My job sent me to a class on scaling, optimizing and troubleshooting MySQL this week. I’ve been digging around a bit on some test databases at work, but of course as someone running a self-hosted WordPress blog, I had another MySQL server to practice on right here — one with real-world data and (admittedly low) load, but where I was only accountable to myself if I messed anything up.

Unfortunately, DreamHost’s MySQL VPS doesn’t give you much control over the server, and of course when you’re working with a third-party application, there’s only so much you can change the database without breaking compatibility. But I found some interesting surprises:

1: Everything was using the older MyISAM engine, because DreamHost is running an older version of MySQL that uses it as the default. Switching to the newer InnoDB (and back) is simple and safe enough that I figured it was worth a try.

2: There was a lot of junk left over from old plugins that I haven’t used in years. Continue reading

One of the problems with Mozilla’s plan to hide Firefox version numbers is that the replacement of “You’re running the latest version” only succeeds if people have confidence that the check is working. Speaking for myself, the last time I checked About:Firefox, I was convinced that it was broken until I verified that the update I was expecting was Mac-only, which was why it wasn’t showing up on Windows.

The biggest, of course, is breaking deeply ingrained user expectations (where to find the version number) for no real discernible benefit.

Firefox has been testing a new release that detects and closes crashed plugins (instead of letting them crash Firefox entirely) for several months, carefully making sure everything was working before they released Firefox 3.6.4 last week.

Within days, they released an update. I couldn’t imagine what they might have missed in all the beta testing. Katie wondered if the beta testers hadn’t been testing the limits.

You want to know what convinced Mozilla to issue an update so quickly?

Farmville.

Apparently Firefox was detecting Farmville as frozen and closing it. It turns out that on many computers, Farmville regularly freezes up the browser for longer than 10 seconds, and its players just deal with it and wait for it to come back. Mozilla decided that the simplest thing to do would be to increase the time limit.

What this tells me is that the type of person willing to beta-test a web browser these days is not likely to be playing Farmville — or if they are, it’s likely to be on a bleeding-edge computer that can handle it without 10-second freezes.

In more practical terms: Mozilla needs to convince a wider variety of users to help test their software!

Aha! Firebug slows down JavaScript even if it’s not active on the current page. That explains a LOT! # Facebook & Gmail run so slowly in Firefox on my home computer that I’ve been running them exclusively in Opera (and now Chrome). This is almost certainly the cause.

Update: Apparently that’s not it, since I had both the console and script panels disabled as described in that article. Oh, well.

As the first major web browser to reach a double-digit version, Opera has been testing out alpha releases of version 10 for months now. One of the early problems they encountered was bad browser detection scripts that only looked at the first digit of a version number and decided that Opera 10 was actually Opera 1, and therefore too old to handle modern web pages.

After extensive testing, they’ve concluded that the best way to work around this is to pretend to be Version 9.80. From now on, all versions of Opera will identify themselves as “Opera/9.80” with the real version appearing later in the user-agent string.

For example:

Opera/9.80 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X; U; en) Presto/2.2.15 Version/10.00

This is similar to the way all Gecko-based browsers identify themselves as Mozilla/5.0, then list the real browser name and version number later on, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just stick with that increasingly irrelevant prefix — though I suppose any scripts looking specifically for Opera versions might have still picked up Opera/10 later on in the ID.

It’ll be some time before Firefox or Safari runs into this issue, but with Internet Explorer 8 in wide release, you have to wonder…what will Microsoft do when they get to IE 10?