A look at our Python setup

Posted in Python by

You may not know this but WebFaction started as a specialized Python hosting provider (it was even called python-hosting.com) so as you might expect we have pretty good support for Python. Let’s SSH into one of our servers and take a look:

[remi@web150 ~]$ python
Python 2.4.3 (#1, Nov 11 2010, 13:34:43)
[GCC 4.1.2 20080704 (Red Hat 4.1.2-48)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

“What?” you say. “Only Python 2.4! My grandmother is younger than that!” (or alternatively, “Wow, this is awesome, my current host only has Python 2.2”)
Don’t worry, that’s just the default Python on Centos5. Let’s try something else:

[remi@web150 ~]$ python<hit tab>
python            python2.5-config  python2.7-config  python3.1-config
python2           python2.6         python3.0
python2.4         python2.6-config  python3.0-config
python2.5         python2.7         python3.1
[remi@web150 ~]$

That’s better… We actually have all versions from Python 2.4 to 3.1 and you can bet that we’ll add new versions as soon as they come out.
That’s just the beginning. Python comes with “batteries included” but most people need some extra modules that don’t come with Python. Let’s see what we’ve got:

[remi@web150 ~]$ rpm -qa | egrep 





[remi@web150 ~]$

That’s a pretty decent set of modules for each Python version. The “.el5.webfaction” at the end of the RPM name is our naming scheme for software we build and maintain ourselves because it’s not provided by Centos5.
But that’s not all: if you need a module which is not pre-installed we give you all the tools to install it yourself in your home directory and it’s all nicely documented at http://docs.webfaction.com/software/python.html#installing-python-packages. You can install them with pip, setup.py or easy_install. For example:

[remi@web150 ~]$ mkdir -p ~/lib/python2.5
[remi@web150 ~]$ easy_install-2.5 matplotlib
Searching for matplotlib
Reading http://pypi.python.org/simple/matplotlib/
Reading http://matplotlib.sourceforge.net
Reading http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=80706&package_id=82474
Reading https://sourceforge.net/projects/matplotlib/files/matplotlib/matplotlib-1.0
Reading https://sourceforge.net/projects/matplotlib/files/matplotlib/matplotlib-0.99.3/
Reading http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=80706
Reading https://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=80706&package_id=278194
Reading https://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=80706&package_id=82474
Reading https://sourceforge.net/projects/matplotlib/files/matplotlib/matplotlib-0.99.1/
Best match: matplotlib 0.91.1
<lots of compilation messages>
[remi@web150 ~]$ python2.5
Python 2.5.4 (r254:67916, Aug  5 2009, 12:42:40)
[GCC 4.1.2 20080704 (Red Hat 4.1.2-44)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import matplotlib

Pretty cool huh?

I hope you now have a good idea of what our Python setup includes. In future blog posts we’ll look at other components of our setup.


RoundCube (our webmail app) upgraded

Posted in Email by

We’ve upgraded RoundCube (our webmail app at https://webmail.webfaction.com) to the latest version.

The upgrade includes lots of bug fixes and an increased maximum attachment size (the limit is now 15MB).


Meet our new Q&A community site

Posted in Community by

Until recently we’ve been using a normal forum for public questions and answers from our community.
The forum model has two major drawbacks: it’s not easy to update information so the content can become obsolete quite soon and people can’t vote on replies so it’s sometimes hard to tell what the best answer to a question is.
This is why we’ve recently launched a new Q&A community site based on the stack-exchange model:

WebFaction Q&A community site

It has some great features like threaded comments, ability to update and vote on content and best of all it has user karma so we can see who really kicks ass (go Sean !).
This new model seems to be working much better than a simple forum so go ahead and ask any question about your hosting there and if you know some of the answers go ahead and improve your karma. You can also search previous questions and answers which can save you having to ask the question yourself in the Q&A site or in a support ticket.

As a side note the community site is an instance of the great OSQA open-source project which we’ve heavily customized by adding our logo at the top. Our old forum posts are still online but the forum is now in a read-only mode.


Speed-up your pages with mod_pagespeed

Posted in General by

Last week Google released two new tools to help people make their websites faster.

The first one is a Firefox extension called “Page Speed” which gives you a performance analysis of the website you’re viewing as well as lots of tips on how you can make the website faster if you’re the website owner.

The second one is an Apache module called “mod_pagespeed”. Enabling it in Apache causes Apache to analyze the resources it’s serving and optimize them on the fly before serving them. We have installed mod_pagespeed on all of our servers (except web1-web20 which run rhel4). It is disabled by default for all websites but if you are using a static app all you have to do to enable mod_pagespeed for your website is to add this line to your .htaccess file (or create a new .htaccess file if you don’t have one yet):

ModPagespeed On

If you’re using a Django app or any other app that comes with your own Apache instance you can also easily enable mod_pagespeed like this (assuming your app is called “django” and your username is “username“):

mkdir -p $HOME/mod_pagespeed/cache/ $HOME/mod_pagespeed/files
cd $HOME/webapps/django/apache2/modules
cp /usr/lib/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so .
vi ../conf/httpd.conf # Or another editor if you think "vi" is too simple...
    # add the following:
    LoadModule pagespeed_module modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
    ModPagespeed on
    ModPagespeedFileCachePath            "/home/username/mod_pagespeed/cache/"
    # save and exit
cd ../bin; ./restart

Note that if you’re using Apache-2.2 the module’s path is /usr/lib/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed.so

If you’re using your own Apache instance you can also configure which filters you want to enable or disable. If you’re using a static/php/cgi or a php-based app like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla then it is not currently possible to configure which filters you want because the current version of mod_pagespeed doesn’t seem to support filter configuration per virtual hosts. For these apps you will be using the default “core filters” chosen by Google. These are:

  • add_head: adds a head to the document if it encounters a <body> tag before finding a <head> tag.
  • combine_css: replaces multiple distinct CSS files with a single CSS file, containing the contents of all of them.
  • rewrite_css: parses referenced and inline CSS and minifies them.
  • rewrite_javascript: parses referenced and inline javascript code and minifies it.
  • inline_css: reduces the number of requests made by a web page by inserting the contents of small external CSS resources directly into the HTML document.
  • inline_javascript: reduces the number of requests made by a web page by inserting the contents of small external JavaScript resources directly into the HTML document.
  • rewrite_images: rescales, and compresses images; inlines small ones.
  • insert_img_dimensions: inserts width= and height= attributes into <img> tags that lack them and sets them to the image width and height.
  • extend_cache: rewrites the URL references in the HTML page to include a hash of the resource content. Thus if the site owner changes the resource content, then the URL for the rewritten resource will also change.

For the official docs on mod_pagespeed and its filters see http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/docs/using_mod.html

Enjoy the new mod_pagespeed and let us know if you notice any difference in the loading time for your pages.

Update: Be aware that mod_pagespeed is still in beta and therefore might have some bugs. In particular we’ve had reports saying that it can saturate the number of Apache processes available for your site and cause some requests to hang. We’ll roll-out future versions as Google release them but in the mean time if mod_pagespeed is causing problems for your particular site the best thing to do is to just not enable it for your site for now.

Update 1 August 2011: Removed deprecated ModPagespeedUrlPrefix directive.

Update 24 August 2015: mod_pagespeed is no longer on by default – you must use “ModPagespeed On” in your .htaccess to activate it (see above).

Update 16 June 2016: For CentOS 6 and CentOS 7 servers, the paths to the mod_pagespeed modules are:

  • /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
  • /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed.so

Update 12 July 2017: Almost all customers have been migrated to CentOS7 and Apache 2.4, so the Django docs have been updated:

  • LoadModule pagespeed_module modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
  • Removed deprecated ModPagespeedGeneratedFilePrefix option

Welcome to our shiny new blog

Posted in General by

As you might have noticed we’ve moved our blog to this shiny new WordPress-based blog.
This will be the new home for lots of exciting announcements …

PS: For the nostalgics our old posts are available at http://blog1.webfaction.com