Linux

Post image for Site Performance Optimization: MaxCDN, Nginx, CloudFlare and WordPress Caching

My blog has a problem. Or rather it had a problem but I’m making some big improvements to it to make it perform better. For many years, my site has suffered from slow performance. Much of that is my fault though. I tend to overload WordPress with lots of plugins. Plugins are bad, but they are in many ways, quite addictive. There are so many innovative features and functions that you can add to your blog using them that people often suffer from plugin-bloat. And having too many plugins will slow the responsiveness of your site way down. As I said, this is bad, particularly in the eyes of Google who measures how quickly your site responds in its ranking algorithms. So, in order to combat these performance problems, I recently turned to a performance-enhancing cocktail to make my site a bit more performance optimized: MaxCDN, Nginx, CloudFlare and WordPress caching.

wordpress-flames

Just to set some expectations here, this article is NOT a how-to post on any of these items. It is more of an outline of some things that you can do to optimize your site. If I were to walk through step-by-step of each and every item, you would either be bored to tears or have to scroll endlessly through a 10,000+ word article. There are many how-to articles out there on how your can configure each of the items that I mention below. But, from my perspective, what I view as critical is actually implementing one or all of my recommendations.

The topics that I’m covering are:

  • Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Moving from Apache to Nginx as your web server
  • Utilizing CloudFlare
  • Enabling a WordPress caching plugin

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There is a lot of great free software out there that provides tremendous value. Smart programmers always want to showcase their talents and I love the fact that there is a never ending stream of interesting applications coming from the developer community. I won’t even start to mention some of the free Mac apps that I use that help me day to day, there are too many to mention. However, I discovered this great little golden nugget yesterday for those people who have a Mac laptop and who frequently bring it to different locations. These could be students or business people or just those on the go.

It’s called AirPort Location, and the premise is this. It runs in the background (requiring AirPort WiFi to be on an enabled). Once it detects a WiFi “fingerprint” (essentially, either one particular WiFi ID or a series of detected WiFi IDs or some other environmental variables) it then automatically configures your Mac environment (based on however you set it up in the application) to that environment. For example, at home, you may have a certain default printer, want your Mac to automatically attach to a networked storage device, want you screen to be a particular brightness, and certain apps to be launched. When AirPort Location detects your home WiFi, it will set up your environment that way. Then, when you go to work, once AirPort Location detects THAT WiFi environment, it changes your Mac to meet THOSE settings.

HTD_airport_location_menu

While there is a bit of a learning curve, some trial and error involved and the documentation could be a bit better, it definitely DOES work. You have a wide variety of things you can control like:

Airport_config_options

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I was lucky enough to get early access to the new release of Parallels (version 6). To put it bluntly, I was and still am impressed. Let’s face it, virtualization has been around for quite a few years. Currently on the Mac platform, VMware and Parallels have been playing a leapfrog game, one upping each other on features, performance and enhancements. While I’m not going to write a feature by feature comparison of the two virtualization products, I do feel the need to say something about the latest version of Parallels (version 6). I have been using both VMware and Parallels for a few years now, and with each iteration and release, they definitely seem to be making great advances. But the thing that got me on the latest virtualization “arms race” for Mac virtualization was the introduction of the iPhone and iPad applications that complement Parallels 6.

Parallels6_boxshot_sm

So let’s get down to brass tacks here. Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are stellar applications for virtualizing Windows or other operating systems on the Mac. I have tested out not only various versions of Windows (including XP, Vista and Windows 7) on both software platforms but also other Linux distros like Ubuntu. Both Parallels and VMware perform quite well and I feel that this multi-OS option makes the Mac and Apple hardware the only hardware that people should buy. I mean let’s face it, you can’t run the Mac OS on a Windows box unless you do some sort of Hackintosh implementation. And, of course, you have the option to run Windows in a Boot Camp instance, which means that you can dual boot Windows or MacOS within the same hardware, namely a Macintosh. That alone is worth the premium price that you pay for Apple hardware.

Here’s where I started. I have, with the recent Intel chipset-based Apple hardware, started running Windows as a dual boot option. With both VMware and Parallels, I have had the ability to boot my Boot Camp partition as a Virtual Machine (VM) instance. That means that I can work in either Windows or Macintosh environments without a second thought. (So be sure to ask your boss to pay a little bit extra to get you a Mac so that you can have all of the possible options!) Running Windows in Boot Camp is actually pretty amazing. It seems to work very well and doesn’t differ than PC environments. So, with one device, you can have the best of both worlds without limits. Apple’s Boot Camp fully supports Windows 7 as well.

But with the recently release of Parallels 6 for the Mac, the differences between virtualization software becomes apparent. I have also played with other virtualization software like VirtualBox which does a pretty good job with virtualization for free. But if you really want to have your virtualization solution fully integrated with your MacOS experience, you need to “pay to play.” While I have nothing but great things to say about VMware Fusion for the Mac, the latest version of Parallels Desktop for Mac really has made me happy.

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I’m sure that many of you have heard of the Find My iPhone service for MobileMe that helps you locate missing iPhones or iPads. Or the equivalent on Windows Mobile phones called My Phone. And I’m sure you know about LoJack that helps you locate stolen cars. LoJack also offers a service for computers as well, for a price. There are other offerings that help you locate lost or stolen laptops out there too, but most of them are expensive. For me, it’s a bit easier to justify spending a little bit on a service like MobileMe (which does a lot more than just the “Find My iPhone” service and is good for multiple devices), and it is a lot easier to lose or have a phone stolen. Laptops are a little trickier in that they are bigger and don’t usually have built-in GPS’s or location services.

But today I came across (actually using StumbleUpon) an Open Source project called “Prey” which has taken the difficulty of setting up and configuring a behind-the-scenes service that lets you locate you lost or stolen laptop. The service is FREE and works on multiple platforms (Linux, Windows and MacOS).

Prey_control_panel

Some of the highlights of the features are:

  • Geo-location Aware – the Prey developers have created a way to triangulate the location of your stolen or lost laptop (assuming it’s on, of course, and connected to the internet) based on publically indexed WiFi hotspots.
  • Wifi Autoconnect – this innovative feature detects if your laptop is connected to an active network connection and if it isn’t, it will try to connect to a nearby open WiFi access point.
  • Lightweight – the developers coded the Prey application in bash which, according to their site, means that it has virtually no dependencies.
  • Modular – Prey has a variety of different functions or modules. Read on to find out some of the different items that can be configured.
  • Strong Reporting – you can configure the types of reports you get from your laptop like running programs, recently modified files, active connections, screenshots of the active desktop, and even a webcam capture.
  • Alerting – you can configure Prey to pop up messages on your laptops screen, change your desktop picture (Mac/Linux), send out an alarm sound or speak an alert.
  • Auto Updating – once you install Prey, you can forget about it. It will update itself (if you want it to) to the latest version automatically.

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How to Move a WordPress Blog from One Domain/Host to Another

March 18, 2009

Over that last couple of days, I have had the “pleasure” of moving a blog from one hosting provider to another (not that difficult of a task) but ALSO changing domains in the process. While I don’t think this post should the definitive set of instructions, it is a combination of information that I read […]

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DD-WRT + OpenVPN + LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini Home Edition = Listen to my Home Music at Work!

February 26, 2008

To write this all up would probably take way too much time. But for a while I have been trying to find the ultimate solution for listening to my iTunes library where ever I am. There are obviously other combinations of this that would work, but this is the latest iteration that I have come […]

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New Job: Technology Evangelist for ServePath

December 11, 2007

It has been a few weeks since my last post and quite a lot has happened with my professional career. First through, apologies to my regular readers for not having posted anything as of late. Hopefully I can return to this soon. However, for those interested, the company that I have joined, ServePath, has chosen […]

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Family Tech: Easily manage what sites your kids see with Glubble

June 19, 2007

Finally I have come across something to write about that truly talks to my site motto “where technology and fatherhood collide.” It is not very often that I can write about a new service or piece of software that can help a family. Computers are now as common as TVs and now kids have computers […]

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