Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Posted on 23rd July 2008

I should really have expected that interest to my site would hit overload last night, but I had thought it would cope. Unfortunately it meant I was sitting on the box, watching when the load average got too high and shutting down processes. As a result I did some quick profiling of the code using the lovely Devel::DProf, and spotted a few calls that were compelely unncessary, both as function calls and database calls. So I've quickly reworked some of the requests, and on my test machine the requests are now being processed in roughly 0.8 seconds rather than 1.6 seconds. Result!

It often takes something like being popular for you to actually take a second look at the performance of your site. Thankfully in my case, the changes are relatively minor, and have made significant improvements. I shall now be taking a better look at a few other sites I run soon, as I'm sure there are similar quick hit improvements I can make.

File Under: labyrinth / website
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Living After Midnight

Posted on 22nd July 2008

So finally after several hours of trawlling through the 2,044 photos that I took over the weekend, I finally got down to the 744 that I'm going to publish here now. There are a few more from the video finale, that I'll post once the video is online and I can link to it. In the meantime, please enjoy.

Oh and there's a video in there too :)

File Under: community / conference / linux / lugradio / wolverhampton
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Running Free

Posted on 22nd July 2008

The previous post was just a teaser, here follows a longer more indepth writeup of the event that is LUGRadio Live UK 2008.

This last weekend was supposed to be the last LUGRadio Live. Thankfully the 4 Large Gents have since been persuaded otherwise. It was still a sad weekend though, as the podcast is now at an end, and I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the presenters of the last 5 seasons (I've been listening since episode 1) discuss various aspects of Open Source, and all the interviews and guests they've had. I completely understand why they've called an end to the podcast, but had felt we would losing an even bigger opportunity if they didn't continue with LUGRadio Live (or something like it). I spoke to Jono after Live & Unleashed and he confessed that the organisation for the event these days has been made much easier thanks to having a great crew, so there really wasn't that much of an excuse not to do it again next year. I for one am looking forward to it.

So what happened this year? On Friday night there was the pre-event party at The Hogs Head. Food was laid on, and pretty much half the pub was taken over by LRL attendees. I met Jayne, who I've briefly met before at a WolvesLUG social meeting, who turns out to be a close friend of one of Nicole's best friends. Now some would probably say it's a small world, but as you shall see later in this post, it's even smaller than that! The party went on well into the night, but after midnight I headed back to the hotel. The others meanwhile attempted to get into the Revolution Vodka Bar (who turned away around 30 Linux geeks ... with money to burn ... because one of them had trainers) and Reflex (it was shut), before heading to Jono's local the Gifford. It turns out that not many of the geeks were quite so into the Rock music playing as Jono, but at least it was serving beer.

The following morning JJ and I headed over to the venue to drop the Birmingham.pm projector off for the Atrium stage, and bring along the flyers for the nutsacks. Originally we'd been asked whether we wanted to do a stand for the exhibtion, but due to lack of time to arrange anything, we elected to simply create a thank you to the guys with a special postcard. JJ and I added the postcards to the already prepared nutsacks, and gave the rest to the crew who were in the middle of packing the rest. We then made our excuses and headed back to the hotel to lead The Britannia Breakfast Club (Greasy Spoon Edition) to the Adam Sweet recommended Top Nosh Cafe. Thanks to Adam for recommending it, as it really was great food and excellent value for money. While we were there, Peter Cannon (fellow WolvesLUG member) and his daughter came in for breakfast. I don't get to see Pete very often these days, so it was good to see him.

As I had stated on the secret crew wiki, that I would be bringing my camera (as always), when we got back to the venue, I set about photographing some of the setup. The queue was already getting around the corner, so there was alot of anticipation in the air. At this point we all thought it would be the last one, so it was quite interesting to note that everyone was in a very positive mood. Even those that had been considerably drunk the night before. The crew were all busy and the Atrium was a hive of activity. As Ron, together with Dave Morley, was a crew boss, it meant he wasn't going to get much chance to photograph very much. Thankfully, his daughter, Steph (also known to WolvesLUG as BabyRon), was also given photo duties and got to use Ron's camera. This meant that between the two of us we should be able to cover pretty much all of the event.

Doors opened and the mass hoard descended on the exhibition stands. Once things settled down, they then started to take their seats for the big opening. As the familiar theme rolled out of the speakers, a huge cheer welcomed Jono, Aq, Adam and Chris to the stage. Video cameras were rolling and shutters were clicking at a rate of knots. LRL 2008 UK was finally here. For those that may have been before or at least heard reference on the show to Chinny Raccoon, will probably be not surprised in the least that he featured again this year. However, perhaps not quite as he has been featured in previous years. With a big announcement from the guys, Chinny bounded out from side of stage and did a circuit of the atrium taking in all the photo opportunities, something that was to continue throughout the weekend. And so with introductions over, the talks began.

As I was trying to photograph all the speakers, I didn't get the chance to sit an listen to all the presentations, although there were a few I did manage to engineer sitting pretty much all the way through. I saw most of Bruno's "Baguette on Snails" talk, and was suitably impressed by the amount of thought that had gone into the presentation, including the progress bar having an ASCII art snail moving along it. Bruno is LUGRadio's equivilent to José Castro in the Perl community, both have a great sense of humour and can present talks like this with an absolute straight face. The amazing thing though was that Bruno had actual working code!

I also sat through the Gong-A-Thong, and while at other conferences, these kind of short 5 minute talks, usually have a bit of preperation, and an underlying message, here they are very much a get up on stage and talk about whatever comes to mind kind of thing. Some can pull it off, others can't. I'm not going to name names, but I did think some of the talks would have been much better had they had a much clearer message to convey to audience. However, the Gong-A-Thong is not really about the speakers, it's now about who is brave enough to don a pair of pants and parade about on stage. It hadn't been revealled who was going to take to the stage this year, although some did have some interesting suggestions. As the two specially recruited LUGRadio security advisors took to the stage, and the Rocky theme reverberated around the atrium, the one ... the only ... Chinny Raccoon entered from the rear of the courtyard. Except, it was Chinny Raccoon with just head, hands and feet ... and ... well ... see the photos! Once finally on the stage, the head was removed and MrBen was unveiled to the cheering crowd. It was a great start, and throughout it all MrBen played up to the role. Despite a dire warning should his wife or daughter get to see the photos, flickr proved too irresistable, and Heather was already asking why the costume had disappeared by the end of the day.

The final talk of the day I got to watch, was MrBen's "Supporting World Domination". It was an interesting talk, if only for the fact that he'd taken a step back and looked at what the Linux or Open Source community actually was, and how to reach those better that previously we perhaps haven't considered part of the community. The users of Open Source software are just as much a part of the community as those who post on forums and mailing list and submit bug reports. They help to spread the word, just by using the applications. However, what if they get stuck? How do we help them? We all know how posting a newbie type question is likely to get you ripped to shreads for daring to enter the realm of "real users", but don't they deserve to be given the support, after all we've persuaded them to use Open Source software in the first place? MrBen's idea is to enable an app that can be clicked and automatically put that user in contact with an expert, who happens to be online and willing to answer their questions. As it's just an idea there is no code, or plan, but nonetheless it made for some interesting thoughts.

Then it was time to record the final episode of LUGRadio Season 5, Live & Unleashed. If you weren't there you'll have to wait for the broadcast to hear all the discussion, but it was fun to have Chinny holding up the aplause sign and watching Jono and Aq try and figure out whether New Zealand was further away than Sydney, Australia! It is :) Now I mentioned at the beginning about it being a small world. Well it turns out that Keith White, who I know from Coventry LUG and Birmingham LUG, worked on a project at a University in New Zealand 3 years ago. One of the guys working there just happened to be the eventual winner of LUGRadio furthest travelled, Robin (I think?) from New Zealand! He has been over here to see some music festivals too, but engineered the trip so it coincided with LUGRadio. Now that's a small world. To end the last ever LUGRadio recording, there was cake. Steph had made a special LUGRadio cake for everyone, and after the first set of photos, it got cut up for everyone. I think Aq had the priviledge of having the first piece :)

After that it was time to find more food. After waiting for Mez to finish crew duties, our plan was to meet up with the Birmingham LUG guys at Spice Avenue. As I knew where it was, I wasn't too worried, about finding it. Mez had invited Miia along too, so we headed off to catch up with the other guys. When we got to the restaurant, none of the Birmingham LUG guys were there, but we were hungry so sat down to eat. Mez later found someone's number and called them to discover that Birmingham LUG had got lost and just walked into the first Indian restaurant they'd found! Oh well.

When we got back to The Lighthouse, we found the party in full swing. A little later the Karaoke session got under way. Personally I'm not into Karaoke at all, but I'm quite happy for others to have a go. Sarah from Skynet did an awesome version of Crazy, Neuro was most excellent with Ring Of Fire, Jono, Aq, Matt P Revell (I did amuse me to hear the compere prounouncing it Revel as in the sweets) and Chris all got at various points to sing a variety of tunes. Goaded by her mother (Josette from O'Reilly) and the rest of the Bytemark crew, I suggested Sylvie and Nick sing ABBA's Take A Chance On Me, despite the protest it took all of about 2 seconds to run for the microphone. They were both egging to do it again by all accounts too! The Bytemark guys got up, then the Skynet folks (doing a splendid version of A Fairytale Of New York) and in amongst them were a host of others, including Milesteg doing a couple of Neil Diamond numbers. The party was still going strong, but feeling tired I headed back to the hotel. After all I had to speak first thing in the morning.

I head back to the Lighthouse in the morning and waiting for the introductions. With those out of the way, I went to set up my laptop for the talk. Unfortunately my laptop wasn't in a very good working state, and apache ended up locking up, meaning I couldn't use the webserver version of my talk. Not a big deal, but I ended up using the slides I'd used in Chicago for YAPC::NA. It was only later I realised that I could have used the LRL prepared slides. Never mind, it only meant the title screen was wrong and the two extra slides I had for the talk weren't shown. However, the talk did appear to go down very well, with several interesting questions, and one person even got one of my quiz questions right. Alas I had forgotten the prizes, so I've taken his business card and will be sending him a poster this week. He did have to live in Sydney, Australia though didn't he! It was a decent crowd too, which was nice. I was a bit wary of how many would turn up, as it was the first talk of the day and Sunday is usually the quieter day of LRL. So thank you to all who came along. It was also probably the best presentation of that talk I've ever given too.

Following on from me was Agostino Russo (the "Wubi" guy), who I'd met the previous night in the bar. It was a shame that he was against the Mass Debate as I would have liked to have seen his talk. As it was I shot round the other rooms to quickly photograph the other speakers, then sat in on The Mass Debate. Sometimes the debate generates some interesting discussion, but this time around it wasn't anything that particularly motivated me. I did think there were some good arguments about why major distributors should NOT sync their release cycles though.

Next talk I mostly sat through was Matthew Garrett's "Power management that works". Matthew has spent a lot of time considering how power management works, and has largely come to the conclusion that (I'm paraphrasing) "why are we asking the user?" And he's right. A lot of the questions asked of the user make no sense, when the machine itself is intelligent enough to figure out how you are using it, and can set the right power setting appropriately. I didn't catch all the questions asked, but I would be interested to know some of the suggestions he had for better power management, especially when trying to conserve battery power on a plane.

Final talk of the day for me was Neuro's "How Second Life works, and how much we rely on Linux and Open Source". I've been aware of Second Life, but it's never been a game that has ever interested me to play. Because it happens in realtime, unless you're in the game constantly then you're not going to be able to take advantage of much of the game experience, at least that's how it seems to me. Plus I've never really been that bothered by MMORPGs anyway. It was interesting to see what some had done with the medium though. However, part way though Neuro's talk, Jono rushed out from side of stage, with Chinny Raccoon standing atop a sack-truck, holding a placard stating "FURRIES FOR JUSTICE", and headed across the cobblestones and headed for the door. It was funny, and I'm sure Neuro saw the funny side of it too, despite interrupting his talk.

After a few minutes all the talks wound up, and everyone headed back into the Atrium. The guys then began the final session of the day, the thank yous, prize givings and goodbyes. Someone won an Asus EEE PC from Linux Emporium, lots of Tuxs and Tshirts were given away (thanks for mine guys, much appreciated), Mrs Ron got a bottle of wine for feeding the crew, and the guys gave away the artwork that Chris Hayes had orchestrated as part of his Collaborative Art project on his exhibition stand. With the final goodbyes having been said, it was time to pack away. Once the majaority of people had headed out, we gathered Chinny, the crew and the guys together to get some photos done. Tony also had some great ideas for the final scene of the film he was planning to wrap up the event. So we took plenty of photos then too. I'll not reveal those yet, as it'll be worth waiting for the video.

This year was a blast. I had great fun, chatted to some great people, took loads of photos and generally just had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Thanks go to the crew and the gents for organising everything, you all did a stunning job ... again. And I look forward to LRL 2009. Till then... goodnight :)

File Under: community / conference / linux / lugradio / wolverhampton
2 COMMENTS


Bat Out Of Hell

Posted on 21st July 2008

So while several people I know have been telling everyone that they'll be at OSCON this week, I thought I'd mention that I've just been to LUGRadio Live, probably the best Open Source event ever :)

The event was originally billed as the last event LUGRadio event. The reason being that the presenters were finding it harder to prepare for the radio show recording, and have the time to edit and put it out, when they have work and family taking up more of their time. It was sad to hear that they were stopping the show, though understandable, but it was an even bigger disappointment when there was the prospect of no more LUGRadio Live. The event is more than just a conference, it's a great way for the UK community (although there are plenty of European and further afield attendees) to get together and catchup. As such a few of us behind the scenes had already suggested that something should happen. I'd suggested that another UK LUG take up the challenge and hold the event somewhere else in the UK. However, Dave Morley and Ron "BigRon" Wellstead had ideas to just do it themselves, seeing as most of WolvesLUG were on the crew and had been working behind the scenes for the last few events. Either way I would have been happy.

So it was with some relief that during the Live & Unleashed recording on Saturday, that Jono said that after the Friday night party, he was so overwhelmed with the comments from people, about how much they were going to miss the event, he was moved to discuss with Aq about doing the event again. Thankfully, they were both in agreement that is was worth doing. So even though the podcast will be no more, LUGRadio Live event will continue, which is great news.

This weekend was great fun, and I manage to take over 2,000 photos over the two days (and Friday night party), which I now have the pleasure of whittling down to a more manageable number to post here. I hope to get throught them all this week, so stay tuned for news of when they are uploaded. It was great to see the Bytemark gaming rig, which was a great success, and also to be able to say personal thanks to Matt Bloch for helping Birmingham.pm sort out their server. I'm also very grateful for the guys for the 1 or 50 special LUGRadio tshirts that I got as a thank you for yet again being their unoffical offical photographer for the event :) It was great to catch up with Josette and Sylvie for O'Reilly, as well as John Pinner from Linux Emporium (BTW thanks for the tshirt John), who had some ideas for an interesting conference next year, and Andy Robinson from OpenStreetMap. Novell (Ethne loves Geeko the chameleon), RedHat, Efficient PC, Beagleboard and the Open Rights Group all had great stands too, and all helped to make it probably the best exhibition area they've ever had at LUGRadio Live.

Also in attendance in the exhibition area were the Linux Outlaws, another Linux podcast, that are looking like they could fill the void for all those LUGRadio fans. I've only heard them being mentioned on LUGRadio, on recent episodes, so haven't had a chance to listen to them yet, but having had a chat to Fabian, they seem like really sound guys, and I'm looking forward to hearing all the back issues. They were also hoping to record an episode of their show at LRL, but I don't know whether they managed that.

This year, thanks to Tony and Laura, this event is probably the most filmed LRL too. Having organised an AV crew well in advance this year, pretty much the whole event was filmed in some form or another. I'm sure it'll be a while before the videos appear, but judging from the effort they put into it, it's going to make fantastic viewing. Also thanks to all the crew, and especially Mez and Chris for helping me out during my talk. The crew have become and invaluable part of LRL, and without them it really wouldn't be the kind of event that it has become. Remember these guys are doing it all for free, because they love being part of the whole experience and want to help put on the best show possible. It also helps that they are a great bunch of guys and gals.

But the biggest buzz about the whole event was Chinny. Thanks to Xalior, who had the outfit custom made, a lifesize Chinny Raccoon featured in much of the events over the two days. Big thanks to MrBen for being a great sport in the costume and generally putting on a great show. It's no surprise he is considered a lifetime LUGRadio Community Hero. Although after seeing the pictures from the Gong-A-Thong, his wife Heather is not so keen to let him out of the house for next year!

My photos will be online soon, so check back soon for them, in the meantime enjoy the tasters I've added to this post. There are plenty more to come :)

Some other blog posts have started appearing around the web, so it'll be interesting to read what others make of the weekend. I plan to write a little more later too. However, the one post that really says more about LUGRadio Live than anyhing else, is the one Laura posted about her and Tony filming the last ever studio recording of LUGRadio, and includes some of her highlights from the past LUGRadio Live events. Sums it all up for me too.

File Under: community / conference / lugradio / opensource / wolverhampton
1 COMMENT


Dead Fish Don't Swim Home

Posted on 21st July 2008

If there is a karaoke at some party or other, which I happen to attend, please note that I won't sing THAT song! No matter how much blackmail or incentive you offer. It's also worth reminding the culprits (Alex and Steph), who I work for. Revenge can be very sweet. As I mentioned to Alex afterwards, "how good is your spam detection?"

And if you're wondering what THAT song is, then you really need to think of the blindingly obvious.

File Under: community / conference / lugradio / wolverhampton
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Say Goodbye

Posted on 18th July 2008

Tomorrow will be the start of the last ever LUGRadio Live. Tonight Open Source and Linux enthusiasts will descend on Wolverhampton, to mark the beginning of a farewell party that is set to be remembered for a long time. The party starts at The Hogs Head in Wolverhanmpton city centre, with about 30 or so people already confirmed, and many more likely to turn up.

According to Chris, the Britannia is now full, and by all accounts pretty much everyone staying there is attending LUGRadio Live :) The final Live And Unleashed recording will be tomorrow night, with another party after it. The final day of the conference is likely to be a bit of a sad day. I'm doing my talk first thing on Sunday morning, so hopefully there won't be too many sad faces in the audience.

It's going to be sad to see the show finish, not least because I've met some great people because of LUGRadio, and been inspired on several occasions. The crew and community behind LUGRadio and the live event, are superb and deserve tons of credit for putting on one of the best Open Source events in the UK. I'm hoping that it becomes an inspiration for others, preferably LUG groups, to come up with an annual event to continue the community's desire to meet up in real life.

I shall be taking photos over the weekend, so expect to see a further post, hopefully next week, with all the best sights from the whole weekend. I'm looking forward to the weekend, but it'll also be a little sad to think that this is the end of an era.

File Under: conference / linux / lugradio / opensource / wolverhampton
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Killing The Bland

Posted on 3rd July 2008

For those that have suffered with accessing my sites over the past month, I have to apologise. In the first instance it appears that a TLS library wasn't playing well with XEN, the virtual server management system, which runs my server on a physical machine in Amsterdam. Having sorted that one out, with some library upgrades, I noticed that the perl applications running my sites were occasionally going into overload and failing to end, due to what appeared to be hanging I/O requests. I'm still not certain why, but have put some measures in place to reduce the I/O requests.

However, while investigating the server process and open files, etc, I noticed that there were rather a large number of cronjobs running, including several that had nothing to do with anything I'd set up manually. The most resource hogging ones appeared to be PHP related, both for php4 and php5. Seeing as I don't run any PHP on the server, I looked to getting rid of them. It took a while to trace, but it appears that the mod-php4 and mod-php5 had got installed with apache2, possibly following an upgrade I did recently, but the associated packages had all been installed too. I have now removed about 20 packages and several thousand files from the server, which has freed up a bit of disc space, but also stopped several cronjobs, thus reducing the load on the server. I'm hoping this solves the recent overload issues, but if it doesn't at least it might last a bit longer before keeling over!

I've been monitoring the box for the last couple of days and everything looks to be running fine again. If you suffer anything similar, I suggest looking in /etc/cron.d and related directories for things that you really don't expect to be running.

File Under: computers / website
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In The Clouds

Posted on 1st July 2008

My photos are finally online from the YAPC::NA Conference in Chicago. Although many of the outdoor photos have come out well, many of the indoor ones haven't. For the conference itself, the main room was too dark on stage to really catch the speakers well, and all though the other two rooms were well lit, the speakers always seemed to move at the wrong moment. I think it might have helped if I';d have used my tripod a bit more, but I really do need a good digital SLR.

I did want to add lots of tags and things to all the photos, but that's just going to have to wait until I have more time. In the mean time, enjoy.

For those that only want to see the conference related photos, these are they:

For those who just want to see the sights of Chicago, then you'll more likely want to see these:

As an added bonus I'm piecing together some of the photos I took during the Speakers Party, where we were able to get a grand view of the city. At the moment I have only uploaded 1, but hope to get the other two sorted soon.

File Under: chicago / community / conference / opensource / people / photography / sightseeing / yapc
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