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performance

How I reduced my blogspot page load time by half

Page load time is serious business. Okay may not be for my old PhotoShop blog which I no longer maintain, but for your main-source-of-income site it is! In 2012 Amazon analyzed its data and calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. That’s massive, in fact let me help you visualize that amount – Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion same year. You can do your math now!

Anyway coming back to reality, I have this old blog that I used to maintain in my freshman year. It was terribly built over blogspot. I copy pasted some theme, bundled a bunch of widgets and marketed extensively among my peer which lead to some good traffic. That improved my google rank especially for one particular post on Godfather style poster designing.

Fast forward today, I accidentally visited my old blog and realized it was still getting consistent traffic. That was great! However first thing I noticed about my own blog was – how shitty it was! I checked my browser console only to confirm my blog was bleeding with javascript errors. So much so, even posts date were displayed as “undefined”.

Next thing I noticed was the painful load time. I felt like running out of patience with my own blog owing its terrible load speed. My blog had one share widget that would take forever to load. Then there were links that were not pointing to anywhere. Sadly I had no one to blame and I didn’t feel very proud of myself.

I would have left it on its state as I have no intentions of contributing there, however there is something every emotional about your first blog. Also the developer in me could not tolerate such mess of code and hence I decided to get my hands dirty cleaning it.

Say no to JavaScript errors

Here is how my browser console looked initially on page load:
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That’s ugly. There are a lot of stupid errors that can easily be solved. As clearly visible from above screenshot my theme was trying to load some amazon affiliate link. An adware? maybe! after all I copy pasted theme code from some untrusted source. First thing was to remove any code I cannot understand . This was a time taking task but result was worth it. It took care of all javascript errors and cleaned my blog from all adwares and unwanted backlinks.

Widgets should not slow you down

I noticed my share widget would just take forever to load. An ideal solution would have been to fix it or replace it with a better light-weight share widget, however I went brutal here and chopped it off completely from my site. One less thing to worry about!

Bare minimum navigation

As mentioned above my blog had nav menus pointing no where. That was bad design, confusing and hence completely unacceptable. Fix – remove them or replace them with more suited menus.

Here’s how it looked initially:

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“Post RSS” and “Comments RSS” are of least importance and surely does not deserve a place in top menu. “Edit”? Now seriously, how did it even get there? It was plane stupid. I removed all these three menus and replaced them with “About me” which link to About page of this blog.

UI glitches are disgrace

My posts were not able to show post date correctly, instead it would print undefined:

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I looked into the theme code, the issue here was, the original author made an assumption about the date format returned upon query. Obviously his assumption was wrong and hence his clever attempt of parsing the result resulted “undefined” . If years of coding has taught me one thing, its say no to assumptions. I simplified the code and completely removed the parsing part to display simple date.

Say yes to page-breaks

All these changes did very little to improve my page load time since my home page was still fetching a lot of data. This made me realize my posts had no page breaks.  Just for sake of clarifying: A page break is a marker in an electronic document that tells the document interpreter that the content which follows is part of a newpage. Or in simpler words enabling “read more…” option. This reduced my homepage size to a great extent as now posts only have a feature image and all other images go on their individual page and hence are not fetched in home page.

Results

That was a lot of work on a blog you don’t even maintain. But at the end I was rewarded with amazing result. Lets see:

Pingdom test result before my changes:

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Pingdom test after my changes:

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As claimed before, page load time reduced by half! And obviously you can see improvements in other areas too. Yoo…hoo!!:)

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react-redux
Javascript, react, redux

My Experience with React and Redux

How it started

We, at BlogVault, decided to completely redo our web application UI, which is currently powered by Backbone.js with Underscore templates. Exploring options, we tried using MarionetteJs on top of Backbone.js for our specialized migration dashboard that powers migration for our partner web-hosts like wpengine, savvii, cloudways etc. While MarionetteJs provided a decent improvement over our Backbone.js code with its common-practice architectural solutions, the code still looked hacky at times.

In Backbone.js responsive views listen to models and collections and re-render once underlying data is updated. However Backbone.js being so minimal (which is often credited as a plus point), it leaves most design completely on developers. This is where the problem starts, if you are not a disciplined coder there are enough ways to screw up. For example – manipulating DOM directly upon success callback. I have seen enough people posting such code on various forums. This may not be a big issue at beginning, but as the application keeps growing and you keep adding new features, you realize your views are not in perfect sync with your models and collections anymore. A quick fix would be manually manipulating DOM to update UI, which as insane as it sounds, is not at all a rare practice, such code snippets are posted all over the internet in abundance. This was just one example, there are many other. This leads to spaghetti data-flow, abrupt DOM manipulations, and at times massive memory leaks. This was one of the big reason we wanted to move away from Backbone.js.

Next we considered AngularJs, however dropped it almost immediately after we learned that Angular 2.0 (which at that time was not released and currently is in beta) won’t be backward compatible.

Finally we decided to try Facebook’s newly released view library React and application architecture Flux. Rewriting everything in React and Flux had its own risks. React was brand new, meaning considerably smaller community, lesser plugins and most terrifying – fewer StackOverflow posts! Also most of the code is in ECMA6, and to add further,  Flux is a non-MVC (or MV*?) architecture. However experimenting with few examples we decided to give it a try.

 

What is React and Redux?

The official site for React defines it as “a javascript library for building user interfaces”. And Redux is officially defined as “a predictable state container for JavaScript apps”. Lets look at them in detail.

Redux can easily be distinguished with most of the object-oriented MV* architectures, as:

  • the complete state of your application is maintained inside a single object called store.
  • at any given time the App’s state (store) is immutable, and
  • data flows strictly in one direction.

That’s a lot to digest if you are new to this. However the more we dive into the real world problems, more it makes sense.

 

How they work?

Data in a Flux architecture flows in single direction:

Action > Dispatcher > Store > View

 

Action suggests something just happened. Dispatcher is called and it sends the action to the store. Store modifies itself (without mutating existing structure) in response to action. Finally, as per the state of store, view gets updated.

Redux is an extremely light implementation of Flux architecture. It implements the above Flux data-flow in following sequence:

Action > Dispatch > Reducer > Store

 

In Redux implementation, an action is a plain object describing what happened. A function store.dispatch(action) is called to pass action to store. By this time, Redux knows something happened and depending on action, it has the result for what happened (suppose as action triggered a server request and got response). Now, in reducer we specify how the store’s state should change in response to that action. Once the reducer modifies the state, React picks up the new store and re-renders view automatically.

 

Now coming back to React. As it should be clear by now, React is the view part of our implementation. If I have to explain it in the vaguest possible way, I can say its comprises of two parts:

  • a template written in jsx.
  • a mechanism to maintain its own internal state in memory.

At the end React processes these two parts and churns out good-old-plain HTML that your browser understands.

Given the capability of maintaining states, it makes React extremely powerful and a delight to write UI on. Think of this – you need to display a message based on some event. Generally you will do DOM manipulation in event handler. However in React all you need to do is set a state in event handler and as per your template, React will automatically re-render that particular part. That’s powerful, and clean!

In fact I recently read somewhere someone comparing DOM manipulation with goto statements. Its as bad! There is no definitive source of truth and hence tracking down the source of manipulation is walking into hell-hole.

 

Conclusion

React and Redux together are fairly powerful and provides robust and efficient solution for building a single page application. In Redux, since the data-flow is restricted to one direction, scope for screwing up is significantly reduced. React has beautiful in-built data-binding which responds to state changes flawlessly. And lastly React provided various components lifecycle callbacks which helps write elegant easy-to-maintain code.

It was difficult learning curve attributed to – relatively fewer resources, smaller (yet massively growing) community, ECMA6 based javascript (which was completely new to me), new concepts like virtual DOM etc. However once I got the basics clear, everything seem to fall in line.:)

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linux, Mariadb, mysql, Ubuntu

How I screwed MySQL install with MariaDB and recovered

Broken packages are mess! I recently installed MariaDB to give it a try. After testing, I decided to uninstall it for now and maybe come back later. I was careless while removing MariaDB and ended up messing MySQL configs (MariaDB runs on top of MySQL). Things were only to get worse from here. A high priority task pops up that requires me to access MySQL. Unable to access it, I decide to completely remove MySQL and do a fresh install – basically a hard reset. If only things were that simple in real world. By this time my MariaDB was half removed, MySQL configs were a mess and I was now about to remove MySQL completely. Here’s what happened:

Alright, maybe I did not uninstall MariaDB correctly. Lets try removing that once more:

Same error! Ok, I clearly screwed MySQL. I should try installing it back. Lets see how that goes:

Unmet dependencies? Ok! I know what to do in such cases:

Nothing! That’s scary. There’s no way forward (installing) and there’s no way backward (uninstalling). I am basically stuck!

Maybe autoclean is a good idea? Sadly no difference.

I noticed both MySQL and MariaDB remove commands were exiting because of ‘mysql-server-5.6’, so fixing it was my best bet. I also noticed the error raised while removing mysql-server was from file `/var/lib/dpkg/info/mysql-server-5.6.postrm` as evident in following line:

/var/lib/dpkg/info/mysql-server-5.6.postrm: line 53: /usr/share/mysql-common/configure-symlinks: No such file or directory

dtdm

So what if I comment the line that’s raising this error? Risky, but desperate times – desperate measures. After creating a backup of the file, I edited it to remove the line that raised the error and retried. Here’s what happened :

Finally! Editing the file worked and I was able to remove both packages. Next I fresh installed mysql-server and it worked perfectly. What a relief!:)

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ruby

Recover your iPod playlist within seconds

I had to leave for Goa the other day and I was packing my bare essentials when I came across my age old forgotten iPod. Finding it out of blue was a bliss and I decided to take it along. I put it on charge and it was ready to rock.

2015-08-30I never realized what wonder old playlists can do. Listening to those old tracks I felt as if I was transported back to those good old carefree college days. After returning from Goa I decided to export those tracks to my computer, however there was an issue. We all know for some reason Apple renames music files and rearrange them in random folders. This makes it impossible to figure out which file corresponds which track.

Here take a look:

ipod files list

These are all random filenames. However to my relief these files were not encrypted and their ID3 tags were still intact. That meant all I needed to do was rename these files and I was good to go.

However given the size of my playlist (6.5 GB) there was no option to do this manually. So I wrote a little script that could help me out.

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My script goes through these files, collecting their ID3 tags, maintaining a hash and finally copying these files over user provided destination to respective folders based on album name and the file itself is renamed on track title. Running the script restored back my playlist within 105 seconds. Here’s the benchmark:

0.160000 7.470000 7.630000 (105.228952)

And this is how my playlist looks now on my file system:

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Here is the source code:

Feel free to star, fork, follow or contribute on GitHub.:)

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plugin, wordpress

Announcing Release of “The Video Popup” plugin at WordPress Repository

My plugin “The Video Popup” got approved and is now available for download in wordpress repository. Its a light-weight plugin that generates a YouTube video popup when a page is scrolled to the bottom. You can check it out here:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/the-video-popup/

The next version of the plugin is expected to have:

  • support for vimeo
  • custom point of trigger
  • overlay video popup

Feel free to suggest more features in comments below or rate the plugin in the repository.😉

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Project Euler, ruby

Project Euler in Ruby

I recently started solving project Euler. I am using Ruby to solve these problems. My aim is to get results in optimum time. I try refraining myself from using brute force however I have used them couple of places where the sample data was limited and it did not make any considerable difference in performance.

Leonhard_Euler_2

In the process I also tried implementing a few mathematical algorithms like – Fermat’s Factorization and Quadratic Sieve wherever necessary. Its a great experience solving these problems. Given the nature of these problems it demands you to be intelligent in your approach. Many times its quite tempting to use brute force and I did that too (ended up restarting my crashed laptop).

And boy! its fascinatingly addictive. I’ve been digging wiki for countless algorithms, analyzing their pros and cons and selecting them accordingly for my solution – and not to mention coding them.

As Project Euler discourages posting answers online, I won’t be posting answers however I will be sharing my solutions. In the end of each solution I have posted Ruby Benchmark score calculated on my system.

Here’s the link to my GitHub repository:
https://github.com/meshivam/Project-Euler-in-Ruby

Its a work in progress, so feel free to fork it, star it and collaborate to make it better.

Cheers!:)

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wordpress

The Video Pop-up Plugin: WordPress

This plugin is still not released. You can access the source code here: https://github.com/meshivam/the-video-popup-plugin

Its been long since I originally wrote this plugin, however I think now it would be nice to get it out in the wordpress repository and let it live its life!

This post serves as the formal introduction to the plugin. Let’s start from the basics.

What do you mean by video pop-ups?
A Pop-up launches when you visit certain websites. Their main aim is to try to catch the visitors attention and to bring something to their notice. As the plugin name suggests, it will help you pop-up videos on your site.

Currently the plugin supports only youtube videos. I hope to extent support for vimeo soon by the next version upgrade.

When is the pop-up triggered?
The pop-up is triggered when the user scrolls to the bottom of the page (footer). This makes sure user has least distractions on the site, only when he reaches to the end, he gets the pop-up. This makes its less annoying for visitors. However future version may provide customization over trigger.

How to setup the plugin?
Once you install the plugin to your site, you need to activate it. After the plugin is activated, you can find ‘Video Popup’  settings in your dashboard left pane.

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Click on the ‘Video Popup’ setting button to get the settings page. As below:

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By default the height is 325px and width is 420px. You can however define your own custom dimensions.

Once you save changes, the popup gets activated.

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Users have the option of minimizing/maximizing the video.

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