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Category: Projects

New car insurance site is now up

New car insurance site is now up

I’ve had this domain name for a while and finally built something on it. The idea is to figure out good ways to save money on car insurance. We have USAA for ours, which makes it nice because it is a pretty good rate. Some people need extra help, though, to find the best prices. Hopefully this site will assist them in their search.

Check it out: Car Insurance Connection

It is built using WordPress, and will hopefully pay for itself through the Google Adsense ads.

Neat adventure to meet the Dalai Lama by the I Live Inspired guys

Neat adventure to meet the Dalai Lama by the I Live Inspired guys

I’ve been helping Benton Consulting work on the new design for the I Live Inspired website (now launched) and came across this story about the founders who have decided to walk 100 miles across the state of Indiana for a chance to meet the Dalai Lama. Their service is pretty cool, it delivers inspirational text messages each day to your cell phone. I hope they accomplish their goal of getting a meeting and that it goes well. Having messages come directly from the Dalai Lama each day to your phone could be pretty amazing.

Read all about their adventure: As I was walking that ribbon of highway

Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

Screenshot of the Serafini Studios Kitchen website

Our kitchen now has a website (using WordPress of course). Lots more content to come soon, including the secret story of how the river came to be, the inspiration behind the pipes and the amazing triumph of getting everything finally finished.

Visit the site: Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

New Kitchen Countertop

New Kitchen Countertop

Kristin and Kuma posed for this lengthy timed exposure to capture the blue glowing light from the countertop. Illumination was provided by the dining room light (the overhead kitchen lights were off). This lets the river show up properly.

See all the kitchen pictures here: http://flickr.com/photos/gserafini/sets/72157594153594016/ (they start at the beginning).

My submissions to the Miro one-click subscribe button contest

My submissions to the Miro one-click subscribe button contest

Miro (the open source video player formerly known as Democracy) is running a contest right now to design a revised one-click subscribe button.

A Fun Little Design Contest
Design up to three buttons and submit them as links in the comments. On August 20th, we’ll create a blog post with all of the submissions.
There aren’t a lot of constraints on what you can submit. Our goal is to have a selection of buttons that would look nice on a blog sidebar or myspace page. We hope to see a variety of sizes and colors.

Here are my three submissions, shown on different backgrounds. My goal for this is to create simple, clean, and usable buttons.

#FFFFFF #666666 #000000
Option #1 Subscribe in Miro Subscribe in Miro Subscribe in Miro
Option #2 Add Channel to Miro Add Channel to Miro Add Channel to Miro
Option #3 Watch now in Miro Watch now in Miro Watch now in Miro

I’ll update this post once voting is started so you can vote for my submissions if you like them 🙂

Update: Thanks to everyone who voted for my submissions. (I won the grand prize. 🙂 )

WP-Cache 2.0 – useful for surviving the digg/reddit effect for your WordPress blog

WP-Cache 2.0 – useful for surviving the digg/reddit effect for your WordPress blog

Found this useful plugin from this site while working on a site that was in the middle of getting dugg/reddited:

WP-Cache is an extremely efficient WordPress page caching system to make your site much faster and responsive. It works by caching Worpress pages and storing them in a static file for serving future requests directly from the file rather than loading and compiling the whole PHP code and then building the page from the database. WP-Cache allows to serve hundred of times more pages per second, and to reduce the response time from several tenths of seconds to less than a millisecond.

Get the plugin here: Ricardo Galli, de software libre – WP-Cache 2.0

Good article over on Bruce’s FastWallpapers.com site – 6 Sexy Sports Cars Big Oil Doesn’t Want You to Buy

Good article over on Bruce’s FastWallpapers.com site – 6 Sexy Sports Cars Big Oil Doesn’t Want You to Buy

Tesla front

Bruce spent a good amount of time researching the 6 best “green” sports cars. Some awesome pics there, including the Tesla Roadster.

These are our favorite “green” sports cars. Some get awesome gas mileage while smoking the competition, and others use advanced bio-fuels to eek out ever higher performance over their gas-guzzling brethren. Big Oil doesn’t like any of them, because they all mean one thing: if you buy them, Big Oil makes less money.

Read the article and check out the desktops: Fast Wallpapers Blog – Blog Archive – 6 Sexy Sports Cars Big Oil Doesn’t Want You to Buy

Some excellent WordPress plugins I found recently – Breadcrumbs and better Links page management

Some excellent WordPress plugins I found recently – Breadcrumbs and better Links page management

I’m working on a new site relating to Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act compliance (it will replace the useless site that is currently up at grammleachblileyact.com) and was looking for breadcrumb functionality and a better way to manage outputting links from the Blogroll on the links.php page.

I had searched for a good WordPress breadcrumbs plugin a while ago, and the ones I found didn’t really impress me. I’m really happy with the one I ended up finding this time. It’s called Breadcrumb Navigation XT and it does exactly what I was looking for. I’ll be using this probably for any future needs when it comes to breadcrumbs and WordPress.

The second plugin that I found was related to fixing how WordPress currently outputs links using the default get_links_list() function used in most links.php template pages right now. I had used on the XyzAnt.com links page another WordPress function (wp_list_bookmarks()) that only works for WordPress 2.1 and higher, and is still undergoing active development / documentation. That function, however, only allows you to output the description, and doesn’t appear to include the functionality to show notes. Since there is a larger amount of allowable text for the notes field, and that is what I needed, I still needed to find (or write) a solution to outputting all links, ordered by category, displaying the notes field as well as link title, url, image, etc. This is the plugin that I found that does just this (found it after writing about 80% of the same functionality myself). It does just what I was looking for, shows all the categories that contain links and the links within each category.

Plugin author’s latest post about WordPress 2.1 support: Link Library now supports WordPress 2.1

RSS2.com is fast again, thanks to a new and improved SQL database schema

RSS2.com is fast again, thanks to a new and improved SQL database schema

For quite a while, RSS2.com has been slow. Ever since it hit, oh, around 1.4 million items in its database (now up over 2 million) the queries that were responsible for building the home page view had gotten slower and slower.

The old design

The problem was one of normalization, and the desire to not have data going into two places. The design originally worked this way:

  1. Look up the latest posts. Find all the latest ones that have a distinct feed_id. This was running against the feed_data table, which now has over 2 million rows.
  2. Next, look up the feed information for each feed_id found. Originally, I couldn’t figure out a way to do this all in one query. So this was another 10 individual SQL queries, looking up information about the feed needed to display on the home page (like the name of the feed, URL, etc.) This query did a join of the feed_data with the feed_info tables. This is what took progressively longer and longer, the more rows in the feed_data table.
  3. Next, combine the results of finding the 10 most recent posts from the 10 most recently updated feeds into an array using PHP, then pass those results from the Data Access Object (DAO) to the presentation layer for output on the home page.

This ended up being really, really slow on the homepage load (like over 2 minutes). This was obviously too slow. I implemented caching at a number of layers to mitigate the problem, which made for a very speedy second page load, but the first one was still way too slow.

After consulting with my friend Ben, he agreed that it was an inherently expensive query to run. We agreed that it needed to be re-architected to be able to significantly improve performance.

The new design

The new design required creating a new table dedicated to the home page posts where, when a RSS feed is read, it inserts the most recent new item into the new table.

The new process works like this:

  1. RSS feed is read. Any new items are first inserted into the main feed_data table, and the feed_info table is updated as well with a last checked timestamp.
  2. Next, the new table is updated, using a MySQL REPLACE command, with the combined feed information as well as item information
  3. The complicated 11 queries that used to be run are now replaced by a dead-simple single query that will only ever have to search through the total number of feeds in the system (currently 753 rows), instead of the over 2 million rows before.

These new changes have made using RSS2.com much more usable again, and it is way faster. The homepage loads in under a 1/2 second now, just like it should.

Check it out: RSS2.com – Really Simple News For You