Janet's breast throttled my Web server

The Web server that hosts Workbench has received more than 750,000 hits in the last three days, which is 725,000 more than normal. For 17 hours straight yesterday, an SDSL connection that this server shares was sending out the maximum amount of data it could handle: 144K per second.

The cause of this spike was Janet Jackson's nanosecond of asymmetrical frontal nudity during the Super Bowl. Expecting to find a picture of this event, thousands of people visited the Drudge Retort, the Bizarro universe version of the Drudge Report that I publish with TV writer Jonathan Bourne.

In an attempt to ease the server load, I installed mod_gzip, an Apache module that compresses Web pages with GZIP for any browser that indicates it can handle that format.

The module took less than five minutes to download and integrate into the server and offered immediate results, compressing Web pages of average size around 50-65 percent. For larger files, the results are even better: a 200K XML file was sent in 24K. The developer discourages the use of mod_gzip for formats that already use compression (such as GIF) and on CSS documents because of a browser that can't handle them, but otherwise, it seems like a great way to reduce traffic without reducing Web content.

One word of caution: On Linux, it's a good idea to compile your own version of mod_gzip.so. Download the .tgz archive from its SourceForge site and use the makefile that comes with the program to compile and install the module.

I learned this the hard way. On Friday, I used the packaged mod_gzip.so file. When I rebooted the Web server, Apache warned that it might cause a crash. Two hours later the server was knocked offline by hard drive corruption and took 48 hours to bring back into service.

Comments

Thanks for the info. I tried mod_gzip a year or so ago without a lot of success. Nice to know it's working now.

Looking at Dave's headline on Scripting News, I'm really upset I didn't use my second-choice headline: "I Could Barely Handle Janet's Breast."

Hi there. This is Kevin Kiley... the original
author of mod_gzip. Glad the module could help
you out but you might want to check out your
system for some other lurking cause for the
'hard drive corruption' you reported. The
WARNING you are talking about only happens if
you have also compiled your Apache code with
OpenSSL which, in turn, 'rewrites' your Apache
code to include something called EAPI. The
WARNING then comes for any module that was not
also compiled with the -DEAPI flag... but it
is meaningless. mod_gzip does not use EAPI and
there is no possibility of a 'crash'. The only
possibility of a crash once EAPI is included
in your Apache is if you actually DO try to
run a module that is SUPPOSED to use EAPI
but you FORGOT to compile that puppy with -DEAPI.
Something other than mod_gzip caused that
hard drive crash and might still be waiting
to happen again.
Yours... Kevin Kiley

Amsuing explanation for why I could not get my WB fix this weekend.

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