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Blog : Posts tagged with 'performance'

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Performance

In which things turn to treacle


I’ve noticed, over the past few months or so, that sometimes this site seems to load rather slowly. The slow periods didn’t seem to match any spikes in my own traffic, though, so I didn’t see that there was necessarily much I could do about it; moreover, as it wasn’t this site’s traffic that seemed to be causing the problem, I wasn’t under any obligation to do anything about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, a few months back I switched to Google Analytics for my statistics-tracking. Which is all well and good; it has a lot more features than I had available previously. Its only limitation is: it uses cookies and Javascript to do its work. Because of that, it only logs visits by real people, using real browsers,* and not spiders, robots, RSS readers or nasty cracking attempts. Often, especially if you’re a marketing person, that’s exactly what you want. If you’re into the geekery, though, it can cover up what’s exactly going on, traffic-wise, at the server level.

Searching my logs, rather than looking at the Google statistics, showed that I was getting huge numbers of hits for very long URLs, consisting of valid paths joined together by lots of directories named ‘&':

Log file extract

That’s a screenshot of a single request in the logfile – the whole thing being about 850 characters long. ‘%26′ is an encoded ‘&’ character. Because of the way WordPress works, these things are valid URLs, and requests for them were coming in at a pretty fast rate. Before long, the request rate was faster than the page generation time – and that’s when the problem really starts to build up, because from there things snowball until nobody gets served.

All these requests were coming from a single IP address, an ordinary consumer type of address in Italy.** Moreover, the user-agent was being disguised. Each hit was coming in from the same IP address, but with a different-but-plausible-looking user-agent string, so the hits looked like a normal, ordinary browser with a real person behind it.

The problem was solved fairly easily, to be honest; and the site was soon behaving itself again. It should still be behaving itself now. But if you came here yesterday afternoon and thought the site didn’t seem to be working very well, that’s why it was. I’m going to have to keep an eye on things, to see if it starts happening again.

* and only if they have Javascript enabled, at that, although I know that covers 99% of the known world nowadays.

** which made me think to myself: “I know I’ve pissed people off … but none of them are Italian!”

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Sound And Music

In which we are annoyed by an apparent mime


A busy weekend for us: we had visitors. Well, one visitor, Stu, who came down to explore and discover the city for himself.

Stu’s into electro, somewhat, so we found something on Saturday night that we thought he’d like. “We Live Here”, at the Arnolfini, a live art weekend featuring a gig on the Saturday night. Thinking it might be interesting, we packed into the gallery’s rather crowded bar to see what was going to happen.

Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed by the first act – in fact, by the first act’s first act, if you see what I mean. Magnús Scheving Magnus Spectrum,* a chap in an orange jumpsuit who bounced energetically around to laptop and keyboard-generated electrical noise, waving a Nintendo Wii controller as he did so, throwing himself about the performance space and almost into the audience. He shook his wrist, and the sound tremolo’d itself.

Now, if you search the net for Magnus Spectrum – which I did, to try to find out if he’s got a website** – you’ll find people saying that he uses the Wii controller as a synth, or as a midi controller, and so on. The Arnolfini’s own website says:

Magnus Spectrum makes physical noise music via Nintendo Wii controller and much leaping about

His Facebook page says: “he performs on synthesiser, using consumer goods as wireless controllers”.

So we stood watching him: me, K, and Stu, who is a big console-gaming fan. And Stu, being the expert, noticed something. According to him, at least, Magnus Spectrum’s Wii controller, with which he was apparently playing his synth, wasn’t actually switched on.***

I’d been a tad suspicious, just because, at some points, the chap appeared to be following the music, not quite on the beat; dancing on the beat is quite hard with arrhythmic music, after all. Stu, though, was adamant. Spectrum had performed once and stopped,**** and nobody else looked likely to be coming onstage any time soon; so we gave up and went for a drink at The Apple instead. Apologies to Freeze Puppy and Chew Magna, whose acts we missed, especially as Chew Magna do seem to be quite good.

Talking it over afterwards: there’s nothing wrong with playing electrical noise and bouncing around energetically to it like a loon. Magnus Spectrum’s dance style wasn’t too unlike my own empty-room crazed bouncing; and I’ve been known to wear orange jumpsuits in my time, too. There’s not even anything wrong with miming, in itself. We left because: there is something wrong with saying “I’m playing this live” when you’re not. Magnus Spectrum did, occasionally, nip over to his keyboard and press a chord. Stu might be wrong, and Magnus might have been using a slightly broken or modded Wii controller; or it might have been a cock-up of some sort. Overall, though, we ended up thinking that he was probably miming, at least as far as the Wii part went; so we decided there were better places to be.

* That isn’t some children’s-entertainment-based insult, by the way. I genuinely am having difficulty with the name “Magnus Spectrum”, because every time I try to think it, Scheving pops into my head instead.

** He’s got a Myspace page under his real name and a Facebook page as Magnus, if nothing else.

*** Stu knows enough about Wiis to know where the controller on-lamp is; he also knows enough to tell us that it was, apparently, an early model of Wii controller. Not that that matters, really.

**** After apparently accidentally shutting himself out of the building – the side door was set to let people out but not in again.

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The Doctor

In which we watch the Tenth one


I hate to say it, but I’m still not convinced.

I’ve been a David Tennant fan ever since Takin’ Over The Asylum, one of his very first telly jobs. I was, therefore, expecting to love Doctor Who with him in it. But, I have to say, I’m still not convinced.

His moods are all very good; but they flip very very quickly. In one second he’s his usual playful self; in the next he’s invoking divine retribution.* The quick-change makes him feel rather too capricious, although there is the occasional reminder that when the Doctor is being playful he’s still alert, and paying attention.

I’m going to keep watching, of course. For one thing, I want to know if he’ll ever start using his natural Scottish accent.

* or, rather, Doctorly retribution.

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Success

In which the local council gets a prominent score


Today’s big news: the Audit Commission has published the latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment, which sounds like a new teenage exam but is actually about local government. More specifically, how well each council is doing at standard local government stuff like mending potholes and emptying your bins.*

Now, many councils didn’t do very well in the CPA. However, I felt a perverse pride in the fact that only one council in the country scored a nice round zero. My local council. Hurrah! If we can’t be good at something, we may as well be famous for being spectacularly bad at it.

The council themselves, of course, are saying that things are actually a lot better now than when the Auditors were doing the actual research, which is a handy thing for them to say because it’s almost entirely unprovable. If there’s one thing not many politicians will say, it’s: “well, yes, now you mention it, we are a bit rubbish at everything.”

* I might be simplifying a little here.

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