The OS Quest Trail Log #46: Housekeeping Edition

Picture of Santa Celebrating with a beerIt’s been over a month since I’ve done a Trail Log and I got some time for blog updates this weekend so I might aw well do one. The day job has kept me busy and pretty well burnt out by the time I get home so I haven’t dived in depth into anything for awhile. But recently I’ve started to take a look at things that have piqued my interest.

Optimization

I’ve been on a Google kick lately, first looking at Picasa Web (because of the Google Eye-Fi offer) followed by Google Public DNS. Then I went down a unexpected rat hole with the newly added site performance feature in Google Webmaster Tools. This was actually a quit enjoyable foray into site optimization and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. One thing I learned is I have a lot more to learn. I’ll have one or two posts out in the next couple of days on this and other tools along with the optimizations I made. I’ve already made some changes like compressing the header and other images that appear on multiple pages. This was all pretty ad-hoc and I didn’t keep very good notes, but I want to start optimizing some of my most viewed pages so I’ll write up the posts when I do them.

Regular visitors may also notice the social bookmarking links at the bottom of each post have changed. This is also the result of the optimization testing. I tried several and all had a pretty significant performance impact. Several others I tried were just as bad but for other reasons. The one I’m using now, Social Bookmarks, provides the best performance. Even so, I can’t use all it’s features and there was a bug in it’s CSS that I had to fix (it was trying to load a non-existent image. This was all part of the fun, since trying to optimize things required me to try and figure out how things worked. It comes as no surprise that all those web 2.0 bells and whistles are expensive.

Along the optimization lines I’ve also been researching a new web host. I really like Slicehost and have no complaints. If I was running a business I’d be staying with them. They have solid support. The best part is their server has been reliable enough that I’ve rarely needed support and only to have them do things I couldn’t do myself (like kernel upgrades before they added that ability to the console). But the reality is there are now competitors with more hardware for the buck. After the holidays I’ll pick one and give it a try. The question is can I get the same or better for less money. No sense starting now since it would site idle most of the time.

Other Website Changes

I’ve made a couple other changes, only one is worth mentioning. I had been closing comments 90 days after a article was published as a way to stop spam. I turned this off and re-enabled comments. If a certain posts attracts spam and isn’t otherwise worth commenting on I’ll turn off comments for the post. I don’t check the spam queue for false positives so if you post a comment you should limit the number of links. Also, when moderating comments I’m more likely to spam a short “nice post” type comment instead of checking any links.

I’m turning it back on because I’m even worse at answering email than I am with replying to comments. At least with comments others can join in. I still have a couple emails I need to respond to. Still feel free to send an email. I’ll just apologize in advance for the slow response.

Frustrations

Of course, things haven’t been frustration free. As I started writing this article my netbook woke up in the other room and started doing a backup to my Windows Home Server. This serves as a reminder then when a PC does a backup to my WHS it slows the server down to a crawl for everything else. So tonight my streaming video stopped. It’s not usually a problem since the backup occur in the dead of night. But occasionally they aren’t. Eventually I’ll have to dig into this. Unfortunately once the problem occurs I can’t get a remote connection to see what’s going on, so I actually have to set up a test and be prepared. On the plus side, the problem seems consistent so once I set things up it should happen the first time I test.

The new Handbrake also stopped working on me. I’d upgraded it and it was working without a problem. Then I applied Apple’s latest updates and it stopped (that Mac Mini is still on Leopard). I’ll try a Handbrake re-install first. VLC is also pretty old so my next step will be to try and update that since Handbrake uses it’s library. It’s just one of those annoying things that’s not hugely important yet.

DNS Errata

In between writing my Google Public DNS article and now I listened to the latest Security Now podcast by Steve Gibson. In it, he mentions a DNS benchmarking tool that he’s written. He’s written some great utilities so I’ll be sure to check it out. Steve is also my hero because he writes his utilities in assembler. They rarely need updating for bugs and they’re nice and small. His DNS benchmark utility is 150kb while the namebench utility is over 8MB even when compressed. And it’s not because his is command line, it’s a Windows GUI too.

Happy Holidays

SantaHi That’s about it for this trail log. I might get another Trail Log in before the end of the year since I have some days off, but there’s no guarantee. I’ll be happy if I get the optimization article(s) done this weekend. The coffees’s on so we’ll see how long I can go. Thanks to the miracle of WordPress post scheduling I’m hoping to get pretty far into the future so this site isn’t so dormant. So happy holidays to everyone.