Tag Archive: Test

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.

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Zyklon Zombies B, Life and Death Work

Crawling Chaos: Zyklon B Zombies Work

Back along, Crawling Chaos were asked by Curly Jhon and Mackie to do some background music for a performance they intended to do under their moniker Zyklon B Zombies.  The performance was called Dionysian Heights, the name appearing as a band name on the Foetus Products’ compilation Blood Samples From The Pox Clinic.

I’ve just found a tape with most of the performance on it……    So I’m digitising it for release.  And pretty cool it is too.  Watch this space!

CJ with Dionysian Heights Props

CJ with Dionysian Heights Props

The tape is the actual performance tape, I think, with the first minute or two being either my old racing car noises, some set-up test tones for, and the final major bounce track (sans vocals) of “Sex Machine”.  This latter is actually very, very good, and shows the guitar overdubs done by Jeff (Doomage Khult) very clearly and wonderfully – I may release this as it is just so folks can hear the guitar work.

The Actual Performance

Curly Jhon (CJ) has recently found a photo of one of his props.  It’s a little white bull, prior to its coat of gold paint.  I mentioned it here last month on the Crawling Chaos website…    Curly John Pops Up with Dionysian Heights Props

Other stuff I recall is heaps of ivy and copious amounts of offal.   The guys were doing some sort of Dionysian re-enactment for folks’ entertainment.  The offal stunk under the hot lights.  Bacchus was in on it as well….

Description of the Music

The two pieces Jeff & I created are called “Life” and “Death” and the boys used them as they saw fit, synchronising it with their dialogue and actions.  CJ & Mackie directed us, in a general way, as to the feel of the sounds for a given amount of time.  Hence each section is fairly drawn and thus doesn’t particularly matter too much where it’s fed in or out as the performance demanded.

Q.    Why have I called this post “Zyklon Zombies B, Life and Death Work”?

A.    Because that’s what’s written on the tape!  Jeff’s handwriting.

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Disable Pepper to Enable Flash in Chrome

Solve Flash Problem in Chrome Browser

Adobe Flash Not Working

Adobe Flash Not Working on the Adobe site!

For some time now, any web page that uses Flash has resolutely refused to work correctly in the Chrome browser for me.  I use Windows 8 – 64 bit.  Amazingly it all works fine in Firefox, 64-bit Firefox Nightly, Opera, IE10 in 32 & 64 bit incarnations….?

The solution from the chrome help page, is to enable Flash from the plugins menu.  You type this  the address bar to get show all the plugins.

   chrome://plugins/
Chrome Plugins Normal

Chrome Plugins Normal

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work!

Checking the plugin, I see it is apparently working alright!  See the screenshot.

Testing, Testing

I decided to try a “flip” – turning off Flash still didn’t make it work – and neither did it work when I turned it back on.  There’s an Enable/Disable toggle link for this which you can see in the screenshot.

But then, in the top right of the plugins screen, I spied a “detail” link!  So I clicked it to expand it – and all is revealed!

Chrome Plugins Expanded

Chrome Plugins Expanded

Problem Solved!

Adobe Flash Now Working

Adobe Flash Now Working

The issue is that there are two Flash plugins; one is the default “pepper” that comes with Chrome; the other is installed manually and works in all other browsers.

The solution, after a little trial and error, is to disable the native, cross-platform Flash player, “Pepper”, and to enable the manually installed, most-recent, version.  It still won’t work if Pepper is enabled and the installed version disabled.  The Adobe Flash test page now works in Chrome, as you can see.

Below is a screenshot of how it should look (well for me at least!) to get it all working properly.

Chrome Plugins Expanded Flash Working Settings

Chrome Plugins Expanded Flash Working Settings

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Testing Windows 8 Developer Preview Version

Windows 8 Developer Preview

Win8 Dev Logon Screen

Win8 Dev Logon Screen

I’ve finally decided to test the next Windows edition, probably to be called Windows 8, although things like that are never certain in Microsoft-land.

Virtual Box

Win8 Dev VirtualBox Installation

Win8 Dev VirtualBox Installation

I did a Virtual Box install, which is fairly straightforward.  There are many tutorials on-line now which show how to do this, so I won’t do a walk-through. I installed the 64-bit version which I downloaded from MSDN using my licence.  You can get the installs from the Microsoft Website here, which come in ISO format.  You can also find out more from the horse’s mouth here.

You can also set aside a partition on your hard-drive and install to that.  However, Virtual Box is the safe way to go should the partition install fail and corrupt your current installation somehow.

What I will say, is to use more memory allocation to the virtual installation than recommended elsewhere or as the default,  and to use as many virtual processors as your host machine has.….. My machine is an AMD 955BE, which is quad-core running at around 3GHz.  In other words, if you don’t want it to run like treacle, give it plenty processor and memory room;  at least the recommended values for Windows 7.  You can see all of this in the VirtualBox settings screenshot above.

Fast Install (added 24/11/11))

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 time to upgrade

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 time to upgrade

Microsoft, on their MSDN blog, have made a big thing about the rapid installation for Windows 8, particularly for the upgrade route.  See Improving the setup experience.  I can say now that the clean install into the VirtualBox environment was very fast….

Briefly:

  1. You make a virtual machine in Virtual Box
  2. You set it’s parameters – processors, memory size, footprint size, IDE/SATA storage etc
  3. You set the downloaded ISO image to boot from in the settings.
  4. You boot by “Starting” the virtual machine.
  5. You install Windows into the filespace that you’ve previously set aside for it – I gave it a dynamic sized 50Gb.
  6. After that, let windows do it’s thing.  It took 10 minutes or so.
  7. Let it reboot.
Win8 Dev Loggged On Screen

Win8 Dev Loggged On Screen

Following this, you get a green screen from which country specifics are added, a username and finally, you enter your Live.com identity, if you have one, and if you want to!

Appearance

It’s a big green screen.  I don’t have a touchscreen, but it’s obviously designed for one.  It has massive buttons to a host of online services like weather & stocks, plus a few to your computer’s functions.

Win8 Dev Logon Screen

Win8 Dev Logon Screen

If you log off, you get presented with an American Rockies vista of a lonely winding road.  Essentially, the entry into Windows 8 is like a smartphone.  But what’s it like beneath the surface?

Windows 7 Legacy, and Vista Too!

Win8 Dev Double Click Control Panel Screen

Win8 Dev Double Click Control Panel Screen

Obviously, this is a development preview release, and we can expect more of the same to come.

Win8 Dev Double Click Explorer Screen

Win8 Dev Double Click Explorer Screen

But most work has gone onto the main intro screen because beneath the surface, all the various apps and settings controls are the old (current) Windows 7 interface.

Bizarrely, some screens even have vestiges of the green Vista, notably the main screen itself.

Personally, I think it’s very, very dour.  I can’t believe that two years of effort has gone into doing something that Android does on a more than twice-annual cycle….

Win8 Dev Left Corner Hover Screen

Win8 Dev Left Corner Hover Screen

Accessing the menus is the most unintuitive thing I’ve seen for ages!  Following on from the impressive Windows 7, it’s truly not just a user let-down, but somewhat infuriating as well…….    Whereas previously I just typed into the run bar to do almost anything, now I can’t even find programs or files!   No doubt there’s a way – but after Win7, it’s not intuitive and not helpful either.

I hope that’s not the end of the run box, because that feature in Windows 7 is awesome.

Control Panel

Win8 Dev Double Click Control Panel Screen

Win8 Dev Double Click Control Panel Screen

I haven’t checked through many apps (except a few desktop ones like the weird child-like paint thing and the weather which won’t do anywhere except California) but this is the control panel.

Win8 Dev Control Panel More Settings Screen

Win8 Dev Control Panel More Settings Screen

You then drill-down to get the old Win7 control panel on “More Settings”.

Initial Investigation Ends

Well that’s it for now.   To say I’m un-impressed by the big green monstrous front doesn’t give my opinion justice.  There doesn’t appear to be an easy way out of the front-screen apps and to have an app made for a  3-inch screen sat on a 23 inch desktop monitor really demonstrates the infantile  apps for what they are.

Way back in the nineties Microsoft tried their in-house Microsoft Network (MSN) which was a disc install that gave you a black desktop that gave dial-up access to features giving almost the same as this big green toy-town monster.

Not happy.

Watch this space as I delve more….

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Try Firefox, Nightly, 64 bit

Testing Firefox 64-bit Right Now!

Actually, I tried the 64 bit installs of Firefox and Internet Explorer soon after I installed this Windows 7 64 bit Operating System.  They were both pants and summarily removed from my hard drives and I haven’t revisited for over 2 years….

Firefox Nightly

Firefox Nightly

But now things seem on the up.

64-bit is now mainstream with a large 64-bit user base and fewer and fewer 32-bit applications seeing regular usage against the 64-bit versions.  This is Firefox’s “about” info (above) from this browser.  It’s called “Nightly”, and actually (whispers to one side), it’s very good…!!!   Miles better than before, which made the machine crash….

It’s….

  • Faster
  • Worked first time
  • Installed okay.
  • Needed Flash plugins which were directly available, and work!
  • Worked okay with all my current plugins – Web Developer, Flagfox, Quirk SearchStatus and the rest.  Amazing.  They all worked!
  • Got it’s own icon
  • Installs into it’s own folder separate to Firefox
  • Carries over all Firefox settings & shortcuts.
  • Carries over all Firefox add-ons & plugins, if they work.
  • only needed a new Flash install to get it working the way it was on 32-bit

So now I’m going to try 64-bit browsing as a real test.

Extra Information

Download Links
32 v 64
  • You need a 64-bit Operating System as well as a 64-bit processor to run 64-bit applications.
  • 32-bit Windows running on a 64-bit AMD processor (for example), won’t work.

 

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