New page caching implemented on the blogs.law.harvard.edu server

We’ve implemented a new page caching system that should help improve response time and ensure better uptime for the blogs.law.harvard.edu server. A “page cache” will intercept requests and serve pages WITHOUT invoking all of the wordpress code – allowing our site to serve many more requests over all. The page cache only comes in to play for non-logged-in users, and for those that haven’t posted a comment recently to a blog we host.

The page cache has one significant side effect: WP-slimstats will be even less accurate, as most pages served to non-logged in users come directly from a page cache. This means that WP-slimstats doesn’t know about all traffic. Wp-Slimstats over-counts illegitimate traffic and is inefficient, unsupported and inaccurate – we’re looking into other options to provide some kind of analytics for our sites that will work with the new page cache.

The backstory:

We get a significant amount of legitimate – and not so legitimate – traffic. We served over 3 million legitimate page views and around 300,000 unique visitors this August – on top of all the ‘bot traffic. Badly behaved ‘bots request too many pages simultaneously and can cause a significant service interruption in combination with all the legitimate traffic we’re already handling.

Our traffic – bad and good – has been increasing over time and we have been seeing more service interruptions due to high load: we have reached the point where we simply can’t continue to provide a high quality service without a page cache in place. We’ve already implemented a behaviour based ‘bot catcher and numerous other tricks to optimize how we serve content: the page cache is the newest weapon in our arsenal.

Thanks for your patience! The site should feel snappier. If you want to browse a fully cached version of your site, log out and clear any “blogs.law.harvard.edu” cookies. Logging out by itself isn’t enough, you have to clear your blogs.law cookies, too.

Server Upgraded to WordPress 2.8.4a

And there you have it. We’ve been upgraded to WordPress 2.8.4a, the latest stable WordPress Mu release.

You should notice some minor changes in the adminstrator backend for your blog – nothing major, just a nice set of refinements to the look-and-feel and a few new features (like the redone “widget” control under appearance -> widgets).

Please contact techhelp at cyber dot law dot harvard dot edu if you’re seeing any oddness. Thanks!

WordPress Mu upgrade scheduled for 9/8, 5pm

WordPress Mu 2.8.4 is primarily a bug fix release that also helps to refine the new administrator backend introduced in the 2.7 branch.

If you’re already used to WordPress 2.7, there’s not a lot that’ll surprise you in 2.8.4.  This isn’t a huge change and we don’t expect a significant amount of downtime (if any).

New plugin installed – Source code highlighting

We’ve installed the SyntaxHighlighter Plus plugin to allow you to post formatted, highlighted source code.

There appears to be a few quirks related to open / closed brackets. We’ll continue to look into it. See the link above for details on how this plugin works – you must enable it under “appearance -> plugins” before you can use it.

Blog server upgraded to WordPress 2.7.1

Whew.  We’ve upgraded the blogs.law.harvard.edu server to wordpress mu 2.7.1 – which explains the completely new backend for blog managers.

Next we’re going to move onto plugin upgrades and start a process to evaluate the requests we’ve had for new plugins – any ideas? Please comment on this post.

We’re in much better shape than before to quickly apply upgrades, so expect us to be more in-line with WordPress-Mu releases in the future.

Thanks for your patience!

Upgrade to 2.6.5 went fine, new feature added. . .

So the upgrade to 2.6.5 appears to have gone off without a hitch. We’ll be working on the upgrade to 2.7.1 today, with a planned rollout at 4pm.

I’ve added a new feature: apparently WordPress does not defaultly adjust for daylight savings time. I’ve added the “timezone” plugin to let you set your timezone to a city near you, wordpress will then automatically adjust for daylight savings time where appropriate.

More details here:
 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/auto…

You can set your timezone under “settings” -> “timezone”.

WordPress Software Upgrade scheduled for 4/27, 10am

We will be upgrading the software that runs this site to WordPress Mu 2.7.1 on April 27th from 10am to 11am.

WordPress 2.7.1 offers a streamlined management interface that has been fairly well received. Here’s a good overview of the changes. Here’s another one.

We don’t really have a choice – we have to upgrade sooner rather than later. We wanted to make you aware now of the upcoming change, because soon how you manage your blog will look completely different. All the terminology is the same – you manage pages and posts, you “categorize” or “tag” things, etc. You’ll just find tools in different places in the administrative backend.

Thanks for your patience! We don’t expect a significant amount of downtime, and we won’t have the same performance issues we had in our recent switch.

Hardware upgrade delayed until 3/9/2009

We’ve delayed the hardware upgrade on the blogs.law.harvard.edu server until next Monday morning between 10am and 11am. This is so we can be completely available during the transition period.

On a positive note, we have a much less disruptive plan for the transition: the downtime should be very minimal. We have also put a bunch of effort into optimizing how WordPress serves its content, so the new blog server should be MUCH faster than it was before.

Onward and upward, and thank you for your patience.

Impending WordPress Software Upgrade

We need to stay current with the WordPress blogging software – both for security and to provide the latest-and-greatest features.

After the hardware upgrade of 3/7/2009 is a week or two old, we’ve got an upgrade to wordpress 2.6.5 waiting in the wings.  WordPress 2.6.5 is essentially identical to what we’re running now and shouldn’t cause any problems or confusion on a technical or user interface level.

However, a significant new update to wordpress has been released – WordPress 2.7.

WordPress 2.7 offers a streamlined management interface that – generally – has been well received. Here’s a good overview of the changes. Here’s another one.

We don’t really have a choice – we have to upgrade sooner rather than later. We wanted to make you aware now of the upcoming change, because soon how you manage your blog will look completely different. Probably better, but definitely different.

Moving to new hardware, 3/7/2009

This Saturday night (3/7/2009 at 9pm) we’re moving the blogs.law.harvard.edu blog server to new hardware.

We’ve done extensive testing and don’t expect a significant amount of downtime – but please be aware that the blog server will be unavailable during the transition. We’ll put up a “down for maintenance” page.

We aren’t touching the wordpress blogging software – yet. See the next post for thoughts on that.