If you have a website that gets millions of page requests per day each starting a session and you wish to get the last ounce of performance from your server and you’re still using file-based sessions then by all means give this a try. The more volume of dynamic content you’re serving, the more you’ll benefit in terms of load average and site-speed.

One of my website gets about 8 million page views per day almost all needing a session to be started. Using memcached-based sessions helped reduce the load at least 6-folds and sped-up the site considerably.

Since I came to know about it rather late in my career I say it’s one of least known but much simple and effective way to solve performance problems when you have lots of traffic. Remember high-traffic is a must to see any considerable effect.

Use the following code in the bootstrap script of your website:

ini_set('session.save_handler', 'memcache');
ini_set('session.save_path', "MEMCACHE_SOCKET_PATH");

You can also set the above variables in the php.ini file for activating it globally. You must have memcache and memcache PHP extension installed for this to work.

You’ll have to estimate the amount of memory sessions will require and set memcache with a higher value than that. You can check the /tmp directory for the session files and see how much memory is being taken by sess_ files. If you give less memory session data might clear automatically (FIFO by memcached) and users may get logged out etc. depending on what you’re using sessions for.

You can also use redis in place of memcached if you absolutely don’t want the session data to get cleared in any way (other than by the GC).

How does this work? Memory is SO MUCH faster than HDD.

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Some analgyph images I shot using a regular camera. Two shots had to be taken from two different positions and post-processed to create these. They look quite satisfactory to me!

Living Room (Anaglyphic 3D)

Picture 1 of 4

Please use red-cyan glasses to see this image.

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For a long time I’d been seeing high server load on the server MyWapBlog.com is hosted. I thought the increasing traffic was the cause. MySQL, I knew was the causing the load, but I thought it was all natural for a dynamic site with NO caching.

One day, just when I was seriously thinking about implementing some kind of cache, I found about mtop – small tool like top to display running MySQL queries in real-time, running it I found that every second there were many queries (same query but made by different requests) that got stuck in the “PREPARING” state and sometimes took as long as 2 secs. to complete. The evil query was:

SELECT c.post_id FROM category_post_relationship c 
  WHERE  (c.cat_id IN 
  (SELECT c2.id AS c2__id FROM categories c2 
  WHERE (c2.user_id =  ?)))

Thinking what it does? Let me make it easier – it fetches “post ids” of all the posts of a user that are categorized.

1. Running the query

184 rows, Query took 0.0812 sec

2. Profiling:

   starting                0.000132
   checking permissions    0.000011
   checking permissions    0.000011
   Opening tables          0.000037
   System lock             0.000015
   Table lock              0.000022
   init                    0.000065
   optimizing              0.000025
   statistics              0.000027
   preparing               0.000027
   executing               0.000011
   Sending data            0.000047
   optimizing              0.000023
   statistics              0.000086
   preparing               0.075275
   end                     0.000015
   query end               0.000010
   freeing items           0.000033
   logging slow query      0.000009
   cleaning up             0.000011


id 	    select_type         table       type 	       possible_keys 	    key         key_len    ref 	    row     Extra
1 	    PRIMARY 	        c 	    index 	       NULL 	            PRIMARY 	8 	   NULL     53898   Using where; Using index
2 	    DEPENDENT SUBQUERY 	c2 	    unique_subquery    PRIMARY,user_id 	    PRIMARY 	4 	   func     1 	    Using where

If you’d ask some novice to do what the query does many of them would use two separate queries and believe me (I’ve done the testing as well) that’ll be much faster!

Googling “subquery optimization” got me this:

MySQL evaluates queries “from outside to inside.” That is, it first obtains the value of the outer expression outer_expr, and then runs the subquery and captures the rows that it produces.

From http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.1/en/in-subquery-optimization.html

The page also tells us some tips on how to optimize subqueries, going by the suggestions we get the following query:

SELECT c.post_id FROM category_post_relationship c 
  (SELECT 1 FROM categories c2 
  WHERE c2.user_id = 7639 AND c.cat_id =  c2.id)

Still, running it takes similar query times and as such doesn’t help.

Again from the same page:

After the conversion, MySQL can use the pushed-down equality to limit the number of rows that it must examine when evaluating the subquery.

Though I didn’t read the whole page thoroughly (I’m lazy and since I got the job done by some other technique) still I’m sure that this “optimized” query only “optimizes” the subquery while our biggest problem is that the outer table (with about 50000 rows) is getting evaluated.

I felt, this was one query you’d rather not “optimize” and be happy with two separate queries.

But, this is not to say it can’t be optimized, it can be very easily – by NOT using subqueries at all. I used JOINS:

SELECT cc.post_id FROM categories c
  RIGHT JOIN category_post_relationship cc
  ON  c.id = cc.cat_id<br>
  WHERE  c.user_id = ?

Now the query takes 0.0008 sec compared to 0.0812, that’s a hundred fold improvement!

Some tips:

  1. If you’re using subqueries and are having some problems with it being slow read the article I mentioned.
  2. If possible, use WHERE condition on the outer query.
  3. Don’t use subqueries when the outer query table contains lots of rows. (I may be wrong but this is what I’ve found out)
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Created this data validation class a couple of days back for validating some forms. Thought it might be useful for others. This one’s very basic and light-weight but still fully working with many pre-defined rules.

Before listing the class, let me first show how it’s used:

require 'Validator.class.php';

$validator = new Validator();

// Add rules
$validator->addRule('name', array('minlength' => 5, 'maxlength' => 20));
$validator->addRule('age', array('min' => 13, 'max' => 35));
$validator->addRule('url', array('url'));
$validator->addRule('about', array('require'));

// Data to be validated, would normally come from a form
$data = array(
        'name' => 'Arvind Gupta',
        'age' => '80',
        'url' => 'http:www.arvindgupta',

// Set data to be validated

// Check
if ($validator->isValid())
    echo '<h1>Data is valid!</h1>';
    echo '<h1>Data is not valid!</h1>';
    echo '<ol>';

    // Get and print errors in a nice manner
    foreach ($validator->getErrors() as $field => $messages)
        if (count($messages) == 1)
            echo "<li><strong>$field</strong>: $messages[0]</li>";
            // If a field has more than one error
            echo "<li><strong>$field</strong>:</li>";
            echo '<ol>';
            foreach ($messages as $message)
                echo "<li>$message</li>";
            echo '</ol>';
    echo '</ol>';

Very straightforward!

Validating a form is equally straightforward. The best way would be to have the form elements named like arrays, for example:

<form ...>
	<input type="text" name="form1[text1]" value="" />
	<input type="text" name="form1[text2]" value="" />

And, use something the following line to provide the form data to the validator at one go:


That’s it! Here is the class code:

 * Validator
 * Data validation class
 * @author      Arvind Gupta <contact [ AT ] arvindgupta [ DOT ] co [ DOT ] in>
 * @copyright   Arvind Gupta (c) 2011
 * @link        http://www.arvindgupta.co.in
 * @license     You're free to do whatever with this as long as this notice
 *              remains intact.
class Validator

    protected $_rules = array();
    protected $_data = array();
    protected $_messages = array();
    protected $_errors = array();

    public function __construct()

     * Add a rule
     * @param string $field	Field name (index of data to be validated)
     * @param array  $rules	Array of rule(s)
    public function addRule($field, array $rules)
        $this->_rules[$field] = $rules;

     * Set data to be validated
     * @param array $data   Data to be validated
    public function setData(array $data)
        $this->_data = $data;

     * Set error message for rule
     * @param string $rule	Rule name
     * @param string $message	New message
    public function setMessage($rule, $message)
        $this->_messages[$rule] = $message;

     * Validates current data with current rules
     * @return boolean
    public function isValid()
        $valid = true;
        foreach ($this->_rules as $field => $rules)
            $value = isset($this->_data[$field]) ? $this->_data[$field] : '';

            foreach ($rules as $rule => $parameter)
                // If rule does not require parameter
                if (is_int($rule))
                    $rule = $parameter;
                    $parameter = null;

                if (!$this->check($value, $rule, $parameter))
                    $valid = false;

                    if (stripos($this->_messages[$rule], '%s') !== false)
                        $this->_errors[$field][] = sprintf($this->_messages[$rule], $parameter);
                        $this->_errors[$field][] = $this->_messages[$rule];

        return $valid;

     * Get error messages if validation fails
     * @return array	Error messages
    public function getErrors()
        return $this->_errors;

    protected function check($value, $rule, $parameter)
        switch ($rule)
            case 'require' :
                return!(trim($value) == '');

            case 'maxlength' :
                return (strlen($value) <= $parameter);

            case 'minlength' :
                return (strlen($value) >= $parameter);

            case 'numeric' :
                return is_numeric($value);

            case 'int' :
                return is_int($value);

            case 'min' :
                return $value > $parameter ? true : false;

            case 'max' :
                return $value < $parameter ? true : false;

            case 'url':
                // Regex taken from symfony
                return preg_match('~^
			      (https?)://                               # protocol
				([a-z0-9-]+\.)+[a-z]{2,6}               # a domain name
				  |                                     #  or
				\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}      # a IP address
			      (:[0-9]+)?                                # a port (optional)
			      (/?|/\S+)                                 # a /, nothing or a / with something
			    $~ix', $value);

            case 'email':
                return preg_match('/^([^@\s]+)@((?:[-a-z0-9]+\.)+[a-z]{2,})$/i', $value);

            case 'regex':
                return preg_match($parameter, $value);

            case 'pass':
                return true;

            default :
                return false;

    protected function setDefaultMessages()
        $this->_messages = array(
                'require' => 'Field is required.',
                'maxlength' => 'Too long (%s characters max).',
                'minlength' => 'Too short (%s characters min).',
                'numeric' => 'Value must be numeric.',
                'int' => 'Value must be an integer.',
                'max' => 'Value must be at most %s',
                'min' => 'Value must be at least %s',
                'url' => 'Value must be a valid URL.',
                'email' => 'Value must be a valid email.',
                'regex' => 'Invalid value.',

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About Me

Personal blog of a 24-year-old entrepreneur from Jamshedpur, India. He loves to discover new things and how stuff works.




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