performance

The Raspberry Pi 4 needs a fan, here's why and how you can add one

The Raspberry Pi Foundation's Pi 4 announcement blog post touted the Pi 4 as providing "PC-like level of performance for most users". The Foundation even offers a Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit.

The desktop kit includes the official Raspberry Pi 4 case, which is an enclosed plastic box with nothing in the way of ventilation.

I have been using Pis for various projects since their introduction in 2012, and for many models, including the tiny Pi Zero and various A+ revisions, you didn't even need a fan or heatsink to avoid CPU throttling. And thermal images or point measurements using an IR thermometer usually showed the SoC putting out the most heat. As long as there was at least a little space for natural convection (that is, with no fan), you could do almost anything with a Pi and not have to worry about heat.

Raspberry Pi microSD card performance comparison - 2019

Raspberry Pi Noobs SD card adapter with a number of Samsung and other microSD cards

As a part-time tinkerer and full-time developer, I have been fascinated by single board computers (SBCs) since the first Raspberry Pi was introduced almost a decade ago. I have owned and used every generation of Raspberry Pi, in addition to most of the popular competitors. You can search my site for tons of articles on these experiences.

One thing that is almost universally true (at least as of 2019) is that the most common system boot device is a microSD card. SD cards in general have performance characteristics that pale in comparison to faster devices, like NVMe SSDs, eMMC, and XQD or CFexpress.

Git 2.20.1 is super slow on macOS Mojave on my work Mac

Update: I just upgraded my personal mac to 2.20.1, and am experiencing none of the slowdown I had on my work Mac. So something else is afoot. Maybe some of the 'spyware-ish' software that's installed on the work mark is making calls like lstat() super slow? Looks like I might be profiling some things on that machine anyways :)

I regularly use Homebrew to switch to more recent versions of CLI utilities and other packages I use in my day-to-day software and infrastructure development. In the past, it was necessary to use Homebrew to get a much newer version of Git than was available at the time on macOS. But as Apple's evolved macOS, they've done a pretty good job of keeping the system versions relatively up-to-date, and unless you need bleeding edge features, the version of Git that's installed on macOS Mojave (2.17.x) is probably adequate for now.

But back to Homebrew—recently I ran brew upgrade to upgrade a bunch of packages, and it happened to upgrade Git to 2.20.1.

Make composer operations with Drupal way faster and easier on RAM

tl;dr: Run composer require zaporylie/composer-drupal-optimizations:^1.0 in your Drupal codebase to halve Composer's RAM usage and make operations like require and update 3-4x faster.

A few weeks ago, I noticed Drupal VM's PHP 5.6 automated test suite started failing on the step that runs composer require drupal/drush. (PSA: PHP 5.6 is officially dead. Don't use it anymore. If you're still using it, upgrade to a supported version ASAP!). This was the error message I was getting from Travis CI:

PHP Fatal error:  Allowed memory size of 2147483648 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 32 bytes) in phar:///usr/bin/composer/src/Composer/DependencyResolver/RuleWatchNode.php on line 40

I ran the test suite locally, and didn't have the same issue (locally I have PHP's CLI memory limit set to -1 so it never runs out of RAM unless I do insane-crazy things.

Analyzing a MySQL slow query log with pt-query-digest

There are times when you may notice your MySQL or MariaDB database server getting very slow. Usually, it's a very stressful time, as it means your site or application is also getting very slow since the underlying database is slow. And then when you dig in, you notice that logs are filling up—and in MySQL's case, the slow query log is often a canary in a coal mine which can indicate potential performance issues (or highlight active performance issues).

But—assuming you have the slow query log enabled—have you ever grabbed a copy of the log and dug into it? It can be extremely daunting. It's literally a list of query metrics (time, how long the query took, how long it locked the table), then the raw slow query itself. How do you know which query takes the longest time? And is there one sort-of slow query that is actually the worst, just because it's being run hundreds of times per minute?

Drupal startup time and opcache - faster scaling for PHP in containerized environments

Lately I've been spending a lot of time working with Drupal in Kubernetes and other containerized environments; one problem that's bothered me lately is the fact that when autoscaling Drupal, it always takes at least a few seconds to get a new Drupal instance running. Not installing Drupal, configuring the database, building caches; none of that. I'm just talking about having a Drupal site that's already operational, and scaling by adding an additional Drupal instance or container.

One of the principles of the 12 Factor App is:

IX. Disposability

Maximize robustness with fast startup and graceful shutdown.

Disposability is important because it enables things like easy, fast code deployments, easy, fast autoscaling, and high availability. It also forces you to make your code stateless and efficient, so it starts up fast even with a cold cache. Read more about the disposability factor on the 12factor site.

The ASUS Tinker Board is a compelling upgrade from a Raspberry Pi 3 B+

I've had a long history playing around with Raspberry Pis and other Single Board Computers (SBCs); from building a cluster of Raspberry Pis to run Drupal, to building a distributed home temperature monitoring system with Raspberry Pis, I've spent a good deal of time testing the limits of an SBC, and also finding ways to use their strengths to my advantage.

ASUS Tinker Board SBC

Raspberry Pi microSD card performance comparison - 2018

Raspberry Pi microSD cards Noobs Samsung Kingston Toshiba Sony SanDisk SD SBC

Back in 2015, I wrote a popular post comparing the performance of a number of microSD cards when used with the Raspberry Pi. In the intervening three years, the marketplace hasn't changed a ton, but there have been two new revisions to the Raspberry Pi (the model 3 B and just-released model 3 B+). In that article, I stated:

One of the highest-impact upgrades you can perform to increase Raspberry Pi performance is to buy the fastest possible microSD card—especially for applications where you need to do a lot of random reads and writes.

Getting the best performance out of Amazon EFS

tl;dr: EFS is NFS. Networked file systems have inherent tradeoffs over local filesystem access—EFS doesn't change that. Don't expect the moon, benchmark and monitor it, and you'll do fine.

On a recent project, I needed to have a shared network file system that was available to all servers, and able to scale horizontally to anywhere between 1 and 100 servers. It needed low-latency file access, and also needed to be able to handle small file writes and file locks synchronously with as little latency as possible.

Amazon EFS, which uses NFS v4.1, checks all of those checkboxes (at least, to a certain extent), and if you're already building infrastructure inside AWS, EFS is a very cost-effective way to manage a scalable NFS filesystem. I'm not going to go too much into the technical details of EFS or NFS v4.1, but I would like to highlight some of the painful lessons my team has learned implementing EFS for a fairly hefty CMS-based project.

Slow Ansible playbook? Check ansible.cfg!

Today while I was running a particularly large Ansible playbook about the 15th time in a row, I was wondering why this playbook seemed to run quite a bit slower than most other playbooks, even though I was managing a server that was in the same datacenter as most of my other infrastructure.

I have had pipelining = True in my system /etc/ansible/ansible.cfg for ages, and initially wondered why the individual tasks were so delayed—even when doing something like running three lineinfile tasks on one config file. The only major difference in this slow playbook's configuration was that I had a local ansible.cfg file in the playbook, to override my global roles_path (I wanted the specific role versions for this playbook to be managed and stored local to the playbook).

So, my curiosity led me to a more thorough reading of Ansible's configuration documentation, specifically a section talking about Ansible configuration file precedence:

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