Site Info

I started this website to experiment with different kinds of technology, as well as offer up some of the old bookmarks and pictures I've found over the years that have laid dormant on my computer.

It started off life running a very cool content management system called Xoops which I spent many weeks tweaking and learning until I had it just right. Later it run custom code which was fun but I was too lazy to make it do much more than server up pictures. These days it currently runs Drupal 7, which is easy to use and has enough speed and configurable options to keep me happy.

It's been hosted at different companies and in different configurations over the years, from cheap shared hosting, to running on a small cloud server with Digital Ocean to a clustered setup with dedicated load balancers spread out around the world with multiple database servers hosted at multiple companies just for the hell of it, to several world-wide complete micro-installations of Varnish/Apache/MySQL clustered together, to it's current configuration, running on a dedicated bare-metal server Intel Atom server in Europe (Online.net - 8 Gb of RAM and cheap!) and fronted by the CloudFlare CDN.

At one point I used Amazons Route 53 service for fail-over and pointing visitors to the closest instance for avoiding latency, experimented with Varnish caching and Nginx for load balancing, but currently have settled on using Apache 2.4 with HHVM running in Debian Linux.

Adding more servers means more complexity, so keeping things easily and centrally configurable while maintaining security, keeping an eye on them via logging and monitoring, and keeping costs down starts to become time consuming. There's always a trade off between performance, scalability, security and easy of maintenance.

For the future I hope to package services in something like Docker and spread them out around the world depending on server load. We'll see how it goes.

I've been particularly pleased with Apache 2.4 because replacing Varnish and Nginx with it has made life a little easier. Less configuration files and less things to check if something goes wrong. While Apache 2.4 may not have all the flexibility of the Varnish VCL language, it seems to have enough rules and caching features to run the sites well and it's fun to learn about this new piece of software.

CloudFlare has made setting up SSL really simple and I no longer need to spend $$ on SSL certificates! While I haven't necessarily found using a CDN to offer a huge speed up so far (perhaps I'm doing something wrong?) the SSL and naughty activity blocking features are pretty useful. High quality features made simple makes life easier for everyone!

HHVM replacing PHP is a little buggy still but overall works well. No more op-code caching to check, one less thing to worry about!

Recently I installed PHP 7, but there's no php mysql driver, among other things, in Debian right now, so off it came again. We'll get that running soon enough though, I imagine.

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