Category Archives: Software

Recommended: migrate from apache to nginx

During the last couple of weeks I was having issues with the load on my webservers. The problems were mainly caused by Apache eating a lot of memory. As Apache was already pretty much optimized and I didn’t feel like simply buying more hardware, I started looking for alternatives. After some research, I decided to give the Russian nginx (pronounced ‘Engine X’) a try.

Igor Sysoev started the development of nginx in 2005. It’s now known as a high performance webserver with a very low memory footprint. Already 4% of all webservers are running nginx according to a research done by Google in 2007, well-known sites like and Hulu are some good showcases.

Some of my servers are now running nginx for about a week and the Russian software actually outperformed my expectations!  The load average decreased with 70% and I now have plenty of RAM available during peak-times. I did have to invest quite some time to migrate from Apache, but it saved me a lot of $$$ on buying extra hardware. I believe anyone operating a high traffic website with both static and dynamic content could benefit from a migration to nginx.  To make the migration somewhat easier, here’s a list of resources I used during the migration:

– Howto install nginx with PHP5:

– Convert .htaccess rewrite rules to nginx rewrite:

– Set up loadbalancing with nginx:

– Nginx wiki:

My expectation is that we’ll see nginx showing up more and more serving high traffic websites. It’s a very good alternative for Apache, offering comparable functionality with a huge performance improvement.

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Searching through video’s with speech-to-text

Speech recognition is one of those technologies which has been around for quite a while, but has not yet found it’s way to large-scale utilization in the industry. Yes, we’ve probably all talked to a computer of the airline reservation center once in our live, but I wouldn’t call that real speech recognition. You will have to choose between a couple of words, and if you say something different, they will redirect you to one of the choices anyway. This is what we call a small vocabulary speech recognition application. It is useful (I guess) but not what I think the best use case of speech technology.

The main problem researchers are facing is that each person’s style of speech is very different. And, especially if more people are in the same conversation, the speech recognition technology should be able to deal with all those different styles and vocabularies. I don’t expect it to take many more years before technology will be able to deal with those complications but there is some good news already!  Continue reading

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New exalead website and product offering

Yesterday Exalead released a new website, great compliment to my colleague’s who worked on this project. I think the new site is a huge improvement compared to the old one and it provides a perfect overview of Exalead’s (new) product offering.

I really recommend to have a look at Exalead Cloudview which, in my humble opinion, defines how the future of enterprise search will look like. And, while you’re at it, give Exalead’s Desktop search a try. The new desktop version can be accessed using your webbrowser and provides you with the same handy refinement options as can be used on

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We feel fine! Visualizing human feelings

We feel fine is an interesting project which analyses recent blogposts and extracts information about what the world is currently feeling. Fun idea and I think they did a great job on the user interface:

We feel fine

“Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). “

I know about a few similar initiatives, for example moodviews which works with the content of LiveJournal. I expect a lot of tools like these, the blogosphere is full of valuable information that we don’t really use at the moment. There’s a lot of potential, for example in the field of marketing.

If anybody knows other tools like / moodviews, please drop a comment.

How Yahoo, Microsoft and Google fight for your browser settings

google yahoo msnIn this post of Andy Beal, Yahoo is being accused of dirty tactics to switch the default search provider when people install a new version of Yahoo Messenger. I totally agree that Yahoo is not behaving very well here, but hey… all the big search engines do exactly the same! So why would we point the finger at Yahoo?

Don’t get me wrong here, I absolute hate the software installers that are messing up my preferences in their own advantage (it should be forbidden). But ever looked at the installer of MSN messenger? It tries to modify your default homepage, seachprovider etc. And Google Desktop? Exactly the same. A recent version of the Java Runtime Environment even comes accompanied with the Google Toolbar.

I think that we can conclude that the big battle has started. It’s commenly known that most internet-users are not very loyal to a brand or product. When something better shows up, the switch is easily made. That’s exactly why the big players are now trying to be present in your every-day-live (since that’s something you won’t put away that easy). Messengers, Desktop search, toolbars and free email accounts are perfect examples. I think that most people don’t even realise that the above is happening, which is good.

There is however only one place where the big money is made: on the resultpage of the search engines. If you are a search engine, you want as much people as possible searching with you. In my opinion, there is only one good way to achieve this: just be the best and become even better. People will continue searching with the search engine that made them find what they were looking for. The big three (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) however think that it is necessary to push people in the ‘right direction’ by changing some of their preferences. Wrong. If I did not explicitly asked Google, Yahoo or Microsoft to be my default search engine, then I don’t want them to suddenly show up when I perform my next search. And if they do, I get annoyed. You know what happens when I get annoyed about a particular product? I throw it away a get another one.

Keeping the above in mind, Google and Microsoft must be absolutely delighted about the rumor that the Yahoo installer caused. It made Yahoo look unreliable. I’m not really feeling sorry for Yahoo but I don’t think it’s fare to only point our fingers at them. It’s a good development that people are made aware of the tactics that these companies use, hopefully the next Google installer will cause an evenly amount of discussion.

W3C working draft for Widgets

Via ajaxian, I read about a new working draft from the W3C: Widgets 1.0.

Everyone and their mother have created their own widget specifications, and now as a developer you need to make choices. Do you want it to work on Dashboard? Vista? Google? MSN? Yahoo!?

This draft is similar to the opera widgets implementation, but it also has info from Apple’s Dashboard, and the auto discovery support was based on the work in Atom Autodiscovery.

This standard will live and die by the support that it gets. Now is the time to give feedback, and see where this train goes.

Wikipedia articles on Google earth

Nice idea: grab all wikipedia articles which are enriched with geo-coordinates and make the information accessible within Google Earth. That’s exactly what Stefan Kühn has done!

The KMZ-file can be downloaded from his website and you can easily import that in Google Earth. Now you can fly over your favourite holiday destination and immediatly read the corresponding wikipedia articles.
I like it:

Wikipedia in google earth

IE7 final release, now comes with add-ons

As announced earlier this month, Microsoft was ready to release a final version of Internet Explorer 7. Well, they’ve kept their word. It is available for download since a couple of days ago.

I’ve just installed it, not a real difference with Release Candidate 2 but I just wanted to try it out. First of all, I think Microsoft did a pretty good job. I’ve been using the new browser all day and nothing strange happened. I like the tabbed browsing (that’s why I always use firefox) although I’m not a big fan of the user interface. For instance, why did they put a close button on each tab? Now I have to search for the right button every time I want to close a single tab. Just leave the close button where it belongs, in the top right corner.

Today it became clear that MS really did a good analysis of the success factors of Firefox. Look what they have launched: the IE7 extension site. Microsoft calls it add-ons, but by the first look it is exactly the same as the extensions that made firefox a popular browser. Microsoft seems to have missed one tiny aspect though: the community! Oke, you are able to leave a comment about an add-on but that’s as far as it goes. No open-source character, you even have to pay for quite a lot of add-ons. Missed opportunity. Too bad.

Matt Cutts wrote a short review on Firefox 2.0, sounds like a better option than IE7 to me.

Update: wow, they do have a community! It features newsgroup discussions and popular downloads! I rest my case.

Internet Explorer 7 to be released this month

IE7Microsoft recently announced that IE7 will be released this month. Although I’m a firefox user, I must say that I am very happy to hear this. I like to build webapps in some spare hours and there are times when IE6 really pisses me off annoys me.

I’ve already done some testing with IE7 RC1 and luckily enough the frustating selectbox-bug is solved, eventually. I must say that I’m not totally convinced that we won’t find new issues but untill now it is working fine.

Microsoft really had a close look at firefox and I think they are definitively following the right path now, a quick list of new features in IE7:

– tabbed browsing (where have we seen that before)
– integrated RSS feedreader (ehh, ^^)
– Improved printing, your content will fit on the printed page now (why did that take them 7 versions)
– Support for opensearch, this will make it easy for you to change the default search provider. Good plan (honoustly).

If you’re interested, grab the latest IE7 release here.