28 Feb

Absolutely No Machete Juggling – The Star Wars Saga: Suggested Viewing Order

Now I’d like to modify this into what I’ve named Machete Order on the off chance that this catches on because I’m a vain asshole.

Next time you want to in­tro­duce someone to Star Wars for the first time, watch the films with them in this order: IV, V, II, III, VI

Notice some­thing? Yeah, Episode I is gone.

via Absolutely No Machete Juggling – The Star Wars Saga: Suggested Viewing Order. Really enjoying this idea, going to try it out I think this weekend, as I’m due for a Star Wars marathon. The arguments in favor are really strong, both in terms of the order and in throwing out *shudder* The Phantom Menace.

21 Feb

Mailinator(tm) Blog – How Mailinator compresses email by 90%

Given the title of this article, the first thing that should pop into your mind is probably – “well, use a compression algorithm – right?”.

Right! Well, yes, well, not exactly. Read on.

via Mailinator(tm) Blog – How Mailinator compresses email by 90%. A fun journey through algorithms to find a solution to getting some awesome compression stats.

16 Feb

ArsTechnica – High Orbits and Slowlorises: understanding the Anonymous attack tools

Most members of Anonymous would prefer to stay, well, anonymous. But as the group has engaged in increasingly high-profile attacks on government and corporate websites, doing so effectively and staying out of harm’s way have become an ever-growing challenge. To protect itself, the group has altered its tactics over the past year to both increase the firepower of its attacks and shield members from the prying eyes of law enforcement.

via ArsTechnica – High Orbits and Slowlorises: understanding the Anonymous attack tools. Fascinating look into both some of the tools Anonymous uses to launch it’s attacks and how it/they attempt to stay anonymous.

16 Feb

Frankie Roberto – Responsive Text

Some websites now contain ‘responsive images’. These scale (or crop) depending upon your screen’s viewing area, so the image sizes remain appropriate whether you’re looking at the website on a mobile phone, or on a huge flat screen monitor.

This is an example of responsive text.

The amount of textual detail scales relative to your screen size.

The effect is achieved using simple HTML class names and CSS media queries which show or hide the content depending upon the current screen width.

via Frankie Roberto – Responsive Text. In agreement, nifty idea, but defiantly unsure of the practical application.

15 Feb

Backups, Automated and Off Site

One of the biggest issues in running a server1 is making sure if everything disappears you can be up and running as quickly as possible. So how do I do it?

Simple answer is I use a cron job that runs every day and does daily, weekly and monthly database and file system backups and then pushes those to Amazon S3. I rolled my own bash script to perform the backups and after a few months of both testing and improving it’s ready to be shown off.

The script is extremly simple:

  1. Import config settings from a file
  2. Dump MySQL Databases, gzip and move the file to your backup folder
  3. Dump PostgreSQL Databases, gzip and move the file to your backup folder
  4. Dump MongoDB Databases, gzip and move the file to your backup folder
  5. Tar and gzip the local webroot and move the file to your backup folder
  6. Delete daily backup files older than 7 days from the backup folder
  7. If Monday
    1. Copy just created database and webroot backups to be weekly backups
    2. Delete weekly backup files older than 28 days from the backup folder
  8. If First of Month
    1. Copy just created database and webroot backups to be monthly backups
    2. Delete monthly backup files older than 365 days from the backup folder
  9. Use S3 Tools to essentially rsync the backup folder with an Amazon S3 Bucket

It’s clean, quick and above all has worked without fail for several months now. The slowest part of the process is uploading the files to S3 which has never taken that terribly long. It’s also repeating the mantra from my earlier post of “tar it then sync”.

This method is simple and it seems to work great for most single server setups. I haven’t optimized the database dumps, mainly because that is highly dependent upon your particular use of each. If you have multiple servers or separate database and web servers, why are you taking sys admin advice from me?

It’s available on GitHub: S3_Backup


  1. I use a virtual host from Linode for this site and a few others, they are great. 

15 Feb

Incubaid Research – Rediscovering the RSync Algorithm

Don’t walk the folder and ‘rsync’ each file you encounter. A small calculation will show you how bad it really is.

Suppose you have 20000 files, each 1KB. Suppose 1 rsync costs you about 0.1s (reading the file, sending over the signature, building the stream of updates, applying them). This costs you about 2000s or more than half an hour.

System administrators know better:they would not hesitate: “tar the tree, sync the tars, and untar the synced tar”.

Suppose each of the actions takes 5s (overestimating) you’re still synced in 15s.

via Incubaid Research – Rediscovering the RSync Algorithm. The right way to synch two remote file systems.

06 Feb

Tinycon – Favicon Alerts

Tinycon allows the addition of alert bubbles and changing the favicon image. Tinycon gracefully falls back to a number in title approach for browers that don’t support canvas or dynamic favicons.

Alerts in the favicon allow users to pin a tab and easily see if their attention is needed.

via GitHub – Tinycon. Pretty sure I could count the times I actually looked at a favicon alert on one hand, that being said nice work.

05 Feb

Living World – How Did LEGO Become More About Limits Than Possibilities?

Rip open that new LEGO set and your mind races at the possibilities! A simple repertoire of piece types, and yet you can build a ninja boat, a three-wheeled race car, a pineapple pizza, a spotted lion… The possibilities are limited only by your creativity and imagination. “Combine and create!”—that was the implicit war cry for LEGOs.

So how, I wonder, did LEGO so severely lose its way? LEGO now fills the niche that model airplanes once did when I was a kid, an activity whose motto would be better described as “Follow the instructions!” The sets kids receive as gifts today are replete with made-to-order piece types special to each set, useful in one particular spot, and often useless elsewhere. And the sets are designed for constructing some particular thing (a Geonosian Starfighter, a Triceratops Trapper, etc.), and you—the parent—can look forward to spending hours helping them through the thorough yet thoroughly exhausting pages.

via Living World – How Did LEGO Become More About Limits Than Possibilities?. It’s a little depressing when I pick up a Lego kit and have to turn it down because of this issue. It used to be that no matter what the theme of the set, I could always use the vast majority of pieces from the kit, not so much anymore.