back to article Ging gang cloudy? IBM programmer packs it in for life as an online Scouts badge-tracker

Every week around 400,000 UK Scouts, Cubs, Explorers and Beavers meet and complete activities which contribute to potentially hundreds of badges - but the software which tracks their progress comes from a single enthusiast who saw a problem and created a solution. Ed Jellard was, and still is, a volunteer scout leader. He set …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid question - if this OSM works, rather than Scouts developing their own "Compass", why don't they just buy a stake in OSM and integrate that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Been there...

      Ed did approach them and said pretty much that i believe, however they wanted something they made and knew from the ground-up themselves which is reasonable but to be honest i'd call it a waste of money, i mean if one of your own has created a system (as you say) why not just buy them out/pay them to keep doing it rather than pay some third party external (i.e non-scouting) company to reinvent the wheel, the mind boggles it really does and let's not forget The Scout Association themselves hardly has a great track record with IT as many of it's leaders would agree with.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apache can't deal with 100 concurrent users?

    "query time started approaching ten seconds, frustrating users who'd assume something was broken"

    Don't want to be snarky, but it sounds like something WAS broken ... Wikipedia runs on Apache, and they've got a few more users than the Online Scout Manager website

    Apache's used by >64% of websites, according to this;

    1. Tom 38

      Apache is phenomenally configurable in its mode of operation. If you choose the default chosen by most distributors, you get a mode of operation - prefork - where performance does blow. They choose this mode by default for two reasons, PHP and ease of use for their users.

      PHP can run in two modes, an interpreter embedded in to the web server, or as a standalone process with worker children/threads that communicates with the webserver via FCGI. In the first mode, it is easier to setup a PHP app, simply put PHP files in a directory served by the webserver, in the second you need to configure FCGI - its not hard configuration, but it is extra work. Distros prefer not to do that, so prefer the first mode, however the first mode can only run in apache in prefork mode, therefore they choose prefork.

      Each worker in prefork has a PHP interpreter active in it, whether it is serving static files or running PHP apps. This means you have more interpreters 'active' than are necessary - wasting resources. Plus, you can only handle as many simultaneous connections as you can handle simultaneous workers - regardless of what those connections are doing. So prefork is a dog, and to be avoided.

      Apache has other modes. We use "event", which is a hybrid thread/process model, basically the same model as nginx, and guess what, it performs just as well as nginx. Plus, we can still use the billion or so apache modules out there. We have to use a fcgi-wrapper for our web apps, but this is good anyway as it allows us to control how many PHP processes are active at any one time, which prevents you having too many DB connections, which, if you've ever run a dynamic website will know, is usually the limiting factor of any hosted site.

      nginx, as a bare bones web server, doesn't have the option of the prefork model, nor of embedding PHP directly in to the webserver, so you need to configure a php-fcgi wrapper for each app, just like we do for apache-event.

      tl;dr - apache not dead, read the manual and learn how to configure it for performance.

  3. TonkaToys

    OSM works well, but can be a little tricky until you get used to it.

    It has certainly helped our little band of adventurers (well, their parents and scout leaders anyway).

  4. Bogle

    Pass me the needle and thread, mum

    He's earned a lot of brownie points.

    Thanks, mine's the one with the Queen's Scout badge on the pocket.

  5. 22gwr

    Ed rocks!

    Ed's OSM is fantastic, IT that works, perhaps we should get him sorting out some government IT projects

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a bad effort

    OSM isn't bad, especially considering Ed has done this off his own back. The UI however, is not that friendly and some of the functionality is a little 'clunkier' than it needs to be. I guess my biggest concern is that of 3rd party 'personal' data storage, which is technically what we have here.

    Still, like posters before me, why the scouts want to waste money on another white elephant of an IT solution (amongst many other things they waste money on) , when Ed has most Scout groups covered is beyond me. They should bring him on board, thus legitimising his app, and all will become well in the world of scout administration.

  7. Mike_Oxon

    As someone who has worked in IT for some 30 years and a Scout Leader for the past 20+ years, I started using OSM a little over a year ago and it is fantastic. Record keeping before OSM was a nightmare ... Poor and long since gone Scout association systems, then leader developed Spreadsheets, good but manual effort,... Then along came OSM, from updating the register on an iPad during the meeting, tracking badges , accounts, events, automatic emailing to parents including reminders for those who have not responded..... The list goes on

    So why are the Scout Association writing their own? Who knows, it's the young people who pay 'subs' that pays for it. Apart from it will be 'free' to use, I can't see it overtaking OSM in features and have no plans to move away from OSM

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