Tag Archive: LAMP

Akismet and Jetpack Issues, Stop Spammers and CloudFlare Save the Day

My Web Host Penalised Me Yet Helped Speed Up My Site

Introduction

shared web hosting

shared web hosting

This site used to be hosted on Site5, in Texas.  I had a shared web host account, about the cheapest there is on Site5 though by no means the cheapest around (I’ve had experience of really cheap hosts….).  It worked alright, site management was good.  Then, I got hit by spammers.  Twice.  Big time.

Each time, this slowed the site down, made life hell for other shared accounts, especially when I introduced WordPress plugins to counter this.

Naturally, Site5 advised me to stop the hits or they’d pull my account (they’d already temporarily disabled it).  They advised me to cut the plugins, using GoDaddy’s plugin testing tool, WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler (P3).  So I did this, and after some trial and error, got the running processes down.  Of course, I lost a bit of neat functionality.

Testing Times

Apart from internal WordPress testing, it pays to test your site as if you are someone else somewhere else.  Pingdom have a set of tools that does just this, testing from various global locations and I can recommend it.

Result!

I used an iterative approach, testing various combinations of plugins and systems to end up as being in the top 8% sites for speed in the world!  Not bad for free is all I can say!   You’ll see in the screenshot above, that 92% of websites are slower than mine….   So is it really free?  Here goes…..

Paid For:
  • Web Hosting.  Shared.
  • My domain registration.
Free:
  • WordPress and all the LAMP functionality
  • WordPress plugins
  • CloudFlare
Pingdom Says

Pingdom Says

Automattic Issues

WordPress (which this site uses) is built by the Automattic team and naturally have expanded over time.  I’ve used their plugins for many years, Akismet from the off, which is a comment spam blocking system.  Latterly, they came out with Jetpack, where they say,

Supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users.

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.

P3 Selected Output

P3 Selected Output

This is all well and good, except when I tested it using the P3 plugin profiler, Jetpack was the biggest drag on everything!   The worst part of it, was that actually, I was only using a small part of its features and it was still the biggest suck on performance.

  • I didn’t use Carousel for photos since I had an old solution, NextGen Gallery, that I’m loathe to change.
  • The comments system mucked up all other comment plugins, grabbing all for itself (a bit like Microsoft here!)
  • I used the stats, and that was about all, yet they were very slow and not that informative, actually.
  • Nearly all the other stuff I looked at, tried and ditched for similar reasons.

So much for the awesome cloud power.  On top of this, you’re now supposed to pay for parts of Automattic’s offerings, like Akismet, the comment spam blocker while a major offering of theirs was actually slowing my site right up!

What Did I do?

Change host!

Well not initially, actually, though the heavy-handed Site5 approach got my ire a bit I must admit.  I did do loads of tests with a host of caching, anti-spam and page load improvement plugins first…

Vidahost

Vidahost

I now use Vidahost in the UK.  The site is faster to manage (along with my others) since the servers are in the UK with me, and it’s cheaper, providing almost the same functionality and tools as Site 5.  I took the opportunity to clean out a few dead files in the process, but essentially, all was moved, database and files.  The lot.  Just twiddled config.php and the .htaccess file a bit.

did worry that my American visitors, who are actually in the majority, would  suffer slower speed and thus I’d get hit in Google rankings, but hey, wait for later…!

I got it all working and as part of the whole “thinking” process since the very first warnings from Site 5, I’d been looking for better things.

Looking at Things Closely

  • I like Related Posts.   Related Posts plugins do just that.  I love the idea of pulling out meta-data relevant stuff from a website.  Site 5 had said, as have others on the web, that this sort of plugin makes big hits on a site.  Some of them really do!  I use  YARPP, with a limited subset of features enabled which cuts down processing.
  • I also like Andrew Ozz’s Shutter Reloaded which shows images nicely.   I also like his post editor, TinyMCE Advanced, it being the best of many I’ve tested over the years.
  • I like NextGEN Gallery having used it since before WordPress got all image fancy.  I haven’t got time to fiddle with thousands of photos now…
  • I’d like some statistics within WordPress.
  • I’m not that interested, any-more (though I was) in Social Networking sharing features.  Truth be told, if someone wants to share, they will.
  • I’ve read a lot on image improvements.  I’ve always shrunk images manually before uploading using the excellent IrfanView application.  But during this enforced research, other things like sprites and delayed image loading popped into the equation.

So I like certain plugins or functionality.  I try and use the one that works best for me.  Too many plugins make a big hit on the server and thus website loading.

Caching

A way round this is caching.  e.g. If a post is created and has related posts clagged on the bottom using YARPP, then the post is cached and YARRP is only running once.  How and where the caching is done is the crux of the issue…

Site 5 suggested W3 Total Cache as a better alternative to Wp Super Cache,  which I’ve used for years.    Naturally, I’ve tested this and my conclusion was that it could be fast, and it was fast for a while, but over time on each of my sites I got issues around lock-ups and the huge and complex caching system around files, databases and sprites.  This list is long.

I’ve also tested various database query caching plugins likewise over the years.  W3 Total Cache incorporates this method too, but ultimately, it made too much work for not a lot of difference IMHO, since I’m lazy.

However, it did point me to one thing!  CloudFlare.

CloudFlare

CloudFlare Admin1

CloudFlare Admin1

Ah.  The power of the cloud is back!

Not only that – it works!

CloudFlare Admin2

CloudFlare Admin2

You re-direct your DNS at your domain registrar (joker.com in my case) to CloudFlare’s DNS servers, set up the site malware protection level you want – then after a few hours your whole site is cached and protected.  Best of all, it’s free for a little site like this!

In fact, using CloudFlare speeded everything up even before I got caching going again…

Further Plugin Work

Now, I went back to Wp Super Cache from Doncha and it all works fine.  Site speed good.  I then ditched Jetpack after testing it again.  It really does interfere with all comment plugins, and I really like this comment one as do people who comment here:

  • U Extended Comment

It works great and does everything I want.  So Jetpack, it’s bye bye.  Take all your fancy commenting system, your stats, your social media and fancy image handling.

But What About Comment Spam?

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results1

Stop Spammer Results1

I’ve found the best solution is a plugin called Stop Spammer Registrations Plugin.  It needed a bit of fine tuning and a re-activation of Akismet to whip out a few wisps of spammer, but it works and seems to trap and report more spammers than ever Akismet did alone.  Akismet, by itself, does the commenting bit in tandem with the plugin, rather well.

Registration Spam

SABRE Results

SABRE Results

Unfortunately, during testing, a few unwanted visitors managed to register on the website.  They can’t do real harm since I use the lowest role level at registration time.  So I re-enabled SABRE and since then, no more unwanted visitors.  I’ve tested SABRE as a visitor and the settings I’ve chosen are just about right – I’ve had issues with it previously when it blocked registration!  But reducing the feature set and re-uploading a clean plugin fixes that.

CloudFlare and the CDN Issue

I toyed around getting a CDN to host images.  But they (can) cost and anyway, I’ve gone off Amazon and others because of their anti-Wikileaks actions plus they don’t pay UK tax…

Delayed Image Loading

However, in the course of my reading, I found that images can be loaded just as the page comes into view, which speeds up page loading, and as a consequence the perceived nippiness of a site.  The plugin BJ Lazy Load does this for me and works brilliantly.  Check this last post about Australia which has a lot of medium sized images to see them pop into view!

Delayed Javascript Loading

I use two plugins that handle this end of the issue around JavaScript.

Statistics

WP SlimStat1

WP SlimStat1

Well, Jetpack is gone.  I won’t be using it unless some serious improvements are made, it being the prime reason for the server load that brought me to this position in  the first place.  As soon as I disabled it (and simultaneously blocked all comments to the site, which isn’t the best thing, this being a blog after all), all server loads went away.

I now use SlimStat and it works very well.  I’ve tried many over time, including Google’s analysis tools, my webhost’s stats tools, Wassup and more, but for now, this is it.

Conclusion

My site works pretty fast and is pretty protected from the bad guys.  I actually still use more plugins than what is usually recommended – 50 is a huge lot according to web gurus and sages.  Currently there are 31 in active operation with 8 inactivated.  I love trying new ones, it’s like that, that’s just the way it is.

The delayed image loading is particularly apparent on a post with a lot of images, say this recent one.  The post loads fast and you see the first images load, and as you scroll down you’ll see other images appear with a slight delay.

All the other stuff is incremental improvement, with the biggest, by far, being the free CloudFlare service which I cannot recommend highly enough.  It’s a no-brainer, go and do it?

My Full List?

These are the plugins currently running that help my site work.  Many are for security, which demonstrates the state of play versus the bad internet guys full well.

Related Posts:

Pligg Comment Spam

Introduction

An unfortunate consequence of posting stuff online is that you enable your ‘work’, ‘your words of wisdom’, your ‘copyright’ or your petty scrawlings (choose which you think is the most appropriate), to the world as as such, it’s freely copyable.

My website is proudly running on WordPress sat on a standard shared hosting LAMP installation.  Millions do likewise as it’s cheap and effective and has an inbuilt SEO optimisation function that if you don’t abuse it, it actually works!

Comment spam is a pain but the various plugins and lockdowns block most of the crap.

Except last night I had two weird ones within half-an-hour of each other, that came from Pligg websites.  I’d never heard of Pligg until then, but it’s another example of CMS software.

The way that the comment spam made it as far as my filters (as most is dumped without my intervention) is that the websites seemed to do everything correctly to get proper pingbacks – except make sense!!!

Green Tea Fat Burner – Greenteafatburner.info

This one appeared against the posting  watch-out-for-the-scam-double-bluff, which is highly ironic!  It’s WHOIS entry is ‘protected’ by WhoisGuard – which is to be expected.  It came from IP 67.214.185.157

Weak Bladder Info – Weakbladder.info

This one appeared against the posting  rapidshare-wordpress-comment-spam, which is even more ironic, if anything!  It’s WHOIS entry is ‘protected’ by WhoisGuard – again to be expected.  It came from IP 209.31.180.25

Details

Both sites strip out text from websites (like mine), turn the text into postings and even apply ‘votes’ to them.  Sometimes after 3 mins!  The formulaic nature of the design is revealed by the ‘What is the ****** site all about?’ blurb down the side.    This is one, the other is almost identical.

The Weak Bladder site is a place for out community members to add resources and information that are related to Weak Bladder into one spot. We collect all of the relevent information from around the web, post it here, in the hopes that having a single resource will all us, and you, to save time when researching this topic. If you’d like to help, then register for a free membership and start contributing as an active community member.

Go for it! (not)

Postscript – later today!

Yay!  Got another.  Same blurb etc IP 76.73.41.92  This time it’s jointpainreliefs.info, and I quote;

The Joint Pain Relief site is a place where we collect information about joint pain, and how to overcome it, in one spot. We are a community dedicated to bringing you the best resources from around the web. If you’d like to join our community and help, signup! It’s free…

Perhaps I didn’t make it clear before, but the ‘joint pain reliefs’ contains everything…except…joint pain reliefs!  It appeared on my highly related (not) post Rapidshare WordPress Comment Spam.   What is it about this post that attracts the comment spammers?  Surely they’re not going for the phrase ‘Comment Spam’?.  And don’t call me surely!

Post-Postscript 9 June 2009

I’ve got another two almost identical comment spam/content scraping hits against the same post Rapidshare WordPress Comment Spam!!!  What is their game…

So I’m going to make a little list of them now.  Also, I’m starting a competition to guess the next bizarre subject matter of the Pligg based website.  My guess is eyelashmiteproblem.info, but I could be wrong …  It could be itchyarse.info or something.  It won’t be from these IP addresses though as I’ve blocked them.

So far, I have:

Website IP Address
Greenteafatburner.info 67.214.185.157
Weakbladder.info 209.31.180.25
jointpainreliefs.info 76.73.41.92
menopausereliefsite.info 67.214.185.157
toenailfungusite.info 67.214.185.157

I think it’s time I started adding a few blocks to my .htaccess file, ha ha. If you don’t know how to do this, read here.

Post-PostScript 14 June 2009

The next entry in the Pligg wall of shame came this morning from:

OnlyOutdoorRugs.info at IP 204.124.181.57   This is a US based host.  It targetted this wholly unrelated post of mine, Chatelus Malvaleix on Google Earth Tour de France Map

I’m now left wondering what to do with an Outdoor Rugs, especially when it rains!  The world has gone mad.  Rugs for outside has to be the height of decadence – unless they are normal rugs that you take outside to sit on. But then they’d be indoor rugs. So outdoor rugs must be for dry countries where it never rains.  My brain hurts.

Related Posts:

Cyclist Killer gets Locked Up

Today, a woman has been locked up for killing a cyclist by whacking into him in her red BMW 3 series while text-ing on her mobile phone.

You know the saying that two drunks walking towards each other down the street never bump into each other – only the lamp-post? Well it’s not true.

In this case, two idiots on the road bashed into each other. The trouble was that one was on his bike, the other in her car. They were both equally to blame and both suffered from a shocking lack of care and consideration for other people – not just on the road, but everywhere. It’s not just the car driver. The cyclist’s actions could have forced the car driver to swerve and crash into a group of children, say. That’s the lack of respect for other people.

Lets look at the mistakes that could easily be avoided:

  • She
    • was doing 45 mph in a 30mph zone
    • was doing this speed through traffic lights (Highway code says “proceed with caution“, even when you’ve got the right of way
    • was using her mobile phone
    • was texting on the mobile which is even more distracting than speaking
  • He
    • was cycling through a red light at a junction
    • Highway code says “Stop at the red light” – now we know why

Apparently, he wasn’t wearing a hat – neither do I, and for good reason – they’re dangerous on many counts, not least the false sense of security. Anyone who thinks that wearing a hat will stop the soft parts of your body or even your head getting mushed up when hit by at least a ton of metal travelling at 45 mph – is a nutter. Try hitting a piece of liver or a box of eggs with a meat tenderiser – that’s the effect!

It just looks like the Buddhist law of cause and effect in action I’m afraid. They both made bad causes and they’re both getting the bad effect. The bad effect is pure Darwinian natural selection in action.

How’s that?

He made a mental decision to do a physical action that was a mistake easily avoided and paid for it with his life and won’t breed – end of gene line;

She has been locked up at her most fertile age which will give her reduced chances of finding a mate and if she does breed, her offspring will be statistically less likely to survive. Also, she made the decisions to drive a red BMW, go fast and go blindly like a lemming. These traits will be passed on to her offspring.

Anyone who thinks that this sort of thing only applies to monkeys and fruit flies is also a nutter.

Tough.

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