Detector v0.8.5 Released: Now Being Used on

With the release of the new home page for West Virginia University Detector is finally being used in production. Unfortunately, there were a few bugs that were uncovered with this move. v0.8.5 fixes these issues and I now feel comfortable most folks can use Detector in their own production environments. The issues fixed include:

  • a very rare bug where the cookie used to set-up a profile wasn't properly cleared so a future visit would overwrite the profile with empty data.
  • the call to addUAToList() is now commented out. it became an unnecessary performance bottleneck.
  • profiles are now saved in directories that are based on the first two characters of the hash of the user-agent. this way one directory doesn't fill up with a ton of files and thereby possibly affecting performance. more on this below.
But it's not all bug fixes…

New Feature: Smarter Mustache Templating

One feature that I'm really excited about is the smarter fallbacks when using Detector with my fork of mustache-php (included in the Detector project). When using Detector and mustache-php to build a RESS-based website you can organize your Mustache partials based on Detector's families feature. Essentially, Mustache looks for partials based on the browser's family first and then fallbacks to a default directory of partials that's shared amongst all the families. I've written a tutorial that explains how it all works.

With v0.8.5 I've added a wrinkle to that default behavior. If you set splitFamily to true in config.ini Mustache will still look for a partial based on the browser's family first but then it will attempt to split the family name based on dashes rather than falling back to a default directory. This should give developers more flexibility when setting up families as well as limit duplicated partials. At least it did for us. A good example of how this feature might be useful is for delivering Retina images.

For the most part, the partials shared between a family set-up to address the layout needs of a Retina-capable mobile browser and the partials for a family set-up to address the layout needs of a modern mobile browser will be the same. Rather than duplicate these partials we can, with this new feature, simply set-up our Retina-quality family so that its name builds off of the latter family name. For example, the family name for the regular modern mobile browser might be ‘mobile-advanced'. We can then name our Retina-related family ‘mobile-advanced-retina'. Any partials shared between the two simply need to go in ‘mobile-advanced' as partial requests that aren't found in ‘mobile-advanced-retina' will fall back to it first.

Early Stats

I've been very curious how Detector would perform once it was thrown into production. Most importantly, I wanted to know how many profiles it would create once a lot of different browsers could hit it. Performance has been fine. The profile numbers on the other hand have blown me away and they're almost entirely driven by IE 7 and 8. Since we launched at midnight on Thursday, August 2nd our home page has had ~72,000 unique visitors and ~238,000 pageviews. This is a slow time of year for us though our traffic should ramp up quickly. Based on those ~72,000 unique visitors Detector has created 11,002 profiles. They take up 45MB of disk space. The kicker really is IE 7 & 8. Combined, IE 7 & 8 account for 7,952 of the 11,002 profiles (72.3%) . I find it incredible that there's that much variation in IE user-agent strings. I guess Microsoft allowed anything to be stuck in the UA. For what it's worth, IE 7 & 8 have only provided 25% of the visits during the same time period.

I'll be keeping an eye on the disk usage. Maybe I'll need to think about a garbage collection routine for old profiles. Otherwise things seem to be working well.

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