Open source site turned around in under 40 hours cops huge traffic.
A small group of Sydney-based open source developers will be catching up on some well-deserved rest this weekend after coding a web site in under 40 hours that took in 5.5 million hits in little over a week.
The site was used to register some 25,880 short messages – none more than 160 characters – that were transmitted by the joint NASA-CSIRO Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, Australia, today in the hope of them reaching the nearest potentially habitable planet, Gliese 581d.
The ‘Hello From Earth’ campaign was set up to celebrate National Science Week.
The popularity of the Hello From Earth campaign took its organiser by surprise – the web site receiving 5.5 million hits and 41,167 registrations in “little over a week” – putting a small group of Sydney-based developers through their paces.
The team at Sydney-based IT services eNerds were asked on Tuesday August 4 – just eigh days before the campaign was due to begin – whether they would be interested in developing a site to collate the messages earthlings intended to be transmitted to space.
“We pumped out a quote Wednesday afternoon, signed for the deal overnight, commenced coding Thursday morning and had the site up on Friday at midday,” eNerds CEO Jamie Warren said.
The site enabled users to register to submit a 160 character message to be sent into space and pages to browse through submitted messages.
A team of 20 moderators handled the messages, and a reporting system delivered results to the project’s organisers.
The site was put together using LAMP – an open source stack with Linux at the operating system layer, Apache as the web server, MySQL as the database and PHP as the scripting language.
Dean Turnbull, head developer at eNerds said the LAMP stack was chosen because it is “a freely available, easily configurable and extremely robust set of technologies.”
The system was deployed on a dedicated server by Anchor Systems, hosted in the Global Switch data centre.
Warren said there was only one small plumbing issue upon the site going live.
“The press got hold of this story – we very quickly had pieces in the Daily Telegraph in the UK and Boston Globe in the U.S.
“The server got absolutely flogged.”
The server went down for two minutes on the third night as it struggled to cope with the traffic. The team allocated more Random Access Memory (RAM) to the server and managed to keep it up for the remainder of the project.
The 25,880 messages were sent between midday and 2pm today, with 18 children from the Karalundi Aboriginal Education Centre of Meekatharra, Western Australia in attendance to “help send the signal.”
It was hoped the messages would arrive at the planet Gliese 581d by December 2029.
Should there be a response, it will arrive at around 2051.