iOS 6 and the non-working random story display

Anybody who upgraded to iOS 6 on the iPhone soon found the random story display on the home page to be broken. It took two days to track the problem to excessively aggressive page caching on the part of Safari.

I finally worked around the problem by varying the URL where the random story is fetched for each request. It’s now working on iPhones with iOS6.

You may need to force reload the site’s home page and javascripts by clearing all sites’ data on your iPhone.

To clear all sites’ data, go to: Settings -> Safari -> Advanced -> Website Data and clear the data.

Recent move followup

As you all know, the sites moved to a new location and even onto a new platform. During the move the platform changed and that led to some unexpected issues.

  1. Temporary SSL Certificate issue: Some people, namely those on IE7 and IE8 and a few on Android phones were getting an error about untrusted security certificate when they try to log into the site or use any secure pages. It turned out to be a configuration problem and it’s fixed (needed to configure and specify unique IP addresses for each secure domain).
  2. Kindle eBooks didn’t work: Due to the platform change new updated binaries for the kindlegen software from amazon were needed.
  3. Zip files issue: Some members reported inability to expand zipped archives generated on the new servers. I couldn’t duplicate the issue, but nonetheless, changed the zip archive generation algorithm to use my own hand-rolled zipping solution. Hopefully that solves it. I haven’t heard any complaints since the change.
  4. Slow site during peak time: The new set up doesn’t handle text search well. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware problem (not enough processor bandwidth) or a software configuration problem. Whatever it is, I couldn’t find a solution quickly. I’ve moved text search to a small server that I had lying around. It’s slow but for now it does the job and now text search works without affecting the main database server.
    I’m still working on this one. I will be installing a different indexing software (something more efficient than MySQL’s own built in full text index) and rewriting the text search scripts to use the new software. Hopefully that would solve it.

If there are any outstanding issues that you’ve encountered, let me know. You can leave a comment here or send me a message directly through one of the sites’ webmaster forms.

We’ve moved!

Alright, Storiesonline is now at home on it’s new server farm.

The whole move between stopping the site on the old servers, backing up the files, dumping the database, uploading the files to the new farm, build the database, create the content index, Changing DNS entries and seeing hits come to the new servers, took roughly an hour and a half. More than 45 minutes were simply spent waiting for DNS change to propagate.

Let me know of any issues with the new site, especially performance.

Time to go to bed for me. It’s been a long day.

Slowdowns, Offline and slowdowns follow up

Since the Sunday right before Labor day monday, the sites have been slow. And today, Sunday the 9th or September, the whole server farm went offline from 1:00am EDT ’til 9:40am EDT. Even now that the sites are online, things are flaky with lots of slowdowns and dropped connections.

After much investigation, we found that our oldest two servers (circa 2003) have given up the ghost and the rest are not keeping up with demand. It seems that the electric power in the facilities have something to do with the issue.

Here is what we will do to remedy the situation:

This week sometime, the servers will be moved to a different facility and the dead servers will be replaced. We don’t know the exact time of the move, but it will be in the coming few days. We will make an announcement few hours before the actual move and as soon as we have a firm time.

During the few hours before the move, the site will be in limited functionality. No new postings and no payments accepted.

During the move, the site will be completely offline, and it will last for a couple of hours at least. After that, everything should be back to normal.

Meanwhile, until that happens, the server farm has decreased in capacity, so expect lower performance from all the site that we have, including SOL and Finestories.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this will have. Hopefully, we’ll restore the service to a better than ever shape.