Monthly Archives: July 2009

Win a trip to Alton Towers

Are you and the kids desperate to get out of the house for a while?   Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? are doing a competition in association with Andrex Puppy Points which could be just the thing for you – assuming you’re from the UK.  This weeks’ “Win It Wednesday” gives you a chance to win a trip for two adults and two children to Alton Towers – along with a stay in a nice 4 star hotel.

The competition is easy to enter, just leave a comment on the post, and if you want an extra entry, follow their blog.

Good luck!


Well, so much for a post a day

Unfortunately, my plans for a post a day throughout this month have been thwarted by good old BT.  Currently, I’m paying for a net connection I can’t use because the phone line it’s attached to no longer exists.

I’m going to be offline for another week.  I’ve picked up a mobile broadband dongle, which I plan to use for checking email and doing a little surfing, but I’m rationing the usage of it, since I don’t want to have to top it up again.

Regular posting will resume in August.  I hope!

VPS Optimization for High Traffic Sites

I have a VPS with 384MB RAM available as standard, and the option to burst up to 1GB.

This is enough to run some fairly high traffic sites if you’re careful with the setup, but with the default setups and fancy control panels, you’ll exceed the memory limit quite quickly.

I use Citadel as the email client, but I’ve disabled Webcit.  I also removed Spam Assassin, and just use the Realtime Blackhole List to prevent spam.  Those simple changes have shaved over 100MB off my normal usage, but there’s still a lot to go.

top shows that memory usage is leaking up into the burst limit over time – even with some basic optimizations of httpd.conf and MySQL.  I’m considering trying lighttpd instead of Apache2 – I really don’t NEED Apache2, and it seems to be quiet a hog.

The other possible optimization would be to use something lightweight in place of named – which is currently sat at 180m memory usage!

If anyone has any favourite lightweight alternatives to named, I’d love to hear about them.

Fake LinkedIn Profiles

As a freelancer, and the owner of a small company, I like to maintain a presence on as many different social networks as possible.  I don’t devote huge amounts of time to them all – there’s so many that I just don’t have the time!  However I do make an effort to create an account, link up with any contacts of mine that also have a presence on the site, and log in at least once a month to check for messages, and see what people are up to.

LinkedIn is one of the networks that I’m a little more active on.  The groups are useful, and answering questions is a great way to get your name out there.  Plus, it’s a little more spam-free and work focused than most of the other networks.

Every now and then, I get told that I have a new colleage at Myth Games.  Since Myth Games is a family-ran company with a full time staff of two people, and only a handful of occasional contributors (all of whom are close friends), I’m always curious to see who these supposed colleagues are.  Usually, LinkedIn has simply gotten confused, and the person they’re pointing me to works for a different company that happens to have “Myth” or “Mythical” in the name.

Today, however, I saw someone claiming to be a Journalist at Myth Games.   They had no connections, were a new profile, and had joined several gaming and journalism related groups.

I’m not entirely sure why anyone would do that.  If you’re going to fake working somewhere, why not pick somewhere big?  If they’re after some contacts, working for a comparatively small, independent site is not going to benefit them that much, and if they’re playing a practical joke, I’m not sure what they’re trying to achieve.

I’ve contacted LinkedIn to ask them to investigate the profile, hopefully they’ll close it down.

If you’re the owner of a company, have you ever encountered anyone falsely claiming to work for you on LinkedIn? If so, how did you deal with it?  Did those false claims do any damage?

Rapid game development with PyGame

If you’re anything like me, you have a ton of ideas, and not enough time to implement them.

I’m working on a long term project using the Multiverse MMORPG engine, but the project in question is huge in scope – and although I’m making slow but steady progress, there’s not much to actually SHOW anyone yet.

So, I’ve set myself a challenge – to develop a game a month in PyGame.  I’m not talking about any huge games, just some simple stuff – a flashcard based learning game, a Snake clone, a card matching game, that sort of thing.

The reasoning behind this project is that it will allow me to improve my Python programming skills, whilst building up a portfolio of those all-important finished projects.

This month, I’m experimenting with the basics of PyGame – creating screens, moving sprites, playing sound, etc.  Next month, I’ll get to work on a game project, and post my progress as I go.

Myth Games is getting a redesign

Myth Games has had the same design for almost two years, and I’ve finally found the incentive to update it.  We bought a VPS recently, and there’s a few differences between our old shared hosting and the VPS set up, which means that some features on the site don’t quite work as intended.

Rather than dig through the old site’s rather messy code, I’ve started work on a new design, which will include a more CMS-like back end, to make life easier for people when they’re updating the site.  If all goes as planned, the new design will be live (in beta form) later today.

I’ve thrown out the phpBB Portal part of the site – everything is custom coded now, except for the ads system, which is powered by OpenX.  I’m hopeful that the new design will be much faster, and much more stable – the phpBB Portal performed well most of the time, but needed regular database optimization, and was prone to falling over during times of high load – such as the first day of a games trade show.

The challenge now is finding an effective way of caching pages, without having the cache eat too much disk space.

I’ll be signing up to OpenX marketplace.  Since the death of HypeCouncil a couple of years ago, I haven’t found a good advertiser that offers decently paying, relevant ads for gaming and entertainment sites.  If anyone knows of one, I’d love to hear from you!

Joomla 1.5 Customization by Daniel Chapman

Joomla 1.5 Customization - I worked as a technical reviewer on this book.

Joomla 1.5 Customization

This is just a quick plug for the book ‘Joomla 1.5 Customization‘ by Daniel Chapman, which is due out next month.  I worked as a technical reviewer on the book, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished version!

Throughout the book, Daniel explains how to create a premium membership site.  He does a good job of taking a clean install of Joomla and turning it into a fast, attractive, and useful site.

I’ve used Joomla on several of my client’s sites, and for some online gaming clan sites.  It’s a great CMS, but one thing I’ve noticed is that when I hand over the site to my clients / guildmasters / clan leaders, they’re confused by the admin panel, and by things like ‘components’, and ‘modules’.  I’ll be recommending Joomla 1.5 Customization to my clients in the future – the focus of the book may be on building a site from scratch, but I think existing site owners will benefit from the way Daniel breaks down the CMS into nice, easy to understand chunks.