Archive for September, 2005

Apache is dead. Long live Lighttpd!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

I have been testing the performance of our apache webserver over the last couple of days. Using apachebench I managed to get approx. 80 php requests / sec fetching dyanmic and static pages from apache. The box was really struggling. The load on the machine was over 100 and apache maxed out with 250 processes!

I wasn’t very happy with those results, so I thought I would port our application across to using lighttpd. After a little bit of mucking around with the configuration, I managed to get our application working under lighttpd. The difference in performance was enormous.

The tests shows the following results – approx. 1100 requests / sec for 2K static page and 350 requests / second for a php page! I still wasn’t convinced so I tested a 15K static page and it delivered over 700 requests a second! The amazing thing is lighttpd only opened 5 processes and the load tipped out at 1.5! That’s pretty damn amazing!

To be fair, lighttpd is using fastcgi built in. Still, apache has become very bloated. I configured lighttpd “out of the box” and received a massive performance increase. I have been using apache for a long time and been really happy with the performance. Now I realise that there is a much better way!

Apache is DEAD! Long live the new King – Lighttpd!

Worker #3

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

We’re proud to annouce that Nick Chapman started working with us this week – he’s writing some of the gnarly ruby extensions for use with our search technology.

Welcome aboard Nick!

Kryder's law

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

I’m moving some pretty big datasets around at the moment – and seeing 120mb data files being uncompressed in a few seconds makes my head spin a bit.

I remember when I got my first 120mb drive – and that was less than 10 years ago.

Content vs Design

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

I’m working away on the executive summary of our first product (coming out early next month). I’m planning to display the summary as a mini slideshow – so I started with some paper-based sketches.

Converting these half dozen A4-sized papers into a cohesive online presentation is a real challenge. It’s easy to focus on font sizes, colors and spacing too early on.

It’s classic Content vs Design. You think that the page doesn’t look right because your fonts are 2px off.

But it’s usually not the font size – it’s your content. Get the content right and the rest comes together.

So.. I’m off to get the content right. 🙂

The curse of simple design

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Cartoon from Ok/cancel

<a href=
”””>Don Norman has a very insightful look at Google’s web design in his latest essay – The truth about Google’s so called “Simplicity”

Here’s a snippet from his article…

Is Google simple? No. Google is deceptive. It hides all the complexity by simply showing one search box on the main page. The main difference, is that if you want to do anything else, the other search engines let you do it from their home pages, whereas Google makes you search through other, much more complex pages.

Google isn’t the only one to suffer this fate. I can remember when Amazon had dozens of category tabs on the top of their page. Thank god they fixed that! Amazon have recently added AJAX enabled tabs which let you browse all their categories.

This is a poignant reminder that we all need to be careful in design our interfaces, as things are always going to change!


Friday, September 16th, 2005


We have finally incorporated the company.

On thursday afternoon we signed on the line and had Projectx Ltd incorporated. Sealed with a solemn handshake – the race is now officially on….

ChangeThis Manifesto's

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

There are some great articles available at I just love Changethis, because it provides a Reader Digest version of new ideas and best of all its free!

Here’s my top 10 favourite manifestos so far:

  1. Seth Godin’s “Bootstrappers Bible” – This article rekindled my entrepreneurial passion
  2. Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of the Start” – The ultimate guide to starting anything.
  3. Hugh Macleod’s “Hughtrain” – Hugh’s version of the cluetrain manifesto – Both articles are a real world look at marketing
  4. Malcolm Galdwell’s “Talent Myth” – An insightful look at why getting talent might not solve all your problems.
  5. Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” – A summary of his famous Long Tail article in Wired magazine.
  6. Hugh Macleod’s “How to be Creative” – A fresh look at how to tap your own creativity.
  7. Scott Berkun’s “Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas” – Finally someone is telling like it is.
  8. Seth godin’s “Do Less” – Why you need to focus.
  9. Scott Berkun’s “How to manage Smart People” – Great tips for getting the best our of your stars.
  10. Craig Newmark’s “Why Craigslist Works” – Some background information on one of the best sites on the net.

Ebay buys Skype…

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Just been reading an interesting article from the Register outlining how Ebay is looking into integrate Skype into their business. Its amazing that they see it as a lead generation tool for businesses.

I’m not sure if its worth $2B, especially once the telco’s around the world change their pricing models to integrate VOIP technology. I suppose the price was inflated by the other interested parties ie. Yahoo, Google, News corp etc.

I guess only time will tell….

Designing the Projectx website

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

I spent a bit of this afternoon setting up the Projectx website. Some of the technologies we used:

The Typo Weblogging system

One of the great things about Typo is that it has support for static pages – so you can use it as a basic Content Management System (CMS). This means we can host both our company website and weblog with one software package.

And the best bit? Typo uses Ruby on Rails.


I’ve been a fan of CSS based design for a long time. Using CSS the layout instructions for are only 100 lines of code. It helps that Typo outputs clean xhtml markup.


We host all our sites on Linux and use Subversion to manage deployment. Because we’re using Ruby for most of our web applications – we use Lighttpd, a fast and modern webserver that works well for hosting applications on FastCGI.

Ruby, Lighttpd, Linux and Postgresql. It’s the LAMP stack for Web 2.0 companies.

Stemming isn't always good

Monday, September 12th, 2005

I was using one of the local job sites the other day.

I entered Usability into the search box as one of the keywords. To my surprise the results were returning matches to the word “use”. I wasn’t interest in any those matches, just in the word “usability”. I tried putting the word within quotes, but that made no difference to the results. That’s so wrong!

Hmmm… I know stemming is a powerful part of search technology, but you need to rank the results properly. I think it would have been better a list of alternative matches – like Google’s “Did you mean….” technology.

On a related note, here is a really good report from 37 signals on the search capability of several US ecommerce sites. It provides some great insight on what is important when building search technology. Enjoy.