@madpilot makes

Latest 88 Miles release…

In between my day-to-day job and being sick (Damn you tonsils), I’ve managed to get some more work done on 88 Miles. This release was mainly an internal update, however there are a couple of important, if not major external changes.

  1. Business accounts are now out of beta – there are a variety of plans which should suit most people and you can easily swap betwen plans at your whim. There is even a discount for paying yearly! Check out the pricing page for more details.
  2. The trial account has now become a free account! There is now no account expiry date, and you can do all the things that regular accounts can do, including adding unlimited staff members. The only catch is that you can’t clock in more than 40 hours per month. All of the expired trial accounts have been re-enabled, so if you have signed up before but ran out of time, login again and see what has changed.
  3. The reporting system has improved – you can now view graphs in the project summary view

I would really love some feedback on the system, so if you haven’t had a play with it in a while, or if you have never had a play with it, go and login and show yourself around :)

/End selfless self-promotion

Welcome to the 21st century

This morning at 2am, Western Australia joined most of the rest of Australia and rolled their clocks forward to begin a three year trial of daylight savings – and about bloody time too!

So far, so good – All of my computers at my house have updated, as have the two work servers, and after a quick patch, 88 Miles also made the transition into the new timezone.

For those of you that weren’t quite so on the ball with your updating, you can download the Windows update here, and the Unix/BSD update here.

The Windows update is pretty self-explainitory, and the Unix/BSD update is just as easy:

  1. Download the update file
  2. Copy it to /usr/share/zoneinfo/Australia (overwriting the existing Perth file)
  3. makes sure /etc/localtime is symlinked to /usr/share/zoneinfo/Australia/Perth

Note that this update works for OSX as well.

So you over-easters, just remember little ol’ Perth is now two hours behind (Unless you are in Queensland, now we are only one hour behind). Adelaidians (!?) we are 1.5 hours behind you and Darwin you are 30 minutes in front.

Setting up a Rails app on a Media temple grid server

Now that I’m back from Sydney, I have had a bit more of a change to play with my shiny new MediaTemple grid server account. It looks like I will be pushing 88 Miles over to it over the weekend – everything is setup and ready to go, and just have to do the migrating. I though I would share with you a few thinks I found out along the way…

Setting up the Rails environment

The instructions on the media temple site are pretty good, there are just a few caveats I would make. Firstly, I’ve now started using capistrano to deployment, so I decided to change a few of the directory structures away from how MT suggests. The steps I took are as follows changes from the MT instructions are emphasised (replace testapp with you apps name – obviously):

cd $HOME/../../containers

mkdir rails && cd rails

mkdir testapp && cd testapp

mtr add testapp $PWD/current

For those of you playing at home, you may have noticed that the /current directory, doesn’t yet exist. Correct! This will get created by capistrano.

Setting up Capistrano

Everything was pretty straight forward in the deploy.rb file. The only gotchas I cam across were specific to my installation:

If your svn repository has a space in it, wrap it in single quotes when assigning the :repository variable, i.e:

  1. set :repository, “‘svn://svn.server.com/path/to/your repository'”

If your svn repository requires a username and password for checkout or export, use the :svn_username variable, i.e:

  1. set :svn_username,
  2. Proc.new { “username –password password” }

The only other modification I needed to make to the deploy file was the addition of the restart task. Because MT uses custom scripts to restart containers, the restart script needs to call them reather than trying to mess with the Apache or Mongrel processes. I also discovered that my secure certificate wasn’t functioning correctly (I’ll explain why in a second) so there is a fix for that here as well.

  1. desc “Restart the rails container”
  2. task :restart, :roles => :app do
  3. run “mtr generate_htaccess test_app”
  4. run “echo ‘RequestHeader set X_FORWARDED_PROTO https env=HTTPS’ >> #{deploy_to}/current/public/.htaccess”
  5. run “mtr create_link test_app”
  6. run “mtr restart test_app”
  7. end

Line 3 uses a MT script to make some modifications to the apps .htaccess file. Because Mt proxies all requests to the apps Mongrel server, the standard .htaccess doesn’t cut the mustard.

Line 4 makes another modification to the .htaccess file. Because I’m slack, I pull a neat trick when I do SSL. I maintain a global list of pages that require SSL – when a user browsers to that page, they automatically get redirected to the secure version if required. And the same works the other way – if they browser away from a secure page to a non-secure page, they get re-directed to the non-secure version. Unfortunately, because of the way MT proxies the request, the Mongrel server knows nothing about whether the connection is secure of not (i.e request.ssl? always returns false). Thankfully, there is a fix for this in Rails – if you include the X_FORWARDED_PROTO=https header in the request, rails knows what is going on. This line checks for the environmental variable HTTPS (Which is a flag that is set if the server is in SSL mode) and if it is, sends the modified header, which makes everything good again.

Line 5 links the web directory to the rails container and line6 restarts the server. Nice and easy!

MediaTemple’s new grid server services

What can you get for $20 per month these days? A Basecamp account? 4 88 Miles accounts? An account of a Grid server with 100Gb of disk space, 100Tb of traffic with support for upto 100 sites? Yeah. Media Temple has just released an insamely priced grid server setup that offers all of that FOR $20 PER MONTH. They even support Ruby on Rails using containers and mongrel. Needless to say, I signed up for account. hopefully it will come through before I leave for Sydney tomorrow afternoon, otherwise I’ll have to wait a week to play.

What is a grid server?

A grid server is basically lots of little servers that acts like one big server. This means that if a server becomes loaded, they can through more hardware at the problem. Google and Amazon use similar systems, infact Amazon offers a service where you can upload a virtual linux machine on to their grid.

If they pull this off, it will pretty much revolutionise server hosting. I’ll keep you posted how I go with my 88 Miles migration.

One week to go…

…until webdirections 06. I’m starting to get rather excited about it all now. Even though I don’t actually have accomodation yet :)

I’ve quite looking forward to meeting the international and national speakers – it will be really cool to meet the big thinkers in the web industry, like Molly Holzschlag, Derek Featherstone and Andy Clarke (not to mention the others!). Hopefully it will leave me motivated and full of beans. Not that I’m not motivated at the moment, but you can never have to much.

Tim Lucas and Cameron Adams obviously have way to much time on their hands, as they released Web directions connections. Cool little app – both Miles and I spent a little too much time playing with it this morning, even though neither really could afford to (work hasn’t really eased up).

Speaking of 88 Miles (Leave me alone – it’s been a big week and I can’t be bothered coming up with a proper segway*), things are ramping up. I’ve made a few tweaks with the design and copy, and it seems to be attracting more sign-ups like a bees to the honeypot. It would be cool to get some big names in the web industry to have a look and blog about it. Now, where to find some poeple of high-enough profile… Hmmm.

On a personal note, I finally graduated last night, so I’m now officially a Bachelor of Computer Science (Hons). Thankyou god it is all over…

It would be a safe bet that my next post will be from Sydney (if my laptop makes it back in time), so until then…

* Is this even the correct spelling on the word in theis context?!

Another month flies by…

I’m sorry, I don’t remember authorising anyone to make it the end of August already. The last 30 days have been CRAZY. In no particular order:

The business and mobile phone versions of 88 Miles was released, so not you can track your time when you are out of the office. The business version allows one person to manage the time of many other people, which makes running a small office much easier.

My laptop video card decided to goto the big ol’ interweb in the sky, so I have been with out it for the last two weeks. Apparently trying to source a motherboard for a computer that is barely two years old is a less that trivial task. This has meant that I have had to use my Linux machine for day-to-day use (other than at work) which has been interesting to say the least. One tidbit of wisdom – don’t try running major OS updates of a production server late on a Saturday night. It results in spending much of Sunday testing backup systems :)

The WA Web Awards have come and gone. I  had the honour of chairing the awards this year, and might I say, even though a stupid amount of time went into organising it, it was well worth it. We had 130 enteries, sold out all 114 tickets in a week and managed to pull the whole thing together all whilst working fulltime.

The new sit down dinner format really added to the night, it felt so much more awards night like. I must put out a big thankyou to the rest of the committee – there were some hairy moments in the last couple of weeks, but it all came together on the night. Congratulations to all of the winners – especially Freckle Creative, who took out the coverted “Best overall” award. There are photos for your viewing pleasure on Flickr.

The Sunday after the web awards (that is 2 days after the web awards) Bam Creative moved offices. And, I must say that I like the new digs – they have a much better feel about them and it seems to be much more condusive to work (Which is a handy thing for a work place).

Work at Bam has been non-stop of the past two weeks, the three of four major projects I’ve been working on have pushed the boundries of my sanity, but since some would argue I was already insane, there may not be too much difference… On top of that my MadPilot work still seems to be trickling in, regardless of how much I tell people that I’m working full time now.

Luckily, next month is Web Directions, so I can at least enjoy a couple of days off. I’m really excited about the event, it’ll be great to meet some of the big names in the web industry. I find these sorts of events really inspiring and invigorating. I’ll try and blog my way through it, just like every other man and his dog!

Beer Economy

As an active member of the Port80 community, I am more often than not in attendence at the Port 80 monthly meetups at the pub. It is amazing what crazy ideas are hatched at these informal meetups (It’s a great system – a group of like-minded people meetup and and talk shop over a couple of beers).

I was chatting about 88 Miles and SEO and Kay piped up and said that if I could get people to link to it using the term Simple time tracking, it would help my rankings for that particular term. My response (and I don’t know if this says something about me) was:

“Right, I’ll by everyone one who links to it using the term “Simple time tracking” a beer at the next meeting.

Well Nick Cowie was the first to comply with his less than subte approach, which I find mildly amusing.

So I’m putting the call out. If you are in WA or going to be in WA, and you are going to show up at the next meeting (on 2 August 2006) AND you link to http://www.88miles.net in your blog using a title attribute or text of “Simple time tracking”, I’ll buy you a beer.

That’s right. It’s in writing, so I can’t get out of it :P

A really cool idea for a web site: Screeniac

I was going through my referrer logs for 88 Miles, and I can across the url http://screeniac.com/ – I followed it (as if I wouldn’t) and found this really cool site.

Bascially, they create “screencasts” of websites in the form of a review. Basically, each review is a short video demonstrating the use of an online application with narration. The link to the 88 Miles review is here.

This would save so much time if you see a site and want to know if it worth the effort signing up.

As I said – a really cool idea.

Oh yeah, by the way: 88 Miles webservice API has been released. Still a couple of small bugs to iron out, so consider it beta, but the interface isn’t going to change (for this version). Roll on some time tracking mash-ups!

88 Miles has a blog

If you are interested in 88 Miles updates, bug fixes and announcements, you can go to blog.88miles.net and get your fix. Please leave a comment – I really appreciate the feedback.