Media Monday Edmonton: How fast are local media websites?

On the web, page speed matters. If your site takes too long to load, people will go elsewhere. Google proved this by purposefully slowing down its search engine. They found that even just half a second caused fewer searches. Bottom line: users love fast sites!

With that in mind, I decided to look at local media sites – how fast or slow are they? Rather than looking at page load times, I decided to use YSlow to determine the performance of each site. Lots of factors can impact the amount of time a page takes to load (your ISP, the speed of your computer, where you are geographically,etc), but everyone has to download the same amount of data for a web page, so I figured YSlow is a little more fair than a stopwatch.

Here are the fourteen sites I looked at (you can download all the data here):

As you can see, none of the sites received an “A” grade. The only one to receive a B was Only Here for the Food. The grade can be somewhat misleading, however. Here’s what the front page performance for each site looks like:

It turns out that Sharon’s blog is the heaviest of them all with an empty cache (the first time you visit the site). This is due to the large number of images she has on her site. In fact, almost all of the weight of the page is due to the images. If you look at the primed cache (subsequent visits to the site) then the Edmonton Journal is the heaviest. The Edmonton Journal has the worst performance improvement going from an empty to a primed cache:

To be fair, I decided I should compare an “article page” on each site as well. With social media in particular, an article page is more likely to be a visitor’s entry point to the site. For this test, I simply clicked on the top article on each site:

One caveat: I used the second story for iNews 880, because their top story was over 25 MB in size! Evidently they think it is fine to embed full size, uncompressed images.

As you can see, Valerie’s blog is the heaviest, again due to the number of pictures she has. Once again, the Edmonton Journal has the worst performance improvement going from an empty to a primed cache:

Final Thoughts

I thought there would be more of a difference between the new and traditional media sites, but there isn’t really. In general the heaviest part of the blogs is images and the heaviest part of the traditional media sites is Javascript, but there are exceptions. On average, the first time you visit the front page of one of these sites you’re going to have to download just over 2 MB. On a 56.6 Kbps dial-up connection, that would take you nearly 5 minutes. On a typical high-speed connection, it’s more like less than 10 seconds.

I think perceived performance is often more important than actual performance, but that’s obviously harder to measure. In my experience, most of these sites load fairly quickly. When I do notice a speed issue, it’s usually because the page I am trying to load has a lot of stuff on it.

Another thing I learned from this exercise is that all of the sites have room for improvement!

What has your experience been like? Which sites do you find slow?

Microsoft releases a hotfix for Outlook 2007

Post ImageAll my posting about Outlook 2007 has come in handy! On Saturday, Kevin sent me this link, and today Justice sent me this one. Both point to a hotfix from Microsoft for Outlook 2007:

This update fixes a problem in which a calendar item that is marked as private is opened if it is found by using the Search Desktop feature. The update also fixes performance issues that occur when you work with items in a large .pst file or .ost file.

I have installed it on both my main computers, but haven’t really had a chance to test it yet. This thread at looks positive though. Here is the KB article, and the download page. Enjoy!

Read: Download Hotfix

My love-hate relationship with Twitter

Post ImageI have a love-hate relationship with Twitter going on. Actually, in a lot of ways, it’s quite similar to my love-hate relationship with Outlook 2007. They’re both extremely useful, yet both horribly slow. Let me explain.

Twitter is great for quick status messages, or jotting down thoughts that don’t deserve an entire blog post. I love that Twitter allows me to use it however I want to. For example, I went to get my free coffee from Starbucks earlier, and wanted to Twitter it. Except I couldn’t. The first problem is that for some reason, Twitter seems to ignore my cell phone. Then it will magically start working, only to stop again a couple days later. Worse still, the Twitter website is inaccessible far too often. Like right now, I can’t get the site to load. It totally sucks, I hate it.

The question of whether Twitter would be useful during an earthquake makes me laugh – it can’t be useful if it’s not up! And thus far, it seems to have a hard time accepting my random coffee-related messages, let alone important messages sent during a disaster.

I would use Twitter so much more if it actually worked as expected.

A simple tip to make Outlook 2007 faster

Post ImageI use Outlook all the time, so the many problems I have found with the newest version drive me nuts. Especially the speed issue. As a result, I have spent far too much time looking for a solution. I think I finally found one though as Tris explains:

One of the big problems folks have been having with Office 2007 is Outlook. Frankly, it can be a serious dog. Sluggish, serious performance lags. All the things you don’t want in your “latest and greatest” e-mail client.

Looks like, thanks to Mack D. Male, there is a solution…I did this last night and I think it’s working.

I appreciate the nod Tris, but I’m just the messenger. Full thanks should go to Monty and Dell. Who’s Monty? Beats me. But he posted the message on the Microsoft discussion groups with the solution he got from Dell. Instructions are in the post, and in Tris’ post too, but basically the tip is to turn off all the addins in Outlook. You need to be running Outlook as an Administrator when you do this, and you should also restart Outlook after you turn them off.

I have tried this tip on two machines – one where Outlook is a POP3 client, and one where Outlook connects to Exchange. The biggest difference appears on the first one, but both seem faster when selecting messages, changing views, etc. Downloading mail doesn’t appear much faster yet. The only addin I left checked is the Windows Search Indexing.

Microsoft still needs to fix Outlook, but hopefully this tip will help you in the meantime. Let me know if it works for you!

Read: Pimp Your Work

Mini-Microsoft on Outlook 2007

Post ImageI have talked about Outlook 2007 a couple of times before, and in neither post was I singing Outlook’s praises. Nope, I love the interface tweaks, but Outlook 2007 is terribly slow. Almost so slow that it is unusable. I wonder if it would be any faster if I had 4 GB of RAM…probably not. Anyway, here’s what Mini-Microsoft had to say about Outlook 2007 recently:

I’ve learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written. I don’t know.

I have wondered the same thing. It has to be doing something when it’s not doing what I want it to, right? He continues:

For our customers’ sake, I hope that I’m the only one and that there is just something funky about my setup…

Sorry, no. Outlook 2007 sucks when it comes to performance, plain and simple. It can’t be your setup, because there’s thousands of threads on the Internet in which people are complaining. Please Mini, use your power to get someone to fix it!

Read: Mini-Microsoft

Windows Performance Rating

Post ImageThere are lots of great new “little” features coming in Windows Vista, features that you might not hear advertised or that you may not experience right away. One of those features (unless it becomes advertised in stores which would be great) is Windows Performance Rating, a numerical value that represents the performance of your computer:

“The idea behind the Windows Performance Rating is to help average consumers easily understand their Windows Vista PC’s overall performance, and to simplify the process of determining whether certain software applications will run smoothly based on their system components,” Microsoft said in a statement provided to CNET

It’s not exactly clear how the rating is calculated, or if it will have the same scale as what is currently available in beta builds, but that doesn’t matter. This feature is going to be great for consumers. No more worrying about how much RAM a machine has, or how fast the processor is, etc. What’s the performance rating? That’s all you need to ask.

This rating is similar to the change in processor naming that happened recently. You no longer have to compare clock speed to determine relative performance. Instead, you simply look at the model number (for example, Pentium 4 Processor 630 versus a Pentium 4 Processor 651). This method gives a much more accurate picture of relative performance.

And even better, the performance rating appears to go beyond simply performance, and takes into account other system components to determine how well they improve the Vista experience.

Read: CNET

How many cores do you have?

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Dave Lucas‘ popular blog, Capital Region People.

Post ImageNow that we’re into 2006, my computer is about six years old. I have upgraded certain components over the years (notably RAM and hard drives) but my original processors are still chugging along – dual Pentium III 600 MHz processors (x86 Family 6 Model 8 for those of you who like details). For the most part my computer is pretty responsive, and I do a good job of clearing up temp files, scanning for spyware and viruses, etc. Certain applications and tasks are starting to be noticeably slower though, which means a new computer is becoming more and more likely. My computer probably is doing things just as fast as a couple years ago, but it seems slower because of all the newer, faster machines I come into contact with. Faster machines that more and more frequently have more than one processor core.

To ring in the new year, Intel launched a massive rebranding complete with new logos and a new slogan, Leap Ahead. The company also announced a new focus and direction; one that includes muti-core processors at its heart. Here’s how Intel describes multi-core:

Intel multi-core architecture has a single Intel processor package that contains two or more processor “execution cores,” or computational engines, and delivers—with appropriate software—fully parallel execution of multiple software threads. The operating system (OS) perceives each of its execution cores as a discrete processor, with all the associated execution resources.

Essentially, more execution cores means you computer can do more things at once, and thus accomplish tasks faster. It was April of last year that Intel released their first dual core processor, and research on new multi-core projects (15 currently underway at Intel) has been feverish ever since. There haven’t been that many dual core processors sold yet, mainly because they are a bit too expensive still. That will change in 2006 though, as Intel forecasts “that more than 85 percent of our server processors and more than 70 percent of our mobile and desktop Pentium® family processor shipments will be multi-core–based by the end of 2006.”

Intel isn’t the only company betting on multi-core technology. In a recent interview with CNET, AMD’s Chief Technology Officer confirmed that the company will be shipping quad-core processors by 2007. AMD has a good description of multi-core technology:

Multi-core processors enable true multitasking. On single-core systems, multitasking can max out CPU utilization, resulting in decreased performance as operations have to wait to be processed. On multi-core systems, since each core has its own cache, the operating system has sufficient resources to handle most compute intensive tasks in parallel.

Improvements are being made in software as well. The current versions of Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X will all be able to take advantage of the improved performance delivered by multi-core processors, and new iterations of the operating systems should improve things even more. Mac users will be happy that Apple is switching to Intel this year, opening the door for multi-core processors in Macintosh computers. Windows users will soon have Windows Vista available which will not only support multi-core processors, but other performance boosting technologies like hot-swappable USB key-based RAM too.

Let’s not forget that other system components are being improved too. The speed of memory, motherboards, hard drives, and other components are all increasing along with processor performance. All this and I haven’t even mentioned 64-bit technology yet! When you step back and look at the big picture, it’s clear that we’re on track for a huge performance boost.

If you’re going to be purchasing a new computer, the coming year is as good a time as any. The new multi-core systems that will be available are a far cry from my pokey old Pentium III’s, even if I do have two! The faster computers will usher in new applications and interfaces that take advantage of the increased horsepower, meaning you’ll see improvements across the board, from hardware to software.

Perhaps a year from now you won’t ask someone how fast their computer is. Instead, you might ask, how many cores do you have?