Such is Life – Mundane and Repeatable

I don’t often talk about my personal life. My life outside of work – the offline world. I’d like to change that a bit and share some more things about me with the people that I consider friends.

Sharing things about myself is hard for me. I can talk all day about the projects that I am involved with but talking about me… what I like… how I’m doing… yeah that’s pretty hard for me.

I’m going to ease in here with this post. I’ll start by sharing some things about myself and what I get up to.

My favourite colour is orange. Sandwiches and mashed potato share the top spot of best foods on the planet in my view*. Heavy metal, rock and blues is my musical preference.

A mashed potato sandwich. I tried it once. It was not good. You can make it good if you know how and maybe one day I will share that secret.

William Patton – lover of sandwiches and mash.

My Family

Most of my day (and indeed almost every day) is spent here in my home. At this desk. But it is far from lonely.

The hustle and bustle of family life is always happening and that is something that never stops. I have a wife and 2 children and we live in a small town in Scotland.

Half of Scotland it is standard towns and cities like you would expect the other half is small towns and villages considered as Highlands & Islands. I live in the Highlands & Islands bit. It’s still mostly as you would expect – except there is lots of green hills and blue waters.

My wife is amazing. Without her I would be lost. She looks after us all better than we can look after ourselves.

My kids like to play games, watch cartoons and generally get themselves involved in anything that causes a little bit of mischief and things that cause a lot of mess.

My mother is nearby, a brother and my mother-in-law. We all get along and look out for each other. When one of us needs something the others help.

My Work

An average work day for me is quite boring. I work from my home. I wake up, work, eat, sleep and repeat. Most of my day is spent here at my desk with a text editor on one monitor and a browser window on the other.

Daily client work, too much time spent replying to emails and slack/skype messages, a bit of time on marketing/outreach and a few hours working on whatever projects I have going.

Work is a 7 days a week thing for me, the internet has no weekends and neither do I.


WordPress logo 3d printed in Gold filament
A nice little keepsake from my 3D Printing.

The bulk of all of my work revolves around WordPress. I create custom themes, plugins and sites for clients. I modify existing sites. I help manage servers and the software that is used to run a WordPress site.

I spend a lot of my time with people from the Theme Review Team, chatting and handling things over there. I am team lead and also the Themes component maintainer so I try to spend as much time there as I can.

I’ve made a lot of friends in the WordPress community. Many of them are also involved with Themes to some degree but I’ve also met some really great people in other areas. Plugins, Forums Support, Accessibility, Privacy to name just a few.

My Hobbies

Computer programming and consumer electronics/tech. Those are my hobbies. Pretty much the same kind of things as I do for work.

When I’m not working I’m still at my computer. Did I mention I spend way too much time here at my desk?


I really do love WordPress. I work with it nearly every day and I also spend a lot of my hobby time with it as well.

Writing code for it is great but so is spending time chatting about it with other people. Mostly I chat with them as I write code :).

In the WordPress community there is a huge spread of people with all kinds of skills and interests. Talking about technical things with them, code things or otherwise, is something I could do – and have actually done on more than one occation – all day.

3D Printing

I also have became a huge fan of 3D printing. Printing models, functional items, little mechanisms, All kinds of things.

I have enjoyed doing this immensely. Watching something be printed in plastic (and some really cool types like wood fill or metal fill) and appear slowly in front of you is astonishing.

I am a fan of the game Zelda. I printed this castle from one of the games. The video turned out cool, it’s a time-lapse lasting about 40 seconds.

Print time was a little over 28 hours. It’s kinda slow.

Home Automation

I got myself a single Arudino Uno to go with my 3D Printer. I needed it to flash a bootloader. After that I connected it to a photoresitor and some LEDs. They turned on themselves when it was dark. That was cool.

It was my first automation and then I started to think about what other things I could do. Temperature sensors + room fans were next.

Then a temperature sensor outside my home with a hole in the wall for the wire… It was getting serious. Permanent.

It was not a far jump from those first small projects onto the idea of home automation or some kind of smart home. I have been making that jump.

Such is Life

This is my life, pretty much all of it. It seems like it’s not really a lot and to be fair I could quite easily embellish each area with more specifics. In my family I have members with additional care needs. In my work I spend time on projects that are not remotely related to WordPress.

In truth I need mundane and consistency. I do my best to minimise unexpected changes. Knowing some of what the day entails helps me to handle the other parts of daily life which I struggle with.

Some people like excitement, adrenaline rushes, spontaneous events. They like to travel and have new experiences as much as they can. I do not enjoy similar things.

My life may be boring. My daily tasks mundane and repetitious, That is perfect for me. Not everyone likes this kind of life, I do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Development Tools

Open Source Projects That I Rely On To Effectively Do My Job – Part 3

There are a number of things that exist in the open source world without which I do no think I could do my Job. I am a Web Developer. I work on a range of projects using different systems, languages and processes. I work a lot with WordPress as well.

Many aspects of my work revolve around scanning logs, writing and reading code in a text editor and browsing the internet. I have my prefered programs for doing each of those tasks.

This is a set of articles that look at a lof of the open source projects that I rely on to do my job and do it effectively.

Online Applications

Some of the tools I use are online services or applications. In the open source world people build things and they share them. Since I am in the web developer sphere that means a lot of the circles I am in people build online software.

Online software is convenient because they are more portable and often accessible from a variety of devices. A lot of online services are powered by open source software (and that's not counting the unlaying OS or the fact that it probably uses Apache or NGINX to respond to people's browsers).


A lot of the work that I do relates back to WordPress in some way. It powers a huge amount of the publicly accessible internet. Sometimes I build for WP or extend it, other times I build things to work alongside it. Sometimes I just build server stacks capable of running it.

If WordPress was closed source, or did not exist, a god portion of my work would not come in.

GitHub – And Git

GitHub is a giant when it comes to source code management. GitHub manages code using an unlaying software called git. That software was started by the same man who started the linux kernel.

GitHub itself is not an open source application. I can't download a copy of it and run my own private version of it (but you can have private instances setup and managed by them, either hosted in the cloud or in-house). It is powered by an open software and also values open source greatly. Most projects hosted there are under some kind of open licence.

Other Online Git Services – BitBucket, GitLab

There are other repo hosts available. Bitbucket is a good choice. GitLab is also a good choice.

GitLab is an online service where you can host your code as well but it's an open software too. You can download it to run on your own server managed by yourself. It is extremely full featured – offering much of the same as github and bitbucket – as well as a lot of integrated CI and tooling.

Communications – Slack

Even talking to yourself can be useful at times, communication is better when more people can be involved and the conversations can be archived and searched. Slack lets that happen. It's actually not an open source project as such but a tool for communication that isn't email is essential when working online with others. 

Conversations happen in Chat Rooms. Slack provides nice rooms to have those conversations.

Hosting & Servers

Nginx Reverse Proxy Cache of WordPress on Apache

An NGINX reverse proxy for WordPress sites running on Apache is my standard setup for running WP sites. I've got a pretty slick setup running entirely self-contained NGINX reverse proxy to WP on Apache PHP7 using Docker to Proxy Multiple WordPress Instances.

Every single shared and manage host I've personally used in the last 10-15 years ran Apache as the default http server. Every client I've ever had with a shared or managed account too. I've only every once been offered the option of anything different, it was not default configuration though.

NGINX is very capable of doing the exact same thing as Apache but I see it used more commonly as a proxy. You can also use Apache for a proxy if you want to.

Apache and NGINX are both http servers, they are pretty interchangeable if you are only interested in an end result being a page reaching the requesting user.

Some Key High Level Differences Between Apache and NGINX

Apache is incredibly well supported and used by a huge amount of servers. It can be installed and works almost right out of the box. It's modular, works on many systems and is capable of hosting a wide range of sites with relatively minimal configuration.

It's the default http server of choice for so many for a reason – it copes well with most situations and is generally simple to configure.

On the other hand NGINX has a smaller market share, can be a little more tricky to install, make it work right – and may require additional setup for particular applications.

It's not as modular (turning on features sometimes requires complete rebuild from source) but it performs a lot better than non-tuned Apache installs. It is less memory hungry and handles static content way better than Apache. In comparisons is excels particularly well when handling concurrent connections.

Why Put An HTTP Server In Front Of An HTTP Server?

I get asked this by site builders a lot more than I ever thought I would. There are several technical reasons and infrastructure reasons why you may want to do this. There's also performance reasons and privacy reasons. I won't go into great detail about any of them but I encourage you to Google for more detail if you are intrigued.

There are 2 simple reasons why I do this that are both related to separating the access to a site from the operation of a site.

  1. Isolating front-end from back-end means that I can have specially tweaked configurations, run necessary services spanning multiple host machines and know that all of that in transparent to the end user.
  2. The other reason is performance based. The front-end does nothing dynamic, it serves only static html and other static content that it is provided from the backend services. It can manage load balancing and handle service failover. It can cache many of the resources it has – this results in less dynamic work generating pages and more work actually serving the pages once they have been generated.

When To Cache A Site At The Proxy

I cache almost every request to WordPress sites when users are not logged in. Images, styles and scripts, the generated html. Cache it all, and for a long time.

That is because the kinds of sites I host and almost completely content providing sites. They are blogs, service sites and resources. I think most sites fit into that same bucket.

These kinds of sites are not always updated daily, comments on some posts are days or weeks between them. Single pages often stay the same for a long time, homepages and tax pages may need updated more often but still not as often as to require a freshly generated page every time.

Some Particular Caching Rules and Configs For These Sites

A good baseline confg for my kind of sites would follow rules similar to these:

  • Default cache time of 1 month.
  • Default cache pragma of public
  • Cache statics, like images and scripts, on first request – cache for 1 year. 
  • Cache html only after 2 requests, pass back 5-10% of requests to backend to check for updated page.
  • Allow serving of stale objects and do a refresh check in the background when it occurs.
  • Clear unrequested objects every 7 days.

A long default cache lifetime is good to start with, I'd even default to 1 year in some instances. 1 month is more appropriate for more cases though.

Setting cache type to public means that not just browsers will cache but also other services as well between request and response.

Static resources are unlikely to change ever. Long cache lifetimes for these items. Some single pages may have content that doesn't ever change but the markup can still be different sometimes – maybe there's a widget of latest articles or comments that would output a new item every now and again.

Because of that you should send some of the requests to the backend to check for an updated page. Depending on how much traffic you have and how dynamic the pages are you can tweak the percentage.

The reason that html is set not to be cached on the first 2 requests is because the backend sometimes does it's own caching and optimizations that require 1 or 2 requests to start showing. We should let the backend have some requests to prime it's cache so that when it is cached at the proxy it is caching the fully optimized version of the page.

Serving stale objects while grabbing new ones from the backend helps to ensure that as many requests as possible are cached. If the backend object hasn't changed then the cache just has it's date changed but if it is update then the cache is updated with the new item.

Clearing out cached items that were never requested every so often helps to keep filesize down for the total cache.