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Blender 2.43 Release: Behind the Scenes

35

screenie.pngNow that we have release of Blender 2.43 and of the new www.blender.org website behind us, I'll tell you a bit of what went on behind the scenes on the website.

The First Hours

We had been testing and bug-fixing the new website for the entire weekend but as always, when you finally DO go live you'll find out there's still one more thing to do. In our case, it turned out we had not re-configured the database server to the new hostname of our new webserver. As a result, the new site was unavailable for about half an hour.

After that, thing went rather smoothly - traffic literally poured in at about 2 to 3 pageviews per second and to our joy the new server held up beautifully while the Blender community was exploring their new home. Under these conditions our old server would already be having a hard time, so things were looking good.

We had a few more minor issues to fix the next day: blender.org (without the 'www.') was still showing incorrect content and of course there were lots of content changes still being made. This is an ongoing process; if you find anything not in order on the new site (and you will!) be sure to report it through the blender.org contact form.

High Traffic

When I woke up the next day, we were already on Digg.com. Like Slashdot, being listed on their homepage results in massive amounts of traffic. At the end of the day Slashdot also featured a post on the release (and they included a link to BlenderNation - sweet!). The load on the Blender.org webserver was still acceptable, but around midnight local time there was a hiccup for a few minutes. I'm not sure what happened, but after that, business resumed as usual. Our website statistics show that on Monday, we had around 400,000 pageviews and 65,000 Blender downloads (including the mirror downloads that originated from our download page).

Thanks to being mentioned on site as Digg and Slashdot, the news will be disseminating fast this week. This morning we were already on the CGSociety.org homepage and I'm expecting many more to follow over the next few days. During the 2.42 release, traffic levels were extreme for about two weeks..

Oh, while you're there - if you have an account on Digg, please give us a digg, won't ya? It'll help push Blender higher up on the site.

About the new server

Our new server is a Dual Core 2 E6600 / 4GB / 3 x 250GB running FreeBSD. We've stopped using Apache as our webserver as it's too much of a resource hog on such a high-traffic website and instead we're now using lighty - a simple but high-performance webserver. Our PHP engines use the opcode cache XCache. The site is still using Typo3 as its Content Management System, but we have switched to using TemplaVoila as the templating engine. This results in a much larger flexibility for our layouts; mixing single column and multi column content is now possible, and we have several types of content for the sidebar (such as banners - see the homepage, related links and notes). We are thinking about adding a few more content types later to spice up the site even more. The new caching mechanism in Typo3 4.0 is awesome; on our old site we published all our content to 'static' HTML files to avoid database hits, but the new 4.0 is so fast that we can do without that.

Conclusion

Well, so far it was fun! A few years ago, being linked to from Slashdot would always result in a state of slight panic and raised adrenalin levels but now we're at the point where we can easily handle Slashdot and Digg at the same time. Ton was even disappointed that our servers weren't overloaded this time ;-)

I think it's fair to say that we have a team of great people working on this project. There was a fair deal of sighing and an occasional curse this weekend, but the result speaks for itself. Thanks guys!

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender – I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-)

35 Comments

  1. That's actually a damn good read, quite interesting to see behind the scenes, must have been a real buzz.

    Would be nice to have something like this as a regular feature for other releases.

  2. This is always interesting to read

    I promoted BlenderNation on the digg story somewhere in the comments along with the noob to pro wikibook =D

  3. What is the name of "a simple but high-performance webserver"? Where can I can get this. We have website that can have very high traffic load a few days in year.

    I'm realy intrested to know your choice, and why choose this.

  4. When I read this I should recommend DAZ to call you guys up. I remember when the 2 USD sale of Hexagon let their servers die a slow death. Same goes for E-Frontier when they gave Poser5 away. You guys do an awesome job. Thank you!!!

  5. i dunno, may be a bit off topic, but ill post anyway:

    i read the keywords "popularity" and "gimp" and thought of collaborations, and since i was holding a package of suse 10.2 in my hands today, is it possible to include blender into the package?

    would be a great image enhancer (blender`s image, not image from blender, uh, um, forget it ;-)
    ...would help increase blenders popularity and boost the suse package: "professional free 3d software"....
    have no idea what one has to do to get the software registered / packaged.
    and since it all belongs to novell now.
    cool thing is: i live in nuremberg, germany, and that is where the suse office is located ;-))))

  6. Off topic:
    The new version and website is off the hook! It has been from before X-mass waiting and the wait was worth it. But as much as I like what has been done lets puss on...when will we see the new Blender 2.43 Guide? Love the 2.3 guide once I cut the spine and wire bound it in two parts, (hint...hint). Lays flat and one can have both sections open at the same time! =)

  7. Will there be a search function - or have I just completely missed it? >_o

    Anyways, congrats with the server holding up :)

    ps. wondering when google will stop referring to blender.org/cms/*

  8. @Al: true. I wanted to use PNG files at first but the files became huge. It's still under investigation.

    @claws: yes, we're working on the search function. It'll be back. We're also preparing a solution for the old URLs - within a few days they should work again, while informing the search engines that they've been replaced by other URLs.

  9. The new site looks really well designed and it's fast - I also checked the wiki after it was migrated and it's super-fast now over broadband with no long delays at all when loading pages!! Thank you very much for all your hard efforts!!
    -epat. :)

  10. Would you PLEASE not take the site or the wiki down until 5am your time? Right now it goes offline at 9:30 EST, (6:30pm in California) and stays down during all our productive play time (still down, now 10:50). Thanks. I dont know why (incremental) backups would take so long.

    (I have been spending evenings writing on wiki, but now my time is cut short, and I fear for lots of USA users who cannot use the wiki, leading to BA overload.)

  11. @AppleGrew: yeah, I just woke up and found out. Thankfully Marco has taught me how to restart the webserver yesterday so we're back to normal now :)

  12. It's not supposed to go down and we're still investigating why it happens. We fed the hamsters some extra amphetamines yesterday but that didn't help, or so it seems..

  13. "We fed the hamsters some extra amphetamines yesterday but that didn’t help, or so it seems.." I don't know what u meant by that but even then lol . :D

    Jokes apart..I tried pinging the server when it was down and found it to be responding. So does ur machine really shuts down or just the web service (the http service) trips off? The IP of server is 194.109.217.140. Am I right?

  14. Our webserver is powered by a few hundred trained hamsters! :)

    And yes, it's the connection between lighttpd and php that seems to be the problem. The OS is stable but the webserver dies at night.

  15. We also setup our own web server with PHP and Apache, but the connection between them simply died between them for some unknown factors of which we have no clue. After that we uninstall both of them and installed XAMPP. It comes with Apache, PHP and MySQL preconfigured to work together. Since then we had no problems. :)

    I googled but couldn't find any such package with lighttpd and php. Well it seems blender admins are goin to have a hard time debugging it.

    Let us know when and how did u resolve it. This is could be a valuable info for us.

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