Blog update

By Phil Plait | March 12, 2008 10:23 am

Folks, sorry about not having a new post up for the past day. Things have been interesting.

Have you noticed over the past couple of weeks how the BA site is sometimes incredibly slow or not accessible? I was getting huge numbers of hits from Digg, Slashdit, and Reddit, which were clogging the server to a standstill. So, with Fraser‘s help (well, he basically did everything) we moved the entire site to a new server.

This new machine is very beefy, and appears to be handling things very well — the Mythbusters post below is getting hit from Digg like nothing I have ever seen, and the CPU on the server is humming right along. Yay!

However (Warning: tech geekery ahoy!) to move a site to a different location you have to let all the computers on the planet know it. We updated the Domain Name Servers, but that takes a few hours sometimes to propagate throughout the web. I could just say that I wasn’t seeing the new server until just now, but that’s not quite true: basically, my Mac hadn’t cleared out the port, so even after refreshing and clearing my cache I was still seeing the old server. It occurred to me just now to reboot my Mac, and bang! Now I am seeing the new server. :-)

So that’s why I haven’t posted. But now everything is lovely and shiny, and I’m back. If you are reading this, then you are seeing the new server as well and you’re all set. If you’re not reading this, then why am I writing it other than to fall into some sort of tautological singularity?

Anyway, I’ll have an actual post up in a little while. I appreciate everyone’s patience!

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Comments (19)

  1. BigBadSis

    Whew! I was starting to go through withdrawal! Glad all is okay.

  2. Tim G

    We want specs!

    Nevermind. I guess you’ll soon get the 10 millionth hit.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    IIRC you don’t need to reboot, but can clear out the current mappings by some abstruse command. As I remember it I had to do that on some machines on local nets when rebooting didn’t help. (Windooze machines and their little Registry, of course!)

  4. I was going through withdrawal, too! W00t on the shiny beefy new server!!

  5. madge

    Ooooooh! SHINY : )

  6. TheBlackCat

    Seems to be much faster for me as well. Now if only we could get that “preview” button…

  7. Celtic_Evolution

    it’s a good thing too! I could just hear your poor old server muttering, “please… I need rest… the spirit is willing but the flesh is spongy and bruised”.

    :)

  8. How can we miss you if you don’t go away sometimes?

  9. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Torbjörn Larsson

    In the Windows world, there are several commands to help clear out your resolve caches…

    nbtstat -R clears out the netbios cache.

    nbtstat -RR does the same but sends WINS relase packets out to update changes for WINS.

    ipconfig /flushdns clears the DNS cache.

    Have no idea what you would do for the same issues in the ol’ Mac world. I try not to get my hands dirty with that stuff. :)

  10. chrisj

    Like Tim G, I’m interested in the specs, not just the hardware, but the back end software.

    But that’s because I’m a computer geek. I heard that ruby is optimized enough that it can take the worst /. and dig can throw at it, on an OLD computer, and not even blink.

    Is it a LAMP server? WAMP? SAMP? LAR, WAR or SAR?

    Part of the reason I want to know is so I can make better recomendations other than LAMP (linux apache mysql perl (in this case the p is perl)) for the new ones I have to build at work.

  11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Now if only we could get that “preview” button…

    “Preview is your friend.” Ooh, I like that!

    @ Celtic_Evolution:

    Thanks, that rings a bell – well, I don’t think I have seen the WINS resolution before – maybe I used the GUI instead, or didn’t need to. I typically learn what I need – gotta make haste. (And forget it a few years later, it seems. :-))

    Um, isn’t ol’ Mac unix based now? Roughly Linux with a pretty hood and no easy way to tinker with the engine? (I haven’t seen a Mac in years. Not popular around hardware construction, it seems.) Not much to get dirty on then.

  12. Quiet_Desperation

    Um, isn’t ol’ Mac unix based now? Roughly Linux …

    It’s BSD Unix based with a kernal called, appropriately enough for this blog, Darwin.

    The mascot is Hexley, a platypus. 😉

    with a pretty hood and no easy way to tinker with the engine?

    Apple releases the kernal under the Apple Public Source License which has the approval of the Free Software Foundation as a free software license.

    Releases available here:
    http://www.opensource.apple.com/darwinsource/

    The “pretty hood” is Aqua and *that* part is proprietray, but you can run X11 with Darwin.

  13. MandyDax

    Yay, BEEFY server!

  14. George E. Martin

    Phil said:

    “However (Warning: tech geekery ahoy!) to move a site to a different location you have to let all the computers on the planet know it. We updated the Domain Name Servers, but that takes a few hours sometimes to propagate throughout the web.”

    A little more “tech geekery”. The maximum time a change in a DNS record should take to propagate through the Internet is the TTL (Time To Live) value of the old DNS record. Name servers typically cache DNS records for the TTL period before looking up the record again.

    Because of this, when it is known in advance that a DNS record will be changed, the owner of the DNS record will lower the normal TTL of the record sometime in advance before making the change. Thus when the change is made, it propagates known more quickly. Of course this lowering is not always possible.

    Playing games:

    [xxxxxx:~] xxxxxx% dig http://www.badastronomy.com

    ; <> DiG 9.4.1-P1 <> http://www.badastronomy.com
    ;; global options: printcmd
    ;; Got answer:
    ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 918
    ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 2

    ;; QUESTION SECTION:
    ;www.badastronomy.com. IN A

    ;; ANSWER SECTION:
    http://www.badastronomy.com. 68037 IN A 67.228.209.248

    The value 68037 is the current timeout value, in seconds, in the cache of the local name server, decrementing from the time it last looked up http://www.badastronomy.com. A short time later:

    ;; ANSWER SECTION:
    http://www.badastronomy.com. 67950 IN A 67.228.209.248

    Given the value above, I would guess the TTL for http://www.badastronomy.com ‘is 86400 seconds, or one day.

    George

  15. We’re now running on a Xeon 5100 server with 4GB of RAM. Of course it’s Linux. :-) I’m not sure how much faster it is, but it’s certainly taking on triple the load without a problem.

    Phil and I wanted to see how well it would withstand a Digg, and we got it last night. Of course, we didn’t expect his biggest Digg ever with the Mythbusters post. It was like hoping for a breeze to test your kite and getting a hurricane.

    The server went through the load perfectly. No slowdown at any time, even though there were many, many simultaneous users.

    It’s funny how technical you have to be to just run a successful blog. There’s no way we could afford to run our sites these days if we weren’t able to manage them ourselves.

  16. I’m glad your new digs are beefy, because I cited and linked back to the blog as part of an article I wrote called “Top 10 Space Conspiracy Theories” (not yet published). Hopefully it’ll drive more readers to your blog, which I find to be an invaluable resource both for information and entertainment. Keep up the great work!

  17. natefoo

    “IIRC you don’t need to reboot, but can clear out the current mappings by some abstruse command. As I remember it I had to do that on some machines on local nets when rebooting didn’t help. (Windooze machines and their little Registry, of course!)”

    lookupd -flushcache

    “It’s BSD Unix based with a kernal called, appropriately enough for this blog, Darwin.”

    Kernel is mach, BSD “distro” is Darwin, but who’s keeping track. 😉

  18. Greg in Austin

    BA, I still experience issues where your site is slow to load, or completely unresponsive. Just now, when I tried to get to this post, I received this error:

    “Couldn’t write to: /var/www/vhosts/badastronomy.com/httpdocs/bablog/wp-content/cache/wp-cache-c4523ff689e59b577ba1f8009a01bf52.html”

    It happens with both Firefox and Internet Exploder. Of course, during the day I’m behind a corporate firewall, which could be an issue. However, I also read your blog at home, and it too sometimes hangs.

    If I can see any more error messages, I’ll let you know.

    8)

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