Why is my database slow?

Not part of my Don’t Assume series, but when a client states “Why is my database slow””, you need to determine if indeed the database is slow.

Some simple tools come to the rescue here, one is Firebug. If a web page takes 5 seconds to load, but the .htm file takes 400ms, and the 100+ assets being downloaded from one base url, then is the database actually slow? Tuning the database will only improve the 400ms portion of 5,000ms download.

There some very simple tips here. MySQL is my domain expertise and I will not profess to improving the entire stack however perception is everything to a user and you can often do a lot. Some simple points include:

  • Know about blocking assets in your <head> element, e.g. .js files.
  • Streamline .js, .css and images to what’s needed. .e.g. download a 100k image only to resize to a thumbnail via style elements.
  • Sprites. Like many efficient but simple SQL statements, network overhead is your greatest expense.
  • Splitting images to a different domain.
  • Splitting images to multiple domains (e.g. 3 via CNAME only needed.) — Hint: Learn about the protocol
  • Cookieless domains for static assets
  • Lighter web container for static assets (e.g. nginx, lighttpd)
  • Know about caching, expires and etags
  • Stripping out http://ww.domain.com from all your internal links (that one alone saved 12% of HTML page size for a client). You may ask is that really a big deal, well in a high volume site the sooner you can release the socket on your webserver, the sooner you can start serving a different request.

Like tuning a database, some things work better then others, some require more testing then others, and consultants never tell you all the tricks.


As with everything in tuning, do your research and also determine what works in your environment and what doesn’t. Two excellent resources to start with are Steve Souders and Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Web Site by Yahoo.

Restyling a Mediwiki Installation – Lesson 1

Following my implementation of UltimateLAMP, read heaps more at this thread, I undertook to provide customisations of a MediaWiki Installation. Here is the first lesson that you can undertake if you wish to beautify the default MediaWiki Installation.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I am going to help out Jay & Colin and propose a restyle the MySQL forge to fit in with the default Home Page. Hopefully you will see it there soon!

For the full lesson Read More Here

Lesson 1 – Updating the default Monobook.css

There are several different ways to make style changes, the simpliest is to customise the system wide Monobook.css, and this Lesson will focus on this.

By accessing the link [http://my.wiki.site/]index.php/MediaWiki:Monobook.css you will be able to make the following changes.

The best way to approach this, like any good programming style, make small changes, testing and confirmation and continue.

Note: For all screen prints, click for a larger image

1. Cleanup Backgrounds

body        { background-image: none; background-color: #FFFFFF;}
.portlet    { background-color: #FFFFFF; }

The MediaWiki Page is made up of three sections, these are the represented by styles .portlet, #content, and #footer. For the purposes of our first example, the content section and the footer section are already white.


At this point I should recommend that you use FireFox for future work. You should then install the Web Developer Add-on. What results from this plugin is invaluable information about the internals of a web page. The two options most useful for this exercise is:

  • Information | Display Id and Class Details.
  • Information | Display Element Information (move the cursor around to get information)

For the full lesson and details on the following sections Read More Here.

2. Cleanup Borders
3. Links
4. Content
5. Table of Contents
6. Menu Options
7. Top Menu Options
8. Some Miscellenous Things
9. The Badging


The End Result.

It’s not quite perfect yet, but this shows how it can be done. Some minor things are left, but I’ve run out of time for the few hours I allocated to this. The end result of monobook.css for this lesson is:

/* edit this file to customize the monobook skin for the entire site */

/* Background Display */

body        { background-image: none; background-color: #FFFFFF;}
.portlet    { background-color: #FFFFFF; }

/* Borders */

#content    { border-width: 0px; }
.portlet .pBody
            { border-width: 0px; }
#footer     { border-top: 1px solid #888888; border-bottom-width: 0px; }

#p-tb       { border-top: 1px dotted #888888; }

/* Links */
a:link      { color: #10688E; text-decoration: none; }
a:hover     { color: #003366; text-decoration: underline; }
a:visited   { color: #106887; text-decoration: none; }

a.new:link  { color: #AA0000; text-decoration: none; }
a.new:hover { color: #AA0000; text-decoration: underline; }

a.external:link {color: #000000; text-decoration: none; }
a.external:hover { color: #AA0000; text-decoration: underline; }

/* Page Look & Feel */
            { font: 12px/19px Verdana, "Lucida Grande", "Lucida Sans Unicode", Tahoma, Arial, sans-serif; }

h1          { font: bold 24px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; color: #EB694A; letter-spacing: -1px;
              margin: 1.5em 0 0.25em 0;
              border-bottom: 1px dotted #888888; line-height: 1.1em; padding-bottom: 0.2em; }

h2          { font: bold 18px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;  color: #EB694A; letter-spacing: -1px;
              margin: 2em 0 0 0;
              border-bottom: 1px dotted  #888888; line-height: 1.1em; padding-bottom: 0.2em; }

h3          { font-size: 12px; color: #6F90B5; }

h4          { font-size: 12px; color: #6F90B5; }

/* Table of Contents */
#toc        { float: right; margin: 0 0 1em 1em; border: solid 1px #888888; #EFEFEF; color: #333333; }
#toc td     { padding: 0.5em; }
#toc .tocindent
            { margin-left: 1em; }
#toc .tocline
            { margin-bottom: 0px; }
#toc p      { margin: 0; }
#toc .editsection
            { margin-top: 0.7em;}

/* Second Line Top Menu Options */

#p-cactions { padding-right: 0px; margin-right: 0px; background-color: #006486; width: 100%; }

#p-cactions ul
            { margin: 0; padding: 0; list-style: none;  font-size: 85%; margin-left: 10px; }

#p-cactions li
            { float:left; margin:0; padding:0; text-indent:0; border-width: 0px; }

#p-cactions li a
            { display:block;  color:#F7F7F7;  font-weight: bold;
              background-color: #666666;  border:solid 1px #DDDDDD;
              border-width: 0px;  border-left-width:1px;  text-decoration:none; white-space:nowrap;}

#p-cactions li a:hover
            { background-color: #FFBC2F; color: #66666; }

#p-cactions li.selected a
            { background: #EA7F07;  border:none;}

#p-cactions li.selected  a:hover
            { color: #000000; }

/* Top Menu Options */
#p-personal .pBody
            { background: #FFFFFF url(http://ultimateLAMP.arabx.com.au/images/bggradient.png) no-repeat top right; }

#p-personal li a,
#p-personal li a.new
            { color: #FFFFFF; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; }
#p-personal li a:hover
            { color: #E97B00; background-color: transparent; text-decoration: underline; }

/* Top Menu Height Adjustments */
#p-personal { height: 62px; }
#p-personal .pBody
            { height: 62px; }
#p-cactions { top: 62px; }
#content    { margin-top: 84px; }

/* Minor Things */
#footer     { color: #888888; }
#bodyContent a[href ^="http://"]
            { background:inherit !important; padding-right:inherit !important}
            { background: none; }
            { display: none; }

/* Badging */
#p-logo, #p-logo a, #p-logo a:hover
            { width:100px; height: 52px; }
#p-logo     { margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; }

#p-cactions { left: 0px; }
#p-cactions ul
            { margin-left: 180px; }


User Styles Alternative
Gallery of user styles
LocalSettings.php Style Information
Navigation Bar
User Rights
Wikipedia Monobook
MediaWiki Skin HowTo