David Artiss

Date: 16th November 2011

Children In Need 2011 – Tweets from a call centre!

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This Friday is Children in Need night – an opportunity to donate and raise money for a very worthy cause.

Last year I worked at one of the UK call centres taking donations. I’d not done it before (although I’d been wanting to do it for years) and had the late shift – until 2am! It was great fun and I took lots of donations. Sadly, it all seemed to be over too quickly so, this year, I’m doing a “Lionel” (as in Ritchie). i.e. I’ll be working “all night long” from 6:30pm until 2am.

If you wish to donate, please do so here.

On the night I’m going to Tweet updates and pictures, so follow my personal Twitter feed if you wish to know more! There’ll be no details (or pictures) of people who donate, as all that is private, but it will give you an idea of what happens “behind the scenes”.

Moving to low energy lighting at home

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With the ever growing need to save energy and the slow phasing out of incandescent lighting, we find ourselves having to find alternative lighting.

When I recently moved home I realised that the new house had a lot of lights – for example the kitchen had 6 45Watt down-lighters for the ceiling alone. That’s 270W every time you flick the light switch. So, the hunt was on to fit the new house with new lighting. I already had a number of cheap “standard” energy efficient bulbs but there were some requirements – like the kitchen – for something more specific.

First stop, I went online and equipped the kitchen and both reception rooms with Megaman bulbs. The reception rooms needed candle style bulbs, which Megaman produce. Instead of a glass surround, they have a rubbery exterior in the candle shape.

All of these, I have to say, exhibit the old issue with energy efficient lighting – they take a second or so to initially come on and then take some time to get to full brightness. Having said that, though, when coming downstairs in the morning it’s a blessing to not flick a switch and be blinded by the result 😉

Soon afterwards a bulb in the utility room blew. These are GU10 bulbs and I went to The Lamp Shed in Derby. After initially trying to sell me some LED versions at £15 each (I needed 4 in total) I bought some Bell low energy versions. Sadly, these didn’t fit into the fitting due to having a slightly different shape to the standard GU10, so I put 3 into the office, where I also needed some, and returned 1 for a refund. Sadly, the Bell ones aren’t very good. The have a very yellow light and emit a low whine.

After a tip-off from a forum, I headed to eBay where I purchased 4 Phoenix LED GU10. At £6.79 these were a lot more palatable – I purposefully went for the bright white variations as these were for the utility room. And these are really excellent – instant on and a superb output.

So, yes, some low energy bulbs take a moment to come on and then take a good few minutes to get to full brightness. But, you have to get over it – we can’t keep using energy in the way we have done in the past. If that means minor inconveniences, then it’s certainly a price worth paying. However, if you can afford to, look at the LED variations which don’t have any of the downsides, and on eBay you can get some real bargains.


Bandwidth Problems

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So, I’m into day 11 of this month but my hosting bandwidth (which was only recently doubled) is now at 75% used. What’s going on?

Thankfully, Memset provide cPanel and a host of data analysis tools. As you can see from this graph it’s rocketed since mid-October.

I’d love to say it’s because visitors have gone up as much, but that’s not the case. Looking at the biggest bandwidth hogging files, it’s exactly as normal – in fact nothing in particular is causing it.

What did happen mid-October though is that I started looking and changing the site’s caching. I’d been using PHP Speedy with all options switched on (except for GZIP, which I had in my .htaccess file along with a few other tweaks) but was finding that was breaking Debug Bar and jQuery Lightbox For Native Galleries. You can exclude certain scripts from PHP Speedy but that didn’t seem to fix the problem.

I therefore decided to try an alternative method. After some testing I settled on WP Super Cache (to cache the pages – this improved speed but not bandwidth as the same size results are delivered) and WP Minify (this combines and minifies the scripts – something that PHP Speedy did, but I could get WP Minify to work with the aforementioned Debug Bar and Lightbox scripts). I also retained my .htaccess changes.

And that’s how it’s been since. The site’s very quick BUT it looks like the size of the pages being delivered are horrendous.

The cause? Right now, I have no idea and I’m still tinkering – expect to see some site problems over the next few days as I try and resolve it.

What I’ve immediately done is switch off WP Minify and put PHP Speedy back on. Oddly, it’s working with GZIP switched on – if the .htaccess changes are working, this shouldn’t work. I therefore need to check my .htaccess further. Maybe the changes made to this file by WP Super Cache have affected it.

Certainly something has to be done with some urgency and if I have to I’ll abort all changes and had back to PHP Speedy solely (and break those other scripts). My hunch – GZIP isn’t working. Testing tools indicate otherwise.

I’ll update this post, as it may be of use to other developers. And, of course, if you have any ideas please comment and let me know your thoughts.

Update, 16th November.

Sorted. Although online testing tools reported that GZIP was working, it wasn’t. Activating that has put my bandwidth back to normal…

Through some further testing I’ve settled on using WP Minify rather than PHP Speedy. I’m also using WP Super Cache but note that this doesn’t affect bandwidth, only speed.

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