Always Get Better

Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Tracking Down Website Speed Problems

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Creative Commons License photo credit: Eric Kilby

Why is my website loading so slowly?!?

There are a few common culprits behind website speed issues. When diagnosing problems, the best bet is to start at the worst performers and move up. Some suggestions, in order from slowest to fastest, are:

1. Internet Traffic
If your web page is downloading anything over the internet during each page request, stop right now. This is the most expensive operation you can perform. Example: Downloading a photo from Flickr and loading it into memory in order to determine its width and height dimensions.

2. Network Traffic
Local network traffic is generally very fast, but still involves transmitting information outside your computer. In some cases, such as web clusters with a shared session cache, the network performance cost is worth it for the overall application.

3. Database
Databases are fast, particularly when the data you need is already stored in a memory cache – which you generally can’t control. When paired with a key-value memory store like memcache, the majority of your database calls can come straight from memory.

4. Disk I/O
Even with the incredible access times found in today’s hard drives, reading and writing from the disk is an expensive operation (and why databases lose points, except for their memory caching abilities). Sometimes reading from disk is the better choice – YMMV.

5. Script Caching
Implement a tool like xcache (PHP). This will keep your code in binary bytecode format which is much faster to execute since it doesn’t have to be re-processed by the web server.

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.

The Fragile World Internet

Sunday, March 1st, 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: kalleboo

In December 2008, a “fault” in three of the undersea cables under the Mediterranean Sea denied Internet service to thousands of subscribers in Egypt, India and the Middle East.

It’s hard to explain to people how the Internet connects together, especially to users in North America who have a hard time understanding about the world beyond our own shores. Communications don’t happen by magic – there are cables laid all around the world by commercial interests. Since much of the worldwide traffic is routed through hubs in the United States, American users rarely notice cable-induced outages.

Across the ocean, however, the Internet is more susceptible to damage. Regional links are expensive to maintain when much of the outgoing traffic is bound for North America anyway. The result is a small number of backbone connections servicing major routes across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

GoDaddy Hit by DoS Attack

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Until recently, Always Get Better was hosted by GoDaddy. We moved in November so I could have better control of the various web sites I am running. I can say that I was not unhappy with the service offered by GoDaddy – I just outgrew it.

I guess I got lucky this time. According to cnet, GoDaddy was struck by a denial-of-service attack on the morning of January 14, 2008. There are conflicting reports (naturally) of the exact number of sites affected ranging from several to several thousand.

RIAA Changes Tactics

Monday, January 12th, 2009

The RIAA has had an interesting few years. Their business model is dying and they have been fighting to save it by suing evil music thieves like single mothers on disability pay, deceased grandmothers and, most heinous of all, families who do not own computers.

Now the Association has backed off slightly and switched to a more cost-effective method; at least, they have offloaded the burden of identifying music pirates to the ISPs that host them. Rather than issue subpoenas to service providers for the names of their downloading subscribers, the RIAA has switched to sending lists of IP addresses and evidence to those ISPs it has partnered with. The ISP can then take measures into its own hands by:

  • sending warning emails
  • sending warning letters
  • reducing bandwidth/speed of violators’ Internet connection

It works for everyone except Internet users – the RIAA gets counter-sued less because it is no longer serving papers to innocent bystanders victimized by faulty IP records or the delays between court orders and identifying information (leading, for example, to charges against families who don’t even own a computer when in fact the former occupants of their home was involved in downloading). The ISPs get an excuse to rid themselves of customers who make full use of the bandwidth and network resources they are paying for.

I recently heard an argument that people who download or otherwise pirate a particular piece of software or music are unlikely to have purchased it at all therefore prosecuting them is pointless since they would never have been a customer anyway – the creator of the downloaded content hasn’t “lost” money. Where I come from, if we aren’t willing to pay for something for any reason idealogical or otherwise, we simply do not own it – we don’t try to source it for free. I’m not defending the RIAA, I just don’t understand the value derived from downloading libraries of music.

GoToMyPC vs Remote Desktop (RDP)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

For some time now, I have been using both Remote Desktop (RDP) and GoToMyPC to connect to the various Windows machines I am responsible for. I present here a summary of the differences I have found between the two applications:

The Same
Both GoToMyPC and Remote Desktop support Windows and Mac (my operating systems of choice.

GoToMyPC is a Java-based application, and runs in Windows, Mac and Linux. There have been ports of RDP for Linux but these are not officially supported, so GoToMyPC wins on this point.

GoToMyPC supports drag-and-drop file transferring. I wish RDP did this – RDP can only transfer files if using a Windows XP/2003/Vista version – the Windows 2000 version does not support file transfer at all.

GoToMyPC provides a handy one-stop web-based location for managing computers I am able to connect to. With RDP this is much harder – I must know the addresses of all the computers I manage. This process is much more difficult when dealing with dynamic IPs, although it can be mitigated somewhat by using a service like DynDns.

When RDP is running, my Internet is unaffected. GoToMyPC appears to use a much large amount of bandwidth – Google and Skype chats start to skip when I connect with it. RDP appears to make much more efficient use of bandwidth.

RDP comes with Windows and is free to use. GoToMyPC has a hefty monthly fee which is hard to justify if you are a technical user who is able to keep track of IT inventory and/or control the operating systems in use on the network.

Which one is better?
I see a lot of merit to GoToMyPC and recommend it for clients who are looking for a quick, brainless solution and don’t mind spending the money. My personal preference is for Remote Desktop because it is light-weight and fast. Although, as I mentioned, I really do wish it supported drag-and-drop file transfers.