Monthly Archives: May 2007

MySQL Optimisation

I’ve just spent a couple of days optimising some of the database code on Performance wasn’t becoming an significant issue, but I had bee in my bonnet about some of the existing code, where I knew there were some simple improvements I could implement. Specifically:

Replacing lots of nasty PHP mysql_result and mysql_num_rows calls, with more efficient mysql_fetch_array loops.

Using the slow query log with its log-queries-not-using-indexes option, to find some a couple of stray queries that were doing full table scans, which were quickly addressed by adding suitable indices.

More reviews link

Below the main text of each review on,, and, I’ve added a “More XXXX YYYY reviews” link. For example, a More Ford Focus reviews link on all Ford Focus review pages.

There are similar links on other parts of the page, but for visitors who arrive from a search engine, and aren’t familiar with the structure of the site, this will hopefully make it easier for them to find additional reviews.

Related to this change, the read comments link has been moved across to the right of the page, and the spelling and deletion links have been shortened, to make the wording more direct.

If this change works, I’ll look at replicating this sort of change for other pages on the site – for example, putting a link to All Ford Reviews at the bottom of a page listing Ford Focus reviews.

We’re back

The webserver is now up and running again.

I’m letting it bed in for a few hours before I turn on the addition of new reviews and comments, but things are looking good so far.

Apologies once again for the downtime.

Carsurvey update

The server seems to have left the world of the living, and at long last, the hard drives are being swapped into a new server. Hopefully (crosses fingers and toes) will be back up shortly.

In the medium term, I’ll be moving to another web host, as I have no desire to repeat the experience of the last few days ever again.

Another server update

The web server is still stuck in support hell. I’m pretty sure it’s a hardware fault, but no one at the hosting company (The Planet) seems to have got to the source of the problem. In the medium term, I’m definitely going to move hosts, as my recent experiences support at The Planet have been very poor.

Sorry for the long wait, and if things aren’t resolved soon, I’ll just rent a server from someone else, and rebuild from my backups. That would take a day or so, plus the time needed for the DNS change to take effect, so I’m still going to give The Planet one last chance to fix the problem.

Server update

Unfortunately it’s still broken. It took 11 hours for someone to look at it, and they failed to resolve the problem (they just rebooted the server). They’re having another look now, so hopefully there will be some progress soon.

I’ve got places to be today, but I’ll be keeping up to date via my N800 (over GPRS, given that I sent my N95 back for replacement yesterday. My sense of timing is terrible).

Once the dust has settled on this, I’m going to be looking into other web hosts, as this is my second major problem within a year that hasn’t been handled very well.

Once again, I apologise for the problems, and fingers crossed, this will soon be just an unpleasant memory. is having problems

The webserver started having problems earlier today; it was frequently rebooting itself for no obvious reason.

I’ve raised a trouble ticket with hosting company, and while I’m waiting for them to investigate the problem, I’ve managed to disabled the posting of new reviews and comments, and the members area, so at least no one can waste their time posting to an unstable server.

As soon as I realised that the server wasn’t well, I grabbed a backup of the database (my last known good backup was several days old), and I’ve been able to restore this new backup onto my developement server (not publicly accessible), so if the problem turns out to be serious, very little data will be lost.

Annoying that these things always happen at a really inconvenient time. I fancied a night in front of the TV with a cold glass of white wine, but instead I’ve got a night in front of the computer with as many caffeinated beverages as I can stomach 🙁

Anyway, apologies for the downtime, and hopefully things will be back up soon. Once things are back up, I’ll probably leave keep review and comment posting turned off for a while, just to make sure things are stable.

Nokia N95 Review

In September 2006, I posted my thoughts about the announcement of Nokia’s N95.

A few weeks ago, I actually bought one, so I thought I’d follow up with my thoughts in my usual format. So you’re aware of my background, I’m coming to the N95 as my first S60 device, having previously used a Samsung D600 phone, paired with a Dell Axim X50v PDA.


  • The build quality isn’t stunning. The slider wobbles a bit for a start. Nowhere near as good as my old D600
  • The screen feels like it would be easily damaged by coins or keys in a pocket. This is in contrast to my D600, which after 18 months of abuse, is still in almost perfect condition
  • For complex PDA work, the N95 really feels like it could use an alternate form of input to the numeric keypad (slideout keyboard or touchscreen)
  • The battery life isn’t great (two days of normal use for me). But to be fair, I didn’t expect anything else
  • The range of software is rubbish compared to Windows Mobile, and having to deal with unsigned apps is a pain
  • My N95 had a loud hiss on the headphone socket, and has just been sent off for replacement. Hopefully I’ll have a replacement soon


  • The connectivity is wonderful. Having 3G, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.0 in one device is a revelation. This is the first device where I’ve ever felt properly connected wherever I go
  • The builtin web browser, is the best mobile browser I’ve ever used, with the exception of Opera on my N800. Browsing on my N95 is better than Internet Explorer or Opera on my Dell Axim
  • It’s a very good phone. Not a PDA with some passable phone functionality, but a genuinely impressive phone, with great reception and voice quality
  • The size is just perfect; small enough to never be a burden, yet large enough to make it useful PDA
  • Great quality photos and video from its camera
  • While I had issues with its headset socket, I’m blown away by its speakers. They sound great, and are very loud for a portable device. Obviously they can’t perform miracles, but I’ve happily wandered round my house getting ready to go out, whilst listening the N95 play my favourite MP3s from the pocket of my jeans
  • The N95 uses a nice big d-pad to navigate its menus, rather than the horrid tiny joysticks used on lots of phones (manufacturers: please note that I refuse to buy any phone with a tiny joystick)
  • It syncs beautifully with my iMac over Bluetooth 2.0. Calendar, tasks and contacts all sync across. Who needs an iPhone?
  • Google Maps over 3G is great. If they could just add support for the builtin GPS, it would be almost perfect


It’s far from perfect, but it’s the best smartphone I’ve used yet. I had planned to carry my X50v along with the N95, but so far I’ve been happy to leave the X50v at home. Wikipedia and Google Maps in the pub, and Gmail while queuing at Marks and Spencer are my current killer apps 🙂

And as for the fabled iPhone, I’ll consider it when Apple bring out a 3G version with third party app support, but until then, I’ll be sticking with my N95

Simplified pages for adding comments

For and related sites, I’ve just revised the pages for adding new comments. Basically:

  • More concise guidelines, so less text to read
  • Fixed a few silly bugs
  • With the reduced guidelines, I’ve been able to reduce the number of pages from 4 to 3

Less pages and text should hopefully make for a more pleasant experience. Next week I plan to make similar changes to the pages for adding new reviews

Improved review filtering and sorting (and related sites) have just had some minor (in code terms) changes made to them, which hopefully will make the sites more pleasant to use.

Firstly, I’ve disabled the filtering of reviews into well written and other reviews. The filtering was based on the votes by visitors and members, and while the data was usually good, there were lots of cases where the voting didn’t seem to correlate with review quality. The filtering of reviews into two pages (well written and other) also complicated the navigation, so I’ve decided that the trade off isn’t worth it, and I’ve disabled filtering in favour of simplicity.

Related to the filtering issue, is the fact that on pages listing reviews for a specific model, the reviews were ordered by year of manufacture (if appropriate), and then by date added. The date added order wasn’t obvious, and anyway, there’s a sidebar and RSS feed for people who want to see the very latest reviews.

Although the ordering by year of manufacturer still remains, I’ve now replaced the date added order by a word count order. The longest reviews will appear at the top of the page or year grouping. I personally prefer the new ordering, but please let me know if you think otherwise.

I’ve also made the sites slightly more aggressive about splitting reviews into pages for each year, as some of the pages were getting a bit too long for my taste.