Wherein I Accidentally Delete My Own Blog

Recently I moved from a hosted provider to running WordPress on my Synology NAS at home.  It was surprisingly not problematic and all was well… or so I thought.  A few days ago I basically deleted my own blog.  I was fairly upset about it!  All is now right with the world, but it’s pretty easy to do, so here’s what happened and what I learned:

  • I had the Beta Apps enabled on Synology, and I had Auto-Update turned on, so I ended up with beta versions of both WordPress and the MariaDB I use underneath the covers.
  • At some point things went south.  As it turns out, I think it was unrelated – it was probably as easy as repointing Web Station to the right directories, but you know, panic and all, I missed it.  All I know is you couldn’t access any content on my site.

The obvious thing to do at that point is back things up, think rationally, and not move from the most likely culprit until you’re SURE that isn’t it.  I didn’t do any of those things.  Seeing that I had beta versions of the apps installed and figuring I could downgrade them, I turned off beta access, then removed and reinstalled those apps.  Along the way, MariaDB needed my DB password which I couldn’t remember, so I reset it, likely breaking things further.  At this point I figured the damage was done so I got a little bit looser with my thought process.

I backed up everything in the www/wordpress directory, wiped it, and attempted to restore it from backup.  Would that work?  I’m honestly not sure if it’s even plausible but it didn’t!

Around this time I realized the only way I was going to get out of this was to re-import my recently migrated site (only missing one post) and start from scratch.  Except, of course, I’d not preserved the migration file.  Luckily I hadn’t fully deleted it so it was found and reimported and I’m back.

What have I learned?  First of all, even for a low-volume site, I really need a plausibly automated backup running.  It would probably take me 30 minutes to configure.  Second, if you’re pretty sure that something is wrong, even if you’re desperate, don’t do it.  Third, maybe make sure you’re not auto-updating things you care about if you’re not sure your backup strategy is sound!

Migrating hosting to Synology

Hey Crew – the TL;DR here is that I’m now hosting this blog myself at home, which is to say if it’s harder to reach or you find anything broken, let me know.

The details are that if you are paying for hosting on a low-volume blog, you know that the cost/benefit ratio can be a bit skewed – it’s great that I could do all kinds of things but I didn’t need 80% of them, so when my previous host (bluehost – no ill will) decided to deprecate my plan and move me to a tier that would be more expensive I finally got around to migrating elsewhere.  I’ve resisted doing this because if you do it wrong, you can break your blog, ruin your SEO, and find yourself in a good mess.

I use a Synology NAS at home for various things and the best part about it is that when you have a little server on tap, you can find other things to use it for.  There were only a few steps that are mostly covered elsewhere, but I did hit a few issues that I’ll cover here.

The things everyone knows:

The general steps to move things are:

The things nobody told me:

It actually worked pretty well, but there are a few caveats.  The biggest is that my site was too big – the free AiO Migration plugin will only let you import an archive that is 520 megs, max.  Mine was clocking in at 650, so I did a few things:

  • Deleted the 17,000 spam users that my blog had accumulated over the years with the User Spam Remover plugin
  • Delete all the images that were uploaded to my site but not linked to using the DNUI plugin.  I believe these were generated by a previous version of a plugin that pre-rendered a bunch of sizes of images I wasn’t using.
  • Deleted all the themes and plugins I didn’t need.

After all that, the size of the site came down below the max, so I was good to go… except after all was said and done, I realized that somewhere along the way, all previous references to http://www.aribrownest.com… were now links to http://www.aribrownest.com/….  This was the internal IP I’d been using to test things out, but now they were cascaded through the entire site!  I was a bit unhappy to discover this after the cutover and right before I was headed to bed.  Luckily, people have done this once or twice before, so of course, another plugin!  This time I used the Better Search Replace plugin, and just like that, I was done!

Having said all that…

Let me know if you find anything weird.  I’m sure Google will when my SEO tanks, but so it goes.

Please Kill Me Before I Have To Do That Again

I might have told you a few days back that I had migrated the blog to a new host.  That was true, except for one thing.  During the migration, somehow the database that runs the show and makes everything sparkling and magical got a bit borked.  Everything seemed to work, except the plugin I use to show you all the info on each picture couldn’t find things.  I tried all sorts of configuration until I realized it just wasn’t going to happen.  My options were to attempt to edit the database (a really bad idea), manually remove and reupload all my pictures (a super time consuming bad idea), have my great friend Josh try and fix it (a very promising but ultimately unsuccessful bad idea), or figure out what happened and how to fix it.

In the end, I had to delete my whole blog, including the wordpress install and database , which scares the living crap out of me, and rebuild it.  Since the files are all in the same places, after reimporting the XML file I had saved, it mostly came back to life.  I had to rebuild all the pages, reconfigure everything, fix some CSS, blah blah blah.

Along the way, there was a little damage.  If you were subscribed to a post, that went away.  I’m sure I’m more sorry about it than you are and I heartily encourage you to resubscribe if you’d like.  If you made a comment on my last post or two, that’s gone too.  I really like comments.  I miss them already.

Long story short, although there was a bit of damage, I really think we’re back online and relatively trouble-free.  I’m not going to touch anything unless I really have to.  Please tell me if you see anything funny, otherwise, back to doing the photography thing, no more doing the “make it work” thing.

Love,

Ari

Upgrades!

I’m sure you’ve been in the situation where someone gets really excited to tell you a story or joke and upon seeing the not-so-amused look on your face after telling it, they say “well…I guess you had to be there.”  This post is kinda like that – it’s exciting to me, and you have to suffer through it.

I upgraded to WordPress 2.7 yesterday, which handily broke my favorite photo-posting plugin PhotoQ.  Today they released an update which fixed my issues, but also fixed my biggest beef – the EXIF info (details of the camera setting when a picture was taken) from my camera wasn’t being read right, so I couldn’t automatically tell you all the things I wanted about the picture.  Now that it’s fixed, you get to see things like ISO speed and aperture values that aren’t totally nonsensical.  Hooray for progress!