The OS Quest Trail Log #40: April 2009 Edition

Ok, it’s actually the first of May so the title is wrong, but this post is all about the last month. I had 14 posts this month. I have to go back to July 2008 to find a month with an equal number of posts and March 2008 to find a month with more posts. My April obsession was optimizing WordPress on Apache and that obsession didn’t take hold until the last half of the month.

Things started off simply enough, I just wanted to see if there was a solution to the WordPress Plugin Auto-Update problem I was having. I got fed up with the download and uploads. Then I decided to continue streamlining my updates. Since I was unwilling to relax security enough to enable the WordPress update feature (I’d prefer the web server ID have no ability to change files) I ended up installing WordPress through Subversion. I still haven’t converted my main site (this one) to be managed through Subversion, but that will come.

Then I got looking at WordPress security and decided to enable WordPress administration over SSL That’s what got me digging into Apache since I had to enable the SSL module which lead me to enabling caching and compression.

Plugging the Gaps

I plugged two gaps this past month. I’d been remiss in my website backups and finally implemented regular backups of my WordPress databases.

The other gap was related to email. I use Google Apps to provide my personal email. I’d never bothered to implement Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or Sender ID which are used by receiving email systems to help verify my mail isn’t spam. So I finally got around to doing it so it’ll be less likely my outgoing mail will be rejected.

Just the Stats

Traffic to this site was interesting in April. Total page views topped 10,000 for the first time ever, although it wasn’t the best pages per visitor month for me. April unique visitor traffic was up 15% over March and just 200 fewer than February, which was my best month ever. This was a 172% jump from a year ago.

Plans

April’s obsession came without any pre-planning so I haven’t laid out any grand plans, we’ll see what May brings. I have a couple things left on my to-do list from April. I want to get email working on my server. Not a full server, just so emails admin related emails can be sent. I never got around to doing it.

Along the way of trying to optimize my server I came to the realization that Apache isn’t the best web server choice since it’s pretty resource intensive. I’ll look at nginx (“engine-x”) and lighttpd (“lighty”), both of which have reputations for speed. I’ll try nginx first since I have more information on it although both have a good number of backers.

I added a second slice to my Slicehost account that I can use for testing. I can use it for testing then delete it and only pay for the time I have it so I do have an incentive to finish quickly. Despite the incentive May will probably be a slow month for activity. Due to birthdays, mother’s day and other family events during the month there’s not one weekend that doesn’t already have at least one day booked solid.

My next site change will be major, but invisible (well, hopefully invisible). Assuming I go with a different web server I’ll probably build up the new slice with the configuration I want along with the new web server software. Then I’ll migrate things over. It will be a good opportunity to test my backup and restore process.

So there’s little chance I’ll have more posts in may than I did in April. But this one is the first.