(Due to a change in titling, this is in fact the second February update to be published. In future, all reports will cover the events in the month named in the title.) The Foundation's Engineering Report for February was published last week on the Wikimedia Techblog, giving a brief overview of all Foundation-sponsored technical operations in the last month. It summarised the developments:
the racking [i.e. setup] party at our new data centre in Virginia
the Data Summit that happened in early February in California
the release of Editor Trends study data and tooling
the painful, but ultimately successful, deployment of MediaWiki 1.17 to all Wikimedia wikis.
In reference to the new Virginia data centre, the Foundation noted that all that was left was "finishing touches" to the hardware arrangement, as well as the initial setup of the software, "configuration of the first clusters of servers and services" and "network transport and transit services to be installed". In addition, contractor Russell Nelson has installed and deployed Swift on a test cluster of three machines. This forms part of the WMF's intent to improve the media storage architecture; the next steps are "fixing some bugs and doing some preliminary testing". The area of backups and general data redundancy has also seen significant developments: the operations team "have purchased a dedicated storage solution which will arrive in March... Once servers in the new data centre are online, and our private connection between Tampa and Ashburn is up, we will be able to replicate all data between the two data centres as well." Discussing the LiquidThreads project, the report also explained that "documentation on upcoming back-end and architecture changes [and] design specifications have been published".
The WMF's current Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Danese Cooper, has announced the rehiring of former CTO Brion Vibber to the post of Lead Architect. The post will be in the second layer of the current employee hierarchy, and Brion will start on March 31, 2011, she reported (Wikimedia Techblog).
Brion's name will be familiar to many Wikipedia regulars; indeed, in acronym form he gives it to this very report. The author of much of the original code in MediaWiki, and, as Wikimedia's first paid employee, having been among its most involved programmers for a number of years, Brion left the Foundation in 2009. He joined StatusNet, an open source startup focused on microblogging, while remaining active as a Wikimedia volunteer (see previous Signpost coverage). Danese explained Brion's new role:
Brion's first project will be on the team tasked with re-writing MediaWiki's parser, which should be both a challenging and rewarding effort, to which Brion tells me he's looking forward.
In a blog post, Vibber outlined this "next-generation parser work" briefly, saying that it will involve separating "weird template edge cases" from those that can be treated more easily.
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.
An issue where the presence of a large SVG would break any page it was embedded in has now been fixed (bug #27508).
Two dates have been proposed for the 2011 Berlin developer Meeting in mid- or late May, May 20–22 and May 13–15. A straw poll is being run to decide which should be used.
Users on mobile devices will now be redirected much more quickly to prevent excessive loading times (bug #27690).