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A peek behind the curtain.

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TGO David

blog-0268302001358472943.jpgTonight I took another shot at our trusty friend, the LiteSpeed httpd engine. To be fair, a friend and I worked on this thing until almost midnight last night and we noticed some things that gave me a hint about why it didn't work quite right yesterday.

The good news is that our current web server is now running LiteSpeed which is a brutally fast alternative to Apache. As I mentioned yesterday, I hate the Apache web server more than I hate gingivitis. Actually that's not entirely accurate as until this moment I really didn't have an opinion on gingivitis.

So let's just simplify it and say that Apache has stolen so much of my free time lately and caused me so much undue stress that if Apache were a person, I'd put on my best Affliction shirt from The Buckle, drink a lot of RedBull and make a YouTube video all jacked up on caffeine where I ultimately signed off by saying if it crashed one more time I was going to start killing servers.


Yeah... I went there.

Hopefully us running LiteSpeed for the time being will tide us over until we get moved to our new server where we also won't be running Apache. No small coincidence. In the meantime, if you notice anything odd about the server, please report it in the Feedback and Support forum so that I can investigate.

And enjoy the nice fast page loads.


TGO David

blog-0233460001358386773.pngApache (the web server) sucks. Let's just get that out there right now. It's a jack of many trades but the master of none. It can be painstakingly tweaked and tune for "performance" but the bottom line is that it is just not the right http engine to use if you are serving up many concurrent sessions. Apache's performance starts to taper off drastically and it begins to consume massive amounts of CPU and RAM on your server in order to handle the sort of load that TGO generates in the evenings.

Ever since December 14, 2012 -- the Sandy Hook school shooting -- TGO's doors have been blown completely off with new members signing up, old members getting active again, and current members being more active than ever. Our site usage statistics have gone out the ceiling. Some of that is probably nefarious traffic being scriptomatically generated by assholes trying to ruin your enjoyment of the site, but the vast majority of that traffic is legitimate. It's people wearing out our server like it's a rental car at Talladega.

The combined effects of Apache (the web server) being ill prepared for the task and the massive influx of traffic has caused TGO to suck wind most evenings between 5pm - 12am CST. And I find that frustrating as I am sure you do as well.

Our long term solution is to move off of our current web server running Apache and onto a new server hosted with Amazon's cloud service running a performance-oriented http engine called 'nginx'. It's just better. Lots. However we're taking slow, cautious, deliberate steps to get there because if we do this wrong, it's going to be no better than what we're dealing with now.

Today I tried an interim fix of switching out Apache on our current server to another http engine that I've used in the past called 'Litespeed'. Litespeed is good stuff and it made things ridiculously fast today, but it also failed to properly render certain elements of the forum. The Blogs, for example, didn't look right at all. Completely jacked up. Hard to describe. So I disabled Litespeed and went back to Apache for the time being.

Right now we're evaluating a quicker migration to our new home on Amazon's cloud. We know that's where we are heading, so we're trying to accelerate the process of getting there.

More to come. Suffice it to say that right now, I hate the piss out of some web servers.

TGO David

I thought it might be somewhat informative if folks knew about some of the things I'm working on right now...

  • RSS Feeds : Quite a few people have noticed that the IPB software doesn't really include a good RSS feed application by default. I've purchased what appears to be the best RSS feed manager for IPB and will be installing it today, most likely.

  • IPB Nexus : What a great name. What does it mean? Nexus is an optional purchase for IPB that allows administrators (like me) to provide better user subscription options for things like our Benefactor and Vendor programs. It also provides for banner ad serving annnnnnd has a nice storefront feature. The latter may be of great benefit as we move forward on once again offering some TGO swag for sale.

  • TGO Swag : This one has admittedly been on the back burner but I'm still chipping away at it. I will very likely be outsourcing a lot of the wearable items like hats and shirts, but we will still do some items like stickers and such in house. More on that soon I hope.

  • Classifieds : Our classifieds system is getting a complete overhaul and this one has been taking up the most of my time behind the scenes lately. The Trading Post forums have worked reasonably well for us from a technical standpoint -- they work REALLY well for you guys for buying and selling, obviously :) -- and the new Classifieds add-on for IPB is going to really blow the doors off of things. I'm excited about this and hope to get it up and running over the next few days.

Those are the big items right now. The list doesn't look all that big, I guess, but there are a lot of moving parts in there and only so many free hours in a given week. I'm trying to focus on the areas that mean the most to you all, though, which means I need to keep the list small and manageable.

As always I welcome any comments or feedback you might have. And definitely keep the new ideas coming. The RSS Feeds item is one thing I would have never really given a second thought to until I saw how important it was to some of you. Without feedback, things like that fall through the cracks.

Thanks! :)

TGO David

TGO Chat Room? Again?

blog-0109626001329503612.jpgIf you've been a member of TGO for a while, chances are you remember that we have had a real-time chat feature once or twice in the past. And you may recall that I removed it once because an old version of the software had a security hole in it and then I removed it once again because it was putting a strain on our web server during times of peak traffic.

So what's changed and why are we trying it again?

Well first of all, we recently switched forum software from vBulletin to Invision Power Board (IP.Board or IPB for short) and that opened up the door to try other new software. One of the things that Invision Power offers is a chat feature that they host on their servers and allow us to integrate with our forum. This means that it puts no additional load on our web server. And while our new web server is still running as fast as ever, anything I can do to keep it that way is a good thing. For all of us.

Second, because it is written by the same people who write our forum software, they are keenly aware of the security ramifications of releasing buggy software. While this doesn't mean they are going to have a 100% success rate of never releasing bad code, the risks to us are reduced considerably.

So what's the plan now?

The plan now is to simply try out the chat demo and see if we like it. The demo license is good for five (5) simultaneous member participants. Once we've decided if we want to keep it around, I will have to purchase an annual subscription to the chat feature to allow either 20 or 50 participants at a time. Granted, they have a package that supports up to 250 simultaneous chat sessions, but I really do not anticipate us needing that just yet.

If you haven't tried out the chat feature yet, please do so.

If you already have, I'd like to know what you think about it. You can head over to the Feedback and Support forum and participate in the thread I started for discussing this.

Thanks. :)

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