May Technology Update

May was a busy month!

Performance Tuning

To prepare for the update to Moodle 2.7, we installed the Zend OpCache extension for PHP. Easy enough with PECL. Translation: our server doesn’t have to work as hard and you get to browse pages more quickly (particularly helpful on Moodle, which is noticeably more responsive). Implementing Google’s SPDY protocol means users of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will see even better performance. Making that change in our nginx configuration files was way easier than I had expected.

We optimized the jpegs on the home page to speed up load times (they’re cached anyway, so return users probably won’t notice a difference). We’ll see more improvement when we update the WordPress theme to the next major revision. Since that will require some manual editing of the database and theme files, we’re waiting to do that until after the June session.


We updated Moodle to 2.7 which gives an updated look, faster performance, and some new features (mostly for teachers and administrators). Moodle now handles the main IWS Community Calendar better, which is a nice bonus. We update that calendar and the changes are reflected on subscriptions through Google Calendar, in Populi, and now Moodle as well.

New DTS Page

The Director of Technical Services/Department of Technical Services has a new page at where we can post helpful links and collect up the various tutorials as we compose them. The page can be accessed from the Student Life menu, although we have resources there for faculty and alumni as well. There’s a 3-page tutorial on Moodle that we hope is especially helpful to new students.

Behind the Scenes

We’re migrating to a new mailing-list provider and writing a set of apps that will keep it in sync with the Populi database. MailChimp offers a series of really nice PHP wrappers for their API, and the folks at Populi are always really good to me when it comes to working with their API. Hopefully this system will help us stay better in touch with the IWS Community. We expect to complete the transition by the end of the fiscal year (that is, the end of June). This involves a lot of custom code that IWS has to produce, but it should be worth it in the long run as we try to reduce the number of places we have to keep data updated.