Always Get Better

Posts Tagged ‘broadband’

Use a PHP Accelerator to Speed Up Your Website

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

I like PHP because it makes it really easy to quickly build a website and add functionality, and is generally lightning fast when executed without needing to wait for compilation as with ASP.NET or Java (Yes, we always pre-compile those languages prior to putting our applications into production, but with PHP we don’t even have to do that).

Even though compilation is very fast, it still has a resource and time cost, especially on high-traffic servers. We can improve our response times by more than 5x by pre-caching our compiled opcode for direct execution later. There are a few PHP accelerators which accomplish this for us:

Xcache is my favourite and is the one I use in my own configurations. It works by caching the compiled PHP opcode in memory so PHP can be directly executed by the web server without expensive disk reads and processing time. Many caching schemes also use Xcache to store the results of PHP rendering so individual pages don’t need to be re-processed.

APC (Alternative PHP Cache)
APC is a very similar product to XCache – in fact XCache was released partially as a response to the perceived lag APC’s support for newer PHP versions. APC is essentially the standard PHP Accelerator – in fact, it will be included by default in PHP 6. As much as I like XCache, it will be hard to compete with built-in caching.

Turck MMCache is one of the original PHP Accelerators. Although it is no longer in development, it is still widely used. An impressive feature of MMCache is its exporter which allows you to distribute compiled versions of your PHP applications without the source code. This is useful for those companies that feel they need to protect their program code when hosting in client environments.

eAccelerator picked up where MMCache left off, and added a number of features to increase its usability as a content cache. Over time, the content caching features have been removed as more efficient and scalable solutions like memcache have allowed caches to be shared across web servers.

Keep Optimizing
One major consideration that often goes forgotten when optimizing website speeds that not all of your visitors will be using a high-speed connection; some users will be using mobile or worse connections, even for non-mobile sites. Every ounce of speed will reflect favourably on you and improve your retention rates – and ultimately get more visitors to your ‘call to action’ goals. I’ll go into more detail about bigger speed improvements we can make in a later post.

Tethering the Internet, Week One

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

So I’ve been tethering my phone and using it as a backup Internet connection for just over a week now and so far I have been pretty happy with the results.

Using Xplornet as my primary source and my cell phone tethered into my computer via USB, I’m actually able to get fairly reliable service – the computer switches back and forth between whichever connection happens to have access to the Internet.

This could work…

I see that Bell is now offering a 2Mbps modem for rural residents. I’d like to try that as an alternative to Xplornet – maybe I’ll be able to drop my contract in March and have reliable net.

Using a Cell Phone as Backup Internet

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Since we live in the country and rely on line-of-sight Internet for our connectivity, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with service quality and uptime programs. There are a lot of reasons I want to move to a denser population area but access to a proper Internet connection is high on my list.

My phone has turned out to be a decent alternative; using instructions I found online I was able to re-purpose my Palm Pre as a WiFi router. It’s still not broadband but it gives me a way to check my email when my Xplornet fixed wireless (often) fails.

Although Bell Canada supports tethering with their smartphone plans, they don’t go out of their way to make it obvious how to do it. My Tether turned out to be worth the cost; even though there is a free version you can use if you want to play with the settings.

Ontario Government Builds Rural Internet Infrastructure

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The Ontario government has a program designed to provide funding for the purposes of building broadband internet infrastructure in rural communities. The Rural Connections Broadband Program has earmarked millions of dollars to build new infrastructure, which will bring high-speed Internet to communities where low population densities preclude the construction of more traditional networks (such as cable).

This is great for users who, until now, have only been able to dream about leaving dial-up behind and joining the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, the solution to rural internet involves either unreliable satellite installations, or line-of-site cellular towers.

I can say from experience that the line-of-site towers work great but they are only able to service a limited number of users.  Service providers don’t want to admit they are over-selling their towers resulting in dropped connections and complete outages for their subscribers.  Trees are another problem; much of rural Ontario exists within bushland, so unless homeowners are willing to shell out for 90-foot towers on their home, they still may not get to count on their Internet.

Although, I will admit, the cost of a tower would be far less than the cost of laying underground cable.