So as you may have noticed, it’s a whole new look for the Moronosphere.
This wasn’t exactly by choice. But we did wind up with a version upgrade to Movable Type 3.1.
Here, basically, is what happened.
We (Me and some of the other people hosted on a friend’s server) were looking at Blog tool alternatives. There are a lot out there and of course each has it’s pluses and minuses. So we were installing a few choices of tool and playing with them to see if we could solve some obscure problems and provide some obscure features.
We were not really seeing much to convince us that we should switch to the products we’d looked at, but were still looking. So one of our admin people decided to un-install some of these tools to clean house.
We’re not sure exactly what happened. But in short, the mySQL database behind out MovableType system got deleted in it’s entirety.
First a short explanation of what this means, then we’ll talk about backups.
MovableType is basically what’s called a ‘Content Management System’ (CMS). What this means is that it actually stores stuff (in this case, writing, like I’m doing now) in a database. From that database, it then generates web pages (html or php usually). These are the web pages, the blog, that you the user actually see.
So if the database goes away, wile we still have web pages, it means we can’t log in, or edit, or add new entries. And it means that any customizations (like my style switcher from http://www.movablestyle.com/) go away. That’s all stored in the database and the web pages just get generated on each update.
So that leads us to backups. You know, backups, copies of stuff you make in case something bad happens. Backups, like we were not making of our mySQL database.
Yeah, those backups.
This wasn’t the fault of the people who own the machine. I want them to stop thinking that. They do this as a favor.
This is my fault.
This is my fault because I know better. I’ve been a system administrator. A release engineer. I’ve been a data base admin for systems like Lotus Notes, DDTs ( a bug tracking system), for big Oracle databases. I manage an engineering environment now that includes snap-shotted file servers and automated backups.
I’m a backups nazi. I don’t store anything I can’t replace easily on a local disk; everything is on a file-server. My mail, my writing, my development work. Everything. And I manage development source control/DM tools; Perforce, CVS, ClearCase, RCS. I know this stuff;
I live this stuff.
I never got around to backing up our blog database.
What was I thinking? What. Was. I. Thinking?
(there, I just went and made a db backup now, to be sure)
Backups. They save lives.
So how did we re-build?
Well, here’s what we did.
First, I upgraded to MT 3.0. Yeah it cost a little money but what the hell. I figured we might as well since we were down. This had it’s own challenges, I’ve never installed MT before, I didn’t have the right access on the server, I had to dig around to figure things out in the apache configs, and this, that and the other thing.
Then, I dug around in the MT support forum and found this thread on how to re-build the database from static generated pages. And it included a perl script which almost worked to do it.
So after much hacking around, I was finally able to get something like my complete blog sucked out of .php pages and into an MT import file format.
The deletion happened on Friday night. I worked most of Saturday and Sunday, and a major portion of Monday to get this going. This wasn’t just The Moronosphere of course; we host a couple of other blogs, plus my Fiji trip blog. I’m still in the process of updating those, but the hard work is done.
So now, I have MT3, a new look, and none of my hacks and customizations. I have backups. Not automated yet but that’s easy. My other users have a newer, nicer interface to MT and can blog again.
It was funny. I started this in January thinking I would not really be a blogger, and here in August, I find that not being able to do it stressed me out.
So, what now? Well, we’re still looking at alternate tools. Partly just for the hell of it, partly to address some specific needs/wants for some of the bloggers I share the server with (like LiveJournal type security). I don’t know what we’ll find but I don’t plan to move this blog any time soon. Also, I need to get some of my improvements and hacks back in place. I’ve lost my “about” page, I’ve lost my links, my “other bloggers” section. I need to dig all that out. I want my style switcher back.
But the main thing is, I can blog again, and I proved to myself I could get it done and get MT back up and running without any technical help other than down-loading that perl script. And honestly, I had fun doing it. Hacking for myself is so much more fun than hacking for my employer.