What’s the next big trend in fast development?

Well a developer in Melbourne is proving out that it might just be Django which is built on Python.  We at Linuxinstall.net are big fans of both technologies.  They are extremely empowering espeically for those less developer focused on administration teams.  The interview here though talks about how he came to choose it and links to several example sites and the several of the projects discussed.  Check it out here.

What to think about when you choose a hosting provider….

So Friday night the worst thing for anyone running a website happened to us and a large number of other sites at our hosting company.   We were knocked off the internet.  The scary thing was that the only reason I knew about it was because I was trying to get my stats fix and couldn’t login.  Figuring I just hit a maintenance window, I went to Twitter to see if they had posted about it.  I quickly realized that my favorite hosting company must have upset someone because they were fighting off a Distributed Denial of Service attack(DDOS).  They were doing everything I know they should be doing which started with telling everyone on Twitter what was gong on.(I didn’t look to see if they put anything up anywhere else but I am sure they did.)  They told us when they started working with their Primary ISP and when that same ISP managed to block the attack.  From beginning to end the event seemed to last about 4 hours in total with the worst of it happening in the first 2-3 hours.

DDOS attacks are by far the toughest thing to defend against.  They are virtually impossible to prevent because they tend to use what looks like harmless normal requests.  So until you can tell where in the network it’s coming from and what it looks like you can’t possibly know to block it.

There were several customers that were just totally upset with them.  It felt to me when reading their responses that they both didn’t understand what was happening and what the level of effort it was taking to getting us all back online. So here are some things to remember when you are choosing a hosting company:

  1. No one is perfect.  So don’t expect your host to be.
  2. You get what you pay for.  Low prices generally mean lower quality of service.
  3. You can never pay enough to get 100% up time. It’s a myth and completely unachievable. So read reviews from real users and not just the ones the host puts up.
  4. Look for hosts that understand good customer service and are good at communicating.
  5. Support and communications count when you are experiencing a problem.

 When DDOS attacks are involved the best you can hope for from the host is good communications, quick response, and quick escalation to their upstream providers.  Squarespace hit on all cylinders on Friday.  Congratulations to them for proving why I choose them, continue to promote them, and look forward to paying my bill.

We don’t need no stinking expensive IDE Solutions….

I came across an article over on the Gaurdian talking about the real lack of need to the larger more established solutions.  When you start developing on Linux or FreeBSD the points in the article ring even clearer.  Even if you are developing Java applications whether you should use the free eclipse solution or a packaged eclipse solution like IBM’s RSA or RAD or the much cheaper MyEclipse‘s cheaper but still costing solution.  If you want to save your company money take just a little bit of time and something to develop and look at the many free and open source options available.

Episode 13 – Linuxinstall.net Podcast – Chrome OS, More on Wave and Web Development environments

Episode running time: 0:52:31  Click here to get to the podcast

1) Introduction

We talked about our latest impressions of Google Wave which we used to create and edit How to setup Web Development Environments

The link we talked about to in our Wave discussion:


Brian and Bill tried out Chrome OS and we talk about our impressions and where we see it getting used.(The Quick Review found here)

2) News

10 Lessons Google needs to learn about being an OS company


Linux Consultants are like Matag repair people…


3) Web Dev Environments

Heard several different comments on Linked in that we didn’t give any real examples.  In our discussion we talk in depth about the what and why of the points we put into the article.  Let us know what you think should be in a development environment.

4) Conclusion

E-Mail us at podcast@linuxinstall.ne

Go to the WebSite to call us via Google Voice

Follow us on Twitter @linuxinstall

Follow us on Indenti.ca as linuxinstall or http://identi.ca/linuxinstall

Look for us and comment on iTunes, odeo


How do you do web development correctly?

I support web development for a living and here are my thoughts about what you need to do it right.  After almost 15 years of supporting pesky developers I have learned a few things.  In this article I try to help you understand what you should plan to have and do.  Check out and participate in our discussion about the proper setup of web development environments.  Let us know how whether or not you agree with our thoughts in this post.  The story is right here.

How to setup and Manage a Web Development Environment Properly….

So what does it take to reliably build Web Applications? The answer really depends on two factors, the size of your company and more importantly the size of your development and testing teams. Over or under building your development environment can end up being every bit as expensive to your company’s bottom. If you under build it, you can impact testing teams or end up running too few tests and miss critical bugs. Over build the environment, and you will end up with a lot of servers wasting electricity, cooling, licensing and hardware resources as well as additional payroll costs to administer the servers.

Even if you are a boutique shop that has less than a dozen developers you should have at least two development environments. One for developers and one for testers. The developers will use the development environment to merge their code and unit test it as a complete unit with all of the other developers. The testing environment will be used to do functional and performance testing. So why do we define what the environments should be used for? The answer is simple, more often than not, most companies admit testers to start spending more time in the developers environment than they do in the testing environment. Why is that bad? This keeps the developers from checking code as they should because their space for doing that testing is now tied up with people doing “functional” testing. The development environment is also the place that your system administrators should be making the first attempts at updates of critical infrastructure. So having rules around the use of these environments and enforcing them is as critical as having them.

As your company’s Web Development team grows you will need to assess and adapt to the growth. As you start dedicating resources to performance testing you will need an environment for those resources to use. As you grow still further you will likely add a pre-production environment that mimics your production environment that we generally refer to as staging. A staging environment is really for the operations teams to test their final deployment procedures. A staging environment should not be sized the same as production. For instance, if you have four(4) Web Servers, six(6) application Servers, and three(3) LDAP servers in your production environment your staging environment might have just two(2) web servers, two(2) Application Servers and a pair of LDAP servers. The point of this environment is just to make sure that you will have a close proximity to your production environment that will let you test for single server failures, verify that your processes work across multiple servers, and give you an environment to test production problems in until the next deployment is prepared. This builds confidence and assures themselves and others that they have all of the steps needed in the complex environments that represent today’s application environments.

How large is too large a development environment? The best way to determine this is by looking at the usage of each of the environments. Simple monitoring can be done with log analyzing tools like webalizer. This type of tool will show you how much the systems are getting used but will consume small amounts of resources. I have recently used this type of data to convince several development teams that we could and should reduce our development server count by almost twenty(20) percent. Remember that not every development effort needs to be on its own environment or servers. Use things like Web Server Virtual hosts and Virtualization technology like VMWare and VirtualBox to condense the relatively low utilization servers. By doing this, a small team of developers can share a larger piece of hardware that will be more fully utilized. The easiest way to figure out if your environments are being underused is through monitoring. If you have any environments that are getting zero, or nearly zero usage at some point in the development cycle, you probably want to look at why. The situation of too many environments generally happens when development pulls back. The recent economic downturn and recession has placed many companies in this situation. In some instances I have seen companies, especially those using virtualization, end up with a one server per project team for either or both development and test. This leads to massive overbuilding. No web technology exists today that needs a one to one relationship. If you do find one, start looking for something else.

So what about Technology like IBM’s Virtual Enterprise, VMWare’s Lab Manager Product, or something similar? If you aren’t familiar with this class of application they are the ones around automatic provisioning of systems. These are sold with the promise of better utilization and control over your environment. For instance if you have a critical application that suddenly got hit with a Slashdot or Digg style event, something that draws an unusual amount of traffic to your site, the systems could build and bring up additional instances to help with the load. When the crisis passes, then the servers could be destroyed and the resources that had been allocated returned to the pool of available resources. This sounds like exactly what you need for your development environment right? Only as long as you have strong rules around how it can be used which will assure that systems at some point in time will get destroyed and the resources returned, then it is beneficial. Be careful with this idea though, and make sure you have someone who is ready to be the enforcer, or get ready to pay big bucks buying the resources needed to support an environment gone wild.

When building a development environment, web or otherwise, keeping it under control is the key. Uncontrolled growth with or without a good tool, will eventually crush the support teams. At the other extreme, too small and rigorous an environment will cost developers time and leave testers and admins impacted while they wait for changes to get to them. Automation of tools to build and remove environments sounds like a great time saving solution, but they have other hidden costs in the area of setup and maintenance that may well whip out any savings. So keep that all in mind. Let me know what your latest Web App is in the comments.

Questions of the week:

How many environments do you have at your company for how many developers?

What are your biggest challenges in your development environment?