The site was up and down intermittently late this weekend for reasons I still haven’t been able to understand. At first I’d get either a timeout or a page that only contained
<html> <head> </head> </html>
Which is about as helpful as a blank sheet of paper. I was able to connect via FTP with no problem and looked over the file structure, but found no problems, so I turned off all WordPress’ plugins and changed the theme back to the default, with no change in status. After replacing the database via phpMyAdmin, I still got nothing, so I contacted the support team and waited. After several hours I got bumped up to tier 2 support, and a man wrote to me in broken English that he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but restarted HTTP service, and suggested I look on my end. Magically, the site came back up at some point after that. I have no idea what was wrong, but my desire to leave that hosting provider and move to my favored company has gotten ever stronger.
I’ve been using a plugin called WordPress Database Backup, which saves a SQL dump of the database and gives you the choice of emailing it, saving it to the server, or downloading it directly to your computer. I’ve got it emailing to our server weekly, and it’s come in very handy at times like this. I’ve also got three other sites I maintain backing up the same way–just in case. As for site files, I’ve got an Automator script running a weekly file synchronization via Transmit, which keeps everything up to date.
It’s been interesting to read here and there about Six Apart being sold (or selling itself) to some ad network company thing a few days ago. What’s surprising to me is not that they sold but the relatively quiet way in which it happened.
Much of the discussion involves Six Apart’s unfocused and internally competitive product strategy over the last five years, including TypePad, Movable Type, Vox, the purchase and sale of LiveJournal, and a bunch of other initiatives. What they tried to do with Vox was interesting and different, but they failed to leverage their core strengths and motivate those of us who were loyal users to try it out—I for one didn’t understand what it was supposed to be until long after I’d dropped MT altogether, and they never reached out to people like me to give it a try.
As if to confuse people further, the newly formed company released a press statement stuffed with marketweasel doublespeak about “providing systemic ways for advertisers to engage the social consumer” and “deliver[ing] engagement across display and mobile. The result is advertising that is more efficient, useful and social.” Yeah, whatever. I just want to write stuff on my website, not be a shill for somebody else’s product.
MT was the hot weblogging platform of choice back in 2001 amid an unequal field of competitors; it was eclipsed by WordPress (to my mind, at least) sometime around 2006 or so and never regained its footing. My own history with Movable Type was relatively short: I installed it sometime in 2005 and ran it up until the point where comment spam made my life miserable; switching to MT4 proved to be a hassle due to poor documentation and a lousy support community, so I jumped to WordPress early this year and never looked back. To me, Six Apart seemed to stop caring about those of us who still wanted to host our own sites, and support for MT became an afterthought accessible only through careful Google-fu and the good graces of authors who took the time to document their solutions.
So farewell, Movable Type, and thanks for the memories.
No, We’re not selling the house. Or leaving the leafy, muggy idyll of the Baltimore suburbs. I’m talking about webhosting, specifically the hosting of this particular website, which has become slower than the Chinese traffic jam lately. Simple HTML requests are fast enough, but serving any kind of PHP from WordPress can be measured in minutes, which is unacceptable. The tentative plan goes something like this:
Get the caching situation sorted out– Done. Does anybody see a difference in load times? I do.
- Switch out the template for a little while to see if there’s something there that’s slowing things down.
- Look through the template to see if there’s anything in the code that’s slowing things down—a rogue plugin, greedy PHP call, or flaky image request.
Optimize the database to see if that’s the issue.
- Set up a mirror over on my other site, load the database, and see if it’s any faster over there (meaning the DB server here is just slow or overloaded).
For some reason, my hosting provider’s pipes have been incredibly slow lately, which means this site is slow as dirt. That makes adding old content that much more time-consuming. It took me an hour to add the second half of September 2004 this evening, while jumping around doing other things.
I’ve been working on a WordPress-based portfolio site for a friend of ours, and over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve dipped a toe back into working with PHP, which has been fun and challenging. This evening I was able to pull some snippets of code from here and there, make some educated guesses, and get a spiffy category display page working in the way that I’d originally imagined—something that I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to do. The site is coming together really well, and our friend sounded excited about it when we talked to her on the weekend.
Meanwhile, the simple fix I thought I had planned for the Slattern is not so easy after all. I read that simply manually cranking the sunroof motor would seal the window, but I couldn’t get it to budge on Sunday. So I have to pick up some Torx screwdriver bits and tear down part of the sunroof in order to slide the tracks back into place whenever the sun decides to come back out this week; in the meantime, I’m back in the Jeep. I guess it’s a good thing we haven’t sold that yet, huh?
Over the course of successive nights I’ve added old weblog posts up to the middle of September 2004, which doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but represents hours of repetitive labor. What I’ve had to do for each post is copy the raw HTML from my old handwritten files, strip out any broken links, change the creation date, upload and relink any image files (which I kept locally in that month’s subfolder), and add the relevant Category tag(s). See why I haven’t done this in the past? WordPress, at least, is quicker than Movable Type, which would have taken eons.
I’m thinking there has to be a better way of doing this, so I’m going to look into some kind of search-and-replace to build an XML file in a format that WordPress likes, and use that to import three years’ worth of entries in one swoop. The images will be a complicating factor, of course. Another thing I’d like to do is find a way to have WordPress list all of the entries for a particular month on one page, as opposed to the five-excerpt list it picks up from the homepage template. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to devote to the new weblog structure other than fooling with the base CSS, but I’m sure there’s an easy way to get it working.
In other news, I’ve got a tentative plan with Mr. Scout to go lookin’ through the local junkyard on Friday for a Saturn taillight, as well as yanking the radiator out of Peer Pressure to flush it out. I’m going to be up in the morning extra-early to get a jumpstart on things, because the weather is getting warmer and I’d really like to be driving the Scout again.
LOST was pretty good last night, if not a little sparse on the backend character development. I agree with the Onion review: we didn’t learn much, and there wasn’t a whole lot of resolution in the flash-sideways like there has been for other characters. I guess that’s a flaw in the writers’ attempt to jam two (criminally underutilized and potentially interesting) characters into one episode. And Jen guessed the identity of “the Package” right away.
Speaking of Lost and packages, here’s an exhaustive list of Dharma initiative food labels for everything in your pantry. enjoy!
I started the long, laborious process of manually adding hand-coded entries from 2001-2005 into WordPress this evening. It would be great to finally have all of this stuff in one place, and I’m not as concerned with archiving the design (such as it is) for posterity anymore. It’s taking a long time—I got through March, February, and half of January 2005—because I’m adding tags, categories, and dates, as well as updating broken links. This is going to take several months of work, but it’s kind of fun to go back through this stuff and reread it. I’m glad I’ve kept this weblog up, even if it’s been sparse at times. It’s nice to have an idea of what we were doing X years ago.
Longtime readers (all four of you) might notice some changes around here, and that’s because the gasping, wheezing hamster that once powered this site has been transplanted by a sleek new robot called WordPress. The content is all the same; some of the permalinks from the old site may not work, and some of the pictures may be wonky in size or format. I’m doing a lot of housecleaning in the backend to make things better, but one of the best new improvements is a world-class comment spam system, which means registration and login and all of that other crap is no longer needed.
The new look of this site is by no means set in stone, so expect some major tinkering around here in the future. What you see before you is a placeholder until I can get some more dedicated time devoted to a sparkly new design; the beauty of WordPress is that it’s a breeze to edit and tweak, as opposed to the 3.3 version of MovableType, which was equal parts black magic, particle physics, detective work, cursing, and blind luck.
The sidebar links archive does still exist (and shows up inline with all the other content, currently) and will be integrated into the site like it was before; I had to do some database reorganization and add it as a new category in order to work within WordPress.
The humorous part about all of this is that I actually had WordPress installed, updated, and running a current import copy of the original Idiotking site back in July of 2009, but I didn’t have the time to fool with it further.