Welcome to the internet home of web designer, developer, pilot person and Cumbria dweller Dave Sparks.

Resolutions, they come and go

Well I managed a grand total of four posts over 2012, not a post since July, hardly wearing out the keyboard with writing there!
So it’s the first of January, resolution time and as a start I’m going to try and post at least once week – 52 posts over the year – not that hard surely?

First post is this, a little update, as I haven’t been quietly sat doing nothing since July. I’ve been busy with the day job and also doing plenty of projects for Armitage online and JDG Media most of which won’t turn up on my portfolio. The last of them was betting website Bets of Mates a site where you bet against your friends on football, it launched late 2012 and is growing quietly at the moment.
Heading into the new year and I have a quieter schedule for web stuff than I’ve had in a while, one small website project to finish off and a few jobs for Love rugby league so I’ll hopefully have a bit of time to work on my music project mumubl.com and hopefully get some more interested people on board.

Outside of web design and writing more posts, possibly some writing for other sites as well if i can think of something interesting enough, I have a few other aims for the year.

  • Get in proper shape, I’m pretty good at keeping fit and going to the gym but this year I want to take control of my diet a bit more and get fitter. I’ve also realised I ran my first and only marathon 10 years ago this year, maybe it’s time to dust off the running shoes for another 26 mile outing.
  • Improve my foreign languages. I speak a little basic French and started learning German at the end of last year. My sister has moved to Berlin so I want to get a fluent level of German before I end up visiting, I’d like to improve my French and hopefully by the end of the year add another language, maybe Spanish.
  • Finally finish reading Don Quixote. I started it ages ago and the book is massive! I’m queuing up loads of other stuff on my kindle and just not getting round to reading them.

Fairly generic stuff there, but putting it down here hopefully makes me a bit more accountable to them, I also have a more personal goal or two that I’m not sharing on here. Getting my finances sorted is one of them. My flying training cost a lot in terms of finance and time not earning and so it’s time to get some of that stuff settled this year. I hit a major milestone towards the end of last year paying off a loan and I plan to get to work getting some credit card balances paid this year.

So there we go post 1 done, 51 to go. I already have a few ideas and some unfinished drafts in the blog so they’ll get me through a few posts.

A new project – Mumubl and portfolio updates

Well it’s been one of those quiet periods on the blog where I’ve been rather busy doing other stuff. Looking through my client / project folder I realised there’s plenty of stuff that isn’t in my portfolio at the moment, admittedly some is done as white labeled so I can’t really shout about it but there is still plenty I need to put into the portfolio – god knows when that’ll happen. Still there is one project I’ve launched that I’ll get in there soon.

Mumubl (http://mumubl.com) is a new project that is part blog part social network. The idea is that people add their favourite tracks onto the site and share them with their friends, telling them and the world why they love the music they love. You can read about it on the Mumubl tumblr blog or just go over there and sign up and try it out and start sharing some tracks.

A table for 200,000 – quick website database table optimisation

A huge increase in traffic working with http://www.loverugbyleague.com has led us to looking at many ways to help improve the way the site works to try and squeeze more performance out of the current server. One of the first things that was noticed was that with the increase in access the database tables were locking up and delaying return of results and causing problems.

A look into the setup of the database exposed an issue as all the tables were using MYISAM which, as far as I know, used to be the default for a phpmyadmin table. I’m sure all but the most savvy of us give little thought to the type of storage engine we use for a table and just stick with the default, however it became apparent MYISAM was causing us a few problems and isn’t really suitable for high traffic, high access sites.
The problem comes with the fact that MYISAM will lock up an entire table when doing anything on a row, including accessing, updating and inserting rows, and as a result requests quickly queue up and start to grind everything to a halt during high traffic periods.

The tables were therefore switched to InnoDB which works with row level locking, meaning that rather locking up the entire table it will lock up only the row in use and allow the rest of the table to be accessed. This means that multiple requests can be made to the same table at the same time provide they are reading/updating different rows. It is much more suited to high access on large tables, especially where different rows are being accessed in the table, if the same row needs to be accessed repeatedly it may be worth looking at some caching of that information.

The change quickly reduced the number of locked requests and things started to run a bit more smoothly. There have been other things looked at to help optimise the site and it’s quickly apparent there is a huge amount to do in helping squeeze out every bit of performance of a site but taking little steps like thinking more about your database storage can really start to help.

CSSOff 2012

CSSOff - Triple dare screen shot

For those of you who haven’t heard of it the CSSOff is a mark up competition run by Unmatched style the essential premise of which is you get a design in the form of a image (a PSD or a PNG as you prefer) and then you take it away and mark it up with HTML and CSS and then submit it, get feedback and scoring on your effort and you’re in with the chance of winning stuff. I’m not certain but I don’t think this is the first time they’ve run the competition but it just so happened that after hearing about it the latest competition it fell during a small gap in work for me and I hadn’t done much front end stuff for a while so I thought what the hell why not give it a try.
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A look ahead to the rest of 2012

V for Vendetta

IMG Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kashklick/3406150405/sizes/m/in/photostream/

A little late, this post was supposed to go up on Six Revisions at the start of the year as “Five things that will keep shaping the web in 2012” however there were a few issues over there so I’ve decided to publish it here anyway. As it was written at the end of December some of the things may already have moved on a little.

So having looked back at last year’s predictions and having survived a sober new years eve (I was driving and had places to be on New year’s day) I’m back to have a look at what 2012 might have in store for us.
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