totally rewritten including my AJAX comments. Lighter, faster, and (hopefully) less bugs.
  • Not done yet – It’s not even done yet. I’ve got more in the works, but those things will see the light in weeks to come.

Check it out (yes you in your feed reader) and let me know if you see any issues. I’m sure there’s still some bugs that need to be ironed out.

5 Years

Despite this year actually knowing it was coming, it still sounds strange that I’ve had this site up and running for 5 years now. That’s a half decade. In all honesty when I started I didn’t expect it to last too long. I’ve had the domain for nearly 10 years.

From Then To Now

This started out as a few static pages over 5 years ago, and eventually turned into a blog in March 2003 as a college Freshman. Generally I’ve kept the format pretty much the same, the most notable change was switching from more “random” posts to mostly tech related posts in recent years. This wasn’t intentional, it’s just how it worked out. The reception to that change has been overwhelmingly positive. Though I’ve been asked from time to time, to bring some humor back.

Just since graduating college in 2006, I’ve been mentioned on numerous blogs, made the Digg homepage, quoted on Ars Technica (more than once), linked on Gruber’s Darling Fireball. Most of that is pretty recent too. Daily traffic has been increasing pretty steadily during this period.

Now 1,323 posts and 3,481 comments later, I’ve been contemplating what I want to do next…

Where it’s going

I’ve given a fair amount of though as to what I want to do here at the 5 year mark. I’ve decided to make the following changes slowly over upcoming months as I think it’s a better approach:

  • New Design – The current design has been live since about 2005, with only minor tweaks. It’s to narrow for many images I’ve wanted to use, and there’s a lot of wasted space. The new design, already in the works is optimized for 1024×768. Also pushing content up further by removing that stale image from the header. I initially though I’d change that more often, but it’s not happening. I had hoped to have this done for today, but that didn’t happen. Instead “it’s done when it’s done”.
  • Features vs. Regular Posts – The biggest change from a content perspective is I want to make is to distinguish what will be more notable posts from the daily posts. These posts tend to be a dozen a year. Both in terms of development, giving them more time and thought, to how I present them. I’ve yet to decide exactly how to accomplish this.
  • Post Regularly – I’ve always posted in bursts, it’s become a dirty habit. I’m going to give it yet another try to be more consistent. I think being regular makes things flow better and results in a better thought process. Will my mind work like this? I don’t know. But if it can, that would be awesome.
  • Going Off Topic – This is clearly a more technical blog (where else do you find holiday SQL and other code jokes), but it’s time to bring some off topic stuff back. Not sure when this will start, but it’s a goal of mine.
  • More On Topic – I spend a fair amount of time lately on current news. I’m thinking of slowly downplay this a little more and focus on real development stuff.

There are other changes planned, some large, some small, but there are the ones that I think are worth mentioning right now.

The focus on technology, in particular web development, and business will remain, I have no intent on changing that. I just want to improve how I do it, and what surrounds it.

Before someone asks, I’ll still cover all Firefox and Thunderbird related news both big and small as I always have. Nearly half the posts on this blog fall into that category. They are among the most popular ones, and some of my personal favorites.

Like anything else in the world a website falls into three categories: it grows and matures, it dies, or it sits like a rock. I like the idea of growing and maturing.

So here’s to the next 5 years.

The Sound… Of Silence

I’m semi-quiet lately. A cold last week kicked my butt for pretty much the entire week. That’s always fun.

I’m also working on some changes to this blog. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. Hopefully I’ll have it out of dev and running by the end of the month.

As a result I won’t be posting to much during this time.

Site Backups And Bandwidth Fun

I keep regular backups of everything on this server just in case something happens. Recently I switched to a more automated and secure (PGP encrypted) solution for this blog due to it’s fast-paced nature. Just the critical stuff (database, media, templates). I choose PGP (implemented using GPG) since it’s easy, and I only have to store the public key on the server, making it safer than most alternatives.

I’m strongly considering moving it all eventually over to Amazon’s S3 storage. At $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used and $0.20 per GB of data transferred it would be very affordable to keep backups in an even more secure fashion. I’d still use my own encryption on top of theirs for extra security. For things like media, I could even see myself hosting it solely at Amazon. It just seems like that may be a more practical and scalable approach.

Unfortunately until either FTTH or DOCSIS 3.0 comes to town, it doesn’t look like Amazon’s S3 will be practical for home backup purposes. This server has a beefy connection to a few large pipes to the internet (Level3, Global Crossing, and Cogent last I checked). They provides high speed connectivity so a backup would take only a few seconds. At home with a cable modem on a DOCSIS 1.1 network (such as Comcast) the bandwidth is just to slim to allow enough upload capacity. Comcast still only allows 384kbps up. Even the top plans in select areas don’t top 1Mbps. Of course these are Comcast’s numbers (the actual performance is often less). In areas that they currently serve, Verizon FiOS (FTTH) is available at 15 Mbps/2 Mbps. Much better suited for such purposes (though more would be welcome). As strange as it may seem pricing is quite competitive, giving cable a run for it’s money. Perhaps one day DOCSIS 3.0 will appear, though that seems to be a while away. Perhaps one day all homes will have 100Mbps full duplex connections with low latency.

The only real way to get around this limitation is to perhaps use rsync to perform backups. Initial backups would still suck, but after that it wouldn’t be too bad. Though that wouldn’t work with services such as Amazon’s S3, which are token based. There is an rsync-like clone, but it’s still not the real thing. Perhaps Google’s upcoming GDrive will be cool enough to allow the use of rsync over SSH (I could dream) in addition to WebDAV (which is what I expect to see). Last I checked rsync doesn’t support WebDAV because WebDAV is done over HTTP. If I understand it right, RFC 3229 would add Delta encoding support to HTTP, making something like rsync over WebDAV possible since it uses delta encoding.

In The Pipes

I’ve got a couple of larger (more research/data) style blog posts in the works here. I’m hoping to post them shortly, once I get a chance to finish them. I’ve got to get a new schedule for posting around here. It’s happening more in bursts than I like.