Site Notes

Update on Recent RTH Slowdowns

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 14, 2010

If you visit RTH semi-regularly, you may have noticed slow response times and intermittent timeouts lately. I contacted our hosting provider, Webfaction, to report the issue.

It turns out another user on the same server has been running non-optimized database queries that are sucking up the server's memory and slowing down other processes - like the webserver running RTH.

Webfaction are working to reduce the load on the server, help the other use debug the poorly performing queries and, as they put it, "keep performance hits to a minimum."

When it works properly, shared hosting hits a sweet spot of affordability, managed server administration and a lot of flexibility to install applications (through SSH access if you're curious).

The downside is that a number of websites run on the same machine and share the available resources, including bandwidth, memory and hard drive space. That means one unruly user can compromise the performance of the other users on that machine.

It might be a good idea to start thinking about moving RTH to its own virtual private server (VPS), with dedicated bandwidth and memory that other users and their processes can't impact.

The downsides to this option are a) having to pay higher hosting costs and b) having to take on full responsibility for administering the server.

More to come as the situation develops.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By wentworthst (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 06:03:48

"a) having to pay higher hosting costs and b) having to take on full responsibility for administering the server."

Why take on time or cost, considering this site is no bandwidth pig, nor all that complex to generate..?

IMHO, you could get everything you need from a large host like GoDaddy... Yes-- those U.S. commercials are truly awful, but so is that market. Bandwidth is unlimited and those sprawling nameserver-farms never go down.

Check out those hosting prices before you decide on the move.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2010 at 06:33:28

Commodity hosting providers are great if you're running a vanilla MySql/PHP site on Apache with FTP access. RTH is built on a different enough stack of technologies that trying to get it to run on something like GoDaddy would be a constant aggravation (not to mention slow - the code would likely have to run as a CGI script circa 1995).

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By Wentworthst (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:22:05

Would assume a VPS at Godaddy would be no different, just cheaper and more reliable. Maybe the long-run trouble really lies in inventing you own wheel; even CNN uses my "vanilla .php" Wordpress now.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 14:34:07

If you know a company, like a design agency or something, that has dedicated servers on contract already, perhaps you should contact them to see if they'd be interested in hosting it for a reasonable fee.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 16:06:54

happy to donate to a worthy cause

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 18:10:09

Commodity hosting providers are great if you're running a vanilla MySql/PHP site on Apache with FTP access. RTH is built on a different enough stack of technologies that trying to get it to run on something like GoDaddy would be a constant aggravation (not to mention slow - the code would likely have to run as a CGI script circa 1995).

Would assume a VPS at Godaddy would be no different, just cheaper and more reliable. Maybe the long-run trouble really lies in inventing you own wheel; even CNN uses my "vanilla .php" Wordpress now.

wtf are you guys talking about? is this chick magnet speak?

happy to donate to a worthy cause

agreed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2010 at 19:14:23

Maybe the long-run trouble really lies in inventing your own wheel

For me, given that I do this as an unpaid hobby, it comes down to a choice between using technologies that make me happy and using technologies that aggravate me. PHP aggravates me. :)

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2010 at 09:28:21

is this chick magnet speak?

Nope.

For me, given that I do this as an unpaid hobby

Ryan, taking the opportunity to thank you again for giving writers here a voice.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-12-16 08:29:29

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2010 at 10:49:32

So what kind of tech is used to implement this site? I remember you mentioning the server itself is running CentOS, but the site itself? How estoeric is it? You coded the whole thing in straight C and if I put in the right characters in a post I'll segfault the web-page? Or some high-minded obscure language that attempts to combine Erlang, Haskell, and BF?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2010 at 12:36:56

So what kind of tech is used to implement this site?

It's not all that esoteric. The web server is nginx in of Apache. The processing language is Python, integrating with Apache using mod_wsgi to implement the WSGI web service interface standard for Python web apps. The site itself is built in web.py, which is a friendly abstraction on top of WSGI; with SQLAlchemy as a database ORM in front of MySQL and various other third-party libraries: httplib2, python-markdown2, simplejson, BeautifulSoup, and a few of my own scripts.

With SSH access, I can easily set this up on a hosted web server; but it would be a nightmare trying to get this kind of setup running on a vanilla LAMP stack with FTP-only access.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-12-16 11:43:11

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By Wentworthst (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2010 at 13:41:19

"happy to donate to a worthy cause..."

Agreed... Is there an existing fund people can contribute to?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2010 at 13:54:14

Is there an existing fund people can contribute to?

Anyone who feels so inclined is welcome to buy me a beer. :)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 16, 2010 at 18:48:11

Anyone who feels so inclined is welcome to buy me a beer.

Name the time and place! ;-)

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 18:13:44

Name the time and place! ;-)

Count me in too.

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