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Blog : Posts tagged with 'speed'

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Steamy

In which we dream of speed and vampires


August is, as you can see, another quiet month.

A strange dream awoke me last night, so strange I was tempted to turn it into some kind of ghost story. It involved a pair of fu dogs, possessed by a pair of non-human, vampiric, shapeshifting creatures. The dogs themselves would move, when nobody was watching them; and bringing them into your house brought untold dread along with them, because the vampire-type creatures needed them and would do anything to get them back.

In other news: I rather liked the news story, the other day, about the team who broke the world steam car speed record. I like slightly quixotic challenges like that one. 139mph, with all the team’s modern technology, is only 12mph above the previous, hundred-year-old record. For that matter, it’s only 13mph above the 1938 steam train record, set by Joe Duddington of the London & North Eastern Railway on a special test run with the A4 class Mallard. The train had a slight advantage: nobody, when computing train speed records, has ever bothered about the effect of hills or slopes, so Mallard was going hell-for-leather downhill. It did have rather more work to do than the Inspiration, though, weighing 167 tons* itself and pulling a six-coach train behind.

* according to Wikipedia, at least

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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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Speed

In which FP drives sensibly


People round here often say: ooh, I don’t like going down to London. I’d hate to drive down there. It’s terrible. It’s so bad to drive around London. All the drivers round there are such bad drivers.

And I say: “hah”. Because I’ve driven round London,* and not had any problems with other people’s driving. I’ve driven round here – a lot more, obviously – and I can hardly go on a car trip without something making me go: “what the hell are they doing?”

In the past 24 hours I’ve driven about 25 miles in total. In that time I’ve had four people overtake me because they’ve thought I’ve been driving too slowly. That is: I’ve been driving at 60mph, on a narrow twisty country road. I drive at 60mph down it, because I know it well; I know where the bends are, where my lines of sight are, and how fast I can go and still be able to stop on sight. And I get overtaken by people zooming past me at 90-ish. On the road past the office, which is an urban road, I drive down it at 30mph and get overtaken by people doing about 50.

Now, no doubt these people would claim they’re very good drivers, and therefore it’s entirely safe for them to drive like that. This is, frankly, bollocks. It’s never safe to drive at 90mph down a twisty country road with a couple of farms along it. These people are living proof of the Dunning-Kruger effect: the more incompetent a person is, the more likely they are to overestimate their skill.

That’s fine when it involves things that don’t concern me. But when I’m driving to work every day, and meeting these idiots every few miles, it bothers me. I don’t want to end up in a ditch, because of your rudeness, idiocy, or misjudgement. If you pass me at 90mph, keep on going – because when you impale yourself on a 20mph ploughshare in half a mile, I want to have plenty of distance between us.

* although no further in than Zone 2; Mile End or Clapham Junction

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