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ScaleConf Wellington 2017

I went to and presented at ScaleConf in Wellington last week and was really impressed with the topics and info shared. Here’s a quick round up of my highlights from ScaleConf, a one-day conference with a focus on building and running large scale web apps.

All of the presentations were excellent and I learned a great deal from all the speakers, there were four that were real highlights for me that I wan to call out specifically and make some notes from:

Sarah Dapul-Weberman, Engineer from Pinterest
Sarah described her project at Pinterest transpiling Python code to Javascript. For a site with 100’s of millions of users, this sort of migration is seriously hard and Sarah had such a cool approach to basically writing a throw-away tool to convert the code, then a second tool to test the result using shadow traffic (a technique I’d not heard of before) until the re-written code generated the same responses and actions as the original.

Kumar Srinivasamurthy, Tech Lead from Bing.
Being the second largest search engine means serious scale, Kumar shared some fascinating insights into what it’s like behind the scenes of 100,000 server data centres, I particularly liked his anecdote on how hard it is to actually turn off a datacenter, with redundancy even at the utility level.

Andrew Schofield, CTO from Timely
Andrew gave a good overview of the growth of Timely, the phases they went through and challenges. I was inspired by what Timely have created both for software and team/work environment and culture. If we can build A2X up to that level, and create the same team, I’d be very happy.

Pam Rucinque, Engineer from ThoughtWorks
Pam detailed here project for a production mobile backend using AWS Lambdas, so it was very close to my own interest in server-less architecture. Having built a few Lambda functions for internal projects, I was really interested to see the sort of challenges that go into making it a fully production ready platform. The tool support for setting up the functions has improved a lot too, I think this is going to be a very interesting area of computing over the new few years.

If you’re interested, my slides are here, I presented A2X and our architecture on Google App Engine, what I liked about it and how it helped us go from prototype to 1000’s of users.

This is me presenting an entirely made up quote:


If you’re building a fast-growing or at-scale web app, I’d recommend checking it out next year! Thanks to Christian and the team of putting it together.

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Generating Barcode Numbers and EAN barcode artwork with GNU barcode

Just a quick little post to remind myself how I did this in a few years time! Given a range of barcode numbers, generate the EAN number and artwork for them on the command-line using GNU barcode.

So we have a range like: 934955400000 - 934955400999 and we need to add the check digit and then generate the artwork.

Firstly we need an actual input file representing all of the barcodes in the range. For that we can just use a bash loop (or several).
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Sending Emails by Queue in Magento 1.9.1

My last blog post was over 6 months ago, so I think I’m technically way past due for a new post. In this post I wanted to take a tour through the new functionality in Magento 1.9.1 with regards to sending emails from your store.

The astute among you will have noticed there were some changes to email in Magento 1.9.1 from the Magento 1.9.1 release notes. Two things jump out as requiring further investigation:

  1. “all Magento e-mails (including order confirmation and transactional) are now queued and sent according to your configured cron schedule”
  2. “boasts responsive default email templates so customers can read your order confirmation emails and newsletters on any device”

The first change sounds worrying to me, after years of emails from merchants struggling to get their Magento store to send emails – anything which makes it _harder_ seems like a bad idea to me. However, we’ll look through the changes and see what’s new.

The second change sounds really good – I was tinkering on a responsive email extension myself, so it’s pleasing to see it has already become core functionality. I’ll take a look through the template changes, and how they affect your store in the second part of this blog post series.

Using cron to send Magento Emails

Magento email sending all boils down to the Template class Mage_Core_Model_Email_Template, you can see below the change for queuing has been to introduce a check for an available queue in the template class, and if available to enqueue the message with all of it’s data and return immediately.
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Magento SMTP Pro 2 – Free and Open Source SMTP Configuration

I’m very pleased to announce the release of version 2 of SMTP Pro. It’s been a long time coming, but my most popular extension should once again be your first choice for custom email integrations. Version 2 is a full rewrite that adds support for all of the latest versions of Magento, an improved admin experience, a better self test and modern coding standards. You can find out more and subscribe for updates over on the SMTP Pro product page,


I first released SMTP Pro 5 years ago, when it was purely for connecting to Google Apps accounts to send store email. Since then I have added support for custom SMTP servers, Amazon SES, email logging, self testing and have helped thousands of merchants get their store emails working.

SMTP Pro was my first open source project and has been by far the most successful with over 30,000 downloads and dozens of contributors over the years. With nearly 150 reviews on Magento Connect and an average of 4.4/5 stars, it’s the positive, constructive feedback of the community I really enjoy.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.28.07 pm

This update has been long overdue, but I’m very happy to say that SMTP Pro is back, and better than ever.

Where to Download

You can download Magento SMTP Pro from any of these places:

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On 2013

It’s that time of the year, the end, when I tend to get a bit introspective and think about the big things that happened and the milestones reached, and not reached, in these past 12 months. So here it is, more for my own sake than yours, the year-end reflections of

On Magento

I’ve felt a bit out-of-the-loop within the Magento ecosystem this year, missing the Imagine conference, and not keeping abreast of developments with Magento 2. My involvement has been constrained to working on my own products and services, and periodic blog posts and tweets. As an outsider looking in, I see Magento maturing as a company, the ecosystem is growing. I think the challenge will be maintaining the wonderful developer community around the product as the open source edition takes a back seat to the enterprise sales machine that is ebay/paypal.

2013 has been a year of milestone near misses. This little blog has racked up not quite 1 million pageviews since it’s inception. My new Magento extension MageSend has had nearly 100 sales.

Although it’d have been great to hit these nice round numbers, it’s still a satisfying result on both counts and I’ll elaborate more on my experiences with both below. At the same time, there’s been a lot of good things happening with business, and personal achievements this year, 2013 has been good to me.

November 2013 was the 5 year anniversary, birthday if you will, of I can say categorically that starting a blog has been the best move I’ve ever made professionally. If you haven’t started one, go do it, right now.
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