March 17, 2009

Web Server Catashrophe

On March 5th, the server that has faithfully run the Brianstorms blog (as well as all my other personal sites) crashed big-time. Power supply basically gave out, as did the motherboard. And neither of those were any help for the ancient 8.4GB IDE drive, which is now corrupted.

The good news, sorta, is I had backups. The bad news, for sure, is that this machine was so old, that the operating system and even the database format used by the MovableType blog software have for all intents and purposes become obsolete. Specifically, FreeBSD -- who uses that anymore? Well, in 2001, it was a pretty hot, well-regsrded-as-secure, operating system alternative to Linux. So I went with it. And this machine worked like a champ for all these years.

Mistakes were made, however. I never upgraded the blog software. I was just starting to, actually, beginning last month. It's actually pretty difficult to upgrade from super-ancient MovableType version 2.661 to version 3.0 and then version 3.1, and then version 3.2, which is the path you have to go through before you can upgrade to the current 4.x version supported by SixApart today.

But the big problem is the underlying data for the blog. In all those years I never installed mysql and so relied on MovableType's support for the primitive Berkeley DB flat-file data system to store the blog data. That turns out to have been a REALLY BAD THING.

See, somewhere along the lines, someone got the bright idea to update the internal file format of the Berkeley DB files. And that meant that new programs could not read old data unless the old data got converted. Well, that seems to have been a reasonable chore for a few years, but the problem here is that, face it, MORE THAN A FEW YEARS HAVE PASSED. Which means, in terms of a website, it is in DEEP VOODOO.

The good news is, you see that Brianstorms is up again. Well, the hardware running it is brand-new, super insanely fast, and should run for years reliably. However, I couldn't get FreeBSD to run on this new server, so I switched to Ubuntu Server, a very popular Linux alternative that lots of people seem to like these days. It installed on the machine flawlessly and I was up within 10 minutes. BUT . . . Ubuntu is 2009, and sure, it has support for Berkeley DB, at least the NEWER version. So, MovableTYpe when installed on Ubuntu, inherits the support for the newer version of Berkeley DB. And when I installed the backups of Brianstorms, complete with old-style DB format, MovableType couldn't read it.

I've been troubleshooting this mess for several days now and STILL cannot get MovableType to read the data. Yes, I've installed all sorts of Berkeley DB packages like the one on the Oracle site. Yes, I know about the MovableType Knowledge Base support page that talks about this very problem and what to do to solve it (I've followed those instructions to the letter and still, epic fail).

So, things are going to look strange on this blog for a while still. This post is not even a blog post -- I am manually typing in the index.html file using the VI editor, rather than using MovableType since that DOESN'T WORK ahem *grumble*. Indeed, I even manually hacked the RSS feed so that it would appear that this story is a new blog post.

If things don't work out in the next day or two, I'm going to just say screw it, and not restore the database at all. Instead, I'll create a brand-new Brianstorms from scratch, and link to all the archived pages from 2002 thru early 2009. But they'll be HTML only, non-searchable, and not part of the new MovableType. That's Plan Z, which may seem pretty drastic, but I've already tried PLan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, and T. I'm running out of plans, and the last one is gonna be Z.

Stay tuned.

Posted by brian at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)
brianstorms is Brian Dear's weblog. Non-spam email:

Be sure to take a look at these other fine websites:

Copyright 2002-2004 Birdrock Ventures. brianstorms is a trademark of Birdrock Ventures.