This blog has been a bit quiet recently — and for a change it’s not down to my indolence or procrastination. Over Christmas I had a serious technical problem. When I tried to upload photos, processing (oddly called ‘crunching’) never completed, which was puzzling. Then I was exasperated to find WordPress wouldn’t allow me to create new blog posts at all.
I dangle my techie toes in the water by using the open source version of WordPress on my own webhosting space (rather than the WordPress hosted version). This means I’m very thankful to all my fellow geeks who produce this software for the benefit of the community and little monetary reward but it also means I’m my own tech support. Or, more accurately, it’s a case of furiously trying to type the right terms into a search engine to get a vaguely relevant answer.
Sometimes this yields nuggets of pure and practical wisdom. Other times, like on Christmas Eve, I end up proving that a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
In a time-pressured panic that became increasingly desperate, I found myself breaking every methodical techie rule in the book — the main rule being that whatever you try, it’s more likely to further screw things up than fix them. So the first law is to make sure you can undo your mistakes.
I cut and pasted little snippets of PHP (that’s the scripting language WordPress is written in — but that’s largely the extent of my knowledge) between my computer and my FTP transfer program and opening up the control panels on the mySQL databases.
I deleted something on the WordPress settings page that I had the awful feeling afterwards that I shouldn’t and I thought I’d wrecked the whole thing.
I gave up trying to fix it to finish off preparations for Christmas dinner (see next post). I also noticed amid all the self-inflicted errors that on one control screen the database size for the blog had been exceeded and was showing at -47% of its capacity (apparently that means way too big). I made a mental note that this would probably need sorting out — but at least the site was still online.
Come Boxing Day I decided to ring the hosting provider to ask about the database size. Yes, I’d exceeded the maximum and wouldn’t be able to add any more content to the blog — which wasn’t very good news.
Fortunately I could move the blog to a new database that I could create which was ten times bigger — 1Gb rather than 100Mb, which is still only 0.3% of the size of the hard drive of the natty little netbook that I just bought for under £200. 1Mb still seems pretty stingy but I guess no-one wants to be loading up vast amounts of data from web sites so it’s probably good discipline. The database itself was too large for me to upload using the hosting provider’s tools so they had to do it for me.
So eventually, with the blog’s content all copied over, I updated my WordPress files to point to the new database and prepared myself to work through all the other problems — but, amazingly, everything worked. I could upload files AND create new posts — so my fiddling hadn’t done anything terribly disastrous. In fact the last post that I made, on the Shoreditch Blonde beer, was largely to check out whether the site could still be updated. All the problems were not of mine or WordPress’s making but because I’d exceeded my database limit.
This illustrates another law of technology that contradicts the statements above about screwing things up — that the biggest problems are often caused by something quite simple but which is hidden (or not looked for) at the time (usually down to the software’s terrible usability). And the big things can be relatively easy to fix. I still managed to break Google Analytics, though.
So that’s a very techie explanation of why the blog’s been a little quiet recently. When I thought I couldn’t add any more content and started thinking about the perils of trying to export the content elsewhere I suddenly realised how much investment in time (and a not inconsiderable amount of money in IT costs) I’d put into creating this blog and how I’d be very despondent for it to be somehow broken, especially with the novel nearly ready (as I’ve perpetually said during 2012).
The two works are virtually intertwined and I’m hoping that this blog might be a useful and perhaps entertaining resource for anyone who shows interest in the novel.
And seeing as I earn my ‘day job’ crust from things that are IT related, I was pleased I managed to blunder through and fix my problems (and blunder and trial and error is the way most IT professionals work to fix things). It’s the sort of job that James in the novel would take in his stride, although there would be a lot of swearing on the way. (Maybe I should have him dabble in Kim’s site? But that would be another 1,000 words I don’t have room for.)
I suspect that I’ve run into problems by loading so many pictures on the blog recently — such as all those of the Olympics, London and the Shard. But now my space has been increased I can stop worrying for a while about my multimedia excesses.
So stand by — the next couple of postings will be photographic banquets.