SparkFun Levels Up!


Welcome to the new SparkFun.com!

In any respectable RPG when you slay just the right number of blue mushroom zombies your level increases. The developers of the SparkFun IT Department have been hacking away at such creatures for months and today our level has most definitely ascended.

1997, October 1, The END DAY ...

SparkFun.com may look the same, but that's the intent. Under the surface SparkFun.com has been literally rebuilt from scratch. There's a lot to cover here, so I'm going to dive right in with perhaps the most obvious new feature: Wish Lists.

  • Have as many wish lists as you like.
  • Name them whatever you like.
  • Make them public and share them with others if you so choose.

I'm sure you can think of how to make the best use of Wish Lists in practice, so if you are one of the many customers that's been clamoring for this feature, enjoy your new toy!

So what other new features are now live? Some of the bigger things you may notice:

  • Clean URLs
  • A brand new shopping cart
  • One-page checkout
  • Greatly improved load times

Plus too many little things to name. Explore the site and look for easter eggs.

Something broke!

If you find yourself uttering these words then you've probably found a bug. Even with the kilothaums of testing we've been doing for weeks something may well have been missed.

Please post bugs and issues in this forum thread!

We'll be monitoring the thread continuously and posting as we fix stuff so that the whole community can know when a problem is found and, ultimately, remedied.

New Iron

Along with all the new features you're also being served this page from a cluster with a lot more power.

Our live cluster began with a stack of five Dell R410s. It's since grown, and grown again, and now we have this attractive pile of whirring fans:

The SparkFun cluster moves into a full rack.

Our cluster grew so much we had to move out of our little half rack and into a full one! One of those two 4U boxes is Spino, the primary web server that's been dishing out content for most of 2010. The other is Seismo, a near-exact clone of Spino that (among other things) lets us test new features in a live-ish environment. The stark yellow boxes are our new load balancers with SSL acceleration.  Plus there's some other fun toys in there, like a 10Gbps Dolphin Interconnect.

Setting up this stack has been no small task. Once we spun up some virtual servers using our Amazon EC3 account and fired them at the cluster we were clocking about 5 FreeDays before seeing a hint of lag.

 

1.7.0: Hasselhoff

So today's major release, in terms of versions of the SparkFun website, is 1.7.0. Or, more colloquially: Hasselhoff.

The SparkFun code base has been under version control for just over three years. It became an absolute necessity when IT suddenly doubled in size to two people back in 2007.

It took a year and a half of organic/reactionary coding to get to a tipping point: a coherent framework was needed. Shortly after that was set in motion we concocted a versioning scheme. All of that has led to today when, at last, SparkFun.com is using our shiny new framework. Check out this visualization of all three years of said development in under three minutes:

This trippy video was created using gource, an open source visualization engine for version controlled repositories.  Development was controlled with subversion for the first year or so before we moved to git and never looked back.  With a little patience and a lot of custom formatting our years of logs got this nice splash of color.  Perhaps after another twelve months of features and releases we'll see 4 years in 4 minutes!

Finally, this release is so named Hasselhoff because our chosen naming convention dictates that our releases are named alphabetically by the last names of musicians that don't suck.  The latter part of that stipulation has been a sticking point on more than one occasion.  Regardless, our trend has emerged: Anastasio begat Byrne begat Costello begat Danzig begat Everett begat Fogerty begat Gordon begat Hasselhoff.

The [ I ] release has yet to be named.  Surely someone can offer up a good suggestion?



Comments 95 comments

  • Konami code - I knew it would work :D

  • Love the screenshot at the top. Underrated and highly cult-like RPG that even my nerdy RP friends didn’t know about.

    • I gotta say, I didn’t think anyone would mention the somewhat obscure game, and here you brought it up in the first comment! Well done. Hopefully in the next fifty years they’ll get around to making a wiiware revival. =)

  • I AM PLEASED I AM PLEASED I AM PLEASED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • THE MOTHER OF ALL EASTER EGGS!!!<br />
    On the main page of Sparkfun press<br />
    Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A<br />
    Then press any keyboard buttons :)

  • Sorry, but the new font scheme is small and ugly. Hard for us over 40 to read without our granny glasses (or laser-enhanced magnifying visors :). Please rethink the fonts.

    • They haven’t changed significantly since roughly July of ‘08. It’s possible that your browser is behaving differently since we’re (mostly) specifying them using absolute rather than relative sizes in the stylesheet.

  • Why not the other way around? Point the rack and test the EC3 cloud? What would a EC3 instance of your servers run per hour? ;-)

  • Are you going to do anything more with the profile rankings? I’d been trying to nurse mine up in hopes of getting nifty emails and such from the wonder that is SparkFun. <br />
    <br />
    -Paul

  • Iglesias FTW….

  • Having trouble with “I”?<br />
    No Problem!<br />
    According to ANSI Y14.5 we should exclude versions I & O to avoid confusion with 1 & 0

  • That video is the HOTNESS!

  • Isley.<br />
    <br />
    After Marvin, O'Kelly, Ronald, and Rudolph; The Isley Brothers.

  • I know precious little about web development so your post sounded a lot like I imagine myself sounding when I describe my AVR projects to my mom, but hey - to each their own.<br />
    <br />
    It’s great to see a small business grow so explosively. Keep up the great work!

  • I found the first Easter Egg!!!<br />
    A picture of Baron Nopcsa when you visit static.sparkfun.com<br />
    I am assuming this is because of the dinosaur naming convention of the servers. :)

  • You left out someone! The stack picture shows Spino and Seismo, the unnamed LBs, and the 5 R410s, but who is the R410 between the LB and Seismo??

    • Nice catch! The machine on the bottom is one of the newer nodes, used for backups. The one above the LBs is magyaro, a static content server.

  • Oh thank you SO MUCH. I’ve been dying for wishlists. I was just going to go on the forums today and start whining like a little girl about how badly I wanted them. Really grateful, thank you.

  • Awesome work, guys! Gource is a really awesome project… I might try it out at work.<br />
    <br />
    As for the ‘I’ release name, might I suggest Iggy (Pop)?

  • Pretty nifty display of how the SF server has developed but gotta love the added Mega Man 6 Aqua man boss fight music.

  • Your shipping calculations seems to be out of whack. For example, shipping to Canada for a Graphic OLED Display - 0.96" White has shipping calcs of: <br />
    <br />
    * USPS Express Mail International: $27.30<br />
    * USPS First-Class Mail International Package: $21.40<br />
    * FedEx International Priority: $23.13<br />
    * FedEx International Economy: $21.94<br />
    <br />
    This is a small item and this will definitely prevent me from ordering anything until this is fixed. Customer service offered to refund me the difference between the amount and the actual shipping amount, but this is pretty inconvenient.

    • Could you please send an e-mail to website@sparkfun.com with the address you got that shipping quote for along with the e-mail address on your account? I get normal shipping quotes for that particular item, but we’ll look into this. Thanks!

  • When I load the tutorials page, it does this weird refresh thing; When it first load, all the tutorials show up, then all of a sudden, it ‘refreshes’ and they are sorted by category. Kind of annoying, because I was browsing through them, and all of a sudden they disappeared, and a list of categories came up in their place.

  • I get an HTTP 500 euro when I want to check out… … tried a dozen times or so…

  • iyaz would work for an “i” musician.

  • Great news on the redesign, a few of the tutorial urls aren’t redirecting to the new slick urls like <br />
    http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/tutorial_info.php?tutorials_id=58<br />
    to<br />
    http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/58 <br />
    <br />
    I’m very excited about the relaunch!

  • links to other SF products are broken within item posts ex… <br />
    http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10025 UBW link bad … <br />
    <br />
    foo foo carry on..

  • Oh my god!!<br />
    <br />
    I didn’t think the cheat code would actually work! <br />
    Hilarious!

  • “15,000,000+ unicorns and rainbows provided”<br />
    <br />
    Nice.

  • What happened to the “Auto-notify” feature for out-of-stock items?

    • It’s still there. If you’re not seeing it, you’ve probably found a bug. Specifics about your browser and which product(s) you’re looking at would help us to track it down.<br />
      <br />
      Keep in mind that the button shouldn’t show up for products which we aren’t going to re-stock. I also harbor a suspicion that we may not be supporting it for non-JavaScript users at the moment.

    • It’s still available, but only if the item can be backordered. Is there a specific product you’re having trouble with?

  • I don’t buy because when i want to calculate the shipping put<br />
    Please select an address:<br />
    <br />
    null<br />
    null, m 37190000<br />
    null<br />
    null, Minas Gerais 37190000

    • Long story short, we need to get a lot better at i18n. (As do our shipping API providers, but I suspect there’s not much we can do about them.)<br />
      <br />
      In the short term, users can avoid this bug by hewing as close as possible to ASCII in addresses.

  • The correct answer is of course: Iommi. Tony Iommi, if you don’t know, is the founder of Black Sabbath. Come on. He’s been rocking hard since before I was born.

  • Congrats on the site… now you’re ready for another FREE day!<br />

  • Nice speed-up, guys. I’m getting the homepage in about 2.2 seconds now, and the “new products” page in about the same. Out across the “ponds” things aren’t so rose, perhaps, due to the dozens of images on each page (most of them static, presumably, since they come from your static.sparkfun.com domain). <br />
    <br />
    I think (well, know) you can get another 500-750ms out for me, and make your global customers see something several seconds faster, by combining all the images into a single (well, less than 8 for sure) CSS sprite(s). <br />
    <br />
    All that memcaching makes the second, etc., request fast but using the CSS sprite technique will make the first request fast too. And isn’t it nice to make a good first impression?<br />
    <br />
    Nice work. :)<br />

    • Thanks for the info! We will certainly be refining things over the next few weeks with regards to speed. Converting images to sprites is one thing among many coming improvements, including minifying and gzipping our CSS and JS files.

  • Hi, great work!<br />
    <br />
    About the new shopping cart. Great idea to show the product images in the cart, except that with the current image size it’s hard to get a good overview of a large cart (see the big picture so to speak). The old list cart was better at that..<br />
    <br />
    So how about using smaller thumbnails in the cart, maybe about half the current size, and showing a bigger image on hover?

  • So you want a musician that doesn’t suck, who’s surname starts with ‘I’.<br />
    <br />
    Easy..<br />
    <br />
    Billy Idol.

  • Damn you Konami code! I can’t surf the site at the same time watching beautiful rainbows and unicorn!

  • Ummm… Ok, not sure why no one else has mentioned this yet… Product viewing seems to now be completely broken for me, didn’t work 8 hours ago and still not working from here. I can see the news, new products page, feeds, etc. But nothing in /categories/ or /products/ works, it all returns “Something broke.” messages.

  • UGH! I was going to comment something about the easter egg. But I want to know the game of the screen-shot posted. Crystal? I know it starts with a C. I played it before T_T

  • ooooh, Shiny

  • Interesting that the prices in search results are converted via javascript, but not so on the product page. At first I thought this was so you could jump from currency to currency without reloading, but no.<br />
    <br />
    Also… Comments dont work without javascript on it seems. (had it off to look at the prices)

  • I do love me some mega man! That second song was actually my ring tone for a good time.

  • Looks like SFE has taken two steps forward, and one step backwards.<br />
    <br />
    You fixed the products column when used with larger font sizes (thank you), but now the individual product pricing horizontal alignment screws up when using larger font sizes.<br />
    <br />
    And PLEASE restore the stock quantity readouts (unless it’s a big secret now for some reason). It was quite useful to be able to watch the stock quantity go down (or up) to know how popular a product is, and when to buy it to avoid it going into backorder or not being available at all.<br />

    • What Frencil said, plus I’ll be reworking the price display over the next few weeks so I’ll definitely keep this in mind. Thanks for the feedback!

    • Stock quantity has been restored. As for the format on the product view, I’ll see what we can do about that.

  • INXS<br />
    <br />
    good stuff SFE, like the changes.

  • Yep! :P It does work… <br />
    <br />

  • “The [ I ] release has yet to be named. Surely someone can offer up a good suggestion?”<br />
    <br />
    The WOZ

  • Why is all the body text now serif, while the menus and comments remain sans-serif?

    • This hasn’t changed. It’s probable we’re specifying the fonts a little differently in the stylesheet, so your browser may be finding a serif font where it wasn’t before.

  • The Konami code has never seemed so… <br />
    <br />
    …magical

    • I had no idea what you guys were talking about. Then with wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konami_Code<br />
      <br />
      You guys aren’t kidding about the easter egg. Jeebus. Chris and IT, you guys are my new heroes.

      • Nate? Didn’t know about the konami code? I mean, come on man. You call yourself a hacker? I mean, I’m 16 and I have cheated on Contra. Step up your game!<br />
        Good work, guys.

        • …I dunno, does he call himself a hacker? lol<br />
          <br />
          Here ya go, Nate, catch up:<br />
          http://nintendo8.com/game/60/contra/

    • To be honest, I’m sort of impressed that you found it so quick! I was expecting it to lay dormant for at least a couple weeks until people started poking around the javascript…<br />
      <br />
      Bravo!

      • You kiddin'? <br />
        You host a community of Engineers, Geeks and Hackers.<br />
        <br />
        I’ve been known to throw the konami at bartenders to see if they’d award me free drinks, lol.

        • Find the right bartender and you may wind up with 30 free drinks.<br />
          <br />
          Hint: he may be shirtless and wearing red or blue pants.

  • SFE IT FTW<br />
    <br />
    Nuf Said.

  • Number of items in stock is now gone?<br />

    • There are pretty good indicators in place now - if the number of items in stock is over a threshold we don’t disclose the exact number, but it should be a good enough indication of whether or not you should buy something soon!

  • Really happy with the wish list feature! Very useful addition.<br />
    <br />
    I think this feature alone is going to increase sales (and shrink wallets ;)).

  • Wishlists!! Awesome!

  • Love it! Wish lists are awesome and the pages are definitely loading up much faster!

  • Iggy. Nuff said.

  • The grey text is hard to read, make it darker please!

  • Looks like RSS feeds are broken once again. The New Products URL now shows blog posts, and the blog post links don’t even work.

  • “Finally, this release is so named Hasselhoff because our chosen naming convention dictates that our releases are named alphabetically by the last names of musicians that don’t suck.”<br />
    Before anybody else comments on this, please let it be known that IT loves throwing curve balls to keep users - both internal and external - honest.<br />
    Also, if you haven’t before, watch the music video linked to under “1.7.0: Hasselhoff.” As Chris put it: “you’ll cry rainbows.”

  • Hmm, maybe that’s why I couldn’t pull up <br />
    https://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/account_history_info.php?order_id=xxxxx earlier today… heck, couldn’t pull up anything. Well, still can’t pull up the above link. Not sure if it’s considered a bug or not though…<br />
    <br />
    Keep on growing…<br />
    <br />
    - Steve<br />

    • We cleaned up the URLs so that now the link would be www.sparkfun.com/orders/xxxxx.<br />
      <br />
      Regardless we put a bunch of redirects in place from the old to the new and must have missed that one. This shall be addressed.


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